Back roads

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

Every time I have to hop in the car, I’m delighted–it means I get to take the back roads. (OK, they’re not actually back roads…they’re well-traveled local stretches between two close towns.)

But the roads that I take are pure escape from what lies on either end of the journey. In Hillsborough, I take a sharp right onto a busy lane lined with construction stakes and pass under the interstate. Once I’ve crossed it, the countryside opens up. The road widens and curves like a woman lying on her side, two lanes turning abruptly enough to remind you to slow down and enjoy the journey. On this half of the trip, the only lights guiding my way are those from the car; the shadows like to play tricks and take the shape of animals fleeing the edge of my vision.

If I’m coming from Carrboro, I drive down the most perfect suburban street (I remember the first time I saw it–I marveled that there were kids who would actually grow up on a street like that) and turn onto a calmer, pine-lined street. Then I turn right at an ugly stoplight and I’m immediately swallowed up again. Carrboro never existed.

Once I turn on that road, all my senses heighten–I can suddenly smell the trees, thick pine, and feel the air temperature drop several degrees. It’s nothing, nothing, flat nothing, a gas station at a quirky intersection, then farms and trees. There is nothing but the road, the trees, and my eyes.

Maybe it’s the feeling of isolation on that 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 register. The trees on both sides are my blinders and I let instinct take over as I navigate the road with small shifts that feel 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 curves, the hiccup over hills as I tear through the countryside. I always fly through this part until the curves of the second road make me slow down.

Must be genetic, this pure joy on the road. A lifetime of road-trip summers? Or perhaps the bliss of moving through something beautiful, not thinking, moving as naturally as blood called to flow 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.

5 thoughts on “Back roads

  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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