Friday, January 15, 2016

Dallas, TX, to OK to St. Louis, MO

The route home includes visits to various friends. This is winter. North Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri are not as scenic as they would be with leaves on the trees. Nevertheless, we have chosen scenic routes over Interstates part of the time. They either looked like this:

Or like this:

Last night we were at Go Ye missionary retirement village to visit Ron and Myrna Genheimer. Ron was international director of Africa Evangelical Fellowship during our Mozambique years and Ron was a great mentor to Steve. While there we also visited Wil and Colleen Norton, old friends of my dad who took me in during my Wheaton years. They had been missionaries in Congo and later deeply involved in theological education, starting a major seminary in Jos, Nigeria, in retirement. He will celebrate his 101st birthday in February.

Will carried on a lively discussion with Steve on theological education.

Tonight we are back in St. Louis at Bob and Nan's. Tomorrow will be the ten-hour stretch home. So it has been a fun time. Less scenic than some of our trips. More people oriented. And another memory of traveling with Mom.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Austin to Dallas, TX

Long breakfast with Larry and Dolly. They went off to work and left us to pull the door shut behind us only I pulled it shut with my thermal mug (freshly filled with Earl Grey) still inside. Fortunately, I still have my thermos and a new electric mug that Katie's friend Gen gave me for Christmas so I will survive to get home.

We met my sister Jill's son Jamie at the house he shares with his sister Robin near the university. We have heard so much about the remodling of the house to give them each living spaces (all done by the family) that it was fun to see the result. Cute house. Cute neighborhood.

Back deck added by Kent and Jamie

Then we drove north together to Georgetown where Robin is working so we could meet her for lunch. (Doctoral research students have more flexibility than social workers.) Fun time. They have both grown into personable, articulate/enthusiastic young adults.

It was only a few hours on to Dallas. We got here ahead of the rush hour, which was nice, but went to the wrong house. Steve still had where they used to live in his contacts. Got that straightened out and it wasn't far. Scott Horrell teaches at Dallas Theological Seminary but his wife Ruth was home. She recieved us warmly. They were missionaries in Brazil for years at the Baptist seminary in São Paulo. They are only a short distance from where the tornadoes touched down the day after Christmas. They lost electricity and their kids and grandkids decided to go home when the danger was past. They live 15 minutes away, but it took them two hours to get there because of closed off roads and debris. Several people were killed in cars between here and there. Sad. We missed it all. Too busy driving those days to pay attention to the news.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Kerrville to Austin, TX via hill country

Today we had only a couple hours to go before nightfall. We spent the day exploring the scenic routes through the Texas Hill Country in our book. This is not Colorado. Although the roads were pleasant enough, I found the words "spectacular" and "breath-taking" to be overdone. Even the picnic grounds (the only laybys we found) did not merit a picture.

We went through Johnson City, named for LBJ's ancestors. You can visit his ranch and the ranch of his ancsestors which includes a living history museum. It would be a neat place to spend a whole day, I'm sure, but since Mom isn't that great at walking around, we decided not to pay the fee. We do find this part of Texas much more attractive than what we saw of the Rio Grande Valley. It is also a lot closer than Arizona. So if we reached a point where we wanted to escape the winter snows of Wisconsiin, or more likely, the mud of spring, this would not be a bad place to come south. If we ever did that, the LBJ ranch would deserve a visit for the view of ranch life, not for LBJ.

Steve found a Texas BBQ place in Blanco on-line, so we routed ourselves to be there at the appropriate time.

The atmosphere was very simple--tin tubs with salt, pepper and paper towels on bare wooden tables. The bathroom sinks were also tin tubs with stones on the bottom and spouts rather than normal faucets. The food was not cheap, but it was fabulous. We each had one huge rib and shared an order of brisket. They had all-you-can-eat beans, which I encouraged Steve not to take literally.

The southern stretch of the route along US 46 incuded the town of Boerne (BURnee). Mom and I had been admiring all the buildings made with golden stone like this old hotel. I thought it would be a neat place to come back to, but a sign says it is being converted into offices.

The hotel was located right on a "green zone" walkway along the creek. Mom took a nap while I went for a walk. I thought Steve was going to nap, too, but I guess he walked around a bit.

Mom thought we needed a picture that showed that not all of Texas is beautiful homes and vistas. I was embarrassed to take this lest the owners see me, but when we drove past, it was in fact, abandoned.

Delightful evening with Larry Abraham and wife Dolly Lambdin. He is in admin at the University of Texas. She teaches physical education teachers, or did. She officially retires this Friday before the new semester starts although, like Steve, she is involved in lots of projects that she will continue working on. We had fun talking education. Dolly and Steve have very similar philosophies of teaching. They are coming north for a conference in the spring, so we may well see them again. Hadn't spoken in forty years, and then Larry showed up on Steve's Facebook a few weeks ago.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Alamo to Kerrville, TX via Laredo

We were on the road by 7:45 this morning. Good bye to Bibleville. Several people have approached Steve about coming back. "We need more younger speakers," one said. "They keep dying off." We're open to it.

We hadn't gone far when we came upon this border check. We thought it would be a big deal, but the guy just asked, "All American citizens?" as we rolled by.

US 83 follows the Rio Grande. It was four lanes lined with gas stations, auto parts stores and pawn shops until Roma. After that the road narrowed to two lanes with scrub on either side that reminded us of Mato Grosso. Or northern Botswana. There were two yellow lines down the middle maybe 18-24 inches apart--enough to keep on-coming traffic apart--and a good wide shoulder. So just as in Africa, even though the road was only one lane each direction, whenever we came up behind a slower vehicle, they pulled off and drove on the shoulder so we could go around without waiting for a break in on-coming traffic. As in Africa, Steve would turn on his emergency blinkers for two blinks as we passed to say thank you. I only thought later that I should have taken a picture of the road.

We turned north at Laredo. We had been warned not to go into the city because "it's dangerous there." (They were forgetting the places like Ethiopia, Mozambique and Tembisa where we have lived and worked.) We weren't planning to stop in Laredo anyway. We did wonder if the fancy homes we saw along the way belonged to drug lords.

Our goal was the scenic route heading east from Leakey into the hill country. I took this picture of Mom with my phone because it has GPS and I wanted a location pin I could use on the photos from my "real" camera. It placed a pin, but we were remote enough it couldn't come up with a name for the place, but the next photo is the view from a few steps up the road.

Lots of beautiful views, steep descents, bluffs, hairpin curves, but virtually no places to pull off and take a picture. We did see lots of these flash flood gauges at every dip in the road. More than once we had to stop for one way traffic as they fixed places that had washed out in the recent rains. Saw a couple houses built on stilts although they didn't seem to me to be "that close" to the streams. Part of me would love to be there in a rain storm, but the other part of me wouldn't like to spend the night in the car because there were flooded places both in front and behind.

Steve wanted to look for a Texas BBQ place for supper, but the only two in Kerrville (at least that the hotel clerk knew about) are closed on Monday. He went on line looking for tomorrow lunch. Tonight we ate instant raman noodles in the room with cheese and crackers and carrots and broccholi that I bought from the vege wagon on Saturday. Mom and I were glad not to go out, and Steve is deep into Monday Night Football.

We don't have far to go tomorrow. There is more that we want to explore in the hills, but then we end up in Austin with Steve's college classmate, Larry (and wife Dolly) Abrams. We are close enough to Austin that we suspect some of the ranches we saw today are weekend places for the wealthy from the capital.

Sunday, January 10, 2016


Fun concert last evening with the Mark Trammell Quartet. Southern Gospel again, as is usual here, I think. Good variety of style with differenct songs featuring different members of the group. The bass was especially good and made us think of Steve's dad with his incredible basement voice. Dad would have loved singing in a group like this. If Steve's folks had spent more time in the south in heir later years...if Dad had not gotten sick...who knows what he might have done?

We went to the worship service this morning. Had lunch with friends of Orlin's who invited him. He had already invited us to his place to watch the football game, so they invited us all and had the game on until its pitiful end. :-)

I organized my suitcase before church. Steve has his ready to go. Mom was thinking of organizing hers and wanted to pack what she wore to church this morning, so she put on her nightgown--at 5:30 PM--completely forgetting the evening service. She debated, but decided to leave it on and skip church tonight. Steve isn't preaching. If she gets to bed earlier tonight, it will be easier to get up in the morning and hit the road.

Tomorrow we head west to Laredo, then north to the Texas Hill Country. Erika thinks we are nuts not to visit Big Bend National Park, but it is several hours out of our way and we just don't have the time. (This is one BIG state.) Bibleville is talking of inviting us back. Next time we'll have to plan on Big Bend. The sad thing here is that with so many older people, inevitably you lose some every year. So how many that we met and enjoyed this time will still be here?

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Bibleville/Santa Ana

The sun came out again and it has been a beautiful day. I returned to Santa Ana this afternoon for a vigorous walk while Steve watched football. But before that we had some other adventures.

The vege wagon comes here on Saturday mornings. It's a Brazilian feira on wheels. I went looking for munchies for our trip north, but came away with this bag of grapefruit. It will be a bit difficult to eat in the car, but for $2 we will find a place for it.

Linda and Doug Mosier are both very musical. Doug plays trumpet and writes and arranges for Bibleville's Glory Band, a play-whatever-instrument-you-want group here in Bibleville. We have enjoyed Linda on both piano and organ in the auditorium, but when we found out she had a pipe organ at home, we had to see it. Not every mobile home in this park could have held it, but they found one with a cathedral ceiling, removed a closet and voila!

Mom found it hard to focus her eyes on music at this height and her hearing aids distorted the sound, but she enjoyed playing around. Ignore Steve's voice in the background of this video. I know horizontal would view better, but vertical shows more of the organ.

We chatted over tea (South African rooibos) for an hour. They are Minnesota people during the summers. Who know? Perhaps we will see them again some time.

Since Steve finished preaching last night, we are no longer schedued in homes for dinner. We were all a little relieved to call our tea time "lunch. While Mom napped and Steve watched football, I took off again for Santa Ana Nature Reserve. This time I walked west toward the Cattail Lakes. Loved the wildflowers growing in the sun on the dike between lakes.

I sat on a bench near the HQ building, enjoyed the view, and read a book I am editing for a colleague. Very funny.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Bibleville/Santa Ana Wildlife Reserve

I spoke to women's groups a couple times this week--their Tuesday morning Bible study (they asked for a testimony) and Thursday afternoon tea on the theme of joy from Psalm 126:2-3 and Habakkuk 3:17-19. I read from The Wooden Ox on Tuesday, the scene where Mom says she didn't have enough faith to bring out their trail mix and dried fruit when the prisoners stopped for tea. On Thursday I read the scene from Keeping Secrets where they visit the church on the corner and the African pastor preaches on Habkkuk 3:17-19. It puts the verses into a context of HIV and urban poverty. My point was that our joy is in the Lord, not what is happening in our lives. I ended by singing John Rees's setting of Psalm 73:21-28. I think I got more comments on my singing than on the talk. Most people here have older vocal chords than I do so high notes that don't wobble are important to them.

One morning were buzzed repeatedly by a biplane spraying a nearby field. It took me a while to figure out that if I went outside, he would be back and I could get a picture. Of course, that was his last pass and I had no chance to line up a second.

Orlin loaned us his golf cart, a common form of transport around here. Since three of us didn't fit, we found that we weren't using it so we returned it. But first Mom and I took a spin to check out all the RVs and mobile homes.

Today (after lunch with a Minnesota couple who spent a summer "hosting" a trailhead in Alaska) I took Mom and Steve back to Santa Ana. We should have brought Mom's walker to give her more mobility. She ended up napping in the car while Steve and I walked. I took him through the Spanish moss which stops abruptly and then starts again for no reason that we can discern. The trail went right by the Rio Grande with no security that we could discern either although getting out of the park would be a challenge if you we wet and carrying suitcases. Someone told us thater that they bring dry clothes across wrapped in plastic. Also bales of marijuana, but we didn't see any of that.

Rio Grand River at Santa Ana National Wildlife Reserve

The blind where I took pictures the other day, this time with a telephoto from across the lake.

We were mainly there to walk, but we did see plenty of water birds. I have no idea what kind.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

South Padre Island

I spoke to the women's Bible study in the morning. They asked for a testimony, and I think I got a bit long winded telling about our call to missions and the ways God has led us. But they smiled and laughed in all the right places and hopefully got the message of how exciting it is to let God direct your life instead of sticking to conventional expectations.

Afterwards the Etchers took us to South Padre Island. It is a long drive, and we were so deep in conversation that we missed the turn off, but we just went a different route along the canal where we could see a half disassembled aircraft carrier. We came home the original route. We stopped for a nice lunch in a seafood/Mexican food place just before the bridge. Lots of cars were parked in front of it--a sure sign of good food, and it was. The bridge is this amazing arch over the water. The south part of the island is full of condos, hotels and restaurants. This sand castle is in front of the tourist info center. We saw several other smaller ones elsewhere. Barbara said they are sprayed with glue to withstand the rain.

Lots of wonderful detail

We drove up to the northern part of the island. I had said, "If there is a South Padre Island, then there must be a North Padre Island," but was told you can't get there.  After seeing the north part of South Padre Island, I could understand why. The sand drifts across the road until they have to use bulldozers to remove it.


At the end of the road was a carload of teenagers stuck in the sand. We were careful not to get in too deep. Not enough time for walking on the sand or scrambling in the dunes as far as I was concerned, but then it wasn't exactly a beach day. Besides, Mom hadn't worn her tennis shoes.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Santa Ana National Wildlife Reserve

The sun came out!!!

I couldn't stay in our room. Walking the streets between RVs and mobile homes was less that satisfying. Orlin (and others) had mention Santa Ana National Wildlife Reserve. It was exactly what I needed. Entry was $5, but an anual pass was only $10 and since I thought I might come back with a group of bird watchers on Wednesday, I went ahead and bought it. I will definitely be back.

I was entranced by the Spanish moss.

It is mainly a bird watching park.
I had this hide to myself, but when I came back past it was full.
And then there was this "canopy walk."

I plan to bring Steve and Mom back, but I don't think they will go for the canopy walk.

Sunday, January 3, 2016


This is a very hospitable place. It was hard to take a vigorous walk this morning becaue people kept greeting me! We have a schedule of meals with different people, including a light supper before the evening meeting and “fellowship” after. Sunday lunch was a turkey dinner. Supper was homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches with homemade bread. After the service was cheese and crackers, fruit, pie, popcorn, etc. It is going to take discipline not to gain ten pounds!

A couple of the local residents sitting out in front of their place.
Everyone treats Mom with honor and consideration. 

Claudia from Moorhead was pleased to meet Claudia from Cambridge.
(Have I mentioned there are a lot of Minnesota people here?)
And each host invites others to join us, so we have met lots of interesting people. Hard to keep them all straight. The parking lot is full of Minnesota and Wisconsin license plates. Supper was Wisconsin people including a couple from Spooner, but after the meeting was Minnesota people, which was a good thing since the Vikings/Packers game was on. It was an exciting game, too close for comfort at the end, but the Vikings pulled it off. Glad we were watching with Minnesota (Rochester) people, not Wisconsin. (Don’t worry, Orlin; I promise I won’t tell your family which side you cheered for. Of course, they might read it on the Internet.)

Steve wasn’t happy with his morning sermon. Tried to cover too much material about who Jesus is to support “All authority is given to me”. But the people were enthusiastic. Sunday night he moved on to “I am with you always” by telling David and Goliath. He’s a good storyteller. This picture shows his hands sedately in front of him, but that is only because I caught him the moment before he flung them wide in one of his gestures and that frequently hits the mike. (Good thing he had one of those head mikes last night and didn’t need to stay close to the pulpit.)

I sang “Take My Life”. Unfortunately, I had enjoyed the hymns too much and started out with a frog in my throat. But I got rid of it and the sound came through all right. 

No one is lonely here. People are very supportive of one another. We heard several times that people came here to retire because they could be involved in so much meaningful activity. There are places for sale if anyone is looking for a southern place to settle.

Temple to Alamo, TX

This is pretty much what Texas looks like from San Antonio south. North of that it looks like strip malls and gas stations.

Not the most scenic part of the country. And not the warmest this January of 2016. Mid 40s and rain. Bibleville is a conference center/RV park with some permanent mobile homes as well. Orlin Anderson from our church up north, winters here. It was his wife Karen who worked so hard to get Steve on the preaching schedule. Unfortunately, she died of cancer last winter. She leaves a big hole here.

We arrived about 2:30. In the rain. It is a gated community and we had no pass code. Everyone was in the Saturday afternoon gospel concert. Eventually, someone came along and spotted us at the gate, but it still took more than an hour to track down the key to the speaker’s efficiency. We were glad it wasn’t ten o’clock at night. As it was, I took Mom to the little library next door and we chatted with a retired missionary to Yemin for a while.

The efficiency is a good-sized room with a king bed, a couch a couple chairs, TV, dining table and kitchenette. They had put in a comfortable roll-away for Mom. (I gathered it was new.) It was in the middle of the room between the couch and the TV, but we managed to shift things and find a place along one wall. Most of the cupboards and drawers had stuff in them (extra sheets, towels, tissue boxes etc), but again we shifted and made drawer space. The kitchen is stocked with snacks and breakfast things, but we are invited out for most lunches and suppers with various people.

Saturday there are two concerts, one at 2 and one at 7. Between them, they take the singers out for pizza and the whole community goes along. It was a Peter Piper Pizza, which is a lot like a Chuck-e-cheese for northerners. But it was big enough and the games on one side, so we could mostly hear for conversations. Except when someone’s pizza was ready and the loud speaker announced it. We never understood a word, but the person who had ordered our pizza did, so that was fine. There were a whole bunch of tables reserved for Bibleville. The Peter Piper Pizza people must love them since they come every week. In winter at least. If you bring your own Peter Piper mug, you get free drinks. And free ice cream. Having recently been diagnosed with diabetes, Steve abstained from ice cream.

The concert was a quartet called Forgiven. It was Southern Gospel Music, not a genre we are familiar with. We didn’t recognize a single song, even when they said it was a classic. I always knew the south would be a cross-cultural experience. I understand the afternoon was packed with about 500 people. Because of the cold and rain the evening only had a couple hundred. I guess they come from all the RV parks around. Should be an interesting week.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Russelville, AR to Temple, TX

The new year came quietly in Russelville, Arkansas. At least, we slept through any noise. There were a handful of people at breakfast, and we were on the road by 9 AM, continuing down AR7 through the hills.

Yesterday's hills may have been higher but today's section had more pines and therefore more color and more beauty at this time of year. The road twisted through the Ouachita National Forest with gorgeous views. We didn't see the poverty that we had seen yesterday since virtually no one lived in the national forest. A few houses looked like wealthy retirees.

At one point on top a hill a car pulled off on the side of the road flicked its lights at us. We stopped along side them. "Ahead there is a logging truck on its side with a man lying in the road," the woman said. "You can get through, but we thought we should warn you." Her husband was on the phone with the 911 operator. There was no signal closer to the accident.

We continued on. At the bottom of one of the hills we saw the overturned truck and several cars that had stopped. Several people were trying unsuccessfully to call 911. We told them 911 had been reached although as we drove on, we never did meet any emergency vehicles. The place was so remote, I wondered if they needed a heliocopter for access.

A woman bent over the man at the side of the road. She seemed to be talking to him so I assume he was alive. I prayed for her, wondering if she was talking to him about the Lord and his eternal destiny. My thoughts went to Erika, the first on the scene of an accident several years ago. She sat in the car with an unconscious woman and talked to her (I think held her hand) until the paramedics got there. The woman later died. We prayed for this guy and his family several times today, but I don't suppose we will ever hear what happened. As we climbed the curving road on the other side, we could see skid marks where he tried to get control. Near the top were tire marks in the mud. Where he lost control? or his first attempt to regain it?

Believe me, we were conscious of driving carefully in those hills. We did see a couple logging trucks stopped on the side of the road further up and stopped to let them know one of their colleagues was at the bottom of the hill.

Mostly today we were trying to get somewhere. Someday (when there are leaves on the trees) we will have to come back and try all the spurs to interesting places described in the Scenic Byways book. Hot Springs looked fun with its 1890s baths. At one point in the national park Steve pulled off and suggested I take a five-minute walk. I was only wearing loafers and the trail was wet and rocky so I wasn't tempted to go farther, but it felt great to stretch my legs, and I did take a couple pictures.

I loved the sunlight on moss at the edge of the trail.

Stream in Ouachita National Forest
We found a truck stop open for lunch despite its being New Year's Day. $9.99 a head for a simple, but good buffet of salad, soup, and comfort food. We drove across Texas in the afternoon, taking TX19 instead of the Interstate to avoid Dallas, but the countryside was awfully flat after the Ozarks. A string of bowl games on the radio kept Steve alert and Mom interested. I knitted or read an e-book in the back seat. Tonight it is pizza and the Sugar Bowl in the hotel room after seeing Iowa out of their misery in a pitiful Rose Bowl.

Tomorrow we reach our destination at Bibleville. Still praying for the driver of the logging truck.