It's winter and the Legislature is in session, which means no free time to enjoy the road and I miss that. My Holiday season trip in the Hummer was great and while I didn't write much, I did enjoy the road, took a lot of pictures, and capped it off with a two day drive up a sunny and gorgeous US-101 along the Oregon Coast with my oldest and dearest friend Dave. Since then the only driving I've done has been back and forth along I-5 between Seattle and Olympia where I spend my days working the legislative process and dreaming of the open road.On Sunday night as usual I drove down to my condo in Olympia to start another week of the legislative session. An hour or so South on I-5 in the post-Super Bowl traffic and light rain, with my mind kind of blank and empty just killing time traveling a road I've driven countless other times, just going from Point "A" to Point "B", along with a few thousand other folks also seemingly on auto-pilot. I can't even remember anything about this trip -- just that I did it. I had to, I'm here, but I can't remember anything about the drive. That's just how monotonous it is.
So I settled into the condo -- unpacked the clean laundry and had some cereal and milk for dinner. There was nothing on TV tonight from my regular roundup of shows, so I was just channel surfing and wouldn't you know it I stumbled across Disney/Pixar's "Cars", and not only that, I happened to tune in at the exact moment in the movie which makes me choke up and get teary eyed. I'm not kidding. There's something about that movie -- their homage to the road, to Route 66, to travel for travel's sake that has always struck a chord with me. I've seen the movie countless times and it's one of my all time favorites.
The scene that always stirs my emotions though is the one where Lightning McQueen and Miss Sally take a drive -- just for the sake of driving -- and end up in the "Cadillac Range" at the abandoned Wheel Well Motel and McQueen sees the view of the mountains and the town and the distant Interstate-40 cutting across the desert and exclaims "They are just driving by! The don't even know what they are missing"
No they don't. The folks I shared I-5 with tonight driving to Olympia probably don't know it. Very few do. I do. Tonight I was part of the stream of commerce on the Interstate, my mind blank and on auto-pilot. As always, Cars made me long for another era when -- like Miss Sally says to McQueen on the bluff overlooking the town -- "cars came across the country a whole different way then. The road didn't cut through the land like that Interstate, it moved with the land, it rose and curved with it -- cars didn't drive on it to make good time, they drove on it to have a good time."
The movie's song, "Our Town" sung by James Taylor then illustrates the history of Radiator Springs, and it's eventual death by Interstate Highway all to save ten minutes of driving. And by the time the song fades and Luigi the tire dealer drives into the Casa Dela Tires and puts up his "We are still open" sign and stares out at an empty street from inside his store, the tears are welling up in my eyes and I can't speak. It was that way the first time I saw the movie, and it's still true today. Tony used to secretly cue up that scene and invite folks over and then call me into the room and say, "Hey, watch this" and put it on and have a good laugh at my overt sentimentality. Oh well, I didn't mind, and I freely admit it.
I'm a sentimental fool sometimes. But on a rainy night in my lonely condo in Olympia, Cars reminds me of why I love the road, why I seek out the relics of the Highway that others would call trash and junk, and why I hit the road -- not to make good time, but to have a good time.
Some 76 days left of life in Olympia. I'm already plotting the May road trip. Meanwhile, where's the damn Kleenex?...