Sunday, July 17, 2011


Rubidoux Drive-In

The pure passage of time rarely does any of us any favors.  Its inexorable movement towards what we know is inevitable becomes more pronounced with, what else—the passage of time itself.  

     However, one advantage of a longer perspective is that nostalgia, used in limited dosages, can provide rich, delicious memories.  The memory as it ages attains a patina or veneer of truth that we can harness to learn from our past.  Or at least keep those memories alive that we choose.

     I sometimes strip away the present and the assault of media-overload by taking day trips down old country roads.  In Southern California, the freeway is the preferred method of daily transportation and weekend travel for most.  We jam into the closest five-lane and merge as quickly as we can into the fastest lane possible and strain to keep up with the flow of traffic lest we become the target of the tailgater.   

Panamint Valley, CA
Lockwood Valley, CA

     For me, I stay out of the freeways as much as I can.  I can make it across town, clear across and down to the beach by taking, say, Beach Boulevard.  Yes, it’s slow, but the reward is a leisurely ride through neighborhoods I’d never get to see or know if I took the freeway.  The freeway provides two certainties (only one is entirely certain); it’s usually the quickest route, and it’s almost always stressful.  If I need to get somewhere on a timeline, yes, I take the freeway.  If I’m not pressed for time, I’ll take surface streets.  And I’ve gotten to know many of them.  Back roads through fields of dairy farms, ranches, orange and citrus orchards, farm lands, forests, deserts, past the car lots and malls, the rows of burger joints, gas stations, liquor stores, schools colleges and universities.   

My Jeep

     I found a beautiful road today that took me all the way to Hemet.  I was going to head up Highway 79 to Idylwild, but decided to turn around in Hemet and head back the same road, through the ranch lands south of the 60 Freeway, the meandering two land blacktop with the windows open, hearing the whoosh-whoosh of oncoming traffic on the two-land, a sound I re-discovered today that is reminiscent of summer car trips with my family as a child, the hot days when we had no air conditioning and we’d open the windows and drive to Yosemite, Carmel, Los Angeles, Oregon, up the coast to Mendocino, the roads winding and long, the stretches between towns lengthy enough to get that feel for the land and the country. 

elegant sign outside of Riverside, CA
66 Motel, Needles CA

    Signs re-create those memories for me sometimes, too.  Signs for grocery stores, motels, movie theaters, restaurants and roadside drive-ins.  They’re still around, but they’re off of the interstate.  The signs conjure up images in my mind of ceiling fan-cooled grocery stores on road trips, talking to the butcher, buying hot dogs in packs to grill over a campfire, ice cream stands in the hot sun, Fanta Orange Soda sitting on a picnic bench under a metal awning in the hot summer midday. 

Poor Reds, El Dorado, CA

     I’m not a nostalgia buff, nor do I live in the past.  I do enjoy winding country roads, byways with less traffic and more stops, fruit stands, road houses, restaurants set back from the road behind a gravel parking lot, campgrounds and tents, campfires, sparking wood snapping and burning and glowing coals that slowly die in the cool air of the evening. 

     The smell of hot dogs cooking on an open fire, the taste of farm grown fresh tomatoes and corn, these joys are timeless.  They never age, they will never fade.      

1 comment:

Timecheck said...

There is a certain inexplicable pleasure in driving through areas where there is absolutely no evidence of a plan, just the chaotic clutter of free will. Even better when it has had some years for the process of time's decay to become apparent.