Sep 17 2012

Day 1255: Land Ahoy

by andrew

Nearly 3 weeks, 1800 miles, descending 5000 feet, climbing 2000 feet, 107 F degree days, 50 F degree nights, twice stranded, 3 unplanned days at a campground, 12unplanned but blessed days with friends,¬†1 crankshaft position sensor, 2 fuel injection pumps, 4 new tires + alignment, new fuel tank, new fuel sender, new hydrolic brake booster, and 2 new brake lines later… WE MADE IT TO PENNSYLVANIA!!!!

Again, a HUGE THANK YOU to all you brothers and sisters and family in Messiah out there praying for us and following our epic quest. More specific details for the mechanically curious below, but the short version is that – among other things – we needed a new fuel tank and it originally looked like the parts would not get in until this morning. However, they arrived Friday morning ahead of schedule and the shop was able to complete the work by the next morning. So, Matt drove us out there, backtracking west again, on Saturday afternoon and we were reunited with our home after almost two weeks. We had been really curious how all the food and everything would fare. The only casualties were some books that had received the life blood of a couple tomatoes that we left in a fruit basket on top of them, creating the perfect breeding nest for fruit flies. But even the milk in the fridge was still good!

I wish I could adequately recap our time with Matt and Sara and their beautiful family. Their incredible hospitality in our time of need was such a blessing; words cannot quite convey! Throughout the entire time both sets of children kept asking if we could stay longer – a sure sign that new buddies had formed over night. There were a few minor community pressures (what do you expect trying to throw a family of 9 and a family of 8 in the same house, unplanned, for an uncertain duration) but they walked with us through challenges with grace and humility. And quite honestly, it worked remarkably well all things considered. It sounds like the makings for a disaster reality show, but for the most part it was really peaceful and smooth – even with logistics like meals, beds, work, etc. – which is really a testimony to how well things work when there is generosity through genuine, mutual love of Messiah present. How many people would think it’s “normal” for 2 families and 17 total people to share a house and every day life (inconveniences and all) for 12 days and still be really sad when the time was over? THAT is something that only the love of our Heavenly Father can accomplish.

We are now on the property of our wonderful friends in Pennsylvania where we will be taking care of some animals and chores for them while they are traveling. It is beautiful country here, and fascinating to see what has changed and what is exactly the same after a two year absence.

Report: Day 1 on the Farm

  1. Woke up to fog and dew heavy spiderwebs around the yard. Ventured out with the kids to grab the pics above and several others as well as get re-acquainted with one of our very favorite places (after all, it was well after dark when we arrived late last night).
  2. Renee and the kids walked around the property and reviewed all the chores we’ll be making part of our new routine, while I started to get organized with my work for the day including conference calls and whatnot
  3. A big UPS truck and trailer showed up with a few pallets for the shop and our friend’s worker (a very nice Amish gentlemen who is keeping things running and I will from now on refer to as Mr. S.) asked if I could help unload by driving the skid steer (with forklift attachment). So, I jumped into that and figured it out pretty quickly; it all came back to me from the time I used it to move a temporary fridge from the shop to outside the trailer when ours had died a long time ago.
  4. Killed the internet at the house trying to get it to be more stable, and got help from the provider to bring it back up (honestly, what kind of modem wants you to setup the whole connection again just by pulling the power when it’s acting up?) ūüôā
  5. Had our first official Never Settle meeting and started to collect our thoughts after travels, honeymoons, and house moves; while the kids had a fun time finding 11 eggs, discovering kittens, riding scooters down the lane hill, and so on.
  6. Ate the eggs for lunch
  7. Drove Mr. S. to one of the rental properties to measure part of the roof for replacement
  8. Looked for a mini trampoline we left here long ago (maybe it’s no longer here, or very cleverly stored) but instead found and dealt with a rogue bag of bad apples in the house basement that were fermenting and squishy and leaking their juice all over the place.
  9. Got some more work done, while Renee was finishing school with the kids and starting supper
  10. Closed the day as a family by sighting the sliver new moon just above the horizon, which – behind a thin veil of clouds – looked like a faint vertical column of light erupting from the earth; and brought in the High Sabbath of the Biblical Yom Teruah (Day of Shouting, Feast of Trumpets) by blowing our shofar (rams horn) and yelling on top of the highest mound in the yard and singing praises to our King for His victory, looking forward to Messiah’s return ON THIS FESTIVAL in some future year, His faithfulness to bring us safely here even in this timing to be able to celebrate the Festival in this place, and all His goodness towards us of which we have written only a fraction.

For the Mechanically Curious:

Describing it somewhat backwards from the order in which everything was finally solved: I knew I had a steering fluid leak. But it went from once a month top-offs to empty between fill-ups in the short time after leaving Colorado. Turns out there was a leaky seal in our hydro booster (I learned that the brake booster increases braking pressure hydrolically using the power steering fluid). New booster busted a rusty break line when they were bleeding the system. Another brake line blew out over night sitting there before we picked it up the next day. So thankful that happened in the shop and not bouncing up and down the¬†Appalachian Mountains the next day.¬†Ok, so for the real kicker; a vacuum had been created in our metal fuel tank and literally sucked it in on itself to the point where it creased in spots and cracked along a rust line. The final sign of the issue was a leak that probably didn’t develop until right around the time we broke down the second time – at least it certainly wasn’t there on our last fuel stop. On top of that, the tube on the fuel sender had been slowly bent and pinched off by the compression. To some extent it was maybe not getting enough fuel. But what’s weird is that it ran strong until right before it died that second time. So maybe the vacuum finally caused the crease, the leak, and bent the sender all at once which starved the pump. The shop owner (Wesley) said he’d never seen anything like it in 31 years. His brother who also works there – never in 40 years.

When I was getting the final run-down from Wesley, he said it should run better than it ever has before. And he was right. We pulled through the mountains along I-80 (admittedly nothing massive, but still) with more power than the other couple times we’ve tackled that same route. It was almost a joy to tow with it. But that was a LONG day. I realized it was only 500 miles from Cincinnati (where we stopped the night before to spend a few albeit way too short hours with dear friends there) to the farm. Before, I was thinking it was 600, but maybe that was from Louisville. Anyway, we made a family-unanimous decision to push through and get here from Cincinnati in one day. The kids especially. And they did great – even voluntarily foregoing run-around stops at rest areas to pull it off. We’re all so glad we did too!

It is so peaceful here and such a wonderful blessing to be back. The only thing that would make it better would be if our friends were here too. But we’re glad that they are having a special family trip and look forward to their return.

Sep 12 2012

Day 1250: Adrift

by andrew

Thank you! – all of you who have been praying for us and carrying us in your hearts and wondering how we are doing. Here’s how I am doing (delayed by about a day from when this all actually unfolded):

During the last couple days as we approached the 1 week mark (longer than anticipated or intended) of staying with our wonderful and gracious friends in Kentucky while trying to navigate a labyrinth of contacts and delays on the truck repairs, I have been growing increasingly restless. I have felt the expanding sensation of floating in a life raft in the middle of the ocean: safe for the moment but powerless to affect my situation with no land in sight. Despite a firm faith in YHWH having distinct purposes for this sequence of events as they began to unfold a week ago, my grip on that trust grew weary especially last night and this morning.

Regardless, His peace has been ever present – even as my own frustrations mounted. Finally this morning in a bit of calm, desperate reflection, a light bulb went on in my spirit, and the switch had been flipped at least partly by the title of this article: what if one of the main reasons Father allowed this breakdown and subsequent extended strandedness was to throw the breaks on my busy-ness so that I would slow down enough (complete stop) to catch up to Him… In my opinion it would have been much cleaner if He had waited until we got to PA to throw the breaks, but He didn’t ask me my opinion and I probably would have easily missed His cues once we got to PA with the busy-ness that would have ensued there anyway.

The truck should be finally getting some attention in the shop today. I am not sure how long or what all it will need for parts, etc. They asked me this morning if I was aware of a fuel leak in the rear. That’s new and I have no idea what that’s about.

But more importantly, once I had some idea of what it would take to regain my bearings this morning, I started to finally let some things go, to slow down, to push less important things aside, and to return focus and attention and time to my King. In that process this article was an amazing reminder and challenge. It articulates areas in which I need so much growth, but it also inspires me to chase that overcoming with renewed perspective and energy.

Sometimes… Often even… The truest answers are the ones to the questions that haven’t been asked and seem completely unrelated to what we think a problem is or where we will find a solution.

Sep 5 2012

Day 1243: UN-Self-Reliance 101

by andrew

Apparently, we need more stretching / training in this area. And/or Father just wants us to spend longer in Kentucky than the quick overnight we had originally planned. And/or maybe these are just mandatory practice runs – like fire drills – of trailer evac with our grab-and-go gear. It’s so funny how the mission (in this case getting to Pennsylvania) can be so quickly reduced (or complicated) into other really important side-quests.

So here we were yesterday, broken down yet again (over something that is probably very trivial as I explain below) at mile marker 83 along I-64 in Indiana:


Again, YHWH had prepared everything ahead of time and we were miraculously provided for and well taken care of, despite the “inconveniences” and emotional battles to guard our peace and trust. In fact, we are feeling extremely blessed right now, even if our truck and trailer are still 70 miles away in another state at the moment with an uncertain resurrection timeline. Our dear friends who also have 7 children (and hence a 12 passenger van) came out and picked us up an hour and 20 minutes away from their home south of Louisville, KY. Even though our roadside assistance wasn’t able to find a provider to come tow us (it was the middle of nowhere) I found a shop – Small Brothers Truck and Auto – 10 miles away in Leavenworth, IN that was able to come out and pick up the trailer and the truck (what would we do without internet and maps on our phones?).

Wesley (the shop owner) was amazing. He came out at the end of a hectic day with one of his guys and pulled our trailer back to the shop while the other drove the flatbed with our suburban on it. He was also gracious enough to let us plug in at the shop to keep our fridge running so that we didn’t have to worry about that (at least for a couple days). Near the end of our trip back to the shop we instantly connected spiritually when I said, “really appreciate everything – you’re a life saver,” and he humbly responded, “well I don’t know about all that,” so I probed further by saying, “well, I believe everything happens for a purpose,” and he responded with something close to: “absolutely, the Good Lord has His reasons for everything.” In the exact same way that all these events are challenging us to maintain peace in the middle of turmoil, it sounds like he’s going through the exact same challenges with his shop business. Please remember Wesley in your prayers as well – that YHWH will give him strength to guard his peace and find favor with and bless him!

So, how did we go from the top of the world with 4 new tires and a fresh alignment (the previous evening and morning adventures) cruising toward our destination with reasonable hope to still see our friends near¬†Louisville¬†and¬†Cincinnati AND still make a Friday landfall in PA; to winding up once again completely dependent on our Creator’s provision and the generous assistance of others? Well, as I try to reconstruct a fraction of the purposes together in my mind so that it makes some kind of coherent picture I’ve stumbled across a few connections whose strands are worth following – at least with some speculative deduction.

But first a quick digression on the new tires adventure. Feeling like I still had plenty of time on our front passenger side tire, although it was wearing badly from being out of alignment for a while now without any rotations, I thought it would suck worse than the expense of new tires to have a blowout and be stranded again or worse. So, we pulled into a Wal-Mart a couple of evenings ago in time to get a new set of 4 right there (the rear ones were close to done anyways too, at least as far as tread goes). I was planning to just put it on our emergency credit card and sort it out with everything else later, but the over-aggressive fraud monitoring blocked the transaction and I would have been totally stuck if it hadn’t been for the generous gifts from some of our friends sitting in our paypal account that I was able to access with our paypal credit/debit card. That’s how the tires got taken care of. Then of course I wanted to get an alignment done right away so as not to chew up the new tires prematurely and found a place across the street that got me in nice and early and on the road in good time yesterday. Back to the reconstruction:

Perhaps part of the purpose for the original breakdown in Seibert, CO was to set the timing for the second breakdown. In my humble opinion, it should have waited another 70 miles, but that certainly would not have been as interesting. Following the trail of fallen¬†dominoes¬†backwards: the new injection pump installed in Colorado came with the PMD (pump mounted driver – basically an electronic circuit box) mounted directly on the pump itself which sits on top of the engine in probably the hottest place possible. This is an idiotic design and one of the reasons the duramax 6.5L earned a questionable reputation. What happens is that the normal heat from engine operation under loads like towing through mountains – even with all gauges in safe ranges, which I am anal about – fries the electronics which control fuel injection and without fuel the truck dies and of course steering and breaks die with it. Super dangerous, and when I felt it starting to die, I slowed way down and prayed for a safe place to pull over because I didn’t see anywhere immediately available. It lasted long enough to cool down a bit, and then I lost brakes and steering at a place that worked out be be safe enough to stop.

The solution to this whole bad engineering induced mess is remarkably easy – replace the PMD with an FSD (Fuel Solenoid Driver) relocated outside the center of the heat and attach it to an adequate heatsink. In fact, this was our exact configuration before the original pump died. Even so, the original pump had nearly 225,000 miles on it which is pretty good (a typical lifespan for those pumps under normal average-to-heavy conditions is 100,000 miles). However, when the first shop put in the new pump, they left our pump-protecting FSD disconnected and just wired in the attached PMD in it’s factory failure prone location for warranty reasons. The new pump supposedly has a 3 year / 36,000 mile warranty. Of course the ironic thing is that because of the design it failed in under 1000 miles of conservative towing.

The maddening thing is that I have the solution sitting right there under my hood – the FSD which should still be OK, since the first shop tested with another FSD connected to the bad pump to eliminate my FSD as the cause of the original issue. To add additional frustration: the wiring connections and the pump itself are buried under the turbo plenum and the intake manifold, on top of which I don’t know for sure whether or not the FSD harness to connect it is still down there since they just used the standard PMD. Well, sitting there on the side of I-64 I got about half-way into the project of pulling it all apart to look for the harness – battery cables disconnected, connectors detached from the turbo plenum, plenum off, upper coolant hose off and a couple liters of coolant dropped, and a couple bolts out of the intake manifold before I came to the following conclusions: 1) there was the possibility that the harness I needed for the FSD wasn’t even still down there ; 2) even if I was successful reconnecting the FSD it wasn’t a 100% fix (although very likely) and regardless would mean sending my family on ahead with our friends and sacrificing that time with them together plus pushing past dark on the side of the interstate with the re-assembly effort.

Matching that against my experience with the time I spent on the failed attempt to fix the last problem with the crankshaft sensor replacement, and admitting to myself that although I could definitely tackle this in my own garage without a deadline, I am not yet the kind of ninja mechanic that could pull it off within the constraints of that scenario, I resigned to get everything put back together, try to start it again, and if that didn’t get us anywhere, call in the support. As you know, the support became the solution. And I’m confident that the priority time staying together with my family and our friends was the right decision whatever the dollar costs end up being.

It’s fascinating to me… basically 3 years of problem-free towing for 50,000 miles and it seems like everything decides to go all at once – of course at the most inopportune time ūüôā Is there a message there? Or are we simply hitting the attrition caps on some of our equipment at the same time? Or is Father weaving a grander story through it all? Definitely that with probably substantial portions of the other reasons mixed in as well.

So, our current condition: massively grateful that we’re with our dear friends who have graciously opened their home wide to us. The kids have a whole new set of buddies, and aside from some enthusiastic (i.e. loud) play going on, they are otherwise the very absolute opposite of bored and I might not even see much of them while we’re here, which is perfect for catching up with Matt and Sara and making progress on some work. To a small family unit, 13 children in 1 house for more than an hour or two at a time might sound like insanity, never mind consecutive sleepovers. But all things considered the chaos is actually quite minimal. In fact, it is extremely peaceful here. And consistent with the entire moral to this part of our story unfolding: True Peace does not depend on external circumstances but internal, unshakable trust in our Deliverer and Redeemer – Yahushua the Son of God. Only He can provide the Peace that surpasses all understanding.

Aug 30 2012

Day 1236: Adventures Already, Really?

by andrew

Not even 150 miles into our trip east of Denver the following unfolded, and I record this as a testimony to our heavenly Father’s incredible attention to detail in protecting, providing, and caring for us (read through the highlights with the thought in mind that the trigger event could have occurred with us in the middle of nowhere, without help or lodging options).

  • Rolling down I-70 it was hot (high 90s) but we were cruising
  • Around 4pm on a steep climb I was watching my exhaust temp closely as it started to climb
  • I backed off the throttle to keep the gauges happy as I always do, but the gauges didn’t get happy this time. All of the sudden I lost all power (the accelerator pedal had no effect) and the engine started revving wildly up and down on it’s own.
  • Bummer. But we were also really aware that it was just part of the story, and like all good stories there were purposes yet to be realized and explored.
  • Threw it in neutral and pulled over with flashers going and rolled to a stop on the side of the road, part way onto the exit ramp at mile marker 405. Blessing #1: exit ramp, gas station not too far ahead, close to the tiny town of Seibert, CO.
  • Thinking it might be heat related we prayed and let it cool down a bit. Tried to start it and it was acting the same: wild idle all over the place and no impact from gas pedal.
  • Called Ray. Blessing #2: Ray is the manager of the diesel shop I referenced in my last post and he’s a brilliant man and excellent diesel mechanic. He gave me some things to try.
  • Preparing to disconnect battery cables Blessing #3 enters stage right in the form of a man named Leeroy who stopped and offered to pull us off the exit ramp and down into the gas station parking lot where it would be much safer. We gladly took him up on it.
  • Ice cream sandwiches and bags of fancy rocks later, I was trying to get the truck to run normally again with no success.
  • In the meantime another man by the name of Craig pulls into the same parking lot as us and I find out that his truck (also a chevy) is also basically broken down too. Blessing #4: New acquaintance and someone to commiserate and swap war stories with.
  • I call a diesel repair place at the largest / closest town (30 miles away) hoping they’ll be able to help us out. Guy says it would be next week before he could even look at it. Ugh. He also didn’t know of anyone else who would be able to look at it soon.
  • Blessing #5: I discover that there’s a campground less than a mile away.
  • I call our roadside assistance and they hook up towing for the suburban. We ride in the truck on top of the flatbed to the campground. Blessing #6: the driver takes me back for the trailer and tows it to the campground for only $20 (roadside wouldn’t include that in the coverage)
  • We spot Blessing #7 on the way in: an amazing playground that Renee took the kids to while we went back for the trailer and I got all set up in our site.
  • Blessing #8: Craig offers me a cold beer while I’m getting everything set up.
  • Blessing #9: We have a nice full-hookup site for as long as we need to get the truck fixed
  • Blessing #10: There’s also internet here
  • Blessing #11: Found out from the campground owner that there’s a NAPA Auto parts only ¬†about 10 miles away and they deliver (at this point we’re still completely stuck as the truck is simply not drivable.

So, for the last several hours after supper I’ve been going through the shop manual and testing / trying / taking apart various things. Some of the potential problem parts are under or blocked by everything, so I will either have to take a bunch of stuff apart or find someone who is already good at this and knows where to start.

This will likely throw our whole trip off, which has ripple implications, but we’re mindful that there’s a reason this happened, and are still focused on getting to PA in time. So tired. Falling asleep typing this so I better lie down and…

Aug 28 2012

Day 1235: The Whirlwind Heads East

by andrew

I have probably overused this word picture, but a vocabularic laziness¬†compels¬†me to to search no further than the characterization of our time in Colorado as a whirlwind. And it is coming to an abrupt close – sooner than we originally anticipated – as Father YHWH has laid it on our hearts to head east to Pennsylvania within a particular timing. Actually, in many ways the return east is long overdue and we have missed our friends and family in Messiah there tremendously. It’s hard to believe that it has basically been 2 years since we were last there. So much has changed. It will be difficult in ways and a joy in so many others. There is grief mingled with triumph. Unanswerable questions mixed hope. We have not been back since dear friends lost their young adult son just over a year ago, and since other dear friends have been struggling with cancer in the family. It is sobering. Humbling. In many ways I feel inadequate for whatever awaits, but I cling to the hope that Abba YHWH will somehow be able to communicate some small portion of His vast love through us.

We are also eager to visit and reconnect with a few dear friends along the way in the process… time will be so short, so the visits will be regrettably brief, but it will be wonderful to see some faces that it has literally been years since last we met.

And now for the scribal tasks at hand, I suppose it is important to set down at least some of the highlights from our amazing and incredibly full time near Denver, CO for the record.

Actually, there are a few things I’d first like to remember about the trip down from Manitoba to Colorado. I’m sure some of the memories already grow dull, but it was at once glorious and trying to be back on the road. We had an amazing time with our family in Messiah in southern Manitoba before finally leaving Canada. We swam in the river, enjoyed amazing Shabbat fellowship, and Bennah had his first mikveh. Once we hit the road there were other things like the familiar wal-mart sleep overs and brutal hot weather inspiring failed attempts to recharge the AC in the truck eating into travel cash that was already extremely (as in harrowingly) tight. The campground we found the night before we reached Denver with the swimming pool and diving board and the fun we had there. Not knowing where we would stay once we reached Denver and by all appearances the options were non-existent, but on arrival day finding an opening at the first campground close enough to the city to be worth stopping at. Having no money left, but little projects coming in and paying out just in time for us to cover gas or groceries or campground fees by YHWH’s provision.

We arrived in early July, just in time for Kenn’s bachelor weekend which was the goal of pushing so hard on the drive down in the first place. We arrived on Jul 5th (Thurs) and that same night I headed up to the mountains near Breckenridge with Kenn and two of his closest buddies. I had been having an internal debate about whether to head up so soon or go up the next night to settle a little more with my family first. But I was soon very thankful and blessed to have that extra time with those three awesome guys. Father gave us some amazing conversations and experiences before the others headed up. Overall it was an amazing weekend that I quasi-documented in imagery here (this is in Kenn’s Photo Album on Facebook, but I’ll eventually get those and more uploaded to my smugmug account too).

After that everything is a blur:

  • Building a new company (still in process) – Never Settle
  • Working freelance projects to keep the bills paid
  • Catching up with friends and family
  • Hot afternoon swims in a local river
    Bennah and Zach racing in the river
  • An amazing new friendship that sprung out of getting our truck worked on at a particular shop after some biking and flat tire adventures with Bennah
  • Hopping around multiple campgrounds and discovering Clear Creek RV Park in Golden, CO that became our easy favorite in the entire area… they don’t take reservations, are always full, and have a 14-day max stay at a time, so there’s a system and and a few tricks to getting in and returning – but so worth it (even with the minor inconvenience of early morning registrations and spending a couple days on an electric only site waiting for a full-hookup site to open up).
  • Tubing down the creek
  • Late night photo and video adventures

    Panorama of Golden, Denver, and surrounding areas

    Panorama of Golden, Denver, and surrounding areas

  • Replacing the right rear leaf springs on the trailer the day we were supposed to leave the Clear Creek RV campground after our 14 day max

    Replacing the rear leafs

    Replacing the rear leafs

  • Having class year grade graduation

    School Year Class / Grade Graduations

    School Year Class / Grade Graduations

  • Exploring some Colorado mining areas

    Old Mineshaft

    Old Mineshaft

  • Of course, Kenn and Megan’s wedding – which was one of the huge reasons for our time here this summer, with the bonus of celebrating our 12th anniversary overnight in Loveland, CO after the wedding festivities which were amazing. It was a unique and beautiful privilege I had to officiate the wedding and observe all the preparation, excitement, and ceremony from that vantage point. What a powerful picture and reminder of our coming bridegroom, Messiah, and King and the Wedding Feast that is to come. I enjoyed the celebration aspects all the more having walked through the “birthing” of the ceremony with the incredible couple. It was a joy to participate and also a relief when it was over – rejoicing in the reflection of Kenn & Megan’s hearts and personalities manifested in the public expression ¬†of their covenants to YHWH their Creator and¬†commitments¬†to each other in their beautiful vows.
  • And all the other photographic moments:

May 23 2011

Three Weeks Later

by andrew

Well, in the 3 weeks that have elapsed since my back became a confounding component of every day life, adventure has still managed to hunt me down from time to time. I’ve usually paid for it the next day, but am still figuring out how quickly (or not) I can force a return to normality. Daily lower back yoga stretches (thanks again brother D for the recommendations) and natural bromelain / turmeric capsules have been helping quite a bit. Never fast enough, but definitely progress.

I can summarize the last few weeks by the events that my back has not appreciated.

Leon and I thought we’d head out for a leisurely evening of knocking down trees along what will become our driveway. As many a good tractor adventure has wound up, we broke through a soft patch and got quite stuck. The mud pit got the better of our heroic attempts for an hour or so to rescue the thing. So, we were doomed to head back the next rainy evening to pull it out with an even bigger tractor.

This worked out to be a blessing because the only way to get the big tractor out was directly through the woods along the path where the bigger trees were. With the soft ground it pushed them right down no problem and the driveway was officially carved.

Once the weather cleared up and everything started drying out rapidly from the warm, sunny weather I made several trips back there to start limbing and chopping up all the trees. We’ll have to get an estimate on what it will take to build up the driveway and dig the substantial drainage ditches that will have to go in. But here’s a few shots of the lot and the path we carved, and the beginning of the clearing effort:

Overall view facing east. The gap in the trees will be the driveway.

The highlighted greenish patch is the building site and the gap again is the future drive.

The chopping and clearing project.

And on top of all that I have edited and uploaded Episode 11 of Journeys and created dated posts for every previous episode, AND updated The Movie page to list them all out for quick reference.

Apr 11 2011

Day 730: The End is the Beginning

by andrew

I wish I could convey the immense import behind the (humanly) unplanned, colossal culmination of crossing the border back into Canada on April 11th upon completing our family mission to visit all 4 corners of the United States exactly 2 years to the day after we originally departed Virginia on April 11th 2009.


YHWH our Father in the heavens has without fail secured our path on every mile of this amazing Journey. For the last several weeks – despite continual rains on the west coast and some more dicey weather in parts – we have had sunny weather every single departure day. We’ve hit some weather on the road, but always way milder than forecasted. And the Provisions along the way have been even more specific and personal than just the weather on every given day.

Today we drove northward up through beautiful BC. Jasper tomorrow perhaps. Eastward to Manitoba. A new season begins, and with it many uncertainties and questions that we know will find doors opening in their time.


2 years. I am feeling¬†inordinately sentimental at the moment. Or maybe it’s just too warm here in the 24-hr Denny’s with wifi that I walked to from the Wal-Mart next door¬†here in Quesnel (“Que-nel” for all you tourists) BC.

Joy was a baby when we left. This is the only life she knows and has no context for what life in a “house” is like. Now she thinks she’s 4. And it’s hard to prove she’s not. Jaiden barely had a¬†vocabulary, but his laugh is the same. Zach still jumps off of everything despite our futile efforts to extend the life of our trailer interior, but he has started school and grown up in so many other ways during this time. Reayah and Bennah have blossomed in numerous areas. They’ve mastered bike-riding, scrambled up scree cliffs, built forts throughout the continent… I better not start lest I spend the rest of the night listing. ¬†It’s hard to imagine them 2 years ago.

I almost can’t remember what normal used to be. This is normal now, and it will keep changing, just the way I like it. I feel like we are discovering a life story that was written for us from the beginning of time. Rather than muting our free-will it intensifies it. All of our decisions – especially the second-guessed or uncertain or even less than ideal ones – are met with plot twists that keep the story interesting. It is a wonderful epic treasure hunt where the hidden prizes and rewards are things that haven’t even occurred to our searching imaginations: new relationships, breathtaking geographies, self-discovery, family bonding to a degree that’s hard even for us to realize and appreciate consciously much less express to others, memories whose imagery fades but which pull our spiritual roots deeper and deeper, anticipation, letting go, learning… to keep moving.

Life is moving. Whether across the continent physically or in your own personal development, perspective, and spiritual universe. Growth. Why do we crave new things? How can we be quenched?

Life is a quest for the elusive infinite.

Journey is a verb too after all.

Mar 26 2011

Day 714: Sabbath from Adventure

by andrew

I should have known we were in for an awesome and eventful trip when it took us 2 hours to dig and push and back our truck and trailer out of the mud hole that had formed over the several rainy days that led up to our departure. We were finally able to back out through a meticulous method that involved rotating 4 large scrap pieces of plywood, mulch, and 4 lo.

We had an amazing few weeks parked at friends southeast of Fresno, CA. Thanks again for everything! It was an incredible blessing to get to know you and participate in the fellowship there. We so enjoyed the area and the kids were right at home with enough country to receive their energy.

There was a beautiful break in the weather on the day we had decided to leave. It was warm and sunny despite days of rain before and days of rain forecasted for after. Even so it was 6pm by the time we finally pulled away, and it looked like we’d be driving for days in the rain. It was mostly cloudy for the next few days, and we did drive through some rain, but for the most part everywhere we went it had either ¬†stopped raining or waited to start until we were settled for the night. Roads were clear and traffic was mild.

This was a really busy business week with lots of work and phone conferences and such, but it worked out perfectly every time. One morning we found a mall for Renee and the kids to stay occupied while I hopped on the internet at Starbucks in Barnes & Noble to do my calls and emails. Another morning there happened to be a Starbucks across the street from the Wal-Mart we parked at for the night, which let me get on some other scheduled calls. The children were amazing through it all. In fact, I think this was by far the best 4-day stretch of travelling where all of us stayed more or less in the Shalom Zone. Maybe it helped that all the kids were at various stages of being sick which blunted their normal energy levels.

We had been praying that the rig would make it without too much trouble through the mountains of northern California on I-5. We didn’t know how bad the climbs would be, but have had issues with the turbo in the past so it was an unknown. Everything mechanical functioned beautifully.

I had checked roads and chain restrictions a couple days before and everything looked clear, but the night before we got there a major storm blew in just north of Redding and dropped a bunch of snow and triggered not only a chain requirement but check point as well. And there was another storm system blowing in that night that was going to drop more ice and snow in the mountains we had to cross. We had a narrow window.

But we didn’t have chains. Seeing the signs we stopped in Redding and started looking. I had called around a few weeks earlier looking for some before because we might have needed them to go see the sequoias (we didn’t) but no one had our size. So, it was a small miracle when we found a Wal-Mart near by in Redding that had some even though they had been selling them all day. Thus acquired, we went along our merry way only to run into a 6-mile long line waiting to go through the check-point.

There was a sign that said cars left lane trucks and trailers right lane. So, we sweated it out a bit with the commercial trucks while other cars flew past us on the left. After an hour went by and we had only covered 2 miles it was closing in on 5pm and we had several hours of crossing mountains and it was going to get dark and dangerous. I decided that trucks and trailers meant commercial vehicles and broke out of the mold onto the left lane. We cruised on past the 3-4 mile long, unbroken line of semis with their cargo, and got to the check-point where everything was down to 1 lane anyway. It was really an inefficient and poorly and handled operation.

With that we were on our way and into some interesting driving. We hit some rain, but the roads were ok. We got over the worst of the I-5 CA mountains and tucked in for the night at about 3000 ft. I pulled almost an all-nighter working, and when I went to bed at 5am it had started snowing massive beautiful flakes in torrents. Interesting.

We got going about noon, and it was still snowing even though it had warmed up to the high 30s. Roads were slushy. We knew this was a big travel day. We had over 300 miles to go including the steepest and highest parts of I-5 and most of Oregon to drive across. It was a pretty intense day but YHWH protected us as we cautiously tackled the mountains through southern OR at times in heavy snow (though the roads were staying fairly clear). When we crossed the highest point along I-5 which runs the whole length of the west coast from Seattle to San Diego we were elated. Downhill was tougher in a lot ways, so I kept it slow.

We even found a Chipotle – a family favorite that we miss in areas which don’t have them – as we got close to Portland. We pulled into our reserved site about 9pm… tired, but extremely thankful. We’re having a lo-key weekend, catching up on rest and, now that Sabbath has ended,¬†a bit of chores and work. We’re looking forward to spending some time with family in Portland and are glad we could be here to attend my Granny’s memorial service on Friday as we head further north shortly after that.

Having written all this it feels like I’ve just captured the emotionless details of our travels somewhat like an historian might have written about the ancient Greeks. But I wish I could convey to you the sublime experience of living through so many little miracles every day – all the things we need along the road whether we’ve planned for them or not – Father YHWH provides in perfect timing. It was painfully hard to get moving again after being at our friends for 6 weeks, and while I’m thankful to be parked again for a short bit, nothing compares to the wilderness of the journey.