It is 12 miles exactly from my driveway in Morrisville to the upper parking lot of Thompson Memorial Presbyterian Church. I make three left-hand turns: one onto Trenton Avenue, the second onto River Road, and a third onto Aquetong Road. Along this route there are two stop signs and only one traffic light. Without other cars on River Road, I can make that drive in 20 minutes. Leslie does it in 25 minutes. I’ve done it 15; more on that later.
For twenty-two years this has been my daily commute—12 miles along one of the prettiest roads in the country. In every season of the year, there’s beauty to enjoy. In winter I love when the snow blankets the banks of the river and the ice piles up like large hunks of layer cake. In the spring I look forward to the moment when the leaves on the trees first bud. The greens are so bright and shiny on those first days. In the summer I like to keep an eye on my fellow wave-runners. I’m happy to see others enjoying the beauty of the Delaware River from the middle of it, riding a wave runner. One of my favorite things to do is take Leslie on a ride from the Yardley boat launch north to Bowman’s Tower. In the fall, when the foliage is peaked, I anticipate a late afternoon when the sunlight hits New Jersey, bathing the trees in golden light with a dark curtain of shadows drawing across the water.
There used to be broken yellow lines that allowed me to pass the slower drivers. Years ago, the state made the lines of commute double yellow. This means if I get stuck behind someone who is slowing to enjoy the sights I love, I have to slow down with them. I do a better job of accepting these dawdlers on some days more than others.
My daily drive has had an overall positive effect on me. Twenty minutes gives me adequate time to make the mental transfer from home to church and from church to home. When I walk into my home, most often I feel like I am where I need to be and not bringing the concerns of the church to my family. Pastors need to put their work down too.
I have earned a reputation of liking to move along in my car. I’ve slowed down over the course of twenty-years. Early in my ministry, I helped drive a bunch of kids up to Lake Champion for their winter weekend. Leslie was pregnant with Sam. She and I were going to drive up with the luggage, get everyone settled and then head home, leaving the young people with the Youth Advisors. I was in the lead of a caravan of vans as we drove along back roads in Pennsylvania and New York. A police officer noticed our pack and followed us, though I didn’t know he was following us. Another van driver and I got into a short race in Milford, PA. The cop was still following us and he hit his lights and pulled us over. I got a ticket, with about twenty-five kids watching eagerly. Guess what was the first thing those young people told their parents on Sunday afternoon when they returned to our church? Pastor Spencer got a speeding ticket! This wasn’t my first ticket . . . that month. Janice Slack approached me that week and informed me that several church members were concerned about my driving habits. I got the message.
Now when I’m stuck behind a pokey driver, I pull my car way back. I remind myself that it’s fine if my drive takes a little longer. Enjoy your commute, I tell myself. It’s the best in the country.