The idea of just what constitutes a road trip has evolved for me over the years. As a boy growing up in the country, any trip to town (other than to school) was an adventure. Riding in the pickup with dad to the implement dealer or grain elevator was much more exciting than riding in the car with mom to pick up groceries.
The real adventure, the real road trip, was found in riding the stock truck to St. Joseph. When a load of hogs or a load of cattle was to be shipped, the livestock was generally penned and loaded onto the truck on a Sunday evening. Once everything was loaded, my brother and I would ask permission to ride with the truck driver all the way to the stockyards and back.
It was about a 50-mile trip from our farm to the stockyards, and it was quite exciting for a couple of preteens. After the animals were unloaded, the driver would stop at a small diner along the route home. We were prepared for the stop, as dad would give each of us two dollars and explain that we weren’t to spend all of it on ourselves.
We were instructed to order about $1.50 worth of food, leaving enough for tax and tip. We felt really grown up then, and usually managed to get home with some change. Of course, we kept it.
After I went to the university, the term road trip took on an entirely new meaning. A road trip usually constituted a car completely full of guys that might pass inspection on a good day and have at least half a tank of gas. It wasn’t necessary that the trip have a destination, just plenty of refreshments and someone old enough to buy. The trips were generally short, as most of us had more time than funds.
Today, road trips are for vacations or for the purpose of visiting family. This past month has been a month of road trips for us.
In Missouri, we’ve been to Branson, the Lake of the Ozarks and Kansas City (several times). We’ve visited Le Sueur and St. Paul in Minnesota and mostly recently Lindsborg and Salina in Kansas. Although we did stop and visit a cousin in Ames, I have concluded that Iowa is a drive-through state.
While on these trips, whether I’m driving or not, my mind has plenty of time to wander. Not that my mind doesn’t ordinarily wander on its own, but there’s nothing like a good road trip for me to conjure up some incredibly uninteresting questions that I’d like answered.
For instance, who came up with the idea of rumble strips? No complaints here, I happen to appreciate them. They have more than once grabbed my attention when it needed grabbing. But who came up with the idea? Was it someone like me whose mind isn’t necessarily where it should be while driving?
One more thing — why in world is there every so often one lone, solitary shoe on the side of the road? And why is there only one? Where is the other one and why is that one here and not with its mate? Did someone throw it out of a car, or was it left on the roof of a car? I find this much more puzzling than seeing a pair of shoes on the shoulder.
Another random thought going through the process of my imagination was bench seats as opposed to bucket seats. I remember when almost all the cars had bench seats in the front and back and only sports cars had bucket seats. As a teenager, it was really cool driving around in the family sedan with a good-looking cheerleader sitting right beside me.
I had a flashback to those good old days on a return trip from one of our Kansas City excursions. I saw a young man, driving an older car with his arm draped over the bench seat. From my vantage point, several car lengths behind and in the left lane, it appeared that he and his honey were out for an evening cruise.
As we were passing his vehicle, I peered to my right to get a better look. His date was a dog.
That’s right! It appeared to be an Afghan Hound or some other long-hair breed, but it was a real live dog. My daydream was shattered, time to turn up the radio and drive.