Some of my fondest memories are those of the road trips I took with my parents and pesty brother when I was a kid. Isn’t there something special about the crowded car with all those little items scattered about and the empty candy wrappers and smell of beef jerky permeating the air. My brother and I were constantly arguing about the “dividing” line in the back seat to make sure neither of us got on the other’s side of the seat. In those ancient days of course it was unthinkable to consider a plane trip to Hawaii or Florida or the mountains, it was just way too expensive. Our vacations in the early and mid fifties were always road trips. They were awful but also so wonderful.
Mom loved driving. She could sit in that confined area for hours on end just looking out the window at the passing scenery. I think she must have Gypsy blood in her. She enjoyed it all even if it was just the barren fields of west Texas. Trust me, that view was not very inspiring, but Mom enjoyed it like she was viewing the Effiel Tower. Because money was a bit tight we camped out often and only stayed in a motel a couple of nights during the week. But boy, did we ever cover the territory! It was not uncommon to make 400 to 500 miles per day. We only had a week and Mom wanted to see it all. In the mid fifties my father finally started earning the grand sum of $100.00 per week. At the time that was a big deal. If your dad earned that much you were no longer middle class but had moved up the ladder to “upper middle class”. I do recall one particular trip when we went from Dallas to Yellowstone, to Glacier National Park, back down through Utah, Colorado and finally home. We borrowed my uncle’s Nash sedan for the trip and my cousin came along with us. As always we covered that 3000 mile trip in a week.
For those who don’t know, the old Nashes had a fold down back seat so you could make a “bed” out of it. The state of the art luxury for the traveler of the day if you can imagine that. There were always car problems somewhere along the way. I do recall when we were going through Yellowstone that we had a flat tire. My dad was changing it but we were in a meadow area. The mosquitoes were unbelievable. You might not think of them in that environment but believe me there a zillions of mosquitoes in those valleys in the Rockies during the summer months. They were so bad that my cousin and I had to get a blanket and wave it back and forth around my dad’s head so he could change the tire. Of course we got all the mosquito bites but the tire got changed. Later in Montana on the same trip, the radiator had a small leak and we needed to add some water but we were miles from any service station. We had a five gallon water jug with us and my dad went down to a stream beside the road in the mountains. It was very rocky and rough country and there was no shelf or beach area to get near the water so dad had to reach down as far as he could to fill the jug; otherwise we were stuck there for no telling how long. He fell in but to this day I remember that he came up and was till holding the jug. He never lost it. That would have been a disaster. Got the radiator filled amidst much laughter and were on our way to see the glaciers and bears. God, I miss my dad. Not many like that any more. From the Great Generation. He was just so happy to be alive and have his family after coming home from the war. He could do everything. He was amazing. He could do plumbing, knew how to mix and pour cement and smooth it off; he could do all the basic repairs on any car, could do rough carpentry work and basically could figure out how to do most anything and knew how everything mechanical worked. Mostly, he was grateful. Gratitude is something so many of us lack even though we have been blessed more than our worth.
If you are lucky I will talk about the trip to Disneyland someday. It was brand spanking new. Naturally we went there and back in the car.
How did those Romans build a bridge across the Thames in the early 1st century? Of course that was only one of many they built. Nothing but hand tools. Ponder that one the next time you are feeling your oats and thinking the old timers know nothing. Would you even have an idea where to start?