Being a travelin’ type of guy, I think it is well-established I enjoy the good ol’ American road trip,
Because of dreaded COVID-19, I have been studying my trusty U.S. road atlas much more than usual since mid-March.
My immediate family will gladly tell you I have an absolute passion for all types of maps, and most types of motor vehicles. I recently satisfied a powerful desire on a recent solo driving trip, this one about 800 total miles in length, start to finish.
First, some back story. My bride, Ms. Debbie, has relatives on her mother’s (Neiderhaus) side, in the quaint south central Nebraska city of Hastings, almost straight north highway-wise from Our Town. Her uncle, Danny, and his two daughters, Alex and Augusta, also live in this lovely middle-of-the- country town. Danny’s wife of over 50 years, Linda, passed away rather suddenly in January, 2020, and her memorial service was held the Saturday following her death. Because it was the middle of the winter, the weather was not good, and the highways leading from Our Town to Hastings were covered with ice. Therefore, it was a “no go” for my bride and me to attend Linda’s service. We were very disappointed we could not be present, but telephoned the family several times before and after her memorial, to demonstrate our compassion and concern. Linda had always been a smiling face, and her laugh was truly contagious. She had a very low-key approach to life, and, thus, it was always joy for our family to be around her.
Because of the miles that separated us, we certainly did not see Linda and Danny’s family often, but cherished the times we could get together, and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company.
Around late winter/early spring, we told Danny we would be making the trip up to see his group, and we fully intended to carry out this promise.
Then COVID-19 unleashed its fury on the world, and our family followed the masses, going into lock-down mode. Sound familiar, audience??
So, my bride and I had to re-think when we could make plans for the drive north, to pay our respects to departed Linda, and once again, see her great family. With the stay-at-home locally followed for almost two months, we choose a June date for the trip. However, when June arrived, Lady Debbie’s intense left shoulder pain was bothering her so much, we decided she would stay in Our Town. Therefore, I took to the highway myself for the brief, three-day, two-night visit.
Over the years, together we have made the drive several times, but this particular time, my trip was quite different. Probably the biggest factor was the lack of traffic on all the predominately four-lane divided highways, I-35, I-135 and US-81. Also, being by myself in my truck, I spent most of the almost six hours each direction, talking on my hands-free cell phone to various friends all over our country. For me, this telephone chatter while traveling really seems to make the miles/time go quickly.
Upon arrival in Hastings, I took Uncle Danny and his youngest daughter and his oldest grandchild out to eat, catching up on their lives, and filling them in on the latest Our Town Breedlove family news.
The next day, Father’s Day, was spent visiting with other members of the Neiderhaus clan. During the late afternoon when we were all assembled in Uncle Danny’s home, I was asked by his oldest daughter, Alex, why did I chose to come up on this special day (also my birthday, our anniversary and Father’s Day)? I took a slight pause, then sincerely replied to everyone present, we wanted to honor Linda’s memory. We really wanted to come together, but we knew Debbie’s shoulder just would not tolerate the extended drive. That was a very special moment for me to be able to tell them our motivation for my holiday trip
I should also mention Uncle Danny narrated an excellent, two-hour guided tour through his town. I drove my truck while he explained, in detail, many interesting sites throughout this lovely place (population about 25,000 ). It is the home of a wonderful museum (where it explains Kool-Aid was invented in Hastings), two small colleges, and many beautiful Norman Rockwell-like residential tree-filled neighborhoods.
I reversed my tracks going home, and had several more extended telephone conversations. I, also, once again enjoyed many lovely wheat fields, all nearing their harvest time, miles and miles of soybeans, corn, cattle, and various other agricultural sightings. This beautiful country scenery is very easy to absorb with my approving human eyes.
Hopefully, Ms. Debbie and I will be able to make this northern adventure again, but Uncle Danny et al. might visit us again in Our Town, Either way, it’s a win/win for all concerned!
Robert Breedlove is an Oklahoma State University news-editorial journalism graduate, and a former newspaper (including News Press) reporter. He resides in Stillwater, and has for most of his life. He has been a contributing writer to various media over the United States for years. He may be reached at email@example.com.