As a child, did you ever have to take a family-mandated, Sunday afternoon ride in the car? I don’t ever recall taking a vote. I don’t even remember my father asking if everybody would like to participate.
Usually, the ride just happened when we all were already in the car. It also seemed to occur after we had been to church and then eaten at the S&S cafeteria in downtown Charleston, where the waiters would carry three or four trays to a nearby table and never spill a drop of sweet tea.
It was when we would leave with our stomachs full and our eyes droopy that my father would simply say to my mom, “How about we go for a ride?”
There would be no particular destination. There also were no SUVs or minivans with seats that offered personal charging units for various devices or small monitors to provide distractions.
In a family of six, the three boys sat in the back seat and younger sister sat between Mom and Dad up front. There might be some music playing as background. The primary entertainment was what could be seen, as they say, “out the window.”
For a family living in North Charleston, those Sunday afternoons might mean a drive to Johns Island. With the windows rolled down, the smell of the black, fertile dirt would wash across your face with a deep, earthy goodness.
The island contained more tomato sheds and tractors than homes. We felt we were really in the country.
Another ride might take us across the Cooper River Bridge and into Mount Pleasant. The salt air, the sea gulls and the shrimp trawlers tied up at Shem Creek provided a spectacular snapshot of the Lowcountry.
It wasn’t until I climbed aboard a trawler years later, dressed as a reporter, that I realized I much preferred eating shrimp than catching them.
The Sunday ride might not include anything more than a tour of the Navy base.
Riding through the Reynolds Avenue gate, we’d gaze at the various ships and the sailors walking around in their uniforms with spit-shined shoes.
Charleston was considerably smaller in the mid-1960s. Simpler, too.
Usually, those Sunday afternoon family rides only lasted 45 minutes, or so. As I got older, they seemed to last for hours.
When my father would come back to visit in later years, I often would ask if he’d like to take a ride. He never once said no. I’d often end up taking him to many of the same places.
The dirt on Johns Island doesn’t quite smell as I remembered and the trawlers in Shem Creek are smaller. There is no Reynolds Avenue gate because there is no Navy Base anymore.
Through the years, attempts to take my own family on those drives were never very popular. Maybe I shouldn’t have asked if they wanted to go.
From time to time, I take those drives by myself. I still like to roll the windows down and drive a little slower.
More often than not these days we hustle at breakneck speed to the next appointment, with music blaring and the windows rolled up.
Every once in a while, just take a ride.
Reach Warren Peper at firstname.lastname@example.org.