This is a story about the anniversary trip of DEATH that Sara and I just survived last night.
Yesterday morning for our anniversary, Sara and I headed to the UP (Michigan's Upper Peninsula) to do some camping. This was gonna be our first camping trip in Michigan and were excited to see beautiful Lake Superior. It was an eight hour drive, but we were up for the challenge.
Sara's last day of clinicals was on Friday and so she wasn't able to get that day off to head up early to find a spot. We had read online that it was busy up there during this time of year, but we were used to California where even in the busiest of times, some camping spot would be available and there were a million and one camping spots listed on Google. We figured we'd be okay even though we were getting up there in the middle of the weekend. We decided to listen to Timothy Keller's 'Meaning of Marriage' and agreed to some self-diagnostic marriage counseling with each other. We prayed, asked God for protection, and for Him to grow us.
We loved heading over the Mackinac Bridge and seeing the beauty that is Northern Michigan. Our trip went swimmingly until we got up to the first camp site. It was absolutely full. "No worries," we thought. "We'll just keep looking."
Four campgrounds later, no spot. We were getting worried and frustrated and were on our way to looking at the 5th spot. We got to a place that looked muddy, but I felt confident in my driving skills to get us through.
"No problem, Love. I watched Tom Gearing do some offroading during Teen Bible Academy this summer. I've got this!"
Problem was, it wasn't compacted dirt, like I thought it was. It was sand...we sunk in.
My wife was so wonderful. She didn't get angry with me, she didn't yell at me and tell me how stupid I was for getting all senselessly driven (I was already doing that to myself 😜😝😫). We just both looked at each other, and started working. We then spent THE NEXT TWO HOURS getting more and more stressed out as we got covered in wet sand, bit by millions of mosquitos the size of small dogs, trying to even out the grade, and effectively getting firewood and rocks under the tires to provide some traction...to no actual working effect. The tires just weren't getting any traction.
Finally, we decided that we'd give it one last shot before looking with someone with a 4x4 or a phone with service so that would call AAA. None of our phones had service anywhere up there except in Munising, the small town close to our camping spot. We tried it again, and failed.
Just then, the first vehicle came by (Thank-you Jesus!) He was a 'Yooper' for sure (slang for a person from the Upper Peninsula - Stereotyped as being a little strange and rednecky with a Canadianish twist). But he was very friendly and outgoing. He had a 4x4 and had just been doing some offroading. Without us even asking, he told us he'd get us out. In no time flat, he popped us loose, we thanked him, and he went on his way. Praising God, we renewed our search, but now it was getting quite dark and our prospects were not good. Sara kept me calm and levelheaded and convinced me to keep searching.
We checked out 5 other camp sites with no luck and were so tired and discouraged that we decided to get a hotel. No vacancy. There was one Motel 6-looking place with a room for $300. NO THANK YOU! We looked at several commercial camping areas, too, with no luck. Everything was full. We made reservations at a 2 star hotel an hour a way for $150, but they called us up to let us know that they were booked solid. It became evident that the UP is the Michigan equivalent of DisneyLand. We also looked for a place to eat but everything was closed, except for one grocery store. We debated sleeping in the car in a grocery store parking lot and looking for a spot to camp at today when people started leaving for home since we have until Monday off.
But we both had enough. We were tired, done, worn, and angry. We both had enough of the Anniversary trip from Hades and were ready to head back home. So at midnight, we made the decision to drive all 7.5 hours and 466 miles back to Berrien Springs. I got some caffeine and taurine nastiness in my system, we loaded up on gas, and we headed back down. We did try looking for places to stay back in the Mitten, but everything was so expensive until Grand Rapids. By that time we just figured we could make it all the way back. At 7:30 this morning, we finally arrived home.
The whole trip home we were emotionally in silly places, sometimes amused with ourselves for spending $250 on gas and food, for being uber-Californians, and for putting a needless 1000 miles on our vehicle with no visible victory. Sometimes we were just sad about it. The highlight of our trip was finding an open McDonald's at 4am 😜 (Just to make it clear, I hate both energy drinks and McDonald's, but last night I was profoundly thankful for both).
As we concluded our trip, we decided that this was an anniversary trip that we would remember for a long time and that even though it absolutely stunk, I was way happier being with her and she was way happier being with me than we had been alone--during my absence to California this summer.
Contentment is a choice and we had made the right choice. Listening to Tim Keller also allowed us to have some solid conversation about our marriage and we solid affirmation that we are in a good place. God showed us yesterday that our marriage is pretty strong! And that was worth way more than $250, 1000 miles, 16 hours, and getting stuck in the sand.
I love you, Bubblegum. Happy Anniversary 😁. I hope we never have another trip like that one ever again, but I am delighted to be on the journey of life with you.
"These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (John 15:11).
"Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth" (Proverbs 5:18).
From Everett, Washington, Sam and Sara currently live in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Sam studied theology at Pacific Union College and has also served as an associate pastor in Central California.