The headlights rapidly descending the hill behind me at first failed to catch my attention. It was growing late and it had been some time since I had last seen another car on this lonely road. It was then that they became noticeable and the pace at which they approached became concerning. As they reached me and shone brightly through my rear window the profile became recognizably familiar. It was the Highway Patrol. F*ck! I flipped the cruise control off and conspicuously slowed to the posted speed limit. I mean sure, I was speeding, but I wasn’t really speeding.
Nervous I tried to pay more attention to what was ahead of me and less to what was behind me. He followed for almost two miles without making a move. The sign indicated a passing lane one mile ahead. Perhaps he was just on his way somewhere else. What’s the score here? What comes next? At that moment my car became engulfed in an array of lights. F*ck! Before long the officer approached my vehicle and following a rather perfunctory inspection of my license warned me to watch out for deer and sent me on my way. All that to warn me about deer? Bullet considered dodged, I resumed my journey and hurtled headlong into the darkness of the lonely road ahead.
The season’s early end in Tahoe had forced me to make a weekly pilgrimage down the 395 to the spring skiing mecca of Mammoth, where the high altitude and a never quit attitude <cough cough, looking at you Squaw cough cough> allowed them to press on through the month of May. I was reminded of my college days when I would often put close to 800 miles a week on my car shuttling to the hill after class and over the weekends. In those days, my car became almost a second home of sorts. The drive became inseparably a part of skiing. Even now, during the regular season, my seven minute trip to the mountain is a crucial part of the day’s experience.
The climate controlled bubble of one’s vehicle provides a sharp contrast to the wilds of nature that lies ahead. Music sets the tone for the day. Repairs to my car once resulted in the fuses to the stereo system being blown. For a week, I was forced to travel to the hill in silence. My skiing was noticeably effected. Plans for the day are made, modified and remade again. The weather changes, hopes are raised and sometimes dashed by stiff winds in the parking lot.
Going to the store can seem tedious. Commuting to work is undeniably a drag. Driving to go ski is completely different. It seems to hold some sort of higher purpose. This isn’t a scenic joy ride, it’s a mission. Stoping at the gas station isn’t getting some snacks, it’s obtaining supplies. Consuming unnecessary quantities of energy drinks is completely acceptable. It’s imperative one stays sharp. Slower traffic is obligated to make way. They can take their sweet time, but you’ve got powder to shred, lines to destroy, gnar to be gnared. Damn it, this shit is important.
It would be past 3AM when I would finally reach my destination that night. I was tired, but the road had me awake. I successfully avoided hitting any deer. It was unclear what tomorrow’s day of skiing had in store. I’d just have to figure it out on the drive in the morning.