Brief stop on a journey
One of the most wonderful feelings in the world is being greeted by three grandchildren. “I missed you!” one exclaims as you are embraced by all three at once. The weariness of travel drops away as the excitement of the greeting overwhelms. Years ago, when I was working with a program called International Pilgrimages with Youth, I wrote about the process of travel. In addition to the journey itself, there are the process of departure and of return. For the program I wrote liturgies for those events that were used in churches across the USA as pilgrims departed and returned. In our family, we have developed our own rituals of departure and return. We joke about the four step Minnesota goodbye, adapted from an old radio show. First you say good bye inside the house. Then everyone goes outside and you say good bye at the doorway. Next you say goodbye out next to the vehicle, before you get again and the fourth stage is to get in the vehicle, roll down the windows, and say good bye again. We observe a similar process when we leave our family. We say good bye and thank you over and over again.
Returning is also a process of greeting and storytelling and reconnecting. The joy of the reunion is definitely one of the joys of travel. This summer will be unique in our lives as we are making multiple trips to our grandchildren’s home. Our camper is parked in their yard, so we have a place to stay when we come. We are in the process of moving, but that isn’t a single trip for us this time. We will be returning to Rapid City in a week and coming back in another six weeks or so.
We are used to journeys that involve a process of departure, travel, destination and return. But there is already a sense in this summer’s travel that we have a home at both ends of the journey. And there will be a final trip in the late fall when we won’t go back to Rapid City and we transfer the point of our initial departure to a new home. There is already a sense of having a home at both ends of the trip to the travel we are doing.
Each trip, however, is different. First of all, there are a lot of choices about which roads to take. There is a speed and efficiency about traveling on the Interstate of which we take advantage from time to time. Most of the time, however, we prefer to travel at a slower speed and we enjoy slowing down and driving through towns as opposed to going around them at a high rate of speed. We are often pulling a trailer, which is easier done at a slower pace and we enjoy looking at the towns and the people along our journey. When you travel that way, you develop a style of making stops in different places each trip and looking at different things.
The night before last, we found a small motel in Davenport, Washington. It is a town we’ve driven through several times, but never stopped. It is only 35 miles west of Spokane. Since we usually make a fuel stop in Spokane, we consider it to be a bit too close for another stop. However on this trip we had altered our usual fuel stops and we didn’t need fuel when we drove through Spokane, so we kept going. Driving straight west in the evening, however, lined up the sun right in our eyes and we decided to call it good enough and find a place to stop. Davenport has at least two motels, both independent with no fancy signs or advertisements or fancy amenities. Both have been around for a long time and have developed a certain character that you won’t find in a chain hotel near the Interstate. It is good enough for us and we appreciate the lower prices of this type of motel.
We had a comfortable room that had been well cleaned. It was all we needed. The place was quiet and we got a good night’s sleep. After we found our room, we walked around the town and found a restaurant with carry out service for supper. Davenport, Washington, is a town that you can walk around in an evening stroll. The hospital is adding a new wing. The Lincoln County Courthouse is at the top of the tallest hill in town. Downtown, is literally “down” from the center of government. A few of the side streets have sidewalks, but not all of them. There is an inviting park with picnic tables and places to sit and a familiar feel that is common to small towns in farm country with the feed store, tire store, and co-op all located close to each other.
We didn’t run into other people out walking. The few locals we saw were in their cars with destinations in mind. It was a peaceful place to pause for the night.
Like other places there were signs of political divisions. Yard signs indicated the political leanings of the families and they were not all in agreement. It is hard to tell how deep those divisions are, but we suspect by what we saw that there are common causes that bind the people together disagreements and all. Rural hospitals are struggling to survive all across the country. The fact that there is new construction at the hospital is a sign that the community has pulled together with its support of their hospital.
Soon, however, a new day came and we were on the road. We won’t likely stop in that place again, but it was fun to think the folk who live there and look at the world from a different perspective. We won’t be calling that place home, but it is home to some folk and we enjoyed our brief visit. Whenever we drive through the town in the future, we’ll look for that funky motel where we stayed and tell stories of our visit.
It is the stories, after all, that are the best souvenirs of all.