Fifty Dollars and an Old Dodge Van

11 11 2018

As many of you know we just returned from a wonderful visit to Maine and the Rock _nsurrounding New England states. I confess as much as we try to stay economical on such a trip, it still cost more than we like to spend. As much enjoyment as we got from this recent sojourn, I found my mind drifting back to a simpler time, a less extravagant moment in our lives together that truly brought just as much joy.

The year was 1975, my Lady and I had to watch every penny we had which wasn’t all that hard considering how little money we had. Cathy worked at a bank and I kept a part-time job while attending school. After all the bills were paid it didn’t leave much for entertainment. But somehow, we set aside $50 for an upcoming three-day weekend and we decided to explore our new home state of Indiana. Now $50 will barely get you a dinner in a nice restaurant in today’s economy, but in ’75 with gas priced at $0.57 a gallon, you could travel quite easily.  It also helped that we packed food to eat along the way, plus we were driving an old Dodge van that was carpeted plus wood paneling on the sidewalls and roof and we placed a blowup mattress in the back for sleeping. What made it extra fun is we didn’t have a set destination; we just loaded into the van that Saturday morning and started driving. We’d take turns picking a direction just to see where it would take us. We traveled through little no-name communities and along farmland where corn was beginning to rise and took rest stops in small parks or along a river or lake. Talking to folks along the way was a delight and they would give us ideas of places to go and see. I think they all took delight in conversing with a happy young couple tooling around in what was probably considered back then a hippie van.

Our travels continued south where we ended up in an area we’ve come to love and returned to many times—Brown County and the small artist community of Nashville, Indiana. We spent an evening wondering through all the shops seeing the merchandise the creative people of the community had produced. There were paintings, metal works, jewelry, clothing, leather crafts and my favorite, homemade musical instruments such as guitars and mandolins. As night set in we made our way to Brown County State Park and parked in a spot in the primitive camping section for $6. We bought a small bottle of wine, cheese and crackers and settled into our “luxury accommodations” in the back of Bernie (what I use to name all my vans) for the night. The next morning, we drove around the park which is located in the hilly region of Indiana. We got to see a beautiful sunrise as it came over the hills that showed us all the beauty that surrounded us. Driving back into Nashville we afforded ourselves the luxury of having a country breakfast at a small restaurant on the edge of town before heading back home to Winona Lake. When we arrived back home we still had $10 which was more than enough for dinner at Pizza Hut. I do believe Cath and I still count that as one of the most memorable trips we ever experienced.

I suppose my reason for sharing this story is twofold. First, since those days we’ve experienced more extravagant journeys and seen many great sites around the country and Canada, and have stayed in luxury accommodations from time to time. But we’ve never lost our love for the simple pleasures like bicycling a trail across Pennsylvania and Maryland and seeing towns that haven’t changed in fifty years. We also love driving the Blueridge Parkway to see mountains and valleys while listening to CDs of soft instrumental music. Then there’s the U.P. of Michigan with some of the most majestic falls you’ll ever see. Beauty, wonder and serenity are closer than many realize; take time from a busy life to enjoy them. As one writer puts it, “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things.

My second point is this; how much would I really have enjoyed any of these pleasures if I didn’t have my Lady to enjoy them with me? It’s funny to look back to the days when we first got together and realize how many differences we had. As a matter of fact, many of our friends and even family didn’t give us more than two years before we’d go our separate ways. But God knew more than anyone when He brought us together. He knew we’d have rough times because we were so different, but He also knew that we were willing to become one, in Him. We would grow to not only love each other, but to love the simple pleasures of life, such as His creation. I think one of the greatest Bible verses on marriage can be found in Philippians 1:9 “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” In 45 years of marriage we’ve learned the value of not just growing old together, but growing up together with a deep concern for each other’s needs. Another puts it this way, “We just don’t get to grow old together, we get to grow up together. And that’s the read adventure!”

If the Lord’s tarries, we “Travelers of the Rock Road” will experience more adventures and I’m sure many will be will be simplistic in nature, just because that’s the joy that God put in our hearts to share together.

Thanks for reading.

See ya next time.


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12 11 2018
Beverly Crane

Oh how I love your writing John. You always take me back to my younger years. Looking back life was so simple back then. Or was it? You and Cathy share a relationship that few experience these days and I know it’s because God is right there in the middle. Kids these days have to learn to see this. Can’t wait for your next story. Until then, keep traveling!

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