Outdoors

Simpson: Taking a drive in America

October 4, 2012 

— Nothing beats having a private chauffeur. Mike Swanson, a relative from Illinois, got the idea he would like to drive my wife, dog and I, joining in a grand spree of national exploration. Carolina to Montana; Montana to Albuquerque, N.M., Dallas, Texas and Augusta, Ga., then back to Carolina.

We’d pick up basic expenses. He in exchange would handle the driving, so we loaded my fishing rod, tackle box, dog and wife and took off to smell the roses.

Any cross-the-nation tour is bound to lead to some kind of unforgettable adventure. My earliest independent traveling began soon after I received a note in the mail from my Uncle Sam suggesting that I should appear at Denver’s Lowry Field, an Air Force base. Inasmuch as I was quite dependent on this Uncle for college assistance, provided by a veterans’ program nicknamed “52 twenty club,” I reasoned it best to accept the invitation. The problem was many miles to go and little cash to pay for travel.

Investigation revealed four classmates in a similar situation who agreed that if I could provide the wheels they would handle travel expenses. Research uncovered an old, mid-to-early 1930’s, Hudson Landau limo. A big stately rig complete with chauffeur front seat, rear plush leather seats and two crystal flower vases in the rear compartment. Even better, the dealer was anxious to dispose of it.

After managing to complete the thousand or so mile trip, my entire crew jumped ship, thinking any alternative form of return as preferable.

The details are fuzzy, for it was on that same trip I was snagged by a good looking gal who decided she wanted to take me home to show to her parents in Iowa. Unable to refuse the invite, we set out in that massive limo. For those of you, who live amid modern creature comforts, try to imagine Colorado deserts in August without air conditioning. If that doesn’t broil you, add on the crossing of Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa in a 110 degree+ heat wave. Any cooling was wet towels, refreshed from canvas water bags, originally designed for horses, then first aid for leaky radiators.

About the time we arrived at the Iowa border the timing gear blew, leaving no choice but to abandon the car and start hitchhiking.

Today, GPS, interstate highway systems, motels, easy money (credit cards), AM/FM radios, air conditioning, power steering and brakes, plus everything, from television to stereo music, removes a bit of the adventure. Gravel and washboard roads, the cliff hanging and tire changing, inner-tube patching and tire pumps, are ancient history, replaced by toll roads, speed traps and congestion.

Still, the concept remains. The immense grandeur of the tree-flanked, snow-tipped Rocky Mountains, the vastness of wild canyoned yellow stone depths of Wyoming, merging into the desolation of manzanita and cactus flats of Utah, Arizona and West Texas do not change. The sense of largess, not unlike the vast sweep of the oceans, cannot be ignored.

Wandering new and unexplored worlds partially reveals the overwhelming diversity, displaying a sense of unending grandeur. Each new discovery leads to the opening of another door.

One final note, there are either less possums, raccoons, armadillos or other assorted road-killed critters than in years past, or the cleanup crews are doing a much better job along the highways than in the past.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service