I found myself in Austin rush hour this morning, having gone to an early appointment and deciding to do some errands while it was a bit cool. Austin has a series of highways, freeways and toll roads, and I realized early on that where I live requires me to use at least one highway to go anywhere every time I go out. Southwest Parkway is a parkway but feels like a gentle highway and I live off Southwest Parkway. So I am always on highways.
This morning, I was on Loop One North for 11 miles. It was an easy drive, but full of traffic. I love to drive. Going 11 miles to buy something that is in the only place it exists in Austin is an adventure. I do this for the exhilaration it gives me. I did not have the option to ship it.
Driving gives me pleasure. Some people may think I drive slowly. I usually drive the speed limit or plus 5, and if I see someone is in a hurry, I move out of the way, let them move along and hold to my plans. I remember when we first moved to Arizona, Highway 10 was not yet connected across the desert from LA to Phoenix. The direct route to LA was North from Phoenix to Flagstaff and West on Highway 40 to LA.
Highway 10 opened soon after we moved to Phoenix, and a new world arrived. The road from Phoenix to LA was a dream come true. To this day, I love that drive. It can be monotonous, but not to me. The typography changes from desert to mountains, including glorious colors or lofty clouds sitting in the sky. The sky is so big that you can see forever, certainly for many miles. And the clouds often form shapes that are fun to imagine. That route offers one of the best discount malls in the US, in Indio, CA!
In the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix), when we were first in town, it took me over an hour to drive from downtown Phoenix to Mesa or further East. Traffic built up and taking that drive became more and more challenging. Then the 101 opened, followed by the 202 and the 303. There were special loops for different parts of the Valley and time to reach destinations was cut in half or thirds. The joy of those roads was in seeing the myriad parts of the desert in route to a sports game or a child’s commitment. Schools started playing sports with other schools in far areas of the Valley. The distance became manageable. High school students met a true mix of culture in their experiences.
The Valley of Phoenix stretches 515 square miles – big with just under five million people at the 2020 census. Phoenix alone as a town is around 1.6 million people. You have to drive highways to move around the Valley easily if on a schedule.
The bigger circumference roads are beautiful. Their colors are brilliant pinks, blues, browns and greens. I am spoiled by these colors and spaces. And I am happy to find some of those vistas here in Austin. This morning on my adventure, I suddenly was driving what felt like the lower hills of the Blueridge Mountains in NC or SC, and I was in Austin. It was the Hill Country, lovely landscapes and not as heavily developed as downtown Austin. I loved it. The views were green, expansive and hilly. It was fun and a great reminder of the mix of landscapes Austin provides for its residents.
A friend of mine, Mary, drove with me across the country when I moved from Arizona back to South Carolina in 2015. We drove a huge circular loop through the North of the United States, over 7300 miles. How do you do that, you ask? Slowly and carefully, meeting so many different people, seeing the glory of our country, and eating terrific foods all along the way. Ice cream in Fargo, North Dakota and amazing homemade chocolates north of Duluth, Minnesota with dear friends. I gained a clear understanding of how closely connected we are to Canada when we drove across a bridge into Michigan and then across the Canadian border into Windsor, Ontario on the way to my daughter’s in Toronto. So much adventure.
I invite you to consider looking at your time in your car differently. It’s always an adventure, even going to the grocery store or to pick up a child. I make it an adventure and assume responsibility for finding the playful aspect of an errand or trip. A tiny joy in my day, and always there.