I was riding a road I now know is called Occidental. At the time it was just some road taking me uphill in the western part of Sonoma County, inexactly between the Pacific Ocean and Santa Rosa. The only other thing I could possibly tell you about the road could take all day, how it was shoulderless and trees began practically roadside, creating a canopy that might rain when none was falling, or protect you from actual falling rain. It smelled nothing like the city and evoked in me a memory of a place I’d long departed, a place I missed like my grandfather’s voice.
When I heard the car approach, my only internal remark was that it had been a while since a car had passed. But then I heard the car slow. It slowed further. That’s when I thought, “Oh great, here comes the beer bottle.”
But the car continued to trail me. I was nervous because the future cannot be known. And because I was climbing, the future was arriving a good deal slower than I would have liked.
The road began to level and then hooked left. No sooner was the car through the bend that I heard it gently accelerate, swing all the way into the other lane and pass me. Absent were any upturned fingers, flying glassware, overdriven voices, bulging eyes or the roar of an engine shifting into a passing gear.
In my stunned amazement I said out loud—though to no one in particular—”Well Toto, I don’t think we’re in LA any more.” I had to make a sound if only to prevent my cranium from caving in due to shock.
What I realized was that it’s not enough to have fewer cars on a road if the cars that pass you are blasting by at a wind-stinging 65 mph. The solitude I needed, the refuge I sought, is spelled out by the shared experience of being in a place that everyone present agrees is out of the way, that in a landscape dominated by redwoods, ferns and sprawling grasses, the pressure of modern life is barred from entry, that there is no rush, not even for the sun to burn off the fog.