I did something recently that I haven’t done in maybe
Well, it began with something I have never done:
Check out of my hotel at 7:15 a.m.
I was at a Virginia Press Association conference in
Richmond. The night before, I had “partied” as much as I ever do these
days — nowhere near heartily.
Ah, I fondly remember the VPA conference days of
dancing and availing myself of the delights of the “hospitality suite”
until the wee hours. Sleeping until the housekeepers demanded I vacate
I used to bring my mother along on those trips. Mom
and I were great travel companions; much of that is because she would
“keep me in check,” so to speak.
I remember one VPA conference back in my old dancing
and hospitality days. I crept into our room sometime around 3 a.m. and
fell into my bed.
I jerked awake to find the curtains wide open and the
bright morning sun shouting into the room. I groaned and looked over at
the chair beside the window. There was Mom, fully dressed for travel,
her packed suitcase at her side, her purse clasped in her lap.
“I’m ready when you are!” she chirped happily.
At the recent conference, I attempted conviviality as
long as I could. I was back in my room at 10 o’clock. I awoke at 5:52
a.m. and dallied around. By 7 o’clock, I had no options left but to
leave. Our hotel sat on Route 250 at Short Pump. Short Pump, as I
remember it from my college days, was naught but a wide spot in the
road. Today, it is a shopping Mecca — or a nightmare, considering what I
now think about shopping. Short Pump is, to me, a confusing
conglomeration of commercial establishments, each of which looks very
much like the other. I cannot imagine going to Short Pump to have a
Instead of heading back to the interstate, I decided
to turn west and take Route 250 for a while. These days, the longer I
can prolong merging onto the scary scramble of the interstate, the
Thus it was that I found myself meandering along what
passes, near Richmond, as a peaceful country road. Every time I saw a
sign pointing toward I-64, I decided to wait until the next one. I was
amazed to discover that 250 is actually a shorter route to
Charlottesville than the interstate is.
Back in the days before the interstate — yes, I
remember them — 250 was the main road between Staunton and Richmond. It
was a dark and lonely drive that seemed to take forever. One would
simply put four gallons of gas in the car — that cost one dollar back
then — and head toward home. Daddy would always fill up the car —
probably spending about four dollars — before he put you back on the
road to VCU.
One would pass through Short Pump and Oilville and
Hadensville with nary a sight to see. Well, there is one sight I
particularly remember from childhood. Somewhere alongside the road
between Afton Mountain and Staunton, there were the bedspread displays.
They were my favorite sights to look out for: Rows of
colorful chenille bedspreads hanging on a long line, all available for
purchase. The colors were often beyond garish. The designs were
intricate — flowers and butterflies and trees splashed in pink and
orange and purple and green. I loved those bedspreads! I always begged
for us to pull over and buy one for my bedroom. I was never indulged.
“Those are awful!” my mother
would exclaim. “You have terrible taste!”
Daddy would always clench his pipe in his teeth,
pronounce the sellers “gypsies,” and keep on driving toward home.
I was reminded of all this on that early Sunday
morning drive back to Hot Springs. My mood could not have been rosier.
There was no traffic to speak of; I was not jockeying for position on
the interstate. I was not looking ahead, behind and to the side for
lurking state police cars. I was not dodging tractor trailers.
I kept my eye peeled for those garish bedspreads but,
alas, they were nowhere to be found. The highway system may have
improved, but my taste remains the same.
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