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Ed Donath is eddobloggo...Conservative Commentary Columnist


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Defending the right to rant!


Conservative Commentary

 by Ed Donath


Relatively Fast (a non-political short story about the inherited need for speed)  click here to subscribe to the eddobloggo RSS feed

The AAA travel advisor was explaining to my father that there was no posted speed limit on a particular stretch of highway between the New York/Canada border and the outskirts of Montreal.  He had the TripTik right there on the desk in front of us and he was drawing a see-through blue line over the very page of the ring-bound roadmap that showed exactly where you could drive as fast as you please.


1955 Pontiac Chieftain V8

This was the summer before second grade.  It would be my first-ever road trip.  My parents were so proud of our two-tone '55 Pontiac Chieftain V8 -- the first car my city-dwelling, trolley, bus and subway-riding parents had ever owned.


I had nearly a month to work on my father prior to our week-long tour of the Adirondacks and Quebec.  My main goals were to make sure that there would be no changing of the AAA route and that there would be no excuses regarding the "opening up" of the Pontiac once we reached the enchanted stretch of Canadian highway highlighted on the TripTik.


My strategy was to talk matter-of-factly with Pop about the upcoming trip.  However, I was prevented from sticking to my laid-back plan by the allure of unbridled speed. Instead, as you would expect of a seven-year-old, I just kept  showing Pop the map with the highlighted road with no speed limit.  My heart was on my sleeve but, remarkably, it seemed that no harm had been done as a result of my childish harping as the trip was about to begin.


As we motored out of Brooklyn through the brand new Battery Tunnel the excitement began to build.  Already my mother was saying "Eugene, watch the speed!" with regularity.  I sensed that when the magic moment arrived at the border-crossing my father would not let me down.


We stopped in the Bronx to pick up Aunt Gladys and Uncle Louie.  But heading north on the New York Thruway with my aunt, uncle and me sharing the back seat, my earlier optimism began to fade.  If there was to be a fly in the ointment it would surely be my Uncle Louie.


As we traveled, Mom would frequently remind Pop -- quietly and politely -- to watch his speed.  Uncle Louie, on the other hand, was a paranoid safety fanatic whose white knuckles clutched the seat in front of him as he incessantly implored my father to slow down.  Arguments in the multiple tongues of the Slovaki brothers raged on for the next couple of days throughout the Lake George-Adirondack region.


Ausable Chasm  - New York's Grand Canyon.At last the dawning of that fateful day arrived.  The border-crossing leg of our journey would begin as soon as we cleared out of the log cabin efficiency unit near Ausable Chasm.  The Chasm is New York's miniaturized version of the Grand Canyon.


I was worried about a potentially bad omen.  On the rapids-ride portion of the previous day's Chasm excursion, Uncle Louie and I were the only ones who volunteered to get into the boat.  Pop had chosen to stay behind with the ladies. Nonetheless, Uncle Louie seemed to enjoy himself and he didn't even stress over the soaking his starched sport shirt took out there in the white water.


While the trunk of the car was being loaded I finally broke down and begged my mother to let me sit up front so I could navigate us into Canada.  As we cleared customs I flipped that last New York page of the TripTik and voila -- we were on the Quebec highway with no speed limit!


Everything changed immediately, and not just because we were in a foreign country.  The sights and sounds of the world rushing by us were, at once, both exhilarating and peaceful.  The tone of the Chieftain's engine went from nice to nice-and-nasty.  Scenery kept changing at wondrous pace as Pop clipped along at 80-something.


Of course, Uncle Louie was having a shrieking panic attack but this was not a good time for him to attempt to spoil our fun.  Even Mom was smiling as she watched the speedometer needle point boldly at hither-to-fore unseen numbers.


My father lifted slightly off the throttle, turned around and issued an ultimatum to his brother in plain Engish: "Be quiet and don't bother me or I will leave you here in Quebec!"


Then, without further hesitation, Pop put the hammer down and held it to the floor until the speedo registered 105 at the end of a long straightaway between two CN Railroad grade crossings.  The dream was fulfilled!


For the rest of that morning a sheepish Uncle Louie made only one additional request:  "Please pull over soon, Eugene, I need to change my underwear."


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Please e-mail your comments to: eddobloggo@gmail.com

In an effort to preserve privacy and thwart spammers and hackers, the automated comment box has been eliminated. Your comments are still invited and eagerly awaited and will be promptly posted, as always. As usual, please provide your name or screen name and geographical location. I reserve the right to edit comments for clarity, profanity and brevity. Your e-mail address will never be published. Thank you. -eddo









When I was around that same age my dad hit the floor with a '67 Galaxy convertible at my request. I don't know how fast he got it going on that four lane out of the north side of Ottumwa, but I remember how I giggled and held on to him, sliding back and forth across that vinyl seat.



Des Moines, IA Register

Great story Ed.  My Dad never used a map. We would drive for hours lost. Hated it then but now when I look back that was fun. Thanks Dad.



Palm Springs, CA Desert Sun

My dad drove a similar car Ed. Wish you could post a close-up of the hood ornament. It was a classic.


gas hog

Austin, TX American-Statesman

[The Chieftains like my Dad's had this one. The Star Chiefs had this one  and it was lighted.  Good call! -ED]

Great blog. You write really well Eddo.  I felt for a second like I was riding with your family, and I got a little uneasy when you were talking about the speeds. I took solace in the fact that we were traveling in Canada, and I knew that if we had an accident, that we would be afforded first rate medical attention. ;0)



Tallahassee, FL Democrat

[You're right, Slinger. In 1956 when the Canadian Dollar was worth about a quarter you would have been able to afford the same treatment that the Queen got when she visited. In any case, I appreciate the read and the compliment. -ED]

It was 1952, I was 6 years old, Easter services were about an hour away and my mom had just fit me up in my new Easter duds, a suit she bought with a help from my grandmother at Gimbel's department store on Market Street in downtown Philadelphia. My dad had just asked me to go up the street, about a block and a half away, and escort my Grandmother back so we could all fit in the car and go to church at our Parish on 5th and Girard, St. Peter the Apostle.

On the way to grandmas house, I stumbled upon a 6 year old boy's wonder of wonders. A flatbed semi with a pair of old tractors on it. What a sight and it deserved further scrutiny. I got covered in dirt and grease, but being 6 it was nothing serious. I made my way into grandmas house and she damn near fainted at the scene before her. Quickly up to the tub, scrub scrub and a new set of clothes, out the door and up to the car with a few minutes to spare. Grandma saved me again. Everything was good until the cop pulled us over and had my dad exit with hands in the air. I left my toy guns and monopoly money on the car bumper after playing cops and robbers the night before; and, the fake money had flown all over the street. My father was less than amused and the heavy pants I had on never lightened the spanking I got one bit. Yep, those were the days!



Great Falls, MT Tribune

I bet you wish you had that car now -at least if it still looked like that.

Road trips (back in the day) were some events - were they not?. We took a trip in our 1954 Chevy Station Wagon that started in Green Bay, into and across Canada, to B.C. down thru California, across the great southwest. Camping, fishing, our first nite in a motel with a swimming pool and a day at Disney Land the year it opened. That trip was so wonderful because of memories and now of the 5 there are only 2 left, and we are now both old men. Good post Lombago - good post.



Wausau, WI Daily Herald 

Yes nice to look back to a time when we had no worries life was great. I was born and raised in Southern California and also visited Disneyland the first year it opened 1955. But of course our trip took about one and a half hours to get there and we rode in a 1954 Studebaker!!!! Who knows maybe you were there the same day we were????? Life is great so enjoy every day!!!!!!!



Wausau, WI Daily Herald 

[We had a place not far from where I grew up in Brooklyn that was the original Dizzyland -- Coney Island. You could do it on a shoestring budget fairly often plus, you could swim in the ocean and eat Nathan's hot dogs and fries and Shatzkin's knishes until you exploded. Bumper cars were my favorite, but the venerable wooden Cyclone roller coaster and the parachute jump were always the main attractions. -ED]

What a great story! Reminded me of family vacations, always beginning the drive while it was still dark, and singing -- shine on harvest moon was a favorite. One time we got stuck behind a tractor pulling a wagon full of [obviously to the nose] manure. Finally we got along side and my Uncle Bill rolled down the window and said, "what are you hauling there?' Old farmer said, "wagon full of shee-it". Story was re-told again and again when we were on that road for, hmm that happened in 1950, 60 years.



Mansfield, OH News Journal

My dad was a traveling salesman whose territory was everything West of the Mississippi. Every summer we'd travel with him. I remember the road signs out West that simply read "Travel at Your Own Risk." I probably spent more time at 90+ mph in my childhood than I did at lower speeds.



Des Moines, IA Register

eddo - you reminded my of when I bought my tired 68 Goat. I had to know how fast she would go, so I took her to the old Lincoln highway in Wyoming, which was close to home and not heavily patrolled. Of course the 4.11 rear end makes for nice acceleration but not a high top speed. She briefly hit 119 shaking like she was going to blow apart. That was enough for me, from then on I stuck to the more practical fun like doing 0-45-0 in a city block. I still have the memento from the city court for one of those fun nights in the glove box. Luckily I was never foolish enough to return to court, I'm sure the rattling court windows from the cherry bomb/header full exhaust when I left would have resulted in less fun the next time. Fun times.



Great Falls, MT Tribune

Your story reminded me of my last trip to Germany when my German half sister cranked her Mercedes up to 200 k/h. I started getting pale at about 180. All I could think of is a little bump in the road would cause us to be airborne. I prefer our roads with speed limits. Besides, the roads in Michigan are in such bad shape now that no one would dare drive that fast.



Lansing, MI State Journal

That's the best story I've heard in while. Thanks eddo.



Great Falls, MT Tribune

Loved your story eddo!  That era was a all about speed. My dad and his brother raced outboard motor boats and drove their cars like some demons. They were known as "the Mercury Boys". My brother ended up in stock car racing. Daddy even got me into outboard motor racing when I was 16, as my weight was less and his boat would go an additional five miles or so faster with me driving in the races. I loved it, but at 16 I was invincible, remember that feeling? My poor mother was a basket case and could never watch the races. My first car was a 64 Pontiac Lemans with a GTO engine, daddy bought it more for him to play in than for me, but wow was that a fun car.



Lafayette, LA Daily Advertiser

1964 Ford Galaxy. Mint Green. First car I ever drove.  Sigh.



Laffayette, LA

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