Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Road trips

I don't seem to have a photo of the 1952 Pontiac that my grandparents bought for me during my Senior year in High School, but here is a similar one.  Mine was green.  It was huge and had that very handy running board but not those classy white walled tires or the spoke wheels.  Cruising along at 100 miles an hour was no problem at all with its powerful engine.  Of course it had no seat belts and did not compare to my grandparent's newest Cadillac which was very plush, but it was a car!  I could drive to school, make to the trip from Hobbs to Eunice to visit my friend and fellow artist, Jeffan Yell, cruise down the main street to see who else was out and about, and run errands for my grandparents. I looked forward to driving it to college the following year.  It certainly was a step up from the cars my parents had owned through the years of my childhood.  Not that those cars were not the very latest thing, but they did not have air conditioning.  

I remember many trips across the country to visit both my Mother's family in Maryland, my father's family in New Mexico, and a great-grandmother in Independence, MO as we were transferred from place to place while my Dad was in the Air Force.  Of course, because of the school year, these trips always happened in the hottest part of the summer.  My earliest memories included wet towels hung in the car windows to create cool breezes, a cooler full of ice to be renewed in a washcloth to hold against pulse points, and a water bag hung on the outside mirror to cool emergency water in case we broke down going through DEATH VALLEY.  I always thought the water was to pour in the radiator if it boiled over, but now know we would probably have saved it to drink ourselves.

Rest stops were few and far between and my impatient Dad would never stop at them anyway.  By the time we had spotted them and asked to stop, we were well beyond them and he would not turn around.  We were required to time bathroom breaks with filling station stops for gasoline.  To this day the Pegasus sign, though rarely seen now, represents a sense of relief and an icy cold coca cola, something I was usually not allowed to drink.

My grandmother and I took many road trips in her first Cadillac. Lordy, I did love that car.  I always felt important as we barreled along at 30 MPH over the posted speed limit (because it would go that fast so easily). When they sold this model for a newer one, I missed the fin tails!

Sometimes we would go to Santa Fe to visit my Godmother.  Sometimes to Tulsa to visit her sisters. Sometimes to Independence, MO. always arriving several hours before expected.  When I would remind my grandmother that we should call my grandfather and let him know we had arrived safely, she would glance at her watch and blithely say, "Oh we can call him in two hours,"  knowing full well he would have a fit if he knew how fast she had driven.

Last weekend, a friend and I took a road trip through Western Colorado on the way to visit my newest grandchild.  We enjoyed the incredible purple and yellow wildflowers set against the light blue skies and dark blue mountain ranges and we stopped in Buena Vista next to the Arkansas river for lunch.  I could not help thinking about how much more comfortable the trip was than those of my childhood. 

Eliza and Me
And of course, the arrival was so sweet!

I never did drive that Pontiac to college.  My grandfather decided it was not dependable enough and sold it.  Instead he and my grandmother took me to school and came and picked me up for holidays.  My parents had moved to Atlanta, Georgia in the middle of my senior year and left me with my grandparents in New Mexico so I could graduate with my class.  My father died that first spring semester of college and I inherited his 1966 Mustang convertible.  

Oddly, I cannot remember what color it was.  The following year, my sister and I shared it when we both transferred to UNM.  Eventually it was passed down to my brother and he killed it by not changing the oil.  So sad.  It was such a fun little car.  As I get older, I shudder to think of the speeds I used to love, although my daughters assure me that, like my grandmother, I still drive way too fast.  65 MPH does seem to be a little pokey on our long empty highways in the West.  And don't let me even start about how fast my husband take curves in his little WRX.


  1. Heather,

    I enjoyed your story very much. It brought back memories of our bi-yearly trips out to Colorado where we'd rent a camper and drive around CO and a few neighboring states. I can't believe my parents put up with my brother and me fighting in the back seat. I recall stopping at Stuckey's for treats and little magic tricks.


  2. Funny what different things we remember. Grandmother and Pop Pop didn't buy that Pontiac--it was Aunt Mary's. We "inherited" it when her vision got too bad to drive.

    The Mustang was white with red seats

  3. What great memories and so well told.

    Thank God Rosalind is around for memory correction:-)

    You may travel in more comfort now but then sounds pretty fun.

    I remember nauseating (I was a Dramime user) car trips with my mother wrapped in a fur coat, smelling of Chanel #5 and my father smoking a cigar.

    No wonder I don't drive.

    xo jane


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