2300 Miles Later, Part 1 of 2

I wrote this post on Facebook during the fall of 2010 after transplanting my life from northeast Georgia to southern California. This first part covers insights from my five-day drive across the country. Tune in later this week for deeper insights discovered in the months following my move.

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I figure enough time has passed since Mitsy and I joined forces with Lord Vader that I would check in with some sort of update on my new life out West. And if you have no idea what that sentence means, shame on you.

Even after my epic life-changing road-trip, I’m still learning. Learning things about myself and others and this crazy world around me. I know I could edit this post a day, or a week, or a month later and chock-fill it with brand new life-altering insights. But alas, I suppose that’s what sequels are for.

It was a long drive.

Westward Ho: Open Road

Maybe the longest drive I’ll ever take. Certainly the longest I’ve ever endured by myself. For five marathon days in mid-August, I sought the open road. A new life. New sights, new sounds; new experiences, new revelations.

From Watkinsville, GA to Shreveport, LA to Amarillo, TX to Albuquerque, NM to Mesa, AZ to Whittier, CA, here’s a smidgen of what I uncovered…

America’s beautiful.

Texan Glory

While the Peach State can get repetitive with all its kudzu and red clay, there’s still nothing quite like those open country roads, where I had many-a-talk with God over the past decade. Alabama and Mississippi didn’t particularly thrill me on my westward drive, but soon the states started getting more and more beautiful with every border crossing.

The rolling plains of Texas, the desolate mystique of New Mexico, the red canyons AND CACTI of Arizona—stunning. All of it, each in its own unique way.

Driving 2300 miles, I saw things with my eyes that I’d only before seen as images on a screen or page. And all these awesome sights only intensified my faith in a majestic Creator of it all. I still can’t get over the beauty, and to think, there’s still so much out there I’ve yet to see.

And now more than ever, I want to see it. See God’s enormous beautiful world.

Westward ho, I kept driving and driving, and still there’d be countless cars zooming past me on those interstates, people filling up at gas stations and relaxing at rest stops and eating at Wendy’s. I traveled past countless thousands – nay, millions – of people over the course of 2300 miles.

So many people, so many stories.

Indian Fry Bread

For the sliver of those millions I interacted with – the Indian couple who own the Luxury Inn in Amarillo, the rotund Santa-like fellow at a New Mexican rest stop who was astounded to hear I was driving all the way from Georgia, the Native American woman with the Carolina Panthers cap who sold me some cinnamon-sugar fried bread near the New Mexico/Arizona border – well, I wonder about them. Wonder about their stories.

We all have stories, and you know, I kinda want to know theirs. What brought them to these points where they interacted with this soul-searching guy from Georgia? Were these interactions planned long before time even began, if only to meet for merely a minute or three?

What if I were meant to meet with them for longer?

Waking up each morning, you never know who you might graze shoulders with — who will change your life forever. The possibility of crossing paths with another person today who will change my life forever fascinates and excites me.

And it makes me wonder about my own role on this planet. I’m one of over 300 million in this country, 7 billion on Earth. Regarding the few I interacted with on my 2300-mile adventure: did I make a difference? Did I alter their lives in such a way that they’ll never be the same? Did I give them a story to tell their grandchildren someday?

Did I matter?

Donald Miller’s, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, is easily one of my favorite books because of its central message on living a great story. In the book he describes a hospitable family with a riverfront house. Countless adventurers would go on exploits down this river, and this amazing family would take complete strangers into their home. When the strangers went back on their adventuresome way, each of the family members would jump chest-deep into the river and, drenched, vigorously wave goodbye to their new friends – for no “logical” reason whatsoever.

Now, if you canoed with a group and were taken in by these people, would you ever be able to forget them? To lose that image of them waving goodbye, chest-deep in a river?

What an awesome legacy: to leave someone with a story worth telling.

Arizona Cacti

I fear I rarely ever want to leave someone – strangers especially – with a good story. Especially with the Greatest Story Ever Told. This is something, I’ve learned, that needs to change about myself.

I was touched by the individuals who took me in for a night during the course of my five-day trek across the country. Words can’t amply express how much it saved my wallet and my conscience. Much love and many thanks to y’all. I hope I left you with a story worth telling. Or at least worth remembering.

When I arrived at my ultimate destination of Whittier, California, it felt weird to wake up the next morning and not have to drive even further west. I’d finally made it. Reached my new life; my new home.

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Do you live your life with the mindset of a story worth telling? What’s the best family-jumping-into-a-river story of someone that you have?