As I’m preparing for yet another long drive to a city I haven’t been to before, I find myself recalling my first driving experiences in various locations. There was Philadelphia, where the roads are so small that two VW bugs have to battle to get past each other. There was Boston, where my innate ability to find my destination was disrupted by roads that start off in one direction and then meander off to places unknown. There was the Road to Hana, that was both beautiful and just a little bit treacherous with its unending, winding roadway. And there was Highway 82 out of Artesia in New Mexico. This one scared me because it was such a long drive through the middle of nowhere with literally no one else on this road in either direction.
So many strange thoughts occurred to me while we were driving on Highway 82. Why is no one else on this road? Do they know something I don’t? Did I read the map correctly or am I actually driving towards Mordor? (This was before GPS and Mapquest existed and could reroute you away from Mordor). Roswell isn’t far from here. Are aliens abducting people from this road? Why did I choose this road in the first place? Why don’t they have some signs on this road saying, “Only X number of miles until you see people again”? What if my car breaks down out here?
We did eventually reach civilization that day. The experience has made me a little more cautious about choosing the roads I travel on. It’s a little more comforting to have fellow travelers around you. I know Robert Frost wrote that famous poem about the road not taken. It ends with the words, “two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” There’s something to be said for venturing out on unknown paths in your life. There’s much to be gained from the unexpected. But it doesn’t always turn out well. Just ask the Donner Party, who took the road less traveled to disaster.
There’s a time for venturing out bravely into the unknown. There’s also a time for sticking with the known path and the safety of other people. How do you know which choice to make in the moment? I’ll let you know when I figure that out.