In Summer 2007, I drove from San Diego to Cooperstown for Tony Gwynn’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This is Part 1 of a nine-part series covering the first day of my journey.
Why, when people in New York hadn’t even returned from their parties yet, would I be getting up at this hour? Why would anyone be getting up at this hour?
Lao-Tzu tells us in the Tao Te Ching that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single footstep.” Mine involved walking from my bed to the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee at 3:30 on a crisp Monday morning in late July.
While the coffee maker transmogrified ground Sumatran beans into something more palatable, I conducted a final check of the items I’d packed the night before — clothes, toiletries, camera, laptop computer, CDs, cell phone, snacks, water, sunscreen. Only now did the absurdity of my journey hit me. I would be driving more than 6000 miles over the next 12 days to watch a ceremony honoring someone I’d never met.
I should have had more sense at my age — or any age, for that matter — but no such luck. After dumping the fresh coffee into a travel mug, I gathered two weeks worth of my life and crammed it into the silver ’02 Saturn that I would come to know as home.
I kissed my overly tolerant wife, Sandra, and said goodbye to the dogs, Toby and Smitty. As I backed out of the garage, “Bittersweet Symphony” by the Verve played on the radio. Not my favorite song, but appropriate to the situation.
While cutting through the quiet suburban pre-dawn toward the freeway, I remembered some lyrics I once wrote. They had been inspired by a trip to Dallas in February 2003 for my grandmother’s 90th birthday:
Four a.m., still dark outside
The air is cool, the city silent
No better time than now to go for a ride.
No better time, indeed. This thought, aided by a generous dose of caffeine, carried me away from San Diego. For the first hour or so, until I reached the mountains, I could pick up local radio stations. I caught some 311 and Tool — good stuff, but a bit aggressive for so early in the morning, so I switched to the jazz station and listened to the cool octave guitar lines of Wes Montgomery. Where I was headed, I would need all the cool I could get.