On The Road: Travels with Caryl

Published 8:11 am Friday, June 16, 2023

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By James Harris

Special to The Farmville Herald

Editor’s note: This is a travelogue of sorts, detailing Mr. Harris and his wife Caryl’s journeys outside of Farmville.

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When I was much younger I read the book, Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck, and I thought I’d like to drive across the Country one day. 

Well, it finally happened in 2023 and even though Caryl is resentful of being compared to a dog, Charlie. it was one exciting land trip to the West Coast and back. Don’t know why she objects anyway because she loves dogs plus she feeds me right before 5 p.m. or shortly thereafter. 

An interesting note: Even though I had crisscrossed the country by air, both in the Air Force and with private aircraft, and meant to do it with Caryl in 1973 with a Piper Cherokee 235B (instead we went commercial) we had never driven round trip to California. Chickened out on the private aircraft trip after nearly killing myself three times when flying a Musketeer 3 by Visual Flight Rules (VFR) between Duluth, Minnesota, and Farmville and back in 1970 the day after I got my license. 

Couldn’t put the Five County Fair beauty queen from Farmville in a kamikaze mission with me so avoided another hair raising light aircraft trip after we got married in 1973.

It hit me after a near death experience in 2022 when a surgeon stabbed my heart during a “simple” pace maker insertion and I nearly died at home before Caryl rushed me to the emergency room that maybe we needed to get out of the house. The home rehab nurse told us this and we took it literally. 

Since I could once again walk, continuously flopped on the sofa, and spent a lot of time looking out of the window Caryl said, “Why don’t you drive us to California? “The idea hit and Caryl updated our portable Garmin since the 2017 Toyota Tacoma had no GPS. The Garmin was backed up by our two cell phones. 

Of course, we had to go to two UVA baseball games (against VCU and JMU) in Charlottesville before Caryl set her mouth right to head West on May 4. We left Charlottesville traveling the southern route, crossed the panhandle of Texas, and entered the L.A. basin.

Interstate 40 in Arizona was horrible and we were lucky to have any alignment/suspension left after traveling that road. Where is the Federal highway tax money going? Maybe someone diverted it to the election process in Arizona.

As soon as we got on the traffic congested freeways of L.A. the maintenance light come on but there was nowhere to pull off. Then it hit me…we had changed the oil 5,000 miles ago and the oil is good for 10,000 miles so “the heck with it.” 

Got to Julie’s, our daughter, in Manhattan Beach and visited her along with Brett, Jr, Austin, and Aubrey. Since I was a psychology major Caryl asked me to say a few words at the dinner table about the family situation. Only Austin left the table when I made a few remarks. Everyone present seemed to bond pretty good and I enjoyed my birthday cake for my 80th birthday. 

Left Julie’s home in a fog after five days (fog/smog always present) and got back on the “freeways.” You do know they were named this so we could attract more immigrants (most of them illegal) to this Country. Wonder if the new model citizens want to drive electric cars and save the environment. Dodged high speed cars, avoided garbage in all lanes , and junk cars on the sides of the roads and finally got to Las Vegas. Caryl didn’t want to go to the casinos even though I reminded her that some had “Elvis” one armed bandits and she might have a little money as treasurer of the Sunday School class. She looked at me with her lip poked out.

During all of our ride through the country couldn’t help but see all of the “recyclable” plastic hanging off of barbed wire fences. Some even seemed to be disposable diapers but know that no citizen (or aspiring citizen) would ever leave a diaper in the parking lot or on the side of the road until the wind takes charge. 

On The Road

Parts of Nevada, Utah, and Colorado were beautiful as we took the central route to Denver. Questions though about the ubiquitous giant windmills as we entered Kansas, etc? Large percentages don’t even spin and with all of this government funding has anyone studied the birds being wiped out (many of which may be endangered species)? Solar panels are also everywhere across the country, made of metal and glass and below them there is little vegetation and sometimes what appears to be gravel. How much does this contribute to planet warming?

On parts of the interstate highways out West the speed limit increases to 80 mph. This doesn’t stop the lunatics in vehicles with obscured license plates and tinted glass all over from blowing you off of the road. Just like air combat they’ll pull sneaky tactics like weaving in and out of traffic at 100 mph or more and then nearly run you off the road as they speed into the lane that you’re trying to enter in a smooth and even way. Guess the speeders really need to complete the latest mafia business such as in Las Vegas or to have illegal drugs delivered on time.  

In Arizona, California, and so on there were signs, some of them illuminated with the latest happenings, saying “Watch Out for Motorcyclists and Give Them a Brake” or some such advice. The signs forgot to mention that many motorcyclists pass cars like they’re standing still and run between lanes of cars on the white road markings. I was tempted to open my driver’s door to see if I still had my billy stick or other weapons since there are no cops anywhere for traffic safety and citizen protection. 

During the trip I had flashbacks to the Vietnam Conflict (I call it “War ”) to when I served the Country. I remembered when I flew into Travis AFB near San Francisco between 1966 and 1970 there would be long lines of soldiers, evidently waiting to call loved ones, on land lines at the air base before being flown to Vietnam. I supported the war at the beginning as many did but as it ground on, as most of our “wars” do, I wondered about the smartness and truthfulness of our leaders. 

Got back home on May 24. 

Caryl and I both love the country but the government is something else. The expanse of the country is impressive but what’s going to happen when the cities continue to eat up valuable farm land. It’s happening in Virginia and all over the country.

What a great wife and country! Do you think it will continue this way? Try driving the country and see what you think.