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And the rains came….

The rains have started… but it is about time. We had a completely dry summer until September 1. Can’t beat that. We finally got the timing right and enjoyed working in the great dry summer outdoors with highs in the 70’s and 80’s. We even had our first “company” on the road. Nolan’s mom visited us for 10 days in August. We drove her around to all our favorite towns north of Seattle and took a quick trip on the ferry over to one of her favorite places, “Butchart Gardens” in lovely British Columbia. We tried all the great local eateries we could find and had a fabulous time. She amazed us with her stamina and agility at getting in and out of the ambulance! The day before she left, Jacob (Nolan’s youngest) and his friend Emily showed up in Jacob’s newly “camperized” Toyota truck. They did the Walmart style camping all the way from Tennessee! We couldn’t be prouder. They were with us for three weeks letting us take them around to our favorite spots, which was mostly all of Northwest Washington! Jacob has continued to “wow” us with his incredible photography. They have found all kinds of beautiful places, people and animals. The days they went off on their own were always full of great stories at their return. The rains are helping us start to plot our course back across the country. We have kids, grand kids and mom’s pulling our heartstrings towards the east, but it is going to be hard to leave this beautiful area.
I’m sorry Facebook friends that I have been so silent this summer. I’m always a little hesitant to put too many updates out there. I know like any friendship, that all the happenings out there in this new cyber world work both ways. My facebook friends keep me going on the hard and lonely days when I truly feel like I have surely lost my mind to be doing what we are doing. The other days, I don’t want to make everyone jealous! My sister was extremely jealous of our lifestyle until I told her that we had over a 100 miles to cover in the next two days and were down to our last $40. Those are the days my faith is tested to its limits. It is amazing how it works out though. We got to Seattle and the orders started pouring in! Here are a few pics of our summer!
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Better Late than Never?

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My poor journal is so full of apologies for not keeping up. It is much like this blog, an occasional recap of life looking backwards. I’ve been too sad and challenged these last few months to keep up with a journal or blog and keep putting it off in hopes that at the point I looked back, I could see the silver lining. We were called back to Tennessee right after Christmas when Nolan’s dad became very ill. I’m sure there is no easy way through the illness of a parent and the nearing death. Our silver lining is that we were available. Our mobile lifestyle was just what was needed to hurry back and be there for the needed undefined amount of time. Though hard and difficult, it allowed numerous priceless moments with a great man as he fought to live out his last days with dignity and in good relationship with friends and family. Our experience with Hospice and the amazing care givers they employ, has forever given us a new appreciation of the services they provide and the attitude that there can be life and joy even in death. We have limped along with Sonshine Leather through it all. Nolan’s head has suffered greatly, from the constant in and out of our small camper to use the laser given its height is less than his. We have worked out of his parent’s garage and the camper until the temps started reaching towards 100. We joked in the beginning that we were going to be led by the cloud and pillar of fire, but it seems our fire has become more defined as heat. When we and our equipment start struggling to work, it seems it is time to move. For months we have driven past a little (but bigger than ours) camper that was for sale. We stopped repeatedly, but were told it had been bought but not picked up. We had given up on the idea and started making improvements and repairs to take out our little faithful, when all of a sudden the “For Sale” sign was back. It was a strange moment in time that we had the funds in the bank and were able to purchase it. We knew better than to buy another without a title but after lots of inquires, were given hope that it might be possible in Tennessee, as this one was lost. Sure enough, we had it licensed and a new title on the way within just a few days. We celebrated as we headed out of town for a brief visit to kids in Texas, in only the van, leaving two old campers in Nolan’s mom’s driveway. It actually helped with her first experience alone, as it looked like she had lots of company! Our plan was to visit Texas early so we didn’t get stuck in the 100 degree weather of August again. It almost worked. We experienced their first big heat wave, but we were not working in it! Back to Tennessee, we found Nolan’s mom to be doing well, we had a rush of June wedding business and a camper that Nolan could stand up in, and the garage was starting to get hot, seemed like time to head North and west! I’m not sure I have ever worked so hard as those two weeks of rehabbing our “new” vintage camper. It is a 1971, so actually older than the first. The biggest challenge is always how to place, move and secure the laser. I always have to give up a kitchen or closet for our biggest necessity, but we came up with a pretty good plan and pulled it off. I finally really identify with those pioneer women that never had a closet! Thank the good Lord for cotton knits! We also now have a table that does not have to become the bed and a bed that does not have to be a table during the day. We feel blessed indeed. Our little camper that served us so well, found a new home with a great couple that plan to love it as we did. It felt bitter sweet to see it go. It was really strange that as we left our home of Tennessee, we actually felt “at home” for the first time in months as we headed out of Tennessee in our new rig.
It felt like we quickly adjusted to the once familiar routine of travel and finding places to eat and sleep until we hit the badlands of South Dakota. Our transmission begin to leak and slip as we cut our first National park trip short. We made it to a mechanic that sent us ahead (45 miles) to the nearest mechanic that could work on a transmission. That didn’t work. I think we may have made it 15 miles. For those of you that have never experienced the Dakota’s, it only takes about a mile to be in the middle of nowhere! Cell phones worked a little and we were told it might make it if we let it cool. We tried to settle in for the hours that it would likely take (it got really hot) I may have made it an hour before I started sobbing and giving up. Nolan’s mom was gracious enough to add us to her Triple A membership so we called and submitted to being towed, camper and all. It was still a hard reality to know it would still be hours before the ordeal was over, it was Friday evening and all mechanics in South Dakota take the weekend off (or so it seems) and nowhere to stay. So now I know that tow trucks can haul an ambulance and pull a camper and for a price…take your camper to the closest in our case, KOA! Thank the good Lord again for KOA’s. They are expensive, but they seem to be most everywhere! I’m embarrassed at my lack of faith and pessimistic attitude. I feel so much like Joe in Joe vs the Volcano, when his life has been spared multiple times and his heart is full of gratitude and yet, the fact is, he is still on a raft in the middle of the ocean….. I tried to be thankful and was for our new surroundings but dreaded being so stuck and that all our saved up funds would be gone as we anticipated a new transmission. I know I’ve said it a 100 times, but God really likes a good story. I just get tired of playing the same part, which is most often the doubting and depressed victim of the hardships of life that takes two steps forward only to be dragged back 3. So our delightful surprise the next day was a fellow traveler in an old restored 76 Wesfalia on his solo journey from Florida to Alaska! He was lonesome from his travels thus far and anxious for company to see the area, so invited us along for the next 3 days. We saw the one and only night time blast at Crazy Horse, where a passionate family is slowly carving a statue of Chief Crazy Horse on his horse into a mountain. Here is a link to the one before this one (very similar to what we saw) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeZa9znLgsc
It was amazing to me that life could be so scary and amazing at the same time as I went from being totally stranded to seeing more of the sights and wonders than ever would have on our own. Thank you Bill for such a happy ending to our stay in South Dakota!
I also have to put a big thanks out to Aamco of Rapid City (http://www.aamco.com/Auto-Care-Center/SD/Rapid-City) They were amazing to overhaul our transmission, give us rides to and from the campground, warranty their work and give us finance options that we could manage. Thank you Nick!
As much as we fell in love with Rapid City and the Black Hills, it was good to have South Dakota in our rear view mirror. We spent the 4th of July in Paradise! A real place in Washington state almost half way between our kids in Portland and Seattle. We had one of the most amazing views I have ever seen looking out over a beautiful valley and lake and the peaks of Mt. Rainier, Adams and St. Helens, in the background. It was a mixed time as we anticipated trying to find Josh and rescue him out of his homeless situation in Portland. As we listened almost daily to his worsening plight on the streets and agonized over the inability to help someone not ready for our kind of help, it made me think, you really can be in Paradise and Hell at the same time!
Once we finally got to Portland, we spent hours searching the streets for Josh. I’m afraid it doesn’t give one a good feeling of a city if your first experience is searching the homeless areas for someone you love. Nolan took me back to our camp a couple of hours away so he could come back to hopefully meet up with Josh and spend the night with him at Walmart in the van. He was successful, but it has been a struggle to find him the help he needs. I’m two days into camping alone while he works to get Josh some help. I may need some distance yet to be able to paint a silver lining to this interruption. It has been an amazing two days of quiet and time to write for me. I was also able to finally get some water running in the camper. It was my least imperative objective when I took on this project. Nolan took care of the wiring and I fixed the look and feel, I’ve always managed without running water, but I’m very happy to now have it! Just a couple of pieces of hardware away from having hot water! The campground we are in is beautiful, but mostly closed while a water system gets rebuilt. Nolan still doesn’t know that he left me with no store within walking distance because usually these places have them in the campground. It’s actually been a fun challenge so far to make meals out of cheese, apples, p-nut butter and crackers, one avocado and two very soft bananas oh and some sausage! I haven’t gone hungry yet and have always said I could live on cheese. Thank goodness, I had just bought my first block of Tilamook cheese to celebrate getting back to the west! So, I feel this is enough news to catch up for awhile. For the few clients that might be reading this, thank you always for your patience with your orders! We haven’t missed a wedding yet and I think have only been late for one anniversary, and that might just be the biggest miracle we have experienced yet! We hope to have a peaceful and smooth leather season ahead!

Catching Up

So sorry for the lack of news to anybody that is anxiously waiting. Life happens and rarely as we predict or expect! I think I started this whole endeavor with the theme of flexibility, and I have to keep going back to the same lesson as the curve balls come. We were very blessed with a very busy Christmas season! One that tested our ability to stay mobile and work out of a camper and the wonderful borrowed space from friends and family. If we continue to grow as we hope, we will be looking for a shop for the busy seasons, at least. We continue to seek wisdom to know where and when that needs to be. Nolan’s dad had an unexpected brush with death on Christmas day, so our plans to have a warm winter have ended back in Tennessee for a season. Thanks to everybody’s understanding on a few late Christmas orders as we continue to try and be responsible children to beloved parents. Bob continues to improve and we so appreciate the prayers and encouragement that so many have sent! As I write this, I have left Nolan to process orders and handle the doctor appointments and such as I take a break and have some “Clara” time in Seattle. Instead of travel pictures, I’ll post a few of our favorite Christmas orders, now that they have all been given as gifts 🙂

Almost Too Late!

We thought we were doing so good to head east before the bad weather hit, even though it was already the weather that was pushing us away from the fog and rain of the coast. We drove hundreds of miles a day to get to our timeshare rental in Lake Tahoe, too late to see the beauty around us. When we got up the next morning it was snowing! Tahoe style too! Huge wet flakes flocking the beautiful evergreens all around us. We felt as though we had arrived into a Christmas card. We sloshed through the snow and wet to deliver our orders to the post office which we were thrilled to find just around the corner from our resort. We stayed another day hoping the sun would at least melt the mountain passes so we could leave as we had reserved another night at a resort in Las Vegas. It was quiet the luxury after so much camping, That it was rainy and cold in Las Vegas, didn’t really matter. We were also excited to finally time things right so that we had a family bible to hand deliver in Las Vegas. We got to experience a rare side of Vegas, cold, rain and a personal bible delivery! We raced off again hoping to beat any snow that was still headed east in some of the higher elevations. We caught it or it caught us somewhere west of Flagstaff and thus began the hardest day of driving I think either of us have ever had. We kept thinking if we kept going we would either get to a lower elevation or out run the system. Fighting the snow well after dark and having to pull off and wipe off the headlights every 10 minutes just to have enough light to see, we were exhausted.
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We made it to Gallup New Mexico and Motel 6 to spend the night. We eventually made it to Albuquerque the next day and finally ran out of snow. We had a very brief but wonderful visit and stay at our favorite retreat, “Beulah” where Jerry and Annette have so graciously hosted us so many times. They run the ministry “Faith Comes by Hearing” which is now up to 900+ translations of the oral bible. A wonderful visit with Kamaka who was a huge encouragement to us. I’m trying to hold on to his reminder that Jesus is in us and it is like mixing water and tea….there is no separating once it is mixed!
New Braunfels was a long drive but we made it and got to experience just how big Texas is coming from the western corner. It is big, but the hill country just to the west of New Braunfels was beautiful! Our friend John Reynolds from Idaho was there along with other old friends from the Shiloh days in New York! It was quiet the reunion as they enjoyed Jake’s last football game and then we experienced Wurstfest and the River Walk together. Lot’s of fun.
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A quick week with Chris and Megan and then on to Fort Worth! Christmas orders are upon us, so it will be a Thanksgiving season of thankfulness for being back with friends and family and work, work, work. Nashville….coming soon!

Away

We are behind on updates. It feels like we have been to the outer most parts of the Northwest…and we have. We have not always had good cell reception or internet and so when we did, clients took precedence! We have managed to be in the wilderness however and mostly keep up with orders! We have driven around the great Olympic Peninsula and taken in more beauty than I can share or think of a way to express. We are working our way down the Oregon coast now. I had always heard of its beauty, but you just can’t imagine it until you see it! I have also been slow to “blog” because of the complaints I wanted to work through before they crept into my writing. My dear friend Brenda graciously warned me not to feel like a failure if I came to a point I just wanted to stop and put down roots because, that was what I was good at. I think all of the cold nights and rainy days are making me do just that, sprout roots! But alas, they just start to reach for the sun and it is time to move again! A great mixture for frustration for one like me. I think I have mentioned before my growing kinship with the children of Israel as they wondered in the dessert. I just really didn’t get all the complaining till now. Something about carrying everything you need around with you just makes you grumpy! Things are never where you think you left them, because where you were is always different. It’s the little things too! I never appreciated a well designed un-spillable cup like I do now. Really I should rephrase that to say I am on a quest for such a thing and really don’t believe it exists yet. I have had my share of come-aparts, but the next drink I spill may just push me over the edge! We have to watch our behavior these days too because we finally have advertisement of who we are on the ambulance! We have attracted a lot of attention everywhere we go anyway. The chimney out the end of the camper is the biggest curiosity for these seasoned RV-ers! But now, we are Sonshine Leather and with a phone number to boot! One side blew off somewhere, so we are just waiting for the call someday that says, “hey I found your phone number”.
We are getting ready to head away from the Pacific. It will be a sad good-bye. I’m leaving a part of my heart in Seattle for sure! We hope to be back in warm New Braunfels in a few weeks and then in middle Tennessee shortly after Thanksgiving. Hope to see some friends and family soon!
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The Bluest Skies

I was a huge fan of “Here Come the Brides” when I was a kid. I think it was part of my motivation to see the great Northwest when I first headed across the country in a camper, pregnant with my first child, back in 1979. Now these many lives later, my daughter and her baby have decided to call it home and we have finally made it full circle.
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We have hiked and played and toured, and it is true these are some of the bluest skies and greenest hills, I have ever seen. We have spent two weeks in one campground which is a first for us. It has given us a good taste of what it is like living in our little camper. We keep a good sense of accomplishment, as we are surrounded by huge RV’s with all the comforts of home. We look like the ant at the picnic! These are definitely the full time RV-ers. Some have permanent sites with landscaping all around. We have attracted several curious neighbors. I think they were a little afraid of us at first with our weird little chimney sticking out the back of the camper.
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We are headed into the big city(Seattle) this next week without the laser in tow, so today is working like crazy to get a weeks worth of jobs done! Here are some samplings of the last week or so.
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A Long Way to Here

We added up our miles and have driven over 4000 miles now. Here are a couple of our latest releases while on the road:

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We had beautiful vistas across the country with brief stops for work and play and have enjoyed several days now in Boise Idaho, with our dear friends John and Brenda. Beautiful weather and wonderful food, we are enjoying the luxury of having most things working and catching up on some orders while staying put. Here are a few of our favorite views on the way!
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Everything that can be shaken…..

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I’m sure I’m taking it a bit out of context, but Hebrews 12:27 talks about things being shaken so that those things which can not be shaken, will remain…..I may not be one of those things, or our little camper. We had a delightful time with Mandy and Kyle and kids in Fort Worth. We worked and played for a week, cluttering up their driveway with our extension cords and rig, but it was great. We are on the road now and camping finally and testing out our abilities on the move. We almost made it to Amarillo without any casualty, but that is where the shaking took its toll and one of our camper wheel wells that had some rotten-ness around it…fell apart. We heard a noise and looked in time to see debris trailing behind. This was a tough one. The metal wheel well was jammed up into the wheel between it and the axle. We had spent our money on tires instead of a jack, but a jack would have been nice! We are still carrying stray pieces of materials and used a long piece of aluminum rail and a hammer and pliers, to hammer, twist and pull until it was finally where we could move forward and pull it free. We lost a bug zapper, but so far that is the only fatality we know of. We just have a hole around the wheel now and can’t use the storage compartment next to it that kept the electrical cords and hoses. It’s not like we have an abundance of places to put things, but we keep letting go of things and making do. I am getting a bit paranoid and always looking for what is going to shake loose and rattle off next. The joy is in the journey, right! The things that work, like the LASER! We continue to be very thankful for. I’ve shed a few tears along the way but keep holding on to the idea that the Lord knows what I need and will take care of me (us) Nolan is going to write one of these updates one of these days. He spends his extra time working on orders or re-wiring something. He is always trying to improve the system.
We are in a beautiful campground in Leadville, Colorado tonight. The sun has just set and I am toasty next to a campfire. Nolan keeps asking if I like my new office. Don’t know how long it will all last, but today I do. We are hoping to hike to turqoise lake tomorrow close to the continental divide. Hope we can make it. Nolan remembers it being beautiful when he hiked it almost 40 years ago. These mountains are tall. I think we are camping at 9000 feet now. Suppose to get down to 40 tonight. A nice change from 100 degrees, but amazing how fast things can change.
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On to Fort Worth

It seems crazy that we were in New Braunfels for such a relative short time and yet it feels like pulling up roots again to leave there. We had hoped to establish at least one home base somewhere, and I can at least say we have done that. I’m sure it is asking a lot to have a couple of wandering old hippies move into your house and yard with a working business while still in the mode of establishing your own family in a new place, but I think we all became a pretty well functioning little family during our stay in Chris and Megan’s home. Thanks guys! We miss you already! So now a quick stay with Mandy and family in Fort Worth.Such a treat to be with Gracie and Lilly. They are such sweet hosts, really! Gracie has been cooking and serving us her (pretend) meals since our arrival yesterday. Nolan is back at work finishing up orders today, so didn’t even take us long to get set up….maybe we are really making some progress at this on the road thing. We are hoping that our Lord is the author of this endeavor and trying to not make hard and fast plans of our own, but it is a debatable plus, having kids scattered across the country to help us set goals and directions. We have Seattle in our sights. Little Clara is really calling me. I so want to see her before she is walking! Nearly 2000 miles to go and I’m sure divine appointments in between. May we be where we need to be when we should be, Amen 🙂

Flexibility

I could have predicted that FLEXIBILITY would be a key word for our journey. ACCEPTANCE has been a strong word for me the past couple of years. Simple words, but it is almost incomprehensible the depth of character that those two simple words can call forth. Nolan and I have spent so much of the last few months downsizing, planning and designing to try and find a “comfortable” way to do our business and be small and mobile. Some things have worked and that is what I must keep focused on. Many things have not and we continue to try and tweak our van, camper, laser and computer issues. We made a quick trip back to Nashville to see a few clients and pick up our toyota van so we can have a run around vehicle when camping out in Texas. We took the southern route back to New Braunfels, which included a wonderful visit with Nolan’s cousin Luke. He is always such an encouragement to us and reminds us of what is important in life, which is trusting God with everyday we live and breath and being thankful to be alive and well!

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Nolan and Luke

We’ve managed to get very comfortable in our room that Chris and Megan have been so generous to furnish for us. They have been so kind to put up with our extension cords and network cables running through the yard to try and service the computers and laser as we configure different layouts to try and chase shade and keep things working. The chickens keep trying to make our camper their new secret nest spot. Megan found the mother load the other day when she found a secret nest of 30 eggs!
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We finally have had a little break in the weather and enjoying temps in the low 90’s. Went to a great movie house last night that serves dinner while you watch your movie. Saw the new “Man from UNCLE”, very fun and a much needed escape! Working on orders and hoping to head north in the next week. We will see how it goes!