When we were growing up my father took us around the country in the old family station wagon. To this day, I believe the adventures we had on those weekends and during the summer are a big part of why I write about, and have a passion for, the outdoors.
The old family station wagon was well before everyone had a pickup, Mini Van or SUV. They were the original SUV Mini Van. We took it up and down the narrow mountain passes. We drove through the giant sequoia tree in Yosemite National Park before it fell in 1969. We sat in the backseat, facing backwards and making faces at the cars behind us.
Mom used to tell us all kinds of things to keep us quiet like, “Chew on a saltine cracker long enough it will turn into sugar.” “If you’re not quiet we will just put you out right here.” We played the “I Spy” game for hours, colored and read books until we were nauseated. And we just stared out the window watching the world and listening to mom and dad talk about all kinds of things.
Dad built a homemade camping trailer. The trailer was flat with compartments that fit different items, like the Coleman stove, tent, food and ice chest. Everything had its place and it worked really well.
I remember once on summer vacation as we sat on the mountainside, a storm in the valley let loose a tornado. We watched it as it whipped and tore through the fields. I was so frightened. My mom and dad explained if it came up close we would lie down in the ditch and it would go right over us. They knew it would not come up the mountain and it didn’t. To this day I wonder if you lie in a ditch if a tornado will just go over the top of you.
On that same campsite on the same trip we had a bear chase a ground squirrel over our tent. It happened in the middle of the night and when we woke the next day we saw the bear paw prints and some punctures on our tent just above where I was sleeping. To this day we have that tent and the paw prints are on it.
America has a long list of must-see landmarks and parks. Rural life is where my heart is. I love driving the back roads through the small towns. I am also one who is not afraid to eat at the mom and pop café. For me, the old saying, “You spend the first half of your life trying to get off the farm and the second half trying to get back to it,” fits, except I was raised in the city. I have an inner longing for the simple things life offers; they seem more rewarding or real.
Thinking, dreaming, pondering, wonder, adventure, prayer, discovery, quiet and simple are all words I want more of in my life. I want my kids to learn to seek adventure and contemplate God in their lives. When Jesus was feeling overwhelmed from his adventures or just needed quiet time, He headed for the mountain, outside, away from the hustle and bustle of healing and preaching and sharing life. He needed to have quiet time with His Father and time to recharge.
When I travel, I get excited to see just who God is going to put in my path. An old shop clerk, a farmer, a shrimper, a couple kids on four-wheelers, each with a story if you are interested and listen. This summer, take some time to explore. Take a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon drive. Check out a small highway through the country without the radio on. Stop in a small town and have a soda or buy some vegetables along the town square. Listen for God to lead you and know that we live in the best country on earth, and if you are with me, in Texas, the best state in America -- I’m a native. I can say that. Be grateful for the ability to move about freely and without fear. Take the “Road Less Traveled,” see who is there, amazing.