For the last 23 years, Linda and I have made it a point to celebrate our anniversary in late June by taking a road trip somewhere. They’ve all been fun but some more memorable than others.
For example, in 1987, we managed to talk our bosses into letting us have three whole weeks off at once so we could jump in the car and head south.
Soon we were meandering through Dixie..taking the time to stop and see what life was really like in this part of the country.
After years of watching news reports of all the racial hatred and violence in places like Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana, I admit to having some apprehensions about going there. I had visions of being pulled over by one of those stereotypical gum-chewing southern cops, like Rod Steiger in "In the heat of the night" who don’t take kindly to strangers of any color.
"Ta hell you think your doin’ boy..don’t they have speed limits upair in South Dakota?"
"Yes, sir but I wasn’t speeding."
"Y’all callin’ me a liar boy? We’ll now, we don’t cotton to you northern folks comin’ down here with your Yankee smart ass attitudes. A couple nights in the slammer just might fix up that sassy mouth ah yours real good."
But it turns out that the people we encountered in the south are actually more like Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry than Bull Connor of Birmingham.
People were friendly and outgoing everywhere we went and I really got used to waitresses referring to me as honeychil’ or sugar. "Y’all have a wonderful day now, sweetie pie."
Linda didn’t mind it either when men called her ma’am and darlin’.
My brother and his wife recently bought a home by a big lake in South Carolina and want us to come down for a visit. I wonder how they’d feel about the entire month of November.
Another memorable road trip was the first time we headed up to Mackinac (Pronounced Mack-in-aw) Island in Northern Michigan. We had just gotten our Camaro convertible. The weather was perfect for leaving the top down for the enjoyable drive through Wisconsin…then, after a three hour ferryboat ride across Lake Michigan we headed up the eastern shore to Mackinac City. From there we climbed aboard a people ferry over to the Island where no motorized vehicles are allowed. It’s all buggies and wagons that are powered by real horses. Because of those animals, there is a distinct, but not entirely unpleasant aroma about the place..especially when mixed with the smells of chocolate fudge and other treats from the many shops and restaurants along main street. Then there is the intoxicating odor of the lilacs. Lilac bushes and trees are everywhere and so are millions of gorgeous flowers. I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason they’re so abundant and healthy had something to do with all of that horse poop collected from the streets and stables.
The island’s Grand Hotel truly is grand! This huge wooden structure has somehow survived over a century without having a fire. It’s a magnificent place that still features all the amenities that have attracted aristocrats, celebrities, presidents and royalty since the late 19th century.
Linda and I spent a memorable afternoon sipping gimlets in the cupola bar on the very top of the Grand Hotel that offered an amazing panoramic view of the island and the Straights of Mackinac.
We loved it so much we’ve been back twice.
This summer, though, I think if we travel at all, it will be closer to home..partly in rebellion to the insane gasoline prices..partly because our California and Arizona kids will be coming here for their vacation and partly because there are a lot of places within a couple hundred miles of our front door that we’ve been meaning to visit but never gotten around to.
So, if you spot a heavy-set grey-haired guy and his wife driving slowly through your town in a 14 year old red Camaro convertible with the top down..wave us on over and maybe show us around. Afterward, perhaps we can sit in the shade, have a couple vodka gimlets together and watch the sunset. Do’ne that soun’ like fun sweet pea?