As a young teenager there came a particularly fine day when my friends and I were rather keen on getting to the beach (the same as every other summer day) and the gas gauge on my car was bending the needle around “empty”. I vividly recall how we gathered coins from under couch cushions, the insides of pants, purses and piggy banks for the noble purpose of putting petrol into my automobile (back when gas could still be purchased for pocket change). Meager investment in hand we arrived at the filling station on fumes and presented our collective $1.87 to the attendant and waited for the gallons to drip in. The needle budged and we were off.
I might now mention that I grew up on one of many small lakes that were set in valleys perched high above the Pacific. The trip to the sea nearby required some steep descents and winding turns over a very poorly paved road whose asphalt crumbled off the edges into spectacular and impressive voids. No guardrails needed. It was a concession that there was an occasional weather worn dotted line marking the single “lanes” each way. I’m sure they were hand painted. But when we approached the mouth of the canyon leading to the ocean that day it was lined with wild flowers and even wilder birds. Horses trotted alongside us in countless acres tossing their manes. The day was bright and clear and we were packed and ready for fun in the sun.
As we drove along enjoying the breeze coming through the open windows an awareness began to set in. If we failed to encounter some of our other friends at the beach we might be making our way back home on foot. Since it wouldn’t be our first time toting items up a long and winding road in flip flops it was not exactly our number one choice. It was then that I got a bright idea. One which would likely have horrified any knowledgeable auto enthusiast. If I could put the car in neutral, turn off the engine on the downward slopes to conserve the gas (thus making use of the momentum we had gained) then, (the rough bit) “pop” into gear sparking it back into life on the parts where the road climbed (where we began loosing momentum) we might possibly have enough fuel to return. And so I did.
It was rather hairy going on the turns trying not to use the brakes and the engine protested crazily on a few occasions but we made it (slightly wider eyed than when we started) for a beautiful day of surfing, playing volleyball and listening to the waves sing. We sat on our towels and ate fruit, carrots and PB’n’Js crunchy with sand. And yes, we made it home that evening, watching the golden sun in the rear view mirror sink into the perfect blue of ocean and sky on its journey towards other parts of the world.
We walked a lot for the next few days and even took our bikes all the way to the beach more than once (an adventure in and of itself) until our next allowance. But our enthusiasm for friends, the freshness of salt air, sun and surf gave us all the momentum we needed to arrive at our destinations in good cheer, carrying memories that would last forever.