A Long Unwinding

Off the rest stop

Off the rest stop

Often, when I am interacting with a new group of people, within the first few meetings, I will ‘brag’ about the oddest things.  One subject that I nearly always find a way to broach is that when I went to community college, I had to drive 14 hours each way to get home (told you).

Just today, I drove only about an hour to meet my dad and brother. And ever since I’ve not made that drive, I’ve been missing it. Part of the reason I bring it up so often is simply because such a drive seems so horrific to people. But I loved it. I miss it.

I would get up about 4 or 5 a.m. and head out to the freeway, going north at the same time everyone else went south. It was lovely.  It would be totally dark, and my side of the freeway abandoned, while the other was solid with headlights. It’s rather easy to feel just a little superior in that situation, or maybe it’s just a little small of me to feel so. But anyway, I’d drive, nearly alone, all the way to the next freeway (138)  to connect to I-5. It’s straight and flat and totally empty.  There is an itty bitty town, with a very old gas station, but other than that there’s little other than the occasional homestead until the massive connection to I-5, which is really only massive counting the tons of concrete that must have been used. And in comparison with the emptiness before. At this point too, it’s still dawn but you can’t yet see the sun, because you’re in the foothills. You can even see a bit of the old(er) Grapevine.

I love the Grapevine, I really don’t know why. Whenever I catch a reference to it, I don’t know, it makes me grin.  Just my mom knew a lot of the history of the area, having grown up in the area (sort of) at any rate, she’d tell us about it during the drives to Grandma’s house (the same, or similar, drive to the one I’d make, only my parents, naturally, took two days to drive it).

So anyway, I’d get to the Grapevine, which isn’t so difficult to drive now, and it’s always nice to be going that much faster than the semi-trucks. Their speed limit was only 35 or 45 mph, I think. Very slow. But they had their own lane. And it would be fully morning at this point.  I love the mountains too. Always have.  Even here, it makes me nervous sometimes driving out of town, that the mountains are so far away.  I don’t think I’d like the Great Plains. Anyway, naturally, the Grapevines=mountains. Very steep, wonderful, glorious mountains. I’m a fan. And during the spring…if you’re driving in the right direction, it would look very green (coming the other way, I suppose, the hillsides didn’t get as much rain).

Coming down out of the Grapevine, I think every time I made the trip, it would be dim. I don’t know whether fog or smog I never paid attention, but by the time you’re out of the foothills–which is a great section in itself, you can see the trail of the 5 by the headlights and taillights for miles–the sun was usually out of sight, and it would just seem…dusky. And you’d drive by an Ikea warehouse.

I tended to divide the trip into sections. Before the Grapevine, the Grapevine, and directly after the Grapevine, all of which I’ve described. Then there’s the straight section until the section of Stockton and Sacramento. In between, it’s straight and yellow.  Usually it’s flat, but there’s a section in the foothills, where it’s still straight, and up and down. Stockton and Sacramento are nice because they have more lanes and more visual variety. More interest with the driving too, although that’s a less happy variation in driving.

After Sacramento it’s flat farmland again until Redding. I like the foothills before Redding too. There are some great mountains that you’re driving into, and in the foothills it’s more up and down driving too. And a few casinos and car dealerships that change night into day, if it happens to be that dark when you’re driving by. Anyway, the hills around Redding are basically yellow grass (usually) with some kind of oak trees (I think) and very little shrubbery. It’s very dramatic, and lovely. Of course, I really like the scenery along the entire trip. Fortunately.

After Redding, of course, we go back to the local highways, and they’re scenic too. But all the way along I’d tick down past the same road signs to keep track of my progress. So know I always expect Red Bluff to be closer to Redding than it seems now, in comparison.

So, I’m sure no one needed that kind of point-by-point summary of my drive. But basically, where I’d intended to go with this was that I enjoy such a long drive. I guess I just have the right kind of mind for such a long trip. For me, really long drives, like the 14 hr one described, are relaxing. Like meditating…kind of. Only there’s no loss of consciousness.  I don’t get bored with the driving, even without cruise control.  I just find it very soothing. And by the end of it I’m exhausted, but I’m not stressed.

I rather miss that kind of unwinding. And the scenery.

Once I got to my point, it didn’t take long for me to make it, did it?


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