Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Flying Blind

I am having trouble giving this thought process a title; maybe it will work itself out as I get started. Maybe, “The best laid plans of mice and men.” Or to quote the song; “God is in Control.”

One of the memorable trips that Sweet Pea and I took during the NASCAR show car stage of our lives had a couple unique twists to it. We typically would leave one show site and head toward the next one. Some shows had two or three days between them; it did get to be busy sometimes but I would never complain about doing that job.

This particular trip was in the winter. We just had about ten days off and came back to Bill Elliott Ford in Georgia to pick up our truck and trailer. The gentleman who scheduled our shows informed us that there was a show to do for a McDonald’s owner in Tyler, Texas. So off we go; feeling pretty good about ourselves, having done about seventy five shows by this time. We were confident in our ability. We were expecting a smooth trip to Texas, and after ten days in Ohio enduring a blizzard, the weather would certainly be better.

Twist number one would come in Vicksburg, Mississippi. We were parking in the hotel parking lot; the local news was talking about a storm moving in from the west, with the possibility of rain and ice. By nature I like volatile weather, Sweet Pea does not enjoy even the mention of it. After retiring for the evening, I knew Sweet Pea would be up all night thinking about the weather. Sure enough, at about six thirty in the morning she awakened me and mentioned that the rain had begun and it was near freezing.

After checking out, we pulled out of the parking lot and the exit went right to the on ramp for I-20 west. At that moment we could see straight up the westbound lanes of the bridge crossing the mighty Mississippi, and there were cars and trucks headed in every direction. Trucks were sliding into the guard rails on either side of the bridge; some cars had stopped and couldn’t get moving again. I didn’t have time to look over at Sweet Pea but in my mind I knew she was about to cry. In that instant my foot did not leave the accelerator; “the foot” knew that to stop was trouble. We moved slowly but steadily up the bridge, never turning the steering wheel, never spinning a tire. At the peak of the bridge I took a deep breath and looked over at Sweet Pea who was crying and praying or praying and crying, I don’t know which, but it worked either way. On reaching the top, one quick breath was all we could get in because going down the other side was just as dangerous but, God again protected us. That image of cars and trucks on the bridge that morning is one I will never forget; nor will I forget God’s favor toward us in that situation.

After the “ice-capades” we had endured; getting to Tyler and checked into a motel was what we needed. We were still a day early and could kick back a few hours. That evening we called the contact person to find out the details of where we would set up the McDonalds Race Car.

The young lady at the door was our contact person for McDonalds; she informed us that the show would be at the convention center just outside of town. She wasn’t sure if the McDonalds owner would be able to make it to the show, but everything was ready for us to set up the next day.

The plan was to set the car inside [After another minor “ice-capade” on the way to the convention center, can you believe it, an ice storm hit Tyler Texas that night]. As it turned out we set up the car in a covered breezeway leading into the main show room. Everyone who entered the show had to walk right by the McDonalds Ford Thunderbird. Our God was there in Tyler Texas looking after us.

The second twist came when the McDonalds owner, his wife and daughter, and a friend of the daughter, came in to the show. For this story they shall be nameless. Sweet Pea and I were introduced to them and we enjoyed a great day of talking to people about the race car and meeting some local celebrities, one was Earl Campbell. Enough name dropping,

The McDonalds owner and his wife spent the day with us. They seemed a little reserved but we had just met them. They were dressed in McDonalds Racing shirts and jackets and seemed to be real NASCAR fans. Sometime toward the end of the show we were discussing how and when we would get the car loaded up and whether we would stay in Tyler that night or head out back to toward Georgia, when we were asked to have supper with the owner and his family after the show.

We all pitched in and put away the hats, tee shirts, and other stuff for sale. I brought the truck and trailer around to the half empty parking lot and we fired up the car and drove it out of the building and into the trailer. Five minutes to tie the car down inside the trailer and we were off to supper and an experience we would never forget.

A great supper, and chit chat about what we do, then chit chat about their long history with McDonalds, and we are off to their place to relax for a while. Once we were at their house the mood changed. Somber would be the word. What we found out was that their son had recently committed suicide. This is a good, Godly family, at a loss for why this would happen.

That weekend, God intersected a hurting family with a couple that had an empty tool box [as Sweet Pea would say], and all we could offer was what was needed, an ear to listen, arms for a hug, and agreement in prayer that our God would keep this family in the midst of a great storm of life. The rest of the evening was a prayer meeting. There were new friends praying together, with an audience of the sustaining God. That weekend two families were “Flying Blind but Never Alone.”

Jim Mussetter