the car junkie daily magazine.


Unhinged: The Road To Salvation Smells Of Ocean Spray And Evergreen Forests

Unhinged: The Road To Salvation Smells Of Ocean Spray And Evergreen Forests

Late 2009 was not a good time to be me. I was in the process of ending a marriage, I learned that my Army career was going to end well before I wanted it to end, and the world overall seemed to be coming down at once. I didn’t know where or what to do, who to turn to or any of those other existentialist questions that were plaguing my mind. I just knew that things were about to change in dramatic fashion and that with everything going on, I could stand to really clear my head. So for Thanksgiving that year, I shoved some clothes into the Monte Carlo I owned at the time and headed towards San Francisco, a city I’d never seen outside of the television set. I had plenty of leave time and had an open invitation from Stu Harmon, a guy from Moparts.com who is known for his strong support of the hot-rodding community…and for the garage-turned-bar at his house. I had never met the guy in real life, but when I arrived I appeared as a friend. I ate well, we had some laughs over drinks, and I crashed on his couch that night (not part of the known program, but luckily Stu was feeling generous. Or I looked that out of it. Either way…)
The next day, after checking out the sights, sounds, hills, and traps of San Francisco in the early morning hours, I hit California Highway 1, intent on driving it all the way back to Olympia before I broke off and headed back to my apartment. Readers, let me tell you something: I picked the wrong car at the wrong time of year to drive that road. And it was so damn good anyways. Small single-room schoolhouses, enough green fields that I swore I was visiting Ireland instead, and the Pacific Ocean in all of it’s majesty, crashing away at the rocky shore. To hell with everyone and everything…for the time I was carving through the switchbacks and the forests, I was happy. I overnighted in Crescent City, a place I had been just a few months prior on a military function, and listened to the seals and sea lions from my hotel window as I rested. 

As I wound through the redwoods, along the Oregon coastline, and up towards North Bay where I’d have to turn east and head back towards Puget Sound, I just remember shutting the radio off and letting the car and the road make the noise. Fourteen hours after I left Crescent City, I pulled into my designated parking spot at my apartment in Parkland, the Monte wearing a layer of road grime, mud and dirt that dramatically muted down it’s bright red paint. I threw my bag in the corner, announced my presence to my roommate, and collapsed in bed. 1,627 miles, bulked-up forearms from wrestling a front-driver around the cliffs, and a newfound peace that marked the end of a dark chapter and the beginning of another. As many times as I’ve hit the road, that trip holds a special place in my heart because it genuinely revived me. From that moment on, I had goals, I had a drive to do better and to be happier. It’s the one trip that I’d love to revisit. I just want a better car next time.

  • Share This
  • Pinterest
  • 0

5 thoughts on “Unhinged: The Road To Salvation Smells Of Ocean Spray And Evergreen Forests

  1. Loren

    Nice Story.

    Did such a thing at age 25, El Camino w/ a camper shell, 4000+ miles in two weeks. Seeing old family was the destination, but I didn’t stay long there. Stories such as the headlight wiring failing the first night, and encountering a guy alongside the highway giving helicopter rides through Badlands and stepping up, mygawd I thought I was going to die. Indeed it made life different afterwards, for the better. I had wanted a friend or two to come along but no one could do it and I’m glad they didn’t, sometimes you need solitude with your distance.

    24 y.o. daughter is doing a similar thing in a month or two, only taking an airline to Japan, all on her own dime which is an important part of the deal.

    1. Singapore Hot Rod

      Japan is fantastic. Food, people, culture, scenery. I just worked there for the last 6-weeks, hope she loves the experience!

  2. Singapore Hot Rod

    A few years ago my relationship was in the dumpster and I had just endured the hardest two years of managing a construction project in my 20 year career. Project was over so I drove my Z06 from upstate NY to my dad’s place in central PA. Six plus hours of no radio by choice. Just me, my Corvette, and beautiful scenery.

    I still look back at that as one my most peaceful memories.

Comments are closed.