We're all innocent until we listen to the wrong voices. Why is trial and error painful? Listen to your heart and you fall in love with a narcissist who makes life miserable, listen to your head and you lose your heart, listen to your fears--never give counsel to your fears. So what's left?
I listened to Mapquest's directions to get home expediently. To get into the safety of my own bed after getting the boot in Canada, pollen in Oregon, & a welcome from my dad's wife in San Rafael, "When are you leaving?"
After driving solo thousands of miles on straight and windy roads for my Los Angeles to British Columbia round-trip escapade, I was on my last leg going home in a twelve year old car without a CD player--I've never owned a CD player deemed a luxury after shoes--when I found myself locked in a soul-gripping game:
Avoid Trucks, SUVs, and Big Black Sedans while they play Let's-Speed-Into-Oncoming-Traffic on the worst road in California!, which I learned is: Route 46
I was driving Route 46, the connector between the 101 and 5, which I picked up in Paso Robles to avoid Santa Barbara and Los Angeles traffic thanks to Mapquest.
Mapquest: all head and no heart. Sure it all connected logically but oh my God!!!
As soon as I veered off the 101 near Paso Robles, after leaving Monterey and the Butterfly Sanctuary in Pacific Grove---Hummm, peace---for Route 46, something inside me said: This doesn't feel right. THIS DOESN'T FEEL RIGHT!
But I knew General George S. Patton's adage: Don't ever give counsel to your fears.
Why am I quoting a war hero instead of listening to my own voice. Nevertheless, I plowed on: Mapquest lead me home!
I continued on and on. And on.
Through desolation. Through rolling hills. Yellow. Dry. Brush.
On a two lane narrow road, dodging trucks that had morphed into racecars, yes!, going east and west, passing into one another's lane like drunken Mexicans on a Friday afternoon with a week's pay check. (I'm not prejudice, but just wait...)
Indeed, it was Friday afternoon.
I traveled fast to keep up with the racecars, but not too fast in case I'd need to dodge a potential head-on collision by driving into a ditch or up a hill at the side of the road.
46 East went on for 63 miles. Yes, 63 miles of intense concentration and near death worries for me and those crazy racecar drivers.
I passed sad grape vines, withering despondent in the heat of the sun. We're in a drought they seemed to say. Don't talk to me.
I passed desolate mountains, too. Dry old sacks. I snaked through 'em, dodging trucks. Yes, I went through a mountain range. The Coastal Ranges to be exact. Alone. Me and the truckers. I felt so alone out there.
Not enjoying the drive. Not enjoying the scenery. Nor the lack of music.
Bitter Water Valley. Lost Hills. (Oh so well-named) Lost Hills Oil Rigs. Those rusted out multi-colored oil rigs looked sad, lonely, too, in need of repair despite their monotonous up-down grind for liquid black gold.
Expediently--thank you, Mapquest. How about add a better view and safety next time.
As I drove with 100% concentration--my life was at stake--my nerves gradually unraveled. One racecar truck driver after another overtook me, swerving ahead, into on-coming traffic.
A black sedan was particularly bold, passing I'll guess at 100 miles per hour on a two-lane windy road with oncoming trucks. I thought this guy is going to die. That's what I thought. I was sure of it.
After passing what looked like the surface of a bare moon, with sloping craters, I finally finally made it to a gas station called Blackwells Corner in Lost Hills at 17191 HWY 46. I needed gas and water.
Many truckers pulled in, and I inquired about this treacherous drive:
One trucker said,
"This is the most dangerous road in all of California. You shouldn't take it."
"I just did," my eyes looked east and saw a sign Route 46 Closed Due To Accident. "But it appears there's been an accident and I'll need to finish my journey to Interstate 5 on a detour route."
We were in the middle of what only nowhere could look like.
Vast stretches of inland farmland were close because the air was thick with the intense smog and stench of San Bernadino, and signs from farmers warning no water no food unless we do something fast.
After filling up with gas, I entered the well-lit large gas-station store that offered bags of nuts, dried fruit, sodas, fresh sandwiches, and toilets and I heard Spanish spoken rapidly.
A number of Mexicans that looked like they'd worked hard with their hands all day, were buying beer and talking about a 4 person fatality accident just ahead on Route 46.
Immediately, I thought of that mean black sedan that had passed, driving into oncoming traffic at dizzying speeds way back on Route 46.
Then I looked at the beer sitting on the counter. I followed that beer and its tired looking new companions to their truck, and let them start the detour before me.
The sun blazed in the sky. It was around 5 p.m. and I still had a few hours to get home, I wanted to do it before dark. Would I make it?
I started the detour through desolate farmland, eventually making it to Interstate 5. In a weird way, it was a welcomed relief despite I had to drive 70-80 mph to come close to trucker and SUV speeds, and even then many drivers were angry that I drove slow. I wasn't willing to go faster. I mean, how could I safely avoid a head-on collision by driving into a ditch at 100 mph? I wasn't so sure about 70 mph either. Such was the math in my head.
It was all so exhausting.
As the sun started to set, and smog settled into my lungs, the Welcome to Southern California cough returned.
I was a few hours yet from home, and I wondered:
Why didn't I listen to my inner voice when I started Route 46 and it didn't feel right? Why did I listen to Mapquest instead? I could have continued on the 101 and if I hit traffic, stopped in Santa Barbara for a leisurely dinner.
Then darkness fell as I snaked through the grapevine morphed by truckers to my left and right--another range of mountains known for wind and elevation.
My eyes fought the blinking lights from on-coming traffic, and despite being tired and hungry and needing a toilet, I refused to stop.
Tears from fear and exhaustion trickled down my face. Around Valencia the freeway lanes broadened and traffic filled in.
I hardly know how I managed, but around 7:30 p.m. I made it home safely.
Never to do that drive again.
Avoid Route 46 & listen to your inner voice.
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