The gas guage in my car still works, which is a bit of a surprise considering that both the speedometer and odometer have died, and they are all part of the same mechanism. I am already gauging gas consumption by mileage, and have been adopting a policy of keeping the tank topped off in case the gauge fails, too.
Oddly, having neither a speedometer or an odometer makes no real difference. I can keep track of mileage via sign or Google, and I have a good ear for how fast I am driving by engine sounds. Since my ancient VW hasn’t the power of more modern vehicles, I can’t keep up with interstate travel anyway. I drive in the slow lane and take things as they come. I was a bit worried about driving on two lane highways without being able to track my speed, but it was the same as always — I drove at whatever speed felt safest, especially around curves, so I was still slower than most drivers. If there were too many impatient drivers behind me, I pulled off to let them pass, and then continued my life in the slow lane.
Yesterday was a fabulous day. The car drove like a dream — well, maybe not. Let’s say it drove like a well-tuned and cared for Beetle, which of course it is.
But then, I wasn’t really driving — according to my car instruments, I went zero miles at zero miles per hour. Since I somehow ended up in Oregon last night, I can only assume that while I sat back, taking it easy, going 0mph, the world kept spinning beneath my wheels. The earth must have done a lot stuttering or backtracking during all those hours, because I ended up crossing the Sacramento River at least five times.
But that’s not the only river I crossed or the only body of water. I also saw lagoons, creeks, lakes, ponds, and an ocean. Wildflowers decorated the side of the road: sunrise-colored poppies, cheerful daisies, languid wisteria, chartreuse fields, spots of pink and purple and fuchsia blossoms. I went from desert heat to coastal chill, moving through agricultural areas, towns, cities, forests, mountains.
It’s hard to pick out the best thing I saw as the world passed by outside my window, but at the very top of the list was the small herd of elk crossing at an elk crossing sign.
Ah, life is good in the slow lane.
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Unfinished, Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)