The GGA Project -- Day #22 "The Road"

Don't trust your GPS.  Don't.  In fact, just go ahead a toss it out the window because it is probably making you dumber, navigationally speaking (I know this electronic dependence phenomenon as I work in a bank and see that, since the old bank was eaten by the new bank and they took the calculators out of the lobby, nobody can seem to add the figures on their deposit slips.  Many don't even try), even as it is frustrating you and causing you to waste precious time.

Or maybe you have a good GPS, I don't know.

I don't have one because I've been fortunate enough to have a pretty decent sense of direction, and a kind of inner map that keeps me on course.  I could try and describe how this looks in my mind, but it would make me a little crazy.  I'm sure you all have your own versions of maps in your brains anyway, so you know what I mean by this.  Anyhow, despite this inner map--which has worked out pretty well since I first took to the road 16 years ago now (has it been that long?!)--I have recently been relying on Google maps, via my phone, to do the road negotiating for me.  Lame move.  It sometimes lies, you know.

Today I was heading home across the Dumbarton Bridge, a route I take about 2 times per week.  On a lark, I decided to wing it and do what ended up being

Today's New Activity: Take a New Route Home

The main reason I went a different way was that I kept suspecting the suggested route Google maps gave me was not the most efficient one (sometimes I simply cannot ignore the German in me, not that I'm trying).  And so at the last minute I took an earlier exit and got to the bridge faster and without having to backtrack.  Okay.  Good.  Better route.

But the MAIN reason I wanted to take a different way home was that I just can't bear to drive a lonely road.  And the route Google maps had always suggested involved driving down an industrial street with the saddest looking establishments--mostly dumpy old liquor stores, and not a sentient being in sight.

I'm wondering if other people have similar aversions to lonely roads like this.  There is evil lonely and good lonely.  Evil lonely makes you feel sad and wonder if you're the last person on earth.  Good lonely makes you feel peaceful and that you wouldn't mind if you were...the last person on earth, that is.

Driving over the bridge itself--the reward at the end of the sad approach road--is lonely done right, especially in the dark of night.  In the rearview mirror I can see my son sleeping.  Totally at peace.  Over the guardrails to each side, I can see the lights across the bay, and the black and silent water a perfect, bottomless well of mystery.  I think it's kind of eerie in the best possible way.

I love driving.  It may not seem so, given my complaints about extra traffic a couple of days ago.  But who likes driving in traffic?  

I mean, of course, that I love driving on the long, open road.

A couple of years out of high school, I was living (whilst my soul was dying a little every day) just outside Cleveland, Ohio.  I'd fallen into a deep depression, which I didn't realize at the time had at least something to do with the weather there.  It was snow upon snow upon dirty, grungy snow for months on end.  I'm a California girl through and through, it would seem.

Sometime in the spring (though the snows were still a-fallin' in Ohio), I flew out to L.A. to see my family.  While there, I drove to La Mirada to visit my friend Renee, who was studying at Biola University.  I remember sitting outside a coffee shop with her, the sun warming my skin and filling me with a happiness I hadn't felt in many months.  I was not 3 days home from that trip when I'd decided to move back to California immediately.  I took only what I could bring on the plane.

A few months later, I decided to go back for my car.  Thus was born one of the greatest experiences of my life: an Ohio to California (by way of Illinois, Idaho, Washington) road trip with my brother and my best gal, Nicole.

Nicole learned once and for all to drive stick shift on the trip.  We lounged lazily by a creek in Elkhart, Indiana waiting for a new radiator on that trip.  I cut my hand on a paper towel dispenser at a rest stop in Minnesota on that trip...leaving a scar that brings me joy every time I see it.

And Nicole and I decided we were going to make money at this driving thing.  We daydreamed of becoming team truckers--talking and listening to music to pass the endless miles...and getting PAID for it.  We could scarcely imagine a better way of life.

Yeah, but that never happened.  And it's probably for the best, since I don't like truck stop food and enjoy my trucker belly-free way of life, as it is.

Anyway, it took a good year living back in California for me to climb out of my funk.  As I hadn't a friend to speak of when I moved there (aside from Renee, who was crazy busy with school and a good distance away), and I wasn't exactly the barrel of fun that might attract new friends, I spent a lot of time working, listening to music, or whiling away long hours into the early morning at Denny's, journaling and writing letters.

Then, one day, I felt a little bit better.

On that day, I got in my car (a little metallic light blue Nissan Pulsar with t-tops and bucket seats....man I loved that car) and headed for Flagstaff, AZ, where Nicole was going to school.  I didn't tell her I was coming.  I just went.

Driving over the elevated passes just north of Los Angeles, and transitioning into the long, flat, forever highway 40, I could feel the heaviness of my fog lifting further and a new sense of freedom taking hold.

The Grateful Dead tape in my cassette player helped.

Listening to that right now makes me want to cry.  Good cry.  Remembering the newness of that hope I felt then kind of cry.  It's a feeling I'm experiencing all over again now.

A month after that visit to Nicole, I was packing up the Pulsar to move out to Flagstaff for good.  I've known some magical places, but Flagstaff was among the most magical, and its arms reached out to rescue me with the perfect timing that only a magical place can know.  It was the official end to my sadness, and the official birth of my *true* adventures with Kelsi and Nicole, with Chiapas, Mexico (long story), with men and other afflictions. ;)

Why do I bring all this up now?

It's because driving over that bridge tonight, I recalled that on-the-road sense of abandon and weightlessness I haven't experienced in years.  And I feel the road calling to me again with its healing promise.  Almost nothing I can think of right now sounds more appealing to me than loading monkey, music, and munchies into the car and hitting the open road.

Where to, Nicole?  :)

1 comment:

  1. come to AZ! we'll be here til friday. ;) oh, we are from the same clan for sure! i so love to drive and drive and drive. i loved the drive out to arizona this time much much more with the little ones. instead of pulling a grueling, 16-hour death march from CA to AZ, we cut it up into two 6 hour days (it's travel magic. when you cut it up into two days, it's shorter! when you drive it with two kids, you end up having to make waaaay more stops and breaks, etc). and the girls did just fine. i'm envisioning longer road trips with them in the future. i've still always wanted to do the cross-country trip. i've been in most of the 50 states but i'd like to explore the east coast. and we still have to reunite in AZ with the Poets, too. and i'd love to do the drive up I-17 to flagstaff again for old time's sake! let's go!