Monday, November 2, 2009

The Road To Nirvana Is Paved With Asphalt

I love back roads. Fortunately, here in Maine, that's pretty much all we have. We have I-95 of course--also known as the Maine Turnpike--and it's basically a multi-lane back road with incredible scenery. I live some distance from it and make do with the two-lane variety whenever I'm compelled to take the car out of its' cocoon also known as the garage. I don't go out much but I look forward to every opportunity of getting behind the wheel.

My return to Maine after 33 years of living elsewhere has been a total mental make-over for me. For 24 of the last 26 years I lived in Texas, I lived within the city limits of Houston. I traveled every one of its freeways, highways, and byways all of them congested with self-absorbed borderline psychotic drivers and their crappy attitudes. In the 1970's the Texas Highway Department spent a great deal of money putting up signs state-wide that gave motorists the admonition to "Drive Friendly". If they hadn't coupled that statement with the warning that bridges may freeze before the rest of the road does it would have been a laughable total waste of money. Kinda like putting up signs around Washington telling senators not to overspend. Hostility became routine and road rage became an epidemic. Now, back in Maine, I am discovering road rapture.

I'll probably get over it when the snows come. I imagine I'll get over a lot of things at that point. But for the moment I revel in driving through gauntlets of fire. Much of the Fall foliage is on its way out but there are still many places along my customary routes that positively dazzle. I hope I never again take the beauty of this place for granted the way I did before I left for warmer climates. Driving along the rising and falling hills, winding and twisting first left then right. Whoever planned these routes missed the class on shortest distance between two points and straight lines. Which makes it all the more wonderful. Maybe that was the point. If all the roads were straight people would go faster and never see how amazing it is.

We don't have signs here telling us how to behave when we drive. Maine folks don't like anyone telling them what to do. Friendliness and courtesy is a natural occurrence. People actually wait for you to go through the intersection before pulling out. Instead of making every effort to cut you off, they just cheerfully wait for you to go by. Amazing. It's the equivalent to holding a door open for someone. And everyone waves at you on the back roads. People in their yards and on-coming drivers wave at you as you go by. I guess they figure if we're sharing the same road we must be friends. Works for me. I see speed limit signs as warnings--'don't go any faster than this or you're going to miss something'--and it's true.

My favourite thing about any of the roads in Maine is that there are no billboards--anywhere. There is nothing to block your view of the trees, the mountains, lakes, ocean, or pastures and farmhouses. Except for more trees of course. Now that most of them are shedding their leaves you can see through them and beyond to what they were concealing. Every excursion is a journey of discovery and I know that I react like a kid on Christmas morning. And I admit I privately like that about myself. It's always good to find out you're not as jaded as you thought you were. At least until the snows come.


  1. "It's always good to find out you're not as jaded as you thought you were. "
    Ain't it though.

  2. Well, I'm still a curmudgeon. I just do it with a lighter heart.

  3. You make me homesick for Michigan now! I miss the fall colors the most and those crisp clear days with the sky such a bright blue. We had a couple of those days here recently, sans the fall color.

  4. And today I'm kinda-sorta missing the Gulf Coast of Texas. It started snowing and I can hear the wolves at my door. At least armadillos don't howl.

  5. I like this: "Every excursion is a journey of discovery and I know that I react like a kid on Christmas morning."
    Once you make the necessary adjustments you'll like the snow scenes and sounds too. The roads will be even quieter and more peaceful, the trees will become sculptures, those wolves you hear howling at the door will turn into sighs soothing you to sleep.

  6. I woke up this morning and experienced what you wrote. I'm at peace with this adjustment. Cold, but at peace.