Sunday, February 24, 2013

Going West

After spending nearly a week in Florida, including about 3 days worth with Petr's boss, we finally made it out of the state, although just leaving took a day or two, due to loading complications, and electrical work on the trailer.

The truck doesn't have air conditioning, so, on account of the warm temperatures outside, the temperature inside the cab climbed up to about 93 degrees Fahrenheit during the day on Thursday and Friday. At night it was still warm enough that, up in my sleeping loft, with all the windows open a little, I went without anything over me, and was still warm enough I switched to a thin polyester athletic t-shirt instead of the cotton t-shirt I was going to wear. I've also not been wearing socks the last few days, going barefooted inside, and just wearing my shoes without socks when necessary. I tried going barefoot while at the beach, and it worked well enough (including around the parking lot), that I decided it wouldn't be a problem. At a rest area where we stopped one night I dumped a bunch of nickels and dimes and a few quarters I had in my pocket in an ice cream vending machine - something I'd only formerly seen in southern California.

The next day it rained, and when it rains around here, it rains as much in a few hours as it does at home in a month. evidenced by the high capacity cement lined drainage ditches and earthen "reservoirs" (as much as 10 feet deep, usually with an outlet somewhere, but obviously contoured for holding water). Daytime visibility was in the quarter to half mile range, and you could almost see better with the windshield wipers off than on. Oh, and the formerly dry ditches along the highway were suddenly running 6 or more inches deep.

The way the scheduling and log book worked out, we ended up crossing through southern Mississippi and Alabama and into Louisiana during the night, and were mostly out of Louisiana before I woke up in the morning. This unfortunately meant that 1) I was unable to make up for not taking any good pictures on the way over, and 2) I was not able to get at all acquainted with the local culture or landscape of Louisiana, that most mystical and intriguing of all states.. Ok, so I did eat at a local restaurant, but that hardly counts for much.

I'll definitely have to come back again some day...

Entering Mobile, Alabama from the east means driving across the Mobile Bay, on a bridge probably 3-4 miles long, before dropping into a tunnel, probably a quarter mile long, with a 6-7% grade or more on entering and exiting.

Crossing from Alabama into Mississippi (Misipi, if you prefer), one is suddenly met with an utter explosion in roadside billboards - by which I'm meaning, a couple dozen in a mile? Something like...

This side of Texas has a lot of trees
(as does most of the south). Around here it appears that they get maybe 5x the rain that the Pendleton area does in a year. Texas is an interesting place. Of course, to say "Texas is.." from what I've seen so far would be like someone visiting Coos Bay, Oregon, and speaking of the rest of the state from that experience.

One of the most noticeable features of Texas is the speed limits. In Oregon, a state highway is, virtually by definition, 55 miles per hour. No one sticks to that speed, but nonetheless, that is what is posted. Here, even two lane roads are marked as high as 75. And, being southerners, they drive like crazy too.. (we got passed on the left by a fuel truck in a 2 lane road entering town, but before he had an opportunity to move to the right, a pickup tried to cut between us and pass the other truck on the right).

After all the time spent in Florida, I was going to say that it's the most friendly state I've been in so far - as judging by how likely people are to return or show a smile, say hi, etc. Perhaps it's just the limits of my exposure elsewhere, but it seems people are generally more comfortable with strangers than elsewhere. However, my rather limited exposures in Louisiana quickly threw it a bit higher on the list. Today, here in Texas, I was met by a "Hey, how're ya doin'?" as soon as I walked into a service station looking for a restroom, by the attendant who had a customer. Then, as I walked out, not having made a purchase, I was bid farewell with a "Appreciate it!"

From my limited experienced it seems that the further away from large population centers, or the further south east you get, the friendlier people are.

Today we went to a Mexican restaurant, staffed almost exclusively by people who, from appearances, probably spoke hardly a word of spanish (lets just call them American), and virtually void of customers. The walls were of the '70's plywood laminate variety made to look like solid wood paneling, and I don't recall seeing any (or at least much) exactly hispanic decorations. The staff almost acted as though 1) they weren't used to seeing people in their restaurant, and 2) they weren't used to seeing, or hearing, people from elsewhere. A girl, who wasn't our waiter, came up and was asking us where we were from, and about Petr's accent, and then trying to act as though she knew something about Russia (which she didn't). The monochromatic plate of beans, rice, and tortillas I received wasn't too bad, but it wasn't the best I've ever had either. After finally figuring out our order and providing the food, our waiter, probably about my age, came by about every 5 minutes, asking, "Everything Ok?", as if on a script, running at double speed due to total boredom.

Here in Woodsworth, Texas, population 2500, is the smallest Walmart supercenter (food, clothing, pharmacy, auto..), I've ever seen. Also, this is the first time I've ever walked completely around the inside of a store looking for the restroom before discovering it in somewhere I'd already checked, near where I started.

One could get the idea that there is not a whole lot of money or traffic running through this place..

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Battle Within..

"Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave thy courts above.
Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above..."

I've always had a bit of a wandering heart. I've always known that my greatest threats were from within, not from without. And it's not just that this is my greatest threat, it carries with it a virtually undefeatable force..

And yet this spiritual wandering, apathy, craving for the unclean, is not all powerful within. There is something else - an internal Masada, an undefeatable, undestroyable fortress, an anchor, that provides the only true constant in my life. A desire to be not only clean and pure, not simply to be useful and productive, but to be a definition of life long, total, all out service to Christ. Unlike the historic Masada, no rampart can be built to the fortress, and the defenders are immortal, not given to acts of mass suicide.

At times this outnumbered force has the support of the indigenous population, and the occupying forces of impurity are pushed back. But indigenous populations are very fickle when it comes to determining which nation they prefer to rule over them, and, inevitably the support switches, and gained territory is lost.

One force is undefeatable by immortality, the other by size, existing familiarity with the indigenous peoples, and presence generally. And so the battle rages on, in deadlock, in back and forth fighting, in face-offs.. and will continue on indefinitely until the indigenous population chooses to fully support with one side or the other. The occupiers have an advantage by default; the outnumbered, by persistence.

The occupying army promises that, if given dominance, life for the locals would be one of ease, of happiness, enjoyment of all there is to enjoy, it paints a very enchanting picture..

Yet the harsh opposition between the two forces leaves a bitter taste, making enjoyment impossible. The minority force clearly has the advantage when it comes to influencing moral..

"The pleasures of earth,
I have seen fade away.
They bloom for a season,
But soon they, decay.

"But pleasures more lasting
In Jesus are given:
Salvation on earth,
And a mansion in heaven.."

The immortal force paints no such bright, enchanting allure, but rather promises the people that life under their control would be one filled with much hard work, pain, privation. And yet, through this, a sweetness and satisfaction will be gained, like nothing else in the world. Further, with sufficient work, it is promised, these Holy lands may be built up to a excellence and greatness not to be rivaled, past, present, or future, and not achievable by any other means.

Work. Effort. Such a dreadful thought. Why strive for something if not necessary?

Oh, but the back and forth conflict is killing the inhabitants, and destroying the land. The war must be ended. The occupying army simply cannot win - and anything short of total victory would only be temporary - which means the only route to victory of any sort is through hard work. And lots of it. Ties must be broken, works of art destroyed, long favored generals and political leaders must be assassinated and opposed, stagnant swamps drained, desert lands irrigated, new institutions constructed, the local population must learn a new language, new customs, a new culture must be established..

"Allure me no longer
Ye false glowing charms;
The Savior invites me,
I go to His arms.

"At the banquet of mercy
I year there is room.
Oh, there may I feast,
with His children at home..."

Oh, it is hard work. Truly it is the work of a life time. Yet this work is of necessity. The young men are being killed, the land laid waste.. this must be put to a stop.

Men and women, young and old, rally to the banner!
Stand, fight, by pen and vote, by word and deed, by thought and action, for freedom, justice, liberty, for true happiness.. Fight, that the work of a lifetime may be accomplished, that the hard labors which reap eternal rewards may be taken on. Rebuke the occupying force! Stand against them! Turn not a blind eye to the false pleasures laying waste to the land! Ignore no longer the inevitable destruction! Turn a deaf ear to the false charms, which you well know result in only greater pain and suffering.

Fight, that God's army may be given control. That the King of all the universe, the all knowing, all powerful, immortal, perfect God, may reign over you. A God who cannot be defeated, but cannot have victory unless you, the citizens of the land, swear to Him your unwavering allegiance!

Think not that happiness can be gained by siding with the easy majority. Think not that peace can be experienced by assaulting the undefeatable fortress. Yes, the voices can be ignored till the words are no longer heard, but the presence will remain, eternal.. The greater army is weaker, and yet it is your decision, not the strength of either side, which will sway the battle!

Yield not! Stand Firm! Strive on!

"Fear thou not;
for I am with thee:
be not dismayed;
for I am thy God:
I will strengthen thee;
yea, I will help thee;
yea, I will uphold thee
with the right hand
of my righteousness."
(Isaiah 41:10)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Florida, Beach, Culture..

Going to the beach, in the middle of February, I have the wonderful opportunity of attempting to track down a public restroom. In all I probably end up walking 2 miles. First of all, there's not much on the beach. Then, the two parallel streets closest the the beach are all made up of beach houses. No luck there. Commercial establishments, certainly quite used to the request, have no mercy for the "public", and, have no facilities available. Eventually I track down a grocery store, three blocks in from the beach, which has a public restroom (behind a "Employee's Only" sign). It's about the smallest facility I've ever seen. The mirror, not over the sink but on the door, is at about chin height (for me... lower for most people). Fortunately, I was not extremely desperate. It was, however, an interesting experience.

Had I known what I was doing, I could have walked to the official restroom/food kiosk area, about 3/4 of a mile up the beach (in the opposite direction I had headed). Ok, so such things do exist...

This is the only time I can remember feeling particularly warm in short pants and a short sleeve athletic (inorganic material) shirt, in the middle of winter. Having taken off my socks, my shoes are rubbing. After making it back to the beach, I take them off, leaving them off for the rest of the afternoon. I've not gone barefoot this long for probably over a decade. Maybe it's not all that bad. Maybe I could even run barefooted..

The beach sand is very fine, smooth.. The water's not particularly cold, although I can't stay in more than half an hour. Having been persuaded to at least try swimming, I do the only stroke I'm any good at, which amounts to swimming mostly under water. The ocean is far less salty than Salt Lake, which is great. Nonetheless, my eyes are not used to the salinity, and I'm almost worried that my "expensive" sunglasses left on top of my towel could be stolen, so I walk out.

My Russian hosts are great. The food is great. As the guest by circumstances, and considering their grace towards my dietary preferences, I'm compelled to employ my "eat without tasting" technique a couple times. I'm getting to be good at it. Not that the food is bad, but between my dietary preferences, and the foods my taste buds disagree with (two separate things entirely), there is very little to eat in many places. (Take out meat and onions, and what do you get?). For the most part it's quite excellent.

While I did drink it all, and a big glass at that (which I pored), non-alcoholic malt beverage, well, is probably not something I would personally buy..

Being surrounded by people speaking a language I don't understand (except for a few English words here and there which somehow make their way into the conversation) is a different experience. In a way, it distances me from my hosts, putting me in more of a "fly-on-the-wall" position. They can talk around, and even about me (quite good-naturedly, in this case), without worrying about my overhearing it, and essentially they carry on their lives as though I did not exist. Not that I'm ignored, or even not spoken to, but most conversation is beyond me. Some might find this intimidating, irritating, annoying, whatever. I personally enjoy it. Watching people behave in their most natural state.. It's almost like being an invisible observer of an ecosystem - where being visible would result in disturbance, in a response to your presence, inaccurate observations.. certainly my presence isn't without effect, but at least there is an illusion of distance.

Not that there are no advantages to knowing what is being said...

Sometimes I'm "afraid" to say anything, in English, not that I couldn't be understood, but because I don't want to break some invisible bubble between me and them. Some of me wants to interact, but more is content simply observing..

Late night discussions of religion and politics, over tea, sitting in the living room, on after dark walks.. It seems that Russians are more comfortable with sharp disagreement than a lot of Americans (although in this case most of the discussion is in agreement). Will the world end in our lifetime? Is America going the same way as Russia? These people are well aware of the atrocities committed by their former homeland, and of the socioeconomic difficulties there. I wish I were more able to understand, present, explain, and defend my own thoughts on the topic...

Apparently someone had been practicing for a sand sculpture competition.

Petr, posing with the mermaid

Others taking pictures of the same..

Southern Hospitality

The Russian people I've had the opportunity to meet (using the term broadly here) are kind, generous, friendly people.

After traveling by truck for over a week and 3000 miles, riding in a car (especially how they drive here in Florida), feels practically like flying. I'm not used to accelerating this fast. Everything's so quiet. No vibrations. Smooth ride. I've never been much of one for city driving, but honestly, this shift in transportation has me on the edge of fright.

I'm terrible at remembering names, or I'd insert one here. The guy who picked us up speaks excellent English, with very little accent. He says it's because he lived in New York City for 4 years illegally, and learned English well so the cops wouldn't be able to spot him as easily.

We go to a friend's house, where a Ping-Pong table is set up. I play for a little bit, against the host (?), then the two brothers start playing against each other. Both are great players. Soon it turns into an alternating three way match, what appears to be a father and his two middle aged sons. As most of the exchange, between players and observers, is in Russian, I'm left with only observation. I love an observational roll, however, so it's fine.

The thought comes to me that if I watch long enough I should be able to learn how to count. Unfortunately, the Slavic language group is so dissimilar from the Latin/Germanic languages I've been surrounded by all my life, that I have nowhere to start, and I don't quite know the game well enough, and am not paying close enough attention, to be able to keep my own score.

The game is intense. I can't really tell who is winning but it seems to be a close match. The father, very serious, determined, never breaking a smile, conservative in motion, yet moving with skill and precision. The "sons", thoroughly enjoying themselves, "dancing" around at the other end of the table, taking chances, clearly knowing what they are doing, and confident of their abilities..

This is the first time I've ever been completely surrounded by people who, whether or not they speak English (as a majority do), generally prefer not to. Even Petr, my "tour guide", mostly engages in the good-natured banter, or, sitting on the other side of the patio from myself, watches quietly. He's not good at the game either.

Somehow the language barrier doesn't seem intimidating at all. So much of communication is separate from the words used - vocal inflections, facial expressions, posture.. Honestly, I've felt more distant around people of my own language group, who I already know.

"Would you like some water, or orange juice?"
"Sure, water's fine. Thanks."

After a while we go to the house where we'll be staying. This is the house of Michael, Petr's boss. It was his family who I met earlier.

My own presence here is nearly accidental. For the fact that these people would willingly take me in for the short time I'm in the area, I can only be grateful.

Being a person who often prefers speaking more through body language and subtle cues than actual words, when surrounded by people of a foreign country, I'm much in the same position as the local toddler. Young children, full of wonder and curiosity for the world, have an unlimited capacity for staring. I, for better or worse, have not entirely lost this ability myself. As such, when a young child looks at me, unabashed, curious, unrelenting, I have no problem returning the gaze. Their curiosity is primarily directed to wondering who I am. I, on the other hand, want to know what they are thinking. Some children are shy, and quickly look away. Some seem frightened by this unexpected return of interest.. Almost never do I meet a child who seems unsurprised by the returning gaze. Sometimes I find a particularly friendly one.

The local toddler, I know not whether he is absolutely terrified, or overwhelmed by curiosity. Perhaps it is a mix of both. At any rate, whenever eye contact is made, whether he be laughing or crying, his response is to freeze, giving an unrelenting blank stare. When the gaze is broken, he seems to return to his last thought. Or is he crying more because of me? Or, is he crying because he lost my interest? Or... ?

As the next couple days wear on, I working to not terrify him by my apparently mesmerizing gaze, and work to more consistently smile warmly, rather than play with different emotional expressions. Eventually he seems to warm up and begins returning the smile. Now it's clear that his interest is primarily curiosity.

Trip Photos Up to Date

So, to those who, knowing I take my camera everywhere, and am capable of taking half decent pictures, were expecting a well documented photo-journal of my trip, I apologize.. I've not felt like taking infinite numbers of pictures, so I simply haven't. That and going from two lenses to one, and not having the one lens I would find most useful (I think).

But, I'll share what I have here.

West central Montana

Windshield wiper fluid was frozen, and the spray from the road was greasy, but we had to live with it.

Wind swept road

Notice the truck is upside down, and the load is undisturbed.

Minnesota ice houses

We were a day behind a big snow storm

This was in Iowa. Didn't see any freezing rain, but apparently he did.

Georgia. Yeah, a bit of a skip. Why the forklift was tied to the tree, I don't know.

The dreamliner.

North Carolina

Just north of the Florida border.

There was a motorcycle accident. I saw a guy on a stretcher, and no fewer than a dozen people, more than half a dozen vehicles at the scene.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Generosity and Gratitude

I often find myself on the receiving end of the generosity of others: my first computer was free, my favorite camera lens I've been allowed to use for free, right now I'm about my 6th day into a two week cross country road trip, which will cost me less than the cost of living alone, recently I was offered a cellphone upgrade at a quite unbeatable deal, most everything I would need is provided to me by others..

Thinking of all this, I am reminded of statements such as "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Matthew 7:11). Or, "...Through the things of nature, and the deepest and tenderest earthly ties that human hearts can know, He has sought to reveal Himself to us. Yet these but imperfectly represent His love. ..." (Steps to Christ, 10.3).

As a recipient it can at times be difficult to appreciate what is really gained (by the receiver), or lost/given up (by the giver) in the non-necessary transaction. It's easy to undervalue generosity, and not appreciate the sacrifice of others. When appreciated, even limitedly, however, it can be quite an inspiration to return the kindness, and pass the same onto others.

It's interesting.. By definition, generosity is altruistic. Disinterested benevolence was a term used once. And yet, as a recipient, any responsible human will feel a necessity to somehow even the score - even if paying it forward instead of paying back. The absence of wanting to even the score somehow is the root of entitlement. At any rate, no functional relationship on any level can exist where one person does all the giving, and another does all the receiving.

If you don't believe it, think about loaning money to a friend who ends up unable to pay you back. Even if no hard feelings are harbored against him whatsoever, the receiver will start feeling uncomfortable in the presence of the giver. He will feel guilty at his inability to pay back the loan. Unless the score can be settled somehow - forgiving the loan, or some form of repayment, the two will begin to drift apart. Adding a servant/master element puts a strain on a friendship. If the receiver, on the other hand, is indifferent to his inability to pay back the loan, it will seem as though he is just there to take advantage of the giver.

So here's where the interesting part comes in. How does it work to have a relationship with God? This is where it is easy for us to err. See, with God it works the same way. He sent His son to die for us, to give us something we could never earn on our own, and which we could never repay. But just like the phone a friend is giving me, even though the cost would be more than I could reasonably afford otherwise, and even though a financial return would hardly mean a thing, I still have a duty to be grateful, and, also, to pass on the same sort of spirit to others through my actions. If I do not do these things, I am bordering on an entitlement mentality.

Are we really thankful for the gift God has given us? Do we have the slightest clue how much we have gained, or how much He paid? Do we really return thanks? Do we pass it on?

In John 14, Jesus twice says that those who love Him should keep his commandments. This is not a burden imposed on us, but rather a direction on how to release that stored up love and gratitude that should exist as a result of our gratefulness, which comes as a result of realizing what God has truly done for us.
In John 13:34, 35, Jesus gives the following directive:  "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."

If you truly are thankful to someone, is there anything which is too much to do in expressing that thankfulness? Why do we seem to always be looking for corners to cut? Why does duty seem like such a difficulty? Maybe it's because we don't truly understand what God has done for us - we don't really understand what we have gained, and what he lost.. Perhaps we should spend more time contemplating the sacrifice of God on our behalf.

There are times when I go to write something up, and get to my conclusion and think, "wow, where did that come from?" This is one of those times. Really, I write for my own benefit, and if anyone gets anything of value out of it, that's an extra. I have definitely benefited from writing this piece already...

Thank you all for taking the time to read this, may God be with you. Remember Luke 7:37-50 and Matthew 18:23-35.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Travel Log: Headed South

We are traveling fast enough, and I write slow enough, that just trying to write a summary of each state we've gone through has been difficult to keep up on.

In three days, I've gone from the north eastern Oregon semi-desert, warm and dry when I left, to the north Idaho mountains, eastern Montana hills, to North Dakota/Minnesota, with day temperatures of 20 degrees with a 20 mile per hour wind, to the Arkansas low mountains (beautiful), rain, to now (at the time of writing, not at the time of posting, but who cares?) in the Memphis, Tennessee area, about, maybe, 50 degrees, damp, and the greenest I've seen for months. Being further south east than anyone in my immediate family already, I'm for the first time finding myself in a place where white Caucasians are not the majority. Not that I mind..

By Sunday I was further east than I've ever been, for the first time in my life (believe it or not..) more than one timezone off from the place where I was born.

Montana is mountainous on the west, and hilly on the east side. Somewhat cold, a little snow (not more than a foot anywhere). People are spread out.. it's nice. Best place, in my opinion, but of course best is always subjective, is between Billings and Bozeman.

North Dakota is a little flatter, and colder, and windy. Although we traveled most of it in the dark, and were away from most of the mining areas, there was still a little of that "boom town" feel to it. Or maybe I just imagined it. Anyway, it was interesting.

In North Dakota, it was about 15-20 degrees outside, with a 15-30 mile per hour wind (this continued through most of Minnesota). There was a snow storm up ahead, so the road was closed, and we stopped for the night. During the night, with the engine running for a heater, I woke up about 3 times thinking we were driving. But no.. it was just the wind rocking the truck back and forth...

The next morning headed into Minnesota we saw over half a dozen vehicles in the ditch, including a truck which had been rolled completely upside down underneath it's trailer. The trailer was still upright, and the car on the trail was still in place. Later on in Minnesota we even saw a snowmobile stuck in the ditch (the distinctive mark of Minnesota is that snowmobile tracks follow the highway, and it seems you're as likely to see one at a gas station as a car.) From the looks of it, there was between 1 and 2 feet of snow in most of Minnesota. I guess the locals call it Manysnowta for a reason. Of course, this is the drifting variety, so in the ditches, as evidenced by the cars (mostly semi trucks and SUV's actually) off the road, it was closer to 3 feet deep.

Minnesota is an interesting state. It seems that speeding is seen as largely unnecessary. We once passed a convoy of 6 pickups, 5 dualies and one lighter truck, with gas tanks (of the 50 gallon variety) and 5th wheel hitches in the back (I've not seen many flatbeds - the defining mark of a work pickup in the eastern North West. Maybe they just aren't on the roads so much). I'd love to come back some time and get better acquainted with the culture. Where I come from, within 6 hours from home you can go from desert to rain forest, from hills to mountains, to plateau. Areas of dense population, and areas of absolute desolation and uninhabitability. (Ok, the cows do fine, but houses are few and far between). Out here, the only thing that you get from driving 6 hours is 6 hours further from home. How much does this change a person's philosophy on life? How much of an effect does geography have on culture?

Some of the new things I have seen so far include a horse drawn buggy waiting at a crossing at the highway, snowmobiles Everywhere, ice fishing houses (close to a dozen on what to me looked like a large pond), frozen rivers (not until mid Iowa did we see flowing water).. in Dakota we saw an oil well at which they were burning off natural gas. I don't think I've ever seen such large piles of snow everywhere, nor so many snow plows (and tractors outfitted as snow plows..).. water towers in this flat region of the world

Iowa is uninspiring - just a warmer southern Minnesota. I wonder if an uninspiring landscape makes people nicer or less nice? At any rate, the truck stop personnel seemed fairly friendly (on a relative measure). One thing I found interesting was the "cowboy culture" items for sale. Coming from a town with a 100 year rodeo, proud of being "The Real West", I have difficulty seeing anything east of Wyoming as being west at all. (Sorry, Texas, you're back east. :D). Anyway, it's interesting.

Missouri is the state between Arkansas and Iowa. That pretty much sums it up. (Well... we'll say it does for now..)

By the time you get to Arkansas, the plains have transitioned to hilly forests, and later the afore mentioned beautiful 1500 foot altitude high mountain passes. Didn't have much interactions with locals (being in a truck does cut down on that a tad..), but those I did have ranged from friendly to.. interesting. I guess the norwestern culture is enough different from that of the western south east that interactions may not have perfect interfacing. But it's on a very subtle level. I haven't figured it out yet. (Maybe I'm just too shy and it throws people off..). Maybe I'm over estimating the situation, and it has more to do with me than with the cultural difference.

Arkansas is pretty rocky, but since then (currently in Alabama, on course for Birmingham) it seems mud is the rule of the land. Muddy rivers, muddy river banks (duh..), muddy road shoulders, muddy fields (enough standing water..). It must be beautiful here in the summer. I guess they do pay for it, though. Mississippi river is big. And muddy. Huh. Maybe we should call it the "Big Muddy". I saw a tug boat pushing 8 barges. On the Columbia they usually push 2 or maybe 4. No other major river activity. Maybe that's further south, or seasonal.

Southerners seem to be somewhat proud of their hick image, at least, as evidenced by the items sold at truck stops, and from what I've picked up elsewhere before. Maybe it's only certain demographics, I don't know. Which I find find interesting. I guess it's common for one culture to take as a badge of honor that title which another culture placed on them with distain. Perhaps if this was more commonplace (vs. taking insult), there would be less fighting between different groups? Or maybe not.. Something interesting to think about, at least. Basically, a refusal to take insult.

So, having now finally found good internet from which to post this, I'm in Birmingham, Alabama. You may get to here more about this

Sunday, February 10, 2013


I'm sitting on the top bunk of a dark red 1999 Freightliner FTD. We're moving. It's 6 o'clock Sunday morning. Actually, 7 local time. I'm somewhere near the eastern extremes of the Montanan Rocky Mountains. What am I doing here? I wonder that myself...

Sitting here reminds me of the adage in the cruise ship industry, "Those who pay the most, sway the most". Well, no one ever said riding in a truck was perfectly smooth, but when you're already 10 feet off the ground the effect is definitely increased.

It'll take a little bit to get used to sleeping here. I suppose I won't sleep much while in motion, nor would I need to, but something about having a freezer running constantly just a couple feet away... Well, it's not all that loud - it's as cold outside as inside the reefer, so the refrigeration unit isn't working too hard - but a combination of new surroundings, excitement, a new bed, noise, light, and being warmer than I'm used to at night (inside, not outside the truck)..

Travel company is great. Of all the people I'd put up with being stuck in a 8x8x8 foot box with for an extended period of time, I think he's near the top. Which is saying something. I guess we did become acquainted for a reason. Petr is an early 30 year old Ukrainian immigrant, moved here when he was about 21. He's been a truck driver for most of that time. Well read (in English, as well as Russian), he considers himself more fit for academia than what he's doing, (not that truck driving is hard, rather not challenging enough), but never having gone to college, he's somewhat limited in that regard. Sometimes he has difficulty expressing the concepts in his mind in English.

So far conversation has touched on topics such as how we don't seem to remember able to remember anything (like, um, what we talked about?), photography, travel, life purpose, finding meaning in life, the adventures of men such as Thor Heyerdahl, Christopher McCandless, or Ché Guevara, how the endlessly theoretical has no more practical value than the practical world most people live in, music, social interactions, (he's worse than I am with most people, it would seem, although not worse than I was a year ago), being productive and responsible, crazy people in society, homicidal impulses, weather in Ukraine vs. Spokane, vs. Pendleton, temperature immunity (being able to adapt to whatever weather you happen to find yourself in), and the problems with universalism and a lack of religion in society.

Well, now we're stopped. Apparently he thought the truck stop was a better place to sleep than the rest area, and with a scale up ahead. With all the driving done yesterday, he needs to sit for a couple hours to catch up his logbook. May as well sleep, eh?

So one benefit already from this trip - I've decided that for my upcoming bike trip I'll have to come up with a list of definite goals for the trip. Yes, Elwyn, you heard that correctly. Sometimes it takes more than one person to convince someone of a specified course of action.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Three Years to Live..

"If you knew you had only three years to live, what would you do with your life?"

On impulse, I bought a book titled "Power Questions", but Andrew Stobel. The thought is that through reading the book, I can become inspired to ask the sorts of questions that lead to more meaningful conversations. Towards the end of the book, I met the above question (in slightly different words).. It gets me thinking....

I've decide that I will start asking people this question. First up, the two friends with whom I am currently in dialog. After hearing out their answers, I offer to share my own thoughts, which they are of course dying to hear.

What is interesting is that when I think about this question, I'm in a way starting to live it already in my head. I almost feel that if I were to find out that my fate were to be that short of a life, I'd be ready to take it right now (not necessarily ready in efficiency, but ready, as in, I wouldn't have to struggle to accept it), and I find the challenge almost exciting. The unlived live is not worth worrying about, and I'd let God be in control, so why worry? It would really make life much simpler. All my thoughts for the future would be taken care of..
Perhaps I'd become more frantic towards the end, but at the beginning, at least, I have no fear.

Here's a refined version of what I ended up writing, as my answer to the question.

Since I'm already only thinking about 2-3 years out with life generally right now, it makes it easier. I'd start out by just going ahead with the plans I have. I'd prepare for and take my bike trip, ending up in Florida, where I would go through the School of the Prophets training program run by JR Cofer..

Then after that, I'd see no need for going to college, so I'd be freed of that decision, and it makes no sense to get married if you're only going to live for 3 years, so I wouldn't pursue that. However, since I'd have nothing to loose, and it could be encouraging to someone else, I would allow the girl on my mind to know exactly what I thought about her, and why..

I'd have to spend lots of time with my family, for sure...

Ideally, I would then spend the rest of my life traveling around, introducing people to the God I love, and because of whom, dying before the age of 23 was not a problem. I'd keep up a blog, and a journal.. I'd provide materials such that someone would have an easier time writing a book if they wanted to. I'd certainly become more bold about everything - social interaction, potentially dangerous people and situations - because, well, I won't die earlier, and I have limited opportunities, so, hey, lets go for it! I'd probably spend the last of it in the Walla Walla area, unless I found some place that really appealed to me to stay there..

The question that comes to mind is, why not live like this already? Specifically in regards to singleness of focus, boldness, and not worrying about everything. If I could just put my life in God's hands right now, certainly he could use me just as effectively as if I knew I had only 3 years to live. Why can't I trust Him as fully to manage my life, which may indeed last for 4, 5, 6, 7, even 8 more decades, as I could to manage 3 years? Why is it that I can give Him the remnant happily, but feel much more reluctant to give Him the majority of the stock? Why is it that only the risk of dying could spur me to be focused and efficient? (whether or not this is the exact case, it's a good place to start analysis..)

Interestingly, this topic, of not living a long life full of endless possibilities, is not new to me. I've actually wondered why it seems I think about it so often. Not obsessively, by any means, but from time to time, every now and then.. I've thought about it enough to realize that, in dying young, some have had their greatest witness for truth. I want my life to be a witness, but to have my death be a greater witness to others? Thinking about it, I find to be both frightening and captivating. But in the past frightening was the greater of the two. Today however, the idea didn't even really bother me.

Then there was the thought, not as a last reluctant hope, but simply a thought.. If I were to know I had only 3 years to live, and then dedicated my life fully and completely to God in that time, maybe He would see fit to do as he has with many a personal vehicle or other item which had given it's owner troubles, until given to God to take care of, after which it worked without a hitch for decades. God can do amazing things, you know? Fear of circumstances is so out of place in dealing with Him..

Then there's the thought.. Perhaps this question will have the power to completely change the way I see the world around me, and interact with it on a daily basis..

So, something new, and I don't care if you're reading this 10 years after I first posted it. I'd like to hear what you would do if you had only 3 years left to live. Please post in a comment, in as much or little detail as you would like. Do so anonymously if you prefer. Or, if that is still too much to share publicly, contact me through my profile. And even if you don't do that.. At least think about it.

If you could compress all your life goals, dreams, and aspirations into the next three years, what would you do? What is keeping you from doing it now?