Driving Into Stormy Weather

My friends never plan things ahead of time. They always decide to have spontaneous get-togethers at the best of moments, like when I’ve just gotten comfy with a nice cup of tea and a good book, or just sat down to dinner with my parents, or when there’s an immense storm brewing that I would rather watch than drive into. Yesterday, it was the storm. It’s always a challenge deciding whether or not I want to go, but 95% of the time I do. In the end, I always decide that I’m not going to have any adventures sitting around at home. So, with an image of Bilbo Baggins running after the dwarves flashing through my mind, I took off into the dusk.

An odd sense of ending comes when your dad tells you he loves you, but not that he’ll see you later, and your mom blows you a kiss as you drive past her on the driveway, unable to return the gesture. Of course it’s simply because your dad won’t be awake when you return, and your mom always looks that nervous when you leave, even though you’ve been successfully driving for two years, but something about the dark clouds looming ahead on the highway, and “Come on Eileen” on your stereo begging you towards them, just seems to bode warning. But all too soon, the majesty of the Texas-sized raindrops and the sound waves wash away your fears. Whatever fate you’re driving into, you’re doing so willingly.

A good ways down the highway from my house, there is a spot where the hills and trees part and reveal a vast field and endless sky. During a Hill Country thunderstorm, the area seems to reach forever. Clear lightening flashes connect the earth and the storm clouds so effortlessly that you expect there to be more than what you see. With electricity running through the air all around me, I could not resist the urge to capture the moment. With one hand on the steering wheel, I reached over and grabbed my camera. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the road, or else I really wouldn’t be going home later, so I held up the camera with one hand and started snapping photo after photo without looking. I refocused the lens every time, never knowing what kind of shot I was going to be getting. I was undoubtedly getting strange looks from passerby. I just kept hoping that my Canon would have a life of its own and work some kind of magic.

When I finally got to my friend’s house, I immediately parked on the side of the road and ran to the top of the hill to get more photos before the storm completely dissipated. I was so captivated that I didn’t even have my normal apprehension of parking on a slope, afraid that my little blue Toyota Yaris hatchback would just tip over on its side and topple down the hill when a fly landed on it wrong. My friends found me there, standing in the rain, shielding my camera with one hand. I was ushered inside for pizza (which coincidentally, I don’t eat), stories, board games, undeclared battles of sarcasm, wit, and ferocity, and Mean Girls. After fulfilling my social quota for the night, I dismissed their complaints and left at eleven. The abandoned road beckoned to me.

Most of the people I talk to hate driving. They hate the traffic, they the time it takes, they hate not being able to magically teleport to their destination. But if you hate driving, then I don’t think you have ever really driven. If you hate driving, then you have never driven through thunderstorms with lightening all around you, electricity and adrenaline coursing through your veins. If you hate driving, then you have never driven in the dark of night on a deserted highway with the windows down. You have never turned your music all the way up and stuck your hand out the window, letting the air slide between your fingers, cool your face, and blow away your cares. You have never sung to the darkness, leaving your voice behind you like a vapor trail, letting your headlights guide you further into the depths of the night, chasing the stars, the sun, and your dreams. If you hate driving, then you have never really driven.

Sometimes an adventure isn’t all about where you’re going, what you’re going to do, or who you’re with. Sometimes, it’s just about going.

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