Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day 9
25 June 2011
Shawnee, OK, Heart of OK Expo Center

We're at the site of the 2011 Fleetwood Rally in Shawnee, OK, now and will be here for several days (until next Wednesday).  Yesterday's drive from Taylor Ferry campground on Fort Gibson Lake to the Heart of OK Expo Center was wind-blown and HOT! The temperature pushed 100 degrees and the wind pushed us around at 25-30 mph as a headwind most of the day. But we made it safely. And air conditioning kept us comfortable throughout the day.

What happens at an RV Rally? Those of you reading this who aren't RVers may be wondering about this. We'll meet fellow RVers for one thing. For instance, we are parked next to a couple from AZ who are in a Fiesta 26Y that we met last year in DuQuoin, IL, at the 2010 Rally when we were parked in adjacent rows. There are seminars and classes on a variety of things of interest to RVers. Today, Mary and I will take a class on "Driving Your RV." That'll start soon ... at 7 AM! Mary isn't too happy at having to get up at 5:30 to eat breakfast and get ready to get over to the driving course but it'll be worth it for both of us to learn how to do it RIGHT. And hopefully it will make ME a better passenger when she's driving (I'm a terrible passenger and I know it and it's not fair to her!).

Other seminars/courses are such important things as "Fire and Life Safety in Your RV," "Holding Tank Care and Maintenance" (holding tanks are where the "waste" water goes; there is a gray water tank for the kitchen and bathroom sink and shower drains and a black water tank for the toilet; you may say "yuck" at the thought of learning about these but it is an important maintenance item in an RV), and "Camping for Half the Price." There are a lot of others I could list but these are just a sample.

In addition, there are entertainment events and there will be a presentation by people from Fleetwood. There are also Fleetwood service people present to help solve problems. I've got a trim strip that keeps trying to come loose and blow away so I'm going to ask them what I can do to secure it properly (instead of just guessing at the a way to do it that might or might not work). We'll also have a couple of opportunities to check out Shawnee and it's attractions.

Yesterday's drive was notable for the number of Native American nations that we drove through. I lost count and may have missed the signs for some, but we drove through at least seven different nations including the Sac and Fox nation, the Citizen Potawatomi nation, the Absentee Shawnee Nation, the Cherokee Nation, the Muskogee (Creek) Nation, the Kickapoo Nation, and the Seminole Nation. I may have missed some. The vast majority of OK is dedicated to one Native American nation or another and the boundaries are distinct ... as, I suspect, are the cultures.

Driving School is coming up soon. So is sunrise and the heat. More later!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 7
23 June 2011
It's Kind of Peculiar Around Here!

We're in Peculiar, Missouri at the Peculiar Park Place RV Park. It is just right off Highway 71 and, I will admit, just a little bit noisy. It was a pleasant evening, cool and clear. So having windows open to let in fresh air (always preferable to running the AC) helped it be a little noisier. Having the fan on to circulate that fresh air helped drown out the noise. So it wasn't too bad.

Yesterday (Wednesday) was NOT the kind of day I like to drive. It was a day filled with tremendous wind! Sometimes it was hard to stay in the right lane with the gusts hitting hard. I would have preferred to have waited, but that was not to be. So we drove. And I have the sore shoulders to go with it. Not much else to say about the day. Long, hard driving. Sometimes days like that are necessary but they are not the reason we go RVing.

Today we are back on the road with a little shorter day of about 4 hours driving time (although I'll take a little longer since I don't drive the speed limit on most roads). We're headed for the Taylor Ferry campground on Fort Gibson Lake, OK. It's a Corps of Engineers campground. They are usually excellent places to camp and the price will certainly be right! With my "Interagency Senior Pass" the daily rate is $9.00. You can't beat that (unless it's free).

Friday we will get to Shawnee, OK, the site of "Circle Your Wagons in Shawnee," the 2011 Fleetwood RV National Rally. We'll be here through Wednesday, June 29. The Rally is at the Heart of Oklahoma Expo Center. Who knows? We may even see some folks we saw last year at DuQuoin, IL, where the theme was "Bring Your Toys to Illinois." (They do like cutsy titles, don't they?)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 6
Wednesday, 22 June 2011
George Wyth State Park, Iowa 

When we started this trip last Friday, I promised myself to try to write something every day. That is a promise that is hard to keep. Some of it is the simple discipline of writing. Turn the computer on, connect to the internet, put fingers on keys, write. That's not hard, is it?

Step 2 in that process has been the hardest. I use my Samsung Mesmerize smart phone as a wifi hotspot to connect my computer to the Internet. It is a great concept but has rarely worked as well in practice as it should (or at least as well as I think it should). I log in and sites that are routine stops become impossible to find. Or they take ten minutes to load. Or I get dropped offline. And the hotspot is supposed to take up to five different computer devices and allow them to connect to the internet at the same time. Forget that! If one is connected, the second may or may not connect and BOTH of the computers become slower than molasses in winter. In fact, watching rocks erode may be faster.

Right now, I'm not sure what I'll do. But if I run across a Verizon dealer who can set me up with their MiFi 2200 router hotspot on the spot, I may just leave the US Cellular "tethered" fold and go to Verizon. Last year, I used a MiFi and was generally well pleased. I may even check into their 4G system. But I shouldn't go "techie" on you. Let's get on with the narrative.

On Day 3, Sunday, we went to the Churdan United Methodist Church exactly as we had planned to do. The day started out with serious fog, but as we drove to Churdan it lifted. We were a bit early for the 9 a.m. worship service, so we drove around town looking at the sights and reminding ourselves of what had been and marveling at what currently is. We drove past the Paton-Churdan School where Mary had been librarian for several years while I was pastor of the Churdan-Lanesboro Charge. The Caboose Park was still there. It has just been completed when we arrived in Churdan in 1984. The parsonage hadn't changed a lot since our residence there. It is a nice ranch-style home that was still relatively new back in the 1980s. The church building was well-kept and it was a delight to see the "new" front entrance to the church, complete with elevator, for which the planning had begun while I was pastor. It was a project that I encouraged and even pushed for but didn't get to see to completion before my move to Perry, IA, in 1991. It was a great addition to the facility and made it much more usable for the aging congregation.

It was wonderful to see friends from 20 years ago who were delighted to see us. Pastor David Arulnathan was most cordial in his welcome and delivered a good message to the 20 or so of us who were gathered. It was sad to note the many missing faces of those who have passed on into the Body of the Cloud of Witnesses who are with us in spirit. However, those who gathered were a joy to see.

One of the delights of the morning was a visit with Wayne and Karla King and their two college-age children. I married Wayne and Karla over 20 years ago so it was great to reconnect. Wayne is an amazing craftsman in addition to being a farmer. He built his house himself and it is a beautiful home. The woodwork is absolutely amazing in it beautiful finish, careful craftsmanship, and loving detail. It may have taken him well over a decade to compete the project, but it was obviously a labor of love and well worth the effort.

Sunday afternoon we returned to our camp at Spring Lake Park and welcomed some other friends who came by to see us. John McPherson came over from Boone to introduce us to his good friend, Maggie. John is a great storyteller and a delightful conversationalist. We laughed our way through much of the afternoon as we reminisced about our years together. Later in the afternoon, we were joined by Cindy Dunne from Harcourt and we spent some time catching up on kids, events, health, and home.

Thanks to everyone who made our visit to west central Iowa a joy! You are indeed good friends.

Sunday night was not a pleasant one. About 12:30 a.m., the weather radio started sounding its alarm about approaching thunderstorms and dangerous high winds. Now, high winds and thunderstorms that produce hail and that may result in tornadoes are NOT an RVers friend. They can be frightening, destructive, and deadly. For a while the weather radio was sounding off every 5-10 minutes with warnings of progressing storms and potential danger. I spent much of the night sitting near the radio in one of the comfortable "captain's chairs" of the coach so I could turn off the ringing alarm and listen to the latest National Weather Service bulletin. Thank goodness for NOAA Weather Radio. It is a great service of inestimable value to everyone. About 5:30 I went back to bed to sleep for a while before getting up and breaking camp. By the way, there was a significant storm that passed through the area of the park where we were camped. The coach rocked and swayed in the hard winds, the rain pounded, but we were warm, comfortable, and (most important of all) dry. I think Mary woke up when the actual rain started pounding on the roof of our motorhome but otherwise slept through the worst of the rocking of the wind and the rolling of thunder. When it starts raining hard on a motorhome coach, it gets rather loud (in case you've never had the joy of experiencing it.

Monday dawned bright and beautiful and we broke camp to head toward Cedar Falls, IA, and another visit with friends. Unfortunately, into every RVers life some ... er, mishaps must happen. As we went to hitch the tow car to the motorhome, we discovered we were missing a "link" to fasten the security cable from the coach to the car. A drive into nearby Jefferson furnished a replacement after the fourth stop. The folks at Holiday RV, NAPA, and Harrison RV were all very friendly and helpful even if they couldn't provide the missing link. Everyone of them did identify someone else in town that might have the part. Bomgard's Home and Farm (I may not have the name quite right, but those folks who go to Jefferson, IA, will recognize the place, I'm sure) did have the "missing link" and we returned to Spring Lake Park to finish the hook-up and to drive north for the next leg of our journey.

We drove through the corn and soybean fields of Iowa for hours. Well, not through the fields. That would have been impossible, but between the fields on the highways. If you've never driven in Iowa, one of the characteristics is STRAIGHT highways laid out on a one-mile grid. Much of our journey was on I-35, but it's still straight, flat, and green. Moving from the view of one large grain elevator to another as the miles rolled by reminded us of the importance of heartland agriculture to life in our country and world. Much of the world's food and grain comes from fields like these across the US and billions of bushels of grain are stored in elevators like those we saw as we drove. The drive was windy, which is not always a pleasure in a motorhome, but was negotiated safely.

George Wyth State Park in Cedar Falls, IA, is a beautiful park along the Cedar River. We arrived in late afternoon, made our camp, and got in the car to drive to Reinbeck, IA, to visit friends Jim and Marcia Ellenberger. Jim and Marcia moved to Reinbeck a year ago from Perry, IA, where we had gotten acquainted. They became very special friends to us when we adopted the sibling group of 4 from Guatemala that became our children and the heart of our family. In fact, Jim and Marcia and their two girls, Tiffany and Sarah, met us at the Des Moines airport when we disembarked after the journey from Guatemala with our children arriving at their new home in the United States. It was an emotional greeting and the welcome our kids received gave them friends during their years in Perry and friendships that continue until today. Thanks, Jim, Marcia, and girls for all you have meant to us over the years. We love you all!

Monday night was another stormy night with me sitting at the weather radio to catch it's warnings (and quiet it's howl). Although funnel clouds were sighted on the ground just a county away and although severe thunderstorms did roll through the area and once more rattle the coach with wind and rain, it was a better night that the night before and I was only up for a couple of hours before returning to bed and the blessedness of sleep.

Tuesday was spent visiting some more with Jim, Marcia, and family. Today, Wednesday, 22 June, we will break camp and head for Peculiar, MO, on our way to the Fleetwood Motorhome Association Rally in Shawnee, OK.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 2 (Continued)
18 June 2011
A Visit With George

Aren't old friends great? We had a great visit yesterday afternoon with activist farmer and sustainable agriculture and food advocate George Naylor. George was one of my parishioners 25 years ago when I was pastor at the Churdan and Lanesboro, Iowa, United Methodist Churches.

I went to the Churdan and Lanesboro churches right in the middle of the great Farm Crisis of the 1980s. It was a rough period for many farmers. I stood beside parishioners as farms that had been in their families for over 100 years were auctioned off along with the majority of their possessions. I went with parishioners and sat in bankers' offices as they tried to renegotiate new terms that might save their farming operations and who felt they needed an extra pair of listening ears to be sure of all that was being said (and, unfortunately, to help gain some modicum of honesty and truth-telling in the process as the banking industry was under great pressure to deal with huge farming loans that were not being supported because of declining operational incomes and land values; hmmm, reminiscent of what the housing industry and banking have been going through for several years now in the 21st Century). I went to visit them and listened to their personal tales of struggle and attempts to survive in a way of life they loved. I took special training from the Extension Service (and other agencies) on how to help people through the crisis. One year, I was even a local delegate to the National Farmers and Ranchers Congress in St. Louis. And I prayed and cried with numerous people on a regular basis. Oh, and I was interviewed and quoted on CNN News! (The news crew had gotten lost and were in the wrong town but were on deadline and needed somebody, anybody, to talk to. That they interviewed me was a sign of their desperation!) Throughout the whole period, one of the people teaching me about farming and agriculture and food was George Naylor.

George was/is an internationally known activist in the agricultural community, advocating tirelessly for the small family farmer in the face of the growth and development of the huge corporate farm and agricultural industry. He has written many articles, addressed many gatherings, and been quoted or referenced in many books. And he is based in the rural area around the small town of Churdan, IA. He suggested books for me to read, explained the philosophy of the small family farm, and tried in every way possible to spread the message as a fervent evangelist for sustainable agriculture. One of the things I learned about George is that he has a broad, expansive, and deep mind and is conversant on a wide range of subjects.

It was great to get back together after all these years and to hear that the activist continues to be active. He was recently prominently featured in a NYT bestseller, The Omnivore's Dilemma and was included in the documentary movie Fresh. We revisited the past, reviewed the present, and commiserated with each other about the state of the world and progressive politics. And thank you, George, for the package of pure, home-grown, Iowa porkchops. We WILL enjoy them. And remember all the good times that ministry in Iowa brought into our lives. The seven years we spent in Churdan and Lanesboro were among the most memorable years of ministry for me and they certainly produced some of the most lasting friendships I've ever had.

On Day 3, we'll see more of these old friends and miss many more who have departed from this earthly life. We'll go to church at the Churdan UMC and, I'm sure, see quite a few folks we know. And this afternoon will visit with a few very good friends from those days. And I'll celebrate another Happy Father's Day with the wishes of my wonderful children (whose story of adoption into our family actually began during our days in Churdan so there is a link between past and present).
Well, better get on with the day and its adventures!