Saturday, July 20, 2013

Day 7 - North! Into Canada

(Wheelchair) Mile log: 672

Well our car mileage reached 3,000 today as we neared the border of Canada. It made me realize how far we have traveled this week, and how far from home we are. But the adventure continues...

We left Aurora, Oregon this morning after a huge pancake and bacon and coffee breakfast at A. Carrie and U. George's house. They've invited us back, so maybe next summer we'll come out again and hang around a little longer with them on the farm...?

We shifted our direction from west to north for about six hours. Not much to speak of in the way of breathless scenery, but we did see a lot of "The Evergreen State" of Washington, plus enjoyed the traffic and cityscapes of Tacoma and Seattle. And then there was the border. We passed border interrogation with flying colors, and they didn't even want to search the van! :) Funny how we get so nervous about these encounters even when we've done nothing wrong. It took Hannah less than five minutes to acclimate to the mi/km cross-over, and she was so excited about being in Canada that she kept babbling on with her Minnesota accent and using the word "eh": "Oh, it's Canadian cows, eh! All oot to pasture! And look, some Canadian horses over there, eh!"

We got to the BC Ferry in plenty of time for our 5:00 trip across to the Vancouver Island. Yep, to top off all the other adventures we've had, we got to go out on a big boat.

We are now safely settled at my Aunt Carol and Uncle Gerald's house in Victoria for the evening, and our room smells gloriously of sweet peas, from a fresh bouquet cut by Carol just for us today. So very tired, I think Hannah and I will head off to bed now, and I will try not to wake up at 6:30AM again like I have the past two days.

But stay tuned! We don't go to the camp until tomorrow evening, so who knows what will happen in a day on Vancouver Island? And the adventure continues...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Day 5 & 6 - Oregon

If you ever take this kind of a trip (and I hope you will!) I recommend putting together a pretty epic collection of music to accompany the view and the joy of the journey. Some of our favorites this week have been Andrew Peterson, Steven Curtis Chapman, Tenth Avenue North, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, and Rich Mullins, plus some favorite personalized mix CDs that tell the stories of our own lives from the past couple years. 

We were very surprised by the arid eastern side of Oregon as we drove through yesterday. We had a good time finding out the names of the brown and yellow mountains we passed, and making up stories about the origins of their names. 

Then we crossed over the mountains and everything became very green and lush...

And there was water! For miles and miles on this trip we've been surrounded by land - farm land, prairie, hills, mountains, and the barren arid almost-desert lands, so the sight of the Columbia River on our right, all sparkling in the sunlight, was thrilling to behold!

Still heading west, and almost there! Meet our new, random Oregonian little friend, whose mom took our picture at an overlook, and who just couldn't help but want to be in the picture with us.

We got to Hannah's Uncle George and Aunt Carrie's house in the evening. What kind of people are they? Hannah actually wasn't sure she even knew... it had been years since she had visited them, so she didn't have much information. To our thrill and delight, we found that they live on a farm, and are totally fun - creative, hospitable, and funny! A. Carrie was out in her garden when we arrived, U. George was waiting for us at the end of the driveway by the road, and cousin Jo was tromping around in her cowgirl boots. After dinner they led us around the property and showed us their fields, gardens, cows, and solar panels - they are the first private farm in the area to use this renewable, sustainable energy source. Hannah did say that her U. George loves to spoil girls, since he raised two of his own, and that was confirmed when he ran to the store and came back with a plethora of ice cream options for us. We all sat around and visited until late in the evening, with the company of the family's old dog Max, and old cat, Luna. After only a couple hours, the Vincents feel like family.  

This morning U. George made breakfast, and A. Carrie made coffee and sat and talked with us a long time before we bothered with showers and "real clothes." Hannah's cousin Jo took us to the barn to show us her horse, Raffle, who we all agreed must be a Talking Horse from Narnia... just something in her eyes and the sweet gentleness she had with us all.

We also got to meet two calves, who were very friendly and playful, came right up to us like puppies, nuzzling us and wanting to be petted. I was rubbing one's nose and before I knew it, he was chewing on my driving joystick, sucking hard on it! I was afraid he was going to swallow it, but then he realized he wasn't going to get any milk out of it and gave it up... though it was kind of coated in cow slobber!

After our "petting zoo" adventure, Jo took us into the little town of Aurora for lunch at "The White Rabbit Bakery" - SOOO good! Then we said goodbye to Jo and took Brie to the airport in Portland. It was so hard to see her leave and head back to Indiana, but I'm so thankful for the time we got to spend together on this adventure.

Hannah and I decided to try to see a little bit of Portland then, so we went to Powell's Books - a giant city-block sized bookstore holding more than a million titles! We could not even begin to see it all, but loved browsing the shelves on two floors and picking up a few treasures. Then we got coffee at Peet's Coffee and Tea and sat out on the sidewalk, watching all sorts of interesting people pass by.

Finally we drove back to the farm and had a delicious dinner of vegetables and pork chops - apparently from a pig the family had raised and slaughtered. It's dark now, and I think Hannah and I are going to take this opportunity to do some stargazing in a way we just can't do at our Hobbit Hole.

I realized today that I don't really like Portland... or any major urban center, for that matter. I don't need all the lights and noise and shops and action to entertain or satisfy me. I live in a city because I love the people and because of the ministry work God has put in my heart. Right now, I miss my Hobbit Hole, and all the people that make it beautiful. But true vacation for me is what most of this trip has been: wide open spaces, big skies, wild life. I love being able to breathe so deeply and just look and look and never get tired of the natural scenery. It feels like my spirit is in a constant state of worship and awe. In the words of Anne Shirley: "In the end, I'd still prefer the sound of the wind in the firs across the brook more than the tinkling of crystal."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Day 4 - Idaho

This Tuesday morning we didn't wake up quite so early, but did take some time to walk around a lake that reflects the Grand Tetons - pictures and poetry on all that to come later. So peaceful and beautiful! Then we went to a restaurant in the park and ate real buffalo burgers, to celebrate last night's adventure. Then we hit the road to head for Boise, Idaho. 

I fell asleep for the first hour of our journey, but when I awoke, we were slowly going down the side of a steep mountain, and the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was the side of a rock with tall slender pine trees pointing to the blue sky. The sight took my breath away and really jolted me to full consciousness. 

Now I should go back and say that one thing that made this Wyoming-mountains bit of the trip so magical was that we were listening to C.S. Lewis' The Horse and His Boy  on CD, and that book is about travelling from the southern lands, across the desert, and through the mountains to the North - Archenland and Narnia. So it was really quite thrilling to drive towards these great mountains and hear Bree (the Horse) cheer, "To Narnia and the North!" and wind slowly through the mountains during the scene where Aslan leads Shasta over the mountains. We really felt like we were living the story.   

After coming off the mountain, we came to Idaho and drove through a valley between the hills of the two states. Then once again the land flattened out into wide open plains. 

"The wild blue yonder of God's amazing grace"
Today our attention was captured more by the sky than the land. We watched four big thunderstorms soak the fields around us, but only had to drive through one.

"I hear the thunder in the sky, see the sky about to rain,
and I hear the prairies calling out Your name."
We saw two full double rainbows - which is quite a sight to see on such flat landscape!

And we watched a wild fire on a hill, and even met a team of firemen at a rest stop who were on their way to put it out.

We also saw an eagle in its big nest, smelled more horse manure than we ever care to again, and had a ton of tumbleweed bounce across our path. Tonight is less wild than the previous two, but here we are in a roadside inn in Boise, drowsily reminiscing on this crazy land of potatoes and looking forward to the next leg of our adventure - Portland!

Day 3 - Oh Yes! Wyoming!

Well we woke up at 4:30 AM to see the sunrise, but it was overcast and grey, and the Badlands looked grey. But we trusted that the Lord had planned this trip for us, and would give us the weather he wanted for us all along the way. The day before, there were many tourists out climbing rocks and taking pictures. But that morning, since it was so early and cloudy, there was no one else to be seen. The clouds hung low and settled around the mounds and towers in an eerie mist. Everything was still and silent, as though it had an enchantment over it. And we stood silent too, breathing deep and worshiping the God of All of This.

"There was a silence in the Badlands... the whole universe was stilled by the whisper of a prayer..."

After we left the Badlands, we were surprised to find out how closely we would be driving by Mount Rushmore, so we took a 30-minute detour, and went to see those famous men in the mountains... and the American history corner of my brain started going crazy, remembering facts about these guys that made their names great and our nation great too.

The land flattened out and turned a rich prairie green, and the sky cleared and grew big before and around us, and that's when we came into Wyoming! And it was more beautiful than any of us anticipated.
"And I hear the prairies calling out Your name..."
 We saw huge mountains in the distance to the south, and realized they were the Colorado Rockies! And then a row of mountains showed up closer to us - our first glimpse at the Grand Tetons!

As the sun set and we got closer to our cabin (yep, we slept in a cabin in Grand Tetons National Park!), we saw a herd of bison! We stopped on the side of the road to get pictures... and we got closer, and closer, and closer... until one made eye contact with Brie, another got a little excited at the clumsy sound of my chair on the prairie, and another decided to pose for a close-up shot with Hannah. "I think now is a really good time to leave," Brie said with wide eyes. "Like, leave NOW!" Hearts pounding we all raced back to the van.

"I can feel the earth tremble beneath the rumbling of the buffalo hooves...
And it tells me the Lord is in his temple and there is still a faith that can make mountains move."

Our cabin was cozy, and we looked forward to the next day and all it would bring. But our sweet-dream thoughts were, "We saw bison in Wyoming!"

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Day 2 - The Badlands

So much… so much has happened in the past four days! I knew going on a trip like this with Brie and Hannah would be magical, and it is… I'm gonna just go ahead and post our daily adventures, and keep my creative interpretations/personal reflections in my journal and post them later. 

Sunday morning we found a little chapel in SD at a rest stop, and took a few minutes to go inside, sit on a wooden bench (Hannah carried me), and read Psalm 25 from an open Bible on an altar, and sing a couple praise songs. It felt very personal and intimate, and really blessed us.  

Then we moved west, past a million roadside ads for “Wall Drug,” which is apparently an "American Treasure," and an "American Icon," and is "Priceless" and "Timeless"... we might have even decided to stop there, if it hadn't been for the obnoxious advertisements. As it is, we are wilderness trekkers, seeking adventure not in Commercial Tourism, but in the Great Unknown.

As we're cruising along the flat plain prairie land, we saw a rest stop that claimed "scenic overlook," which we just laughed at because all we could see was grass in all directions. But then we passed the rest stop and all gasped at the surprising view that dropped down below us - water, trees, and hills! So we had to loop back around to the overlook and take pictures. Serves us right for assuming we knew what was ahead.

And then we got to the Badlands! We had debated whether to pay for each national park individually or buy a year pass, but when we got to the entrance of the park, the lady asked if my disability was permanent, and I said yes, and she said, “Well then I just need you to sign this form…” I figured maybe my disability would give me some kind of discount so I complied without question. Then she handed me a pass, and said, “This is a lifetime pass for all the national parks in the country. Enjoy your stay!” ?!?!?! What just happened?! I stared dumbly at the card in my hand. Then as the reality sunk in - that I had been given a free lifetime pass to all the preserved wildlife in America - I began to hyperventilate. Seriously! We pulled over, and I burst into tears... a bit dramatic for me, but I was that overwhelmed. And the feeling kind of stayed with me all afternoon, because when we got out of the car, we beheld the beauty and awesomeness of the Badlands...

We split off on different trails - Brie and Hannah with their cameras, me with my journal - and met back a couple hours later after some inspiring time with our Father. I wrote some stuff about my time there, and I will post it later. But for now, just know that I've never seen anything like it - it looked to me like giant sand castles that just went on and on with majesty.

We stayed in a motel on the edge of the park that night, and planned to wake up for the sunrise on Monday...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Color Green

Mile log: 660

"Be praised for all Your tenderness by these words of Your hands... 
Be glad that You have made blue for the sky 
   and the color green that fills these fields with praise..."
~Rich Mullins

On this, the first day of our epic road trip to Vancouver Island, Hannah, Brie and I drove from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. With a couple rest stops, it took us about 13 hours! Most of the day was spent in Illinois and Iowa, and I loved watching the scenery pass by. As we moved further away from Chicagoland, it got more and more rural - more farmland, more open space. At some point in Illinois, I could see the horizon stretch forever in every direction... breath-taking.

We crossed the Mississippi River into Iowa, and the landscape slowly became more rolling hills, still in a vast green expanse. And it was so green! I tried to count all the different shades, tones and hues of green I saw - different trees, bushes, grasses, and crops - and I lost count after 22 distinguishable colors of green. I think that is why green is my favorite color... it's so life-giving and expresses itself in such varied ways... it was such a blessing and comfort to be surrounded by it today.


The sun set before us tonight in beautiful rose hues... hopefully there will be more amazing sunsets this week that we can get pictures of - one really cool reason to travel west.

To date, the furthest west I have driven is Austin, Texas... but tomorrow that record will change as we move into the interior of SD to enjoy the Badlands... stay tuned!