Road trips

Speed, distance, a rear-view mirror

Our road trip around the Mountain West last week had many things to recommend, but looking back, it was the drives I prized most, which I wouldn’t have expected.

We had two long pulls: Park City, Utah, to Telluride, Colorado, which took about seven hours, then Telluride to Santa Fe, New Mexico, around six hours. I drove. She picked the music. We talked sometimes; sometimes we rode in silence. In our twenties, both of us drove across and around the country with friends, but we’d never done a similar trip together. We stopped for food, coffee, to stretch our legs. To see something we hadn’t seen before. But, again, it was the driving and the music and the sense that we were chewing up roads that felt best—enlivened, cheered up, also relaxed and somewhat immune to bigger events, and probably it’s impossible to trace those feelings to specific moments in the drive, but all the manual action of turning a wheel and pressing pedals for hours, absorbing the scenery and the newness, all of that was something I’d missed.

And wow, was the scenery almost livid, all about color and scale. Descending Route 90 into the Paradox Valley, we faced a colossal red wall of cliff. We drove into Telluride, a village in a box canyon, with mountains growing up straight from the valley floor, and we might’ve just pulled into Chamonix. Each image was different, impressive, impassive; looking at them, flying through them, I could feel something almost bursting within me. And still that isn’t quite it.

I think it’s that I prefer motion to stillness, change to stasis. There’s always an open road somewhere, and then in a split second it’s gone. Sitting on the couch in the study, tapping on a laptop, those moments can feel part of a permanent repetition: nothing changing, everything the same, and yet the planet is spinning, cells are still aging, time and life rushing by unnoticed.

A road trip pays attention to the moment, I think—speed, distance, maps, a rear-view mirror. A few days after our trip, driving around Los Angeles, I ran some errands and found myself practically meditating at a red light, I wanted back.

From tomorrow’s “Sunday Supplement,” my favorite living room ornament, books that are worth more than their weight, and, er, something else. (I’ve been held to a bunch of deadlines and events, and haven’t written it yet!)

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What the what? “Meditations in an Emergency” is a weekly email published Saturdays by novelist Rosecrans Baldwin about things he finds beautiful. “The Sunday Supplement” is his recommendation bulletin for paying subscribers.

Rosecrans’s new book, Everything Now: Lessons From the City-State of Los Angeles, is available from BookshopAmazon, or your local store. Any other books mentioned in this newsletter are featured on a Bookshop list.