Their seaside campsite located on the Florida Gulf coast seemed like paradise, so they waited until the very last minute to say goodbye and sadly depart for Indiana. An important deadline required a speedy trip home since Mark was to fly to California in just forty-eight hours to deliver a seminar. While his wife and three of the children slept on lumpy bags of dirty laundry in the back of Old Blue, the antiquated family van, Mark drove north on the interstate into the March night. His son Tom volunteered to sit shotgun.
Old Blue hauled a trailer cradling their fourteen-foot aluminum boat stuffed with camping and fishing gear, plus a one-man sailboat perched on top. After midnight, snow appeared in huge, wet clumps. As they climbed higher into the Smoky Mountains, a flash blizzard soon surrounded them.
Old Blue’s windshield wipers sluggishly swept back and forth, dragging bigger and bigger globs of wet snow with each swipe. Father and son peered into the blackness beyond blinding snow daggers pelting the windshield.
“How long will this last, Dad?” nine-year-old Tom asked.
Mark shook his head. “No way to know. We can’t stop; there’s no place to pull over now. Fiddle with the radio and see if you can get a local station.” Nothing but static hissed from the speakers.
“Hey Dad, look, over there, what was that?”
Mark shuddered inwardly. “Looks like someone lost control and went over the embankment.”
It seemed impossible to know where the road started and stopped except for the very faint tracks of those who had passed before them. And to think they might have followed those tracks….
“Look! Another wreck! I can see the car bumper!” Tom’s eyes widened. “Are we going to be okay, Dad?”
Mark nodded, and squinted even harder to concentrate on the path he needed to take. No welcoming vehicle lights approached in the opposite lane; none shone in front or behind in his own lane. Old Blue seemed to be an isolated loner. The heavily laden trailer occasionally zig-zagged back and forth in the wind, pulling the van from side to side. Knuckles white and tense, his voice subdued, Mark shared what was on his heart: “Let’s pray. But don’t close your eyes. Keep watching; tell me if you think we’re going off course.”
God was called to the scene as Old Blue continued to creep along at 35 miles per hour and their desperate eyes searched for landmarks. “Lord, you know where we are, you know where we’re going, and you know what we must do to get there. Keep us safe; get us home. We trust you. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.”
The only sound was the ca-chunking of the wipers and the howling of the wind. Miles and minutes crept by, and still they saw no other cars on the road – only those that had careened toward destruction.
“This is scary, Dad…aren’t you afraid?”
“Jesus knows we’re here, buddy, He’s got His hand on Old Blue.”
Eventually the road began to decline and enable their descent to a lower elevation. Tom could no longer stay awake, even though the wipers noisily smacked at large chunks of ice that continued to break loose from the roof and slide down the windshield. The resulting icy pellets flew in every direction into the pre-dawn light. Old Blue descended slowly but steadily until a road sign announced the mileage to Louisville, Kentucky.
“We’re almost to the other side; the worst is behind us,” Mark sighed to himself. “Thank God.”
With the gas gauge nearing empty, he watched for the first possible place to refuel. A truck stop finally showed up, its silver windows reflecting the first rays of the sun’s light. As he drove in beside otherwise empty pumps and pulled out his credit card, a lone trucker walked across the lot.
“Hey, where you been – where you goin’?” the figure called out.
“Comin’ over the pass from Florida, headed for Indiana,” Mark replied.
The wizened old driver shook his head as if in disbelief and stared at his boots for a few seconds before responding. “Musta had angels with ya – that road’s been closed to traffic all night. Bet ‘cha were the last ones through right before the barricades went up.”
Mark climbed back into Old Blue’s torn bucket seat to find his wife and kids waking up. “Where are we?” they asked.
“We just passed through the Red Sea.” Mark replied with a weary, but thankful, grin.
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