Sunday, January 28, 2007

the back way home

I moved to Northern California two weeks ago. This is my fifth (!) state in 5 years, and as exhausting as moving that often has been, there’s also something really thrilling about it. I love exploring new places and getting to know my new neighborhood. And California is REALLY new to me, since I’ve only lived ever lived east of the Mississippi before. In fact, I hadn’t even been to California, or anyplace else west of Colorado, until this past fall.

In any case, one of the especially enjoyable things about new places is finding the back ways home and discovering out-of-the-way gems in my own backyard. Now, I’m living pretty far out in the country here (in a converted carriage house on a sheep ranch, to be exact), so driving home is always a bit of a rural experience (I saw a cow being born a few days ago in a field as I drove home from Target). Last night, though, I decided to take the back way home from work, and realized that in comparison, my usual drive home isn’t rural at all.

First of all, the back way is only 3 or 4 miles longer than my usual drive, but it took me nearly twice as long. I mean, these were real back roads. I’m sort of surprised they were even paved. My usual drive is mostly on a two lane road that follows over these undulating hills, and I drive it at 55+. But these roads followed were steep and narrow and had these insane hairpin curves. And did I mention NARROW? The grass from the shoulder literally was growing into the road, encroaching on it the way your lawn does to the sidewalk if you don’t edge it up neatly every year or so. And I didn’t see another car for literally 20-25 minutes. Which I wouldn’t have believed was possible less than an hour from a major city (I guess I’ve been living on the east coast too long! They’re not kidding when they say everything’s much more crowded there). Plus, the roads are all named by the towns they connect because, well, there’s nothing else in between to name them after.

My favorite thing, though, is the Cow signs.

They are posted every half mile or so and what they really mean is that you better watch the f*out because fences can’t hold these beasties, and there’s every chance that there will be one hanging out in the middle of the road around that next bend. And they’re not likely to jump out of your way – they’re not exactly speedy creatures. I have thankfully never had the experience of hitting a cow with my car. However, I have been in a car that hit a deer, and that’s havoc enough (The deer walked away with fewer injuries than the car, though – how is that possible???). I can only imagine the damage a cow might do.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed my back roads adventure . It was getting dark, so I couldn’t really see as much as I’d have liked to, but I think I’m going to go back during the day, just for fun. Take my camera. I bet it’s absolutely gorgeous. I was talking to a friend from Chicago a couple days ago, and he said that my life out here sounds like an artists retreat – no TV, no noise, no real neighbors, surrounded by farms and woods and beauty. And I think that’s right. I feel like living here is really bringing my creativity back to the front of my life, instead of it being this thing that I “used to” really have. I read a lot more, I write a lot more, I’m thinking about taking up painting again. Yay for the country life.