Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Highway to Heaven

Apparently, a lot of fundamentalist Christian folks believe that Interstate 35 is the “Highway to Holiness” mentioned in the Bible. Isaiah, chapter 35, verse 8 says: “A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for him who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it.”

Now, there are dozens of Christian groups scattered along I-35 praying for lost souls, praying that the naughty adult-type establishments will go away, and praying that God will deign to say that I-35 is, indeed, the highway mentioned in 35th chapter of Isaiah. (They probably think that God had something to do with numbering the chapters, after all.)

I don't know if that'll happen, but I am awfully familiar with I-35.

Growing up in south Texas, my family would often make the six-hour drive north to Dallas to visit our relatives for Christmas or Thanksgiving, most of which was on I-35. I don’t recall it being particularly “blessed,” -- mainly just boring. I do remember that my mom, being a new single parent and not particularly used to driving on interstate highways, was usually pretty tense during the entire drive. Threats of impending disaster were continually conveyed upon my brother and me in the back seat if we didn’t settle down and behave.

My grandmother, "Budgie" -- always firmly implanted in passenger seat -- took it upon herself to provide a veritable feast for the entire trip which was expertly catered in foil-lined shoe boxes. One would be laden with sandwiches (half roast beef and half pimento cheese); another with deviled eggs; yet another with brownies and then there’d be thermoses of coffee and cocoa. Heaven forbid, we’d have to stop and eat at those horribly expensive Stuckey’s restaurants along the way. "Highway robbery!" she'd exclaim.

Those Stuckey’s supplied the only entertainment for my brother and me. We’d play a game called “zip” with the Stuckey’s advertising billboards. The first one of us to see one would suddenly bolt forward and scream, “ZIP!” which was followed by my mom bolting upright and screaming that we had almost caused her to careen off the highway into a fiery crash. And for the record, there were nine Stuckey’s restaurants between Austin and Dallas with ten billboards advertising each restaurant. That's 90 billboards evenly placed throughout the 200 miles -- Doing the math, the result was an adolescent boy suddenly screaming "ZIP" every 2.22222 miles.

Over the mayhem, Budgie would be offering everyone a deviled egg.

Good times. . .

Stuckey's went out of business years ago; probably because everyone’s grandmothers kept us all from stopping at any of them.

Then there was the time when I was sixteen years old and had just obtained my driver’s license. Mom was letting me drive the car along with providing continual visions of impending fiery crashes if I didn’t use the turn signal, or if I played my 8-track of Tubular Bells one more time, or if I went one iota over the speed limit.

I was instructed to stop for gas in Waco, so I exited I-35 and proceeded to run straight through a stop sign at the intersection.


Mom suddenly backhanded me really hard across the chest. (She was a school teacher and employed a very direct corrective theory when it came to her son's driver education.) For years after that, I’d point out that intersection in Waco: “There’s where you nailed me for running that stop sign, Mom.” It became one of our favorite sites.

Soon after college, I moved to Dallas where I lived and worked for ten years. I-35 then became the highway home to see my folks.

I don’t know if I-35 is, indeed, the “Highway to Holiness” as mentioned in the Bible. It seems pretty egocentric for anyone to make such a claim just because they live near it. But for my little family, it sure holds lots of funny and poignant memories.

Those are best kind.

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