I leap up. I must’ve drifted off.
I’m pretty sure I was just dreaming, redefining my stories in my resting state. Redefining memories of my family, understanding the departures of those who were supposed to stand in — for my loves. Remembering, memorizing, redefining my journeys. Maybe it was a bump in the road or my road partner’s drumming on the steering wheel, but I wake up.
“Ventura?” I recognize it immediately.
He looks at me out of the corner of his eye: “Yep.”
The Ocean over his shoulder is blending with the sky. The glorious giant is calm today. In shallow spots, it shimmers with emeralds. A single pier jots out. At the end of it, there sits a seafood joint that emits the smell of overcooked frying oil. I wonder if it can be smelled under the pier, where flocks of homeless teenagers and aging hippies reconvene before the rain.
There is that white metal bridge of the railroad that runs through the town and always hums throughout the night instead of the roaring Ocean. I should take a train up here, sometimes, for an adventure. The traffic of LA has been long surpassed, but the cluster fuck of that two-lane Santa Barbara stretch is coming up, right around the bend.
Yep, here we go: The perfectly manicured golf courses to the right of me and the Spanish villas flocking the greenery of the mountains gives away the higher expectations of the locals on their standards of living. Time moves slower here, more obediently. That’s one of the biggest expectations that money can buy.
After a few more miles north, we hit the land of ranches. Brown wooden signs with names of farms and modest advertisements for their produce begin to mark our mileage. The mountains seem more arid here, yet somehow the land seems more prosperous. After the yet another dry summer, the greenery is starting to come back. It will never look like the East Coast out here. But neither will my adventures be the same.
I keep on moving, dreaming, redefining. I draw up maps of future trajectories, but even I know better: That when it comes to dreams, I’ve gotta roll with it.
A few more miles up and the wondering cattle starts to punctuate the more even greenery. They are like commas in black ink. The ellipses. The horses here are more red, and they match the clay colored rocks protruding in between the green.
Were we to take the 1 Northward, the terrain would have been much prettier. But the 101 is slightly more efficient. Besides, if offers up a thrill of weaving in between the mountains, where the eye can easily miss all signs of rising elevation, but the ears can’t help it and plug up. I get that same sensation when taking off in steel birds from the giant airports of Moscow, San Francisco and New York. In those moments, whereI’ve come from seems to give room to where I’m heading. And I continue to redefine the journey.
Lompoc comes and stays behind. I’ve once leapt out of a steel bird here; and the fear of falling did not get to live in me, for long. After enough falls, it would become a way of being. Free falling was just another form of flying.
Not downward, but onward.
Onward and free.
In fifty more miles, we reach the vineyards. They cling to the sides of these heels like patches of cotton upon a corduroy or velvet jacket with thinning material on its elbow. Some patches are golden. They look harvested and ready to retire. Others are garnet red and brown. Above the ones that are bright green I notice thin hairs of silver tinsel in the air.
“Is that to ward off the birds?” I ask my road partner.
He answers indirectly: “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
And it is.
It is quite beautiful up here, and I am tempted to pull off the road and temporarily forget about my general direction. Perhaps, it matters little: As to where I’m heading and how fast. But the way (as in the manner, and my manner is always grateful) must make the only difference in the end.