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Interstate Travel Memories of the 1980s

Paul has driven across the United States on interstate highways. Some of his best memories are from the 1980s.

Interstate Travel Memories of the 1980s

The Pennsylvania Turnpike

The Pennsylvania Turnpike

In July 1979, I had just returned to Wisconsin after having lived in Taiwan 1973-1979. After purchasing a 1971 Dodge Polara, I drove it extensively on interstate highways while starting life again in the United States.

My first long trip was to Toledo, Ohio, where I lived until December 1980. After getting a job in Maryland, I drove east to the Baltimore area.

While living in Maryland, I traveled between Baltimore and Ohio a lot during the early 1980s because I still had a house in Toledo.

I also often traveled back to Wisconsin throughout the 80s to visit my parents who lived on a farm near Burlington.

Considering all of the problems I had with the Dodge Polara, it is amazing the number of trips I was able to make with this vehicle. After it became undrivable in July 1981, dad gave me a 1969 Oldsmobile which I used until buying a Dodge Omni 024 in October 1982.

In this article, I recall unusual experiences and mishaps encountered in my interstate travel on the Pennsylvania and Ohio Turnpikes during the 1980s.

Buying and Driving a 1971 Dodge Polara

1971 Dodge Polara

1971 Dodge Polara

Shortly after returning to the United States in July 1979, dad helped me find a used car for sale. It was a 1971 light green Dodge Polara that didn't have any rust on its bottom. We never checked out the engine and I paid $500 for a car with 80,000 miles on it.

Now I had a vehicle. I needed one because my wife and I had plans to visit my old college roommate in Adrian, Michigan.

After driving to Adrian, we were forced to settle in nearby Toledo, Ohio, from August 1979 until December 1980. Then, I got a job in the Baltimore, Maryland area. My Polara held up in a drivable condition until July 1981.

Map of Pennsylvania and Maryland

Map of Pennsylvania and Maryland

Map of Ohio


Driving Between Toledo and Severn, Maryland

My first road trip from Toledo, Ohio, to Severn, Maryland, was the second-longest in my life. It was about 480 miles in length and took me around eight hours by car. Driving interstate highways almost all of the way, I passed through Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

Leaving Toledo, I-80E, also known as the Ohio Turnpike, took me past Sandusky, Cleveland, Akron, and Youngstown to the Pennsylvania state border where I merged on to I-76E in the direction of Pittsburg. The total distance traveled was 166 miles.

After entering I-76E I was on the Pennsylvania turnpike. I followed I-76E over mountain roads for 184 miles until I got off at exit 161 towards I-70 at Breezewood, Pennsylvania.

The final leg of my journey on I-70 carried me past Hancock, Pennsylvania, Hagerstown, and Frederick Maryland until reaching US 29 and state highway 175 that brought me to Severn. The total distance traveled was about 130 miles.

Major Problems While Driving My Dodge Polara — 1979–1981

My Dodge Polara afforded two years of transportation from July 1979 until July 1981. It was not a perfect two years because I had problems with the car during the time I had it.

My first major problem occurred in December 1979. The timing belt broke making it impossible to start the Polara's engine. After I got that repaired, I was able to make a roundtrip journey between Toledo and Wisconsin as well as three roundtrips between Maryland and Toledo before running into other major repairs.

A week before making a trip back to Wisconsin in July 1981, my engine badly needed a major overhaul. Unfortunately, the Polara only lasted until I got to Toledo on my way back to Wisconsin.

What follows are my mishaps with the Polara on the Ohio and Pennsylvania Turnpikes from November 1980 until July 1981.

Mishaps on the Ohio and Pennsylvania Turnpikes — 1980–1981

From November 1980 until July 1981, I made three and one-half roundtrips between Toledo and Severn, Maryland. During each roundtrip on the Ohio and Pennsylvania Turnpikes, I encountered car problems and mishaps. Five of the most memorable are detailed as follows.

1. Defroster and Heater Problems on Pennsylvania Turnpike

Over Thanksgiving weekend in November 1980, I made my first trip out to Maryland. I had just accepted a job with the federal government in the Baltimore area beginning on December 8. The purpose of this trip was for house-hunting.

My wife and I departed Toledo at about 2:30 after Thanksgiving dinner. Our trip was smooth and fine until we hit the Pennsylvania Turnpike and were just past the Pittsburg exits. It must have been around 7:00 in the evening when the heater and defroster stopped working. Besides feeling cold in the car, ice was building up on the windshield making it impossible for me to see while driving. After finding the nearest exit with motels, I got off the Turnpike and we spent the night in a motel. Repairs to the heater and defroster had to wait until the next morning.

2. Running out of Gas on the Ohio Turnpike

During the first week of January 1981, I had to make a trip back to Toledo to settle on a house we had purchased in November 1980. While driving at night between Cleveland and Sandusky on the Ohio Turnpike, I ran out of gas about five miles from a rest stop with service stations. Fortunately, a passing motorist saw my car and stopped. He gave me a ride to the nearest service station where I was able to purchase a gallon of gas. This same good Samaritan then gave me a ride back to my car. Thankfully, I was able to get the gas in a hurry because my wife and two boys were shivering in the car when I returned.

3. A Flat Tire on the Pennsylvania Turnpike

During the second week of January, I had to make yet another trip back to Toledo. The purpose of this trip was to evict the tenant renting my house. I had no problems on the way out to Toledo. On the way back to Maryland, however, I had a flat tire on the Pennsylvania Turnpike just past the Bedford exit. It was cold and snowing as I changed a rear left tire on the side of a mountain road.

4. The Muffler Falls off my Car

In July 1981, I made my last long trip with the Dodge Polara. The plan was to drive out to see my parents who lived in southeastern Wisconsin. As I was driving on the Ohio Turnpike near the Akron area, I heard a loud noise from the rear exhaust system. After stopping, I noticed that the muffler had fallen off. Now I had to hope that the police would not stop me until I got a new muffler on the Polara.

5. The Steering Mechanism of the Polara is Broken

As I approached Toledo, I noticed that the Polara was getting harder and harder to steer. After I found a repair shop in Toledo, a mechanic gave me some bad news. The steering mechanism was broken and beyond repair. He advised me not to drive the car and to park it. After I parked the Polara in the garage of my Toledo house, my brother came from Wisconsin and gave my family and me a ride to my parent's farm.

Driving Through Pennsylvania Turnpike Tunnels

Ohio Turnpike Westbound Exit 91 to Exit 81

© 2020 Paul Richard Kuehn


Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 28, 2020:

You are correct, Liz. I didn't even have a compass in the car. Thanks for commenting.

Liz Westwood from UK on June 28, 2020:

This is an interesting account of your travels and takes is back to a time when cars did not have all the paraphernalia of modern technology on the dashboard.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 27, 2020:

My dad recommended that I buy the used Polara. Surprisingly, he had only owned Chevrolets up until that point. Yes, I had many interesting memories with the Polara on the road.

Lisha C on June 27, 2020:

Your Dodge Polara is one of the cars which I have seen only in pictures. Your struggles on the road must have been difficult at the time. However, now, they certainly make for some interesting memories and stories.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 26, 2020:

Except for having to leave my car in Toledo, I haven't had any other major car problems.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 26, 2020:

Pamela, I visited Cleveland in 1992 but have never been to Lakewood. I hope to make one more car trip across Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 26, 2020:

Having car problems is never fun, and particularly so when on the road far from home.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 26, 2020:

Paul, Lakewood is the first suburb west of Cleveland. We were not far from Lake Erie so we got to enjoy the cold winds off the lake in the winter. :-)

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 25, 2020:

What part of Ohio is Lakewood in? Yes, the Polara was a good-looking car. I only wish it would have lasted longer. I appreciate your comments, Pamela.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 25, 2020:

Thanks for commenting. I'm sure my Polara didn't even make it to 100,000 miles. I bought a new 1997 Toyota Camry and had well over 120,000 miles on it when I sold it in 2007. It was still running well.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 25, 2020:

When I didn't have problems, the car ran well. The problem was that the car had a lot of miles on it when I bought it and many parts were starting to wear out.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 25, 2020:

You have traveled on numerous interstates and I have been on most of them also. It seems you lived in areas where I lived also. I grew up in Lakewood, Ohio and I had relatives in Baltimore. The Dodge Polara is a good looking car, Paul.

JC Scull from Gainesville, Florida on June 25, 2020:

Very nice memories. The Polara was an interesting car. albeit, not known for making it beyond 120,000 miles.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on June 25, 2020:

It sounds like you've done a lot of travelling back in the day. I love the old Dodge Polara car. I'd love one like that.

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