On the road with my mom, the bad-ass.

Last weekend my mom and I met in Los Angeles for a wayward run down the coast. According to the Google machine, the drive to San Diego takes two hours. We wisely gave it four days.

The first morning found us on Manhattan Beach at 6 a.m. The grey dawn was working its way up to 60 degrees – water temps were cooler than that. A line-up of wet-suited surfers bobbled out along the second break.

Locals only. And my mom. 

I had a surfboard that I snagged from our AirBnB. She had a body board. I have no idea if she's ever used one before. I realize now that I never asked. In my defense, she was in the water and paddling out before I had a chance to inquire.  

We got pounded by the waves that day, and the next, and the days after that. It's what the ocean does best: it reminds us of where we stand. It pounds and pushes and puts us in our place. But then occasionally, whether we deserve it or not, it lets us ride. Fast and free and grinning like children.

Life can be the same way. And so it came to be, for four days last week, that my mom and I rode fast and free.

From sea level, to the rooftop bar at Hotel Casa Del Camino, to the wonderfully curvy road leading to the 6,000 foot peak of Palomar Mountain. And then down, down, down, lost maybe a little, until we finally dropped right into the heart of San Diego as if that was the plan all along. Music loud, top town, fueled by joy and a massive cache of roadside-stand strawberries.

Along the way, I learned that my mom can road trip like a champion. I also learned that, as a child, I had trouble pronouncing "T" sounds. So when I wanted my toy truck I'd yell "Fuck!" Or when passing the fire station: "Fire Fuck! Fire Fuck!" This anecdote has no bearing on our road trip, other than it never would have come up otherwise. Also, I'll add, it makes me very very happy.

I've always recommended taking any road trip, anytime, headed anywhere, alone or with anyone who's wired right for road trips. It's never a bad idea. But if you haven't tried it with your mom? Damn junior! You need to get on that!

The best road trip song ever? I'm pretty sure this is.

Spring break is nigh(ish). It's almost time to hit the road.

If you prefer the overnight driving shift, like I do, the secret is the right playlist. One song to be sure to include is Windfall. It's the first track on Son Volt's 1995 album, Trace, and it's one of my all-time favorites.

A little bit of history in case you're not familiar with Son Volt...

Back in the late 80s and early 90s there was a mighty and fearsome band called Uncle Tupelo. They ruled from Belleville, Illinois and held dominion over all the alt country land. The band was led by the mostly brooding Jay Farrar and perkier (by comparison) Jeff Tweedy. Jay and Jeff were two extremely talented songwriters who eventually ended up hating each other's guts. This seems to be what extremely talented songwriters do. So Jay quit the band, took the drummer, and formed Son Volt. Tweedy took the rest of the band and formed Wilco. 

Back to Windfall. There are a number of road and river related songs on Trace (Tear Stained Eye is another one that's highly recommended.) But Windfall, in particular, has always killed me. I honestly believe it captures the experience of the open road better than any song I've ever heard.

I sang it to my son every night for the first three or four years of his life. On his fifth birthday I woke up, my truck was gone, and I haven't seen him since.

I included the lyrics below. 

Now and then it keeps you running
Never seems to die
The trail’s spent with fear
Not enough living on the outside

Never seem to get far enough
Staying in between the lines
Hold on to what you can
Waiting for the end, not knowing when

May the wind take your troubles away
May the wind take your troubles away
Both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel
May the wind take your troubles away

Trying to make it far enough
To the next time zone
Few and far between past the midnight hour
Never feel alone, you’re really not alone

Switching it over to A.M.
Searching for a truer sound
Can’t recall the call letters
Steel guitar and settle down

Catching an all night station
Somewhere in Louisiana
It sounds like 1963
But for now it sounds like heaven

May the wind take your troubles away
May the wind take your troubles away
Both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel
May the wind take your troubles away
May the wind take your troubles away
May the wind take your troubles away