Renting a car for no reason except to drive

Do people take Sunday drives anymore? When I was a kid, we’d eat Sunday dinner at my grandparents’ house on the East Side of Joliet, and then all eight of us would pile into the car for a trip to Pilcher Park, always stopping at the greenhouse and the artesian well.

Sunday drives have largely gone by the wayside, probably for multiple reasons. I don’t hear people say they get in the car just to take a drive anymore; indeed, many people would consider it environmentally irresponsible.

I was thinking about this a couple of weeks ago as I was driving through the scenic Jemez Mountains on New Mexico Route 4. Coincidentally, it was a Sunday. A long route from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, Route 4 would allow a stop at Bandelier National Monument. I didn’t even realize until afterward that Route 4 is a National Scenic Byway, but it was clear why it is: the scenery is gorgeous, especially on a clear, sunny day. How exhilarating it was to drive the winding roads up and down the mountain sides, marveling at the many colors of rock when I dared to take my eyes off the road. There were few cars, and I often felt alone in nature.

And suddenly it dawned on me how to indulge a desire to drive when I don’t own a car: rent a car now and then for a scenic drive out of town — a version of a Sunday drive.

Car ownership makes no sense for me — even less sense now than when I gave up my last car because the odometer was registering only 2,000 miles a year. In my current South Loop location, there are two grocery stores on the corner, the Roosevelt el station and the State Street and Michigan Avenue buses a block away, and the Loop a 20-minute walk away.

Yet I miss driving. When I say that, I don’t mean that I miss the convenience of having a car. It’s not a sacrifice to take public transportation or walk. Zipcars are available right down the street if I need to haul something heavy.

Nor does missing driving have to do with the machine. My cars, most of them bought used, were utilitarian subcompacts — Toyota Tercel, Nissan Sentra, Geo Prizm. I never owned a car that anyone would ooh and aah over.

What I miss is the physical act of driving. It’s fun, traffic jams excepted. Driving is the most fun on open roads where you seldom have to stop for a red light.

Since giving up a car more than a decade ago, every time I’ve rented a car, it’s been to transport myself or stuff from point A to point B. Renting a car just to drive rather than out of need would be new, a sort of mini-minivacation. I wouldn’t need a driving fix frequently. Every few months would do.

Where would I go? As a start, Sheridan Road on the North Shore and the Fox River Valley come to mind.

But too much planning seems counter to the idea of a joyride. It might be felicitous just to meander with no design in mind and see what unfolds, not knowing where I’m going until I get there.



A few months ago I wrote a post about noise, particularly in restaurants. I said that when I eat out, it’s for conversation as much the food, so I want to hear my companions. I made an assumption that restaurants are catering to a younger generation that likes loudness. That’s not true, according to stories last Wednesday in the Tribune and on Block Club Chicago. Restaurants are trying to turn down the volume in response to complaints about noise, the articles said, but fixes are expensive.

We don’t have to put up with noise when we eat out, however. A new app, Soundprint, allows users to search for restaurants, bars, and cafés based on noise levels. Described as “like Yelp, but for noise,” the app was created by a New York man with hearing loss. More than 30,000 submissions in 12 cities, including Chicago, were sent to his database. SoundPrint reports that more than 450 Chicago venues are evaluated as quiet, moderate, loud, and very loud. Block Club Chicago listed the 20 quietest in its article. I was pleased to see one of my favorite South Loop restaurants, Amarit, listed as number two.

Soundprint is available only for Apple devices for now. Android versions are being considered.



“The only knowledge that Trump can impart to anyone about wealth is an unteachable skill: have rich parents.”

— Helaine Olen, author of Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry



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  • Thanks for the update on restaurant noise. I too do not like to shout
    Over noise, so my dinner companions can hear me.

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