Published on October 22, 2019

All aboard for road trip retirement-style to start ... whenever

By Edward A. Forbes / The Bulletin

Being retired allows me to travel on my own schedule and as hassle-free as possible - or at least that was the case until I got on that big old highway from Meridian, Mississippi, to Decatur, Alabama. The highway is the great equalizer. It does not care why you are traveling, when you’ll get there or under what circumstances.

I arrived in Meridian, Mississippi to see Pat and Grady Downey. We ate supper and visited until midnight. I got up at 7 a.m., drank coffee, ate toast and jelly and read a book on my Kindle until 8:30 a.m. Then I showered, dressed and packed to go. Now we’re ready for “On the Road with Eddie.”

The Flex prepared for launch. I left an 80-degree meridian to drive to Decatur, Alabama to see brother-in-law, Dr. Charles Bownds.

GPS showing the best route to Decatur, I was ready, foot on accelerator, hands on steering wheel, and we were off.

After I passed Tuscaloosa, I began to look for a gas station/truck stop with decent pricing. I passed several that looked small-town and not close to feeder roads.

I started to feel desperate and felt that paying 15 cents more per gallon would be cheaper than running out of gas on a busy interstate highway.

A point of interest while driving on the interstate highways in Alabama and Mississippi: There are frequent signs advising you not to drive on the median.

The medians in these areas frequently have a six-foot-plus sharp decline to the bottom, and all this is populated by numerous trees. I don’t believe a NASCAR driver would attempt to negotiate these medians.

The only hiccup I experienced on this last leg of my trip was rain. Did I say rain? I mean a torrential downpour on a hilly interstate highway with no shoulder to speak of. I could barely see the taillights of the car in front of me, and we right-laners turned our emergency flashers on.

The shoulder of the road was too narrow to provide a safe haven until the rain passed, so the relatively smart ones drove slowly in the right lane, while the crazies continued past us at speeds in excess of 70 mph.

It’s too bad there isn’t a common sense or mental health exam portion of the driver’s license test, because it seems to be lacking in some of these fellow travelers. This was the short leg of my journey, and shortly I arrived at the home of Dr. Charles Bownds.

I spent five days in Decatur with family and thoroughly enjoyed my visit. My niece lives in nearby Huntsville, Alabama, and we visited her new home. Former Angleton resident Clayton Hinchman and his stepfather have the Black Patch Distillery in Huntsville, and we visited there.

Then it was time to load up the Flex for the 800-mile trip home.

I was determined to drive until fatigue determined my stopping point. My objective was Henderson, Louisiana, where one of Landry’s Seafood Restaurants is located. I wanted to stop here because, when my children were young, we always stopped there for our one extravagant meal on journeys to Tennessee. A nostalgic stop for me.

The next morning I had to get mentally prepared to drive that dreaded I-10, the highway that has had areas under construction for the last 20 years. On my way through Houston, I saw signs that warned of impending construction on the Sam Houston Tollway.

Scenic detour. I took 146 past the San Jacinto Battleground and over the Fred Hartman Bridge. What I didn’t know is that 146 is under construction also.

I took Bay Area Boulevard past Armand Bayou Nature Center, the University of Houston Clear Lake Campus, Clear Lake High School and continued until El Dorado Boulevard. I drove past Baybrook Mall. I haven’t been to the mall since my children grew up and left home.

It is gigantic now. I could conceive of getting lost in the maze of outlying stores and restaurants, becoming a beggar with a purloined cup asking for donations to subsist on until I could find my car.
I finally arrived home, sweet home. The scenic route proved interesting, but there is no place like home. Oh, the benefits of retirement. Next road trip, here I come - whenever.

(Edward Forbes wants to hear from you. Email him at eforbes1946@gmail.com or send comments by snail mail to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX. 77516.)