Recent business required a trip to Carlsbad and back, a not-insignificant journey to undertake across a single day. For a brief spell, I drove along the 73, a stretch of Orange County toll road almost entirely devoid of traffic. I’ve lived in Los Angeles my entire life; any road in Southern California without cars demands reflection and comment. I hit the 73 northbound near dusk, with clouds from an earlier rainfall scattering tangerine and saffron across the sky. The road took on that strange purple hue with the fading light; it was lovely and, with the dearth of other cars, quite personal.
I spend most highway spells listening to AOR tracks I’ve heard 100 times while slamming my head against the steering wheel at the onset of a wall of brake lights reaching my vision. This trip provided ample opportunity for both pastimes but the 73 passage marked a startling break. Against the dry chaparral landscape of the Laguna Hills and the rote stacking of tract houses in Aliso Viejo, the road itself earned my focus. Blacktop uncovered, lanes free, light perfect…like the rolling hills of the Ozark Plateau or the red midnight glow above Joliet factories, they redeem the hours past and future spent with my foot on the break.