King of the Road

Years ago, I saw my first tumbleweed while driving on Interstate 5 in California. It took me by surprise because up until that point, I only pictured them in places like Texas. Much like Texas though, the winds that sweep over the I-5 give the road a good dusting of dirt with thirst only “damn water” (for those of you paying attention to the politically charged posted signage) cures.

The I-5 runs through California, Oregon, and Washington. Our driveway to Disneyland is almost 5 hours (roughly speaking). This particular trip marks my 8th trip on it since November, 2022. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve driven it since moving here in 2014.

I like driving and suspect I picked that up from my Dad. I grew up in a “car family” and many of my best memories with my Dad were showing his 1955 Chevy at car shows and long car rides to nowhere in particular. He said that driving helped him think.

With the abundance of rain this past winter, a new chapter of life has been given along this California highway. New flowers accompany a superbloom, greenery and even ponds where visible cracks once rested in the farmland. I’ve driven with dawn and sang with sunset while easing off the gas to reach for some crackers and pay “”CHiPs” some respect. I’ve held my nose through the visible feedlot of Harris Ranch and held my breath through the Grapevine. I’ve thanked nameless farm hands for their labor and cursed gas stations that charge $7.15 a gallon.

This trip though was like none before. In the early morning with my 17 year old asleep passenger side, I saw a glimpse of my Dad out of the corner of my eye. I did a double take as I saw him immersed in the reflection of the passenger side window as though he was riding alongside me. I was confused but comforted at the sight of seeing him so happy. He was waving, going strong on his Harley with his black hair flying back, smile plastered on his face mouthing, “Hello! Hello!” My eyes began to swell up in disbelief… I turned forward and then looked at my window…and then back to the passenger side window where only a truck was now.

About 10 months prior to this experience, just two months after my Dad passed away, my car was rear ended by another car at a red light. The very next day, still shaken, I drove the kids to school without the radio or any music on. As soon as I dropped them off at school and I began to turn the corner of the drop off line music filled my car from a song that wasn’t even a part of my library:

Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl
Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl
Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl
Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl
As I walk through this world
Nothing can stop the Duke of Earl
And-a you, you are my girl
And no one can hurt you, oh no

That accident could have been so much worse. I’m so thankful the kids, my husband and our dog were not with me– one thing seems clear though, I wasn’t alone. Someone was watching over me.

Almost a year to the day he passed away, he figured out a way to break one more barrier after death. Driving along the I-5 made me think too, Dad. It looks like you can conquer anything in this world and beyond. A visit to this world from some new plain in which your new chapter seems like one hell of a ride.

Dream as you will, believe as you may… See you down the road.