Saturday, October 27, 2012

Of Snow, Trucks, and Volcanoes

Hello. This is Hannah writing.

We are at CocoaConf. In Portland, Oregon. Surrounded by volcanic mountains that are capable of erupting and burying us and our conference in lava.

In which case, people will come and excavate us like at Pompeii. 

Let's try that again.

And this is Abi. I offered to help Hannah as need be with giving you the wild and wooly details of our 2,000 mile trip from St. Louis, Missouri, to Portland, Oregon, with 16 Kleins and 2 vehicles.

On Sunday the 21st, we set sail in our two vehicle caravan, toward the land of the setting sun. (And the aforementioned volcanoes.) I should mention that Hannah's "volcanoes" were very innocent in nature and that their status as volcanos was a bit doubtful.  Our trip was mostly uneventful for the first three days, with only few and minor tests of the endurance of our brotherly (and sisterly) love, and not much by way of vehicle trouble.

In fact, except for one of Zak's brake lights going out, there was no vehicle trouble at all. Zak drove his pickup, and each day a different group of siblings would accompany him, to visit and help him stay awake. It was beautiful weather most of the time, and we enjoyed seeing the diverse terrain as we traveled.

Once we got to Ontario, Oregon, we took a little detour and headed towards Bend, Oregon, to visit some friends out there. Along the way, we drove through a snow storm, which brought with it the customary tests of a driver's skill and expertise. 

It was an interesting experience, driving through dry and windy areas to suddenly be in a snow storm, and then to just as suddenly drive out of it, and be back with fall leaves.

As we climbed higher, the clouds enveloped us at times, and then would clear.  After over an hour, we were in the midst of a slushy snowfall.  The road was yet unplowed, so we were slow and careful.

On a gentle curve in the road, Daddy noticed an abandoned vehicle in the ditch.  After passing, he glanced in the rear view mirror for further details on the vehicle, and noticed a second vehicle heading for a new spot in the ditch.

Zak's truck slid on the road, crossed the empty, oncoming lane, and slid effortlessly into a position slightly bridging the ditch, against the side of one of the aforementioned volcanoes.  Thank the Lord, no one was hurt at all, but the truck was quite stuck, and it looked as though it might have been rendered undriveable by its rather undesirable parking place.  The rear axle looked very odd.

As the little boy passengers in the truck, Giddy and Joshie, said, "It was very smooth."  
Joshie agreed that it was almost like sledding, excepting the fact that "you are not supposed to sled into the mountains."

Looking back on this we see many ways the Lord protected us. One of the first being, the moment Zak swerved, Dad just "happened" to look out his rear view mirror.  So, Dad saw the whole thing take place.

If Dad had not seen this happen, we possibly could have gone for a mile or so before realizing Zak, and his companions at the time, were not still with us.   And then, calling would not have helped, since there was no cell coverage.

We pulled the van over and began assessing the situation. Our truck was on one side, and our rental van was on the other side of the two lane road.

A semi truck soon came by, and the driver tried to stop to see if he could help.  As he tried to stop, he joined the fun, and began to jackknife.  Fortunately, he did stop before anything dangerous happened, but he was also, in a word, stuck.  He then tried to pull forward, but his tires just spun, all 16 of them.

So we had a truck on one side, and a van on the other side, and a truck close to the middle of, the not terribly wide road. (Oh and I forgot to mention the other truck that had slid off the road a few hundred feet down the road. We were having a little party out there.)

In this photo, we have been on the road long enough that the plow came by and dumped sand and gravel.

This whole time, the snow was falling thick and beautiful, which normally is a favorite meteorological occurrence for the Kleins, but at that time, slightly inconvenient.  

So Solomon and Zak took up locations at each end of the congestion and began directing the traffic through the cluttered, as well as not terribly wide, road. 

Yep, still stuck.

The now-stranded truck driver began putting on his chains and told us there was no reception for miles.  We were beginning to get concerned to making it to the Cocoaconf in Portland and began re-routing our trip and calculating how much time we had to backtrack.    We realized we needed to get a tow truck and possibly a new vehicle (rental) for Zak to drive with all our equipment.  We wondered where we could find another rental vehicle...

We left Zak and Solomon at the scene, and Daddy and the rest of us drove in the van towards the nearest town with services.  Before driving too far, Mom got a signal and called 911 and we ordered a truck.  That done, we carefully turned around and headed back to the scene, to add to the clutter on the not terribly wide road.

Praise the Lord, we were able to call 911 and get a tow truck on the way.

Presently, a state trooper came by to see who was stuck, (and to join the party).  After doing some official things,  he lent Solomon his bright neon orange vest, since he was directing the traffic. Zak and Ben also continued directing traffic (and making photos) until the tow truck came.

In the van, everyone stayed warm and amused themselves watching the snow fall and the boys direct traffic. Also, watching eagerly for the tow truck to come!


The tow truck came at long last, and pulled the by now chilled and frozen truck out of the snow, and away from the side of the aforementioned volcano. (and by now hopefully you know this volcano was very innocent in nature). It was very cold by now, sitting in the snow all this time. To our great relief, the rear axle appeared normal and there was not a scratch on the body, plus the tires were all fine!  However, state law in Oregon required that the tow driver tow the truck back to their shop.

With our change of plans (skipping Bend), it turned out to be the direction we needed to go anyway.

So we were very thankful for God's protection. :)

Indeed we were! Had the truck's axle been damaged as it appeared, our plans for getting to Portland would have been seriously altered, with driving back to Boise, Idaho (over 200 miles back) to rent another vehicle, possibly scrapping Zak's truck, and making it to Portland at midnight. We had to be there that evening - the conference started the next morning at 8:30!  Needless to say there was much rejoicing in both vehicles as we headed, safe and sound, to Portland.

After that little excursion, we resumed our uneventful trip (L.O.L.) and got to Portland that night around 9:30.

Then we all went to sleep, except for some of us, including yours truly, who stayed up till past midnight setting up for the conference.  That meant setting up projectors, getting the registration table ready, and such like. We were very thankful we got to the hotel when we did, or we might have had to postpone setting up till the next day. (Which would have been less than ideal.)

Right now we are in the midst of the first day of the conference. Mommy and the little kids and some of the big girls are washing laundry, and the rest of us are at the conference.

And that's all for now. I think. Hopefully we will have more to say later (unless of course the aforementioned volcanoes erupt, in which case we would have a lot more to say, but we wouldn't be there to say it).

There we go again - volcanoes. ;)

It's been an exciting 2,000 miles and we praise the Lord for his hand of protection on all of us. His mercies are new every morning, and they will be new on the 2,000 miles back home, from Portland, Oregon to St. Louis, Missouri, with 16 Kleins and 2 vehicles.

Isaiah 26:3, 4
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength."

Thanks, Ben and Hannah, for the photos!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Plan B

The bus / RV conversion has been steadily moving forward, learning lots along the way.  Overall, the interior layout will be our favorite (of the three buses), once we nail down how to screw in our fancy shmancy dinette tables. The girls made curtains for the windows, and the lineolum turned out really sharp.

With just a few days to departure, and still much to do on the bus, we made a sacrifice of RV conversion time by taking the bus in for some preventative engine maintenance (oil change, etc.)

"Oh, and could you check out that oil leak?" we added, after they had begun work.

Well, the oil leak turned out to be preventative too.  It is preventing us from taking the bus on the trip to Oregon for cocoaconf.  The leak is due to a rear seal, and we were advised that if the seal failed on our trip, we would lose all our oil in a flash, and it would turn our transmission into coffee grounds without any warning.  The shop we took it to gave us an estimate, but even if we had them do the work, we would be without the bus for a couple of days and would not be able to get it ready in time for departure.  So, that was a no brainer.

We really like it when God makes it obvious. And we are thankful that we are avoiding having a breakdown on the road.

So, all of our elaborate plans for our RV trip included:  working crazy hours to get the bus interior finished, packing bedding, camping stuff, space heaters for cold nights, traveling at the slower bus speed (meaning more days/nights on the road), having lots of leg room, and being all in one vehicle ... plus lots of (now unnecessary) shopping and expenditures for the RV conversion.

Since we are not taking the bus, our plans have been shifted to:  taking two vehicles (renting a 15 passenger van, plus taking Zak's truck), maxing our miles so we have fewer travel days (so we have less van rent fees and hotel costs), not bringing the bedding and camping stuff (yay!), not working crazy hours to finish the bus interior, enjoying listening to MP3s together, and leaving a day later than we had planned.

We also have to scientifically plan for clothing changes, as getting in and out of a hotel quickly with 16 suitcases crammed into the vehicle of your choice is pretty challenging.  For the bus, we had these cool tubs we found that fit under the benches, and we would be sleeping in the bus or a nearby tent.  No space for tubs with the van/truck plan; space is a luxury.  We will bring bags for each family member, but for our hotel nights on the road, we are thinking of using one of those hanging shoe storage bags for everyone to pack one night's necessities. 

I am thinking we will load it up and roll it up, one per hotel room (we take three per night, by order of the fire marshal!).  

Today we got the bright idea to get Zak's truck into the shop, in preparation for the trip.  That was mostly uneventful.  They noticed a belt needed to be changed, so our guys did that this evening out in front of the house...after accidentally dropping a socket and other things into the engine, then having various younger siblings with various kitchen utensils try to fish the stuff out, then getting one of those cool magnet wands at the hardware store to finally do the extraction, and then having to return the first belt to the store because it wasn't the right one.

There was a time when things like that would really burn some of us up, but the whole belt replacement thing made for a happy family memory.  And it allowed us to be in the right place at the right time when a neighborhood kid came by, selling candy bars.

When it seems like nothing is ever easy, we try to remember it is preparation and opportunity.  Opportunity to really give thanks in everything.  And preparation for future service and hardships.  The amount of time we spend thinking "Bummer" is steadily decreasing.  We have tons for which to give thanks, and soldiers for the Lord are not trained by having everything go smoothly all the time.  While we would hesitate to call our recent turn of events "trials," we do want to learn to "count it all joy."

So, we are working on Plan B and looking forward to an awesome adventure with the Lord on the road to Oregon.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Here we go again...

Fall is really showing its colors here and we are learning, as a family, the importance of entrusting loved ones and our family to the Lord.  As sure as the leaves are gonna change, trials are going to come and our God is faithful.  His Word gives us the wisdom and encouragement we need each day.

Lately we have begun preparations for CocoaConf PDX, including continuing RV conversion on our third bus

First step is the passenger compartment.  We are doing a more rugged, inexpensive and Klein-proof interior.   We learn a bit more with each project.

One important lesson is...use the right tools.

Daddy's ready!  He is a skilled craftsman, indeed.

We are building from the ground up.  The little boys are extremely enthusiastic about helping.  Today, they ripped out the original floor, and now we are building up a sub floor and insulating with, what else but, insulation!  Noah is a crackerjack styrofoam cutter.  

We are also paneling the sidewalls with leftover paneling from the blue bus.  Then we will get some floor covering...  something that looks good with school bus grey upholstery and light oak paneling.

The girls are busy fashioning some very sharp looking forest green window coverings, hearkening back to their Grandpa Bill's ingenious window covering plan for The Greenie (Chevy Suburban).

We try to use as much as we can from previous projects.  We already re-installed the very Klein-proof triple bunks.  We are keeping the previous dinette tables, but just using bus benches for seating.  The dinette tables will drop down and their surface will fit two bus seats perfect, so we will just save some of the surplus seats.  This will yield a water resistant (if you know what I mean) comfortably padded sleeping surface.

After the floor and paneling are done, we will start getting things furnished.  We have been really looking forward to this!

More pictures will almost certainly come.