Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Going home

For so many reasons, I prefer to drive. Not that I'm afraid of flying--not at all. But once you step up to the line, put your Visa in the kiosk, you're baggage.  When I drive, I'm master of my fate. 

Sort of.  I determine whether the windows are up or down. I control the radio dial or which books play on the iPod. I stop when I want to. When I'm alone, otherwise inappropriate bodily noises pass without embarrassment or tsking. When I want coffee, I don't have to ask.

Maybe that's why I don't always trust a GPS. Besides, there are good moral and psychological reasons not to put your fate in the hands of that woman in the gizmo. Three times I allowed her to be the master of my fate last weekend, but she delivered only twice. Once she led me down wild goose chase lane--the woman thou hast given me, I said.   

Still, batting two for three isn't a bad day at the plate, I figure. 

Here's the story. When our two-day meeting was over, I wasn't all that far from O'Hare so I told a friend I'd drop him off at the airport. I've been around Chicago often enough to know that if I wanted to get home all I had to do was head south on the Tri-State, which would eventually deliver me to I-80 where big green signs say Iowa. No sweat.

But that seemed loony, a long ways down south just to go west. So I put my hands in the hand of the GPS, punched in "Home, James," (that's a joke) and listened to this woman's deceptively kind voice. She directed north to I-90, which, I must admit, first seemed a stretch; but I'd given away my freedom. I was in the hand of that doohickey.

And I-90 was okay because 42 years ago I took that same chunk of road every other weekend and was just about the happiest man in three states, on my way, as I was, to meet a woman who took my breath away and became my wife in a kind of fever that still gives me chills.

Okay, I thought, I'll take this old road again.  What the heck.  An hour north and west, I was smiling.

Just outside of Rockford, the GPS took me off I-90 and put me on Hwy 20, on the way to Dubuque, where, long, long ago, I got my VW serviced. Home was still a double header away, five or six hours at least, but I was no stranger in a strange land. 

Just outside of Freeport stands a old barn with "To God be the Glory," transcribed in shingles. I'm not kidding. Soli deo gloria. I knew where I was because I'd somehow seen a picture of that place before. Then it came back to me. It was the home place of a number of brothers I once knew. Sure it was.  In fact, one of those brothers roofed our house once upon a time and still is my grandkids' teacher and--I'm not making this up--my own district elder.  


Not far west up the highway a church sign pointed me south a couple of miles, where I'd find the very church where, in 1870 or so, an Dutch immigrant family of Schaaps worshiped God in America for the first time. Right there.

As if that weren't enough, my very first teaching job was another half hour west and just a bit north of Hwy 20, so the closer I came to the eternally rolling hills of the Mississippi valley, the more clearly I remembered kids who came from the dairies and cheese factories scattered, willy-nilly, throughout emerald vistas as beautiful as anything you'll see anywhere east of the Rockies. 

Right there along the highway, one of those students still makes cheese. He spent years in Europe learning from experts, one of only a few master cheesemakers in a state full of cheeseheads. But it was Saturday night; the factory store was closed.

Galena, the town that time forgot--literally--one of the two most frequented weekend vacation spots in the whole state of Illinois, came up next.  That woman I used to visit and I spent a sweet day and cozy night in a fancy B and B right there just last winter.

And there's more.  There's always more. Two hours west on 20, I passed Ackley and Parkersburg, Iowa, where my grandfather lived as a kid, where he graduated from high school--I've still got his diploma, dated 1898.

I could go on, but I start to yawn at just about anybody's summer vacation in just a matter of minutes. 

I could have flown. The committee would have picked up my ticket.  I could have been in and out of Chicago more quickly, I'm sure, even chowed down a real Chicago hot dog in O'Hare. And flying isn't as bad as I'm making out. In fact, these days I'm so old that I don't even to have to take off my belt and shoes to get past security. 

But you lose something when you walk into an airport. I'll admit it--I put my hand in the hands of that GPS, listened to a strange woman's voice and followed a triptik I certainly wouldn't have created myself if I'd thought much about it--I mean, really, what kind of fool would take Hwy 20 across two states when a dozen interstates beckon?--I had a great trip.

Stupid, really, when you think about it--all those blue highways, not even double-lane. And a storm, too, other side of the river, buckets of rain.

I called my wife who said it wouldn't be long and I'd be out of the driving rain. 

She wasn't wrong, and I got a work of art up against the western sky as a bonus. 

I got home safely by getting there all the time.

Soli deo gloria.


Anonymous said...

Yesterday we took a very long car ride across Neveda on I 80, and yes you want to speed at least to 80 miles an hour to escape the high desert. The GPS was on and it made no mistakes as we went N into Idaho to Sun Valley on a two lane road . Oh do I wish we'd flown two hours nonstop instead of an 8 .5 hours in the car and then the loss if one hour time change.

Anonymous said...

Recently I heard Dr. Steve Austin, Geologist Penn State University speak on his recent research on the Dead Sea, the Grand Canyon and Mount St. Helens volcano.

His data shows and supports a 6000 year old earth and a crucified Christ which was accompanied by an earthquake. He uses facts only. He primarily studies mud and sediment. Very interesting. Google his name for more information.