On a lovely summer day last week, the Mister, the Dog and I went for after-dinner ice cream at our favorite local spot. It was such a pretty evening that I suggested a drive-around.
"Where to?" asked the Mister.
"Oh, I don't know," I said, "Just anywhere."
"You drive, then," he said, "You're better at 'just anywhere' than I am."
It's true. I am Sensei of the Aimless Drive.
"You have to get into the Zen of driving," I counseled, "Let the drive take you where it wants to go."
Someone once asked me., "When are you at your happiest?" Although the answer would be better framed as a top ten list that includes all kinds of other things, I didn't hesitate in saying, "When I'm driving." I love driving. I love road trips. I love going for a spin. I love, as my Dad used to call it, "just potting around."
He was the Obi Wan Kenobe of Potting Around. The man could drive for hours going absolutely nowhere. Sunday drives; evening excursions; spring, summer, fall, or winter outings; he was at his best behind the wheel of a Pontiac meandering around city and country, my mother in the passenger seat (she never had a driver's license) and us kids in the back. Even as a teen and young adult I continued to go on these jaunts with them because somehow it brought such peace to the family. The humdrum of life was left behind back at home and we were out in the car, fancy-free, not going anywhere in particular, seeing what everyone else was up to, me looking out the rear window at nothing special and day dreaming nothing in particular.
We had favorite familiar tours, such as River Road along the Assiniboine north of the city; past haunted Old St. Andrews Church where local legend said that if you ran around the old stone building three times at midnight, you'd disappear; following the historic fur trade waterway over to Lockport for a modern-world hot dog at Skinners; and then along to legendary Lower Fort Garry.
Or we would take a spin along Winnipeg's famed Wellington Crescent to gaze at mansions and enjoy the giant old elm trees that shaded the boulevards. From time to time, Dad would take us on the other side of the tracks to edgier industrial areas or "poorer" neighborhoods where he'd remind us, "You kids need to see that not everyone is as well off as others."
Driving Nirvana for my Dad would be finding a development of new construction that would cause my mother great glee in exclaiming, "We've never been HERE before, Jack!" It wasn't easy to find new territory; Jack and Helen had lived all their lives in that one city that didn't change much. After my Dad died and I visited Mum from other cities in which we lived, it was clear that she had been longing to go out on drives and I was happy to comply. She was a different person once out in the car. She became calmer, a more worldly soul with curiosity and interest in everything; reading signs and pointing out landmarks to me as if I had never seen them before.
As Winnipeg experienced a building boom, it didn't take much to provide her with some merriment at finding places that, "Oh, we've never been HERE before!" As she approached her 90s, even the familiar haunts she had seen hundreds of times lost their familiarity for her and her excitement became sad for me. Still, it made her happy to be out in the car, seeing things afresh each time.
Driving Zen was a gift my Dad gave me. Some of the best times the Mister and I have are spent following paths unknown; almost lost, but now we have GPS to help us out, so we don't go too far astray. Still, it's fun to turn a corner and see something new. "We've never been HERE before!" I'll say, channeling mother. And if we get anxious about where the heck we're heading, it's always good to remind each other, "It's OK! We're just potting around!"