My husband and I were in the early years of our marriage when we set out across the country, pulling everything we owned in the largest U-Haul trailer our old Pontiac Grand Prix could handle. Driving from Arizona to Virginia was quite the adventure for a girl who had never been further east than New Mexico. I felt a mixture of excitement and trepidation as we left family and everything familiar behind in a cloud of Arizona dust.
Poor college students that we were, Randy had learned to do most of the maintenance work on his beloved car. In preparation for our trip, he changed the oil, did a tune-up, and repacked the bearings on all four wheels. Being the only transportation we owned, we relied on it to get us to our destination and beyond.
The first thousand miles went well as we wound our way across state after state, enjoying new sites and scenery. Despite the load we pulled, Randy often left the freeway to explore the less traveled back roads. We saw amazing country off the beaten path, even though the journey took a few days longer.
After four days of traveling, the only obstacle that kept us from our destination was the Appalachian Mountains. It was dusk and we were not ready to stop for the night so we decided to press forward. As Randy studied the map, he noted two possible routes that would accomplish our goal. We could take a well-traveled highway or a meandering country road lined with trees with the chance of seeing wildlife. His choice didn’t surprise me.
We were well into our curvy climb when we began hearing a squeaking noise. It was coming from the left front wheel and sounded like dry bearings. Since he had packed the bearings himself only a few days earlier, Randy was mystified by the racket. As we continued our progress up the Appalachians, the noise intensified. There was no place to pull over on the two-lane narrow road. I didn’t think our situation could get worse, but with the coming of night, a thick fog engulfed us. The road was barely visible.
Carefully inching our way up the mountain I could only hope we wouldn’t meet another car traveling the opposite direction. After what seemed like hours, we reached the top of the mountain range and were surprised to see a dimly lit building off to the right. Turning in, we realized it was a gas station. It was almost midnight, but it was open and a man came out to greet us.
“How can I help you?” I thought I was seeing a ghost. Who is open this time of night? I never expected to see any sign of civilization on this remote country road.
Randy explained our predicament and asked if we could use the light from his station to repack the squeaky bearings. The big-hearted man didn’t hesitate to accommodate our request.
Randy was barely into the repair job when we heard the sound of an approaching car attempting to maneuver the winding road coming up the other side of the mountain. The engine reeved, brakes screeched, and tires squealed, piercing the peace of a woodland night. Then, an old sports car flashed by, traveling at a speed far too fast for a road full of blind curves immersed in fog.
“What was that?” Randy gasped.
“Well . . .” the station owner drawled. “That was a local teenage boy who often drives this road late at night, traveling as fast as he can. He’s crashed several times. One of these days, he won’t walk away.”
Images of the disaster that might have occurred had we been on the road that evening flashed through our minds. Being late, the driver thought he had the road to himself. Pulling a trailer severely limited our ability to navigate the tight curves. The intense fog that night increased the likelihood of a tragedy.
Was it mere luck that the recently packed bearings squeaked to catch our attention and cause us to pull off the road? Or, was it divine intervention that saved us from misfortune?
I believe we were guided off the road for a reason. We still had work to do, a family to raise, and life to live. Our miracle that night came in the form of noisy wheel bearings that had no reason to need more grease and a gas station that provided a safe exit from the road in time to avoid danger. When we recognize and acknowledge God’s hand in our lives, we realize how blessed we are and how much we are loved.
Just luck? I believe there is something more. Much more.