Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Next stop: Miles City, Vancouver and Internship

I really want to keep up with this blog, so I am writing this blog in a word document right now so that I can keep current. In my last blog I talked about my day’s travel experience, this one will be a little more varied as I have a few days to cover as I write. So I will be a little more selective in my ranting. Also, I apologize right now for any disjointedness that may come from this blog as I have certain things that I want to cover but no real idea as to how to get from thing to thing. So…here we go…

I left from Miles City, Montana earlier than I wanted, for whatever reason I woke up at 6am again. After almost twelve hours of driving evidently I wasn’t tired so I only got a little less than six hours of sleep. Anyway I get on the road and already begin to appreciate today’s drive much more than I did the previous day’s and for one reason, in fact one word: mountains. Let me explain; there is something about the mountains that always brings me comfort. It doesn’t matter where the mountains are or what they look like or what the state of the mountain is; there is just this inner that comes from the mountains. Mountains are like a security blanket or being held in the arms of a parent. I don’t know how to explain it and I don’t mean to quote George Bush, I make it a point not to, but if you don’t know I can’t tell you what that feeling is like. It is hemmed into my being. It is more than hemmed in, it is woven in from hem to hem; from top to bottom, front to back. The mountains provide a calming presence that I don’t know how to explain and I know that part of it comes from being born in a place that is quite literally under “purple mountains majesty.” And yet when I try to explain this, when I try to get people to understand this feeling that I get from mountain, and not the foreboding feeling that they get when they see mountains I just don’t have the right words to get them to understand. It’s more than just coming home, a part of me is filled when I see them, when I am driving through or standing on or camping in or *insert your verb here* while on a mountain. I just don’t get it anywhere else, and is something that I have missed the last three years while I was at Luther and it is something that I am reminded of while I am driving through the mountains here in Montana. It’s so mind boggling how people don’t take the time to appreciate what is that the mountains do for us as spiritual beings because I think that there is something very spiritual about them; they are the silent but living, growing and huge piece of earth that comes from the very depths and soul of this planet. Coming through hell and high fire to come and be and live on the surface of this beautiful world that we call Earth and we take it for granted. Most mountains don’t just come out of nowhere, they were formed by great amounts of force and are the results of quite catastrophic, almost apocalyptic actions and yet they provide some of the greatest splendor and majesty that we can possibly imagine. I can’t just lay down one thing that I love about the mountains, but I know that they are a part of who I am. And they will continue to seep into my very being until the day that I die. And I hope and pray that somewhere along the way of this pastoral journey that I am on that I will be able to spend a good chunk of my life living under mountains just like the ones that I could see. I pray this to be because I love mountains; my soul yearns and cries out for the mountains and looks out to them like a lost lover. I truly hope that this to be true. It is one of the things that I am looking forward to with this internship, that I am going to be amongst the mountains again and I hope that I never take that for granted.

I can’t say that all of my drive of the next two day was so serious. I saw quite a few hilarious things along the way. I wish that I could remember all of what I saw, but here are some of the few things I thought I should share as I had a bit of a laugh.

As I was driving through Montana I saw billboard on the side of the road (their normal spot to congregate; although recently they have been seen near streams, lakes and ballparks. Scientist think this is due to summer vacation plans.) and it said to call 511 before you drive to get some sort of road information; but how are you supposed to know to call this number when the billboard is on the highway and you are already driving? Doesn’t seem to be too well planned on the part of Montana’s D.O.T. It seems to me that it would be more fitting to place that billboard in someone’s driveway; so as I go out the door I see it and go, “Oh, call 511 for road info. I would have forgotten otherwise.”

Let me start this paragraph by saying that Montana doesn’t seem too keen in coming up with clever names for just about anything. I saw a 9 Mile Road and a 2 Mile Road, but one of the names stuck out, Crazy Mountain. Crazy Mountain. How does a mountain go about to be qualified or even named to be crazy. Red or Pink or Sandy or Rocky or whatever other adjective you want to think of I can understand; name them after some person or you can be French and call them Grand Tetons. But how do they become crazy? Did they smoke some pot and steal some cop car and paint the town red? I would love to have been there for the discussion of naming mountains in Montana for that one, “Okay, so we’ve decide this mountain will be called Granite Mountain. Now since Ted just name the last mountain it is my turn to name the next and I would like to name it Crazy Mountain.” “Crazy Mountain?” “Yes. Crazy Mountain.” “Why?!” “I would name it something else but it is long and reveals things, half of which are illegal in the state.” “Alright, Crazy Mountain it is. Chris it’s your turn.” I just don’t understand how that came to be.

As with many long road trips you will see many signs for all sorts of tourist traps, one of the most famous being the world famous whatever. The sign that brought this thought along was a sign for (and I quote), “World Famous 50,000 Silver Dollar.” First of all, I have no idea what this means. Is it 50,000 silver dollars? Or is it a silver dollar worth 50,000 dollars? Or is it a silver dollar shaped to be the number 50,000? I have no idea, I couldn’t make any sense of the sign. The second thing that came through my mind was: what constitutes “World Famous?” Because I had never heard of this silver dollar and I wondered how many people had. And it made me think of all of the other world famous things that are out there and how they got to that point. For this particular world famous item (the silver dollar or dollars) was it because some Canadian came down one year and saw the silver dollar and thus was world famous? Is there paperwork for one to claim world famous status? That would be an interesting application. “Have you or your item ever had your picture taken by a Japanese tourist?” “Is your or your item’s sole existence based on tourism?” “Are the post cards of you or your item?” I have no idea. I wonder if I qualify to be world famous. Maybe I need to get an application…

And then I saw something that I haven’t seen in a long time on my trip: hitchhikers. It was only one couple (at least I assume that they were a couple) and the woman was standing on the side of road out, thumb out and showing off her leg. I then thought how much more successful hitchhikers would be if a) people weren’t driving 75-80 miles an hour on an interstate and b) we didn’t live in an over-sexed culture. Because let’s be honest, showing a little leg isn’t going to do much for anyone who ever has walked around during the summer. And then I thought to myself, I wonder if they have a towel.

I spent my second night in Spokane, Washington. Technically it was in Spokane Valley, but I don’t think it really matters. It wasn’t a very interesting night, but Wolfgang caught up with me so we were able to converse a little. It was nice to catch up with someone that I knew and have real human interaction for the first time since I left Sunday morning. And after a good nights rest I left Spokane Valley (and shortly after Wolfgang as he continued to head west and I went south) and started my final drive. The third day of driving was the hardest. A good chunk of Western Washington (at least the part I drove through) was desert like; and not very interesting. It wasn’t until I got to the Columbia River that things got more interesting. When I was getting closer to Portland things got more interesting, and I even saw a couple of waterfalls from the road. And I hope to get back to take some pictures.

But after almost three days of driving I arrive in Vancouver, WA at about 3pm PST and was relieved but only a little as I knew that I still had work to do. So I go on and unload my car (with some help for which I am very grateful) and start to get organized for my up coming year. After taking some time to organize I am invited to dinner with my supervisor, his wife and a friend of theirs. It was a great dinner of pork chops, baked potato, bread, and two different salads with a dessert of two different apple pies. I go back after dinner and do more organizing, watch a movie and then go to bed after a long day. Oh, I also went to Target and the grocery store before I went to bed (at about 8pm).

Finally we get to today (at least the day of which I am writing this). Today was a little more relaxed. I had to run some more errands and I’m sure that tomorrow will bring more of the same. I also did some more organizing, figured out how to work the TV (it didn’t want to turn on the night before) and enjoyed my new place a little more. I spent most of the day in my new place, but I figure that is going to be the case until I figure out more of my surroundings and as my internship starts. I’d say more about today, but not a lot happened. So…until next time.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

700 miles and counting

Today was a long but good day with only a couple of hiccups. The first hiccup came when I woke up an hour before I wanted to. It really wasn't that big of a deal; I tried to stay in bed for a bit, but ended up watching television for one last time in the Bockman lounge before I left. But after getting ready, I threw the last of my things in my car and at around 8:30am I left and headed out west. I made my first stop at Sauk Centre, MN; just to stretch my legs and to help wake me up. (Okay, a side bar: I HATE Minnesota drivers. I know I've said this before, but they don't know how to drive on any sort of freeway/interstate. Everyone wants to drive at the same speed and they all refuse to signal. Oh, and when they do want to pass someone it take four hours (okay really only like 5 minutes but it shouldn't even take that long, sorry for dual parenthetical statements) and not one of them seems to know where they are going. Okay, I'm done.) I stopped next in Fargo, to go stretch again, get some gas and hopefully get food. I missed the fast food exit, but I wasn't really hungry anyway so I kept going.

So now I'm in North Dakota and it hits me, this is the farthest that I've ever driven by myself. Now I've driven long distances but there was always somebody else in the car to share some of the responsibility. And then it hits me that I still have to get through this state and drive about 100 miles into Montana, it was a bit overwhelming, but I wasn't going to let it bother me, I like driving and I was having fun listening to my music. So I drive on and try to enjoy the long flat view that is ahead of me (I am glad that I am no longer driving in the great, flat Midwest).

My next stop was Jamestown, ND. This is where I had the slowest service ever at the Burger King where I had lunch. There were only about four other "groups" (couples, families, etc) in the restaurant and yet I still had to wait over 15 minutes to get my food. I was completely baffled, it was the slowest service that I had in a fastfood restaurant that was not at peak times. In fact, I have been in fast food joints that were packed wall to wall that had fast service than that. After a long, uneventful and slow lunch I got back onto the road, chasing the westward sun.

My next stop was at a rest stop between Bismark and Dickinson, ND. This is where I had my second hiccup. I got out of my car so I could stretch my legs and use the restroom and enjoyed the refreshing wind. After my short, but enjoyable stop, I got into my car to get going again and start the car and it did, briefly. Once I had shifted it into gear it stopped. So, I put it into park again and I started it, again, and once again it was brief. So now I'm feeling a bit concerned, so I try one last time but after I start the car I give it a bit of gas and it stays started and I head back on down the road.

I made my next stop mile marker one in North Dakota; Beach, North Dakota to be precise. Now this is where I feel like a real idiot. So I knew I was going to need gas before I made it to my destination for the night, so I saw this billboard for a Flying J that had a Wi-Fi hotspot. I thought, "Great, I can check email, facebook, etc. and then get back on the road." I gas my car, pull into the parking space in front of me and go inside, no Wi-Fi signal. I walk around, no signal. Outside, no signal. So, now I'm frustrated, mostly because I was going to have a clever status on facebook (Doug Johnson can see Montana from his car.) So I leave and start driving down the road, and here is where I feel real stupid, I remember that I turned off the Wi-Fi on my phone before I left because I was having trouble with Luther's wireless. So now I'm frustrated with myself and even more frustrated that I couldn't put a funny little status on facebook (which really shouldn't be that way, but it was).

So now I'm in Montana, the final stretch for the day. I get through into Glen Dive, MT; no problem, only 70+ miles to Miles City. And the next 50 or so miles went rather quickly but the last 20+ miles seemed to take forever. It's fascinating that I could go almost 700 miles without much trouble, but the last 20 was torture. I finally make it into Miles City and check into a Super 8 motel at about 7pm GMT (8pm in St. Paul). And I finally feel like I can relax.

Overall it was a good day, but I am tired after almost 12 hours of travel time and around six hours of sleep. So I am going to stop writing this blog and get some rest.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

One Last Night

This is it, my last night in Bockman Hall before I set out for Washington. I have to say that it is eerie to have my car jammed pack, completely full, while my room is all but empty; only holding the essentials that I need before I start my trek across the country.

I have to say that this departure is a little bittersweet. On the one hand I have waited for over a year to finally go on my own internship journey. Yet on the other friends that have been on internship for the last year are finally returning back to campus and I am going to miss spending any time with them before they leave. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This last week can best be described as organized chaos. During much of the last week it had looked like my room was hit by a tornado (which wasn't far from being truth with the weather this last week) and then proceed to land mostly in boxes. And when I actually started packing on Tuesday I thought for sure that I would end up frantically trying to get everything done Saturday night. But that wasn't what happened. In fact I was able to get my car loaded and have it read to go, clean my room and type this blog all before I go to bed. Of course this is not to say that I haven't worked hard to get my life sorted into various boxes, bags and bins all sorted to go to various places.

And with all my packing done I know am faced with the task of thinking about what is coming next, and to be completely honest I'm not sure. I don't know much about the congregation and I don't know a whole lot about what it is that I'm going to do. I know that I am going to fill out some evaluations, got to some staff meetings, lead some worship, and other such things, but what that is going to look like I have no idea. I have no idea what my responsibilities are, what is expected of me, what it is that I want to do. I feel like I am going into this situation blindfolded. And when I sit down and think about it, I find it a bit overwhelming.

And for the first time this whole week I find that I am sad that I am leaving. I think that the reality of my being gone for the next whole year has finally set in and I hope that my friends know that I will miss them all over the next year.

So with one more night I will sit with a heavy heart and ponder what will come over the next year.