Audi E-Tron, Take Me to My Nuclear Bunker

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2022 audi etron gt

Greg Pajo

This Automotive Sucks Younger Blood

I’m driving down the backbone of Virginia alongside Interstate 81 in an Audi e-tron GT. It’s certainly one of many electrical vehicles from legacy automotive manufacturers that can most certainly eat into Tesla’s cachet and market dominance.

This story initially appeared in Quantity 11 of Highway & Monitor.

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I ought to resent this automotive. And, in truth, I do on the outset. It has a sticker value of $160,000 (that rattling inflation!). It has no sunroof, nor any trunk house to talk of. Its GPS is mouthy. Its cup holder grips my seltzer can prefer it needs to recycle the factor proper now, this on the spot. This particular e-tron is a shade that I might trademark as Dishwater Nail Polish. Its bucket seat is pinching my ass laborious, and not one of the energy seat controls handle to free it. Its steering wheel is roofed in artificial suede. A velveteen serpent of a wheel. It’s attractive to the attention, however freaks out my arms. I get the attraction of this automotive, however I miss my very own. It’s a Hyundai. No parking-lot valet will gaze in awe at my Tucson rolling as much as a lodge, however it’s spacious and retains me comfy.

However the e-tron is decided to win me over, and it’ll finally succeed. Twenty-four hours from now, I’ll perceive why it conjures up midlife crises and in addition cures them. And, principally, I’ll perceive that this factor is quick. I’ll go very quick on this automotive. I’ll grip that fuzzy wheel, cruise into triple digits with out apology, and develop into pace. I’ll go quick sufficient to actually cease giving a shit about something and everybody. Is it a gas-powered automotive or a coal-­powered automotive? Who cares? I’ll go away all of it far behind within the e-tron’s slit of a rear windshield.

First, although, let me inform you in regards to the speck of fear that’s about to eat my electrical mud.

2022 audi etron gt

The Audi e-tron GT is an absolute pleasure to drive on the closely wooded roads close to the Greenbrier.

Greg Pajo

I didn’t care once I turned 40. I do know the rom-com trope is to dread the arrival of your forties after which endure all of the “I’m gonna die ugly!” angst that follows their arrival. However my thirties have been fulfilling, and numbers are simply that. I turned 40 and didn’t give it a second thought. After which all the pieces went to hell. Hair sprouted out of my ears as if they’d been fertilized. I went deaf. I suffered a stroke (actually). I acquired ED. Political information began to really upset me. And a pandemic! I needed to reside by way of a goddamn pandemic!

They weren’t mendacity, I assumed. Your forties actually do suck.

Simply earlier than this jaunt, I turned 45. I fully misplaced contact with popular culture. Each physician I visited was one who additionally does Botox injections as a profitable facet enterprise. In the meantime, I continuously needed to give a shit on a regular basis: about my household, about our funds, about home equipment in our home not working, about politics, in regards to the destiny of the world, about who will likely be forged as the subsequent Bond . . . it was exhausting. The much less of a shit I’ve to provide, the happier I’m. I hate caring. Forty-­5 made me really feel outdated, and I hated it. On the finish of daily, I’d get a twitch in my left eye from all of the unconscious fear. I couldn’t management it. One minute I may see out of that eye, the subsequent flap-flap-flap-flap-flap.

the greenbrier

The Greenbrier is almost as outdated as america. Presumably, the lion is significantly youthful.

Greg Pajo

This was not the right time for me to cease taking my nervousness medicine, however I had executed so months earlier. I didn’t inform my physician. I didn’t even inform my therapist. I instructed my spouse, after all, however she’s no physician. I felt simply groovy with out the tablets, solely I used to be out of the blue fairly unmotivated—to work, to jot down, to do a lot of something. I had misplaced my, nicely, drive. In an epiphany that defied my mounting years, I put two and two collectively and went again on the tablets.

Then Highway & Monitor was like, “Hey man, would you prefer to drive a $160,000 automotive to a resort and tour a secret navy bunker there?” I did. I needed to go someplace, anyplace. I wanted to flee not simply the world round me—each my rapid neighborhood and nicely past it—however myself. The primary half was simple. The second half, much less so.

2022 audi etron gt

Rattling you, Stanley Kubrick, for making each grand outdated resort really feel eerily just like the Overlook Resort.

Greg Pajo

My vacation spot for this task was the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, a city, fortunately, with out an odor to correlate with its identify. The Greenbrier is residence to what was a top-secret nuclear-fallout bunker, designed throughout the Chilly Struggle each as a refuge for Congress within the occasion of a nuclear strike and as a brief base of operations for the legislative department of the U.S. authorities. President Dwight D. Eisenhower picked the resort for this bunker as a result of it’s shut sufficient to D.C. to be accessible, however far-enough away to be a protected haven. It’s attractive however remoted. The right hiding spot for Congress, and now for me.

As a result of I’m, at coronary heart, a real dad, environment friendly automotive journeys please me. Scenic detours anger me. Once I sense I’m making awful time, I’m immediately aggravated. The Greenbrier was my quarry, however the actual objective of this journey was to divest myself of my standard driving mentality, to get pleasure from my time with the e-tron on the open street, and to find issues that, maybe, I wouldn’t discover anyplace else.

I didn’t discover them. Not at first.

Throughout my maiden voyage to White Sulphur Springs, I instantly retreat into customary Maryland-­driver horseshit. I curse the bucket seat for waking up my sciatica. I cease off at a delegated “scenic view” on the entrance to an ideal valley, one I’d all the time wished to absorb. Solely I rapidly uncover that the view from the freeway is simply nearly as good, if not higher. Valuable time misplaced. I get again on I-270 and let the e-tron attain 100, however just for a second; I’m too scared I’ll get a ticket. I sweat discovering a charging station (the e-tron’s vary with a full cost is a shade over 200 miles, and my journey was a shade greater than that) and how to cost the automotive, since this was my very first time driving an EV. Once I attain a Walmart charging station and discover out I can cost this fucker to just about full in lower than half an hour, I truly get excited to drive alongside Shenandoah Nationwide Park.

2022 audi etron gt

In change for permitting the key bunker to be constructed on its property, the Greenbrier acquired a free further wing for its resort.

Greg Pajo

So I do the proper factor and drive the scenic route the remainder of the best way to the resort, alongside again roads that weave by way of bucolic hillsides, like a skier navigating recent moguls. The e-tron is constructed for this precise sort of route. I’m now doing the driving you’d see within the b-roll for a business promoting an Audi’s cornering agility. I cease for espresso at a common retailer and uncover that metropolis dwellers have purchased it to refurbish into an Airbnb rental, the brand new colonizing the outdated.

That’s high quality. I simply need to get again on the freeway. I need to get the place I’m going. The automotive remains to be merely a device, the street nonetheless work. I’ve all the time handled driving this fashion. My romantic visions of prolonged journeys—to Hollywood! to Mexico! to the Yukon!—are higher off remaining daydreams, as a result of my imagined affection for the street all the time dissipates once I’m within the automotive, irrespective of the automotive. For some folks—and also you’re in all probability certainly one of them—the journey is the purpose of the expertise, and the automotive is a paintbrush you utilize to compose the entire thing. I’m not that man. I’m a vacation spot man.

And so, once I attain the Greenbrier simply because the solar is setting, I really feel aid. It’s a grand lodge—majestic, stunning, outdated. The sort of place that feels prefer it found pizza simply two years in the past. The paint is peeling. The varied wallpaper patterns got here proper out of your grandmother’s feng shui daydreams. An extended row of cutesy reward retailers previous the foyer lends an airport-­terminal vibe. I’m too younger for this type of place. Undoubtedly. Completely.

the greenbrier

It could be honest to explain the Greenbrier’s adorning as exuberant.

Greg Pajo

I’m going as much as the foyer bar and order a burger from a bartender who might or might not have additionally labored on the Overlook Resort when Jack Torrance stayed there for the winter. The burger patty is so dry that I eat the bacon and melted cheese off it and go away the meat to develop chilly on my plate. Then I stroll into the on line casino carrying a peanut-butter milkshake. I set down my shake on the blackjack desk and proceed to lose $100, together with each single hand the place I double down. Then I’m going again as much as my room, relax, and watch some basketball. I really feel nice. So, so relaxed. As all the time, leaving the automotive was my reward for spending hours inside it.

The next day, that script would flip.

Be a part of me for a tour round a nuclear apocalypse that hasn’t but occurred, received’t you? I meet with my tour group within the grand upper-lobby space of the resort, the place grand ballroom after grand ballroom awaits future wedding ceremony events and their drunken revelers. Our information is a jolly fellow named Jonathan, who has given this tour for almost 20 years. You possibly can inform he loves the job. I can see why. You get to inform the identical dad info, over and over, to a brand new group of ­folks every time, all of whom are fascinated. What middle-­aged man wouldn’t need that?

As for the bunker itself, it resembles a middle-school cafeteria in each construction and decor. Jonathan takes us by the blast doorways, by way of secret tunnels that look extra like parking-garage ramps, and into an auditorium that will, when the bunker was nonetheless energetic, function the Home chamber ought to the U.S. authorities be compelled to relocate. In a close-by show gallery, Jonathan notes a small arsenal of riot gear. In case any members of Congress went feral from being trapped underground with out daylight, he notes, this riot gear was included to assist maintain them in line. The irony isn’t misplaced on me.

2022 audi etron gt

Greg Pajo

This bunker price U.S. taxpayers $11 million again within the day, plus an additional $3 million that Ike used to sweeten the Greenbrier’s pot, constructing a free further wing of the resort in change for letting him construct a protected haven from Armageddon. The federal government simply shrouded that $14 million expense by burying it inside a collection of extremely profitable public contracts it already had with the C&O Railway, which owned the Greenbrier on the time. C&O, now CSX, would finally promote the resort to billionaire Jim Justice, who simply occurs to be the present governor of West Virginia. New and outdated, perpetually cannibalizing each other.

Jonathan tells us that it was surprisingly easy for each the federal government and everybody who helped construct the bunker to maintain all of it on the DL. Nobody appreciated asking questions in 1962. “It was the Chilly Struggle period,” he explains. “Individuals have been used to secrecy again then.”

the greenbrier bunker

Within the Greenbrier bunker, members of Congress have been. anticipated to bunk as if at a summer time camp.

COURTESY OF THE GREENBRIER

That, after all, is now not true. There are only a few secret locations anymore—only a few locations for anybody, even the elite of the elite, to flee to. It’s laborious to even escape from your self. I do know this firsthand as a result of mine is a stressed thoughts, perpetually tempted to empty its contents out onto the web on a whim. My bodily deafness can cease me from listening to others however not from listening to this cursed mind of mine.

As for the bunker itself, it’s nonetheless constructed, maintained, and stocked to face up to, then survive, a nuclear blast greater than 15 miles away. However within the occasion Putin’s set off finger will get even itchier, the bunker received’t be sheltering Nancy Pelosi and her ilk this time. Congress has a brand new secret bunker that you just and I don’t find out about but. The one on the Greenbrier is now a server farm, utilized by former proprietor CSX for its offshoot cloud-­storage enterprise. You’re price sacrificing within the hearth, however we gotta maintain your digital organs round in order that, even in dying, you’ll have nowhere to cover.

On the finish of the tour, we get a novelty envelope that claims “declassified” and in addition “high secret,” two disclaimers that aren’t terribly in concord. Inside are among the photographs that lined the bunker throughout our tour. They’re now my knowledge to shelter, they usually’re protected in my arms. I’m not too far off from the age of the individuals who constructed this bunker once they constructed it, and I’m about the identical age as the federal government officers the bunker was designed to guard. If I’m not certainly one of “them” but, I will likely be quickly. I will likely be one of many dangerous guys.

greenbrier medical facility

Nothing nice was ever going to occur on this room.

Pictures COURTESY OF THE GREENBRIER

I’m driving residence now, and all the pieces that irritated me in regards to the e-tron now not does. I’m now not in a rush. I do know the drill with charging. I’m used to the cup holder giving my forearms a exercise. The suede steering wheel feels buttery. I don’t ruminate over the bucket seat angering my lumbar area. Out of the blue I’m simply driving. Quick. Oh my God, this factor goes so fucking quick. Sooner than Dying can catch you. I take a look at the head-up show and see that I’m approaching 100 with out a second thought. I guess I scared the shit out of the opposite vehicles on the street. Good.

I shoot for 100 once more. I barely must press the throttle. Going 100 on this automotive appears like doing 35 in my Hyundai. I’m understanding the e-tron now. It’s turning into my hideaway. I wanna go sooner. I wanna see the place it tops out. I wanna speed up till I levitate. I’m a hog of the street, consuming all of the pace and meals and electrical energy, with out guilt or worry or empathy. And I’m loving it.

I really feel outdated on this automotive, and I don’t thoughts. Sooner or later I’ll flip 50, and what? I can’t wait. Fifty is like 40, solely with out the regret. You received’t have the ability to contact me, and nobody else will both. I’ll be protected in my little fallout shelter of an existence, and the remainder of the world will likely be everybody else’s downside however mine. I’m able to cease sweating outdated age and exploit it to the hilt. I’m able to suck some younger blood. Now I’m develop into boomer, the destroyer of worlds. Perhaps I’ll deal with myself to some Botox to have fun the event after which purchase the wheels to match.

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