Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Blogging the Commute (Not Live), Part 2

This is a continuation of last Tuesday's post.

My current drive home isn't nearly as engaging as my drive to work. That's not to say that the views aren't spectacular, and that I don't see pretty much the same things on my way back. It's just that my brain is so full from the day that my surroundings don't register as much. There are a few exceptions.

During the winter months, the sun has pretty much set by the time I'm trekking it back home. In December, this is great as it gives me a chance to see all the elaborate yet tasteful Christmas lights of those swanky homes I get to drive by. Also, I can see the large lit star that the town of Boulder rigs up on one of the lower foothill peaks. It looks fairly small from ten miles away, but it's still a comfort.

In the summertime, I can sneak peeks at the storms building over the front range or purpling the sky over the eastern plains. If it weren't for the bright sun heading to bed in the west, I'd stare at the front range and the higher, more impressive peaks of the Rockies behind it. Longs Peak is especially intriguing with its strange tapered yet blocky summit, and the jagged spikes of the Indian Peaks usually have stubborn snow and glaciers dotting their gray tops. I do love all the sun we get here, but sometimes I wish it wasn't shining right in my eyes as I admire the Rockies.

Regardless of the season, one of the first things I see on my drive home is the teeny tiny lot that has been developed into teeny tiny townhomes in the year and a half I've been making this commute. When they first started clearing the land, I figured a couple of stores or a strip mall would be going up in that area. Then I saw advertisements for townhome lots and just about fainted. I thought at best they'd be able to fit a whopping three units in the space. But, true to the cram-it-in attitude of new housing developments in this area, they shoved a good fifteen or so units in there. It actually looks pretty quaint--as quaint as a can of sardines can look. The color scheme is the trendy darker jewel tones that seem to be everywhere around here. I often shake my head as I pass by this development, but the other day my jaw sagged as I passed it. The sign advertising the available lots happened to catch my eye. In fancy, schmancy script was the word "Townhomes," and beneath that, "From the $230s." That wasn't what shocked me, though. Just underneath that price tag is another word in equally flowing script, "Affordable Townhomes," and before you can recover from that comes the price tag, "From the $190s." I wonder what the difference is between the two. And why would you want to make that sort of distinction? Are people actually in the market for real estate they can't afford? Was the qualifier for the first category of townhomes something like "Aw, hell, we know you'd love to live in one of these things, but you'd have to sell your soul to Satan, auction off your first born, and prostitute yourself in order to live here"? That bend of the road, though, affords a good view of Longs Peak and is at an angle at which the sun doesn't blind me, so I've taken to admiring the view and ignoring the strange world of real estate and advertising in that little chunk of land.

Dipping into the valley that's so impressive on my way into work isn't nearly as stunning coming from the south because the elevation difference isn't as stark. Still, it feels like home in that valley. There's just something so comforting about the presence of ponds and farms and horses. The best part about the valley on the drive home, though, is to watch the poor saps driving home from Boulder, trying to make their way to the interstate or the state highway to the east of my humble little two-lane road home. The traffic snarls up as drivers wait to take their left turn off my road, and it stays snarled up just a little bit north where all that Boulder traffic turns on to my little road. I always feel the urge to shout a Nelson-like "Ha-ha!" at all those cars. They're trying to beat the traffic on the other major eastern-bound routes out of Boulder, and the little road that could just can't accommodate them.

There's one particular piece of property that always catches my eye on the way home. It's not a grand house by any means, it's merely comfortable. But that house always has a particular decoration at the fence's gate: a small scale knight in armor. I've seen nothing else of the people who live on there except for this little figure. It's charming and intriguing. Do the owners have a Ren Faire fetish? Was it a child's school project done superbly well? Is it a statement? Once or twice it seems like the little knight has been holding a sign, but it's always a cardboard affair, hard to read as I drive by.

As I approach the home stretch into town, I pass by the last grouping of expensive homes before we get into the more affordable houses that border the main road. At the juncture of the loop road for that development and the street I'm on, there's a small shrine. I'm pretty sure I know the story of the life that ended there. A teenager was backing out into the road at that spot, and a semi hit him. At least, I think that's the right intersection. My boss at IBM lost a neighbor in such an accident, and I think that was the neighborhood in which she lived. I've always wondered, though, every time I pass by that bunch of flowers and small cross. I'm not sure if my boss had enough money to live in such a neighborhood, and the idea of someone, even an inexperienced driver, needlessly backing out from a good-sized street onto a rather busy road seems a bit of a stretch. Still, even as my mind dithers with such pointless musings, I always still my thoughts for a moment and hope for peace for that soul and those who mourn it.

By the time I'm in the town itself, though, all my thoughts are focused on Andrew as I'm only five minutes away from seeing his amazing smile and kissing his cubby cheeks. This can often be the longest part of my drive. The moment the two-lane road turns into the four-lane town street, I veer into the right-hand lane. It's a conscious effort, one that makes my heart sing. Up until this year, I never had to move out of the lane that carried me all the way from my job. We live on the west side of this street, but Drew's day care is on the east side. Every evening, I tell myself with a smile to move into the right-hand lane as a sort of ritual reminder of the new life I'm living. It's the same drive, same scenery, and yet everything's different. I pass by the road onto which I had previously turned, remembering the times I took that path both before Drew and when I was pregnant with Drew. On one occasion at that very turn, I experienced my first Braxton-Hicks contraction. Now I take different turns to get me to the same place. Familiar roads, but a brand new perspective with my son in the backseat. I don't always think in these terms as I babble with Andrew, waiting for a break in traffic to turn left into our apartment complex, but such ideas are usually there in the back of my mind, giving me a strange sense of sadness for the comfortable routine lost, joy for the amazing new patterns and surprises, and anticipation for what future regular drives will be like.

Up Next: From Northwest Tucson to the UofA and back!

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