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Build a tunnel and get over it

Not all adventures pop outways. Some expeditions suck into themselves, and the episodes are made of details rather than landscapes. This year has been filled with more innie adventures, as Mom and I stay home more and explore what there is to discover in My Hometown.

This morning Mom took me to a new trail that hangs off the bottom of My Hometown like a tail. The trail is on a headland, which is what you call a mountain that falling into the ocean, and… something I’ve never thought of before… since I live at the other end of town, I must live in the butt-land. Anyway, we drove across town, past the Wooden Taco Bell, and through the tunnel that separates the town from the wild. On the wild side of the tunnel, Mom turned the car into a car kennel I’d never seen before, even though we’ve driven past it a zillion times. “I’ve always wondered where this went…” Mom said. “No, you’ve always thought it went nowhere interesting because you’d never been to it,” I reminded her, because I listen to Mom’s thoughts even when she’s not listening to them herself.

The path traced the coast, with the end of the world just a few feet to our left, and the ocean hundreds of feet below our paws. “Hey, I’ve been here before!” Mom said. “This used to be the road before they built the tunnel. These narrow blind curves used to be scary as hell to drive on…” “What did you wear your trail shoes for?” I asked. “It’s still a road.” “Every once in awhile there would be a big landslide through here and people would get stranded in Half Moon Bay and have to take the long way round for weeks. It always took forever to reopen the road, so they built the tunnel to avoid the most dangerous part entirely. I’d heard they’d turned the old highway into a bike trail, and here it is!”

The steep and twisty path wasn’t a problem running at dog speed like it would be for a hulking car barreling at highway speed. Since Mom didn’t have to keep her eyeballs stuck on the road, she looked around at the impressively shaped hills and the ocean behind them. There were benches where a dog could sit and watch the birds while his Mom peeped through giant binoculars as the birds pooped on the rocks far out to sea.

Before long we were on the far side of the old highway and running on dirt trails through groves of peeling trees whose bark and leaves hang like toilet paper. The trail was steep in places — so steep that Mom could run neither up or down it without the dirt slipping from under her shoes and carrying her down on her butt, dragging me behind her by the leash. In some places the trail was narrow and crumbly with vines reaching into the middle of it like the trail hadn’t seen enough runners to be finished yet.

When we reached the top, I could look around and recognize all the places where I like to run in My Hometown. The mountainside behind me was where Mom got the patch of poison oak on her butt the size of two $20 bills. Straight inland on the mountain’s shoulder I recognized the poles that we pass on the way to our weekly discovering of the Pacific Ocean. Right at the bottom of the hill I was standing on was the Wooden Taco Bell, and beyond it the path that patrols the surfers’ and fishermen’s beaches. Way off in the distance I even saw the hill where Mom always loses her way home in the fog, and beyond that the hill where the spy shacks tattooed in hieroglyphs peek across the valley into my dog bathroom. From up here the landmarks that tell me where I am in My Hometown – the store where they give me treats when I put my paws on the counter, the building that wafts the morning smells of eggs and bacon half way through our beach runs, even my Stuck House – didn’t stick out on the landscape like they do in the map of my mind. Looking at it from up here I could see that most of My Hometown was really wild. The houses and stores of my life weren’t in the center of anything, but only slotted into the cracks and flat places between the mountains and the ocean.

There was something about seeing My Hometown like that that I wanted to discuss with Mom. As we picked our way back to the bike highway along a dirt gash in the cliff that Mom grumbled was a “damned goat trail” I said, “Did all of California look like this once?” “Yeah,” Mom said, grunting as her paw slipped down toward the place where the hill became a cliff. She waved her arms until she stomped her wayward foot into the middle of a bush to stop its escape. “There were footpaths and stuff, but the conquistadors had a pretty hard time of it, I think. And I have no idea how they managed to get all the way out here in covered wagons.” “They didn’t travel in lines like roads, right? They followed the earth, like trails do,” I pointed out. “Sure. But then eventually they got better at making straight lines to get places faster. They cut mountains into the shapes they needed, and tunnels where the mountain was too big.” “Oh, okay. So when your path keeps getting blocked, you don’t always have to go around forever? Sometimes there’s a better way to the other side of the mountain?” “Yeah. The idea is to solve a problem that keeps happening rather than just trying to live with it. I would think a life coach like you would know that already.” “Yeah, I get it. That’s why everyone’s so mad lately; Something is blocking the road that we thought we were on, and everyone’s annoyed that they have to find a way around,” I said in my duh voice. “But also you said that back before they fixed this road with a tunnel, no one enjoyed this lovely trail.” “It was pretty hard to enjoy, stressful and dangerous as it was,” Mom said defensively. “But now that it’s a bike trail, it makes people happy because it’s easy get to a wild place that they couldn’t visit before. Maybe that’s what’s happening now: We’re building a tunnel.” “Huh?” Mom said, densely. “You know how everyone’s mad because they’re having to take the long way round so much these days? Well maybe we’ve been living with some stressful stuff for awhile and we’ve put up with it because we thought it was the only way through, but now we know that we need a tunnel there. When the tunnel is done, the old route isn’t going to go away or anything. Just that, instead of being stressful, it’ll be something we can enjoy. Don’tcha think?” “Yeah, I guess. But that tunnel can’t come fast enough for me!” “Don’t worry, Mom. I’m sure that the tunnel-building people always finish their projects quickly and without drama, since so many people are depending on them.” “I don’t think you’ve quite grasped the concept of government yet…”

Oscar the Pooch


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