Friday, the day I was to start my journey down south to see my brother, started out most auspiciously with the reappearance of Pretty O’Feral whom I had written off as being dead. While I was making coffee I heard mewing at my kitchen door. It was Pretty! I was so happy to see her. I stood guard against any other cats while she scarfed down her food. She was still nervous as when I last saw her three weeks ago, but she looked good. Then I went out for a long needed haircut. I’m happy with the results. I was feeling good as I threw my stuff together for the six hour drive ahead. As I started my journey, I was greeted by a rainbow ahead. It all felt quite fortuitous.
A lot of people don’t like the 400 mile drive down I-5 between the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles area. It’s a notoriously monotonous drive with little scenery and the the only signs of civilization are the few roadside clusters of gas stations and fast food joints. Me, I rather like the drive. I see driving that 250 mile long stretch of straight flat road as a kind of mediation.
(Warning: tortured analogies ahead)
Like meditation, having a effortless journey along I-5 takes a relaxed focused mind. When we are focusing on the breath in meditation, our mind finds distractions to follow; sounds, memories, plans and plain old random shit. So too when we drive down I-5 we move towards distraction; music, the phone, the bad behavior of other drivers and even the scenery, what little there is of it. Yet, if we can just stay focused on the driving, and relax into the moment, you start to get into the flow and really enjoy it. Driving down a busy two-lane interstate highway is a like a dance. Becoming one with the flow of the traffic, we move in and out of the passing lane, always acutely aware of the other drivers in the dance. Sometimes you give way, and other times you are given way. Sure, there are some on the road who don’t know the steps, who stubbornly insist on sitting in the passing/fast lane when there are others who need to get by. But, even that is part of the dance. You adjust, slow down – eventually you will pass. Soon they will be nothing but a passing annoyance in your rear view mirror. And, if you stay present with what is going on you can even learn something about yourself.
A big ol’ SUV moved in front of me and I watched my mind tighten up. I couldn’t see anything but the back of that big ol’ red gas guzzler, so I couldn’t plan my next moves, I couldn’t anticipate, I couldn’t see the big picture. And I realized that I’m like that in general. My ability to relax into a moment is contingent on knowing where the hell I’m going. It’s not a bad thing, but it takes me away from being able to fully let go.
And while solitary road trips are great for introspective, they are also opportunity to eat snacks that you normally wouldn’t be caught dead eating. While the boyfriend loves road trips, he doesn’t partake in the guilty pleasures of the road; snacks and fast food. He’s the type that will pack some grapes, water, and insist on finding a real sit-down restaurant when it comes time to eat. Not me. At the 100 mile mark I had to make a pit stop at the emporium of bad road food, the AM/PM. Where else can you find a bag of Bugles? Who knew they still made those? However, those things are so salty, there was some concern I may stroke out, so I figured I would confuse my body and also get a bag of red vines so it wouldn’t know whether to have a stroke or go into diabetic shock. Oh, yeah, and a big bottle of Diet Mt Dew (because isn’t it obvious I’m counting calories?) Fortunately, I only ended up feeling slightly sick to my stomach.
I made decent time. Six hours. When I was younger, with a sports car and a minor death wish, I could make the trip in four hours and 45 minute (which translates as an average speed of 90 mph).
Coming up: Road trip parts 2 & 3 – the family and the hometown