In 2006, Pixar Animation Studios released the movie Cars and introduced us to Radiator Springs, an imaginary town along Route 66 that long ago had been bypassed by a freeway beyond the city limits. The characters are personified vehicles with names like Lightning McQueen, Sally Carrera, Mater the Tow Truck, Doc Hudson, Flo, Luigi and a whole host of other cars and trucks.
Viewers see a community where the slower pace and quality of life is enhanced by knowing and caring about one’s neighbors. The essence of the film is caught in a conversation between McQueen, a stock car literally lost in the rat race of society and Sally, a baby blue Porsche 911 who has intentionally escaped that world to pursue wholesomeness and harmony in Radiator Springs, a community where despite hard economic times, relationships matter.
After McQueen has experienced the virtues of Radiator Springs and developed feelings for Sally, he is amazed that the thousands of cars that zip by daily on the freeway do not know what they are missing. Sally explaines that before the Interstate, cars came across the country in a whole different way and that before the Interstate “cut” through the land, the road “moved with the land…it rose, it fell, it curved.” Cars didn’t drive on it to make great time, they drove on it to have a great time.
While Radiator Springs is bypassed to “save ten minutes of driving,” it is a mythical composite of hundreds of communities across the nation that are constructively “cast aside” by highway engineers who cater to a new societal goal of getting from “point A to point B” as quickly and smoothly as possible. Roads lose their unique character as the villages and towns along the way fade into a forgotten yesterday. The countryside speeds by and distant glimpses of Americana rarely occur in sufficient time to catch the exit ramp. Tourist attractions slip out of sight and out of mind.