Yes, We Did Come Home and What Has Happened in the Meantime

8 08 2010

Well, hello there!  I’m sure you may be wondering if the Roaming Bull were ever going to come home.  We did, but things got crazy busy immediately upon arrival and after a couple of months updating the blog just seemed futile.  But I started thinking about it and decided that while the wheels have stopped turning, the idea of roaming around in God’s big world has not stopped.  We aren’t physically traveling anymore, but following the will of the Holy Spirit is a never-ending journey.  Sometimes he gives us a specifically laid out map, but most of the time it’s more of a treasure hunt where we are given clues to follow and there is a lot of guessing involved.  Sometimes we know what we are striving for, but most of the time we just think we know and he surprises us with something way better and more than we can ask or imagine.  Sometimes its scary, but most of the time it is really exciting.

So, I’ve decided to start-up the blog again to share those experiences.  I’m not really sure what all I’ll put on here, but I’ll try not to bore you.  Of course how boring can life with a teenager learning to drive and two rambunctious little boys be?

Here is what’s happened since we’ve been home:

Aiden quite happily turned six years old and we had a great Christmas at home with my sister and her family visiting.  Emily turned fifteen and we surprised her with her first cell phone.  This was a big surprise because she thought she was going to have to wait until she was driving.  This was  immediately followed by the very busy Tennessee Christian Teen Convention season.  Ron’s parents were not able to come as they usually do due to some health issues that needed to be dealt with.  Thankfully those concerns were resolved quickly and are no longer a concern. Emily helped me out a ton by watching the boys during the week before.  That Wednesday the boys went home with Grams and Gramps because there was an impending snow storm coming in.  We took Emily to Gatlinburg early with us, which was a good thing because on Friday, when my parents would have taken Emily to meet the youth group our road was impassable because everyone going home on Thursday night decided to make Overton Lane a parking lot and no one could get in or out.  While I was sweating it, Ron handled the snow storm on convention weekend like it was no big deal.  As usual, he was right.  As usual this convention was better than the last one and we broke last years attendance record.  The rest of January, February, and March were spent doing school and working at the church.  In April the five of us went to Mexico with several other families from the church where we started construction on the home of a sweet family there.  We love going there and hope to do so again next year.  In May there was the usual graduations and such.  June started the insanely busy summer season with Ron gone on a mission trip and camp, two weeks in a row.  He came home and Cameron and Emily left for Cameron’s week of camp.  Then Cameron came home and Ron and Aiden went for his first over nighter.  They came home and Emily left for her week.  (Insane, right?)  Finally we were all home, but I did take two nights away alone to refresh and focus on getting the curriculum written for the new year.  So we were all home together for two weeks and then Ron went on another mission trip, came home, picked up Emily and went to New York City with the high schoolers.  He left her in DC with my sister and came home, but is now in Cincinnati with the middle school group for King’s Island.  School starts Monday and I am definitely ready for a new rhythm to begin.

It’s been crazy, but fun.  So, where is God taking us next?  Don’t really know.  We’re going to start the school year and learn all types of good things.  Other than that we will just hang on and enjoy the ride.

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The Blog is so Far Behind I’ll Just Give an Update

23 11 2009

I am too far behind to really tell you everything that ‘s happened up until now, so I’ll give you a short synopsis.

Since I’ve posted we have seen Robert and Marla Lozano, been to San Diego, Sea World, Cabrillo National Monument, Saddleback Church, Christ’s Church in the Valley, Twenty Nine Palms, Joshua Tree National Park, dinner with Zach Pena, Parhump, NV, Death Valley National Park, Las Vegas, picked up my parents, the Grand Canyon, Christ’s Church in Flagstaff, and dinner with our nephew, Matt.  So.  What do you want to hear about first?

Robert was once the Christian Education Pastor at West Towne.  While he was there he also taught a few youth ministry classes at Johnson Bible College and Ron and I were in those classes.  In the middle of the summer of our junior year at Johnson Robert called Ron and asked if he would be interested in the youth ministry position at West Towne.  The rest is history.  Robert and Marla left West Towne a year later to serve in Chattanooga for a few years before heading back to California.  For those at WTCC who remember the Lazonos’ they are doing fine and it was fun to catch up.

We had a nice evening with Zach Pena in Twenty Nine Palms.  He is doing well and was looking forward to seeing his mom for Thanksgiving. He kept us entertained with stories of his time in Iraq (the crazy stuff like Camel Spiders and his pet lizards) and things he does now as a corporal in the Marines.

We have definitely seen some amazing things and Emily has taken hundreds of pictures.  You may have to wait until we get home, though, because WiFi is not always reliable or fast and we just haven’t had time to weed through them all.  We’ll be home in a week and a half now, so you won’t have to wait forever!

 





Churches, Surfers, and Thrift Stores

12 11 2009

Hi!  We’re back.  Ron actually got a call from our friend, Mr. Reynolds, the Master of All Neat Things, to let me know we weren’t posting enough.  Now we have WiFi, and while it is not fast enough, it is something.  Hopefully we can get some pictures up, too, but that might be tomorrow night.

After we left San Francisco we headed on down to the LA area.  We were having a hard time finding a campground because we wanted a place to stay for at least a week.  We ended up stopping Saturday night to spend the night.  Our goal was to attend Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, where Francis Chan preaches, that Sunday.  Ron found out there was a Sunday afternoon service, so that was our goal.  Sunday morning we let the boys have some time on the campground playground and then take some baths and head down the road.  We went through a section of state beaches and in one section Highway 1 was right along the beach and cars were parked along the shoulder.  There were people surfing, swimming, playing in the sand and as we were passing the end I was positive I say two shark fins.  Yeah, we didn’t go there.  We actually stopped at a campground in Oxnard, about 90 minutes from LA.  We knew right away it wasn’t where we wanted to spend a week, but we would stay for two nights while we found a spot in the van.

One reason we wanted to spend so much time in LA was so we could visit Frances Chan’s church for more than one Sunday.  We were not able to get there for the morning services, but they have two services in the morning and two services in the evening.  We went to the 5:00 service because the 7:00 service did not have childcare.  Apparently this service is new and also the smallest.  Unfortunately there was a leadership meeting that evening and Francis had to be there so we had to watch the pre-recorded sermon.  But, that is how we usually see Francis Chan, so that was okay.  It was very cool to be there and to see that Cornerstone that is a church just like ours and they also mess up the slides and the video was not perfect.  Francis was there to introduce the sermon video, so it was good he was in town.

Monday we spent the day trying to find a campground.  That took all day, but we found one.  Tuesday I got up really early to get the laundry done before we moved.  Ron got the kids up and everything ready.  When I was almost done they headed over to the laundry mat to pick things up and figure out where we planned on going.  On the way the motorhome started acting funny.  The laundry mat was only across the street, so he didn’t have to go far, but it was obvious it would not make it to a campground.  But, God is faithful and after fiddling with this and that, talking to the Good Sam tech (AAA for RVers), Ron found a loose wire that was supposed to be attatched to the alternator.  It probably came off in the “earthquakes.”  We got that re-attatched, ate some lunch, cancelled the RV tech Good Sam was sending, then Emily, Aiden, and I headed out to do some shopping while Ron and Cameron went to the campground to get set up.  During this process we were also talking to Mark Stephens who just happened to be in Long Beach on business.  We were very excited to have him coming for dinner.

We had discovered that I did a pretty good job packing for winter, not so much for Southern California.  I needed to buy some t-shirts and shorts because it was a lot warmer than I thought it would be.  So Emily and I hit some thrift stores in the wonderful little town of Ventura. Main Street is a street loaded with trendy shops and several thrift stores that had great clothes at yardsale prices.  Emily decided then and there she was moving out here.  We found a campsite at the Ventura County Hobson Beach that was perfect for us.  Most places were very expensive or more like parking lots with hookups, but this spot was right on the ocean with full hookups.  The campground only has about 10 full hookup sites surrounded by about thirty tent sites.  It was the perfect place for Cameron to ride his bike and for Aiden to play in the rocks.  Unfortunately there was only beach area when the tide was out and we were there at a time when the tide never really went out very much.  But it really never was warm enough to play in the water, anyway.

We had a great visit on Monday night with Mark.  Aiden was all over him and so excited to see a friend from home.  It was also good to hear about everyone at home .  Wednesday morning bright and early we woke up to find the sea crashing into the rocks that border the campground.  We had so much fun just watching the waves crash into the rocks.  We spent most of our time just relaxing and watching the waves and the surfers.  I have more to tell you about, but it’s late so it will have to wait.  Check back tomorrow for more!





The Redwood Forest, Highway One, and Our Own Personal Eathquake!

5 11 2009

Since we last posted we drove through the absolutely amazing Redwood National Park.  If you ever need to feel small, this is the place for you.  (I would love to post some pictures, but the wifi we are using at this time is exceptionally slow so please check back later.)  On the short trail we went on we all held hands and stretched around the trunk of the tree.  It took too lengths of the Bull family to circle it and it was not the biggest one!  We’re pretty sure you could build one standard size house with one tree.  It was very beautiful.

By the time we finished with the redwoods we reached the point where we had to decide between staying on the 101 or taking the scenic Highway 1 which hugs the coast line.  Ron’s goal was to hit San Francisco that night and it was already around 2:30.  Even staying on the 101 would have us arriving around midnight.  On Hwy 1 it would have been even later.  Once we got to the beginning of the scenic drive Ron said we came all this way to drive along the coast and so we should just drive along the coast.  And away we went.  Now, Ron and I had visited California several years ago and we drove sections around San Francisco.  All the guidebooks also warned about it being windy and twisty and if one is taking this road for the scenery it should be driven from north to south.  Well, the windiest and twistiest sections are at the beginning on the way through the mountains on the way to the coast, but it was only a little worse than the rest of it.  I was also beginning to wonder if they had heard of guardrails in California.  But Ron is an expert driver so we safely made it to the coast.  It is well worth the twisties.  (Some of you may need some Dramamine.)  At this point in our trip I was very tired of looking for campgrounds on dark, windy roads and I think Ron was too.  I was afraid there would not be very many towns of any size but we were surprised with Fort Bragg.  We stopped there for supper and decided San Francisco can wait and after a few phone calls found a campground right across the street from the McDonalds.  It was also on a bluff over the ocean and we could hear the fog horn all night.  (Not loud, just enough to know it was there.)  The next morning a construction worker near the campsite pointed out where he was seeing whales.  We did not see any, but they are hard to spot from shore.  You have to look way out into the ocean and watch for what looks like puffs of smoke.  We then went to visit a local beach and the kids climbed around on rocks and looked for tidepools.

We then headed on down the road for more twists and turns, hoping to reach San Francisco that night.  We also wanted to stop at the Point Reyes lighthouse.  Well, as we were driving along and getting closer to the lighthouse we were on a straight stretch of the road, that was slightly bumpy, but straight and flat.  All of the sudden the motorhome starts shaking and shimmering like there is no tomorrow.  Ron and I are terrified and afraid something terrible has happened to the suspension or the van.  He pulls over and checks everything but could not find anything.  We move along on pins and needles, but nothing wierd happens.  After a while we feel cautiously better and keep going.  Once we get to the turn off for the light house it hasn’t happened again so we head down that road.  The short jaunt ended up being another 30 miles, where the motor home had its little earthquake two more times.  We were afraid to stop because we were in the middle of nowhere so we kept going since there was a ranger station at the end of the road.  We kept going and going and going.  Finally we got to the lighthouse, ate some lunch and took the thirty story climb down to the lighthouse and back up.  It was a good break after the tense ride out.

The ride back went fairly well and we had no more earthquakes all the way to San Francisco.  There, right at dusk, we parked the motorhome and unhitched the van on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Ron and the boys hopped on their bikes and headed up the bike trail.  Now many of you know the Bay Bridge had some problems and had to be closed so traffic was quite bad.  And if you know me very well you know I am a fairly timid driver.  But I put my brave face on and Emily and I tried to find our way across the Golden Gate Bridge to the visitors center where we met Ron and two very excited little boys who got to ride their bikes across the bridge they have been asking about since we left.  (I was quite relieved when we passed them on our way across.)  San Fran is quite the biking community.  There are bike trails everywhere and even on the bridges there are very safe bike and pedestrian lanes on both sides of the bridge.  After loading the boys and bikes in the van we went on to Fisherman’s Wharf for Clam Chowder and a stroll, then it was back to the motorhome to go find a place to spend the night.  Our plan was to Wal-dock at a Wal-Mart, but were surprised to find out that Wal-Marts in California are not 24-hour and did not allow for overnights.  This put us all the way out in Fairfield, California at a truck stop for the night.  Not our plan, but definitely God’s plan.

We had planned on visiting the Jelly Belly headquarters in Fairfield the next morning, but we did not plan on taking the motorhome that far, but here we were.  On the way there, going down the interstate no less, we had another “earthquake.”  Thankfully we were in the right hand lane and Ron was able to get off the road.  He and I were terrified, but Emily was playing with Aiden and videoing him on her camera.  It was a closeup on his face but you can see him and hear all the shaking, but they just kept making their video.  Once we got to Jelly Belly Ron had decided he would let us go in for the tour and he would call the Good Sam Motor Club to get some advice on our problem.  This led him to the Fairfield Tire Center where we found out we needed six new tires.  So now the motorhome needs to last us at least five more years.  But we finally made it back into San Francisco, very slowly without the Bay Bridge open.  We had some dinner in China Town, visited the fortune cookie factory, and rode the cable car.  The tire center, who works with RV owners regularly, let us spend the night on their lot so we went back there for the night.

Well, I’ve gone on and on, so I will save the rest for later.  We have stopped for the next few weeks in Ventura, California, right outside of Los Angeles.  Mark Stephens even came out for a visit while here on business earlier this week.  It was very good to see him.  Hope you are all doing well!  We miss you.





We Made It to California!!!

28 10 2009

Yippee!  We’re here!  Yesterday we woke up to a rainy day in the beautiful Hoh Rain Forest.  What was initially very

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Not so creepy in the daylight.

dark and creepy was actually a very lush, green wilderness. We drove up the road into the national park and took a very short trail and then drove back to hook up the van to the motor home.  We then drove down to the other part of Olympic National Park.  This is a wierd park because the very center of the Olympic Peninsula is Olympic Mountain.  The entire park is semi-circled by Highway 101.  101 starts in the southeast corner and then heads north to the top, west to the northwest corner, and then heads south along the coastline.  After we left the rain forest we drove through a lot more rain until we eventually met the Pacific Ocean, where the clouds cleared to sunshine and blue skies.

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Emily takes great pictures.

Olympic National park is mostly the Olympic Mountain, but it is also a thin strip of coastline.  Here we pulled off and walked down to the log covered beach.  The boys (all three) played in the surf and Emily took pictures.  I just absorbed.  I have never been a big fan of the beach.  I thought it smelled funny was covered with trash and broken shells that could cut your feet and the sand was impossible to get rid of.  That was before I went to the beaches on the Pacific.  These are not swimming beaches.  The water is cold and the riptides are deadly, but the beauty, sound, and size of the waves is mesmerizing.

 

Last night we spent the night in Lincoln City, Oregon.  We had another parking lot overnighter and after we parked we realized we were out of propane, which is necessary for heat, cooking, and keeping the refrigerator cold.  It was also getting dark and Ron has learned that he really needs someone who knows how to fill RV tanks.  So we decided to brave it out and bundle up.  The kids handle that better than us and never complain, but we did okay.  Really it was harder to sleep because of the gale force winds of up to 25 miles an hour.  It’s just hard to sleep when the house keeps swaying.  Every winter Lincoln City has a festival called Finders Keepers where local artists donate a total of 2009 (Or whatever the number for the year is) hand blown glass floats, similar to what the Japanese used in their fishing nets before there was plastic and styrofoam.  Every morning, starting mid-October, someone hides three or four out on the seven and a half miles of public beach area.  Since I’m having trouble staying asleep past 6:30 I got up to walk on the beach and look for one.  Well, I’m not very brave and it was really windy, cold, and dark, so I stood on the edge of the pathway and watched the waves.  I noticed that to the east the sun was coming up over the mountains. To the south things were starting to lighten up.  To the north everything was gun metal gray.  This could not be good.  I went back up the hill to a hotel and asked if I could wait it out in the lobby.  Within five minutes the wind was blowing ice and then rain.  After ten minutes it was over.  I went back out and had a lovely short walk on the beach.  By that time Ron and the kids were up and dressed and ready to move on.  I never did find the glass ball though.

Not far past Lincoln City the coastline really opened up to some spectacular views.  The Oregon coast is absolutely breathtaking.  It is very rough, with a lot of rocks, but if you just like to sit and watch the waves crash like I do, it’s

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Ron's ocean view.

 

perfect.  Ron decided he wanted an ocean view for his lunch, but at that point Highway 101 drifted away from the coast to go around a few mountains.  He set a deadline of 1:15 and if he didn’t find anything we’d just pull over anywhere and have our sandwiches.  At 1:15 we were passing through a little town and when 101 made a curve to the left the road straight in front of us was a hill and they had painted “ocean view” on it.  Ron followed that road all the way down to a ship dock where there were a lot of fishing ships and this little shack of a restaurant.  Our plan was to eat sandwiches, but when I saw the shack the foodie in me was on full alert.  The family voted and unanimously chose to eat in the shack called the Dock Tackle.  The clam chowder was amazing and the fish and chips were fresh.  Hands down better than ham sandwiches again.  And the view wasn’t bad either.

We continued on our way and after spending about an hour at Walgreens getting a prescription refilled, where we were thrilled to learn they took our insurance, we wound our way through to the middle of the amazing Redwood National and State Park where we once again drove through the dusk down a dark and windy road to our campground for the night.  Oh, where we will go for free WiFi.  But the signal is strong and the people were here to show us where to park and it wasn’t raining!  Can’t ask for much more than that.





Where Are They Now? And Where Are Those Pictures?

25 10 2009

Well, to answer the first question we are at the Hard Rain RV Park on the very edge of the Hoh Rain Forest of Olympic National Park in the great state of Washington. There is no WiFi, but the cell phone reception is good. We drove back here at dusk, holding our breath that the campground would be open. I am positive we are the only ones in the campground, but the sign said to pick a spot and pay in the morning. Since we could have water and electricity and we did not want to drive back out, we unhitched the van and backed into a spot. Rainforests at night are, in a word, CREEPY! And very wet. And yes, it is raining. We are glad to be in our motorhome with all the lights on.

If you scroll back a few posts you will see that there are some pictures now. Emily has taken some amazing pictures, but I can’t post them all. There are just too many. Of all the places we have stayed we’ve had the best WiFi at a truck stop where we could only use it until the batteries on our laptops died. (We don’t like using the generator too late because it is loud and uses gas.) So, please be patient. The pictures are coming soon, they just might be all at once.





Yellowstone

21 10 2009

Today may be our last day of WiFi for a while, so it may be a few days before the next update.

Yesterday we left Custer, South Dakota and headed west into Montana.  The weather around Yellowstone has been a little iffy, plus most of the campgrounds are closed for the season.  So we decided to stay on I-90 and stay north of Yellowstone in Livingston, Montana.  The park we are staying at is 52 miles from Yellowstone.  It is a cute little town, though.

This morning the roads in the park were not all open, so we decided to give them a chance to clear up.  I was up bright and way too early because of little boys going to the bathroom.  Cameron has trouble with bloody noses when the heat is on and Aiden has a cough for the same reason.  I am also having a hard time adjusting to the time change.  Not the bedtime part, just the morning part.  I went ahead and left everyone asleep and went to the grocery store at 6:30.  I tried to convince myself it was okay because it was 8:30 at home.  Yeah, right.  Pacific time is going to be fun.  But at least I got the shopping out of the way.  We had breakfast and then it was off to the laundry mat where we did laundry and school work.  Ron went and bought snow chains for the van for just in case.  As soon as the laundry was done we grabbed some lunch and headed off for Yellowstone.  We stopped at a visitors center and were told we needed to be heading out of Yellowstone before dark because 89 between Livingston and the park is notorious for collisions between cars and wildlife.  That meant we had to see what we were going to see fast.

We headed in and stopped at the Mammoth Visitors Center for the boys junior ranger books.  Ron parked next to a herd of elk and to get in I had to walk right next to a huge bull elk lying in the front lawn.  The Mammoth  Springs area is like a little village, complete with a medical clinic, post office, and justice center and there were elk all over the place, kind of like you would expect to see squirrels, only these guys are huge.  For the most part they just look at you or ignore you, but there are signs and videos all over the place about how dangerous they are.

Our goal was to see a bear, from the safety of the van, of course.  The best place to do this is in the Lamar Valley which is near the northeast entrance.  Whenever you see videos of Yellowstone with people all over the road taking pictures or looking through scopes, that is usually this valley.  We had that whole area practically to ourselves.  We saw several rangers pass by and maybe a total of seven other cars in all.  But no bears.  We saw some huge herds of bison and a lot of elk, a few antelope and lots of birds, but no bears.  We did, however, see two coyotes and Emily got an amazing shot of one.  Hopefully by the next posting there will be pictures.  She’s taken over 600 and needs to narrow them down and pick a few to post.  But the drive was absolutely amazing.  We did not drive through anything more than very light flurries, but the mountains are amazingly beautiful.  We stopped on the way out to walk around the Mammoth hot springs.  This area has a lot of stairs and since we were in a hurry when Ron and the boys got way ahead, I chose to wait in the middle of the boardwalk area until they got back.   On the hill directly across from the springs a herd of elk were gathering and two bulls were trumpeting loudly to get the attention of the ladies, who were having none of it.  No one can watch that and say God does not have a sense of humor because it was funny.  One of them would make his noise as loud as he could and they would all just turn their backs on him and ignore him. We made it back through 89 to the campground.  We did see a large herd of deer pass in front of the car before us and a few on the side of the road, but other than that we were fine.  It was a bit tense though, with both Ron and I straining to see if that dark spot up there was a bush or an animal.  Once it was a mailbox.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a nice day and hopefully all the roads will open up.  Right now we can’t get to Old Faithful unless that road melts off.  The plan is to hook up the van and drive the m0torhome through Yellowstone into the Grand Tetons.  From there we will decide if we are going to take I-15 into the Seattle area, or take it back into Montana to meet up with I-90.  We are good for either way, just haven’t decided yet.

Thanks for following along with us and a very big thanks to our friends and family at West Towne.  We love you and hope you are staying warm back there in Tenn