Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Highway 1: Rubbing America's Tummy

When faced with the trek northward from Los Angeles to San Francisco, we were directed, by internet sources, to travel the utilitarian route of Highway 5. This road, we were assured in a late night sermon by our host PK, would rob of us one of America's great experiences and drive us past CAFOs (about which I'm sure I'll rant some day in the near future) that would induce (according to PK) at least twenty minutes of rasping screaming from the incapacitatingly awful smell alone, let alone the barren visual wasteland.

As appealing as all that screaming and stench seemed, we asked for more information about this alluded to American Experience. PK said all we needed to do was reach Highway 1, and we would see, and we'd understand immediately why we'd be sorry if we'd missed out on it. He also said we should roll down the windows and put on America (the band), just to round out the ultimate coastal driving experience. We were sold. But I promised him that, as this was adding on three hours to an already full day of driving, I was expecting something pretty damn mindblowing. (Not to mention my apprehension about driving on the side of a cliff for the better part of seven hours (though in my effortless and constant combination of over-calculation and paranoia, I reasoned that at least, as we were headed north, we would be on the inside track, closer to the cliff, farther from the abyss waiting for me to poorly negotiate a hard bend in the road on four hours of sleep).)

Finding the infamous Highway 1 took us a while, and resulted in a few false starts, as Highway 1 is a bit irregular south of Saint Louis Obispo. But once we were on it, we understood why we'd been looking for it, just as PK had guaranteed. Every corner we rounded seemed the greatest view mankind was likely to behold, until we rounded the next corner and nature one-upped itself. Mindblowing hardly does it justice.

Due to an iPod updating screw up (resulting in me inadvertently clearing out my iPod with not enough time to fully restore it) just before leaving Chicago for the book tour, I had no America on hand. I had no Neil Young, which seemed a decent runner up (despite his Canuck-ness). I scrolled through looking for Simon and Garfunkel to no avail.

But driving along and looking at the water, far beneath us, slapping the crag shore, the ending of "Harold and Maude" came to mind, or, more specifically, the music from "Harold and Maude." I looked through the paltry tracks and found, yes, Cat Stevens had made the truncated, seemingly arbitrary music library restoration. I put on Mr. Stevens and rolled the window down, but only half way, because even in the face of majesty and the boundless freedom of the sea, I am a colossal pussy.

Enjoyable as it all was, we were pressed for time and couldn't stop very often, certainly not as often as I'd have liked. But if we'd driven that stretch up America's coast without even once touching the water, I'd have regretted it, and I'm trying more and more to eradicate those "should haves" from my life. So at one of those innumerable best-vistas-ever, we drove to down to the sand.

Juliane took off her flip flops, rolled up her pant legs and walked into and out of the ocean's lip, anticipating the rise and fall from incoming waves, some porcelain sylph waltzing with a giant.

I kept my shoes on, and, as if winning something by technicality only, dipped my fingers into the water's thinnest advances.

Thanks to PK (and of course to Juliane) for an experience – however rushed or hesitant I might have made it – that I won't soon forget.

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