Driving is tonic for the soul

By Rick Watson
Posted 9/9/18

I never realized until after my surgery a few weeks ago what driving meant to me. When the doctors briefed me on what to expect after the operation, I heard the part about not being able to drive for …

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Driving is tonic for the soul

Posted

I never realized until after my surgery a few weeks ago what driving meant to me.

When the doctors briefed me on what to expect after the operation, I heard the part about not being able to drive for two weeks, but that fact didn’t hit home until after the first week. As I sat on our screen porch looking out at the world outside, it occurred to me that the pain, stiffness, lack of appetite and a few unmentionables were no picnic, but it was not being able to drive that was the most painful.

I’ve been driving since before I could reach the pedals on the floorboard of a car. Sitting on my dad’s lap, we kept the backroads hot. He loved driving as much as I do. 

One Sunday afternoon when I was a little older, he headed out to haul off garbage to the local dump. “Let’s ride, Satch,” he said. That was the nickname he used for me when he needed a sidekick. 

We were in the old 1946 Chevy pickup.  It had four a four-speed manual transmission with the gearshift on the hump in the floorboard. The truck needed front-end work. I knew this because the steering wheel had “play” in it. This meant that you could turn the steering wheel about a quarter way around without the wheels responding. Since the old beast was only used occasionally, repairs were on the “I need to fix that someday” list.

After tossing the garbage off the truck at the Samoset Dump, we took a detour up Fire-Tower Road. It was a dirt road that stretched between the Dora/Cordova Road and the Highway 78 near Argo. There were straightaways miles long it seemed. 

Dad steered to the side of the road. The old tires crunched on the gravel and red rock as we came to a stop. “You wanna drive?” he asked. My eyes said it all. 

He slid over, and I crawled over his lap. My legs were just long enough to push the pedals if I tiptoed. I’d watched him change gears so often that I ‘d memorized them. Getting used to the clutch was a little tricky, but after killing the engine a few times, we jerked out down the road. I fell in love that day.

Through the years, I’ve had more cars and trucks than I can remember. I did a rough calculation in my head on the mileage of vehicles I’ve owned in the past and realized that I’ve driven over a million miles.

A big chunk of these miles came from commuting each day between our home in Empire and my work in Birmingham for over 30 years. Also, Jilda and I have driven over most the eastern half of America.

Sometimes when I feel down, I have an instant cure. Getting behind the wheel of my truck, I can head out down a backroad and drive for a while with the windows rolled down. 

This week when the doctor released me to drive, my spirits soared. Driving is like a tonic for my soul.

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book, "Life Goes On," is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at rick@rickwatson-writer.com.