I had no plans to drive here, an hour's run from my home in Arlington, from the work I left on my desk there.
I had no plans to come to this town in Warren County, where Skyline Drive begins, where the autumnal sun illuminates dying leaves, turning them into brilliant works of art in their final moments.
But there was a 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 in the driveway, a $66,000 supercar with a seven-liter, 505-horsepower V-8 engine and a wonderfully smooth six-speed manual transmission; and I'm an absolute fool for Corvettes.
I admit it. I'm hooked. I've been hooked since I was a child, when I saw my first Corvette on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans in 1958. I've driven every Corvette I could drive since I was able to drive.
As a young man, I never had the money to buy a Corvette. And when I finally started making some money, I couldn't spend it on a Corvette, a two-seat sports car, because I had smart kids who studied hard enough to get into Ivy League schools, where no one was offering scholarships to people who had any money, even if you really didn't have all that much money.
So, we mortgaged the house and paid Barnard College and Columbia University . . . and bought a Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck. Graduate school bills replaced undergraduate school bills. But when those stopped, there was still no Corvette, because the woman who is my wife wanted a Mini Cooper and a "serious retirement savings plan."
So, I satisfied my Corvette lust by test-driving every Corvette I could borrow for a day, or a week. I went to Corvette shows. I even spent $400 on a really neat burgundy-and-black leather 50th-anniversary Corvette jacket. My spouse grumbled a bit about that, but I managed to placate her by telling her I got the thing on sale.
It was an act of ceremonial truth. I'm sure that some stores would've asked $600 or more for that jacket. But I went to only one store in the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, where the asking price was $400 . . .
Anyway, there was this 2006 Corvette Z06 in the driveway. There were other cars -- sensible automobiles, the kind I should be writing about in an age of high gasoline prices, potential fuel shortages, huge oil industry profits and timid politics.
Driving a high-horsepower Corvette in that milieu seems at odds with common sense. But there is nothing sensible about love, or addiction, especially when there is some available ground for rationalization, which there is in this case.
The Corvette Z06 moves from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.7 seconds in first gear; it reaches a speed of 125 miles per hour in 11.7 seconds. Top speed is 198 miles per hour, according to Corvette engineers. (Of course it's according to them: I'd never, never, ever drive that fast.) But with all of its hoorah performance, the Z06 gets 16 miles per gallon in the city and 26 miles per gallon on the highway. That means it's one of the rare supercars that doesn't come with a U.S. gas-guzzler tax.
General Motors Corp., the Corvette's manufacturer, achieved that magic through the use of lightweight materials -- carbon fiber front fenders, wheel wells and floorboards; magnesium component fixed roof; and lots of aluminum. The Z06 weighs 3,132 pounds -- less than a mid-size 2006 Toyota Camry LE V-6 sedan, which has a curb weight (factory weight without passengers or cargo) of 3,340 pounds.
Dare I say it? The Z06 is fuel-efficient, and inasmuch as it meets all applicable federal clean-air regulations, it's reasonably environmentally friendly.
All of that obviously is afterthought, which is the stuff of rationalization. I considered none of those things when I slid behind the steering wheel of the Z06, pushed the ignition button and began what I thought would be a short run -- you know, just something to get the creative juices going.
An hour later, I was in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. I was enjoying the art of the drive, the sheer exhilaration of a car that has no earthly purpose for being other than to run fast and that offers neither an apology nor an excuse for being that way.
I noticed on my run that Corvettes beget other Corvettes. They seem to find one another on the highway. Sometimes they form a line, one beautiful Corvette after another, just showing off. Sometimes Corvette drivers give one another the thumbs up. It's a comradeship of the road. Corvette lovers understand. It's everything we've ever dreamed of behind the wheel. It's what driving is all about.