I was enjoying the temporary sense of freedom that comes with owning a brand new vehicle as I drove back from a July 4 visit to a friend in Virginia Beach. I love solo road trips - taking any route I choose and stopping anywhere I want, whenever I want.

I had read about the Church Hill Tunnel disaster in Richmond, Virginia on the old C & O railway line, and always wanted to see it for myself. So, I took advantage of my freedom of navigation and began the search for the tunnel in a Richmond neighborhood. I finally found the location of the western portal, deep in a densely wooded ravine along a residential street. I parked, grabbed the cameras, and began the tedious descent down to the entrance of the collapsed tunnel that still entombs a train and numerous railroad workers.

The woods were overgrown with midsummer vegetation, and I scanned carefully for poison ivy as I trudged over fallen trees and through briars. I am slightly oversensitive to the dreaded three-leafed vine, and have had my share of bad rashes and prednizone doses.

I made it to the base of the ravine, and there it was - the distincive, 'flat-oval' shaped portal, fenced off and piled high in front with old mattresses and garbage. I snapped a few photos, took one last look, and headed back to the truck - satisfied that I'd been allowed to accomplish one of the goals of my trip. But halfway back up the ravine, my satisfaction turned to anxiety as I looked down to see that I was standing in the middle of an endless carpet of poison ivy.

Far from any place I could take a shower or change clothes, I simply stopped and asked the Lord to ease the outbreak that was certain to ensue in the next 24 hours.

I drove the rest of the way home to Charleston, stopping in Roanoke and Narrows, Virginia for some more sightseeing and visiting friends, finally arriving home after midnight.

I never broke out in the rash.

. . . Lord, you're the best.

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