Reading Time: 10 minutes
The wipers kept oscillating at the speed of an inverted runaway pendulum, while the water kept pouring in abundant glory from the bulging clouds. It was raining torrentially, but I was scheduled to move some 250 miles south on that day, and driving in this vast country is always a pleasure and one of my favorite activity. So, there was no looking back, and not a remote chance of canceling the rare and unexpected, one way car rental deal. After exchanging the customary pleasantries with the rental clerk, and obviously falling prey for the extra collision and liability insurance coverage which they insist, in spite of the credit card seemingly covering such rare accidents, I find myself with minimal luggage, a backpack with laptop and the faithful and extremely useful yoga mat, facing a shiny green vehicle, fondly named Kia Soul. Its a small 4 cylinder, 200 hp engine, involuntarily massaging my head with its cheap upholstery but gives a good mileage. Not all statistics about the car are vital or preferred by me, but seems like it will do the job well. I load the vehicle with the luggage, start the push button engine, check the wipers for any residual water marks while rolling, check the headlights, push the driver’s seat all the way back for a semi-comfortable feeling, as my legs easily reach the pedals without the knee getting the required relief. But, you get what you pay for, and I am relieved that I don’t have to spend a lot, and still can drive and reach my destination, instead of schlepping the luggage in any other formal modes of public transport, cramped in an equally tight seat along with my stereotypically pompous fellow brethren.
The ride was quite fascinating, as I squeezed out of the airport facility, and rolled onto the magnificent interstate freeway, along with the fast moving traffic. It was a Sunday, and I wasn’t in a particular rush to reach, although I wanted to maintain a constant speed.
I’ve always admired the tortoise, in the famous “Hare and the Tortoise” story, not necessarily for winning the race, but more for his doggedness in sticking to a process or strategy without allowing boredom or impatience to creep in, and although on many occasions, as required, I’ve enacted the hare too, but the tortoise-like temperament suits my non-gregarious and observant personality.
I traveled through the Appalachian hills, amongst the vast ocean of greenery of trees and grass to the sides of the freeway, and passing by few minor cities and many more inconsequential small towns, which might have had a consequential role to play in the past presidential elections. The freeways are adorned with signage which lures one to take pitstops for leaks, purchases and more often some terrible tasting coffee breaks, unless of course, you’re lucky to hit “Starbucks”, without having to go to the centre of the town a few miles away. Starbucks brand is my personal favorite, not only because of the taste, but because it has a nice range of sugary sides to go along with the dark roasted pike, without cream or sugar. It is also my favorite brand because we’re invested in the company’s growth story for a few years now, and in spite of Howard Schultz announcing his departure from the firm after a long run, possibly to run a bigger political race per rumors, I consider it to still have substantial growth potential remaining, especially in foreign shores, where they’re just about beginning to cast their footprint.
Having said all this, I would jump on to the opportunity of investing 7% of the equity portion of my portfolio into Starbucks, if it ever falls down in the 42 to 45 range, augmenting the yield substantially, and not to forget that the coffee, pastries and the overall experience at the store is never inexpensive yet always fabulous.
I was tempted to pull out of the freeway, and indulge with a Starbucks experience, but the ride was smooth, traffic scarce, and scenery superb, and I decided to let go of the pulling out, stopping to get dehydrated and pulling in again business. Instead, I continued the journey, immersed in being with the roads, its bends, dents and meandered the journey with my own singing, chanting and silence, instead of blasting some advertisements on the FM radio interspersed with some fast paced hip-hop or reggae. Admittedly, this was the first time I chose to drive like this, the entire 250 miles, as usually, the radio or a personal selection of songs on the phone, is what fills the car with various sounds and noises. It was indeed a sweet transition from listening to someone else’s music, to composing your own personal and random playlist, based on the moods and fancy of the driver.
It was all worthwhile and flowing, until the much needed bio break was in order, and I pulled over at one of the the well-designed and massive “Rest Area” of the famous “Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways”, which to its credit was designed during President Eisenhower’s time, way back in the 50’s and covers roughly 50,000 miles of pothole free roads by now, is expertly maintained, and connects this huge nation from one end to another, with a matrix of interstate freeways, enhancing commerce, transport, communication and many ill fated accidents.
The average driving speed of the vehicles on these highways is 65 mph, and I was in no mood to accelerate over the limit more than 5 mph, firstly, to avoid getting any expensive tickets, because that would defeat the entire purpose of keeping this trip a low cost journey, also making the penalty on the ticket more than the rental car cost, and secondly, because I was absolutely enjoying this rainy drive of 250 miles, heading west for 100 miles and southeast the remaining 150 miles.
It was very interesting to notice the love people have for their dogs, especially in such “Rest Areas”, as along with themselves, the dog owners, which there were plenty, and I wouldn’t be exaggerating if almost all, at the rest area where I stopped, had various dogs of differing sizes, were ensuring that their dogs managed to get a reasonable stretch and they get to pick their fresh droppings, before hopping onto their respective vehicles again to continue their journey.
It was a bit amusing to see some signs pointing out to “Dog Exercise Area” as I felt many of their owners needed equivalent or certainly more exercise and stretch than their cute puppies, and it was also very obvious that dogs naturally knew when and how much to stretch their bodies, as and when necessary, above and beyond the scheduled Rest Area stops, and that’s why the “Dog Pose” in yoga.
But, of course, I wasn’t judging anyone, I was simply observing and being amused, and my obvious smirks perhaps must have generated some strange frowns from folks around me. Any who, I took off once again to finish the remaining journey, amongst the rains, and after paying a meagre toll, for using the freeway, continued southeast towards my new destination, where I am planning to spend a week, before heading out west to the magnificence of the Rockies. The rest of the trip needed much more alertness and care, especially when changing lanes at 70 mph, in hazy conditions, due to the incessant rains and as such was uneventful, but for me as a driver, it was anyways fascinating to be traveling on the roads at fast speeds, humming to my own tunes, without the iPhone connected to the USB or wondering if the bass, treble or balance could be adjusted any further, for a better surround sound experience.
On the way, I crossed Gettysburg, and some portions of the violent and turmoil filled history of this nation flashed into my mind’s eye. It was here that Abraham Lincoln had delivered his famous “Four score and seven years ago…” Gettysburg Address, at the end of the Civil War in 1863, and is considered one of the best known speeches in American history.
It really were troubled times during the formation of a new nation, to be battling amongst themselves, and eventually having to settle after a terrible war, to create the foundation of a United States. I’ve read plenty on the topic in the past, have a fond admiration for Lincoln and respect his role during those times, but decided against visiting the ceremonial visitor’s center, partially because of the rains, and mainly because I felt like continuing the journey forward.
Now, I was in the final section of my journey, and I had to make a judgment call, as it happens to many of us in life, especially just before arriving at the destination, whether to stop for one more bio break, or hold tightly, literally speaking, and reach the final place. It was no different for me, and I wanted to be the “hare” this time, and go for it.
In many ways, it was an arguable decision, but I did go for it, passing a few cars in a rush, changing lanes with acute care, the rains were still on, and to my utter surprise, it was pouring harder and with some amount of gust, which made the visibility harder and the possibility of skidding a little more certain.
Nonetheless, I had put on my “hare hat”, and I was determined to not stop and reach on time, before any accidents happened, and I don’t mean with the vehicle.
Overall, I’m a careful and prudent driver, and like every other subjective space of my life, I’ve strategies on fast driving too, where uncontrolled passion doesn’t overrule any desperate wish to fulfill particular outcomes, and I know where to cut sharply, allow the other to go ahead, discreetly change lanes on an exceptionally rainy day, not irk any fellow drivers with my need for speed etc. – yet maneuver the vehicle in a systematic way to be ahead of others, covering a fair amount of distance much faster, and in spite of wearing my “hare hat”, remain settled within myself with a tortoise-like composure to maintain consistency and balance, both inside and outside of me.
All this didn’t take any effort, it was achieved silently, with the humming or full fletched singing, it was just that it takes awareness and sensitivity to be fine inside, and prudently aggressive on the outside. Its an application of a trick, to trick the mind, to not be ruled by its own gyrations, but instead, meander with a gentler and centered sense of alertness, which brings the desired outcome, in this case speed, but without allowing the mind to get excited or go berserk. Its certainly a finesse, and I have begun to enjoy it, without sacrificing on the desired experience and still achieving the desired outcome!
So, here I am, 250 miles south from my previous location, intact, and having finished an exciting trip, looking forward to spending a week amongst the flora, fauna, friendships and waters of a new neighborhood with old friends. The trip was necessary, exciting, and revealing and much to my surprise, I didn’t realize how the four and a half hours went by, traveling through three different states, amongst the jaw dropping torrential rains, enjoying the greenery, amused by the rest area musings, imagining the tough times during a civil war, admiring the foresight with which the interstate system of highways was built, rejuvenating with personalized singing and chanting and above all driving a decently built car, optimizing its potential by appropriately racing its engine, interspersed with deliberately slowing down when necessary, especially when it was obvious that the M4 or Sequoia, driving next to me, is neither going to slow down, nor allow me to pass, even if they wished to, considering their superior engine, but it doesn’t matter, as I’m aligned and in tune with “The Doors”, and humming to their lyrics “The future’s uncertain, and the end is always near, Let it roll, baby, roll, Let it roll, all night long” 🙂
Until next time, Ciao!…