Column, Looking Back

Looking Back: Taking a ride back in the day!

Back in the day where we traveled by car and how we found our way to various places was nothing like it is now.

A friend recently told me that without her GPS she would find it very difficult to get from one place to another. We have become a technology dependent generation!

My car doesn’t have GPS because I am happily stuck back in yesteryear. I didn’t know what the letters GPS stood for until I looked it up. In case you are clueless like I am I will share that answer with you. It means Global Positioning System. Of course, I had no idea what that meant so further digging told me that it is a constellation of about 30 satellites that orbit the earth and allow people with “ground receivers” to pinpoint their geographic location.

As the majority of the world knows, GPS shows you how to get from one place to another and it can track your movement. That is certainly not how we got from “Point A” to “Point B” in my younger days.

Back in the 50s it was a common occurrence to take a Sunday ride. My father loved to get behind the wheel with no destination in mind. The rides were within a 30 mile radius so no map was needed. However, he liked back roads and although he never got lost he didn’t always come out where he thought he would. My mother wasn’t fond of not knowing where she was but didn’t complain about it…most of the time!

If we were going on a car trip to a place that was new to us a multi-folded paper map got us to our destination. Most gas stations had maps and gave them out for free. My mother’s “job” was to read the map and tell my father what was coming up next and what to be on the lookout for. I sat in the back seat and was kept entertained by games such as looking for license plates from various states. No DVD players in those days to keep kids occupied.

Most men do not like to ask for directions. But “back in the day” it was sometimes necessary if they wanted to get to where they were going! Any store that was open served as a backup direction source when the paper road maps weren’t helping. Who needed GPS?

People with a sense of direction had a distinct advantage over those of us who have none! I fall into the latter category. When I was headed home from graduate school in Albany my mother made me promise to call her from the pay phone (no cell phones in those days) at Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Glens Falls. She was afraid that I would turn in the wrong direction on the Northway and head to New York City. I guess I should re-think getting GPS. Apparently it was made for people like me!

In a conversation among friends we discussed what a “trip” meant back in our youth. Someone said that going to West Rutland would have counted as a trip! Students in my era traveled to various towns in Vermont for sporting events but today’s youth who play sports have travel opportunities that can take them all over the U.S. as well as to other countries.

For me a “trip” meant going to Burlington or Glens Falls to shop with my mother, my cousin and her mother. One such trip tells me where my inability to solve simple mechanical issues comes from. My mother was driving our new car to Burlington for a winter shopping trip. She couldn’t figure out how the heater worked and apparently my cousin’s mother couldn’t either. It was a cold winter day and we went up and back with no heat! I guess my mother didn’t want to be the “helpless female” who stopped at a garage and asked how to get it working. And I thought men were bad about asking for help!

My husband, Peter, has always been good with directions but his sense of adventure got us more than we bargained for when we headed to the Averill Lakes in the Northeast Kingdom. He decided to take a scenic ride to that destination. He had been on this road years ago with a “fishing buddy”. But the day we tried it we were pulling a boat behind the car and the dirt road was very narrow. It would have been next to impossible to back up if it was necessary. Thank goodness we didn’t meet another car and as you might guess, we took the long way back to our campground. As they say, “Happy wife…happy life!”

So why not take a ride to nowhere? Turn off your GPS and see where you end up. It will be like a trip back in time. Have fun!




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