It’s easy to understand, during uncertain times like these, why people would hark back to their youth; to the happy, carefree moments and episodes enjoyed during that bygone era…
The AAA travel advisor was explaining to my father that there was no posted speed limit on a particular stretch of highway between the New York/Canada border and the outskirts of Montreal. He had the TripTik right there on the desk in front of us and he was drawing a see-through blue line over the very page of the ring-bound roadmap that showed exactly where you could drive as fast as you please.
This was the summer before second grade. It would be my first-ever road trip. My parents were so proud of our two-tone ‘55 Pontiac Chieftain V8 — the first car my city-dwelling, trolley, bus and subway-riding parents had ever owned.
There would be nearly a month during which I could work on my father prior to our week-long tour of the Adirondacks and Quebec. My main goals were to make sure that there would be no changing of the AAA route and that there would be no excuses regarding the “opening up” of the Pontiac once we reached the enchanted stretch of Canadian highway highlighted on the TripTik.
My strategy was to talk matter-of-factly with Pop about the upcoming trip. However, I was prevented from sticking to my laid-back plan by the allure of unbridled speed. Instead, as you would expect of a seven-year-old, I just kept showing Pop the map with the highlighted road with no speed limit. My heart was on my sleeve but, remarkably, it seemed that no harm had been done as a result of my childish harping as the trip was about to begin.
As we motored out of Brooklyn through the brand new Battery Tunnel the excitement began to build. Already my mother was saying “Eugene, watch the speed” with regularity. I sensed that when the magic moment arrives at the border-crossing my father won’t let me down.
We stopped in the Bronx to pick up Aunt Gladys and Uncle Louie. But heading north on the New York Thruway with my aunt, uncle and me sharing the back seat, my earlier optimism began to fade. If there was to be a fly in the ointment it would surely be my Uncle Louie.
As we traveled, Mom would frequently remind Pop — quietly and politely — to watch his speed. Uncle Louie, on the other hand, was a paranoid safety fanatic whose white knuckles clutched the seat in front of him as he incessantly implored my father to slow down. Arguments in the multiple tongues of the Slovaki brothers raged on for the next couple of days throughout the Lake George-Adirondack region.
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