Thursday, June 25, 2009


Just some random pictures from our trip so far. . .

Matthew under 'Delicate Arch!'

Me sitting on 'Delicate Arch;' on the left hand side. (Gives you an idea of how big it is!)

A desert sunset

Alyssa in a tunnel at Whit's End

Garden of the Gods

Tiffany at a bridge in the Garden of the Gods.

Alyssa and me.

Everyone else!

More beauty at Garden of the Gods.

An elk at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Utah Desert

(Written Today)

Well, I finally have the internet and the time to update this blog! And I learned how to upload pictures, so I added a few of them to each of my posts. (Though the date stamp should be ignored on most of them. It got mixed up a few times).

We have been in a house in Ivins, Utah since Monday, in a little desert community called ‘Kayenta.’ I wasn’t sure about the desert when we first got here, but it has grown on me a lot. I don’t think I would like to live in the desert, but it is still a beautiful part of God’s creation.

I’ve been taking advantage of being in a house that has electricity and internet by studying! Lots of fun… or not. I’m studying Intro to the Modern Middle East and I’m pretty sick of it. But if I can survive a couple more weeks, I will be completely DONE with my degree! Of course, then I’m contemplating a Master’s. I think I’m officially crazy. But once I finish this degree, I will at least take a few months before plunging into anymore school!

Arches Part II

(Written Sunday, June 21, 2009)

Ok, so I didn’t finish my tale immediately. Hopefully I can remember everything I wanted to say.
We ended up working everything out the night it rained in our tent. We wiped up the floor as best we could, flipped over our air mattresses and found out the sleeping bags weren’t as wet as we feared. So thankfully, we didn’t have to sleep in our car or on wet mattresses!
I wanted to write a little more about the family we met at had our campsite. There were two families—Amy, Alyssa’s friend with special needs, with her parents and Amy’s sister and her husband with four little boys. I mostly wanted to write about the boys—they were SO CUTE! They were ten, then seven or eight, five, and about two. The five-year old was named Kyle and was absolutely adorable. Mommy and I went for a walk with a couple of the little ones and their mom and Kyle just talked and talked and talked. He was hilarious! He started out by saying “We have sooo much food! It’s kinda yike heaven! ‘Cause in heaven, there will be as much food as you can eat. And if you DO eat it all, God will just say “DON’T PANIC!” (And he held his hands out in front of him). He then told me about a dog who ate all the food in heaven… and then he “esploded and he was all ovah heaven!” I took a ton of pictures because they were just so cute! Here are a few.

Anyway… they left on Thursday and we had to find our own amusement after that. It wasn’t too hard, actually, because Thursday afternoon Alyssa had a phone call from Social Security. Why the government insists on talking to her when she has no idea what they’re talking about, I have no idea. When they called, we put the phone on loudspeaker so we could hear. The conversation went something like this.
S.S.: Hello Alyssa, I’m just going to ask you a few questions about your case, going all the way back to June of last year? Do you think you can remember that far? [The answer… no way! But that doesn’t stop them].
Alyssa: Yeah.
S.S.: Ok. Can you tell me your birthdate?
Alyssa: Alyssa Barden.
S.S.: No, I need to know your birthdate.
Alyssa: Alyssa Barden [obviously she thought they wanted her name].
S.S.: Do you know when you were born?
Mom [whispering]: Tell them your birthday.
Alyssa: July 5th.
S.S.: Do you know what year?
Alyssa: 19
S.S.: No, what year were you born?
Alyssa: 19
S.S.: 19-what?
Alyssa: August 24th
S.S.: I thought you said your birthday was July 5th.
So… you can kind of see how THAT conversation went. It was interesting.
Anyway, we ended up spending most of the afternoon in town (where we had cell phone coverage) talking to Social Security, getting groceries and checking email outside a Laundromat with free wireless.
On Friday we finally got around to hiking and exploring the park! Mommy and Matthew went on a nine-mile hike while I sat at camp and read about the Modern Middle East. When they got back, they were completely worn out. I made lunch and we tried to stay cool in the hot, hot sun by sitting in the shade and reading a book called Under the Overpass (which I highly recommend, by the way).
When it finally cooled off a little, we went to find another place to hike. We had to drive, so we piled in the car and headed off. We stopped at a trail to ‘Delicate Arch.’ (The picture at the beginning of the last post). Matthew and I hiked a mile and a half up pretty steep terrain to see the beautiful arch. At one point walking down, I thought, “I’d better be careful. It would be awful to sprain or break something and have to hobble all the way down.” Well, I did fine both up and down the mountain. However, about 20 yards from our car, Matthew yelled “look at that!” I turned around to look and twisted my ankle. At least I didn’t have to walk down a mountain with it hurting! It wasn’t too bad, so I forgot I had hurt it when I jumped into bed that night and landed on it!
Yesterday (Saturday), we mostly sat around camp again and relaxed, which was so nice! In the late afternoon, we walked down a trail to Broken Arch. It was a little over a mile, but it was mostly flat, which was great for my twisted ankle and Alyssa and Tiffany’s small energy reserves. We enjoyed the walk and Alyssa was so proud that she “climbed a mountain!” After awhile, though, it started to get dark and we weren’t quite finished. Alyssa and I were going pretty slow and Mommy started to worry that we wouldn’t make it back before dark. She and Tiffany headed off at a much faster pace to get the car and a flashlight, just in case we didn’t make it off the trail before dark. Alyssa was tired and went quite a bit slower than Matthew and I, so I had her put her hand on my shoulder to help her keep up. That turned out to be not such a great idea—she fell into me and I twisted my ankle again! So we hobbled to the main road and then sent Matthew to bring back Mommy and the car.
Last night we went to a show they had at the amphitheatre, but we got rained out and headed back to our tent. This morning (Sunday) we decided to head out… close to a week in the heat and sand, without showers was a little tiring. We packed up and got to Cedar City, Utah around 5:00pm. We found a nice hotel (that takes dogs!) and I have enjoyed having a shower, internet and a bed! Tomorrow (Monday) we head a little farther south and west to Ivins, Utah, where we will rent a house for a week and I will hopefully finish studying for my last two tests!

Arches National Park

(Written Wednesday, June 17, 2009)
Well, I just spent who-knows-how-long typing away at this journal, only to have my computer restart for ‘updates’ and lose everything I just typed. But because I am listening to Facing the Giants where it says “If we win, we praise Him; if we lose, we praise Him,” I am not going to get upset. I’ll just start over and trust that it will be better than before! Of course, it's a little thing that I shouldn't get upset over anyway... I'm just glad for the reminder at the right time.

The reason we are sitting in the car watching Facing the Giants is because it has been raining where we are at, so we took refuge here.
We left Colorado Springs yesterday morning, after an unpleasant experience with our car. We awoke to find that Patton (who we had left in the car due to rain and cold) had thrown up and/or gone to the bathroom all over our car! It smelled awful and I came very near to throwing up myself, though I generally have a pretty strong stomach. We cleaned it up and bought some car fresheners from the campground, then went to Wal-Mart and purchased Febreze. Even with all that, it was quite some time before we could drive without holding our noses or having to stick them out the window.

Before we left, we also stopped at the vet to have Patton looked at. He didn’t look so good and hadn’t been eating much, not to mention all that he did in our car. He got some medicine and thankfully has been fine ever since.

We drove for several hours, past mountains, wide open spaces and the Glenwood Canyons. It was a beautiful, but strange at the same time. It seemed so empty and desolate in spite of the beauty. I got to drive for awhile and I did enjoy taking in the scenery, thinking and praying.

We got to Arches National Park last night around 6:00 pm, only to find out that there were no available campgrounds. We were told there would be some available in the morning, but we would have to be there around 6:00 am! In the meantime, we got a list of area campgrounds and headed off to find a place for the night, hoping for one close by. No such luck. We checked several campgrounds before we finally found the last spot at a campground along the Colorado River. We set up our small tent (not wanting to take everything out, only to pack it up the next morning). It was a beautiful location, but again, it felt empty and desolate and overall kind of scared me. I realized after awhile that I felt claustrophobic from all the cliffs and canyons so close.

Well, because we had to fit five people into a four-person tent, I ended up next to the wall, unable to stretch out all the way. So I slept curled up into a ball. Of course, ‘slept’ might be too strong of a word. I dozed until a strong wind that felt like it would blow the tent over woke me up. I got cold from the wind, found some covers and then started getting wet from some rainwater leaking in! Thankfully, I kept warm and dry in the sleeping bag.

This morning we woke up around 5:30 and headed back to Arches National Park, hoping to find a campsite. We have access to sites for disabilities because we have an Access Pass for Alyssa. Nonetheless, we got here early and were still behind several people. We waited an hour and a half until they opened and we finally got our site!

When we drove up to the site, we met the people who were here last night… a home school family with a special needs daughter named Amy. Alyssa has been best friends with her since they met. It has been so sweet to see.

I need to stop for right now to head to bed… only now we have another problem to figure out. We accidently left a couple windows open in our tent while it rained and poured. So our sleeping bags and air mattresses and everything is all wet. We were looking forward to finally staying warm, being comfortable and getting a good night’s sleep. Now it looks like we may be sleeping in our car. I want to go see if I can figure out a solution. So… I will finish my tale tomorrow!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Off to Colorado Springs!

(Written Monday, June 15, 2009)

Well, we’ve been on the road (as in out of Kansas) for almost a week now. After Estes Park, we moved to Rocky Mountain National Forest and pitched our tent. However, we went into Fort Collins on Thursday so I could take my test on Vietnam (which, by the way, I passed with my highest score yet!). While I was taking the exam, my mom and the kids went to see my great-aunt Sandy… and then she came with them to pick me up. We ran a few errands and then went back to her house and relaxed. We watched several movies and I read a book she had called Epicenter by Joel Rosenberg. He has written quite a bit of fiction about the Middle East and many things he wrote about ended up coming true. He then wrote Epicenter to explain how he was able to predict the events he did—through the Bible—and to explain several more prophecies that will be occurring over the next several years. It is a very interesting book that I recommend to anyone who wants to better understand the Middle East, Biblical prophecy and the end times. Aunt Sandy gave me another book of his called The Last Days, one of his fiction works, which is also a very good book.

Anyway… we ended up spending the night with Aunt Sandy. Then Friday we finally spent a night in our tent at the National Forest. We soon found out we were not prepared to spend a night in a tent in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. We’re from Kansas, where summer means hot. NEVER cold. But we didn’t really think of that, so we spent a pretty chilly first night in our tent. We ended up shoving two people in a sleeping bag and covering up with another one. Not the most comfortable way to sleep, but we survived.

We packed up Saturday morning and headed to Colorado Springs. We weren’t originally planning to go there, but some friends, the Smyths, live there and we wanted to get together with them. So we headed south! (And hoped it would get warmer). We didn’t actually have a place reserved to camp, so we weren’t entirely certain what we would find. Thankfully, we found a nice little campground with a pool, a fishing pond, hot breakfasts in the morning, laundry facilities and showers (the most important thing!). We have been here since Saturday afternoon. Yesterday (Sunday) we went to the Garden of the Gods (or God’s Garden, as my friends here in CO Springs refer to it). It is an absolutely amazing place, with huge, natural rock formations, mountains all around, trails winding up and down… it was a great place to spend the day. And there was a youth choir from Oregon who sang several worship songs while we were there, which was nice as we didn’t go to church. To see young people praising God with the beauty of His creation surrounding them was amazing.

Today we went to Focus on the Family and met the Smyths there. It was so nice to see them all We ate a picnic lunch outside together, then went in and looked around the Welcome Center, saw an introductory video and then went to Whit’s End! Yes indeed, we saw the underground tunnel, Whit’s ice cream parlor (and ate ice cream!), and more. We even walked “through the wardrobe,” which was a lot of fun! Then Julie and Brian and Kevin and I sat and talked while Mommy talked to Mrs. Smyth while Matthew and Tiffany played on a three story slide in Whit’s End. It’s so nice to talk to friends about important issues that we can all be passionate about together!

After we said goodbye to our friends, we looked around the bookstore. Alyssa bought the cutest umbrella with a Scripture verse on it that was really neat, though of course I don’t remember it now. We then went on a tour of Focus’ main building and then headed back to our campsite. We spent a little while packing up, since we are heading out again tomorrow, this time to Moab, Utah!

I forgot to add that while we are getting a little better at keeping warm at night, we have yet to find a good system that works for all of us. We’ve tried putting Alyssa and me in one sleeping bag, Tiffany and me in one sleeping bag, covering Matthew and Mommy and Alyssa with several sleeping bags and a few other interesting strategies (some of which include a dog). While we are managing to stay warm, we aren’t always the most comfortable and sometimes wake up contorted into strange positions and generally sore from the night’s sleep. Hopefully we will figure out a solution soon!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Start of a journey...

Well, you may be wondering why I started this blog. I'm wondering that myself. Honestly, I just thought it would be good to have one set up in case I ever wanted to start blogging.

And now that I have one, of course I have a use for it.

I am spending a little over a month traveling the Western U.S. with my mom and three siblings. I want a way to remember everything that happens on this journey, so I started a journal and thought, why not share it? Of course, no one even knows I have a blog yet. But in my backward thinking, I figure that once I start posting, maybe I'll have a reason to let people know this blog exists.

So now that I have explained the start of my blogging journey, I will give you some details about the start of our cross-country journey as well.

(Written Tuesday, June 09, 2009)

After spending several weeks (months?) planning our month-long tour of western America, we finally took the first step and left Kansas! While I hoped to finish all the requirements for my Bachelor degree before we left, we finally gave up and just got on the road. However, I do plan to finish school before the month is over. I have three tests left; A History of the Vietnam War, Introduction to the Modern Middle East and Money and Banking. Because they are DANTES exams, they are offered at many locations across the nation, so I will be able to study a little (a very little—this is vacation after all!) and take them as I am ready. I plan to take A History of the Vietnam War in Fort Collins, Colorado on Thursday.
But to begin at the beginning…

We started our travel experience last Monday, camping at Marion County Lake for a week to get acclimated to tent life. We have a nice, large tent, but we soon found we needed several other things that are vital for camping. Such as--a camp stove. A flashlight. And most important, a better system of organization. We learned a lot over the last week and then on Sunday, we decided it was time to move on!

We left Marion County Lake this morning, packing up in a little more than an hour (not too bad!) and getting on the road. We headed north and west, to Estes Park, Colorado, which is where we are right now! We spent about 11 hours driving. Whether it should have taken that long or not, I really don’t know. We did stop an awful lot. In fact, I don’t think we were ever on the road more than two consecutive hours!

Some of the highlights of the trip:

Well, it’s western KS and eastern CO! Not always that much to see. Sometimes the clouds along I-70 are gorgeous and can keep your attention for hours. Not today. Today it was overcast and rainy, meaning a gray sky, flat fields and lots of interstate. There were a few beautiful moments--such as when we drove under a dark, dark sky that threatened severe storms at any minute. And when the sun finally peeked out for a little while, the contrast with the overcast sky made for bright, brilliant colors in the fields and trees.

My favorite part, though, was the wind farm. I always look forward to that part while driving I-70. The wind farm is miles upon miles of wind turbines, providing energy by using Kansas’ most abundant resource—WIND! From the time I saw the first wind turbine until we actually reached the first wind turbine was about ten miles—and that was on an overcast day! Normally you can see it twenty or more miles in advance. The Wind Farm lasts another fifteen or so miles and is a sight to see, especially when they’re running.

We also stopped in Colby, KS, which was a nice little town. Actually, the only thing we saw up close was the Visitor Center when we stopped to eat lunch at their picnic tables. Nevertheless, they had some wonderful pictures and all the information was very neat to see.
I got to drive through downtown Denver at rush hour, which was quite the experience! I always enjoy driving in large towns, though—it is good practice.

We finally reached Estes Park, Colorado at the YMCA of the Rockies about 8:00 this evening. This is where I attended GenJ camp a few summers ago and it is really a wonderful place to be! We unpacked and ate dinner in front of a gorgeous view of the mountains. I’m starting to really fall in love with the mountains, though I still think the Flint Hills are the most beautiful of God’s creation!

It is now 9:00 at night and we’re sitting in our cabin. Mommy and Tiffany are playing cards (and learning math at the same time!), Matthew is planning out our schedule for tomorrow, Alyssa is just sitting and I am here, typing away at my computer, not wanting to forget all the wonderful parts of our trip thus far.