3.04.2011

Some Roads are Just Closed

Years ago, my wife and my best friend and I piled into my old Nissan and decided to see the American West. Oregon-California-Nevada-Arizona-Utah-Idaho and back home again. Ten days, a little bit of sunshine and some good friends.

Crescent City, San Francisco, Las Vegas--we hit some great spots. I'll never forget cresting the Sierra Nevadas and coasting down an 8% grade clear into Death Valley, about twenty-four inches from certain death off the right side of that car.

If you're a longhaul trucker and that's your route? You deserve a raise, friend.

Anyway, a few days into our trip we were trying to get into Vegas. Kris, our backseat navigator, found a great route just south of Lake Tahoe. The map said the road would be open after March 1. It was well after March 1.

Guess what?

That road was fucking closed.

We arrived just after dark. Tahoe shined in the distance and there was a metal gate with a padlock and a sign on it, and the road had a glacier on it. I swear, there was ten feet of snow on that road.

It was a bit more than the Sentra could handle.

I was righteously pissed.

"That map said it would be open! Rand McNally's full of shit, man!"

"Look at all that snow! Some roads are just closed!" my wife and my buddy said.

I fumed and we re-routed and drove five extra hours out of our way. Nine times I wanted to stop in the little tumbleweed towns and Norman-Bates-style motels to crash for the night, but Jeanne and Kris said we had to keep our schedule.

I drove and they laughed about it, and eventually I did too. We coasted into Bishop and found some kamikazes and an all-night diner (where we were pretty sure we were going to be eaten--the premise of one of my early short stories, "Dinner at Shorty's") and had one of those glorious, gut-busting moments at the table that we still laugh about when we get together here in Florida every May.

I can't hear the phrase "hog and jog" to this day without snickering.

Anyway, my point here is that the trip was much better for the improvisation. I'll never forget that night in Bishop, and I doubt I would have remembered it as fondly if we'd taken an easier route.

Life is filled with delightful detours, and some roads are just closed.

The trick is to be thankful for the ones that are open--and to be thankful for your fellow travelers.

On Fridays, my road often brings me to Dunkin Donuts. My companion is Lyla--a light and a blessing in our lives. She goes to her favorite chair and we get messy together over crullers and chocolate milk. It probably doesn't sound like much of a road to some, but it's the best I'll ever travel.

And it's easy, sometimes, to overlook that. I probably never say it enough, but I couldn't be more thankful for the roads that have delivered me to the place I am today.

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