On a rainy February day, my family left the civilized interstates of Northern California, and set out for the Far North, via the Alaska-Canada Highway. My son, Tom, had just turned two (months that is), and my sons, Matt and Ben, were 11 and 8. My wife, Carol, and I were in our energetic 30s, and our destination was Anchorage.
I had purchased a pickup truck that I knew like my own face. Our red, white, and blue 1972 Chevy purred like a big, patriotic tabby, and we hauled our home behind us: a remodeled 20-foot travel trailer.
During our first week on the road, I barely spoke to my wife, and she barely spoke to me. We had a solid marriage at the time, but over miles of silent reflection we were asking God to map out our new territory. Both of us had come from broken homes; Carol had been 17 and I was 18 when we married. After 15 years and three children, we were entering regions of life that our parents had never explored: working hand-in-hand until “death do us part.”
On our odyssey north, God shaped adventures that my family will never forget. In British Columbia, the Chevy’s 454-cubic-inch engine faltered at Hell’s Gate canyon on the Fraser River. Wiring had jostled against the exhaust pipe and melted the starter and wires. I nosed up to a skinny shoulder, coaxing the Chevy to roll until the truck lost its momentum.
In the dead of night, in temperatures far below zero, Carol bedded down the kids, and warmed the trailer “toasty.” I waited for daylight, praying for God to keep us safe until I could find help.
Truckers must have been irritated about our apparent insanity, “parking” so close to the highway. They screamed at us with air horns, churning up road dust a few feet from our beds. Our Mobile Traveler swayed like a carnival ride.
But God answered our prayers for safety, and at daylight I chased down a dump-truck driver who towed us into a turnout. Once we were safely parked again, I hitchhiked to a remote village and brought back engine parts to make repairs.
I often wonder what the angel detail looked like, flagging the big rigs past us that night. The truckers on their CBs must have marveled at the sight of our unearthly guardians.
After I replaced the burnt-out engine parts, we rambled toward Anchorage, celebrating how God had protected us while we were rockin’ and rollin’ at Hell’s Gate.
Footnote: We’ve been married 47 years and have lived in Chugiak, Alaska, for 33. We have 18 grandchildren, a dog, a cat, a parakeet, and two guinea pigs…
I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Thank you, Lord, for the many times you protect me — when I don’t even know it.