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: http://doctorbeautiful.com/blog/?page_id=48 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 15 2010

Day 279: Journey to Florida

by renee

We’ve arrived in Florida! Now, this isn’t the Orlando and Disney World part of Florida. This is wild boy country Florida. Where wild boars, rattlesnakes, coyotes, alligators and fire ants are all part of daily life. First day here and the kids are exhausted but happy after a very full day of playing golf, running, climbing, digging holes, swinging, petting a new horse and much more! We are parked for a couple weeks at an old friend’ s property. He and his lovely wife have three marvelous children who share the same excitement of life and hunger for adventure. Their home is in the country. The nearest town is just over 1,000 people. There is lots of room to run around and endless things to explore. We’re looking forward to many adventures and just time to chill and catch up.

Our trip here was easy and restful. The kids were amazing travelers and didn’t complain about wanting a break to run around. We took 8 days and drove through 5 states to get here (New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Missippi, and Alabama). Our first day traveling was 11 hours altogether! The consecutive days were 7 and 8 hours in the truck. The kids were pretty much content to hang out in the truck. We did school, watched movies and enjoyed the ever changing views and discoveries out our windows.

Most of the drive through Texas was acres and acres of cotton fields, wind turbines and oil rigs. I have never seen so many wind turbines in one place in my life. Hundreds of them. The cotton fields turned into a great school lesson. We pulled over and Andrew got out and grabbed a big handful of cotton from the side of the road that had blown around during the harvest. The kids each got a piece to play with while they watched some really awesome cotton harvesting videos on YouTube! I love the internet! After we saw how they made cotton bales, we started to see real cotton bales covered with tarps, waiting to be loaded on trucks. The kids were pretty amazed and I was very satisfied with a productive homeschool day.

On day 3 (Saturday), we stopped in San Antonio for three nights. We met up with an old friend there who showed us the famous Alamo, and other sites in San Antonio. The next day Andrew and I worked most of day while the kids played and enjoyed the campground and the break from traveling. We left the campground tuesday morning (day 6) and then met up in Louisiana with some good friends of ours who are nomads like us. After spending a night camping side by side in a Walmart parking lot, we went to visit an alligator house together and all the kids had a chance to hold baby alligators. Later on that day, we stopped for gas and saw a live tiger exhibit set up by the gas station!

We stopped for the night on day 7 at a campground in Marianna, Fl to clean out our tanks and get cleaned up ourselves. We arrived the next day around 3:30 pm with plenty of time to play and visit.

It’s Shabbat now and we are resting! It’s supposed to rain all day tomorrow so it might be a nice down day after all the excitement today.

Jan 6 2010

Day 270: Here we go again

by andrew

I was hoping to have several other projects wrapped up so that I could include them with this post. Suffice to say (for now) that there are some exciting things in the pipeline that will be a new step in our travel journaling and sharing.

Some selected tid-bits of News:

  • The article about me in Videography Magazine was published:
    Print Version: http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/newbay/vdy_200912/#/28
    Web Version: http://www.videography.com/article/90596
  • Jaiden turned 3.
  • I turned 33.
  • Our awesome family-friend-cousins were here from Winnipegosis, MB for a week and a half of adventures
  • Renee and I had a fun date watching Avatar at the new local theater with premium seating and dinner served right to our seats before the show
  • I took a basic pistol class in the mountains and spent a day in the classroom and a day on the range shooting a 380, .40, .45, and a shotgun. What a blast!

This post will be uncharacteristically short. We’re in the throes of uprooting from our longest stay of anywhere that we’ve been so far – nearly 4 months here in Colorado. And what an amazing time it has been. It’s easy to think of all the things that didn’t happen… how I never made it to the slopes, how we didn’t get back up to the cabin to fix the woodpiles we stacked but later fell over, how it never panned out to make it down to Glenwood Springs, how we didn’t even really get the thorough home cleaning / purging that we intended to with all this “time” in one spot, etc.

But it’s even easier to think of all the amazing adventures we DID have and all the incredible experiences and work and fun and family time and dates and hanging out and business and exploring and fellowship and new friends and on and on and on that characterized our time here. Those should have all been documented much better, but time has been insanely scarce. We’re very much looking forward to the vacation of the road.

Tomorrow we leave. We are flying south for winter. There is more to catch up on at some point, but for now there remains a lot to do to get ready.

Oct 30 2009

Day 202: What a difference the sun makes!

by renee

Boom! Whoosh! Whomp! There are huge clumps of snow and icicles falling off the trailer onto the ground. It’s a bit hazardous coming and going, dodging big clumps of wet snow and icicle drippings. But it’s so warm today and the sun is hot and shining and making the white world sparkling and breathtaking. But today is a different day.

After the snow fall and cold weather all day Wednesday and Thursday, we received about 20 or more inches of snow. We enjoyed the snow but the kids got cold and wet very quickly. However, we soon remedied that with hot cocoa and a fire in the fireplace. That was the fun part. The hard part was bundling up the kids just to go the bathroom in the house. Our trailer is not hooked up to the sewer here. We have a small porta-jon, but it fills up very quickly. The other hard part is living in two places at once. Making lunch for the kids in the trailer while giving my daughter a bath and doing laundry in the house. Now today, while it’s warm, I don’t mind it a bit. Running back and forth, spending more time outside breathing in the fresh air, and getting a bit of exercise. It was the last two days that were very difficult (was it only two days? It seemed like a week). With no sun and it being so cold, it was a lot more character building. Keeping the kiddos occupied in a small space for a longer period of time and making sure they didn’t get too rambunctious in the house and cut short their house play time privilege. There are a lot of us and even when we do behave ourselves, we tend to change the sound and space dynamics of a place pretty obviously. Including us, there are 3 family units living in close proximity who all need their own space to function properly and recharge once and a while. I’m trying to be sensitive to others ‘ needs as well as our own.

That;s hardly an issue when it’s nice out, as they don’t need to spend that much time indoors. Today it was 45º F and getting warmer. After a little home schooling, my sister-in-law and I took our kids for a long walk through the snow to Whole Foods. To give them some exercise and sunshine, and to tucker them out so they would have blessed quite times this afternoon. The walk there was great and we had snacks and water in their cafe and picked up a few groceries for the weekend. The way back was a different story. The sun had melted more of the snow and it was a lot wetter than on the way there. My father-in-law had blessed us by bringing us some sleds that he had drilled holes in and attached ropes so we could use them for our tired kids on the way back. We ended up carrying them for half the way but definitely enjoyed them the rest of the way home. The kids were tired and complained of being wet and cold and having to go pee. On the way home, the sled I was pulling tipped over and Zach and all my groceries tumbled into a huge pool of melted snow. A few minutes later, my sister stepped in a big puddle and lost the whole sole of her shoe! We both burst out laughing. The tired kids, the puddles, and more mishaps along the way home could not discourage us. We were determined to enjoy the walk and knew we would be rewarded by a nice long quiet time when we got back.

And that is what I am enjoying right now. With the sun shining in through the windows and warming up our little home, all is peaceful and I am looking forward to taking the kids out again in about an hour or so. It’s been a beautiful day.

Aug 8 2009

A Sunny Shabbat

by renee

At this moment, Joy is asleep on my lap, Reayah is quietly reading books, Bennah is out riding his bike, Jaiden and Zach are asleep and Andrew is working on his photos. About an hour ago, Andrew and I we were enjoying the warm sunny day, sitting outside under the awning, drinking coffee and watching everyone play in Shawn and Shelley’s back yard. Reayah was shelling peas, our younger boys were playing in the water and Bennah was reading. I took a sip of my delicious hawaiian hazelnut coffee and looked out at everyone happily entertained and thanked YHWH for Shabbats. To top it all off, a loud choo choo train went by only a few yards away on the tracks that run right behind their house.

Little boys love their trains and fire trucks! Since we’ve been traveling, we’ve seen many trains. Some have even blown their whistle for us as they passed us and probably just happened to glace out and see a blue Suburban with all the windows rolled down, filled with kids grinning widely, hair blowing wild in the wind and waving frantically at them. On one rest stop in Saskatchewan, we stopped for some burgers at A&W.  A beautiful bright train just happened to pull up and stop right in front of the kids. I jokingly said “Maybe they stopped for a bathroom break or a lunch break!” Just then, out stepped 3 conductors. They walked along the tracks and headed straight for us. They graciously waved back at the ecstatic children and walked on to A&W for some lunch! We are constantly trying to teach the kids that everything good thing is a gift from YHWH. The kids love the trains so much, that they have started to thank Him every time they see a train. And why not? He knows the desires of our hearts and wants to give us good things to make us smile. Even if it’s something as common as seeing a train up close and having them blow their whistle just for you.

He has answered our prayers and is constantly blessing us with good gifts. In Oregon, on our way to the coast, I had prayed that Father would help us to eat healthy on the road and help us find good food to eat. Within what seemed like minutes, we saw signs for an indoor farmer’s market with fresh daily picked produce. It was in the middle of nowhere and had a HUGE gravel parking area that was perfect for RVs. I was blown away at how quickly He answered my prayer. From fresh cherries, yellow watermelons, berries, raw honey and green beans, we all enjoyed the wonderful bounty of the local farmers. The little blessings that we all receive everyday are actually a big deal when you consider who gives them and why they are given.

Shelley and Danica are out picking beets for the beet borscht she’s planing to make. I should go out and see if she needs any help.

Jul 12 2009

Day 92: Soothing Misty Oregon Coast

by andrew

We’re settled in here south of Lincoln City, OR – nestled in a valley that doesn’t have cell coverage (hence no internet), but offers instead a constant supply of beauty: evergreen-covered hills shrouded in foggy serenity, a vibrant-green river behind our home on wheels, mist from time to time for good measure, old soul trees blanketed in moss… almost enough to stave off the connection withdrawals. I’m posting this from the library in town. We’ve just finished our laundry and the kids are restless to leave, so I will have to keep it short.

Our trip from Minot, ND to Lincoln City, OR was the most adventurous yet.

  • Spent a few days soaking in the splendor of Glacier National Park… you should see the photos I got… I will have to post some if I remember to bring my photo disk drive with me sometime when I surface to get a connection.
  • North of Augusta, MT I pulled over to try to get some shots of an amazing lightening storm not too far to the west. Barely minutes after stopping, the massive storm blew our way and right through our location, pelting us with grape-sized hail… biggest I think I’ve ever been in. We were broadsided by the assault and I felt like looking for the cannons to return fire. Thankfully, the “historic site” pull-over we had taken had a huge hanging sign etched with the story of the place that shielded a section of our trailer. But the exposed portion of our rolled up awning got a bit shredded… still, nothing that a roll of white duct tape couldn’t cure later on.
  • Then, at an intersection an hour north of Helena, MT and 45 minutes east of Lincoln, MT we had to make a decision about which way to go with very little info… West was risky – possible crazy mountains and back hi-ways. South went to bigger interstates and cities, but was a far longer route. We decided to go West and had a couple major climbs, stopping at one point to let the line behind us pass while we cooled down, but ultimately we were glad we did it. It was a gorgeous drive and put us way ahead of schedule, getting into Missoula, MT late that evening.
  • On the last day of travel, home stretch, finish-line practically in sight, things got really interesting. Driving down the very scenic I-84 along the Columbia River just 10 miles east of Arlington, OR we ran over some kind of metal chunk that I totally didn’t see and our rear, passenger tire on the truck exploded. I’m not exaggerating. I know about the metal chunk because one of those hi-way safety vehicle came up behind us a few minutes later and the driver told me he had just picked it up off the road a few hundred feet back. So, with the trailer practically resting against the guardrail, and just enough room to fit beside the narrower truck, I changed the shredded rubber with our spare. Took a while… thankfully, the safety worker stayed behind us with his blinkers going and then led us into town down the road to a tire shop. We got two new rear tires (for now – though I would have bought a whole set if they had them… I love these new tires, about the best you can get, aggressive grip, 10-ply, best all-round road / gravel / rain tires you can find and very affordable)… and there was a post office in town so we took care of our Correction to Change of Address since that was going to my sister’s who has now also moved… and replaced a fuse I needed at the ACE Hardware across the street from the post office… and several hours later back on the road.
  • Had to stop one more time as we started swaying all over the road from the wind (I-84 hills are riddled with wind turbines which should give you an idea) to slap on our sway-control-bar (normally I leave it off because it hasn’t been too bad without it up until now and I prefer the extra maneuverability).
  • All told, that put us arriving at 10pm local time at our campground when it should have been like 4 or 5pm. But we made it. And are loving it.

I’ll have to get some of those photos from the adventure posted here… there are some reall great ones. Check back over the next few days – I’ll update this post with them… or maybe just do a new post with a bunch. We’ll see.

Jul 1 2009

Day 81: An 8-year Circle

by andrew

How many of you can say that you had the chance later on in life to meet the doctor who delivered you when you were born? Maybe there are more of you than I’d guess, but I certainly can’t. Well, today in a cool turn of events it worked out for Bennah (who just turned 8 a week ago) to meet the doctor that delivered him.

We got a good start departing Winnipeg this morning and got into Minot, ND with plenty of time to swing by the hospital where Bennah was born. We were just going to show the kids the building, but on a whim, I thought – what if Dr. A. F. is still working there? So, I went inside, picked up the phone labeled “Information” and asked the nice lady at the other end. Sure enough! And she forwarded me to OB to check on his availability. So, after 8 years and 4 more children, we got a chance to say hi to the kind gentlemen who helped us with our firstborn. Crazy. And of course, he remembered us too… well, our situation was rather unique afterall – Renee on bed rest for 5 months of the pregnancy, and our request for an 8th-day circumcision, and several other unique things about our story, but I’ll leave it at that.

Then, we went past our old apartment (the second floor of an old house and probably the most favorite place we ever lived… tied with the last house in Alexandria, VA maybe… of course, current “home” notwithstanding, which doesn’t count because it’s way too awesome to even be compared)… anyway, it’s still there and it looks exactly like it did the day we left. Same colors – everything. After 8 years.

Of course, the Wal-Mart in town has moved and been upgraded to a Super Center; picked up some necessary road supplies… but the Sammy’s is still here and pretty much all our original favorite places are intact. Both thrift stores. The coffee shop / used book store. The photolab Renee worked at for a while. Etc. Talk about memory lane. It was so much fun to share this all with our kids, even though they probably just wanted to get out and run around and squirt each other with the new water guns from Wal-Mart…

And as for Bennah – I’m sure he just wanted to try out his new bike seat. He just learned how to ride a bike. On literally his second try. And some friends blessed us with an awesome bike for him (they had extras) but it needed a new seat. Up until today he’s been riding it around the campground with a shoe over the post to act as a seat. After he took a few spins around the Roughrider Campground where we’re parked now in Minot, he said he actually likes the shoe better. But he never actually sat on it I don’t think. His bony bum isn’t very comfortable on the new seat that he can actually sit on… but he’ll get used to it.

Long day of driving tomorrow and I should have been in bed a while ago. But this had to get captured. It was another great day.