Road Mode: Up and out in the thick black of February pre-dawn. Fuel 26 miles to the gallon, Gaddafi clings to power and gas will be $4 somewhere along the way. Food Two venti non-fat lattes, two berry coffeecakes, one Green Machine, a bag of cherry tomatoes in the glove compartment. And eventually the guilty pleasure of a bag of Cheetos to go with the second fill-up. Peeing Preemptive peeing is best to avoid that edge of stress that comes with a nagging bladder. Also rest stops are sometimes closed at inopportune times on lonely stretches of high desert freeway.
It is about 870 miles or 13 hours on the 25 to Hatch cut-off to the 10 to the 8 to the 15 to Mennonite Drive in Rancho Peñasquitos. The first hours fly by in a contemplative but productive state of mind; the non-descript but supremely drivable road south to Hatch lending itself to early morning musings. This glorious space is really what New Mexico has going for it above all. And the idiosyncratic outposts like Hatch, the epicenter of chili (red and green?) where they still have tie-dyed t-shirts in neon pink and yellow with peace signs on the front and green chilies on the back.
Once Upon a Time: Deming to Tucson to the 8 to Yuma. Midway solitary thinking exhausts its potential and it’s time to switch to the slapdash collection of DVDs collected over the years for just these road trip moments. Kenny Rogers sings of youth and idealism… “Look at that photograph…is that really me/you?” The best soundtrack of all times, Oh brother, where art thou? Then there’s Lucinda Williams and The Dixie Chicks and Sarkozy’s wife and Judy Collins. An old Simon and Garfunkel album has practically turned to dust in the years since it’s been played. Therein lays a travel story of sorts:
Once upon a time there were young lovers and it didn’t work out and he moved away—and 30 years later they connected and she thought those passions were still alive—and she was so sad and flew across many states to a Simon and Garfunkel concert because “bridge over troubled waters” reminded her of those long ago days and she wanted to revel in her melancholic funk and some months went by when listening to S & G was just too painful and then she went walking on the beach in Oceanside and realized it wasn’t the old lover at the root of this depression it was the loss of youth and desirability—and she drove back to Penasquitos from the beach and somewhere around Escondido realized all the sadness was GONE but she never dared listen to Simon and Garfunkel AGAIN in case it came back but NOW that’s been several years ago and today is the day to reevaluate the emotional hangover of sentimental pop music from one’s past and it seems there is none. PHEW!
The 8 comes over one of the many small ranges that together form Peninsular Ranges of southern California and make up most of San Diego County. It’s a windy rocky drive that transports one from the western desert and Imperial Valley farmland straight up and over into ocean air and California freeway traffic.
California Dreaming: Scott and Sandra live in a big house on top of a hill in Rancho Peñasquitos a far-north suburb of San Diego offering perfect California views of misty green hills and valleys and, if you stand at just the right corner of Teresa’s small balcony and it is a perfectly clear day, you can catch a glimpse of the Pacific. Now they’re anxious to sell and move to a condo in yuppie Hillcrest and become foodies and almost empty-nesters. Although with several engineering and business degrees on their children’s’ horizons that could be some years!
Eighteen-year-old Steven and I eat Afghan lamb chops, veggies and Nan and talk upcoming travel to Australia and New Zealand. It’s his graduation gift so surfing the Gold Coast and diving the Great Barrier Reef consume most of the itinerary. Steven has discovered he really likes subjects like accounting and economy. I have asked him swear on the family Lonely Planet that he will never become a Republican and so far he agrees.
Then, for the semi-annual test of whether I am officially old, Scott and I climb Black Mountain. While not exactly Everest it is steep enough and high enough to test that old saying, “you’re only as old as you feel…”
Checking out Hillcrest condos and eating chicken livers at City Deli with a banana gelato for follow-up. Nice down here. Will be fun to hang out in the city now that going to visit the family means visiting several interesting individuals instead of simply a trip to adore the grandchildren and appreciate their parents for bringing them to life.
Teresa, Yusuke and Panaibra at Highways
Girls Gone Smart: Finally up to LA for performances at Highways with Teresa and her friend Yusuke and two nights and a day with Teresa and fellow UCLA students in their apartment in the Westwood student ghetto. Four great young women, smart, beautiful, working out what they’ll be and do and who they’ll do it with… What a pleasure they are. They are studying to be engineers and biologists and doctors and lawyers. The apartment is full of clothes and books and odd accoutrements like a clothes presser that resembles a large medical device in an accident victim’s hospital room and the biggest microwave I’ve ever seen in one corner. They seem to eat mostly cabbage and beets with an occasional pan of brownies thrown in… And how hopeful it all is—a sense of the future in good hands! (But what if they are in the minority and the forces of ignorance prevail?)
Teresa studies, I write, we pause for tea, chat, today a drive over to Culver City and a lovely little French café for salmon and shrimp and bacon pasta and cheesecake and apple tart and I can have wine because Teresa is the driver. Back home, girls in and out on errands and gym and lunch with moms and Teresa and I study and write some more. We are so pleasantly compatible. Let it always be so.