An Adventure Story (1)
The storms seem to have stopped here for the time being, which means the central California coast is flowering in that brief period between the rain season and the fog season. Those of us on hills can do a survey (cautiously’e2’80’94the poison oak is out) to see if there are any ominous stretch marks in the soil; those living in the valleys below can shovel out the last of the winter’e2’80’99s deposited silt and put away their tools until November.
It being nearly May (our rainy season generally runs through March) perhaps it is now safe to write affectionately about rain without being blamed when it comes back for another round.
Remember when we were kids and it was the weekend and Dad used to suggest that the family go for a drive and we were actually in favor of the idea? Or is that a memory implanted by long-ago television programs? Anyway, I think it used to happen, that people would look upon a drive as an entertainment in and of itself.
My deep confession? I still do.
But before you visualize Laurie puttering off on a gently winding country road with her elbow on the window-frame, maybe I should describe what I mean by a drive.
I own ten year-old Land Rover. Some years ago, we were in England (where the beer is above freezing and the maps are works of art) for a period of six months, and hiring a car would have been absurdly expensive. So I bought a used Land Rover Discovery as an experiment, to see if I liked it. And off we would set, up to Oxford, down to Reading, or off to Dartmoor, and I would hand the appropriate map to whoever was in the passenger seat and say, Find me a road.
My kids know me well. They knew I wasn’e2’80’99t asking for a motorway, or the A road (which here we would call a highway) or even the slightly rougher but still civilised B roads. I was talking about the sort of track the Land Rover was designed for.
Once, my entire family got out and walked instead of driving into a bush-choked tunnel that may or may not have had an end. (THEY said they wanted to take a walk. Hah.) But dammit, it was on the map’e2’80’94a D road, o joy!’e2’80’94and Ordnance Survey Maps do not lie. So down the track I drove, grinning like a dog, and yes that cost me 40 pounds sterling to replace the ripped off antenna, and when I returned the car to the dealer for selling it wasn’e2’80’99t quite as pretty as it had been, but the road was there, and it was a drive to remember.
So last month, I was coming back from the Bay Area and, it being close to five o’e2’80’99clock, I knew that when I came down from the hills, I would be creeping for several miles (You’e2’80’99d think people would drive less, now that gas is nearly three dollars a gallon, but oh, no.) So I turned off the freeway onto the back way through the hills, only to find, eight miles down it, a sign saying it was closed. Had they put the notice up a little closer to the freeway it might actually have done some good, but the road crews were somewhat stretched at that point, as we’e2’80’99d had heavy rain for days and trees were dropping like ninepins.
So I, along with a string of cursing commuters, retraced my steps (or should that be, retraced my tracks?) to the main road’s T junction, where all the other drivers turned left to return to the freeway. I, however, sat and thought for a minute.
I knew the road to the right went through, I had driven it seven or eight years before, on a bright summer morning with a car full of chattering family. Now, however, I was about forty minutes from darkness, the rain was still coming down, and the road was not what you would call a county priority. Meaning that if a tree came down, it would sit there until some resident wanting to get home would haul out his chain saw, or until the county finished with the more urgent roads, i.e., all of them. Major problems, rock slides or wash-outs, would just stay there until the county got around to it’e2’80’94not too many private citizens even in the mountains own heavy construction equipment. I really should get back onto the freeway with the others.
But of course, I turned right.
(to be continued)