Rest Stops for the Soul: Part I

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Aug 27, 2011

"There is more to life than increasing its speed."

Several years ago my friend, Don Hawkins, wrote a book titled Rest Stops for the Soul. Throughout his work Don has captured insights from life stories and anecdotes which provide the reader with opportunities of short seasons of renewal, i.e. rest stops. I love his book and have always loved the title. 

When Evie and I travel, we love to discover creative experiences of renewal similar to Don's "rest stops." Each time we leave home we look for them. On a recent trip to Gatlinburg, TN, we found two of them. This week I will reflect on one; next week I will reflect on the other. 

It was a beautiful day in May and we were driving along I-81 in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley in western Virginia when we decided it was time for a rest stop. 

There nestled within the steep slopes of the Blue Ridge and Alleghany Mountains rests the tiny town of Buchanan, Virginia. Known as the "Gateway to the Shenandoah Valley" a local brochure says, "Buchanan invites you and your family to rediscover small town America. We're 25 minutes south of Lexington, 15 minutes south of Natural Bridge, and 24 minutes north of Roanoke and 20 minutes from Bedford by the parkway." 

Located in Botetourt County with its skyline drive and the Appalachian Trail flowing through it, the real lifeblood of Buchanan is the James River. A local reference says, "Outdoor enthusiasts flock to canoe, kayak, tube, and fish on the Upper James River." 

Although most of these details we learned once we were in town, the moment we drove down Main Street we knew we were about to experience something special. We backed into a parking space and could not help noticing there were no parking meters in sight. 

The old antique shop right in front of us seemed to be calling us to come inside. The friendly proprietor treated us like a friend. An old wooden bench caught our eye and, after browsing around the store, we bought it and loaded it into our car. 

A few doors down and across the street we discovered an old fashioned drug store. As we stepped inside we felt like we were stepping back more than 50 years in time. The pictures, furniture and decor were vintage to that period. We walked up to the counter and sat at two red stools while the waitress served other customers. 

Evie and I sat there taking it all in. An old juke box with old records with old songs was located at the end of the counter. Small books made out of wood that appeared to be unfinished were behind us. A small, old drugstore was built along the side wall beyond the books. Old Coca Cola signs and containers were everywhere. 

The waitress took our orders for ice cream cones: Evie ordered vanilla; mine was black raspberry. We paid for our treats and stood by the door enjoying the scenery. We stepped outside, breathed deeply, and took it all in. 

The sidewalks on both sides of the street were clean and manicured with summer flowers in pots and planters consistent with a small town on Main Street. As we ate our cones we walked along stepping in and out of a few more stores. 

Knowing we still had a long way to go to reach Gatlinburg by the end of the day, we made our way back to our car. We had been there about an hour and a half. On our way out of town we drove by an old historic church, the bank, a grocery store, the Upper James River. 

And as we re-entered I-81 zooming along at Virginia's 70mph speed limit, our souls were indeed refreshed and renewed all because of a 90 minute rest stop on our way from here to there. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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