trecc #8: opportunity cost

This last big TRECC stretch represents yet another common type of day during this year-long road trip. See if you can guess what it might be, just by reading the setup.

[New? You’re coming in on the very end of the very unique portion of a very unique trip. You can catch up on the TRECC (Terribly Random Excursion Cross-Country) right here.]

I ended up in Grove City, Pennsylvania, last night (Monday night), sleeping in my car for the second night in a row. Only this time there were some particular “outside disturbances,” so what was already going to be a short night’s sleep ended up being even shorter – with lots of wake-ups throughout the half-night. So I got perhaps 4 hours of true sleep – and even that was car-sleep, not bed-sleep.

The night before (Sunday night), as you may remember, I had the itch to drive for a while. So that ended up being a short night’s sleep, too – about 5 hours or so. None of this would have been a problem back in college, mind you. But nowadays, my body doesn’t handle sleep-lack nearly as well.

At 9am, I went a’searching for someplace to brush my teeth, etc., having been told chapel started at 9:30. Only before I found a bathroom, I found out chapel was already underway.

So there I sat, around 9:15am in the chapel of Grove City College, feeling about as disgusting as possible. Dirty mouth, dirty clothes, absolutely exhausted, and several states and hundreds of miles between me and my goal. This is the dark side of any road trip, that’s for sure!

And all this “misery” set up a particular kind of day I face every once in a while. It’s the day where I kinda just hope to make it out alive!

Though having little sleep is usually a key ingredient for this kind of day, it doesn’t have to involve a long drive. It might be that I have several interviews or ministry explorations that day. Or I may have some other event that keeps me far away from napping, resting, relaxing, hibernating, etc. It’s a busy day to-the-max, with the added weight of miserable exhaustion. We all have those kinds of days.

So just keep that in mind, as I continue…

Chapel at Grove City. The whole time on that campus continued to be a surreal experience, as I mentioned last night. I ran into a girl and her mom who were there for a campus visit, and that added to the nostalgia. So did wandering into the admissions area, which is set up display-style in the lobby of one of their main buildings. (It’s unique, though hard to describe. But it certainly brought back 10-year-old memories for me.)

Leaving Grove City College, I had a heaviness to my eyelids and a day of choices before me. I chose to do quite a bit.

Slippery Rock University came first.

It’s one of the more unique college names out there, and they know it. The bookstore was filled with all sorts of different shirts and other swag, because presumably people think it’s pretty great to get something with the name “Slippery Rock” on it.

I thought it was pretty great to get something with the name “Slippery Rock” on it.

Notre Dame (which I visited yesterday), by the way, had that mentality, too, but with far more “stuff” available. When a college is a tourist attraction, it’s smart for said college to take advantage of that fact.

After Slippery Rock came Pitt. The University of Pittsburgh turned out to be a pretty campus in an urban setting; by that, I mean it’s a big campus plopped right in the middle of bustling, commercial city-life. So in that one way, it felt like Harvard to me, actually, whose spacious campus is plopped in the middle of commercial Boston in a way some of the other schools aren’t.

And Pittsburgh was a cool city, and it has an “H” on the end of the name. I didn’t know either of those things before.

The whole state of Pennsylvania is one of those places I wish I had gotten to explore more this year. But hey, I’m not dead after I finish this trip, so there’s time. Well, I’m not dead as long as I made it out of this day alive, which as I’ve noted was not a sure thing…

So by THIS time it was mid-afternoon (2:30ish), and I still wasn’t out of the first state. Yikes.

What followed was driving-while-figuring, a pretty normal mode for my longer drives. Between chatting with my dad (who, as longtime high school counselor, knows plenty about colleges and their locations) and checking on things via the compy or the GPS, I was hoping for one last ministry visit during this TRECC. That meant I would need to find a ministry holding an event that would be starting not long after I would arrive at the school… So time + distance + location, or something like that.

Where did I end up? University of Maryland, a campus I had actually seen quite briefly and in the dark during my last drive in these parts – last semester on the way to a different conference (in Orlando). So it was good to see this very pretty campus with the aid of sunshine. Having done so, I continue to believe that UMD has one of the prettiest “centers of campus” I’ve seen. The whole campus looks like a gigantic, multi-family, southern plantation, what with the mansion-style, red-brick and white-column buildings and the green, green grass. (You can actually see the campus on “National Treasure 2.”)

I got to attend InterVarsity’s Large Group meeting at Maryland, feeling awfully self-conscious in my near hallucinatory and otherwise gross state. But I came, I saw, I journaled.

What a day!

The point of noting all this, besides the fact that I’m trying to be detailed in these TRECC posts, is that even on a day with a sort of “background semi-misery,” I still chose to do plenty. And I’m glad even now that I did. Plus, I know for certain that in 7 days and 7 years, I’ll be really glad I did: the sleepiness and shower-less-ness having been long forgotten, but the memories and pictures and journal entries and T-shirts remaining.

This whole trip is about this sort of “opportunity cost,” which a perfectionist like me pretty much naturally loathes. I’ve got to deal with needs and wants and plans and opportunities using wisdom, letting each day be a new chance to appropriate God’s brilliance and yet trust Him when the glass kinda looks half-empty. Even taking the “Pennsylvania route” yesterday and today was about an hour and forty-five minutes less direct than the other option from Minneaopolis to Wake Forest. But based on several factors, I made the choice for a northern route. This time.

There are always explorations I won’t get to take because of explorations I do take. And likewise there will always be choices that cost me sleep or money or cleanliness or connections or sanity. It’s opportunity cost, an ever-present part of this year-long road trip.


I made it alive through the day, and God was so, so faithful today. I started reading Psalm 107 in the pew at Grove City this morning, and I finished it tonight. I love it, ’cause it talks about a God who reaches us in our grumpiest of days – even when the grumpiness comes from the adventure itself.

It actually ended up being a great leg of the trip, even if I was twitchy and distracted in my sleepiness. I had a genuinely good day.

I stopped a little short of the Wake Forest goal, but I had planned to do that. I figure I can drive an hour in the morning, so I’m spending the night in South Hill, VA. And the best news is that it’s in a motel – a Super 8 because there aren’t any Motel 6s around. Staying in a motel, too, was planned, as I knew I’d want a bed and a shower before the conference begins in the morning.

At 9am. More sleep woulda been awesome, but blogging has been better. Stupid opportunity cost…

I’ll try to do a final TRECC blog tomorrow, not so much for covering the last hour (although, who knows? It could be NUTS) but for wrapping up this very unique (and outstanding) week.

TRECC stats

  • Today’s T-shirt: Abilene Christian University
  • Today’s states: 3 – Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia
  • Miles driven today: 534
  • Campuses visited today: 4 – Grove City College, Slippery Rock University, University of Pittsburgh, University of Maryland
  • Total TRECC states: 13
  • Total Trip states: 37
  • Total TRECC miles: about 3,357 miles
  • Total TRECC campuses: 11
  • Total Trip campuses: 101
  • Time left until start of College Metro in Wake Forest, NC: 6 1/2 hours as of 2:30am Eastern Time

One Comment

  1. francie

    hey there benson,

    i don’t think you remember me – but i’m francie booterbaugh. i used to serve at geneva college in pa. i noticed too late that you were in my area – grove city. i work at a local rescue mission about 25 minutes from there. if i would have known you were in the area, i could have set you up with a place to sleep other than your car.

    how was chapel? that was one of the campuses that my heart hurts for. it’s very pretty, yet can be very shallow and not so Godly. one of the men who came through our recovery program, joe, currently works there in the security dept. he has told me many stories that confirms my achy heart.

    keep praying for it.

    if you ever are in these parts again and need housing just call the city rescue mission and ask for francie – i’ll hook ya up.

    blessings on the rest of your trip.

    In His Grip,

Leave a Reply