Four days ago, I packed a baggie, some books and threw the dog into the pickup to hit the road. With twelve hundred hard miles added to the odometer, I just got back, scruffy, dog-tired and dirty. It’s that good kind of tired. My shoulders ache, the eyes are heavy and my wallet may be as light as a feather, but my soul is singing.
All in all, it was a fine road trip. It feels like my dog Nora and I have been on a marriage retreat; we have forged an even tighter bond. A car accident has the front end of my battle scarred war wagon stitched together with duct tape. I’ve seen God; I now have living proof that a Higher Power does exist. There were vistas of incredible beauty and lucky animal sightings. I had forgotten how big this world is and how grand its nature. My worldview had shrunk to the size of an eighteen-inch computer screen. This has now been corrected, but I will have to fight to keep the new attitude.
Hitting the road is a Western Notion. It is a physical action to a spiritual calling. On the road, you think. Questions find answers, secrets are revealed and wisdom is gained. When the pressure gauge hits red, when one needs to refocus, when inspiration is required, when responsibility sours to obligation, when passion falls flat, when the sublime is found in an empty candy box; these are the times to hit the road.
My plan was to head northeast. Once I got to my first destination, Kernville, I would then decide the next. I am an embarrassed native Californian. I think my state is golden but I am chagrined to admit how little I’ve seen. Growing up at the beach in So Cal, my Dad would slap me upside the head and yell ‘Why would you want to go anywhere else?!” My plan was to see what I have never seen before, to see my state.
The road trip had several agendas. I also needed to assess my state. I have been on a wicked vicious schedule, 24/7 for sixteen weeks. In that time, I learned Final Cut, mashed up technologies, conceived and produced fifteen videos for a project of philosophy and beauty. I am proud of the effort but afraid it might have taken a little too much of me. It was a burn. It’s over now but the mind and body are still convulsing.
Bakersfield, California stands on the road to Kernville. I called my close pal CB who grew up there. His list of must-sees gave me an idea of what it was like to be a ‘Driller.’ For a few hours, I felt like a high school kid in the great Central Valley. I had a burger at Happy Jacks and a malt at Dewars, a classic soda fountain that has been scooping up decades of relief against the heat and dry winds that prevail over this oil and agricultural town.
From this moment on, George Lucas began to haunt my trip. The Central Valley is all about cars and killing time. Nothing has changed. Just add an iPhone, video games and the menace of meth; the ‘American Graphitti’ script still plays.
Kernville, the Gateway to the Sierras, has been a tourist town since Henry Ford promoted the first road trip. It’s a sweet little burg on the Kern River with a few choices for decent food and old-school motels. It’d be a great place for a lover’s assignation. It was also the last time I ate well and slept soundly.
best part of a road trip is the people you meet and the lives revealed.
often, this leads to wild and amazing adventures
and tales often
fun to meet new people.
trip had another agenda. Nora, a two year old, gets very nervous
when riding in the
rig. She has a deep-seated fear
I wanted to teach her a love of the highway and break
her need to sit in my lap. It’s
annoying, dangerous and really looks stupid.
This road trip realigned a confusion of realities. I realized how manufactured my life had become when I smelled the orange blossoms that hang heavy throughout the great Central Valley. I have been battered by aromatherapy, retail psychology and the cult of ‘fresh’. I had forgotten the languor of a real orange bloom. In the strawberry fields outside Porterville, I savored the smell of sweet. These are sensations that man will never be able to re-create; it can only be experienced in nature.
For the last several years, I have been living like Fitzcarraldo and his fevered dream: mad, obsessed and singularly focused. I stripped it all down; life, friends and family for more speed and greater productivity. With an eye on the clock, I pushed myself further and harder than ever before… That period is over now. The hands of the stopwatch are still. Now I have to breathe slower and must make each action deliberate.
Summer is dancing with the Spring. The bright saffron of the California Poppy is fading. The lavender has become a muted blue. The colors are melting into the golden grass of the rolling hillsides.
On a road trip, your influences and focus are limited to the road at hand and the comfort of the journey. Music is an acceptable influence; an on-board TV is not. To ‘hit the road’ acknowledges a joy in the discovery of the unknown and an acceptance for the processes and cycles of Life. A steaming, screaming radiator is not a tragedy; it’s just a part of the highway. A road trip is a literal and experiential celebration of the journey of Life.
a recurring theme throughout the road trip. The Central Valley
is massive and wide
is aptly named;
it is a cathedral of epic architecture. The
actual scale of a Sequoia is breathtaking;
the treetops do touch the stars. I was not
ready for the impact of Yosemite. The whole valley
It was as if I had been hit in the chest;
the sensation was physical. It was
and there. The enormity of Yosemite is otherworldly.
Yah, I’ve seen Ansel Adams
work, but none of it has ever prepared me for the spectacle of it’s
experience. I was staggered by the instantaneous
rush of overwhelming AWE. This was not
a moment of Transcendence, but one of respect
and humility. I was standing before
the great face of God.
are keeping us indoors; it’s too expensive to leave the house.
The portal of our computers is no longer an entertainment or an aide; it’s
a vacuum. Everything we see and hear comes
from this one source. There is no clarity
worldview is merely
a series of manufactured
I think this road trip pulled me from the
abyss, in the nick of time…
GORDY GRUNDY is a Los Angeles based artist. His visual and literary works can be found at www.GordyGrundy.com.