You never know who you’re going to meet out on the road. When we pulled into Cracker Barrel the previous night to park the RV and sleep, we took Tiger out for his bedtime walk. On our way back to the RV, a man was walking around his RV next to ours, so we said hi and he invited Tiger to come sniff his hand. We saw that he was from North Carolina, one of the 15 states we’ve never visited, so we struck up a conversation.
Turns out Mike was retired military, 20 years in the Army, and traveling the country in his RV was his way of dealing with the mental challenges of his time serving our country. Every 2-3 weeks he said he had to head out in the RV to see places he’s never been; places of peace and tranquility, like Niagara Falls, where he was headed with his wife. Before we called it a night, we thanked Mike for his service and for the evening chat. Tammy & I commented as we entered our RV how sad it is that people who sacrificed so much for everyone else often had to deal with the mental scars for the rest of their lives. When you meet a veteran, slow down, hear their story, tell them yours, and thank them for their service and sacrifice.
So yes, you heard me right. Cracker Barrel restaurants often look like a makeshift RV camp each night, allowing patrons to park their RVs overnight, and most patrons say thank you by enjoying a warm dinner when they arrive or a hot breakfast the next morning. There were six RVs at Cracker Barrel on this night, and fortunately the weather was cool so we didn’t need to run our generator.
We woke up around 7:05am, which was perfect since the restaurant opened at 7am, and we were one of the first families seated. We enjoyed some eggs, crispy bacon and, a family favorite, blueberry pancakes before hitting the road for Charlottesville, VA. Our plan was to make the 3-hour drive to our KOA campsite in time to set-up camp and watch church by 1:30pm, and since we were done with breakfast by 8:30am, we had plenty of time. In no hurry, I set the cruise control to the speed limit and parked it in the right lane, letting those in a hurry fly by me on the left, oblivious to their frustration at my slow pace.
Instead of trying to make good time, Tammy & I spent the morning chatting about the girls, the trip & other topics of less importance while marveling at the beautiful scenery surrounding I-64, which we had been driving on since we left St. Louis. The rolling Blue Ridge Mountains created some beautiful views as we cruised down the road, and we put John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” on repeat until the girls had it memorized, to which Hannah covered her head with a pillow to drown out the noise. Naomi picked it up quickly and sang it out at the top of her lungs, as is her custom. Her life is a musical, so why not? And as it turns out, we sang Hannah right to sleep on the couch, with Tiger curling up against her legs, as he usually does. Sleeping is their favorite pastime during long driving days in the RV.
We made it to our campsite in plenty of time to set up camp, and for the first time in our RV life, we didn’t have to use balancing blocks to level the RV. The gravel lot was perfectly flat! That never happens, even on concrete pads. We took Tiger for a walk around the forest-filled RV park, finding the amenities and saying hi to our new neighbors. Then we settled in to watch church online.
Ryan Bowman has been the pastor of our church, Fellowship of Wildwood, for the past seven years. He & his wife, Karen, along with their three children, served as missionaries in Greece for four years prior, serving immigrants entering the European Union from predominately Muslim countries in the Middle East. His 17 years as a pastor and his time on the mission field has given him a compassion for those in need and a diplomatic spirit to help followers of Christ create unity, and he has been one of my closest friends for the past six years. We’ve ran together, poured concrete together, served together, had many lunches together, and he is someone I really enjoy hearing preach.
This summer, Ryan is preaching through “Tough Questions” for the Christian Church, as the culture continues to change and, in many ways, run contrary to historical Biblical Christianity. His sermon this week focused on the question, “Did Jesus really have to die?”, and is worth a listen. We watched as a family and then spent 45 minutes talking about it, which is one of the best things about having teenagers in our house. They are old enough to be able to hold very meaningful conversations, yet young enough to be curious about ideas and concepts they are still forming.
After cleaning up from lunch, we jumped in the car and drove around historic Charlottesville, VA, where the old downtown section displays the former uses of the original buildings. We saw the old signs that read “Slave Trading”, a stain highlighting the tragic history of America’s beginning. With plans to visit James Madison’s Montpelier and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate, we knew this would be a topic we would discuss in detail this summer, but we weren’t ready to see this location in which humans were bought and sold as if selling off a new litter of puppies, without care or concern about their lives, their families, their feelings. We paused in the street and discussed the history of slavery in America, and we used it as a teaching moment to remind Hannah & Naomi how important it is to treat all people with dignity and respect, regardless of the color of their skin, for we are all created with the Imago Dei, in the image of God. We discussed Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the infamous line:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”
We talked about how, in the spring of 1968, King would be assassinated on the balcony of a hotel in Memphis, and later that summer how Robert Kennedy, an advocate of civil rights and a presidential candidate, would be assassinated working tirelessly to end racism in the United States. To this point in their lives, my girls can’t understand why anyone would treat someone differently because their skin color, and I hope this never changes.
We drove back to the RV in time for the girls to try out the swimming pool, and then we called it a night. A long day, but a full day. And a really great day.