The Happy Van
I’m writing to you this evening from Corbin, KY, about an hour south of Lexington, where we are staying this evening on our way to Hilton Head Island with Kristin and her three boys. We have arrived safe and sound; Kristin and the boys are in the room next door and Janet has already called it a night – fast asleep in bed. With her recent RA diagnosis, she gets fatigued rather easily, so we decided to break the trip into two days to make it easier on everyone – especially her.
It’s been a while since Janet and I have travelled with anyone else by car. We enjoy driving and prefer that to flying whenever it is practical for our schedule and destination. Anyway, I am reminded of the trips years ago that we took with our three children. Each time, it was the same thing. Kristin would curl up in the back seat with a book and read all the way to our destination. She never say anything along the way – just read the whole time. In fact, she never even looked up to see the sites – just kept reading…. It wasn’t the same with Jill and Andrew – they talked more and engaged in playing games, etc.
Looking back, I appreciate those times more now than I did back then. Fond memories… And there were some fun times. Like when we were in San Fransisco, I drove around a corner and froze as I saw the steep drop in the next block of the street. I swear I thought the car would tip over and roll down the hill if I continued. I’m not kidding. I was stuck – looking for another way around and it just wasn’t there. I had to go down the hill, and I was scared. The kids still laugh about that one to this day.
Anyway, these trips we dubbed “happy van” trips. We sang songs, played Beach Boys or Three Dog Night hits; and I would tell the kids about the music we had in the old days. They grew up on these songs during our happy van trips. Sometimes, the trips were short, such as going from Indy to Chicago for Christmas. But usually, the term was reserved for longer car trips. And as time has gone on, Kristin has been the only one who still travels with us.
Several years ago, we drove to Williamsburg with Kristin and Connor, her oldest son. It was Connor’s first happy van trip so he had to learn the ropes. Kristin got in the back, opened her book and that was the last we heard from her. Connor and I talked – Janet joined the conversation on occasion and we drove to Virginia. I had to keep Connor occupied, so I invented a number of rules for the road. Rule #1 was “No smoking in the bathrooms.” So each time we stopped at a roadside rest stop, Connor was on the look-out for people who were smoking as they went into the restrooms. He would report back to me and of course, I had to quiz him on whether he had smoked or not.
Now I know this was kind of an elementary game, but Connor was only about 4 and he loved tattling on people who were breaking the rules. Rule #2 was to make sure that you “washed your hands.” And there were other rules as well, but you get the idea. It kept him busy all the way to Virginia – his inaugural trip in the happy van.
Years later, we don’t rent vans any more – we have a Subaru Tribeca – an SUV. But it doesn’t sound as good to say we have a “happy SUV” trip planned, so we voted to keep the “happy van” name. Today, Carter and Cooper joined us on their first happy van trip. Sure enough, Kristin got in and started reading – Connor was the pro who was telling the other boys what to expect; and he taught them rule #1 and rule #2, so they could be on the look-out for rule breakers as well. Carter is 7 and Cooper is 6 so they were really jazzed.
We made it 4-1/2 hours, but tomorrow will be the real test – more for me than for them. Because it has been a generation since Janet and I travelled with three young children and we have never had so many suitcases that we needed one of those car top carriers. For the first hundred miles or so, I was worried that the thing would come off the roof, but it didn’t. Our neighbors, Susan and Pat, were kind enough to let us use it – thank God – we would never had been able to pile 6 people and all that luggage into the car without it. In fact, this trip has more people in the car than any trip we have taken.
The verse for tonight reflects God’s presence during our travel. Just as He was with His chosen people during the exodus from Egypt, He is with us every step of the way – to lead and guide and protect us. From Exodus 13:21, we are told, “By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.”
My encouragement tonight is to let you know that God is always with you, especially when you are travelling. He is there to guide you and protect you. My prayer is that you will have safe travels and that the God of the universe will bless you and keep you safely in the palm of His had. Grace and peace,