2019-09-30 Mon: Our own lake in Indiana!

Posted 2019-10-06

Wow, what a change in weather! We've been experiencing cool weather for a while, but Indiana was 20 degrees hotter, and as we drove from MI to IN a stark change in both vegetation and temperature took place in a short time. It was only a 400 mile trip down the interstate and Michele wasn't anxious to arrive during the hottest part of the day, so we didn't leave until nearly noon.

When we arrived around 7PM, the kids didn't waste any time running off to play (without getting everything unpacked and set up for the night) and we couldn't blame them. What a fun place! In addition to the lake, there are long paved drives that are great for scooters, and Miriana enjoyed just swinging. There are also a couple of RV spots on the other side of their house in a big grass field. Cookes took one of those so they can be close to the fun.

The guest house where we're staying, just across the driveway from the owners' fine home, officially only supports 4 guests, but it's pretty roomy and the owners, like most of our hosts, are graciously allowing us to pack all 15 of us in there. The girls slept in the 2nd bedroom, the boys filled the living room (after moving the coffee table out), and Christopher slept in the attached shop out of earshot. Charles was pleased to see that the Internet had been upraded from what I was expecting -- they have Comcast Business! Time for another picture upload. :-)

2019-09-29 Sun: Mancelona, MI

Posted 2019-10-06

Miriana really loves this house (heh!) -- not only is it a split-level w/ a fairly small entry (for 15 pairs of shoes), but the girls all slept in the basement, which is still under construction. There is a toilet down there (combined w/ a utility room), but no walls yet! The rest of the family says that the house has two bathrooms (one of which requires a guard on the stairs, or at least a barrier to indicate "in use"); Miriana steadfastly maintains that the home only has one bathroom, and it's upstairs! Really, it's a pretty decent place.

This morning we attended church with the Kalanska Branch, significantly increasing the size of their congregation -- especially after Sacrament meeting when they had a special meeting for all the kids age 7-17 (as did all church units in North America and perhaps elsewhere) introducing some youth program changes; we didn't see many teens that weren't ours! After church some of the family went on a walk up a transmission line easement.

2019-09-28 Sat: The Great Lakes

Posted 2019-10-01

The morning was frosty when we arose. We scurried but didn't get out until 10:30 -- and then turned around 2 minutes later to go back and retrieve a blanket that one of the kids had put in a dresser drawer. At least we were able to retrieve it -- unlike Alexander's laptop computer, which he left in Manitoba and we didn't find out about until the next day.... He and Charles worked the next week with the the son of our host there to zip up the files he cared about and email them to us. It was an old laptop (purchased for $40) so we just told the guy to keep it -- it wasn't worth the expense & hassle of trying to ship it to someplace ahead of us and hoping we got it. Also unlike Charles's new driving glasses, which he dropped somewhere in Nauvoo and never recovered.

It was a lengthy but pretty drive (looked like home!) along Lake Superior and down between lakes Huron & Michigan onto the main peninsula. With the time change we arrived in Mancelona, MI at 10:30 PM, and we called the peanut butter sandwiches made on the bus earlier supper.

2019-09-27 Fri: Another one-nighter.

Posted 2019-10-01

Today's drive was made just a little longer by making several small fuel stops because prices were higher than forecast and we kept hoping for better prices. Then again, the driver was tired and needed frequent breaks. The border crossing was the smallest we've been through yet; we only saw a single employee. We're always a curiosity -- a big bus that, as Charles usually explains it, "isn't commercial; We have 13 children, and this is the family car!" -- and the border agents get an experience to remember. Unsure if they would want us to stop and block traffic or pass through and park off to the side (we've had it both ways), we attempted to talk to the window agent, and got a grouchy-sounding "Shut your engine off!" Fortunately, the agent proved to be a lot friendlier that we feared, esp. after coming out for the tour. Usually the person at the window stays there and another agent is called to come out and board the bus, but in this case, he got the privilege. We went throught the usual explanation of what we were doing, showed him a map of the trip, and had a pleasant discussion. We also counted the passports he handed back to us before we left -- lesson learned!

We crashed for the night in Eveleth, MN. This place bent the "only one night; must be a fantastic house" rule; it was a pretty good house, and would've been fun to spend more time outdoors at, but had the distinct disadvantage of only having one bathroom. It was also frustrating to find that w/ no cell service in the area, the only Internet connection was another HughesNet (geosynchronous satellite = high latency) system w/ a stingy 10GB data cap that was already gone halfway through the billing month, so we were in "low priority trickle" mode.

2019-09-26 Thu: Manitoba

Posted 2019-10-01

It was so hard to say good-bye to the Bakers again; they're such a lovable family! But it was time to head to the North Country again, so off we went on the 400 mile trek to Oakbank, just NE of Winnipeg, MB.

We stopped in Fargo, SD for fuel, groceries, and to pick up a couple of orders of pictures from Costco.

We were 20 minutes past the border station and it was now dark and rainy when we discovered that we were missing Joseph's passport! Michele searched the bus to no avail. Alexander remembered handing it to the official who boarded the bus to collect everyone's passports and compare mugs, and since after being handed back, the stack of cards went from the agent at the window to Charles to Matthew -- no further -- we were pretty sure the Canadians still had it. We stopped and tried phoning, but were unable to get through. We turned around and figured out how to park so that we could walk into the Canadian side without having to go back through the crossing twice more, and Charles went in. They had already figured out that they had something they shouldn't, so it was a quick & easy retrieval, and we were back on the road with only an hour lost.

Another great house on great land that we only stayed one night at. *sigh*

2019-09-25 Wed: Picnic in the Park

Posted 2019-10-01

The men left work behind today and both families loaded up and headed to Pelican Lake State Park. Bakers hauled a canoe and we'd planned to spend the time around the water, but it proved too windy so we went to another part of the park, moved some picnic tables together near the playground, and parked the bus beside them for a windbreak. We enjoyed a picnic lunch, the kids rode scooters and flew kites (complete w/ a major tree-climbing expedition to retrieve one), and visited. They invited another family w/ 13 children who nearly match the age & sex of ours. We met several families, in fact, all brothers of the same family who grew up in SD but went out in the world to find wives (including one who went to Michele's high school in WA) and are related to the Bakers.

Afterwards, we went home, got cleaned up, and went with them to their Apostolic Lutheran mid-week church service. No rock music there! Charles was again disappointed at the music, though, because their congregation doesn't bother w/ an instrument at the Wednesday service, and with no real music director, it was difficult him to follow the slow, out-of-time-and-not-all-together singing. Bakers commented that the slower cadence took some getting used to when they first moved there. Many of the congregation might feel the same way about the music at one of our church services as we do that of a "contemporary Christian" service: too fast, not reverent enough.

At the end of the service we stood around and visited a little. Charles was interviewed by a gentlemen (in a not altogether friendly way) who knew a little about the LDS church but wanted to clarify and know more about some things. As it turns out, he used to live in Woodland, WA, next to our chapel there, and was subjected to loud music from the periodic Saturday night youth dances.

Charles: Apostolic Lutherans approve of neither dancing nor secular music, so he pretty much viewed us all as hellions for permitting such a thing. I can't say that I blame him, myself having expressed concern about the appropriateness of the music and the volume at some of the dances; too often the chaperones lean towards allowing the kids'/DJ's preferences, rather than coming down hard if it doesn't meet church standards or really accomplish the aim of the activity, which is to provide an uplifting setting to help the youth build healthy social skills. When the music is too loud to even carry on a conversation... Anyway, I've often worried about the poor neighbors, too, esp. around Woodland, where one side of the gym opens directly to the outside, and I've seen them open the doors for fresh air during the dance. I know that *I* wouldn't want to live next door!

The conversation (and subsequent conversation about the conversation) was thought-provoking, and it was interesting to compare (A.) the A.L.'s approach of, in our view, a fair amount of specific "thou shalt not's" and tending to stay together in small, close-knit communities so that the culture supports those guidelines and promote righteous living and (B.) the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which takes a different approach in two ways: (1.) while in the 19th century, church members "huddled together", gathering to zion to strengthen each other and keep out the world, the prophets have increasingly encouraged us to "build Zion" where we are, and not just send missionaries out into the world, but to be examples of His disciples throughout the world; and (2.) As Joseph Smith said, "I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves". Yes, there are commandments and specific prohibitions against "bad", but much of life falls in the poor/good/better/best range, too! Though the Church has always established entertainment standards and warned against evil influences (but has never been against dancing or secular music, as long as it is wholesome), members are largely left to themselves to decide exactly how they're going to follow the principles of righteous living that have been laid out, and to determine for themselves what is or is not appropriate behavior for a saint. As has been the case from the beginning, free agency is a two-edged sword: On the one hand, those who don't need "to be compelled in all things" and learn to do as much as they can to more fully live the commandments will experience the growth and blessings that God wants; on the other hand, many will see what they can "get away with", arguably not explicitly breaking specific commandments, but missing the spirit of the law and asking for trouble. The parable of the wheat and the tares is about the Lord's kingdom, and the sifting of the wheat from the tares will happen within His church, closer to home than a lot of members think. Declaring yourself a Christian in general, or a Latter-Day Saint specifically, isn't going to impress Him if your actions don't match your words, and you are moving away from Him, rather than towards.

Returning home, we built a small bonfire, roasted marshmallows, enjoyed a little ice cream, talked religion, trees and weather, and finished the day in a very satisfactory manner.

2019-09-24 Tue: From new friends to old

Posted 2019-10-01

It was noon when we finally took our standard "family in front of the house" picture (this time with our hosts!) and pulled out, headed for Hazel, South Dakota. Fortunately, it was short 250-mile trip, so we still arrived in time for dinner. No AirBnB check-in procedure here; this time we were staying with our friends the Bakers, who moved from Kalama several years ago, and have missed ever since. It was wonderful to pull in and be warmly greeted by them, to see their home and the new children, and catch up. After dinner we shared an evening devotional, reading scriptures and singing hymns.

2019-09-23 Mon: It's about the people!

Posted 2019-10-01

We've had such a lovely time at this place. The Bielenberg family (our hosts), who themselves have 13 children (8 have moved out) have opened their home to us -- literally; the door separating our space from theirs is often open during the day -- and we've really enjoyed getting to know them. Our children have enjoyed playing with theirs, the older crowd has spent plenty of time visiting. They've shared their food and their lives with us, and though our nights are still short and there's much work to do, it's been restful.

They have no shortage of home-moving projects! Their house was moved onto this property and subsequently added onto, and is quite roomy -- perfect for 13 children. The part that we're staying in previously housed grandparents. I mentioned the barn-church; they just moved another old house onto the property, set on a nice basement, and are fixing it up for a future pastor to live in.

Today our kids played, washed the bus again (wow, that is a project), and both families had dinner outside together and visited around a campfire. The stars were out by the time we cleaned up, and it was a lovely evening. Thinking back on this place, our living quarters weren't what I'd call fantastic (a bit "rustic" for some of our tastes), though they have a beautiful and interesting house, and opening up some space for our kids to run around in made it so much better. What will make this place one of our favorites, though, isn't the physical space -- it's the associations w/ their family and relationships we enjoyed that renewed and refreshed us. We're grateful for their hospitality and their efforts to do as the Master would do in serving those around them. Truly, we'll miss our new friends!

2019-09-22 Sun: Church in a Barn

Posted 2019-10-01

We had a family meeting last night to decide what to do about church today. Our hosts hold services for a small generic Christian congregation in their barn, and invited us to attend. Rather than having to arise nearly 2 hours earlier and drive an hour to our planned service, or make an even longer drive to catch an afternoon ward in a different town, we opted to sleep in, dress a little more casually, and head to the barn.

The "barn", mucked out and moved to their property, had been converted into a rather nice space with a worship hall above and living quarters below. The whole family enjoyed and was taught by the sermon, the basis of which was the story of Elisha floating the ax head, from the prospective of the man who had borrowed the ax, lost it, and needed a miracle getting it back. Similarly, the preacher argued, we sometimes suddenly find that we have somewhat lost the power of God in our lives and need to recognize it, humble ourselves to ask for help, and expect miracles.

The music wasn't as edifying; they had hymnals with a great collection of hymns, but lacked a pianist that week (too bad they didn't know ahead of time that several of us could play) so a kid put together the typical contemporary presentation w/ Pop Rock gospel recordings & video from the Internet, w/ a couple of girls singing at mics to lead the congregation. Even the locals didn't know the arrangements that well and it was hard for everyone to follow along. Several of the kids had rather pained looks throughout the songs.

After the service, they graciously invited us to join the potluck downstairs. They'd prepared for extra people so there was enough to satisfy hunger, and we had a great time visiting with everyone.

2019-09-21 Sat: Winter Quarters

Posted 2019-09-30

We left Illinois and spent much of the day in Iowa. Lots and lots of cornfields, most of it dead and brown, to be used for making ethanol, rather than for food. After a long half-way stop in Des Moines for groceries, fuel, and prepaid cellular data renewals, we visited the Kanesville tabernacle in Council Bluffs, then popped across the river to Winter Quarters, Nebraska, before heading north to avoid flood-closed bridge and finally returning to Iowa. Another hour and a half of driving took us to our house on a 250-acre alfalfa farm near the town of Castana, population 150.

From Miriana's journal:

This house is a very large house that the hosts are living in, and have kept adding on to it over the years. Part of the downstairs is the apartment, which we are in. The ten oldest children all are going to sleep in one of the two bedrooms, the baby in their closet, and Joseph & Timothy (4 and 3) will sleep in Mom & Dad’s room. The hosts are a couple that raised thirteen kids, and have five still living at home. They are ten years ahead of us!

2019-09-20 Fri: Carthage

Posted 2019-09-29

From Miriana's Journal:

[W]e went to Carthage Jail, which is where the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were wrongfully imprisoned (again) and martyred. It was very somber, yet, glorious at the same time.

We got a bit of a late start yesterday and it's impossible to do Nauvoo justice in a day anyway, so after visiting Carthage and touring the Hancock County historical museum, we returned spent the remainder of this day in the old city, as well, finishing up with a visit to the blacksmith, where we got to watch a horseshoe being made, and everyone received a "prairie diamond" ring that this exhibit is famous for. Returning to Miriana's account:

...after we got home and it was late at night, William (10) announced that he and the other middle kids (ages six through twelve) had some skits for us. It was very late, and we were moving to Iowa the next day, and we had a lot to get done, but we decided to go and watch their skits. Then, after the skits, Matthew (16) noticed a bunch of firefly larvae that were glowing in the grass. Of course, there are no fireflies in the Pacific Northwest, so we were fascinated by them and watched them for a while before going to bed.

2019-09-19 Thu: Nauvoo

Posted 2019-09-29

Nauvoo: The city that in 6 years went from swamp land to the 2nd biggest city in Illinois, rivaling only Chicago in size (and far nicer), only to be sacked and have its inhabitants brutally driven out. It's ironic that so much of the most violent persecution came from ministers and others who called themselves Christians, and sad that so many of those involved acted out of ignorant fear, while used by those who hated the Mormons and feared the potential political disruption that an inrush of Latter-day Saints represented because they were against many of the things that the other settlers were all for: drinking, gambling, womanizing, and having slaves to do the work so they had more time for the other activities. The fact that forcing the Mormons out meant that there would be now-choice land and homes available for the taking made the prospect much more attractive for those that didn't have particularly strong political motivation.

From Miriana's journal:

We visited Nauvoo Illinois! Nauvoo is a very old town, and it is in two sections, the modern section where people live and work, and the historic section. In the historic section, there are very old buildings still standing (some are restorations or reconstructions). Some are houses of well-known people in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, some are places like the tinsmith’s shop and the bakery. In each building, there are missionaries who give you a tour. We also got to take an oxcart ride, a carriage ride, and a wagon ride, all of which were being run by missionaries. It was cool!

2019-09-18 Wed: Back to the country

Posted 2019-09-29

We left the big city and headed to a house out in the middle of the farm fields near Niota, IL. Niota is conveniently located between Nauvoo and Carthage, both prominent sites in the phase of church history right before the saints moved west of the U.S. boundaries to escape persecution.

This house -- an old house that has been added onto (including adding running water and electricity) was interesting because of the open well (classic bricklined well, now covered, with a pickup pipe going to the pump in the basement), dry well (no longer really used, being replaced by an approved septic system) and primitive storm cellar.

2019-09-17 Tue: Juvenile Delinquent

Posted 2019-09-29

Today was a "stay at home and catch up" day. The kids played outside some, though some had trouble adjusting to suburban life. Towards evening, their play came to a halt when a couple of neighbors paid us a visit and informed us that little Joseph, who had been left behind by the others and was frustrated, swung his scooter around and scratched their car. Fortunately, upon closer examination by Alexander, we found that it had just left some paint on their car, easily scrubbed off, and that there was no serious damage. Still, riding scooters is one thing, but a neighborhood being terrorized by a scooter gang is another, so the outside play ended and the children were much sobered by the incident and ensuing discussion.

2019-09-16 Mon: Far West / Liberty

Posted 2019-09-29

The first order of business today was taking Steven to an endodontist. Back in Rexburg, overwhelmed by the number of choices in the area, none of which seemed suitable (It was frustrating to think that you'd finally found one, put time into it, and then find e.g. that they refused to treat someone that young), I finally started texting LDS bishops in the area, asking for contacts. One put me in touch with a dentist that he respected; she, in turn, referred me to a man that she had already spoken to and felt would take care of us. Today's visit was simply an exam; tomorrow will be a couple of root canals.

Mid-afternoon we left to visit some LDS church history sites: first was the Independence visitor center, where we were treated to a lot of local history and an overview of the events that made the area famous. We visited Far West where corner stones were laid for a temple that could not be constructed due to persecution. We finished the evening by visiting the ironically-named Liberty Jail, where the prophet Joseph Smith and others were imprisoned for 6 months on a series of false charges and were finally intentionally allowed to escape by officials before the mob could have their way. It was humbling to more firmly realize the suffering that many endured voluntarily during that period, and the classy behavior of Joseph's friends and family in the face of the injustice and mistreatment of the saints and their leader.

2019-09-15 Sun: From Kansas to Kansas (but not Kansas)

Posted 2019-09-29

Wow, a truly great house in the middle of Kansas, and we were only there overnight. :-( We arrived fairly late Saturday evening, but still spent some time just enjoying the home. This is one of the very few Sundays that we're traveling -- we really tried to avoid that when we scheduled everything, but cancellations and other things made it necessary at least a couple of times -- but this was a great place from which to launch the Sabbath. It was big, super clean, well equipped for a family, and better yet, was a place to which the Holy Ghost was not a stranger. It was peaceful, and in spite of the short night we left feeling rested and happy.

We left the house at 9:00 made really good time, attending church at 11:30 in Manhattan...Kansas. Never heard of it? The locals have -- I think that, save Topeka, it was the biggest place we drove through between Denver and Kansas City. Church made a great midpoint stop, and our overall drive was short and comfortable, just what you'd hope for on a Sunday!

We reached our home in Kansas City, MO before dinnertime. (Of course, by the time we actually got everyone & everything unloaded, cooked dinner and sat down to eat...well, it was pretty late!) After the previous home, this one was a bit of a letdown. Built in a neighborhood that floods, it smelled like it on the outside, though they did a really good job of any cleanup on the inside. It was representative of homes that we've seen a lot of on this trip: an old house that's gotten a very quick do-it-yourself remodel to make it look good enough to rent out. This one looks like they were thrifty and reused materials, whereas in other homes we've stayed in, they've spent lots of money on new expensive coverings, but didn't do the proper work underneath so that I imagine their pretty floors, etc. fail before they've really even made money on their investment. This home did have some good points, though -- Dad's favorite being the basement bedroom that stayed cool all the time -- even he had to keep one vent closed to keep it from turning frigid. The kids appreciated every bedroom having its own bathroom (mini-fridge too, though we didn't use them).

2019-09-14 Sat: From the mountains to the plains

Posted 2019-09-29

Having learned from the last trip that early departures are preferable to late-night arrivals, we again made what preparations we could the evening before, and left bright and early. We stalled a little so that it would be light when we again passed through part of the park monument so as to better enjoy the view. A drive across all of Colorado and half of Kansas put us in the tiny town of Osborne.

Joseph is lovin' the horse!

Charles is lovin' the neighbor's ham antenna farm in the background...

2019-09-13 Fri: Ride 'em, Cowboy!

Posted 2019-09-29

Everyone got to go horseback riding today! We broke the family into two groups and each took a trail ride up in the hills above the ranch, where we could look out over the top of the mesa as well as the valley below and surrounding area. It was fun! Charles was grateful not to be on a horse named Rocket -- in fact, his horse was wonderful, and did much to erase the scars of a ride 24 years ago. Michele gracefully tolerated having to stick with a gaggle of greenhorns and not being able to get out and ride. Shana claims to have mastered the horse that two subsequent riders were unable to coax into more than a grudging walk (Mastered? ruined? You decide!) After the trail rides, the smaller kids took pony rides around the corral. Ariana showed surprising grace and ability, especially for someone of her age with no experience. Every member of the family enjoyed the experience.

As evening fell, we bid fond farewell to the two Ranch hands who had taken us out and spent so much time with the kids, as the two of them left for an overnight YSA church activity, and we prepared to leave the next morning.

2019-09-12 Thu: Hangin' & waitin'

Posted 2019-09-23

All the men left in the morning to go take someone on a hunting expedition. The plan was to get back mid-afternoon, in plenty of time for us to go riding in the evening, returning as the sun was setting. The morning started off badly by the boys being an hour late getting out. Lexi had considered spending the night, but didn't, and in fact was fairly late getting in. She no sooner arrived than she got a call the guys saying that they'd blown two tires, and needed her to bring them at least one. Hmmm, I wonder if it had anything to do with them stuffing 11 horses in a little 6-horse trailer? Anyway, that took her out the rest of the day, too. We hung around wondering what to do -- water the animals or leave them alone, plan for a ride or not -- until they finally got in near sunset.

Not that the kids were bored; there was the trampoline, the swings, the go-kart, the hay fort, and numerous other activities. And, of course, the normal things. From Miriana:

I felt a twinge of boredom, and wished something would happen....Timothy, who was playing in the dirt, suddenly had a blowout diaper. Liliana (12) and I cleaned him up in the outdoor shower. So, be careful what you wish for...

2019-09-11 Wed: Yee-haw!

Posted 2019-09-23

Living conditions may be primitive, but the entertainment's 1st class! Like our review said (I think -- it hasn't posted yet), if you're looking for a 5-star hotel, this isn't the place; if you're up for some adventure and want a great experience, though, it's hard to beat! Mom & Dad are away at a horse show, so unfortunately we won't get to meet them, but they've got good boys, and the ranch hands, a couple of young adults named Lexi & Shawn (unsure of spelling) are fantastic! They're personable and fun to be around, and they genuinely enjoy spending time with the kids, teaching them how to do things on the ranch and just having fun. They spent a lot of time learning to rope, practicing on these little plastic cattle with heads that pop off if you jerk 'em good. They fed & watered the horses, learned to drive the little utility truck 'n' trailer (Yes, Steven rode in the back again, and also drove! ) The family took a hike out to a large wash, which itself was an impressive sight. Charles twisted his ankle our first night in Rexburg, so he continued to avoid venturing out, and enjoyed the quiet opportunity to work.

Evening brought a weenie roast, to which we invited Cookes. Once we finally got the guys to lock the dogs up for the night (the previous night they stood outside the boy's tent and barked) we all finally slept well. One of the dogs is particularly obnoxious, leading the barking, and during the day tackling the kids and trying to lick them to death, and trying to steal food.


2019-09-10 Tue: The Antler House

Posted 2019-09-23

We hit the road at 7:00, driving west to catch I-15 and head through Utah (so we could say we were in Utah). Freeway construction through Salt Lake was pretty nasty, with a bumpy road surface, windy/jerky lanes that were a bit narrow for the bus, and little reduction in the speed limit. Between Spanish Fork and Price, we stopped at the Tie Fork Rest Area for potties & lunch, and were quite surprised to run into some friends from Vancouver, who were also passing through! Another stop and Walmart in Price for fuel and provisions, and we headed into Colorado.

Our next home (see link in the title) is in Glade Park, atop a mesa that we reached by driving through the spectacular Colorado National Monument. It was quite the winding climb, but the bus handled it fine, and we managed to avoid getting too close to either the cliff edges of the hairpin turns or the sides of the tunnels that we had to navigate. The views with the low sun reflecting off the terrain were breathtaking. Towards the top he were overtaken by a thunderstorm, which fortunately passed on before we reached our destination and had to unload. Nevertheless, the clouded sky brought darkness before we were quite ready for it.

The cabin we stayed in is on a working horse ranch. We were greeted by a son of the host, then turned over to one of the ranch hands who introduced us to our quarters. It was a bit more primitive than we were prepared for; the entire cabin (as well as one beside it) were fed from a rather scary network of undersized extension cords, and partly because of this, it lacked a real kitchen, having a mini-fridge and hotplate instead of the "real" versions of these appliances. Definitely a "shoes on" home, it was. Further description from Miriana:

It was originally a one-room log cabin, but had a kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom added. There is also a loft in the main room, but I am not sure if that was original, or added later. The bathroom doesn’t look like a bathroom, except for a toilet and sink. It looks like a log cabin, and the shower looks like it was chiseled out of the side of a cliff. The kitchen is the only kitchen I’ve ever seen with a deer head in it. Like the bathroom, the kitchen doesn’t look like a kitchen, but rather looks like a room in a log cabin with the appropriate appliances dropped in it. The bedroom has a deer head and a whole bear in it. Each room has log walls, an unfinished ceiling, a stone floor, and antlers everywhere. The spiral staircase up to the loft goes around a tree trunk, and each step is a piece of a log. The railing of the loft is a web of antlers and tree branches that look like antlers. The vertical beams of the front porch are tree trunks with branches that resemble antlers.

The very small living room is taken up by a bed, where Mom and Dad sleep, a bed where Steven (10) sleeps, a desk, and a very large deer head. Alexander and Matthew (18 and 16) sleep in a tent on the porch. Joseph (4), Timothy (3), and I sleep in the bedroom. Every one else sleeps in the loft above the main room.

The bathroom, with its stone-n-mortar shower was a recent addition, and a definite upgrade from the outhouse & outdoor shower -- though the next day we did have the teens use the "shower under the stars" (fed with a garden hose and a little propane on-demand heater) so that we could move 15 people through faster.

We managed to get everything unloaded that we needed without soaking it. It was late and the kitchen obviously wasn't going to support the planned spaghetti dinner for 15, so Michele opened a pack of tortillas, a bag of animal crackers, and a bag of carrots, and let the kids snack outside (since there was no place inside to eat). In the middle of the meal, they were pummeled by a hailstorm, but it subsided as soon as they finished cramming all the people and food onto the porch.

A Yagi hanging from a set of antlers and pointed at the host's house brought Charles the Internet connection needed to do whatever it is that he does, and everyone fell to slumber.

Overlooking the valley near Grand Junction, CO from within the Colorado National Monument

2019-09-09 Mon: This is the way we wash the bus...

Posted 2019-09-23

Sunday night was pretty late, with post-party cleanup, so it was nice to have a "buffer" day before we had to leave. Giving the bus a bath was the chore focus; otherwise most of the kids were able to relax and play. We still ended up pretty late preparing for an early departure the next morning.

2019-09-08 Sun: Party time!

Posted 2019-09-23

We originally planned to attend church w/ some friends (2 families of Hornbecks) who recently moved to Rexburg, but one family had Stake Conference (a big event that's not great for trying to find each other, let alone socializing) and the other is attending a student ward (no programs for children/teens) so we went to our host's ward instead. This is eastern Idaho, so there plenty of options within a short distance. The youth had a special program that day by current and returned missionaries, talking about missions and answering questions; that was rather timely!

Afterwards, we had the Hornbeck clan over to our basement apt. for dinner. It took quite a bit of effort to move furniture around, get the floor covered with plastic, and put on a meal for over 20 people. It took a lot of work, but we had a great time!

When most AirBnB hosts hear that there was a party in their house w/ a bunch of teenagers, they probably don't picture something this mellow.

2019-09-07 Sat: Idaho Falls / Mission Call

Posted 2019-09-22

We went w/ Michele's aunt & uncle, Mike & Maryanne, to the Idaho Falls temple, where the 5 oldest children were able to perform proxy baptisms (with Charles performing the ordinance). Afterwards, we all went to the park, where Mike & Maryanne brought out a wonderful picnic lunch that they'd prepared, and we all enjoyed a great afternoon of visiting and play. Coming back to their home, we enjoyed desert and watched while Alexander opened an email from the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, calling him as a full-time missionary. (Charles had seen the email come through a few days before, and hid it so that Alexander wouldn't find it until we were all together)

Alexander was called to serve for two years in the Denver North mission. His assignment is English speaking, but it's expected that he'll pick up a little Spanish while he's there. He'll leave about 3 weeks after we get back home from our trip. If we get home and find that nobody's aware that he's leaving, we'll know that nobody is reading this blog, won't we?

Afterwards, we stopped by Deseret Industries, where Michele found three suits for Alexander. How's that for timing?

2019-09-06 Fri: Catch-up

Posted 2019-09-22

Everyone stayed home and took life slow. Charles worked, Michele cleaned & organized the inside of the bus while the kids cleaned the outside.

2019-09-05 Thu: Yellowstone

Posted 2019-09-22

Charles stayed home and worked while the rest of the family (including grandparents) went to Yellowstone National Park. Actually, he spent most of the day trying to find a good endodontist in Kansas City. :-( Steven felt well enough to go, in spite of the jarring of the bus, and had a good time. The Yellowstone visit remained the highpoint of the trip for the kids for quite a while -- at least until we visited Nauvoo, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.....

2019-09-04 Wed: Rexburg, ID

Posted 2019-09-22

We contemplated staying another day after Steven's disaster, but he was doing well so we kept to the schedule. Back through the mountains and down to Rexburg, home of BYU-Idaho and Michele's aunt and uncle. Our arrival was novel in that we actually got there before dark! This time we're staying in the basement of someone's home. The kitchen's tiny (would be great for an RV, reasonable for a small apt.) but the home has plenty of beds and, of even greater interest to the kids, a great back yard; they really enjoyed playing out there with our hosts' grandchildren and some neighbors. Because of the carpet in the dining area inside, we also ate meals outside, even when it was dark.

2019-09-03 Tue: Look, Ma, no teeth!

Posted 2019-09-22

First thing this morning (before it got hot) the kids scaled the bluff that rises out of our yard. Shana the Monkey was a bit surprised to be sick when she reached the top; it appears that she's a low-altitude monkey, and 4,000 feet of elevation makes a real difference! Our hosts were gracious and opened their whole property to us, and this is a great place to roam, with everything needed to keep a kid happy, from the apple trees (walk out the door, grab a few, and breakfast as you explore!) to the river (with swimming hole) across the highway, and plenty to explore between.

Alexander found plenty to do too, including pulling out an old utility vehicle ("the mule") and getting it running -- a challenge to both his engine and electrical skills (and he enjoyed bringing along the little Li-ion battery pack he made to start it when the main battery died). The kids spent hours riding around the fields between houses in the little village, with him teaching some of the younger ones to drive.

And thus it happened that lessons were learned that day. One child learned how dangerous distractions can be to driving. Another learned how easy it is to get your feet tangled in the pedals when trying to assist someone. Another learned the value of a well-functioning parking brake. Steven learned that it's a really bad idea to stand in the back of a vehicle with your face right behind the roll bar, and we all learned that the Lord watches over us and extends his miraculous mercy to us even as he allows us to learn from our mistakes.

I hesitated to post this for fear that our host (or someone else) will decide that letting people use their vehicle's too risky, and someone will be denied significant fun or benefit because of us. I hope not, because it was a great experience overall! Back to the story: Liliana lost her hat, ran the vehicle into a shallow depression (bringing it to an abrupt halt) and suddenly kids were looking around for Steven's teeth. Poor Steven had to walk most of the way back to the house, since the vehicle was stuck and they couldn't drive back. Grateful for the working Internet access, we searched for a dentist after business hours out in the middle of nowhere....

Thankfully we found one 30min away, on his way home but able to come back. Conveniently, Wayne & Bev were visiting us at the time, and Wayne made the trip to the dentist in their car much more quickly than we would have in the bus. We thought that Steven had lost 4 teeth (though we were only able to recover one plus a few little pieces) and joined the dentist in his surprise when the X-ray showed 3 of them in Steven's head! He'd hit them straight on, pushing them back into the gum. With the swelling and gore, we hadn't been able to tell. (Incidentally, the damage was limited to his front upper teeth and gum. He didn't bite his lip or otherwise damage his face.

That the dentist was available was great, but he was an experienced oral surgeon and had spent years in St. Louis trauma center -- the only dentist in the region with such skills. That he (and virtualy his whole office) were LDS and just fantastic folks didn't hurt, either; the skill, caring, and (oddly) the pleasant visit were much more than expected. He re-implanted the tooth that had come out, surgically pulled another down, and left a 3rd that he hopes will descend over time like it did when it first replaced the baby tooth. The 4th tooth was already roughly where it should be. Steven's gum was a bit of a mess, with bits of broken bone protruding, so he dealt with that, stiched everything together, and attached a wire bridge across the teeth to hold everything together.

Steven came home, and took a long time to get to sleep because of the pain (and continued flow of blood and saliva), but finally slept soundly the rest of the night. The first we knew that he was up the next morning was when his sister squealed because he'd crawled under her bed and grabbed her ankle. Yes, children are resilient!

As for the vehicle, the only harm it suffered was the loss of some paint, which came off Steven's teeth over the next several days. With a little help the kids pulled it out and drove it back, and driving lessons resumed. The new driver regained confidence, and though more cautious than before, will not be afraid to get behind the wheel again -- nor, as proven at a future location, is Steven afraid to ride or drive.

2019-09-02 Mon: Montana, Montana, Glory of the West

Posted 2019-09-22

We've always cursed the bus for being gutless, but it seems to do about as well fully loaded as it does empty. The high elevation takes its toll on the power output, but the vehicle has done better climbing the mountains than expected.

Today, after a stop in Cardston to enjoy the temple and learn at the visitor center, we left Alberta and headed back to our home country, went through an even smaller border crossing, and arrived at our house after dark as usual. This is a "shoes on" house, less "spit shine" and more "cabin" feel, though it is a big family house, esp. w/ the basement. They are in the middle of some external renovations (e.g. redoing the wraparound deck) but it didn't limit our enjoyment at all.

Internet connectivity was a challenge; the house provides none, and cellular reception is poor. They do have a cellular booster, which helped a cell phone to work, though not that well. We were, however, able to fire up the data modems and found one cellular network that got reasonable reception, so we were able to work on the computer as long as we were bandwidth-conscious.

Another win: Jonathan has working ears again! We found his bag of accessories hanging in plain sight on the bus! The funniest was Shana's reaction when she heard the news, and realized that she herself had seen them there earlier but the significance of the sight hadn't sunk in.

2019-09-01 Sun: Hill Spring, AB

Posted 2019-09-09; updated 2019-09-19

Everyone was hungry when we arrived last night, so Michele fired up the oven, put our dinner in (breakfast? It was pretty late!) and we went to unpack and set up for the night. Imagine our surprise when a few minutes later, smoke came pouring out of the oven and began filling the house! Imagine more surprise when we found that not only did the vent hood not work, but almost all of the windows in the house were screwed shut so we couldn't ventilate! A couple were operable, but had no screens and the insects at that hour were still insane. We finally found two windows (not near the kitchen...) that we could open, and hacked the portable air conditioner to exhaust a minor amount of air from the area. There was nothing wrong with the oven; it had simply had stuff smeared around instead of being properly cleaned. It took a few hours to clear the house, so we ate in a smoky kitchen and went to bed in rather oppressive air. Good thing we were sleepy!

The next morning we arose and attended church. No need for another meal in-between; it hadn't been long since the last one! Hill Spring is a small town, and most of its citizens are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Southern Alberta was colonized in the 19th century by Mormon pioneers, and this part of the province continues to maintain the peace and charm that used to be common to so many small towns in Utah. It was a new experience for most of the children to see all of their neighbors streaming out of their homes to join them in their walk to worship together.

From Miriana's Journal:

We went to church in the Hill Spring Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was a very nice ward, and was only two blocks away so we walked. Sacrament meeting (in which the whole ward meets) was awesome, and so was Gospel Doctrine (the scripture study class for adults that happens after Sacrament meeting). Now, we have nothing to do for the rest of the day, which is a relief because we just finished three busy days in a row. This is a good house to have nothing planned in. There is a room full of toys that the kids are enjoying. Joseph (4) discovered that the blocks had numbers on them, and immediately started pointing out math problems printed on the larger blocks, and creating and number lines with them (he can count up to twenty or thirty and can recognize zero through nineteen). Upon seeing this, I started teaching him how to do simple math problems.

Jonathan, who wears cochlear implants, was put in charge of his gear - extra batteries, charger, dryer, etc., and keeping himself running. Well, today he was deaf! He lost track of his gear bag, and we scoured everything and can't find it. The next day we even had the Spokane home owner search the house for it, in the hope that it would be found and we could have Michele's friend ship it to us. No luck. We speculate that it was somehow left on the porch or near the sidewalk of the house in Spokane when we loaded the bus for departure, missed by us, and subsequently stolen. In any case, Jonathan's completely deaf for a while. Michele swears that his gear (and other crucial things) will never leave the bus to go into a house again -- too much chance of leaving something behind.

He had a little bit of one battery left, which Michele decided to save for Primary today. During Sacrament meeting, Charles decided to try Google's Live Transcribe to let Jonathan participate in the meeting. We finally, had to stop, though, because some of the transcription errors were way too funny. I'm sure most of the congregation had the wrong idea about what was going on; here we all are in this sacred meeting, and while everyone else is reverently listening to an inspiring speaker, here's this family huddled around a cell phone, looking at the screen and laughing (we couldn't help it sometimes, and had trouble stifling the giggles). It was quite entertaining, but we finally decided to leave Jonathan to his self-earned silence.

Rock Snot?

Mmmmm, Rock Snot!