Loretta Salchert is the executive director of Ribbon of Hope, a cancer support ministry that serves Elkhart County and the surrounding area. You can read more of her work in her Elkhart Truth community blog, Ribbons of Hope.
Road trips! I love 'em.
I love getting in my car, rolling down the windows, opening the sun roof, putting on my cool shades, starting the car and pulling onto the road. Sometimes I turn on my favorite tunes, while other times I rest in the hum of the car's engine and the sound of the wheels responding to the irregularities in the road.
Why do I love road trips? Because they’re journeys. From the time I slide the key into the ignition until I reach my destination, I take in the sights and sounds of what I experience. I think. I pray. I sing. I process. Sometimes. Sometimes I'm so focused on reaching my destination that I forget to enjoy the journey.
This past weekend my daughter and I took a trip to southern Kentucky and Tennessee. Eight hours of sunshine, discussion, music and all out crazy highway driving.
Let me share things I learned while on the road:
The posted speed limit on Interstate 65 in Kentucky is only a suggestion. I figured that out after I attempted to cruise the proper 70 mph speed limit, only to have really large trucks sitting on my bumper and proceeding to pass me while giving me THE LOOK of disgust as they slipped around my little Honda. It didn't take long to realize the actual speed limit ranged between 80 and 95 mph, contingent on whether we were traveling uphill. That's a little embarrassing! Those poor drivers felt the way I do when I get behind an Amish buggy on a back country road with a double yellow line and lots of traffic coming toward us. Yikes!
The use of the phrase, "Seriously, dude!" can be used creatively to express oneself. Contingent on the situation, tone and intensity of one's voice, the phrase can be used to express a simple, “What are you thinking?” while other times it spills out of the mouth with kind of an, “Are you NUTS?” flavor. I found myself using the phrase a lot on the interstate. I now know how many times I can use that phrase, in any tone, before my daughter starts giving me THE LOOK.
It's a good thing I didn't have one of those fake photon torpedo gizmos on my dashboard. I could have done some serious imaginary damage to the cars in front of me.
Cracker Barrel Restaurants... It must be the restaurant of champions in Kentucky because I saw one at almost EVERY off ramp. Have you been in a Cracker Barrel lately? Oversized rocking chairs and potted posies line the front porch, while the soft sound of music draws the weary traveler through the front door looking for nourishment and great southern sweet tea. Once inside, visitors are greeted with a touch of southern hospitality and a lot of merchandise for purchase, including those little bags of red chocolate covered cherries I personally refer to as a "diabetic coma in a bag." Once seated in the dining room, one may notice the rustic display of pitch forks, long handled grass scythes, bale hooks and washboards. At that point I got a little creeped out. Were these instruments used to hunt and gather tonight's menu selection? Hmm.
Then there were road construction areas where drivers are prompted to drastically decrease their speed – like from 70 mph to 45 mph. Or from 95 mph to 70 mph, contingent on whether we were climbing a hill in front of a convoy of cars or trucks.
The one thing I noticed while keeping up with the pack on the interstate was that most of the drivers were looking straight ahead. There was an occasional glance to view the terrain – a blur of red flowers, a forest of trees, the multi-colored mountain rock that had been blasted away years earlier to make way for our road, and an occasional speed limit sign. For the most part, though, drivers were looking forward. Not at their radios or co-pilots, but the path that was in front of them. I'm so grateful for their focus, because despite their speed (and sometimes mine), I never witnessed a traffic accident on the road the day I was driving.
In all honesty, I could have easily pulled off the road and taken the time to really view the beautiful scenery. How fitting to see a field of bright red poppies lining the roadway on Memorial Day weekend. They were beautiful. I couldn't help but say a quick prayer for families whose loved ones died in battle. I couldn't help but think about the many hours it took to blow through miles of mountain rock to create the openings that allowed me to traverse over three states on a weekend road trip. I was on a deadline to get home. I needed to reach my intended destination by a certain time, and there was no room in my schedule for savoring the beauty.
Hopefully I can schedule a return trip and plan more time to enjoy the beauty of Kentucky and Tennessee. Maybe I'll even stop at one of the many Cracker Barrel restaurants along the way, where I'll have the opportunity to reminisce about the gardening equipment I used to see at my grandma's house when I was a little girl.
What might be accomplished if I slowed down?
Last week we had a patient tell us that her doctor told her she had only about a month to live. Her voice cracked as she tried to speak.
"I lived my entire life, and I've accomplished absolutely nothing of significance,“ she said. ”Now there's no time. What should I do?"
Her words pierced my heart like a dagger. I saw the anguish in her eyes. I heard the fear in her voice. For just a second, I could see the brilliant red field of poppies in my head. I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer and responded, "Oh Sweetie, if I were in your position I would want to make every moment count. What would that look like for you? I can take some time right now and help you compile a list if you'd like."
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