By Wayne William Cipriano
Ever since Reneé graduated from Ava High School and went off to the U. we have travelled north frequently to visit her. Since she stayed in Columbia as her career developed going from the private to the public to the private and again to the public domain completing a full circle and retuning to work at the U. from which she graduated, we have witnessed the evolution of the roadways between Ava and Columbia.
It used to take five to six hours to drive up there, one small two-lane highway to the next, transiting several small towns and resort areas, dealing with the traffic therein and the farmers hauling hay in between.
While it was physically possible to drive up to see Reneé and then return in the same day, it was so tiring that you really took a chance with your safety.
The drive now takes about three hours. The roads are new, wide and picturesque and a day trip up and back is far less daunting. There are several sections where the 70 mph signs seem to be a lower limit suggestion rather than an upper limit regulation – cars motoring quickly past a driver adhering to the posted speed. The excellent weather helped make the trip so fast and there was no traffic even on Route 5, always the slowest and most demanding part of the trip.
There is a down side to this: with limited access highways you do not see the attractions that so populated the roadsides beginning after World War II and lasting well into the completion of the Interstate Highway System.
You cannot pull over any longer and eat an ice cream cone while staring at the world’s biggest ball of string. You do not get to shudder as “the most poisonous rattlesnake ever captured” is held aloft by a 12-year-old girl “trained since birth to handle these ferocious reptiles.” You do not get to climb over the very first steam-powered automobile wondering what it sounded like while operating. You can no longer watch Chief Watona and his two princess daughters perform the Corn Dance (or maybe it was to encourage rain). And you do not see those signs telling all of us who travelled up and down the Eastern Seaboard that there were only 120 or 70 or 30 miles to “STUCKEY’S.”
Quick travel is a benefit that we all appreciate and most of us support the trade of attractions for rapid transit. It does seem however that as these travel improvements occur we are losing some small part of Americana. I do not recall very much at all of the trip we made to Columbia and back in one day last week, but after so many years I still remember STUCKEY’S, and that 12-year-old girl.