I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with driving. The love, MY love, is mostly about and for Z. Alice Cooper, my Ice Blue Mini Cooper 2-door Hardtop. She’s sleek and pretty and goes 100 miles an hour without you feeling it. Sitting in her number one seat with the radio blasting, the windows down, the sun and moon roof all the way back is sometimes what I imagine heaven would be. I’ve never been a huge fan of driving beyond it being just a way to get somewhere else. But Alice elevates Target runs to the level of epic adventures: will the store have my Jāsön deodorant in stock, and how many times can I reasonably circle the block before pulling into the garage at home? Cue dramatic music.
The hate part of this love/hate relationship comes from just about everything else to do with driving. Paying attention to the road, responding to the rudeness of other drivers, navigating unfamiliar areas without accidentally killing myself or someone else. It’s exhausting stuff.
The exception to the last is road trips. I freakin’ LOVE road trips! I love zooming through unfamiliar landscapes (or even familiar ones) and watching the samenesss of trees and cars and buildings and train tracks and farmland and glimmering water pass by in a soothing rhythm. During these drives, my mind and creativity open up beyond their normal capacity and I’m flooded with ideas, whole streams of dialogue between unfamiliar people, plus much more. It’s practically a transcendental experience second only to taking a long shower or most things involving lots of water and time.
It occurs to me that part of the reason I love road trips so much is because I’m usually passengering, not actually driving. But that’s neither here not there. The principle is almost the same, right?
Anyway, I think of this love of the road as I prepare for a long drive from Madrid to Clermont-Ferrand, a medium-sized town in the middle of France. The appearance of the trip was unexpected, an invitation from a new friend that I suspect the universe cooked up for me because of my never-ending complaints about a lack of good pastries in Madrid. At one point, I jokingly considered jumping on a quick flight to Paris to connect with some old acquaintances over brie, olive baguettes, and panachés. I swear, I was ONLY joking*.
I don’t have many expectations of this trip to not-Paris. I HOPE for panachés and tasty pastries and a few pretty scenes to capture through the lens of my iPhone. I WANT an amazing idea for a novel and its irresistible protagonist to come out of this twelve-hour drive. I WISH my beloveds wouldn’t worry that I’d end up dead on the side of some foreign road with organs and euros missing.
At the very least, I know I’ll have a visit to a sort of Tower of Babel which my limited Spanish and just about non-existent French won’t serve to make easy. But hey, I can nod and smile with the best of them.
For now, I’m packing and thinking of the drive and all the possible pleasures it could hold.
*RyanAir flights are crazy cheap though.