Sunday, March 25, 2007

Spending Your Life on U.S. Highway 101

I am not sure where paradise on earth really is, but if I had to guess, I would guess that it lies somewhere along the Pacific Coast Highway. In March 1996, Emily and I packed up our little gold Audi 80 (which I loved until the transmission died) and headed west.

We spent the night somewhere in Southern California (a theme with me, it seems). The next morning we woke up and headed west on some nondescript California highway (likely highway 58). It was foggy as could be, and there was much more livestock than I had imagined for "California."

A few hours later we came through the mountains and descended into the general San Luis Obispo region (details escape me 11 years later). We made our way to the Pacific Coast Highway (U.S. 101) and headed north.

From time-to-time, we would stop and look. But these stops were far too short. In fact, 11 years later, a part of me wishes that I were still standing on the side of that highway staring out at the majesty of the Pacific Ocean.

We were in a hurry that day. We were headed to Monterey and then San Francisco. On the return trip, we came through Las Vegas. Less than a week later we were back in classes.

You see, I think that life would have worked out just fine if we had parked the Audi somewhere in central California and stayed. It's beautiful. There's an ocean. There are plenty of universities there.

But that's not the kind of thing that I do. It's the kind of thing that I think of doing someday. But one of the cruel facts of humanity is that someday never comes. Today is always today. And there are chores to be done. Running away to California is just a little too Jack Kerouac for me, I guess. Hopefully it won't always be. And hopefully some day will come sooner than later.

At nostalgic moments such as these, I think about slowing down a bit. In fact, I find some great irony in the fact that -- as of today -- if you Google the terms "taking life slow," the No. 1 hit is this Weblog. I'm not exactly the poster child for smelling the roses.

But it seems that when the opportunity presents itself, I am too quick to worry about the "plan." If the plan was to make 600 miles that day, then 600 miles were made. Silly, right? I cannot remember the plan 11 years later. But I can remember that view.

I'm sure that Emily and I made it wherever we had planned for that night. We spent 5 or 10 minutes staring at the breathtaking beauty and then moved on. We breezed through the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

If you've never been to the aquarium, it's breathtaking (watch Webcam here). It's pretty much the kind of place that they should have to kick you out of at the end of the day. Yet somehow you determine it's time to go. It should never be time to go.

I cannot wait for the day when it is not time to go.

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