It's a six hundred fifty mile drive from Lincoln, Nebraska to Dallas, but possible for the solo driver. With the cruise control, good music, and cooperative weather it's a very relaxing day for me.
Summer of 1962, our family made the same trip taking two full days to reach Dallas, and three to go back to Lincoln. We three kids sat in the backseat of the '54 Chevy with our little sweaty legs stuck to the car seat and dust blowing in the open windows. We were fussy, irritable, and asked endless "are we there yet" questions, I'm sure. It's possible that we were also having chain reaction carsickness. I don't think we were spilling our grape snowcones that particular trip!
My parents were tense. The demands of any road trip with little kids was aggravated by the stress of two-lane highways and the oppressive visual clutter of roadsigns and billboards right up to the shoulder of the road. It was an ugly scene.
On my drive south on US 81 from York, Nebraska, and through Kansas, the four-lane divided highway was edged with masses of wildflowers in almost every color. I love driving I-35 through north central Oklahoma, imagining the wildness of the country at the time of the Land Run and the Territorial years. As I cross each river I scan for places bandits might have hidden to elude lawmen, and I appreciate not having to look past tacky, dilapidated, and misspelled signs. Passing through the Arbuckle Mountains and Ardmore as the lush raspberry twilight deepened into violet iris evening the view was unmarred by lighted billboards except around the Indian casinos.
Lady Bird Johnson did much to elevate public expectations for pleasant driving experiences across our beautiful country. That the Congress passed even the flawed compromise Highway Beautification Act of 1965over the objections of the powerful outdoor advertising industry was a gift to future generations from Lady Bird and LBJ. Her influence is in those roadside banks of wildflowers, and in our landscaped highways. I would be hard pressed to name a contribution by any other First Lady in my lifetime that impacts as many people on a daily basis.
© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder