Along The Inca Cola trail

Some people call it a “Mid-Life Crisis”. It’s not a crisis and I am no longer in the middle part of my life…unless I can somehow manage to hang on until the year 2056.

The stereotypical “Mid-Life Crisis” would have me buying a flashy sports car (did that in 1973), taking up with a blonde hottie (1980 and she’s still a hottie), and going bungee jumping (Hell has yet to freeze over).

What I am feeling is not so much a crisis as it is the continuing reverberation of something I’ve felt since birth – “Wanderlust”.

For many people travel is just a way of getting from Point A to Point B. For others it is the necessary method of getting to a particular destination. Yet others consider travel to be educational and broadening. To me it just feels good.

I feel my best when I am physically in motion. It doesn’t have to be on a plane or an ocean liner. There is something about movement, even in a city bus or on foot, which raises my endorphin levels and stretches the aperture of my mind’s eye.
I think best when I am in motion. I can cut through the overgrowth and see down to the roots when I am on the go.

Fears dissolve, anxieties vaporize, angers soften, and the answers to unsolvable problems become as obvious as Dan Rather’s hairpiece when I find myself behind the wheel.

What I have is congenital Wanderlust. I have always want to see what’s over there, around the corner or on the other side of the street.

The silly thing is that I have never really traveled all that much. I have never been to Europe. My personal map reaches from Eastport, Maine to San Francisco and from Trois Riviere, Quebec down to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Hawaii is still on the next page.

I would like to see London and Maui, but it’s not a burning passion. It would be an interesting trip, I’m sure.

To quote an old Harry Chapin song, “It’s the goin’, not the getting’ there, that’s good”.

One of the best times of my life was a solo drive from Cleveland, Ohio to San Francisco, California by way of El Paso, Texas. Approximately 2800 miles in late December, being chased by snow all the way into Arkansas.

The circumstances that put me on that road are not important, either then or now, but the act of the journey was and is.

Even now, decades later, I can look at the receipt from the Mom and Pop motel in Big Spring, Texas (yes, I saved everything from that trip) and smile. That’s not an easy thing to do: think of Big Spring, Texas, and smile, but I do.

Circumstances have precluded any long trips in recent years. The longest drive has been a nonstop dash down the coast from San Francisco to LA. Anything longer and I go by air. It has been twenty years since I’ve been in a different time zone.

Some days, to satisfy my need for movement I will get onto a City bus, take it to the edges of the City and walk home. It works for me.

If you really want to feel alive, take the pedestrian walkway across the Golden Gate Bridge and feel it move in the wind. Continue on over the bridge along the edge of the road down into Sausalito, a small town on the San Francisco Bay and then take the ferryboat across the bay to the City. I cannot imagine anything more beautiful or stirring.

The most positive thing I can say about San Francisco is that it is a physically stunning place surrounded by unbelievable natural beauty. Other than that, the place is an open-air asylum and jumping off point for every harebrained, social and political brain burp that you could ever imagine.

San Francisco is a great place if you have feet. Walking is the best way to get around. There is a public transit system that is overextended, overpriced and under siege. I still use it. The legendary cable cars are cute and dangerous, but they feel good and they smell good too. When stopping they rely on blocks of pinewood for brake shoes. The aroma of burning pine is unexpected and somewhat unsettling to the tourists, but the wood brakes work well almost all of the time.

Of course, I do have a “Dream Vacation” that I would love to take someday. The trip that I take in my head as I drift off to sleep is a month along the Inca trail in Peru.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get there. It is an expensive and arduous journey. My Spanish is barely passable and, the older I get, the more I cringe at “roughing it”.

As time moves on and I don’t buy that plane ticket it becomes less likely that I will ever see Lima, Cuzco, and the world’s highest scheduled railroad train. Peruvian politics and encroaching geezerhood make such a trip a little more remote everyday. However, I have found a cheap and easy substitute.

About once a month I get onto the #14 bus and ride out into the sunny Mission District of San Francisco. I browse in the crowded shops, eat lunch in a Peruvian restaurant and then pause at the corner of 24th and Mission to peoplewatch as I sip a bottle of “Inca Cola” imported from Lima. Then I come home and take a zantac.

Oh, what a trip that was! Someday I’ll have to show you the pictures. You’ll think you were there with me.