Me: I’d love to go, but this is so last minute. What about the cats? Wouldn’t I have to pack and wash all those dishes and do, uh, something or other that I can’t think of right now but must be highly important?
Other Me: You can call the cat kennel, or even leave them at home with the dry food for 48 hours. That’s not too bad. You always complain about how bored you are by sitting around with nothing to do but work. You call your family and tell them what you did for the week and they are completely unimpressed by the lack of events in your life.
Me: But shouldn’t I be working on the dissertation in a highly productive fashion?
Other Me: You’d procrastinate for half of that time anyway! And you’d feel bad about it and half-ass the procrastination, rather than really throwing yourself into enjoying something like camping. And you’d also sit around thinking about all the fun Dissertation Buddy was having without you.
Me: But I can’t handle the thought of just picking up and hauling off somewhere when I haven’t been planning everything for weeks.
Other me: Oh, you nit! You are such a stick in the mud. You are dull. You are the most unspontaneous person ever! Get off your ass and find your sleeping bag or I’ll never speak to you again.
You might think that I would be overjoyed to have voices in my head promise to leave me, but that is not the type of person I am. I soon jumped off the couch and began to throw clothing in a backpack, rummaging through the closet for my sleeping bag and cat food while frantically dialing DB’s number: “Wait, wait for me! Do you need food? I’m coming! Don’t leave without me!”
“You have 10 minutes. We need to leave right now to make it to Big Sur in time.” And with that I really had to hurry. No time to plan, no time to wash the mountain of dirty dishes or agonize over every little thing to pack. I put out extra bowls of water and heaped up the dry food and hoped that my finicky cats would not, on filling the catbox, start to leave me presents elsewhere in the apartment. And the dishes? I locked them in the bathroom where the cats couldn’t get to them and just left them ‘till I got back.
Big Sur is on the coast of California and reachable by the twisty, windy road of the 1. I’m not too adventurous when it comes to heights and curvy roads, so let us just say it was a good thing DB was driving. It is nowhere near us and probably not a logical choice for us to take a two-day trip to, but that just adds to the spontaneity, no? The landscape is very beautiful and I’m sorry to say that I did not remember in all that chaos to pack a camera. Imagine, then, to one side steep scrub-covered hills and slabs of striated rocks pushing upward with slow massive power, to the other, gray sky and a guardrail. Except for those times when the guardrail is missing or fallen and you glance over to see almost the whole way down the cliff ---- Ohgod! Don’t go over! I can see the waves crashing at the bottom it’s so sheer! Hug the cliff side, stupid! (I was probably less than fun and spontaneous on the drive.)
The 1 is where they film all of those pretentious car commercials that show off how well the expensive sportscar “handles,” and as such the area is a mecca of sorts for the obnoxiously wealthy who want spa trips and pricey wine tastings, which makes for an odd mix with the hippie spiritual adventurers and local farmer-rancher types who are also in the area. This means that the local gas was almost 5 a gallon (and you’re not allowed to pump your own) and every gas station has its own gourmet blend of coffee beans you can get by the pound near the cashier. (I would need a pound of Ragged Hill beans why? There are 5 espresso bars on this rural turn-off.) I also re-learned that DB has a different definition of what is “camping” than I do, which I thought was a fluke on our last outing about a year ago: if you are not staying at a bed and breakfast, tent camping must be supplemented by gourmet meals and/or wine drinking at fancy restaurants. So we ate out at several Big Sur places, including a microbrewery (!) ---- the Big Sur blonde, I believe it was, is very smooth and tasty ---- and ate expensive appetizers at some fancy cliffside restaurant and drank wine as the sun set. It was beautiful, and it’s true that we would not be able to see the sea (or the sun, either) at our campsite. I was mollified by the fact that it rained on us (lightly) one day and on the second we made a fire and made s’mores, which fulfilled my camping requirements. Our camp was lovely too, surrounded by small redwoods and few campers, and about 50 yards away was a little river, cold and icy, that you could sit and contemplate. (Do not go in. Didn’t I say icy?) We also had embarrassing hiking adventures which I shall relate at another time, and tried to go to the Henry Miller Library, being literature grad students and all, but the proprietors apparently didn’t feel like being there that day, as they had closed the place and left a note on the gate.
The highlight of the little trip was actually not the views or the clean crisp woody air or trying to get the campfire to burn on a cold and drippy night, but the unexpected rainbow that stretched across two hills, a perfect bow, with the colors distinct and clear and exactly where they should be, like a present that someone had accidentally left out for us. It made it all worth it, losing momentum on the dissertation and the lack of sleep on the lumpy ground and the gas money and driving back like a bat out of hell in order to make it to proctor the final in time and even the following four days of harried, eye-gouging grading. It wasn’t extreme-adventure or rivetingly exciting or daring, true. But it was completely spontaneous.