Every time I have gone to write a “road to” column, I’ve been wanting to write “The Road to Escondido.” I didn’t even know where it was. It pops into my head because it is one of my favorite albums, a collaboration between Eric Clapton and one of his favorites, J.J. Cale. Eric went through a phase where he was doing collaborative efforts with some of the guitarists that were his favorites. J.J. Cale was described by Clapton as “one of the most important artists in the history of rock.”

Escondido? I just about passed it. I knew I saw a sign a couple months ago! It is just northeast of San Diego.

But this “road to” column is not a normal one. First, I am still trying to catch up. Out of Austin, I headed due west. “To” is LA, to meet with a CEO about starting to adult again. As I was telling my cousin today, driving isn’t as much fun anymore. It has to do with the timing, the destination and the “to.” Moving fast on interstates is much different than taking the scenic routes. It’s more white knuckle driving. Them big highways are full with a lot of trucks. You can tell the full trucks from the empty ones. Having a few sway into you with wind gusts teaches you to get past them as soon as you can. If you can. On a lot of interstates, the truck speed limit is less than the car speed limit. Some trucks go really slow and, especially going uphill, can be  a danger as they pass far under the minimum speed. Other trucks pass them in the left lane also doing under the speed limit.

I just like my roads open with little traffic. It was something I saw a lot of at the beginning of my journey but not so much as I am coming to the end. Is it the interstates? Did traffic pick up as people started driving more? Or is it just me, getting closer to the end of the journey? –that last 45 minutes of driving is always the hardest. Maybe this last couple of weeks of the journey is like that last 45 minutes of the day? There is a push to just finish and be done with it, causing me to grip the steering wheel a little tighter.

The days are shorter as well which doesn’t help, and there is more rain. I’m driving into colder climes, winter, to see states at their worst instead of at their best. I still need to find home. But there is that need in me still to break out the red marker at the end of the day and continue tracing, though it is a lot more like connecting the dots now.

It was all interstates, except for a brief blissful drive north of Phoenix. West from Austin to El Paso, north to Las Cruces, then west again to Phoenix. Just a day stopped here and there as I was on the move with a date in LA. Fighting with my GPS in Cottonwood, Arizona to NOT take Interstate 17 back to Phoenix to pick up Interstate 10 to LA. It could wait that extra hour as I meandered my way west into the mountains of Arizona, around Prescott Valley and then zig zagging down a mountainside to race across the Arizona desert. Is this home?

But back to Interstate 10, west towards LA. Driving in Southern California is unlike any other place I have driven, especially on the interstates. I knew what was waiting for me. You don’t just “enter” SoCa. Especially at night, tired, and knowing that the promise you made to yourself to stop after two hours may be impossible. It is like taking a boat over a waterfall into rapids. You just hold onto that steering wheel for dear life. Smart cars? With lane departure warnings, change lane warnings and intelligent cruise control? Useless. You need a co-pilot and the radar system like in an F-16. Bogey at 6 o’clock! 50mph truck in front with 110mph car coming up fast at 8 o’clock! Right lane open for a half mile and window closing fast!

Screw them, once in a while: I got J.J. and Eric serenading me with the window down and my arm hanging out in the soft evening. Let them flash their high beams all they want: there’s no place to go in front of me anyway. Until you hit the three and four lane cities and then it is time to wake up your inner Tom Cruise with no Goose.

Pushing hard to get to another Covid shutdown town. Yeah, the meatballs and penne are going to be awful, but from the choices on the menu, it’s the best chance at having a somewhat decent meal. It wasn’t. But it filled me up.

A brief interlude at adulting. It felt good actually. Sitting down and talking shop with a CEO. Unlike all of the editors I have contacted, who have ignored me, he knows my worth and what I can bring to the table. “Email me your resume just so HR can have something on file.” How do you write a resume? I haven’t written one in 25 years. I haven’t needed one. “Sure, I’ll get it to you by end of day tomorrow.” It’s end of day tomorrow. Guess what I’ll be doing after I finish this column? I wonder what the offer is going to look like? I think I confused me while negotiating. “This is what I made, this is what I am worth, but I’ll take less if you offer me something without soul crushing hours.”

Then, back up route 101 to San Francisco. That’s not where I need the red line! Just 20 minutes out of my way and I can catch interstate 5! But the reviews all said the same: stick with 101, especially if it is faster. It was, so I did, not having to break out the red marker at the end of the day, driving into a rainy San Francisco on a chilly evening.

I was staying overnight at a friend’s house so found out something that I didn’t encounter on my previous trips there. Parking? Parking in San Francisco makes city parking in Philadelphia, Miami and DC seem like having an entire stadium parking lot to yourself. There is no parking. Period. All of the houses have been split into apartments and every house has a tiny, hidden garage with no marks on the street to tell you what is open and what is not. At $6,000 per month for a nice three bedroom apartment, I can see why. I parked in metered parking. Then, in the early morning, I had to find later metered parking. The 9am spots fill up quickly at night and leave you the 7am spots. Parking tickets, attached to renewing your car registration, start at $100.

Morning, with the sun coming out, and I know I will have a small reward for my day: the red marker will come back out. Across the Bay Bridge into Oakland and then north until I eventually hit old route 5 that I had ignored before, favoring the scenic drive up the coast instead of the mile reducing interstate that was now my goal up to Portland. I made it close, about four hours south in Medford.

But it’s not all driving grind, as the pictures show. It’s amazing how beautiful CA101 is when the state isn’t on fire. The same with Route 5, especially through far northern California. There are epic views as you wind your way through mountains.

With the journey coming to a close, now 32,622 miles, everything is pulling me and the writing in other directions. A longer than expected winter started this entire journey, a spring that finally came with a Covid hibernation on its heels. Everything is pointing towards a harsh winter, with shut downs, Covid spikes and people coming to their breaking point with the restrictions. I need to find a job and a home.

I just received an interesting “invitation” by my health care provider. They want me to participate in research. The research is in two sobering parts: Testing and research on Covid, whether I have had it or not and, the biggie, testing and research on the Covid illness. It’s not the flu. Agencies want to find out more, have to find out more, about why some that catch the virus are now facing a multitude of health problems. Heart, liver, lung and kidney disease. I knew back in February to expect this because I trust my friends and family members who have decades of experience as doctors, researchers and health educators. The initial studies will be starting to hit soon. The long term studies are still two years out.


White Sands National Monument

Driving–I have idea where. Arizona and Texas?

Yeah, I Don’t Know

%d bloggers like this: