I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Who's gonna drive you home?

There was an overlook on Highway 26, about halfway to the coast, and I stopped there on my way to Manzanita last week. The view wasn't that interesting, but I followed a trail into the trees, and quickly found myself in thick forest, wild and unmanicured, carpeted in pine needles and dead leaves. It took my breath away.

And of course, I was only able to stop there because I was driving myself, and not watching the scenery slide by through a bus window. That's the great American romance of the automobile in a nutshell: freedom and independence and adventure.

It's a romance I felt myself excluded from for most of my life; although I grew up in California, my family didn't have a car, and I didn't learn to drive until I was 25 and leaving for New York. Then for years I only drove on visits home or in rental cars on vacation, and since my mother died and we gave her old Dodge away, I haven't driven at all.

So I was nervous about renting a car and driving to Manzanita, but that was the only way to get there, and I no longer accept being afraid to do something as a valid reason not to. The Passat I rented had such sensitive brakes I seemed to bring the car to a dead halt just by exhaling, but fortunately for the pedestrians of Portland, the pickup was on level 10 of a parking garage; by the time I got down to street level, I'd had an adequate refresher course in driving.

I was still tense most of the way to Manzanita; my left hand fell asleep at one point because I was gripping the steering wheel so hard. But the drive back to Portland on Wednesday was pure pleasure: whipping around the curves through the trees on a sunny day in summer. Oh yeah -- I remember how to do this! Wheee! Bravery pays off.

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