Everyone should have at least one good road trip story. Mine is about a motorcycle trip. In 1976 my husband Neil was determined to get away from Maine for the winter. I was happily ensconced in Ripley and didn’t share his wanderlust, but then I wasn’t the one who had to go out and crawl under the car in the snow and single-digit weather to replace a radiator. We didn’t have a car that was reliable enough to get us out of Maine, let alone to Florida, which was our ultimate destination. But we did have a very fine Honda motorcycle.

There was a problem with that, though. A problem named Tevye, who was our 20-month-old son. Undeterred, Neil located a Watsonian sidecar in Brewer and scraped up the money to buy it. We packed up our tent, sleeping bags, camping gear, diapers, books, toys, Neil’s trombone, and set out on our journey with barely enough money to make it.

We had a helmet for Tevye and he sat on my lap the whole way, mostly content to play with his toys, listen to stories, sing songs, or — best of all — sleep. All I had to do was keep him entertained and try to ignore the 18-wheelers zooming by.

We made stops on the way, of course. Neil’s parents in Rhode Island, mine in New York, his brother’s place in Washington, D.C. After that we camped out. We had great weather until we reached northern Florida where rain came down in torrents, soaking our sleeping bags and most of our clothes. The next morning we went to a laundromat to dry everything. A reporter there noticed our heavily loaded rig, did an interview, and printed the story in the local paper.

Eventually we made it to Miami Beach where Neil’s grandmother had a motel and provided us with a room. Neil set about looking for a job and found one as a zookeeper-in-training at the zoo on Key Biscayne. Eventually we moved to our own place. Unfortunately for Neil, I hated Miami and in the spring I insisted that we return to our home in Ripley.

Linda Buckmaster wrote her road trip poem over 20 years ago. She describes the inspiration for the poem this way:  “I was attending a writing conference at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute in Boulder. I had just listened to an older, mid-level Beat poet read something of his about (what else?) a car trip out west. Frankly, I thought his poem was lame, and I thought I could do something better than that from my own experience 20 years earlier.” At that time she and a group of friends had taken a job driving a car from California back to the East Coast. That was a fairly common experience then. I don’t know if that’s true now.

Linda notes that, “The women poets of the Beat Generation like Anne Waldman, Diane di Prima, Hettie Jones, and Joanne Kyger are less well-known, and I was inspired by them as foremothers.” Her poem does a great job capturing the giddiness and delight of being young when you believe nothing is insurmountable and that, with the help of your friends, you will always succeed.

Linda Buckmaster has lived within a block of the Atlantic most of her life, growing up in “Space Coast” Florida during the ’60s and living in Midcoast Maine for 40 years. She is a former poet laureate of Belfast. Her poetry, essays and fiction have been published in over 40 journals. Her hybrid memoir, “Spaceheart: a Memoir in Stages,” was published by Burrow Press in 2018 and her most recent work, “Elemental: A Miscellany of Salt Cod and Islands,” Huntress Press, 2022, is available online through Hello, Hello Books or from your local bookstore.

Driveaway

Sacramento 1971 and ready to drive away

that yellow T-bird convertible, delivering

it to its East Coast owner. Barely 21

and groovin’, we weren’t anybody I’d trust a car to now.

 

But there we were:

top down, California sky, highway stretched out

longing for our tracks, and even an FM radio to pick up

those underground stations. The owner’s hundred-dollar bill

lay in the glove compartment for gas and expenses, and

if we slept in the car every night, we’d have cash

to divide at the end of the trip. That is, if we didn’t blow

too much in Tahoe.

 

But then going up Independence Pass, high above

the timberline, she sputtered, gagged — and unable to handle

12,000 feet above sea level — coughed to almost a standstill.

The four of us had to get out and push that canary over the pass.

Young and laughing in the high altitude sunlight

so real       so clear

we jumped back in before she started to roll,

top down, Colorado sky, highway stretched out longing

for our tracks. We thought

it was all downhill from there.

Judy Kaber is Belfast’s poet laureate.

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