The world’s first recorded road trip took place in Germany in the summer of 1888 when Bertha Benz, the wife of Karl Benz, traveled 60 miles to visit her mother, but without the consent of her husband. She was trying to promote his new invention, the present day Mercedes-Benz, and I’ll be damned if that automobile didn’t take off after her little road trip. New highways in the early 1900s paved the way across the United States, U.S.
Route 66 is a living icon of road tripping, and the rest is history.
So my husband Larry and I went on a road trip yesterday. We decide on a big circle, run the 20 to Fort Bragg, travel north along the coast to Leggett, and then circle back around to the lake. We pull big red out of the garage and hit the road. I want to make the trip interesting so I give Larry three challenges: I want to stop at a new winery, browse an antique shop, and enjoy a cup of chowder along the coast. I know what you’re thinking, be careful what you wish for, and you are so right.
We cruise along Highway 20 in silence, enjoying the enormity of the majestic redwoods, until we slide into Fort Bragg on the edge of the coast. We’ve been there several times so we stop for coffee at our favorite place. This is when I see this shed type antique shop I’ve never noticed before and I insist we stop. I am charmed, Larry not so much; he walks down the street to check out a red Oldsmobile 442 convertible that’s for sale. We both leave empty handed but Larry is pleased to check one thing off the list.
I’m not sure it counts if you don’t buy something but I keep those thoughts to myself. Marriage requires some restraint.
Just as I’m being lulled by the beauty of the coast, Larry screeches to a halt, and makes a sharp left into a driveway. I’m jolted from my daydream, “What the hell?” He stumbled on the Pacific Star Winery, in the middle of nowhere, on a bluff, overlooking the ocean. For a minute I give him the ‘you are brilliant look,’ you know the one–a look I should give him every day, and don’t.
This is precisely why we’re on the journey.
We sip wine sitting on Adirondack chairs, right on the edge of a cliff, watching the tides break over the rocky shore. Host Holly pours the wine; a wonderful woman, but she is not putting up with Larry’s distaste for Rose. She insists he try all the wines and in the listed order.
She assures him he will not die from tasting fermented grapes. I think I love her. She also tells us exactly how we will spend the rest of our day. After inspecting a darling guest cottage located on the edge of the property, enjoying a small picnic of pepper cheese, salami, and Charbono wine, we hit the road with our new agenda.
As instructed, in thirty-three miles, we pull off Highway 1 onto a rocky dirt road. There is only room for one car although it’s the only way in and out. We travel along this road (that’s a stretch) for the better part of an hour.
Halfway up we see a work crew that is amazed we made it this far in a classic Mustang convertible. We continue at a snail’s pace because the terrain is so rough. So I have nothing better to do but play with the metaphor of this drive.
If marriage is like the vehicle we use to travel down the road of life, then you have to go slow over the rough spots, or risk permanent damage.
Am I right? I mention my metaphor to Larry and I know he wishes he left me at the winery (me too). We are trying to find the Lost Coast (which I think is ironic), an area so heavily forested that the highway commission by-passed the entire peninsula, and the goal is this pristine beach where elk like to hang out.
Eventually we come to a spot that we cannot traverse, so we park the car, and head out on foot. When your marriage is on the rocks you have to stick together. I wish I could say we walked hand and hand into the sunset but that would be a lie.
We trudged the distance of two football fields to the water’s edge, keeping an eye out for elk, which according to Holly had been here all week. No elk in sight, so after appreciating the beach scene, we return to the car, and head back to paved road. I can’t tell you how I appreciate a smooth road, a sleek vehicle, and someone with whom to enjoy the ride.
We are dusty but thankfully no permanent damage. Next, we follow Holly’s instructions to the drive-through tree in Leggett. That’s right, a redwood so big, you can drive right through the middle. Someone dug out a passage for tourists, the tree survived; I don’t know why but it reminds me of giving birth.
Children leave a permanent gap in your soul, they change your topography, and then travel right through you into their own lives. This tree is about 2,400 years old, which means it was around when God paid us a visit. I’ll stop with the metaphors, but know I am only curbing myself for the sake of our marriage, the marriage of reader and writer. It’s sacred.
After the drive-thru tree we head south along Highway 101, through Mendocino County, known for its marijuana growers, and we are starving (coincidence). We never found clam chowder, but we stopped at The Harbor (oldest bar on Clearlake), and enjoyed salt and pepper calamari before returning home. Two out of three ain’t bad.
Originally Published on Living in the Gap