A love like any other

The city of Wendover, on the Utah/Nevada border, may actually be the most cheerless, painstaking place on earth.

Aside from the occasional cultural gathering held within its city limits or the random scuba-diving excursion (the closest dive spot for Salt Lake City divers is Crystal Lake, just outside the city), there are very, very few reasons for mentally stable U students to make the hour-and-a-half drive out west to the geographic time-suck in the desert.

Last weekend, one of those few good reasons presented itself.

Every summer, the Rainbow Hotel Casino gathers some of the more spectacular hotrods in the western United States with its Rainbow Casino Cruise Night and reminds us that car culture is truly a culture all its own, more than simply a collection of like-minded wrench monkeys and gear heads as some might have you believe.

With attention to every detail from hubcaps to engine bays, compulsive polishing and repolishing of chrome and paint, and near-paternal devotion, it is clear just how important vehicles can be to their owners.

This is because for some people, cars are more than simply transportation.

It might be hard for others to understand, but for some, cars can be artistic creations-individualized expressions and extensions of personality.

My father is like this. Since before I can remember, I have distinct and vivid memories of cars and my father. Whereas some kids associate golf clubs and astringent aftershave with their dads, I associate with mine socket wrenches and the fragrance of 10W-30.

One of, if not my first, memory is of an infantile version of myself standing on the drivers seat of my dad’s parked, silver Mercedes, hands on the wheel, imagining-I’m sure-how it must feel to drive recklessly through the garage door and out into the cool suburban street.

When I was 14 years old, my dad fulfilled a childhood dream of his by ordering a unique British roadster he’d fantasized about since first seeing it as a teenager in the 1960s.

The Lotus/Caterham Super 7 that arrived at our Park City home in several giant wooden boxes-waiting to be assembled- represented for my dad the realization of a lifelong desire, and for me, the opportunity to spend some quality time with my male role model as I prepared to enter the unsure territory of high school.

Throughout that winter, from November until late May, we worked side by side for several hours a night, usually after dinner, torquing lug nuts and making sure the carburetors on the car’s tiny-but-eager engine were adjusted just right. I didn’t do much homework that quarter and I think I received the lowest marks of my high school career, but the countless hours spent neglecting my studies were well worth it.

I didn’t do much in the way of actual work on the car, but I stood patiently by, admiring the way my dad so tenderly attended to that which he’d waited so long to possess. During the process, I learned a thing or two about how a fuel pump works and why multiple-spark ignition is a good idea for an old car. I even learned how to register a non-American car in the States.

But, while the auto lessons I learned are no doubt valuable, they pale in comparison to the real insight I was given during those cold nights in the garage with my father-the insight to the real rewards of devotion.

My father has never made any apologies for his conversion to Judaism from Mormonism earlier in his life, but watching him dutifully build that car made me think he missed his religious calling as a Buddhist. His singular focus was genuinely humbling.

Such is the case for any true lover of automobiles-or any true lover of anything, for that matter. The way any and everything else in the world evaporates in the presence of that which you adore is all the reason needed to dedicate a life to one passion.

Cars are sort of like that-or, they can be, at least. I know something deep inside of me will always stir at the sound of a healthy exhaust growl.

So, when I got the call last week that the Lotus my father and I had built so many years ago would be shown at the Cruise Night this year, it is no surprise that I didn’t hesitate in my decision to attend.

Even if it meant spending a few days in Wendover.

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