Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Life: Road Trip, Day One

I find that in general I am not a very impulsive person. The necessity of informing bosses well ahead of time when I needed time off, as well as planning around breaks from school, has created in me the habit of scheduling events far in the future. So, when Tyler, Nate and I firmly decided only a week before leaving that we were going to go on a road trip north, and that we would not plan where we were going along the way beyond our first stop in Morro Bay, this was unusually impromptu for me.

It was on a slightly overcast Thursday afternoon that we set out on our journey. We piled our luggage and food into my friend’s Scion and then set out down the Pacific Coast Highway. The first leg of the journey was along familiar territory and we passed such familiar sights as Harbor House. To our left was the Pacific Ocean, a heavy gray-blue reflecting the overcast sky. One of those brilliantly sunny days that turns the ocean into a shining brilliant blue would have been nice to inaugurate our journey, but the gray skies did nothing to dampen our spirits and the great open ocean still caused our hearts to swell.

Not long after leaving familiar territory we encountered our first obstacle in a thing frightening to any good Orange County bred individuals – a roundabout. Luckily for all of us, Tyler had driven on one before and was able to navigate it and our journey northwards continued. Unfortunately, traffic and mad drivers soon picked up as we entered the city of LA and our trip slowed to a crawl. As we crept along PCH in LA, we encountered the first in what would prove to be a series of difficulties that would lead us to eventually getting onto the 101 Freeway. As we traveled along, we noticed a sign telling us that to stay on PCH we needed to turn left. Since we noticed this sign in time, we were able to get over and stay on PCH. The next time this happened we wouldn’t be so lucky. I don’t mean to imply that we didn’t enjoy this stage of our journey – we chatted up a storm, made plenty of inappropriate jokes, and discussed mock-philosophically the various merits of the drivers around us.

You’re probably wondering, however, just what happened to us the next time PCH ditched us. Well, the second time was not too dramatic. I noticed a sign telling us that we needed to turn left too late, and we were forced to U-turn. However, the third time the road disappeared, none of us noticed the sign and we ended up in a residential area and on another roundabout. It was at this point that we decided we’d had enough of PCH’s fickle and unfaithful ways and abandoned her for a more faithful companion, the famous 101 freeway.
I cannot really express in words the powerful change that came over the landscape as we continued to head north. That’s not to say that Southern California does not have its own kind of beauty, but much of it was chocked by smog filled city streets and sprawling suburbs, but as we went further and further up the coast the land began to open up into wide vistas of deepest green surrounded by majestic mountains. Truly, this beauty is something everyone should witness for themselves. In the end my words will only seem cheesy. It only got better the second day.

Finally, at the end of our day we arrived in Morro Bay, a small town lying just south of San Louis Obispo. The area around the town is wooded and green and it hugs a blue bay out of which juts a huge piece of volcanic rock. The sun was already setting as we drove into Morro Bay, and we were ready to have our dinner. Nate’s brother Matt lives in Morro Bay, and we met him and his friends at a local Italian restaurant. It was nice little place, with good food and bad service.

After having our fill of hot bread and spaghetti, we went back to Nate’s brother’s place and then Nate, Tyler and I got Matt’s truck and he drove us up a long windy road to a high spot famous for its beautiful view of the stars. The sky had cleared by now and we were excited to actually get to see the heavens for once. The way up was dark and mysterious, the road wound back and forth up the side of the mountain and all we could see were the colorless shapes of the trees illuminated by the headlights of Matt’s truck. There’s something about dark roads, especially those that hug the mountains, that gives me an absolute sense of serenity, so the way up to the viewing spot was extremely peaceful (though this peace was disturbed somewhat by Matt’s bizarre taste in music). Sadly, by the time we reached our destination the clouds had swooped back in and only the moon was visible. Nevertheless, the spot was gorgeous. The spot we arrived at was stretch of grass on the edge of a cliff overlooking the bay. The moon was reflected in the dark waters below and we could hear the waves thundering against the cliff, while a furious wind came off of the sea and whipped the grass around and chilled our bones. Such scenes birth a wonderful sense of the sublime, and I found myself transported inwardly to a mystical otherworld of dreams and shadow shapes. I would have lingered there longer, but Matt wished to return home, and as he was our host we obliged.

We arrived at Matt’s house some time later. His house is rather grand for a bachelor pad, and is full of long stairways to trip down in the dark, but otherwise it fits the bill. He rooms with several other guys from the Coast Guard (I never did figure out how many) and the house comes stocked complete with beer, ax body wash and (sadly) porn magazines. The others decided we would watch a movie and we headed up stairs to begin. One of Matt’s roommates had already started watching something and we stuck with his choice. It was some new sports movie about a football star and was well done and entirely typical. I found myself bored with it and withdrew to a corner to draw and read Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Finally, after the movie was done we shared a beer, goofed around for some time and then drifted off to sleep.

Look for the second day of our trip in the coming days.