Deloris, the truck that I have owned for many years, is no more. I owned her so long that in her seat was an imprint of my backside as accurate as any fingerprint.
The last few years there was a hole in that same seat which fit my backside a little too well. I have driven a couple hundred thousand miles in her. We have witnessed every emotion together. Love, caused by some passengers over the years, misery as we toured the New Orleans area after Katrina and even death as we encountered it on the highway a few times. I sold her when I no longer had a need for a big, ugly, menopausal, thirsty, old truck.
I have slept in her on many occasions, in fact, in 28 degree weather. I needed better gas mileage, more comfort, and I guess I thought I needed a better looking, younger companion. It should be simple. Right? I stuck out my hand, he placed the money in it, and Deloris started and moved down the road, out of sight. I watched until she was gone; she never quit looking back. How did I get so attached? I was blue for the rest of that week.
We did a lot of traveling, and I swear sometimes she seemed out to get me. Truth be known, she was faithful through it all. A further truth—I have spilled more tears than I want to admit while her steering wheel affectionately held my hands. It’s simply crazy what you can develop an attachment to. God speed Deloris, I think of you often. At least he seemed pleasant enough.
I’m just an ole Georgia boy and always will be. I have traveled the world and seen more than I needed to. I have stayed gone for many years at a time, and will continue to go as my muse runs along in front of me. I guess I have a wandering muse, and that’s okay. In all my traveling, there has been one constant. One thing which lets me know when I am almost home. I feel better as soon as I see a sign that says Highway 441.
Highway 441 runs from West Palm Beach, FL to what amounts to the middle of nowhere in Tennessee. I doubt I have logged every mile of it, but intend to make that right soon. Sounds like a pretty compelling story to me. I did, however, log about a million miles on it as a young man, just driving the five miles from the Dairy Queen on the south side of Milledgeville, GA to the McDonald's on the north side. I have probably looked at millions of women and fell in love at least a dozen times on it.
I have returned home from every imaginable location, to include Dallas, San Diego, Seattle, Hong Kong and even Russia once, to attend funerals and weddings. No matter the number of miles, or the continent you begin on, 441 always leads home. I may eventually settle back down, and although Milledgeville is not my destination, 441 is. I am a little in love with Athens at the moment. I would love to attend UGA if my finances would allow it. I figure there are professors there who need the challenge of teaching me to be a writer with the redneck removed. I bet I can make a few of them residents in Milledgeville.
So with no fanfare, I replaced an old truck with an older car. So far, she has not provided more adventure than Deloris did. Oh, her name is Ellie Mae, and she seems to be working out pretty well. Ellie and I, on redneck route 66. That might be my next book. I love it. So the adventures continue. I can hardly live without them, it seems.
The road home runs from the beach to the mountains and is quite lovely for most of its miles, but the crucial part—it runs as it always has to my grandparents. Home has always been where they are, and they now rest on a little hill with 441 in view just a few yards away. I guess as long as they are there, Milledgeville will be where I am from and being far from Milledgeville ain’t bad. Did I say that out loud?