On Sunday, my wife Kodi and I will mark 20 years on a road trip that began on Sept. 1, 1993.
Think of it: We’ve driven side by side for more than 7,000 days. That’s more than 175,000 hours. As husband and wife, we’ve logged more than 10 million minutes.
The road trip began on a quiet, crisp morning in Manti, Utah. I’ll never forget that the only thing more gorgeous than the day was the woman holding my hand.
After a few photos on the grounds of the temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we said farewell to family and friends and began our honeymoon. We’d held our reception the night before and set off immediately on a road trip from that parking lot to our first home in Charlottesville, Va.
What could be better than a cross-country adventure with my best friend?
Our route took us through Cheyenne, Wyo., and the flat, friendly towns of Nebraska. In Iowa, we marveled at the damage of what FEMA and others called “The Great Flood of 1993.” Thousands of homes were destroyed and entire towns were flooded from end to end. We chatted with locals at a gas station and saw pain wash through their eyes.
In Chicago, we took an extra day to see my childhood neighborhood of Vernon Hills and check on a neighbor who’d never left. On a whim we attended a Boston Red Sox vs. Chicago White Sox game. I don’t recall much of what happened on the field, but I do remember how smitten I was by the stunning girl in the baseball cap. “Easy, fellas. She’s taken.”
The next day, while passing through Ohio, we discovered a charming, family-owned amusement park with rides that looked held together with duct tape and bubblegum. We changed plans again and instead of pressing on, we rode a fast wooden roller coaster that shook and teetered and lifted from the ground on one of the corners. Then we rode it again and again and again.
We wondered: Could life possibly get any better?
We arrived in Virginia several days later and enjoyed a reception for our East Coast family and friends. Many were meeting my Mrs. Wright for the first time and I beamed at their reactions. They recognized what I’d known from the moment she’d said, “Yes!”
I wasn’t rescuing this princess — she was rescuing me.
We quickly settled into our new routines and I often thought of the journey to our long life together. There had been unplanned exits, changes in the route and occasional indecision. We’d done our best to follow the road signs, but we had missed a few that were clouded by our own inattention.
Not much has changed.
Twenty years later and we still have to manage an occasional flat tire or other surprise trouble. We pull over, stop for fuel frequently and even find ourselves picking up passengers for the ride. Some travel only a short time, like the pregnancy that ended with our tears instead of a baby’s. But four others have climbed aboard — we pray — for the whole ride home.
We love them without limits, even on the trying days. “Don’t make me pull this car over.”
My passengers and I have learned to compromise and be flexible. Some segments of the route are predictable, but others change with church responsibilities, financial trials, doctor diagnoses and career side roads.
Loved ones have come and gone on their own road trips home. They’ve traveled in the lane next to us — laughing and crying as unexpected speed bumps bounce all of us around our cars. Sadly, some of these friends’ journeys have ended early because of death, disagreement or broken promises. We continue to travel as close to them as we safely can and to pray they have other opportunities for another trip on a brand-new route to the same destination.
Maybe you've also noticed that some miles pass by in a cartoon blur, so fast it’s hard to enjoy the scenery. Others crawl past in slow motion and we must resist the urge to punch the gas and speed past milestones we might never see again.
Yes, I’ve learned a lot on my 10-million minute road trip.
Trust is a bonding agent.
Today, as I look in the rear-view mirror at all we've experienced together, I wonder if I've been wrong all along. This grand road trip launched from a parking lot in 1993 wasn’t really to our first home. It was to our last.
Whether your own trip is just beginning or if the last exit is in sight, may we all drive well and arrive safely at an eternal home.
Jason Wright is a New York Times bestselling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars," "The Wednesday Letters," and "The 96th Annual Apple Valley Barn Dance." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or jasonfwright.com.