After months of my car sitting forlorn in our driveway, with minimal trips around town for essentials, she finally got some exercise. She returned to the driveway recently with her trip odometer reading 1971.1 miles.

I had just returned from a few days away with my sister Shirley – we drove to Illinois for her son’s wedding, then back again.

It took quite some time to get there. My first leg of the trip was two and a half hours up to Columbia to pick her up, then the two of us shared driving duties for the next 11 hours.

We had intended to stop about halfway – somewhere around Nashville, Tenn. – to spend the night. But we drove past our intended small town and once in Nashville, we realized our final destination was only about four hours away. She was driving, and I think she might have been exceptionally eager to get there, so we kept going.

It was an amazing trip for more than the obvious reasons.

First, it was a long overdue chance to spend time alone with my sister. Living in different cities for the past 36 years, we have visited one another’s homes for a day or two over the years, of course. But we hadn’t spent 24/7 together for this long since I moved out of our family home 45 years ago.

It was almost as if I was re-introduced to this very special person in my life. As we drove, of course we talked. And we laughed – oh, how we laughed!

The second reason was the vast change in the landscape as we passed through region after region – first the piedmont, then rolling hills, then mountains, then on to wide open crop fields.

I have always loved the mountains, and seeing them on this trip was no less awesome than before. But I now have a deep appreciation for a different kind of landscape: corn fields. Once we crossed the Illinois line, they were everywhere. And if it wasn’t corn, it was soybean fields. The shades of green were simply amazing in different kinds of light during the day.

The sole reason for our journey was the wedding of her son Houston to his beloved Haylee. They had planned a church wedding for April 4, then postponed it once COVID-19 began to spread. They set another date for July 25. About a month prior to that, they switched gears again, opting for a smaller family wedding on the family property. The bigger event and reception is scheduled for next April.

Seeing Houston and meeting his bride’s extended family and their good friends was the highlight of our time in Addieville, Ill. I always enjoy meeting new people, but the fact that these folks knew and loved my nephew made them extra special. They have spent the past several years getting to know him; I hadn’t seen him in nearly a decade. He has been serving in the U.S. Air Force, which is how he ended up in Illinois.

Houston has grown from a quiet little boy into a strong, articulate, hard-working and smart man. His toys aren’t Hot Wheels and LEGOs, but tractors, combines and four-wheelers. He helps out on the family farm, where they grow wheat, corn and soybeans for a living.

Haylee is a perfect match for Houston. In addition to being beautiful, she too is strong and articulate. A P.E. teacher, she is warm, gracious, smart as a whip, and has a great sense of humor.

Her whole family welcomed Shirley and me with wide open arms. We were treated like some kind of royalty. We were introduced to every person who attended the wedding, usually with “They drove all the way from South Carolina!”

Traveling back home seemed much longer than the journey north. But we still talked and laughed a lot.

I’m looking forward to our return trip in April.