Jim Terry
May 21, 2010
We hit the road
By Jim Terry

Traveling with a three-year-old kid is much different today than it was when my children were that age. Today, children are confined in car seats; they don't like to be confined.

In the old days we filled the trunk with our luggage, the back seat with pillows, blankets, a water jug and paper grocery sack overflowing with snacks and hit the road. Or, in our station wagon, the area behind the rear seat became the children's space and the luggage was stashed on top.

In either case, the kids had freedom and we adults were not strapped in and could also enjoy some movement while traveling.

While I don't hold with governments ordering their citizens around, the statistics may be on the side of government in the issue of mandatory use of seat belts. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Highway Administration shows in 1968, the year the federal government imposed the installation of seat belts in all cars, 52,725 Americans died in traffic accidents. The fatality rate per 100 million miles traveled was 5.19. In 2007, the rate of fatalities per 100 million miles had dropped to 1.36 with total traffic fatalities at 41,059. I am sure many factors have contributed to those positive numbers. However, according to the National Safety Council, 42 percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2007 were unbelted. Once in a while, government gets it right.

When the four of us-my wife, our son-in-law, our grand daughter NattyNic and I- pulled out of Dallas on our trek to the Northeast in darkness at four in the morning, NattyNic was wide awake. She remained wide awake until late in the afternoon when she dozed off for an hour.

As we prepared for this trip, we pondered how to keep our angel occupied. We soon discovered a fantastic invention, a little screen for our small portable DVD player which fastens to the seat in front of the kid and is connected to the player by a short cable.

We already knew the value of a DVD player when traveling with a child, but this added feature was magnificent. The auxiliary screen had its own speaker and volume control and NattyNic was, therefore, empowered-except when PawPaw, to whose seat the screen was attached, asked her to turn down the volume as Annie belted out Tomorrow or cartoon characters blasted into his ear. In Oklahoma we watched the eastern sky redden. It was NattyNic's first sunrise and she was amazed to watch Mr. Golden Sun come from behind a dark night to light our way across this great land.

If you haven't been to Vinita, Oklahoma, drive through there sometime on IH 44. A McDonald's Restaurant, billed as the world's largest McDonald's, is also the only McDonald's that spans an interstate highway. Our girl was amazed to drive under a McDonald's Restaurant, and a little disappointed we didn't stop there to eat.

As we crossed into Missouri and passed through Joplin, I thought of a small community about thirty miles southeast of Joplin. In September 1862, my great-great grandfather, Col. T. C. Hawpe, led the 31st Texas Cavalry in a battle at Newtonia, Missouri. I passed through there a few years ago and was surprised to see that it resembled the description in his field notes of the battle. We had no time to stop there on this trip; St. Louis and the mighty Mississippi lay ahead.

However, the day was still young and we planned a stop at Springfield, Missouri to visit America's only ride through cave, Fantastic Caverns, to give our girl a respite from the car seat and teach her about stalagmites and stalactites. I could never remember which is which. On this trip I learned that when the stalag mites go up, the stalac tites come down. Corny, but a reminder. And NattyNic was happy to have cave kisses, the guide's description of water droplets from the cave's ceiling.

Not only does Springfield have America's only ride through cavern, it has America's first diverging diamond interchange( DDI) at IH 44 and Missouri 13. Passing through a DDI is a mental nightmare and culture shock because on one side of the intersection you are in the far right lane, as we drive in the United States, and in a heartbeat you are suddenly transported to Great Britain where you find yourself in the left lane facing oncoming traffic. Then, in a breath, back into the correct right lane. This idea wasn't imported from the UK, but from another European country- France. I wondered if America was being set up for another Euro-change as we were many years ago when the powers tried to move us to the metric system of measurements.

The current administration in Washington is attempting to remake America into a European style country. The DDI is a small but one of many good reasons we should oppose that effort and get back to what we are- America.

Next: The Arch and a bureaucrat

© Jim Terry

 

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Jim Terry

Jim Terry has worked in Republican grassroots politics for 40 years. Terry was an administrative assistant to a Republican elected official in Dallas for twenty years. In 1996, he ran for and was elected to Justice Court 2 in Dallas County where he served eight years. Contact Jim at tr4guy@flash.net

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