This week we drove across the heartland of America, from Farmington, New Mexico through Texas, Oklahoma and into Arkansas. As we drove, we slowly descended back into the lowlands. If I didn’t know better, I would believe that the flat, high desert of New Mexico (el. 5,000 ft), the plains of Amarillo, Texas (el. 3,000 ft) and the prairie of Oklahoma (el. 1200 ft) all rest at an elevation lower than the rolling hills of Tariffville, Connecticut (el. 185 ft). Even the “valley” of Phoenix, AZ sits at 1100 feet above sea level! Another educational moment from this trip: we Farmington valley people are genuine lowlanders.
Our stops across the heartland ranged from the silliness of the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, where we trudged through a field of ankle deep mud to spray paint cars stuck nose first into a grassy field, to the solemn Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial site where we quietly observed 168 chairs (19 of them child size) representing the lives lost in that tragedy, to the small town of Checotah, OK, home to country music star, Carrie Underwood.
We especially enjoyed our brief visit to Checotah, quintescential smalltown, middle America. We took plenty of pictures and ate at the Sonic she sings about in “I Ain’t in Checotah Anymore.” By the way, Sonics are everywhere out here. And I mean everywhere! It’s like there is some “Get a Zip Code & Get a Sonic” deal going on. In certain towns, I think the entire population could pull up and order dinner all at once, and a few stalls might still be empty.
With our sneakers still covered in mud, we decided to dig for diamonds at the Crater Diamond State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. We brought home a bag of rocks worth about 8 cents and that includes the value of the paper bag. The good news: we had fun and our sneakers are now clean thanks to high pressure rinse stations at the park. Soaking wet…but clean!
Driving across the country and back is quite the experience. One of these days I want to give you a little “day in the life” post; maybe tomorrow! We were cautioned by many people to fly or to fly and then drive part way, but I really wanted to drive the WHOLE country. Sure there are some BORING sections. One of our theme songs for the road is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”; we sing at the top of our lungs when we get to the line “it goes on and on and on and on!” But the boring moments, the exciting moments, the frustrating, peaceful, hilarious, exhausting and exhilarating moments are all part of the experience.
Belief and experience are two very different things. I have always believed America is big, but watching thousands upon thousands of miles zoom past my window, marvelling at the landscape’s diversity and then waiting and waiting and waiting for it to change, visiting so many amazing sites that we wear ourselves out and regretting the zillion more we don’t have time to see, this is experiencing America’s vastness. Before I believed but now I know. My faith has become sight.
I could write you a sermonette on how this relates to life and God – how this illustrates the difference between our belief in God’s love, mercy, grace, justice and faithfulnees and our experience of all these things. I could tell you that maybe…sometimes…God takes us on a long journeys so we can do more than just believe in Him, we can know Him. And I would encourage you to think about what this means to you and the road you’re travelling today. But I don’t want to get all preachy on you, so I won’t go there 😉