Ideas and Issues Personal Writings

            Pearl River     I know something about road trips.  I’ve been on a bunch both for work and pleasure. If it’s less than ten hours away, there has to be a good reason to fly.  There’s the cost of course, because even with gas at five bucks a gallon, there’s still a huge advantage in my work – and life – in having a ride once you get where you’re going.

There’s time, as well.  Going to Atlanta or Houston from New Orleans, count on two hours before the flight and another hour after landing by the time you go back and forth to the airport, and then go through airport screening, boarding, landing, debarking, and so forth.  Factor in the flight, assuming everything is good to go with weather, planes, equipment, passengers, and baggage, and it’s actually faster to drive to Houston in five hours or less, than it is to fly.  Atlanta is a seven-hour drive, but the airport is even bigger.  It might save an hour or more, but if there’s even a sprinkle in the weather forecast, plane traffic at one of the world’s busiest airports will be delayed, and there goes any flying advantage, and that’s if everything is equal.  I can leave at 4 AM and get there, good to go.  Going to Little Rock or Memphis?  Forget about flying!  Midsized cities have fewer flights, cost even more, and take more time because of connections.

That’s work, but the pleasure of the road, also offsets the work miles as well.  All of this came to mind reading about the granddaughter of the founder of Stuckey’s trying to revive the brand of what used to be a roadside regular at least in many parts of the South.  I’m not going to claim to be a regular.  The gas is too high, and I’m not their market.  At the same time, I’m not going to say that I haven’t traded there a bit, or that Stuckey’s doesn’t have a somewhat fond place in my memory.

Growing up, the road was a regular.  My parents’ relatives lived in California and Mississippi, and that meant the four of us on the road on a fixed schedule.  My dad’s job for five or more years was field auditing for the California Company, which put us on the road all over the western states from the top of Montana to the bottom of New Mexico for three months a year.  If my brother and I saw a Stuckey’s our eyes watered, but we didn’t stop.

My first big road trip that wasn’t in the backseat of the family car was a bus trip to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania for the Boy Scouts National Jamboree in 1964 in my last scout hoorah.  A busload of us from New Orleans travelled together.  We stayed in hotels in Roanoke, Virginia, where the police showed up because some of the guys were throwing water balloons down at moving cars, and in New York City where a bellman called our room in the middle of the night, and asked if we wanted some girls up there.

More than anything else on the bus, I can remember this one guy, a bit on the chubby side, sitting a couple of rows ahead of us.  Every time he saw a palomino horse along the highway, in a high voice he would yell, “Palomino!  Pal of yours O!  Palomino!”  We thought that was hilarious, at least for a while.  Every time he spotted the then roadside regular Stuckey’s in a high-pitched voice he would yell at the top of his lungs, “STUCKEY’S!!!!!”  It was so effective that sometimes the driver would stop, and we would all pile off in excitement clutching our quarters and dimes for what we might find as a snack or souvenir for the trip.

That was then, not now.  Stuckey’s has gone from 330 odd stores to only 70.  I’ve seen one go from fair to worse to little better about fifty miles outside of Beaumont going towards Houston as one of the survivors, and I’ve walked through it.  Traveling back and forth to Atlanta in 2021 to organize tenants’ unions, I would see one outside of Montgomery, Alabama.  When I would take the back way between New Orleans and Lafayette before catching I-49 to Shreveport, I would see one on the way.  I don’t stop.  Now, I should at least in solidarity.  I’d like to see granddaughter make it.

Nonetheless, whenever I see one, whether I keep rolling or not, as my kids can attest, I do yell out at the top of my lungs, “STUCKEY’S!!”