With God ~ I Can
7,200 Miles of Miracles
When I was 19 I felt I knew everything about driving a car until the day I was sitting in my parent's crushed car and the sheriff came to me and said, "If that car had hit you a foot further back, you would be on your way to the hospital right now." It was at that point I turned my driving over to God ~ asking Him to make me a driver for Him, and to use my love for driving in service for Him.
In October, 2004, I experienced one of the most challenging driving experiences that I have ever faced, but I would like to share the entire trip with you, as there was a lot of fun along the way, as well as some sightseeing.
As background for the trip ~ my friend, Judy, came to live with Wanangwa (my daughter) and me in May 2001 to recuperate after leaving her husband. Our home has become her home. On September 26, 2004, Judy called her sister, Jill, in Washington State and learned that their mother had been falling a lot. Since Jill works nights and sleeps days, it was decided it would be best for their mom to move out here with Judy until Jill retires. During the next week plans began forming to the point that it was decided that Jill's mom would buy Judy a minivan, the three of us would drive to Washington, rent a U-Haul trailer, and bring Judy's mom back to North Carolina. By October 3 we were on the road headed West.
It had been decided that we would go through California so that Judy could see her daughter, Carol, whom she had not seen for nearly four years. It had also been decided that Jill would ride back to North Carolina with us in order to help get their mom settled. Also, not wanting to miss out on the fun of traveling, Judy's daughter, Terry, decided to fly to Portland, Oregon, and drive back East with us. She lives in Indiana, and we could go past her place on the way home. ~ Lorna Rae Dever
Following are details of our trip, including links (underlined words) to pages with pictures, as related by Judy Shultz, Lorna and Wanangwa Dever.
One of Lorna's goals for this trip was to get as many state signs as possible along the way. Ever since she first traveled with a camera, she had wanted to put together a collection of state signs along the highways. This trip, with Judy's help, Lorna began her collection.
Sunday, October 3, 2004: The trip began about noon with Judy, Lorna, Wanangwa, and Lady (our Border Collie) loaded in the van. After getting gasoline and a few groceries, we were on the road. We had decided to go through Nantahala Gorge; past Lake Ocoee; through Chattanooga, Tennessee; Scottsboro and Huntsville, Alabama; then on to Memphis, Tennessee, where we would be getting on Interstate 40 for the trip on West. Our plan was to spend our first night in Arkansas. As we neared Andrews, North Carolina, the van began to slip out of gear, and then completely would not stay in gear. God placed us right at a turn off for a service station where Lorna was able to coast into their parking lot, and get some transmission fluid. It was enough to get us on down the road to a Wal-Mart, where we stopped long enough to add Stop-Leak to the transmission as well as enough transmission fluid to fill it. We were able to get on our way, with only a minor delay, and had no further problems. The late start and the delay made it impossible for us to reach Arkansas that night, so we decided to stop in Huntsville. Our states today were: North Carolina, South Carolina (to get gasoline), Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama.
Monday, October 4, 2004: As we left the motel that morning, we enjoyed a beautiful sunrise. Traveling through Alabama, we enjoyed the cotton fields. At one place we even saw large bales of cotton. Unfortunately, we did not get stopped in time to see a bale loaded into an 18-wheeler, but we were able to see it as it was leaving the field. Traveling on we went through a portion of Mississippi before going back into Tennessee at Memphis. We stopped in Memphis at the Welcome Center, which is just across the Mississippi River from Mud Island. We had hoped to visit Mud Island, but it is closed on Mondays, and this is Monday! Mud Island has a River Walk, which is one of the most unique representations of the Mississippi River in the world. It is a 5-block long replica of the lower Mississippi river, from Cairo, Illinois, to New Orleans, Louisiana. Each 30 inch stride is equivalent to one mile on the actual river. Along your journey, you'll revisit historical events and learn about geographical transformations. The "1,000-mile" journey concludes at the Gulf of Mexico, a one acre enclosure that holds 1.3 million gallons of water. There, visitors can enjoy a leisurely pedal boat ride around the Gulf area with the Memphis skyline in the background. We did enjoy the Welcome Center, though, with pictures of various musicians, as well as the Mississippi River with the riverboats on it. Memphis is named after Memphis, Egypt and has a replica of a pyramid along the river banks. We crossed Arkansas and Oklahoma without much fanfare, and spent our second night at Elk City, Oklahoma. Our states today were: Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
Tuesday, October 5, 2004: A flat tire was discovered on the van as we were loading! After a call to AAA with no promise of anyone to help in the near future, Judy and Lorna set about to change the tire themselves. A gentleman walking his dog finally felt sorry for the two ladies and helped with the tire change, which was almost complete by the time the AAA man arrived on the scene. The AAA man did finish the job and give directions to a good place for tire repairs. We completed loading the van and went to get the tire repaired. While Lorna was getting the tire patched, Judy and Wanangwa set up the camp table and stove and fixed a great hot breakfast. Some of the men inside the repair garage noted the breakfast preparations and were wondering if they should go see if they could get themselves some "pancakes and bacon"! We were soon on the road again, crossing into Texas, then New Mexico, and finally Arizona. Near Groom, Texas we stopped at a huge cross we could see from the interstate. It stands 190 feet tall, and weighs 2.5 million pounds, and is known as the largest cross in the Western Hemisphere. Although we cannot agree with all the various "Stations of the Cross" that they depict there, the overall intent of leading people to a realization of what Jesus did for each of us when He gave His life for our redemption is really neat. From the interstate in New Mexico we could see the San Jose de la Laguna Mission, which is a well-preserved example of a Spanish Colonial mission. Before leaving New Mexico we crossed the Continental Divide. This was a great time for us and, even though it was already dark, we had to take pictures! When Judy first moved to North Carolina and saw a sign along Interstate 26 marking the "Eastern Continental Divide," she was not only surprised that it is at an elevation of a little over 2,000 feet (in the west it is at an elevation of over 7,000 feet in most places), but she was also surprised that there was an Eastern Continental Divide, as she had always been taught of only one. When looking at this sign we could understand why, but had a very hard time understanding how it could be true. It states, "Rainfall divides at this point. To the west it drains into the Pacific Ocean, to the east, into the Atlantic." Lorna and Wanangwa have wondered why Westerners do not remember there is a Mississippi River! We reached Flagstaff, Arizona, before bedding down for the night. Our states today were: Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.
Wednesday, October 6, 2004: Although the day started out on the chilly side (about 30 degrees) in Flagstaff, it quickly warmed up and was really comfortable as we enjoyed the Grand Canyon area. This was Lorna and Wanangwa's first visit to the Grand Canyon. It was interesting to see how the Indians set up lean-tos just outside of the highway right-of-way in order to sell their wares. Judy and Wanangwa enjoyed the Little Grand Canyon overlook, while Lorna walked Lady and enjoyed the cacti. We drove on around the south rim of the Grand Canyon, pulling off at various overlooks along the way. After driving along the south rim, we headed on our way to California. Judy had decided to drive the van as we left Williams, Arizona, as she is not used to a mini-van and wanted some practice before driving in the Los Angeles area. Judy drove to Essex, California -- 216 miles -- and decided that was enough driving for her; Lorna drove the remainder of the trip. We were concerned about crossing the California state line and possible inspection station. Since we needed to fix our own meals to cut expenses, we had fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and onions on board. God knew our budget and had plans for us at the inspection station! It was closed! This was Lorna's and Wanangwa's first time through the Mojave Desert, and they found the landscape very intriguing. Never before had they seen rivers and streams named, but totally dry -- without even vegetation growing along the possible banks! Another point of interest was Needles, California. We saw signs that we had indeed arrived in the city limits, but there was no evidence of civilization as far as the eye could behold! We arrived in Loma Linda that evening in time for Judy to spend time with Carol before bedtime. Lorna and Wanangwa relaxed in the motel room. Our states today were: Arizona and California.
Thursday, October 7, 2004: We enjoyed a delightful breakfast with Carol at her apartment before Judy showed us around places in the Loma Linda and Glendale areas. A special treat was lunch at Ernie Jr's Taco House -- Judy's favorite Mexican restaurant and a place where she has eaten since 1953. Judy kept commenting on the "lack of traffic," and "being out of the traffic," but Lorna and Wanangwa were far from convinced as vehicles were passing on all sides, and they were traveling on a highway with four lanes in each direction! Then Judy said that we were "out of the city," a few minutes before we entered Los Angeles city limits. The best part was that there was really no city to be seen! From the Los Angeles area we headed on north to Modesto, California. We were treated to a delicious Italian meal by Judy's Aunt Pamela, with Aunt Pamela's world-famous cannoli for dessert! What a treat that was! We also spent the night in Modesto at Aunt Pamela's home. Our only state today was California.
Friday, October 8, 2004: We enjoyed breakfast and visiting with Aunt Pamela before heading on north. Aunt Pamela learned of Lorna's love for cacti and gave her three plants, which she guarded carefully all the way home. Lorna had faithfully been checking the fluid levels on the van each morning (oil, water, brake, and power steering) and evening (transmission), but due to the late arrival the night before, she had not checked the transmission fluid. Judy knew of a nice place for fueling and stopping near Lodi, California, so it was decided they would stop there. Lorna parked along a grassy area near the service center so Lady could take a walk. When Lorna went to restart the van, in order to check the transmission fluid, it was totally dead. AAA was called again, and a tow truck arrived, only to determine that it was the starter rather than the battery. The van was towed to Pep Boys for repair. Pep Boys was right across the highway from Lodi Academy, where Lorna's mother had attended academy as a junior. Since the tow truck only accommodated one person, Judy, Wanangwa, and Lady were left behind. After Lorna learned that the wait would be two or three hours, she rented a car in order to bring the others to Pep Boys. The delay meant that there was no possible way for us to reach Portland that evening, but at least the Lord had placed us at a convenient place to get help and get back on the road again. We decided to drive to Grants Pass, Oregon, before stopping for the night, which would make it possible for us to reach the Portland/Vancouver area before too late the next day. We enjoyed seeing Lake Shasta and finally reached an area where we could picnic overlooking the lake. Unfortunately, when we went to the overlook, that area of the lake was totally dry! Since the wind was picking up and it was nearing dark, we decided to eat as Lorna drove and keep pressing on toward Grants Pass. Twenty miles south of Yreka, California, a flashing sign greeted us with the warning "High Winds Next 20 Miles." The winds really began to pick up, which made it difficult to drive. All of a sudden something came flying towards the van from the left side, and Lorna stepped on the brake, only to realize it was nothing but a tumbleweed! More and more huge tumbleweeds flew across the highway! This was a new experience for both Lorna and Wanangwa. Lorna was used to basketball-sized tumbleweeds through the prairie states, but these seemed almost as large as the van as they came flying at us in the dark! (Actually they were only about three or four feet in diameter, give or take a bit!) It was tough for Lorna to not let her reflexes over-react to them as they came flying across the highway. As we approached Yreka and hope for smoother driving, we were again greeted with a flashing sign, again warning of high winds for another 20 miles, which would put us into Oregon. The winds, and the fact it was dark, made driving very rough, but God kept the van on the road, and we kept pushing through. As we entered Oregon, the wind changed to rain, but it was still an improvement over the high winds. We proceeded on into Grants Pass and had no further incident. Our states today were: California and Oregon.
Sabbath, October 9, 2004: We traveled on to Vancouver, Washington, where Judy's sister, Jill, lives. Since everyone had plans for Sabbath lunch, Lorna and Wanangwa just left Judy at Jill's and went back to Portland in order to enjoy the afternoon with Lorna's Aunt Kathy and family. Jill took Judy and their mother, Anita, over to Kathy's place, a friend of Judy's from Africa days.
Sunday, October 10, 2004: Judy and Lorna went to get the U-Haul trailer. When Lorna had reserved the U-Haul, the man had been pretty adamant that our van would not pull the 6-by-12 foot trailer that Lorna wanted, even though the owner's manual showed that it was possible. The man had insisted on Lorna reserving the 5- by-10 foot U-Haul trailer. Lorna had to agree to it, but planned to show her owner's manual when she arrived, knowing the larger trailer was really needed. God had everything worked out ahead of time. The U-Haul Center did not have the smaller trailer on the lot; it was a different fellow there that day, and he simply asked if we minded taking the larger trailer as it was the same price! Judy and Lorna returned to Jill's with the U-Haul just shortly before the men arrived to help load it with Anita's furniture. By this point in time, it had been decided to move all of Anita's belongings to North Carolina, as Jill is tentatively planning on retiring in or near the North Carolina area in two or three years. With careful planning and skillful loading, we were able to get all of Anita's belongings in the trailer, leaving just enough room for all of our suitcases right at the very back for easy "in and out" at every motel stop Eastbound. An interesting aside was that one of the gentleman who had come to help with packing could not believe that we were going to fit everything into that trailer. He spent a lot of time with a tape measure, checking this and that, and finally, each time, decided that Lorna was correct -- the items would fit as she had planned, again and again and again. Toward the end of the packing, we rather suspected he was only measuring just to see how closely she was to the exact measurement! During the afternoon Lisa Johnson, former neighbor of ours in North Carolina, came to visit with us. When she walked through the door and Lady heard her voice, Lady bounded over to her with the enthusiasm of seeing a long-lost friend! Lady had been introduced to many people over the past week, but at last, this was a familiar face and voice. The difference in her greeting of Lisa was markedly different than anybody she had met thus far -- she was so happy to find someone she knew! We all had a delightful visit with Lisa.
Monday, October 11, 2004: We were awakened very early in the morning by a phone call from Terry informing us that she had missed her flight from Indianapolis, but they were willing to put her on the next one, which would arrive approximately three hours later than originally planned. Although this would mean a later departure from Vancouver, Washington, we gladly waited for her arrival. Kathy Phillips had agreed to meet Terry at the Portland Airport, allowing us last minute packing time on Monday morning. When Terry and Kathy arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to find that Sidney, Kathy's son, had come along also, both to have some time with Terry and to see Lorna. He had been a preschooler when Judy and Lorna were in Africa. Again, reunions just make us long all the more for Heaven! We finally got on the road about 3:00 p.m. Our first stop was to be at Rasmussen's Farm to get some Pippin apples -- Judy's favorite apples. Terry Phillips met us as we got off of the Interstate and led us out to the Rasmussen Farm. There were also fresh strawberries to pick, so Terry Phillips, Judy and Terry Shultz picked some strawberries for us to enjoy. While they were picking strawberries, Lorna discovered that some of the wires for the lights on the U-Haul had been cut. Terry Phillips called the local U-Haul place to make sure they were still open, then led us over there to get the wires repaired. Again, God was by our side because we would not have known where to go so close, and the place closed while we were there. After bidding farewell to Terry Phillips we headed on our way to just east of Boardman, Oregon, where we then headed northeast towards Spokane, Washington. Our plan was to make it as far as Coeur d' Alene, Idaho, before stopping that night, even though we had gotten a late start. Unfortunately, Lorna had pushed the van too hard while attempting to keep up with Terry Phillips, and had lost a lot of transmission fluid. Soon after crossing into Washington the transmission gave out completely, and we had to coast to the side of the road. We had no transmission fluid with us, and another call to AAA had to be made. Even though we knew that some bottles of transmission fluid would get us going again, they said they were not allowed to bring us any, but they could tow us into Kennewick, Washington -- about 20 miles on down the road. Lorna explained that we were towing a U-Haul trailer, which we could not leave by the road, and we had six woman who could not be left by the road. The dispatcher for AAA found a tow company that had tow trucks with large enough cabs to take us in them, and also stated that they would have to use two trucks, as they could not tow the van and trailer with one truck. While waiting for the tow trucks to arrive, we had a lively conversation about how this would make an interesting story for a book -- Sagebrush Saga: Six Woman and a Lady Travel Cross Country! (Lady being our Border Collie). Although the hour was late, our spirits did not flag, but the humor became more and more apparent. Lorna would turn on the flashing emergency lights whenever vehicles approached from either direction, but then would turn them off once they passed. At one point, when Lorna had turned the emergency lights off, Anita made the comment, "No one will stop if we don't flash!" The two trucks finally arrived and after some discussion, it was decided to just tow both the van and trailer to the Motel 6 in Kennewick, Washington, where we would get some rest before tackling the problem with the transmission. While checking into the motel, Judy told the workers of our need for transmission fluid. One of the workers offered to take Judy over to a gas station that was still open despite the lateness of the hour, and get us a few containers of transmission fluid. Again, God was by our side in all that had taken place throughout the evening. Our states today were: Washington and Oregon.
Tuesday, October 12, 2004: Lorna put the transmission fluid in the van, and it ran fine, so she went over to WalMart and got some more Stop Leak and transmission fluid, including enough to have extra along the way. After filling the transmission, Lorna went across the street from the motel where there was a U-Haul place and asked if they had any way to jack up the trailer in order to get it back onto the van. After explaining what had happened the night before, and the scenario of our trip East, they said we should make a movie, Six Woman and a Lady Crossing the US! The two men agreed to see what they could do with the jack they had, and rode over to the motel with Lorna. Soon the trailer was again attached to the van, but the men refused any pay, requesting only that we keep them in our prayers. We assured them that we would pray for them, and asked them to keep us in their prayers, then they walked back to their place of business. Soon, however, we saw them coming back towards us, as we were loading our suitcases. As they approached they said, "We got to thinking about your request to pray for you, and decided we should come and actually have prayer with you before you journey on your way." We formed a circle there in the parking lot, and one of the gentlemen prayed for us; then Lorna prayed for the gentlemen. What a treat to have God place us right where we needed to be for help and prayer! We were soon on the road again, and had no further trouble with the transmission, only adding one quart between there and North Carolina. Lorna learned how to slowly climb each hill or mountain in order to not blow the transmission fluid. With the weight of the trailer and all of the occupants in the van, any uphill grade was a slow process, but we just kept going, mile after mile. Each uphill grade Lorna would think of a book she had read years ago about the little engine that kept saying, "I think I can, I think I can, and who did." Lorna's thoughts, as the tires continued their slow rotation up each hill was, "I know I can, I know I can, with God's help, I know I can." Without sharing her concern of wondering how they would ever make it clear across country until they had actually made it, Lorna just kept leaving every rotation of the wheels in God's hand, asking Him to keep the wheels turning. Reservations were made at the Motel 6 in Coeur d' Alene, Idaho for that night. Our states today were: Washington and Idaho.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004: Coeur d' Alene Lake was beautiful with the morning fog on it as we headed on the road again early this morning. We had made plans to stop and see "Judy up the hill," who used to be our neighbor in North Carolina, but had moved back to Idaho in August of 2004. It was fun to get to see Judy again and see her place in Idaho -- we still miss her as our neighbor in North Carolina! We traveled through the mountains and beautiful scenery on to our destination for today of Butte, Montana. One of the intriguing views of today was lots of yellow trees. We never determined what kind they were. We made our destination without mishap, but the travel through the mountains was very slow. At this point, we were only running one day behind in our planned itinerary. Our states today were: Idaho and Montana.
Thursday, October 14, 2004: Today's travels would take us to the northwest entrance of Yellowstone before stopping for the night. Unfortunately, we were beginning to lose more time along the way. Lorna held a conference with all reminding them the main goal of the trip was to get Anita moved to North Carolina as quickly as possible. Extended delays at Wal Mart, bathroom stops, and meal preparations were beginning to add hours to our trip, which would soon add more days. Wednesday night we had only been a day behind in our travels; now we were closer to two days behind. Everyone needed to make adjustments to what they were contributing to the delays or we would not be able to make it back for appointments that each person had. Sightseeing, bathroom stops, and meal preparation time needed to be decreased, and Wal Mart stops needed to become less frequent. All agreed to help with the problem. That evening, right at sundown, we enjoyed a herd of elk outside the motel where we stayed. Our only state today was Montana.
Friday, October 15, 2004: We had planned on making about a three-quarter loop of Yellowstone and head on east to Cody, Wyoming. Unfortunately, the road from Old Faithful to the eastern entrance of Yellowstone was closed for repairs, and we were advised that the road to the northeast entrance and over to Cody would be pretty mountainous for our load. The lady at the motel offered for us to leave the trailer in the motel parking lot while we went down to Old Faithful and back, then we would head back north to the interstate in Montana to head on east through Billings. We had a delightful time in Yellowstone enjoying the scenery and wildlife, as well as Old Faithful. Once again Lady amazed us with her inborn instinct of being a Border Collie. When we saw the elk and buffalo she wanted out of the van with obvious intent to herd them. When we saw the coyote her whole demeanor changed. Her fur bristled, and she had a low, threatening growl, and urgently wanted to get out and chase the predator away. Sightseeing went much slower than planned, and it was nearly 6:00 p.m. before we finally got out of Gardiner, Montana, and on the road again. We could not find a motel with vacancies, due to the beginning of pheasant hunting season, before Hardin, Montana, which we finally reached at nearly midnight. Our states today were: Wyoming and Montana.
Sabbath, October 16, 2004: We did not want to drive far today, with it being Sabbath, so we reserved motel rooms in Gillette, which would be less than a 200-mile drive. We spent time driving through the Little Bighorn Battlefield, a place Judy has wanted to visit for a long time. We also spent time enjoying the gorgeous sunset as we traveled along. Our states today were Montana and Wyoming.
Sunday, October 17, 2004: We drove through Custer, South Dakota. This is an area that Lorna has traveled through several times. She was saddened to see acres and acres of burned forest as we approached Custer. While in Custer, some of the group enjoyed ice cream and pie from the Purple Pie Place. We drove past the Crazy Horse Memorial and then on to Mt. Rushmore, where all but Anita and Lorna toured the store that is there. We drove on that night to Wall, South Dakota. Our states today were: Wyoming and South Dakota.
Monday, October 18, 2004: While everyone was getting up and ready for another day of travel, Lorna asked the lady at the motel's front desk for directions to a grocery store. When the lady said it was only a couple of blocks away, Lorna made the comment that it was close enough to walk. As it was threatening rain, the lady insisted that Lorna take her car rather than either walk or drive our van/trailer ensemble over to the store. Again, God was watching out for us. We had a very short visit in Wall Drug before heading east once again. It got dark on us before we reached Mitchell, South Dakota, but we took the time to see the Corn Palace. The pictures are renewed every September, therefore the grains had not been eaten away by birds, and the pictures were beautiful. Lorna has visited the Corn Palace many times in the summer, after birds have eaten a lot of the grain from the pictures. The theme for 2005 is Life on the Farm. We drove on to Sioux Falls, South Dakota before getting a motel. Our state today was: South Dakota.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004: We did more traveling and less sightseeing today on the road again, although we did stop at the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Shop, which is supposed to be the ice cream capital of the world. Our main goal today was to add some states to some of the passengers' state list. We drove a little ways into Minnesota, then dropped down into Iowa, and crossed briefly into Nebraska, before ending the day in Missouri. Our states today were: South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004: Terry decided to rent a car in Kansas City and head on back to Bloomington, Indiana. We decided to head more towards the southeast on the road again, since we did not need to go on northeast to Bloomington. Because pulling the trailer was slow, we chose to stay off of the Interstate through Missouri. We stopped briefly in Jefferson City, Missouri, so Lorna could see her college dean, Florence Young. Not wanting to spend more than two more nights on the road, we drove to Paducah, Kentucky before quitting at a motel about 2:00 a.m. Thursday. Our states today were: Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky.
Thursday, October 21, 2004: Our eyes and hearts were focused on getting home as we were on the road again today. We did make a brief stop in Nashville, Tennessee to take pictures of the exterior of The Grand Ole Opry. In Crossville, Tennessee we stopped at a BP station where we were met by Lorna's parents and Wanangwa's friend, Ericka. We planned our meal break there, set up our camp stove for one last time to have a hot meal, and visited with them as we ate. It was fun to have them meet us there. Reminded us of a group of fans sitting near the finish line of a race cheering you on for the last few miles! We bade them farewell after our meal, and headed on east to home, arriving soon after 1:00 a.m. Friday. We have traveled 7,189 miles since leaving our driveway 19 days ago. Our states today were: Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
The weather for travel was about as close to perfect as anyone could desire. There were times when the forecast was calling for rain, but it always went either north or south of where we were driving for the day. If it passed over us it happened at night while we were sleeping. God's control of the weather was apparent all along the way.
The long trip is behind us. Problems along the way will be forgotten; precious memories will be cherished; but the greatest memory will be those that will help us remember that with God's help, I Can!