I cry on Auburn Road – sometimes – because Stu and I, together, drove the rural five mile stretch from our house to the fairgrounds thousands of times. Our children learned to drive on Auburn Road, and it became their way to town and school. Besides that, Stu and I de-trashed Auburn Road twice a year, and so came to know the intimate features of the roadside. Besides that . . .
When my son, Gregory, was in middle school, I transported him and his bike to the ranch (now a nine hole golf course) where by the light of dawn he relocated irrigation pipes. When the sun rose, he rode his bike to school. My pride in that boy-just-becoming-a-man squeezes my heart to this day.
I remember the last time Stu and I drove together on Auburn Road. It was a week before he passed away. We were returning from the hospital after a pain-relieving procedure. I observed that it was a beautiful day, bright and cold. I cherished the fact that Stu sat beside me, and though his head was bowed, his hand was resting on my hand. I can still feel his hand; a touch memory. I thought, “I will remember these minutes for the rest of my life; we are together, we are in our car, on our road; there is no other reality now, and we will not die today.
Auburn Road is a segment of the original 49er trail, still quite rural even though there are numerous modest residences, tucked away in the trees as well as a few small ranches. The vegetation is native: oaks and pines, meadows, wetlands, and some chaparral. The people are, for the most part, refugees from cities and suburbia, and they have chosen Auburn Road because they love it. There is also a sizable piece of BLM land on Auburn Road which ought to be a park.
Drivers using Auburn Road as a shortcut drive too fast and tailgate. Bicyclists use the corridor, but I don't know why; it has punishing hills, blind curves, a narrow shoulder. I even find it harrowing to walk on Auburn Road, much less ride a bicycle. Ah! but Auburn Road is a beautiful drive: it is essentially “country.” It bursts with iridescent green in the springtime, yellow leaves scatter on the road in the fall. In the winter, the lower elevations may be dusted with snow while slightly higher, the trees and brush are mantled with snow. In summer, there is a coalescence of scents from oaks and pines, blackberries, creeks and sun-baked brush and red dust that makes one feel well and hopeful . . . and young.
Tomorrow, I will drive Auburn Road again.