One of my favourite things to do is driving. Maybe you might have assumed I’d say writing, or quilting. Or even blogging, and yes, while those three are indeed a few of my preferred tasks, I’ve been driving longer than all those combined, for thirty-two years now. I got my license on my sixteenth birthday, and since that date, car keys have never been far from my hand. These days, road trips are a little more costly, and I have to wear trainers. But the sense of the open road, while the music plays, always brings a smile to my face.
I grew up in the country, so wheels were imperative to getting away, which most young people ache to do. My first regular vehicle was a Chevy Silverado with a three speed on the column. I can’t count the number of cars I’ve driven over the years, although since we returned to America, I’ve been happy with a rather nondescript small SUV-sort of model; it gets me home, what more can I ask for? And it has a pretty terrific stereo, hehehe. Without the tunes, a road trip wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable. I’ve been through 8-track players, cassette players, CD players, but for the last ten years, an iPod has sufficed. I do keep a collection of CDs in the center console, just in case. I would never wish to be at a loss for music.
The tunes of choice for my journey along Highway 99 to Bakersfield were those from a playlist, Songs for my Grandchildren. Master Z isn’t due for a few weeks, and who knows when I’ll be humming those melodies his way, but first it is necessary to weed out songs that might not be apropos. This trip south was a great opportunity to do just that, as I considered my dad’s next move along the cancer motorway. Freeways and motorways in my US/UK life, but lately it’s been all American, and in America, I drive on the… Oh my goodness, I had to stop and think. The right, Americans drive on the right, doh! Every time we came back to visit, it took me a few days to acclimate myself to driving on the right. I’ve been driving so long that the action is fundamental, regardless which side of the road is the law.
But here, I drove on the right, well, on the left side of the right side of the freeway. I tend to exceed the speed limit, but it wasn’t difficult, as the speed of traffic on 99 wasn’t slow. I hadn’t been on that stretch of 99 for years, and once I was past Fresno, the territory was new. My youngest daughter had said that approaching Bakersfield, the landscape looked like a bowl, what with mountains all around. However, it was dark when I arrived, having listened to some of the Giants-Pirates game on the radio. I turned off the iPod, just for a bit, to catch up on the playoffs, and to my joy, San Francisco would be moving right along.
Spending time with a young woman who is like another of my own was lovely; we ate lunch, shopped for baby items, enjoyed delicious ice cream while chatting about the changes in our lives; hers are more outwardly apparent, but mine contains some alterations, as I spoke about my dad. She loved the quilts; I’m not sure which she liked better, hers or the baby’s. When we said our goodbyes, again she expressed her appreciation for my visit; all of her family lives in Silicon Valley, and it’s not a quick jaunt from there to the bottom of Highway 99. I’ll see her again after Master Z makes his appearance, for which she was also grateful. Family isn’t always those to whom you are born, but those who fall into your lap along the way.
I spent a second night in Bakersfield, texting with my husband while his Green Bay Packers beat up on the Minnesota Vikings. Rare are the times I am alone, even with texts being shared. I was contemplating my drive home, after some sleep. I didn’t want to leave too early, arriving in Silicon Valley while the morning rush was still busy. But my task in the southland was done, and I wanted to be home, to ponder Dad’s upcoming treatment, and to wiggle back into my life, even if for only a few days.
Being available to care for family is a tremendous blessing. But I need to recoup my own energy too.
That’s where the road trip comes in handy; not too many superior ways of relaxing than driving along two-lane motorways used solely as methods of long-haul transport. I would be going home on Interstate 5, which like Highway 99 traverses the state. But I-5 is even longer than 99, and while I would have to cut over on Highway 152, for many, many miles it would be me, music, and the freeway. The 5, as those in SoCal call it, would take me home.
However, in NorCal, we just say 5. No articles, it’s a freeway, the way Britons say “I’m going into hospital”, not how Americans say, “I’m going to the hospital”. I was taking 5 (not the 5) back to my little neck of the woods, and when I couldn’t go back to sleep at four in the morning, I knew it was time to begin that trip. Still, I didn’t rush, calmly eating my breakfast, going over the directions to take me from Bakersfield to 5, over the 7th Standard Road. I put on my socks and trainers, necessary for long drives now that I’m pushing fifty, packed my car, turned in my key, then headed out in the still dark of night, a quarter after five in the morning. I had arrived in Bakersfield under cloak of darkness, and was leaving in the same manner.
But it wasn’t the same sort of drive, for morning was breaking by the time I reached the freeway. Stopping for petrol, and some coffee, I found the eastern sky starting to glow, and once back on 5, the western horizon no longer was pitch-black. Funny to see how the world changes, within only moments, as night is erased, day dawning. Now I chose different artists, listening to whole albums instead of a playlist. I started with Hollie Cook, then chose R.E.M., moving on to Dash Rip Rock. By the time I was drumming my fingers along the steering wheel to Dash, all was light, I was singing, and the previous two days seemed faraway. I wasn’t sure how that had happened, but time moves that quickly. If we linger too long in the past, we’re bound to get lost in the process.
I think that’s why Dad has been able to handle cancer as gracefully as he has been; he fully well knows each day is so precious. My daughter’s best friend, well, her attitude about the coming baby is that of a twenty-two-year-old, with not all that much perspective with which to see the forest for the trees. She’s very excited for Master Z, but somewhat unprepared, but that’s normal of course. No woman, regardless of age, knows what motherhood is going to entail.
The same can be said about cancer patients, or those who have never battled such a foe. As my dad implies, it is what it is, what I pondered along 5, as Thomas Dolby followed Dash, and then was followed by a few Luna tunes. I don’t remember what I was listening to when I stopped at the Dos Amigos Vista Point, but I had time to… I nearly said time to kill, which seems rather wasteful, when speaking about my dad and cancer. Not a single one of us has time to kill, although a little loitering wasn’t going to harm anyone.
I have never driven with such a sense of there is no hurry. If I hurried, I’d hit South Bay traffic, bleh. Not to say I drove like a snail, but I wasn’t worried about getting pulled over. I drove with a new-found depth of a realization that perhaps had been cultivated two days prior, going the other direction on a different motorway; life is this very moment.
I just typed those words, and I’ll do it again: life is this moment. That is all it is, and then it changes into the next moment, then the next, and then suddenly it’s Monday, and I’ve been home for three full days, and the Giants are hoping to wrap up their series with the Nationals about, oh, right now. The third game of that NLDS is starting momentarily, so about time for me to complete this post. Today was spent running errands, a little reading of The Hawk (about which I’ll ruminate in blog form in a day or so), and now sport. Baseball first, football maybe later, if another East Coast squad can keep a West Coast football team in check. If Seattle overpowers Washington, I’ll change to the Dodgers and Cardinals.
The weather outside might feel like summer, but fall is upon us, in the guise of major league sporting adventures. And in road trips carrying autumnal themes; change is occurring, although I might not see it. But time isn’t static, I can’t waste a minute. I have a father in need of a jousting partner, a grandchild on the way. Quilts to make, a novel to finish, and a baseball game through which to bite my nails.