There’s been a roadtrip story inside my head needing writing for awhile involving my friend Mark Burton, myself, his 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am, a bunch of cigarettes and a case of Old Milwaukee beer.
I was reminded of it coming back through Bakersfield from our vacation to Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks on Monday. During that horrible summer I’d pitched him on a weekend kickback up at Lake Nacimiento near Paso Robles, a place I’d previously visited at the beginning of my teens. Mark was game.
So we loaded up the Firebird with Â Marlboros, cassette tapes, gas money and a sense of adventure and headed out of the city up the Goldenstate Freeway first to Bakersfield where we had dinner at a Denny’s there and then discovered we’d almost melted the Pontaic driving it for gawd knows how far on a broken fanbelt. After several hours at a mechanic’s (made longer because he had to drive around trying to obtain the appropriate belt) we were back on the freeway to Highway 46 headed in the direction of Paso Robles.
And the reason I’m bothering with all this is that I’m now pissed off these 28 years later that I didn’t know about Kings Canyon/Sequoia then because I’ll tell you what: the rich experiences of those national parks weren’t much further from Bakersfield than Lake Nacimiento (we actually ended up at nearby Lake San Antonio because Nacimiento was full), which had little to offer two chain-smoking punks from Beverly Hills without a boat. Lakes are funny that way in that they’re oriented toward water-based activities, and not just sitting around in the heat listening to Tears For Fears and drinking warm beer because we didn’t even have the sense to bring an ice chest.
Sure there’s no use grousing over decades-old bad travel destinations, but damn! If I’d known then what I now know, we wouldn’t’ve headed west on 46 landlocked to the shores of Boredomtown. We would’ve headed up Â to the forest of the giants wherein I can so see my 18-year-old self coming out of the most fucked-up summer of my existence getting a better perspective on how utterly meaningless all the crap I’d been going through was. Two-thousand-year-old sequoias as tall as the Statue of Liberty with trunks as wide as a garage are funny that way in that they humble physically and exalt spiritually. And at that par-tee-kyoo-lar dark time in my life my spirit could have used some serious exaltation opportunities. Would have wallowed in them.
Better late than never.