"Transformation is a process, and as life happens there are tons of ups and downs. It's a journey of discovery - there are moments on mountaintops and moments in deep valleys of despair."
- Rick Warren
Good morning everyone,
Well, we are in the great Southwest! What absolutely gorgeous country this is. This fine country we are blessed to live in (despite what I am sure is a very high frustration level with the current state of our politics) has some seriously breathtaking scenery. Since we have had the privilege of traveling through 80% of this country, we can attest to the richness of our mountains, oceans, deserts, great plains, palm trees, cactus and the like. Heck, in just the last two months we have experienced just about all of it.
Just for grins, get out a map and see where our 6,000 miles of travel have taken us since we left Port Charlotte on August 16. Here's the route (mostly intentional but some unplanned):
Port Charlotte, FL - to St. Mary's, Georgia - to Asheville, NC - to Covington, KY - to Topeka, IN - to Detroit, MI - back to Topeka, IN - to Oregon, OH - to Detroit, MI - to Columbus, OH - to Topeka, IN - to Goshen, IN - back to Oregon, OH - to Detroit, MI - to Goshen, IN - to Davenport, IA - through Des Moines, IA to Kansas City, KS - through Kansas to Colorado Springs, CO - down I-25 through Albuquerque, NM to Casa Blanca, NM.
What do you think? Our last journey will be from Casa Blanca, NM to El Mirage, AZ where we will be until April 15. Whew!!! Both the truck and the trailer will be happy to sit still for a while, I am sure.
Ok, so let me update you on what we've done since you least heard from us. As mentioned above, we headed south to Kansas City. What a nice town!!! Lots to do. We only stayed for two days so we couldn't do everything, but we took in a couple of really interesting museums.
First, we visited the World War I Museum which was absolutely awesome. The quality of this museum would rival anything you'd see in Washington D.C. We gained so much knowledge about that war and the state of politics in the world at that time and were especially fascinated to learn that the war went from the shooting of the Arch Duke Ferdinand into a world war in one week's time. We also learned that the countries involved in this war were led by individuals who were related in some way (all tied to Queen Victoria of England). Can you imagine????? One of the most interesting things that we learned was the origin of the red poppies that are handed out on Memorial Day and Veterans Day as a fundraiser for disabled vets. The story is that the very first battle of this war was fought in Flanders, Belgium in a field where poppies grow every year. This field is the subject of a poem written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae who fought in the Canadian army in this conflict. The poem is quite poignant and is as follows:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high,
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
In addition to the great displays and short films they presented, there is an opportunity to climb to the top of the 217-foot tower that serves as the landmark for this museum. It was a rainy, overcast morning so we couldn't get quite the vista we would have otherwise, but the view from up top was impressive nonetheless.
We visited two other museums while in town. The first was a car museum which housed some cool classic cars. There was nothing really remarkable about this museum but Steve and I like to amble passed old, restored vehicles any chance that we get. The last place we visited was the National Frontier Trails Museum in Independence, MO (you will recall that Kansas City lies on the border of Missouri and Kansas so you get a two-for-one when you visit this city). Independence acted as the launch point for settlers headed to points west back in the 1800s. Three trails headed out from this point: The Santa Fe Trail, the California Trail, and the Oregon Trail. Lewis & Clark also used this city as the location from which to begin their Corps of Discovery Expedition which took them to the Pacific Ocean via the rivers of the west. As a side note, I recommend a book called "Undaunted Courage" if you are interested in learning more about Lewis & Clark and their contribution to our country's history.
Kansas City is really a cool town and we would have loved to have had the time to explore it further. Hopefully we will pass through this way again in the future. Sadly, however, we left Kansas City and headed west to Colorado Springs. I say "sadly" because, let me tell you, the journey across Kansas is brutal. It's miles and miles of miles and miles. The scenery really doesn't change much and there's a whole lotta nuttin to see. I hope that I am not offending any Kansians out there but hey, it's true. The speed limit on I-70 is 75 mph, but when you are pulling 16,000 pounds of trailer, high speeds are not an option. To pass the time, Steve and I would play a game trying to guess how far away some landmark ahead on the highway would be from where we were. Yes, it was that sad!!!
Anyway, we arrived in Colorado and spent 9 days with our youngest son, Steve Jr., our daughter-in-law, Aime and our newest grandchild - - TYTUS! What a gorgeous little boy he is. We had a great time with them and enjoyed every minute of it. We visited some cool places in Colorado Springs, where I would highly recommend you visit for a summer vacation. There is a TON of stuff to do in this town. Lots of history museums and outdoor activities for every member of the family to enjoy. For my Florida friends, flights from Orlando are $69 on Frontier Airlines.
One of the main things that everyone does when they visit Colorado Springs is to travel to the top of Pikes Peak. This mountain is 14,115 feet tall and will literally take your breath away. The air is quite thin up there but the view is amazing. Driving up, however, is not for the faint of heart. The road is narrow and for the most part offers no shoulder, so riding up in the BAT (Steve's Big A_ _ Truck) was an adventure that I don't care to recreate - EVER (insert swear words here). What's amazing to the two of us is that there is a road race up this mountain every year. We visited the Penrose Heritage Museum to learn about this incredible feat. The drivers who race up this mountain do so at speeds over 100 mph. Let me tell you, this is amazing. There are parts of the road going up Pikes Peak where the grade is so steep, you cannot see the end of the road. All you see is sky (no kidding). Luckily, if you are too nervous to make the drive, there is a cog railway that will take you to the top. Once there, however, don't move too quickly. You will get light-headed and most likely nauseous. Thankfully, there are EMTs present to give you some oxygen if you feel like you will pass out. Despite all the downsides of the journey, however, I highly recommend making the trek to the top.
We also hiked through Garden of the Gods, visited a ghost town, learned about the history of Colorado Springs and had yet another mechanical breakdown. Mostly, we just enjoyed time with our family. Sadly, the only pictures that survived the glitch on Steve's transfer from phone to computer were the pics he took at the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel. This is one seriously-uniquely designed building and quite beautiful on the inside. It houses many different chapels - - Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Buddhist. Services are conducted for each of these religions every week. Check out the pictures Steve took while we visited.
What a nice time we had with this part of our family. Little Tytus is gorgeous (no bias, trust me) and Stevie and Aime have a lovely home. We will be back in April for another visit when Steve and I head north to conquer the Pacific Northwest in 2017. Can't wait to see how much our little guy has changed!
Well, that's it for now. Our next update will cover New Mexico and our arrival into Arizona. Take care guys and know that Steve and I miss you more than you can know.
Break downs, Births and Gratitude
I look behind me and you're there, then up ahead and you're there, too - - your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful - - I can't take it all in!
- - Psalm 139:5-6 (MSG)
Well folks, sorry for the long delay in updating our blog, but I have very good reasons for this. Before I get to the wonderful things we have done since you last heard from us, let me tell you our tale of woe and why the above Scripture is my selected "thought for the week".
Our story begins in late September when we have to take our RV in to the Redwood factory for some repairs that were needed due to a structural issue. Redwood is located in the thriving metropolis of Topeka, Indiana - - right in the middle of Amish farm country. While bucolic in it's appearance, traveling to and from this location had its challenges. First, there are no direct routes anywhere. Every road in that area of the country is just about 1 1/2 lanes wide and very winding. Secondly, there are little "bombs" all along the way, left behind from the Amish buggies that traverse these roadways. So, as you can imagine, hauling a 16,000 pound, 8-foot wide trailer through this part of the country was challenging and messy. Nonetheless, we dropped the trailer at Redwood on a Friday afternoon and headed to my dad's for the weekend. We traveled from Detroit back to Topeka on Sunday night so that we could meet with the warranty rep from both Redwood and Lippert (the frame manufacturer) on Monday morning. So that's one trip into and out of Topeka and then back to Topeka in one weekend. Trailer scheduled to be completed, and our trailer could be picked up, the following Monday.
After the meeting, we headed to Toledo and stayed with Steve's sister and brother-in-law, Bev and Larry Miller, who are such gracious hosts (you will find out why in a minute). On the way there, we stopped to take Steve's mom to lunch and visit with her for a bit. On our way back from lunch, Steve's truck completely lost power to the throttle. The truck would start and go into gear, but we could not get any power to the engine. Thankfully we were a mere mile away from Connie's house so we idled all the way back there to call a tow truck. What a hassle - - we were moving so slowly that we were passed by a squirrel! After we arrived at Connie's, for some odd reason, the truck "fixed itself" but we were not willing to trust this instant repair, so we took it to the local Dodge dealer for repairs. Thanks to Bev and Larry, we had a free car for the time the truck was in the shop, which was good because we had a ton of friends and family to visit while we were in town. Later in the week, after we picked up the truck, we headed to my dad's to visit with my side of the family and some of my friends from Visteon. My dad is such a sweet guy and always willing to house us vagabonds when we are in town.
On Sunday night we drove down to Columbus so that we could be present for the birth of our latest grandchild - - Tytus Landry! We had dinner with our youngest son, Stevie, and his wife AIme that evening in anticipation of his birth in the morning. Aime was going to be induced so we were pretty sure October 3 was going to be his birthday. While at dinner, Aime described how she was feeling and I instantly knew that she was already in labor. Later that evening/early in the a.m. her water broke and she went into full blown contractions. Unfortunately for her, what started out as a speedy path to giving birth, stalled later in the morning. In the meantime, all hell was breaking loose in the waiting room. Sadly, there was a young woman who was brought into the hospital as a result of an overdose. She was still "alive" but technically brain dead. As the family was deciding what to do, a fight breaks out - - it started with a lot of yelling and swearing and escalated into pushing and shoving which required security to call the Sheriff. During all this, Aime is struggling to get the baby to deliver and was hearing all this ruckus. This went on for hours! Finally, everything calmed down on both fronts and Tytus was born at 4:39 in the afternoon. He's gorgeous and we were all excited. The nurses were especially happy about the baby because they, being ICU nurses, very rarely get to deal with happy situations. Some of them were even crying when he was born. How precious.
So, okay, with the baby's birth behind us, Steve and I head back to Topeka, Indiana (this is the third time that we will be in Indiana at this point), and pick up our trailer. Redwood did a fantastic job and we were very pleased. Unfortunately, we traveled a mere 8 miles from the plant before we had another issue - - the left rear wheel had started to smoke. Now remember, we are in the middle of Amish country so our options are limited. Steve calls the warranty guy from Redwood who comes out to check the rig and he discovers that the entire wheel assembly has an issue. He then calls Lippert (the manufacturer of the axle assembly) and they drive over to make the necessary repairs. Thankfully we found a parking lot to pull the rig into because at this point, we were on the side of a two lane highway with vehicles and heavy trucks passing us at 60-65 mph. Anyway, Lippert discovers that the entire axle needs to be replaced so he makes the necessary repairs that will get us and our rig to their factory which is 30 miles west of the Redwood facility we just left. So, here is our fourth stop in Indiana!!! We get to the facility and decide that rather than simply replacing the damaged axle, we would upgrade both axles to a heavier version and to replace all the bushings as well. We are going to be out west next year and Steve felt, for safety reasons, this was the right thing to do. Repairs will take yet another week and were expected to cost around $5,000. Major UGH!!!
As has become our pattern lately, we head to Bev and Larry's and my dad's for another visit while we waited for the trailer to be fixed. It was nice to be able to see both off our parents and spend more time with them because we will not be back in town for about a year. While at my dad's, we received a call from Lippert and what was originally going to be $5,000 in repair costs was reduced to $1,700 - - they were willing to not only discount the axles we purchased, but they didn't charge us for the parts or labor for the time that was spent by their service department while we were on the side of the road when the issue first arose. Steve and I were marveling at how God had us in His hands throughout this whole ordeal. First, the issue with the axle was going to happen no matter what (as things in life generally do) but it happened in a location where we could get immediate assistance from the manufacturer. We could have been on the side of the road in Denver or Portland and then what would we have done? Secondly, Steve was prompted to check his mirror and saw the smoke so he stopped immediately. He had no real reason to check his mirror other than a little prompting from the back of his mind. Thirdly, there was a parking lot available to us about 100 yards from where we broke down. Other than that parking lot, there was nothing on either side of the road but farms and driveways for several miles in either direction. Had we driven that trailer much further, the wheel would have fallen completely off the axle and into oncoming traffic which could have seriously hurt someone. Additionally, the situation took place near family that could provide us housing and a vehicle for nearly 3 weeks. Lastly, the issues were handled by a company that was very responsive in terms of customer service as well as generous with the discounts they provided. Steve and I are so grateful for the blessings that He provides us. Not only did we just welcome a perfect and beautiful baby grandson into the world, but throughout this whole trailer and truck ordeal, He kept us safe. If all of us would just take a moment, every day, and look for God's hand in our lives, we would see Him everywhere! Thank you Lord!
Ok, so now on to the good stuff. As mentioned above, Tytus was born and we are headed to Colorado Springs to spend some time with him before we land in Arizona for the winter. Check out these pictures of our precious boy! He was 19 3/4 inches long and 6 pounds 15 ounces at birth. Mom, baby and dad are all doing well and adjusting to their new lives, although Tytus has his days and nights mixed up a bit.
We did some cool stuff since we last wrote to you. First, we stopped in Kentucky to see the Creation Museum (www.creationmuseum.com) and The Ark Encounter (www.arkencounter.com). Both are the owned by Ken Hamm who is the founder of Answers in Genesis and provide an excellent explanation for the Creation story in the Bible as well as the story of Noah's Ark and how that could have realistically occurred. (PICTURES HERE) The displays and artwork in both locations were so well done and really bring both stories to life. I cannot do either location justice with this blog so I recommend making a road trip to Kentucky and visiting both for yourselves. This would make a great Youth, Children's or Adult ministry outing as these two museums are about 45 minutes from each other. The Creation Museum also offers a few lectures on specific topics and has a great planetarium show. The Ark Encounter just opened in July, but over the next couple of years this location is going to expand into a Bible-based theme park to include the walled city of Jerusalem, an area that will teach about the 10 plagues of Exodus, the Tower of Babel, and other unique experiences that will help to bring other Bible stories to life.
So after our fifth trip to Indiana to pick up our trailer after the axle repairs, we headed west for our first stop in Iowa (the home of Cindy Salvanorich and Melinda Means). We stayed in Davenport, which is a cute little town. We took a drive over to LeClaire where the "Antique Archeology" shop is located - - this is the store where the guys from "American Pickers" sell the items they find in various garages and barns around the country. If you haven't seen that show, check it out. It's on the History Channel and is very interesting. From Iowa, we headed to Kansas City (home of Don DeWeese) and then will go directly west into Colorado Springs where our new grandbaby lives. We will be visiting with them for a week and then head into Arizona.
So, that's it. As you can see we had quite the ordeal since you last heard from us. We lacked the comforts of WiFi for most of that time which prevented us from updating the website as well. I cannot believe how dependent on the internet Steve and I have become. It’s kind of sad, actually.
Until next time, take care and count your blessings. Take a moment or two and look for God's working in your lives - - whether it is through acknowledging a blessing He has bestowed upon you or by recognizing that He is there with you through a difficulty you are facing. We serve an awesome God!
Love you muchly guys,
Lauren (and Steve too)