Last week I departed Utah with the college group to Wyoming for the annual retreat. Unlike the rest of the group, though, I wasn't returning to Ephraim three days later. I departed Wyoming at the same time in the same convoy, but embarking on a 2600 mile journey of adventure and purpose. You see, God took me by surprise not only with his plans for my summer, but also with my next year. I had no idea I'd be staying so long when I made the original TX to UT trip this May. I hadn't packed for a year in UT, and furthermore I left most of my belongings in a storage spot that wasn't appropriate for leaving untouched for a year. Therefore, it was necessary to make a trip to TX to collect the belongings I'd need for the upcoming year and stow the rest in the storage van. The myriad of bonuses arising from this necessity include the opportunity visit with my friends in TX, rasie support, and bring back my ATV. As I write I'm sitting on my would-have-been-roommate Tyler's couch here in Longview, TX, so you know I made it here safe. Allow me to bring you up to date on how I got from then and there to here and now.
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My original plan for this trip included taking my new-to-me motorcycle with me on the trip. I'd ride it from Utah to Wyoming and throw it in the back of the truck for the rest of the trip. This would give me the safety net of being with a convoy on my first long motorcycle ride, allowing me to bail out if some unforeseen problem arose. Unfortunately, my bike wasn't roadworthy when we needed to leave. Things were way too busy with the ministry, and all the things that needed to get done with the ministry came ahead of getting my bike back together. Sadly, the carburetors still sit disassembled on a table. Things were actually a frenzy of activity before we left for Wyoming actually. It's a miracle I didn't forget anything major. Only minutes before we rolled out I was eyeballing the dimensions for a plywood tailgate I was cutting out to fit Kentucky's truck, which he let me borrow for the trip.
We got to Wyoming just fine, though, having picked up my friend Meg in SLC on the way. We got there late but even in darkness we knew the location of the retreat was totally sweet. Some background- the Olsons are friends of the ministry and live in Wyoming on a sweet ranch, and they let us come invade their space and use all their toys once a year for the college ministry retreat. They have a sweet house, some ATVs (four-wheelers to the rest of you), horses, and lots of acreage. We pretty much run amok there for two days. Well, there is more structure than that- we have bible studies and organized activities but during the unstructured times I would fairly call what I did on the ATVs 'running amok'. That's what ATVs are for, after all.
Here are some pics from the trip so far:
We had a hoot, but eventually it was time to go. The last morning we spent there we cleaned up everything we touched during the weekend. For me, though, I had to prepare the truck for the long journey, including removing all Kentucky's stuff from the truck and into the vans. There was a bunch of sawdust in the back of his truck that had spilled, and I wanted to sweep it all out. I didn't want to sweep a bunch of sawdust into the Olson's driveway, though, so I grabbed a broom and went off in the truck to a more remote wilderness-like area where it wouldn't matter if some sawdust was spread. As an aside, while I was sweeping it out the horses came to visit me. I tried to be polite and not sweep sawdust into their curious faces. It was a unique experience to be standing in the back of a truck in the middle of the Wyoming open range, sweeping it out while surrounded by horses. Anyway, I after sweeping out the truck I returned to the house. As I was walking up, my phone rang; Chip was calling. Apparently the absence of both me and the truck prompted everyone to think that I had left for TX without saying goodbye. I was both flattered and somewhat insulted- flattered because they were so bummed that I didn't say goodbye (I felt loved) but somewhat insulted that everyone thought I would do such a thing. Never!
The plan for my trip was to lay over in Denver and Wichita. Generally, I'd try to make a trip of this length in two days rather than three, but leaving with the group around 1PM excluded that possibility so three it was. I've never used a hotel on a road trip- between myself, my parents, and others that I know, I generally can ask around for most places in the country and someone will know somebody I can stay with. I asked Chip if he knew anybody in the Denver area I could stay with, and sure enough there were some supporters of the ministry there that were willing to put me up. They were a very nice older couple who were interested in my story and provided me with everything I could possibly need for the night I spent there. It was great. They already knew all about the ministry, being supporters, but were glad to hear the news and stories I brought and we had a good time discussing it all. I got underway early the next morning, leaving with my hosts.
Before we left for Wyoming, Kentucky had been trying to install a new radio in his truck. Unfortunately he didn't succeed and the truck was left with only the stock radio, which doesn't have an auxillary input jack. My lack of CDs meant I listened to the radio from Fort Steele to Denver the previous day. I wasn't willing to use local radio (all country) through whole trip, so the night before I'd looked up the closest Target store so I could go get an FM transmitter. I headed there before taking off for the day and used the gift card that Ian and Libby sent me for my birthday. Thanks guys! You made my trip much more civilized! After getting that figured out, I departed for the day's journey, Denver to Wichita.
The previous night I'd set my laptop to download the audiobook of the Tom Clancy novel I'm currently reading (Executive Orders) and the Zune MP3 software to discover and sync the downloaded files to my Zune, which is Microsoft's version of the iPod. (As an aside- don't buy a zune. I hate mine. It is an abomination to music enjoyment) Unfortunately, my clever plan didn't work well at all because the Zune software tried to identify and sync the files while they were still downloading, so they all got mis-IDd and placed, to my great chagrin, out of order, which is catastrophic for an audiobook. I discovered the problem this morning but had no time to fix it before I left.
Wichita made sense as an in-between destination between Wyoming and Longview, and fortunately I knew some people there. My friend from LETU, Joe Carroll, is from Wichita. I got on the horn with him and asked if he could hook me up with anyone. His parents still live in Wichita and were willing to host me. Bonus! I arrived in Wichita that evening, having made better time than my borrowed GPS estimated. It turns out that the GPS is very conservative and I get places in advance of when it tells me I will. Beats the alternative. The Carrolls were also gracious hosts and provided me with everything I needed. They were interested in what I was doing in Utah and we had a good long conversation over the delicious dinner that Mrs. Carroll fixed. I also ended up scratching my head for a while with Mr. Carroll over an engineering curiosity that he'd encountered at work. Joe got his engineering talent from his dad, who is an engineer with Hawker Beechcraft, a company that makes airplanes.
That evening I tried fixing my MP3 audiobook problem but, in typical Zune fashion, had trouble. I'll spare you the details but just know that at one point I was looking around the Carroll's house for a small screwdriver as a fix. Not good. Eventually it got sorted out and I was able to listen to Executive Orders the next day.
In the morning, the Carrolls were as hospitable as they were the night before. Mrs. Carroll made me a wonderful breakfast of bacon and eggs that I was surprised to find was just for me (I had a lot of bacon to eat). She sent me off also with a grocery bag full of goodies for the road, including the entire rest of the pan of lemon bars that she'd made the previous night. Mrs. Carroll is a saint in my book.
The next day's journey is as typical as one would expect of any road trip, with the added adventure of fueling a diesel vehicle for the first time and having a fun time trying to fill up with the giant nozzle meant for a semi truck. Part of the day's busyness preceding the trip to Wyoming was replacing one of the truck's fuel tanks. This got done with no problems... until Kentucky went to fill the tank up and diesel went everywhere. Turns out we forgot to put the rubber O-ring under the fuel sender before we put it on. Bad news bears. Diesel was everywhere after he filled up, and we knew not to fill up the front tank more than halfway until that got fixed. This left me with the rear tank, from which I can get about 200 miles. A big 'ol truck like this is supposed to have range to go for miles on end, but without the bigger front fuel tank it's got short legs.
I made it into Longview ahead of schedule, as is apparently typical with the GPS I'm using. I dropped off the stuff I brought down for Kristen and Gareth and spent the evening visiting with Candyce and Tyrell and guys on 2A. There were supposed to be devos that evening, but they were supplanted by a last-minute all-residence-hall meeting, which is never a good sign. Before I go on my rant, some background. When I was visiting LETU back in 2005, I heard that one of the residence halls had great big wooden structures in the rooms that the student had been allowed to build, essentially adding an extra floor to the high-ceilinged rooms. This was true, and my dorm rooms have looked something like this since I've been at LETU, and for approximately 30 years hence:
At said meeting we were told that lofts, the defining feature of Tyler, had been condemned by the local fire marshall and all of them had to be removed in their entirely by October 4th. This was met with unprecedented student unrest and resistance. Lofts have been part of the dorm's culture at LETU for decades, and to have them taken away is a huge loss. Spirits were both high (with outrage) and low (with depression) at the news. It's a terrible thing. However, after hearing about how it has all come about, it is apparent that nothing can be done about it within the realm of feasibility. While I'm greatly disappointed by the news, and perhaps a year ago I would have taken up a crusade for the cause, today I just can't bring myself to. I know from the Bible that the entire world is headed way, way downhill. I hate to see the little things like this happen but I know it can't be stopped, and it is all part of God's great plan. LeTourneau was once a great school, and now it's headed down a different road, for this and many other reasons. Many other things that once were good now are tainted. I hate to see the mighty fall, but that's just the way it has to be sometimes. That is not to say that everyone ought to take every inch of the world's downward spiral in stride- but just to use their discernment in which battles to fight. I can't take this one on.
I've been here visiting LETU for about five days now, visiting with friends and taking care of the little business that I have here. It's been great to see all my friends and acquaintances from this part of the world again, but I also am reminded that this chapter of my life- college and early adulthood- is largely behind me. When I drove onto LETU's campus my excitement for the people was dampened by the place. I no longer fit into a place that is one step out from home- I've gone farther since then, and to return is a step back. I know I will be returning to LETU in a year to finish my degree, and that's going to be hard. All the same, I have to finish one chapter of my life before I can move onto next without being held back by the last.
I will take off tomorrow afternoon. In the same way that my return to LETU was dampened, I am looking forward to my return to Utah. Although the prospect of venturing out into the unknown future that Utah carries with it is scary, it is also where I feel I belong. I do worry about my future- I don't know exactly how God is going to provide all the needs I'll have this upcoming year, or even that he will- maybe his plans for me only include Utah for the next few months. Maybe they include Utah for six years and two children. I don't know. I do know, though, that placing my future in his hands is what makes me come alive, because it's what he created me for.