October 1, 2023
When we travel by car, I like to figure out ahead of time how many miles it is to our destination and how many hours it will take us to get there. In the olden days, I would get out my trusty road atlas, look at the index in back where it has a chart that tells you how many miles it is between any two certain cities and then map out the route we’d be taking. Then we’d pack our bags and hit the road. Nowadays, I just bring google maps up on my phone and it does the rest.
But some things never change - our destination is still just as many miles away and it takes just as many hours to get there. So we plan our departure time and estimate our arrival and let the parties on the arrival end know approximately when to expect us. Of course, we stay in touch along the way.
When we are traveling farther than one day’s journey, my preference is not to choose ahead of time a particular place to stop for the night. I feel that puts too much pressure on us to be somewhere when we are supposed to not be worrying about schedules and time restraints. We’re supposed to be traveling and enjoying the trip. I’d rather drive until we’re tired and ready to stop. That could mean we stop a couple hundred miles sooner than we expected, or we could go a couple hundred miles further. It just depends. Usually, there is no shortage of places to stay along the way.
At one of our Bible studies recently at church, I raised the question of how did they travel in Bible times? They didn’t have air B&Bs or hotels or restaurants and truck stops like we do. They had to travel on foot, donkey, or horseback. It was dirty and dusty and treacherous. One never knew what danger might be lurking around the next corner. Thirty or forty miles was considered a good day’s travel.
I also wonder about travel in earlier days in our own country. My wife’s great-grandparents lived in the days of the early 1900’s. They lived outside of Martintown, Wisconsin on a farm. They had relatives in California that Grandma liked to visit in the summer. Grandpa would drive her into town in their Model T where she would get on the train and a few days later she’d arrive in Laton, California and spend a few weeks with relatives. Travel was a bit simpler back then, all you had to do was get to the train station and the whole world was at your disposal.
They didn’t always take the train, though. And they didn’t always go out west. Sometimes they went south. After automobiles became more “sophisticated” and trust-worthy, they would sometimes choose to drive. Great-grandma always kept a journal, which today is a priceless piece of family history. On one trip, as chronicled in her journal, they traveled from Martintown, Wisconsin to Florida, up to New York state, Niagara Falls, and back home again. Most gas stations had full meals, she wrote. And down south they would stop along the way and stay in bungalows - usually attached to the back of the house or a small cottage out in the backyard. For a few extra quarters you could rent a fan or one of the kids would wash your clothes. They even brought the food to you. The old cars had a vase right in the dash so the ladies could pick the flowers along the roadside as they traveled.
I have an old car from that era that is mostly all original, (1936 Chevy). It doesn’t have a place for a vase built into the dash, but I can see why they would. It will go faster, but 30 mph is its optimum speed. You get going any faster than that, and it’s difficult to handle. It wasn’t made for blacktop roads either. Its skinning, ply tires were made for dirt and gravel. At 30 mph, it’s a lot easier to see the flowers along the roadside, identify them, and stop and pick a few. It’s kind of hard to do that on a four-lane Interstate traveling 75 mph. If they were out in the middle of nowhere and no bungalows were available, they would stop in a field along the main road, have a picnic supper, and unroll a canvas tent that was attached to the roof of the car just above the doors on the driver’s side. The whole family would sleep on the ground in the tent attached to the car. This all sounds very simplistic, endearing and inviting. But I imagine after traveling all day on dirt and gravel roads with the windows down and stopping along the way to smell the flowers and enjoy picnic lunches and gas station food, one would be ready for a bath, a fresh set of clean
clothes, a square meal, and a good night’s sleep in front of a fan on a hot, southern summer night.
The last time we traveled through the south we did it in an R/V with air conditioning, a
bathroom, kitchen, and beds. And we thought that was roughing it - haha.
“Great peace have those who love your law and nothing can make them stumble,” (Psalms
(Kevin Cernek is Lead Pastor of Martintown Community Church in Martintown, Wisconsin).