May 28, 2020

The idea of The Sunday Drive started in the 1920’s when automobiles began to be used for pleasure rather than just errands, business, or commuting. The very first Parkways were created by landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted (he is credited with Central Park) and Calvert Vaux. The Parkways first separated horse carriages from pedestrians and bicyclists and were also used as shady small-neighborhood parks. The Parkways were then built with landscaped medians and designed to link parks with roads for recreational driving.

On a side note, there was a Disney movie in 1986 called Sunday Drive starring Tony Randall and Carrie Fisher (yes, from Star Wars). Two identical cars pull into a restaurant with a couple and their 2 kids under blankets sleeping in the back seat of their car. In the second car, a single man leaves his dog sleeping under a blanket in his back seat. The couple mistake the dog for their children and drive away. The single man, in the other car, assumes the children are his dog. Once they discover the mistake they are far away and don’t know how to resolve it. Hilarity ensues!

My dad used to take me on Sunday drives in rural Illinois and Minnesota. For my high school graduation gift we went on a trip to Europe for 6 weeks. The 10-country trip included planes, trains, and boats—but mostly automobiles. Navigating through Europe with only paper maps (yes, I’m of that age), gave me a lifelong passion for travel and aptitude for maps. (The Michelin maps unfolded to be larger than the car.)

So last Sunday, my husband and I headed out for a much-needed Sunday drive.

My first suggestion is to plan your route but hold it loosely. (You may have seen this one coming). We decided how long we were comfortable to be gone and which direction to head. Living in Tampa, FL near the Gulf of Mexico limited our options to north, east or south and no danger of an inadvertent state line crossing. (Currently several northeast states have rules that if you drive into another state you must quarantine for 14 days.) During the current time be sure to check your local restrictions and guidelines as some places are enforcing essential only travel.

As it turns out, grocery stores and interstate rest stops are the only guarantee of an open, decent restroom. We found out the hard way that just because a retail store or a gas station is open, doesn’t mean they have staff to keep the public restroom open.

Driving through the rural farm roads in Dade City, FL, one particular scenic road caught our attention with a “deed restricted” sign at the entrance. We found out that deed-restricted, in this case, meant you must close the door to your porta potty and only 20 non-operating cars per acre.

The next neighborhood had an intriguing gate that was wide-open. Yes, we went right through. After a cruise of the neighborhood we found the gate was now closed. That was a long 20 minutes waiting for a driver with the code to drive through and let us out. But at least we didn’t have to quarantine for 2 weeks because we crossed a state border.

We enjoyed a few “Twilight Zone” moments like the newspaper stand with the newspapers dated March 20th, frozen in time, and the dead tree that looked like it harbored various animals. You may see a bird on the left and an otter on the right.

I’m pleased to say we arrived safely home with just a fun memory and a happier state of mind.