20 on 20: 0ish

And so it starts with a fork in the road. I didn't want this to be about decision-making and how difficult it can be to choose options, but here we are at the east end of California 20 and already I am uncertain how to decide.

"This isn't the place to begin." My imaginary great uncle stands at the stop sign near the salt house. "There's at least a mile up that way." Great Uncle Leadbelly points up the road under the bridge.

"That's the on-ramp to I-80," I say. "I don't think that should count."

"There is still a double-yellow line along a portion of that roadway," Prasad points out. He is as imaginary as my great uncle. "Surely, that is the definition of a two-lane highway."

"This sign up here says West 20. It doesn't say you can turn left onto East 20." The kid whose name I can't remember has walked up the other fork. We all gather near the sign and nod our heads. It's true. There is only one sign.

"Awful lot of blacktop without a name, then," Great Uncle grumbles. "In my day, we called that a road."

The three start squabbling like chickens and I am really beginning to doubt the wisdom of this road trip. I leave them to it and scramble up the hillside alongside the ramp. The view is spectacular up here in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We're down the road from Donner Pass, but the peaks are lovely.

"What are you doing?" Prasad has scrambled up beside me. "You're going to hurt yourself."

"No, I'm safe. Worry about yourself."

"You keep insisting I'm not real," he says. "It follows, then, that I am invincible."

"Geez, don't give that notion to Great Uncle Leadbelly."

"What is that?"

"That is Spaulding Lake. It's pretty low. Usually, it's much bluer."

"Are we going there?"

"Sadly, we are not going to Spaulding Lake." I wonder where Annabel Lee is. I look around, sigh, and climb back down.

"When I was with Augustus," I hear Great Uncle Leadbelly pontificating, "we built better roads than this."

"You were never with Augustus," I say.

"Well, Octavian, whoever."

We walk back toward the car, where Bertie is crouched down looking at something on the ground. He growls a little as we come close.

"This is my idea," he says. "Nobody steal it."

We stare at the ground. "Nobody wants your trash," says the kid with no name.

"It's going to be a fortune. It's a goldmine, I tell you."

"How do you figure?" I don't want to ask, but I do anyway.

"You know how a big box of that cereal you like costs less per ounce than the medium sized box? And then the smaller box is even more money per ounce? And then, if you buy a single serving package, it's an astronomical per-ounce price? Imagine what it would add up to if you paid for every single bite. That's what this is."

I stare down at the road and shake my head. "If we're ever going to get to the sea, we need to get a move on."

And it is that easily that it is decided. We're not going to start at the fork in the road.

We're starting at the spoon.



20 on 20 is a series of photographs taken at (approximately) 20 mile intervals traveling east to west on California 20.

0 thoughtful messages from friendly readers: