I’d gone to bed like a kid who knew that tomorrow was my birthday, and the whole world knew it. Today I would be on a date with a couple of old friends—a fabulous car that I barely knew and a great piece of road that I couldn’t wait to see again.
I woke up early, made my coffee, checked my computer. I took care of all of the things that responsible people do, in the way that responsible people do them. Despite the fact that I’d started early, the traffic of responsibilities had slowed me to crawl, not a good start, but I kept my mood focused on the prize at the end. It would be worth it to enjoy myself with all of these little things tied up with ribbons and bows. Didn’t need little voices nagging at me while I was out having fun on that road I had chosen.
I often think of people as falling into two groups—those who do and those who don’t. In this case it was those who do know the feeling of sliding into the seat of a 1972 Jaguar XKE V-12 convertible and feeling home. I was one who did.
I slid in. I sat. I breathed in the memory of days past when I’d sat there before. That one was blue, just as this. The world stepped back a pace or two respectfully, as it should. I put down the top for what was going to be a fabulous road trip. Even my fingers knew that all of me was feeling whole and untouchable. I started the car. They smiled and twitched.
I reveled in the throaty sound of the cat’s engine waiting on me. Twelve, count ‘em, twelve capital Vs, like footmen stood at my command. I was a fairy tale. I was head of the kingdom. Off I thought, and off we went in search of castles and adventures on roads that couldn’t contain us.
“Straight to the mountains,” I commanded, as I put Alan Parson in the aftermarket Bose CD system. On came a Jigue that soundly vaguely 17th century. I was feeling one very lucky person. The whole sky above me blue as it’s ever been any time in history. The planet below me was as interesting as life itself would ever need to be. And in front me, in front of me a road as curvy and as sweet as any imagination could look to for thinking up the kind of thing that needs thinking of on a day like this when anything and everything was possible.
There it was. Up ahead just barely coming into view the scarred, carved rocks that had once met together as an impass, now a sanctuary. Each time I got closer the same thoughts always overtook me. Those rocks became castle walls and Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot rode up very near. Then I heard a cowboy yell, “Head ‘em off at the pass.” and a new century was with me. How protected I felt. I could outrun any wild stallion in that XKE, but just in case, I had a vintage cap gun on the seat there next to me. And a mirror. I could use the mirror to signal the Lone Ranger, if I needed him. It worked every time on television. Every time he and Tonto saw a mirror flash in the sun, they would come.
Yet in my mind, nature always won out in the end. How in awe I feel of what nature put there, and of what so many men had done to get through the side of a mountain. People had died making this pass for hardly any wage. I’d never know who they were or how they felt about the horrible work it was. But I’d always be grateful that they made this road for me, that I could go driving and dreaming on it in my XKE with the knights and the lady, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, with no traffic of responsibilities in my head bothering me.
I found a place to pull off and went looking for a stone. It had to be the right stone. It took a while until I found it. It was a small white round one that fit just so in my left hand. I gave it a good spit-shine, wiping it on my denim shirt. Then set it just on a ledge in honor of the mountain men as a tribute, as a way to say I knew.
After a moment of stillness, I got back into that blue XKE and drove off to chase a few other dreams.
—me strauss Letting me be