Biblical Scholar, Seminary Professor, Episcopal Priest

Road Trippin’

Between Tuesday and Thursday last week I drove one thousand six hundred and eighty miles to move immigrate to Fort Worth, Texas.

The plan was that Dad and I would rent a vehicle for the stuff the professional movers shouldn’t/couldn’t move – like the cats and all their accessories – and tow my car. What happened was he couldn’t secure a vehicle and when I ordered a hitch and trailer to tow behind my car it wouldn’t fit my 2003 Prius. Soooo, I rented a second vehicle and Dad and I caravanned down. I was concerned about not having a relief driver for either of us but we agreed to take it slow, even if than meant an extra day and a whopping $210 late fee on the van.

I used my Apple Maps app to plot out three roughly diagonal routes: one 1520 miles and two 1550 miles. Note I said I drove one thousand six hundred and eighty miles. Dad, who’s from Texas really wanted to take 85 which meant taking 95. I ‘splained that with the bridge closure on 495 in Delaware and the back ups on 95 doubling commute times there, that wasn’t going to happen. He adamantly refused all of my routes because he didn’t know all of those roads and didn’t like some of the ones he did.

Soooo, I led him to 95 south of Baltimore on 83 and we headed to Richmond. We didn’t quite make it that far on the first night since by the time we got on the road after the movers left and we ate dinner it was 7:00 pm. I was so wiped, I couldn’t imagine that we could drive more than 500 miles a day for the next two days and get there by 3:30 Thursday when the van was due.

We got gas and I called the hotels I could see around me to see if they took cats. Even if their national chain said yes, they all said no. So we looked for a motel where the rooms were away from the lobby and didn’t ask. After 16 hours in cages my no-longer-sedated cats were stunned and stupefied. Rabbi Tarphon hid under the corner of the bedspread and Her Divine Majesty the Living Goddess Cleopatra ran into the bathroom and got in the tub. The next morning they were resigned to the pills and cages and didn’t put up a struggle.

On Wednesday we drove more than 800 miles. And I saw my life pass before my eyes. Not a near death experience. But stops along the journey of my life layer out along 95 and 85. There was MD where I was raised, returned after college and bought my first house and, Washington DC where I went to seminary at the Howard University School of Divinity. There was South Hill, VA where I was born.

Then there was Durham where I earned a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible from the Graduate Program in Religion at Duke University and the road to Chapel Hill where I taught my first solo Hebrew course at UNCH and the road to Greensboro where I taught my first feminist biblical studies class at Guilford college. Past Greensboro would be Goldston – if we had gone that way and the church I pastored, Thompson Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church – while serving as the chaplain for the 3274th United States Army Hospital. (I had a lot on my plate in grad school.)

We drove past the Cowpens, the Revolutionary War Battlefield where I received tactical training in the US Army Chaplains Corps. Then past Columbia, SC where I did my basic training at Ft. Jackson. We drove past Gaffney, SC where I sometimes think my ancestors were enslaved though I don’t have any evidence for this and no one in my family spells their name with two F’s.

As we left South Carolina I felt like Samwise in the Lord of the Rings, keenly aware that that was the farthest I had gone, driven, and said a Shehehianu (or in my case a Shehehiyatanu), giving thanks for having been brought to this place, this new experience.

Along the way we stopped at a Cracker Barrel in Durham. Then another outside Atlanta. Then another in Meridian MS. I knew my Dad liked Cracker Barrel but this was ridiculous. He would go in to eat while I stayed in the car with the cats running the A/C and he would bring me something out. The first time he forgot the fork.

The second night in Meridian I was convinced my cats thought we were on the run from the police. They survived another 15 hour day in cages in the car. I learned that Cleopatra is so finicky that she would not eat or drink enough to have to go to the bathroom until we were in the hotel. She held on every day until we were settled. The poor Rabbi needed the pad in his carrier changed regularly.

As we prepared to leave Meridian I medicated them before leaving for the third Cracker Barrel and came back to put the relaxed cats in their carriers only to discover a pill on the hotel room floor. Someone had faked me out but I didn’t know who. Within ten minutes of driving, I knew it was the Rabbi. He mewed for about 20 minutes, softly, sadly.

At 2:00 on Thursday I called to beg for extra time on the van; it didn’t look like we were going to make it. They graciously gave us to 5 and told us we could turn it in near my apartment rather than drive to the airport. We had to be at the apartment by 6 when the staff left or we’d have to get another hotel room for me and the cats, Dad could stay with family. We didn’t make it to the rental return, but we did make it to the apartment by 5:30. Whew! Thank you Jesus!

While I was signing the paperwork I called the nanny I had previously arranged to feed them in the evenings, sleep over on an air mattress and feed them in the mornings. They both hid behind the toilet in my master maestro bedroom. The Rabbi is still hiding there. We moved their stuff in and I went to my Aunt’s house and collapsed.

I’m settling in, waiting for my furniture to arrive, commuting between DeSoto and Ft. Worth. It was quite a journey and the beginning of a new one.

5 Responses

  1. Marsha Boyd

    So glad you made it, Wil! Thanks for the play-by-play. I’m prayin’ for the CATS!!

    23 June 2014 at 9:06 am

  2. Isaac Bonney

    Wil glad to know you arrived safely. Fun read and I guess no more Cracker Barrel anytime soon. I wish you well.

    23 June 2014 at 9:25 am

  3. Dollie Howell Pankey

    Wow! Bless your heart! We moved from FW to Bham a few years ago. I can’t imagine making your trek. A lot of my life is along I-85 & I-95 as well. My father was from Cabarrus County, NC (Concord area), and my mother is from Richmond, VA. My mother’s first teaching job was in Halifax County, my father’s second teaching job at North Carolina State. My late uncle (who had been a military chaplain) pastored Simon Temple AME Zion Church

    [“During the period 1973-1985 under the leadership of Rev. Cajus B. Howell, a new sanctuary was built in conjunction with the wing of the Educational Building, which was also remodeled with brick. The church’s name was changed from Beaver Creek A. M. E. Zion Church to Simon Temple A. M. E. Zion Church on November 9, 1976, in recognition of the Black African, Simon Cyrene, who helped to carry the cross of Jesus up to Calvary when Christ became physically exhausted.”]

    And of course, I am an alumna (and former theological reflection Group leader) of Brite. I treasure the experience and the knowledge gained. I finally got a chance to come back and walk through the new building last month. It was good to be home.

    Blessings as you make that trek across the Metroplex until you get settled. Hope to meet you soon.

    23 June 2014 at 4:27 pm

    • Marilyn Welch

      When Rev. Cajus B. Howell traveled on a double-decker Greyhound bus in Illinois in June 1957. he was marooned in a flood of water 4 1/2 feet deep. After the driver left to look for help, Rev. Howell led everyone to the top deck and prayed with them all for 5 1/2 hours before they were rescued. Our historical society has newspaper accounts of this if anyone is interested.

      16 September 2015 at 10:12 pm

      • Hello, Marilyn! I just realized that you responded to my comments about my uncle, Rev. Cajus B. Howell! I would definitely be interested in any records you have about him or his wife Celeste Howell!

        9 May 2016 at 6:16 pm

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