Wednesday, September 28, 2005

North to Alaska, Part 2

Day 8 Friday, September 16th:
West Yellowstone, MT to Lethbridge, AB:
Montana day! By far the prettiest state we have been in, so far. We crossed over the Missouri River several times; saw golden grass topped hills with grazing cattle, and majestic rock formations. Oh, the colors! We began to see aspen trees. I love aspens. They are like the cottonwoods of the north. The wind through a cottonwood’s or aspen’s leaves is the best wind chime ever made.
We made a stop in Helena for gear. First, we ate lunch at a deli. The waitress (kind of a ditzy girl) suggested we go to Bob Erwin’s for gear…after getting turned around (what some would call "getting lost"), we finally found it. We spilled into the store looking for silkies, a parka, Carhartt’s, etc. What we found was over priced under armour and teeny bopper help. Ugh! Luckily, across the street was a Murdoch’s: amazing store! Great prices, great service…we had a woman that acted as our personal shopper. She lined Jeff up with every Carhartt item available in their "fall collection", as well as gloves, and some amazing boots for the both of us. We purchased these water proof pac boots rated up to -50 degrees F for only $49. They go up to my upper calf and with felt insoles added to the existing thermolite liner: they are warm. A little too warm for now, but I know I will appreciate them in the coming months. I feel like a true mountain woman now! I also purchased a Columbia parka (on sale) with three detachable layers.
We rolled into Lethbridge about 8:00 pm to the Howard Johnson: "yes, I do deserve the lowest rate!" Or at least that is what I am supposed to think when I look into one of their mirrors. Pretty good night sleep until the dogs alerted us to would be snoopers/thieves about 4:00 in the morning. We awoke to Link barking like mad and a group of Canadian teenagers cussing up a storm. Jeff rushed out of the room with nothing but shorts on to scare them a second time. I am assuming they were coming home from the bar…when Jeff came out, they were very apologetic to say the least.

Day 9 Saturday, September 17th:
What a great beginning to the day…Dad singing 'Texas, Our Texas' via cell phone. Yes, dad the second verse is the best. We made a pretty long haul to Whitecourt, AB today.
You can’t judge a book by its cover at the Green Gable Inn. Everything along the highway is dusty and "Ponca Motel" looking, but inside reside clean rooms, friendly staff, and usually great restaurants. We had the best meal, yet at our inn. The waitress treated us like celebrities. The restaurant was owned by a Greek. The menu was diverse to say the least. Amy ordered lasagna, I the Chicken Slovakia with a Greek salad, and Jeff the chopped steak with mushroom gravy. Yummy! We had a great night’s sleep, and got on the road early.

Day 10 Sunday, September 18th:
Unfortunately, with only three places of worship to choose from: one Mormon, one Catholic and one Anglican, we attended the "Rusty" church of Christ (aka our truck). We stopped at a pseudo-Walmart parking lot in Grand Prairie while the oil was being changed for some scripture reading, the Lord’s Supper and prayer. Our message was brought to us by Jay Don Poindexter and Rance: thanks guys! Great thoughts!
We drove to Dawson Creek and the beginning of the Alcan. Our true adventure has begun. Who needs Six Flags?!! Just take a drive on the great Alcan! The most astounding views, yet. The beautiful yellow aspen leaves against the green spruce along the roadside, sure puts a smile on this Texan’s face. Around 7:30 pm, we arrived in Ft. Nelson. Checked into a friendly Ramada Inn and ate a hamburger at A&W.

Day 11 Monday, September 19th:
Wow! Wow! Wow! Yes, that is three wows. The day is off to a great start. We started with the best continental breakfast on the continent; made by a rather large and super friendly Canadian. Imagine a portly fellow, with a smile as broad as his nose, clad in plaid and topped with long black hair and leather boonie. Fast with the jokes and jovial jabs, he made great coffee, biscuits with grilled ham and fried eggs, and doled out the hotel missus’ muffins (apricot and peach)…delicious! He even made Belgium waffles upon request, though no one quite had the gumption to ask for one. The hotel residents were all huddled into a small 10 x 15 foot room. A family from North Dakota, a divorcee driving south to North Carolina from Anchorage, a few cool cats from Abilene, and three hunting guides returning to Prince George from a week long elk hunt in the bush. We shared our breakfast and our stories from the road we were all on: the path to the future.
Today we saw the most wildlife, yet. While listening to the tunes of Dizzy Gillispie, Louis Armstrong, Willie Nelson, Wilco, and others, we traveled around majestic mountains, traversed the road teetering trail to look into vast valleys. We drove over emerald green rivers and around Caribbean blue lakes, all the while stumped for words to describe.
When the sign says, "Watch for Wildlife On the Road," they literally mean ON the road. It amazed me to see caribou, moose, mulies, mountain goats, and bison (Amy and Jeff saw these while I was asleep) all copping a squat on the yellow line. I personally think it is a racket. The villages’ chamber of commerce have a deal with the animals so the tourist will come on this crazy road. I can see them brokering the agreement now…"Okay, Mr. Moose, have your people at mile marker 472, center line from 1-5 today, and you will get extra feed this winter." Whether it is all a set up or not, I am sure that I haven’t had such a great experience in my 28 years. Thank you, God for great adventures and great people to go on them with.
One last thing, the divorcee from Anchorage gave us a packet of Moose sausage…good stuff! It is great when people share.

Day 12 Tuesday, September 20th:
We arrived late the previous night in Whitehorse, Yukon. We checked into the Airport Chalet, next door to a man and his family (four kids). They had moved from southern California and were on their way to Alaska. We went and ate the worst Chinese food ever known to man (luckily, the Won Ton soup was good), and settled in for the night.
Today, we got up and on the way to breakfast I threw up. Come to think of it…I have been feeling like crud the whole time! I have a bad cold and figure the drainage got the best of me. I eat my toast and tea and still feel quite nauseated. Just moving stress…has my immune system down. On the way out of town, I ask Jeff to stop at the Wal-Mart. There is no way that I am, you know "with child," but what they hey…it never hurts to check.
I don’t tell Jeff or Amy what I am doing..I just demand to be taken to Wal-Mart! Jeff asks, "Whatever it is, I will go in for you." "No!" I snap, "You can’t do this for me."
I tentatively approach the pharmacy section. Find what I need and proceed to the ‘washroom’, as they call it in Canada/The Yukon. I take the test and low and behold: two lines! No, I had to have done something wrong….this can’t be?! With shaking hands, I proceed to the parking lot. I jump in the truck, grab the nearest water bottle and turn it up. Jeff yells, "What?!" "I have to pee again," I say between gulps. I reluctantly tell them both the news. Jeff grins ear to ear. I am still not buying it…we can’t be pregnant. After the month we have had: no way! All day Jeff and Amy are thinking up baby names, how to tell certain people, etc. I am still not convinced. Besides, this was NOT how it was supposed to happen. In my vision, I was at home, having taken the test early one morning and emotionally gotten myself together, awoken Jeff to a nice breakfast and spelled out "DAD" on his pancake with chocolate chips…or something like that. Not in a Wal-mart parking lot in the Yukon! But, alas it is life’s little surprises that make it all interesting.
When we rolled into Tok, Alaska that night I purchased another test and sure enough: two lines…we are having a baby, folks!

Day 13 Wednesday, September 21st:
This was the worse day of travel for me, yet. After several stops on the side of the road, we made it into Anchorage late afternoon, early evening. I am starting to not keep much down. We are almost there. We can make it. I think we are all at the end of our rope.

Day 14 Thursday, September 22nd:
Just when you think you are at the end: the rope gets longer! Jeff took the truck into the shop and 8 hours later we find out the brakes on the front driver’s side were about to go out and we have a flat in the spare for the trailer.
With everything fixed we proceed to Lowe’s for paint and other materials. Finally, we pull out of town about 8:00 pm. And then, bam: we have a flat on the trailer. We made it over 4,500 miles without one flat and now bad luck strikes. Jeff, the master tire patcher, pulls out his plugs, a can of fix a flat and we are rolling.
We make it ¼ around the Turn Again Arm (imagine, mountain_road____sheer cliff___ and then water). The wind is whipping us around like a rag doll, and the rain is coming down in sheets. We aren’t making it over 45 miles and Jeff is worried about the tire, when I remember our friends in Girdwood!
I was blessed to meet a lovely lady, Mandy Hawes (the cousin of Erin Baldwin) this summer at Erin and Heath’s wedding. We graduated the same year from ACU. Mandy and her husband work at the Aleyeska Prince Hotel in Girdwood. She works in accounting and he as the night manager. I call her to see if she knows of a good place to pull off to change the tire that is out of the rain. She is so very helpful and encouraging. This is a time I am thankful for connections that can only come through Christ. She also offers to put us up at the hotel. As we pull into the gas station, weary and having gone such a short distance, we accept her offer.
We drive into Girdwood and to the hotel…wow! This is not just any hotel. Think Aspen lodge in Alaska. This is one of the premier skiing resorts in the state. It is gorgeous…4 stars at the very least! We gladly hop into our down filled beds and don our complimentary robes and slippers. Whew…this is the life after KOA camping and Ramada Inns. Jeff goes out to check the dogs and comes back in ashen face. He holds out a two inch gnarly looking piece of shiny metal. He says that it was in the front driver side tire. God is so good!! If we had kept going, we would have been in for a horrible night.

Day 15 Friday, September 23rd:
After Jeff made some snappy repairs, we pull ourselves reluctantly away from this "Isle of Lotus Eaters," and get on down the road. We pull into Anchor Point and our new home later that afternoon. I know the "journey should always be the destination", but this is one time that I am sooooo very glad to be "THERE".
Thank you, God for a safe journey, fun and stressful times with Amy and Jeff, and relationships.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

North to Alaska, Part 1

Well, folks without cell service or email for the last several hundred miles, I am just now getting something on the ol' blog...hope you enjoy.

Day 1 Friday, September 9th:

Woo Hoo! We made it really far today…all the way to Lockney! We finally left at 4:00 in the afternoon. I couldn’t believe how much we accrued since the movers came…all those “last minute items that we will quickly pack up” turned out to be a lot of STUFF! With our 16 foot trailer, loaded with kayak, jeep, welder, bike, air tank, extra gas tanks, mucho luggage, and of course our newly acquired metal bench made by a master welder, we set off…
The dogs were set up in the truck with their doggy condo, water and food. They had no idea what they were getting into, but boy, they were excited.

We pulled into Lockney at 7:00 pm to a lovely fried fish dinner. Debora and Jay Don, the ever willing hosts were ready for us. Jaylee even told me that “her and momma spent ALL DAY cleaning and cleaning.” (Thanks, Deb J) Van, one of their elders and Glenn were also there for dinner. After much talking, praying, and talking, we fell into bed (ours was a lovely princess bed, complete with a net canopy) late that night at 1:00.

Day 2 Saturday, September 10th:
The next morning, Jeff and Jay Don went hunting while I went to Jay Don’s office to print out our route and research my maps. When I got back to the house, Jaylee let me know that she was sad about not sleeping in her bed. She did clarify though, she was not “serious sad”, but just “sad”. When asked, “what is serious sad?” She told me that “serious sad” was when your favorite doll got eaten by the dog, but “sad” was just “well, feeling sad.” I then gave her all of the change in my pocket as a tip for sharing her room and she was happy again. I am not sure if that was serious happy or just happy, but needless to say I was happy to see one of my favorite four year olds smile.

I called Van to ask about Manuelito Children’s Ranch in Gallup, and he convinced me we should stop and stay there. Every time we go to Lockney someone talks to us about the ranch. I am so glad we did. Amazing people, amazing work and a loving congregation. We got off from Lockney at 3:00 pm. Pulled into Gallup at 11:30 pm.

Wow! Mary Gray has the set up. Thankfully, she was already in bed, but her “guest wing” was ready. We came in very late to a comfortable bed, turned down, a bathroom full of toiletries and fresh towels, and thank you cards with a pen on the desk. Her and Mike had just returned from a weekend church retreat, but were more than happy to have us as guests. A call from elder Van paved the way, I am sure.

Day 3 Sunday, September 11th:
We awoke to a lovely crisp high desert morning. Absolutely beautiful! Bible class was wonderful. We talked about Colossians 3:21 “Fathers do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” There was a wise man there named Dick Felts (cool, huh Dad?) that gave some of the most encouraging advise. He said that children need fences (boundaries), but all fences don’t need to be barbed wire.

The congregation was warm and loving. Almost everyone came and introduced themselves and welcomed us. We were greatly blessed by the saints at Gallup. The minister’s wife came and introduced herself. Her name was Razzle. When I questioned to make sure I had heard right, she said, “yeah, like razzle dazzle.” That is awesome! Her name was very fitting. We finished off a great morning of worship with lunch at the Corral, Golden that is.

We then went and spent some time with Merle and Annette and their kids. They are house parents at the ranch. What a couple! Thank you, Lord for people that love others like this couple. Merle is a West Texas cowboy transplanted in northern Mexico. He and his wife have been at the ranch for 14 years. They have loved on and raised countless kids. They reminded Jeff and me of Jim and Gretchen. In fact, I could totally see Jim and Gretchen involved in a ministry like this some day. (Guys, watch out…we started praying).

We got off from Gallup around 1:30 and headed to Moab, UT. We stopped in Shiprock, near the border of NM and CO at a McDonald’s to get a drink and have a bathroom stop. There Jeff met a woman named Carmen who was trying to sell some pottery in order to get gas money to go to Farmington. She had three bright-eyed children with her; two girls and a boy, all under the age of 4. The pottery was made by her husband and her son, Tryston. One pot was decorated by Navajo rain and the other with the bear claw, symbolizing courage. Amy purchased one and I purchased the other. She described the process of making the pots (because of course, Jeff had asked:) and how they get the color to adhere to the clay with a solution of juniper berries and spinach. She seemed anxious and just as I was thinking to ask her if we could pray for her, Jeff asked. I asked her what we could pray for and she became emotional as she told us her problem. She was from one tribe (Navajo) and her husband from another (Acoma). In their ten years of marriage her family had never accepted him. Daily things were progressing to violence and enmity. She was traveling to Farmington on a lead for an apartment. The clan concept that Mike had told us about was poignantly expressed in this woman’s life. The idea of “leaving and cleaving” would have been foreign to her. Jeff prayed a prayer to the Creator of all that we feel and see around us, and described God’s majesty through his creation. Just as I was thinking, I hope he gets around to thanking God for Jesus, he did…he basically told of the gospel through his prayer. Carmen thanked us in tears. Funny, how the Spirit works on people.

We stopped along the way in Colorado to get groceries. Different folks around these parts. In the check-out line, a man behind us overheard Amy telling the checker we were on our way to AK. He took the opportunity to tell us we need to help promote alternative energy systems by helping Alaskans to see the available resource in the dramatic tides. He emphatically told us, the tides rise and fall 10 feet at a time! Good information to know. We then met two Indians in the parking lot. Jeff talked to them for a while and as they were leaving he said, “take it easy…” the Indian remarked, “always.”

We pulled into the Moab KOA a little before 9:00 pm.

Day 4 Monday, September 12th:
We awoke to an amazing sight: red rock formations surrounding our camp site with rustling cotton woods dispersed throughout the camp ground. We ate breakfast: oatmeal, strawberry bread, and hot tea. We made our way to Arches National Park. Absolutely awe inspiring and breathe taking. With great reverence I looked upon God’s creation. He is so mighty and so creative…the diversity that we have seen in just four states is evidence. We hiked the longest trail, the Double O. We saw the Landscape Arch and the Double O arches, along with countless other formations. Jeff climbed many places he wasn’t supposed to…oh, what a discussion we had! (No, not that kind, Cary) Poor Amy played referee. I was so mad hiking back, I was at a full sprint. It is amazing how much ground you cover when angry. For some reason all the anxiety regarding the move exploded on the dusty terrain of Utah. It was quite cathartic.

We ended the day at the Moab Brewery and Restaurant for a delicious Reuben, hamburger, and some kind of veggie enchiladas (Amy).

Day 5 Tuesday, September 13th:
We started the day with a larruping breakfast at the Jailhouse Café. One of the best breakfasts I have had in a long time. We finally rolled out at about 11:00 am and proceeded to Hoback Junction, WY. On to Idaho, Idaho, Idaho-ho-ho. Funny thing: as we were leaving Utah, one of the last barns had very organized mormon graffitti. It was blocked off and very colorful. Mine and Amy's favorite quote was, "Goose Elder Jones from down under." We had many theories as to what exactly that meant... but were glad to know that even mormons have a sense of humor.

We got into Hoback after a loooong drive round 11:00 pm. This was after we accidentally left our coolers on the side of the road. L The Hoback Junction KOA is the favorite so far. The cabins overlooked the Snake River. As you fell asleep you heard the rushing river below. This was our first frost. We had to get out the hay for the dogs.

Day 6 Wednesday, September 14th:
In the morning we arose and drove to Yellowstone, after stopping in Jackson Hole for tire chains and breakfast. In Yellowstone, we stopped at Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic stream. We saw moose, elk, many bison, mule deer, pronghorn deer, and some kind of weird bird. The Madison River was beautiful. Jeff of course drove very slowly and stopped to take pictures of everything. We stayed the night at West Yellowstone KOA: the world’s largest and most visited KOA. We were in cabin 121. We cooked an amazing dinner of salmon and vegetables. Link was depressed…I think he is tired of being cooped up in the truck. He had a bit of a scare, when we were pulled over on an incline. I told him to get down from the tool box and when he did he fell out of the truck. Startled, I anxiously called for him and he went around the truck into traffic. Luckily the oncoming car was stopping to look at the elk as well.

Day 6 Thursday, September 15th:
Amy and Jeff took Link for a hike up “Elk poo” mountain. They were looking for a place to hike with Link. So far, all of the national and state parks we have visited don’t allow dogs on the trails. Jeff, the wooer that he is, stopped at a ranch that had a sign posted: “Positively No Trespassing!” He approached the rancher that was splitting logs and said, “We are from Texas, we were wondering if we could trespass and hike your mountain?” The rancher laughed and said, “yes”. I stayed back at the cabin with Scout. At about 4:30 pm they dragged back into camp. Amy and Link looked they had been rode hard and rung out wet. Jeff said Amy kept up well, he was impressed. From the look of their climb, it was straight up. Amy said that Jeff’s idea of a switchback was four feet to the left and three to the right.