As I was driving home last night from The Dalles after the Last Day Of Unleavened Bread and a pleasant evening of eating, talking, and a bit of dancing (that was lamentably a bit hard on my feet), I pondered the trips that I take to that area and other places in terms of segments. When one drives for any kind of length of time, especially in the late-night hours I tend to drive home from the Dalles–I arrived home last night around midnight or so–one has to keep mentally alert at a stage where people are tired and sometimes impaired, and one of the ways I do that is to think of the trip in terms of segments. I thought it might be worthwhile to talk my way through the segments of the trip that I take and to ponder on how I try to use such things to keep me alert.
There is usually little issue on the drive to The Dalles, given that I tend to gas up before making the trip as it takes a fair amount of fuel (between half and two thirds the fuel in the car) and the trip is usually in the morning where traffic is low and conditions are fairly easy. On the trip back, though, it is usually late at night and if traffic is almost always very light, the need for mental awareness is pretty intense. The five segments of the trip are as follows: the first segment is from The Dalles to Hood River. The second is from Hood River to Cascade Locks. The third is from Cascade Locks to Troutdale. The fourth segment is from Troutdale to the end of I-5, after which there is a short transition to the fifth and final change, which is from I-5 home. During most of the first three stages of the trip there are few lights and few people, and the trip is basically driving by beautiful scenery that one cannot see in the dark. It is only once one crosses the Sandy River at Troutdale that one enters the Portland metropolitan area and the trip becomes more involved with other drivers, some of whom drive pretty erratically.
One of the more interesting aspects of the trip is the trip through the Vista Ridge Tunnel on the drive home, where the slope tends to rise to such an extent that it is impossible to drive faster than 50 or 55 mph in my car. After the rise through the tunnel to the West Slope the drive is far easier to manage on the way home. It is striking, at least to me, that I tend to think of segments in terms of cities. And this is not a one-off thing. In larger trips I tend to think of larger segments, each segment providing its own interests–a stop to eat or get gas, a sight to see, a hotel to spend the night, a segment of a flight, and so on. For whatever reason, it is easier to think about what needs to be done when one does things one step at a time, or where a particular place triggers a certain action, like making sure to get gasoline in Joseph, Oregon, whether one needs it or not, because one will definitely need it. When one is able to break up something into smaller chunks, those chunks can be dealt with and then one can move on to the next one.
And so it is in driving as in a great many other activities. Human beings seem unable to take on too much at once, and things are only manageable when they are broken up into smaller chunks. How to do that becomes an important task in managing life effectively. Also, as someone who dearly loves to travel, I find that segments help to better place one’s traveling in a sense of place, to understand how it is that roads and cities serve as places to drive through as well as places to visit. When one is trying to complete large and complicated tasks, one needs to do them one step at a time as well. There are people who have talked about this sort of interest as being compartmentalization, but when things need to be done, they need to be done.