The interstate stretches for miles ahead of us; straight, certain, sure of itself. We rocket along it at speeds not known by horse and carriage, making good time as we head for home.
From my vantage point in the back seat, I watch farms and fields whizz by, with the occasional billboard interrupting my thoughts. Those manufactured walls of tribute to the gods of marketing stare impassively at us as we go by, their creators hoping that we will bow to their advertising skills somewhere along the wide road.
I am lulled by the movement of the car and the hum of the engine. Since I can’t hear what is being said in the front seat, I am able to get lost in my own thoughts. As we head into more mountainous terrain, the scenery begins to change.
There is a sparkle outside that catches my eye. I glance out and see a river wending its way alongside the highway, taking its time. Heedless of the straightness of the interstate, the waterway twists and turns, running down a streambed it has known for millennia.
On the other side of the river, I can see a small, unpaved country road. Just enough width for one car, judging from the two flattened lines down the middle, the little track seems to have the same attitude as the river it follows. No reason to hurry, it seems to say to itself, we’ll get there someday.
As we travel past in a whirlwind of dust and exhaust fumes, I can’t help but think how nice it would be to follow that narrow track, just to see where it goes. I watch its progress; it spends a long time hugging the far shore, as if it is curious as to the nature of its big brother above on the opposite side.
I can see utility poles lining the little road, but even those don’t seem to have much influence as to where it decides to roam. There are times when the electric lines and poles follow their own routes up into the hills, but they always come back down. The road bids them adieu and welcomes them back, happy to follow its own route, comfortable in its own company.
Sometimes the river becomes a little rough, foaming and breaking at curves or around boulders. At those places, the little two-track pulls away from it, cuddling up against the hills like a scared child to its mother, but always the fright passes and the road settles back down to its companionable stroll along the waterway.
I watch as the road takes detours, sniffing up into the hills like a puppy looking for adventure. I wonder what is up in those reaches, and long to find out. I am sad for the loss of my rambling country road, but always it comes back, none the worse for the expedition.
My little track often splits into smaller roads, driveways I think, although it’s hard to tell. I see my friend climb up to a farm and curl itself around the house like a cat, and then spin off onto its journey to who knows where. Always taking its time, always surprised by what is around the other side of the hills it hugs, until it finally reaches a tiny town. I say good-bye to it as it meets an intersection and melds into the anonymity of human population.
Alone with my thoughts again, I close my eyes and listen to the car as it hurtles homeward. As the miles and hours go by, I find myself asleep under the impassive highway lights, dreaming of a warm country road and the adventures that await.