How the Solution to a Stalled, Overheated Bus is the Secret to Many Other Things in Life

Nevada contains inconceivable stretches of wilderness. Salt flats and brush and distant, crumbling mountains feel endless, like some kind of blue funk you can’t quite shake. But there is also something serene about mile after empty mile – a peaceful longing that makes me want to pull the bus over, buy 1000 acres for $6,000 (as the signs offer), and build a small shack in which to spend the rest of my days.

There is something the opposite of serene when you see the bus’s temperature gauge creep upwards on every uphill stretch. There is an internal tension, a focus of will power, a determining that the small red needle will not move any further. And then it does, creeping up over 200. 205. 210.

Then the red light blinks on. The bus shuts off. Since it is impossible to coast to the side of the road when you’re going uphill (at a snail’s pace to begin with), you put on the parking brake, the four-ways, and turn off the engine. Parked in the right hand lane of a two-lane highway.

And there you sit. Sixty feet of vehicle. You might as well drop a mobile home on I-80.

* * * * *

I have many responses to things going wrong. Sometimes I run around like the proverbial chicken, bouncing from one possible remedy to the next. Sometimes I sulk, entering that endless wasteland. Sometimes I lay awake at night, my brain on overdrive. Worry is usually the fuel on which all of these responses feed.

But when the bus overheated, there was one thing we could do: wait.

We waited as the tractor-trailers flew by, shaking us with their passage. We waited as tiny cars we had passed some time ago whirred along. We waited.

So often I try to busy myself to avoid the waiting, and in that busy-ness I miss so many of the things I could have learned, had I embraced the wait. I miss out on life by filling it up with artificial distractions.

After the diagnosis.

After the rejection.

After the failure.

Then, something beautiful: in the midst of the waiting, and the pain, and the disappointment, I find something. Maybe it’s just a small yellow flower growing in the shade cast by a rock. Maybe it’s another way forward. Maybe it’s a different opportunity.

Or maybe it’s an unopened container of coolant in the belly of the bus.

10 Replies to “How the Solution to a Stalled, Overheated Bus is the Secret to Many Other Things in Life”

  1. I’m sorry this happened Shawn. Were you able to get the bus operational again? It’s such a helpless feeling when this stuff goes down. I know NOTHING about cars, so I always feel like the world is crumbling down on me when I have car problems. I’ll keep you and your family and your bus ion my prayers today!

  2. Yeah, the desert is a beautiful place… when it’s not trying to kill you!

    Glad you had the coolant, and that you were able to slow down enough to notice the beauty. I’m assuming this was the “near death experience” you tweeted about the other day?

    Good post….

    1. Never mind on the ‘near death’ question — just saw the comment about the runaway truck ramp. That is scary, and I’ll look forward to reading that post.

  3. Thanks everyone! Sorry about the lack of interaction here – unexpected lack of internet and phone service for the last five days. We did get the bus started again, we did hit the road, and we did lose our brakes just outside of Yellowstone at 8400 feet. That story is coming tomorrow.

  4. Shawn,
    I can’t stop reading your fascinating story of your family. I was in college at Messiah with Kate Beiler and saw your site on her wall and I’m hooked. Will be ordering books! Thanks for your refreshing view of life and love all the spiritual parallels.

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