Friday, October 5, 2012

A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Wilderness Road: Part 2

This is from Rick Fry's blog:

Acts 8:26-40

 26 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) 27 So he got up and went.  

 When I was in my early twenties I hitchhiked across the United States. I can’t explain the exact motivation. I wanted to see my cousin in Arizona, but that’s not why I left. The only way to come close to an explanation is to say that I had a sort of fever, or that I felt like a wild animal with its paw caught in a trap- I’d gnaw my hand off to escape my hometown and to get out onto the road.

I was feeling the desperation and restlessness of my age, the awful yearnings that are most acutely felt during youth. I wanted to crawl out of my skin. I had the sense that time was fleeting, and that any hope of discovering something larger than myself, any justification for my living and breathing in this world, had to be found not just now, but NOW.

I was searching for unnamable things. My spirit soared with my thirst and ambition, a desire to reach up higher and higher in search of these things. I knew they were not to be found in my Ohio hometown, but out in the Western Plains somewhere, or out past the Continental Divide, or maybe in Arizona near my cousin. And if they weren’t in any of these places, well, to hell with it, I’d go further and further west until I reached the Pacific. And if what I was searching for wasn’t there either, I’d hitchhike south, maybe into Mexico or something. With the wind cutting through my hair, hitching a ride in the back of some stranger’s pick up truck, I would single handedly wrest these things from the hand of God.

One day I was standing by the side of the road in the Nebraska Panhandle, close to where I-76 and I-80 diverge. I got a couple of offers from people heading down 80 to Cheyenne. But I wanted to take 76 and work my way south towards Arizona. Finally after a couple of hours of waiting, a tough-looking man with a haggardly beard pulled over on the side of the road. He was wearing well worn blue jeans and a black Harley Davidson T-shirt. I was a little hesitant to get in the car with him. He told me he was heading to Colorado, but that he had to stop in Sidney, Nebraska first. I decided to take the ride and we headed west. We rode to Sidney, but when we left town he told me there was a state highway that led to Denver. I didn’t want to leave the heavily populated interstate for some deserted highway. Who knows where he would take me. But what could I do? We left the interstate and we drove out into the wilderness. I gazed upon beauty that I couldn’t see from the interstate. The expansiveness of the west Nebraska plains was awesome. The setting sun in this land was breathtaking.

But as we drove, my travel partner began talking to me about the Bible. It quickly grew bizarre, as he explained his odd rapture theology. I was a little freaked out, talking about the Anti-Christ and apocalypse, but at the same time I felt safer. He was talking theology. I knew he wasn’t going to harm me. He was a lonely man who wanted someone to talk to about God. Like me, he didn’t have time for small talk. He was, in his own way, searching for those unnamable things. There wasn’t any epiphany, as there was for the eunuch that Philip met on the road. No great revelation. No chariot--just his rusted old Chevy.

But there was, for a short time, fellowship, a human connection, and a mutually felt desire to touch the hand of God. I wasn’t much different from him. I was certainly just as lonely. That’s what searching for things you can never grasp will do to you. On this wilderness road we were both alien travelers in a world we didn’t belong to. 
It was night when he dropped me off in South Denver. I felt a little disoriented, buzzing on the after effects of his strange theology. But I thanked him for the ride and we wished each other well. I zipped up my jacket to protect myself from the cold mountain air and pressed on in the night. The Denver city skyline was at my back. Streetlights were shining above me.

Wilderness Road--Rick Fry


  1. "GET UP AND GO...." and in the midst of traveling after getting up and going, a true pilgrim finds that they are truly a traveler in a world they don't belong to...
    I've read Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyon two times and should probably pull it out and read it again. John Bunyon said, "This book will make a traveller of you." John Bunyon said, he as all true believers are travelers, pilgrims in a land they don't belong to, but seeking their true and permanent home to come. Amen! Come quickly Lord Jesus, Come soon.

  2. I liked this post by Rick Fry because it reminded me of my own (Providential) hitchhiking travels. I have hitchhiked through the Nebraska Panhandle many times over the years.