I Love the Road

Long Road Ahead Somewhere between Hoover and Glen Canyon, on the stretch of road where I took this picture, it hit me. Not for the first time, not for the last. You know the feeling. You look at your lover/spouse/significant other over breakfast and the face you see just blows you away. “Wow!” you think to yourself. “I’m so damn in love!” It never gets old. Her face, his face, whoever’s face it is, strikes you as new and completely beautiful. It’s the first time you’ve ever really seen that face. There’s something about it that strikes your soul.

Yesterday I saw the face of the road again. I was blasting down a two-laner, sun baking the land, when I passed under a vulture catching a draft off the blacktop. I went directly under the raptor, and praised the sweet lord of the open skies for the ragtop as I looked up into the huge bird, its great wings aglow from the sun above. I shot past and nearly locked up my brakes for a doe and her fawn crossing the road. Sublime to rush. Love.

A couple hundred feet later I saw a deer dead at the side of the road. I think about death out there. Every rain-slicked curve at the edge of a cliff could be my last. Every time a semi hurtles past on a small highway, knocking my hat loose, I pass within feet of death. One sneeze, one seizure, and my tiny car is crushed beneath the juggernaut. A swift, unexpected way to go. That’s death on the highway. A matter of moments.

Out there, there are crosses by the road, marking places where people have died. I look at the contours of the road, trying to reconstruct the events that led to the tragedy. Sometimes it’s obvious, other times it’s a mystery. Some unholy and unfair convergence of the world, or just asleep at the wheel. I have passed my fair share of twisted metal, surrounded by flashing lights and solemn policemen, shattered coffins spilling blood onto the road. Move on, the officers say, waving emphatically. My presence can only compound the harm. I stare ahead and resolutely do not add to the slowdown, riding the bumper of the car in front of me.

But you can’t have death without life, and you can’t have life without love. The road is the perfect lover. There is the yellow stripe shooting down the middle of the asphalt, stretching out into the future, always there, varying but never ending. The road itself is constant, an uninterrupted ribbon connecting here with everywhere so well that there is no here and there anymore. The road itself is the only remaining place. To the sides of the road, above it and under it, is constant change. Even the same stretch is different every time. Seasons pass. Stripmalls appear. Towns wither and die. The road is still there.

Today I drove through the Chama Valley in all it’s autumn splendor. I chased rainbows on the plains. I got cold, I got wet, I shouted into the roaring wind. I was on the road.

11 thoughts on “I Love the Road

  1. I hope The New Pantheon has such lyrical passages in it!

    How long does it take you to write a typical entry? (What is typical?) How long did it take you to write this one? Long measured in time and in drafts/revisions.

  2. Also, I think it no coincidence that this love letter to the blacktop follows so closely on the spiked heals of the proposition at the Pizzaria, or even the infatuation with Bobbi: you are back after temptation to declare your undying fidelity to your true love. A true love that, by the way, is indifferent to your feelings, can never return them, exists with no regard to your presence and breaths whether you are there to count the breaths or no. How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is unrequited love….

  3. It took me about an hour or perhaps less to write this entry once I sat down to write it, but it was a couple of days percolating in my head first. I had intended to write it the same night I posted the previous two entries, but I was just too tired.

    I don’t do formal drafts and revisions for blog entries, but when I go back and reread it later I will tweak it if I think it will help, or sometimes I just cringe and put up another entry quickly.

    Yeah, the road is a cruel mistress, but if she is indifferent, why does she call me so?

    Or is that just a ventriloquism act by the oil companies?

  4. No, it’s no ventriloquism act. I’ve experienced it too, and the call is stronger the smaller the vehicle is — in Grane, I heard it all the time, and El Caballero channels that call of the road (maybe more so, as the drag of city traffic drains its soul at least as much as mine). But I hardly ever hear the call of the highway when I’m driving Babe. If the oil companies were behind this, Babe would be screaming for the open road, and El Caballero would be content to stay home. Instead, Babe does what Babe does best, lugging around construction materials and large boats, and El Caballero dreams of someday being a sports car.

  5. Speaking of photos of the Chama Valley, we have a tentative plan for a very off-the-beaten-path train chasing trip for this coming weekend, the last of the season for the Cumbres & Toltec. We’re not sure whether we’ll be doing it Saturday or Sunday — if the soup-of-the-day at Osier is cream of mushroom one of those days, that will be the day we choose; otherwise, it’s random.

    The plan: see the train off at Antonito, and then go south to the Los Pinos valley and head upriver along some county and forest roads. We’ll pass the pumphouse for the Lava water tank, continue up the canyon for a while, and then head north to meet the train at the crossing just east of Sublette. (Not something one can do in a Miata, but right up Babe’s alley.) We catch the train again at Sublette, and then we head on to lunch at Osier. After Osier, we head back to the main road and do the train-chasing that everybody does.

  6. Excellent. Lots of fall colors in your photos of 484? You are taking photos, of course. Please send me the link when you post them…

  7. Yes, Keith, we got loads of photos last weekend, and we plan to get more next weekend. Problem with posting them at the moment is that I don’t have a Website, but I’m working on that. (Actually, I do have a TVI Website for the classes I teach, but I’m not sure TVI would go for too much recreational use of it.)

  8. There are plenty of sites that will host your photos for free (and allow you to caption them) for the opportunity to sell hard copies to you and your friends whom you invite to view them: ofoto, shutterfly, yahoo photos, etc. I know that if I waited to create pages to share my photos, the grandparents wouldn’t get any pictures of the kids.

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