(The Grapevine, 1999)

On the way back to Los Angeles, and before we began our ascent back up the Grapevine, I decide to take a short detour into the Los Padres National Forest via Route 133.

It is eerie. The night is cool and black as carbon.

Bounding around a particularly sharp corner, we bounce and when the Pontiac lands back on the pavement a loose connection in the wiring shorts out, cutting all voltage to the headlights.

It is frighteningly dark at this juncture. I try to troubleshoot the short in the dark, but with no luck. I have a small flashlight but the battery is as dead and corroded as last month’s takeout. The only lights still functioning are the hazard lights, which would blink with just enough foot candles to let another motorist know we were at least on the highway.

I make an executive decision to drive back through the forest — with no headlights — get ‘er back on I-5 and head up to Gorman where we could either troubleshoot under the fluorescent lamps of the same Jr. Food Mart where we had scared the Middle Easterners with the geysers of steam, or we could call AAA.

We get to the Gorman exit and I shoot right past the offramp.

“I thought we were going to fix the headlights there.”

“I don’t know man, I kind of like traveling like this. It’s like we are an emergency vehicle heading to a blood bank with a batch of particularly rare hemoglobin. I mean look at this…”

People were moving out of the way like we were a fire truck.

“Yes, it is like the parting of the Red Seas. Whatever. Try to keep it under 90. After all, we are driving in the dark.”

“If I go that slow, nobody will believe it’s an emergency.”


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