Appreciating the difference in the trip and the journey

“Are you traveling or just going somewheres?”—Hattie Lois Aldridge, 1905-1993.

I used to think my father’s mother asked that question with a smile simply as one of her signature funny quips: no meaningful content other than a “hello” greeting.

The fact is, Granny was onto something even back then. Some people “travel” whereas the majority tends to be just “going somewheres.”

She would have known the difference. My grandfather was notorious in the 1950s for leaving Pittsburg in East Texas at 3:00 a.m. intent on arriving at my parent’s house in Seymour out west of Wichita Falls for breakfast. If he stopped, it was because the car needed gas or his thermos needed coffee.

Even today, we all know that drill when only fuel or food will interrupt our fervent rush to get somewhere. In the car complaining because we’re late getting started, hit the interstate, set the GPS and drive over the speed limit while complaining about the “Sunday driver” ahead.

Windows up, air on, satellite radio jamming. Skip the slower secondary roads missing local flavor and historical sites while thinking one more time, “Some day, I’m going to stop there.” Eventually, we arrive at our destination tired, grumpy and complaining about the trip.

Complaints were few in this space a few weeks ago when we praised changes in travel speed and convenience since the days when my grandfather made his trips. There are times, however, when going from point A to point B focusing on the trip rather than the destination is the better choice.

Times like now as I’m contemplating my next road trip in a car that’s almost as old as I am. I’ve toured most of the lower 48 and bits of Canada and Mexico in the comfort of modern motoring machines, and I do enjoy the luxury. But, the best memories are those of adventures in a car that was new during Eisenhower’s first term in the oval office.

Journeys like jaunts to Florida’s east coast in a ’56 Ford Thunderbird, or the numerous short trips around Texas and Louisiana in my ’55 Ford Crown Victoria.

Windows down, no air conditioning, radio off. Aware of the surroundings recognizing the fragrance of newly mowed hay fields or flowers blooming. The fresh feeling of rain in the air from the distant thunderstorm. The mechanical music of vintage motors clicking and tapping under the hood.

During my grandfather’s day, that was the only way to go. Cars were yet to be offered with air conditioning, and radios were still an extra cost option. For the ones that had one, AM was the only option. Didn’t matter, you couldn’t hear it with the windows down any way, or if you were more than 40-50 miles from the station.

More than 40-50 miles from home meant stopping at places like Stuckey’s or Pecan Joe’s for snacks and perusing the souvenir post cards, salt and pepper shakers, and key chain picture viewers branded with the region’s claim to fame.

It also meant seeing billboards punctuating pastures across the country like, “See Rock City,” or the pithy sayings displayed on rows of red shaving cream signs attached to fence posts.

Passing cars
When you can’t see
May get you
A glimpse
Of eternity
“Burma Shave”

Nothing compares to traveling in a car that’s old enough to qualify for social security, following the backroads and stopping whenever you desire.

I’m looking forward to my next vintage auto trip. Going to places I have not been, “traveling” like few enjoy it any more instead of rushing just to get “somewheres”…unless it’s Stuckey’s or Pecan Joe’s.

—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas, Light and Champion (http://www.lightandchampion.com) and the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune newspapers (http://www.tribnow.com).

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