From the deep recesses of my childhood memories, I recall saying to my dad one Sunday afternoon, “Let’s go for a drive!”
I don’t know where I got the idea that is would be fun to go for a drive. It must have been a nice day, perhaps in the fall when colored leaves were still on the trees lining the streets of Delaware County (Pennsylvania). It must have seemed appealing since my family really didn’t go anywhere except school during the week and church on Sunday. We must have gone for a drive sometime before that, just to get away from suburban Philadelphia and enjoy some of the rural areas not yet developed by housing additions and shopping malls.
I remember my dad’s response. “Why?” Throughout his career my dad commuted an hour to work and back Monday through Friday either in a car or on trains. For him, the weekend was finally a chance to be home, catch up on chores, listen to a ballgame, and be with the family.
My dad’s follow up question was, “Where do you want to drive to?” I had no idea. All I knew is that miles of road were out there just waiting to be driven. We would get a chance to see the world in color rather than on black and white television. We would see farms and woods and creeks and houses and fields. Where? I don’t know. Anywhere sounded exciting to my brother and sister and I. Although, we thought that the hour-long drive to the Jersey shore was unbearable, so we really didn’t like driving that much.
I don’t think I ever took my own family out for a “drive.” Once I became a dad, it was academic. As the one who paid for the gas and maintained the car, driving around for the sake of driving around wasn’t in the budget. We owned a couple of cars to get from one place to another. We drove to work, to the store, to visit family, to school, to dance lessons, or to some other destination. But we never just went for a drive.
However, I discovered that in the early 20th century, when cars were a new form of transportation, people actually went for Sunday drives. It was mostly an American thing. The car was a form of entertainment, not just for transportation. In a time when most stores and businesses were closed on Sunday, there wasn’t much else to do.
When gasoline prices climbed later in the century, the custom all but disappeared. Even though there are more roads than ever, there are also more cars and trucks on those roads than ever. Even in the most beautiful of areas on a beautiful afternoon, it’s just not that much fun to sit in traffic.
When I lived in New Jersey, I was just a couple of towns away from Ocean Grove, a small beachside community that prohibited automobile traffic on Sundays. If you were headed north or south, you had to detour around this town. I don’t think the law is still in place, but I guess no one who lived there went for a Sunday drive.
Over the last thirty years or so, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people who drove forty-five minutes or more to go to church on Sundays. Their Sunday drive was to the place where they wanted to worship.
I’ve gone for many of walks with my wife, dogs, children and grandchildren. I’ve been on plenty of bike rides, too. I’ve also been on boat rides, horseback rides, carriage rides, kayaking and paddle-boarding. I enjoy any and all of those so much more than going for a “drive.”
One thought on “Let’s go for a drive!”
We did the same thing when I was small. Sometimes to downtown Chicago to see the Christmas store windows, sometimes to see the area fireworks on July 4th, and sometimes, my Dad just “drove around”.