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The Long Drive

July 23, 2021

I have always loved a long car drive, especially at nighttime. There is something exciting about taking off into the night to some far away destination.

When I was a small child, I used to love to make the long drive from the San Fernando Valley to the Owens River during the night. It was a six-hour drive to make the 306 miles in those days. I can still see those moonlit landscapes as we passed from the Mojave Dessert into the High Sierras. Over the years, I learned every piece of that Highway 395 road. The anticipation of what the morning would find in the way of fishing always kept me awake for the whole ride. It was like magic.

The long drive in the night was sometimes punctuated by a stop along the way. There was a little café in the town of Little Lake that used to serve the greatest barley soup until midnight. Then there was the restaurant adjacent to Tony’s gas station in Bishop, California. It was full of stuffed trophy trout that reinforced the anticipation for the coming dawn. Boy, if I could only catch one like that!

The final leg from Bishop to the Long Ears Ranch was always made in the pre-dawn darkness. I remember vividly the headlights as they danced on the sagebrush on our final approach to our camp. The occasional jack rabbit scurried out of our way on the gravel road as the tiny rocks pinged against the undercarriage. The sounds, the smells and the darkness were all ritual.

I recall years later as a teenager, the same sense of excitement as my own car sped northward through Santa Paula on route to the various Ventura and Santa Barbara surfing destinations. Passing towns that slept, my car clawed its way through the orange groves and onto the coastal road where a blackened surf awaited. It was always a serious journey, even with high school friends in tow. We were all in awe of the moonscapes and the anticipation of the next day’s surf but it was the night’s journey that made it all so wonderful.

When I was married, I repeated those same steps up the road to the Sierras during the night. The excitement had not dissipated over the years.  There was always something new in the morning that was disguised by the night’s ride. Like so many years before, it was simply magic. With my new bride by my side, I felt exhilarated as the car found its way in the darkness. I loved every opportunity to take a night trip and we made many to places like Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

These scenes were all from years ago. Now I dread the long drive and try to keep from driving any distance at all at night. What a difference the years make. They hold us prisoner in the very night we once loved so well.

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  1. Great post! Some of my best memories were cross-country trips during summer vacations. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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