The thought for this month’s Free Wheelin’ got its start atop the Hawks Nest – a curvaceous bit of roadway along the upper part of the Delaware River.
I was making my way south towards the Tri-State border, and I had pulled off to one of the wayside areas to take in the river view and the sun as it began to slide ever westward towards the evening sunset.
I have been here countless times before and it is never unusual to get a beep of a horn as another traveler passed by. Usual rider to rider.
But today it was different - as it was driver to driver and neither of us were on bikes, but rather cars – in particular we both were piloting Subaru WRXs. His an older, more classic machine, mine the last of the STi’s. This was a first for me – but I realized that with a new acquisition for the barn, I had joined a new tribe as well.
A long time ago…motor-scribe and all-around nice guy Bill Heald penned a now and again column in Backroads called Gilded Cages – which featured some very high-end and sporty machinery of the four-wheel persuasion.
The column’s named played with the fairly jejunic catch-phrase that some ‘bikers’ like to throw at anyone who happens to be in an automobile of some type. As if any of these ‘hard-core’ riders do not look longingly at that BMW M-coupe when it passes them in a rain storm?
The actual meaning of the Gilded Cage is simple: A place which is superficially attractive but nevertheless constraining; a comfortable but confined situation.
Hmmm – the wind flew around my shaven pate far more in Shira’s Audi A4 Cabriolet than it ever did over my helmet. Just sayin.’
Said Audi has been part of the family for almost two decades. Super car, but after all the years, it was getting long in the tooth. When things start to go south with a vehicle near two-decades old you either keep on top of it, or start looking for another ride.
The search for a second ride – more toy than transport - was on… and, it was a bit harder than we thought it would be.
When I first started dating Shira, I had a Datsun 280Z 2+2, built before the name change and the Mets last won the series. With a wave of nostalgia Shira began a search for the new Nissan Z – but, at this time, they were few and far between.
I aimed high, the Ave Maria, and made my desire for a Mustang Mach 1 very apparent. Shira rightly asked what would we do with 480 horses, rear wheel drive and little room? I did not want to mention that the Nissan was of the same ilk.
But, lurking in the shadows…
A few years back, while attending CLASS Riding School at Virginia International Raceway, the south track was holding a school of another type – this by Subaru for their various dealers in the mid-Atlantic. While we were taking a lunch break, a number of BRZs and WRXs came rolling up to the small trackside café. Amongst them was one silver STi.
For those who are not familiar with this four-door sedan – the first WRXs were souped-up Imprezas – built to race World Rally Cup.
WRX stood for World Rally eXperimental, and for a decade their big gun was the WRX STi; and this car was a Japan-only machine. STi stood for Subaru Tecnica international, which is essentially a name to describe Subaru's own motorsports program.
Subaru eventually brought the STi into the States and this was one of the first I had gotten to see up close… not counting the opening chase scene from Baby Driver. (Great film, superb driving, outstanding soundtrack)
I ride a GS – not the most elegant of machines – but one of the best motorcycles on the planet. I felt the same way about this car. Not drop dead sexy as the Z or the ‘Stang… but it still had that certain something that some people seem to exude without even trying. A built in, not initially apparent, sexy charm. Like the girl in C, S & N’s Fair Game.
Shira could not get past the wing. Yes, it has a wing. But it is also a cavernous four-door sedan, that doesn’t take shit.
We both readily admit that the Rex’ is a beast and blast to drive. You truly need to pilot this machine, not simply go for a ride. The STi demands you keep your head in the game – just like riding a motorcycle. We have had dozens of motorcycles over our decades together, and we really never gave it much thought, about cars that is, until the STi came along. Looking back, with cars like the Stealth, RX7, Z4, A4 and the old Datsun Z…? It seems we had been moto-junkies for a long time, but like many addictions didn’t seem to see anything as a problem.
It's okay. They’ll be no rehab, or 12-step program for this one.
Maybe you might have this same problem too – I know many of you do. (Gary, I did not mention your name - oops)
In fact, as the years have gone by, more and more of you kids, our readers, have been faced with the realization that motorcycles might be more of a task than a pleasure and many of our readers and friends have shown up at our rallies with some serious automobiles.
M-BMWs, Mustangs and Corvettes. And, you know what? They are all so welcome.
So… life moves on and like a great road trip the terrain can and will change a bit from time to time, but the ride, the journey and the adventure are still the same.
So, if you see a bit more 4-wheel vehicles, product or flair in these pages…Enjoy it – we’re gonna share the backroads with everybody!