Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Her Own Pit Crew - Part 3 & the end

I sat behind the wheel of our forty-foot motorhome looking ahead at 635 miles of unknown. All but the last verse of the 23rd Psalm had unfolded. I'd prayed myself blue, but was I "prayed up?" More support couldn't hurt. Calling to Jesus and Mary, Arch Angel Michael for protection, Lady Master Rowena to clear my path, and all my dead relatives and friends gave me a busload.

JB called, "I've got a plan. Tell me your mile marker and read me your gauges. I'll be able to follow you in case I have to come get you." NASCAR drivers have their Crew Chief, JB was mine. He'd see me through. I lightened up; this might be fun.

At six o'clock I waved goodbye to the shop guys and eased onto the road. Overwhelmed, I contemplated sleep. It was too early, and I was wound like a clock. Every step was another challenge. I needed gas. At a high and wide station it took 66 gallons to fill our 100 gallon tank.

Thinking I couldn't possibly stretch my mind or abilities further, I decided it was ridiculous to limit myself. How would I know what I could do with God's help, unless I quit heaving, sighing, and whining, and just do it.

As designated driver, my friends know not to give me more than one direction at a time. I could drive until I got tired, and it would be cooler in the evening. Satisifed my mind had a grasp on the project, I called my Crew Chief, "JB, let's go."
Without hesitation he replied, "Go for it."

I'd love to announce to the NASCAR drivers, "GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES!!!!!!!"
Starting the biggest race of my life, I giggled, said it to myself, and took off west on I20. I'm going to win this one!

A glance at the dash rear view camera proved the rear end did follow. I smiled. The engine purred. My confidence started to bloom. JB called often for gauge and mile marker readings. I sang, prayed, and drove into the sunset hopeful.

9:30 pm. At Van Horn, Texas, I pulled off to sleep. My eyes closed but my mind wouldn't shut down. Should I or shouldn't I go on? Ask JB. "Go ahead, if you feel okay with it. I'll stay up all night to track you." His dedication tugged a tear.
"Thanks, JB, I love you." Another deep breath, and I headed into the dark and cell phone dead space.

On the long, quiet road, memories of my ancestors surfaced. Grandpa and Grandma Williamson traveled by covered wagon from Illinois to Kansas and Nebraska when they were children. A child died in each family. They returned to Illinois for commital, and got back on the trail without paving, a map, or A/C. I could do this.

Grandpa and Grandma made the best apple dumplings together. I could taste the crisp lard pie crust outside and soft apple inside with raisins, cinnamon, sugar and butter in the core. Their freezer was filled with the fall harvest we enjoyed all winter. Grandma, a Taurus, loved blue dresses. I tried to get her into red, but there's no waving red at a Taurus bull.

Aunt Bobbe had polio at age six. She grew up to drive the car with hand controls, and live and work away from home. An inspiration, she encouraged me to keep trying, "Don't give up," she would said.

Our dark-haired mother was so pretty. We loved to see her in the red nylon dress she made. Her passion for curiosity and travel inspired us. I would drive the family Ford tractor and two-wheeled trailer across the pasture. Twice around the lone tree in the far corner, and Jani and I were in California.

Over peanut butter and banana sandwiches, with a smidge of orange juice to keep all from sticking to the roof of our mouth, and a jug of water, we dreamed of travel as grownups, and suspected we'd never get as far as Kansas. We were sure the world ended at Fairbury because we didn't know anyone past there.

Mom was such a good cook, Dad never had trouble getting farm help. I wished I had a piece of her grasshopper pie made with creme de minte and ground oreos. The divinity she made at Christmas was perfect: dry on the outside and soft in the center. She said I could barely reach the edge of the table, but before she noticed, I'd sampled all the way around. Peppermint was my favorite. Mom was the best.

I imagined Papa's strong arms on my shoulders helping me drive. He loved mushroom hunting in the fall, and would walk miles to inspect a boxelder tree. Once I walked along, looked inside a hollow tree, and found five. He'd clean them, soak them in salt water, and I'd fry them with onions and potatoes. He was happy when we had enough to take to Minnesota for fall fishing.

I was alone, but I wasn't. The love, support, and prayers of many took me through the night. As soon as we could talk again, JB had me check all the gauges and the mile marker. "You're right where I calculated you'd be. Thank God." Yes, thank God.

JB cautioned that the Tucson exit is tricky. At 4:40 am I was the only vehicle headed west in El Paso, Texas. I couldn't decide which lane I needed to be in, and switched a couple of times. Blue lights flashed. The concerned patrolman asked, "Mam, are you okay?"
"I think so."
"Are you sure you aren't over-tired?"
"You're all over the road."
Oops, I didn't think it prudent to say I was just warming my tires. At the Tucson exit I stopped and took a nap.

"JB, I just passed an eighteen-wheeler on an uphill grade."
"Fantastic," he replied thrilled. Iowa has steeper hills, but Arizona has altitude. When Donna and I hiked the Grand Canyon, my confidence exploded. This trip it doubled. At a rest stop I felt pretty cocky until I saw a tiny, young woman hop into an eighteen-wheeler, and drive off as if it were a convertible.

JB called with the Tucson exit number. Waiting for the train we switched vehicles, hugged tight, and thanked God. He angled into our space at the RV Park, shut it off, and the radiator boiled over. So did the last verse of the 23rd psalm: And surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen. Thank you one and all.

copyright 2005 Red Convertible Travel Series