By Tom Ehrich

TOWNSEND, TN -- I couldn't drive all the way up a steep driveway not built for snow. But I made it to the cabin. And -- mirabile dictu -- it isn't a Comfort Inn!

I can't even describe the joy. No parking lot. No check-in routine. No elevator to a room that is laid out exactly the same as the room 200 miles ago.

I love to travel, and I actually enjoy hotels. But I am ready for a break.

I am grateful to my friends Mickey and Janet for making this cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains available to me. Maybe that is the key learning of this day: the kindness that people show to travelers is a Godsend. There is a special grace at work when someone sees your road-weariness and says, "Come join us for supper."

I suppose the child side of me has been waiting this entire trip for a lightning bolt. What happens instead is the warm glow of friendship, the peace of feeling at home far from home, and the interest of those who have been following this journey.

I have felt God's abiding presence throughout these 3,200 miles to date. Not a presence of the lightning bolt sort, but rather an awareness of grace at my side. God hasn't prevented me from getting lost or making a bad restaurant choice. God has made each twist and turn in the road feel worthwhile. God has conferred value. I have felt at peace. Even road irritations -- like the southbound highway marked "North 321" -- have been short-lived.

I will spend this weekend -- four nights in the same bed! -- trying to think deeply about what I am learning.

This will be a change of pace. While driving, I haven't tried to get lost in thought. I recognized early on that I needed to pay attention to driving itself. Now, for the next few days, I am off the road and ready to ponder.

I doubt that pondering can be forced to happen. All I can do is make myself available to it.