Just like that, the last 11 months flew by in a flurry of activity and divine provision, and we once again find ourselves across the country from where we were just a couple weeks ago. We usually have pretty mundane travels, but God determined that this time, that would not be the case.
We always begin our travels with a pre-trip tune up, just to make sure our vehicle will be able to make the trip (lets face it, we do not have the most glamorous collection of vehicles, but they’ve always gotten us where we needed to go!) After getting a good bit of work done, we declined a few of the long-run repairs, as we only planned on needing the van until January.
Wrong move. More on that in a bit.
The night before we left, we were diligent in packing everything up so we’d have minimal work required the morning we left, leaving plenty of time for goodbyes. God performed minor miracles in allowing us to find ways to cram six people’s worth of suitcases, bags, pillows, stuffed animals and snacks into our van, and we called it a night. The next day, we found that our trailer hitch cargo carrier, which had been meticulously loaded the night before, was now hovering about three inches above the pavement. Fast forward an hour of finagling all that stuff onto the roof, and we said our (mildly tearful) goodbyes, an impressive 1 hour late. Off to a great start!
First day: fabulous; the kids did (mostly) great! As we pulled into the driveway at Rhett’s Uncle’s house, however, a strange noise and smell (from the van, nevermind the noises and smell from the kids) gave us fair warning that we would not be leaving on time the next morning. The kids got a short break, which turned into a medium-sized break the next day, as Rhett and his uncle spent the morning at the mechanic, getting the serpentine belt and tensioner replaced. We ended up leaving their house just 2 hours late this time- not too bad!
About ten minutes into the drive, as we were patiently waiting in a line of cars behind a semi who was trying to pass another semi on the highway, I heard a sound, prompting me to check out the side view mirror, and lo-and-behold, smoke was pouring out of the wheel well! I started to say something to Rhett when the van started fishtailing. We started doing this weird wiggle dance toward the median, when we kind of got flung back into the lane before dramatically swooshing around into the grass! I remember while it was happening Milo yelled “What’s happening?!” and I said (with impressive calm) “It’s ok, we’re crashing!” After all of that, we were so grateful that not only had the car behind us seen what was happening and given us enough space, but when the van was trying to lose control, it never touched any of the packed-tight cars around us, and no damage was done to the van other than the wheel.
But what damage it was:
As we assessed the situation, we groaned with horror as the realization of the task that was before us sunk in: our van’s jack was located in the trunk, under approximately 2.8 tons of beautifully and precisely packed luggage. There was nothing else to do at that point, so we unloaded everything into the grass and opened the equipment door to get out the jack, only to discover that only half of the jack was in there… About that time, a state trooper pulled up, and he called us a tow truck as we tried, unsuccessfully, to tetris our things back in the way we thought they had been. As we waited for the tow truck, the we chatted with the trooper, and he gave our kids K-9 collector cards, and teddy bears. When the tow truck arrived, we unloaded the kids (who had remained totally calm this whole time- Lincoln hadn’t even woken up from his nap yet!) into the median grass, and they caught grasshoppers and asked a million questions about the tow truck.
While we waited for the new tires, kicking ourselves for not getting them replaced before the trip began, we began to count the blessings of the trip so far- everything that morning had happened during the only couple hours that were dry and sunny that day, the tow truck man wouldn’t let us pay him, and we got to spend a beautiful, if a little lengthy for our taste, morning together.
We made it to Rhett’s cousin’s that evening, and were able to attend church with them the next morning. On the way home, our van died.
Our. Van. Died.
Seriously, I felt like by the time we made it to San Diego, our whole van was going to be practically new! Anyways, Rhett’s cousin-in-law was able to take him to a (strangely festive) junk yard to find the part we needed (savings for the win!), and get the van going again, provided we do not, under any circumstances, ever, turn on the air conditioner. Sad day!
All told, though the trip was perhaps a bit more dramatic than I thought I would have planned for, I love it when God shows up in ways that teach you to trust His timing and provision. He knew when we would need to arrive at our destinations, where we needed to spend more time, how He would be providing financially for all of these delays, how far away to keep the surrounding vehicles on the highway- seriously, every tiny detail was lovingly tended to by a Father with a flair for the dramatic. I can’t wait to see how He keeps this up, because He’s setting the bar pretty high already!