Nostalgia Trip

I had the top down, and it was chilly out, but not cold. Traffic was light, making the four lanes seem very wide. Suddenly I was hit with the memory of the first time I had driven up that highway, when I was moving to San Diego.

It was a different convertible then, but the same chill air. I remember I had noticed how the wide, sprawling interchanges made such good use of the terrain to establish their different levels. I remember worrying that I had missed my exit, which was silly because I also noticed how much better-marked the exits are here compared with New Mexico.

Of course, once I got that feeling I started looking for the things that had changed in the last 17 years. I realized that almost every building I saw for the next few miles had not been there on my maiden trip; the first time through that canyon the freeway was all there was, and I have to admit I was quite taken with the bigness of it, the graceful sweep of the curves in the interchanges, and the way it fit into the canyon, occupying the space – consuming it – harmoniously. The road was a giant sculpture for driving on. Some environmentalist I turned out to be that night.

The road is now flanked by shopping centers, and condos crown the tops of the mesas. Miramar hasn’t changed visibly from the road – the military is the only organization in this town more powerful than the developers, and God Bless ’em for that. But the freeway isn’t as free any more; it’s very presence made the rest of the clutter inevitable. What was a graceful and thought-provoking rape of nature has now become part of just another meaningless urban jumble.

Part of the change is in me, as well. I no longer look at all the cars and wonder, “Where the hell are all those people going? Back then, when I was in a more sympathetic mood, especially late at night when, living near the freeway, I would stop and notice on those rare occasions when the noise had stopped – there was an actual gap in traffic leaving a silence so profound you had to comment on it, but not until the cars had started again – I would stop and think about what it meant to be on the road, to be going somewhere, with all the purpose of life that implies.

Now it’s just a big road with lots of cars, often too many, that I use when I have need. Maybe some time away from the big ribbon will restore my awe.

4 thoughts on “Nostalgia Trip

  1. Don’t try to diagram that sentence in the next-to-last paragraph. Just let it flow. It wouldn’t be a Muddled Rambling if I worried about crap like that.

  2. Having been intimately connected with the new mexico highway system for 5 years, I am an admirer of how different states run their highways. I always was impressed with california’s. I think cali people complain a lot, but they don’t know what they got. Lots of concrete which holds up much better than asphalt, and, as you say, big swoopy curves which look cool. When I used to come home from NC at the end of semester, there was a dramatic change at the Texas/NM border. The pavement immediately got much worse, like a third world country. Interestingly, north carolina does so much road building that people complain and get bumper stickers that say “NC first in pavement, last in education.” This makes me laugh, because they are NOT first in pavement, especially in contrast to california. Right now, Durham’s freeway is totally torn up under construction. It is the most boring, gray, inelegant, and unartistic re-do. I will continue in another comment to flank the 1000wd limit.

  3. Now, there’s reason to be proud of NM. New ovrpasses are colorful with southwest designs. It really stands out next to the pragmatic, gray eastern freeways. Ex gov johnson appointed a business man to head up the hwy dept while the ABQ Big I was under reconstruction. This raised eyebrows, you are supposed to appoint a civil eng for top job. He proved them all wrong taking a biz approach, the result was Big I finished AHEAD of schedule, on budget. In the meantime, where I lived in virginia has a freewy overpass finished TWO years late, way over budget. The contractor got a hold of bad steel and the whole thing had to be torn down and restarted.

  4. There’s a big ‘ol freeway project that I used to commute past, and I noticed that they were using a lot of textures on the – uh – big flat areas that hold the dirt back.

    I have no idea whether it’s on time or not. With the current budget situation, it may be put on hold after two years of work.

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