Sun Tunnels and Faith

This entry is an excerpt from my book, Forget That I’m Dying.

On Christmas Day, Mindy, the girls, and I made the three-hundred mile trek in the WRōV out to one of several unusual art installations around the Great Salt Lake, the Sun Tunnels. Our route took us on I-80 west to the Bonneville Salt Flats, then a forty-five mile off-road overland to the edge of the Great Basin Desert where these four, twenty-two ton concrete pipes are situated in a cross-pattern to capture the sun through a pair at both its solstices.

We were three days late for the winter one, but it was still worth the journey. Having this chapter duly incubating in my brain while I was driving I felt that same old uncertainty I get when mounting anything off-road. I pulled over to reduce the air-pressure in the WRōV’s tires to help with the washboards and I examined its meaty tires, its overkill of suspension, and listened to the rumble of its nearly four hundred horsepower at idle and wondered why, after everything I’ve done to this vehicle to reduce my anxiety of its mechanical failure, I still had the chorus of uncertainty droning on, making a niggling little crescendo when I looked out at the road beyond the WRōV’s hood that trailed out to the basin’s remotest area.

That’s when, after a decade of doing this, I realized uncertainty was my impetus for adventure, and as unnerving as it felt at the cusp of leaving civilization, the reward of having conquered it more than made up for it.

I walked around the WRōV, taking stock; solid tires with a solid spare, traction boards, a ten thousand pound winch, all the recovery tools I could ever need, all fluids fresh and at the right temps and viscosities, enough lighting to recreate sequences from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and all the accessories providing us a cozy cabin in this snow-covered desert’s arctic chill. What the hell was my problem?

My life conditioned me for uncertainty, not for faith. And yet, there was faith idling right next to me. I added all those parts, turned all those nuts and bolts, spent all that money and made all those modifications in the faith that they’d sustain us in the worst of off-roading conditions. It wasn’t a hope thing, a there-that-oughta-do-it, but a there-that’ll-do-it difference. Hope isn’t going to increase fuel efficiency; faith in the machine’s stats of 13.8 miles-to-the-gallon is going to result in an accurate measure of how much fuel is needed.

We slogged through ninety miles of every kind of winter off-road conditions imaginable, using every one of the WRōV’s traction and drive offerings, made it to the Sun Tunnels and back to paved road just outside of the Salt Flats and had, as we always do, an amazing time. Proof of life.

This time, as I aired up the tires in a pool of light at the Bonneville gas station, it was my faith fulfilled that helped me feel joy, not overcoming uncertainty. I wondered, how could I be Mindy’s WRōV, with all she’s invested in me, how could I be more of an authentic connection of faith rather than uncertainty? Granted, that decision is entirely hers to make, but on my end, like trust, and not unlike the WRōV, I have to be capable of her faith in me.

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