Memories From My First Real Road Trips


I’ve been thinking about my first real road trips, the big trips that you took with family when you were young. I have a couple of these that I have already mentioned parts of in some of my other musings.

The first one that I have much memory of is a trip I took to visit my Uncle John and Aunt Beth in the city of Azle, Texas. I don’t have a lot of memories about this trip, but several things do stand out.

My mother decided that she was going to drive to Texas. She invited a lady who I only remember as Lou Cindy to travel with us. We took off from the small town of Culloden, Georgia and headed west. The only thing I really remember about that part of the trip is my mom crossing Lake Pontchartrain at night and Lou Cindy hiding her head under the dashboard because it was so frightening not to see any land at all.

Alamo by Cqui Via wikimedia commons

When we got to Texas we stayed with my uncle and aunt. This is the trip where I somehow talked them into driving the 270 miles to San Antonio, so I could see the Alamo. I remember eating in a restaurant there and seeing pie alamode on the menu. I, of course, had to have some pie Alamo.

I have heard the story many times of our stop somewhere on the way back to Azle, where my aunt found a horned toad and wanted me to hold it. “I don’t want the damned thing,” I told her. This story was known as the time Thad damned the toad.

horned toad by public domain via wikimedia commons

I do not know if it was the same stop or not, but somehow my uncle found a dead rattlesnake. He cut off the rattle and I put it on the band of my white cowboy hat. Needless to say, from that point forward I was the coolest cowboy in Culloden, Georgia.

The next big trip I remember came about when my Uncle Tom took my Tante Frieda, cousins Bill and Mary to catch a trans-Atlantic ship to Germany. My uncle was a career Army man and met and married my aunt while he was stationed in Germany.

My Aunt was returning home to visit her mother and sister. My uncle invited me to go to New York and back. The only catch was my having to ask my father for twenty dollars to finance my portion of the trip. I’m not sure how much money twenty dollars was back then, but I had to really get up my nerve to ask my father for the money.

Having received the money needed for my part of the trip, I was soon seated in the back seat of my uncle’s Hudson Hornet headed for Hoboken, New Jersey. At that time, Hoboken was the home of several ocean liners who made the trip from the United States to Europe.

Many of my memories of that trip concern food. I remember us ordering breakfast in a restaurant in North Carolina. I was just a country boy and had never seen or tried a sunny side up fried egg. After sending the egg back to the kitchen a couple of times so they could finish cooking it, my uncle decided perhaps I should just have some scrambled eggs.

sunny side up by Jamie Davies via wikimedia commons

Another eating experience that stayed with me concerned the Howard Johnson Restaurants that were at every stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. I was quite impressed by Mr. Johnson’s 28 flavors of ice cream. I may or may not have ordered vanilla or chocolate, but I was impressed none the less.

One other foodie memory comes from a diner where we ate lunch one day. I ordered a hamburger and needed pickles for my burgers. The waitress brought this bowl of what I considered sliced cucumbers in vinegar and gave them to me as pickles. I’m not sure what kind of pickle they were, but they certainly were not the dills that came out of the jar at home.

After putting his family on the ship, my uncle had business at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. This is the trip where I got to go to Griffith Stadium to see the Washington Senators play the New York Yankees. It was my first trip to a major league stadium and even though the stadium had been built in 1911, it was magic for me.

I remember my uncle taking me to the Smithsonian Museum. I think my favorite stop was the National Air Museum which we now call the National Air and Space Museum. I had recently seen the movie where Jimmy Stewart had starred as Charles Lindbergh, so my most exciting sight was the Spirit of St. Louis hanging from the ceiling. I remember having a photo of the plane I had taken with my Kodak Brownie. I have no idea what happened to that photo, but I can still see it in my mind’s eye.

Spirit of St. Louis by public domain via wikimedia commons

At some point, either that day or the next, my uncle put me on a tour bus. I remember him asking the driver to keep an eye on me and the driver telling him no problem. Can you imagine dropping someone nine or ten years old off alone on a tour bus today?

My only memory from that portion of the trip was the driver talking about different statues and monuments as we road though the streets of Washington.  When we stopped in front of one of the statues the driver told us this was “General William Tecumseh Sherman, hero of the Civil War.” At that point he stopped in midsentence and looked over at me, “I’m sorry,” he said. “You are from Georgia aren’t you?” It wasn’t long after that my uncle met the tour bus at some stop and picked me up so we could head home.

Sherman by CC BY-SA 2.0 via wikimedia commons

My vivid memory of the trip home is our one stop in the Shenandoah Valley. This was an unplanned stop since we were pulled over by a policeman and given a ticket for speeding. My uncle followed the officer to a house sitting on the hillside. My uncle left me in the car while he went in the house to pay his fine. When we left I remember him talking about speed traps and never setting foot in the state of Virginia again. It was shortly after this when he was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia.

Well those are my memories about my early road trips. I’m sure if I worked at it I could remember some other things from those trips, but these are the memories that immediately come to mind. I think it is funny that many of the memories concern food of some sort. Thanks for bearing with me while I relive some fun times from my boyhood.

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