Wednesday, June 7, 2006

June 7th: Orange TX- 2090 miles from Home.

As you can see we made it out of the Houston area. Dad went to the RV place while the rest of us groggily made it through our morning, how he is able to survive on so little sleep I will never know. (At least I hope I will never know.) I was sleeping happily in the living room downstairs when a sound of knocking awakened me; it took a moment for me to wake up, no surprise, but when I did I see Nicki’s face right outside the window. In my semi-conscious state I could not for the life of me figure out why he would be outside at this hour of the morning. I started to go back to sleep, and he began to knock again. I finally figured out that he wanted to come in, so I went to the front door and opened it for him; it seems that he had gone out to the trailer for his clothes, and locked himself out. No one else was awake, so he couldn’t get back inside. I for one think that he deserved it for getting up at such a horribly early hour.

We packed the trailer, did the last loads of laundry that we needed before we left, and then settled down to play while we waited for the call that RV was done. During this time we played Nerts, (known to the Hildebrandts as Good Night) and Chicken’s Foot Dominoes. We even assembled a six piece orchestra with a clarinet, French horn, two flutes, a violin, and a piano.

When our RV was finally fixed we had a final lunch with our friends, and hit the road. Since we wanted to get some miles behind us we drove straight to our campground here in Orange, TX, which is just on the Texas/Louisiana border. The mosquitoes here are as big as the flies we have back home, and us oldest four have to sleep outside. So, pray for us as we go out to do battle armed only with “Off”.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

June 6th: Richmond, TX-1950 miles from Home

The RV is not fixed! There was a part that the mechanic said would not be a problem; however, it has turned out to be a large problem, and they need to order a replacement part from the manufacturer. The part will be shipped here by tomorrow. This means that we are stuck in Houston and will have to take advantage of the Hildebrandt’s hospitality for one more night. Speaking of which, here is a picture of them and us:

While we waited for our errant part we fit in the Johnson Space Center, home of NASA. When we were there we saw actual astronauts training for the upcoming mission to the International Space Station, one of the Saturn rockets, and honest to goodness Moon rocks. We were even able to touch a small fragment of a rock brought back from the Moon. It was a great place to spend an afternoon. The only disappointment was felt by Dad, he had been living under the logical assumption that Mission Control was actually in Houston, it is however in a small town to the South East called Clear Lake. So, when the astronauts say “Houston, we have a problem,” it should actually be “Clear Lake, we have a problem.” Maybe that is splitting hairs, but for an organization that has its members train for years so that they will be exactly correct on a mission, it seems a little lax.

Here is a photo of us in front of the Saturn 5 rocket:

When we got back to the Hildebrandt’s at about ten in the evening they were still up, and waiting to play Capture the Flag. Their property is about five acres of what we would call lawn, I think to them it is just mown weeds, and there are no rocks anywhere. This fact, combined with some good cross fencing and other obstacles, make for a very good Capture the Flag field. All of the kids engaged in this activity until somewhere around two in the morning, while the adults sat up and talked. Yes, you heard me right, my dad stayed up until 2 am, it was a momentous occasion that I doubt will ever be repeated.

Tomorrow we will be heading for the RV repair center to catch the part when it comes in at 10 am. Once that is installed we should be on our way out of town.

Monday, June 5, 2006

June 5th: Richmond, TX-1950 miles from Home.

Due to further complications with the air conditioners of the RV we did not make it to NASA today. The mechanic needed it until late and we have decided to stay another day at the Hildebrandt’s home. In the early we borrowed our host’s 15 passenger van and headed for downtown to get a taste of the local cuisine and see the sights. Lunch was at the Bayou Bay Restaurant where we had our first taste of boiled crawdads. Now, eating a crawdad is a messy process, and requires a good deal of fortitude. First, picture a miniature lobster, you grab the tail and pull it off. Then the tail is peeled like a shrimp, and then the meat is eaten. Then the inside of the front half, which consists of the internal organs and head, is slurped out with gusto. It must be with gusto, always with gusto! The tail is very good, but the front requires that you focus on the good taste, and not think of what it is you are eating or its sickly yellow color. With the whole experience summed up it was decided that we liked them, and would eat them again should the need arise.

The rest of the afternoon was spent looking at some of the sights in downtown Houston including a waterfall fountain that was about 30 feet tall, in front of a building that was over 600 feet tall.

We had to hurry back and pick up our FIXED RV, they had to install brand new air conditioners. This was unforeseen but necessary considering how hot it has been. From there we headed to Pastor James McDonald’s home, where we were having dinner. Everyone had a great time talking and playing cards. I even got my desired bowl of “Real Texas Chili”, and it was well worth the wait. (Long story from another vacation.) The McDonald women are excellent cooks and the whole family was very hospitable to us. It was a grand evening that we children felt was cut short, even though it was eleven o’clock.

Here is a small look at the fun we had:

Tomorrow we are going to NASA. We have group tickets on hold, so skipping it is not an option.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

June 4: Richmond, TX-2035 miles from home

After a wet night fighting with our malfunctioning air conditioners; they don’t like the humid weather any more than Thomas does; we headed for Katy, TX. (A town named after you, Miss Kjeldgaard.)

We arrived at the Crown and Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church a little before their eleven o’clock service and were greeted in the usual manner by several families on our way in. We listened to a wonderful sermon delivered by Pastor James McDonald, he began the sermon by reading from the book of Mark……Mark Twain that is. He was reading from Huckleberry Finn in order to illustrate his passage in 2 Thessalonians. The varied voices that he used had us in stitches, and it was quite enjoyable.

After the service there was a whole church potluck, and these people really know how to cook! There was a massive amount of food, and everyone ate until they were stuffed, then went back for dessert. Tiffany McDonald, one of the McDonald daughters, made a delicious cake that I was able to hear the basic ingredients of, but I am now sworn to secrecy, and never allowed to reveal it to anyone.

Once lunch was over there was that brief awkward period where we don’t know anyone, and they don’t know us; however, this problem was quickly solved and we were soon talking and laughing like old friends. Presently they started a Psalm singing time in which they divided everyone into sopranos, altos, tenors and basses. They then took a song from the singing Psalm book and began to teach everyone the different parts. Now, any of you who know us realize that singing is at the very bottom on our list of skills; but we dutifully grouped and I tried to sit next to a nice strong bass in order to make an attempt at following along. By the end of the singing we were starting to get the hang of it; Thomas was actually a tolerable tenor in the lower ranges, I could hear Mom doing well over with the sopranos, and even Dad sang. If we were able to do this for a couple of weeks they might have been able to make singers out of us.

Much to our delight, some of our new friends, the Hildebrandts, invited us to stay the night at their house. They fixed us dinner at short notice, and allowed us to overrun their house and showers. The kids from our respective families played for hours on their five acre property. That evening we went frog catchin’ in the pond by their house. We caught a couple, and missed many more. I never did understand how people were able to eat frog legs, being used to the small California frogs, but over here the frogs are huge and would make a great meal! I am currently working from a dialup connection, but when we get to some wi-fi access I will upload pictures of them. We even caught a deadly water moccasin and killed it, the hunt was quite thrilling.

Today, Monday, we are planning on heading for the NASA Space Center in a borrowed vehicle, as our RV is currently in the shop to fix the air conditioners. (A/C is a necessary item in this part of the world.) Tune in next time to hear about NASA!

Mom’s Corner: When the air conditioner is turned off it rains down water on us, front and back. We all grab containers and stand under to catch the water. When we make a turn on the road water sloshes out at an angle on whoever is sitting nearby. Dave just got back from the RV service center, they will need it all day and it will cost $$.

CVERC ladies – we can definitely learn something from these Texans. Their potluck spread was twice as big as ours and they had half the people. Their hospitality was incredible. It motivates me to work a bit harder! The Hildebrandts are letting us use their 15 passenger van for the day to see the sites of Houston – it’s wonderful. We’ve decided on the name of our book about this trip “11 Sardines in a Can”!!

June 3rd: La Grange, TX-1950 miles from home

We left Big Springs and continued our trek to the South East. Driving in the daytime is much more enjoyable than driving at night, you can actually see the scenery. We stopped in Llano, which we never did decide how it should be pronounced, and had lunch next to the Llano River. There was a very friendly gentleman with a pronounced Texas drawl catching minnows in the shallows of the river. After watching him for a while, and telling our story, we walked out onto the dam that stretched across the river. Water spilled over the dam, so we were able to get our feet wet.

There is a very noticeable friendliness from the people here, and at the same time a reserved air. It is almost as if they would love to make your acquaintance, and help you in any way they can; but, you would have to earn being their friend. Once earned it would be a friendship to treasure, hard won, but worth it.

Our next stop was the Texas State Capitol. This very impressive structure nearly burned down in 1983, and they undertook a massive renovation that lasted until 1995. The result is the most beautiful capitol buildings I have ever seen in my life. Most of the state offices are underground, and it leaves lots of space around the capitol for gardens and lawns. The interior of the building is absolutely gorgeous. Even the hinges were ornately decorated!

Our choice of campgrounds was right on the Columbia River in the small town of La Grange. It was such a quaint little town, and I expected Scout and Atticus to come walking down the street. At this place that we children saw our very first fireflies! They were quite beautiful to watch flickering on and off among the trees.

Well, it is very late, and we have to get up early to head for a sister church of our home church. Time to turn in.

Friday, June 2, 2006

June 2nd: Big Spring, TX-1600 miles from home


The Day 3 edition of the Hector chronicles is written a little late as we did not stay in a campground last night, and I could not find an internet connection. The reason for this is that we drove all night in a desperate attempt to escape the desert of Arizona and New Mexico.

At this moment we are sitting outside a donut shop, we are becoming quite the connoisseurs, in an attempt to get breakfast and directions to the city park of Big Spring, TX. As we wait for Mom and Nick I will relate the events of the past twenty-four hours.

Leaving Kingman was a quick process, and we were on the road before nine. Not much of interest happened during the morning driving, besides our looking for the elk that were touted by the signs to be present. The elk were absent, and pine trees were the only wildlife present. (If you can call that wildlife.)

Some ways past Flagstaff, on Hwy 40, we decided it was time to think about getting something to eat. Due to the fact that most of our meals had been eaten in the RV, we decided to indulge in a restaurant. The general consensus was that hamburgers, fries, and milkshakes would be an ideal meal for our parallel Route 66 traveling. We drove through the miniscule town of Moqui, and found no restaurant. This did not concern us as there were several larger towns further down the road, next stop was Winslow. In Winslow we found several Mexican restaurants, two Chinese restaurants, and a rather fancy Italian place. There was one family style restaurant, but the several county sheriffs cars sitting outside with their light bars on was enough to discourage even our adventurous family. We decided to tighten our belts and head for Holbrook, a mere 40 miles down the road.

By the time we hit Holbrook, some members of the party were drifting in and out of consciousness from lack of food, and the rest of us were getting desperate. All eyes scanned each restaurant we passed in the hopes that our desires would be fulfilled. Cries of, “There’s one!” would go up, only to be disappointed by the fact that it was a Mexican restaurant, or that the economics of the area had been unkind, and it stood as a deserted memorial; the signs taunting us with promises of shakes and burgers that it could never deliver. As we were approaching the edge of town fear and desperation set in, the next town was fifty miles away, and it was even smaller then Holbrook, and the only town of consequence was Gallup, a mere 110 miles from our present position. No one was willing to go that far for lunch, and gazing into the crazed eyes of the food deprived children showed that waiting was not an option; we had to find food, fast! Finally a restaurant appeared on the horizon, it said “Mexican-American Food”. While we were skeptical, an advance party was sent in. After asking a waitress whether they had milkshakes, and receiving an answer to the affirmative, we all piled into the restaurant. Upon our seating we got water and menus. With the children munching happily on the chips that are characteristic of all Mexican restaurants we looked over the menu for the milkshakes. Alas, we looked in vain, there were no milkshakes on the menu, and upon questioning our waitress, who was different from the one asked upon our arrival, we were told that they do not have milkshakes, have never had milkshakes, and do not intend to have milkshakes, ever.

It was quite a let down. To have our desires raised high, our expectations higher, and our hopes raised to the highest, only to have them dashed to pieces, like the crumbs at the bottom of the chip basket, upon the harsh rocks of reality. Resigned to our fate, and horribly hungry, we decided to simply eat Mexican food, and write it off as a loss. This we did, and hit the road yet again.

The VERY next town had a gigantic billboard advertising a restaurant that featured burgers, fries, and shakes. The collective groan that emanated from the occupants of the vehicle was truly heart wrenching. This however was not the end; we had to put up with the next FOUR towns having the same type of restaurant, and several large billboards advertising the fact, eight to be exact.

At dinner time we did have our justice; for dinner we found a diner in Albuquerque called “Route 66” and split burgers, fries and shakes among the lot of us. The long wait was worth it.

It was then decided that we were extremely tired of the desert. In fact, we were so tired of it that we decided to skip Carlsbad Caverns and head straight for the lush fields of Texas. It was then 9:30 pm. The executive decision was made to make tracks for our sister church in Katy, TX just outside of Houston. This would require all night driving, an idea which we drivers steeled ourselves towards. Thomas took the first shift, from 9:30 until midnight, Dad, who had been driving the latter half of that day, was allowed to get off with only a two hour stint, and I took the 2 am until 7am portion. Though, one of those hours was a time change. I still got to see an amazing Texas sunrise. The saying that “Everything’s big in Texas” applies to their sunrises as well.

That catches us up to now, and my food is coming. Got to run.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

June 1st: Kingsman AZ-710 Miles from Home

Hello to Friends, Family, and Utter Strangers.

The departure this morning was completed quickly and early. A good healthy breakfast of donuts helped us quite a bit. After the customary rearranging of items, especially those that decided to fly all over the RV on the first day of the journey, we left Fresno.

Our route took us down Highway 99 to the smoggy and hot town of Bakersfield. (Any of you who may live in Bakersfield, you have my pity.) We took Highway 58 over the Tehachapi Pass, through the Mojave Desert. A high desert is an amazing, and beautiful, thing in its own way. There were lots of Joshua Trees and Mesquite bushes dotting the otherwise sagebrush dominated landscape. Large sandstone formations reached for the sky, leaving massive boulders strewn around their bases.

We stopped in Kingman, Arizona, at an RV park that has a nice pool, which the kids have already utilized. Thomas and I took a couple mile bike ride through town, looking at the sights. The night is warm, as is common in a high desert, and we older kids are sleeping outside.

As we are not planning on making any stops until Carlsbad my reports are going to be somewhat scarce when it comes to interesting details, or grand adventures. The high point so far has been the completion of Focus on Family Radio Theatre's rendtion of The Magician's Nephew. It is a very well done radio program, and follows the book nearly verbatum. If you have never heard it I would highly recommend finding it somewhere.

Dinner is ready. In honor of being in Arizona we are having tamales!! More tomorrow.

Here is a picture of our favorite road so far:

Mom's Corner: The trials and tribulations of living in an RV - after going to the pool with the kids, I started the tamales (reheating of course). I had some in the oven, some in the pressure cooker, and some in the microwave as space did not allow them all in one place. The microwave went out because we had both air conditioners going and we are on 30 amps. This meant absolutely nothing to me, except we cannot run the AC and microwave. Dave reset the breaker. After 20 minutes I discovered the oven had not lit, (first time using it on the trip) while Ben was lighting it I smelled burning and found the pressure cooker had run out of water. We managed to start the stove and I started serving the little ones the tamales from the pressure cooker. They were so steamed they began to fall apart. Then I dropped one in the sink with the dish water. Okay, this sounds like a comedy of errors.
Tomorrow I will laugh about it; today I will just pray for peace!!