07 August 2012

Road Trippin'

Let's go thatta way! Photo Courtesy of Richard Malcolm
I wonder if it is a singularly American thing, the time honored, ever romanticized, absolutely mandatory  Road Trip. Is it a rite of passage for young European men and women to hop in their cars stocked with water, soda, Cheetos and full Ipods (ok I was going to say tapes or CD's because that's what I stocked my truck with in my 20's) to head across the great expanse of that continent in search of National Monuments or country roads or bridges that traverse rivers or just different roads and greener grass? I don't know about Europeans, I guess I don't even know if it's particularly American, but I know my youth is branded with legendary road trips. My personal timeline in my twenties is divided and marked by those road trips. "When did you get that tattoo?" "Oh, it must have been the summer of the Albuquerque to Boston to New York Road Trip." "When was that picture taken?" "Ah, that was the crazy Road Trip from Seattle to Albuquerque where we drove through Yosemite and got stuck on the road in front of a herd of randy Bison, the trip we river rafted on, the trip where we camped in the woods and discussed The Blair Witch Project which had just come out.
There was the road trip I took through the south with a hundred tiny braids in my hair. I got some seriously wicked looks on that trip, didn't stay too long at the gas stations in Tennessee.  There was the another legendary road trip from Albuquerque to New York that took me through the south where I saw albino alligators and got my belly button pierced in New Orleans. We bought fruit from Amish farmers in Pennsylvania, saw the Washington Monuments, attended the 20 year anniversary Woodstock concert, saw Niagara Falls, drove through Kansas in a wicked thunderstorm, and stopped at a Circle K in a tiny town in Kansas where we got famous for 45 minutes for having been to Woodstock. Seriously, people at the Circle K called their friends and within 45 minutes the place was packed with town folk asking for our autographs and collecting mud from the tires of the car.

I have seen such beauty from the road, from the cab of a truck or a Subaru or a Suzuki Samurai, even a Chevette a few times. And when I'm driving and I clear the city and suddenly there is nothing obstructing my view for miles and miles that's when I get in the zone. I am completely in line with the rhythm of the road. My thoughts wander as lazily as the road and the landscape is finally changing at the perfect pace to be processed thoroughly - each beautiful dazzling detail can be recorded and appreciated. There is a quiet anticipation that builds with each hill, each bridge, each 18 wheeler I'm passing on a left hand curve in a blind pass. There's also the bonus of being able to sing really really loud and letting my speed reflect my song choice.

Last week I was on the road passing through the Pacific Northwest. I was born up there, in fact I was born right smack dab on the 45th parallel. I don't know why exactly but I think that's pretty cool…and telling maybe. And although it's been years since my roots were laid up there amongst the pines and rivers it still feels like coming home. And if it's been a long time since I tripped those roads then I tend to feel that too, like I can't or shouldn't stay away for too long because there is a reminder somewhere up there of who I am, where I came from, and what I am at the core of my soul. The map of my childhood is mostly not a happy skip down memory lane but returning to those roads and hills and rivers as a woman, in charge and whole, is like being awash in the moments of that childhood that were nothing but innocence and inner tube rides down rivers, water balloons and water slides, grape kool-aid popsicles and frog catching and bee stings. These are the things that merit a place in my memory, and the more distance I have from my crazy unpredictable childhood, the more I realize that these are the memories I am holding…more tightly than the others I think. Because I can drive through that country and feel the nostalgia of sweet kid summers. I can drive through that land and wish wish wish more than anything that my son might have some of those same experiences of inner tubes and frogs and popsicles. I can touch these feelings, these memories, this peace without choking on the bitterness or anger about the rest, and the rest just doesn't matter much. Not with a view like this:

Oh, and PS:
For all my big city friends who might have a hard time relating…if you have been told that this is a river:

You were misinformed. It's not your fault. There are signs everywhere near that toxic cesspool that say "Los Angeles River" so I can see how you would be confused. Let me clear up the misconception. This is a river:

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