During a recent journey from Wichita to Kansas City, my check engine light came on.
At the same time, I was nursing a painful hip from a displaced sacroiliac.
Normally, I enjoy driving the open road. I slide in the CD of my favorite soundtrack, munch on a snack and sip some water, sing along with the CD or make notes about another writing project.
But faced with two challenges at the same time, this would not be a joy ride. So I planned several stops where I could check my car and walk around to alleviate the pain.
Towanda: one of my favorite rest stops because of the gift shop. Lots of Southwestern-styled handbags which I dream about every time — turquoise and camel being my favorite — but not the price tags.
Knowing I would be faced with some kind of car cost, I didn’t even consider a purchase other than a small breakfast sandwich and hot tea for plenty of caffeine.
Back in the car, my hip felt better — thank you, Motrin. The check engine light was still yellow and not flashing. On to the next stop, only 33 miles away.
Matfield Green: At one end of the Flint Hills, you can see the Kansas prairie for miles. Grasses, cattle herds, a buckskin horse, places to pull off and snap pictures.
In the women’s restroom, I met another masked woman who, like me, struggled to get soap out of the dispenser.
“Really?” she said.
“In our world today?” I replied. “No soap?”
So we both spent extra time running water. Then I limped back to my car and doused my hands with sanitizer.
The next stop was Emporia. Time to pay my turnpike ticket and usually — a stop at Braums for an ice cream treat. Cappuccino chocolate chunk, thank you.
But not this time.
My hip needed TLC, and I wanted to be as close as possible to home in case the car died. The next stretch of road would be the longest — 90 some miles.
So I whispered several prayers, pulled the CD out and clicked onto a Christian radio station for encouragement.
But 50 miles later, my body screamed for relief. Luckily, I knew about the giant Love station off the ramp near Ottawa. So I pulled in and groaned as I exited my car.
After a stop in the ladies’ room — plenty of soap, thank you — I was delighted to discover a DIY soda fountain.
It is rare in these days of Covid-19 to be able to fill my own cup with plenty of crushed ice and unsweetened iced tea. I have learned to be grateful for the smallest of miracles.
Also at Love’s, I discovered my key chain had worn out. They had a display of amazing Southwestern designs, feathers and leather with a strong clip for keys. In my favorite dark purple with a friendly price.
I figured I deserved it.
So in spite of all the challenges, I felt uplifted as I began the last leg of the trip. Only 38 miles to home.
When I finally pulled into my driveway, I was sore, tired and spouting, “Hallelujah! I made it.” After a refreshing shower, unpacking and a generous lunch, I thought about how my trip home coincided with the challenges of 2020.
How can we make it to the next step — to that place with no daily death counts and a blissfully mask-free world?
It won’t happen immediately, unless God chooses to snap his fingers and create a global miracle.
In the meantime, we’ll do it one day at a time, one painful journey to the next rest stop, one whispered prayer at the next mile marker — until we make it to the final destination.
Hope isn’t always one gulp of optimism. It’s often a tiny morsel of sunshine on a cloudy day or a cautious step toward a goal.
It’s one step at a time in the right direction — with an occasional treat along the way.
©2020 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved
Check out another journey, Sometimes They Forget — the one my siblings and I are on as Mom continues the Alzheimer’s challenge.