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Get out while you still can 

I was sitting in traffic the other day, waiting for minute after long minute to get out of San Luis Obispo, and I got to thinking.

As much as I like this town, this county, sometimes I just have to get out. Get gone. Hit the road. It's nothing against my homeland, so don't take it personally or anything. Every once in a while I just need to see life through something other than SLO-colored glasses. A journey to Fresno or Bakersfield or Ventura or Los Angeles really clears my head. It's a trip literally and metaphorically and it puts things in perspective for when I come back.

Plus, I've been feeling an overwhelming urge to get away from the Tribune's choice of cover art lately. I'm not just talking about Sandra Duerr's hotly contested and defended pics of the Virginia Tech shooter. Did you see that bloated whale carcass they had on there the other day?

Still, getting away from it all really does refresh me. Basically, when I see the sort of shenanigans that go on in other places, talk of Atascadero creek setbacks and the Los Osos Wastewater Treatment Project don't seem as bad.

So every couple of months or so, I fill up the Shreddermobile with however much gas I can afford, toss a mannequin in the passenger seat so I can sneak into carpool lanes where they have them, and kiss SLO goodbye.

Of course, I might not be able to enjoy all the perks I usually enjoy if Sen. Abel Maldonado has his way. The Central Coast darling keeps putting his politicking fingers into legislative pies, and one of the most recent plums he pulled out passed the Senate Transportation Committee to possibly create a "Carpool Education Program" that would encourage drivers to tattle on people like me who get, uh, creative when it comes to driving alone.

"Carpool lane cheating is a huge public safety issue," he penned. He didn't go on to explain how it's a huge safety issue. Personally, I don't see how a blow-up doll riding shotgun constitutes much of a danger to anybody. Of course, I've been known to hand the wheel off to "Daphne" when I need to rummage in the back seat for snacks, so I might not be the best person to opine on this subject.

But I digress. As I mentioned before, I was trying to get out of town on a recent afternoon, but something was conspiring to keep me around during my attempted exodus. Maybe it was an accident that everybody was slowing down to gawk at. Maybe it was the new San Luis Bay Drive Bridge work creating a knot of cars as Diablo Canyon let out for the day. Or maybe it was some karmic waves buffeting me back.

Whatever the reason, I was sitting in my car, drumming my fingers on the steering wheel, staring at the string of brake lights glaring back at me like a sea of angry red eyes. Sort of how I picture my readership.

And then, as I also mentioned before, I got to thinking. And here's what I thought: You can never leave SLO.

Oh, sure, you can physically remove yourself from its borders, but you can never escape the mental hold it gets on you after you've spent any reasonable amount of time here. Even when I'm hundreds of miles away, trying to purge thoughts of viewshed ordinances and airport development, my mind keeps returning to the same old subjects, like a dog to its vomit which you'll probably see on the cover of the Trib in coming days.

Hometown reminders are everywhere I look. Just driving past a fast-food restaurant is enough to remind me about SLO City's drive-through ban and the still-opposed Dalidio project. And speaking of KFC, did anybody see a giant crippled chicken trying to cross the road in Grover Beach towards the end April? I saw a PETA press release announcing just such a stunt, but I never got around to seeing whether the protest happened or not. Either way. Some guy in a suit isn't going to stop me from eating a bucket of wings, though I might want to know where he got his costume. "Daphne" seems to have developed a leak lately, and I'm thinking that even a giant bird might be less suspicious than a slowly deflating woman.

If push comes to shove and traffic stays bad which it might, since this bridge project is supposed to last a while, I might just have to postpone any more trips until I can get a flight to Sacramento.

At the May 1 county supervisors meeting, Jerry Lenthall said that he could hardly think of anything that gets more requests than air service to Sacramento. I don't know why locals are clamoring so bad to get to the state's capitol I'd think that more would be flocking to Santa Maria for its nonstop weekend flights to Vegas but apparently the big push is for cruising SLO-Town to Sac-Town.

Speaking of Jerry, there's someone who needs to get out of town. I don't know how he can preside over those meetings every week.

"Oceano is starving for attention," said one speaker during the public comment period

at the May 1 get together. I did a double-take.

A triple-take. It gave me whiplash. If any local locality has been getting attention lately, it's Oceano.

Turns out the speaker was talking about the pending La Grande tract sale decision and the related off-road vehicle debates. And for the record, activist Nell Langford got up to talk, too. She still insists she wasn't using children as pawns at a recent event in the ongoing struggle to prove that vehicles pose a threat to anyone trying to recreate by foot on the sand and in the water and anyone who says otherwise will eat their words. The vehicles were what was putting those poor, frightened kids in danger, she maintains, not the people who invited those kids to play at that particular point of Central Coast geography.

Anyway, everybody wants attention for their cause. It's downright overwhelming. So here's my pitch: Jerry, slide some funds around for some interchange or something near Avila Beach, hop in my car so I don't have to use a dummy, and let's drive on outta here.

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