River Road

Neil Peart, the greatest drummer ever and 1/3 of the band, Rush, lost his daughter in a car accident and his wife to cancer in less than a year’s time. In his remarkable book, “Ghost Rider”, he describes his 55,000 mile motorcycle journey across much of North America, Mexico, Belize, and then back again in a quest to soothe, what he calls, his “baby soul”. Like motion calms a crying baby, Peart discovered that this holds true for grieving adults. I read this book a year prior to my repeat descent into depression and anxiety, and I had no way of knowing that this was a prelude to my own journey and a prescription to heal my own broken heart and soothe my baby soul.

My travels did not take me out of the country, or even out of the city for that matter, and I did not travel thousands of miles on my road to recovery. I merely had to make my way north to the river and let the combination of the motion of the car traveling along the winding roads, the sights and sounds of the world rushing by outside of my car windows, and my favorite music quiet my negative thoughts and feelings and ease my restless spirit. It is the ultimate lullaby, and I have driven hundreds of miles and shed thousands of tears on River Road, listening to the bittersweet melody that soothes my fussy baby soul.

River Road is a two-lane road that is less than a mile from my home, and it stretches from Prospect to downtown Louisville. What it lacks in originality for a name, it more than makes up for in its beautiful scenery and healing qualities. The Ohio River runs along one side of the road and the other side is dotted with homes, open fields, businesses, country clubs, etc. In the summer, a canopy of green leaves shades the road from the sun that shines bright on my old Kentucky home, and in the winter, the bare branches are outstretched waiting for new life to return. Regardless of the season, it is serene, pretty, and comforting, and it is one of the “safe” places I retreat to when the darkness begins to threaten the light again. I do not recall precisely when I discovered that a drive on my version of the fabled yellow brick road would bring me peace of body, mind, and soul, but I feel as if I always have been drawn there.

My therapeutic drives began when I was a teenager. Back then, it was just my Jeep’s FM radio, my teenage angst, and myself as traveling companions, and I never felt so free as I did during my solo drives. Fast forward to last summer, when I sought relief from the depression and anxiety that left me feeling so very alone, damaged, and scared by taking off down River Road at least once a day, this time in my SUV and listening to satellite radio, trying to drive away from the pain and find my “happy” once again.  Whether it be early in the morning when I needed to gather up enough energy and courage to face another day of uncertainty or in the middle of the night when sleep escaped me and I needed some sort of respite, I would take off in my car, turn on my music, roll down the windows, and begin my familiar escape route from the thoughts, images, and feelings that plagued me.  I have a route that I probably could drive in my sleep at this point, but I promise not to test that theory, and whether it took only a brief drive or several passes on the same loop, rarely did I return home without feeling some relief from the intense pain.  Oh, lest the rumors resurface, I only took these drives when the girls were not in my care; I did not leave them unattended or take them with me, so, no need to worry, judge, or gossip about this coping strategy of mine, not that the truth matters to gossip mongers.  Also, at this point, I will apologize to my environmentally conscious friends and role models for not finding a “green” way to soothe my baby soul, but as those of you who have had an experience with a cranky baby know, you do whatever it takes to safely and quickly end the wailing.  I did the best I could, and somehow, I figured out ways to find my way “home” from the being driven to the brink of insanity.

Sometimes, I was the one who drove myself to that breaking point, and I accept that and continue to forgive myself for that.  Other times, I put my faith and trust in people who chauffeured me to the edge of darkness and reason and then left me stranded there alone with no clear, direct way to get back.  Regardless of the “vehicle” or the “driver”, I have had to survive and thrive by learning new routes, taking detours, and forging my own path.  I still find every excuse in the world to take River Road to reach my figurative and literal destinations, and it is nice that more positive and hopeful thoughts and feelings now are the passengers, with a happier, healthier me in the driver’s seat. 

Trust me, I am not the only one who is drawn to River Road when in need of comfort and clarity.  A few days ago, I read a message from a dear friend of mine who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She now lives is Ohio, but she wrote of yearning to drive down River Road here in Kentucky to clear her head and ease her fears and worries. I read her comments and smiled through my tears, as I knew precisely what she meant, as do many others apparently.  Over the years, I have heard of many other Louisvillians who speak fondly of time spent traveling up and down this magical road, and I often think we should start some sort of therapeutic carpool.  However, I know that the journey we all take, much like Neil Peart’s, must be a solo one for many reasons, though, I hope we all have at least one special person to greet us at the end of our journey.  My heart and baby soul are learning to trust again and have hope that we will have a traveling companion to accompany us on our current journey and on those adventures that await us, but we’ll see.

That’s another story . . .

Categories: That's Another Story

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2 replies

  1. I’m a big fan of River Road drives, too.


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