03 July 2007

Adventures on the Highway of Life

I was reminded last night that it was nineteen years ago, exactly, that LaRena and I moved our little family up to Hopkins, Minnesota. Our DoRena was only 1-1/2, and Zachary was still half a year away from being born. It was the summer of 1988, just a month after graduation from Concordia, Seward. I had already begun working for an engineer who did consulting in all sorts of acoustical matters, and it was time to move my wife and daughter up to Minnesota, to the little apartment I had managed to secure for us there. Thus, the story begins.

To say that we were living on a shoestring budget at that point in our life would be putting it mildly. We were certainly living hand-to-mouth. Our vehicle, an old station wagon, had already seen its better years come and go. Of course, we were young and naive.

I rented the biggest U-Haul trailer I could, and we loaded up that puppy (and the station wagon) to maximum capacity. As I recall, the trailer was at least as big as the car, maybe bigger, which promised to make things interesting. Unfortunately, there was still a big pile of our stuff left over, and there was no way, no how, we were going to be able to fit it anywhere. Oh, well, we'd have to leave that for friends to keep or distribute as they liked.

We were aided and abetted in our packing and loading by my very dear long-time friend, Tim Covert, who had been the best man at our wedding and was also DoRena's godfather. It was to him and his wife, Jana, that we intended to bequeath our pile of leftover stuff. You might suppose that they would have been thrilled to inherit such treasures. But, no.

What happened instead was that dear Mr. Covert went home to his lovely bride and announced that they would be driving up to Minnesota with us. "We're doing what?" was the gist of Jana's response. Well, sure enough, back to Seward they came, in time to catch us before we departed. They loaded up the stuff, alright, not for themselves, but for us.

You know, this was a very long time ago, and some of the details have gotten fuzzy in my head. I think it was late in the day on the 2nd of July when we left Seward. Being young and naive (as previously mentioned), we figured we'd just drive through the night up to the Twin Cities. No problem, right? Wrong. Seems that the process of packing and loading had worn all of us out, so at some point in the middle of nowhere (I mean Iowa) we stopped for a few hours sleep at a Motel 6. The only thing I actually remember about that is how difficult it was to park the station wagon with that huge trailer behind it.

We had to be up and on the way pretty early, so I'm not sure how much sleep we actually got, but away we went the next morning. That's when the real joy of the journey began. Iowa is not what you'd call a "mountainous" state, but you'd be surprised at how steep some of those grades can become when you've got an old, worn-out car hauling a huge, overly-loaded trailer behind it. Our station wagon was overheating by the top of all those slopes in the road, and then we'd have to stop and wait a bit for it to cool down, before we could proceed with caution. Great. Slow and steady wins the race, and all that. But no such luck. It wasn't long before we needed more than just a frequent cool down.

Thankfully, Tim knew more about vehicles than I did. He realized that what we needed was a new hose on the radiator. Now, finding such a thing on the 4th of July weekend was a challenge, especially as we were traveling the interstate miles from nowhere (we were still in Iowa). But Tim and I took off in his car to acquire what we needed. I believe we found the hose at one place, and a filling station mechanic in another place to put it on. We got the problem fixed, more or less, and off we went again. This is not to say that the car did not overheat anymore, but not as badly, and there weren't any more instances of billowing black smoke from under the hood.

Anyway, we did make it to our new home in Minnesota. And I guess it was on Sunday the 4th of July that we all went to an amusement park there in the Twin Cities, before Tim and Jana left on their trek back to Nebraska. I should have mentioned that we also had LaRena's younger sister, Jenelda, with us at that point. She was staying with us over the summer. Her time with us then is a precious memory, as it was not too many years later that Jenelda was killed in a private airplane crash. I have to wonder what she must have thought about her sister and her brother-in-law and their crazy adventure from Seward, Nebraska to Hopkins, Minnesota.

Mostly what I remember, anymore, is the help that we received from Tim and Jana on the way. I expect that we'd still be in Iowa, stranded on I-80, if the Covert's had not dropped everything to come with us on that move. And that was not the only time that Tim and his family ever bailed us out of difficulties involving old and unreliable vehicles. There was that one time when our car, one of those big, gas-guzzling, heavy metal monsters that Detroit used to make, died on the road as we were making our way home from a wedding. It was Tim and his Dad that rescued us then. Truth be told, I doubt that I could recall all of the other occasions when the Covert's became our emergency road service!

If life is a higway and I'm gonna drive it, I'm grateful to have friends who lead the way, who flank me on both sides, and who cover my tail. Nineteen years ago, today, it was Tim Covert and his lovely bride (who remain good friends, but now live several states away from us). It's been others in the years since then, and we continue to be blessed with such good friends in the present tense. Thanks be to God.

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