The Long Drive. the challenge of the true driver.
|photo source: Eight Oaks Inc.|
There was a time in the 70's when it seemed like everybody wanted to be a long haul trucker.
"Ten Four Good Buddy, I've got my ears on!"
Most of us are not long haul truckers, we don't make our living spending the entire day in the driver's seat.
Short haul truckers, even bus drivers also put a lot of miles down everyday.
There are many people that have long commutes, fifty to seventy five miles each way, in heavy commute traffic.
I'm not referencing those types of drivers, I'm referring to the tourist, the vacation driving motorist.
Even with the popularity and low prices of some air routes, driving still remains one of the best ways to take a vacation, or at least transport a family to their destination.
Air fares can be cheap, they reduce or eliminate the need for overnight layovers at motels. They usually reduce the travel time to one day, or less. That saves precious vacation days for the actual event itself. Time off from work is probably the hardest thing to obtain at a certain point in one's life.
There are some destinations that can only be practically reached by air travel. You can't drive to Hawaii or Europe, though you could take a boat, at the cost of even more time and money.
For blue collar and lower middle class people of my generation, trans oceanic voyages, or extended air trips were not the norm. To be truthful, any extended trips were out of the ordinary for my family, most of the time.
Most people of my generation have quite vivid, if not actually pleasant, memories of family vacations accompanied by long periods cooped up in a car.
I've done my best to maintain that tradition.
As a young man I took extensive motorcycling journeys all around North America. I've documented some of those trips in this blog. These remain some of the highlights of my lifetime.
Once I was married and had a family, motorcycling was not going to be an option for me. So I drove.
To be truthful, I love driving, always have, and still do. Luckily most of my family's trips have been done in later model cars with the luxury of air conditioning. They aren't the only ones that have gotten spoiled.
Though one time I drove up to Klamath Falls Oregon for the Riviera Owner's Association convention in my '66 Riviera. The one without working a/c. The one with "flow through ventilation."
My family won't ever forget that trip!
How long should single day's drive be? Is there a point of diminishing returns? There are only twenty four hours in a day. Extended hours are not always a good idea.
I suppose that my high points were the two California 1,000 motorcycle rallies that I took part in. One thousand miles in a day is a pretty high standard. With mileage like that, it's the process of attaining it, more than the trip itself that is important.
Travel by car was the most economical if not best, way to transport a family of four or more members to the vacation destination. Besides, car travel allows for sightseeing opportunities.
I frequently drive down to Southern California, depending on the specific location, it is a 350-400 mile one way trip.
Trips to Lake Tahoe or Clear Lake are between 200-250 miles, one way.
I don't consider those to be long hauls.
In my youth, my motorcycle touring primarily consisted of a long day in the saddle, noting points of interest as we passed them by, without ever stopping to check them out. "Marathoning," my buddy Rick and I used to call it. Our intent was to cover as much territory as possible in a day, usually around 500 miles. It was always best to start early.
Travelling with my young family, my intent was to reach our destination for the night, with as little drama as possible. Kids get awful crabby when they're tired. Their endurance isn't that long.
This blog entry was initiated because I've just returned from our annual trip to the Oregon coast. It's seven hundred miles from our home. Usually my Wife and I plan a layover in Medford Oregon. It's about six hours to Medford and another four hours from Medford to the coast. There several antique and craft stores that my Wife and I (?) like to visit in the Medford and Eugene areas. It helps break up the trip, and we'll often stop in other locations that catch our eye. Most of the drive is straight freeway, but even I-5 north of Redding becomes a curving mountain highway. The final leg to the coast is over some two lane curving roadways.
I find it to be an enjoyable, if somewhat long drive.
Due to Covid restrictions, our favorite motel in Medford wouldn't have their breakfast buffet available, just like last Summer. I did miss those waffles, last year they only offered a yogurt, breakfast bar, and an apple! Quite a come down! We did the layover last year, but missed out on the antiques stores.
This year my Son and his fiance asked if they could ride up with us, and they would rent a car for their return trip, since they couldn't stay the entire time. The idea was advanced, why not just drive up in one day? My son drove up and back in a single sitting, last year. Years ago I had driven back from Portland after the "Datsun Driving Canby fun," event, ( I was a vendor) in a single sitting. I was at least ten years younger back then.
"Let's give it a shot. " I agreed. It's at least ten hours of straight driving, add in some time for gas and bathroom stops and it's pretty close to a twelve hour trip. I did have my Son along to share some of the driving. And in all truth I trust his driving completely. We used to drive down to the L.A. area for swap meets, returning late at night. You know you trust someone when you can sleep while they drive.
On a recent trip to Riverside there were five of us in the car, and I let my Son drive from Newhall to Anaheim. My Wife and I traded places into the third row seat. That was quite a shock for me.
First of all, I'm used to doing all the driving on my trips. My Wife does all the navigating. I haven't been a passenger in any seat for many, many, years. Then to be seated in the third row seat! My claustrophobia kicked in a bit, but at least the Flex has plenty of big windows, though legroom was scant back there. It's bit disconcerting to feel the car making turns, kind of a weird, pivoting feel. I had to talk myself down on a couple of occasions.
Was I relaxed when we arrived in Anaheim? Well, at least I had the opportunity to rest my eyes for a bit. They do get a bit tired after a long day's drive.
This time I would be in the back seat of the Flex, a very spacious and comfortable place to sit. Plenty of leg room, with a center arm rest and big windows. After we gassed up and ate dinner, in Springfield, (inside a restaurant! finally!) we switched seats. It was only going to be a couple of hours.
It was then that I realized that there were other issues besides the seating arrangement in play.
I do like being in control, I like looking out through the windshield. I did feel a bit diminished sitting in the back seat. Though I managed to sleep for an hour on that leg of the trip.
Originally, my Wife had booked a layover in Redding for the trip back, which we would be making alone. But Redding is only four hours from home. Would it be worth making a stop so close to home? It's not like there was anything that we wanted to do in Redding. I had a couple of days to make up my mind before my Wife had to cancel the booking.
I decided that I would do the drive straight through. I planned for a twelve hour day on the road, as long as we didn't leave too late we could reach familiar freeways before it got too dark. I don't like driving on country highways in the dark. When I was younger I could easily see beyond the illumination of the head lamps, now it's not so easy. It takes a lot more concentration.
The early part of the drive took us into unfamiliar territory as we decided to drive south, past Newport. A nice drive which became a cliff hugging, two lane highway for a stretch before we reached the town of Florence. From Florence we turned east on a very nice two lane road that paralleled a river. This road took up directly into Springfield, where my Wife wanted to stop in a favorite antique store to check out some furniture. From there it was back onto Interstate 5 which is our usual route. We were rained on most of the morning and it only stopped as we reached the California border.
The Flex handled the mountain driving just fine. It has plenty of power, great brakes, and if I am smooth with the inputs I can speed through the curves a comfortable margin over the speed limits. It's not a sports sedan and curves are best taken "thoughtfully." The smooth ride comes from a soft suspension which is how most big cars used to be sprung in the old days. You've just got to treat it with respect, and everything will be fine.
Our last gas stop was fifty miles north of Sacramento in the town of Arbuckle. Besides gas, cleaning the windshield was a priority as well as a cup of Extra Mile cappachino. That stuff is good but sweet, I only drink it on road trips. It started getting dark from there on 505, which runs through the middle of nowhere, skirting Sacramento. It got pretty dark, but the Flex has pretty good lights. Once we reached w/b I-80 it was all good, and well lit familiar freeway. My eyes held out okay. though they were pretty tired by the end of the day.
We pulled into the driveway at 10:45 pm. over twelve hours after we had left Depot Bay that morning at 9:30 am, 700 miles up the road. During our drive, we had been discussing the value of the layover. Driving in a long, single day places more stress on me, as I feel that I've got to keep going constantly, because you never know if a potential delay or problem is waiting for you up ahead. It might have been nice to have made some impromptu stops at things that caught our eye along the way. I didn't want to spare the time. We did run into some road construction delays while in the mountains. There was no real reason that we had to make the trip in a single sitting. The pressure came from not wanting to drive long periods in the dark. As retired people we don't have to ration our vacation days, and the additional cost of a hotel stay isn't a real financial issue. As I have written before, the definition of luxury is having more than you need. I found that scheduling a layover gave us a luxurious travel experience, much more relaxing and fun.
It was nice to know that I could still pull a day long drive, though I realized it's not something that I really need, or want to do. The days of "marathoning" are long past!
All that being said, last night I arrived home from a another trip from the Riverside area. We decided to drive back on my favorite route, US101, I always find this drive enjoyable, and this time was not an exception. We stopped in Pismo Beach for dinner at Brad's. We arrived home at 12:30 am, but I felt really good and it was a return trip of over 450 miles. I guess I still got it , and I'm going to enjoy the drives as long as I can.