Monday, September 10, 2018

Driving is tonic for the soul ~ my column from Sunday

I never realized until after my surgery a few weeks ago what driving meant to me.

When the doctors briefed me on what to expect after the operation, I heard the part about not being able to drive for two weeks, but that fact didn’t hit home until after the first week. As I sat on our screen porch looking out at the world outside, it occurred to me that the pain, stiffness, lack of appetite and a few unmentionables were no picnic, but it was not being able to drive that was the most painful.

I’ve been driving since before I could reach the pedals on the floorboard of a car. Sitting on my dad’s lap, we kept the backroads hot. He loved driving as much as I do. 

One Sunday afternoon when I was a little older, he headed out to haul off garbage to the local dump. “Let’s ride, Satch,” he said. That was the nickname he used for me when he needed a sidekick. 

We were in the old 1946 Chevy pickup.  It had four a four-speed manual transmission with
Courtesy of the Internet
the gearshift on the hump in the floorboard. The truck needed front-end work. I knew this because the steering wheel had “play” in it. This meant that you could turn the steering wheel about a quarter way around without the wheels responding. Since the old beast was only used occasionally, repairs were on the “I need to fix that someday” list.

After tossing the garbage off the truck at the Samoset Dump, we took a detour up Fire-Tower Road. It was a dirt road that stretched between the Dora/Cordova Road and the Highway 78 near Argo. There were straightaways miles long it seemed. 

Dad steered to the side of the road. The old tires crunched on the gravel and red rock as we came to a stop. “You wanna drive?” he asked. My eyes said it all. 

He slid over, and I crawled over his lap. My legs were just long enough to push the pedals if I tiptoed. I’d watched him change gears so often that I ‘d memorized them. Getting used to the clutch was a little tricky, but after killing the engine a few times, we jerked out down the road. I fell in love that day.

Through the years, I’ve had more cars and trucks than I can remember. I did a rough calculation in my head on the mileage of vehicles I’ve owned in the past and realized that I’ve driven over a million miles.

A big chunk of these miles came from commuting each day between our home in Empire and my work in Birmingham for over 30 years. Also, Jilda and I have driven over most the eastern half of America.

Sometimes when I feel down, I have an instant cure. Getting behind the wheel of my truck, I can head out down a backroad and drive for a while with the windows rolled down. 

This week when the doctor released me to drive, my spirits soared. Driving is like a tonic for my soul.


  1. Last time I drove a '46 Chevy truck (same front end as photo) was in the hop yards, late 1960s. I drove a lot of harvests back then but the Chevy 1 1/2 ton flatbed was my favorite. The truck just seemed so happy to be driven.

  2. A rite of passage...we had no dirt roads, had to settle fro an empty parking lot on a Sunday.

    Great post!

  3. Sitting here in south Texas and reading this brings back so many memories. I love to drive also. You do a great job of expressing it, I love you dad from here. Good article my friend. Folks will associate with this.

  4. PS: That old truck looks just like on I saw for sale out in the country below Opp a few years ago. I had to smile!

  5. Driving in the country can be soothing. Just looking at the scenery is relaxing and stimulating at the same time.

  6. Glad you got the release to drive again. That means everything is going good as expected. Makes one realize what a gift it is. I'm not looking forward at all to the days when I can no longer do it. My drives are limited already. But it is wonderful to be able to get out and go when you want to.

  7. When my mom got macular degeneration she was devastated. Not only could she no longer create her faberge eggs which involved miniature work but she could no longer drive. It was like clipping her wings. When she was in West Germany in the early 50’s, she owned a motorcycle but could not afford a car. When she came to Canada and settled in Toronto, she saved up for a car. This was her goal and she bought a 1952 Chevy Bel Air. She was never able to to get over the fact she could no longer drive and I felt so bad for her.

  8. Amazing that You have driven over a million miles.

  9. It's not easy doing without the thing we take for granted, is it?

  10. Because I had both knees done at the same time I had to wait a month before driving. After 2 weeks I had to test it out...drove up and down the driveway a few time. I didn't risk it on the highway since it was winter and slamming on the brakes could be a problem too! I totally understand your driving mania..I learned to drive in Chicago. No dirt roads but plenty of excitement! Glad to hear you're healing well and life is getting back to normal!

  11. Yes we often take driving for granted until w are told we can't

  12. Anonymous4:12 PM

    I gave up my car & my driver's license last year--dumbest thing I ever did!!

  13. Wonderful story! Cars are like family members. Do you name your vehicles?


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