What a different a month makes. It was only about month ago that we all celebrated Fat Tuesday, enjoyed the rare 29th of February, and college students began anxiously preparing for spring break. In our home, I remember preparing our newly acquired 1991 Alfa Romeo 164S for drop-off at a friend's repair shop, so he could repair 10 years of neglect from the previous owner. Ah, the simpler times!
Here we are now with travel bans, shelter-in-place orders, and toilet paper rolls trading for more than a tank of premium gasoline. As more people are working and learning from home, internet service providers are slowing down connections to cope with the increased data throughput. Even the major streaming video platforms are requesting that people slow down their data consumption by streaming in standard definition. SD? SD... in 2020?!?! Blasphemy!
As I worked remotely for the past week plus, I personally noticed this "virtual traffic jamming" throughout the day. Since streaming media is my primary business, we have been atop of this since our supply chain from China became impacted in early February. I know to a lot of people the internet is their open road, but to my analog human-ass- I prefer the real deal.
Being a Wisconsin resident does have its perks. Considering that we have about an acre between each neighbor of ours, social distancing has always been a way of life. In all honesty, not much has really changed aside from wearing gloves while shopping, enjoying insanely cheap fuel prices, and noticing that the roads were much more empty than usual... and that had me thinking.
Although my 164S is in the shop, my Stelvio Ti Lusso is certainly no slouch and was ready for some serious "social distancing." Driving just a few miles from our home led me to some roads that varied from hilly curves to open, straight, stretches that spanned across open farmland. This not only proved to satisfy my need for visual stimulation, but it also gave me the opportunity to meter the performance of my vehicle.
A quick search in the Google Play Store led me to a very useful app called "Drag Racer." This useful app utilizes your phone's GPS to monitor vehicle movement, speed, and distance. It is great for measuring 0-60mph time, 1/4 mile and top speed of a given run- all automatically.
I am not condoning the violation of posted speed limits or racing on public roads, however I am one who abides to social distancing. I was merely measuring how quickly I can distance myself from others. Yes, let's go with that.
Finding the ideal road for conducting my testing proved fairly easy. One such open stretch ran along a large farm field where the risk of entering traffic would be next to non-existent. After several slow runs to check the road surface and assess the safety of my surroundings, it was time to get scientific.
Stopped at a point where I can clearly see my surroundings, I placed the Stelvio into Dynamic mode and patiently awaited the app to lock a GPS signal and give me the "go" command. Within a few short seconds the app turned green and beeped to confirm it was ready for automatic measuring.
Brake down, gas down, release at 3,500 RPM and hold on! 60mph whizzed by with a quick beep from the app and metering continued until I lifted off the gas. I looked at app in amazement. Not because of my surprisingly swift acceleration, but rather that the app actually worked!
Feeling like a real engineer, I needed to see how I could improve my results. You know... in the name of science. I must admit- this was getting fun. When else could you launch a 4,000lb SUV in relative safety then right now? Seriously. Although these are country roads, I have never seen them this empty, not even on a holiday.
After I got the engineering bug out of my system, I decided to enjoy the road and carve up some curves. As I dove deep into the corners and felt every element that makes an Alfa an Alfa- even if it is an SUV. The main appeal of an Alfa Romeo is the prioritization of the driver experience and style above all else. The Stelvio has never been a disappointment in this regard.
Feeling the pull of the turbocharged 2.0-litre as I exited the curves kept me smiling the whole way until the next turn. Now this is social distancing at is finest! I know there are better handling, more powerful, and more feature-packed vehicles on the market, but Alfa Romeos are all about "the feels."
Plowing onward I began to let my mind wonder about the current state of affairs in this country and globally due to the current pandemic. I know that life may never fully return to normal, but what is next? Could we possibly face a world where joy driving is severely limited or banned completely?
I am not a conspiracy theorist nor am I preaching of an oncoming restriction of our personal freedoms. However, you most certainly can't argue that we have taken a simple joy like open-road driving for granted? Based on everything happening around us, one must wonder if that is a freedom that we might have to relinquish?
It is a sad state of affairs globally and regardless of what we might think of COVID-19 or the response of the leaders around us, one must appreciate what freedoms we still have. So while gas is cheap, traffic is light, and roads are not yet closed, take advantage! Enjoy your vehicle, whatever it might be and most importantly- enjoy the drive.