Carole Townsend

Share the road. Safely, please.
By Carole Townsend

My husband and I took a little trip this past weekend. It involved 12 hours of driving (round trip), about 16 hours of work (a labor of love), and whatever time was left dedicated to dinners out, and sleep. Still, it was rare time together, and we always enjoy that.



My husband always drives when we take a trip. When I was in college, my roommate and I would decide at midnight on Friday that we’d take a trip to Atlanta or Chicago, and off we’d go. If I ever got sleepy while driving, I’d stop for a cup of coffee, and I’d be good to go for several more hours. These days, I’m asleep by the time we get out of our driveway.  

America’s highways are great places to people-watch. You can see families driving to who-knows-where, cars packed to the hilt, kids hitting each other in the back seat, Mom and Dad stoically staring straight ahead. You can see college kids making the trek home, broke and with a back seat full of dirty laundry. You can see those same kids heading back to school with neatly folded laundry stacked in baskets, their wallets a little fatter. You’ll pass elderly couples steering lumbering RVs to campgrounds in warmer climates, and business people driving to neighboring states, starched shirts and suits hanging on rods in the back.

I’m always amazed when I see the creative folks out there, the ones who figure out how to stack and pack ladders, mattresses, furniture and the kitchen sink in the bed of a pickup truck or on the roof of a car. I am amazed – and terrified – by those people who laugh in the face of the laws of physics, determined to get all of their belongings from point A to point B in one trip.

On this most recent drive, we traveled for about 200 miles in the same direction as an older couple from Alabama. We would pass them, then stop for coffee or gas, then see them again 30 or 40 miles down the road.  They had furniture and mattresses stacked, roped and tied everywhere on their truck but the front seat. At the speed of about 65 mph, the mattress tied to the roof was folded in half by the wind, and the box springs underneath it lifted and jittered, threatening to take flight. In the bed of the truck was an entire bed and frame, a dresser, mirror, nightstands and yes, even lamps and bags of what I assumed were clothes.

The woman had her window down, one hand loosely gripping the box springs. I’m not sure what she would have done had they blown away, save for go right along with them. The gate on the bed of the truck was also down, and bungee cords were stretched this way and that, holding the entire mess in place. 

As fascinating as this couple and their haul was to see, I urged my husband to get ahead of them every time we saw them on the road. A scene like that makes me very nervous. I’m a worst case scenario kind of traveler. I can imagine the most freakish accidents, probably because I’ve seen a few in my time.  I’ll never forget, years ago while driving from Nashville to Atlanta, seeing a man driving with a mattress tied to the roof of his car. The wind picked it up, and it landed on the windshield of the car behind him. The accident that ensued was horrific, involving several cars.

On this most recent trip, my husband and I stopped and ate breakfast somewhere between Atlanta and Mobile. Once we got back on the road, we passed the overloaded Ford with the determined couple inside, one more time. I don’t want to make assumptions, but they were traveling sans mattress when we saw them. 

I’m hoping they stopped and sold it to someone.

Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. She writes about family, from both a humorous and poignant perspective. Her newest book, MAGNOLIAS, SWEET TEA AND EXHAUST (July 2014, Skyhorse Publishing) takes a look at NASCAR from a Southern suburban mom’s perspective. She is currently writing her fourth book. Carole has appeared on local and national news and talk shows, including CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. When not writing, she travels throughout the region, speaking to various civic and literary groups, and advocating for the health and well-being of the family, particularly women and children. For more information, visit