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November 21, 2009

Driving Around as Entertainment

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Once upon a time. Ages ago. Before television. Before movies on videotape and DVD. Before iPhones, Twitter and texting. Before the Internet. And before gasoline prices touched $4 per gallon (very roughly 70 Euro cents per liter -- yes, that's cheap by European standards). Before ... where was I? Oh yeah. Back when I was a kid.

One thing my family and many others did for entertainment was the Sunday Drive.

This was in the days when a four-lane highway outside cities was a big deal in the distant, forested, rain-soaked Pacific Northwest. This meant that trips were fairly short; not many miles because my father didn't like driving a lot in a day and the two-lane roads were slow. Short time-wise because we seldom would stop for a meal, normally accomplishing the trip between lunchtime and dinner.

Years later, when I was in graduate school, I'd sometimes entertain myself on weekends by day tripping. From Philadelphia I sometimes ranged as far as New Haven and Washington, DC. Other drives were shorter: through the Amish country or up to Princeton.

Today I still do recreational driving. For example, Nancy likes going to the Skagit Valley area to look at tulips in the spring and to browse the shops in the quaint town of La Conner.

Actually, I'm pretty sure a lot of people still take recreational drives, this despite fuel prices and nagging from the Green crowd. It's just that you don't hear about it as much with all the other weekend activies available these days.



posted by Donald at November 21, 2009


Don't know about the weekend drive. But for me, and my friends, the great American road trip was a real thing.

I drove out to college from Mass to Colorado. In college we'd drive to San Diego, South Padre Island, Texas, San Francisco, etc. It's the way to see the country. Main suggestion - get easygoing, pleasant companions for your trip. That's what makes all the difference.

Posted by: Ed on November 21, 2009 10:57 PM

This was a favourite destination for a Sunday drive in childhood, if the weather wasn't suitable for the seashore and if we weren't in a mood for Roman, Dark Ages or Medieval stuff.

Posted by: dearieme on November 22, 2009 9:59 AM

Maude: What do you do for recreation?
The Dude: Oh, the usual. I bowl. Drive around. The occasional acid flashback.

The dude abides Donald.

Posted by: Steve Johnson on November 22, 2009 1:50 PM

Speaking of presidents (and presidential natural and emotional intelligence vs. educated intelligence) and driving around as entertainment, I just moments ago ran across on the itnernet a new book (published May 2009) that is kind of releveant to the recent 2Blowhards posts on these topics: "Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure: The Ture Story of a Great American Road Trip," by Matthew Algeo.

Truman seems to be frequently rated among the top ten greatest presidents (see the lists on Wikipedia). Although he didn't go to college due to a downturn in his family's finances (he's the last president not to have gone to college), he was, I think most people would agree, above average in both natural and emotional (knowing how to deal with people) intelligence and common sense. Plus, he was a voracious reader who read very widely throughout his entire life. (He seemed to be especially fond, though, of history, including military history -- which seemed to come in pretty handy for him later in life.)

Truman also seemed to love to drive, was a member of AAA and, as a local politician (he was, more or less, the county executive for the county that includes Kansas City, Missouri), was praised for the quality of the extensive network of roads that he built.

Shortly after he retired from the presidency, he and his wife DROVE to Philadelpia and New York and back to Independence so that he could give a speach (in Philly) and sightsee (and visit his daughter in New York?). In those days, retired presidents did not get secret service protection (nor a pension), and the president and his wife stayed in regular motels and ate in regular diners, etc., along the way. (But they stayed in the Waldorf in NYC and, apparently, the Bellevue Stratford in Philly.) But as soon as the media caught on, according to the book reviews and the comments on the Amazon webpage, it became something of a media circus.

Here's a link to the Amazaon webpage for the book (with editorial reviews and reader comments):

Posted by: Benjamin Hemric on November 22, 2009 2:00 PM

In the forties my dad loved to take us on weekend drives through the glaciated hills, meadows, woodlands and valleys of southern Wisconsin in his cherished twelve-cylinder Lincoln Zephyr. We would stop at cheese factories and buy their wares. That's when I discovered the delicate flavor of "green" or partially-cured cheeses, which I prefer to this day. The roads were two-lane and empty, and the only danger was the farmers who burst onto the highway without stopping to look if traffic was present. My brother and I would grow restless sometimes, and then at my mother's behest we would play the alphabet game--we would each take one side of the road and try to find the letters of the alphabet, in order, on the road signs and ads. The Burma Shave signs helped a lot. So did Quaker State.

Posted by: Richard S. Wheeler on November 22, 2009 6:44 PM

Loved the sculpture walk!

Donald and I are the same age. Our fav drive was up the Columbia River from Portland, where I grew up, to Maryhill Museum which is about 100 miles upstream on the Washington side. This was a popular enough trek that restaurants were dotted along the route on the Oregon side.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on November 22, 2009 9:13 PM

I am so glad someone else also enjoys recreational driving. Durign stressful times, I enjoy driving for the sake of driving. Extremely relaxing to me.

Posted by: DeepThough on November 23, 2009 4:07 PM

RSW, Sadly those signs and cheese factories are mostly gone. When I drove my boys between Boscobel and Richland Center, we played "Roadkill". One point for being the first to spot a carcass and a second point if you could identify what it used to be. Ah, rural living!

Posted by: Bradamante on November 23, 2009 7:53 PM


Posted by: jiji on November 25, 2009 6:31 AM

Benjamin Hemric:

Thanks for the link to the Truman book which was new to me. Pages 105-106 describe Truman stopping off at the Byrnes in Eckhart, MD to visit an ailing 92 year old women at the request of her son then talking with people on their porch for a half an hour. This is a part of my family's lore since the Byrnes lived across the street from the house that my mom grew up in and were close friends to my mom's family. Many of my mom's relatives (but not my mom) were able to talk to Truman. This story always seemed amazing to me and it is good to see the context.

Posted by: joe o'malley on December 2, 2009 1:21 PM

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