My first road trip was filled with awe and learning
Guy Bowers was his name. He and his wife Angela had two daughters; the youngest was my mother. To us, he was 'Poppop.' I always considered that to be a silly moniker because he was not my Pop's Pop, but I guess it was better than 'Mompop.' Out of respect, I'll use his given name here — Guy.
Guy was born and raised on a farm in central Pennsylvania, near Chambersburg. He was the only one of several siblings to take his young wife and move to the big city to find work. He planted his roots in Philadelphia, worked as a carpenter, raised his family, and lived in the same house until his passing.
They stayed close to their family, returning to Chambersburg for visits a few times every year. Mainly the trip of about 150 miles followed US Route 30, the famed Lincoln Highway. That road is a tale of its own, but not my story, so I'll press on.
I was about eight years old. Guy and Angela were visiting us a few days before one of their Chambersburg trips. I asked if I could go along, and to my surprise, the answer was yes. That was my first road trip.
Route 30 was a major highway, reaching across the entire US. But ‘major highway’ had a different meaning back then. It meant that the road had a number, road signs, and a line down the middle (often double yellow). It didn't bypass but starred as the main street of every village and town along its route.
The 150-mile trip took most of the day, punctuated with stops at roadside produce stands to purchase freshly picked fruits and vegetables as gifts for the family at either end of the trip. I spent most of the time with my face in the breeze from the open window, taking in, up close, the sights and smells of the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside. Seat belts, car seats, and the interstate highway system would one day deprive my grandchildren of such an experience. But that thought exceeded my comprehension.
While daydreaming and watching for the next Burma-Shave sign, eager to learn more about this wonderful world, I asked my grandfather what to me was a simple, straightforward question. “Poppop, why is this road so crooked?”
He explained to me that the roads were brought in from out west on long trains of flatcars. Often the roads were too long, so when they laid them down, they had to wrinkle them to make them fit between the towns.
Wow! Guy knew everything. Why did Angela give him that incredulous look, and why do I remember that story 75 years later?