At the beginning there was The Loop (Bucla in romanian). New apartment buildings were built, a post office, stores, a public park surrounded by linden trees, and  even a new metro line that took what felt like a hundred years to dig, all opened up ``on The Loop''. We would plan everything around it, do our grocery shopping, or just go for a walk. I did not understand why it was called that way till years later I saw it on a map. That magical road marked by a wide bed of roses in the middle, was both the entrance and the exit in the neighborhood where I grew up, and thus the center of the universe.

My fascination with roads will continue and as I learned how to drive and got to travel to different countries and continents,  I got to know more of them and appreciate their uniqueness,  the way they would angle into the mountain, or hang above the ocean, hide into a green fog of pines, or just quietly snake through yellow fields of corn.  They were the destination.

Highway 12, Utah

I got lucky. To start with the best. At the best time. That is driving on Highway 12 in Utah,  during the Golden Hour. I don't know if I've ever been on another road where I felt that the road and the landscape were the same, as if I was completely still and just the landscape changed around me. This is how pure happiness looks like:  my face stuck in a smile that does not want to give up, a warm feeling spreading up from my heart to my shoulders, the desire to stop right there on the road, to take it all in,  everything enveloped into a red-orange light while a dark blue curtain was falling slowly. How do you top that?


A few years after that lucky encounter with red Utah, I found myself in complete awe, into a fairytale landscape on George Parks Highway in Alaska. Such a different and so unique experience. First time I was there was in May when most of the mountains were covered in snow. Their reflection in the water around was perfect, nothing moved, frozen into a grey-blue mirror, where up was down and down was up. The fact that no other car was on the road amplified even more the feeling that I stepped into a magic land, not accessible to earthlings. It seems that at any moment magical creatures will come down from the mountains. The second time I was there at the end of June, and the green took over the white, and the blue painted over the gray, still beautiful, but less magical.

Pacific Coast Highway, Big Creek Bridge, California

Which brings me to the movie star. That's how I think about it. A road that it's just fun, no mystical colors, no moody landscape, just out of a Bond movie. I am referring to the Pacific Coast Highway (California State 1), particularly the segment between Big Sur and San Simeon Bay. Unlike the other roads that I discovered by accident, this was a deliberate drive. I had it all planned out how I will drive on the 5th all the way down from San Francisco to LA and on the way back, I will take the Pacific Coast Highway. But I took a  wrong turn (this was before Google Maps)  and by the time I figured out I was already on my way to Big Sur, so I embrace it. I drove it many times since, once I had to chance to see a parade of vintage car going towards Monterey.  I loved stopping at Cafe Kevah for a light lunch and then continue down to San Simeon, stop for a few nights at Cambria, then drive down to Santa Barbara, Malibu, all the way to Los Angeles. Maybe the ocean, maybe the fascination with California, maybe the sun, they all made this a cool experience that felt fresh every time.

Ecola State Park, Oregon

Then there are moody roads. like the woody path through the Ecola State Park in Oregon. Just trees as far as you could look up, the sky almost gone, the road going up and down without any idea where you were. I knew from the map that I was supposed to reach the ocean, but you could not tell. It was an overcast day, and it was very dark. I thought I was lost, but there was only one road, so there were only two options, forward and backward.  I chose forward hoping that I will eventually reach the ocean.  The view at the end of the road was absolutely amazing and worth it.

Wind Farm near US231, Indiana
photo from

I left at the end a slice of US 231. It's a road in Indiana guarded by  gigantic white wind turbines as you got close to I65. The miles I used to drive part of an insane commute, had no trees, no houses, the road had no curves, just a little gray ribbon cutting through a sea that will change color -- dark brown in the fall, white during the winter, green during the Spring, finally getting the yellow at the end of the summer. The sky would also change from pure blue to, cotton candy clouds, or the murky scary Midwest thunderstorm dark.   It was quiet and pure. I think I loved it so much because it reminded me of the road to my grandmother's village.  (I don't have any photo left from the many I took during my drives, but the one I found online captures the mood.)

At some past training workshop, as an icebreaker, the organizer asked us  to talk about our untaken path. It was meant to be of course a metaphor, for one's destiny, of what could have been, and supposedly help us connect. I don't believe in regrets. So I talked instead about asphalt highways, unpaved paths in the middle of forests, through white sands, and red dirt, under blue and stormy skies. They meant more to me.


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