Monday, April 25, 2016

Lost and Found

I miss writing.  Life tends to get so busy, and I find myself not able to keep up with things like this blog, as much as I wish otherwise.  It's not intentional neglect.  It's all competing priorities, and real life is at the top.  My thoughts are all over the place tonight.

With Election Day coming tomorrow, and school cancelled for the day, I took my wonderful daughter to her grandparent's to stay overnight, so I can work tomorrow.  After enjoying a nice dinner at Urban Barbecue, I said goodbye and headed for home.

But before that, I decided to get lost for a little while.  It was a beautiful evening, and the top was down.  I had some great tunes playing, and I was surrounded by back roads.  Feeling a little bit melancholy, which is typical when I'm by myself, I took off and found myself...well, a little lost.  It was not a sense of direction issue, though.  I tend to have a very good sense of direction, which is connected to my love of maps and a desire to travel, to be on the road.  This feeling of being lost is more connected to an event from my past.

Twelve years ago, on April 19, 2004, my life changed forever.  While every moment of life has the potential to be life changing, there are specific kinds of events that impact us like no others.  Life and death events.

On that day, my wife died.  She collapsed right in front of me, while on an evening stroll with our at the time 5-month old daughter, from a massive heart attack.  I watched her body die in that moment, though at the time I didn't know she was gone.  In fact, I was convinced that she would be okay.  It wasn't until we arrived at the hospital that I was told she was gone, and that was when reality hit and the tears came.  And I've been grieving this loss ever since...the loss of my wife, life partner, best friend, and mother of my daughter.

So, for twelve years, I've been finding my way.  Life goes on.  And while there are moments of loneliness and sadness, and being lost, I'm constantly in awe of the saving grace of God.  My wife was a believer, and I know she is spending eternity with our Father, and I know I'll see her again. Even after she was gone, she was helping realize this fact.  She had written a verse on a piece of paper that I found months later, and it spoke to me like nothing else:

1 Peter 5:10 - "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast."

Good night, everyone.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Anniversaries create wonderful memories and signify times of celebration...most of the time.  Today is an anniversary that is the worst kind:  twelve years ago today I lost my wife.  It is said that time heals all wounds, and that is true in a lot of ways. But Teresa's death has shattered me to the depths of my soul, and I continue to struggle every year on this date, April 19.

It had been a beautiful day, and we were out walking around the school where Teresa taught 9th grade English and Public Speaking.  She had taken the year off following the birth of our daughter, Melody, in November.  Suddenly, Teresa collapsed.  She had suffered a heart attack, caused by an enlarged heart and mitral valve prolapse.  Paramedics arrived and worked on her, and they took her to Howard County General, where she was pronounced dead.  I was a widower at the age of 34, with a 5-month old daughter, after less than five years of marriage.  And I was devastated.

While my faith in Christ remains strong, I struggle so much with an at times overwhelming grief.  You never recover from devastating loss.  Instead it becomes a part of who you are.  

I know Teresa, as a Christ-follower, is experiencing eternity, and I will see her again.  But life goes on here on Planet Earth, and I've chosen to continue living in hope despite my struggles.

1 Peter 5:10 - "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."

Thank you, Lord, for your care and presence in our lives.  Thank you for your grace and comfort.  Thank you for memories, both bad and great.  And thank you for giving us such a wonderful life together, despite how short it was.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Memorable Retreat

As I mentioned previously, a lack of blog posts means I'm on the road traveling.  It might also be a pre-trib rapture...but that's just wishful thinking right at the moment.  Maybe soon, maybe later, but only He knows for sure...

We have been out of town quite a bit lately, so this week was a catch-our-breath moment of rest and relaxation.  I know that will change at any moment.

We had just returned from a week of Spring Breaking when we headed north again for the Grace Community Church Youth Spring Retreat!  My daughter Melody went on her first retreat in October, and I went along to serve on the work crew, which prepared and served the food all weekend to over 400 youth and adults.  Melody had a blast, and while I had to work, it was an extremely rewarding and fulfilling weekend.  We were anxious to do it all again. 

The Spring retreat was even better, despite rain and freezing temperatures.  I wish the sleeping accommodations were better (they are lousy...the bunks are plywood with a mattress, and are made for people much shorter than my 6'2"), but otherwise, it's a nice place.

The only other negative is that I got sick right before we left.  I felt well enough to make trip, but I think I spent more time in the bathroom and in bed (though not resting...) than doing actual work.  I felt terrible.  And I felt terrible about not being able to assist as much as what was needed.  Bruce, thanks for praying over me.  And, Gary, I think you were more concerned about me than I was about you!  Elizabeth, thanks for going easy on me.  We have such a wonderful work crew!

It was an exhausting weekend in a lot of ways, but the impact this youth program and youth leaders have on the kids makes it so worthwhile, and I'm so thankful for the energy and effort they put into this weekend.  Melody had a memorable time.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Storming the Drive-in

We had a beautiful sky last evening, as indicated by this wonderful picture my daughter took (above).  We had just arrived at home after a week of road tripping and riding roller coasters, and while we saw much of God's beautiful handiwork on the road in the Great Smoky Mountains, there was this sky right here at home, reminding us that we don't have to go very far to be reminded of God's beauty.  So what did we do last night?  We went to the drive-in, and that beautiful sky turned darkly spectacular in a much different way...

It was a pretty great lineup of entertainment last night at the ol' Bengies Drive-in, and we were excited to see both movies.  The place was extremely crowded, and rightly so with two wonderful movies and THAT sky!

However, after sitting thru ZOOTOPIA, the sky clouded over completely, and a storm erupted unlike any I've seen in some time.  

We had just returned from the snack bar during the intermission and found a downpour, and we ran back to our Jeep.  There was a pickup truck filled with a gaggle of youth parked next to us, and they were hiding under a large tarp trying to stay dry.  The wind was gusting hard and I watched a pizza box shoot out of the truck and run in the direction of the snack bar.  Moments later, we saw a beam of light shoot out of the stars and clouds, followed by an earth shattering thunder clap that sounded like the world was in peril.  That was enough to frighten the teens, and they gathered their stuff and started to leave.  The wind grabbed the door, though, and it flew open and hit the side of our Jeep with enough force that I was sure it had stripped off the paint.  I jumped out to see, but I was immediately pelted with hail.  This was one mean storm!

Many of the great patrons of the Bengies decided to call it a night, and there was a long line of vehicles headed for the exits. It reminded me of a Terp's football game during a blowout.

Anyway, we stayed thru most of STAR WARS, and the storm had pretty much subsided by the time we decided to head for home.  The wind was still howling, though, the temperature had dropped more than 20 degrees.  We arrived at home at about 1:30 am, and slept like a couple of rocks.  My daughter finally got up at noon.

We had a wonderful vacation, though, and we're happy to be home.

Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Six Flags Rainy Adventure

A lack of blog posts generally means I'm away from home, and with Spring Break upon us, that's most certainly the case.  I added my first new US state in several years to my list of places I've visited:  Alabama!  We're in the Northeast corner and right in the heart of some really great mountainous territory.  I don't think of mountains when I think of Alabama, so consider me impressed!

We spent yesterday at Six Flags Over Georgia, an amusement park I had never visited.  Like most of the Six Flags parks, it looks a little run down.  There is some new construction going on, and it looks like they're trying to spruce it up, but it really needs some work.  When I go to parks like Busch Gardens, where everything looked new and beautiful, I'm a bit taken aback by how badly Six Flags looks in comparison.  And the employees don't seem to care.  I hope I'm wrong, but the attitude I see is not exactly towards customer service and safety.  Anyway, it was an overcast day, and rains were expected.  We rode some pretty great coasters before then, like the Georgia Scorcher, a standup coaster, which wasn't as beat up as others that have recently bit the dust (like Shockwave at Kings Dominion).  We rode a beat up looking Mindbender, which was actually kind of fun, and Batman the Ride, a suspended track coaster, which surprisingly got in the first row.  Goliath was a lot of fun, the park's hyper coaster (over 200' drop).

We ate lunch at a pizza place, and this is where Six Flags loses so many points with me:  their food is lousy.  I've never eaten anything at a Six Flags park that I would call tasty.  And it's expensive!  $25 for 2 measly slices of cheese pizza (because they didn't even have any specialty pizzas already made -- with no apologies!), fries, and two 8 oz "large" sodas.  And it was awful.

We rode the Monster Mansion, which was a ride-thru boat ride, then continued thru the park.  We saw a Wild West Shootout comedy show while we ate some ice cream, then the rains came.  We passed Ninja, which is receiving extensive rehabilitation and is not operating, and hopped on the Great American Scream Machine, a monstrous wooden coaster that really ended up being a highlight of the day.  Despite being pelleted by rain, and getting thoroughly soaked, we had a two great rides!

However, the rains became too great. Superman was already shutdown for the day, we just missed the last mine train coaster before it closed, and the same happened with Georgia's Cyclone.  The park was sparsely attended to begin with, but with the rains not expected to end until overnight, we called it a day.  At least we got five new coasters crossed off our list.  And we created a memory, which is more important than anything else.

I love traveling with my wonderful daughter, and am so thankful for the opportunity to spend time with her doing something we both love to do.  God blesses us every single moment of every single day!

Have a wonderful Easter, everyone!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Weekend Getaway

Williamsburg in the Spring can be beautiful, though the threat of snow might diminish that just a bit.  We had a great time, anyway.

It was opening weekend at Busch Gardens, and since it's our favorite park, we were excited to be there.  It also was our first amusement park visit since we became card-carrying members of ACE, the American Coaster Enthusiasts.  We had a fantastic time hanging with some really great people, all of whom have a passion for riding roller coasters.

We also got the scoop on Busch Garden's big announcement regarding a first for the park:  a new wooden coaster!
It will be built in the New France part of the park for 2017, and will feature a Viking theme.  There's also a naming contest at the BG website...

Anyway, it was a great weekend!

Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Tomorrow is Pi Day

Tomorrow is Pi Day.  You know, 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307816406286 208998628034825342117067982148086513282306647093844609550582231725359408128481 117450284102701938521105559644622948954930381964428810975665933446128475648233 786783165271201909145648566923460348610454326648213393607260249141273724587006 606315588174881520920962829254091715364367892590360011330530548820466521384146 951941511609433057270365759591953092186117381932611793105118548074462379962749 567351885752724891227938183011949129833673362440656643086021394946395224737190 702179860943702770539217176293176752384674818467669405132000568127145263560827 785771342757789609173637178721468440901224953430146549585371050792279689258923 542019956112129021960864034418159813629774771309960518707211349999998372978049 951059731732816096318595024459455346908302642522308253344685035261931188171010 003137838752886587533208381420617177669147303598253490428755468731159562863882 353787593751957781857780532171226806613001927876611195909216420198938095257201 065485863278865936153381827968... well, I could keep this up all day.  Pi Day will begin on March 14, at 1:59 p.m. (3.14159).  My office has a tradition of celebrating Pi Day each year by having a pie cook-off.  It's a lot of fun, and we usually have about a dozen different pies to try, with voting determining which pie is the best, and the pie chef who wins is the Pi King or Queen for this year.

Last year, Pi Day was on a Saturday, so the office celebrated on the day before.  This year we get to celebrate on the actual day.  On March 14 last year, I made a couple of very hastily prepared chocolate cream pies made with instant chocolate pudding and Redi Whip whipped cream to celebrate at home.  My daughter was very excited and surprised, and we had a nice time celebrating for really no reason at all.  And isn't that how life ought to be?

Have a great evening, everyone!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Top Down Kind Of Day

Today became one of those really difficult, too-much-to-do-and-frustrated-about-it kind of days.  And when the stress gets to be too much, two things occur:  I turn it over to the Lord, and I put the top down and forget about the bad stuff.  Given my struggles with health issues, it's almost mandatory that I find a way to stave off the stress.  Driving home on a beautiful day is one way to mitigate those struggles.  And today was beautiful!

Have a great evening, everyone!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lady Terps B1G Champs!

One week ago tonight, my daughter and I attended the Maryland Terrapins Women's Basketball Team's Senior Night, at XFINITY Center at the University of Maryland, in College Park.  It was a great night, and the Terps beat a clearly overmatched Minnesota Golden Gophers team.  We had a great time, and it was clear to us the Terps had a special team.  They went into the Big Ten Tournament over the past half week and played really well.  Today was the championship game, and the #5 nationally ranked Terps soundly defeated a Michigan State team that had beaten them twice this year, winning their second straight Big Ten Championship.  The victory may give the Terps a #1 seeding in the NCAA Tournament games coming up in the next few weeks.  They are a clear Final Four team, and we're hoping that they do well.  Well enough to, maybe, bring home another National Championship.  Congratulations, Lady Terps, the 2016 Big Ten Champions!

Have a great evening, everyone!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Winter's Last Gasp

Winter gave us one last gasp yesterday, and it was a beautiful way to end.  I love the snow, and while we certainly got plenty this winter, it didn't seem like enough.

With 70 degree days coming next week, it appears we will be coming up to serious traveling season.  And 2016 promises to be filled with road trips.  The wanderlust has hit me hard, and I'm making plans for plenty of opportunities.  I promised my daughter that she would see all 50 US states by the time she reaches her 18th birthday, and after this summer, she'll be at 43 (I'll be at 46).  The only states we'll have left are North Dakota, Idaho, Alaska, and Hawaii (both of us), plus Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington (her).  One big trip to the Northwest will take care of most of them.  Maybe next year.  And I still want to take that Alaskan road trip.  And I have to figure out how to take that road trip to Hawaii...

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Nalley Fresh Is A Winner!

Greg Nalley has a winner.  The chef, culinary director, and founder of Nalley Fresh, a new restaurant in Dobbin Center, at 6455 Dobbin Road, Columbia, MD, is using a tried and true assembly line-style method (see Chipotle or Blaze Pizza) of serving up "tasty, wholesome, fresh, and healthy" meals.

"Nalley Fresh is a chef-driven, all-natural, customer-designed salad, wrap, and bowl restaurant featuring homemade, specialty proteins and over 80 fresh ingredients and at least 15 international flavors.  In addition, we feature a wide range of vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and paleo options, as well as choices for the kids... Express Your Inner Chef!"

To celebrate their opening, Nalley Fresh hosted a Community Day event at their store yesterday, February 27, from 12-4 p.m., to huge crowds, with a live DJ, Anna from FROZEN, and Monica Reinagel, Nalley Fresh's nutritionist, author of Secrets for a Healthy Diet, host of the Nutrition Diva podcast, and guest on the Dr. Oz show, on site, along with Greg Nalley.  And FREE FOOD!!!  What a fantastic way to bring in customers to try them out!

My daughter, Melody, and I decided to stop in and check it out.  We invited a group of friends to join us, and we arrived to a large line of customers waiting to get inside.  Our friends had arrived ahead of us, and were near the front door, so they invited us to join them (my apologies to those waiting behind us...with four young children, I didn't want our friends to have to go to the end of the line and wait all over again, and it was the only other way for us all to be together).

Despite the immense crowds inside, the staff was incredibly patient, friendly, and informative.  The young lady at the door went through the entire assembly line process, and gave us a nice overview of the menu items.  The menu is overwhelming given how many different ingredients there are from which to choose, but they also have "Nalley Signatures" with pre-selected ingredients.  But customizing can be a lot of fun, too.  First, you choose from a wrap, salad, or bowl.  Then you add a base item (arugula, romaine, spinach, or spring mix for salads/wraps, and rice, noodle, soup, or sweet potato for bowls), choice of protein (chicken, fish/salmon, tofu, pork, falafel), toppings (veggies, fruits, nuts, cheese...) and dressing.

Melody ordered the Noodle Bowl and customized it to her liking, adding mushrooms, tomatoes, chicken, carrots, black olives, parmesan cheese, cucumbers, romaine, and corn.  I ordered a "Blue Collar" wrap with blackened chicken, and the pre-selected items that included brown rice, black beans, spinach, tomato, purple slaw, pretzel shells, egg, bacon, corn, provolone, and spicy ranch dressing, all on a wheat wrap.

My friends got a bunch of kid's menu items, including the quesadilla and mac and cheese, and the staff could not have been more accommodating and helpful.  And friendly.  I'm just so impressed by the friendly staff.  Mr. Greg Nalley himself was present and running around greeting everyone (and he went relatively easy on me for wearing my Steelers jacket).  With apologies, can I say how much he reminds me of a mad scientist?  Think of a combination of Dr. Clayton Forrester and TV's Frank from Mystery Science Theater 3000:

©2016 Nalley Fresh. All Rights Reserved.
Turkey Day, an 'MST3K' tradition

We really had a great time, and the food was especially delicious.  Melody loved her noodle bowl, and I might try customizing one of the menu items next time (though the Greg Nalley creation I had was really good!).

Please check out Nalley Fresh!  They are definitely worth a visit.  Tell Mr. Nalley that a Steelers fan sent you!  They will be a regular stop for us.

Have a great Sunday, everyone!  


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Nalley Fresh Community Day TODAY - Saturday, 2/27, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

From my inbox...

You've probably heard by now, Nalley Fresh is opening one of their restaurants in Howard County! Come see for yourself, experience for yourself and taste for yourself, the unique, delicious Nalley Fresh way to design your own healthy meal. For FREE. Yes, Free! 

On Saturday, February 27th, from 12-4 p.m., Nalley Fresh is having a Community Day to celebrate their new restaurant in Dobbin Center, over by Performance Bicycle and Panera Bread ... where the Walmart is. At this Community Day you can meet Greg Nalley, the founder and culinary director (and prior founder of the iconic Harvest Table restaurant in Baltimore), and Monica Reinagel, Nalley Fresh's nutritionist, author of Secrets for a Healthy Diet (and other books), host of the Nutrition Diva podcast and guest on The Dr. Oz show. Both Monica and Greg will be available to answer questions and help you build a tasty, wholesome, fresh and healthy meal. (You may even want to take a sneak peak at Nalley Fresh's real-time nutrition calculator. It's pretty neat!)
The Community Day is a kid-friendly event, and Nalley Fresh is a kid-friendly restaurant and a great place for kids to "pick and point" their way to a healthy meal. With three kids of his own, founder Greg Nalley knows the importance of encouraging kids to eat healthy, seasonal, nutrient-dense meals.
So on Saturday, February 27th, whether you're out running errands, lounging around the house and need to get out, or simply curious to know more about this new restaurant concept, come on by from 12-4 pm for a free meal as you experience the Nalley Fresh difference.
See you there! Bring a friend ... or two!
Nalley Fresh is located at 6455 Dobbin Rd Unit 45 Columbia, MD 21045, near Performance Bicycles and Panera Bread, where the Walmart is.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

My Favorite Blogs

There are a bunch of blogs that I link to from this site that I never miss reading, and really are worth reading, so please check them out!  In no particular order...

The Blessed Chaos of Family - This is the blog that inspired me to write my blog regularly.

Mr. Garner Goes to Washington - The adventures and thoughts of a Mississippi boy living in the Washington-Baltimore area.

Sean's Ramblings - Thoughts and comments by a guy named Sean.

Ya Jagoff! - Calling out the Jagoffs that make the rest of us look bad.

That's Church - Pittsburgh.  Only cooler.

Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke? - Pittsburgh Pirates news

Atlas Obscura - Stuff from around the world

Terrapin Tales - From the University of Maryland archives

Roadside America - Your online guide to offbeat tourist attractions

Amusing Planet - Stuff from around the world

Ask The Pilot - All things air travel

Theme Park Insider - All about theme parks

Coaster 101 - All about roller coasters

BGW Fans - Busch Gardens Williamsburg fan site

The Coaster Guy - All about roller coasters

CoasterForce - All about roller coasters

Amusement Parks Blog - All about amusement parks

Busch Gardens VA Blog - Official Busch Gardens blog

Snack Girl - Blog about eating healthy

For The Love of Pizza - A blog for pizza lovers, by a pizza lover - Never eat a bad slice again.

Pizza Quixote - Seeks destination pizza that is worth the trip.

The Yaug Blog - Husband, Dad, Pastor, and best of all...saved by grace!

Storyline - Author Donald Miller

Six Until Me - "Diabetes doesn't define me, but it helps explain me."

BonneVivanteLife - "Show me how big your Brave is."

The Unmanly Chef - Where unmanliness meets cooking

Uncle John's Bathroom Reader - Yes, bathroom reader...

The Adventures of Tom & Atticus - A man and his dog, in New Hampshire

My Friend Amy - "My name is Amy, and yes, I'm your friend!"

Writing Ruth - My friend...

1966 My Favorite Year - A celebration of the greatest pop culture year of the 20th Century

By Ken Levine - The world as seen by a TV Comedy writer

DC Film Girl - Movie reviews and interviews from Washington

Satellite News - The Official Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan site

MST3K News & RiffTrax Report - Mystery Science Theater on RiffTrax!

The Good, The Bad, and Godzilla - Comics, News, and Opinion by August Ragone

J.M. DeMatteis's Creation Point - Semi-regular musings by the semi-regular mind of writer J.M. DeMatteis

Tony Isabella's Bloggy Thing - Comic book reviews and other good stuff

Not A Hoax! Not A Dream! - A blog discerningly dedicated to discussing classic comics...

Christ, Coffee, and Comics - Reflections on comic books and theology by a Greek Orthodox Priest

Have a great evening, everyone!

Saturday, February 20, 2016


I woke up this morning to some disturbing news:  Heath Miller, long-time star Tight End for the Pittsburgh Steelers, announced his retirement.  To understand why this is disturbing to me is to try to explain a cultural shift in the landscape of sports.

Sports, especially at the professional level, have become entertainment to a ridiculous degree.  It used to be sport; athletic events between individuals or teams where the meaning of sportsmanship took center stage.  At the team level, unselfish cooperation for the good of the team to achieve victory was paramount.  In recent years, over the past few decades, it seems that teamwork is not the priority for most players, and individual achievement is more important.  I'm not sure when exactly that changed, but it has diminished sports and destroyed much of the character that was so integral to athletic contests.

One of the last great unselfish players for the Steelers, Heath Miller achieved a great number of accomplishments, holding numerous receiving records for the team, and he did it without drawing any national attention.  He did his job, and did it well, without the notoriety others in the National Football League received because they were flashier, more out-spoken, or played in larger markets.  In a sport where popularity is fueled by image, Heath Miller was boring.  And that's why he was so loved by the city that adopted him:  Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh loves its athletes who don't act selfish, who put team before ego, and act like they've been there and done that before, players who show character and who do their jobs without complaint.  Heath Miller fit this mold to a T.  And that's why the fans loved him, and why there is such an outpouring of emotion over his announcement to retire.  He was one of only four active Steelers from the last two Super Bowl teams, and while Ben Roethlisberger and James Harrison may be bigger names, Heath Miller will always be loved by his adoptive city because he never drew attention to himself.  He was a good dude.

I have several Steelers jerseys:  a black Big Ben #7, a yellow and a black Troy Polamalu #43, an old black Jack Lambert #58, and a white Heath Miller #83.  I never wear the #7 because of the poor image and notoriety of Ben, the individual.  I received it as a gift, but I couldn't support him after the character issues that surrounded him over his treatment of women.  He's married and a family man now, and I hope he's changed, but it hasn't made him well liked.  Troy was possibly one of the greatest players who ever played for the Steelers.  Jack Lambert was a tough guy who played on the great Super Steeler's teams of the 70s.  But it was Heath who showed the high character and integrity that made him so beloved to his fans.  And I'll be proud to always wear it.

His desire to retire after 11 years of playing was mostly due to his family, and I respect him even more to step away from the game and devote his time to his kids.  He leaves behind a great void.  There's no one who can replace him.  And it remains to be seen if the fans will still yell Heeeeath after a tight end makes a catch for the Steelers.  It won't be Heath, unfortunately.  Well done, Mr. Miller.  Best wishes on your retirement.


Have a great evening, everyone.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Journey of a Lifetime

I found myself reminiscing tonight about my first big cross-country road trip, which I went on all by myself back in 1997.  Even at age 28, my parents were concerned about me taking the trip solo, and they had tried to talk me out of going.  But I had been planning the trip for almost a year, and I was committed to taking it.

I let my cousin/housemate, Dan, know I would be gone for two weeks (he let me borrow his camera, which was pretty decent compared to my cheap point-and-shoot (this was before digital cameras), and I had to make a quick trip to the store to buy a bunch of film).  After work the next day, a Thursday, I rushed home, finished packing, and took off.  

I felt great! I was so excited to head off to points unknown.  I would be traveling farther west than I had ever been before, and I could barely fathom what I was going to see.

I made arrangements to stay at my aunt & uncle's place in Uniontown (they were out of town, but had given me a key the last time I had visited them), and I arrived late that evening.  All I needed was a place to rest my head for a few hours, because I planned to be on the road the next morning before dawn.

I remember the alarm going off, earlier than I normally got up, and being so wired!  I quickly got ready and hit the road well before 6 a.m.  I knew my route, even if I'd never driven it before, because I'd been studying it for months.  I knew just about every turn the whole way West.

As I crested one of the mountain ridges in West Virginia, with the sky turning bluer with each passing mile, I saw the sun come up over the horizon.  And I got chills.  It's so hard for me to put into words the feeling I got as I realized that, right there, God was making himself known to me.  I had prayed a lot before the trip, mostly for safety and health, but there He was, in the brightness of the sunlight.  As it enveloped my entire line of vision, I felt so fulfilled, and the excitement that had been building over the past few months as I planned this journey began to impact me in a way I didn't expect:  I started to tear up.  Very briefly, I thought of how ridiculous it was to be reacting this way, but a peace and relaxation came over me and I suddenly felt calm.  And as I coasted down the mountain, I thought to myself, "This is going to be a great trip...I've got the Lord riding with me."

And so it went.  And I found myself talking to God the whole journey.  I'm sure I looked crazy to passersby, but it was great.  And I had the best trip of my life.  The first of many best trips of my life.

Have a great evening, everyone!