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Photo by Ashley Phillips, via Georgia's Rome Office of Tourism

A wrong turn, a lesson learned on Georgia trip

Editor reflects on adventures on the road.

ROME, Ga. — As I made a right turn on the way to my hotel, a homeless man standing in the highway median waved feverishly, begging me to stop.

I ignored him.

I was tired and ready to grab a quick dinner and relax.


Related: Can America be saved? Yes, say these Christians


Even as I cruised past the man, he kept yelling, his frantic movements reflecting in my rearview mirror.

Give him credit for persistence, I thought, as I started to accelerate.

A "Do Not Enter" sign

A “Do Not Enter” sign

But then I noticed something else.

A “Do Not Enter” sign.

My right turn had been the wrong one. I was headed straight into oncoming traffic. Fortunately, the ramp remained clear at the moment. 

I hit the brakes and made a quick U-turn in the grass.

I slowed down at the stop sign and rolled down my passenger window. The man I had brushed off as a panhandler patted his chest.

“You about gave me a heart attack,” he told me as he leaned into the window.

“I’m sorry about that,” I replied. “Thank you for trying to warn me.”

In my first five minutes in this northwest Georgia town — where I had come to report on the American Mission Campaign — I already had survived a hair-raising experience. And perhaps I learned a lesson about paying attention.

The clocktower in Rome, Ga., site of the American Mission Campaign.

The clocktower in Rome, Ga., site of the American Mission Campaign.

My travels with The Christian Chronicle have taken me to all 50 states and 14 nations. 

After staying home for over a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am blessed to be fully vaccinated and covering news in person again.

Most of my time on the road — and in the air — is pretty boring, standard stuff.

Airport security lines. Rental car check-in counters. Fast-food drive-thru lanes. 

But occasionally, I run into a bit of excitement (even when I follow directions correctly).

In 2015, I flew into Rapid City, S.D., on a Saturday and then drove 300 miles to the state capital in North Dakota. I stayed overnight at the home of minister Walter Clark and his wife, Cindy, before Sunday worship with the Bismarck Church of Christ.


Related: Sparse numbers, strong faith in North Dakota


That afternoon, I got back on the road. My destination: Black Hills Bible Camp, south of Deadwood, S.D., another 300-mile drive.

I was excited about visiting the youth and family camp, a longtime gathering point for members of Churches of Christ in the Dakotas and surrounding states.

Each August, the world-famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally draws hundreds of thousands of bikers to the southwestern region of South Dakota.

Each August, the world-famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally draws hundreds of thousands of bikers to the southwestern region of South Dakota.

But somehow I missed the memo that the Black Hills camp session coincides with the world-famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which each August draws hundreds of thousands of bikers to the southwestern region of South Dakota.

“My sincere thank you goes out to Google Maps for taking me through downtown Sturgis with the sun shining in my eyes and a million motorcycles on the road,” I posted on Facebook. “No picture available since I was concentrating on not killing anybody.”


Related: Amid massive biker rally, Bible camp thrives


I was exaggerating.

But only slightly. Maybe there’s a reason my wife, Tamie, always insists on driving when we’re together.

My favorite road trip was one where I didn’t have to handle the steering wheel.


Related: 18 wheels and a heart to serve


In 2018, I rode shotgun with John Kincaid, a volunteer truck driver with Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort in Nashville, Tenn., as he delivered emergency supplies after Hurricane Michael struck Florida.

Kincaid navigated through the night — 466 miles — pulling his big rig into the parking lot of the Jenks Avenue Church of Christ in Panama City, Fla., just after 2:45 a.m. 

John Kincaid eats a quick meal in his truck during his trip to Panama City, Fla.

John Kincaid eats a quick meal in his truck during his trip to Panama City, Fla.

Here in Georgia, the homeless man explained that a town ordinance prevented him from asking for money.

However, the look on his face indicated that he would accept any help I offered.

Grateful to be alive, I reached into my wallet. I had a wad of $1 bills that I had brought in case I needed to tip an airport shuttle driver.

I grabbed all the cash and handed it to him.

He thanked me and proceeded to offer proper directions to my destination.

As I drove away, I was reminded of Hebrews 13:2: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

BOBBY ROSS JR. is Editor-in-Chief of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected]

Filed under: American Mission Campaign bobby ross Jr driving Ga. Georgia Inside Story National Opinion reporting trips Rome Top Stories travel travel adventures wrong way

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