Hodgepodge: Road trippin’

As we drove to Roanoke, Virginia last weekend to attend grandson Camden’s college graduation at Radford University in Radford, Va., I was reminded of other trips.

I did some checking when we got home.

Captive in a Car

In December 1984, my column reviewed a trip to Roanoke to spend Thanksgiving. That trip made me realize that spending 10 hours in a car together could possibly be one of life’s worse fates for four people.

Some of the dialogue on that long trip went something like this:

“Move over, you’re on my side.” “I am not.” “Mom, Dad, he’s on my side.” “I am not. I’m way over here.” “Your foot’s on my side.” “It is not.” “Mom, Dad, he’s kickin’ me.” “I am not.” “He is so.”     

And then, from the front seat, all right you two, straighten up right now; or do I have to come back there and sit between you?”     

Nowadays the dialogue goes more like this:

“I’m hungry, let’s stop.” “I don’t want to stop, I want to get home.” “You’re driving too fast and I’m hungry.” “I think there’s a good place to stop at the next exit.” “You said that 50 miles ago, and I’m still hungry.” “How come you’re so hungry, we stopped for lunch didn’t we?”

Then from the back seat, “OK, you two, that’s enough. Knock it off right now or I’m going to have to come up there and sit between you.”

On a trip in May 1987 I decided to help pass the time by keeping track of license plates that some cars have which outwardly brag of some aspect of the car owner’s life – thus the term “vanity plates.”

An Unscientific Survey

My unscientific survey – I just sit in the passenger seat and keep track of the licenses on the cars passing us or getting passed while my wife drives – points out that about one in 10 of the cars on the road have vanity plates.

Many plates profess the driver’s love for his vehicle. Some I saw were ‘MY CHEVY’, ‘53 PK UP’ and ‘STANG 79.’

Other vanity plates seem to be displaying the owner’s name or that of his wife or girlfriend.

The plate which we were most intrigued by on this trip was one which contained only four letters – NNNN.  That was it – no numbers or other letters.  I decided right away the car must belong to a lady with a name like Nancy Nanette Norton Nelson.

My wife, who is fond of mysteries and puzzles, came up with this solution – The owner of the vehicle is proud of his foreign heritage; his license plate proclaims that he is a ‘Four N-er.’

My license plate was picked out for me by the state. It says “225 FUT.” I wonder how many drivers following my car have tried to figure that one out.

Another thing I have been doing on long drives is trying to figure out whether we pass more of those quaint little white churches with steeples reaching toward the sky or more of the “Golden Arches” that accompany McDonald’s restaurants.

I like to think that I am the only traveler in America who has conducted a survey of this type. By the way, little churches and Golden Arches are almost at a dead heat, but for what it’s worth, there is one spot in Pennsylvania where there are at least 10 churches between arches.

It is increasingly difficult these days to find a soft drink machine where the cost of a 12-ounce can of soda is less than 75 cents. We found a Coke machine which only required a deposit of 50 cents per bottle.  (Remember, it was 1987.)

However, it was necessary to drink up and depart quickly to keep the bargain.  Lock boxes on the restroom doors required a deposit of 25 cents before the doors would open.”

Graduation Highlights

Speaking of vanity plates (we were, you know):

We met a man at Camden’s graduation party who had the best of this trip’s vanity plates. David Beam is a dentist and his license plate reads “OPN WIDE”

(Note: The next trip highlight may have dropped into a very damp “lowlight” category):

The most valuable commodity of graduation weekend turned out to be an umbrella. The ceremony was held outside last Saturday morning and it rained starting sometime during the trip from Roanoke and continued throughout the morning.

The amazing thing was that most of the thousands of graduates, professors and guests at the ceremony were carrying umbrellas. The graduation site was a sea of brightly colored umbrellas.

The speaker at Radford’s commence- ment ceremony was Virginia’s Secretary of Education Anne Holton. Holton is a former Richmond (Va.) Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judge. One of her claims to fame is she lived in Virginia’s governor’s mansion as a child and as an adult.

She is married to former governor and current senator, Timothy M. Kaine, and is the daughter of another former governor, A. Linwood Holden.

It was appropriate that a bagpiper participated in the Radford Highlanders’ pre-graduation activities.

Following the joint commencement ceremony the graduates, followed by their families and friends, moved on to individual diploma presentations. For us it was a short, but wet trip on foot to Radford’s new College of Business and Economics building.

As we entered the new building I breathed a sigh of relief – at last, we get to be inside, out of the rain.  But — not so fast. Our visit included a short trip to the front of the building, back outside where more wet folding chairs were set up on the soggy lawn.

The whole experience was one to remember. Yes, it was wet and soggy, but it was wonderful.

… Roy Hodge



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