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The Lost Art of the Sunday Drive


Frequently, people lament the passing of the good ol’ days but when questioned, rarely do any Sad Sams want to return to days before air conditioning, central heat, automatic transmissions, cell phones, internet, and cable TV.  While it is possible to live life without those items, most of us don’t really want to revert to life without modern technology.

When people talk about the good ol’ days, I think they miss things like Sunday afternoon drives.  As a kid, I loved to hear my parents jingle the car keys and say, “Load up. Let’s go for a ride.”  

The first order of business for my brother and me was to divide  the back seat with an imaginary line.  Once we established its location, we knew not to cross it unless we intended to fight for territory.  A stern, “Stay on your side of the seat,” from an adult facing forward in the front seat made us wonder if our parents really did have eyes in the backs of their heads like they said they did.

Our car had an old-fashioned arm-strong style air conditioner, so Sunday drives meant getting huge doses of fresh air.  Wind blew torrents through rolled down windows, yes, rolled down—that’s what made it arm-strong ac.  It would riffle our hair until we had a rat’s nest of tangles.  Constant noise from wind blowing through the car made it hard to hear, so we didn’t talk as much as we looked. 

Spotting the first wild animal or game bird earned us imaginary Sunday drive points worth little more than knowing we had sharper vision than our fellow passengers.  Despite the lack of tangible rewards, honor kept our eyes peeled to spot pheasants, coyotes, and jack rabbits before anyone else did.

When I was eight, we lived in Utah, and Sunday drives meant a trip up a winding mountain road where we looked for perfectly camouflaged porcupines in pine trees.  My brother and I both developed eagle eyes trying to be the first to sight one of those bristly creatures hiding among almost matching needle-covered branches. To this day, that early training helps me spot distant wildlife faster than anyone else in the vehicle can.

Another favorite Sunday drive in Utah was a trip along the Colorado River.  If we looked high up the red rock walls, we’d spot  a Moki Hole, which was an entrance to  an Indian cave dwelling.  Better yet, we’d spy a panel of ancient petroglyphs where Indians used stone tools to peck pictures of animals and anthropomorphic creatures in stone.

I suspect children today would cringe to hear their folks holler, “Load up.  Let’s go for a drive,” with the expectation they would spend time actually looking out the car window instead of watching a portable DVD player or playing electronic games.  However, if folks can afford a Sunday drive at today’s gas prices, time spent learning to look at the landscape might pay off with wonderful memories and silly stories to tell at family reunions.