I couldn’t begin to count the hours our family has spent on the road. My husband, Bill is originally from the breathtaking state of Kentucky. I am originally from amazing Oklahoma, Texas and California. These four states have given us unimaginable variety in beauty and culture. Each place has its own glory for which the people who live there are proud to share.
What an honor to live in America and to drive these roads that tell countless stories with each turn of the tires. The highway noise hums a soundtrack of the distant voices of ordinary Americans who lived extraordinary lives rolling down these same highways. These adventurous, brave people went before us literally hacking through the brush to make a path for us to follow when it came our turn. We live our lives in such a way to honor and respect the road forged for those who come behind us. Our children now continue down the same familiar path.
To quote T.S. Elliot. “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
When we got married in our vows we both knew it included, (although not spoken to the crowd at the wedding) “I promise to drive to your state as often as we need to till death do us part.” So for the past 34 years we have kept our promise to each other. We figured it up and we guessed based on the fact that we have made the drive at least once a year and more likely twice, we averaged between 75-100 trips during our marriage. This is adding the last seven while living here going back even more often with kids and grandchildren that were in Texas and Oklahoma. Then I believe we are allowed to count the trip double if we are pulling a trailer (which would bump us up to about 150). Whatever the real number is, it is a lot!
Our philosophy of travel is to beat the clock. We stop only when absolutely necessary for restroom breaks, gas (both kinds) and food to eat on the road. I would guess each stop is 5 minutes max. Bill has this uncanny nact for being able to guess almost to the minute when we will arrive after a 12-13 hour drive. This is an ability he takes great pride in so naturally he wants to share these victories with those he loves. He is sure to wake us all up quickly to literally see the clock on the exact minute he predicted 12 hours prior. Now I have one theory, if he is off, he drives around until it hits the stroke of the clock he needs! No, he would never do that, that’s what I would do! Noone dares mess with his schedule. It is the honored code of the road.
It reminds me of the pilot in an airplane getting on the speaker and telling us all, “I’m sorry we are a few minutes behind schedule, but we will make up time in the air and get you there on time!” What does that mean? Jerry Seinfeld says, “If you can make up time in the air, then why don’t you go as fast as you can all the time?” Our philosophy while making the drive is, the journey is necessary to get to the destination…to see the people we’ve missed, they are the journey.
Bill is the designated driver and I am the designated sleeper. We both like it that way. It is our routine that I always offer to drive and he always says, “If I’m riding, I’d rather be driving.” I want him to be happy, so I always let him. We both have our system that works perfectly- he has his Mt. Dew, peanuts, music and sermons handy and listens for hours. I have my pillows, blanket, sleep mask, water, crackers, phone and headphones. We love the drive, truthfully. The drive is predictable but not pre-ordained; therefore, each trip looks different in some way. We’ve had trips where we both sang for 12 hours straight, others where we talked endlessly about our journey together over the years and how good God has been to us. It hasn’t been the most convenient way to live but it has certainly been the most fun. To jump in the car on the open road is such a freeing feeling- I wouldn’t trade any of our long hours- they are part of who we are. We both love our journey and our story.
This Memorial weekend as you drive, fly or just walk out to the backyard keep in mind all the sacrifices made so we could do those ordinary things. I’m in awe of the people committed to protect and service us in relative obscurity- I do not take it for granted and I thank you for all the unthanked hours, days and years of service. So instead of complaining about the privilege of doing whatever you want to do today- think first of the thousands of people who paid a high price for you to eat those hot dogs, burgers, and watermelons. The men and women who walk silently among us…they see and do things they can’t undo or unsee…all in the name of protecting and serving Americans. They do it quietly and without complaint. I dare say the majority of us don’t have a clue what they do for us, thus, giving us our freedom to live the lifestyle we now live.
Thank you on this Memorial Day- Bill and I are thinking about your sacrifice as we honor our traveling vows and drive down this interstate provided by our country, literally seeing the amber waves of grains and as we stop at the businesses people are free to own who sell us gas, snacks- all pieces of a beautiful America. We are grateful to live here and thank God for such a blessing.