When I think of my dad, one of the things that is foremost in my mind is his penchant for taking off down unmarked roads to explore. Fuck maps. He'd mainly have a map in the truck somewhere, but he'd only refer to it when he found a posted landmark and needed to make his way back homeward.
Many were the days when my dad would walk into a room where I'd be reading or watching television and say, "Let's go for a ride." Now, to most people, "a ride" meant a short jaunt down to the shopping center, or a cruise through town. Not so with my dad. Such an announcement might mean a two-hour journey into the rural areas of Middle Georgia where we'd look to spot white-tailed deer or little flocks of quail.
And sometimes it meant a trip of two days or more. Seriously. Sometimes after a couple of hours of driving I'd say, "Where are we going?" And I'd be informed that he'd suddenly decided to drive to Florida to visit his brother, so we'd have to stop and buy a couple of toothbrushes and some new underwear. Or across the state to see the mountains. Or to Tifton to take a look at the area where he'd been born. Then, mission accomplished, we'd go back home.
I just never knew.
Another thing is that he'd sometimes see a dirt track leading off whatever gravel road we happened to be traveling and he'd say, "I wonder what's down there?". Then he'd hang a sharp left or right and we'd go tearing down some overgrown travesty of a pair of ruts leading off into piney woods, the limbs and briars tearing at the metal sides of his half-ton Chevy pickup truck. This kind of sudden decision meant nothing to him. He wanted to know where the abandoned road led, and by Jove he was going to find out.
We'd go flying down the path that perhaps had not been driven in years. Maybe it had been a logging road. Perhaps it had once been a driveway leading to an abandoned home site far in the forest. The truck would flatten pine saplings and young sassafras trees and send blackberry brambles into green bits. Away we'd go.
Sometimes, when I'm driving with my wife down some National Forest roadway, graveled and graded and well-maintained, we'll see a faint path intersecting with it and I will slow down, sometimes come to a complete stop, the motor purring, rumbling, waiting for my command. And I will turn to her and say:
"If my dad were driving, he'd turn here and take us down that path and we'd see where it leads."
"Don't you dare!"
And so I push on, taking the safe road, destination known.
Until, of course, I go hiking.
|This isn't my dad's 1963 Chevy half-ton pickup, but it's the same basic model.|
|I recall hooking up the chains to secure the back many a time.|
|"Seat belts? What the hell are 'seat belts'?!"|
|My dad's pickup had the same wooden bed.|
|"Let's go see what's down there!"|