Recently, friends of mine who were living in Colorado, sold most of their worldly goods and purchased an RV (recreational vehicle). They decided to pick up their roots and set out onto the paved tarmacs of the USA to discover where the road might take them. Last I heard they’d been to Texas visiting relatives and were now en route to Oklahoma to spend time with more family. They are posting their progress on social media and I’ve read that they are taking as many back roads as possible, all in a quest to circumvent the billboards and rest stops and see how real America lives. During a phone call not so long ago they told me they intend to travel until someplace somewhere feels like home again. I wish them all the blessings for a safe trip and keeping my fingers crossed that their journey takes them past my front door.
To say that I am a bit jealous would be an understatement. I was fortunate in my youth to have traveled through much of this country and Canada. I did it living out of a van, then on a motorcycle, and finally hitchhiking the two-thousand miles from the deserts of Nevada to the polluted skies of New Jersey. But I was a much younger man then, and though the road still calls me, it awaits my odyssey via the modern convenience of a fully-equipped cabin on wheels! My friends have the right idea. Unfortunately, I have neither the time to spare nor the necessary capital to execute such an adventure, so I will content myself with the progress of two people dear to me who are fulfilling a dream and willing to share their exploits with this manacled civilian.
It’s a shame, though, because I’m one of those people who find great joy being on the road with good music and good company. The Mrs. and I always preferred the vacation destinations that were accessible by car, or in our case, a van or an SUV. I’m not a car guy, preferring the seated elevation of an SUV over their too-low-to-the-road motorized brethren. Years back my endurance far exceeded what I am capable of today. The love of the road is still there but I tire more easily after a few hours and need a break for safety’s sake. Still, given the means I’d point my vehicle west, north or south, whatever direction appealed to me at the time, press down on the accelerator, crank up the satellite radio, and just drive, baby, just drive.
I mention satellite radio, a modern convenience in today’s vehicles. Traveling on the road today is a far different experience than it was not so long ago. My SUV tells me how to get where I’m going (no more Rand McNally road atlas maps), hits the brakes for me when I don’t and should have, keeps me in my lane on the highway if I stray to the left or right, reads my text messages out loud, and even suggests nearby places of interest, as well as places to eat or stay. A beeping noise and a light on the dash lets me know if my tire pressure is okay, or my windshield fluid is getting low, or my oil needs changing. Those last few alerts have been around for a while but now my SUV relays the same info to some central computerized brain at my car dealer’s shop. Inside this state-of-the-art modern transportation conveyance, there are a dozen spots that will hold my coffee cup and more than a few outlets to charge my phone or iPod in. Years ago we called these cigarette lighters. Who knew their potential in the days of tobacco smoke-infested interiors of the cars of our youth?
I remember the halcyon days of car worshiping, bowing to the mechanical marvels of our time such as a 1957 Chevy, a ’65 Mustang, ’54 Ford, ’62 Mercury, ’65 Pontiac GTO…the list goes on and on. These cars were tanks compared to modern sedans. They came with very large eight-cylinder engines (V8’s) and their steering wheels, in most of them, were oversized. Their dashboards told you how fast you were driving and what RPMs (revolutions per minute) you were pushing, how many miles your car has driven, and that was it! No airbags, no disc brakes, no satellite radios. They were also way too powerful for their construction, lucky if they even had seat belts and we never used them, in any case. Real death traps, but you know what? They got us from point A to point B and they didn’t have bucket seats in the front; just one long bench seat that ran from the driver’s window to the passenger’s window. It was real easy to have your best girl sit right next to you while you cruised the boulevard in your gas-guzzling metal menace. We didn’t care, because, after all, gas was only .23 cents a gallon!
Here in my car / I feel safest of all / I can lock all my doors / It’s the only way to live / In cars .
-from Cars by Gary Numan