Kage Baker once remarked, “We don’t have adventures. We have AB-ventures.” Meaning the things that happened to us were exciting, dangerous but most of all – weird.
I think we may have been stuck on a section of railroad track in Petaluma, Chicken Capitol of the World, at the time. In the rain, in the dark, in winter. After several frantic calls to the police – who never bothered to tell us there was no rail traffic on that stretch, and so we were not about to die – a couple of guys appeared out of the night with several lengths of two by four. They wedged them under the wheels of our car and pushed us off the rails. Then they vanished – just a couple of superheroes armed with lumber.
We never did see the police. And we thought we had narrowly escaped death until our host at our eventual destination – an ardent ferroequinologist – told us that section of track was disused. (Thank you again, Steve!)
Peculiar things just happened to us. Especially on the road. The road has traditionally been a place for weird things to happen, according to all the myths and fairy tales; but in these modern times, you’d think things would have settled down some. The Age of Legends, people are always saying, is past.
Not for us. Maybe it was Kage’s somewhat loose hold on what time she was in. Maybe it was her odd way of looking at the world. Maybe it was because we had both, when little girls, wished with all our hearts for a life that would be as exciting as the stories in our books. Or maybe we were just at one end of the statistical curve for Those Likely To Meet Adventures On the Road. I must assume that the people on the other end never hit a bump, a red light or a railroad track, and have cars that gas themselves up by osmosis.
If it could happen on the road, it did. Even if it seemed very unlikely to do so, it did. Some things I could have sworn were impossible were obviously not, because they happened. To us.
We were once driving behind an 18-wheeler when a crazed Angus steer leaped the wire fence by the freeway and was reduced to hamburger before our eyes. More accurately, he was expanded before our eyes, to coarsely shredded beef and a fine pink mist. The Highway Patrol was disbelieving when I called them – and even more so when they arrived and beheld the ex-steer.
We used to sometimes take the train between Pismo Beach and Los Angeles. It was a peaceful ride, except for the section through the Point Conception Peninsula. Vandenberg Air Force Base is out there, but we were never troubled by UFOs or mysterious lights. No, it was livestock again: more steers. Occasional pheasants. But most often, it was wild boars. Wild boars do not yield to train whistles (though they sure as hell do for actual trains) and they cover an amazing lot of ground when spread out in a thin layer …
And of course, I have written often and at length of the strange happenings on I-5, Road of Weirdness. Often, our luck was good and we just saw weirdness happening. Sometimes it happened to us; many friends and family members can tell tales of the bizarre adventures they encountered with us. Millions of metallic green beetles. Swarms of gold and purple butterflies. Furious truck drivers eager to beat our hacky-sack-playing companions into hacky-sack jam.
Several companions were with us the weekend we had two flat tires on I-5. The first was easily fixed; the other happened near midnight on the Grapevine; and we’d already used the spare 300 miles back. There were lots of small oddities: the long wait under the stars, the faint noises of movement from the enormous hillsides above us. Our friend Bob, who announced he had had enough, and sat down beside the road to sit zazen until the tow truck arrived. But nothing was a patch on the little town of Lebec, where we got a tire that was almost the right size, where the ladies room sink counter was covered with cat kibble, and where the hot chocolate was served with pickle relish scattered over the whipped cream.
And yes, truly weird things happened, too. Lit buildings that vanished when we approached. Hovering lights that illumined the ground all around us, and left Kage with a left-sided sunburn. Improbably dressed figures standing by the road – we actually slowed down once or twice, to see if the cloaked or armed traveller was a fellow Faire person, stranded. But they were never there when we looked back.
Probably just as well. We usually had a couple of kegs of beer, a parrot and assorted props from pikes to spinning wheels in the back of the truck. I don’t know where we would have put anyone.
But I do wonder – what would have happened if we had? Something to amaze and appall even an eldritch hitchhiker, I bet. Because, man – we had abventures.