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Saturday, April 25, 2015

My First Road Trip
I was thinking about my dad’s youngest sibling, Uncle Jim last night. I haven’t seen him in more than 20 years. He lives on Marathon Island in the Florida Keys and doesn't like to leave paradise, or his sailboat.

I’m sure he was partly responsible for a couple of ways my life turned out.

My fascination with Corvettes started during my pre-teen years, thanks to Uncle Jim.  My dad’s brother enlisted and became a US Marine back in the mid 1950’s.  Four years later, when he got out of the service, he came home and with a bit of the cash he had saved up, bought a used 1959 or 60 jet black Corvette convertible with a red interior.
Uncle Jim - Home for Christmas
To get up close and touch that car as a youngster was awesome and fueled my lifelong desire to drive a Corvette. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to own two of them.

Uncle Jim also took me on my first road trip sometime in the early 1960’s when I was 9 or 10 years of age. After being trained in some type of electronics or radio while he was in the Marine Corps, he obtained a good job in Milwaukee (I think it was General Electric) working in the same field. He had a hand in building some type of computer or electronic equipment that was enclosed in a very large metal cabinet. I was too young to understand what it was all about, but they needed to get it delivered to a university in southern Michigan near Detroit (could have been Lansing or Ann Arbor). It was deemed too valuable and risky to put it on a carrier, so they asked my uncle if he would transport it in a van and make the delivery in person.

Uncle Jim accepted the assignment and asked me if I wanted to go along with him to keep him company on the overnight trip from Milwaukee. I was surprised that he asked me and said “sure”. Jim had two sons of his own, but they were much younger than I was, he must have figured that I would have gotten a greater appreciation of the experience. On the bright summer day we were to leave he drove up in front of the house with a big white panel van with this huge cabinet full of electronics taking up the entire cargo area. We were living on 19th and Chambers at the time. He came into the the house and announced that there was only one seat for the driver and we would have to figure something out. He eyed a step stool that we had in the pantry and took it out to the van, that was my chair for the next two days!

Well, it wasn't very comfortable but I had a fascinating trip with him. I remember going through Chicago for the first time, such a huge city with so many cars and trucks. I wondered how he could drive through it and not get lost. We drove around Lake Michigan and east on I-94 towards Detroit.

As we got into the early evening Uncle Jim decided to call it a day and we pulled into a Holiday Inn (or a Howard Johnson's) to check in and get a room. I had never stayed in a motel before in my life. After getting our room, it was time to get some dinner, so he took me to the restaurant at the hotel which seemed to be really fancy and high class to me. My family almost never ate in restaurants. Money was tight in our household and the occasional splurge for us was bringing home George Webb hamburgers (7 for a buck, with Green Sheet coupon!) or mom making a Chef Boyardee pizza. There were only a couple McDonald's drive-ins in Milwaukee back then and I don’t think we had even tried them yet.

My eyeballs must have been bulging as a waiter handed me this huge menu to look at. I asked my uncle what to do and he said I could have anything I wanted on the menu! His expenses were being covered by his company and he didn't care what I had. I was stunned and don’t remember what I ended up eating, but I’m sure it was good.

The next morning we got up and continued on. As we drove through Battle Creek, I remember him telling me that was the home of Kellogg's, where they made all the breakfast cereal. We continued on and arrived a while later at the university where my uncle went in with the paperwork. He backed up to a garage door and 3 or 4 big burly guys came out and carried the cabinet inside. Then we turned around and headed home.

I’m sure the fond memories of that road trip with Uncle Jim helped me to consider driving as a career in my later years. It’s funny how childhood experiences can influence the direction you take in life. Truck driving is not an easy life, I was fortunate to have worked for two good companies nearly all of my trucking career, made decent money and was able to somewhat indulge my passion for cars, owning a few great ones.

It’s been a great ride, thanks Uncle Jim!


  1. Uncle Jim also had a big influence on my life too!

    1. OK, we're in suspense until you tell us! lol