When I was a kid, road trips and Sunday drives were the norm. It was not at all unusual for mom to whip up some southern fried chicken and potato salad, throw it in the cooler and load up the car for a Sunday drive.
The rural highways in southwest Virginia were dotted with cement picnic tables at pullovers along the highway. These roadways were not nearly as populated as they now are, nor were the highways as well traveled. We meandered along, just enjoying getting out away from the small contained environment we lived in.
We never traveled by other means. No trains (in my lifetime) or buses or airplanes. Everything was by car – Dad driving, Mom riding shotgun and four kids piled into the backseat of whatever Buick we had at the time.
We spent our time talking or singing folk songs until some of us would wear ourselves out and fall asleep. I usually stayed awake to keep Dad company. We had some of our best talks when everyone else was sleeping.
It was on these trips I learned how a car could draft behind a truck (dangerous I know now) and save on gas according to my dad. I learned about my family and saw the places my parents frequented growing up. I learned what a mirage was on hot days when I thought I could see a lake on the road ahead of us.
We pulled our arms up and down urging truckers to reward us with a blow of their horn. We had a game we played counting station wagons we saw along the way shouting ‘my wagon’ to claim the car before someone else. I don’t think there are enough station wagons on the roads these days to make that game much fun.
Dad was a risk taker. When Interstate 77 was being built, he always snuck on the highway, bypassing the blockades to test out the new roads. Even then I had a strong sense of what I felt was right and wrong and I did not like my father breaking the rules.
Before the pandemic, we took road trips often to see our family. I often made the 8 hour drive to Florida to spend a week or two with my daughter and her family. I miss the freedom of just packing up the car on a whim and hitting the road.
When it is safe again, I look forward to heading out to see some of the places I’ve always wanted to visit. I’d like to go back to Maine and Vermont, and maybe even take a drive across country. There’s always Mackinac Island, and I’d love to visit Greenfield Village again. So much to enjoy. But this will all be after our family gets sick of us and suggests, kindly of course, we “hit the road”.