Low Class Yuppie VII: The Summer List

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Everyone reading this article is likely familiar with the concept of a “bucket list.” Just about everyone has a mental roster, large or small, of the things they want to accomplish or the experiences in which they want to partake before they leave this plane of existence. I’m no different. I’m always adding things to my list; items come off with far less frequency.

The irony of the bucket list is that we think, in the back of our minds, that we’ll one day have plenty of time to carry out these fantasies. Perhaps after we’re diagnosed with some sort of rare wasting disease that conspires to end our life earlier than intended but somehow still allows for relative health and mobility. After all, skydiving while riding a bull and trying every illegal drug imaginable isn’t for the faint of heart or body.

The truth is that any of us could meet a swift end, like that security guard in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. One minute you’re making small talk with one of the nurses; the next, some a-hole who looks just like you spikes your left frontal lobe. You didn’t even get to finish your coffee, let alone your bucket list.

Maybe the key to overcoming that counterintuitive thinking is making a new list. One with a more pressing time limit. I’m not being fatalistic here—just Midwestern. (It’s easy for outsiders to confuse the two). Every winter I sit at my basement bar, listening to the same seven Steely Dan albums and drinking the same rum and cokes, thinking about all of the things I didn’t accomplish when the weather was nice, and all of the things I’ll surely accomplish when the snow thaws and the first good rain washes away an entire winter’s worth of car-killing road salt. It’s times like these when I remember a post I once read on a long-forgotten skateboarding forum, in a thread about advice you wish you’d been given when you were first learning how to ride as a kid.

“Twenty summers, give or take, and that’s it.”

A lifetime of rooting for crappy sports teams has given me a terminal case of “next year-itis.” I spend half the year wishing the weather was nice enough to do the things I really want to do. I spend the other half of the year kicking the can down the road and telling myself that “I’ll get around to it, when there’s time.” And then, instead of making time, I just end up sitting on the couch and watching Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Man, that movie rules. 

Earlier this year, at the start of spring, I got a text from my best friend, Kyle. “Hey,” he said. “Let’s go to a test and tune this week. I want to see what the ZR-1 will do.”

A test and tune? In April? Is the track even open? His response was dead simple. It hit me in the gut like last night’s Cheesy Gordita Crunch. “I don’t want to be sitting around in October wishing I had made it to the track this year.”

We didn’t make the test and tune that week (as it turns out, the track wasn’t open) but we did swing by my hangar to get my ‘21 Mustang EcoBoost HPP out of winter storage. A week later, at around a half hour before midnight on a rainy Wednesday night, I went out to my Mustang, cranked up the newest Kavinsky single, and went for a long, wet drive. Why? Because I’d been wanting to do it since “Zenith” dropped back in February, and I didn’t want to be sitting around in October wishing I had. Thanks, Kyle.

Maybe, instead of a bucket list, I need a Summer List. I’ve spent too many cold December nights thinking about how this will be the year I finally get everything off of jack stands and thin the herd. I’m sick of reading build threads each November, wanting to learn how to weld in patch panels and block sand. I’ve lost track of how many Speed Weeks I’ve watched in February, resolving to get my competition racing license that very same year. I’m not getting any younger. Every year my hair gets a little thinner, my belly a little softer. I get tired a little more easily, and I get excited about fewer and fewer new cars.

The time is not going to magically appear. I have to make the time. I have to want it.

“Twenty summers, give or take, and that’s it.”

I want to sit down and take stock of all of the things I’ve been wanting to do with my cars—all of the projects I’ve been putting off, all of the events I’ve wanted to attend, all of the places I’ve wanted to visit and day trips I’ve wanted to take. I’m going to make a plan and figure out how to cross all of them off of my Summer List. These aren’t lifetime projects, and even with summer now waning I have a bit of autumn to pack all of it in.

A dozen or so weeks from now, I’ll be staring out of my window at a foot of snow, warmed by memories of everything I did this year, instead of everything I wish I’d done. I’m going to get out there and make things happen. Just as soon as the credits roll.

Cam VanDerHorst is a stand-up comedian and lifelong car enthusiast from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. He still hasn’t been to the track for a Test and Tune yet this year.

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