I've started to take the road less traveled a couple days a week now, religiously. And I don't speak about the road in my mind; that was always a strange, meandering path that only I could ever fully be friends with, and I venture down it continually. No, I'm speaking about my now firm habit of driving to the end of the line, just like in that Traveling Wilburys song, only...not in a train.
The road less traveled begins after picking up my daughter from preschool. Her brother's asleep, and I've stopped fighting his habit of dropping out of the bustle just as we go to pick her up. Instead I've taken to ambushing friends to watch the car while I dash in to fetch my little girl. I tell her to be very, very quiet (we're hunting wabbits), and then I throw some snacks and coloring books her way over her sleeping brother's golden head, and we start out.
I have a minimum of 45 minutes to kill. I could park and read, but inevitably my little guy will wake up, and then I'll have to pitch my newspaper aside with all due haste at that first cry and hush and drive, hush and drive, hoping to heaven he falls asleep again. So I drive the whole time. I drive in a minivan with a poor engine, squeaky brakes and a bad turn radius down a promising road, hoping to reach its end and always hoping for a good result. If the road just happens to have a fetching view of my beautiful behemoth, South Mountain, it's a bonus.
|South Mountain as viewed from the south|
Sometimes I'm disappointed with where the road leads. It ends behind a shopping complex or in the private roadway of some manufacturing facility or it curves and merges with another thoroughfare. Once I was scared, because I took a lonely road west, and I had a fantastical feeling it was going to smack into the side of some sheer and intimidating mountains. Instead, the street merged onto a highway headed south into the emptiness of this desert where the Sonoran plants thin out and things get plain and ugly, and there were no stoplights anymore and no streets to turn around on, only a few fast, soulless vehicles going around my hesitant van. For the world, I couldn't comprehend where they were headed to clutch civilization's last straw. For my part I felt I was being swept away from all human warmth, from my family and my home, led astray out of Phoenix by a highway from which I couldn't escape. On that day, at last, I ended up turning aside onto an Indian reservation's private lane.
Sometimes, though, the buildings drop away, and it's not at all scary when the stoplights become less frequent. The saguaro rears its proud head, other cacti dot the brown earth and the desert scrub kisses the road. The pavement is lonely, and the road noise keeps my young one asleep. Best of best, I'm driving toward more mountains, and I just might reach their flanks before I have to pick up my eldest kids from school, or at least before my baby wakes up. As for my precious preschooler, I glance back her way in the rearview, wondering if she's satisfied with the silence, the books and the journey and whether the scenery captivates her at all.
I found the foothills of South Mountain on a naptime excursion. There the road ends; here the hiking trail begins - no wheels, just feet please.
I drove west (it's my new east) until I saw an all too familiar reflective barricade with a sign that read The Road Ends and No Stopping. The mountains were still a long way distant, the end of this road several miles shy of my destination - wilderness.
|Dad off the ground, way off the ground|
A drive to the end of the road is a perfect retreat for exploring the wilderness of such memories and reflections. So thank you, my little son...for the nap, the memories and another quiet drive to the end of a line.