On our drive up to Lake Shasta on Friday, we missed the turnoff for 505. No one was paying attention at the crucial moment in Vacaville, so we ended up driving an extra thirty miles, meeting Highway 5 at Sacramento instead of cutting across. Not only does 505 save time, but it avoids Davis and Sacramento. John McCrea would have been beside himself with rage when we missed a chance to dodge the automotive congestion around the city.
I know Davis isn't really that bad, especially compared to the black hole of suck that is the city of Sacramento. I've had a beef with Davis ever since my senior year of college, when a distant cousin returned, fresh off his first quarter at UC Davis, to extol the virtues of college. "You're gonna love it," he told me. "In Davis, you can get a burger - at midnight! Sean, it's the ultimate freedom."
That phrase became shorthand for me and my family for years, whenever anyone mentioned Davis, the glory of college life, or something mundane that made them so deliriously happy that it depressed us. I thought of that often in Berkeley, standing in line at 1 AM for a slice of greasy Fat Slice pizza with cardboard crust, muttering to myself, "Ultimate freedom. Ultimate freedom."
My favorite shortcut is 242, the classic, and the only freeway to originate in Pleasant Hill. 242 is similar to 505 in that it connects two uninspiring places by going quickly and dodging the slightly crappier places in between. 242 was known as "The Hypotenuse" among many of my dorky friends, because it cut across the right angle formed by 680 and 4 at Buchanan Field. I like to imagine Pythogoras driving an old Honda Civic, pumping his fist as he exited 680 on his way to Stockton.
One benefit of missing the turnoff to 505 was that we got to visit Woodland, California, which has a complex right off the highway featuring an elaborate array of services for travelers. There's a convenience store, a gas station, and a Wendy's, all under one roof, though nothing was as memorable as the men's restroom.
There, next to the condom machine, was a cologne dispenser. For just fifty cents, you could get a spray of cologne, presumably squirted out of the side of the machine itself. I can think of so many times when I've been traveling on Highway 5, in desperate need of a musky scent, and caught short of imitation Drakkar Noir: giving a teenage runaway a ride Red Bluff, furiously speeding to an outdoor kegger in Chico, stuck in a car without air conditioning during a 110-degree afternoon in Auburn on the way to a Craigslist casual encounters rendezvous.
There's one more situation where a cologne dispenser becomes indispensable: on the way to an 11-man houseboat weekend on Lake Shasta. Needless to say, I got $1.50 worth of scent that afternoon. Happy engagement, Dustin!