Rotary Golf 2024

On the road again and again

by | May 1, 2024 | Opinion

Back in the 60s, some American college kids protested the Vietnam War, but mostly, they conducted sit-ins. Few protests were violent.

Other American college kids would have contests to see how many of them they could cram into a Volkswagen.

Today, some college kids see how much trouble they can cause by rioting on campus.

While the Volkswagen college kids of the 60s were smashing up against each other in a Beetle, parents were cramming as many of their kids as they could into a Ford Country Squire or large family sedan and heading out to see the country.

My parents never owned a station wagon, but my mother’s Buick Electra 225 Limited was large enough that it seemed you could have put a Country Squire inside it and a Volkswagen in the glove box.

Before the Interstate Highway System was completed, we’d leave Ashdown, Arkansas, for parts unknown. Often we’d leave with a couple of cousins, friends, or other youth in tow.

We knew where we were ultimately going, but it was the in between that always proved to be the most interesting.

When I was a younger, our parents took us to Dodge City, Kansas. We were on our way to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. But in Dodge City, there were no rooms available.

The thing I learned early is that my dad had an aversion to road maps and motel reservations. Unsurprisingly, he also rarely referred to instructions for anything that had some assembly required. (I’ll save the 1974 story of the Thanksgiving Day assembly of a Sears storage building for later.)

This always made for interesting conversations between our parents.

Mom: “There’s nowhere to stay in this town. All of the hotels are booked. We should have called ahead.”

Dad: “It’s fine. We’ll find somewhere soon. It’ll be great.”

Sometime after midnight, in what seemed to be 30 miles out of Dodge City, we rolled up to a place that could have doubled for the Bates Motel. The desk clerk never gave his name, but I’m fairly certain that it was Igor.

After a few hours of sleeping with one eye open, we loaded up and headed back towards Dodge City.

On the way, we searched for a place to have breakfast.

Now keep in mind, this was before there were fast food or chain restaurants. No McDonald’s, Grandy’s, iHop, or the like. Just roadside diners and cafes, owned and frequented by locals.

So, when some folks rolled up in a Buick with Arkansas plates and they started asking for biscuits and gravy, it was pretty obvious that we weren’t from around there.

My dad always felt it mandatory to tease waitresses. Mom said he was flirting, but I don’t think he was. He talked to everyone.

Never meeting a stranger can either go well for you or go the other way. Especially if they aren’t partial to strangers and they’re in charge of fixing your food.

After leaving for Dodge City, we played, “Count the Cows,” and “I Spy.”

Kids didn’t have cell phones and video games then. Families actually talked to each other.

In Dodge City, we rode a real stagecoach, saw a staged gunfight, and some dancehall girls.

My mom has the 8mm movies to prove it.

Heading out for Carlsbad Caverns, my sister and I said we were hungry. Mom was always prepared.

No self-respecting Southern mom ever hit the road without a sack of light bread, Miracle Whip, fake cheese, and baloney.

I’m not sure if every state in the US had a roadside picnic park every few miles or so, but it sure seemed like it.

Dad would guide the Buick into the next one we saw and we’d stop to use the facilities, and make sandwiches. Also in the grocery sack were Fritos and Lay’s.

Our ice chest carried bottles of Coca Cola and Dr. Pepper.

To this day I don’t think I’ve ever had a better meal than a baloney sandwich, Fritos, and an ice cold Dr. Pepper in a bottle at roadside park.

Arriving at Carlsbad Caverns, we walked. A lot.

My parents were exhausted after going through the caves. Dad carried my sister and mom held my hand. It was very cool in the caverns. This was a stark contrast to the New Mexico summer temps on the surface, and inside the Buick, which didn’t have AC.

The return trip was about the same as the trip up, except for having to stop near the top of a mountain because the car overheated.

The state trooper who stopped said at that altitude, cars did that a lot. If we’d nurse it to the top, the downhill trip would cool off the engine.

He was right.

On the way home, more roadside picnics with baloney sandwiches, Fritos, and cold Dr. Peppers. And we talked to each other.

That’s something we should bring back. Talking civilly to each other. If parents still taught their kids that that’s how society should act, maybe some of the college kids today wouldn’t act the way that they do.

If not, we could always find a few Volkswagens and see how many of them we can fit in there.

Enjoy reading this column? Want to read more like this? Support your local community newspaper, subscribe to The Wylie News today!

By John Moore | thecountrywriter.com. 

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