I left home right at 9 this morning, the first road trip I’ve embarked upon for work in quite a few weeks. I like road trips. I like the freedom to stop and have lunch at some diner or one of those places folks have suggested I try “next time you’re in the area and don’t worry too much about what it looks like. The food’s good, and it’s cheap. You really must try that banana pudding.” Who can resist?
I can pull into those big refueling centers to disburse the last few cups of coffee I shouldn’t have consumed this morning, maybe grab a Snickers bar and a root beer. Don’t eat the hot dogs, trust me.
I left early enough to get to Memphis in time for a 6 P.M. pre-conference dinner. I allowed ample time for lunch, pit stops and sightseeing. Unfortunately, the sights on I-40 are not that spectacular, but it beats the long walks through airport terminals and the long waits to board and disembark from an airplane. And when I stop for lunch or comfort breaks I don’t have to lug my computer/camera bag around with me. I just lock it up and saunter into whatever dining establish I find between 11:30 and 1:45.
I also have the option of pulling off onto a farm-to-market road to shoot photos. You never know when you might need a picture of a cow, or a cotton gin, or an old barn that leans just a bit to the lee side of the prevailing winds.
Can’t do any of that strapped into an airplane seat. I usually just go to sleep, until we hit the first stretch of turbulent air, or until the person in front of me leans back in his seat and cracks my kneecap. It’s not a pleasant experience.
I’ve been on quite a few airplanes since August — trips to Mississippi, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, and back to Texas, and back to Texas again. I recalled today, about halfway through my eight-hour trek, the first day on the job for Farm Press. I took a flight out of Atlanta to Lexington, Ky., the first of probably several hundred flights I’ve made in pursuit of good farm stories.
Flying has lost a bit of its appeal in the nearly 40 years since that first work-related airplane ride. The planes are less comfortable, the process of getting on and off is more stressful and they don’t serve those delicious sandwiches any more. The skies just aren’t as friendly as they were in 1978.
All things considered, I’d really rather drive. I set the schedule. I pick the entertainment. The nostalgic stories on Radio Classics—Jack Benny, Dragnet, Gunsmoke, The Shadow — keep me amused and awake. And if I get tired, I pull over and take a nap.