Thoughts had While Driving Home from Oregon

So for some background: most years, my immediate family go on a trip where we drive from our town in Northern California, a roughly-hour’s drive away from San Francisco, to a town called Gervais about an hour from Salem, Oregon. We do this in order to visit the family that lives up there because family reunions on the Fourth of July are cool, and it happens more regularly in the years where the Fourth of July happens to fall on a weekend. This particular year was a little bit different as, for the first time in memory, we did not take Highway 5 North to Oregon. Instead, we drove the 101 up into Oregon before cutting inland to head to Salem where we roomed in a motel two nights in a row. We did, however, take the 5 home from Oregon, because the journey home is supposed to be a more succinct trip.

Also, this was the first year i was actually able to drive, so both of my parents could rest and didn’t have to drive quite so much.

And on the way there, my thoughts were occupied with the land, with the trees (the 101 in California is called the redwood highway), and with the coast when the time came that it turned closer to the ocean than the land (once in Oregon.) I found myself marveling and meditating on the beauty as we stopped at various places along our journey to see trees and congregate with them, and to see all of the natural, untapped beauty that the Northern California coast has to offer. When driving, my thoughts strayed even more often to the beauty around me, which as a driver i couldn’t dully experience to the same degree as i did as a passenger.

On the way home, however, every leg of the trip that i was required to drive brought me back to thoughts of how short the return was in comparison. We spent roughly 3 days losing ourselves in the beauty of the Pacific coast, and then after seeing family, we simply returned to our normal frantic pace, using as many loopholes to get us home as soon as possible. And on the one hand, i could understand the need to go quickly home, for after travel the body and mind ache for reprieve in the form of home and the familiarity that it offers — to rest and recoup from such a journey. But considering all of this, i still wonder at why the journey home could not have been longer.

Logistically of course, i was honestly entirely thrilled that we got home before Monday because Monday was the day a close, close friend of mine left, moving with her mother up to Idaho so she can go to school at her dream school. I was thrilled in that i got to see someone so dear to me before she left, especially as i don’t yet know when next i’ll be able to see her. I couldn’t imagine not seeing her before they left, after all.

But on a more personal and spiritual level, i ached for the same kind of travel home. Perhaps not another 3 days of it — that would be just a bit too much. But…more than 8 hours in the car, stopping only to get coffee from Starbucks or lunch from Burger King. Something that would provide for a proper ending, emotionally, to the fantastic journey we spent on our way up, touring through the redwoods. Something that would feed the mind and sould on the back end of the pilgrimage. I recall musing at these shortcuts most heavily when we turned off the 5 at just about Vacaville, to cut an hour off the journey home. (Interestingly, i didn’t think we cut too much time off considering the sheer amount of time we spent sitting in unmoving traffic once we got off the 5. But i don’t know how Sacramento and Stockton looked on the 5, either…)

Another interesting thing to note is that this is the first time in memory i can recall us not taking the 5 South through Stockton to get home. I know there may be all kinds of hilarious implications, and i certainly mused at some of them while my sister told stories about puns and her ex-Earth Science teacher. But in actuality, i think the reason my parents tried to cut the travel home so short was for my benefit as both a young driver, and a person whose friend was leaving the next day, a thing i wanted to witness as much as i could. In at least the latter, they succeeded.

And here i am, considering the possibility of the same trip in a few months in order to visit a darling friend of mine who goes to school just south of where my extended family lives in Oregon. Perhaps, by then, i’ll have refined a way to experience the beauty of the pilgrimage there, without sacrificing the opportunity for an equal journey home, if not equal in time, then equal in emotional value and spiritual connection.

Either way, Oregon is a gorgeous state and an even better state of mind.

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