A full tank of gas
Published 7:22 am Wednesday, July 7, 2021
I found myself on an early Saturday morning at Kroger gassing up my Jeep. I was on my way to McDonald’s for coffee and a biscuit. It was one of those rare days in my life when the day was uncommitted, I had no plans, and I had absolute control over where I was going to go and what I was going to do.
I felt as though I’d hit the Saturday jackpot.
So, as I began filling the tank, I began to think. What to do? Where to go? How to spend this day?
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Even the most casual of readers know that I am a big fan of open-road driving. Give me some time, a tank of gas, and I’m happy to have no destination at all. In fact, one of my favorite pastimes is to find a road with a branch slicing off in one direction or the other, realize that I’ve never been down that road, and then wheel toward it.
I’ve found amazing things that way. I once saw a sign announcing a town with a population of around thirty. I later learned that it had grown to thirty only after a growth spurt, that in 2000 it was the least populated town in the entire state. I turned immediately toward it and was rewarded with my first—and so far, only—visit to Natural Bridge, Alabama, up in Winston County. The town is named after its best feature, the longest rock bridge east of the Rockies. It was formed when a glacier crept down this far, and it has 27 varieties of ferns and hemlock trees that exist pretty much only in Canada and Alabama. And where else can you see graffiti that was carved in 1891?
And I found it by a random turn.
It happens all the time. I was out of town and didn’t want to come back on the interstate. I found some back roads and began to wend my way homeward. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a small roadside service station that was built to look like an airplane was crashing through its roof. Who had the idea to decorate that way? Where did they get the airplane? And who do you hire when you want an airplane to look as though it just crashed into your building?
You don’t find those sorts of things until you get out and just drive.
Wild animals are always fun. Once I saw a wildcat trying to find a way through a fence. I didn’t want to mess with the wildcat, so I kept on driving.
Once, in North Carolina, I spent a delightful fifteen minutes while a herd of elk controlled the main road. It lasted until the big buck sauntered off the road, went about fifteen yards, and tried—unsuccessfully—to hide behind an oak tree.
Yogi Berra said it best: You can observe a lot by just watching.
As I was ruminating (and checking the oil and my tires), I heard the gas pump stop. I went to the gas portal, removed the nozzle, closed the cover, printed the receipt, and got back into my vehicle.
The sun had just begun its silent slip over the horizon, the brightest blaze in the sky all day.
I put the Jeep in gear, headed to McDonald’s for that coffee and biscuit.
I had a full tank of gas.
I knew where I was going. That’s not quite right. I knew where I was headed. Where I was going to wind up would take care of itself.
My kind of day.