Ah, the mother American road.
Two-lane or eight-lane, coast-to-coast or county-to-county, the symbol of American freedom has provided a backdrop for characters as diverse as Jack Kerouac, Bruce Springsteen, Charles Kuralt and Charles Starkweather.
Not to mention you and me. Who among us hasn’t gotten behind the wheel at least once just to drive — to take a road just to see where it leads? Or gone out on the highway and been touched by beauty, squalor or some phenomenon in between?
(One such memory from my last trip to Stamford: Lightning dancing in the darkened sky as traffic crawled across the Tappan Zee Bridge.)
Yes, the American road is generous with her gifts. But there are certain prerequisites you gotta have to join the parade. Like registration stickers.
Sure, if you’re desperate and on the lam, you could drive an unregistered car. But if you want to follow your bliss without having Smokey Bear get all up in your bidniss, you owe it to yourself to get a state sticker (or stickers) on your ride.
As soon as that task was completed, he was On The Road:
I doubt Jack Kerouac’s bop- and Buddha-tinged travels ever included a stop in Chicopee, Massachusetts.
But it is perhaps fitting that my grandpa would mark his registration renewal by traveling to the home of the first American gasoline-powered automobile.
You could say that America’s fascination with driving had its earliest roots in Chicopee — though long-distance driving wasn’t a possibility when the Duryea brothers made their first experiments with machine-powered wagons.
I have no idea why my grandpa chose Chicopee as his getaway-day destination. Of course he grew up in neighboring Springfield, so perhaps he was going to see old friends.
Whatever brought him there, he didn’t stay long: It looks like he was back in Stamford by day’s end. The call of the road wasn’t that strong, apparently.
Putting on his registration stickers was just the sort of mundane task my grandpa delighted in recording on his calendar. No surprise, then, to see it turn up in other years.
(See, there’s the water man again. These entries get more and more self-referential by the week.)
It would be ultimate proof of the Blumenau family’s capacity to save everything if I were to produce the license plates my grandfather had in 1966 or 1972, along with the stickers he appended to them.
I don’t quite have those. But I do have Connecticut license plates from 1967 and 1973. I know the ’73 belonged to my other grandpa, who also lived in Stamford, and the ’67 might have as well. So these are pretty well representative of the blue-and-white metal platters to which my grandpa affixed his yearly stickers, even if they’re not the exact same pieces.