May 25, 2018

Ashland, Oregon

On the road again…

Dateline – Red Bluff, California

Got up early this morning to begin the trek southward toward the Bay Area and LA as I complete my grand rhomboid tour of the USA. Sad to leave family and friends in the Seattle area but if I am going to be back in time for various Birmingham obligations the first two weeks of June, it had to be done.

It was a very grey Northwest day the whole day down I-5 with the threatened rain finally arriving by the time I hit Southern Oregon. I stopped in Ashland for a lovely dinner with Tony Navarretewhom I had not seen in some years and who has relocated there with his wife from the rigors of Silicon Valley. We caught up on various topics over Thai food and decided we need to do this more than once every couple of decades.

I wanted to get over the Siskiyous before bed so I kept going for a few more hours and stopped in Red Bluff, the first wide spot in the road in the Sacramento River Valley after you descend from the mountains. Being a holiday weekend, motels in more scenic locales had all jacked their prices. I’ll sleep tonight as long as my body feels like it and continue on to the Bay Area in the morning.

Today didn’t bring up any particularly good stories, just lots of memories of driving up and down I-5, something I did fairly regularly for the first 35 years of my life when I assumed I would always be a west coaster. I flashed on 8 year old me packed in the back of the family station wagon as we headed to San Francisco to visit the grandparents. No car seats or seat belts, just the suitcases, a bunch of pillows, and a book. Then there was 18 year old me, full of trepidation, being driven by my father for my first year of college at Stanford with two suitcases of clothes, a bicycle, a typewriter and four boxes of books. Late teens me rodding up and down with various college friends to and from Seattle, especially in Craig Mollerstuen, my college roommates car (I didn’t have a car until I was 23 and in my second year of medical school) – the one with the 8 track deck and the only 8 track tapes we had were Supertramp’s Crime of the Century and Journey’s debut album. Then mid 20s me, finally in my own car, a 79 Ford Fiesta visiting all of my California friends while in med school. 26 year old me loading up everything I owned (now considerably more than 8 years earlier) in a U-Haul and heading with my friend Mark Sandberg (long dead like too many other people I have known) to Sacramento to begin residency and finally 30 something me travelling with Steve in his pickup back and forth from California to visit Washington friends. So many trips, so many milestones, so many familiar place names rolling past.

With the dreary grey weather, the zen of distance driving, and the familiarity of the route, it felt, in some ways, like all of those journeys, some of them major milestones, had collapsed into one and I could really feel like I was all of those very different people for a while. And perhaps that is part of maturity, embracing all of you and accepting it in a coherent whole.

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