Back roads

For the last few days, I’ve been dog and housesitting for a friend in Hillsborough, a small town 20 minutes north of where I work in Carrboro, North Carolina.

Every time I have to hop in the car, I’m delighted—because it means I get to take the back roads. While the trip is brief, the countryside resets my brain and gives me a moment of  escape between adult obligations.

In Hillsborough, I dart right onto a busy two-lane road lined with construction stakes and pass under the interstate. Once I’ve crossed it, the countryside immediately opens up. The road widens and curves like a woman lying on her side, two lanes turning sharply to remind you to slow down and enjoy the journey. The only lights guiding my way are those from the car; in the evenings, shadows play tricks and take the shape of animals flinging themselves into the road.

If I’m coming from Carrboro, I approach this same road from a wide, tree-lined, perfect suburban street (the first time I saw it, I remember marveling that there were kids who were actually growing up on a street like that) and eventually turn onto a calmer street insulated by wispy pines. I turn right at a plain stoplight and suddenly I’m swallowed up by the countryside again. The picturesque town of Carrboro never existed.

Once I turn on that country road, my senses heighten abruptly–I can smell the trees and feel the air temperature drop several degrees. It’s nothing, nothing, flat nothing until a gas station at a quirky intersection, then a couple of small farms. My eyes only notice the road and nearby shadows, the dense treeline driving me forward like a race horse with blinders.

Maybe it’s the feeling of ‘rebooting’ on the drive that I find so appealing. Sure, there might be a car behind me and I’ll definitely pass several on the road, but they never really register. I let instinct take over as I navigate the road with small motions as natural as breathing: the rise and fall of my foot on the gas, the arc of my hand on the wheel as it traces the road, the hiccup over hills as I tear through the countryside.

Pure joy on the road… inspired by a lifetime of road-trip summers? Perhaps it’s just the bliss of simple mechanics, the opportunity to roam as freely and hotly as blood through the architecture of the body.

This video’s not quite what the drive looks like, but it’s close. On my drive, the trees are closer to the road. But the music’s damn good–Micah P. Hinson. My internet friend nailed it when he put this together.


  1. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who relishes my 20-minute drive down windy suburban streets to the Trader Joe’s three towns over. I could go somewhere closer, but I like having the time to myself, just me and the roads and the radio.

    It’s so great to read your writing again! I hope you keep it up.

  2. Lovely.

    Sounds like you’re making up for all that car-less time in Argentina. (And for all those crazy bus and taxi drivers, too)

    I know a few desolate and tree-lined roads . . .

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