There is something disconcerting about traveling at over 500 miles an hour at 35,000 feet. There’s the time travel part of it, the looking for familiarity in unfamiliar places, and the completely artificial nature of air travel that almost feels like science fiction.
A road trip, by comparison, is closer to what our ancestors have been doing for millennia. Sure, when people first started leaving Africa they were doing it on foot at something like 3 miles an hour compared to my heated leather seats in the car hurtling down the highway at 80 miles an hour (sometimes a little faster when that IDIOT won’t let me pass and I have to gun it...)
But like walking (or bicycle tours) there’s a sense of continuity to a drive. You see the miles of land pass by, even if at an accelerated pace. You don’t see as much at 80 miles an hour as at 3, but you can stop and be there. You can change your course -- maybe go up a side road or stay at a funky lodge that wasn’t on your itinerary.
Unlike an airplane where you get into a magical steel tube in Portland Oregon and step out of it in Reykjavik, Iceland. While you can look out the window, it’s just a hazy, indeterminable landscape that might be the Midwest of the US or central Spain, or India. Sometimes you see something amazing like the Rockies or the coast of Portugal slowly disappearing from view, but usually it could be a computer simulation of “view out the airplane.”
So, rather than taking the 1 1/2 hour flight from Portland to San Jose last week, I took three days to drive down the coast. I was able to visit my dad in Bandon, see the old alma mater in Arcata, sleep in the redwoods, visit the old vacation house I grew up with in the Sea Ranch, spontaneously get together with friends at Fort Ross.
Then parked my car for four days in a hotel garage while I worked.
I only took two days back, visiting my mother in Sacramento where she was just being released from the hospital, staying in a disturbingly deserted lodge on Mt Ashland (there’s no snow, and Bing Crosby wasn’t rehearsing a big show either).
The drive through the landscape that I normally fly over helps knit things together. Bandon, Arcata, San Jose, Sacramento, Ashland... these are all places that are part of my life but don’t feel like they’re part of the same tapestry.
I guess what I’m saying is that the hokey phrase, “Life is a journey” means more than getting from one place to another, or even being in those places. Fitting all those places together is part of the journey and although I really need a massage from all those miles of sitting in the car, I’m glad I took the time to make the journey part of my life.