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.

yellow Volkswagen van on road

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.

  • Jim Trimble

    Jim Trimble is a priest serv­ing Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Winchester. He grew up in Louisville, grad­u­at­ed from Murray State University, and worked in a vari­ety of roles at pub­lic radio sta­tions for 12 years. After sem­i­nary and ordi­na­tion, he served church­es in Kentucky and South Carolina. Married to Nancy Gift, a Berea College pro­fes­sor, he has a son and two step-daugh­ters, along with a num­ber of dogs, cats, and chick­ens near College Park.