Snow-capped mountains in the distance and a clear blue sky. An empty road made of smooth, pock-free tarmac. A selection of tight hairpins and switchbacks as well as fast kinks, sweeping bends and some leg-stretching straights. The route punctuated by a lone coffee stop where a gorgeous barista turns your simple coffee order into something spectacular. Or, makes your spectacularly complicated drink look simple to make. On the stereo, Burbling Exhaust feat. Barking Induction Note. Wait, that’s not coming from the speakers.
Let me guess, give or take a few details, that’s how your ideal post-lockdown drive pans out in your head. Of course it does. You don’t want to be reunited with your car on some ordinary ring road after weeks of being cooped up inside. You want to be reintroduced to driving somewhere idyllic and astounding. You want it to be on your favourite road.
But let’s be honest, really honest with ourselves. That perfect road isn’t hundreds or thousands of miles away, is it? No, it’s the one where you know the radius of every single bend, you know the perfect line to carve through every twist. It’s the one with that corner you know you have to keep a tight line on, rather than let the car run wide, so you miss that pothole you know about.
It’s the one where you get that momentary glimpse in the distance to see if there’s any oncoming traffic. And if it’s clear, you know you can safely cut the next corner. It’s the one that, when it’s dark, you can see if there are any headlights ahead or if you have the entire road to yourself.
It’s the one with that corner where the inside edge of the road falls away slightly, and if you drop your front wheel into that trough, it feels like you’ve perfected some Initial D-style gutter technique.
It’s the one where you know every meaningful bit of straight road so you can prepare and overtake any slow-moving vehicles instantly, making it as safe as possible. It’s the one where you know about that blind junction and that you need be wary of people pulling out in front of you.
It’s the one with that crest that, if you don’t back off as you go over it, all four wheels will leave the ground. It’s the one where you sometimes, cheekily, keep your foot in.
It’s the one where you know of that really rough section that your car feels horrid on, so you creep over it timidly. It’s the one where the surface changes for a hundred metres-or-so and, although it’s fine when it’s dry, is incredibly slippery in the wet.
It’s the one with that bend where you need to steal a bit of the other side of the road, no matter how greedy it seems, because there’s a mid-corner bump that launches the car towards the outside verge.
It’s the one with that well-sighted junction where, if there’s no one else about, you can treat it like a perfect 90-degree bend. It’s the one where you know there’s a village or town right around the corner, so you back off early; no need to tear up to the houses making a load of noise, stinking of hot brakes.
It’s the one with that section where your car sounds glorious, so you drop the window even if it’s raining to catch its howl reflected off that wall, fence, underpass or tunnel.
It’s the one you know intimately; the one you’ve driven the most frequently. It’s probably the one right around the corner from your home.
So, unless you happen to live in the foothills of an Alpine mountain, it’s not a road that’s on anyone’s bucket list, nor in a book about epic driving roads. No one on Instagram will be desperate to tag themselves at its location. In fact, if someone else were to drive it, they would be truly baffled as to why anyone really loved it. It takes hundreds of times driving back and forth to fully reveal its charms, but once you know every aspect of it, it’s hard to find a more enjoyable road to drive on.