The Lonely Road

I’ll send the angels to watch over you tonight
And you send them right back to me
A lonely road is a bodyguard
If we really want it to be

— From “Sleeping in Paris” by Rosanne Cash

Yesterday I climbed into the Jeep and went on a long overdue road trip, just me and my steel beast, 130 highway miles and lots and lots of thinking.

The reason for the trip was nothing earth shattering, just had to head up to the north side of Sacramento to attend some work related meetings.

Clocking in at just under three hours, it was a ghastly drive, not only because it lacks any sort of interesting things to see, but the stop and go traffic kept me on my toes most of the way.

I left plenty early to avoid commute traffic but had no luck. California’s Highway 80 is a busy road no matter what time of day.

As I drove, dodging other cars, stepping quickly on my brakes for yet another slowdown, stopping to pay the toll on the Carquinez Bridge, and cursing under my breath, I yearned for a different sort of road trip.

Growing up in New Mexico, the ability to hop in the car for the sole purpose of a long thoughtful drive was something I took advantage of every chance I got.

While living in Albuquerque, sometimes I’d gas up the car and drive to Soccoro, only to turn around and drive home.

I can’t lie to ya, Albuquerque to Soccoro isn’t a visually interesting drive either, but once out of the city limits, it’s a pretty easy road with hardly any traffic. I’d set the cruise control on 75, point ‘er south in a straight line and let my mind work out the problems of the day.

Straight roads and very little traffic produce a very fine form of therapy.

My all time favorite drive and think road, however, is Highway 28 in southern New Mexico. The stretch of road from Las Cruces to La Union and back includes canopy of pecan trees arcing over the road, arboreal arms to embrace and hold me safe in case I need to cry.

I got a lot of thinking taken care of on Highway 28.

Not so much on California’s highway 80. The thinking was more like, “uh, stopping again? Why? Oh please don’t slam into me!”

But still, it was a road trip and there is something beautiful about me, my decade old Jeep, shuffle on the iTunes and a problem to work out in my mind.

Oh, by the way, something else happened while out there on the road.

First, this occurred:

Shocking, isn’t it?

Then, from out of nowhere, this happened:

(No, mom, I wasn’t driving almost 80 while taking a photograph of my odometer. Why do you ask?)

It’s the first car I’ve ever owned from fresh off the lot to one hundred thousand miles. Sort of proud of my little Jeep.

And just because I’m feeling gratuitous, here’s a quad cam shot of the Bay Bridge (because the Golden Gate gets all the love).

(Click for full size)

Ok, I’m wandering off the point here. Let’s tie this whole thing together, and get back to where we began.

I discovered today that any road, even a commute time busy three lane highway in Northern California can be a lonely road.

And a lonely road is a bodyguard if we really want it to be.

All photographs by Karen Fayeth, and taken with my iPhone 4. Bay Bridge shot from the QuadCamera app.

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  • Natalie

    Grew up in Vallejo and Napa. Sometimes I miss Napa (never Vallejo, though) and the driving in the area.
    You are right… nothing beats hopping in the car and heading out on the roads of New Mexico. My ipod has a mind of its own and seems to always fit my mood.
    My last trip was up to the Santa Fe ski basin. The trees were turned and there was snow on the high peaks. Gorgeous. Yesterday I was driving in to work and there was fog along the edges of Santa Fe and snow clinging to the ground. It was so beautiful in the sunrise that I literally had to catch my breath as it was…. taking.

    I sooooooo wish I could have seen Roseanne Cash. I just love her. I've been a fan since forever.
    Sounds like you and the jalopy had a great time.

  • Elise

    I love that drive through Stahmanns. It's one of the most beautiful, most peaceful drives in the country. At one time, I considered buying a house in San Miguel and painting myself into the poor house. I still think it would have been a heavenly life.

  • New Mexican

    NM State Highway 555 (the dead end road) going west out of Raton to Ted Turners place. 35 miles or so and it dead ends at the gate to the Vermejo Ranch. Nowhere to go but back the way you came. Beautiful Ponderosa pine forests on either side with a beautiful view of the snow capped Sangre de Cristo Range in the background. Earlier in the spring saw a very large bear feeding on an elk carcas. He just munched away as we watched him with a pair of binoculars.

  • California Girl

    I miss the days of driving on the road at a rapid pace, 80-85mph. The HP were not as prevalent back in the day and the highway was an open road. I remember getting from the San Fernando Valley to La Jolla in an hour & 45 and that is at least a 2 1/2 hour drive probably more now. That was thirty years ago. Those were the great days of driving the highways.

  • MICK

    Ever continue that trip to Socorro to the 60 west to Magdelena and the Very Large Array?? Or drive down to the 380 east and have a green chili cheeseburger at the Buckhorn in San Antonio, NM and then continue on to the Smokey Bear Museum in Lincoln?? Very cool drives.

  • Anji

    When I was young I used to drive around to get away from people. We see your roads in films/movies they seem to go on and on and on…
    Congratulations to your jeep on the 100,000

  • Karen Fayeth

    Natalie – Funny you mention that about your iPod having a mind of its own. On that same road trip, I had the thought…sometimes shuffle on my iPod is a great Deejay. Sometimes it sucks sumptin' fierce!

    Maybe I should look into making playlists, but generally I like the serendipity of the shuffle setting.

  • Karen Fayeth

    Elise – Yes!! You know Hwy 28!! It's a good stretch of road.

  • Karen Fayeth

    New Mexican – there is something especially cool about a road trip where the only other form of life out there is wild animals.

    The Sangre de Cristos are especially lovely. Good road trip country up there!

  • Karen Fayeth

    California Girl – Gotta agree with you. Part of the fun of a road trip is unwinding your car to see what it can do. Just not the same, truly!

  • Karen Fayeth

    Mick – Heck yeah! I love that drive through Magdalena!

    And yep on the other two as well. In fact, the backroads around Capitan and Lincoln are among my faves.

    Fourth of July is Capitan is a heck of a lot of fun.

  • Karen Fayeth

    Anji – A few years back, I had a coworker from London visiting. I told him I was going to drive to Phoenix, about a twelve hour road trip. He hyperventilated. It was unfathomable to him.

    I appreciate that to someone living in France, the American road trip seems strange. Although I always thought driving north to south through France would be a heck of a fun trip.

  • Anji

    I haven't driven that much in France myself. Now the airport which is a mile or so from here will drop us an hour from our family in the UK, I miss the drives home. We used to take a lot of breaks because of the children. It used to take 24 hours with 6 on the ferry

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