The holiday season is always one of reflection, even if subconsciously. At the store the other day, I saw a giant display of shiny, new bicycles waiting for their new homes. This definitely took me back to some of my own favorite Christmas gifts growing up and certainly my own rad BMX, Evil Kneivel days.
When I was a little kid there was nothing better than hopping on my black and gold Huffy and hoofing it around the neighborhood or up to my family’s full service gas station (back when such things existed). Along the way my imagination would take over and I would envision myself as the pilot of a big jet plane, an astronaut, a race car driver, a monster truck car crusher and more all in one trip.
As I got older, I graduated from Huffy to Mongoose to Suzuki, Honda and Kawasaki. My friends, cousins and I became big time dirt bike enthusiasts and racers. And as I got further involved in these new, grand machines my imagination ran more rampant. I was Bob Hanna and Ricky Johnson and if I was dared I was the aforementioned Evil Kneivel. I can still vividly remember crisp fall afternoons spent inhaling the cold Texas air through my helmet as I flew through the air and took in the big blue skies. For those few brief seconds I would forget everything except the breathtaking awe of the skyline…trees, roofs, whatever got in the way. Around the end of this phase I moved onto actual vehicles.
Anything with four wheels that was street legal. Whether I was driving or not, just the thrill of being away from your parents, the ability and capacity to go anywhere you wanted. The first inklings of latter day road trips were just mindless meanderings through the back roads of McLennan County. Not the kind of backroading you do on Saturday night with 2 cases of beer and a carload of friends, but the kind without a purpose or sense of direction. Climbing behind the wheel as a teenager and in my early 20’s it was much the same. Driving off a hangover on Sunday afternoon with a pack of Excederin and a Gatorade can be pure ecstasy.
Is there anything better than a winding Sunday afternoon drive through the Texas countryside on a lazy, sunny day? The voyage is a mind-altering escape through a visage of greens, blues, reds, browns, hills and flats. I think it should be state mandated of anyone who is able to participate.There is something to be said for the freedom of having your cell phone turned off, great tunes on the radio, the windows rolled down and the wide-open spaces of county roads. Songs have been written about it, and a child’s imagination may just be the best inspiration available. As a teacher I’m reminded of that daily and as a back roads adventurer I’m reminded of that each Sunday I cruise the back roads. The tunes on the radio can be the most key component. A soundtrack to the natural therapy afforded to us by this great land we call home. Find what fits your mood and soak it in as your tires pop and crack over your slow pace on the gravel.
Pat Green said it best in “Carry On” when he lamented that “everybody’s gotta get away sometimes.” And I couldn’t agree more. Whether getting away is a vacation to the Carribean, a jaunt to Vegas, or just a 45 minute drive through the countryside, it is something that must be done ocassionally to keep your soul and spirit sound. It’s as relaxing as a massage, you don’t need an appointment or a travel agent…just a spare hour, a good cd and some open road. Try it, trust me.
****In addition to that notion, due to the Christmas holiday and by request…below I’ve included my first published piece from when I was 16. It ran in the local newspaper.
Christmas is a special time of year in every family. Most people have gatherings and special traditions reserved for that time of year. My family is no different. We do the usual: have a meal, open presents, sing carols. However, we have one up on the rest of the world–at least in our hearts we do. In our family, we have a tradition every Christmas Eve, that started with my grandfather, Louie Beard Jr.
He was my mother’s father, a simple man from Penelope, TX who enjoyed no time of year quite like he did Christmas. The man lived for it. One year around his favorite time of year he suffered a major heart attack that almost took him from us forever. Grandad had already purchased our gifts, but there was one problem. He was in the hospital and our gifts weren’t wrapped. Unable to wrap the gifts in the usual sense, he stuck all the presents in paper grocery sacks. This act started a tradition we continue every Christmas.
Now on Christmas Eve, we party and visit until the early hours of Christmas morning and wait for everyone except the immediate family to leave. Then we begin opening our gifts. We take turns unwrapping one at a time until we have opened all the traditionally wrapped presents. All that is left are a handful of paper sacks under the tree. We save them for last because no matter what is inside, they are more special than the rest of gifts combined because of what they symbolize.
This tradition grows in nostalgia and importance each year and has become stronger since my Grandad’s passing in 1993. As long as I’m alive, the tradition of paper sacks at Christmas will be alive in my family.
-Our year end, best-of list, Favorites of 2014, will be posted in a few days. It should come as no surprise that Sturgill Simpson dominates most categories.
-Planning for Greenfest, GF15 is well underway. What would you like to see?
-Cool to see our GF home, RRIH expanding their booking to include some of the musical heroes of my youth like Art Alexakis. Leave the world behind, indeed!
-What a mess the college football playoff turned out to be for the state of Texas? Gotta go to 8 teams, right? Plus, it still makes no sense that a billion dollar industry settles its championship via a committee.
-It’s December and my Cowboys haven’t faded yet.
-January will make 13 years of doing this column. Holy cow. Kids will be graduating high school that started kindergarten during the first Brad’s Corner. #old
-Steamboat is just about here and LJT planning is in full force. Where did the year go?
–This month’s recommended album: Sons of Bill-Love and Logic. Another in the long line of acts from outside the Texas borders to be making music that resonates with natives better than most of those within the borders, Sons of Bill dropped a new release earlier t his fall that might be their best to date. These Virginia brothers have spent a great deal of time genre-hopping and defying labels. This effort finds them in a rootsy acoustic mode that pairs well with their heartfelt lyrics. This record is a must have for fans of American Aquarium, Lucero, Wilco etc.
-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.”-Mark Twain