origins: road-tripping & pathfinding

I realized that plenty of you haven’t read the below blog, posted in May of 2006. Ironically enough, it was titled, “The Biggest Road Trip Ever. Really.” In light of the current events, that’s definitely no longer the case.

But that trip – and that year of road trips – was a very providential precursor to the present pilgrimage. It’s neat to see how God “sets us up” – well before we ever recognize what He’s up to.

Not only does this blog explain some of the origins of my road trip passion (and road trip theology), but it also explains how I came to possess one of the most important pieces of this road trip – my beloved Nissan Pathfinder. So for those who haven’t read it, I wanted to fill you in. And for those who have, well, it’s a fun one! Read it again!

So here you go, with only very slight edits from a year and a half ago:

“That’s your car, buddy,” noted my friend Jake, as we pulled up to his street in L.A..

And it was my car, in a somewhat different shape, kinda hugging a tree.

my car

Let me back up.

I’ve taken 3 road trips in 2006 so far: Kentucky (to see a revival), Jacksonville (to see a tournament), and Nashville (for a conference). All great trips. But back in December, my good high school / college buddy Shane Spillers invited me to his wedding – in Hawaii.

Hawaii. The ultimate road trip. “You can’t drive to Hawaii,” my boss told me the other day. BUT, to save money and to get to take a road trip, I decided to drive to Los Angeles, fly to Maui, fly back to L.A., and then drive back.

Here’s why this one was the BIGGEST ROAD TRIP EVER.

  1. It was a road trip to Maui, HAWAII. Did I mention that?
  2. Ten campus visits: UNM, Northern Arizona U., UNLV, Pepperdine, UCLA, USC, Maui Community College, Loyola Marymount, Grand Canyon U., and U. of Arizona.
  3. For the first time, saw the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. Both are astounding.
  4. Thanks to my friend Dana (who couldn’t hang out), I got to hang with an awesome new Kiwi buddy my first day in L.A.. Anna kept me from getting too lost, and I helped her get her first taste of Taco Bell. (Kiwi means she’s from New Zealand. Anna isn’t a kiwi-fruit. The only thing I really know about kiwis is that Melody, from high school, is allergic. To the fruits. Not to New Zealanders.) In any case, who gets to hang out with cool foreign strangers, unless it’s on the biggest road trip ever?
  5. Got to stay with Jake and Lesley Roberts, which included, among other great things, my first ride in a convertible that I can remember.
  6. Flew to Maui Thursday morning and hung out completely by myself the whole day. Everybody else was arriving on Friday. Hobo-ing it up in Hawaii isn’t half-bad.
  7. My good friend Shane got married in a beautiful outdoor wedding. Awesome. And I got to help film it. I filmed my best for them, but I hope they didn’t expect too much.
  8. At the rehearsal dinner, Helen Hunt was getting her valet car at the same time as I was. And don’t worry; that’s not the last celebrity on the biggest road trip ever…
  9. Drove around the ENTIRE edge of Maui, which a Pontiac Grand Prix (my rental car) was not made for. (I was sure missing my smaller Corolla. Little did I know I’d be missing it for a lot longer…) You get to see everything on that trip: waterfalls, ocean, lava rocks, forest, rain, steep cliffs, crazy turns, little villages, pirates. I also threw some banana bread at some cows. They weren’t interested.
  10. I’ve never been part of somebody’s honeymoon before, but Shane and Jana definitely did come watch “24” with us Monday night – 2 days into the honeymoon. Perfectly fitting, though, since this was the biggest road trip ever.
  11. My own seat on the aeroplane coming back. Wait. I mean my OWN ROW. Amazing.

Which brings me to Tuesday night.

Jake picked me up at the aeroport (LAX), as he himself was flying back from Las Vegas. It’s neat how that worked out, just like a whole bunch of other things on this whole trip (God is an AMAZING Travel Agent). Lesley called Jake as we were getting close to their house, noting that she’d heard a big crash on their street. She wanted us to make sure it wasn’t one of their cars. Don’t worry, it wasn’t one of theirs.

“That’s your car, buddy,” noted my friend Jake, as we pulled up to his street in L.A.. And it was my car, in a somewhat different shape, kinda hugging a tree.

We got out, and, really, not being inside your car when it gets destroyed is FAR less rattling. So I was pretty mellow about everything. There were all kinds of neighborly onlookers who had heard the crash and had seen the lady originally speed off, apparently. A guy chased her, she got out, they think she mighta been drunk, etc., etc.. Everyone was real nice to me, and it sure earns some sympathy points when you play the “I’m from out-of-state and just got back from a trip to find my destroyed vehicle” card.

(The insurance guy would tell me later that the other driver must have been going 70mph. Alls I know is that she knocked my parked car 20-30 feet, up a high curb, into a tree. As you can see below, the trunk was… shrunk.)

One of those neighborly onlookers happened to be Mary Gross, a Saturday Night Live alum (she played Alfalfa to Eddie Murphy’s Buckwheat) who has had a million supporting roles in TV shows and movies. I remembered her best from (random) “Troop Beverly Hills.” (Meanwhile, she found it funny, considering the circumstances, that my T-shirt said, “Hit the Target.”) In L.A., even the people helping at the scene of an accident are famous!

So, Number 12 in the list, my car got killed. Number 13, I got to eat a Gut Busting Fury burger at Loyola Marymount’s Iggy’s Diner. Crazy.

Loyola-M was part of the “extra time” I had in L.A. because of the crash. I was stuck near Santa Monica the whole time, but I had all kinds of fun that I wouldn’t have had – dinner with my friend Dana, lots of additional time with Jake and Lesley, seeing Macaulay Culkin on Hollywood Blvd., watching the 12:30am Friday morning premiere of X-Men at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and other fun in the California sun.

Before I left for this trip, God wouldn’t let me plan it all out. He told me to go with the flow, to seek His direction along the way, rather than all up-front. Especially on the return trip, which He pointed out was simply too far away to worry about. Good thing, huh? Couldn’t have guessed what was coming, but “plans” and “expectations” could have gotten in the way when things got surprising.

And wait – there’s more. This was, after all, the biggest road trip ever. I bought a car on this road trip, which takes the “road trip” concept to a whole new level, right? (More crazy providence on this trip – Jake and Lesley happened to be selling their Nissan Pathfinder.) And the very end of this road trip involved a marathon, nearly non-stop drive from California to Dallas so I could hang with the college ministry at my new church on Sunday morning. So, really, you can’t beat the girth of this trip. Don’t try! :)

13 days, 10 campuses, 6 states, 6 time zones, 5 buddies from my high school class, 3 actors, 3 cars, 2 convertibles, 1 new foreign friend, 1 demolished car, and a coconut in a palm tree. Thanks for letting me tell my story!

The pics: My car’s up top; her Beamer is below. Of all the cars on Montana Ave. in a ritzy part of Los Angeles that she could have hit, she sure was fortunate to hit a 2002 Toyota Corolla…

her car

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  1. Pingback: six trips « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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