Monday, March 25, 2013

Prince of the Road

     I had the opportunity to be if not a king, a prince. It’s okay, I let it pass on. I thought about it last week. I rode from church to a discovery museum in a school bus last Wednesday. I’m almost never a passenger on long trips. This time I was ¾ the way back in a big yellow bus with my own window. The kids mostly kept themselves entertained. I got to look out at the road. I was just about the same height as the truckers and RV’s. I sat and watched and tried to not feel jealous. 
Interstate 10 in Cabazon. The T-Rex is about a quarter way in from the right.

     We didn’t have long-haul trucks in Hawaii. There were trucks, but none of them had sleeper-cabs. I don’t know how it is now, but we didn’t have RV’s either. You might see an occasional camper in Hawaii, but not the massive land-yachts one sees on the freeways every day here in California and probably the rest of the U.S. Mainland.
     The freeway and road system was a little overwhelming to me after growing up on an island with just two-lane highways. At my last visit there I got to see many more four-lane roads. And Oahu has freeways. But to me, there’s something awesome about a wide stretch of freeway blazing through the great expanses of mostly empty land. The road is full of cars, trucks, RV’s and railroad tracks alongside. Billboards (never in Hawaii) announce the next place to eat or sleep as if it’s one’s last chance.
     It’s a road culture. Sitting near the back of the school bus I kind of wished I was out there. I thought back over 20 years ago when I was working at the radio station. The news man read a job announcement as a feature story, not part of the regular news. There were drivers needed on the mainland for people to deliver RV’s. The job would have meant driving RV’s either from one dealer to another or from the factory to a dealer. They were too large to fit on a carrier truck and needed to be delivered one at a time. The driver was only supposed to drive them and could not use any of the facilities like the kitchen, bathroom or even sleep in the beds. I loved the idea. The job could involve driving all over the country. I would be a bohemian with a backpack and sleeping bag. I could eat at roadside diners, sleep on the floor of the RV or pitch a small tent in a campground or even once in a while splurge on a room at Motel 6. I had fallen in love with the idea of driving across the country and even as a younger kid had wanted to be a trucker after watching TV and movies that glorified the American trucker. They were the last real cowboys, the kings of the road. Driving one of these luxury behemoths could at least qualify me as a prince of the road, right?
     I passed over the job, never followed up on it. I don’t remember why. Maybe a well-meaning friend told me how lousy it could also be. Long distance drivers have to deal with traffic, deadlines, hemorrhoids and boredom.  I thought I could handle the boredom, but not all the other stuff.
     So yesterday I took a comparatively short road trip from my home to Orange County to see my niece perform in a stage play. Our 8 year-old Chrysler mini-van is still a dream to operate. But I miss my truck. I enjoyed the drive. And what’s really nice is I enjoyed returning to place I can call home that has no wheels. I can entertain the romantic notion that the road still calls to me. I have a road trip planned for when/if I ever get my truck fixed. But I think the anticipation and idea of that may be actually better than the trip will ever be. I still can entertain the notions, and they entertain me. And I drive an electric golf cart to work each day.  

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