I remember the road trip where I drove through a tree. Sounds like a joke. But there was something to it.
I had never seen the redwoods. I love trees. I am the kind of person that has a picture on my Facebook actually hugging a tree. But, I had never been to see trees like this.
It was out of control. Like a fairy tale or a video game or drugs or giddy road trip with the person you love during which time nothing is quite real.
There was a winding road and some places you could pull off on the loamy side and park and walk past a huge tower of firewood and then a row of carvings. These were mostly bears it seemed, but some were gnomes, too. The carvings made a path to a little wood shed where a man with a beard sold wood carvings, firewood, small wood keychains, and bottled water for two dollars. He was sitting in a rocking chair. He had a cooler next to him and there was some jazz music coming from the house. Above, wood smoke wafted off into these unreal tree branches. Curling, pointing, fading out; nearing the top of a limb, but then again not even close. Not the top of anything, not here.I’d have to crane my neck to see blue.
We bought a keychain. Where would we possibly put a huge carved sculpture? It hadn’t been practical to stop. But the air smelt so good. And there can’t be that much traffic on a road like this. Next we went to the admission station and paid to enter the attraction. Can you call it a park when you are paying money to drive through a natural living object that has been hollowed out? How obscene it was.
And yet, magical. I couldn’t stop looking. I was taking pictures. I think I was most enchanted by feeling small. Yes, I could have walked through a forest without my car and probably felt this in a purer, more pagan sense. But, instead I was in a line of vehicles and we each slowly pulled up, waited patiently as we caught the moment on our devices. Moved forward to take our turn. I couldn’t stop smiling. I was not immune to the commercial appeal. I wish I could say I hated it.
After I drove through the tree and took my pictures and had my fun, I felt hungry enough to consider the gift shop. The shop smelled like apple cider, though it was not fall. There were a lot more gnomes. There was a rack of chips and candy. A nice woman greeted us and told us where the sale items were. The bottled water was three dollars. I didn’t want to buy anything here, but it was a long drive back to the highway and at least two hours to the town we were staying in.
I ate my pretzels gazing at the tree. More cars were coming through. Children were screaming and parents struggled to wrangle them to get a well-composed picture. The light started to fail a bit. It went from dappled to dim.
We got in our car and drove out. You passed the drive-thru tree with fences around it, but could only go through it one direction. The admission only paid for one entry.
I felt cold as we drove the shaded curves of the road. We passed the carving man’s turn off. He was bringing in his sign but the carvings stayed. I wondered if he had ever been robbed.
It was twenty minutes to the main road and I had offered to drive once we got there. But until then, I just needed to rest my eyes for a minute. The music was soft. Was this that violin solo I liked?
Just a minute. Life on the road is tiring. The build up. The let down. The need to keep moving. I could still pick out a murmur of the campfire smell. I rested driving away as the trees burned and the people kept wanting more, more, more.
This piece is part of the #52essays2017 challenge where I will share one essay a week in 2017. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out writer Vanessa Martir’s website and post about it.