Someone asked me this week how “the driving thing” started for me — driving for the ramble of it, with no particular goal or destination in mind. It’s occupied my thoughts often since. The more I tried to remember when it started, the more I realized how long I’ve been doing it.
When I first got my license, my family lived at the south end of MoPac in Austin, where it meets FM 1826 and starts fading into Driftwood and Dripping Springs. It wasn’t uncommon for me to make up errands I needed to run, and instead take a few extra laps around the area, aimlessly humming with the radio and turning down unfamiliar roads.
The last day of my junior year of high school was a blue-sky dream. All my classmates stuck around campus for some sort of “welcome to summer” celebration. I lasted about five minutes before I split — I had a ‘99 single cab Chevy Silverado at the time, and I threw my shoes in the bed and drove it all the way to Wimberley with the speakers dangerously close to blowing out, for no reason at all. I remember thinking it was a way better celebration than theirs.
During my senior year of high school, I found solace on a particular hill in a yet-undeveloped Driftwood subdivision. Whenever I needed to think or pray or just be, I’d drive myself up top of it, roll the windows down, cut the engine and prop my feet on the dashboard; staring out at the hill country horizon until the sun went down. Years later, when I was living in Austin again after college, I offered to house- and dog-sit for a sweet family in my church. I arrived at the given address and found, in disbelief, that their house sat on the exact same hill, in almost the exact same spot. The two weeks I spent in their quiet house, taking early morning walks with their dog and drinking coffee on their porch, ended up being some of the most peaceful I had in what was a tough season. I made some big, important decisions there — to have a hard conversation with a good friend, to quit my job, to move to Katy for another — and the setting always felt poetic to me.
I drove miles of Virginia hills in college and started taking more road trips, too; and in Austin, Houston, and Dallas since, I’ve kept the habit up. Quiet roads with my thoughts and the radio cure what ails me — which is usually nothing more than a little restlessness. It satisfies my curiosity. It reminds me how free I am to leave, which always makes it easier to stay. It assures me that there’s a lot more room in the world than I sometimes feel. Room enough for me.
An evening drive on the backroads of Bonham a few weeks ago soothed my soul the same way it always does, and I snapped a photo that somehow almost captured the feeling for me. (Texas Monthly picked it up for their Photo Friday series a couple weeks ago — fun getting to share that feeling with others!)