Next week, we will be heading down to Phoenix for my next doctor visit. Husband will be driving. (Do doctor visits counts as road trips?)
Our road trips, aka ‘drives to Phoenix’, go something like this:
I finish up in the house with whatever deems itself important at the time of departure. Husband comes in after the last load is put into the blue Buick Century 4-door sedan that sits in our driveway, covering paint and oil spills.
Husband asks, “Are you ready?”
Yes, however I must make one more run through because I feel I have forgotten something. This is normal, though nothing appears left behind. There is enough dog food, everything’s been well watered. Refrigerator items have been given to a thankful neighbor. I have my toothbrush. Hairbrush. All else that seems important. We close and lock the door.
We climb into the car, pray for a safe trip, and pull out of the driveway. One annoying speed bump, two more annoying speed bumps, three more annoying speed bumps. We are out of our park. A left turn takes us to a red light and another left takes us to the highway’s onramp. We are on our way.
I scour for the book I have currently been reading and as I do, I offer to drive if and when Husband wants a break at any point in time during our trip. I open my book and begin to read. Within half a page, my eyelids grow heavy and I give in to sleep. I apologize for the inability to remain awake and Husband assures me that it is okay. I feel guilty but soothe my guilt with the fact that when I summoned to drive, I will be rested. This is never the case. I can never stay awake.
I freely drift off into slumbering sleep. Gift #419.
I dream of white, molting chickens, the size of a untamed herd of Tyrannosaurus Rex’s, who are viciously attacking giant, orange carrots with long stems (of which I am one). I fully awaken to the passing of a large, noisy semi-truck carrying livestock.
I sit up, having no desire to dream again anytime soon. I silently wish we had the pleasure of stopping along the way to photograph all the old barns that make their home along the northern California section of Highway 5 and find a place in my heart. Instead, I ride with the wind in my hair, keeping the window down as we pass by scenes that capture my attention. I point and shoot. One out of ten pictures are worth keeping when photographing in this way. I thank God for digital cameras. Gift #420.
Soon after I fall back to shallow sleep. I awake when we stop for gas along the way. Husband fills the car with gas while I open the car door, slowly and effectively move my feet to the ground and the rest of my body reluctantly follows suite – stiff and tight. It begins to work itself out with each step and by the time I reach the glass doors of the gas station, I am fully upright. I go inside and get a large drink for us to share. He is parked out in front of the double glass doors when I return and after buckling up, we are off again. We pass a large cattle farm and with excitement I tell Husband that I can smell it! It’s a glorious smell to me, as when we usually pass this way, I can’t smell it at all. Husband considers me crazy as he tells me I have been blessed. Today I am blessed indeed for – I can smell! Gift #421. I take another little nap.
We travel on and come into the Bay Area. We make our usual stop to browse in a large bookstore, so that I can walk around and Husband can look at things other than white-striped, intermittent lines on the pavement. We leave the book store and walk over to In and Out Burger. After eating a hamburger and sharing another drink, we walk back to the car, get in, buckle up, and we are on our way once again.
The drink we refilled and brought with us is void of any ice within half an hour due to the hot sun beating down on the front seat. A remembrance of reading that PD patients have a greater chance of developing melanoma than others, has me wishing I had put on sunscreen. The drink is warm shortly thereafter. I take another little nap.
Going over the Benicia Bridge, I see the vessels that once served as war ships in World War II and wonder if the one my grandfather sailed on sits stoic there in the shallow waters below. Lined up in rows like service men standing at attention, they are now fully retired, time and neglect have slowly begun peeling away at their steel shells.
The traffic has thickened by now and everyone rushes to beat the next person to the next off ramp so that they can be first at the next stop. Those that don’t rush off to exit the highway are rushing to somewhere else – to home, to work, or wherever it is that causes them to put in danger the lives of those driving near them. In and out they swerve, cutting in front of us and we remember… when in California, drive as the Californians. This is done to save yourself. And so, Husband puts his imaginary California racing hat on, pushes down on the pedal, and all the driving experiences of growing up in these parts quickly begin to fill his memory bank and he is soon in step with the rest of the crazies. I close my eyes and pray, at the same time asking Husband to tell me when the bad parts are over, as if I were watching a terribly graphic war movie. I don’t like terribly graphic war movies.
The traffic begins to thin as we make our way to the summit of Hwy. 17. Now, if you have never driven ‘over the hill’ – Hwy 17 – you have missed an experience everyone should include on their Bucket Lists – just for the heck of it.
Approximately 35 miles away from the southbound point of ‘the hill’ in the quaint little town of Los Gatos, lies the infamous Santa Crus Beach and Boardwalk with one of the world’s last, original, wooden roller coasters known as – the Big Dipper. With every twist and turn, it jerks you to the left and jars you to the right and when you get off, you wonder how you survived. Well, Hwy. 17 is like that roller coaster if you take out some of the ups and downs and add several more twists and turns.
Then there is the fact that it’s two lanes each way, driven by crazies, with canyons deep on each side of the pavement. If you miss a turn, you will descend with great speed to the treed canyon below. Unless, of course, you are prematurely stopped by the trunk of an old oak, madrone, or redwood tree. Either way, you will have caused a major back up of traffic for miles upon endless miles because, for most of these crazies, this is the quickest (and for some the only) way home after a long and muggy hot day over the hill to what is also known as the Silicon Valley. And – they won’t be happy about it, either.
We eventually begin our descent southward to the valley below, having made it safely ‘over the hill’. We enter Scotts Valley, a little town between San Jose and Santa Cruz. It was at one time not so very long ago that we took up residence here for over thirty years.
What was once a quiet, little dairy town, now thrives with boutiques, specialty shops, and fast food restaurants. Having attracted all of those who work over the hill, this little town now boasts a multi-billion dollar housing track where once the dairy stood. Blackberry picking has been replaced by homes with those who instead use Blackberry phone devices and open fields full of wildflowers have been filled with McDonald’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell. There are no more feuds over where the new high school should be, having already been built on Cupcake mountain, one of the last mountains left in the little town. The little pond behind Husband’s childhood home – where he spent his first twenty years – has been replaced with another multi-multi billion dollar housing development, where children are no longer able to fish in the nearby pond or watch for rattle snakes. All of the rattlesnakes have been pushed into the residential areas where they coil and count the minutes to when they can hiss at innocent, young Cub Scouts who are just trying to play a little game of basketball. I know this from experience.
I had a friend once who was bitten by a rattlesnake. That’s a story for another time…
As we pull into the senior mobile home park where my in-laws reside, we take a deep breath and breathe in the still summer air and are thankful there are not speed bumps every hundred feet, that the traffic is obsolete, that we are greeted by residents out for an afternoon stroll to the park’s pool, and we can get out and stretch.
We are welcomed with loving hugs and kisses.
Night falls and we bring in our suitcase. As we ready for bed, I unzip it to grab my pajamas. I look everywhere, finding them nowhere. I realize what it is I forgot.
Making due with the sweatpants I threw in at the last minute, Husband and I pull the comforter down and lay on top of the blankets, tired and hot. It is still 80 degrees outside. The next morning we will begin the second leg of our trip to Phoenix, where it will be between 100 and 110 degrees, cooling to the low nineties.
Ah, the joy of road trips.
I do love road trips. Taking pictures, getting a little extra sleep, enjoying the scenery. Do trips to your doctor qualify as road trips? Is driving this far every 3-6 months worth the trek? Worth the care?
When it comes to trusting your doctor – his skill, his experience, his wisdom, his care – yes.
It’s a long trip. It’s an expensive trip, paid with monies that could be used just as well elsewhere. When I feel guilty about the expense (and I usually do), Husband says it’s worth it to him to see I have the best care and to have a doctor that I trust and who cares about me.
I lay on the bed and listen to Husband already snoring, fast asleep. I don’t know why I can’t sleep. As I lay there, I quietly thank God for safety. Gift #422. A wonderful husband (who likes to drive). Gift #423. A loving and supportive family. Gift #423. A doctor I trust. Gift #424. As I continue with thanks, my eyes grow heavy and I finally drift off to sleep. Soon I am dreaming of giant gorillas chasing little girls (of which I am one) down busy streets. When I wake up, almost in tears, I tell myself that the giant gorillas are an improvement from dinosaur-like chickens.
A long day down a major highway in California in the middle of a heatwave summer with the windows down for taking blurry pictures. It just doesn’t get any better than this.