Jun 29 2013

Day 1540: Sammy Rides Again

by andrew

I keep trying to imagine how the pioneers must have felt crossing the expansive untamed regions of our country back in the days when all forward motion was biologically powered. What did they do for repairs? If a wagon wheel broke did they stop, cut down a tree, and make a new one right there on the spot (if and once they were out of spares of course)? There were no grocery stores back then or Wal-Mart parking lots to park in overnight either. Food must have been what they could carry or kill, and supplies would come down to what they could find or make. But the things they would have seen! Oh with those first eyes on places never before discovered. And before you say, “well, surely the natives would have already seen those places,” I’m sure there were pockets even they didn’t know about that settlers came across on their travels. What would it have been like at night with no artificial lights? What would it have been like without vast webs of electricity, sterilized water, and concrete running like veins above, across, and beneath the countryside?

And here we’ve just covered in 3 days what would have amounted to a months-long journey for them. And we’re cozy in a campground site next to a heated pool nestled among water and theme parks and other audacious attractions in Wisconsin Dells, WI. We can run the AC if we need to. And when I’m done typing this I’m going to send it into space and back to earth after it hops through a series of towers at the command of a little box not much bigger than a deck of cards. Did the pioneers have and play cards back then?

If you’re not in the know, Sammy is the family name for our ’98 GMC 6.5L turbo diesel suburban. It has dutifully lugged us and all our belongings across roughly 60,000 miles over 4 years which is no small miracle considering where all we’ve been and how much it has pulled there. Oh, it’s had its share of fits and tantrums and somewhere along the way (not too long ago) we officially crossed the threshold of having put more into total repairs than we had originally spent on the vehicle itself. But Sammy has been taking this trip in stride, running smoothly, and strongly and enjoying the last second maintenance and repairs (leaky power steering line swap) that we got done before leaving Pennsylvania.

Leaving Pennsylvania.


It’s truly like leaving a home especially in the way when you feel like part of yourself is still attached to a particular geography because of the relationships anchored there. We are grateful for every experience we had there since last September. Departures are (or at least should be) every bit as much a part of life as miracles, and there’s nothing like traveling again to combine both in such a concentrated and potent dosage as to be reminded all over again why we set out to do this in the first place. For us, the Road compresses nearly the whole dynamic spectrum of life into such rapid bursting moments along a highly accelerated timeline: good-byes and sadness, open possibilities and elation, soundtracks, storms and trials, tests of faith, tests on wisdom, unexpected unique decisions, problem solving, strategizing, thinking ahead, coping with failures, basking in successes, memories, discoveries, and on and on.

But by far the best part is the miracles. The things that many people might write off as coincidence or mere “positive perspective” when confronted with trying to explain 2 or 3 of them. But when they happen by the dozens like they do for us on the Road, by the grace and provision of our Heavenly Father, I don’t care how you try to explain it – life is miraculous.

I was trying to find a good analogy for it. I love the mind-opening affect of the Road. As the driver I have lots of time for mind-wandering exploration – something in which I almost never indulge because I almost constantly have my brain focused on some particular issue or problem or situation with family or work. Even with a substantial amount of concentration on gauges, and sway correction required by the blast of passing trucks, and the GPS, and road signs, and the current pulse of passengers, there are open stretches where I can mentally wander into scarcely trodden paths.

And, so, I came up with the back yard analogy. Life for those who walk in a pure and practical daily trust in their Creator is very much like the life of a child sent out into the back yard to play. The child basks in the freedom of the whole yard, of getting to decide the games and activities, to feel like the master of his own destiny, oblivious to the parent’s watchful eye behind the window, of the carefully crafted fence around the yard, of the deliberate selection in the objects filling the yard. There are certainly dangers: toys can be abused, a child can employ foolishness to great effect, and even tragedy can happen in the relatively safe environment. But their parent is always there, and the permutations of things that could go wrong are almost all within the realm of something the child can handle. But for those other situations the parent is always ready to intervene directly. Even when it’s not a matter of safety or crisis, the parent still delights to intervene in response to the conditions: to supply a sprinkler on a hot day, snacks and drinks at intervals, and encouraging word when the child does something particularly creative or clever, and so on.

And that is very nearly exactly how I feel traveling. So much can go wrong, but YHWH knows we can handle it and we know that He will intervene for things completely beyond us (because He already has time and time again). But even more miraculous are all the little things He puts together for us to discover along the way… almost a reverse breadcrumb trail for us to follow – even when our waypoints are not predetermined in our own minds. Now I’m sure you can think of countless real-life scenarios that seem to break the parameters of this analogy, but it’s completely consistent with my personal experience so far. So here’s a list of Miracles and Memories that we’ve collected so far on this trip:

  1. After departing our friends’ farm in PA I felt like I should stop one last time a few miles down the road before getting on the interstate to connect the anti-sway bar and check a few final things. As a result I discovered that we had developed a pretty bad fuel leak, which explained the slight fuel smell we noticed since picking the truck up from the shop and the fluid leak evidence Joe noticed as we were pulling away. With all the other vehicle issues we’ve had I thought we might not be leaving PA for a while after all. My heart sank. But looking at it there in the parking lot, tracing it backwards, I figured out that the fuel filter had vibrated loose and I was able to tighten it down all the way again which fixed it completely so that we could keep on rolling down the road. That could have been major serious if we hadn’t stopped and caught it, not to mention expensively drooling fuel all along the interstate. Joe had prayed right before we left that we’d discover any issues before we got too far.
  2. Dad and mom recently sent a CD that became an instant soundtrack. Everyone had a favorite – Zach was the first to start asking to play that one particular song on continuous repeat – and the beauty of it is that even in the children though they might not consciously understand it, the song resonates so deeply with the entire context of this trip itself, where we are going, why were are heading there, and the trajectory of our entire lives. I can’t listen to it without tearing up from the expectation. It blows my mind and heart to know we’re alive in these days and our King is letting us play in His back yard even while He prepares to renovate and re-landscape it completely. The song is “Prepare the Way” (Spotify) from Paul Wilbur’s album “Your Great Name” (iTunes).
  3. One of our rear / side trailer light covers has been missing for month. It got smashed when I parked a little too closely and Bennah opened the door into it. On a whim, I looked in Wal-Mart. Lo and behold I found an entire light module that included a cover the exact right size and color. It fit like a glove and even included a rubber seal. This unexpectedly completed a bunch of little external trailer repairs that I had been slowly working on.
  4. The first night we stopped I had a perfect place to walk across the street and catch up on a few hours worth of emails. Maybe doesn’t seem miraculous given the scourge of 24-hour McDonalds covering the land now, but the fact that there was an outlet to plug into and other minute details which rarely all come together keeps it on teh ledger of Provision in my book.
  5. Our second and a very long day of driving landed us in an epic Storm. I’m talking about “Master! We are perishing” epic. Traffic on the 70 MPH speed limit interstate was none existent or going 30 MPH. There was nowhere to pull off and weather it out. Trees were bowing and branches were flying along horizontal trajectories. Visibility was 10-20 feet with wipers full blast. Father provided an escort. A car just in front of us was traveling slowly with blinkers flashing and I could just keep those flashers in visibility and follow.  The road lines themselves were scarcely visible, and the wind kept trying to push us into the other lane, but our Shepherd kept us safe and brought us through the storm.
  6. At the 2nd night’s Wal-Mart stop-over south of Chicago Renee went in to pick up a few things. The cashier turned out to be from Manitoba – just south of Winnipeg (Renee’s home city) in fact – and warned us that it was a very unsafe area (the store next door had just been robbed a few nights before) and advised us not to stay overnight. We were all settled in and the kids were asleep and it had been an 8 hour + stops driving day: a fear-based reaction wasn’t an option. I was talking to my business partner and brother in Messiah Kenn when Renee came back with the report and we put our phones on speaker so that our wives could join the conversation and we all prayed together in agreement for safety. The night passed in restful non-adventure.
  7. Right across from that Wal-Mart was a Home Depot and we were able to easily swing by there on the way out the next day. I had been looking for one. I needed new 18V batteries for my drill that I use to help speed up the stabilizing process of trailer setup and Home Depot is the only one that carries the brand I need. Just in time for the setup I would have to do that night.
  8. I had really wanted to take the kids into one of the walk-way bridges at the oasis stops along the Chicago area tollways so they could stand over the crazy traffic passing beneath. I stopped at one because we needed fuel but the signage was ambiguous and I ended up on the wrong side for diesel. There was no way back. I figured it wasn’t a big deal cause we could just stop at the next one 13 miles up. But before we got there we had to exit onto a different route. I was so sad, because it looked like that was the last chance and we had missed it. But unexpectedly there was another one – the last one furthest from Chicago, several miles down the other route. It was such a fun blessing.

These are just a fraction of the little provisions and adventures that fill our days on the Road. Our King is such and awesome Brother and Father and what a joy it is to play in His back yard. Well, we got free passes to an insane water park down the road from our campground so we’re off to play on some slides and pools.

Shabbat Shalom!

Nov 9 2012

Day 1308: Waiting on Winter

by andrew

In the middle of some uncertainty about where will actually be for the entire duration of winter this year we’ve started building a Winter Ark. Our friends here in PA have been awesome and have made it clear that we can stay as long as we’d like. And we have truly felt blessed being here,  although it has been very very hard to watch what is likely the final decline of our dear friend to cancer. She was always so full of life and energy and laughter, that the extreme opposite just doesn’t seem like reality. But it is. For whatever bigger purpose, it is, and our friends, her family, have been an amazing testimony of grace and trust and love in the middle of a situation so tragic.

Renee has had some really wonderful moments with her over the last few weeks since they returned from Israel. We’re very thankful for the time we’ve had here with all of them. And the community living is working very well so far in terms logistics and the blessing of fellowship between busy routines.

Our biggest motivation for keeping our radar out to see if Father will provide something else like a cheap, furnished rental or a house sitting situation really boils down to one simple equation:
((Sky Aysh Yachalel + 200 sq. ft * 12 hr / day) * (Zach + Jaiden)) ^(Bennah) * (Joy + Joy) / Reayah = mass chaos @ 9K PSI & 6 megajoules

So far leads have been dead ends and I am more than content to winter it out here in the trailer, but Renee deals with that equation more directly than I do in many ways, and so, we’re praying looking. In the meantime winter isn’t waiting for us. Overall, it has been mild so far, but our hose did freeze up the other night as I had not taken any precautions with no freezing temps in the forecast. Thank you weather men. Anyway…

With the possibility for a few months of winter in the trailer and at the very least a few more weeks when it’s already November, I have been building up the battle lines, digging the trenches, and constructing elaborate winter weather defense systems this week while Renee continues her prenatal nesting patterns. I’ll have to post some more project pics another time when I can get some daylight shots, but for now, here is the latest from our cozy little pre-winter den:

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?) 🙂
  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 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 🙂 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 31 2012

Day 1238: Technically, Officially Stranded (but it’s OK)

by andrew

Sitting here sipping a beer and thinking how funny it is that I used to day dream about one potential outcome of our throw everything to the road (and YHWH’s loving care) life on the edge, traveling with minimal resources… and I used to wonder if we’d ever break down in a tiny little community that Father had a purpose for us invading, with no money to fix the truck and get stuck indefinitely. Well, things aren’t quite that desperate, but it’s kind of starting to take on some of that flavor. And although I’m confident our stay here will be temporary (well, at least exactly as long as YHWH desires), it certainly is starting to stretch on longer than I had hoped.

My diagnosis and efforts to swap the crankshaft position sensor this morning (though the procedure itself was a success) turned out to be quite ineffective. But like every good story, the replacement sensor itself – as the next piece in my attempt to solve the puzzle – led to the next piece of the plot. It turns out that the parts place I bought it from – 10 miles back west along I-70 in Flagler, CO – also has a full-blown shop and a couple diesel mechanics. They also have their own wrecker, and Shane came out to pick up our truck. I turned it on for him and let him see what it was doing. He just shook his head and smiled. I could tell he shared my appreciation for the magnitude of the puzzle. Here it is getting loaded up:

So, I guess at this point our plans are on hold and we’re having Sabbath here. We always say that our Father’s plans are far better than ours, and I guess we’re getting to walk that out in this tangible way. With labor day approaching I’m hoping they figure it out quickly and that it’s something simple / easy and they can get it done before the holiday. But no guarantees. And it would be really nice if they could even tackle the leak in the steering system (hopefully it’s not the gearbox) as well as the alignment + 4 tires that we’ve been overdue procrastinating on with such limited resources available. Shane was looking at our front passenger tire (you can kind of see it in the pic) and thinking it’s a blowout waiting to happen. I’m pretty sure it would get us at least to PA, but maybe better safe than sorry.

I feel completely tacky doing this, but I’m just going to throw myself out there and slap a donation button on this post. If you know me at all you know how self-reliant I like to be and how hard it is for me to ask anyone for help. I’d much rather be on the giving end than the receiving end, and so maybe Father is also using this situation to kill more of my pride. Oh yay 🙂 I still want to figure out a way to ask without asking 🙂 but I will say it this way: if our heavenly Father puts it on your heart, any tiny amount towards our truck repair fund would be a massive blessing. We still have other repairs sitting on our credit card from before. But please do not feel obligated in any respect. Father will provide, and your prayers are even more valuable.

Even in the midst of all this I’ve been realizing how much we have to be thankful for. We have electric and A/C keeping the inside of the trailer about 79 F (26 C) while it reads 102 F (39 C) outside – YIKES! So – shelter: check. We have water. We have food. We have internet so I can post this and work and stay connected to find out about things like crazy Hurricane Isaac hitting seven years to the exact day that Katrina struck (if that isn’t a wake up call I don’t know what is, but how many will notice?). There’s a playground close by. Jim (the Shady Grove Campground owner) has been super helpful: he gave me a ride to Flagler this morning to pick up the sensor, provided a tour of the town, said he’d just open up a tab and we could settle before leaving when the time comes, and told me to ask if we needed anything). And the kids finished school today in really good moods. Even though it’s hard work, homeschooling our children is a bigger blessing than we normally pay attention to.

For example: I was talking with Shane and Jim after Shane had the truck all loaded up on the wrecker. They were briefly comparing notes about changes that have been happening in the school system here. I’m not sure if this is Colorado-wide or maybe even the whole country, but among other things the government has capped calorie consumption for children at school and it is a fixed number for all kids regardless of build, metabolism, athletics, etc. This is enforced primarily through the lunch portions, which are now very small. Shane and Jim said their kids always come home really hungry. Of course, some parents don’t do enough to manage healthy amounts of the right kind of calories for their kids. But government stepping in and regulating it is an entirely different thing. And the more sinister aspects of this that come immediately to mind:

  • How closely is this related to the current food shortages and famine in this country (which you probably won’t hear about on mainstream news nor get an impression of by walking into a grocery store)?
  • What are the impacts of caloric shortages on a child’s learning capacity? This will
  • What about other implications like a child’s energy level, vulnerability to suggestion, etc. when they aren’t getting enough / proper nutrition throughout the day?

There’s probably more thoughts that should be probed there, but this is really just another area where we see the erosion of all things as we used to know them. I shudder to consider what my children’s generation is facing, but I also get excited to think about and anticipate what their Creator will do in their days!

Well, here’s to the adventure! Looking forward to continuing the exploration of WHY we are here and posting updates about what we discover as well as (hopefully shortly) recording our epic departure.

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:

Jul 6 2012

Never Settle

by andrew

There are at least 2 meanings behind this post’s title. Ah…. where to begin? Maybe a brief and astounding recap of what the last several months have contained to catch the record up to the present:

  • Spent a mild and blessed winter in Winnipegosis, MB
  • Appreciated all the fellowship we had with our close friends in that area between Thursday night guy’s group, Friday night Bible Studies / games nights, and Sabbath / Festival celebrations
  • Were delayed by several months from our original plans to depart in April after Passover
  • Zach, Renee, and Bennah had birthdays
  • Reayah pulled off her first entrepreneurial enterprise with a bake sale that turned a profit and was quite a success
  • I went to Winnipeg in early June to shoot the last Outdoor Adventure exam race, which turned out epic in so many ways
  • Resigned from Clvr
  • Found out we were pregnant with #7 !!!
  • Discovered the Quarry House is indeed for real on the market and started trying to figure out how YHWH might provide for us to land there
  • Managed the overwhelming task of moving back into the trailer after 8 months of adjusting to house life having spread out again…

Last week was pretty intense – building up the momentum and wrapping as many loose ends as possible to once again have enough propulsion to break orbit and launch back into the crazy storm of life on The Road.

Never Settle means primarily two things to me right now. Our lives are presently characterized by disruption (in and intense but also positive and scary but exciting way). Being pregnant again. Technically jobless (though Father is providing projects and income). And a host of other potential stress-storms. We’re travelling again, and so I feel like we’re Never Settling… I thought I would never be ready to settle. Roughly 2 months before Renee got pregnant again (funny wording, I know, as if that just somehow mysteriously happens) I was reflecting on my restlessness to be traveling again and getting frustrated with the financially induced delays (which Father used for other purposes of course). And I distinctly remember asking myself, “is there anything that would make me want to settle down and plant some roots,” and the only thing I could think of at the time was, “well, another child would probably do it,” but like that was ever going to happen. Well, it did. And so there’s part of be that will Never Settle – life is about never settling – staying in motion, constantly growing, learning, adapting, becoming… if we settle and fight that and stagnate we die. We might be alive but we’re dead. Then again – never settling can also be a form of settling. If I were to insist on traveling after that season is over I would be settling for a craving whose time has past.

When I got back to Winnipegosis after a few days in Winnipeg shooting the Race, it felt like I was arriving home, and it was more than just the fact that my family was there… It was a very bizarre emotion because I don’t recall ever feeling like a particular place was home. My nomadic spirit has always felt like home was a state of being not a geographical location. It was very peculiar. Trippy even. More so because I know that ultimately Home is Israel – the land promised by the Creator to His people. And perhaps this is a stronger reason for my typical aversion to associations of Home with any physical place I might temporarily inhabit. Even this sensation I felt for Winnipegosis – it felt more like Home than I recall any other place feeling – but I must acknowledge that that too is only a temporary condition even if it lasts for years.

So here we are on what will likely be our last major tour. That in itself is laden with quite a bit of surreal strangeness because over a year ago we thought we were arriving in Winnipegosis to build and settle. But I guess we hadn’t been made ready quite yet and there are shaping adventures that must be chased yet. We are delighted in the joys and familiarity of travel life once again and have been in Winnipeg for almost a week now. Of course, with the delights there are also the stresses, which are compounded by the things that make it difficult to pretend we’re just in vacation mode. House life is so much simpler. The differences are stark and fascinating with the vantage point to compare them acutely. Although some things are simplified, there’s also a whole other layer of logistics that comes with the territory.

Never Settle also embodies the core DNA we want to imprint on our next company. We? Well, it’s a really long story. But I and two of the other three principal owners / members of Clvr resigned. Some dust is still settling, but my time there is completely done. It was really an odd and unexpected plot twist in my life story, but the Author has His reasons. I’m excited to discover them. It still feels weird to be done with something that I never anticipated ending this way and poured an immense amount of myself into for 2.5 years.

We leave Winnipeg tomorrow with a spontaneous shift in the original plan to stay here at the Welcomestop campground until Monday. Instead, we’re headed further south in Manitoba to spend the weekend with dear friends and catch up as much as possible before we leave Canada.

On the horizon – the adventures that already peak around the corner, staring at us even now:

  • Heading to Denver, CO primarily for some amazing wedding events and to spend some summer time in the mountains with our dear family and friends there.
  • Building a new company. It might even be called something like Never Settle. And it will be very different from Clvr or any other company for that matter.
  • Perhaps a fall east coast tour with destinations along the way of getting there (?)
  • Huge decisions to make like where to have this next baby, where to spend winter, how soon to return to Canada…
  • Immigration processes to research and apply for my permanent resident status in Canada.
  • Finding Home: Winnipegosis? Quarry House? The Edge? Somewhere else?

What does the Author have up His sleeve?