Aug 15 2010

Day 492: Against the Tide

by andrew

July escaped completely undocumented, even though we had a great big Garlic Adventure to Ohio and back to PA. Tonight I am typing this on battery power while we sleep several degrees off kilter in this welcome center / rest stop parking lot in NE Penn just shy of NY state. I don’t think we’re suppose to be here overnight, but when I went inside to find someone to ask, the only one around was a nice janitor lady and she said no one will bother us. I told her the story about how Joy dropped my phone in a cup of water and now the screen doesn’t work. She had asked what that little thing around my wrist was. I explained that it was a little LED flashlight that I use to read my phone’s screen whenever I need to. We wouldn’t have even stopped here but the Wal-Mart in town has been overtaken by township ordinances that state in scary big signs “no overnight camping.” I almost wanted to challenge that by setting up anyway and if anyone came I would have debated the semantics of overnight camping versus just parking… camping involves so much more it seems to me and it’s not like we would have tried to have a fire and roast marshmellows or anything. And, while the lady at customer service was apologetic and emphatic that it was not them (Wal-Mart) but the township and suggested that they were open 24 hours and hey we just might be shopping all night long, we figured we better not risk it and check out the welcome center instead since she also thought it might permit overnight. By the time we got here (just down the road) and everyone went to the bathroom and I called ahead to the next Wal-Mart an hour down the interstate to make sure they weren’t in local ordinance party-pooper land too, it was going to be quite late by the time we got there and sprawled out. So, we made a family decision split along pretty even lines to do the adventurous thing and subject ourselves to some guerrilla-style sleeping arrangements since I wanted to at least keep a low profile which means no slide-out and no leveling and Bennah had to climb over the bikes to get in bed, the other two boys are sleeping on the dinette (which turns into a bed of course… well of sorts anyway) and the girls are sharing the fold-down couch. And only the two little guys can squeeze through the bathroom door so everyone else has to use the porta-john that we normally keep in the truck so that we don’t have to stop at facilities every 15 minutes.

We’re on our way north and east.

I have many good excuses as to why things have died down quite a bit on the site here… and I want to publish this more boldly and dedicate an entire post to it – and I will likely write a lot more on the subject some other time (if I can make the time for it) – but:

The end of our world as we’ve known it
is closer than we think.

Let that sink in for a minute.

What does it mean? My world? Your world? Everyone’s world? You’ve probably felt the general vibe out there that not everything is as it should be. Sure there are lots of things going on in the news that seem like they’re all somehow connected, but surely everything will go on as it always has. Everything will be alright… right?

If you – right now – wherever you are, whatever you are doing that is getting interrupted by reading this is – pause for a moment; ponder the possibility that this fall – October, maybe later – could be a cataclysmic fulcrum point in America’s history that changes her (and the world) forever; let this possibility sink into your mind and then prepare; prepare by praying; prepare by thinking – what would you do if EVERYTHING changed? if you could not work? if you could not get to your family? if you could not use your cell phone? if there was no electricity? where would you go? what would you do? how? why? start weighing your options, but realize the only option is to trust your Creator whom you might not know as well as you’d like… if you pause for a moment and contemplate what I am saying… you will be more prepared to handle what will be coming in due time than the vast majority who will be caught completely by surprise.

Is this doomsday talk / conspiracy theory / doom and gloom? Depends on your perspective. Heavenly judgment on wickedness and oppression is justice and deliverance to the humble and righteous. Analytically speaking, America’s economic survival is impossible. Spiritually speaking, men of God have been having dreams and visions of America’s destruction for decades. And I’m not talking about televangelist type “men of God” – I’m talking about the kind of men (and women) who suffer persecution for their faith in Messiah in other countries, the kind who come to America as missionaries because of how lost our nation has become, the kind would (and do) walk for months on foot just to acquire a single copy of the Bible.

Could I be wrong about this fall? Certainly. But whether it unravels this fall or later, I am presently convinced that 2 of the next most massive world events are going to be: the collapse of America and war in the Middle East with Israel in the center.

Do I have any inside knowledge? No.

But I will share with you a dream my 7 year old daughter had a few days ago. My jaw dropped when she began telling me about it. She was at the pool with a couple friends. The water started to slowly drain out of the pool, but it was happening fast enough that she noticed it. She said it was very weird. Her friends noticed it too, but what was so bizarre was that no one else seemed to even notice or care. They just kept right on playing, even as they sank deeper and deeper with the level of the water. She and her friends got out as quickly as they could and kept watching. Soon, all the water was gone and everyone else was stuck at the bottom of the pool. She had the impression of very grave danger in the dream. As she was telling me about it, she had no idea how significant it was.

But the first thing I thought of was: “…as it was in the days of Noah…”

Don’t let anything I tell you – or anything that anyone else tells you – become the basis for what you do. Ask your heavenly Father what you should do. And if you don’t know Him very well, well, that’s probably a great place to start. If you don’t know Him at all you need His Son.

Mar 29 2010

Day 352: Full Circle

by andrew

It’s hard to believe that in two weeks we will have been at this for a year already. Amazing!

We are settling in here at our friend’s in Pennsylvania where we started out last year around this time after a wonderful but all too short 2-stop journey up from Georgia. We camped at the fantastic Newport News Park for a few days and missed our dear brother and sister and family who used to live just a few short miles from there.

We had a wonderful time with our dear friends Ben and Elizabeth – hanging out at the campground on Saturday and then at their place on Sunday. Joy really took to their little girl who is only 2 days older. Now, every little girl Joy sees is “Aa-bee, Aa-bee!”

I had a business meeting on Monday with the very talented and creative folks at Ethicom (who are also long time family friends), and afterwards I brought the whole family over to their office for what was supposed to be a short visit (not wanting to impose). Well, it turned into quite a much larger adventure than that and by the time we left a couple hours later the kids all had their own offices, Bennah was working for $10 a day, they had produced their own “magazines” with a little help from a copier, and they each had a new writing/sketch book and an umbrella. They were talking about their new offices the rest of the day.

Keith from Ethicom put it so well (and I hope he doesn’t mind being quoted here): “It was a pure delight to have your little family come and spend a few moments showing us what true creativity really is. We need to be reminded that the Lord teaches us about Himself through the lives of little children and to always look at life through their eyes.”

The delight was ours! And the reminder was so valuable to Renee and I as parents. We can easily get caught up in the duties of raising children and sometimes forget the simple delights. We often look at things with our adult perspective and only see the extra work that a child’s whims might entail. But if we return to our own child-like vision still buried down deep underneath all the grown-up responsibilities and “mature” perspectives we’ve collected over the years, we can quickly tap into an endless wellspring of simple joy. To all our dear parent friends out there: chase the whims of your children with them through their creative and carefree eyes and you will discover the delight of remembering that anything is possible!

From there we headed up to our old stompin’ grounds near DC. It was a lot of fun watching the kids’ reaction to the familiar sites. They were beside themselves with amazement. Bennah kept exclaiming: “I just traveled back in time!” It was surreal in a beautiful way.

On Wednesday I dropped in on my old buddies at the White House and had a wonderful time catching up a little with them and hitting my Chipotle for lunch. Yes, it is my Chipotle. I used to make the pilgrimage at least once a week while I worked there. So many things have changed and so many things haven’t changed. Several people asked me throughout the day: “So, do you miss it?” Do I miss working at the White House? I told them all the same thing – I loved working there, and I would love working there again, but I do not miss it; not one bit 🙂

Our youngest son Jaiden asks us almost every single day no matter where we are: “can we ride the metro train sometime?” Our universal answer is, “yes – sometime.” So, Thursday was finally sometime and we rode the metro into DC and invaded the National Museum of Natural History. The little ones tired out in pretty short order, but Bennah and I made an extended exploration while Renee took the others for snacks in the Fossil Cafe.

The Pohick Bay Campground in Virginia near our old home was so nice – we wanted to stay longer, but Friday came and it was time to leave. We had a very pleasant journey up to PA and are now enjoying the farm, the kids have their friends again whom they’ve been looking forward to seeing for months, and we are getting ready for Passover.

I’m still incredibly busy with business and have added even more new projects to the list. I much prefer drinking through a fire-hose I suppose. Episode #5 is now live! I need to catch up on 3 months of photos to my SmugMug galleries. Spring is coming and YHWH’s blessings abound!

Feb 19 2010

Day 314: Harbor and Haven

by andrew

I have to tell you about the last place we stayed at. I booked it for a couple nights because it was near Orlando and it had great rates (two things I thought might be mutually exclusive when I first started looking around). I booked it over the phone, site unseen, from a little picnic area where we had stopped for a break on Key Largo as we worked our way back to the mainland. When we pulled into this place the next day I was reminded that, well, you never really know what you’re going to get I guess.

It was the kind of place that makes you want to grab your video camera and start shooting a documentary because there are a million insane stories among the inhabitants along with dramatically mundane and rundown visuals, and it’s all ripe for the picking… while at the same time your brain is screaming “you shouldn’t be here, you shouldn’t be here at all, you especially shouldn’t be here with your five children and pregnant wife.”

It wasn’t really anything obvious or overt. And it wasn’t the poverty factor alone. We found ourselves landing behind a tiny 8-room motel in a little campground run by the same folks where most of the sites had turned in to the permanent residences of people getting by in 20-30 year old campers. And it wasn’t really the people either… sort of… they were extremely nice actually. But they were almost too nice. Something was off, but I was resisting that gut impulse, because I kept feeling compassion for their condition and couldn’t help but wonder how I and my family must appear to them. I was also too aware of my own subconscious prejudices and unintentional elitism. And after all, maybe we were there for a purpose. The last thing I wanted to think was that we were too good to stay there… but…

At the beginning I sincerely did not feel like it was even a safe place for our children to play, but Renee was totally comfortable with everything. By the end of our stay those impressions had reversed between the two of us somewhat, but there was never any fear or worry – just an internal struggle between prudence and empathy; wisdom and charity.

It didn’t help that our sewer connection was a horizontal length of 3″ pvc running along the surface of the ground, connecting all the sites in our row – each site with its own tap in – and most of those quasi-permanent. I knew exactly what was going to happen when I opened the cover on the tap at our site to tie my own hose in, but I had no choice – one of the reasons we were there was to dump our tanks and get in a shower or two and I wasn’t going to leave with 500 lbs of waste water in my tanks. I gritted my teeth, unscrewed the cap, and watched helplessly as a couple quarts of liquefied (and quite fresh) sewage backed up and spilled on the ground under our trailer. I won’t enhance your nightmares with additional details of the procedure, but I am convinced that I was experiencing something that was quite illegal.

There was an inventor living there who had made some crazy things from old junk that would never get him anywhere, but were naturally fascinating to children – like a wagon that had been rigged with 2 sizes of bicycle wheels dragster-style with a large office chair bolted on for a seat. There was a guy working on a van next to us with an air compressor and an armada of good tools. There was a lady growing cantaloupe beside her trailer, and – even though it just looked like a bunch of weeds – she was very touchy about kids getting near it. She said she was also growing pineapple. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen pineapple grow before, but it looked like she had just buried one in the ground so that the cluster of leaves were just sticking up out of the dirt. Across the way, there was a camper that looked like it would fall down if you shut the door a little too hard, but it had a direct tv dish bolted to the side. Our other neighbor had 5-6 cats that he fed by pouring a long line of dry cat food out along the cracked concrete pad of the site between us that had some sort of burned out, crumbling brick and re-bar chimney behind it. Oh, and he showed the kids his giant python that he brought out from his completely camo-painted trailer.

I could not make this stuff up. See what I mean? Instant documentary. Camp for a week and get more stories and footage than you could ever cram into a 3 hour feature.

Unfortunately, that is not why we were there. We were really on our way to Georgia and normally would have just Wal-Mart hopped until our final destination. But we had stopped near Orlando to accomplish three major things, the first of which required electricity, running water, and sewer (to buy some time).

  1. Knock out a major milestone in one of my work projects
  2. Get some laundry done
  3. Make an important business connection

#1 turned out to be impossible, but #2 and #3 were smashing successes.

I can’t explain why we were so eager and relieved to leave in any tangible, physical, evidence-based manner. The people were extremely friendly. The inventor gave Reayah a bike (which we had to end up leaving because… well, we were extremely appreciative, but it needed  way more fixing than riding). The pineapple lady gave Reayah a bunch of bracelets and necklaces (we didn’t end up keeping those either because they felt extremely weird spiritually… hard to explain unless you already know what I mean). And they all gave free advice: use duct tape on the sewer tap, keep trying the different washers / dryers until you find ones that work, check out the wildlife refuge down the road.

Despite the weirdness that I was writing off as merely a challenge to my own environmental conditioning, I was seriously considering checking on what their monthly rate would have been like. My logic at the time was that it would be warmer there overall than trying to go further north (even Georgia is still colder than it’s supposed to be right now), basic utilities were covered, it would cost more to keep travelling and then stopping for a month, the campground we had in mind in Georgia was turning out to be a bit more expensive than we initially thought or planned, I had a new business buddy in the area (Orlando) and some stuff could happen there, etc. As I hacked away on some code into the wee hours of the morning I had hopes and prayers in my head that we’d get some clear direction.

At 2am Renee woke up and started talking about the vivid dream she was just having. In her dream she was having a conversation with YHWH – asking Him whether we should stay or go, and He was telling her that we had to get out of their right away because He was going to wipe that place out with a tornado. We got up early and never had a more efficient and orderly time of breaking camp and getting the trailer ready to travel again. We weren’t taking Renee’s dream literally, but we were taking it as our answer, and there was already enough motivation once we had a clear plan.

I never asked about the monthly rates. I didn’t even ever open the valve on our black (sewer) tank, because I knew what would happen. As badly as I wanted to get on the road without that extra weight, it wasn’t worth the consequences under the likelihood that there wasn’t anywhere for the tank’s contents to go. Sure enough, there was a lot of gray (dish and sink) water backed up and stuck in our hose as it was, and that ended up having to go somewhere.

As we were pulling out, the truck started making a bad sound. Here we were, checking out an hour early (which never happens – we’re usually out just in time) and then I had to start wondering if the truck is going to fail me and strand us there. Got the trailer out of the site and started slowly down the road, but the truck was still protesting. It wasn’t the extra weight – we’ve pulled extra before – something sounded wrong. Pulled over behind an industrial building and started hitting diesel forums and trying to figure out what and how bad it might be. I was looking at all the info and starting to make a plan in my head about how to go about checking some things, but I got the distinct impression in my heart that we should just leave and trust. Renee reminded me that we should pray about it and so we did. Putting my analytical side on the shelf, we drove away and it was completely fine – the sound was totally gone!

Several hours later we pulled into paradise. Not by appearance. Not by amenities. Not by a stretch of the imagination – but by the standards of weary travelers who have been on the road for a month and a half, through 8 states, over 3200 miles, a dozen Wal-Marts, a handful of campgrounds, not longer than a few nights in any one place (except for the 2 weeks with our friends), trying to move major work projects forward through all of that, and more than ready to have a fraction of stability.

We are parked. We have a lake view. Actually, we’re only 50 feet from the lake and can fish for free without a license since it’s private. I even set up the slide-out jacks and our out-door carpet. We have electric, water, AND sewer (with a proper pipe and everything). We have free WiFi (which is a big deal because with all the work we have we were otherwise going to bust the 5GB limit on our mobile provider this month). There is laundry 50 feet away. Bennah was catching lizards again today. There is a rec house with puzzles and games for bad weather. Jaiden and Zach made a volcano with some water and a giant climbable dirt pile. The “neighbors” are mostly older, but very sweet. Reayah has a new best friend – the campground owner’s daughter. Necessity shopping is 30 minutes away. It is beautiful (though still a little chilly) here. Joy is taking it all in stride. Business is really looking up. Spring is close. And we have dropped anchor for at least a month.

Feb 13 2010

Day 307: The End of Nowhere

by andrew

Two months or so ago I was out driving around near Denver with my 4 year old boy Zach. He was having a rare turn up in the front seat, and looking out through the windshield towards the mountains he suddenly piped up with an epiphany: “Dad!!! I know how to get to the end of nowhere!” he exclaimed rather passionately.

How else can a father reply? “Oh yeah?” I said – not at all sardonically. “How’s that?”

To which Zach confidently replied, “You just keep driving that way and don’t stop!” while pointing straight ahead out the window.

Well, today I made good on my promise to take him to the end of nowhere some time. We spent the afternoon on the furthest SE point of the United States to which one can drive – the southern end of Hwy 1 – the edge of Key West, FL. We have literally driven the entire length of Florida now, entering about a month ago on the far western tip of the panhandle and driving first east and then south along the coast, and then cutting over through alligator alley along the Everglades, and then down Hwy 1 across all the keys. WOW.

What a beautiful place. 75 degrees F today and we played in the ocean in February. Crazy. I’d love to stay longer but it is Expensive with a capital E. Here are some shots from the day (keep reading below the gallery to get caught up on the rest of everything).

Our next plan is to head up for Georgia where it’s still not all that cold, but away from the majority of migratory retirees which improves the campground rates; hunker down for maybe a month and knock out a ton of work that is looming. Which reminds me I still need to hit some of the highlights from the last month in my typical, inadequate bullet fashion. Here are the primary memories:

  • Gabe and Heather’s wonderful southern hospitality and opening their home and land and lives to us for a couple weeks
  • The kids playing endlessly together with nary an issue that needed adult mediation; from building robots out of a busted, rusted out 8-track player they found in the woods, to planning their treehouse, to whacking golf balls all over the yard, to jumping on the trampoline and playing in the dirt… it was country bliss like I grew up in
  • Early morning hunting adventures
  • Bennah’s first lesson on a real rifle
  • Tinkering in the studio, recording the band’s first recording, writing a song on Gabe’s old guitar over the course of 2 weeks in the short 2-3 minute segments of time that I was in there each night to monitor my children during their pre-bedtime potty rituals
  • Getting overloaded on baby girl cuteness in one place
  • Shifting gears in the work arena when our project with La Vie Labs and Clairte did not work out like we had planned and hoped; and focusing all my energies on a new, exciting project
  • Golfing in a cow pasture with Gabe and our two oldest boys (the “hole” was an old rusted out washing machine in the corner of the field)
  • (And for those who have not noticed my not-so subtle title change on the blog yet) FINDING OUT WE ARE GOING TO HAVE A BABY #6 probably some time in October. Blessings upon blessings (and a bit freaked out at first) but children are a gift from YHWH and He has filled our quiver to be sure.

And that was just northern FL. Then we headed south and landed in Bradenton for a couple days and were extremely well cared for by dear (new) friends – parents of friends that we had grown very close to in Colorado. In fact, if you love garlic, they grow a whole bunch up in Ohio every year and it is absolutely incomparable to what you can buy in the store: Charlie’s Gourmet Garlic! You can watch the video that I edited a while back to get an idea of what Charlie and his farm are like – it’s the 2nd one down on this page: So, while we were with them, they gave us and helped us pickle about 2.5 quarts of garlic! In about 3 more weeks the heat will be gone, but all the yummy healthy goodness will be intact. Thanks again Charlie!!!

They also hang out in FL for a few months in the winter so we were parked in Bradenton near their home down there. The tricky thing was that it was just a parking lot designed for RV visitors, and fine for sleeping, but with no electric, water, or sewer not well suited for working or living very long. With some critical work that came up we had to relocate. Ironically, one of the absolute nicest campgrounds in the overall area was also the cheapest (although it wasn’t all that cheap). So, we headed back up north about 30 miles and ended up managing to stretch it out for a week at the Fort De Soto Park Campground. That’s where the last five photos from the previous post were taken. 5 of those days we had a beach-front site. Fabulous. During that time:

  • I worked my tail off and got a lot accomplished on a new work project
  • The kids got sandy and wet pretty much every day
  • We had to fend off the raccoons
  • We met two other amazing families who live in that area and are close friends of close friends. They also opened their home and lives to us and we had a wonderful time getting to know them and their children, hitting the hot tub, feasting and fellowshipping together. It never felt like we had only just met.
  • We explored Fort De Soto and the beaches there; and I managed to get a few pictures in… still way under quota right now.

And I’m probably forgetting something else important, but then we headed down here on a mission to get to the End of Nowhere. And so here we are. Tomorrow we head north once again.

Jan 7 2010

Day 271: First day back on the road

by renee

First day back on the road and it’d been great. It’s wonderful to be on the road again. Jaiden is serenading Reayah, Zach is asleep on my shoulders, Joy is chewing on a carrot, Bennah is playing my ipod and I am getting some design work done! 7 Hours ago we pulled away from Andrew’s parent’s home in 4 inches of snow with frozen water and gray tanks. It’s been a peaceful day. We are now driving through New Mexico and got to see some incredible scenery before the sun completely disappeared. We’ll be driving late tonight to the next Walmart (they are few and far between on this stretch of our route) where we’ll spend the night in below freezing temperatures. We’ll be bundling up tonight in the trailer and keeping the thermostat on a low temperature to save on propane. That’s the plan anyway. We’ll see how it goes. It’s 6 degrees F already and will keep dropping through the night.

Sep 20 2009

Day 161: Recovering in Colorado

by andrew

Well, we made it… safely I might add. 1200 miles (1900 km) in three days… 515 miles the last day. From north of Calgary to south of Denver, climbing and falling and re-climbing hundreds of feet each day – it felt like 2/3rds of our time was spent chugging 40 mph up long hills and often even slower by the top. Our 32′ trailer is definitely going on a forced diet while we’re here, and we will most certainly have the Second Great and Ruthless Purging of 2009. We weighed all three axles somewhere in Alberta again but haven’t run the conversions from kg’s yet to figure out where we were at in terms of lbs. But we’ll know soon. And then we will purge some more.

Sorry this is so random. Not quite as obscurely flowing beautiful obtuse beatnick as I’d like, but certainly not orderly or carefully constructed either. Sort of shot from the hip. Like the status of my sleeping. Or checking items off the massive to-do lists we’ve accumulated over the last 5 months.

The last two hours into Denver as the sun set and everything got dark and the friday night traffic became possessed / obsessed with diving insane margins between speed and safety thinner and thinner like sheets of onion paper while I lumbered on at the speed limit or GASP often slower using every ounce of willpower to stay between the same set of dotted lines and Renee kept the peace in the truck like a sheriff out of the wild west was something that rivaled our infiltration of the downtown Chicago construction wind toll madness fortress. Was that on a friday night too? I don’t know why I insist on striking straight into the heart of crazy cities in the dark on friday nights. I always say next time I’ll go around. But I guess I chafe at routes that are longer and might be just as bad for traffic anyway and so on… oh, that and the fact that my GPS couldn’t come up with a route that intelligently balances time of travel with distance and rationality to save its life. In fact, I am quite vehemently frustrated with my GPS, but it’s a squall that has been building for some time. I had already started shopping to replace it, but when it tried to prepare me for a left lane exit – and I dutifully got over early – when the exit was, in reality, three lanes over to the right and the only way I made it without causing a massive crash was YHWH’s grace in the timing and an understanding driver who gave me the all-clear hi-beam flash the same split second I had to decide whether to stay on or get off.

It was a narrow escape, but YHWH answered our prayers as we pray every day and put our trust in His protection and provision on the road.

That GPS is definitely done. Personal opinion: TomTom bad. Garmin good. TomTom was a compromise because that’s what came built into the HP Travelmate I got on an irresistible company discount 2 years ago. After the maiden voyage on that summer road trip I wen’t back to my much older Garmin that was superb (if a little slow). Before we pulled away in April, that old trusty Garmin took a spill and didn’t make it out alive. The TomTom was all that was left, and at the time I couldn’t justify spending money on another new unit. Now, I’d pay good money for anything else. Replacing the GPS is definitely on the massive to-do list.

Sleep is too… but somewhere beneath the item labeled “Processing and editing the 1400 photos and stitching the panos that Josh and I took in Kananaskis Country on our backpacking / camping trip.” Went with a great bunch of guys. Many stories in all of that. Tackled some seriously crazy trails (at least for this out of shape body… I’m in decent condition overall, but these trails kicked my butt). Felt SPECTACULAR! I could barely walk and basically stumbled to the shower and bed that night we returned with a belly full of Irish Stew and a pint of Alexander Kieth’s from an amazing little place we hit in Canmore upon returning to civilization.

So, here we are parked beside the house where my wonderful parents and awesome sister and brother(-in-law) and their 2 kids live. We’re excited about the next couple weeks… Tomorrow Reayah turns 6 and the Feast of Trumpets – Yom Teruah – kicks of the Scriptural fall celebrations that are shadow pictures of things to come – Messiah’s return and the fulfillment of all things in the Bible.

Then we’ll have some adventures riding out the onset of winter here and figuring some things out before we head east and then south again eventually.

So many memories from the last few weeks… Had an amazing wonderful time with our cousins near Calgary and their family. That kind of time is always too short. Even squeezed in IKEA and MEC trips in Calgary… that’s why our travel was compressed into 3 days instead of 4…. originally planned to take 4 days to get here. Lots of good scenery on the road. Lots of other things…

Ok, back to Kananaskis photos.

Aug 7 2009

Day 118: Chez Manitoba

by andrew

This post was supposed to be a media blitz: photos, videos, links, etc. galore… Time is the incredible shrinking woman, it seems, and experiences are the clothes that always remain the same size. Sorry for the obtuseity. I’m feeling saucy on this rainy friday morning in the middle of a restless kids chaos storm swirling around the narrow chambers of our camper trailer. Let me set the scene further for you:

The hospitable Shawn (we’re comfortably parked and hooked up behind his home) is sitting next to me on the couch here in the trailer. Bennah says in frustration “I don’t care if it’s raining I want to go on the swings anyway… fine after I do some math [slams math book on the table]…” Jaiden exclaims in his high pitched excited voice from the steps (our door is propped open to shed the heat from the granola-cooking oven and let the cool rain air in) “it’s raining look it’s raining all so much.” Reayah tries to get her jacket on saying “I can’t wear it,” and Renee says “here, just over one arm,” and helps drape it over her sling.

She fractured her elbow a couple days ago.

And so begins a journey backwards through the most recent adventures. Should I start at the beginning or the end? Ok, we’ll go forwards from the last post.

Confession time: I actually did not end up going to bed after my last post like I said I was even though I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Well, they shot back open when I was closing the blinds because the Wal-Mart parking lot was literally swimming and swirling in the shadow of vast moth-clouds hovering around the lot’s lights. It was epic-plague-like. I’ve never seen anything like it. They were being chased, evidently, by an immense mountain lightening storm because after snapping a few stills and getting the video camera ready to roll there was scarcely a moth left and then the thunder started. I spent the next hour or two capturing some of the best lightening shots I’ve grabbed so far… and getting drenched doing it. Yes, I will post some of them eventually. It was spectacular. I only wished for a better backdrop, but I made do.

The rest of the trip went quite smoothly as we worked our way back up to Canada. We managed a good long stop each day for the kids to let out some energy including a Dinosaur Museum in Montana where they got to learn how to dig for fossils and practice on a big replica buried in a huge dirt pit in front of the museum.

And then the 2nd border crossing. My theory went like this: we’ll try crossing at a small customs portal in the middle of nowhere to avoid the hassle of over-cautious guards who have the added stress of constant traffic and a high-visibility location. Well, the crossing went quite well, and the theory seemed sound… until I realized a mile up the road into Saskatchewan (SK) heading towards Swift Current that those roads have no tax payers living along them and therefore calling them “paved” is a stretch of the imagination. More like – a patchwork quilt of materials that all bear some resemblance to pavement in their own unique way. I’ve pulled the trailer faster on dirt roads. What I thought would take a couple hours took twice the time, but we eventually made it to the Wal-Mart at Swift Current. So, the moral of the story (so far) is: you can’t beat the border even if you can choose whether to spend the wasted time in customs or on the precarious roads in the middle of nowhere. I still hope to find the ideal place to cross though… but like all things it will take some more trial and error.

Once we got close to Swift Current and of course along #1 across SK driving was a joy. I never thought I’d love driving across SK so much. But after the juggling act between gauges, engine temp, pyro, gears, speed, brakes, down-shifting, etc. in the mountains from Oregon through Montana, it was a mental reprieve to actually use cruise control for a while and savor the relative flatness.

We pulled into Dauphin Bible Camp at 9:10pm on Jul 31st after killing some time pulled up along the canola fields so I could take pictures of the vivid yellow landscapes. At least three other trailers pulled in right behind us and the great Rempel/Andres family reunion was underway. Not enough details from the weekend can be captured here. I’m still swimming in names and faces and my brain is still trying to put all the connections together even though this was my second reunion among Renee’s cousins and aunts and uncles. After all – her mother is the oldest of 16 (living) children and I think the last count at the reunion was over 100 immediate relatives (near 140 when you include the Andres side). I still need to hit facebook and the family web site again and have several aha! moments of “so that’s who that was!” here soon while it’s still somewhat fresh.

We did nearly everything Dauphin Bible Camp has to offer: pool swims, archery (Bennah is a natural), horseback riding (Reayah’s favorite by far), a crud-like game in this special long table made for it (the kids were most often hanging out there), and I even got in some BMX trail runs with Andrew’s Adventure Cam (soon to be unveiled in the still-coming media blitz). The time was full and the kids got tuckered. Jaiden even missed dinner one night because he was unconscious at 6:30pm.

The best of that time was spent reconnecting with family – especially some of our cousins who share so much in common with us for which it was a joy to discover and rediscover. Out of these moments of reconnecting we ended up adding a couple stops to our itinerary – Winnipegosis on the way to Minitonas – and Calgary on our way to Colorado (which will happen after Winnipeg – our next stop via Winnipegosis one more time).

Which brings us to Reayah’s fractured elbow. Our cousins in Winnipegosis have the kind of property that I dream about raising our children on some day if YHWH ever provides and leads us to actually settle down again and build the log home we have in mind: lots of land in the country, pasture, bush, trails, huge yard, dogs, play structure that you can jump off of onto the trampoline, pool, shop, etc. etc. etc. and QUADS (or as we say in the States: 4-wheelers). I took the kids for rides on their Polaris 500 through the slightly overgrown pasture trails and had such a blast that I’m itching to go back for more (maybe next time without any little passengers so that I can really get into some rough ATV action). Reayah made fast friends with one of our cousins’ daughters; they were inseparable, and could often be found zipping around on the little 150 quad in a manner that suited the adventurous personality they share.

Looking back, Renee and I should have set more explicit ground rules for our kids and the fun machines. At the time (and still now) I completely trust her friend’s piloting, even if the natural parental “be careful” mantra was always present. But I didn’t really feel any alarm for safety. She was in good hands as a passenger with her friend, and I was excited for them to get some experience on the 4-wheelers (Bennah was driving the 150 solo quite well before we left). The problem snuck in when Reayah thought it would be ok to try driving herself with her friend. I had let her drive the 500 sitting on my lap, and never made it clear that she could only drive with dad or mom helping her.

As best we can piece together so far, Reayah was sitting in the back reaching from behind her friend to steer, while her friend ran the throttle and the brake. This was probably perfectly logical to them. And I think Reayah turned too sharply a couple times and her friend even warned her about it. But before long, there was a ditch, maybe another sharp turn, and the whole thing came to a flipping halt. When the dust settled, thankfully the only carnage was Reayah’s left arm in some acute pain…. but no lacerations or protruding bones or blood or any of that. Still, Reayah is one tough girl, and from how she was holding her arm and answering our questions we knew we had to get it checked out.

At the hospital we saw one of our 15 aunts, and the receptionist that had to figure out how to put us Americans into their system grew up playing with my mother-in-law and her siblings. The doctor was competent albeit perfunctory. Initially the x-rays came back and nothing appeared broken. But after the radiologist’s report the next day, there was indeed a hairline fracture in the elbow. 4-weeks in a sling and lots of rest and no crazy adventures for Reayah (for now). The pain has not been too bad since the first day, and she never complains about it as long as she keeps it still.

I think we all learned a good lesson on this one with minimal damage (credit: YHWH’s mercy and grace). I don’t think Reayah will ever forget to ask us about similar situations in the future when she wants to do something new… nor the potential dangers that motorized toys can present. And I know Renee and I will strive for a better balance between trusting YHWH with out children’s safety and setting / communicating reasonable, preemptive ground-rules for new environments and experiences.

Overall we are feeling extremely blessed. It could have been a lot worse. But we’re so thankful that in this case YHWH is instructing through life while minimizing the consequences. And, this stuff happens, you know. I told Reayah the story of how I broke my elbow too when I was roughly her age by falling out of a tree that up until then had been perfect for hanging upside down from. Despite the tumble, I’m rejoicing that she had the fun she did on that quad with her friend. The injury is merely a small part of an overall amazing memory. And like the wonderful memory, the lessons will not be quick to fade either.

I can’t wait to go back and visit our cousins there again. I just feel a bit sad that Reayah will have to sit out on the quad rides for a while. I wish the Florida clan could meet the Manitoba clan up here… some day.

Next on the agenda for today: a visit to a dairy farm around 4pm to catch some machine-milking action. I love the kind of field trips we get to do with the kids now.

And then… SABBATH… it’s a blessing to be here with our friends in Minitonas (and this is the furthest north I’ve been so far). Oh… and by far, this is the best internet connection we’ve had on our travels 😉 Thanks Shawn!

Jul 16 2009

Winnipeg to the West Coast in Photos

by andrew

Thanks for all the comments on the last post. I realized a few hours after posting that I probably did the adventure a cursory injustice. In my haste to get it posted while I had a connection I left out the emphasis that all your comments made up for: it was a truly blessed trip! And even with the tire explosion and all, it was awesome. It defined why we’re doing this. It sounds crazy but I love flat tires! Not necessarily the specific inconvenience of having to change a flat in a potentially dangerous situation – but the general archetype of the Flat Tire! The unexpected! The Challenge! The reliance – the adventure of discovering how YHWH is going to get us out of that one. 🙂

And He did – all the provision was in place, and my praise to Him for the journey was grossly lacking from the last post. Sure I had to sweat a little and work a little, and I was tired when we arrived, and I hope I don’t have any other blow-outs as long as we travel, but I DID love it anyway. And YES – we are protected. Protection doesn’t mean we won’t have to deal with anything hard. But it means that if we put all of ourselves into LIFE and trust the outcome to YHWH then He will prove faithful every time.

So, yes, we definitely had fun that day. And we love and miss all of you reading too! Sorry we don’t have more time to say so personally, individually, but hopefully Father will give us time together down the road… literally… 🙂

Here are some excerpts from the overall trip from Winnipeg to the West Coast, including several of the mentionable moments I referred to in the last post:

Giant Wheel Turtle

This is a giant turtle made entirely out of old wheel hubs. It’s in Dunsieth, ND and was fun to see – I used to drive past it almost every weekend going from Minot, ND to Winnipeg to visit Renee when we were engaged back in 2000.


This was the view from our camp site at the KOA just a mile a way from the East Entrance to Glacier National Park.


Here we are in Glacier national Park. It was so amazingly breathtaking.


The only way to really try to capture it somewhat was to put some panoramic photos together. I did about 10 of them overall, and they turned out quite well. Some of them had as many as 20 individual images in them. Here’s one below composed from about 8 images. The original versions are well over a giga-pixel each. That is snow in the bottom of the frame. We found out later from other campers that just a week before we got there, the road through Glacier was still closed because of the snow. It had only started melting in earnest shortly before we visited. What a blessing that it was open when we were there!



These mountain goats came right up to me and asked if I’d be willing to do a photo shoot with them. They got really close… I probably took 200 shots of them all together. What a treat!


And here’s that crazy hail storm that ran into us on our first day of travel after we left the KOA and Glacier.


Check out the grape-size hail stones! Biggest I’ve ever seen. These pelted us for a good 10 minutes. It was intense, and a fantastically awesome thing to experience.


And of course – the tire incident. I wasn’t kidding – it literally exploded.


There! That’s better… It was a long hard journey from Winnipeg to the West Coast. By the time we got here, late, tired, and road-weary part of me was ready to be done driving for a long while, and I wasn’t looking forward to thinking about the next leg(s) of the journey. But then… we finally went to bed after setting up the trailer… and I woke up to this:


This is our site right on the river. I stepped out the next morning to the sound of baby birds chirping in a birdhouse mounted on that tree right outside our door. The sounds of the river. The smell of the ocean and the evergreen hills. And all the travel-weariness slipped away in an instant. We’ve been having adventures all up and down the coast, and our time at this site is drawing to a close. In a couple more days we’ll join my parents and brother, and sister and her family just up the coast at a beach house for the week.

And I have a ton of coast pictures to share… and a crazy adventure that I went on this morning… but that’s all I’ll say about that – you know, have to keep some suspense to keep the readers coming back.