It is 9:51 PM Montana Time, or 0:00 My Time, since I’ve forgotten what time is. The only constant familiar to me right now is the sight of 2,800 miles of road passing beneath my vehicle. Since Saturday, I’ve seen parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and now Montana. It’s been a beautiful ride and I do have a few pictures to share with you (it was to my detriment not to lock my camera in the back of the car because I couldn’t help but pull over and take pictures of every interesting landscape I passed…perhaps the reason why I traveled for 14 hours today). However, since driving nearly 3,000 miles in 6 days lends itself to reflection, I have a few thoughts to post today.
The summer after my sophomore year at Roberts I went on a 3 week mission trip to Thailand. It was a trip that taught me invaluable lessons about authentic faith, compassion, and service. These are lessons that will stay with me permanently. But these are not the lessons I was reflecting on while in-transit today. Much to my surprise, it was the secondary principles of the Thailand trip that I’ve been reminded of in recent days. And they are:
1. Beds are Overrated
While in Thailand our accommodations were a mixture of travelers’ hostiles and extreme camping. I learned that the world does not end if you do not sleep under a roof or in a bed. This is a lesson that has come in handy as I have set up camp in the back of my van for the past few days. Last night I really wanted to stay in a cheap hotel so I could shower indoors (foreshadowing for lesson #2) and get a good night of sleep, so I drove to the only major town in North Dakota that I was remotely close to: Dickinson. I then proceeded to call all 13 of the hotels in Dickinson only to find out that every single one was booked to capacity. I then proceeded to sleep in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express. The world continued to spin uninterrupted.
2. Shower? What’s a shower?
While we were in the mountain villages in Thailand our shower options were a) to shower via collected rainwater in a rusty can or b) not shower. I did a little bit of both in a process of creative cleanliness. I had assumed that those days would stay in Thailand but they have instead found their way over to the US, where over the past few days I have revisited the creative showering methods I devised in a third world country. (If you ever find yourself in similar circumstances: baby wipes, hand sanitizer, and lotion are really all you need to be semi-presentable and not have people run in the opposite direction when you’re near.)
3. Trail Mix Alone
Man may not be able to live on bread alone, but I’m pretty sure he could survive on trail mix. In Thailand trail mix was a life-sustaining force, a supplement and/or replacement to meals of all kinds. I’ve never really strayed from the path of trail mix since then, but it’s place at the top of my food pyramid has been restored. It’s portable, non-perishable, healthy, filling, and inexpensive. Really, what more could you ask for?
4. Over the River and Through the Woods to the Edge of Doom We Go
I’m fortunate to be able to say that there has only been one situation in which I legitimately felt like my life was in real danger. That situation occurred when our team was riding in the back of a pick-up truck through mudslides, rivers, and the edges of mountain sides to reach a few remote villages in Thailand. We were sliding everywhere, pushing the vehicle out of mud, and standing very close to the point of no return. Who knew that Montana would bring me back to such a moment? Today, as I was nearing the final miles to my destination, my GPS told me to turn on Placid Lake Road.
There was nothing placid about this road.
Mud? check. Cliffs? check. Rivers? check. And just for kicks, a new addition to the life-is-flashing-before-my-eyes equation: wildlife. It’s not every day you see a “Caution: Bighorn Sheep Crossing” sign. While I didn’t run into any of those, I did cross paths with about 87 deer, all of whom were wondering where in the world I was going. As was I.
Turns out my demonic GPS had me taking the most remote road in America, and when I called my hosts to ask if there was possibly an alternate route they both expressed their surprise and sympathies that I had been led so far astray since there are MAJOR HIGHWAYS that lead directly to their door.
I was tempted to chuck my GPS out the window to rot in one of the potholes, but I refrained. For now.