Stillness at 75 mph

highwayOn Friday afternoon, I packed Doctor Dash’s car with entirely too much stuff for a 36 hour getaway and hit the road. The book club ladies had left a couple hours prior, and I was anxious to catch up so I wouldn’t miss anything. I hadn’t even considered that the drive might be anything more than a means to an end, but as soon as I hit that open highway, I felt my whole body go aaaaahhh . . . 

Man, I had forgotten how good it feels to drive. Solo, no less. No kids. No stops. No satellite radio. Just me, my thoughts, some tunes and the road unfurling ahead of me like a gray ribbon.

I grew up in suburban Detroit – car country. The day I got my license was – let me see – the fifth happiest day of my life: marrying Doctor Dash, the birth of each monkey, and then, yep, getting my license. I went to the DMV on my sixteenth birthday (duh, waiting another day would have been an exquisite torture) and the first thing I did afterwards was drive my sweet ass cream Buick Electra station wagon with wood panelling over to Sweet Sue’s house. We were besides ourselves. We were crazed. We were euphoric. We went to see Manhunter at the Pontiac Showcase Theaters, because we needed a destination. The movie scared the crap out of us and we were so frazzled and giggly when it finished that neither of us noticed that I was driving south on Telegraph Road instead of north towards home. We were deep in the hoods of downtown Detroit before we figured it out and sheepishly turned around.

Not surprisingly, I was a total lead foot. Over the next years, I managed to cry my way out of three traffic stops before an Indiana cop decided he wasn’t buying my shit and slapped me with a huge ticket. I had been driving back to college and I remember wailing something about being soooo excited to see my friends because I missed them soooo much. I guess he didn’t find me and my giant perm and crocodile tears all that compelling because he said I don’t care and walked away. To which I shrieked You’re so mean

The summer between freshman and sophomore year in college, Sweet Sue and I convinced our parents to let us go on a tour of the East Coast. We crashed with friends and relatives, ate, people watched, and schemed about how to get into bars with only one fake I.D. between the two of us. Despite all our underage drinking shenanigans, it was the epic drive that I remember best. We drove fast (Sweet Sue got a ticket) and we drove far. There was a lot of Van Morrisson played on that trip.

And of course, college was sprinkled with so many great road trips: Dead shows, football games, Mardi Gras, spring break, camping. It was all about getting out of South Bend, maybe trading cloudy skies for some sun, scaring up an adventure in some new place. Same friends, different location – beers, laughter and running around in technicolor.

In my twenties, road trips weren’t always so frivolous. To and from law school and first jobs in big firms, I drove with angst and stress whispering in my ears. I turned up the music and wished for the road to go on forever, for the hours to stretch and multiply, keeping the crush of reality at bay for just a bit longer. As long as the wheels were moving, time might just stand still.

I had forgotten all about the joy of the open road. Call me crazy, but it’s hugely compromised by having to think about snacks and DVDs and toys that beep. Once upon a time all you needed was a joint, a pack of gum and a full tank of gas. What a lovely discovery to find that a long drive is still a total pleasure under the right circumstances – specifically, alone or with adult company and going somewhere fun. 

And say what you will, but, America, with all its warts and freaks, is a great place to road trip. Endless space, sun, wind, music, open road. It’s a good place to run. It’s a good place to chase. It’s a good place to drive far. Think far.

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2 Responses to “Stillness at 75 mph”

  • Flan Says:

    Over the years I’ve come to cherish time alone in the car above all else. I, too, rolled back and forth from Notre Dame to home (Columbus, Ohio). Smashed-flat farm roads, one or two-light towns, and checkerboards of fields where the air rushed to meet you, dusty, yet sweet and alive. And more than the mood of your music, the murmur of the tires, you feel the expectation. The flowering idea of where you are going and just how good it can be. You can almost convince yourself you’re part of some lost allegory.

    These days I find myself bending over maps or clicking around the computer to ferret out the longest, where-the-fuck way from point A to point B. On the northern end of Sonoma County, we’ve got a getaway, a place of stillness I happily claim for myself once every two or so weeks. At least half of what I take from these sojourns happens on the road, on the way to and from, when I’m out on the edge of being lost, talking to myself aloud like a maniac, and working over all the wrinkles of my life.

  • Neil Says:

    forestall@mere.rampart” rel=”nofollow”>.…

    thank you!…

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