Godspeed: Embracing Divine Providence on the Open Road

Godspeed: Embracing Divine Providence on the Open Road May 22, 2024

Well, I wanna see the road melt

Into the mountains away as I drive

And make it out of this damn town alive

And not let the dreams I shoulder die

‘Cause I’m movin’ at God speed

Only God and my mama know what I need

And I feel the hardwood floors on my knees

As I beg you just to take it easy on me

Godspeed by Zach Bryan

Just before we left home

Note: This is an account of a cross-country odyssey told from the perspective of my brother Taylor Warman and I. 

Taylor lights a White Owl cigar before placing the van in drive. Smoke swirls about and hovers in place like the patented fog of Pacifica. The radio is tuned to acid jazz, Rashid Roland Kirk to enhance our awareness. Music is our fuel and we are ready to embark on a cross-country excursion.

As the trusted co-pilot with no sense of direction, I roll down the window and welcome the breeze as it wafts over my hand. 

After flunking out of college and failing at multiple jobs, I read Jack Kerouac and made the impulsive decision to “sell all we have” and follow the mysterious current that pushes all things onward. 

Enough books, we were determined to embark on our own odyssey. Our vehicle of choice was a maroon 1999 Dodge Ram Van that we affectionately and incorrectly named Scarlett. She was accustomed to our midnight runs, hours passed in music, conversation, and coffee pit stops as we navigated America’s paved waves.

We kept driving until the yellow lines disappeared, and Taylor finally brought us to a stop. We didn’t look for lodging, relying on Providence to see us through. At the time, I wasn’t comfortable using the word “God, so I settled for the safer term “universe. 

Our style of camping was similar to that of the Israelites in the wilderness. We would wander until there was nothing left to do but set up our tents in places where no postcard or Instagram caption could ever do justice.

Most mornings, we were awoken by a disgruntled officer pounding on the window or the premature morning light. But I’m getting ahead of myselfbest to start from the beginning. What did we hope to gain from this trip? Was there any method to our madness? The masks and illusions we carried with us like a rucksack would not survive the highway, which offers both silence and soundtrack. Running away was no longer an option. We were about to confront our true selves, for better or worse. 

The commandments of the road dictate a set of principles that one must embody and live out. These principles go beyond mere physical actions and are deeply rooted in the spirit. The physical and spiritual aspects of life are inextricably linked. 

There is an invisible thread that connects the past to the present, weaving the stories of our lives together. This thread, though unseen, is powerful, and it reminds us that every action we take today will have a lasting impact on the future.

In a society that values individualism and considers all ideologies to be equal, often avoiding labels or commitments to a particular origin story, we were determined to be countercultural and search for a definite truth.

As a budding writer, looking to take off, I was convinced that my success depended on my ability to acquire a treasure trove of experiences. A writer must write and to do so he must drink from the world’s well. Life is the only university that is truly worth investing in. All other forms of education are meaningless and only contribute to vanity. Attending wild parties, waking up in a hotel room with a woman who doesn’t speak a lick of English, and conversing with outlaws until the sun rises were all crucial to my research. 

Once we embarked on our epic, I told myself that this trip was a crash course in how to write better poetry. But deep down, I knew that I was just trying to silence my fears and insecurities. I was afraid of failing, of not being good enough, of not living up to my potential. Like a bat out of hell, I left my hometown and sought out the haunts of the scribes that came before me.

Maybe their talent would rub off and I’d have something worth sharing.

Every road we traveled was an exodus, a release from the shackles we had unknowingly welcomed into our lives.

It all started with a phone call: “I’ve thought about it, and I don’t want to regret not going. We’re only young once, right? We’ll leave the morning after Thanksgiving.”


Pacifica is many things to me. It was the destination of my first trips with Jacob, the birthplace of my wife and home to some of my favorite people on earth. These things merely scratch the surface, however. It represented a state of mind to Jake and I. It was freedom on a morning sea breeze. It was at once ours and no one at all. All these things considered it brought me no great pleasure to be packing up to leave this peaceful perch.

Atop a rocky cliff, I prepped a pot of coffee in a makeshift kitchen off the back of Scarlett. In saying  “kitchen” I admit to taking some creative liberties. What I meant to say was we had fastened a gas camper stove and a 6-cup Mr. Coffee machine to a piece of plywood that served as our pantry. 

Don’t be fooled by my description we loved that “kitchen” and this particular morning it took care of us. The damp coast air felt more like home than any house I ever inhabited and it was thick as ever that morning as if to remind us it would be here upon our return. As I sipped coffee I peered in to see if Jake was up yet. As was customary he had stayed up to soak in the night and all its creative juices to make sure to stay on a writing schedule and I was asleep by 9 pm so we could get a 5 am start.

I poured a cup for Jake and evicted the remnants of the pot. I secured our cargo and set up to set off. Before we go too much farther some notes are important if we are to embark upon this journey together. This was not a road trip or vacation. This was to be a journey. We had spent a year studying, learning, and growing and this was to be the culmination of all our efforts. In early November I began to help Jake build Scarlett for his trip.

What he described as his “on the road trip” was to be his magnum opus. I did not have any time to be envious as there was work to be doneWe started by ripping out all seats outside of the front two. We built two twin beds with cavernous openings underneath to serve as wardrobes. In the rear resided the aforementioned kitchen. One day while practicing what could best be described as amateur carpentry Jake looked up at me and said “You know it isn’t right if we don’t both go TWAR”. 

I laughed sheepishly. I knew he was right but as with the rest of my life up until this point it was not responsible and therefore I could not allow myself to fathom the idea.  A few days had gone back. We had taken a few small road trips thus far each one more cathartic than the last. A feeling eating at me told me I couldn’t afford to not go

This was, for the moment at least, Jake and I’s calling. The night before Thanksgiving I called him from the grocery store to tell him I would be going and I would be there in five with supplies. We met and toasted a Mickey’s before hugging, both sensing what we were about to embark upon held more levity than even we had anticipated. Ok, now that we’re all caught up and the pleasantries are behind us let’s get back to the matter at hand.

Scarlett strutted down Palmetto with all the finesse of a 30-year smoker and I loved it. I tried to be gentle with her. It’s funny the relationship a man forms with a car with enough time in the saddle. As if she spoke English with ease and elegance, I knew when she needed rest or water or oil. She simply lent a stutter or snort and I reacted in kind with a soothing word.

Anyone but Jake may have found this strange but he merely smiled knowingly as if to say he understands Scarlett is on the journey as much as we are and to call her a car would be tantamount to treason. Much like an old warhorse, she climbed in and out of the coastline hills as if she knew there was work to be done. She wasn’t wrong.

We were on a quest for self. Me to understand how to put all my teachings into practice, find what really matters, and learn to love the little things regardless of circumstances. Jake chasing creativity, Kerouac, and the American dream all at once. If you think this a tall task you have never met Jake. I knew it was out there. I didn’t yet know what “it” was but I knew two things for certain. I would find it and I would do it with Jake. 

About HJ Sandigo
HJ Sandigo hails from Placerville, California. His decision to exchange his car for a camper van led him to explore the country, hike around Europe, participate in the International Poetry Festival in Nicaragua, visit spiritual communities across the globe, and harmonize with monks while listening to James Taylor. HJ Sandigo is immensely grateful for the experiences, wisdom, and humor that people have shared with him throughout his journey. His work has been featured in Foreshadow Magazine, The Dreamland Review, Forum, and various poetry anthologies in San Francisco You can read more about the author here.

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