A summer seen through a windshield

David Atwood Points of the Compass
Posted 8/2/13

I got an email asking me about NEXT summer’s travel plans to the family reunion. Really? We haven’t finished this year’s travel yet, but I guess it is never too early to dream.

To say, “We have traveled a lot this summer,” are words …

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A summer seen through a windshield


I got an email asking me about NEXT summer’s travel plans to the family reunion. Really? We haven’t finished this year’s travel yet, but I guess it is never too early to dream.

To say, “We have traveled a lot this summer,” are words that are grossly inadequate in describing our sojourning, and all of it driven, hence, a summer seen through a windshield. It would be easier to list the events that have transpired at home, than to chronicle our travels, but traveling is the subject and driving the means.

I have always loved to drive, even before I could. I would sit in the seat of the family car, in the driveway, in the hot Texas sun for hours, touching the knobs, playing with the levers and turning the wheel as far as my little boy arms could, and dream of all the places I would someday drive.

When I became legal and the car actually moved out of the driveway, my dreams began to come true. I loved the wind blowing through the open windows and the power poles flashing by in my peripheral vision like a big picket fence. Yes, I was going fast, and I love that even more. I dreamed of the freedom to go places far away.

When I got to college with the freedom to fulfill that secondary dream, reality reached up and slapped me hard. Travel cost money, and I didn’t have any. There were occasions when fellow students would pool our money to go to a ski resort, or some such. We would have enough for gas or food, but not both. We opted for gas. You would be surprised how long four guys can survive on a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter when travel and adventure are in the offing. There are song lyrics in there somewhere.

In those days, I would drive for hours on end, loving every minute of it. My hip did not ache, I did not have to find facilities every hour to an hour-and-a-half, and a slice of bread smeared with peanut butter was a meal fit for a king, because behind the wheel of a car, I was a king. I still am, and can afford to go most anywhere I want to now, but with that ability has come the dreaded A-G-E, and its limitations.

In my younger days, the essentials for a car were low lines, hot colors, no top, and lots of power. For the last car I bought, the primary concerns were economy, how well the seat fit my butt, and was it 8-way, power adjusted. The color was to be white to keep the interior cool, and the seats light color for the same reason. No more backside blisters from black vinyl seats for me. Whoever thought those were a good idea ought to be shot.

So it is that this year, way back in January when we started to plan our summer’s wanderings, I was looking on various websites for the gas stations with the cleanest restrooms, and spaced no more than two hours apart. It seems that with the coming of the dreaded A-G-E, my bladder has shrunk rather than maintain its youthful size and capacity. This year was also the first time I dreaded driving long distances.

Before you suggest letting the Admiral drive, I need to explain why that is not feasible. I do not question her skills. She is a fine driver, and it is not the macho thing of the man doing the driving, no, it is the fact that I will not do her job.

She sits in the passenger seat with her feet concealed by purses and bags, crammed with items should they be needed in a moment’s notice. The ice chest and food bags are within her reach. When we stop, she has to excavate herself from the seat, and shoehorn her way back into place. She is also responsible for refereeing any disagreements among the Princesses and the dog, holding the dog when negotiations break down, and doing a constant number of lesser tasks to ensure everyone’s comfort. I would rather drink energy drinks, and have my hip hurt so badly I am crying in agony and cannot feel my foot, than give up the driver’s seat.

Since May, we have logged close to 6,000 miles, with another 1,500-mile trip to go. To pun the name of a 50s western, “Have computer (and everything else we own) Will Travel.” It has been a wild summer.

Work has suffered, the bank account is dipping dangerously near the red, and I long for rest, but before you think it is all drudgery, let me tell you the rewards. I have seen a son graduate from his medical residency, met a future daughter-in-law, seen a daughter MS free, reconnected with old and dear friends through their grown children who I will see on this next trip, along with my aged father and other relatives. I have hugged half of my 12 grandchildren, and seen miles and miles of sights I still dream to see.

There may be better panoramic devices through which to experience this, but the windshield of a car doing 70 in air-conditioned comfort while listening to a movie the Princesses are watching in crisp, clear stereophonic sound on the way to see people I love, and sights of my dreams, is the way for me to go.

I am glad for the email about the family reunion. I am dreaming of next summer. In my dreams, I am not tired, I don’t hurt, and there is that vista of miles of sights and telephone poles clicking away like a picket fence all seen through a windshield.

David Wilson Atwood is a local writer whose human-interest columns offer a unique perspective. He may be contacted at david@starchasers.us.