Uncle Don was my first commuter. 

The first commuter and his niece.

On the road together.

I was a kid enamored with road trips in Southern California but Uncle Don had a very different driving experience. It was a revelation to hear him talk about how hard it was to drive two hours into downtown Los Angeles and back home every day. That was suburban life in the 1960’s and America was still in love with driving. The contrast between my car-girl obsession and his reality was my first commuter enlightenment.

Today that drive would be impossible unless you left well before dawn and forgot about weeknight family dinners. A few years after our conversation Uncle Don decided he’d had enough and he moved the family up to the Lake Tahoe area. There were beautiful pines, mountains, and four true seasons but little work. Ironically, he ended up driving his own taxi and enjoyed it. Goodbye merciless miles of bumper to bumper, hello to winter ice and summer tourists.

Pride and freedom

One summer I remember how proud he was of his cab when he picked me up from the train station. The worry was gone from his face as he leaned out the window, calling hello. My first commuter was still driving more if not less but life was on his terms.

Uncle Don is gone now and I think of him still. I think of my father too, who also loved driving. Dad lived the old commercial jingle, “See the USA in your Chevrolet,” leading us across the country on vacations almost every summer.

Dad and Don relished driving, the open road and living well. I inherited their passion for road trips and take them when I can. I may have been my son’s first commuter too but he also learned to set up a lifestyle with little need to drive far for work.

Here’s to our fathers and uncles, who taught us how to drive and appreciate the freedom of the open road. Do you have a first commuter in your life too?