planIt Seemed Like a Good Idea

I should have known when I passed the sign that said, “Unmaintained Road.” And we should have just turned around when I blew by the sign that said, “Road Impassable When Wet.”

But it had been a long day. After a late night wrangling the final details for outdoor school, I had arisen at four. I had to finish packing and load my stuff and shepherd everyone aboard for our outdoor school adventure.

When we started within thirty minutes of my planned departure time, I gave myself a pat on the back for my planning acumen and cheerleading skills. I waved goodbye to the three staff members in a Tahoe pulling a U-Haul trailer full of food and luggage. They would have no problem reaching camp in plenty of time to prepare supper for the rest of us. Shoot, they might even have time to string up their hammocks and relax for a few hours.

Through judicious packing and rearranging, the men in charge had managed to fit everything but two pans of brownies, a container of cut up fruit, and six-dozen homemade cookies into the trailer. They stuffed the rest of the food into the back of the Tahoe.

The kids had tossed their pillows, sleeping bags, and blankets on top of the bicycles in the trailer that I would pull with the bus. Everyone settled down and we had prayer before heading out to Kodachrome Basin State Park for a week of school outdoors.

When Plan A Fails

Twenty miles down the road the check engine light came on in the bus. I pulled over with a silent groan. The mechanics had just replaced the water pump the day before. No sooner had I hit the emergency blinkers than smoke started to spew out the front of the bus. The kids groaned good-naturedly, and the more mechanical minded men got off the bus to investigate.

Two hours later, the mechanic who had ‘fixed’ the bus the day before finally arrived and determined that the water pump had a crack in it. Time to institute Plan B.

My mom happened to be headed out of town, and she stopped to help. She took one of the CDL drivers back to pick up a smaller bus, and someone volunteered to bring our other small bus out as well. Thirty-four students and six staff members wouldn’t fit on either of the other busses, so we resigned ourselves to continuing with two busses instead of one.

Our mechanical woes set us back almost three hours, so we had to forego our guided tour of Glen Canyon Dam. As we passed through Page, AZ, I told Siri to “Navigate to Kodachrome Basin State Park,” and kept on driving. I hit the ‘Go’ button and glanced down at our arrival time, shocked that we wouldn’t arrive until 5:30.

I had forgotten about the time change in Utah. When Siri told me to turn right on Johnson Canyon Road, I obediently did what she suggested. I had to pull over because the other bus lagged behind. When they blew by me, I flashed my lights and honked until they turned around.

Plan B Turns into a Nightmare

Trouble looks like a buried hitch on a lonely dirt road with 34 teenagers. that Siri had us turn on a road that didn’t have a sign about Kodachrome Basin. But the kids had languished in the bus all day and I wanted to arrive at our destination. When Siri told me to turn right on to County Road, I should have turned around.

For some reason, I figured that perhaps since Kodachrome Basin didn’t have any cell service, perhaps no paved roads lead into it as well. And those kids must be tired of traveling by now—even though not a single one had asked me, “Are we there yet, Mrs. Ojeda?”

Which lead us to our current predicament. Some thirty miles down a washboard gravel road, we started crossing small streams. “Good thing it hasn’t rained recently,” I quipped to one of the other teachers. At mile 36, the stream crossing the road looked deeper and wider than the previous four trickles.

I carefully angled the bus (a 14-passenger affair about the size of a Class C RV) across the stream and hoped that the trailer wouldn’t bottom out. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see over the rock under the right side of the bus, and when the back wheel dropped dramatically, I knew we had a problem.

Two Choices

We piled out of the bus, using stones to step on and avoid soaking our shoes up to our ankles. I had basically buried the trailer hitch in the road. Oops. Pedro would not be proud of me. When I saw the sign for Willis Creek Trail across the road, I knew that if we went forward (IF we could get unstuck), the busses should make it the rest of the way.

A ranger had assured me just the week before that a bus could easily make it from Kodachrome Basin to Willis Creek. Funny that he hadn’t mentioned the 44-mile-long dirt road extravaganza leading into the park. I had crafted my plan so carefully, and despite our good start in the morning, everything seemed to go wrong.

Some boys went to work with all available tools (sticks, rocks, screwdrivers) trying to unbury the hitch. Other boys started carrying rocks to shove under the back wheel.

“This is so much fun!” one of the boys exclaimed. Bless him. I laughed and smiled and prayed that we’d actually make it to camp before dark. No one had eaten since we passed out an afternoon snack two hours earlier. Our supply of drinking water wasn’t that great, either.

With the students’ help, we tried backing out of the situation. Didn’t work. One of the other teachers found a giant metal crowbar, which worked wonders for loosening the dirt and rocks wedged under the hitch. (Note to self, all school vehicles should carry a shovel).

Finally, we tried pushing the trailer and bus forward—wonder of wonders, it worked! It seemed as if we had lost hours trying to get unstuck. I started to fantasize about a hot meal, AND the other staff members setting up the kids’ tents for them.

GPS vs. Maps

As we rumbled down the remaining seven miles of dirt road, I couldn’t help but think of the difference between GPS and maps. Sure, GPS services claim to keep a driver informed about road conditions and the fastest route. But getting stuck in a creek and wasting valuable daylight hours didn’t seem like a faster route to me.

When we arrived at a second expansive creek crossing, I stopped before we started across and we all got off the bus to assess the situation. The students carried rocks and filled in the drop offs BEFORE we drove over. Two hundred feet from the creek, we could see a paved road.

The thought that Kodachrome Basin State Park really DOES have a paved road leading all the way into it niggled at the back of my mind. I vaguely remembered passing it when we moved to Arizona four years ago.

I felt resentful that some GPS program had routed us through a so-called short cut that turned out to waste time and put our group in danger of spending a cold night on the road without food.

If I had just looked a map when I made my plan, I would have known that Johnson Canyon Road lead to an unmaintained dirt road. I would have chosen the logical route along Highway 12 past Bryce Canyon National Park.

The whole situation made me think about the difference between the Bible and books about the Bible. If I rely on the map—the Bible—I won’t have questions about the right route and how to get there.

Read the Book—Not Just Books About It

If I rely on books written by others about the Bible, I might think there’s a shortcut to heaven or that God promises beneficent prosperity to all who claim his name. The last time I checked the Good Book, God promises us trouble—not prosperity—but he also reminds us that he’s overcome the world, so we don’t have to worry.
Don’t get me wrong. GPS programs have saved me countless time by rerouting me around accidents and road construction. Likewise, books written about the Bible have helped me think more deeply and convicted me to strengthen my relationship with God.

Reading books about the Bible is like depending on GPS instead of a map to reach an unknown destination. #hopewriters Click To Tweet

But the fact of the matter remains. The Bible and good old-fashioned maps give the most accurate information about the roads we travel. The next time I plan a trip for 34 teenagers, I’ll check a real map before I leave campus.

That way, when we arrive, we won’t suffer more disappointment (tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story).


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  1. I love your storytelling- it really drew me in! I’m sorry you had such an eventful journey but I’m glad you made it in the end. I’m sure it will be a trip that everyone will remember. The point you draw out is really helpful too- books about the Bible can certainly be helpful but they’re no substitute for the real thing.
    Lesley recently posted…Who Do You Say I Am?My Profile

  2. Anita, I read your story like an a suspenseful novel! I call those moments like what happened to you when the bus was “dead in the water” pun intended, lol, “disappearing moments”. When I just want to disappear. It sounds like you had a great and positive group of people surrounding you and certainly the Lord’s protection through it all.

    I so appreciated using that story as an analogy of reading the Bible and extra-biblical books, which although can be helpful, should never be our only source of intake.

    Thanks so much for sharing this very insightful and well written post.
    Karen Del Tatto recently posted…Peace in the Christian Life Hinges on One Thing…My Profile

  3. Anita, I read your story like an a suspenseful novel! I call those moments like what happened to you when the bus was “dead in the water” pun intended, lol, “disappearing moments”. When I just want to disappear. It sounds like you had a great and positive group of people surrounding you and certainly the Lord’s protection through it all.

    I so appreciated using that story as an analogy of reading the Bible and extra-biblical books, which although can be helpful, should never be our only source of intake.

    Thanks so much for sharing this very insightful and well written post.

  4. Honestly, Anita, you’ve got to be one of the smartest, bravest people I know! 34 teens, off campus, biking & camping, WOW! Then I think about some of the kids you’ve written about, and it all makes sense. How blessed they are to have you in their lives!

    And what a great analogy. I’ve heard for years about relying on preachers/teachers for second hand faith. I’m having to prioritize and balance insights from Godly women, like you, and my personal time in the Word with the Lord. Thanks for the encouragement to keep it on the road.

  5. Ugh. So sorry that you had such a crazy experience, but it looks like everyone survived anyway. 🙂 My husband is always wanting to use paper maps instead of our phones, and there are times I agree that it’s best when we can’t get cell service. Thanks for sharing your experience and for your courage in taking 34 teenagers anywhere!
    Lisa notes recently posted…7 Books I Recommend – April 2017My Profile

  6. Eek! Looking forward to the next installment. While I was reading this I kept thinking how great your kids are!

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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