by L.G. Chapman B.A., LL.B.

Inspired by a Sunday drive on a beautiful late winter day: March 11.

Exactly forty years ago I worked as a summer law student for the Judge Advocate General’s office on MacLaren Street in Ottawa. I recall our librarian, a stout elderly woman – a “Miss”, would report each Monday morning where she and her companion had taken a Sunday drive. It surprized me to learn that she had covered considerable distance on these outings. I associated long drives with motor trips to a holiday destination, not a circular day trip. I considered the custom of a Sunday drive rather old-fashioned and not especially stylish. I was convinced that it was the modest pleasure of seniors though she was probably younger than I am now. What really clinched my denomination of the escapade as a routine for old fogies was that it clashed so obviously with what I customarily then did on weekends. It was nothing for me to bicycle up to a hundred miles on a weekend. The thought of doing anything as uninspiring as sitting in a car for hours – more especially so on an agreeable day – and rolling along on a motorized conveyance was almost repugnant. 

My how our perspective changes with the lapse of time! Ironically I have unknowingly succeeded to the image of that stout elderly librarian! The once folksy tradition of a Sunday drive has become part of my vernacular! Today for example we skirted the urban centres and consciously wound our way along as many of the back country roads as possible, knitting our way through Dunrobin, Pakenham, Kinburn and White Lake. We eventually came to rest in Burnstown where we punctuated our excursion with a café au lait while sitting out-of-doors in two large wooden rocking chairs, enjoying the warm afternoon sunshine. Could it possibly be more down-home!

The Sunday drive is however not confined to the country roads. Frequently we launch ourselves onto Highway 416 and connect to the 401 to get us to Brockville, Gananoque or Kingston, though I hasten to add that the return trip is regularly more picturesque along the St. Lawrence River to Prescott before heading north again. For anyone who relishes driving for its own sake the scenery and the condition of the roads are not the only considerations. The appearance of one`s automobile likewise matters. For this reason it is customary for me, before getting myself into full swing for the excursion, to locate the nearest car wash and perform that duty. It is no coincidence that the Sunday drive frequently unites with a sunny day and dry pavement.

Given the length of time which can be consumed by a Sunday drive – often as much as six hours or more – it is not uncommon to build into the experience a restaurant destination. The restaurant choice varies enormously – fish shacks, golf clubs, marinas, metropolitan fine dining, greasy spoons, inns, Chinese, cafés, bistros, bakeries, organic, vegetarian and waterfront. Indulging oneself in these local venues is a reminder of the many attractions which are at our very doorstep.