Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Last Road Trip, 7-15 to 7-21-2015

Barely two hours up the highway, a familiar voice demanded, “What the hell were you thinking?”

Since I was alone in the car, the voice must have been mine.

I was on my way to Eugene, Oregon from San Luis Obispo. I’ve done much more ambitious solo road trips, including one from Eugene to Yarmouth, Maine.

But I was younger then. Much younger.

Now I found I had underestimated the effects of my seven decades circling the sun.

Still, I pushed on, determined, stubborn, clinging to pride in my driving skill and my historic stamina. I had a hotel reservation in Redding that night and a lunch planned for the next day in Ashland. I hadn’t been back to Oregon in more than two years and was eager to revisit the place I’d called home for more than half a century.

Most of the route is familiar. At one time, I could name every town from the Winters cutoff to the Oregon border as well as what I call ‘The Four Bumps’ between Medford and Eugene – Sexton Mountain, Smith Hill, Stage Road and Canyon Creek.

I blame my dad for my obsession with knowing the road and where I am on it. He loved to drive. After a road trip, he could recite routes taken and towns visited, often in great detail. Our family laughs about Dad and his fascination with maps and directions, but I’m grateful for his example. More than once I’ve found it important to know exactly where I was, whether to summon help or simply estimate distance and time to my destination.

On this trip, I stopped more often than on previous trips, more tired than exhilarated by the journey. I no longer relished the idea of chewing up miles, spewing them joyfully behind.

And I knew this would be my last solo road trip. Last as in final. This would be the last time I would pass Louie Road and warble “Louie, Louie,” the last time I would catch my breath at the sight of Shasta, my last laugh at the bellowing cow, now joined by a shiny, silver calf, my last slide down the Siskiyou Pass.

Even though I-5 North is closed to me now, I will still find my way to the green forests and blue skies of my beloved Oregon.

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