Saturday, August 29, 2009

AAAHH...Alaska: Home, At Home, and Buying a Home!

So sorry for the lag in time since our last post, but the Fort Richardson Black Spruce Campground lacks wireless internet service. The nerve! At any rate, much has happened in the little more than a week now that we have been here.
Above, the children at home with the Scott family. The top picture denoting the result of dress-up with Aubrie, now a school teacher but former baby-sitter for the girls during our last stint in AK. At least Kavan wasn't wearing a dress! The very bottom picture is the kids making cookies with the Scott's other daughter, Megan. Picture number #2 shows my "chops," of which the family is glad they are now gone as I have officially signed in for duty at Fort Rich. And of much interest is picture #4, which shows our "new home," at least we're hoping so as we have a contract and now await a VA appraisal and the other minutia of detail involved in purchasing a home. More to come on the house but upon closing we will move our camper to our new front yard and continue to live in it while we begin some much needed renovations!
Blessings to all and thanks for your continued prayers as we continue to transition to Alaska and Army life once again!
The Lee Family

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Welcome Back...Almost There!

Welcome Back! Those were the words that the customs agent said to me as he handed back our passports crossing the border into Alaska. That could easily be the phrase of the day although I'll get to that shortly. From Haines Junction this morning we trekked the nearly 300 bumpy but beautiful miles to Tok, Alaska. Note the fourth picture of Kluane Lake, the largest body of water in the Yukon spanning some 150+ square miles of surface area. It truly is massive and amazingly beautiful. Although the kids paused occasionally to enjoy the joy and a couple of moose, they were appropriately engaged in the 3-D version (noted above with their spectacles on) of The Polar Express. The top two pictures were obviously taken at the border. The second however, is unique in that it is the international boundary marker. In essence, I stood with one foot in the Yukon and one in Alaska.
We entered Alaska at 1400 hours local time. Alas, our last time zone change, and we are now four hours behind the East coast. From the border the road increasingly got better although there were still a number of frost heaves left over. For those that have driven in the North, you know what I'm talking about. For those of you that do not heaves occur when the road settles due to the perma frost. At any rate, it makes for a bumpy ride. The two unlucky passengers in the back of the Burb look like bobble heads when we go through the heaves.
We arrived at Tok in ample time set up camp and make a run to the local grocery. In celebratory fashion on the occasion of our arrival in the motherland, we had grilled steak and chicken tonight. Lori will be embarrassed as I share that we had instant mashed potatoes but nonetheless, they went well with superbly grilled steaks on our first night in Alaska!
We are staying at the Sourdough Campground. A rather nostalgic place along the ALCAN noted for its nightly ritual of pancake tossing. The object is to toss the leftover morning pancakes into a bucket. Each contestant gets two pancakes/chances and upon successfully hitting the target, the lucky thrower gets free breakfast. Of all people, our non-breakfast lover, Tara, completed the feat in one toss. We told her she at least had to try a pancake tomorrow morning. The rest of us will pay to watch her eat her free breakfast I suppose. At any rate, this has been a fun campground to stay in. We enjoyed fellowship with two other contestants from Florida, traveling in their retired years. On a side note, I've determined that one must have gray hair in order to own a full size RV. If you don't believe me, just notice the hair color of the driver the next time you spot an RV.
Well, tomorrow our ALCAN journey will come to an end and a new journey will begin. We are slated to look at houses all day Thursday. We do appreciate your prayers as we will soon be faced with decisions concerning where we will live. The blog will continue although possibly not as intensely regular as it has the last two weeks. In any case, thanks again for those of you that have followed us along the way and have lifted us in prayer as well. Blessings to all, more to come from Eagle River/Fort Richardson!
Brad, Lori, Tara, Shayna, Marissa, Kavan, & Reba too!
Phrase of the Day: "Get in Mommy and I drive you to Alaska." (Kavan speaking to his mother shortly after his picture above was taken as she attempted to remove him from behind the wheel. This photo was taken in Beaver Creek, Yukon, 20 miles from the border in Buckshot Betty's parking lot.)

Good Morning from Haines Junction and the Kluane Range

Good morning from our stop here at Haines Junction where the temperature is currently 37 degrees. Above are a couple of shots overlooking our "residence" with the Kluane (pronounced kloo-WA-nee) mountain range in the background. And yes, those white patches in the upper valleys are snow. The long white strip along the top of the mountain is a cloud patch. Although there are prettier mountains, this is a pretty cool sight to wake up to.

Well, the morning bustle hasn't quite begun yet, although Marissa is up enjoying the raspberries that we picked yesterday. Lori and I are moving slow as we stayed up too late looking at houses online as we anticipate our soon arrival in the motherland. We are currently three hours behind most of our family. Upon our entrance into Alaska, we will once again "gain" another hour making the time differential of four hours between us and the East coast. Thanks again for your continued prayers as this has truly been a great trip so far. More to come with our next planned stop in Tok, Alaska, which will put us 328 miles from our final destination. Blessings to all.
The Lee Clan

Monday, August 17, 2009

At Home in Watson Lake

How do I describe our stay in Watson Lake? For starters, our arrival there was the usual. The kids ran off on their bikes, Mom sets up in the camper, but Kavan and I went for a drive "downtown. Mind you, Watson Lake boasts a population of 1,563. Watson Lake is also home to the famous "Sign-Post Forest," interestingly started by a U.S. Soldier, Carl Lindley, from Danville, IL, during construction of the ALCAN. He posted a sign noting the distance from Watson Lake to Danville and thus began the practice of posting various signs, particularly license plates, all through a forest of sorts made of wooden posts that host the more than 65,000 signs. Noted above is the sign that we posted (NC: CH LEE) on our way to Alaska back in 2002. Marissa is frowning because I had offered a loonie to the first child who could locate my old license plate when we visited again on Sunday afternoon. At any rate, Kavan and I stopped by the visitor's center for a few minutes. The host there was beyond informative. I inquired about fishing and she drew me maps to at least four different places and even offered to allow to dig for worms in the compost pile in her back yard. She also invited me and the kids to pick raspberries from her garden as well, more on that in a bit. Meanwhile, back at the camper all is well. We opt to eat "downtown." I do not recommend Tags Restaurant and will not waste time explaining why. Our return to the camper was met by a celebration of sorts as today is actually the Yukon holiday known as "Discovery Day," noted for when gold was first discovered in the Yukon. There seemed to be several locals staying at our campground and at first, we thought they were actually shooting firearms into the air. Thankfully, the thunderous booms were merely fireworks mixed with old Hank Jr. hits as well.
Sunday morning, 0700 hours, Albert Creek. The lady at the info center had directed me to this spot. Minus a handful of cars that passed in nearly an hour the spot was quiet and serene. No fish however, just a beaver that let me know--by slapping his tail--that he was not happy with my presence. Heading back toward the camper I stop at Ratina Lake, stocked with Rainbow trout. A pair of loons, one of which is noted in the picture above, seemed to welcome me, unlike my beaver friend, as I began my quest to land a fish in the Yukon. In short, no fish but sheer pleasure in the serenity of the moments spent there. The best however, was yet to come.
0920, back at the camper, shower, dress, everyone ready. We arrive at the Evangelical Free Church, a mission church in downtown, at 0955. The church is a true log church which had been moved from another location many years before. It reminded me of the one-room schoolhouse on Little House on the Prairie, except with real chairs with arms. We were warmly welcomed and chuckled as there seemed to be no more than four chairs to a row/pew. I've often mused about the family that went to my church growing up. I don't recall how many kids they had, five or six maybe, but we referred to them as the "fill-a-pew family." I now muse that we are the fill-a-pew family. In this case however, we filled a pew and a half. The service was meaningful and enjoyable. Before the sermon the lady seated behind us and with the other half of the family invited the kids to join her in the basement for children's church. I was impressed that a church with no more than 20 or so people would even be prepared to provide ministry to children. At the conclusion of the service the pastor invited everyone to stay for coffee and something to eat. We were especially hooked when he announced that someone had brought Tim Horton's donuts. Tim Horton's is to Canada what Dunkin Donuts is to the U.S. Into the small basement we crammed with nearly everyone. We joined the lady that taught our kids and her husband. In usual fashion it was hard for me to shut up long enough to eat, but the fellowship there among these wonderful Christian people was especially sweet. Near the conclusion of lunch, the lady and husband, John and Naomi Hall, invited us to their home for the afternoon. The Hall's are retired educator's and continue to serve as missionaries both in the Yukon as well as Latin America. The Scripture tells us that sometimes by entertaining strangers we have been with angels. I'm not sure that it works the other way but it felt like the angels were entertaining us. John and Naomi opened their hearts and home to us in a way that made me want to stay much longer than a day. John took Tara, Shayna, and myself out fishing on Watson Lake, where their beautiful home resides. Note picture above. We didn't catch anything then either but the sheer joy of being out on the water in the clean air, well, you just have to experience that for yourself. Meanwhile back at the house, Lori, Marissa, and Kavan, were entertained by Naomi. Our stay with the Hall's was special to be sure (Note the picture with John and Naomi above in front of their beautiful home), and we hope to see them again soon. Thanks again John and Naomi, and blessings to you in your ministry.
Back at the camper, the party crowd has gone leaving their wood to be scavenged so that we enjoy a campfire, our first along the trip by the way particularly as British Columbia had a burn ban in effect. Mommy and I sit by the fire reflecting on the day and the reality that we are barely a 1,000 miles from our soon to be new home.
Monday morning, 0630, the alarm rings. Snooze button. 0638, again. Snooze button. 0646, again. Rain drops on roof. Alarm turned off. Offspring enter bed at 0715. For some reason, I feel free today not to engage in my bustling routine. We only have three days of driving left. Haines Junction will be there just the same whether at 7:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. Besides, the lady at the welcome center had invited us to pick raspberries. We finally leave the campground at 0930, and though Mom is not at all excited about the venture she offers no rebuttle or even warning not to get dirty. Rain drops are falling. The temperature is barely above 50 degrees. But in the backyard, near the walking trail bordering the lake, is a raspberry patch with berries beckoning to be picked. I seem to be more concerned with the rain than the kids as they begin to plunder the hordes of ripe and oh so sweet berries. I have a bowl for all of us to place our harvest in. However, it seems that I'm the one doing the harvesting and the kids are doing the sampling seeming to ensure that each berry is suitable for human consumption. What a joy. Picking raspberries in the rain. Eating as many as we pick. Mom waits for us in the Burb, as if she knows to be waiting for each child to help dry them off and get dry clothes. But no one seems to complain. We chuckle at the absurdity of what we have just done the taste of sweet raspberries in our mouths, as I try to pick the seeds out of my teeth with my tongue. Life is a Highway plays as we pull out of the driveway. And once again, we are blessed beyond measure.
Tonight we're in Haines Junction, which is still in the Yukon, but we are barely 200 miles from the promised land of Alaska. Tomorrow some pictures of the beautiful mountain range seemingly just beyond the parking lot of our campsite. Blessings to all and goodnight.
The Lee Family
Phrase of the day: "Oh my word, that is a big booger!" (Mommy responding to the shrieks from the back of the Burb as she turned to witness Kavan attempting to share his own Yukon gold digging expedition with his sisters.)

Where the Water is always warm...Liard Hot Springs

From Summit Lake we ventured on our shortest drive of the trip, 241 miles on our way to Watson Lake, Yukon. Along the way, and certainly a highlight of our trip, we stopped at the Liard Hot Springs. I'm inept at the moment to offer scientific explanation but the springs are a natural hot spring with temperatures ranging from 108 to 126 degrees within the pool. The hottest point of the pool--the 126 degrees or so--is where the water bubbles into the pool. The water cools somewhat as it begins to flow downstream where temperatures are more tolerable, especially for the kids. Lori and I ventured to the initial point and "touched the rocks" where the water is hottest, a feat which now distinguishes us among other ALCAN travelers. I understand that and two loonies will get us a cup of coffee at any stop along the way. At any rate, our experience as a family in the hot springs was beyond delightful and made the trip worth the effort to that point alone. And no, we did not see the problem bear noted in the second picture as we attempted to walk up to a higher point of the springs!
There were ample buffalo along the way after leaving the springs as well noted in the middle picture. And if you look in the mirror, no I did not have both hands on the wheel Mom! Actually, Lori did as I snapped what I thought was a decent picture despite the presence of the mirror. The other animal is a stone sheep, which are indigenous wildlife along the wildlife. Lastly, you will note our ultimate arrival to the Yukon Territory--Woo Hoo! Only 30 miles from Watson Lake, which I will get to hopefully tonight. Right now, the routine is in full swing and it's time to get moving. Blessings to all. Next stop, Haines Junction.
The Lee Clan
Phrase of the Day: "I don't need to go pee, I went last night" (Kavan exclaiming to his mother at her urging for him to utilize the washroom).

On the ALCAN and Summit Lake

Hello again everyone. I can't tell you how liberating it has been to be without "connectvity!" At any rate, this will be a short post as I have to catch up on the last few days. We began our journey from Mile "0" on Friday traveling to Summit Lake, BC. There we stayed at the Summit Lake Provincial Campground. The uniqueness of our stay there is that Summit Lake touts the highest elevation on the ALCAN at 4,250 feet. You can notice the "bald" mountains in the background void of any "green" life. The serenity of Summit Lake was more than endearing. The very top picture was atop a bluff in our vain attempt to find a waterfall that was allegedly nearby. Oh well, we still found a beatiful spot to take the picture.
From there the road gets pretty rough and winding as well. The scenery is astounding and the "residents" along the way are well within range of conversation or well, in range. More to come soon...
The Lee Family
Phrase of the Day: "There are no tame moose!" (Tara exclaimed to Shayna after I offered to pay a loonie to the first person who spotted a moose to which Shayna asked, "Do they have to be wild?")

Friday, August 14, 2009

Glad the Heater Works!

Good morning all! Just a quick note before we depart. We awoke this morning to a cool and current 31 degrees. And yes, we are quite glad the heater worked and again, that I removed Kavan's light stick from the duct work! Otherwise, we might have had a melted mess.
At any rate, the routine has begun and as usual I will probably want to pull out before that is actually feasible!
Again, no wi-fi tonight so we will make contact again in Watson Lake. Yukon here we come!
Blessings to all.
The Lee Clan

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A New Journey Begins...

I realize as I blog from day to day, especially when I look at the pictures we take, that one might get the idea that our journey is a rosy one. We've seem to hit a routine now to be sure. The alarm usually goes off at 0630, although my bladder is usually going off slightly before then. The first priority of the day is coffee. I attempt to be quiet in our fiberglass haven but that's like trying to quietly crush a plastic water bottle. I even grind my coffee outside the camper but as I "quietly" step outside a loud whisper from the bed urges me to do it quietly as not to disturb the neighbors. Need I say more about that subject? Once the coffee starts brewing I usually start my computer to check email and blog if I haven't done so the night before. Lori's up now that the coffee is brewed. Her computer starts as well. Who would have ever thought camping would include wi-fi as the two of us embark upon our morning ritual together. Time seems to go quickly. I want to pull out by 0830 but the kids are sleeping so well and it's so quiet. Somewhere around 0730-0745, from behind the curtain stumbles out an offspring. Looking dazed and confused about what province we are in. Alas, once one is up the others soon follow. So much for quiet hours. My anxiety begins to rise as in order to pull out by 0830 everyone needs to finish their cereal in the next four minutes. It ain't happening. Today, 0830 was my target for departure. Somewhere around 0920 we finally pulled out of our Edmonton hide away. One of our other rituals includes the playing of "Life is a Highway," by Rascal Flatts, every morning just as we pull out of each campground. Soon after that, devotions and on with the daily schedule. As I think about it, I don't think I've yet heard the question, "Are we there yet?"
So far it does sound rosy enough. Actually, the real fun begins once we arrive at our nightly destination. Letting the kids out the Burb after nearly 400 miles is like opening the can of fake nuts with the spring loaded "snake" in it--BOING! And away they go. The older three usually go for a bike ride while Kavan goes on his rant from one end of the palace to the other. I secretly muse to myself when we have neighbors that seem to be "childless" as our four begin to simply be themselves, which is a delight in and of itself. As I begin the de-hitching and hooking up of utilities, I realize just how un-soundproof our fiberglass castle is. Lori usually needs help with something, usually Kavan as she begins to prepare supper, and needs him elsewhere. Maybe I should try the dog kennel? One of my own peeves is that kids don't realize that living in a camper is not like living in a house. I can hear myself, and will probably be quoted years from now to my grandchildren, repeatedly proclaiming in my lecturing voice, "This is a camper not a play place" (exclamation point intentionally left out). I didn't mention that I had to dig into the heater in order to remove a light stick that Kavan decided to put down inside the vent.
I pause with that thought as I realize however, that in light of my peeves as well as myself, I am a blessed man. I have four healthy, beautiful, talented, witty, sensitive, rambunctious at times, "normal" (in one sense or another), loved and loving children that simply do what they know to do, be kids. And in one sense, to them a house is a camper as a camper is to a house. During the morning movie, which usually equates to a good hour or more of quiet time for mom and dad during the drive (note picture above of offspring with headphones), Lori and I were discussing the challenging circumstances some friends of ours are facing. The thought occurred to me that sometimes we might be tempted to think that being blessed is merely the absence of heartache or trials. But being blessed is much more than that. One of our biggest stressors right now is the fact that we do not have permanent housing upon our arrival in Alaska. I say permanent as we do have housing that currently follows us everywhere we go. The fact that we can even consider buying a house is a blessing in and of itself. And in Alaska to boot!
Back to the kids, take the bottom picture. Mile "0" of the Alaska Highway. The place where it all began March 9, 1942, during World War II. I wanted to get a picture of everyone at Mile "0". Mom thought it a better idea to give Kavan a bath while the girls and I get the photo and run the errands. Smart woman. Once in the grocery store it was apparent that the girls needed to burn off some penned up energy. Even Tara took a parental role as Shayna shook the cart in the produce section. "Stop jerking the apples, you're gonna bruise them," was her stern warning. For a split second, I felt the triangulating conundrum that occurs when two children wonder which side the parent will take. Tara, seeming to wonder if I would back her position, and Shayna, anxiously awaiting encouragement or maybe consequences. The fact that we were nearly by ourselves, aside from a stock boy attempting to arrange bananas while two girls seemed to be flirting with him, was irrelevant as I could not contain my laughter. Lori found the incident worth hardly more than a chuckle, but even in that moment I was blessed to not choose one side or the other but rather, both. My laughter seemed to only fuel the looniness to follow. At one point, while Tara and Marissa found the washroom, Shayna and I hid in a far corner of the store and avoided detection for a respectable amount of time. Shayna, soon after while returning the donuts that she hoped I wouldn't find in the cart, found herself looking for the three of us as well. She exclaimed that it wasn't fair as she was by herself looking for us but otherwise seemed to find amusement at the ordeal.
Well, here I am, late again. An early day tomorrow. 371 miles to the middle of nowhere, Stone Mountain Provincial Park, to be exact. No wi-fi there so no blog until we reach Watson Lake two days from now where we'll take another day "off." I almost forgot, the top picture was in Grand Prairie, Alberta. Another place in the middle of nowhere, but one that was blessed with the nectar of the gods, otherwise known as a Carmel Macchiato with an extra shot! The middle picture is one that we've seen ever since Saskatchewan. Miles and miles of yellow flowered weeds, beautiful and intriguing as I'm not sure what they do with them.
Phrase of the day: "Look, it's Chewbacca." (Kavan, pointing and commenting as we passed a herd of buffalo.)
Blessings to all, and thanks to those of you praying for us on our journey. Pray that we keep warm tonight as Lori just informed me it's already 44 degrees outside. In fact, it hardly got above 60 during the drive today. I'm glad I found the light stick! More from Watson Lake in couple days.
The Lee Clan

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Where All the Money Went...

Play day at the Edmonton Mall. Did I mention that "playing" in Canada isn't cheap? The exchange rate when we crossed the border was $1.055 Canadian to $1 American. For those of you that have ever been north of the border, you know that's not the greatest exchange rate. On our first trip to Canada back in the early 90's with Jack and Linda C., the exchange rate was nearly $1.45. At any rate, our day was a great break from traveling. We started out with a morning skate, noted above with a couple of "friends" who momentarily joined us for a photo op. After lunch, we ventured to the indoor water park, home of the world's largest indoor wave pool. The park itself is approximately five acres in size, and again, that's indoors! Needless to say, after skating and the water park the kids were pretty well tuckered. We quickly took advantage of the food court nearby where I particularly enjoyed the uniquely Canadian treat of poutine fries. Poutine fries are french fries with cheese (mozzarella or provolone I think) and gravy poured over them. They are divine and the real Canadian flair is adding vinegar over the whole thing. If you've never had them, they are a real treat. Just for fun, ask to have your fries poutine the next time you order at your restaurant of choice!
Well, the kids are in bed, the laundry is now done and folded, and tomorrow begins another day of our northward journey. We'll be traveling from Edmonton to Dawson Creek, British Columbia, where the ALCAN (Alaska-Canadian) Highway truly begins. After tomorrow's journey, the drive, particularly the roads, will become a bit more challenging, but more visually engaging as well. More from "Mile Zero," where the ALCAN and the next journey begins.
Blessings to all.
Goodnight from Edmonton,
The Lee Family

Over Half-Way There!

Somewhere between Saskatoon and Edmonton, we reached the halfway point between Fort Benning, GA, and Fort Richardson, AK. Above is our beloved afghan flag as we entered Alberta, less than 150 miles from Edmonton.
We arrived at the Glowing Embers campground yesterday, 11 August, at 1600 hours giving us enough time to make an evening trip to the West Edmonton Mall, which claims to be the largest mall of its kind in the world. Our main stop was the indoor amusement park, Galaxy Land. Unfortunately, the batteries in our camera were dead so we have no visual proof that we actually went there. Aside from that, the girls enjoyed the roller coasters while Kavan and I enjoyed the the four-story plus play place. In fact, he did not want to leave or even ride anything else. For that matter, neither did I! Marissa and Shayna joined us for a while as Tara and Mommy went shopping. In fact, Tara was actually "too big" to enter the play place and was denied entry! I sat and chatted with an older lady that worked there while the kids played on the lower level for a few minutes. My mind raced to the past when she asked if we had ever been there before. I briefly told her of our first move to Alaska and how we had enjoyed the Edmonton Mall the first time. In my mind I could see Tara, days from turning four, and Shayna two, barely big enough to climb through the tunnels and netting on their own. Marissa was three months old and Mommy sat with her while I played with the other two. Kavan wasn't even an intention at that point. And now, 2009, on our way again. Shayna and Marissa made their way through the maze of tunnels and netting like adept monkeys. With no training Kavan wasn't far behind and quickly caught on to the intricacies of playing here. And now, my first born "little girl," was too big to even play on this play place marvel. And even at the risk of being too sentimental, even I managed to be a kid again despite my knees and elbows reminding me they are not!
Well, once again the morning solitude has been broken by the gradual awakening of the small herd of offspring. And there is even more energy stirring in their bustling about our 26-foot fiberglass palace as today we return to the West Edmonton Mall! This morning will find us ice skating at the NHL sized rink in the Mall. And later this afternoon we'll embark upon the indoor water park that is phenomenal in size for an indoor facility. And the batteries in the camera are charged today! More later.

Phrase of the day from yesterday: "Mom do you have a kleenex? (Mom: No) Well then I'll just have boogers in my nose! (Marissa declaring her plight while in a store to the amusement of undisclosed passer-bys.)
Another one that I can't resist: "Did you just soil yourself?" (Tara addressing one of her siblings who will remain nameless while in the Burb somewhere after the above picture was taken.)

Blessings to all,
The Lee Clan

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

O Canada...

If you've ever wondered what wide open spaces look like, the top picture pretty much sums that up. That picture was taken within 10 miles of the border but the whole state of North Dakota pretty much looked like that. And for the weather buffs among you, it was 50 degrees this morning as we awoke to a beautiful and quiet morning near Minot. That stillness is usually broken as the children awake however, need I say more?
Some of you would not be surprised to learn that we have a daily schedule, printed I might add, to help the kids, and us, have some structure and hopefully help the day go faster. We've been trying to pull out before 0830-0900. The formal schedule goes something like this:
0900-Prayer and devotion
0930-Movie #1 (Mom chooses the movie list on a daily basis
1100-The Little Man Show (usually a Disney short)
1130-Story Time with Mom (Mom is currently reading "Nim's Island")
1300-Movie #2
1500-Movie #3
As with most things in life, flexibility is the key.
Speaking of flexibility, after probably the easiest and friendliest border crossing I've ever experienced, we witnessed the moving of a house in the small town of Estevan, Saskatchewan. I couldn't resist snapping the pictures at what was a most peculiar site noting the man riding on the front of the house. I strategically noted the price of gas as well. And for clarification, that's $1.039 per liter. Translated that's about 3.75 per gallon--Ouch!
I should mention the second picture with the flag was just before crossing the border, and the afghan flag was made for us by a dear lady in our Columbus church, Lorrie M., as a going away gift. And yes, there are 50 stars in it as well! The other flag picture was at our campground, the Saskatchewan 16 West, on their play structure with some other kids playing there.
We've already jumped two time zones, it's 0720 locally, and my body still thinks I'm on the last time zone as I awoke well before 0600 here. And before any of you think otherwise it has nothing to do with age!
Well, so much for that morning solitude as one of my offspring is hanging on my leg and the others are beginning to stir. Today it's off to Edmonton, our shortest jaunt yet, 326 miles from here, as well as a "vacation" day tomorrow at the West Edmonton Mall--Woo Hoo! More to come.
Phrase of the day from yesterday: "I would so punch them in the face" (Shayna commenting aloud in response to a scene from the afternoon movie. She must get her propensity to violence from her mother!)
Blessings to all!
The Lee Clan

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Next to Nothingness

The rest stop some 100 miles ago was in the middle of nowhere, at the junction of two "major" two-lane highways. One car with a lone traveler from Florida quickly left and we had the place to ourselves. There was hardly any wind. I stood watching Reba take care of business, without a leash I might add which was very liberating for both of us, and wondered if my game bird of choice, the wary ring-necked pheasant, might be watching us from a safe distance. Though to drive through this state is likened to being in an episode of the Twilight Zone, there is an endearing element to the stillness and the seeming serenity found in the daze of driving nearly without having to turn the wheel. Corn, beans, hay, hordes of sunflowers, and even more corn seem to beckon the attention of the passer-by as if to subtlety welcome those of us from the hustle and bustle of life elsewhere. I drooled at the ducks that seemed to displace half of the water in nearly every lake and pond that we passed. North Dakota, in its own right, clearly declares the majesty and creative design of a Divine Creator. (Editorial note: A refreshing respite from the tree-hugging liberal mire that we were seemingly steeped in during our stay in Minneapolis! And did I mention it never got above 75 degrees the whole day?...)

1820 hours. We arrive at the Minot KOA, barely two miles south of Minot, ND. A quite, quaint, campground. Noted above are the children attempting to set up the TV and Nintendo Game Cube outside. It worked out nicely although they later broke out into gymnastics in the ND grass! Ninety miles to Canada tomorrow morning. Passports in hand. Current temperature at 2330 hours is 59 degrees. No Starbucks but Harry and David's "Moose Munch" brew coffee will work just fine!
Phrase of the day: "I can't believe how well we're getting along...Let's skip the movie and spend some quality sister time together" (Marissa speaking to Shayna over half way through the days trip).
Blessings to all,
The Lee Clan

From Danville to Minneapolis

We are well on our way now. Leaving Catlin at 0628 Friday morning, we traversed the 540+ miles to Minneapolis where we have stayed two nights. More on Minneapolis in a minute.
Before leaving Danville, I should mention that we were blessed to spend a couple of hours with some very dear friends, Jack and Linda Carder (pictured at the bottom left). We have known them ever since I did my student pastoring at their church during college. Jack and Linda own an island--literally--on a fairly secluded lake in Northern Ontario. We have been privileged to spend more than a few vacations with them there. Time does not permit me to express how endearing they are to Lori and me, and just how much our brief visit meant as well.

Minneapolis, home of the "Ogre" (if you've seen the movie Shrek you'll understand) and his lovely girlfriend Tara. The Ogre's real name is Huck Finn, yes that's right, Huck. Huck and I served together in the 1-501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. One of Huck's distinguishing accomplishments is having gone without a shower longer than anyone else I know during combat. At any rate, Huck is a dear friend and brother in Christ and it was our joy to spend the day with him and Tara yesterday, Saturday, 8 August.

In the second and third pictures we were atop Tara's apartment in downtown Minneapolis. Note the Minneapolis skyline in the background--no it's not one of those wall photos! Kavan's solo picture is standing along a dinasour at Legoland at the Mall of America. Big place! And the two chefs (top picture), Tara and Shayna, are indeed using real knives as Huck and Tara bought all of the ingredients for us to make our own pizzas!
Again, time does not permit me to reflect on how special Huck is and what a blessing it was to see both him and Tara. More on that later.
Well, no time to drink coffee today, at least not in the camper. We'll have to utilize the thermos. We're preparing to wake the younglings and begin the days journey to Minot, North Dakota. Blessings to all. More from ND!
The Lee Clan.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Overwhelmed and Blessed

The next leg of our journey began Tuesday morning (4 August) at 0840 hours (EST) en route to Illinois. We were somewhat overwhelmed at the thunderstorms that we encountered north of Brazil, IN. I found out just how well the sway bars on our camper hitch work! Nonetheless, we safely arrived in Catlin, IL at approximately 1210 hours (CST).
(The picture above is Lori's maternal side of the family, also referred to as the Campbell Clan. The below picture is the paternal side of the family otherwise known as the LaBaw side.)
Tuesday night was when the real overwhelming event took place. Lori's mom and sister-in-law (and probably others that I'm not aware of!) had organized a "get-together" at Southside Nazarene Church. At our best guess we expected 30-40 friends and family members that would come to visit and wish us well on our journey. What transpired far exceeded our best guess as over 80 friends and family members converged on the fellowship hall to wish us well on our journey. Time nearly stood still for over three hours as Lori and I attempted to greet as many friends and family members as we could. For those of you familiar with Lori's side of the family, the event was reminiscent of our annual family reunion normally held over Labor Day weekend, only condensed by time. The true sense of feeling overwhelmed was in realizing the love that exists in our family and in the realization of that love being expressed to us. I must confess that I initially expressed to Lori some discomfort at the attention being drawn to us as part of me simply wanted to visit quietly and just as quietly be on our way. In retrospect I feel somewhat selfish at the thought of having missed the opportunity to be with family and friends in what was not a "quiet" event.
I'm still reveling in the thought that we are blessed to be part of such a wonderful group of people. Had we simply left "quietly" we would have missed an incredible blessing of seeing so many wonderful friends and family members as well as reciprocating the love that exists between all of us. Thank you again to Lori's Mom and Vicki (and whomever else) for having the vision to see beyond us "quietly" leaving. And thanks to all those of you that came and shared your love with our family. Believe me when I say that it was our privilege to share our love with you. For the rest of you, thanks for letting me reminisce affectionately. The journey Northward begins tomorrow...early...Starbucks awaits.
Blessings to All,
Brad, Lori, and the Clan

Monday, August 3, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

We arrived "home" in Indiana at Mamaw and Papaw Lee's Friday night. In normal fashion after the barrage of hugs and kisses, the four-wheelers were fired up and the fishing poles baited for the pond. Thus, once again, the Lee offspring turned loose on 40 acres. How liberating to be set free from the confines of American suburbia!

Saturday was a highlight as Mamaw and Papaw treated the kids to Disney's High School Musical On Stage at the Derby Dinner Playhouse in Clarksville, IN. For those of you that know your history of basketball rivalries you will note the pardox of the Wildcat (Kentucky) logo on what could be an Indiana uniform. Of course, the real question is where the cheerleader's hand is on Kavan's back (side?), noted by the look of uncertainty on his face.

And speaking of highlights, Lori and I celebrated 18 years of glorious matrinomy on Saturday night as well. We went to a restaurant called the Melting Pot, which was a unique fondue dining experience. Our anniversary is actually today (August 3rd), which marks not only 18 years but 6,575 days as well. Needless to say, I am a blessed man.

Sunday was probably our busiest day which began with a photo shoot before church, noted above by the picture of the grandkids with their smiling grandparents. After church we had a potluck of sorts, at home, with several family members coming by as well as my first pastor and his lovely wife, Rev. Morris and Anita Larimore. They are truly wonderful people.

At any rate, Dad is at work today. Mom just left taking the kids for a picnic in the country, and Lori and I will soon join them. Tomorrow it's off to Illinois, our final "stop" before we begin.

Blessings to all,
The Lee Clan

P.S. We learned Saturday morning that a friend from our church in Columbus was killed in a motorcycle accident Friday night. Josh Picard was 32-years old and had just returned from the National Training Center in California. Josh was a 2nd Lieutenant stationed at Fort Benning, and would have deployed later this fall. Remember his wife Angie in your prayers as well as their entire family.