I went on a super-spontaneous road trip last night. It was awesome. I started at 3 AM and I sought to learn from the roads where I would end up. I called in around 10 to take the day off work. The punchline of the trip was wading in the Russian River somewhere in Sonoma and learning how to sneak up on and catch little river turtles by ducking underwater when you’re about a meter or two away from them. If they see you coming, they’re gone. The chill water and greenery/scenery was totally refreshing, and I came out of the river wet and laughing, despite the all night driving and car-sleep that preceded.
On the way to what would emerge as my destination I stopped at two spots by happenstance that showed me fascinating parts of the industrialized social infrastructure that I’d never seen before.
I pulled off route 116 at some point in the predawn (hoping for a place to park and sleep) and found myself at the Sonoma County Waste Transfer Station. The dump had a perplexing bustle going for 4 AM (there were several other cars there dropping things off), but the awake people were totally outnumbered by the awake birds. The whole place was screaming with birds jostling each other for fresh shots at the newly delivered CFLs or whatever was being offloaded. My favorite part of all was The Pit. Huge earthmovers shoved giant piles of junk towards this big pit where the concrete dumping grounds just ended, and stuff fell away to some unfathomable depth. Signs everywhere warned people not to fall into The Pit, and dunes of garbage blocked the way. I can only imagine there was a Death Star garbage squid in the very bottom down there.
Later in the day I pulled off the road to find a place to pee, and instead found the Sonoma juvy. I’ve never seen a prison for children before. One whole wing of the building had only slits for windows, bulging out of a big cylindrical structure. Maybe some kind of panopticon. Could there really be solitary for teenagers? How does that affect a person differently from solitary as an adult? I went to a boarding school for seven years, but that doesn’t seem to begin help me imagine what the interior of a juvenile jail is like at all, nor what life is like inside. I sat for a while considering the road that wended its way through the fenced-in baseball field, gated on both ends, and the giant 20 foot tall and 6 inch thick steel doors marked “Police Entrance Only” (only Qui-Gon Jinn could have defeated them, and even that would have been taxing to his lightsaber). What would it take to get locked up in a place as beautiful as Sonoma?
Despite those sights, the ride back was peaceful. I realized that driving on an interstate is probably the closest thing mentally to swim practice that I’ll ever find — the lanes, the occasional mild competition between drivers, and especially in california, the sunshine and fresh air. I found something I’d really missed about swimming on the ride back. I let thoughts roll over me while practicing my newfound Tuvan throat singing skills, or listening to Mexican interpretation of proper use of an accordion on the radio, and came back feeling refreshed all over.