Napa county's Lake Berryessa, just after dawn...
A quietly uttered “Six a.m.” just before bedtime on a Friday night, holds a special significance for my son Julian and me.
Once spoken, the following morning finds Julian eagerly waiting in my study for me to emerge from my bedroom.
Now this is a kid who practically requires a court order to get him out of bed every other day of the week. But a softly spoken “Six a.m.” pops him out of bed the next morning like a jack-in-the-box, because he knows it means an exciting car is parked outside and we’re going for our Saturday morning run.
It started quite by accident for us.
One Saturday morning, I got up early and went out for a drive, as I'd learned that is the best time to have the roads unencumbered by people who are out for a ride, rather than a drive. When I returned, Julian asked where I'd gone and if he could go the next day. I said, “Sure, if you’re awake, I go at six a.m..” He didn’t flinch. Sunday morning, six a.m., he was sitting at my desk, dressed and ready to go.
We've been doing it ever since.
Out on the road, as I hustle the car along one of my twisty test routes, I explain to Julian what I’m doing with the car. I show him how I set up to enter each curve and how I exit in a manner that sets us up to take the next curve. We have had intense, detailed discussions about the physics of managing a car's weight transfer to get through a curve better.
One morning, a version of that conversation evolved into how driving is a lot like life.
I broke it down for him like this:
"In a lot of ways son, driving well is just like living responsibly. You have to pay attention because you’re gathering information so you can proceed appropriately.
You have to anticipate, and at just the right moment, act decisively, but in a controlled way. Smoothness and a calm mind are crucial, because violent moves can rob you of control. You have to be quick enough to be effective, but keep enough in reserve to respond to unforeseen circumstances. After all, you never know what’s around the next curve – right?
Most of all, you have to acknowledge your responsibility to the situation. When you’re in the driver’s seat there are consequences to your every action, because the outcome rests - quite literally - in your hands.”
Just like in life.
What’s remarkable is how many different ways we arrive at a similar line of conversation every Saturday morning, and how Julian then opens up to me about his life. He confides fears, expresses pride and reveals his desires. He’s learned, that out of all the other days of the week, these Saturday mornings belong specifically to him. And through our talks, from the questions he asks and his responses to mine, I can see he’s developing the values that every parent prays the man their daughter marries will have.
Who’d have ever thought so much could come from driving sports cars in the country at the crack of dawn?
It’s a beautiful thing.
Lyndon Conrad Bell is also editor-in-chief at On Wheels Media.