Friday, January 27, 2017

Road Trips

Road trips can be so invigorating, so full of discovery, and at times stressful. But even with unexpected and sometimes unwelcomed stress, I think most of us would agree that “the unexpected” actually heightened our memory and, in retrospect became key to the unique experience of a particular trip. In my mind, road trips are multi-day adventures. My most memorable road trip was one I took by myself. I planned for it to be 7 or 8 days long, but due to weakened health I cut it down to 5 days. The main intent was a photo excursion. I came back with over 2,000 photos that took me weeks to go through and pick my favorites.

Even though the main intent was photography, in retrospect, I realized that the whole experience of being in different surroundings, traveling, having time to think without others around me, and all the little choices I made contributed to the whole trip. For instance, one constant annoyance was trying to outwit the fog – to be in areas where the fog wasn’t. That resulted in drastic changes to my original itinerary. Originally I planned for just one progressive trip up the coast into Oregon (from California), and then back again. However, checking the weather app on my phone (and actually going outside), I realized I needed to make adjustments. That meant having to make multiple back and forth trips between points in California and points in Oregon. But wait, there’s more! Both California and Oregon had their respective road crews doing repairs. This brought traffic to a stop for up to 30 minutes at a time. So now, useless waiting was interrupting my travels. Surprisingly, finding gas stations wasn’t as hard as I expected and at one point one station happened to be next store to an auto parts store. I had somehow lost a lug nut while driving and happily, the store had just what I needed. Finding inexpensive (but not shoddy) accommodations was also a little bit of a challenge. Having a smart phone made it easier than in decades past when I took my young family on trips.

Having to take time out of photography to physically check out the motels was actually a nice diversion. And, as I always do, I made notes on the places I found, even ones I didn’t stay in, in case I was able to make the trip again someday. (Sadly, that “someday” never came.) But all these disappointments were offset by the personal challenges I made for myself in photography. For example, I wanted to catch some shots, maybe even a video, of elk bucking each other. I did indeed find such and it has been a highlight in my memory to this day. Then there was the challenge of doing night shots. I have a Canon 7D (released in 2009) that does fairly well, but still “noise” is common to all digital sensors. So I decided to make an HDR image series and have one of them be a totally black picture taken quickly. This was used to overlay the other images to reduce the noise. Another personal challenge was to create several panoramas. One particular image I’m very pleased with was a combination of 32 shots. It was taken on the old highway (1), down the center of the road, with huge trees on both sides. I wanted to capture all that glory so I did 4-tiers of 8 pictures each.

But I really didn’t intend to get into such depth of this trip. I merely wanted to illustrate that most memorable trips are ones that go beyond our planned itineraries. The reason I mention that, is a comment a friend made recently that the journey of our life is like a long road trip. There will be super memorable experiences along with unexpected disappointments. As long as God is in our lives, as long as our singularly most important goal is serving God, all the other twists and turns our lives can take actually turn out to make us the unique person we are. Although at the time we may bellyache about certain unexpected situations, in the years to come, if they didn’t break us emotionally, they actually made us much stronger. I find that to be very true in my life. I’ve had four major upsets in my life, but I refused to allow them to break me. Yes, they were discouraging, and yes, even making me bitterly angry at times, but when I finally “got over myself” (my pride), I grew from it. Today, there are some that come to me, knowing what I’ve been through, asking for help in dealing with their own situation. Really, all they are looking for is the encouragement that they too can cope. And it dawns on me that if I hadn’t gone through my personal trials, I’d have nothing of substance to offer these friends.

So I wholeheartedly encourage not allowing yourself to be crushed when bad things happen. They are all part of the road trip of your life. Although heartbreaking now, in years, maybe even decades to come, those experiences will become an invaluable source of character building for you and perhaps even encouragement for others. Just as I never lost focus on my goal of enjoying photography in spite of setbacks, a loyal servant of God can and should keep their focus on maintaining a good relationship with their “heavenly Father.”

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