June 22, 2009

Any Way the Wind Blows...

When Edith and I took our hot air balloon ride in Temecula, it didn't really feel like the wind was pushing us. It felt more like we were riding the wind like a wave, using it to propel us forward (and up and down) with the steering guidance of our pilot, without whom we might have ended up in Oz (or Kansas).

The wind is an essential element out here in the Coachella Valley. Along Interstate 10 where it meets CA-62, there are rows and rows of turbines whipping around, turning wind into energy, while road signs warn you of high gusts. But driving on 10, or Indian Ave, or Dillon, or any of the other surrounding roads and highways, it's nearly impossible to ride the wind. You have to fight it, because it's fighting you. It's blowing your car to the side when you're trying to drive forward.

It's also nearly impossible to keep your windows open, even in the chill mornings or the cooling twilight, because the noise in your ear is deafening and the wind just might blow the contacts off of your eyeballs.

Driving through wind like that isn't for the faint of heart. You swerve from side to side like a drunken driver, convinced you'll get pulled over and breathalized. Those of us from a colder climate can liken it to driving through snow, and those from the desert, to driving through sand: it's OK if you slide around a little as long as you proceed in the general direction of your destination.

But what happens when you don't know where you're going?

Driving with a GPS, sometimes you only know where you're going as far as the next turn. You don't get a broad perspective as to where you're heading, so if something goes wrong - you lose the satellite signal, a highway exit is closed, there's too much traffic - you're stuck. You can drive off willy-nilly and hope that the GPS can recalculate your route, but when everything including the wind is out to get you, to pass you by, sometimes you just want to give up and go home.

Thankfully, out here, if you get blown off the road, you're likely to hit a soft shoulder (something the signs also warn you about, but relatively comforting in my mind). And if you can snake your way out of the drifting sand on the side of the road in your compact, two-wheel drive car, you're all set.

So rather than drifting myself, going wherever the wind may take me, I feel like I'm fighting the wind, driving despite it. And although I don't know what every turn will be along the way, I kind of know where I'm heading.

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