My Death Defying Vacation
in a Motor Home
By Norris Burkes
-- Don't you hate it when people ask you if you had a good vacation? I feel
pressured to have a good time so that I can tell people about the good time
I forced myself to have.
It's as if people want to believe that there is somewhere better than where
they are and they need your help perpetrating the myth.
Well, I'm tired of perpetrating the myth, so I'm going to publicly describe
my vacation - In between the times I was horribly afraid of dying a gruesome
and fiery death, my vacation was sort of nice.
It began last week when my family drove a rented motor home to visit my college
daughter. She seemed to think our dorm visit was "sort of nice" - in between
the times she was horribly afraid of dying from embarrassment, that is.
Undeterred in my effort to find ways to embarrass my teenagers, I proudly
established myself as the man of the "motorhouse," and drove until our first
gas stop in Redding, California. The gas station was swamped with cars from
the annual hot rod reunion and I was feeling like I was on the set of the
1973 TV movie, "Terror on the Beach".
Movie reviewer Mark Johnson described it as "a sort of Charles Manson meets
Charles Atlas in Middle America's angst-ridden collective unconscious when
evil, dune buggy riding hippies kick sand in the faces of Dennis Weaver and
family during their seaside vacation."
In spite of that fearful picture in my mind, my wife took her turn at the
wheel and I mapped a route back to the interstate - where the real fear began.
As we began our climb of Mount Shasta, the gathering darkness made the curving
road seem like an invitation into an eternal abyss. The oncoming cars seemed
like they were "dune buggy riding hippies" back to challenge us in a game
There were plenty of signs to feed my fears. There were signs warning "Caution,
7% grade," "Check Brakes," and "Slow Dangerous Curve." There was a sign indicating
our approach of the "highest point on Interstate 5" as well as signs advising
the use of an emergency ramp should our brakes fail.
But it was the animated sign of a truck falling over that really sent me
over the edge.
Upon seeing that sign, I embarked on a haranguing campaign to get my wife
to limit her downhill speeds. My obsession for control became so disoriented
that on one hill, she incredulously informed me that we were straining in
a steep climb.
Now, suddenly, the strain was to keep my faith. I prayed, sang hymns and
popped every knuckle in my body. Until finally on a hill marked "Hell's Canyon,"
I did not only doubt my faith, I seriously doubted my body's ability to retain
control of its evacuative functions.
"Do we need to stop?" my wife asked.
"Only if you see an airport," was my quivering response.
"You'd need a hang glider to get off this mountain, so why don't you lie
down in the back?"
"Not unless there's a five-point racecar seatbelt back there."
"The children aren't seat belted," she reasoned.
Tempting as it was to stuff my fingers in my ears and sing more hymns, I
just shot her a Patriot glare to intercept the scuds of incoming guilt.
But, eventually, we came off the mountain and I began wondering if someone
who had shown so much fear could write something relevant about faith. I found
myself hearing the recent criticism of two first-time readers who had doubted
One reader called my writing "folderol" and said I ought to use my column
for loftier purposes.
Another reader erroneously thought my last column was against prayer and
expressed disappointment that "such a position would be taken by a man of
God." (Stage whisper] Ouch! Not the ever-feared "you're-supposed-to-be-a-man
Suddenly I realized that this terrifying mountain trip was a pilgrimage that
led me to a most relevant reply - yes ma'am I am a man of God -accent on man.
I can be a controlling man filled with pride, insecurities, and temptations.
I'm a man sometimes filled with folderol, and, yes, absolutely, a man with
fears. And showing my readers that God can still use such an imperfect man
is the "loftiest" goal I can ever reach.
I pray that my poor example of faith gives you hope. I pray that it sustains
you to know that God can most certainly use a man such as me. After all, God
has used murders, tax collectors and even an unwed teenage mom. All of that
gives me assurance that God won't have much difficulty using you.
For more information about Norris Burkes please log onto his website at
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