To Michigan and Back

The unpardonable sin. Traveling halfway across the United States and forgetting a camera. Words will have to suffice, although we’ll leave the “a picture is worth a thousand” right here and just do what we can. I’m of course using the plural collective, why, I don’t know.

We got on the road early Friday morning and drove a good six hours through Pennsylvania, enjoying the farmland, barns and good weather. Uncle Sam nearly ruined the ride with a hefty twenty dollar toll at the end of I-76. Ohio brought more trucks than anything, shaking our poor little Hyundai any time one rumbled past. A dispatcher friend of mine once expressed what he considered the opinion of all truck drivers–all passenger cars should be banned from the interstates. Not too comforting as we passed a double-trailer FedEx truck.

Toledo was small and fairly uninteresting, though the Jeep factory caught our attention with its name stacked in large boulders on its enormous front lawn. We hit Detroit during rush hour as we crawled slowly past a number of large auto manufacturing plants, under a huge unfinished bridge and finally onto I-96. We stopped to eat at a Bennigan’s just outside Lansing, and as we waited for our meal we tried to identify why these people were different than “Yankees”.

First, the women and men were both huskier and better looking. Most everyone there was beautiful and looked as though they could fell a tree before a Northeasterner could even understand what that means. Also very polite. Smiles, head nods and kindness without out all the sicky-sweetness of the South.

We pulled into Cedar Spring around 9:30PM and were dumbfounded by the stars and the silence. Cedar Spring is about thirty minutes north of Grand Rapids, but its solitude feels and awful lot like Maine. We stayed Friday night with the Derek, the youth pastor of Kent City Baptist Church, and his wife Katie; they were so welcoming and talking with them was wonderful.

Saturday morning and afternoon were uneventful. The only exciting thing I discovered was the fact that Michigan’s roads are in a grid, a very large grid, and you can drive them very quickly because there are almost no turns or curves. We drove through Grand Rapids and were impressed with how clean it was. Someone told us that it was still considered part of the Bible belt. In many ways it reminded me of a large, sprawling Greenville (SC).

Saturday night was the rehearsal, Jon’s family goofing off and having fun, Sarah’s family stressing and getting things done. Sarah sent Jess to pick up the food for the rehearsal dinner. Poor Jess got lost headed there, finally got her bearings, arrived at the caterers only to find the meal not ready, waited, headed back and then spilled an entire three gallon pail of chicken noodle soup all over the floor of her car. Fortunately, we all laughed about it after.

Saturday night was late and long and Sunday morning came far too early. The pastor’s message was fantastic; I had been expecting something less that convicting (presuppositions) and was surprised at the fervor and importance of what he spoke about.

After lunch at the Fisher’s, we headed up to the church around three. Snap, snap, snap–pictures for hours while the unusually hot sun made us squint. The photographer made us jump up in the air. She said it would make a great “action shot”. If nothing else it made us sweat. And while we’re on the subject, Jon began sweating bullets as people began to arrive. “Jumping out of a plane would be easier,” said the soldier attired in his dress blues. I assured him that he was making a wise decision and the groomsmen all retired to a room to talk about guns and bodily functions before the ceremony began.

And it began. We marched down to the front of a packed sanctuary and Jon and Sarah were married. Everyone would tease him after about the scowl he had the whole time, but after three months of basic, it was understandable. They exchanged vows and kissed and raced down the aisle to the tune of Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee. The reception was very laid back, but completely enjoyable. I got up first and gave a toast. I mentioned Jon’s courage, come “woman or war”, and raised a glass to a life of service. Other’s got up, some funny, some heartwarming, and then we ate cake. It seemed to be over before it started and after I loaded his car with toilet paper and a “new marriage scent” air freshener, I was in bed and Monday morning was coming too soon.

The ride back was fantastic. Jessica and I laughed the entire way; every day I’m more and more realizing that life with this woman is a wonderful thing. We took PA I-80 to avoid tolls and ended up driving through some of the most interesting towns (like Carbon and Jim Thorpe) on our way back. We were back in time for 24 and I was in bed by 10:30PM.

How did I top off this phenomenal weekend? Thank you for asking. As soon as I arrived at home in Chatham, I went straight to the dentist where he shoved a needle in my gums, drilled holes in my teeth and packed them tight with amalgam. I suppose the upside is that my iPod really will play fifteen hours on one battery charge.