There’s a biker on the bridge, Captain!

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ~ Matthew 11:28

I love to make long drives. I wasn’t always this way. As a child sitting in the backseat of my parent’s car I dreaded the hour-long weekend drives from our house to either set of grandparents. At first it was me and my two younger brothers fighting for real estate in the backseat.

  • “Mom! He’s touching me!”
  • “Don’t make me stop this car.”
  • “How ‘bout I let you out and you can jog alongside the car for awhile to work off that energy?”

That one was always the rubicon. Once we’d pushed dad to uttering this threat we knew we’d better straighten up. Though I was always fascinated to consider whether he’d actually go through with that one or not and how comical it would look.

Sitting three to a backseat you got creative with your postures and arrangements. I found the most comfortable spot to be was lying down on the floor. Sure, you had the bump of the transmission drive train in the middle of your back or hip, but you could spread out. The younger ones would then have to divide the seat between themselves while I got the entire floor.

This worked for about a year or so until my brother Jason started getting carsickness all the time. I learned quickly that the floor was not where you wanted to be when someone was throwing up.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, seat belts were not a huge deal to our family.

We had a station wagon for a few years, and that changed travel. Now we had an entire play area! The back of the wagon was transformed into the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, where Kirk, Spock and McCoy (or at times Scotty with a terrible Scottish accent) would blast it out with whatever aliens our imaginations had created. We’d make our littlest brother Brad be one of the nameless red shirts. Hey, someone had to die on these voyages. For those times that we didn’t want to explore space the back of the wagon became the submarine Seaview from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea where we’d be under constant attack from a giant squid or something. I don’t know how my dad kept the wagon on the road with three boys rocking and diving side to side back there as we avoided phaser fire.

The only time we were not allowed to play in the back of the wagon was when we’d take I-90 west across the entire state of South Dakota to visit relatives in Rapid City and the Black Hills. This was before Deadwood became the gambling mecca it is now and when the Sturgis bike rally was populated by rougher characters. We’d pass several bikers along the interstate and more than several Hell’s Angels. Mom would always lock the doors, roll up the windows and forbid us boys from looking anywhere but eyes front. Of course being young boys we’d sneak glances at the leather-clad pirates in the lane next to us. This sent mom into hysterics when we’d be caught looking and I think more than one biker got a good laugh out of it with us. (Love you Mom!) Those bikers became cosmic space pirates in our fantasy play and work their way onto the Enterprise, but never the Seaview. We could never figure out how they’d get around under water, yet space didn’t seem to present them with any problems. Tough hombres, them space pirates.

Eventually we got too big for that and dad got a Lincoln. By then we had begun to bury our noses in books, handheld electronic football, or the initial primitive Walkmans with their large, foam-covered headphones. My travel soundtrack included Queen, The Eagles, Toto and Chicago.

I think that I began to appreciate the longer drives when I was in college and would travel home on a weekend to do laundry or visit with friends. It was only an 80 minute drive but I learned to appreciate the “down-time”. By then my soundtrack was Stevie Ray Vaughan, BoDeans, Pink Floyd and Rush.

I’ve driven from the western panhandle of Nebraska across the country to Boston and back. From Nebraska to Houston, or to southwest Texas and the Mexican border. To Denver, Kansas City and St. Louis. To Duluth, Minnesota, and Oklahoma City. I really don’t mind the drive and always look forward to time on the open road. It’s where I can think.

For this trip to my retreat at Broom Tree I didn’t want to think so much as just enjoy the quiet. I don’t mean quiet as in no music. I mean quiet as in a rare time with no kids. It meant time with no news or talk or sports radio. Just some music, the open road and the windows down so I could sing as loud as I wanted to if the spirit moved me. I knew I was facing four days of silence and prayer ahead, and was looking forward to it. In Psalm 47 we read:

Sing to God, sing praise.
Sing to our king, sing praise.
God is king over the whole earth:
sing to him with all your skill.

I did sing. I sang loudly. I can’t vouch for the skill, however.

One last item. After starting my trip by praying a rosary I listened to both Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (Ode to Joy) and his Fifth on my drive. I had forgotten how much I loved the Fourth Movement to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.  At just over eight minutes in length I must have played it four or five straight times at one point. I became quite adept at “conducting” while driving, as well as highly animated. Somewhere in David City, Nebraska there is a family still talking about the lunatic waving his arms frantically while passing through their little town.

I found this video to give you a taste of the finale to that symphony as well as how I might have appeared. Only I was without a baton. And behind the wheel of a car. And am not three years old.

I crossed the Missouri River and the state line into the town of my birth: Yankton, South Dakota. I was only thirty minutes from my destination. But I had one last stop to make before beginning my retreat…


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