Road Trip

She said, “Let’s get into the car and drive,” and so we did, crossing the Golden Gate into Marin. It was a Saturday afternoon. We had our windows down, and shards of music and conversation from passing cars blew into our ears and faded almost as soon as they had registered. Minutes after the bridge, the fog lifted and we looked back across the glistening bay. A seaplane swooped down and settled into a private harbor that was the color of wet river rocks. Onward we went into the yellow and green hills just north of the city, studded with million-dollar homes. Past the exit sign for San Quentin prison, past the 29-N that could’ve taken us to Sonoma or Napa or Lake Berryessa, on highways that go on forever. It’s easy to forget, living in San Francisco, that there’s life outside of it, that summer slumbers in the headlands, even if it feels like fall in the city. That the highest peaks of the nearby Sierras still bear snow in mid-July. I thought of novelist Jim Harrison’s Upper Peninsula, Rick Bass’ Montana, Louise Erdrich’s Minnesota, and I thought of that great chronicler of northern California, John Steinbeck. I thought of how much their work had meant to me over the years, and how they taught me to look at California differently, to explore what it meant to live in a place where you can see four seasons in a day, and chase a dream that lasts a lifetime. I thought of this long after my girlfriend had turned the car around, sunlight glowing on her skin, to take us back home across the water.