Do interstates narrow our view of the country_ – south bend tribune_ community

The following column from Bill Moor originally ran in the Tribune on April 21, 1996.

My family will insist it was an angry surge of immaturity.

I still contend that I was not that angry, only a little frustrated and tired at the time.

But as we approached our 17th hour on the road during our recent spring vacation, a rainy, foggy evening was made even worse when my windshield wipers began leaving a streak. Meanwhile, the defroster seemed to be having an off night, too.

It was hard to see — darn it! — and I was driving up a suspension bridge that was built like a rainbow and advertised as 188 feet high.

So to release a little tension (that’s how I saw it anyway), I gave the windshield a little bit of a right cross. As I said before, I wasn’t that angry and I really didn’t think that I hit it that hard …

… OK, I broke it.

No, not my hand — I would have preferred that. What I broke was the windshield.

A spider web of cracks spread across the glass. A look of horror spread across my face.

“So can you see any better now?” my wife, the ever-calm co-pilot, asked.

I knew what she saw — an idiot in the driver’s seat who certainly knew how to get a spring vacation off to a “crackling” start.

It was not one of my better hours. But then none of the hours that day was very memorable as we crossed six state lines on our way to visit family in Texas.

I have found that, like running a marathon, there is a wall to hit somewhere on those long-distance drives. Mine, it appears, comes around the 900-mile mark.

But that’s how we travel on our spring breaks these days. Get on the interstates and go, go, go until our gas gauge says empty or our bladder says full.

The interstates are both a boon and a bane. They get you to places faster, but also seem to hold the carrot out to make you try to stretch a trip on both sides of dawn and dusk.

When I was a kid, it would take us three days to travel the same distance we now pack into one or two. My dad rarely would drive more than 300 miles a day on the old national highways and we stopped and saw things along the way.

Now … well, we get to destinations faster, but the trips become so monotonous that I find myself looking forward to the mile markers that are multiples of 10 and seeing if the next exit has a Subway or McDonald’s.

We miss America that way. When I was growing up, a Florida trip meant stops at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, Rock City in Georgia, and Cypress Gardens in Florida before getting to the beach. Now, it’s Marathon, Taco Bell and Exxon.

On our trip back from Texas this spring, Nashville, Tenn., was where we joined the returning flock from Florida while heading to my sister’s home in southern Indiana. It was a long line of minivan after minivan and if I didn’t feel like pushing it close to 80 miles an hour, I probably looked like old Jed Clampett puttering through the hills.

When evening fell, the taillights of all those who had passed us looked like a sea of red corpuscles flowing through a major artery.

By that time, I had gotten used to my windshield’s spider web design that, fortunately, spared my sight lines. I was not allowed to forget about it, however, and rightly so.

There seems to be a little insanity on our interstates during spring break and I only wish I could blame that for our busted windshield.

I do know that I have spent my last 900-mile, 17-hour day behind the wheel. The next time I head south, I’m going to stop at Lookout Mountain, a place I haven’t visited in 35 years.

“What happened to your windshield?” my mom said when we pulled into her driveway near the end of the trip. “That must have been a big rock.”

My passengers didn’t give Mr. Rock-Head the option of a lie.

Contact Bill at ern14est@yahoo. com.