Peak experiences: the open road
After ten years of voluntary car-free living, I ended that lifestyle last night.
I'd wanted to drive up to A Mountain at dawn, having never been to the city's birthplace in nearly a year of living here. But I settled for Gates Pass just after sunset tonight (I've only been there in the full dark), Richard Buckner's twangy blue ballads strumming out of the really decent sound system. I drove past the first lookout where everyone goes, downshifted into first where the speed limit drops to 15, and found the land swooping out beneath me, a faint haze hovering over a broad valley to the west, burnt sky beyond it.
Pulled off at the second turnout where the road turns west again. In the sky, at the fulcrum of the curve formed by two silhouetted mountains, were the barely-crescent new moon and bright Venus beside it.
"A wanderlust so palpable it makes my chest ache," read some sci-fi novel where a character agonized over leaving Earth and the open spaces she loved to travel out to.
I grew up in the Midwest, where everyone gets a car by sixteen, where everything social or practical involves driving. I ran from there, lived for years in cities, real ones, where the bus or subway or bike complement the feet Nature evolved for you, where your world shrinks to include the bar and barista nearest your apartment, the local music holes, your friends' places in other neighborhoods, and the occasional trip out to the hinterland. But then I moved here, where everyone is spread as wide as those endless fields of wheat.
I'm American. I'm from a small town. Driving is just who I am. I spent years living a better life, and I was proud of my hard choice. But I have missed these sensations I've had since I was a very young man. We'd drive out to fields and sit in the back of my pickup, watching distant thunderheads or the slow pass of lunar eclipse. Visions so beautiful that years later make my heart ache.
If there weren't work to be done, I'd be off exploring the new world this very night. I'll settle for A Mountain at dawn.