I am as anxious as any to be off the road. I know the distance I must cover, but I also know I must stop as my little dog does not have my stamina or patience. Used to filling his daylight hours with leaping after butterflies, racing along beaches and city streets, he grows impatient after even one hour in the car; six hours without stopping is unthinkable. When I pull into the first rest stop I find after leaving the Bay Area, a cool oasis with clean bathrooms and plush grass, Earnest romps happily about for a bit, saying hello to other traveling dogs, and I think that this long road trip will be pleasant. There will be other equally pleasant rest stops, but as it turns out, every single rest stop after that first is closed. Apparently, for some reason I cannot fathom, road construction closes rest stops; although I see no construction workers today, everywhere are signs of recent road work and work soon to be done. Much of the road surface has been scarred, readied for new pavement; wheels whirr loudly on the deeply etched pavement, and frequently trucks and cars are funneled into a single narrowed lane of traffic passing over an uneven road surface with a forbidding cement barrier on one side and a distinct ‘ditch’ on the other. No room for swerving to avoid potholes, and with bumper-to-bumper traffic moving at 65 mph plus, there is no possibility of braking either. Just grit your teeth and listen as road comes up to meet the car. I long to stop, but can’t; even when, the cement barriers fade into the background, there is no longer a shoulder wide enough to pull safely away from the high speed traffic. Finally, I spy a gas station with an easy return to the highway, and I pull off to let Earnest out of the car, but the when I open the door and step out, I step into a dust as fine as corn starch and at least four inches deep. A man with a hose stands on the concrete surface near the portals to the underground gas tanks, spraying a steady stream of water on the fast accumulating dust. Clearly, as fine as this dust is, if it were not washed away to the periphery, it would find its way into the tanks, the pumps, and then the cars. Not a great place to stop, and we are soon on our way again. I drive, wondering what will become of our already decaying highway system if someone like Rick Perry, who doesn't believe much in federal government as a useful means of serving the American people, were to gain access to the White House. No more highways, just dirt tracks . . . all crops would rot . . . no way to get the food to market . . . the blue steel trucks piled with oranges or tomatoes or lemons would be left to rust . . . and all those vast fields of food I have passed by on my journey south, including the mounds of green covered with small white flowers, would be buried under dust. Save us from the Rick Perry's of this world.
Somewhere near by, maybe closer to the mountains, away from these crumbling highways, is a bird preserve. I saw the sign flash by on the highway. I wish I were there, walking and watching geese land on blue waters. Emerson once noted that “A man is what he thinks about all day long.” I wonder, then am I a bird? Maybe believing I can fly will not grant me wings or allow me to rest on wind. Thinking about community doesn't necessarily create community; musing about democracy as useful valuable and desirable won't necessarily make it so. Believing in peace, thinking always of peace, may not be enough, but it's a start. Gandhi believed “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him." Change is all we got.