Archive for September, 2017

I had a restless night thanks to green and red chile peppers, lots of water due to the really dry air, and a nose full of dried blood and snot also due to the lack of humidity in the high desert.

One of the great unknowns about Presbytery meetings is if you need to meet the next day. That question meant that we had to be flexible in our Friday plans. Before the meeting resumed, it was time for breakfast. I was ready for that breakfast sandwich I planned on making. I was disappointed. No bacon. But they had some chicken sausage and andouille. So, not quite what I planned on but still good.

She dropped me off at the church and went back to finish packing. I heard lots of reports forĀ  the next 2+ hours. Getting close to the end I gave the “all clear” for them to head back to pick me up. As they arrived we finished the meeting proper but left some time for “goodbyes”. As Tito was speaking I realized that all of the Hispanic pastors were now going to be in the Rio Grande Presbytery. My new Presbytery will be less ethnically & culturally diverse. This is disappointing, and must be rectified over time.

At this point the plan was to head to Cloudhaven, a study/retreat center near Cloudcroft, NM, way up in the mountains. Since it was about noon, it made sense to have lunch before we left. Back to Dion’s so they could enjoy the pizza. We ordered a large for the kids and a medium for us parental types. They proved to be large enough to have leftovers. Then we were off, heading farther east.

On Day One I learned you can’t escape KLOVE. There we were, after watching Pinocchio, in the middle of nowhere we had KLOVE. So I geared myself up for more KLOVE. We were saving the other movies for the ride home the next day.

And a long drive it would be.. First we went down 25, south of Saccaro. Then we went due east along a mostly straight road There was not much traffic. But some went slow. I always find the slow ones. Shortly after the Valley of Fire (tons of volcanic rock) we turned south along another mostly deserted road. These two roads were along the perimeter of the White Sands Missile Range.

Somewhere in there we finally lost a signal for KLOVE. It’s really sad when you wish you had KLOVE. We should have connected my iPod. Only hindsight is 20/20.

Once again we had a bathroom issue. The daughter wasn’t excited about going behind a bush. Finally we came across a “trading post” which was “Native Owned, Half-Breed Operated”. I almost expected Billy Jack to come around the corner. I was beginning to wonder if this child actually had to go to the bathroom while we wandered around looking at art and trinkets. But we were too close to Tularosa, NM, where we planned on stopping for dinner.

Right next to this trading post was the entrance to the Three Rivers Petroglyph site. So off we went down the alleged 3 mile road to the site. It was actually 4.7 miles, but since when has our government been able to do math. The volunteer in the office was quite excited to see real live human beings and gave us far too much information leaving us too little time to actually walk along the ridge to see the petroglyphs. They are done on volcanic rock, and there were 3 dormant volcanoes at this particular location.

Back on the road toward Alamagordo we went, stopping in Tularosa at Casa de Suenos. I avoided any more chile peppers and went with rolled tacos (floutas). We were not the only large groups. Thee place seemed made for large groups. Thankfully they were used to the silly accidents that happen with kids. You know, one annoying another who then spills the ginormous cup of water they provided. Everyone enjoyed their meal and it was off to Cloudhaven for the evening.

We ascended the mountain as the sun was setting. We got some glimpses of great scenery as we drove along the steep cliffs. When we got to Cloudcroft it was dark. I was behind a truck, glad since there were probably plenty of deer in the area. That is when he pulled over so I could go first. I was wondering if that was so I’d hit the deer when I saw one. Just standing there on the side of the road, so I stopped until he moved on.

Soon we were at Cloudhaven (about 8,100 feet), the home of Jim and Katy Bailey. I was utterly beat after all the driving after the late night. They showed us to the guest house so the kids wouldn’t be too distracting to them. As I was unloading the van I called out the kids. The stars were just plain amazing.

A. took advantage of the washer and dryer to do a load of laundry so she’d have one less when we got home. That there was only one bathroom meant I went to bed later than I wanted. I barely made it to 10:30. And so ended Day 3.


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The bed was pretty comfy, but the air seemed even drier than in Tucson. A nose full of dried snot can make it hard to sleep. But I was thankful for the fact that I went to bed earlier than usual due to the time change. But my meetings didn’t begin until 10 so I could lounge there until the kids, okay the 3 youngest, started playing with the curtains and generally being annoying. I don’t blame them, it is hard to deal with hotel rooms as a kid.

Due to the renovations going on, the breakfast was served in the room below ours. The good part of that was our kids couldn’t wake anyone up with all their stomping and other antics. The bad part- fewer steps on a day in which I’d be sitting more than usual.

Boy, was it crammed in there! Hard to move around and get food. Don’t get between this man and his waffles! My inner Homer Simpson comes out- “Mmmmm, waffle overflow.” I should have made myself a “breakfast sandwich” with the bacon, cheese & English muffin (no tortillas for a wrap/breakfast burrito?). It was a good breakfast for the 5 of us. Oh, the oldest was still asleep and still cranky for introvert overload the previous day. As A. would say, “Seriously?”

Some of the guys tease me for my cargo pants. It is great to have those pockets for the phone & wallet (my aging, easily put out of alignment hips love them). But, in honor of our final Presbytery meeting I wore jeans. Yeah, jeans. We’re classy in the Southwest.

We were closer to the host church than I thought. And so began a day of meetings. In the am, I had my RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) committee meeting. We discussed the transition at NMSU in Las Cruces (I hate to see Ben leave for the Southeast), and how things are going for the new campus ministry at the UofA (glad to see Dan & Brittany here in Tucson).

Meanwhile … I got a text about how the oldest didn’t want to go to the petroglyph site on the west side of town. She’s so grumpy, she says, that she might hit an annoying sibling. This is starting well.

Turns out they all had a great time, even the oldest. Okay, one child struggled with a fear of heights on the sometimes narrow path. The boys? Mountain goats.

Back at the church…. committee meeting is over and the other Ben is lamenting about eating too many of the delicious breakfast burritos that Adam V. picked up on his way in. I don’t do eggs so this presented no temptation for me. I already had tea so I didn’t investigate the possibility of those fat pills known as donuts. It was a tad early for lunch and Justin presented two nearby options. The chicken and waffles place was a mile away. 1. I’d already had waffles. 2. I had no car and would have to bum a ride. The pizza place was about 5 blocks away. Perfect walking distance for a guy in need of steps. AND that pizza place was Dion’s. Our friend Shannon, who spent time living in ABQ recommended it in one of her texts. So, a bunch of us walked down to Dion’s, talking ministry and life. Many of their pizzas looked great so I settled on the Napoli: red sauce, provolone, sausage, Kalamata olives, pepperoni, roasted red peppers and Parmesan. I resisted getting green chiles on my pizza. I have to beware of chile overload.

Meanwhile …. A. took the kids to the Blake’s Lotaburger by the hotel. We are just now getting them in Tucson and I am envious. They put some of that dangerously delicious green chile on their burgers. The food was great, she says, but the service was a bit lacking. While they took time for rest, introverted or not, we began our meeting proper.

Shall I bore you with details?

Each of the newly authorized and soon to be existing Presbyteries had a caucus. For the AZ Presbytery, we looked at the 8th draft of our Rules of Assembly which determine how we’ll function as well as our priorities. We had some kingly gifted guys running this thing so stuff happened. Maybe too much. But we hope to vote on those at our first meeting this January. The Rio Grande is a slow moving river, and so is the new Rio Grande Presbytery. They needed to reform their transition committee and have much more work to do in the next few months.

We examined a pastor for transfer, which means we just examine views and exceptions. It isn’t a long or involved exam. Usually. This pastor had an unusual exception, particularly for our Presbytery. As a result, what usually takes 10 minutes was well over an hour as he tried, in vain, to explain why this exception wasn’t a big deal. I cut to the chase with a question (okay, I’d had about 6 previous questions) “Was this approved by your previous Presbytery or is it a new exception?” Two previous Presbyteries has approved of it. So, while I personally had some discomfort I voted ‘yes’. I hope I don’t regret it.

As a result, when a candidate for ministry came for his floor exam he was asked no questions. The context matters. We’d examined him in January for licensure. I guess I could have asked if anything changed since then, but no one wanted to stir up unnecessary trouble. We trusted that the committee had been doing their work and moved on to other matters.

While we were still “working” the family arrived. The boys had pent up energy and made good use of the whole building while they waited. Since the taco truck arrived, they got a head start on dinner. The kids all chose the nachos, which I think had some meat and red chile sauce. A waited for me and we talked in line about how the meeting had gone so far, and talking with the guys around us in line. When I got near the front of the line I had a hard choice. Everything sounded good. Well, there was that one thing. I’d never had a fried avocado taco. Hey, you only live once and who knows if/when I’ll be in ABQ again. One of each, please. That taco (all of them actually) was delicious! And I finished one of the kid’s nachos.

The rest of the family went back to the Residence Inn while I stayed for the worship and time of fellowship at a local establishment. Worship when well, with one of our church planters in ABQ, Adam, preaching. Afterward we slowly began shuffling off to said establishment. Not having a vehicle, I tagged along with some other Tucson guys (Ben, Dan & Charles) in their rental. We had to wait on Dan and moved to the front of the building. We were surprised to find 3 police vehicles and 5 officers standing in the street. Apparently we should have given them a heads up on the unusual activity. We braved the construction riddled road with all kinds of lane changes until we got to the establishment with severely limited parking.

The establishment was Kelly’s Brew Pub, it looked like it was a converted service station. We sat outside in the cool night air enjoying a pint and conversation. You might be surprised to discover this is my favorite part of Presbytery meetings. I resisted the temptation to get food knowing there would be one final Whattaburger run. I did see a falling star while I was sitting out there. And a huge drone with green light on the rotors passed overhead (there is an Air Force Base in town). Around 10 was last call. 10!? Isn’t this a college town? It seemed early to close, but our rather large group was pretty much it at that point.

I had precisely 1 Scottish ale. It had a little more APV than most Scottish ales, and at a mile up that was enough. A friend picked up my meager tab and off we were to Whattaburger. One of the guys from Santa Fe gave me a ride so we could talk some. Turns out the Whattaburger is just down the street from my hotel.

I’m not the only one who has issues with Siri. She seemed to take us on the least direct route for some reason. This is a bit of a tradition for us, getting a midnight burger. Not just any burger, but a triple patty burger. Not wanting to have a lousy night’s sleep due to grease, the first time I went on this run I had a double which resulted in an unfortunate nickname- Dub. On a subsequent run, one of the Bens had a Jr. and became the shame bearer, though we don’t often call him Jr. Last time Josh had 7 patties and probably descended into another meat coma (I passed on that trip since our church was hosting). This is beyond the meat sweats. Bo decided to top him with an 8 patty burger. Yeah, 2 lbs. of hamburger meat. I’m not sure about the physical and emotional toll it took on him.

I had my usual double, but with green chile to top it off. Possibly a mistake after the chile peppers with dinner. The other customers were amusing. They humored us by taking our pictures (as did an employee). They were humorous in that they took out their tasers. Yeah, they had tasers.

Thinking it was time for me to go, I said my goodbyes and prepared to walk the 2-3 blocks to my hotel. About 4 different people offered me a ride. I wanted steps, but wisdom won the day. Kelly gave me a ride in my 3rd different vehicle of the evening. He thought he saw a crack deal go down while getting gas just down the road. I returned at 11:30 to a room full of sleeping people. I was done….

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I think we are still recovering from the great move of 2010. At least the oldest is, and she reminds us of this periodically. We’ve had a few families visit us on road trips, and there are places in the Southwest we, meaning the parents, still want to see. With most of our vacation time spent in NY road trips are a challenge. But we bought the Hodyssey to make road trips. We tricked it out with a DVD player to make road trips. When will we get to take a road trip?

Going to Presbytery meetings has largely been a solo affair- just me since I have to go (I enjoy parts of it- food & drink with friends basically). We’d pondered going as a family when it was held in northern New Mexico. With the division I mean multiplication, of our Presbytery at the state line, this was the final shot. The final meeting of the Presbytery of the Southwest was taking place in ABQ. Road Trip!

Preparations were made: getting my sermon done early, A. finding subs for her Friday classes, someone to watch the dogs and all that jazz. The plan was to leave Wednesday after speech therapy & A’s exercise class. On the previous weekend I notice that pesky tire pressure light was on. I found a way to procrastinate until Wednesday morning. The QT down the road has free air, so no problem. Before speech therapy I drive down to fill it up. But it wouldn’t fill. Was the problem my digital gauge or the pump? Ain’t nobody got time for this, I’ve got a road trip today!

So… off to the Discount Tire which provides free air pressure checks, notifying A. of this delay, promising I’d be back in time to bring E-fly to speech. There is no way all 4 tires had leaks. Has to be the pump. The stress was building anyway, particularly as another car was there getting checked. “Come on!” was the voice in my head. Thankfully the tires were filled, though he encouraged me to overfill a little. Time to get home and go to speech.

A quick stop at Costco for gas and we were on the road around 11:30. Not quite the best time to leave Tucson. Too early to eat lunch in Tucson. Needing to get on the road. Remembering there isn’t much between Tucson and Deming on I-10. Familiar with the McDonald’s in Willcox thanks to trips to Apple Annie’s for produce, we decided to stop there. No Happy Meals for the little people as they already had their annual Happy Meal. Not seeing a simple double cheeseburger I had to settle for the 2 cheeseburgers and the additional useless carbs in two whole buns. I can just see myself gaining 10 pounds on this trip.

It was, thankfully, largely uneventful, as we watched (I listened to) The Lego Batman Movie, one of the few movies everyone enjoys these days. I would end up talking like Batman for much of the weekend. This is the price they must pay. We got off I-10 in Deming on the way to connect with I-25. It was some interesting landscape but essentially deserted desert. At some point they started to watch Pinocchio , much to the protests of the eldest. I didn’t realize how boring that movie actually was. I had a hard time staying away.

Soon, though, we were to Hatch, Chile Capitol of the World. I was wishing we could have waited to eat at Sparky’s. The speed limit in Hatch drops to 25 so we see EV-ER-Y-THING. But there isn’t much to see besides fields, mobile homes, and road side shops selling peppers and shirts. But … it was remarkably green. The reason? The Rio Grande river. We passed over it near 25. It was to be our companion for the next stretch of road, creating a great disparity between the east & west sides of the highway. East there was lush green with trees and fields in the valley. There were a few lakes too. West? Barren wasteland. Well there was that one series of groves with a man-made waterfall on the end. That was pretty much it.

But there was no place to stop. The towns were small, and there were no rest areas. We know because someone had to go. This is why you don’t drink on road trips…. what goes in must come out. Finally we came to an exit with a few gas stations with convenience stores. The one we choose was kind of small. We were the only people there so we felt compelled to buy something to compensate them for the use of their facilities. Bye-bye to the rare cash reserves in my wallet. After we passed thru that town there was a rest area. Arrgh! Why put it near a town with places to stop?! Silly New Mexican government. This would appear to be a common set of circumstances in New Mexico.

We rolled into ABQ around 7 pm still on the original tank of gas from Costco. We found our currently-being-renovated Residence Inn run by very friendly people. We brought our stuff into the suite and headed off to dinner with members of Presbytery at Sadie’s. It was a bit noisy although we had a small room to ourselves. My kids had their own table while we ate with some guys from Presbytery. About 4 or 5 tables were pushed together for the larger part of our group. We had one child suffering from introversion overload, not wanting to be in a loud restaurant. The guy across from me, a missionary to the Ukraine I’d never met before, had a dish too spicy for him to eat. Those New Mexican chile peppers can get you. We enjoyed our meals, and I enjoyed my Isotope Amber Ale as well. With tired kids, we begged off early. This is when Siri threw us for a loop. Expecting to take the same route back to the hotel, she took us on some strange convoluted journey back to the hotel. This would be a common issue in ABQ for some reason.

Our suite had a bedroom with a full or queen downstairs which was claimed by the eldest child. She, the introvert, wanted the space to recharge. We took the loft style bedroom upstairs. It had a half wall. The other 3 crashed in the living room. It had a pull out couch for the boys, and the younger daughter fashioned a bed for herself on the floor.

There were two problems. The first was the half wall. Light from the TV was seen by the kids, distracting them. And then there was the boys who were tired and goofy, unable to fall asleep. Finally we moved the older boy to under the kitchen table so they both would sleep. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

I would try to ignore the fact that the hotel had security in the parking lot all night long. Thankfully that would not come back to haunt us.


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