Guest Posts on County 10 are provided by contributors and the opinions, thoughts, and comments within are their own and may not necessarily reflect those of County 10.
Time changes our perception of the world. Our memories often change our perception as well, especially of things faded by the passage of time.
I reread “Catcher in the Rye,” and “On the Road” during the last year. These “coming of age” novels from the early days of the counter revolution were almost required reading for a generation ready to rebel against the standards of their parents. Both were set around youthful, carefree travel.
As a kid, Holden Caufield seemed adventurous, wise beyond his years, and a character worth emulating. As an adult reading the book again Caufield needed his tail kicked and sent off to military school.
As for Jack Kerouac’s classic, his two main characters, Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, they didn’t come across as suave, savvy adults on my second reading, but instead were spoiled, entitled punks who needed an attitude adjustment.
It was time acting on my view of the world.
The road as a metaphor for our existence is a viable one. That’s the power of the road as a way of explaining our existence.
Tangible tales of the road are quite different, and sometimes stand out starkly against the beige backdrop of memory that usually blankets remembrance of the past.
One summer we made an epic road trip from Sacramento, California to Arkansas, Wyoming and then back home to where my dad was stationed at Mather Air Force Base. It was south to Bakersfield, then east across the Mojave to Route 66. We saw the amazing expanse of Albuquerque from the west in the wee hours of the night along that famous highway.
In the summer heat, we traveled by night, and found inexpensive roadside motels during the day. At one stop east of Albuquerque later that same day, my little sister and I swam in the pool most of the day and ate picnic lunches outside with our mom as dad slept inside. As darkness approached, we loaded the 1962 Chevy Nova Wagon and kept heading east towards my grandparents cotton farm near Marianna, Arkansas.
After a couple of weeks in Arkansas, we turned northwest, heading for our other grandparents in Riverton. On one of those long nights, Dad was tired. Mom and Susie were asleep in the back seat and he stopped at a roadside diner in the middle of rural Nebraska.
He handed me a thermos, one of those plaid style one-quart models so popular in the 50s and 60s, and 50 cents. “Fill it with coffee and put a little cream on the top,” he told me.
I opened the door of the diner at just after midnight and the place was rocking with a loud jukebox belting out “Going to Fist City” by Loretta Lynn.
A friendly gal behind the counter asked me what I needed and she obliged, giving me 15 cents in change and a full thermos.
It’s funny the things you remember as a 12 year old kid.
Jump ahead a few years and my dad and I were returning from F.E. Warren Air Force Base where I’d just taken the physical for an appointment to the United States Naval Academy.
We were taking turns driving his 1969 Plymouth Satellite station wagon.
We filled up in Casper as the sun set, but as we crossed the desert on US 20/26 towards Shoshoni the headlights began to dim.
We knew the alternator must be out, and if we stopped the car, we’d never be able to get it started again with a dead battery. The lights gradually grew dimmer until they shut down completely.
Dad was driving and he got behind a semi and held his distance until we reached Shoshoni. He pulled into the gas station that used to sit where the Fast Lane is located and had the battery charged for about an hour.
We loaded up, and made the last 25 miles home to the farm.
Traveling with the reliability of your father’s experience is one thing, being on your own or responsible for others is a different point of view.
Laramie is notorious for winter storms arriving just before Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring Break. College kids at UW can set their watches by it.
One Wednesday before Thanksgiving I set out as a storm rolled in from the west. I knew if I stayed I’d likely be stuck in Laramie for the entire four day break. I made it almost to Arlington in my 1969 Rambler American before a gust of wind sent the light, low powered car spinning in the right lane. As I turned the second complete “cookie” in the road I saw the huge tires of a tractor trailer roll by just inches away.
I made it to the A-frame convenience store at Arlington, put chains on the Rambler and limped back to Laramie still in time for dinner at the cafeteria. The next day I took the Medicine Bow Cutoff to Casper and made it home for Thanksgiving dinner.
As a first year teacher in Lusk I sometimes drove back to Laramie on the weekends to hang out with friends. On one trip I stayed too late Sunday afternoon. A winter storm was raging with strong winds. The road from Manville by Guernsey Reservoir saved at least 45 minutes over the I-25 route from Sybille Canyon to Orin Junction but wasn’t traveled as much. At around midnight I was greeted by a snowdrift covering the road about 25 miles south of Manville. My choices were to backtrack and take another two to three hours to reach home or gun the 1978 Ford Fairmont and plow through the drift. I was 24-years old, you know the rest.
At 75 mph I hit the drift, spun one way and then back the other and nearly stalled just as the tires grabbed the dry pavement. I was home in about 30 minutes.
A final adventure came last Saturday in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. We dropped our granddaughter Jayne’s Pinewood Derby car off at the competition site and decided to do a little shopping.
A wet, heavy snow blanketed the road, but Adam and Staci’s Honda Odyssey never had problems with wet roads before.
It did this time. As we climbed up a steep hill on a narrow two-lane road the van’s front tires spun out. Adam coaxed it as well as he could but we were stuck. After a few minutes, I got out to push the van, as Staci put towels down in front of the wheels for traction. Adam joined me when this failed after moving the van a few yards. Staci took the wheel.
Cars passed us constantly and unlike Wyoming, where five of the first 10 guys to pass would have hopped out to help push, no one stopped.
We finally reached an area where Staci could back up and turn the van around and made it to the competition.
Jayne and Norah were nervous, but we’d survived another challenge on the road.
My attitude was vastly different with my little granddaughters in the van than it had been with just me driving.
That’s a lesson from the road that we all eventually come to learn.