Google Maps, Mater, and Proverbs

ELL, we got stuck on the side of a mountain near the Grand Canyon. It was never our plan of course. It’s just where Google Maps led us. When the tow truck showed up, over four hours later, the man walking down the side of the mountain with a flashlight asked me a perfectly rational question, “So, why did you keep following Google Maps?”

It was our first day to depart from Route 66. After seeing the Grand Canyon, we planned to take a highway straight across Arizona headed for Utah. When our original route was blocked due to road construction, Google Maps added a couple hour detour. That’s when I dropped a pin on the other side of the highway construction to see if there was a shorter way around it. There was.

Right away a route popped up on my smart phone. They’re such nice things, aren’t they, those shiny precious little pieces of technology with which we sometimes entrust our very lives. We happily took off keeping with our plan and sticking to our schedule. The first turn off the highway seemed appropriate. Bravo! we all thought. The next turn was on to a gravel road. It was then I started talking to myself. I said, “Self, this is normal. People here drive these kinds of roads all the time.”

Oh, quick lesson for any fellow road warriors: If you ever leave paved road your insurance or roadside assistance doesn’t apply anymore. That’s part of the fine print in their policies. Just FYI.

We followed the gravel road which got pretty bad at points. I told myself, “Self, don’t worry. People around here do this all the time. This is the Grand Canyon National Park after all. What could go wrong?”

We navigated boulders and straddled massive potholes. We laughed. We cried. We prayed.

I had promised the boys a steak dinner, so talk of meat and potatoes kept us motivated. Dreams of ribeyes and t-bones spoke to us like an ancient call of the wild, as though we were coyote stalking a rabbit or something very western like that. It was all very John Wayne like.

Finally the road improved. After about an hour of crappy, bumpy, part gravel, part dirt, rocky road, we hit smooth gravel. I felt like Mater in the “Cars” movie when he got to be the first one to drive on the new asphalt. “T-t-t-t-t-h-h-i-i-i-s-s-s is is is a-a-aw-awe-sssss-ommmme!,” I said over the rumble of rocks shooting in every direction beneath our tires.

And then, with a little over a mile to go before hitting the highway, the road turned to dirt and grass. The trees cleared and we could see that we were rather high up with a canyon before us to the west as we began slowly edging our way down the mountain to the east. Hope floated away like clouds falling off the edge of the abyss before us. We had just arrived at the place where appetites and dreams go to die.

I told myself, “Self, you’re an idiot.”

If we didn’t have over an hour invested with so little to go I wouldn’t even thought about trying to push forward. There was really no gravel on the road at this point. The only rock worth noticing was an insurmountable boulder in the middle of our path. I knew we had reached the bitter end. I got out and surveyed the “road” before us and concluded we could  go no further. I knew turning around was going to be a challenge. By “challenge,” I mean impossible.

I was right. Finally. I was right about something. Add one point for Dad. After a series of stupid decisions, I made the one really adult decision of the day. I turned us around. Kind of. Actually, this is the part where I got us stuck. Deduct a bunch of points for Dad.

It was then that I called 911 screaming like the little kid from “Home Alone.” The police officer was calm. That helped. He said he knew right where I was after I explained that there was a white fender from another car and a busted rear view mirror in the spot we tried to make our escape. He told me Google Maps sent another car that way just a few days earlier. The tow guy later said he pulls 60 to 80 cars out of this exact area every year.

At least I picked a popular spot.

We tried to dig the car out using broken parts from the last sucker who followed his smart phone. We waited for the towing company. We waited. Then we waited some more.

Our dreams of medium-rare meat and buttery potatoes faded with the sunset. We settled for peanut butter sandwiches made from supplies out of our snack bag. We ate the dry sandwiches with a sunken expression befitting prison inmates. We drank bottled water. We sang an old Irish dirge.

We bundled up as it began to get cold as the moon rose before our eyes. You could see every star in the night sky. It was amazing for anyone not overly concerned about a monumental towing bill. My boys were having a blast.

Then, as if an angel from heaven, Randall, the tow guy, came walking down the hill with a flashlight hollering, “Is that you Daniel?” Apparently he thought he might have picked up another customer since my call a few hours back. It was a popular spot after all. I know how to pick ’em.

He was a great guy though. He got us out after about an hour of maneuvering my Toyota around boulders and pine trees. He even let us follow closely behind him for the hour it took to get back to paved road sometime after midnight. I’ve never been more thankful for concrete.

Maybe it was the cloud of dust, maybe it was that we had just watched “Cars” on our Route 66 trip, or maybe we were delirious from our blood-thirst for beef, but the back of his truck began looking like Mater. There was a rope hanging over the middle of his rear licence plate making it look like Mater’s buckteeth. The tire he blew on his way to help us (which is why it took so long) was stacked on the truck bed looking like Mater’s exposed engine. The boys kept quoting Mater lines from the movie to keep me awake and so that I would stop stressing about the second mortgage I may have to take out to pay the tow guy. I told them they could laugh all they wanted. I would just take it out of their college fund.

The whole thing reminded me of the book of Proverbs. Crazy, isn’t it?

The book of Proverbs begins with the conversation between a dad and his young son. The dad warns him of all the competing voices that will vie for his attention. The young man’s path will be filled with opportunities and obstacles. But a massive pay off awaits if he makes wise choices. That’s why the book of Proverbs ends with a godly family celebrating a virtuous wife and mother. The story line of the book is a generational godly legacy: father, son, son’s godly wife and family. That’s the product of wisdom. That’s the story of Proverbs.

Life is a journey. Make sure you’re listening to the right voices. Get godly counsel. Don’t only consider your own opinion, because the way of a fool is right in his own eyes. That means if you are doing something colossally foolish, it may seem perfectly logical to you. Even if you’ve invested a lot in the direction you’re going, progress might mean turning around. And if you get stuck, make sure you call someone reliable for help.

Last bit of road-trip-wisdom-learned-the-hard-way:  If Google Maps tells you to turn off of a beautifully paved road, tell yourself, “Self, don’t be an idiot.” You’ll be glad you did. And you won’t have an insanely exorbitant towing bill either.