It was my freshman year in college. It was Christmas 1977. I was at FWBBC in Nashville Tn, and my family lived near Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. With the speed limit at 55, that meant it took about 18 hours to drive home. And there was one more problem: I didn’t have a car.
That meant I had to hitch a ride. I found a car full of girls going to Melbourne and had arranged for my dad to meet me there to take me the 2-3 hours home. We started out headed south. Did I forget to mention that we were in a red . . . pinto? Now if you remember the Ford Pinto, you’re really dating yourself because that was pretty much a bucket of bolts on rubber. That was certainly true on this trip because a couple of hours out of Nashville, we stopped to use the rest room at a rest stop and when we got back in the car, it wouldn’t crank. Well, that was bad. I remember my heart just sank when I realized we might be stranded. What made it worse was that I was the only guy traveling with three girls . . . which meant that when the car wouldn’t turn over, all eyes looked at me as if to say, “What do we do now? You’re the man!” No, I wasn’t. I was an 18 year-old wanna be who had no idea of what to do.
I prayed for direction, then went into the rest stop. There happened to be an attendant on duty. (What were the chances of that? Well about 100% when God’s answering prayer!) I told him my problem. He came out, took off the distributor cap, put me in his car, and took me to the next exit where I purchased another distributor, we put it on and the old pinto roared to life. That cost us some time, but at least we were back on the road!
We got to Melbourne and met my dad. By that time it was well after midnight. We started for home, but as we were driving along I looked down. Our gas was getting low. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Well, duh! If your gas was low, why didn’t you just stop and fill up.” Well if you say that, you either didn’t live in the late ‘70's, or you’ve forgotten them. This was during the oil embargo and stations closed at night to conserve fuel. So here we are riding along, about 4 in the morning and we can’t find gas anywhere. We finally stopped pulling off of exits trying to find it, and just decided to hope we had enough to make it. And we did make it . . . until about a half a mile from the exit we were supposed to take to go home. But as we got there, the engine began to sputter and we pulled over. I got out, about 6 in the morning, and started walking to the nearest station, as the sun was coming up. I will tell you that was probably the roughest trip that I have ever taken.
But . . . I never got upset and I never lost my sense of joy. You say, “Come on, Rusty, you didn’t get mad?” No, not on that occasion. You know why? You see, I had been at FWBBC for a semester. I’d been eating Ravioli for supper; when I got home, my mom would fix me some fried chicken. I’d been sharing a little room with a less than cordial roomate; at home I’d have my own room that I didn’t have to share with anyone. I’d been struggling to go anywhere because I had no car; at home, I’d be able to go whereever, whenever I wanted. All along the way, even when things were going wrong, I never lost hope because all I could think about was my destination. And I was unintimidated by my trouble.