The Batmobile on a Road Trip

I can’t say I ever gave too much thought to ornamenting a tire. Tires have always been purely functional for me. They turn. When they do, the heavy vehicles they carry move from Point A to Point B. You can have the fanciest engine in the world, but without tires, the vehicle’s not going anywhere.

Hubcaps are tire ornaments. They have many different circular designs, like simplified versions of the fantastical views you get inside a kaleidoscope. But the Batmobile doesn’t have a fancy hubcap. It has a tire ornament like no other tire ornament.

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If I was the Batmobile and was moved to a new place of display, I would definitely not say, “Here we go again. A bunch more fools are coming to look at me: ‘Oh, look! The Batmobile!’ they say. ‘I remember the Batmobile!’ Yeah, so what! You think I asked for this look?”

Such disdain is so unbecoming. I imagine the Batmobile instead in a rather humble strut, if this is not too much a contradiction of terms. Its look is super cool. “Oh boy, here they come,” it says gleefully to itself. “More admirers! I love admirers! Look at me, look at my tires, look at my sleekness, my gleam, my cool windshields! I don’t have to try very hard, you know, I just am this beautiful!”

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People like me say “Oh, look! The Batmobile!” because you don’t see the Batmobile every day and because somebody had a lot of fun thinking of how to ornament it!

Samuel and I didn’t plan to see it. We planned to float around downtown Roanoke, Virginia, exploring this small southern city, getting a feel for its character, its energy, its good people working hard to make it a great place to live. We strolled through the city marketplace, got a generously large “small” ice cream cone at Bayou Snowballs, ate a fabulous wagyu burger at Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger Joint (where they do not serve burgers with lettuce and tomato, btw) and watched the proprietor of La De Da make a candy dress (yes, a candy dress – I will come back to this).

But then it started raining and was only 3pm. It was a cold icky rain. The observatory at the top floor of the science museum was closed for a private event, so Samuel suggested we go to the top of the parking garage and look at the city. For this we got the umbrella from the car and went up five levels. Other than struggling with our umbrella hilariously turning inside out more than once on account of the wind (umbrellas really do this!), we got a nice view. St. Andrew’s is an especially handsome church.

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You can see how dreary the weather was, but this church! Captivating. Gorgeous. If you get the chance, go see its glorious vaulted ceilings, perfect hanging light fixtures and polished marble floors, all in pristine condition. We did. See if you don’t think it rivals European churches. We do.

But we still had time and it was still raining. The Virginia Transportation Museum had been suggested to us. Okay, sure, let’s go there. The Transportation Museum has a railyard containing many old but beautiful locomotives. This too is fantastic to see.

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Here we are just in front of the railyard. There are lots of wonderful exhibits in this museum calling attention to not only the engines themselves, but also the workforce that made the railroad industry possible, its marching band, its women’s auxiliary and the way trains changed the lives of people. All good, all very well done.

We wandered in the museum the way people wander. Wandering is good sometimes. It gets you to places you did not expect, like the car exhibit. Samuel loves cars – their design, their speed – he is enthralled, way more enthralled than I am. I have generally looked at cars as a thing that transports you quickly and conveniently. It doesn’t matter much what it looks like as long as it does its job.

Stop cringing, you car lovers! I know! How can I not appreciate the graceful lines of the body, the intricacies of the motor that enhance performance, the purr, the roar? I know. Give me time. I might get there. I might be a little closer after seeing this exhibit. I might have to appreciate cars a little more after seeing the Batmobile in person.

As we entered the car bay and saw the 20 or 30 cars lined up on display, I thought Cars, a means of transportation. Of course the Transportation Museum has a car display. I can look at cars. Note my enthusiasm.

But then a museum staff member did a wise thing. He told us, in words, out loud, that the owner of a number of famous movie cars had lent his collection to the museum for a short while, a month or so, and we might enjoy seeing them. Museums use a lot of signage, and this is good, but I don’t know it we would have ventured to the far side of this huge bay had he not spoken to us directly. It was the end of the day. We had seen the trains, marveled at the trains. Enough, right?

I soon changed my mind.

Who doesn’t love Back to the Future? Here was the DeLorean! The 1981 DeLorean DMC-12! “The way I see it, if you’re going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with style?”  Only 8987 of these cars were produced.

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They had the ambulance from Ghostbusters.

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They had the 1950 Mercury Monterey driven by Sylvester Stallone in the 1986 movie Cobra, a muscle car if ever there was one.

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I loved its license plate.

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We saw “Boss Hogg,” the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible, driven by Burt Reynolds in The Dukes of Hazzard, a 2005 film also starring A.J. Foyt IV, Willie Nelson and Lynda Carter. It is one of the last automobiles driven by Reynolds in a feature film.

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Check out the car handle.

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And yes, it has the horns up front!

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Who can’t smile looking at the 1974 Ford Gran Torino “Striped Tomato” from the Starsky & Hutch TV show?

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Or stare incredulously at one of the two 1970 Dodge Chargers that survived without damage from Fast and Furious?

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If I owned the Batmobile, the DeLorean and all these cars, I would send them on a road trip too. A change of scenery does us all good. Their road trip did me good! Beyond making me smile, they reminded me that humans have a creative, fun side, yet are incredibly capable of taking an idea and making it a reality. These are just cars, but what cars! Immortalized cars! (Did I really type that!?)

There’s hope yet, Samuel. Cars are cooler to me than they were two days ago.

2 thoughts on “The Batmobile on a Road Trip

  1. I always wanted a red corvette but ended up with the poor man’s version: a red camaro with T tops Loved that thing! Sold it when my husband died opting reluctantly for his dodge caravan for its practicality. A local guy bought it for his daughter who totalled it the next week! Now 20 years later I am seriously contemplating a red convertible in my old age. Not a corvette because I couldn’t possibly get in and out of the darn thing much less cover the cost with a retirement budget. But some dreams never die! Stay tuned.

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