Six Years on the Road

Even with a photograph in hand, I can’t tell you much about this car I helped to wash so many times. I never knew the make or model, and todayI’m not even certain of the color.

On the other hand, I remember the back seat perfectly well.  My world-on-wheels came furnished with a red plaid wool stadium blanket, a plastic solitaire game with red and blue pegs, and a doll suitcase filled with crayolas and colored tablets, paper dolls, and a pile of Golden Books.  Whether it was a jaunt over to the A&W for root beer floats, an evening at the drive-in movies, or a trip to my grandparents’ house, the back seat was mine.  It was my castle, my refuge, my tiny bit of homestead to do with as I pleased.

On longer trips, tiring of books and paper dolls, I’d stretch out on the seat and pretend to sleep, while the low murmurings of my mother and father tucked a conversational blanket around me. Sometimes I drifted into sleep, secure against my pillows, enjoying the sense of movement and the soft hum of tires on concrete.

Eventually, I began to take more interest in the trips themselves. No longer content to sleep away the miles, I dangled my arms over the front seat and chattered away.  We played car games that involved the whole family, reading the Burma Shave signs, looking for out-of-state license plates, or “stamping” white horses in the fields for luck. 

Filled with a child’s eagerness and impatience, I asked questions common to travelers since Moses led his little band out of Egypt toward the Promised Land. “How much longer?  How much farther?  Are we there yet?”

One day, I noticed the slowly turning numerals of the car’s odometer, and discovered a new form of entertainment.  Every time a series of nines showed up, it was especially exciting. To see 4,999 miles was just as good as seeing 99,999, and I loved those “big days” when the nines turned themselves into zeros.

The fascination lingered into adulthood.  When my last Toyota clicked over to 100,000 miles, I smiled approvingly. At 200,000 miles, I gave it a pat on its dashboard and whispered small, congratulatory sentiments into its engine compartment.  As 300,000 miles approached, I developed a case of nerves.  Would it die before reaching the benchmark?  Might it be killed in an accident?  Would it commit some sort of ghastly mechanical suicide while my back was turned? 

In the end, nothing untoward happened.  I drove around for a few extra miles one evening in order to witness the grand event, and then smiled with  satisfaction when the magical 300,000 mile mark rolled into view.

I’ve had opportunities galore to watch odometers chew through great chunks of mileage, particularly during vacation trips. But, as I learned while still a child, there are vacations, and then there are vacations.  Not all parents were as easy-going as mine.

My dad was a car guy, and enjoyed nothing so much as getting up and going, but he liked to combine a little education and fun with his appetite for the open road.  Our family trips took us to Colorado,  South Dakota, Kentucky, and Louisiana. We waded across the Mississippi at her source, and explored the muddy Delta where she ends. 

When we weren’t fishing in Minnesota, we visited with Paul Bunyan and Babe, his great Blue Ox.  We carried home glass tubes filled with sediment samples from the iron ore mines near Hibbing, and chunks of granite and basalt from Colorado.  Indian Corn from the Dakotas decorated our front door in the fall, and photographs proving we’d thrown snowballs at the Continental Divide made it to Show-and-Tell. 

We even had a real adventure or two.   I still remember a horse-drawn ferry at a Kentucky river crossing, and a wonderfully terrifying, stuff-of-family-legends night in Rainy River, Ontario, where we landed in a room above a tavern that came complete with B-grade movie neon lights shining outside the window, a B-grade ruckus in the bar, and a chair shoved under the doorknob for a little extra security

With vacations ended and families returned home, my friends and I compared notes on our summers.  The year we traveled to a Minnesota lake and stayed in a cabin, I was telling excited tales of fish, snails, and leeches when a classmate looked at me and said, “Yeah, well…  We drove over 3,000 miles.”   When I asked where they’d gone, she said, “All over.”  When I asked what they’d done, she said, “We drove.”

Looking back on it now, I wonder if Robert Paul Smith didn’t have a similar experience. His memoir, Where Did You Go? Out. What Did You Do? Nothing, makes the point that kids always are doing something — most of it quite interesting — while adults generally have neither the time nor the inclination to find out what’s happening under their very noses. 

In the case of my classmate’s family, the “nothing” they experienced on vacation was about as close to nothing as you could get. Their two weeks were filled with highways, gas stations, and bad road food. They spent the bulk of their time trading drivers and trying to figure out how far they could go before they had to turn around and head back. 

Every year, it was the same.  When September arrived and it was time to answer the question — “What did you do on your summer vacation?” — most of us wrote about camp, fishing and swimming, or trips to exotic destinations like Omaha. And every year our little friend bragged, “We drove 3,000 miles.”

We never knew quite how to feel about it.  Sometimes we were jealous. Sometimes we asked a question or two, just to be polite. Most of the time, we simply told our own stories and moved on.

A little less than six years ago, three months after I began writing here at “The Task at Hand”, those memories came back in a rush.  Logging  on to my dashboard one late afternoon, I was surprised to see that, after just three months of blogging, 4,996 page views had been recorded.

Looking at the graph, I was as mesmerized as a ten-year-old hanging over the front seat of the family car, waiting for the odometer to roll over. I was going out for dinner that night and needed to leave, but I couldn’t move.  The total views clicked up to 4,997, and then to 4,998. 

With the total sitting at 4,999, I finally pushed back my chair and left.  I just couldn’t bring myself to make a phone call and say, “Sorry I’m going to be a little late. I’m waiting for the blogometer to roll over to 5,000.” Even if I’d made the call, they wouldn’t have understood.

Arriving back home later that evening, I found the page still showing 4,999 views.  Whether or not it was direct intervention by the Great Cyber Gods I can’t say, but I got a screen shot of my first 5,000 page views. The image stayed in my files for a year or two, but over time it became less and less important.  Eventually, I deleted it.

In the intervening years, I’ve done a good bit of thinking about blog stats, followers, and the frantic search for page views and likes. Six years ago, I knew very little about blogging, but I knew something about journeys. I knew I didn’t want to be the vacationer who travels thousands of miles only to return home with no stories to tell, any more than I wanted to be a traveler so odometer-focused I had no time to glance at the scenery along the way.

Certainly, I had goals for my writing when I began this journey on April 19, six years ago. I still do, and those goals include increasing readership.  But questions that began forming as early as childhood still apply. Am I traveling to see the sights, meet some people and enjoy the experience, or am I traveling simply in order to brag about the miles I’ve covered when I get back home? 

If you’ve come to know me at all, you know my answer. When another anniversary rolls around and I’m peering at the blogometer, no matter what the numbers say, I’ll be thinking about them in the context of writing, readers, and the relationships with people and life they represent. 

Sometimes, you have to drive to get somewhere.  But whether you’re driving three thousand miles, or three hundred, or thirty, there’s no reason not to enjoy the scenery, and even less reason not to pull over now and then, kick off your shoes, order a drink and have some conversation with the locals.  You might hear a good story or two, and you might have something more than miles to talk about when you get home.

Comments are welcome.  And a special welcome to those who have arrived here from the “Freshly Pressed” page. You’re welcome to join in the conversation, but please respect my preference for No Re-Blogging. 

139 thoughts on “Six Years on the Road

  1. Oh, I envy you your childhood vacations. Our family never took vacations together — too many kids (9), too much farmwork including milking twice a day for many years, too little money. I think that deprivation is part of the reason I love traveling in my adulthood. It was a big thing if my sister and I could spend a week at my grandparents’ house in town or my cousins’ home in the Cities.

    I love how you segued into blogging statistics. I don’t have the readership you do, and I rarely look at my statistics. It is interesting to read one of my favorite blogger’s comments about our shared interests. You have built a loyal following due to the quality of your writing and thinking. Congratulations.

      1. One of my classmates came from a family of nine kids. They lived on the outskirts of town, and had animals and barns, too, though they weren’t farmers. Whenever I went out to visit my friend, I did a lot of standing around in awe, just watching the pandemonium.

    1. Rosemary, now that I’m older, I wish that I’d had siblings. But I didn’t, and there were some advantages — like that big back seat.

      My family’s vacation situation was a little different. Remember our Maytag connection? My dad worked for Maytag, and our town was a company town. Every July, the factories shut down for two weeks for maintenance, and all of the employees took vacation.

      The result was that for those two weeks Newton was like Paris in August. Most of the Maytag employees left town and, as a consequence, many other local businesses closed. I think that old-fashioned schedule changed, eventually, but as long as Dad was there, “Maytag vacation” was a ritual.

      As I look back over the years, what interests me most is how the lessons I learned in building a business stood me in such good stead here — especially lessons about persistence, but not only that.

      What amuses me the most is remembering my biggest fear when I began — that I’d run out of topics to write about. So far, so good. Thanks for the encouragement.


  2. Good laugh at “Not all parents were as easy-going as mine.” Lesson #1 in compassion for others! And that set the tone for your temperament.

    I only see my stats by accident. I never want to know who or how many. I prefer to think there are maybe 6 people out there reading. But the times I have caught a glimpse of The Number I have quickly dismissed it. It’s lovely to make new bloggy friends, but it’s scary in outer space…

    1. I had to think about that a little, Martha, because while my Dad was as easy-going as they come, Mom could be a little anxiety-ridden and compulsive from time to time. But in the end, she really was flexible and open to new experiences. So, easy-going for her, too.

      When I first began, I paid more attention to the numbers than I do now, but I’m still fascinated by where people come from. I especially love looking at the search terms. For six years, Leonard Cohen’s two Suzannes, Suzanne Elrod and Suzanne Verdal, have been at the top of my list. Apparently fascination with the song and the stories that go along with it aren’t about to fade.


  3. Hi Linda:

    Wow! What a wonderful post about cars, driving, signs, vacations and blogging. We didn’t have a family car in Changuinola where I grew up. My father had a company car that used the railroad instead of a normal road. So we had no driving experience in our small world of Chiquita Bananas .

    When I started working, my father gave me a fantastic Ford Fairlane station wagon. I cried the day I sold it. It had six cylinders and we couldn’t afford the cost of gasoline. Instead we purchased a compact Nissan Bluebird and now we own a four-cylinder 2006 Toyota Corolla. I don’t enjoy driving. Our car is mainly used for close-to-home errands.

    Blogging is something else. That’s where my foot pushes the pedal all the way down to the bottom of the floor. That’s where the nines turn into zeros as fast as you can wink an eye. Photography is following suit.

    I’m glad you’re a blogger and a photographer as well. Because of that I’m able to learn the ropes with pros like you.

    You have an amazing blog. Keep those posts coming.



    1. I grew up around some of those cars-that-drive-on-railroad-tracks, Omar. In fact, I still see some BNSF (Burlington, Northern & Santa Fe) modern versions here and there. I couldn’t find an old image from Iowa, but I’ll bet this Forest Service car is very much like the one your dad used.

      I’ve never heard of the Bluebird. I see its successor is the Altima, and that, in its day, it competed against the Toyota Corona. Now, you and I both have Corollas — the only difference being that I love to drive mine!

      I do know someone who still has a wood-paneled Fairlane station wagon. They use it on their ranch, and car buffs in their town just cry every time they see them loading dirt or fence posts or who knows what into the thing. The last time I saw it, it was running just fine and looked great, although the fenders clearly had been doing their job.

      There are plenty of ways to travel in this world. Getting in the car and going is one way, but writing and photography can be just as exciting and engrossing. Not only that, you’ve managed to combine physical travel with photography and blogging, thanks to the new metro. That’s pretty special, too!


      1. Linda,

        I took a look at the railroad car to see if it was similar to the one my dad used for work. I recall his car was like a real autmobile with roof and everything. It even had a wagon on the back where he would put his papers and files. The number of his car was 190 and he even had a driver specially assigned to him.

        Those were the golden days of the ole United Fruit Company based in Boston, Massachusetts. I think they also owned a fleet of beautiful banana boats known as the “White Fleet” due to its snow-white-colored ships.

        Thank you for the link,


        1. My gosh, Omar. Those ships are beautiful. I found a site with a gorgeous image here. I started reading and couldn’t stop, it was so interesting. Of course you know that the ships were white, in order to help keep the bananas cool. Thanks for giving me those clues. I’m going to do some more reading when I get a few things caught up.

  4. Your journeys, even the car cleaning, remind me so much of our family trips in the car. I didn’t have the back seat to myself but it was still great. I do look at my statistics and it’s lovely to have people view my blog and comment but I am not fixated on those items. I want to write my story for others to share. And I hope they do. :)

    1. Gallivanta, after an experience like that of your city, having people both willing and able to pick through the rubble to find instances of beauty and hope is invaluable. You do that, and I suspect your blog has a greater reach than even you realize.

      I passed a link to your blog on to a friend, and in return she sent me this article from The Guardian. It was a lovely complement to your post about the art, but what I really enjoyed was the link to the Cardboard Cathedral. You may have written about it — I’ll have to come and take a look.

      If I could attend Easter worship anywhere, that would be my choice. If William Morris had built a cathedral, yours might have been it.


        1. I’ve read the one about the early stages of construction already, and look forward to following the links. It always amazes me when I stumble across something to wonderful that I’ve never heard of. Who knows how many other wonders are scattered about the world?

          1. The world has endless wonders, of that I am sure.
            ‘The world is so full of a number of things,
            I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.’ Robert Louis Stevenson. This was another popular verse to put in autograph books. :)

  5. Hmmm…reading this gives me new insights into the giant peachoid.

    I am so glad that our blogging paths crossed. If I never get to see Paul Bunyan and Babe or any of the multitude of meaningful adventures you have and (will continue to have), it is an honor to ride along on your memories.

    1. OK, Hippie. I’ll see your Peachoid and raise you the World’s Largest Pecan. It’s 1,144 miles between the two attractions – who knows how many adventures could be had in that distance?

      It’s flat fun to have you riding along. Who else can I count on to keep me up with popular culture? (Peachoid. Gaffney. House of Cards… See?) Who knows what we’ll turn up next?


      1. I’d like to see the World’s Largest Ball of Twine (somewhere in Kansas) someday, too.

        When I saw the peachoid, it was just a peachoid, before it rose to infamy via House of Cards. I was driving by myself, which gave me the luxury of pulling off the road to check it out. There is more to the story, maybe enough for a blog post. Or not. Have been sitting for too long today.

        1. Just for grins, I went and checked. Sure enough, the World’s Largest Ball of Twine (in Cawker City) is just north of the Barbed Wire Museum. Their barbed wire swap meet and convention looks pretty darned cool. They’re even crowning a Miss Barbed Wire. I wonder if she’ll be prettier than our Miss Wharf Rat?

    1. I love “smart” and “precision”, Ladybugg. Thanks so much for those wonderful, complimentary words.

      On the other hand, “smart” can slide into pedantic, and sometimes “precision” can become lifeless. I try and keep my eye out for those tendencies.


    1. Ruth, I would have given anything to ride the trains. I had an occasional bus ride, but I didn’t get to ride a train until I was older.

      On the other hand, my parents and grandparents, and the rest of their family and friends, often took the train from one small Iowa town to another. Occasionally, they’d make arrangements to meet one another — by postcard. I have a few of them, and they’re wonderful. Often there would be nothing but a greeting, a few words about the train schedule, a request to be met or a note that it wasn’t necessary, and then a signature.

      Sometimes I laugh at the concerns over security these days. In the early 1900s, everyone knew your business. Hard not to, when it’s transacted by postcard.


  6. Ah, the days before seatbelts or mandatory seat belt laws and the freedom to do what you wanted in the backseat or to dangle over the front.

    While we didn’t take vacations, there were innumerable visits to my paternal grandparent’s farm, the annual family reunion or the biannual visits to see my maternal grandmother.

    I remember leaning back under the rear window on the drive home from the farm on late Sunday evenings. Looking at the stars.

    Sibling squabbles. “MAMA! Larry’s touching me!” “HE”S ON MY SIDE!” and other complaints.

    When my brother and I weren’t fighting over the back seat, we played Cow Poker, looked for state license plates that were missing from our list or played our Alphabet game.

    We’d done that drive to the farm so many times, I never had to ask “Are we there yet.” I knew all the landmarks and could gauge how much longer, on my own.

    I dreaded those “What I Did This Summer” essays. I never thought my summers were particularly interesting. Especially compared to those classmates that went on Vacations to places I dreamed of. Now that those days are long gone, I enjoy remembering them.

    1. Isn’t that just the truth, Gué? I’m not opposed to wearing seat belts. It’s a reasonable thing to do, and one may have saved my life back in the ’80s. But when I look at these families all tucked up, strapped in, and focused on their iGadgets to the exclusion of everyone and everything else? We had it better.

      Besides, by the time they get done regulating everything within reach, it’s not going to be much of a world. If they come for my Oreos, there’s going to be trouble.

      We made a trip over to my grandparents’ house at least twice a month. It was only a 35 mile drive, so we could come home from church and Sunday School and make it in time for dinner at noon.
      We never had a family reunions as such, but at Thanksgiving and over the Christmas holidays everyone converged. It was quite a rite of passage to be promoted from one of the children’s tables to a Big People table.

      I just love hearing the stories of the sibling squabbles.But I have to know — what’s cow poker? That sounds to me like something that could make a heck of an essay. For that matter, so could many of our “ordinary” days. I never understood as a child why it was that the adults could seem so happy to be just sitting on the porch, waving to the neighbors and talking with one another. I think I have a better fix on that, now.


      1. Cow Poker was choosing one side of the road and counting all the cows, as best you could. Kinda hard to do, as we passed those pastures pretty fast.

        Whoever had the most cows when we reached our destination, won. BUT if you passed a cemetery, your count went back to zero.

        After some years of driving that route up to Granny and Papa’s, Larry and I knew which side of the road had the most cemeteries and, thus, which side was most likely to win. That generated another sibling spat: which side of the backseat we got. “SHE/HE HAD THAT SIDE THE LAST TIME!”

        Obviously, Cow Poker can only be played if there’s a chance of seeing cows. I suppose anyone with a little imagination could come up with another version.

        Note: I am pretty sure this is something Mama invented to try to keep me and my brother from killing each other before we got to Granny and Papa’s. Or to keep her and Dad from killing us.

        Yeah, I have a better fix on porch sittin’, myself, these days.

        1. I swear, we “only children” did miss out on a good bit. I’ve been trying to remember other games we played. There was an alphabet game of some sort, and of course we sang. Remember the scene in “A Christmas Story” where Mom, Ralphie and his little brother are belting out “Jingle Bells”? Umm-hmmm..

          Let’s see. “John, Jacob, Jingleheimer Schmidt”. Remember that one? Lord have mercy, it’s on YouTube. And then there was “Do Your Ears Hang Low?”, “Sarasponda”, and of course the old classic, “Ninety Nine Bottles of Beer.” They’re on YouTube, too. Apparently not everything in the world is changing as much as we think.

  7. I’m amazed by an event our family celebrated and observed by going to Baskin Robbins. The event: Pile into the black ’54 Chevy and watch the odometer turn to 100,000. The year: summer of ’69. The place: Along Nasa 1 next to Clear Lake, my dad turned to the side of the road so we could just look at all those zeroes and remember.

    Part of my amazement is we had the car for 16 years. It lived two years more after the hundred thousandth mile. Another thing that amazes me is that 14-year old car had “only” traveled 100,000 miles. Nowadays we keep a car for five or six years well past 100,000 miles. Yes, we are traveling faster and covering more miles fewer years apart.

    I play the blogometer game with each 1,000 increment. I first posted 7,000 on facebook and rolled out the count every month or so in round numbers. People ask “What do those numbers mean?” Then I tell them. Ohhhh…

    Congratulations on your staying power and best wishes for continued inspiration. I agree with HC above, “it’s an honor to ride along.” Thank you for the memorable posts, sharing with us, your kind feedback, comments and thoughts in return. I have a feeling that 300,000 mark may have another significance, may not be too far off the mark…or perhaps it is even greater.

    1. Georgette, if that was the Baskin Robbins on Nasa I and El Camino, it’s still there, and busy as can be. The Outpost Tavern may be gone, but some of the old landmarks endure.

      That’s a wonderful tale of your family chalking up some miles, and then celebrating them. Isn’t it amazing to remember the days when 100,000 miles was considered a notable accomplishment?

      I’m not certain, but I think the car in the top photo may have been my folks’ first. I know that in the two years before they married, my dad hitchhiked from the Quad Cities back to the town where he and Mom were raised, in order to see her. Then, after they married and were living in the Quad Cities, there were two or three couples who shared a car. I don’t think they got their own until they moved back to Iowa, and I’m sure it was many years before they could afford another one.

      Thanks for your congratulations. As you so often say yourself, it’s a wonderful community, and quite a pleasure to participate in its life. I enjoy the writing, but I enjoy the reading, too – not only comments here, but also other blogs. Like so many things in the world, the internet can be Janus-faced, but I’d say we’ve had the best of it.


  8. As I said to Rosemary above, we couldn’t fit 9 kids into a car for vacation trips. It always had to be short trips with no overnights. I am #7 down the list. I got one of the far back seats in the car.

    I like your remarks about blogging stats. I do notice them and check how things are going. They are less important as time goes by. It is comforting to know that I have a few reliable readers who stop by and offer some interesting remarks and insights. You are one. Some ask questions. I love questions. I was a teacher, still am.

    Blogging gives me a means to continue to teach. It is an art that requires creativity just as much as anything else. I watch Melanie mull over some pieces of fabric and some various designs. Soon, I hear the familiar low hum of her sewing machine piecing together the scattered scraps of her ideas into her art and expression. We all do it in our own ways.

    btw…my blog-o-meter passed 5000 very recently. I wonder where I’m headed. :-)

    1. Jim, the only times I got to experience things like your family trips were when my classmates and I climbed into cars for field trips or football games. Once we got older, of course, there were even more kids in the car. We not only had the freedom to hang over the front seat, we were free to cram as many of our friends as possible into the car before heading to the drive-in or skating rink.

      As for numbers here, I was more attentive to them in the beginning, but since I’d been maintaining a small presence on another site, I had a few folks who followed me over here. They were gracious enough to comment, and having even one or two comments on a post made it easier to keep on. One of those friends still kids me about the day I had fifty page views. You would have thought I’d won a Nobel Prize.

      You’re right about teaching being an art, and you’re equally right that it’s just one of many ways we express creativity. One of the best things about blogging, in my opinion, is the way it allows still-curious adults to remain students — or regain the joy of learning that school might have squeezed out of them.

      Congrats on your own milestone! You might remember Tom Paxton’s musings on the where-we’re-headed question. I’d forgotten it until your comment – it was one of the first songs I learned to play when I took up guitar.


      1. Tom Paxton is a good song writer and performer. Nice choice. Have you been playing long? I tried to teach myself classical guitar about 35 yrs ago. My sister let me borrow an old guitar. It was too hard.

        About 8 or 9 yrs ago, a teacher colleague let me borrow his electric and amp. I felt better with it. Now, several times a week, I turn on Pandora and play along with my blues buddies like Eric Clapton, etc. It is very satisfying. I have probably learned a ton of wrong things to do. I don’t know chords. I just play by ear and pick out the melodies.

        I enjoy writing and reading some posts by interesting bloggers. I have a nice collection I keep track of. Your writing quality is so good. You know how to tell a story. You set good examples.

        It is late. We got almost 3″ of rain today. Now it is getting colder with snow in the morning forecast. Not much tho.

        1. I started playing in about 1962. I had a 6-string first, then got a nice 12-string when I was in college. I was pretty passionate about it for a few years, and kept playing for about a decade, but when I went to Liberia, that was the end of it. I didn’t take the guitars, because the climate certainly wouldn’t have suited them (or the insects, probably) and when I came home there were other things to do.

          I did sit in from time to time during the late 70s, but then I became a listener rather than a play. Which is fine – musicians need listeners in the same way writers need readers or teachers need students!

          This was our day. We’ve dropped thirty degrees since morning (48F now) and have had rain and hail since noon. Some records may be broken tonight.

  9. I loved this Linda. You described perfectly the sights and scenes along the highways while ensconced in your own little plaid “castle”.

    My Dad was a “get in and get there in a hurry” guy, so it wasn’t as much fun as you describe. I too am an only child, and my choice to pass the hours while driving the 3,000 miles across country was to simply nestle down and sleep and hope we got there soon.

    When our children arrived, we camped every summer. Leaving at 3:00 in the morning to “avoid the heat”, we made a bed in the back seat for kids and dogs. It was great to crash for an hour to catch up on sleep after we got to wherever we were going. I envy your readership, but love all the comments.

    1. That plaid blanket stayed around for a good while, Kayti — for well over half a century. Sometime in Mom’s last years, she added it to a box of things to be taken to Goodwill. When I asked if she really wanted to get rid of it, she gave me the look that made clear she thought she’d raised an idiot child, and said, “Why would we want to keep a too-small, scratchy blanket when there’s all this nice, light fleece now?” I had no good answer, so out it went. But I still remember it.

      There are a few of those “get up and go” sorts in my extended family.They’ll still drive all night to avoid a motel. I used to be able to do it, and would from time to time, but those days are over. My eyesight doesn’t allow for much night driving, and I’m enough my father’s daughter that slow and easy still seems best to me.

      I love the comments, too. They’re always interesting, quite often fun and filled with the various personalities of people who read here. I’m come to think of blog post + comments as a natural pairing. The comments help to complete the post, or open up new avenues of exploration. It’s really quite wonderful. Thanks for adding yours!


  10. Linda, part of me is just pea-green over the delightful childhood you describe! About the only place we ever went was to visit relatives on the brief periods when Daddy could break away (something about running one’s own business that, if one isn’t careful, turns into a 24/7 beast of work!).

    My sis and I usually drew an imaginary line down the middle of that back seat, daring one another to cross it. It wasn’t much of a “vacation” any way you looked at it. I like to think Domer had it better — with a mom who took time off work, traveled to interesting places with him, wasn’t too frazzled to stop and smell the roses!

    I like how you moved into the blog stats. Yes, most of us are interested in growing our readership, but for me at least, those are just numbers. I find it most satisfying, however, to have friends regularly come to share their thoughts and opinions; people I’ve come to “know” and respect; people I’d dearly miss were they to drop out of my sphere. What is it, I wonder, about our fascination with numbers? I can hardly stop myself from watching a digital clock turn “12:34” every time, and I, too, have driven around waiting for the odometer to flip over some zeroes!!

    1. Debbie, I was certain there would be another odometer watcher or two – how interesting that you’re one. And your clock thing makes me smile. Do you ever look at it when it’s “4:32”, and get nervous because the “1” isn’t there in the sequence?

      How well I understand your dad’s quandry – and yours. Drawing the lines when you own your own business is tough, and sometimes it just isn’t possible to get away, no matter how tempting the thought. On the other hand, it can be very easy to get sucked into longer and longer hours. It’s a balancing act, for sure.

      It’s been interesting to read articles about the new pressures on employees since the advent of smart phones, tablets, and such. When work isn’t necesssarily tied to a physical office, it can be even harder to set boundaries.

      I’m like you – the relationships and interactions are as important as the numbers. Besides, slow, organic growth has allowed me to continue interacting with readers on an individual basis. Would I like forty thousand followers and three hundred comments on a post? (Read: Would I like to be Neil Gaiman?) Well, maybe. But probably not, even if I could produce like he does. After all, there’s Bergdorf Goodman, and then there’s The Tog Shop down on Maple Street. You know which one I am.


  11. Linda,
    Well, isn’t this just the best post? You did that delightful thing again. I loved reading your description of that backseat. I remember it well. As I watch the commotion surrounding the strapping-in ritual every time my grandkids leave, I wonder how we all survived. No, I’m not poo pooing seat belts. God no, but oh what freedom we had in that back seat.

    Congrats on your sixth birthday. I’ve enjoyed every minute.

    1. Bella Rum,

      Let me put it this way. When the revolution comes, I’ll be the one riding the bicycle without a helmet, barefooted, with an ice cream cone in one hand and a pile of books in the basket. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

      More and more articles are being written by people who are happy enough to wear seat belts, but who worry about kids who grow up protected from every skinned knee and every bruise to their psyche. May their numbers increase. (The article writers, not the bruised kids.)

      Thanks for the congrats. My, haven’t we weathered some times together. Just so you know, my priorities still are in order. The taxes are done, but I did this blog post first.

      Here’s to the next six!


  12. You brought back many memories of a battleship-sized baby blue 1957 Oldsmobile Super 88 sedan (No wire wheels, alas!) wandering the two-lane highways of the pre-interstate American Southwest.

    My mom would put our suitcases in the foot wells of the back seat and lay our bedding over the seat and suitcases. One year my brother had a railroad engineer’s cap and used the window handle to drive his train. We read the Burma Shave signs. We listened to the radio. We made up limericks. My mom made sandwiches using the glove compartment lid as her work surface. We had an old grey thermos jug with a red spigot and wrote our initial on the bottom of the waxed paper cups we drank our Fizzies from.

    I spun endless speculations and fantasies about the derelict houses we passed out in the wilds of New Mexico, or Colorado, marveled at the scenery, wondered what it was like to live in the places we passed. We rarely stayed in motels or ate in restaurants. We camped in the woods — we had our own tent, fold up army surplus cots, sleeping bags, a Coleman stove and lantern, this clever set of nested pots, pans, dishes and silverware. We covered thousands of miles and saw the sights — White Sands, Yellowstone, Brice, Royal Gorge, Estes Park, Mesa Verde, Grand Canyon. We kept our eyes peeled for the Sinclair gas stations, and later for the Shell stations, because that was the only gas charge card we had. My dad was a traveling salesman at the time, and these were “busman’s holidays” — It was a magical time.

    As for your car, it looks like a Plymouth from the early 1950s, possibly a ’52. Possibly green.

    1. That would have been just a dream, WOL, being able to cruise around in your folks’ car like that. A “busman’s holiday” isn’t the worst thing in the world, that’s for sure.

      Of all the things for you to bring up, though – Fizzies! I wonder how many other odd bits of childhood memory are just lying around, waiting to be triggered. Up in Iowa, we had a counterpart called Lik-M-Aid, which I suspect was nothing more than repackaged Koolaid. You ate it as a powder, and it left you the color of the flavor for a couple of days. It was better than that sweet syrup that came in wax bottles, though.

      We never camped. Mom wasn’t having any of that. On the other hand, they did sleep in the car on a courthouse square one night because they couldn’t find a motel. I must have been just a baby, and Mom was – well, Mom. Dad told me that, after that little episode, he never tried to push it again.

      Even though we didn’t camp, we had a great picnic basket with red, yellow and blue plastic dishes and cutlery. And yes, a thermos like that, too. I’m sure many people today can’t conceive of a world without a convenience store every five miles. We never worried about our hard-boiled eggs or sandwiches going bad, either. Maybe we just ate everything up too quickly.

      You know, in the first draft of this I had recorded the color as a kind of light, gray-green. Then, I wasn’t sure, so I left it out. I think your guess of green is right. My dad always bought Pontiac or Olds later, but this may well be a Plymouth. What I know for sure is that he babied it.


  13. An evocative rendering of a poignant part of childhood.

    Judging by the amount of comments you usually get, I’ll guess your regular readership is about 100.

    If this number was one or two, and you knew this, would you write your pieces any differently?

    1. Christopher, I’m so glad you found it evocative. When I find a piece like that, it’s always a great experience.

      I think perhaps the best way to answer your question is to refer you to my first post. I think it says everything that needs to be said, particularly since my stated intention was to use this space to learn something about how to write. You can find it here.


    1. Isn’t it amazing, montucky? As my friends and I have aged, we’ve spent more time talking about our childhood and youth, and how things have changed. One of the remarkable findings has been how similar our upbringings were. We might have eaten different foods, listened to different music and worshipped differently, but many of the core values — respect for our elders, the value of work, the need to be honest — were the same.

      Weren’t we lucky?!


  14. I loved reading this and your photos are wonderful! I was especially intrigued by your mentions of Minnesota, of course. Just the other day, I drove up to Bemidji for the public radio poetry reading and the directions included turning left at Babe the Blue Ox. Having attended college there, I knew exactly where to turn anyway, but I love those more countrified directions… also the headwaters of the Mississippi played a prominent role in my youth. And, I am curious which resort you stayed at …

    My own family did almost no traveling, other than a few day trips … I’ve made up for it since then.

    Another wonderful piece of writing, and so evocative of a time I loved.

    1. Oh, I’m so glad you stopped by, Teresa Evangeline. I thought of you when I was sorting through the photos of our Minnesota trips. I can’t guarantee it, but I’m sure we were at Northland Lodge on the south shore of Leech Lake. In the photo where I’m holding the fish, you can see “Northl…” on the bow of the boat, and the photos I have show log cabins just like the ones on their site.

      I have some photos of my dad with his walleye, and my cousin and me at the Mississippi headwaters. We generally shared a cabin with other family members – lots of fun. There were other relatives to visit in Winona and Brainerd, so we roamed around a bit.

      I suspect we did more travel vacations than we might have in other circumstances. But when they shut your town down for two weeks and everyone goes away — well, you might as well, too!

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the piece – it’s nice to bring back good memories for someone.


  15. You’ve gotta hand it to Toyota (in spite of recent prominent recalls). I was happy enough when the odometer on my 1998 Avalon turned 200,000 a few weeks ago, but your 300,000 is the most I’ve ever known anyone to get. That deserves plaudits as much as the six years of insights you’ve been providing, and it was good of you to combine the two things.

    1. Now I’m going to go all Paul Harvey on you, and give you the rest of the story. I kept that Toyota until it turned 356,000. Then, I got really nervous. I just knew the repairs I’d been making were going to become more frequent and more expensive.

      So, I sold it for a friends-and-neighbors price to a young, single mother who was in college. It gave her transportation and a good bit more independence than she’d had. By the time she graduated and moved, she was over 400,000 and still going. She swore she’d let me know when it passed 500,000. I told her that if it made it that far, she’d better contact Toyota and get herself a contract to be in one of their ads. Maybe a new car, for all that.

      My dad not only let me help him wash his cars, he taught me how to take care of them. It’s paid off, big-time. All things considered, I probably have my last car. Dear Princess only has 22,000 miles and change at this point. I’m going to have to get cracking if I want to get 357,000 from her.


  16. When my sister and I were kids we had a cottage that my parents would drive us to every summer. There were two cars I remember, one a white Peugeot (second hand or maybe third) with cigarette burns in the back seat. My sister and I were always sticking our fingers into the holes trying to stretch out the material. The second car was black, make and model now forgotten, but it had push button gears that I got to push when in the front seat next to my mom. Sister and I always encouraged her to coast down the big hill on the way into town. Thrilling for a child!

    1. Patty, now it’s your turn to remind me of something I’d forgotten. Those push-button drives were the strangest thing. We had one car with them, and all I remember is that Dad grumped about them being too hard to push. He wasn’t old enough to have arthritis yet. Maybe he was just being grumpy, like I can be with new technology.

      Your coasting was my hill climbing. Dad would come up with an errand, invite me along, and then we’d go out into the county and pretend the hills were a roller coaster. I still can feel my stomach flipping. You’re right. It was thrilling – although I think it was a good bit of fun for Dad, too.

      So nice of you to stop by. Thanks for sharing your memories, and raising up some of mine.


  17. Ah; you always slide over and make room for us on your road trips, and we even get to witness those magic numbers tumbling forward into a new chapter.

    What an honor it is to know you, oh smiling kindred spirit holding that string of fish – though your smile tells the true story! You basked in unconditional love, and what a gift your parents gave you!


    1. No magic carpet here, Z, but there’s still plenty of traveling to be done. We’re both just lucky that we learned the important lessons about how to travel before our traveling days were over.

      One of the truths I’ve learned is that love always is mixed. There are plenty of conditions attached in this world, for all of us. But it doesn’t take constant unconditional love for it to work its magic. Even the slightest experience can make a difference, and occasional experiences can transform lives.

      But you know all that. It’s enough to stop, take a breath and say, “Well, here we are. Isn’t that something? Now… what’s next?”

      Which reminds me – what happened with the lamp posts? Are you still in a wait and see mode with those?


      1. hey
        this painfully slow internet is frustrating. i have photos of the posts – all stacked behind a secure fence at the electric company yard.

        i visited w/luchi, where we painted that first post and suggested that tne next one we use ceramic mosaics and raise the bar!

        gotta run.. am at el matal watching the tide ebb towards the top of the beach as the boats come home for the night. then it’s home where i don’t have internet right now. it’s as slow here at it is at my house where i was using the usb…

        thanks amiga, for this and for the wunderground/el nino feedback!

  18. Amazing that your Toyota is still going after 300,000 miles. Now, that IS a milestone! Your childhood road trips bring back memories of excellent childhood trips to take in eastern seaboard historic sights and northern Midwestern town and country, water and land. Cape Cod, Boston on the first trip, and Mackinac Island on the second were particular highlights. But we watched for the zeros to turn, too, must admit!

    1. What I find most amazing is to read about the variety of adventures people had as kids. I’ve never been to the northeast — Boston, Cape Cod, New England — but I’ve never been to Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and such, either. In such a big country, with so many directions to go, I suppose that’s inevitable.

      Somewhere recently I read a comment from someone who was advising, “Stop watching and start participating” as a guideline for living. That’s not bad, but it reminded me of my dad’s even simpler rule: “Go, don’t stay.” It’s really a shame he died so young. We could have had a lot of fun together.


  19. Congatulations on “turning the odometer” for another year! A few years ago, I had dreams of doing this “Grand Tour” of the West. It was to take 17-18 days, and cover, I think, over 5,000 miles, with multiday stops at the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Glacier. I didn’t see this as a problem for me driving it, but my wife certainly did as a passenger, as well as keeping two teenage boys occupied for ten hours a day. I came to realize that she was right!

    1. Thanks, wiley. Those Grand Tours can be great fun, but they’re not for everyone. Everyone needs to want to go, just to put it in the simplest terms. And not everyone enjoys car travel. The mother of one of my friends laid down the law more than a decade ago. If she can’t fly, she’s not going. I’m just the opposite. If I have to fly, I probably won’t go. I used to enjoy flying immensely, but no more.

      That’s all right. In fact, it’s more than all right.I’ve done the overseas traveling, the sailing and such — and I did it while I was younger and strong enough to do things I’d never attempt today. Thus? No regrets. Well, not very many, anyhow!


  20. This has churned up the memory of a game we played on trips as children. Only two could play at a time, unless we teamed up. One would get the right side of the car and the other the left. The object was to count the number of four-legged animals on your side of the car and the one with the most when we reached our destination was the winner. If you were lucky enough to see a graveyard on your side you got to “bury” all your opponents animals, knocking them back to zero. I smile thinking of all the times we played that game. Nowadays we’d probably have some sort of video game.

    This post also caused me to check my blog stats. I’ve had 54,963 page views. So it’s likely that tomorrow I’ll hit 55,000. I wonder if I’ll see it happen? :)

    1. Bill, I pointed out your game to Gué, above. She and her brother played the same game, but she thought her folks had made it up to keep them from killing each other on roadtrips. She called it Cow Poker, and since I hadn’t heard of it, I asked her to describe it. Same game, with probably the same purpose.

      I just read today that there’s some concern young children aren’t developing the fine motor skills to play with building blocks and such. They’re spending all their time swiping various devices. Hard to say if it’s true, but there’s no question the games we played together sharpened our minds and our social skills. Maybe all those iGadgets should have warning labels, too.

      As for whether you saw the blogometer turn, I suspect that depended on the weather. If it was sunshine and warmth, I have a feeling you were outdoors, being productive in a different way!


    2. My goodness, Bill. Linda alerted me to the fact that there was another family around that played the cow counting game. I thought my family was the only one!

      The only difference is that in your game, if the cemetery was on your side, your opponent lost their cows. In ours, you lost your own.

      It was fun, wasn’t it?

      1. Hey Gue’. I hadn’t seen your comment when I posted. I thought we were the only family who played that game. :)

        For us any four-legged animals counted (dogs, horses, etc.)
        Being able to “bury” the other person’s animals created a great incentive to look for cemeteries.

  21. I can just see you in your backseat domain, on the way to seeing the world. How wonderful that your summer memories were so full compared to the poor child who could only remember the miles.

    My family mostly stayed put in the summers. All but one memorable one when one of my mom’s clients offered his place in Mexico should she want to take her family for a vacation. So we five drove down to a little village where a tiny dusty RV sat looking a bit forlorn. My parents eventually found a small house for rent for the few days we were there. They vowed to get a few more details next time such an offer was made.

    1. It’s true, nikkipolani. I wasn’t exactly spoiled — no one ever called me Princess — but I had my domain.Those early years of ruling over it might help to explain why I named my new car Princess.

      “Sight-unseen” can be a little iffy. I’m glad your family was able to find more acceptable accomodations. Of course, even quite decent places can present challenges. We stopped at a lovely motel in Arkansas, once. All was well, until we realized the crickets had arrived in town about the same time we did, and they were looking for a place to stay, too. There were millions of crickets everywhere. I’ll not even try to describe it to you – I prefer to avoid the memories!


  22. I’m with you, Linda! I was so enamoured of those numbers until I realized that a whole bunch of those web views are search engines and spammers and they don’t give a hoot who you are! I’ll celebrate my thousandth post when it comes because it will represent a body of work, of stories, of life, of sharing, of friendship that has built over time. But if it was “nothing,” five thousand posts wouldn’t matter!

    I love your road trip stories. My childhood was roadtrips to the lake and generally to Florida at spring break — at least for a lot of years. The lake was the constant. I didn’t do camp, i played with my cousins in the swamp behind the cottages (alas, filled in now). We sat in the sun (not so good) and read books and made sand pies in our mudpie bakery on the beach. We dug holes and buried each other and spent countless hours calling the phone booth outside the movie theatre to see who answered. It was a good childhood. And a wonderful summer — even if we repeated it over and over for years!

    Do you still have your Toyota? Mine is about 110,000 — barely broken in.

    1. Jeanie, I have a Toyota, but not “the” Toyota. I’ve actually had four. The first two were murdered – once with me in the car, once not. Then I had my longest running one, and now I have Princess. They’ve been terrific cars, and this newest one has the best sound system yet. Priorities, priorities…

      I went to camp every year, so between that, our day camps, the Bookmobile and family vacations, summers passed quickly. We had plenty of fun at home, too — especially those prank calls. My cousins and I used to try to listen in on the party line without giggling. We didn’t have very good luck. One neighbor or another always was telling us to get off the line.

      The constancy and repetition was nice. Some people call it routine, but I think we experienced it as tradition. I still cherish it.


  23. The perfect blog as Peggy and I prepare to hit the road for three weeks into the remote areas of Nevada, Linda. BTW… we’ll be traveling in our Toyota pickup. Also, speaking of blog stats, this will be the first break I have taken from blogging since I started! See you when we get back. :) –Curt

    1. This seems like it would be the perfect time of year to hit the road, Curt. I know you’ll have a good time, but even better, I know we’ll get some enjoyable reports when you get back. I’m sure with some of the big decisions about the book behind you, and perhaps most of the work, you’re ready for a break.

      Wait — Nevada? Remote Nevada? If you happen across any BLM folks, you might want to go the other way. And if you see Cliven Bundy, say hi for me. ;)

      Have fun!


  24. I’m a little late to the vacation, but that’s because I’ve been putting some nautical miles on the boat! Great post! I really enjoyed it as it reminded me of our family vacations and what great memories I still have of the highlights. Remember gas wars? Dad loved traveling through states with those going on! You probably do the best job of replying to comments and keeping in touch of any blogger I know!

    1. I just read your re-write of the Mandalay post. You have been out and about. Wonderful experiences, and wonderful photo of the heron dance. I have to come back and read it more closely.

      Back in the day, those gas wars were really something. What’s the cheapest gas you remember? I think I remember 89 cents a gallon. By the time I was buying my own, it was about $1.49. Of course, when we were riding our bikes to the gas station that sold penny candy, we could get ten pieces for a nickel, so there you are.

      Still, the most amusing part of our early road trips in Iowa was the speed limit signs. They deserve their own post!

      Glad you enjoyed this one. We do share a lot of the same sort of memories.


      1. Well, I don’t recall the price, but that was in the 60s. Daddy always made the trips interesting. We played license plate game, slug bug, etc. I recall in 1972 when I took the family car on a little joy ride without permission, only having 35 cents to put gas in the tank to make the needle move back to where it was!!! And you can get your sweet bippie I pumped 35 cents in, too!!!!

    1. I try to, Gerry. Dad was one of those who said, “If you’re going to drive this thing, you need to know how to take care of it.” Enter lessons about oil and fluids, spark plugs, tire-changing and such. He forgot to mention the timing belt, which would have been good to know about, but all in all it’s been a fine ride through the years.


    1. I know there are other Paul Bunyans in the world now, but for me? This IS Paul Bunyan, and this is the only Babe.

      Emily, you’re really too kind. But thank you for those cheering words, and for being such a faithful, responsive reader.


  25. Linda, I love this! It takes me right back to my own childhood in the back seat, with our bag of special travel games. Usually I had to pee but was afraid to ask my dad to stop, as he was always in a rush to get there. We spent lots of time back there! Thanks for bringing those memories back.

    I agree with your sentiments – traveling, blogging and life are all about the journey, not the destination. I am enjoying your journey, that’s for sure :)

    1. Tandi, those “rest stops” never were an issue for us during my childhood, but my goodness — you certainly brought back some memories of more recent years with your comment. As my mother aged, more frequent stops were required, and I wondered from time to time what the limits of my own dad’s tolerance would have been.

      The classic was our evacuation for Hurricane Rita. It was a disaster, of course, and a trip that should have taken three hours took fourteen. We learned a good bit on that trip. The very thought that I could tell my mother to pee in her seat — we weren’t getting out of that line of traffic! — still makes me laugh. What’s most amazing is that all three of us — she, me, and the cat — all made it to our destination without a problem. Good memories now, but in at least that one case, it was all about the destination!

      I’m glad you’re enjoying my journey here. I hope you’re enjoying it as much I do yours.


  26. I think we had that car – in dark blue,no chrome. The ceiling was covered with some fuzzy reddish brown fabric – which eventually sagged down….see I knew that ceiling from staring at it all the time…didn’t dare touch my brother’s side of the seat. My dad finally sold it to a young guy who worked in produce at our grocery store.

    Your pix are so wonderful!

    Our family traveled and camped out in the summer because it was cheaper than staying home and cooler. Those Burma Shave signs! And all those word games – very punny! We would stop at every little oddity along the road…every historical marker. No real time frame, we just traveled state/national parks until half the money was gone, then headed back. Went to all the park ranger hikes and talks.
    Now my cousins traveled long distances and never dawdled. Got right to that destination: a nice cabin on a fishing lake or hotel in the park. They wore nice clean clothes – didn’t hike.

    You are right about the comparisons to blogs…what fun is it just running along if you don’t stop and have some local chats?
    Perfect post of the almost beginning of summer. (And do I long to just jump in the car and drive to see what’s there again.)

    1. My mom’s car had that same saggy ceiling, phil. As the fellow who fixed it for us said, “Whaddaya expect? Everthing sags once it’s got some years on it.” Well, isn’t that just the truth. Despite the car’s age, Mom didn’t want to let it go. As she said, quite rightly, it was better to be driving Houston freeways with some steel around you than that silly fiberglass.

      Now there’s a plan I can approve – don’t worry about the mileage, just go until half the money’s gone and then head back. Of course, that’s a bit retro itself. With credit cards, you could travel a good long while – and worry about the consequences later. But we never did. Remember when the banks had vacation clubs and Christmas clubs? I sure do. I wasn’t responsible for funding vacations, but I did save my vacation spending money. You ponder a lot longer when you’re paying for your decision yourself. A felt pennant from Bimidji? Or a tiny pair of beaded moccasins? Oh, the decisions!

      Glad you like the photos. I’ve got another one that’s a classic – Dad and me at Leech Lake, looking for snail shells and whatever. I never had a sense, back then, how special those times really were.


  27. Is it really six years since you began here at WP? I can;t believe it is so long ago since we had ‘that conversation’ over in WU?

    As to this entry, it is superb. I connect with your memories of car journeys, ours were always exciting, too – games played with parents, counting red tractors, making names from number-plates, singing, and especially every Christmas as we drove down to my grandparents’ when we counted lit Christmas trees. But definitely the excitement as we watched the odometer click over to zeros! Like you, I still smile when I see the zeros come up, although I’ve never had a car make it to the ripe old age of 300,000! I now see how much of a wrench it must have been to say goodbye!

    1. Sandi, I confess it surprised me, too. I’ve been happily going along, thinking it had been five years. Tempus fidgets, as dear Aunt Rilla used to say.

      We wouldn’t have had much luck counting red tractors. John Deere green predominated in our world, although you would see an occasional Allis-Chalmers. I think they were the red ones. I do remember when blue silos started appearing. That was quite a shock, but it certainly was good advertising for the company that built them. You could spot one from miles away.

      When it comes to high mileage, don’t you think geography plays a tremendous role? England is a lovely country, but it is small. When I go up to visit my aunt, it’s a 1600 mile round trip, give or take. When I run over to Kerrville for the weekend, it’s 600 miles. They do add up!


  28. You always seem to touch a chord with each essay you write. As an army brat we spent at least every other summer traveling to the next army post. Like yours, my parents were very easy going on our adventures. We stopped often and explored many wonders along the way. Many times though I curled up in the back seat with a book to my mother’s insistence that I “Look at the scenery!” We saw many of our national parks, such as Grand Teton, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and travelled through the Painted Desert…just so many things. I remember being out West and writing long letters trying to describe sheer vastness of space and the way dramatic rock formations would rise perpendicularly out of absolute flatness.

    On the car rides I also loved the hum of the tires on the road, playing road games with my sisters and brother, singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, and that sound the blinker made when you are just waking up and your Dad is just pulling into the driveway of home.

    Old cars, yes, we too had a vehicle we took great pleasure in the challenge of getting to the 300K mile mark. It was a Toyota Camry and never had a major repair. Loved that car!!

    Thanks for opening the flood gates of memories of army life traveling. Have to say it made for a great childhood.

    Grateful to have you in the blogosphere and look forward to the next six years!! :)

    1. I hope you’re having a fine weekend, Judy, and that your weather is as lovely as ours. Finally, the wind has lain.

      I laughed at your scenery-promoting mother. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “Get your nose out of that book!” And you touched on a new sight I want to see. Out in western Kansas, there are some of those rock formations that rise up out of absolute flatness. I had no idea they were there, and almost doubled back to see them. But now and then, the constraints of time close in.

      Ah, those home-coming moments. I’d forgotten those. But it was true. I could sleep all the way home from my grandparents’ house, but as soon as the car turned into the driveway, I woke. Strange, really, because none of the stop signs or speed variations along the way ever caused me to wake. But that “we’re home” feel? Every time.

      I still can’t believe it’s been six years. Do you suppose by the time another six has passed we’ll have out book published?


  29. Congrats on your sixth blogaversary. Blogging sure has brought about a new awakening. A different outlook, a new way of expression, and the opportunities to make many virtual friends. Keep them posts coming, Linda. And, may I venture out and make a guess, the car in your first photo… was it a Buick? The oldest car I’d ever driven was a 1956 Buick, no, I didn’t drive it then, but when I was in high school here in Canada, I had the chance to drive it, which belonged to someone from my high school. It looked very similar to the one in your photo.

    1. Arti, it’s just amazing — not only the amount of time that’s passed, but all of the experiences those years have brought. I’m thinking particularly about oh, and ellaella. And jeanie’s struggles, and sons in the military and off to school. I’m looking forward to the next years, and all they’ll bring.

      The car may have been a Buick. Or, a Plymouth. I just don’t know. But there’s a vintage car and boat show coming up in two weeks at the yacht club here, and I’m going to take a copy of the photo over. Someone there will take one look at the photo and say, “Oh. That’s a whatever-whatever.” And then we’ll know.

      This isn’t the car in which I learned to drive, but I do remember I learned with the shift lever on the steering column. Dad took me out to the shopping center parking lot — the biggest paved area around in those days — and taught me to shift where I couldn’t do any damage. Then, in winter, he took me out there and taught me how to prevent skidding on ice – with a little practice in making donuts thrown in. I think that was for him as much as for me.

      It’s been some fun years, Arti. I swear before the next six is over I’m going to make it to Calgary.


  30. Congratulations on your wonderful blog, Linda. Each post brings new thoughts, memories that often I can relate to. This present post did remind me of our vacation, mostly abroad, Switzerland is tiny compared the vast US. My Dad loved to drive his big American cars (Chevrolet), he was a garage man. My sister and I sat at the back, chatting, counting all the red or yellow cars we would see, also asking “when will we arrive ? when will we stop ? when and where will we picnic” ? We visited many wonderful places in Europe, met people we kept in touch with for years, we learnt to appreciate different ways of life. Vacations were a big event in the year. Thank you to my parents.

    And thanks to you too. Happy Easter and Spring.

    1. Thank you for your kind words of congratulations, Isa. In so many ways our blog postings are like a nice Sunday drive. We get to see new sights (like your quilts and your scenery), admire the animals (Happy Easter to Nino, too!) and appreciate the different ways of life we see.

      You mention Switzerland as a small country, and in certain ways, that’s true. But I’ve never thought of it as small — it’s just differently scaled. Here, we’re in a horizontal land. But you? You’re beautifully vertical, and I always think of your country as up-and-down large!
      It’s not a landscape for long road trips, perhaps, but there are other kinds of inspiration that must surely come.

      A happy Easter to you, too. I saw a pecan orchard fully finally leafing out yesterday, and that’s our sign of spring well and truly being here. I hope yours is blooming around you.


  31. What a sweet story — I too just love your description of the backseat. Although, I had a sibling with whom to contend with over the infamous…LINE. When we visited the States, my mother would give me her old Katy Keene comics (oh how I wish I had ’em now!) for passing the time, since we weren’t so accustomed to cars. :) But as you say: it’s all about the journey and what you may unexpectedly find along the way.

    1. FeyGirl, I didn’t remember Katy Keene. In fact, when I looked her up, I didn’t even recognize her. But she was in the same era as others I liked, including Betty and Veronica, Archie, and Jughead. Those comics were a real bargain. I think they were a dime each when I was buying them.

      I love the stories of “The Line” all of you with siblings have posted. I suppose the closest I ever came to that was in college, when we were living three or four to a dorm room. That was more an issue of space, but there was no question there was some territoriality to it, too. Every time I see birds rearranging themselves along a wire to make room for new arrivals, I think about how important that “personal space” is!


  32. Your recounting of travels in the car immediately brought back my own memories of being in the back seat of my father’s car at the age of eight or nine, back in England, Linda. And yes, if you can’t enjoy the journey, the odometer or stats counter eventually ceases to be of interest…

    1. i’ve been trying to understand what made those back seats so special, Andrew, and I suspect one thing that contributed was being able to be part of the big people’s world in a way otherwise impossible. Sometimes, if I was very quiet, or pretended to be asleep, my folks would begin talking about things they otherwise would have avoided in my presence. It was very interesting, and sometimes a bit of an education!

      And oh, my — you’re right about the enjoyment needing to be primary. The numbers are just mile markers along the road.


    1. Isn’t that fun? Leech Lake was one of the best fishing lakes there was, and we really were there for my dad and my uncles to do their thing.

      Thank goodness those swim caps disappeared, though — along with all the other rubberized accessories women used to torment themseves with!

  33. Six years of turning our quality posts each and every time you post is quite a feat. Just think of all the folks that you have enthused and amused during the years and of course I am among those people who so enjoy your writing. I just have not had the priviledge of following your blog that long.

    Now about the car and road trips. You had wonderful parents who realized the importance of stimulating a child’s mind and gee you were fortunate to have had a wonderful childhood that included road trips.

    I didn’t have any of that. Blackland farming was difficult and it was hard scrabble for my parents to make enough money to pay for the farm with hardly a dime left over. I’m not complaining though. I had a good child hood where I found my own entertainment through books and the animals and the birds.


    1. Oh, Yvonne — the grass seems always to be greener, even in childhood. One of my great regrets was not being raised on a farm. Of course I had no idea of the real work involved when I was a kid, but I enjoyed currying my friends’ cows when they showed them, and even joined a town 4-H Club.

      Your mention of a blackland farm piqued my interest. My great-great-grandparents came first to Texas after the Civil War. They settled on the blackland prairie near Melissa, east of Dallas/Ft. Worth. Part of that land is the Parkhill Prairie Preserve now. I was there once, and would love to go back. It’s beautiful country.

      I suspect the primary reason we traveled so regularly during my childhood is that my dad was eager to “go see”. He didn’t have a car until he and mom got married, and there’s no question he loved the freedom it provided. Even on weekends, he’d take me on drives out into the country, just to see what we could see. I still do it, and there’s still something to see.

      It’s been a wonderful six years, although I have to confess it doesn’t seem at all like six years. Sometimes I think I should have posted more entries, but then I realize that getting one up every week or so leaves me plumb tuckered out. Two or three a week, or even daily? You’d find me dead at the side of the road!

      I’ll just mosey along slowly, and rejoice that I’ve got readers like you, who don’t seem to mind that we’re taking the back roads.


  34. I am envious of you. I do not recall any vacations with my dad or mom. Just day to day activity. My father never took a real vacation. I think work was his sanctuary against my mom. Going on a vacation with her would have been torture to him.

    1. Barry, it took me many, many years to fully appreciate my parents. I loved them as a child, but I didn’t understand everything they’d been through, or why it was so important for them to help me live in a larger, more interesting world. And I really didn’t understand why anyone would envy my life with them. Today, it makes perfect sense. I really was blessed.

      On the other hand, they had their problems, too. There were times when my dad retreated behind his newspaper, and it was only recently I had my suspicions confirmed by other family members — that was his sanctuary!

      It’s so nice to see you again. Please know you’re welcome any time.


  35. I really enjoyed reading this blog. It brought back a lot of childhood memories. Our family would take road trips too. I remember I would get a little car sick but always enjoyed taking naps in the back window of the car. This was before seatbelts and my siblings and I would fight over the window.

    I have been blogging for about eight months and try not to worry about how many views or followers. I keep reminding myself I’m am writing a legacy. To be in computer world forever. ha

    1. just4why, I’m so glad you enjoyed my memories, and I’m glad they brought back some good ones for you.

      I’ve got some memories of my first months of blogging, too. Oh, my. It was great excitement to have a comment or two! But it was mostly fun just to see if I could keep finding things to write about. I did.

      I popped over to see where you’re located, and there’s someone whose blog I think you’d enjoy seeing. He lives in Maine, and is a woodworker. You never know what you’ll find at Sippican Cottage, but if you poke around a bit, I’m sure you’ll find something of interest.

      Thanks so much for stopping by. You’re always welcome, whether you have a comment to make or just want to read.


    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the read, mitjac. There’s nothing at all wrong with a little nostalgia now and then.

      Thanks for stopping by, and thank you for the nice comment.


  36. Growing up, I used to complain that my family only ever went two places on vacation, Michigan (a.k.a Grandma’s house) and Springfield, IL (both of which were only four hours away). Now though, I see how lucky I was to get to return to Springfield time and time again, seeing all the Lincoln-related sights, the Frank Lloyd Wright house, and the State Fair at its prime. You’re absolutely right that getting to know just a few places in one’s lifetime is better than catching a glimpse at 3,000 miles every year.

    1. pezcita, one of my favorite writers is Annie Dillard. She says there are two ways to travel: we can travel far, or we can travel deep. We don’t have to choose one over the other, but sometimes traveling deep, like your trips to your grandma’s house and to Springfield, is truly wonderful. As Dillard says, that’s how we get to really know a place.

      And I’ll bet you had as much fun at the Illinois fair as I did at the Iowa State Fair. Well, except for the time I got stuck at the top of a double ferris wheel for an hour.

      So nice of you to share your memories. You’re always welcome here.


    1. jamie, I almost forgot to come back and comment, because I became so interested in your blog. There are many, many people who are trying to follow your example these days, whether by necessity or choice, and I’m going to pass on your blog to a couple of them.

      Just remember — that old “Field of Dreams” dynamic works for blogging, too. If you write it, they will come!

      Thanks so much for stopping by. You’re always welcome.


  37. What a wonderful read!

    We flew nearly everywhere as a child. My mother was a flight attendant, so long drives weren’t part of my reality. Our longest drive was Crown Point, Indiana, which wasn’t far when you consider we started in the suburbs of Illinois.
    I’m making up for it now though…

    My husband and I work in sales and travel a 15-state territory plus Canada. As I type, we’re in Wyoming making our way to Vegas for a show. Then we travel back cross-country to Massachusetts for a family party.

    As we drive now, I remember traveling to Crown Point. We made the trip every summer, either driving the whole way with Mom and Dad or meeting up with my grandparents at the Danville Oasis, which sat halfway between our home and theirs.
    Meeting up was better. Grandmere and Papa were fun. Dad wasn’t.

    Driving with Dad was horrible–like a ruler across the knuckles–then add my whining to the mix and it became unbearable. My sister darted me a shut up every time, but never actually said the words, as we jockeyed for position in the back seat desperately trying to make it fun without pissing off my father. That meant it was over. That silence would ensue. That even trying to unglue your thighs from the seat was forbidden.

    Eventually we made it.
    And Grandmere and Papa…they always made everything worth it.

    That was our trek.
    But a trek nonetheless.

    1. Dani, I just laughed at the memories that flooded back with your line about trying to unglue your thighs from the seat. Suddenly I’m remembering those wing vents in the front windows, cigarette lighters, plastic seat covers. My goodness, how things have changed.

      Some people are travelers, and some aren’t. It sounds like your dad wasn’t — maybe in spades. But it also sounds like you’re more than making up for it with enjoyable travel these days.

      And you’re right. A trek still is a trek. One of my favorite tales is the one of a fellow in New York (Brooklyn or the Bronx, as I remember) who undertook a “blockathon” one year. He walked around his block every day, recording what he saw. It was quite amazing, the variety and interest that was there, in that small corner of the world.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your memories. You’re always welcome!


  38. I love how you explain your background before start the story about vacation, I can imagine to get in your shoes because I have a big family and always traveling, we love to play games during the road trip. its fun! I miss vacation so much! Thanks for sharing your experience!

    1. Thank you, aslfundc, for sharing some of your own memories. I think it would have been even more fun to travel with brothers and sisters — even though I know there were the obvious squabbles over “territory” and such. But we all got to travel, one way or another, and I think there are a lot of us who miss those days.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for your nice comment. You’re always welcome here.


  39. Oh my gosh! Your childhood sounds like mine. My parents were educators, and summers were often a brief, temporary move to some exotic location (well, exotic to me) as they attended summer school. Non-summer school summers we went to Minnesota and Canada. I stood under Paul & Babe, fished Minnesota lakes, and loved seeing the country from the back seat of our Ford station wagon or my mother’s Valiant convertible. Enjoyed your post.

    1. We sure enough were in the same neighborhoods. We spent most of our up-north time in Minnesota, though. It wasn’t until I was traveling on my own that I began exploring Manitoba. My dream now is to visit Saskatchewan. Some of our relatives moved up there as sod-busters, but they didn’t last, and came back to Iowa. There are a few photos, including one of my grandmother’s cousin Tom with a brace of birds around his neck, a long rifle and a really fine-looking dog.

      It’s always fun to find someone who shared similiar experiences, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind comment.


    1. emaylerocks, it is fun to share memories. And now that I’m getting older, I’m thinking that recording some of these memories is an especially good idea. When I can’t remember where I’ve been, I always can re-read what I’ve written, and figure it out!

      Thanks so much for coming along on this little journey, and for your fun comment.


  40. The most interesting aspect of reading blogs is the ability to interact with the writer. Just to have a chance to really understand what the writer is trying to convey is priceless. So on that note I would like to ask you; Do you feel that your journey will ever be complete?

    1. Thanks for stopping by, RKC, and thanks for your comment. As for your question, I suppose I’d say that my journey already is complete. There’s much more traveling to be done, both literally and metaphorically, and eventually my life will end, but the where, the when or the how really aren’t of great importance to me.

      There’s an old saying I really like, although I’m not sure of the original source. As I first heard it, “The question isn’t, is there life after death. The question is, shall we have life before death?”


  41. Beautifully written! It made me think about all the wonderful childhood adventures that my parents took us on, and the games I would play to help pass the miles. I’m hoping to create those same memories for my kids as we currently drive around North America. I also couldn’t help but smile when I went to click ‘Like’, as it read 99. Even I got excited to see the 100 milestone :)

    1. Roaming Days, I love the thought of you intentionally setting out to help your kids create some of the same memories.

      There’s so much to see in this world. Even if I had been trying to keep count, there’s no telling how many times my dad or mom said to me, “Look at….” while we were traveling. They constantly were calling my attention to what was outside the car — at least when I wasn’t pretending to be asleep so I could eavesdrop on their conversation.

      Thanks so much for sharing your memories, and for your kind comment. You’re always welcome to stop by.


    1. Thanks so much, debrazone. I’m glad I could stir up some memories for you. It was fun for me to do some remembering, too!

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for commenting. I appreciate it.


  42. Thanks to ‘Freshly Pressed’ for bringing me here. Sounds like you had a wonderful childhood. A very apt story to mark your six years on this road. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    1. pupledivaa,

      Like all kids and parents, my folks and I had our share of struggles. I could be obnoxious, and they could be — well, parental. But it was a good childhood — good enough that I really wouldn’t change anything about it. Like most people, I appreciate it more as I age.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for stopping by, and saying so. You’re always welcome!


  43. Wow what a great story. My family also took a lot of road trips, 4 kids. We shared a bench 2 and 2 with all of our books on tape, regular books, drawing pads etc. I remember being in awe of the mountains on our way to Florida and Colorado (we are from Illinois) and loved seeing everything as we passed by. Now I still have that seem feel for travel, though I never really thought about it that way before. I don’t have a travel bucket list because all of my favorite memories/stories are ones that never could have come from a pre-planned list. I think that’s the most beautiful part of travel:)

    1. AwkwardGirl, I agree completely about the fun and memories that can come from just “stumbling across” a place and its people.
      The older I get, and the more I’ve traveled, the more convinced I’ve become that there’s something of interest everywhere. We just need to open our eyes and look.

      I know that only children often envy those with siblings, and kids who had a passle of brothers and sisters sometimes long for the “specialness” of the only, but it’s a fact that some of my best vacations were the ones where a cousin or two was around. It must have been great to share all those marvelous views with your siblings.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your memories. The important thing is to keep traveling and keep looking, however we do it!


  44. I’ve just come across your blog and have poked around a bit. Your descriptions of your childhood vacations are wonderful and really resonated with me because for several years, my mom and I (plus my parents’ two Shih Tzus!) drove across the US with my two children. The aim was always to get from my parents’ house in the Phoenix area to Rhode Island, but the varied routes and sights (AAA would be awfully perplexed!) were always the point. Your tie-in to the writing journey is perfect. Looking forward to following your posts.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your memories, Amy. I smiled at your reference to AAA’s perplexity. I’m a back-road sort myself – sometimes even when I’m going to the grocery store. I’m sure some of it’s rooted in those childhood years, when there still weren’t any freeways, and “going for a ride” was the most exciting thing in the world.

      I’m so happy to have you along for the ride. Because of my work schedule and the nature of my work — no computer access! — I sometimes will be just a little slow in responding to comments, but I always do respond. I love the chance to get to know so many people, from so many places. It’s just a different kind of travel.


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