What I learned when I didn’t get to see Bill Elliott

In August 1995 Hurricane Felix decided to wreak havoc on my family’s annual beach trip.

Instead of a week spent relaxing on the sand in Emerald Isle, N.C., we got two days of water you couldn’t swim in, followed by countless hours of in-car bonding as we headed west across the state in an attempt to salvage any scraps of fun.

We also got to stop at the most awkward family-run buffet, which was completely out of food, in the history of the world. You’ve never lived until you’ve made a meal off cottage cheese, sausage links, and Jell-O, and afterwards, you’re not sure if you really want to.

We ended up in western Carolina, in a hotel with a pretty stellar indoor pool and free HBO, and began to take in some of the area’s classic tourist sites. And by that I mean we went to Tweetsie Railroad.

One day my dad had the idea that we should head a bit south to the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville, Georgia so we could bask in all the glory of their local legend and our favorite racer, Bill Elliott. (It’s highly unlikely he would have been there, but you couldn’t tell 13-year-old Travis that.)

We didn’t have a map of Georgia and, of course, this was in those ancient days before Google maps, but my dad was convinced Dawsonville couldn’t be more than a couple hours away.

So, we packed five deep in our Mitsubishi Montero and hit the road.

Three hours later, we were still on the road and Dawsonville was no where in sight.

When dad finally got his hands on a map of Georgia, the reality of Dawsonville’s proximity set in. Unless we were prepared for another eight hours in the car, I would not be taking a picture beside a giant Bill Elliott cut-out that day. THAT DAY, mind you.

Upset our journey had failed, we decided to return to the only place in the area we really could be certain of, our hotel with that sweet pool. I’m not going to lie, that trip sucked, but I did get to finish an entire season of NBA Jam. Thank you, God for Sega Game Gear.

There are a lot of times in life when the journeys we set out on don’t turn out quite like we’d planned, there are times we feel lost, and there are a lot of times when our journeys just flat out suck.

This happens to me a lot.

Sometimes it’s an actual journey I’ve just failed to prepare for accordingly, perhaps it’s genetic, but other times it’s a spiritual path I’ve headed down and gotten lost.

To be honest, the latter can be much trickier to figure out. I mean, there’s no shady gas station to stop in and ask directions while justifying buying a massive amount of gas station junk food and energy drinks on a spiritual journey.

It’s those times when I think we have to just shut it down, turn around, and get back to the place we know.

For me, that place lies in one simple truth, which I recently read at the end of Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Jesus.”

The last line of the final chapter reads, “To this day, the body of Jesus of Nazareth has never been found.”

That’s where I go when I feel lost. That’s where I go when my spiritual journeys land me in places of confusion and doubt and when I stumble onto crossroads with no clue which direction is correct.

When that happens, I turn around and head back to the foundation of my faith, which is that Jesus died, was buried in a heavily guarded tomb, and then vanished, or as I believe, destroyed death and came back to life. Because I believe this, I trust in the things Jesus said to be true. I trust that he was God in the flesh and that the Bible is God’s word.

When the world gets fuzzy, when my path seems strange, that’s my home. That’s the place I know and the compass I use to guide the rest of my beliefs and recharge me before I take off on another trip.

Now I’m not going to tell you that has to be your home or the foundation for your beliefs. I’m not your mom, you have to decide that stuff for yourself.

But I am going to tell you that I think we all find ourselves in dark and confusing places and at those times, turning back to the hotel you know, with or without the sweet indoor pool and free HBO, can help you find a clearer path.

— @TravisKWilliams


About travman44

I work as a reporter for a newspaper in southwest Virginia. I play as a writer specializing in deep thoughts on shallow, and occasionally not so shallow, subjects. I'm also a former history teacher, bible college alum, and lover of the NBA and kids' breakfast cereals. It's a delicate blend. -- @TravisKWilliams on Twitter
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