My first family road trip was in April 1978. My oldest brother and his wife had a new baby and were stationed in Oklahoma, so my parents planned a vacation over spring break to visit them and my other older brother who lived nearby. And so my dad could gaze upon his Air Force training bases in Texas, which he hadn’t seen in thirty years.
We even bought a new car for this adventure, a Dodge Aspen. I remember lots of asphalt, fields, cows, then bulls, oil derricks, and sand. I also remember the Alamo. We even missed a bit of school.
In the past couple of years, Nancy and I have taken some road trips, too. We pulled a camper to Mississippi, Vermont, and Pennsylvania, along with Michigan and Massachusetts. And we just drove from Kentucky to California to deliver a car to my oldest stepdaughter and to visit with her and her girlfriend.
We’ve proven to be a good team in these adventures — knowing when to stop and switch drivers, grab a bite to eat, or stop for the night. Once we passed through Clinton, Oklahoma — which is due north of San Antonio — I realized the rest of the trip was new driving territory for me. The plains and grasses led into scraggly bushes and dirt. The New Mexico rocks and cliffs were extraordinary, the Arizona snow gave us a tiny challenge.
Once we hit the Mojave Desert, it all changed. The arid starkness of this landscape was palpable. There were no streams to build beside. There were no trees to find shade. I kept wondering, as I gazed upon crumbling stone and wood structures, why anyone would possibly choose this. Stunning and awesome, to be sure, but also lonely and dreadful.
Then, an abrupt change en route to Bakersfield, after the airplane graveyard and wind farm – lush green hills and valleys, almost out of a movie set. None of this could have been experienced from the air and we are so grateful for the journey on the road.
Sometimes, we have the best intentions, the best-laid plans, the best hopes, dreams, and goals for our path forward. God invites us to also be ready for surprises, for things not on our map. It might be the jaw-dropping expanse of the Painted Desert at Petrified Forest National Park or the lingering effects of winter bronchitis that you just can’t shake. It might be the joy of getting to know your daughter’s new California family or the happiness of anticipating the next road trip. Preferably in your own car.