“So goodbye yellow brick road,
Where the dogs of society howl…
Oh, I’ve finally decided my future lies,
Beyond the yellow brick road.” (1973) “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” Recorded By: Elton John Composed By: Elton John and Bernard Taupin
Isn’t it funny, how we don’t exactly know where the road we are on ends, or what detours may be in store, until we get over the next hill for a good visual?
Such was the case, some 22 years ago, one hot west Texas day for me, the weary traveler. Grab your popcorn.
I was planning on a 2.5 hour drive (one way), west of Dallas, Texas, to be with family for a relative’s memorial service. The drive out there displays a change in landscapes, cactus, hills, and red sandy soil.
I was doing an afternoon drive-time radio show at 90.9 KCBI at the time, in Arlington, Texas, halfway between Dallas and Ft Worth. It was to be a busy day. The funeral was planned as a morning service, and my show in the Arlington studio started at 3pm. What was even more complicated was the fact that my producer had scheduled the multi award-winning recording artist, Natalie Grant to be live in studio with me that day.
Photo By: Dean Dixon Natalie Grant
Although this was early in her solo career, she had several hits out by that time, and I was looking forward to chatting with her about her life and what was around the next bend. But, I almost didn’t make it.
I needed to be at the service in west Texas. It had been a long while since visiting with my dad’s side of the family there, not to mention I wanted to pay my respects to a very dear uncle who fought through many speed bumps in his life and yet, was a champion to the very end. So, I looked at the map (This was before Google Maps and GPS was offered to for the everyday person.), and carefully back-timed the journey, along with figuring the average length of a small town memorial service. After putting numbers together, considering I couldn’t stay for the family luncheon, or the graveside service, I put away the calculator with confidence I could accomplish such a journey, and still keep my commitment to my producer and Natalie, and her record label.
The trip there from my north Dallas home was uneventful. It was a familiar journey. All went well.
The state highway and interstate system is just like most states when driving across rural areas. There would be lots of winding curves, hills and valleys, and small towns where if you blink you would miss them. Then, from time to time, there would be getting behind a farmer’s tractor slowly on his way to the next pasture. Nevertheless, the clock and I remained friends. I arrived in plenty of time prior to the service and met up with many family members.
With about three hours prior to my radio show, I said my goodbyes, and headed east for the lengthy drive to the studio. However, because my destination was the radio station in Arlington, I was unfamiliar with the trek from point A to point B. It seemed uncomplicated enough, I just never travelled this particular route.
Because I left the service without eating lunch with the family, I became a bit hungry on the way. Thinking I could hold out until I reached the studio, my stomach started to complain. Looking at the fuel gauge, I would soon need to stop to top off the tank.
Over the river and through the woods, I spotted a small mom & pop gas station with a convenient store attached. Well, I was hungry, and it was indeed, convenient. After filling up the gas tank, monitoring my watch every few minutes, I decided to grab some food items I could nibble on while driving. It’s been many years ago, but if memory serves me right, I grabbed a stick of beef jerky, a Hostess cupcake, and a diet Coke. (Nutrition was out the window with my need for speed.)
Have you ever tried starting your car, along with putting on your seatbelt, while opening a soft-drink bottle and a stick of jerky all at the same time? It’s not easy, at least not that day.
As soon as I could open up the food items for easy access on the center console, I got my wheels quickly pushing the white rock gravel out from beneath the tread and off I went from the gas pump toward the driveway out to the highway…or so I thought.
About 20-30 yards of a white gravel lot separated the fuel pump and the highway pavement. I sped-up toward the exit of the gas station property, anxious to get back on the road toward Arlington. When I think back on the 20-30 yard jaunt across the lot, I most likely was focused more on wrestling with a difficult wrapper keeping me from a thick slice of smoked beef jerky. I quickly approached the pavement of the shoulder of the highway when to my surprise, I ran out of both white gravel and anticipated pavement. When my destination came into full view, like a NASCAR driver, I worked the brake as quickly as I could, even pumping the brake as I slid over the loose gravel. Why? Because I made the mistake of not paying attention to exactly how the gas station was orientated to the highway. In my shock, I was driving rather quickly toward an edge of the gravel lot to a steep embankment down into a fork of the Brazos River, which was some 20-30 feet down to a shallow rocky bottom stream. When I came to a timely full stop, I threw it in park and just sat there reminding myself to inhale and exhale. There was no guardrail, no fence, no warning sign, or directive indicator whatsoever. Other than an air pump for tires, there was no warning of a drop-off at the edge of the gravel lot. If it had been a nighttime visit to this location, they would’ve had MY memorial service the following week. As I slowly got my bearings and put it in reverse, I could see my front tires were probably 6 feet from the edge. As you can imagine, I was sweating bullets.
Over the winding paths of my life, I can honestly say, life can be very much like that experience. Isn’t it true? There will be times when you are rolling along just fine when suddenly you find yourself headed smack into a brick wall, a curb you didn’t see, or a cliff’s edge. Don’t fool yourself, they all don’t always come with warning signs, or road reflectors, or rails to guard you from gravity taking over. And isn’t it true that often times situations like this are delivered by way of being distracted somehow? Something else that entices, something else outside of yourself which tickles one or more of your five senses. Then, without much warning at all, another unnoticed reality is on an intercept course where you can’t put the brakes on quickly enough. Exercising caution at all times is wise, on the road, in a parking garage, as well as, the road of life.
Only you know what that is in your life. Only you know when this has shocked your steps forward. Only you know what to guard against. You and God, the One Who sees all things before you and after you. He knows each of our roads are different.
In case you were wondering, I got to the studio on time, with about 30 minutes to spare, even before Natalie showed up. It was our first time to work together, but would have the pleasure of working with her again a few times later in our careers. When I told her what had happened on my way to the radio station, her jaw hit the floor. She said the Lord had His hand on me, even when we’re unaware. She was right.
When needing to know where the pitfalls are in your road, locate the map in fuel for the race.
“For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the LORD, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear [your voice] and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29: 11-12 (Amplified Bible)