What is it about the freeway at night that I like so much? Those who know me well are often taken aback when I say anything about how much I like to drive. Especially at night. Whenever I find myself in a fitful, troubled mood, as often as not it's the open road that calms me down.

Portland is veined with a slender net of freeways; I-5 running roughly parallel to the Willamette River, south to north; I-205 that branches east from I-5 and then continues north as well; I-84 bisecting I-5 to the east and Hwy. 26 likewise to the west; and the small belt of I-405 that donuts around the downtown core on the west bank of the Willamette.

Best thing to do, when I'm restless and heady with portentous ideas, is to drop into gear and just drive, sorting it all out from behind my dashboard.

I suppose I like driving at night because I'm less likely to break things than in daylight. Yesterday I busted up the van I drive for the children's theatre I now work for: in my defense, the traffic barrier was well below my line of sight, and this van is pretty beat up already. But I might have done some serious damage to the alignment or the transmission train or some such; none of the gear readings in the dashboard dial correspond to the actual gear the van happens to be in at any given time anymore. And the steering wheel is pretty broadly innaccurate, too. We're taking the van into the shop on Thursday. Fortunately, when you're as experienced as I am in breaking things, you learn to take these matters in stride.





Savtadotty said...

At least nobody got hurt. Did they? I too find driving fast on empty roads to be relaxing and conducive to rumination. The only time I ever bumped into things (never people or other cars) was when I was stressed out in a particular way. Knowing that, I avoid driving when I reach that state. Have you tried jogging? Or knitting?

paulmonster said...

It's true, no one got hurt, thankfully. I've never been in a serious accident of my own making; it's always dust-ups like a traffic barrier at ten miles per hour. It's when the other thing is standing still that I have to be careful...

re: knitting, I really suck at casting on.

re: jogging, every year my father and I go through this whole "Let's run the marathon this year" thing. And for two weeks we train like triathlete madmen. Week three rolls around and then one or the other of us sleeps in or something, and then here we are.

David said...

Brother, in my twenties and earl thirties, I put on thousands of miles, just 'driving off a mood.' I'd do these big loops: Portland-Astoria-Oregon Coast-Northern California-Eastern Oregon in two or three days; or Portland-Elko; or--and this was a big one--Boston--Banff/Jasper--Prince Rupert--Juneau-The Yukon--Edmonton--Montana--Seattle--Portland--San Diego--Grand Canyon--Salt Lake City--Frigg'n Montana again--New Orleans--St. Louis--back to Boston. That was in a car. I've also been cross country twice on motorcycle, once averaging about 115 mph in 100 degree heat in two days of driving across the Oklahoma panhandle, where there is some weird scenery.

I do much less driving now. Whatever I was expiating seems to have been left out there on the black top, in the forest service camp grounds where I slept, and in the truck stops. I like truck stops.

jason said...

I love a drive to the coast - not because of the coast but because of the drive. You can keep the ocean, but give me the open, winding two-lane blacktop that leads there. Recreational driving around the city is hit-and-miss with me: any trip that takes me over the Fremont bridge is pretty gratifying, but I've run so many variations and connections of 5 - 26 - 217 - 205 - 84 that it's gotten fairly monotonous.
Favorite strip of highway: 405 eastbound, connecting with 5 south off the Fremont bridge.
Least favorite strip of highway: 205 between Clackamas town center and mall 205
best onramp: 405 southbound at SW Taylor
worst onramp: 205 northbound at SE Foster