Crowded Itinerary, Wondrous Sights

 Sightseeing on the Skunk Train. Mendocino County, February, 2011.

Drive Through Gifts

I set out early on that Sunday morning, creeping out of a quiet house at six. From our home, I pointed the car towards LAX, sixty miles away. My daughter and son-in-law would land an hour later, returning from their delayed honeymoon in Hawaii.

I left the camera at home, as I didn’t want to drive under the influence of photo-seeking. And I was focused on reuniting with Elaine and Rob. I wasn’t on a treasure hunt.

As I crested Glenn Ranch Road, with its roadside wilderness belying the infestation of suburban red-tile-roofed, white-stuccoed homes that blighted its ridge, I noticed a heron perched on a streetlight, its legs gangly, silhouetted in the morning sun. My mind had to paint the chipper yellow beak, the black skullcap, the sculptured blue-gray of feathers all pointing together towards tail and wingtips.

Turning onto Bake Parkway I found the street nearly empty at this early hour on the Sabbath. But always, along its seven-mile run to the interstate, at least one other car was in view. The car distant behind would fall away, turning onto a side street, just as another car, a dot on the oncoming horizon, would appear.

Even solitary in the car, I never travel alone.

Empty freeways are a rare treat in Southern California, but one may find them, early on the Sabbath. Gliding onto the I-405, I might as well have been flying, quickly leaving Irvine in my jet stream.

In Costa Mesa, I overtook a Rolls Royce, a proud survivor from the 1950s, redder than a fire extinguisher, bristol. The driver sat behind the right-hand wheel. I smelled glee pouring from him as he and his old masterpiece toodled up the freeway.

I spotted a field, a few acres stubborn alongside the interstate, planted in some crop too emergent to identify. The young foliage held promise of tomatoes, maybe, or squash, sure to reveal itself later in the summer. Animal pens covered one corner, their old wood defiant in the third millennium,  testifying to the time before concrete covered this coastline.

Absorbed in the sightseeing, I nearly missed my offramp for the airport. With only a bit of maneuvering I claimed my place in the exit lane. The sedan ahead bore witness with its license plate:

I’d left my home intending to claim treasure–my beloved kids–at the airport. The gifts I found along the quiet early morning Sabbath roadways reminded me:

When I forsake the journey for my love of the destination, I cheat myself of joy. 

4 “Lift up your eyes round about and see;
They all gather together, they come to you.
Your sons will come from afar,
And your daughters will be carried in the arms.
5 “Then you will see and be radiant,
And your heart will thrill and rejoice;
Because the abundance of the sea will be turned to you,
The wealth of the nations will come to you.
Isaiah 60:4-5 (NASB) 


  1. A Joyful Noise

    Beauty all around us, may we not miss the treasure along the way in our journey to reach our destination. Lovely post!

  2. California is such a study in contrasts. Your post perfectly reflects the beauty, the oddity and the people.

  3. Diana Trautwein

    LOVE this, Sheila, love it. You painted the pictures with your words. This is familiar territory to me – my folks lived in Mission Viejo for 15 years and I traveled down to visit them often. And early Sunday is just about the only day the freeways are empty. Just lovely- thanks for not missing the joy of the journey.

  4. Thanks, all, for your kind comments. Diana, given your familiarity with the area, I'm pleased to know the descriptions ring true.

  5. I've never driven on I-405 when it wasn't choked with traffic. Sounds wonderful. Thank you for the lovely pictures your words painted.

  6. You're welcome, Red! Thanks for your kind words.

    [I'm still waiting for someone to notice the cool shot Rich got, with my reflection in the Skunk Train window and the big, big tree…]

  7. What a journey — so much glory right before our very eyes…we never have to travel very far to see the work of God's hand.

  8. I'm still learning to see. The more I look, the more I spot Him!

    Thanks for your kind words 🙂