Route 1 above the Golden Gate Bridge climbs through hills, twisting into hairpin turns worthy of any luxury car commercial. While breathtakingly beautiful, one begins to understand the meaning of the phrase “between a rock and a hard place”: the Pacific Ocean crashes against the boulder-strewn shoreline while the road tightly hugs the rock face.
I drove this section of Route 1 twice this weekend, to and from a friend’s 30th birthday festivities. Both routes were emotional, sensory-laden experiences. Climbing North towards Stinson beach, I thought of the first time I had driven that route. I have found that I am revisiting places and experiences to try and wallpaper over someone’s shadow – the little tinge that reminds me of them. It’s like following someone’s footsteps in the snow, obscuring their footfall with your own. Or, perhaps, hiding that two people walked through the woods.
As beautiful as it is, the road is a difficult one to drive and can abruptly snap you from reverie when you realize just how few inches there are between you, a sheer rock wall, and a car speeding in the other direction. And let’s throw in a bicyclist for good measure, up out of the saddle, climbing, spandex riotously colorful like some human-shaped flag.
Angling away from the coast, I turned down my music to drink in the smell of eucalyptus, softening the stimuli to one sense to heighten another, turning down the radio to find a street address. That moment was perfection: breathing in clean, sunlight falling on my hair through the sunroof.
Driving south, I listened to Amália Rodrigues, the queen of Fado . I started listening to Fado when I won tickets to see Mariza five years ago, and I’ve been fascinated and enamoured of it since. Fado is in Portuguese, and I don’t understand a thing, but the sound, maybe the tone, conveys so much. Listening to Fado in Lisbon was beyond description. Between my love of fado, samba, and bossa nova, I may just have to learn me some Portuguese.
One of my favorite songs, Lisboa Antiga, reminds you of a song you’ve always known. The version I have is only about two and a half minutes long, but I listened to it over and over again because it matched the drive so well. Her voice rose and fell, in pitch and intensity, like the road through the hills. And, in one incandescent moment, Amália and the Portuguese guitar fell silent while she gathered her strength for the next note, and I rounded a curve. Amália let loose just as I saw the Pacific slamming against a rocky island.
The Golden Gate was glorious - cloudless and too regal to take in all at once. I stole glances of it passing overhead through the sunroof as I crossed it heading back into the city. Ah, saudade .