That thing in us that makes us want to shirk responsibility, discard our coats & ties, throw off life’s constricting shackles and lovingly accept the invitation of the open road.
I must have been adopted, that my true parents were Gypsies. Perhaps a couple redolent of Ray Milland and Marlene Dietrich, ala Paramount’s 1947 classic Golden Earrings, their eyes brightly reflecting the crackling campfire, content in the knowledge that the morning sun would light their path as they continued on their merry way to escape the Nazis.
Nothing quite equals the feeling of waking to the prospect of hitting the black top across this great country of ours. Of casting off one’s duties and chores; Our Super V8’s rocketing off a paved launchpad enveloped by the loving arms of a crimson sunrise.
Driving from Monkeytown to Enterprise, Alabama in a 4 cyl. Dodge Neon DOES NOT imbue one with any of these delicious sensations.
Still, Highway US 231, the old highway down to the Florida Coast and Panama City’s high-school-holiday-crazy Beaches, does however have something in common with America’s most Beloved of Roadways: Route 66. That is, they’ve both seen better days.
I count myself as exceedingly lucky for having had the opportunity to drive Route 66 – before it was forcibly retired by the ignominious Interstate 40 – not once, but multiple times from Monkeytown to Los Angeles and back again – first as a teenager then as an adult.
That tale is one for a future in-depth Valet Boy because in retrospect, I did indeed find my Open Road Adventures – just not the kind I had envisioned in my youthful fantasies.
That experience rocked my soul, leaving me with an addiction for the highway I can only equate to that of an addled crack head always searching for a reprise of that illusive first high. As the great Mr. Wolfe opined “Ya can’t go home again, butthead” – or something to that effect.
There is always that sense of hopefulness. The sensuality of the unknown that even a short drive may offer. Who knows what might lurk beyond the curve ahead? Over that next rise….Well, nowadays, it’s usually little more than roadway refuse, shuttered fruit stands or some other decapitated roadside attraction.
So, when Mom said she wanted to grab her best friend Fran, hop in the car and hit the road for Enterprise, AL to see her sister – it required all of the energy I could muster to make the trip. Not because I didn’t want to visit my Auntie Liz, but because there is no longer any sense of untamed romance to US 231….
“Fran has immaculate generation and she’d go if you drove us.”
Not to take anything away, of course, from the prospects of being entertained by the stimulating antics from a couple of half-deaf, near-blind and virtually incontinent elderly women.
Gird your loins, Valet Boy, it’s going to be a lumpy ride.
“Look at THAT fence. It goes all the way around his property. That had to cost an arm, a leg and three feet.”
“That’s the house I wanted ‘so and so’ to buy.”
“Wow, that is sure a yellow car.”
“Wow, that sure is a big truck.”
“What color car do you drive, Jimmy?”
“Wow, that sure is a big building. Wonder what that’s for, Jimmy?”
“Tee hee hee”
“Wow, he sure was an old biker boy!”
“Mildred’s got Alzheimer’s.”
“What about her?”
“She’s got Alzheimer’s.”
“What kind of car do you drive, Jimmy?”
“Wow, look at that yellow car.”
You can say whatever you want about the aging process. How this thing or that thing may be the first to go as life’s ever encroaching term limit bears down upon you.
Perhaps, even more so the pleasurable sense of NO CONVERSATION! Especially when behind the wheel. I’m not a big talker when I’m driving anyway, so this back and forth from front seat to rear with me in the middle having to interpret and add volume was stretching Valet Boy’s limited patience to the breaking point.
It wasn’t simply the inanity of the same thing being said repeatedly for 90 minutes. What really bothered me about this simplistic chattering was – that this is probably as good as it’s gonna get.
The constant reminder from that thief Father Time – pointing and laughing, winking at us as we watch, helpless to stem the tide.
Valet Boy still has enough patience to weather the slings and arrows of minor dementia. After all, I’m not that irate teenager any longer. And these are merely the precipient shadows of things to come.
I dearly love my Mom and knowing the endgame is upon us makes even the mundane that more precious.
Thanks for reading,