Four Lanes


Monday evening, just about to cross the last little pass on westbound Interstate 80 into the town of Vallejo. From the top of the pass — it’s a pass, though I don’t know its name — you catch your first glimpse of bay water. At the end of a 500-mile trip back from western Oregon, or a much shorter one into the Central Valley, the sight says you’re almost home.

It was about 5 o’clock as I drove up this long incline out of the westernmost edge of the valley. The sun, just the other side of that ridge to the right, shockingly brilliant. Just a hint of green coming out across the hills after our foot of rain. The traffic was backed up for miles and miles going the other way, partly because of rush hour, partly because of an accident of some sort down the hill to the east. The volume of traffic on I-80 is always impressive and has been for years and years. I wrote a short editorial for The Examiner in the summer of 1991 describing a Friday night drive from Berkeley up across Donner Pass. It felt like being carried along in the surge of a river, a flow so powerful it bore everyone up-country all the way to the top of the mountains and beyond.

So seeing masses of cars, especially at going-home time: Not a surprise, but always a reminder of how crowded this place has become and how we live amid all this beauty.

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