One of my favorite shows on the internet was 2007’s Thrill of the Road. It was just a couple of guys who would get into a car in New York City and then just drive off, not trying to get to any attraction so much as to enjoy the road itself. I got to ride shotgun with the Automobiliac as we ventured north in his ’83 Alfa GTV6 not really looking to get anywhere but a particularly twisting stretch of country road. It was awesome.
I first read about Thrill of the Road on Jalopnik, and as a kid who had just left California and two family cars behind and moved to New York, the show just spoke to me. They would find some interesting things on the way, but what made Thrill of the Road great was how it just got that feeling you get on long drives, where the whole road network just starts to feel awesome and immense and the scenery absolutely shines at a steady seventy mile an hour cruise.
Setting off just before noon, me and the Automobiliac were aiming for a notably twisting stretch of road out past Cold Spring, NY, just about an hour north of Manhattan. We made our way through the small state highways, two or four lane roads that all looked much older than any straight-arrow interstate highway. There wasn’t any of the brutal efficiency of something like I-80, and we had plenty of time to soak up the scenery and talk shit about all the slower traffic.
When we actually made it up into the forests and hills past Cold Spring, we found that the road we’d planned on driving wasn’t just unsurfaced, but was straight up closed. The road ahead looked plenty interesting and it didn’t disappoint. The surface was smooth, the road rolled up and down with big swells and sharp crests.
The corners came one after another, never leaving the Alfa quite enough time to settle between the bends. We never went absurdly fast, but that wasn’t the goal. Watching the road unfurl to the rasp of the V6, that was why we made the trip.
One corner stood out: coming out of a dropping left-hander, the road rose up to a disappearing right, lined with a stone walls on both sides. We charged up, drawing close to the stone wall, not able to see how the road would bend. At the crest, everything just whipped right, sharp and it felt for a moment like the jutting stones would tear off the side door. The Alfa just blasted through and began to steady itself as another turn came up on us, rolling up another section of the forest.
After two runs through the road, the Automobiliac had his share of dangerous driving and with the adrenaline subsiding, we started the rambling cruise back home. We always had his phone to check if there were some nice turns nearby, but we just spotted another promising road on the far side of a lake and gave it a try.
It wasn’t nearly as fun as the first road: the asphalt itself was dirty and poorly surfaced and too narrow to really go all out. It was much older, much tighter, much darker, and a lot prettier, but there was no push for heel-and-toe downshifts and hard corners.
We made it back to the city before five, having stopped for a cup of coffee at some small town and then coasted the rest of the way on the Taconic Parkway.
The trip hardly took an afternoon but now I’ve seen some of New York that I’d never seen before, logged a new road for my go-to driving roads list, and gained a new-found appreciation for the Alfa Romeo GTV6.
I think that just about any car or truck would be amazing on that road, but the Alfa just made it shine. It’s not built to boil brake fluid at a race track, it was built for something more like rally driving. The ride isn’t hard and the car isn’t stiff. It doesn’t beat the road into submission, it leans with the turns.
The GTV6 was, if anything, a bad influence. The more you drive it and the harder you drive it, the happier it is. The Automobiliac’s praise certainly hasn’t made resisting Craigslist searches for these rear-drive Guigiaro-penned Italian coupe any easier. Just a few stacks later and I could be lining up at the Manhattan DMV to register an Alfa of my own. That’s just how much a great road can turn your mind to mush.
J.F. Musial and friends, the people behind Thrill of the Road and now the people helping to make the next big thing in online car shows, figured this all out a few years back. This drive with the Automobiliac was another reminder for me how much I love to watch the world pass through the windshield.
So what’s the moral of the story? Just get out, follow the infrastructure, and explore. If you’ve got a classic sports car, somebody to shoot the shit with, and some heaving, flowing bends, then all the better.