Today, couples will be taking a little time to celebrate romance. But some local couples make sparks fly throughout the year by sharing their connection with cars and the open road.
How can a couple combine a love of family, togetherness and a hobby? This was the question facing one Sammamish couple: writer Tia Jensen and her husband, Patrick, a medical-device executive, who have been married 22 years.
Three years ago, Patrick secretly bought a 1987 Volkswagen Westfalia and surprised his family.
The couple take about 10 camping trips a year in their van, bringing along their two children— ages 11 and 14 — and two dogs. They meet up with other members of the WetWesties, a Pacific Northwest camping society for VW enthusiasts.
Organization, cooperation, teamwork and humor all come out on the road. "We look like a clown car," says Tia, describing what it's like when they roll up to a camping site. "It's a bit like a Swiss Army knife — everything unfolds. It forces us to work together. And because of the space limitations, conflicts have to get resolved very quickly.
"[Buying the camper] was a genius plan," says Tia. "As we grow old together, this is a hobby we can do together. It brings us closer."
"There's no TV, no distractions — it's just me and him," says Tracy Counter of the time spent with her husband, Lorne, in her antique 1931 Ford Coupe, which they take to Northwest-area car shows.
Bright yellow with pink, orange and blue flames, the Ford comes with Hollywood sex appeal — the car was used in the movies "American Graffiti" and "The Search for Runaround Sue."
Going to car shows is a way for the Monroe couple to slow down, have a good time and just hang out together, talking about cars. "It's romantic," says Tracy.
A faithful commute
Edmonds-based newlyweds and one-car family Erin and David McIntosh both work in South Seattle and share a commute in their Honda Accord. In order to avoid traffic, they're usually on the road by 6:30 a.m.
"The sunrises can be absolutely stunning," says David. "Sometimes we sneak in kisses and hand-holding," he adds with a chuckle.
He and Erin, who both work in religiously affiliated professions, also use the time to read to each other, listen to worship music and sync up their calendars. "It's a guaranteed hour and a half together of protected, purposeful time," says David.
When a conflict arises, the two spend their commute sorting things out. "It's awkward to be in the car and not talking to each other," says Erin. "Even if we can't resolve it right then, we'll say, 'OK, let's talk about it this afternoon.' It's not as if we can avoid each other."
Love on the fast track
It started with a desire to improve their driving skills, and quickly turned into something more. "It's exhilarating to be out on the road course," says Jen Files, who practices at ProFormance Racing School in Kent with her husband, Joe.
"Couples have fun, get wrapped up in it, and want to come back," says Don Kitch Jr., who runs the school with his wife, Donna. He says there are many couples among the 4,000 drivers affiliated with the school.
"There's a lot of teamwork involved," says Jen. The Arlington couple recently bought a track car — a red 2002 Chevrolet Corvette Z06. They discuss how the car is handling and offer constructive support and feedback on each other's driving.
"It's brought us together. Big time," Jen says.