I have two options freeway-wise when I go to and from work. 101 is this gritty, intense, skinny-laned path of concrete that I call the Grown Up Freeway because, to drive it during busy times takes some balls. Steel ones, even. 280 is lush, wide, relaxing — honestly one of the most gorgeous drives around. It unspools through hills of live oaks, cows, wildflowers, and water. The mountains toward the coast are close by, and you can usually count on at least a little bit of fog to be hugging the peaks, looking for all the world like it’s trying to decide if it wants to come over the hill or stay near the ocean.
The office building I work in is so close to 101 that I can see the cars and trucks from the window. It’s probably as far as a baseball sails from home plate to home run. To get from my office to 280 is a 20 minute drive over surface streets with speed traps and stoplights.
I know it’s not sensible, but I’m a 280 girl.
Driving on 280 reminds me of being ten years old and coming to California for the first time, sitting in the cab of a Ryder truck between my mom and my brother, my brand-new step dad driving. It was April, and the hills were bright green. It was long ago enough that there were orchards and cleanblue sky. There was some of that thick fog over the hills, different hills than 280, hills that gave me goosebumps and made me elbow my brother to tell him that it looked like we were driving right through pages of The Hobbit, and that it looked like where Smaug lived. It looked like what I thought Scotland would look like.
I’m not a great driver. It’s too much for me to have to process all that crap coming at me all at once. When I was seventeen I crashed my Audi because my friend in the passenger’s seat told me to check out the cute guys in front of the stereo store. That said, in college I drove a little gold sports car with a sunroof and I took it down to southern California a few times. Driving over 100 miles an hour on an arrow straight road appeals to me still, even though it seems like such a counterintutive way to enjoy being alive.
Right now I am in my living room in my PJs. The windows are open and it’s a little cold, which is nice. Lex is on the computer, John is having breakfast and reading the paper. Coffee is brewing. Willow is asleep in my bed. Nathan is standing by Lex, talking about candy, and Sophie is right near me, wrapped up in a striped blanket and trying to make a ring that is too big stay on her fingers.
I love my job, but I still hate driving away in the mornings. Especially in the summertime. I miss my kids. This sounds weak, but part of the reason I take the long and relaxing road to work is that my energy is drained from so much wanting. I can’t tackle the grown up freeway unless I’m really motivated and want very badly to get where I’m going. 280 is a soothing drive. The cows cheer me up for some reason.
Sometimes you have to disregard the map and find your way by listening to yourself. The hard part for me is figuring out if what I’m telling myself is solid advice. I’m about to go totally off the map. I’m holding my breath a little and waiting to see where I land.