When I was a kid, I’d body surf Bodega Bay for hours, then flop into bed at home and still feel my body adrift the sea. Yesterday, upon returning from a six-hour drive through the interior of California on Interstate 5, I had a similar sensation – though the myriad potholes and other hazards of the road (mostly texting) left my body feeling not only that I was adrift some phantom sea but that I was also repeatedly dashed upon the rocks of encroaching middle-age.
This sometime happens when I make my periodic commute to Los Angeles, a vain pilgrimage intended, in part, to remind my agent that I still exist since he’s no longer fooled by my decoy 310 mobile phone number. This I’ve kept to promote the illusion that I still live in LA, though the only aspect of my experience that actually still exists in LA is the ability to dial me direct without an area code. I don’t miss it.
Nor do I miss the 400-mile trek, whether it is by road or sky. AAA’s travel rag VIA Magazine did an analysis of the two modes of transportation as experienced between the Bay Area and LA. The numbers: To drive it’s six hours one-way, about $40 in gas, (I blow the savings from my fuel-efficient Mini with frequent visits to Starbucks en route) and 169 pounds of CO2e greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the chance of a fatal accident is 1 in 300,000.
Conversely, to fly, it takes about 3.5 hours when one considers the commute to the airport, check-in, baggage issues (emotional and otherwise), security checkpoints and time at the bar. However, AAA estimates the round-trip flight to be a mere $82. Likewise, one’s share greenhouse has emissions is about 181 pounds of CO2e and the chance of dying is one in 8,000,000.
My eighth grade math tells me the odds of dying on the road are about 26 percent higher. It’s also a lot hotter. At certain points in the Central Valley the temperature scraped 110 degrees Fahrenheit, versus -60.7 degrees Fahrenheit when cruising at 25,000 feet in the air. Thank goodness for A/C. Opening a window on either occasion could be fatal, though the odds favor drivers and their travel companions – especially canines who frequently stick their heads car windows. The furry sidekicks who ride shotgun in cockpits don’t do this. It would be Dogpocalypse.
Here are some more numbers to consider:
While my LA hosts were at a dinner party imbibing 18-year-old wines cultivated in our collective area code, I was nursing a lukewarm can of Pabst Blue Ribbon 20 miles away at a “covers” party where our neighborhood band, Static People, was invited to play a couple of unoriginal tunes (we rock Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream,” a song that has never charted but has earned millions).
The area code for PBR, incidentally is 815 – a far cry from the vineyard-lined 707. The closest thing I had to wine that night was sighting a cast member from SoCal wine flick “Sideways,” who received an ovation for illuminating a patio by plugging in some Christmas lights. Turns out all the cycloptic, glowing red-eyes I spotted blinking in the dark were actually smokers cavorting in a corner of the party. I thought they were agents.
Mercifully, no such creatures exist in Sonoma, which meant that when I arrived home I could safely get sideways Sonoma-style – a splash of something local, someone special by one’s side and a sense of being in the right place that reaches deeper than the ocean.