A Case For Seat Time

To drive or not to drive. Since I moved to California in October 2008, that’s been the question. After nine mostly car-less years in NYC, I tend to lean toward the latter. And since gas prices spiked to a week’s worth of groceries per gallon, I’ve been using my legs, and my bike, more and more. In two and a half car-filled years, I’ve only put 17,000 miles on my VW station wagon, and most of those came by way of weekend trips to San Fran, Mammoth, Vegas, San Diego or Lone Pine.

Whoops. Wrong Mammoth.

Last weekend, I was heading to Mammoth for the final stop of the U.S. Grand Prix of Snowboarding and deciding whether to drive (since ESPN would be paying for the 25 gallons of gas the round-trip requires) or fly (since ESPN would be paying for the flight and the hundreds of gallons of gas the round trip-requires). If you’ve ever taken the 45-minute flight from LAX to Mammoth, you know that’s a tough decision, environment be damned. (And the environment always gets the tie-breaking vote in my decision making.) I’ve been on a lot of flights, and I’m convinced it’s the most beautiful flight I’ve taken. It is, at least, the most beautiful sub-hour flight in the world … at least until I find one that tops it.

But I opted to drive. A few reasons I will do it the next time, too:

* I had a friend (whom you should follow on Twitter: @tbyrnes) in the passenger seat, which meant 10 hours of talking and laughing and singing out loud … and not by myself! (And after a weekend in Mammoth, there is lots to talk about on the drive home.)

* How else would I know how much I love tracks #5 and #6 on Brett Dennen’s new album, Loverboy, due out April 12? And when else would I (we) have the time to learn every word to them?

* I was introduced to my new favorite podcast, The Moth, a live storytelling showcase held in major cities around the U.S. (and London). New reason for a trip to NYC!

* Every time I make that drive, it feels like I am doing it for the first time. “Are you suuuurrre that mountain was there on the way up?” On every pass, I see something in the landscape I find more beautiful than the last time I passed the same stretch of land.

* I get to leave when I want. And stop when I want. And overpack.

* How else would I have met Bud, the nicest highway patrolman in the world — who slapped me with a speeding ticket it’ll take skipping a month’s worth of gas to pay off?

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