One July, driving to the East Coast from Missouri, I especially enjoyed the highways of western Virginia. They lead you through the Blue Ridge Mountains, the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, and then into the Piedmont.This particular trip also included driving to Tide Water Virginia to visit family at Virginia Beach. That part of Virginia is nice, but it is in western Virginia the eye is dazzled and I later found driving skills are challenged.
What I mean by “I later found” is that on the return trip I left the speed of and straightness of Interstate 66 to tour the mountains. After discussing the idea with my wife, who is the navigator on such trips, the route I took was U.S. 211. I recommend this as a special trip for anyone who enjoys driving. This route eventually led us to a stop-off in Staunton, Virginia to visit the boyhood home of President Woodrow Wilson. At this site Wilson’s Pierce-Arrow automobile is on display. It is a grand work of art in the form of machinery.
Driving the winding road of U.S. 211 I thought of the verses from the Book of Isaiah as, “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God’” (40:3); or, “I will turn all my mountains into a road, and my highways shall be raised up” (49:11).
I silently complained about the extra driving I had chosen to undertake. My complaints had to be silent. It was, after all, my decision to drive the mountain highway. The ups and downs were so steep I had to down-shift the gears of the car to slow my speed. As I descended a particularly steep and winding stretch of road, I wanted to get back to the straight and broad Interstate Highway I had left behind.The beauty of the scenery, however, was enough to compensate for the extra work the mountain road demanded.
The beauty of the mountain road was a blessing, and how could I complain? Further, I believe and hope we are always in the hands of the Living God (Hebrews 10:31), thus, not only did I depend on my driving skill, but also divine protection. However, that thought from the Letter to the Hebrews tells that being in the hands of the Living God can be a “terrible” thing. I understand that when we are in the hands of the Living God, we don’t know where we will be led—sometimes we are led to explore the winding roads of a mountain wilderness. Thus, I said to myself, “When I put myself into the the living God, the highway is always straight and level even when it seems not to be so.” My wife’s eyes, mostly closed during this part of the drive, indicated that she knew the hands she was in at that moment better be the hands of the living God; she sure had little confidence in mine. Here’s the verse from the Book of Proverbs I was also thinking of, “The way of the lazy is overgrown with thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway” (15:19). Being lazy on that drive was not an option. While the Allegheny Mountains and Appalachia are nothing compared to the mountains of the West, where I lived for many years, they are steep and the roads are narrow. Because I challenged the mountain roads of Virginia, I have to be careful not to feel self-righteous, or congratulate myself for good driving. Nevertheless, I could not help but sense the presence of the Divine in the wonderful greenery of the mountainsides and the powerful clouds that crowned the mountain tops.
I guess I may be stretching ideas too thinly, but there is something deeply spiritual in challenging your skills and being in the overwhelming beauty of nature.