Enough Comfort for the Long Ride Back
Sunday, July 30, 2006
LONG POND, Pa.
Getting here was easy. We drove up from Virginia in the Legacy GT Limited, Subaru's midsize luxury sport sedan, replete with an onboard navigation system, faux-wood interior accents and other cosmetic and functional upgrades for 2006.
We arrived at the beginning of the Pennsylvania 500, the 20th of 36 Nextel Cup series races held under the auspices of NASCAR, the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing.
We were latecomers.
NASCAR weekends are exactly that -- long weekends starting as early as Thursday, but well underway by Friday evening. Most fans in the grandstands and infields of the Pocono International Raceway had been in the area for at least two days. Incoming traffic was light on the Sunday afternoon we showed up.
It was a good race. Rookie Denny Hamlin, driving No. 11, the FedEx Kinko-sponsored Chevrolet owned by Washington Redskins Head Coach Joe Gibbs, finished first after dominating the track for most of the contest. We started cheering for Hamlin after the 32nd lap of the 200-lap race, primarily because he was a rookie, but also because he exhibited a dignity absent from the rude track behavior of defending NASCAR Nextel Cup champion Tony Stewart.
We need not go into the details of Stewart's bit of track rage for which he was penalized one lap. We were juiced by Hamlin's victory.
But that good feeling faded when we were trapped by the traffic inching out of the track after the race.
We spent 90 minutes crawling along Long Pond Road. You notice a lot about a car in that circumstance, and none of it has anything to do with horsepower or vehicle handling. You concentrate on where you are -- the car's cabin.
We focused on the Legacy GT Limited's new-for-2006 navigation system. We were impressed by its accuracy, right down to depicting vacant fields and campgrounds on the right side of Long Pond Road. But we were frustrated by its operation.
We're accustomed to navigation systems that literally tell us turn-by-turn where we are and where we are going, that gently ask us to make a U-turn or take some other corrective measure when we've made a wrong move.
By comparison, the synthesized female's voice in the Subaru was unkind, snippy. We touched the navigational screen's voice tab to ascertain if we were driving in the right direction on Long Pond Road. She curtly responded: "Refer to the map!"