On the Road

Driving in the Mojave, April 2009

Last Friday I drove myself to Yakima for an appointment. It was my first time behind the wheel after a hiatus of a couple weeks. What freedom! There is something peculiarly American about our attachment to our motor vehicles, and I am not immune to it.

It was a spring day–blustery and cool here at home, but increasingly warm and benign as I travelled south. I love watching the light on the big bare ridges, and how the sagebrush takes on a silver green softness this time of year. Out in the grassland were patches of yellow close to the ground–the annual coyote tears in bloom. I had the stereo playing U2, and sometimes that takes me back…

…to 1985. I have just bought a 1984 Toyota 4-wheel drive pickup. I work in a remote part of north Idaho, and my old Plymouth Valiant was not holding up to the rough roads. I love the truck–it's perfect for me, and fun to drive. It's mid-summer, and I am driving up the St. Joe River to the next ranger district for a pig roast and campout. The road dips and sways above the river, climbing over bluffs and descending down to narrow flats, so I get to practice shifting. Sun shimmers and sparkles on the shallows, and the water glows deep green in the shadows, reflecting the forest that stretches for miles in all directions. I have the window cranked down, and my hair is blowing in the warm breeze. And I have the stereo cranked up. The Valiant only had an AM radio. The truck has AM/FM and a cassette deck. I've just discovered U2, because my roommates who went to college in Illinois heard them in concert and have the albums. "The Unforgettable Fire" has just come out, and "In the Name of Love" has been on the radio. I'm young and free, the sun is out, and I am singing along:

"If I could
you know I would
If I could I would
Let it go…"

Time loops back and forth upon itself. Sometimes, behind the wheel in the open spaces of the western US, music plays and that feeling of freedom surrounds me with sunshine and space, and I am exactly who I am.

It's good.

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