My husband, James, and I are about to set out for a road trip, heading for Savannah, Georgia. Neither of us have ever been and we are both getting pretty excited. Last night, after Wednesday bible class, good friends were telling me of their experience with the historic town. Their stories fueled my excitement even more. My mind is racing back and forth like a squirrel in the road, trying to decide what to pack. James and I aren’t planners. We like to go with the flow, letting someone else do the planning. Two non-decisive people trying to pick highways and hotels can get pretty interesting. We can get in some heated discussions just trying to pick a restaurant…not trying to get our own way…aggravated that the other one won’t pick!
I love the spontaneity of the open road, trusting that the right hotel will have an open spot for me; I will find a nice juicy hamburger at the little dive on the right; I won’t run out of gas before the next station; my car won’t have engine trouble or a flat tire; someone will help me if I need help. Give me a map that has been folded and unfolded. Let my eyes scan the roads for my next destination. Give me interesting things to find that I didn’t even know I wanted to find before I left my driveway. Color my world with tinted sunglasses that give the reds a deeper hue, polarizing the blue sky and contrasting it with white fluffy clouds, while cutting down the glare of the sun’s bouncing rays off the car ahead of me.
One of my favorite road trips was one I took with my three children and my young brother-in-law (who was only six months older than my oldest daughter) back in 1995. It was spring break for the Dallas school district but I was in the midst of my home-schooling project. I had convinced their father to let me teach my children at home after two years of persuading. I was worried about the environment they were being exposed to on a daily basis, as well as the flaws I felt were in the curriculum at the time. Part of their new homeschool studies was Texas history. We had been reading about the Alamo and I had decided it would be exciting for them to see it for themselves.
This trip was an adventure in more ways than one. For instance, not only had I been homeschooling, but my ex-husband and I had just started our own business. Money was more than tight. We developed a thing my oldest daughter, Michelle, worried her pretty little red head about…”THE DEBT”! It hung over our heads like our own personal storm cloud, threatening to come flooding down on us to wash us and our dreams away. I was driving an old Ford van that we had bought used from a good friend. It was clean but we had to replace the motor in it just a few weeks before my planned trip. It had no seats except the one vinyl bucket-style driver’s seat. I had the kids load up their beanbag chairs they had gotten for Christmas, along with one tent, pillows, sleeping bags, a flashlight, a cooler, peanut butter, jelly, bread, and lots of Pop Tarts.
This journey was one of many that my children and I would make together. Their father worked almost non-stop. I knew that if we were to have any adventures, we would have to go on…just us. I wasn’t afraid to venture out without a man. Not sure, why. My brother once told me that I had Jesus riding around with me. I told him that I thought he was right. I have always felt protected. Jesus is my man. He holds my hand when there is no other to do it. He sends my help when I need it.
Once, on another road trip, I had a tire blow out while driving down the interstate highway between Texas and Louisiana. As soon as I pulled over, a truck driver pulled his semi over behind me. He told me he had seen my tire in distress and had been trying to get my attention. He put my spare on for me and got me back on the road out of pure kindness. I had two little children in the back seat and I don’t know what I would have done if he hadn’t “been there”.
Another time, my youngest daughter, Amanda, and I were on a trip through California when my car broke down. Mind you, we were far away from anyone we knew, but we just happened to break down in Santa Maria. We had arrived there safely the night before, lucky to find a room as we had arrived just before the paparazzi. When we selected this town to spend the night, we had no idea that Michael Jackson’s famous trial was to be held there the next day. Anyway…that morning we got a few miles down the road when the check engine light started flashing. We turned around and went to the dealership and were told that the alternator had gone out. The mechanics fixed it and as part of the service, washed and vacuumed the interior. An older man came out and handed me my keys and several hundred dollars in an envelope. He said, “Ma’am, I found this money under your floor mat when I was vacuuming.” He smiled as I sighed in relief at his honesty. I had forgotten in the mayhem that I had stored some money there to keep from keeping too much cash in my purse. Another case of being taken care of. Not only had the car broken down when I was near a town and not on one of the many long stretches of lonely highway we had driven on, but also an honest man was put in charge of vacuuming my car.
The spring break trip I took with those four kids back in 1995 went as smooth as butter. With my weathered map as their guide, my children navigated me from one state park to another. We stopped in Goliad State Park and camped by the river and told stories lit by our one flashlight. We heard the canon fire, like it had many years ago. We camped amongst the deer and hills of Inks Lake, the children feeding the deer out of their hands. We saw the Alamo, thronged by hundreds of other visitors that spring. We walked the famous River Walk. We drove down to the coast, intending to camp on the shores of Mustang Island, but instead stayed overnight in a Corpus Christi hotel due to the weather. We went to the ocean for the first time together that next glorious morning. What joy it was to see my children and their young uncle taking their first jump over the lapping waves, to see Amanda hold out her fearless hand to feed the hungry gulls, to see them all laugh and play in the sand, to witness their first love affair with the ocean. My son, Matthew talks about this trip to this day. All my children do. It was as special to them, as it was to me.
Road trips are a lot like life itself. You’ll be cruising along on a beautiful day and out of the blue, literally, you’ll be thrown a big curve in the road or, an obstacle will fall right in front of you. (You know, those “WATCH FOR FALLING ROCKS” signs? I wonder how many people really had time to react to one of those!) I’ve been on trips, trapped in the car with ill moods and bad tempers, clenching my teeth together while all the better-left-unsaid words hammer at the back of them. There have been trips were those bitter words escaped and turned a beautiful memory into gall and regret, looking out the tinted window with eyes blurred by unshed tears, not really seeing anything but my own misery, wishing I could just jump out of the car and run as far as I could.
Would I let those roadblocks keep me from taking another adventure? No. And, I mean, NO! Life is an adventure. If there isn’t a highway, find a dirt road, a trail, or make your own path. Just get out there! Put on a pair of shades, let the sun hit your face, feel the wind in your hair. Stop along the way to explore. Maybe jump in every body of water you come to. (That’s on my bucket list!) God gave us so much to enjoy. Don’t disappoint Him by sitting around watching other people’s made-up adventures on that glaring box in your living room.