Where is the Border, and How Do I Get Out of Texas?

When last we left our intrepid adventurers, they were headed out of Amarillo, TX and had been chatting with a long lost cousin on the phone until having to stop for fuel.  Let us look in on the events that follow:

As the day grew hotter (not warmer), Kamille and I were babbling back and forth on the ham radio as we are want to do.  Kamille was listening politely as I shared a summary of the phone conversation and I was listening politely as Kamille talked about the shifting patterns of the windmills off the side of I-40.  We were approaching the New Mexico border and I was being a bit long winded (imagine that), when I let off the mic and was immediately greeted by a stressed sounding Kamille transmitting, “NO TIRE!  NO TIRE!  NO TIRE!”  Some communication followed and I was able to see Kamille’s truck limping off the side of the highway so I knew she was safe.  Once I knew she was in one piece and that she was calling roadside assistance, I drove to the Texas/New Mexico border where I exited and headed back to be with my bride.

Upon my arrival (stopping periodically to pick up parts of the trailer that had embraced chaos over order at the time of explosive tire deflation) at the “crash site,” I discovered a Kamille who was beginning to recover from her heart palpitations and appeared, outwardly, to have handled the whole situation quite well.

I got out and looked at the trailer.  It really didn’t look good at all.  Judging from how it sat on the ground and the way it looked to be on the spring, I figured the spring had broken, allowing the tire to rub, and eventually the tire blew, taking everything with it.

Now, I mentioned that she had called roadside assistance.  When I bought my travel trailer many years ago, I also bought Good Sam Roadside Assistance to help me with my personal vehicles and my trailers.  I used it once when my old pick-up (The Beast) experienced a seized pulley and had a neat hole drilled into the motor that allowed the oil to leak out.  It worked great!  Then my son called them last year when his car stopped running in the mountains of Utah.  They charged him $300 for the tow because as an adult student, he didn’t live with me.  I started asking myself then why I had them, but I had paid for several years of membership and kept my mouth shut.  In this case, we had been sitting in the Texas desert and watched the thermometer climb above 100 degrees when a series of back and forth calls resulted in Good Sam Roadside Assistance ultimately stating they would not provide any service because the trailer was filled with household goods; therefore it is a commercial trailer.  I asked them what it meant that my travel trailer is filled with household goods as well, and is pulled by a truck that is registered in NY as a commercial vehicle.  They had no answer for that one, but continued to refuse service.

When that membership expires next year, I’ll not renew.

Once that happened, Kamille called AAA (her father continues to keep her as an associate on his membership – props to Dan Plocinik).  Because it is a basic membership, they politely declined to be of service as well.  This was far less of a problem because they hadn’t sold their service as being for people who were hauling trailers.

I finally found a tow service that could help, but they didn’t have a truck available for 3 hours (he was on a call in the opposite direction) and he suggested a company in Amarillo which had big trucks and could handle my issue.  I called them and discovered it was $300/hour and $300 hook-up fee.  Not having any other options, I agreed to the $900 towing bill and asked them to start my way.

Knowing that I had no other options as to where to go, I gave my cousin Janet a call and told her we’d be in town for dinner that night and it would be fun to meet up.  She asked what had happened, so I filled her in and we shared exasperated sighs.  She had told me that her son, Gary was out of town, so I was even more surprised when, about a half hour later, I answered a phone call from an unknown number with an Amarillo area code and found it to be Gary.  I filled him in on the issue and he told me to cancel the $900 tow because he was coming out with his truck and a flat bed trailer.

ROCK ON!

As we’ve heard, God works in mysterious ways and I called the tow company to cancel.  When I asked if I could, the receptionist let out her breath and told me it was no problem as they were about to call me and ask if I really needed their assistance due to operational goings on there and mucked up schedules.  Needless to say, they were cancelled and $900 stayed in my pocket.

A few hours later, and up pulls Gary in his white Ford Super Duty with a flatbed trailer in tow – just as promised.  Now when this guy gets out, I’m thinking, “Just look at him, we are, absolutely related.”  I think we look mighty similar (Kamille says it’s the “cop thing,” but what does she know about how I look?) and there is no problem considering us cousins in my book.

Gary took a look at the situation and he didn’t figure I’d broken a spring so he pulled out his tools and we proceeded to (after multiple attempts and several hours) jack up the trailer and put the spare from the Cabin in place of the one that was, well, not there.  The tire was a different size and looked somewhat sickly on the trailer, but it held.  What I didn’t like was the way it leaned in towards the trailer.  Because I was still nervous, Gary agreed to put the trailer on the flatbed and run it back to town for us.  We got everything lined up and I went to back it up the ramps when, BAM, the trailer was too wide to fit onto Gary’s flatbed.  Well, the three of us finally decided to baby the trailer and tire and haul it back to Amarillo for further care in the morning.

Event started at 11:30 am and we finally pulled into Amarillo at 8 pm.  The high temperature where we were was 124 degrees.

At any rate, Gary said his mother was intending for us to all eat dinner together at a place called Coyote Bluff (a rather well known burger dive in Amarillo) so he went home to shower, change, and collect his wife.  Janet met us at the RV park as we returned to town and she drove us to dinner.  When we all got together, Janet shared some family heirlooms (including a cookbook my mother had given her mother) and we had some great conversation.  I left that meal feeling like I’d just spent time with family – oh, wait….

(picture, left to right: Rena, Gary, Janet, me, Paul, Brenda, and Kamille)

When we got a chance to relax that night, Kamille and I determined it would be appropriate, no matter what happened with the trailer the next day, to take another night in Amarillo and enjoy.  Just a few minutes after we had made the determination, I received a text from Gary saying that if we were staying another night, we were expected for dinner at his house.  SCORE!

That day we took the trailer to Discount Tire and had new, heavier duty, tires and rims mounted on it.  The tire didn’t bow in as badly, and they seemed to hold the trailer close to how it was meant to be.  Things were looking up!

When we got back, we went swimming and Gary stopped by while on duty.  The day was awesome!  Janet stopped by and picked us up, again, to take us to Gary’s place for dinner where he had his grill fired, beer iced, and conversation ready.  We kept it going until about 10:30 pm when he suddenly realized what time it was and that he had to go to work the next day, so we called it a night.

I’m looking forward to visiting again when there is less stress.

A good night’s sleep and the morning saw us making another run for the border.  Will we make it?

Posted in Adventure, Community, Radio Ramblings Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Family

Because it matters in the grand scheme of the telling of the cross continental move, I need to fill in some blanks about my family.  The picture shows the entirety of my family (back: son Tyler, Mom Wilma – just don’t ever call her that – middle: me, wife Kamille, Dad George – front: son Paul, daughter Mikayla) until just a few days ago.

As a matter of fact, it would be nice if somebody were to fill in some blanks for me regarding my family.

I am 47 years old and I was a mistake.  By all accounts I shouldn’t be here.  I was born when my father was 42 and my mother was 40; my brothers were 14 and 6.  I am a complete generation younger than all the other members of “my generation.”  My surviving brother (now 60ish years old) knows his cousins and spent time with them while they were growing up in Los Angeles.  He is conversant with our aunts and uncles, and he knew his grandparents.

I grew up in the mountains of Siskiyou County California and briefly met one or two of my cousins (who are 15-20 years older than me) when we went south to visit.  I’ve met my aunts and uncles, but only really got to know my Aunt Kay who had married my Uncle Jim (Dad’s older brother), but Uncle Jim had died when I was about 4 years old.  I can still remember how kind he was to me and when he invited the family to a farm he had bought outside of LA, in the mountains (it was the first time in my life I’d seen stars in the sky).  Jim and Kay had no children, and after Uncle Jim’s passing, Aunt Kay would ride the train up to our farm and visit every year.  I met Grandmother Dibelka (although I don’t remember much about her besides living in the William Penn Hotel and her cactus that bit me every time I visited).  I have some fun memories of Grandma Hart, but she died before I was 10.  I never met either grandfather.

My surviving brother has been a part of my life in bits and pieces as he sees fit, and my other brother died when I was 27 years old.  Although, from the age of 10, I was essentially an only child because my siblings were adults and not around.

I left California and lived in NY, where I have no family, and got real used to being alone except for my spouse and my children.

Imagine my surprise when several years ago I received an email out of the blue from a man claiming to be related to me (but he isn’t a Dibelka, I know I’m related to anybody in this country with that name).  I quickly turfed him off to Mom because she is a genealogist who cares about these things (I couldn’t care any less, because I am used to not having family) and she actually knows things and people.  To make things better, he claimed to be a child from the line of my Uncle Jim – remember, I said he had no children.  To make matters even more exciting, I was a Rochester, NY, cop at the time, and he is an Amarillo, TX, cop.

Well, Mom informed me that Uncle Jim had been married and divorced before Aunt Kay and he had children from that marriage.  SURPRISE!  I, again, allowed that relationship to languish because I’ve never known my cousins and they’ve never shown any interest in me.  Besides, they were in TX and I was in NY, what were the chances we’d actually ever meet?

Now, fast forward several years and I am moving my family from NY to CA.  Of course the shortest route between Rochester, NY and Hammond Ranch, CA is via Baltimore, MD (Kamille’s family), Staunton, VA (a very close friend of mine), and Asheboro, NC (Kamille’s best friend and a person I swear she loves more than me).  Since we were right off I-40 in NC, we considered the problems we had with the mountains on the way down (see my earlier entry) and decided to take I-40 across the nation to avoid several mountain ranges.

As you’ve heard, we stopped in Amarillo, TX so we could relax and continue to recover from heat sickness.  I shared this with Mom who then reached out to my “family” in Amarillo so we could meet up.  I don’t believe my mother understands my hesitancy to bond with family because she’s always had one, while I grew up meeting adults who had to like me and be kind (for the most part) simply because I carried a particular last name – no thanks.  To make matters worse, I was under the impression that the man who reached out to me was an estranged son of Uncle Jim and his mother was Uncle Jim’s ex-wife (I really don’t understand age differences in my family because everybody is so much older than me).  Combine this understanding with the fact that my own divorce cost me my kids (temporarily) and continues to be a burr in my side, despite having remarried, and I was much less than excited by the prospect.  I even replied to the address that I thought was this long lost male, cousin, cop and said that I would rather make first contact through him than through his mother (again, who I understood to be the ex-wife of my uncle).

Well, it turns out that the email address was for his mother, so I stepped in a big pile there, and, she responded to my email.  Of course, I didn’t read the email until we were on our way out of town, but I figured I’d better call and offer my apologies, as well as do the nice small talk that is shared among family.  In that phone call, I was floored.  It turns out that Janet is my cousin and is the daughter of Uncle Jim.  Huh.  Her son, Gary, is my age and is a sergeant with the Amarillo PD.

After a lengthy chat, I was honestly regretting not making the time to actually sit and visit.  Compounded by the fact that the RV park where we had stayed was almost exactly one block from Janet’s house and I was cursing my shyness when it comes to family.

However, and this is a big one, God had another plan for me.  Janet (whose married name is Nabors) says she had something to do with the change in my plans because she is the oldest living Nabors woman and, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nabors.”

Needless to say, my plans changed in a big way and family connections were made.  It’s a great story, for another time.

Posted in Community, Spirituality Tagged with: , , , ,

Underneath the Amarillo Sky

I am so sorry that I have not given y’all an update since Little Rock, AR.  Staying at the WalMart and not being able to find my sleeveless shirt really put me off my game.

As always, there is more to the story, so sit a spell and I’ll share.

We left Little Rock and were doing our regular ham radio yammering back and forth when suddenly another, familiar voice joins us on the air.  Much to my surprise, one of my Masonic brothers with whom I chat on Sunday nights (via ham radio) had been watching us on APRS, saw we were in the area, and called out to give us a welcome to Arkansas.  Had I known he was so close, I would have reached out the night before and had a much more enjoyable evening than eating turkey sandwiches in a WalMart parking lot.  It may have been brief, but it was a delightful QSO with Kelly (KA5MGL) and I’m looking forward to sharing my further adventures with him on Sunday night.  If any of you are Masons and want to know about the Masonic net, let me know.

The ride across Arkansas was delightful.  In the words of my daughter-in-law, “Ten out of ten, would do it again.”  What beautiful countryside and friendly people.  We have made plans to return on a future trip and make some stops so we can experience more of the state.

Then came Oklahoma.  Here’s where the fun began.  Note that I said began, not happened.  We are on the back side of the fun now, and it has yet to finish.

We pulled into Oklahoma and stopped at the welcome center to get pictures of Rupert, Brenda, and Penguin (nope, this is still not the post in which I will talk much about them, but here is a shot of Rupert defying “the Man.”) and learn a little about the state through which we were about to travel.  While inside the center, Paul started to become a little edgy and was being unusually quiet.  We figured it was travel fatigue and it being hot.  Well, it seems we were half right.

Driving into Oklahoma City found us needing to make a fuel stop, so into the Pilot Travel Center we go.  When we get inside, we discover that Paul is feverish, hot, dry, and feeling light headed, as well as wanting to throw up.  Even though we were traveling in air conditioned vehicles, his lack of fluid intake had allowed him to enter heat exhaustion.  We sat at the truck stop for an hour and a half while we gave him cool liquids and used cool, wet compresses on his forehead and neck.  Cooling him down was not very easy and the usually level headed me ended up calling my cousin (an emergency room trauma surgeon) to make certain I was doing things right.  At any rate, we were able to avert panic and I pulled out some extra equipment so I could run the air conditioner in the Cabin without having to tie up at a campground for the night – yes, I really am that cheap.

So we drove on to Sayre, OK.  As we were getting close, in the area of Clinton, OK, Paul announces he needs to pee – a good sign because of how dehydrated he had been, but a bad sign because we are fairly close to where we want to be and he needs to go, NOW.  Kamille and Paul pulled off the road to a Shell station and I kept on going so I would be ready when they joined me (have the champagne on ice, air fresheners hung in the Cabin, wallet ready for Denny’s, etc.).  Along the way, I saw that another driver was on the same frequency as me, so we chatted for a while while we traveled opposite directions.  I digress, let’s get back to Kamille: they pulled into the Shell and Paul announced he wasn’t going to make it, so he jumped out and peed on Kamille’s tires because, “It’s coming now, and I can’t hold it!”  When all is said and done, they hop back into Kamille’s truck, she turns the key, puts it in drive, starts to move, and the sound of vomiting reverberates from the back seat as Paul proceeds to empty the red Gatorade from his stomach onto her upholstery.

Yeah, so, they drive to meet me at the Flying J in Sayre so I can toss his stuff in the laundry and get stuff cleaned up.

While they were off having fun, I was working.  I was setting up the power inverter (converts 12 volts DC, car battery, to 110 volts AC, house power) and although I never tested it, I figured 2 kilowatts would be enough to run the Cabin air conditioning (remember what I said about being cheap).  After some fun cargo gymnastics and arguing with a sick kid who doesn’t feel like doing anything to help get himself clean and listing to Kamille sputter to herself as she cleaned her car, we were finally set up and went to Denny’s for a late dinner.

Unfortunately, the food was largely tasteless and due to a miscommunication, I ordered something upon which I wasn’t completely sold because I was to share with Kamille, who wasn’t interested.

By this time, it was now close to 10 pm and we made it back out to the Cabin, turned on the air conditioning and got ready for bed.  Keep in mind, we are working to lower the child’s body temperature and keep close track of him.  It was bliss feeling that cool air blow across us, and Kamille was feeling sleepy (I think she would prefer to sleep in a restaurant walk-in cooler).  All was well when the night was punctuated by silence, then a sharp, high pitched squeal from the inverter as its power source was drained.  Multiple batteries, designed for this type of work, and – done.  We slept with the windows open and blessedly the rain came.

Following that night of adventure and excitement (and none of us sleeping wonderfully well), we decided to drive the two hours to Amarillo, TX in the morning and spend the day luxuriating at an RV park where we could run our air conditioning, take showers, and relax.  For those who have never been there, Amarillo is a pretty cool place.  We did the obligatory meal at the Big Texan Steak Ranch (featured by Adam Richmond on “Man vs Food”), and had some pretty great burgers at Coyote Bluff Cafe (they take only cash or checks).  Beware there is construction on I-40 running right through the middle of it all (and some businesses have addresses on I-40), but the city seems well laid out and easy to navigate.

Heck, we even got to spend time with family, but that’s a story for another post.

Posted in Adventure, Community, Radio Ramblings

I Think I’m on a Roll, Here in Little Rock

I may not be an alcoholic, but there is something about shopping in a Little Rock, AR WalMart that make you think of Collin Raye’s 1994 Hit Single.

At any rate, travel was interesting as we finished out TN and started across AR.

It seems Kamille’s watch (smart watch bluetoothed to her phone) didn’t bother to change time zones, so while I’m anxiously pacing to get started before the heat of the day set in she was slumping around with plenty of time to burn.  Finally, at 10 am, she decided it was time to call Rite Aid about filling two scripts we forgot to fill before we left.  No problem filling the script, but it would be an hour.  OK, so now it’s 11 am and we still haven’t set out for our 8 hours of drive time today.

I decided to inspect the Cabin prior to travel and notice that the tires have a strange wear pattern that is grinding away the shoulders of the tread, so I check the air pressure and discover that all four tires are a uniform 35 psi.  Unfortunately, the specs for the equipment, supplied by the manufacturer, indicate that all four tires are supposed to be 50 psi.  We grab the portable air compressor from Phasma, hook it up, turn it on, and the pressure remains 35 psi.  This is how we discovered that the compressor has a top pressure of 35.

11:30 am and we finally get the prescriptions, so we head out from Lebanon, TN towards I-40 and west.

That’s when I hear Kamille call me on the radio and ask, “Did you reconnect the electrical from the Cabin to Vader?”  Uh, no.  I had disconnected the electrical so the lights, water pump, etc. wouldn’t drain the truck batteries, but had forgotten to reconnect them.  What does this mean?  No brakes on the Cabin and no turn signals/brake lights for the other drivers.  Find a place to pull off the road and get everything hooked back up.

On the road again.

While driving, we yammer back and forth on the ham radio to keep ourselves awake and to coordinate things such as fuel and personal relief stops.  Penguin announces to me that he needs a personal break, so we coordinate a stop at a Pilot Flying J Travel Center.  As we pull in, Kamille discovers that there are no pumps available AND no place for her to stop and wait for pumps.  I, on the other hand, had pulled around back to the truck lanes (Vader is a diesel and so I tend to go to the truck lanes as there are rarely any RV lanes available) where there was ample pump availability.  I stop, pump fuel, put air in the tires, take Penguin to the men’s room, get something to drink and a hot dog.  Kamille had done something completely different; she had pulled back onto I-40 and continued west.  She called me on the radio.  She called in analog.  She called in digital.  She called on the phone.  I had left my phone and the radios in Vader while we were inside the store.  We had looked for her before we bought drinks, so we knew she wasn’t there and we called her on the radio – no answer.  I pick up my phone to look for local radio repeaters so I can set one up in my radio and send a message to Kamille to let her know to what frequency I was listening, when she called me on that same phone and boy was she angry.

I was lectured about not carrying a radio or my phone.

During the same time we were relaxing and refreshing, Kamille had traveled another 30 miles.

At any rate, we finally catch up and find our way into Arkansas across the Mississippi River and stop at the state Welcome Center for photos of Rupert, Brenda, and Penguin (topics of another blog post) and that’s when we realize that we started out so late as to not be able to make a full 8 hours of drive time before it was too late to eat and get settled for the night.  Instead of aiming for the AR/OK border, we settle on Little Rock as our destination for the night and about 30 miles east of the place, Kamille informs me she running out of gas.  Her needle was, quite literally, pointing at E (which does not mean “enough”) so we drop our speed in an effort to conserve fuel and begin counting down the miles.  With 15 miles left, she announces that she’s pulling off to use some of our contingency fuel (each of us carries an extra 5 gallons of fuel in the bed of our trucks) and as she pulls off the interstate, the temperature warning light for her transmission comes on.

What the what?

We put in 2 gallons of gas and I check her transmission fluid.  Low.  We let the transmission cool and get ready to go.

On to the Pilot Travel Center at exit 161 where we both fuel, then on to exit 156 so we can stop at the WalMart to park for the night and get some transmission fluid.  I went in to get the fluid and discovered that I was one of the few men with sleeves on my T-shirt.

Tomorrow, I go sleeveless!

Posted in Adventure, Radio Ramblings Tagged with: , , , ,

Where Are They Now?

Our first day of westward travel seems to have gone of largely without a hitch.  Of course, we did go back over the Appalachian Mountains, but we were ready this time and Phasma did an admirable job with them.  We have re-routed to avoid any huge grades in the days to come (which means hotter temps, but if it means less wear on the vehicles, ok).

Today was Asheboro, NC (where Kamille disappeared for two days, to not be seen nor heard from) to Lebanon, TN.

Click here if you are interested in seeing where we are at any given time, and if you’re a ham operator, feel free to send me an APRS message (AB2LI-9) and let me know what local repeater you’ve echolinked into and we can chat.

Posted in Uncategorized

Pics, or It Didn’t Happen….

WISH I had pictures to back up the yarn I’m about to spin.  There are some, but they are on Kamille’s camera and she has run off somewhere into the North Carolina night.

We are moving.

I lived in New York (state) longer than I lived in my native California (the real northern part – you know, 5.5 hours north of San Francisco).  30 years ago, I found myself in New York and, circumstances what they were, I stayed.  Many things happened during that time: women came and went, children came and stayed, a career blossomed into retirement, I was shot, earned a couple of college degrees, and I learned a lot about living.

My wife (who defies classification as anything other than a word I can’t pronounce, let alone spell, meaning she’s from Baltimore, MD), my five year old son, and I are leaving New York for good and returning to my roots in South Siskiyou County, California.

This move is not easy.  It wasn’t easy for either of us to say good-bye to our congregations.  It wasn’t easy for me to help my older children (23 & 20) understand that I am not abandoning them and they will always have me as their personal encyclopedia and they will always have a safety net (I’m honestly not certain that I did help them understand any of that).  It wasn’t easy for me to leave behind what has become my “real” life to pick up in a place that remembers me as a teenage hellion.

We left New York on Monday, May 12, 2017 and headed towards Woodbine, MD so we would have a place to park our travel trailer and to sleep, while we took a few days to visit Kamille’s family in Maryland.  It is a six hour drive from Byron, NY (where we had been living) to Woodbine, MD.  We left at 10am and intended to arrive at 4pm, get the trailer dropped off and head over to visit her family.  Yeah, that didn’t happen.

One of the really cool things about hauling your house behind you when you travel is the ability to stop wherever/whenever you like for personal relief.  One of the really horrible things about hauling your house behind you when you travel is that most houses don’t move all over the place, so your belongings stay where they are set.  We got about halfway to our destination on the first day of travel and pulled into a random Lowe’s Building Supply for a “break.”  I hopped out of my truck (lovingly called Vader), unlocked the door on the travel trailer (lovingly called the Cabin), and the most exquisite smell wafted out the open door; I love the smell of Frank’s Red Hot and it took me a moment to recognize that my house should not smell like Frank’s Red Hot.  That’s when I saw it: a new, 20 oz bottle of Red Hot had jostled loose and broken off the cap, covering the floor of the cabin in a rusty orange, tangy smelling mess.  The boy really had to go and so I lifted him over as much of the puddle as I could (before there was another puddle) and Kamille grabbed some towels.  I learned a very important lesson: Red Hot stains linoleum.

It would have been nice if that was the end of the silliness that day.

Apparently, Kamille’s Honda Ridgeline (lovingly called Phasma) doesn’t like hauling a trailer and dealing with the mountains in Pennsylvania was slow going.  We managed to arrive at the Ramblin’ Pines Campground at 8pm, only to discover that I had paid my bills without ensuring that I left money in the account to settle our balance at the campground upon our arrival.  The young lady at the desk was super cool (I wish I had gotten her name) and allowed us to check in on the deposit I had made, with a promise to pay the balance in the morning as soon as I was able to transfer funds at the bank.  We followed a crotchety old man in a golf cart to our site and he tried to help Kamille (who is hopeless at backing trailers) back a 12 foot cargo trailer onto the site before I put the travel trailer on the site.  About 20 minutes later, the trailer still wasn’t on the site and Kamille yells at me (like I had done something wrong) to just get in and back her truck.  That’s when we discover that the warning lamp for an overheated transmission had come on.

“Um, how long has this been on?”

“It just came on.  Yeah, it only just came on.  I think.”

At any rate, we got the two trailers in place and leveled and the utilities hooked up and grabbed the stuff we needed and we headed to her folks’ place.  Fun and frivolity followed, until we decided it was time (well after our normal bedtime) to return to the campground.  Well after 11pm we arrive and find the gate down.  The gate was down.  The gate did not raise as we arrived.  Nobody answered the buzzer when we pushed it, an annoying number of times.  There was a card reader at the gate and a note saying that after 8pm you had to use your card to enter.  What card?  I had been given no card.  I even tried the siren trick and played a recording of a police siren to see if the gate was activated by an emergency vehicle – nope.  We found an out of the way place on the entrance road, about 20 feet from the gate, parked Phasma and walked to the Cabin.

I woke on the morning of Tuesday, May 13, to start moving money in my bank account when Kamille calmly reaches into her closet and pulled out a portrait of Benjamin Franklin.  Apparently it never occurred to her that the $100 could have been useful the evening before, you know, when we were checking in and short of funds?  Whatever.  We settled the balance, paid the $40 deposit on the gate card, and brought Phasma into the campground.

Blessedly nothing more went awry that day, leaving us to enjoy a wonderful visit with family and a tearful good-bye that night.

Wednesday and Thursday were fairly quiet as well, seeing us travel to Sherando Lake National Recreation Area in Virginia, and have lunch with a dear friend, Katherine Kurtz, before spending an afternoon swimming in the lake.

Then came Friday.

Friday, May 16, 2017, dawned as uneventfully as any other, normal day.  We connected up the trailers, checked that everything was stowed, put the fish in the bathtub (in case the water sloshed out, it would run down the drain), and headed to North Carolina.

That’s when things started to go down hill.

Literally.

For those who are unaware, there is a minor obstacle between western VA and eastern NC called the Appalachian Mountains.  Phasma was running like a champ, until we were on about mile 30, or so, of the downhill run.  Kamille and I had been in constant communication via ham radio and she said,”I think my brakes are burning.”  I look in the mirror and, sure enough, there is a beautiful shade of blue/grey smoke billowing out from around her front tires.  Oh, please, God, don’t let the pads melt and remove any further chance of slowing down prior to a tree or falling off the side of the road.

We make it down safe and now we are headed to our reserved, 45 foot, double-wide campsite at Badin Lake National Recreation Area.  We get lost only once due to a poorly marked road, hidden between trees so the GPS didn’t help, and head to the campground.  Wait, the road is dirt?  OK, bring it on!  Vader is tough and the Cabin needs to be able to deal with dirt roads where we’re going.  Six miles of dirt road later, we get to the campground and there’s the campsite: wide enough to take the Cabin, but if I expected to be able to put Vader on the site with the cabin (let alone Phasma and her trailer) then I should also expect to see a singing and dancing frog.  There is no way the site was 35 feet, let alone 45, and double wide – not a chance.

Did I mention this is Father’s Day weekend?  A rather busy time in the RV lifestyle.

So, we drive back out over the same six miles of dirt road and head back to Asheboro, NC, frantically calling campgrounds along the way.  Fortunately, Zoolandia Family Campground had a site available (even if they did chuckle when they learned I’m from Weed, CA) and we found our way there.  Just as we start to level and set the Cabin, the rain starts.  Not a light drizzle, mind you, but a real gully washer.  Leveling and setting takes about 15 minutes; so did that particular rain storm (the only rain storm all day, mind you).  So, now the Cabin is ready to go.  I open the door and…

discover that somewhere on the bouncy dirt roads, a bottle of soy sauce got loose and hit the floor, breaking off the cap….

Posted in Adventure, Community

Welcomed?

I am an ordained minster.  Although I am ordained in two Christian denominations, I do not hold dual standing.  That means that the two parts of the one holy and apostolic church do not recognize each other as being what they might recognize as Christian.

That is the first problem.

This writing has little to do with the differences within the Christian church and a opining about who is “right,” who is “wrong,” and who is trying to get it “right.”  Rather, this writing has to do with something regularly heard at the opening of worship in many congregations within the United Church of Christ when the pastor (or lay leader) says, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”  As an ordained minister within the United Church of Christ, I cannot say those words until they are true.  Instead, I open my worship services with some direction when I say, “People of God, welcome home!  Please turn to your neighbor, say, ‘Hi!’ and let the people know you’re glad they are here!”

I became motivated to share my thoughts on the welcoming portion of the church after reading a blog by a well respected colleague, Rev. Lawrence Richardson who reflected upon what the term “welcoming” means to the progressive Christian church.  He shared at length about how we can approach the LGBTQi community and others who are marginalized, such as racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups in an effort to be servants to them and thereby include them in community, rather than demand that they come to us and conform to our standards.  He closes his essay with a very important question, “To whom do you truly open your doors and your hearts? Through whom will you invite God to continue the sacred work of transformation in community?”  This question gains its importance not by what is asked, but by the context in which it is asked: I do not feel welcome by my church because of the context in which they surround themselves.  I am acceptable to the church because I am “tolerant” (even though I abhor the word, as it gives the understanding that I simply “put up with” those who are different than me), divorced, remarried, I have a gay brother, and a transgender son.  All of this puts me on the plus side, but wait until you hear my negatives.  I am shunned by the church because I am white, male, and (horror of all horrors) a retired cop.  I am covered by the blanket that is thrown when we seek to point out the mistreatment of a marginalized population.  In 20 years of policing, it was never acceptable to charge “those people,” rather, it was incumbent that we charge an individual and hold him/her/they responsible for his/her/their actions.

Imagine walking into a welcoming church and being asked how many African-American men you killed over the course of 20 years policing (none).  Imagine walking into a church and being greeted with the comment, “You don’t seem racist.” (um, thanks, I think?)  Imagine being an ordained minister, at a gathering of other non-judgmental Christian minsters and being told how another pastor in the area is happy that several families (related to police officers) left the congregation in the wake of the Ferguson incident because of the preaching of the pastor and blanket anti-police commentary of their church.  That pastor stated he was pleased because the pastor knows “they’re all corrupt anyway.” (way to walk like Christ)

Nobody related to the church has ever asked me how I or my family (divorced) were impacted by the day I was a white cop, shot in the neck by a black man as he attempted to murder me simply because I was a police officer.

How’s that for welcoming?  This is the church in which I serve.  A church where I am judged everyday for being a cop, worse, being a white cop.

Judgment seems to be the way of the church, but it is not the job of the church.

When I struggled through the years long ordination process (a process that was hampered by my skin color, man parts, sexual orientation, and profession), I started to ask the question, “Am I really welcome here?”  I’ve come to the answer that I am not welcome and the church would be happier if I was not one of their representatives, but I jumped through all their hoops and have stuck to my original message of wanting to be like Jesus and meeting people where they are, rather than expect them to come to where I am.

Which brings us back to Rev. Richardson’s essay: to be the church we preach, it is time to stop labeling, it is time to stop prejudice, it is time to stop assuming that everybody wants to go to a church building and worship as though we find ourselves in an episode of “Leave it to Beaver,” or “Father Knows Best.”  There will always be differences between people, but continuously pointing out the differences does little to close the gap – rather, it builds further distrust and perpetuates prejudice.  Instead, let’s open our arms in welcome and accept people, all people, and continuously work together to be Christ in the world, breaking bread together and raising our children together.  This will go so much further to help my child understand that we love as Christ loves, than will telling my child that his father is a (fill in whatever prejudiced blanks you wish) simply because I was a cop.

So, in the words of Rev. Richardson, “To whom do you truly open your doors and your hearts? Through whom will you invite God to continue the sacred work of transformation in community?”

May the peace of Christ find those who proclaim his word, and dispel the anger/hatred from their hearts.

Posted in Spirituality

Good-bye to my congregation

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I bring you greetings in peace and love.

Over the past several weeks, we have journeyed together through a difficult period in the story of our Lord, Jesus: he has had to say good-bye to the apostles, to the very people who love and support him.  He has shaken their lives to the very roots and has shared a new way to look at God, a new way to live in relationship, and a new way to worship.  It is my prayer that I have emulated even the least portion of the life of Christ, that I might have provided you a more in depth manner of understanding God (to the extent that we might be able to understand the unknowable), that we have learned new ways to celebrate our life together, and that our worship has become something unbound, individual, and alive in each of our hearts, even while gathered as a congregation.

It has also come time for me to say good-bye to you, my treasured friends and family.  My last Sunday with you will be June 11, 2017.

Certainly, this is a shock, and I encourage us to weep together as we bring this part of our lives to an end.

The welcome I received in May of 2015 is something I never expected.  While Epiphany is not the first congregation I have served, you are the first congregation that I served in a capacity other than supply preaching or short-term interim.  I was accustomed to entering a church and being faced with some skepticism, some manipulation, and some excitement, but when I arrived at Epiphany I experienced something completely different: from the outright acceptance of my position as a police lieutenant, as well as my transgender son, to the supporting love that was extended to my wife and young son, to the outpouring of support that was given to my daughter after her apartment burned to ashes.  All of this has made hearing God’s new call a difficult task.  While I was called to serve the people of Epiphany, I have now received a new call that will take me across the nation and settle me into a new adventure.

It has come to pass that I am to be a caregiver for my parents and I will be leaving settled ministry for the time being.  Before making this decision, I had considered many possibilities, but I have heard in my heart the call to honor my mother and father.

Together we have accomplished extraordinary things!  The social life of Epiphany has blossomed in ways nobody could have imagined.  We have become more educated as a congregation regarding the reasons behind what we do, what it means to be in covenant with the United Church of Christ, and how to reveal God in our life to those around us.  While Epiphany is still a congregation drawn from diverse neighborhoods, its roots are digging into the soil of Clarence and Epiphany is establishing itself as one of the churches in our amazingly vital neighborhood.

I ask that you not write me off or forget me, but that we might walk these next few, short weeks together and remember the good, forgive the bad, and plan to keep the momentum going.

Epiphany United Church of Christ is alive!  Epiphany United Church of Christ is vibrant!  Epiphany United Church of Christ is ready to acknowledge the past, embrace the present, and plan for the future!  Do not let feelings of hopelessness, or unhealthy attachment to sentiment get in the way of continuing to move this congregation forward.  Care for the youth who are of confirmation age and teach them their responsibilities to the church.  Continue to examine what Christian worship means to the congregation and build or affirm a Sunday morning service that allows the heart of the individual to be in covenant/communion with God, while building a stronger congregational body wherein the very real presence of the Holy Ghost might be felt by any who enter the doors.  Make the name of Epiphany known in North Towns and throughout eastern Erie County.  Do not forget the words that I shared while I was with you that have brought the presence of the Lord, God, Almighty into your hearts and have moved you to greater love while living in Christ.

The Apostle Paul ushered in the universal church as we know it.  It was his departure from the individual church at Ephesus (modern day Selcuk, Turkey), wherein the congregation mourned the end of Paul’s tenure with them because they would not see him again.  There was sadness, and love, and loss, and they walked with Paul to the ship that would take him away, and, ultimately, the congregation continued on to become stronger because they had faith in what they had been taught, in what they knew, and in their own abilities.  Believe me, beloved, just as Paul’s departure from Ephesus was simply a change in seasons, so too is my departure from Epiphany.  I have done what I can while I am with you, and long to be with you again when we are with our Creator in Heaven.  The carrying of this church into the future, through the love of God, is now in your hands.

May mercy, grace, and peace be yours now and until the end of days, my Brothers and Sisters.

Posted in Uncategorized

Where are we going, America?

When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beer-sheba. Yet his sons did not follow in his ways, but turned aside after gain; they took bribes and perverted justice.  Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” – 1 Samuel 8:1-9 (NRSV)

We are in the throes of an extremely contentious election cycle in both some local races, as well as the big national campaign.  In some cases, I’ve noticed that family members are turning upon each other based on tightly held political beliefs.  The denominational bodies of churches are lining up on various sides of issues and within various camps, as are other notable bodies of influence, and yet we still can’t seem to work our republican democracy into something of which we can be proud.

This is nothing new.  Consider our passage from the Old Testament with which I opened these thoughts.  We have a government that has become more about serving those in power as they turn aside after getting what they want, they accept bribes, and “justice” is not necessarily just, so the people complain and they ask for something new.  Granted, the prophet is not excited about the prospect of the people asking for something new, but God does something truly noteworthy: God tells the prophet to give the people what they want (an unexpectedly democratic move), BUT the people should be warned about those who would rule over them and have their motives, personalities, and practices exposed to the people so the people know for certain what they are getting.

While on my summer travels this year, I saw the headline published by Kyle Smith in the New York Post: campaign-sign“Americans are about to get the first landslide president we don’t want.” (August 20, 2016)  As soon as I saw it, I had to ask myself how we, as a nation, got to this place and time in history and then it dawned on me: we demanded something new because we don’t know how to fix what is wrong, and we didn’t pay attention to the prophets who exposed the “ways of the [leader] who would rule over them.”  Americans were entranced by jingoisms (a word I learned in grade school American History and again in high school Civics, but seems to have no meaning to those under 40), and fiery rhetoric based only upon demographic stereotypes and having little to do with actual facts.

We have been given four candidates for president, only two receive any media coverage (known in the industry as “spin”), and so, for the first time in decades, the nation is becoming extremely polarized on the political spectrum.

What this means for those of us who claim the title Christian (and who actually want to live as Christians) is that we must listen to the words of the prophet Samuel from about 3,000 years ago: learn about the people who we would put in place as our leader, discover if they actually support and live by what they say.  Once you find somebody who appears to live by the ideals s/he espouses, then cast your vote – don’t be like the Israelites of Samuel’s time and simply demand a leader who makes them feel good, while delivering the status quo in fancy wrapping.

Pay attention to the wisdom given us by God and vote.  Vote for the person who most closely reflects your conscience, your personality, your desires for life.  Don’t allow yourself to be pushed into voting for somebody you cannot support in your heart because you’ve been told you are wasting your vote when you favor somebody different.  Remember what Thomas Jefferson said, “We in America do not have government by the majority.  We have government by the majority of those who participate.”  If you are willing to stand-by and let others make the decisions, then also remember the words of 1 Samuel 8:18 “and in that day you will cry out because of your [leader], whom you have chosen for yourselves.” (NRSV)

May we all enjoy the wisdom of God and pay attention to the warnings and signs around us.

Posted in Spirituality Tagged with: , , , , ,

Your response is your choice

When actions like the recent terror attack in Orlando happen, we begin to fracture a bit: both as individuals and as a nation.  We divide because we become afraid; afraid of the “other,” the “outsider,” the one who is “different.”  This division shows both in choice of targets, as well as the reaction to those who would carry out such a base, evil activity.

It is so easy to give in to our base instincts, to be the Jonah who ran the other way when the Lord laid a conviction upon his heart.  It is so easy to blame the victim once again: Well, if he/she/they did/didn’t this or that….  But we know deep down, no matter what your religious conviction is, that God gave life and Jesus reserved judgment to God; it is not up to us to determine who is damned for all time and to carry out a death sentence.  Which sin is greater: to live in a way that another person finds abhorrent (generally outlined in the Bible) or to pass judgment on another person (specifically outlined in the Bible)?rainbow cross

Come together, find a faith community, pray for peace.  In no way does asking for peace undermine your commitment to God, but it affirms your love of your neighbor.
Don’t give in to hate – LOVE WINS!

Posted in Community, Spirituality