I’m originally from California, and I grew up in the middle of the state so if I wanted to go to the mountains, to the coast, or to any major city, I had to drive at least a couple of hours. For many years I lived and worked in Yosemite National Park, which meant that any trip outside of the park was going to be a day trip, sometimes it was just to do a big grocery run, or to a really good taco truck, or to watch a movie in the cinema, all of which would take quite a while in the car. I’ve driven up and down the West Coast, and I’ve driven from the West Coast, through the South, all the way down to the bottom of the Florida Keys and back up through the southern part of the East Coast. I’ve taken countless solo road trips one time going from Arizona through the corner of Colorado, into Utah, then Idaho, through Oregon, down through California and back to the Grand Canyon when I lived and worked there. What I’m trying to say is that I am totally fine with driving long distances and actually quite enjoy it. I find peace in the open road, I find driving outside of cities to be meditative and restorative to my soul. I appreciate the change of scenery, I appreciate the spontaneity and exploration that happens as I cruise through towns and villages, along old trees and ancient coasts. I love how I can get totally consumed with a great playlist or audiobook or just be in silence for a while. I love the idea of being in my own independent vehicle and able to go wherever there is pavement for me to drive on, and in some cases, at least a dirt road so that I can still get to wherever I want to go. I used to carry a big atlas that I’d pick up in the gas station, and it’d always be in my car, this was way before the ease of google maps or sat navs. I would just pick a place that had some green or blue on it and make my way. In America there are so many national parks and monuments that it was a great joy to randomly choose things and check them out. I did this before the ease of looking things up on the internet, so I would barely know much about any place until I got there and hoped that there was some kind of interp sign to help me understand where I was and what the area had on offer. These days it’s all so much more simple, I can just put in a destination and listen for the guidance and just follow along. I still have to veer off from the route as I see fit, kind of feels like a mini defiance in some ways, but I have to do it just to see what’s out there.
I’ve used the road trips for exploring new areas and gaining exposure of different cultures and history. I’ve used road trips for relaxation and meditation being totally at one with the motion of driving. I’ve used road trips to clear my head and my heart, crying and letting out what needs to come out as the scenery blurs around me with the one constant road holding me in place. I’ve used road trips to help feel in control with a newborn who wouldn’t settle. I’ve used road trips to connect with myself in all of these different ways and it always helps.
Today is Sunday and I woke up feeling like I had to get out. I felt like I needed to take a trip to the coast. I felt like I just had to be distracted and to focus on something else, and to see some new beauty. I felt like I wanted to be by the vast ocean and feel the soothing waves. I felt like I needed to run away a little bit. I didn’t want to have the time or space to have a video with my sister who has now tested positive for covid. I didn’t want to have the disappointment of not being able to get ahold of her. I didn’t want to have my mind consumed with it when there’s nothing I can do from here in Australia. I didn’t want to have to think about my mom and her waiting for her results to come back. I didn’t want to think about my niece who has tested positive for covid as well and the ripple effect that is probably having with her young child and family. I didn’t want to think about my other niece who is also awaiting her results back. I didn’t want to deal with any of this today because my heart felt like it had been squished and I needed to be distracted from my feelings about it all, just for today. So, I told my husband that I needed to go, and made the excuse to check out possible areas where we may end up moving. I took our oldest son because my husband was looking a little weary about having to take care of both boys on his own while I went out. At first my husband tried to get on board and started packing us all in the car and the one year old wasn’t having it and it was clear that wasn’t the flow so I had them stay. I tried to convey that I just needed to get out, it didn’t need to be a family affair, this was for me.
So my five year old and I set out. I had sent a message out to friends about him playing with their kiddos today but didn’t get them until I was nearly on the road to the coast, so it was him and I. I listened to audiobooks that were probably a bit heavy yet somehow totally appropriate. I listened to a dramatised BBC version of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which is basically a story of a man who has a split personality and his son on a road trip on a motorcycle. The protagonist used to be a teacher and he goes on to philosophise about the meaning of quality, the absurd way that the education system forces students to adhere to what they think is quality regardless of what we feel it is. He talks about being at one, using quality as an experience, and by embodying it, what is produced would have to be quality. Further that a life without quality is a life not worth living. It’s pretty heavy, but I enjoyed it and it seemed appropriate that I was on a mini road trip with my son who said yes but probably didn’t know what he was getting into today.
When we got to the ocean, a place called The Entrance, it was so blue and calm despite all of the crazy wind that has been happening the last few weeks. Turns out that particular section of the coast line doesn’t get impacted with westerly winds because it’s protected from a higher tree line. My five year old and I held hands and made wishes as we jumped the waves, something that we have done as long as he can remember. It’s such a fun ritual to do on the beach. We drew hearts in the wet sand in between waves, and picked up sea shells. It was so perfect and simple.
I kept driving though, I wasn’t done, I still had to go further even though we could have turned back then. We then came across some wind surfers battling it out on this huge lake near the ocean. There was one guy who was having a great time until he went to do some trick and the wind was so strong it caught him and lifted him so far above the water and he managed to change direction and went diving back into the water. The little flowers on the grass near the lake were blown nearly sideways from all the wind, amazing how nature just holds on, doesn’t complain that it’s too windy, the flower is still there just being a flower, taking the windy day as another day. I picked one of those little yellow petaled flowers with a black centre, kind of like a mini sunflower, and gave it to my son, and he replied back “I love you mom”. Oh how I love him too. I’m glad it ended up being the two of us today, it’s fun to share and he’s a great road trip companion.
By time we finally got back, it was way after dark. We were both still a little wound up from the driving but managed to take some warm showers to relax. I then checked my phone and laid down staring at the ceiling letting tears roll down my cheeks. I got a one line response from my sister asking if she had gone to the ER and she replied “I’m ok”. I laid there for a while, then I shared some of the pics I took today of the clear blue ocean and of me and her nephew. She hasn’t made it here yet and she needs to see this in person for herself. And now, I write about it all as a form of personal therapy, a process of working out and working through my own feelings and thoughts.
If you’re reading this and you are keen to make your own road trip and want my help, send me a message. A road trip can be whatever you want it to be.