Exquisite Attention: a true story

It is the longest day of the year. Dark comes early, and tonight, it came with rain, low clouds and fog. The road to my house is five-miles of sheer torture – for me, and my Jeep. It is the worst road in Big Sur. Ask anyone who has driven it, they will agree.

The USFS had a consultant come evaluate the needs for wildfire community protection. This included the existing roads. He rated my road as the 4th worst road in the WORLD that he had been on, right behind Cambodia. That’s my road, on a bright, sunny day.

On a dark, stormy night, with clouds sitting ON the road for 4 and ½ of the five-miles, the nightmare turns into a Stephen King novel, but the only characters are me, my dogs, and THE ROAD. That was tonight.

It is a novel I have read before, and swore I would not re-read, if at all possible. One night, it took me a full hour to traverse the 5 miles. I had to stop the car, get out with a flashlight, and find the edges. Edges here are very unforgiving – straight down for thousands of feet.

Another time, under the same conditions, I came across a very big, downed Coulter Pine, completely blocking the road. It was on the steepest, windiest portion of the road – pouring rain, and thick clouds that create an almost white-out effect. I had to back down this mud-slick, steep road only ¼ mile for a turn-around, but that ¼ mile took me the rest of the night. Once I got to the turn-around (an hour later), I could not drive. I was shaking so badly, and the weather was so bad, I climbed into the back of the Jeep and opened the bottle of champagne I had in the groceries, pulled out my emergency blanket and pillow, and slept amid the groceries and two of my four dogs for the rest of the night.

Tonight, the longest night of the year, I did not want to get home after dark, with the conditions what they were, but I had no choice. I had to overnight something to the Court of Appeal I had just finished at noon, and had three hours of driving plus groceries, and gas to pick up. I had two dogs at home, the door open for them, two dogs with me, and a warm bed and good book waiting for me at home. So, I made the drive up the mountain on this dark, stormy night, seeing monsters and goblins every time my headlights bounced off a bush in the fog.

I took my time, drove carefully, and paid exquisite attention to the details of the road, weather, and conditions. But when I finally reached my home, my tension was palatable. Now, my warm bed, a book – NOT Stephen King — and a glass of eggnog with brandy await me. Because once more, I Sur-vived THE ROAD, which tonight was malevolent.