Mon 5 Jul, 2004 01:48 am
I recently drove the northern portion of California's highway 101, back and forth, from the Humboldt Bay area, down to Santa Rosa, which is not all so far from San Francisco. That is probably the twelvth time I've done that, or maybe the sixteenth, who's counting? I suppose it is something like 450 mile round trip, but that isn't important.
Each time, I am jolted alive by the drive.
The forest envelops, and lets go.
I'll tell you about my drives through the hills if you tell me yours.
Edit to say that I don't care if it is mountains you drive through, so much as I'd like to talk about the zen of driving, or, since I don't understand zen all that well, just about driving stories that call up a sense of Place.
Driving through the mountains always brings me back to life. A couple weeks ago I was driving back to Massachusetts through the mountains of New Hampshire. I was so taken aback by the beauty I had to get out and hike the mountain trails. Instead of driving home, I actually spent the night under the stars at the top of a mountain, the name of which I never asked. It was just me, a swaeter, a bottle of water and the universe all around me. I arrived back home the next day feeling relaxed and refreshed and prepared to meet my life again.
Over the long weekend I drove from Stoneham MA (motto: Nancy doesn't live here anymore) to Montreal, 300 miles each way. I drove alone, which I rather enjoy.
The middle 150 miles are through the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont. You can see the steeples of small towns and pastures of cows just contemplating their cowness. There are plenty of rest stops along the way and I make sure to stop, stretch and gaze at the green hills.
Hey Nick, what part of New Hampshire?
I drove to ME couple weekends ago to go whitewater rafting....350 miles each way. Boring ride, 95 isn't the most scenic road. And I had no road sodas.
But people in ME actually get out of the left lane when you want to pass, unlike all the retards around here.
The drive on highway 101 increases in beauty, or sweeps through different kinds of beauty, no matter which end you start. If you get on the highway around Santa Rosa, you are soon passing Geyserville, which is situated in vineyard countryside. I remember wishing I could pull over this last spring ; when the sun came through clouds to burnish the fields the whole vista was blanketed like some kind of live quilting in amber, chartreuse, dark green. You can't pull over right there.. unless you have a car breakdown, and if you get off at the off ramp you don't have the same overlook type view. So this quilted glory is just part of the view stream.
You dip up and down various elevations. As you approach and pass Ukiah, there are more California hills views, with intermittent flats that are sometimes covered with groves of trees, almonds, I think.
Moving up into what we call the redwood curtain, 101 carries much less traffic, and the drive becomes more of a story of you and the road. The road width varies for the next 150 miles or so, often going down to one lane in each direction but having passing lanes set up often enough that you don't go nuts behind a slow mover.
I sometimes try to devise a metaphor for how I feel, me and the road: I think of it as being in a low flying glider, or being some kind of bird, or swimming through silver. I never get a metaphor as good as the experience, because the metaphors leave out that road feel that involves the way the car handles and my connection to the steering wheel.
By the time I hit the wooded hills, if I hadn't before, I am well set up with my cd's of choice, because the radio reception varies a lot. When I am back on the flats closer to Santa Rosa and San Francisco, I like blues and rock, and when I get to the forest I often try out some symphony or opera, having been trying to get acquainted with classical music over the last decade or so. Nothin' like Callas going through the redwoods. Well, that's personal taste, but moving through the miles with the tallest trees lends itself to both drama and subtlety.
There is, in rainy season, an element of risk in the drive. Will the highway be shut down at Confusion Hill? One learns to call highway patrol before starting out, because an alternate route, highway 5, involves a number of different choices. After the rainy months begin one lane is usually closed there, with a delay of about twenty minutes, which is not as hard as it may seem since you're glad you can get through at all. The hillside is steep on both sides of the highway at that point, steep and shifty. There are long term plans for rerouting the highway, but they haven't coalesced into action yet.
There are some towns within that redwood curtain, Garberville being the most well known, I think. During my first drive through there I heard helicopter flight announcements on the radio, probably helpful to local growers.
As you get closer to the coast and the Humboldt Bay area the forest is often laced with drifts of fog, which has not yet frightened me as it can in some other places where it is thick and quite still on the land. Here it is passed through quickly and is just more beauty. Right around Scotia the highway becomes wider and faster and flatter and you know the ocean is a head of you. You pass Ferndale's lowland fields of cows and get peeks at the water as you head toward Eureka and Humboldt Bay, and if you're lucky, Arcata Bay will look like a sheet of glass below sky above.
Reverse sequence for the drive south, and there you have it, unless you are fortunate enough to be going to San Francisco, which is about forty five minutes passed Santa Rosa, and then you have another driving experience, crossing the Golden Gate to the City by the Bay.
Edit to fix grammar yet again.
Hey George. I was in the White Mountains. I was traveling along the Kancamangus highway. The mountains were beckoning me and I had to climb. Though it was a bit cold, I had my sweater and, I forgot to mention, a blanket so I was warm enough. The stars stretched endlessly from one end of the horizon to the other. I shall be doing this again as often as possible.
I love "the Kanc", especially where it runs close beside the Swift River.
I've taken my kids on the Boulder Loop Trail back when they were little and we stayed in No. Conway for the summer. Some lovely overlooks and clusters of huge boulders to clamber upon.
There's covered bridge on one of the side roads (in Albany, I think).
Great thread. Now I won't have to do all that driving myself.
Avoid improper driving techniques.
Driving 101: Some butch beast broad was tying up the left lane this morning in her cute little VW bug. Nobody in front of her for at least 1/4 mile. She apparently didn't like the fact I was within 50 yards of her rear bumper, so she flips me off while I'm passing her. Funny thing was, I wasn't really even tailgaiting her, but was close enough to let her know she should move her ugly ass over.
We really are "Massholes" down here.
I can see going slow sometimes, as in at the speed limit, but I do it in the right lane..
I got miffed when a person was tailgating me on the drive described above, at a point where the limit signs go down to 20, 25, or 30 mph, depending on the tightness of the curves, the whole area being positioned with a slip off the road putting one into air space... I know those curves pretty well and I was going, say, 25 to 40 mph at those spots; I remember once noticing I was approaching 15 mph over the limit and he was still tailgating. I don't go faster than my car or I can handle matters, no matter what the limit so I finally pulled over when I could, and he sped ahead a bit but then went no faster than I. Whatta birdbrain. People just want to be first.
But on that beauty ride there isn't much of that happening, since the road isn't that full of cars in the first place, and most drive reasonably. I think the miles of forest tend to damper down the high speed enthusiasm.
There's not much reason to drive as fast as you can, you'll only get to your destination twenty minutes faster.. the big rush just isn't as important.
Oh, man! I thought Driving 101 was going to be about some entry level student driving course. So did George, to go by appearances.
I love this thread, osso! I just love reading all the descriptions! ... Your drive sounds a bit like my favorite drive, 'up north'. Here in Michigan I mean the upper lower penninsula. It's h-way M-22. It curves around by the shores of lake Michigan just north of Manistee and goes further north to about Traverse City/Sutton's Bay. It is a gorgeous drive. You can see the 'Big Lake' (Michigan) intermitently through the trees. There is a little beach along the way, some quaint cottages, and some massive gorgeous homes! At dusk you can see deer on the hillsides and if you look carefully in the tree line...There's a scenic outlook stop, and some farmer stands selling fresh fruit or corn (depending on the time of year) by the side of the road...I could go on...
Oh, go ahead, go on about it.
Driving long distances here or in Mexico used to be very relaxing times. I especially liked it when I used to smoke a pipe (27 years). It was my "friend" while driving. I still enjoy just driving around the city on a weekend morning, going to places I've never seen, stopping for breakfast or lunch, checking out a book store or antique store. Just meandering very peacefully. I never change lanes impulsively, never go over the speed limit (I swear officer). In my golden years I am more able to focus on where I'm at rather than where I'm going. That makes the difference.
Your golden way.. makes sense.
that is the way I have checked out 101 south of San Francisco... as on my many drives I have stopped at many different places, always looking for the odd spot.
I did stop at whatsit, the garlic place, Gilroy.
Anyway, at the quiet main street, where the Garlic store is.. across from that is an antique store, frankly to me over priced, but still a fullsome store... and when I stopped there and went in, I met the owner, sitting in his chair with a giant cat. I asked him if I could take a photo, and did, and have since painted a painting of that. Sadly, no one on earth likes that painting. I will have to look at it again as to what I am missing. I like it myself.
Part of... the drive.
How come I'm certain I would like the painting?
You'd probably get the sense of space, what e'er the actual painting. I think there was a coffee shop next door, sort of lame, as I remember, but part of my sense of Gilroy.