MOM CAVE ADVENTURES – THE ALABAMA OR BUST TOUR
This Is the ALABAMA OR BUST TOUR – boiled peanuts, Mellow Yellow and the Trail of Tears.
My vacation for this summer had already been decided last year. A trip to a military base to watch my daughter celebrate her passage through boot camp in Montgomery, Alabama, became a necessity. As an avid outdoor enthusiast and a writer this vacation would serve multiple purposes, I determined.
A pilgrimage of sorts to spend some time with the Lord, just Him and I. Plus, a quest to show myself that I still had my adventurous spirit buried somewhere under stress, my ability to find my way through a hole in a needle and quite honestly – I needed a long drive to clear my head. Driving had always been therapeutic for me and I needed therapy in the worst way!
Farms, mountains, and country folk doing a whole lot of front-porch also crowded my mind, so a suburbanite like me needed to capture that laid back feel, which would require unplugging from constant Wifi. With a little initial pain the laptop was left behind in favor of yellow lined paper and some small notes on the back of maps. With extra paper, a small carryon bag for four days of clothes and dried fruit snacks with nuts, I headed for the dirt roads west and south of Baltimore.
Never mind the southern heat. Already trekking a steady path through my own Hades on earth, what would it kill me to endure some heat in the good ole south for a few days? I took the long way on purpose. I willed to simply wing it on small roads along the way. My inner-compass always points to the scenic routes, surprises and real people.
I picked an overall best ‘soul-evolving’ path, said goodbye to the laptop and cozy room, jumped in the car and beat a path into the country side of Maryland as fast and early as I could, seeking West 70. Whatever happened – happened.
By the time I reached Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, the once weary spirit within felt as rejuvenated as the forested state. At a rest stop I started taking notes about the difficulty of grappling my steering wheel off route 70 and turn south on 81. I looked at my ‘travel writing notes’, shook my head, and went inside the visitor center for a free state map, feeding the ‘expert travel writing notes’ into a trash can.
From here on in, this journal would be from the heart. (no GPS until Montgomery city limits.)
In four days I covered 2200 miles, a round trip through 8 states. (NOT ONE CAN of Redbull, Monster, or 5 hr. energy shots – I swear!) As I reached each state line I added a new map to my collection, some coupon books, water and a deep breath of new air. The closer I came to Alabama a more noticeable change in my attitude and peace I achieved.
At least three sets of Gethsemane and hundreds of churches were on my path, and answers to questions came to mind. The Lord reminded me daily that He was there in the driver’s seat, not I.
After reading about some small places to visit, some of them I imagined would be awesome were (at best) unimpressive. And vice versa – for places that didn’t call out to me at the starting line were surprisingly wonderful.
Except the Great Smoky Mountains – that was the exemplary star along the way. I became wonderfully lost and added five hours of driving time that day, – with no regrets.
My phone memory quickly filled up with pictures and Facebook blurbs about Gatliburg,
Newfound Gap, Cherokee,
Nantahala Mountain valley, Georgian corn and peach farms in the afternoon sun along the original Trail of Tears, and Alabama’s golden sunset at Cedar Bluff. I reached my destination way past bedtime – exhausted, enlightened, satisfied, smiling.
The next day was tops in life experiences – the whole day! My goal was to arrive safe and cheer my daughter as she marched in the graduation parade for AF ROTC field training. In a sea of blue uniforms, our finest young brave cadets pledged to protect their land and people. Ding! I reached the one of my proudest moments as a mother, then assigned a new mission of fulfilling my cadet’s request for Mom’s Famous Baked Macaroni & Cheese for her when she came home. Life was on again! And a long trip back.
It seems when we are running from something the journey is usually a lot more enjoyable and satisfying. The first night driving back was the exception on this trip. After a long shower and a short rest, I reached Chattanooga, TN before sunset munching on boiled peanuts and drinking Mellow Yellow.
Another thing I love about inner compass driving is finding those beaten-path hidden places that you swear were waiting for you! On a whim, and with the sun still another 60 min. before setting over Chattanooga City and the Dam, I took an exit to try and glimpse Ruby Falls in the hills nearby.
The admissions office just closed when I reached it, but I kept going uphill anyway, discovering a quiet upscale residential paradise, a train depot for touring the mountain, scenic lookouts over TN/GA states, and a bed & breakfast with a convenient ‘vacancy’ sign meant just for me!
Synchronicity at its finest! I expected a cheap hotel chain room that evening so finding this garden amongst whimsical Georgian Victorian proved a sleepy traveler’s paradise. So reasonably priced too, and I could not resist a restful sleep in a posh cottage of my own! Booked. Mine.
Too wonderful for me to sleep at first, I spent a couple more hours on a second wind taking pictures and walking around and writing. It would also be an insult not to enjoy the china cup of peach herbal tea in my room. The hidden treasures and tiny charming details lasted through the morning and my breakfast on a veranda amidst bird baths and fountains.
I hated to leave but did I feel like my life sat quietly waiting in New Jersey to suck me back in? No. Responsibilities were back there.
Life was here, finding it and living it on a whim on the road. I chose to bring back with me what I discovered along the way:
- Prayer time needs to increase.
- I can say ‘no’. I don’t have to stay in a job, situation or any friendship/relationship that is not making me happy or building on my faith, character, nor jives with my life mission. And I don’t have to feel guilty about it.
- Now I am sure about some of the needed changes I had been unsure about for months, and I intended to make the changes as soon as I got home.
- Circumstances I cannot control will be in God’s will and time and I just have to prepare for the circumstances I HOPE will happen, and learn patience. Accept it.
- I need to prepare to move within God’s Will when the time is right.
Also satisfying is the revelation that I still had a long drive endurance, befriending quirky and loveable people is still fun, and the knowledge of using real (now antique) road maps, my original and still preferred GPS.
I went. I saw. I shared. Saw the lessons. All good stuff. Sharing the trip in words and pictures to put friends and family in the passenger seat – that’s awesome fun too!
Road trips with the Lord in heart and mind – The BEST!