By Barb Arland-Fye
My husband, Steve, and our two sons were riding on Amtrak heading for home after an enjoyable vacation to the Twin Cities to see relatives. I was driving home in our Volkswagen because their vacation had started the day before mine.
It was a beautiful day for a drive and because I knew the way home, I didn’t have a map or written directions with me. That was my first mistake, even though Steve and I have made this trip countless times together during 24 years of marriage.
Somehow, I had missed the turnoff from U.S. Highway 52 to Highway 63. I didn’t realize my mistake until reaching tiny Chatfield, Minn., which looked absolutely unfamiliar. Praying that Steve had his cell phone on in the train, I called him. Hearing his voice on the other end was a relief, whether or not I could see him smiling in amusement at my predicament.
He knew exactly where I was because our 22-year-old autistic son, Colin, is fixated on road atlases and was studying one when I called. He has memorized many routes through the states of Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.
Steve’s recommendation: continue driving on 52 to Dubuque and then take U.S. 61 to Interstate 80 and home to LeClaire. It had been a long time since he’d driven that route, but he remembered it as being scenic and very hilly. No kidding.
The drive, though tricky because of the winding nature of the road, took me through the best parts of God’s country — rural America in splendid green overlooking valleys of thriving corn and soybean crops and the mighty Mississippi River.
Gas prices were down and the station I stopped at to fill up the Volkswagen’s tank had my favorite treat — M&Ms — on sale. Confidence was in full supply, too, because I knew I could reach Steve by cell phone if I needed him.
One town I hadn’t expected to pass through was Postville, the site of a massive immigration raid last year that adversely impacted the entire town. Undocumented individuals as well as lifelong residents suffered and continue to suffer. Traveling through Postville was the one somber leg of my journey.
Reaching Guttenberg, I thought about stopping at a scenic overlook to savor the picture-perfect view of the Mississippi River Valley. I made a mental note to plan a family drive to that area along the Great River Road.
I arrived home hours before my train-traveling family, which gave me time to catch up on post-vacation chores. Our reunion was a blessing to the end of a vacation that all of us needed as a respite from daily routines.
Last week’s Sunday Gospel reading spoke of the apostles being instructed to travel two by two — companions on a journey of evangelization.
Whether or not we’re evangelizing, I wholeheartedly agree it’s best to travel two by two, or in a group of four. And that has absolutely nothing to do with the fear of getting lost.