Friday, April 29, 2011

Overcoming Confusion and "Metric" Shock Therapy

One might think that driving from the U.S. into Canada would not be all that difficult.  We both speak English so it's not like the challenges we faced driving in Mexico, right?  Wrong! and maybe it's the similarities that lie at the heart of the difficulties that we've faced after crossing the border.  Sometimes, we think we understand only to find out that we don't have any idea at all.  

One of our biggest concerns is finding diesel at locations that are accessible to us.    
Peek-a-boo Puppy!

There are some of our favorite "Flying J's" along this part of our trip.  Whether or not they match our point of need can be another question.  As we traveled north from Winnipeg, we missed our planned stop at a "Flying J" in Regina.  Rather than turn around and try to re-negotiate the maze of highways and by-ways, we chose to go on and find an alternative.  

As we watched the fuel gauge going down, the wisdom of this decision grew shakier.  One of the most common pieces of advice given to us has been to top off the fuel tank at every opportunity.  We hadn't even reached the real "wilderness areas" yet and we were on the verge of trouble.  

Fortunately, we weren't really all that far from a gas station and the town of Findlater had an easily accessible pump and a friendly attendant to boot.  Filling the tank with diesel and our tummies with a welcome lunch got us back on the road in record time and we continued on to Saskatoon for a welcomed respite at the Gordon Howe RV park in the middle of the city.  

Getting to the RV park turned into quite a challenge as confusion over the road signs once again bit us in the rear and we found ourselves driving our Big Horn through the middle of downtown Saskatoon during rush hour.  EEEEEKKKK!!!!  The Canadian highway signs feature a large, decorative maple leaf with a little, tiny number in the middle that can't be read all that far away.  Anyway, not far away enough to maneuver 53 feet of "rig" into the correct lane sometimes. 

It seems that our first problem lies in the fact that we're "metrically challenged".  Fuel prices look really good in "litres" until you figure out how many "litres" are in a U.S. gallon and how much a U.S. dollar doesn't compare to a Canadian dollar.  Speed limits look really high and distances are really far when you're looking at numbers in kilometers and thinking miles.  Bridges look REALLY low when you're looking at meters and thinking "feet". All of these things coming at you in highway speeds can be quite nerve-wracking and it keeps us on edge.  We definitely need a break from the road at this point. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Counting the Omer On The Road

Pauline Frankenberg
 Counting the Omer

"'You shall count from the next day after the Shabbat, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Shabbatot shall be completed:"  Leviticus 23:15

The Spring feasts begin with Pesach, followed by the seven days of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Firstfruits and then we begin the Counting of the Omer.  Our observance of these feasts are based on our walk according to our understanding of Scripture and experience in keeping a purely lunar calendar.  We've found that there are a wide variety of opinions/thoughts/arguments concerning the dates and timing of the feasts.  We find that there is little to be gained in engaging in such things.  We believe that once we are in HIS Kingdom, HE will clear up all of our misunderstandings at that time.  Until then, this is the way we will walk.......

Our method of counting the omer is VERY unconventional.  When we first started, we had no real idea as to what an omer was or what it would look like if one was confronted with such an item.  Therefore, we resolved that we would "count the omer" using dimes.  In determining when and how we would count the omer, we spent a lot of time in prayer and study.  We know that we probably don't have it anywhere near correct.  

However, in our efforts to keep HIS commandments to keep HIS holy feasts, HE has blessed us.  The first year we started to count the omer, DannyLee would find dimes everywhere he went.  This might not seem like such a great miracle, but think back to the last time you found a dime on the ground.  It just doesn't happen all that much.  Pennies, yes.  Dimes, rarely, have I ever found one and not one such "find" comes to mind.  During that first omer count, however, DannyLee would find a dime nearly every day.  

We've taken these finds as a kind of strange confirmation that FATHER has HIS hand in on our counting method.  This year, as we count the omer on the road, DannyLee found a Canadian dime to add to our pile on our first day over the border.  In respect of that, we've continued to count the omer during our travels here with Canadian dimes. 

Day One
These images were done by Pauline Frankenberg.

Monday, April 25, 2011

"We're Not in Kansas Anymore - ToTo!"

 On "Day Eight", we would drive from Concordia to Vermillion, SD for a quick overnight at a "Wally World" before continuing on with "Day Nine".  This is a new route for us and remained relatively uneventful as far as traveling goes for us.  We keep seeing the price of diesel creeping up from the $4 mark with the "talking heads" warning of $5 a gallon by Memorial Day.  Our one comfort in this is that we will long be at our destination by then (or so we hope!)
The real "drama" began on "Day Nine" as we watched the flood waters that are building up alongside the highways of North Dakota.  We are firmly reminded of the parallels of our journey with the Israelites as they found themselves traveling on dry ground through the midst of the towering waters of the sea.  

As we headed northward, each mile left us wondering when a sign like the one pictured here would appear and leave us with no way to go forward.  Our only reassurance that we would be able to continue on our journey was our faith in HIM to make a way for us. 

 We stopped to have lunch near the Park River.  I couldn't resist a picture of the picnic area or the pet area as our dog, Ariela, stared in puzzlement at the sound of frogs coming from all around us.  As to the pet area, I hope you're traveling with your goldfish!  Ariela has not been willing to show off her swimming skills for us yet. 
 Here a friendly trucker stopped by to give us a "heads-up" about conditions ahead.  The flood waters had overtaken the roads south of Winnipeg and we were facing a detour.  This was a slight matter of concern as our next fuel stop was scheduled for somewhere in the middle of the flood and the detour would force us to find another place to get fuel on the fly.  This can be a big concern at 54 feet and nearly 13 feet tall!  You can't just pull up to the pumps anywhere.  

Standing between us and a gas stop, however, we had yet to face the "dreaded border crossing" where the "agents of pharoahs" would do their best to make us feel like "criminals" or worse.  We'd done all that we could to prepare ourselves by reading all of the information on their websites and preparing all of our "required" paperwork well in advance.  

Those who had gone before us warned of lengthy searches and endless questions by hostile border officials.  We could only pray that we had everything in the right order.  It seems that whatever we had done to prepare would be "wrong" as those who "control" such matters can always find something to make a "point" about and would, if so inclined to do so.  

Our delay here lasted about 30-45 minutes and we were back on the road.  Finally, we had "crossed over" into what is for us, "the wilderness" and it is "the wilderness" that stands between us and our destination.  We have some grace here as the Canadians are far more friendly and hospitable than the people that the Israelites would encounter in their travels.  We found ourselves in need of help far quicker than we expected and the detour around Winnipeg turned into an unexpected blessing.  

The "umbilical cord" that connects our fifth wheel trailer to our pick-up was shredded at the plug.  How? Why? We have no idea to this day as to what happened to it.  It was fine at the border crossing and destroyed somewhere along the way to the "Wally World" in Winkler, Manitoba where we planned to stay the night.  This left us with no lights, signals or brakes on our trailer.  NOT GOOD!

A quick call to a "soon-to-close" RV dealer in the nearby town of Morden secured us an emergency repair by a willing volunteer from among their service techs.  He made the first repair of the cable but a further modification was in order as the cable was now too short because of the damage to stay plugged into it's socket.  We went back to "Wally World" for the night and reported back to the dealer in the morning to resolve this matter once and for all.  

As travelers, we find ourselves dependent at times on the kindness and mercies of strangers.  The Scriptures often warn of the consequences of doing harm to travelers and foreigners.  The Israelites are reminded that they also were once travelers and strangers in strange lands.  

"You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." Exodus 22:21 (NASB)

"You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it's like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt."                          Exodus 23:9 (NLT)

It is our prayer that those who honor these commandments will always be led to others who also keep them when they are traveling for it is a blessing to keep the commandments of our LORD.  We are grateful for the help that we received at Sun Valley RV in Morden and we find ourselves "back on the road again"!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Weathering the Weather!

Parking issue or weather problem?
Today we would drive 291 miles from Little Rock, AR to Seminole, OK.  This is our second time to travel this route and the road surfaces seem to be considerably better.  Our last trip across Oklahoma was very much akin to traveling across a washboard (for those who are too young to remember such things, just think ROUGH!)  

The weather, however, has not been an improvement and this day would prove even more challenging with the advent of hail - lots of HAIL!  We had planned to drive to Edmond and stay there for a couple of days, but it appears that FATHER YHVH had a different plan.  Fighting the wind, rain and hail made Seminole and our old favorite campground, the Catfish Round Up RV Park a much better option.  

As things worked out, HE was right (as usual) and we were able to enjoy a Shabbat Service with Lion & Lamb in Norman, OK on Friday, and a second Shabbat Service with Mike's group at Joined to Hashem in Seminole on Saturday.  Both services were special as Lion & Lamb was having a bar mitzvah for one of their members and DannyLee was able to share some of his music for worship time at Mike's.  We were truly blessed by the time that we got to spend here with our "family". 

By this time, the children of Israel had reached the edge of the wilderness as they moved from Etam to "Pi-Hachirot, between Migdol and the sea, before Ba`al-Tzefon".  As we prepare to head north out of Oklahoma City, we've not yet reached "wilderness" per se, but we will be entering Kansas for the first time ever.  Kansas is one of those states that we managed to miss on our tour of the U.S. in 2009.  The wind and the rain would continue to stand against us and we were reminded time and again of our first day of travel when we began our journey that we call "Tsiyon Bound".  

Sunday, April 24th would find us traveling from Seminole, OK to Concordia, Kansas where another "Wally World" adventure awaited us.  We're managing to stay warm at night and the truck is handling the road well.  The price of gas is staying steady around $4 a gallon and this day would bring us 352 miles farther from GA.  We don't quite have the courage at this point to face this journey in terms of how many miles still stand between us and Alaska.  At least, we know that we don't have 40 years to get there, no matter how far it is!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day Three - A Four State Day!

Crossing the Mississippi River
Yesterday I prepared a large pot of chili as we got ready to hit the road.  Today would be a four State day and drive-thru's just aren't an option with a Big Horn "on yer tail"!  In fact, a lot of things seem to be impossible as we travel along the highways.  

When you're in a car and you see some strange roadside attraction, you might be tempted to pull over and take a closer look.  Pulling a "big rig" makes such temptations a bit riskier as you have to be very careful to determine that when you pull off the main road that you have the ability to park or turn around or even room to stop as we're as long as a semi-truck from nose to tail. 

Somewhere in AL
Resisting such temptations means that a lot of my "traveling pictures" are taken from the window of a moving vehicle.  I've learned to keep the camera handy as America presents some very interesting sights as you travel along the highways and byways.  I couldn't resist a "shot" at this fierce looking helicopter hanging out alongside an intersection in Alabama. 

In one day, we traveled from Alabama to Mississippi to Tennessee and finally to Little Rock, Arkansas where we spent the night at a familiar "Wally World" having slept there once before.  This would be the most states that we would cross in one day on this journey and it was made doubly tiring by heavy rains and head winds most of the day.  The weather definitely seems to be against us and the price of gas (diesel) is holding steady around $4.00 a gallon.  Both the weather and the price of gas are becoming a negative factor on our budget.  

The roads, however, seem to be in better condition then on our previous trip through this area.  The pictures are staying on the walls and the cabinets aren't spilling their contents on the floor.  While preparing to hit the road this time, we've taken a long hard look at the contents of every cabinet, closet, drawer and our "basement" and eliminated a few more things that haven't been used since we hit the road in June '09.  Also, because we're planning to do a lot more "overnighting" at "Wally Worlds", we're carrying less groceries and supplies than we usually would have on board.  All of this (we hope) will factor in on the plus side of our gas budget.

"Seven days you shall eat matzah, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the LORD. Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and no leavened bread shall be seen with you, neither shall there be yeast seen with you, in all your borders.  You shall tell your son in that day, saying, 'It is because of that which the LORD did for me when I came forth out of Mitzrayim.'"
                                                                                                     Exodus 13:5-8

We ARE carrying multiple boxes of matzah and matzah or matzo works well as crackers in chili or the basis of "matza pizza" and these are perfect "road foods".  Traveling during the Feast of Unleavened Bread can be a real challenge without some careful preparation.  For us, there's no option to stop at Burger King or Subway or Pizza Hut as we carefully avoid eating any bread/yeast products.  Traveling can be very tiring even as a passenger and it can be a temptation to grab something quick and easy along to road.  Keeping the Feast of Unleavened Bread has to be faced with every gas stop with food, but it's really helped our traveling budget as we feast on healthier snacks like fruit, cheese and boiled eggs.  I'm sure the Israelites weren't faced with this temptation as they traveled from Sukkot to Etam.  They were blessed with a "pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night" to lead them.  We have to make do with the internet and our Rand McNally Road Atlas!  We covered 373 total miles today. Lead on! 

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Next Leg of Our Travels Begins!

The morning after Pesach, the Israelites gathered their belongings and headed east out of Egypt.  As we were just about as far east as we could go, we were going to be heading west and north - as far west and north as we could go!

Our belongings would have seemed like madness to the Israelites as we hooked up our "horses" (read: Ford F-250) to our "wagon" (read: Big Horn), drew in our sliders and prepared to haul all of our "worldly possessions" north to Alaska. 

The massive distances between us and our destination appeared far beyond our "askings or imaginings" ("Now to Him Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine..." Ephesians 3:20) and we quietly struggled within ourselves with our own personal doubts and fears as we prepared to hit the road.  

The process of pulling a "rig" of this size is no small task and in light of the dangers of being on the road, requires careful attention to all of the details of stowing gear and locking down loose items.  Traffic, weather and road conditions can all work against us as we're traveling along.  We do our best to prepare for whatever may come, but there's no way to anticipate everything.  Teamwork and cooperation are key to success here.  

Our goal for the first day wasn't too ambitious.  Hoover, AL would be our first stop and our mileage was about 235 miles.  The Israelites traveled from Ramses to Sukkot on their first day.  I'm sure with some research I could figure out their mileage, but that doesn't really matter considering our different modes of transport.  The more relevant comparison would be of our feelings as we head out to the place that YHVH has determined as our destination.  We slip back and forth between thoughts of Abraham and Sarah setting off towards an unknown destination and the Israelites with their hope of the "Promised Land". 

In Hoover, we stayed in a city park that in reality was a huge "glorified" RV parking lot with these cute little "utility towers" at each parking spot.  Each "tower" featured water and electric hook-ups with a sewer hook-up on each end of the concrete island between each parking spot.  I'm sure the Israelites found nothing comparable in the wilderness of Sukkot.

There were no attendants or other amenities and very few rigs were scattered across this huge "campground".  Staying here for two nights in order to visit with my son and his family was quiet and uneventful.  We found ourselves hooking up on a very rainy Wednesday morning as we prepared to continue on the road.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pesach - Preparing for the Greater Exodus

One of the purposes of keeping the Feasts of FATHER YHVH is to remind us of what HE has done for us as HE teaches us the story of redemption. This story is the foundation of the work that Yeshua did in HIS final day on the earth as HE gave HIS life blood to redeem us from our sins.  We chose to follow HIS leading from the Book of John and keep this feast as HE did.

Another important purpose is that keeping the Feasts is a way of practicing for what lies ahead.  We believe that there is a Pesach coming soon when believers will hear HIS call to go forth from their homes and join in to an exodus that will be even greater than the one told about as part of the Pesach tradition.  
"Therefore behold, the days are coming," declares the Lord, "when they will no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up and led back the descendants of the household of Israel from the north land and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ Then they will live on their own soil."
                                                                                Jeremiah 23:7-8
When I bring them back from the peoples and gather them from the lands of their enemies, then I shall be sanctified through them in the sight of the many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land; and I will leave none of them there any longer.
                                                                                Ezekiel 39:27-28
We entered into this Pesach celebration with that future journey included in every thought as we also prepared for a long trip.   As far as practice goes, it couldn't get much more real than what we were doing unless it was the literal fulfillment of the prophecies above.  Our hearts were humbled as we considered the meaning of all that we were doing.
The day was given over to final preparations for the meal and last minute cleaning tasks to make room for all of our guests.  Although we had celebrated Pesach in previous years, this was our first time to act as "hosts".  Our guests (all except one) had never experienced Pesach before so we wanted to keep it as simple and focused on Scripture as possible.  
The limited amount of space in our RV served to increase the level of the challenges we faced.   At first we considered moving everything outside, but the nasty gnats of Georgia combined with mosquitoes guaranteed a measure of discomfort.  Inside we were able to provide a chair for everyone and bringing in a large table once everyone was seated gave us room for plates and food and the required cups of grape juice.  (None of us were inclined to wine.)
We began our feast by reading the commandments concerning Pesach.  As it was our intent to follow the leading of Yeshua and as HE began HIS Pesach with a foot washing so did we.  As a part of the learning process, we did discuss the reasons why and also addressed any concerns or discomfort that anyone might have been feeling.  This was doubly complicated by the fact that for many of us, this was our first meeting ever.  Foot washing can uncover a lot of hidden fears or concerns as Peter quickly revealed when Yeshua bowed to wash his feet.  
After this time of prayer for each other, we came back inside and attempted to follow the Sedar for eating such things as the bitter herbs, chavoset and matzo and drinking the "four cups".  There was much laughter and discussion as we talked about the significance of each part of the meal and enjoyed the food and fellowship of people united by their love of Messiah.  
After a very long evening, we parted company with mixed emotions as we all seemed to feel that we had had a part in something very special, something holy and far beyond a simple meal.  Tomorrow's sundown would begin the 7 day Feast of Unleavened Bread, but the morning would come first and our journey to Alaska was about to begin!

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Mayhaw Festival

grain silo?
Spending four months in Colquitt, GA for the winter earned us an appearance at the 28th annual Mayhaw Festival.  Colquitt is famous for two events - the Mayhaw Festival and Swamp Gravy.  This quaint little town also features some incredible murals that have been painted around the town.  

This grain tower or silo towers over the downtown area.  The color and details are extraordinary in light of the size of the "canvas".  Approaching it from any angle is a delight to the eye and inspires awe.  (Note: the pick-up truck to the right for scale!)

Walking the streets of the downtown area reveals a beautiful effort to capture the simplicity of ordinary lives.  The various murals offer an intriguing look at somehow familiar scenes of days gone by.  People make up the landscapes that keep our hopes and dreams for a better future alive.  Their faces tell stories that have a part in all of us from past to present.
town murals

DannyLee was invited by the Chamber of Commerce to set up on the town square for an evening of "Johnny Cash" and karaoke.  Our friend, Carolyn Ann, came along to add some of her favorites.  Several of our "regular" listeners also joined us on the Square to show their support.

A small utility trailer served as the stage and lawn chairs and park benches, as well as the available curbs made up the seating.  

The weather threatened to turn nasty as we fought the wind to set up, but by the time he took the stage, the evening calm set in and the rain passed us by. 

 As the crowd ebbed and flowed around us, DannyLee sang all his favorites and all of theirs too.  We were delighted to sing "Happy Birthday" to one of the locals who was celebrating his 95th birthday.  A couple of "brave souls" also came up to share their vocal talents karaoke-style. 

One of the most interesting aspects of life in Colquitt was the number of people that we met that were well into their 80's and some into their 90's.  We even met one man, who at 88, was the oldest CDL (commercial driving license) holder in the state.  He regularly drove by the restaurant where we sang and tooted his horn on his "BIG RIG". 

Our time in Colquitt, GA, while short by the time standards of those that have lived there for generations marked the longest time that we've yet stayed anywhere since we began "Tsiyon Bound".  

While on one hand it was hard to leave all those that had become more like family than friends, on the other hand, our hearts longed for the open road and it was with bitter sweet joy that we prepared to sing Willie's song, "On The Road Again".

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pesach - Looking for Lamb (or goat)

Preparing for Pesach included a lot of challenges that are complicated by our "gypsy" lifestyle.  The biggest challenge was in our desire to have lamb as part of the meal.  FATHER YHVH has given us some very specific instructions about the lamb (or goat) that are definately beyond our abilities as we live outside the Land and don't have a working Temple or functioning priesthood.  Despite the challenges, it was still in our hearts to have some lamb as a part of our meal.  

Our search for lamb (or goat) brought us to a new meat market on the outskirts of Colquitt, GA.  Our request raised a couple of eyebrows, but for a PRICE, of course, it was doable (or so they thought).  After lots of phone calls, we were told that a 26 lb. lamb shank, butterflied (?) was available.  The price was a little high for our budget, and the size was way beyond our expected number of participants, but this seemed to be our only option to have lamb so we said, "yes" and the order was put in to action.

I spent the next few days working on the rest of the preparations while the question remained as to how many participants would there be and how in the world was I going to cook this 26 lb. lamb shank.  Needless to say, my prayer time was clearly focused on this subject.  

All of this was complicated by the fact that we were hitting the road the very next morning on a very long journey so I was clearly identifying strongly with the Israelites as they prepared to leave Egypt.  We were working on all of this in the midst of doing a major performance for the Mayhaw Festival and our closing shows at the resort.  Talk about a full schedule!

Meanwhile, the "lamb drama" continued outside of our awareness as the meat market did not receive the agreed upon "butterflied" 26 lb. lamb shank from the supplier.  Instead they received some "steaks" and since they had some idea as to what we wanted, they sent them back.  The supplier then sent them two 8.5 lb boneless lamb shank roasts.  

When we arrived on Saturday to pick up our lamb, the man at the counter plunked a plastic bag on the counter with two big hunks of plastic wrapped meat inside.  He was trying to make a hasty explanation concerning the matter, but it only added to my confusion.  I looked inside the bag and asked, "What is this?"  It took a while to fully understand all of it, but in the end, we bought one of the 8.5 lb. roasts and had more than enough lamb for all 10 of us to have plenty to eat.