Road trip … count me in

“A good traveler has no plans, and is not intent on arriving.” —Philosopher Lao Tzu

Do you have coffee in the thermos,” he asked from the driver’s seat?

“Yes, I do,” she replied from the other side of the car and closed the door. “Our suitcases are in the trunk. Do you have the map,” she asked? “Did you get the oil changed and have the tires checked?”

Content that every preparation was complete, that everything was in the car including me in the back seat with a blanket and pillow, a road trip was ready to begin. It was 3:00 a.m. with a cooler trip in the morning air anticipated since air conditioned cars were uncommon, and the goal was reaching the destination before lunch.

Map 2 3-10-18
Image above and map at top of the page are from a 1940s Esso map. Esso was a Standard Oil Company brand from 1911 that became Exxon in 1972.

The six to seven-hour road trip my grandparents were about embark on was from Pittsburg to Seymour, a distance of about 295 miles. The year was 1958, give or take a year.

Today, Google maps report that trip requires four and one-half hours of driving time via I-30 to Dallas and up highway 190 and 380 through Jacksboro, then 114 to Seymour. Sixty years ago, however, the first stretch of I-30, the Dallas Fort Worth turnpike, had been open only one year. Expansion east to Greenville and beyond was still just a plan on paper. The trip, if you dodged Dallas and went due west at Greenville, was two-lane roads through every small town with numerous reduced speed limits. Reduced meaning from the Texas speed limits then of 60 in the daytime and 55 at night.

Slow by today’s standards, however that speed limit was appropriate. New cars were built for cruising about 60, and anything more was considered reckless. Plus, a fair number of cars sharing the roads in 1958 were older and slower cars.

Fast forward to 2018. Contemplating an offer to join a quick road trip to Tennessee in a couple of weeks started me to thinking about travel today compared to travel in my parent’s and grandparent’s day.

Someone says, “Road trip,” to me, and I’m in. Give me a couple of hours to pack a bag and I’m good-to-go with the assurance of picking up any forgotten items at one of the carbon-copy mega-stores in every city of 3,000 or more inhabitants along the way.

“How long will it take and what route will we travel?’ Don’t worry about it. Got GPS in the car and got WAZE on the phone. “Is the car ready to travel?’ No problem. Today’s cars stay ready. Maintenance intervals are fewer and farther between, and any car that carried you to work last week will likely get you across the country this week.

Even if an “change oil” or the “low tire pressure” light should come on along the way, detour into the same carbon-copy mega-store and pull around to the automotive bays. An hour or two later you’re on the road again.

Coffee in the thermos? Don’t need it. How many drive-thru coffee spots do you pass every day just going to work?

Hey, we even have autonomous, self-driving cars.

The rest of the story on my grandparent’s trips between northeast and west Texas is they arrived in time for lunch all right. That was followed by an afternoon of visiting and supper, and they were back on the road the next morning headed home to Camp County.

I’m thankful for the “road trip” gene I inherited. I’m thinking that faster and convenient travel makes road trips more fun. And, I’m also wondering what my grandparents would think about today’s autonomous cars.

—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas, Light and Champion ( and the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune newspapers (






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