A comment that I read earlier about how dreary driving around in the 1990's must’ve been took me down a trip through Memory Lane. No technology, no navigation systems, no way for most people to call others (because cellphones weren’t all that common back then). I had to do some serious retrospect and conducted an honest, unbiased review about my behind-the-wheel experiences twenty or so years ago. The verdict is in.
I graduated high school in 1995 while driving a 1993 Dodge Dakota Sport. It was a V6, 2WD, green, and had big grey squiggly decals on either side of it (google image search that, it was truly horrendous). While it had four wheels and went when I pressed on the gas pedal, it’s not what I wanted. I lived in a world where people drove full-sized trucks with loud V8s. This wasn’t some small Texas town, by the way; it was ritzy suburban Austin.
After a year plugging away at a community college trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, a transfer to a major Texas college occurred. A relatively inexpensive private, co-ed dorm is where I lived, and my next door neighbors were Holly and Jackie. They were nice, and we went out to a ranch together one night to hang out with some other people. They left the next day in Jackie’s Honda Accord. They made it halfway back to town, hit a feed sack in the middle of the road that fell off of some guy’s truck, and wrecked. Holly was killed instantly.
When my parents found out exactly what had happened with the wreck, they went and bought me a slightly used 1996 Chevy Silverado, almost exactly like the one pictured above. It had a 350 VORTEC engine, 2WD, and (most importantly) more ground clearance than my Dakota. Through tragedy, I had gotten my dream truck.
It had a crap stereo that I kept stock, but played CDs well enough for me to be content with it. I tore the highway up between Austin and college, 90 miles each way. It was my stress relief, staring down the road, listening to jams as loud as the stereo would play them without crackling (seriously, DELCO sucked at stereos). There were no incoming text messages, no cell phone calls, no Instatwatface updates that needed to be made. Just the road and jams.
In 1998, I met a girl who I damn near fell in love with at first sight. She stayed with me that entire Memorial Day weekend, just hanging out. No hanky panky (seriously). She later told me that she fell in love with me about the same time that I fell for her, but the truck I was driving sealed the deal. We married in 2003 and have three little girls. Joe Diffy said it best: “There’s just something women like about a pickup man.”
The best road memory made in this truck was the Spring Break trip in 1999. My buddy and I jumped in and drove from Austin to Knoxville TN, Charlotte, Atlanta, Tuscaloosa, and back. By that time I had a big two chamber catback Flowmaster and 31 x 10.50 BFG All-Terrains on the truck. The engine roared and the tires hummed the entire way. Cher’s hit song “Believe” kept playing on every damned pop FM station that the Delco stereo found, and my buddy and I laughed every single time it played. It became the unofficial theme song for the trip. We navigated the roads not with a navigation system, but with a gigantic Rand McNally road map that showed damn near every road in the US. Seriously, even the small FM roads. Every state had its own page, and it was a sizable page. If we did get lost, it was our duty to get unlost. I had a cell phone by this time, but it didn’t text, barely had signal most of the time, and sure as hell didn’t have internet. Analog technology, baby.
By 2002, my beautiful truck was starting to show its wear. The engine needed more and more work, the transmission started slipping, and little gremlins started rearing their ugly heads. I had saved enough money for a new vehicle, so I drove to a dealership in Dallas to buy a GMC Yukon SLT. I signed the paperwork, traded my Chevy Silverado in, jumped in the new truck with my fiancée, and started back to Houston.
But a strange thing happened that I had not anticipated. I started crying. Not a little sniffle or a couple of tears, but actually sobbing. Giving up my Silverado was as upsetting to me at that moment as the death of my childhood pet had been a few years before. There was no explanation at the time, but I realized later that my Chevy represented a lot more than a mode of transportation for me. It was my youth, my road trip monster, my hook for getting the woman I still lay with every night. It took me over 100,000 stereo-blasting, singing at the top of my lungs with no technological distractions, good memory miles, and now it was gone.
Turn off your cellphone, disconnect from the internet, kill your navigation system, and blast your favorite 100 songs while driving down the road for hours on end. Get lost every now and then with the sole purpose of finding your way back to wherever without an electronic aid. Enjoy your time on the road without distractions or worries about the latest news/social media updates. That’s what driving in the 1990's was like for me. And it was glorious.
The only thing between me and a good time on the road was how much gas money I had.