Why the title?

"Pioneers take the arrows"

Oh, wait. I should be upbeat and taking arrows doesn't sound like an upbeat thing to say.

So, let me amend that statement.

It was courage and vision that led the pioneers to leave behind a comfortable, settled life and trek West to begin a new life in a new place. Many of those from the East that went West found a strength within themselves that they didn't see while they were in their old life. Instead of being one of those that just kind of went along with the others in the old life, they became leaders and visionaries in their new lives.

The sentiments of that last paragraph come from a favorite author, Louis L'Amour, in many of his books. So, I can't really say that it is an original thought from me. However, what he said is truthful.

Welcome to being a pioneer. Look ahead and ignore the "barking dogs" that give you negative opinions and comments. Louis L'Amour also spoke of the barking dogs.

In some of his stories, it was usually a father or older man telling a young boy how it was that when the Westward bound Conestoga wagons rolled through towns, the dogs came out to bark at them. His character then told the young listener that the barking didn't stop the wagons from going on to their destinations.

Following the advice of the Louis L'Amour characters, may we all forge ahead with our plans, after carefully considering all consequences and leave the "barkers" behind.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Our Last World War I Veteran Is Gone

Frank Buckles, Last World War I Doughboy, Is Dead at 110

By RICHARD GOLDSTEIN

February 28, 2011

New York Times

Frank Buckles WWI Vet Dies

The World War I veteran Frank Buckles, during a Veteran’s Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery at Arlington, Virginia, 2007, left, and in his U.S. Army enlistment photo, 1917.

Frank Buckles, who drove an Army ambulance in France in 1918 and came to symbolize a generation of embattled young Americans as the last of the World War I doughboys, died on Sunday at his home in Charles Town, W.Va. He was 110.

His death was announced on his Web site.

He was only a corporal and he never got closer than 30 or so miles to the Western Front trenches, but Mr. Buckles became something of a national treasure as the last living link to the two million men who served in the American Expeditionary Forces in France in “the war to end all wars.”

President Obama said in a statement that Mr. Buckles lived “a remarkable life that reminds us of the true meaning of patriotism and our obligations to each other as Americans.”

Frail, stooped and hard of hearing but sharp of mind, Mr. Buckles was named grand marshal of the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington in 2007. He was a guest at Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day 2007 for a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns. He was honored by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at the Pentagon and met with President George W. Bush at the White House in March 2008.

United States senators played host to him at the Capitol in June 2008 for the impending 90th anniversary of the World War I armistice. And he appeared before a Senate subcommittee in December 2009 to support legislation named in his honor to bestow federal status on a World War I memorial on the Washington Mall built in the 1930s.

The Department of Veterans Affairs said he would be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

Sought out for interviews in his final years, Mr. Buckles told of witnessing a ceremony involving British veterans of the Crimean War, fought in the 1850s, when he was stationed in England before heading to France. He remembered chatting with Gen. John J. Pershing, the commander of American troops in World War I, at an event in Oklahoma City soon after the war’s end.

And he proudly held a sepia-toned photograph of himself in his doughboy uniform when he was interviewed by USA Today in 2007. “I was a snappy soldier,” he said. “All gung-ho.”

Frank Woodruff Buckles was born Feb. 1, 1901, on a farm near Bethany, Mo. He was living in Oakwood, Okla., when the United States entered World War I, and he tried to enlist in the Marine Corps at age 16, having been inspired by recruiting posters.

The Marines turned him down as under-age and under the required weight. The Navy did not want him either, saying he had flat feet. But the Army took him in August 1917 after he lied about his age, and he volunteered to be an ambulance driver, hearing that was the quickest path to service in France.

He sailed for England in December 1917 on the Carpathia, the ship that helped save survivors of the Titanic’s sinking in 1912. He later served in various locations in France, including Bordeaux, and drove military autos and ambulances. He was moved by the war’s impact on the French people.

“The little French children were hungry,” Mr. Buckles recalled in a 2001 interview for the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress. “We’d feed the children. To me, that was a pretty sad sight.”

Mr. Buckles escorted German prisoners of war back to their homeland after the Armistice, then returned to the United States and later worked in the Toronto office of the White Star shipping line.

He traveled widely over the years, working for steamship companies, and he was on business in Manila when the Japanese occupied it after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. He was imprisoned by the Japanese and lost more than 50 pounds before being liberated by an American airborne unit in February 1945.

After retiring from steamship work in the mid-1950s, Mr. Buckles ran a cattle ranch in Charles Town, and he was still riding a tractor there at age 106.

In April 2007, Mr. Buckles was identified by the Department of Veterans Affairs as one of the four known survivors among the more than 4.7 million Americans who had served in the armed forces of the Allied nations from April 6, 1917, when the United States entered World War I, to Nov. 11, 1918, the date of the armistice.

Two of the four — J. Russell Coffey and Harry Landis — had served stateside in the American Army. Mr. Coffey died in December 2007 at 109; Mr. Landis, in February 2008 at 108. John Babcock, who was born in Canada, served in the Canadian Army in Britain in World War I and held dual American and Canadian citizenship, died in Spokane, Wash., in February 2010 at 109.

The last known veterans of the French and German armies in World War I, Lazare Ponticelli and Erich K√§stner, respectively, died a few months apart in 2008; Harry Patch, the last British soldier, died in 2009. Claude Choules, who served in Britain’s Royal Navy and now lives in Australia, and Florence Green, a member of Britain’s Women’s Royal Air Force and who lives in England, are thought to be the only two people still living who served in any capacity in the war.

Mr. Buckles is survived by his daughter, Susannah Flanagan. His wife, Audrey, died in 1999.

More than eight decades after World War I ended, Mr. Buckles retained images of his French comrades. And he thought back to the fate that awaited them.

“What I have a vivid memory of is the French soldiers — being in a small village and going in to a local wine shop in the evening,” he told a Library of Congress interviewer. “They had very, very little money. But they were having wine and singing the ‘Marseillaise’ with enthusiasm. And I inquired, ‘What is the occasion?’ They were going back to the front. Can you imagine that?”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/01/us/01buckles.html?_r=1&src=mv

11-11VeteransDay

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Day for Piddlin’

Today was a day of doing very little in particular and several things just sort of willy-nilly. We never went anywhere, nor entertained anyone, nor did much of anything. Jo has discovered that she can download books from Amazon.com onto her phone. So, she has gone back to doing some reading. I would say “serious” reading because she has been reading ALL day long, but I don’t know what she is reading, so, I’ll suspend with calling it serious reading.

I have goofed around on the computer. I finally took the time to explore a little with the blog, in particular, I went to the icons for my followers and attempted to get onto their blogs. I say “attempted” because there is at least one where one has to be an “invited” reader. Not just anyone can read that one.

I would be more of a “follower” on the blogs of others, but I really don’t have a lot of time to read through a lot of blogs in my days. A lot of them have definitely piqued my curiosity, but I can only get to them on occasion and usually just for a cursory read. I do appreciate all who follow mine.

I also need to make a clarification regarding yesterday’s post about the Media Matters story. Actually, it is more about my comments at the end. Please don’t get the idea that I am “down” on union members. My issue isn’t with the members unless they are died-in-the-wool, adamant supporters of unions now and forever. My issue is mostly with the leadership and the fact that unions spend an exorbitant amount of their member’s money for political campaigns. I’m surprised that the membership isn’t asking why their money isn’t being used to benefit the members instead of Congress critters.

I also got outdoors for a little bit and began cutting up the barn stall mat into sections to be used for leveling blocks for the RV. That took a little time because I was doing all the cutting with a utility knife. You know, the kind using razor blades for cutting. And, I used up a couple of those blades. I certainly needed to get it done while I still had the use of the two picnic table halves.

Perhaps I should explain that one. Years ago, we bought some plastic legs to which one attaches several 2X4 boards to form a seat and a back. Then, when you raise the back and latch in two locking mechanisms, the seat back then becomes a picnic table top. See the photos below, and I provided a link should anyone be interested in purchasing some. In order to have a full table, one needs to have 4 legs to make two sides.

Convertible Picnic Table Legs1

Convertible Picnic Table Legs2

http://www.kotulas.com/deals/ProductDisplay?url=ProductDisplay%3FcatalogId%3D10602%26storeId%3D10152%26productId%3D20715%26langId%3D-1&cm_ite=convertible_picnic_table&catalogId=10602&productId=20715&langId=-1&cm_pla=NONBRAND&cm_ven=PPC&cm_cat=GOOGLE&storeId=10152&affiliateId=rkg&affiliateId=rkg&ddkey=http:OrderItemAdd

Anyway, I needed to use the picnic tables since I don’t have any kind of workbench on which to lay the mat and cut it.

Since this is a “Piddlin’” sort of day, I’ll also introduce you to the other members of our “family.” Of course, that would be our two Miniature Pinschers. The smaller brown dog is TJ, our male dog and the larger black dog is Lady. (Actually her full registered name is TJ’s Lady since we bought her to be company for TJ.) Both have been neutered, and, like many others’, they are our “kids.” They are getting pretty much up on age now. The following pictures are from about 8 or 9 years ago.

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It is almost as if they were saying, “Oh, crud. He has that “flashy” thing again.”

TJ was originally purchased when Jo was having some depression issues. We had just recently had to put her mother into a nursing home and Jo didn’t like doing it. But, we both had to work and there was no way that we could take care of her mother. So, TJ was bought and he has long been a source of joy. This picture gives you a good image of the “Pinscher” look.

P0000187

He has this thing for a tennis ball. The grungier it is, the better he likes it. We also have a smaller one, but he always wants the big one.

P0000602

The look conveys this message: “Dad, if you don’t want more leaves torn up on the carpet, you WILL play ball with me.”

Lady has always liked the outdoors and this was her first experience with snow. She still likes running in the snow. As old as she is, she was having a grand time during the last two snow storms. But, both the pictures from below are from several years ago.

P0000684

P0000685

For a long time, Lady was aloof, even with Jo and I. She seldom wanted us to hold her or pet her. If we needed to catch her, we had to get out the leashes and harnesses. She would then come to us so she could go for a walk. When we bought Lady, the lady at the pet shop told us that she had been sold once before to a couple who lived in an apartment. But, Lady’s hyper ways was too much for them. Since the pet shop didn’t give refunds, the couple traded Lady in for a bird. I don’t know about anyone else, but to us that seemed sad. We did have to get her past some kind of sickness at the time, but even with her being aloof she has still been a delight to us. Now, she loves to be with one of us.

Miniature Pinschers tend to gravitate to one member of the family and merely tolerate the rest. Jo is favored by both of them and when Jo goes to sit down both of them want to be lying beside her. Lady prefers to be under a blanket. If Jo isn’t sitting somewhere, then they will get with me in the chair.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Liberals Prove My Point

I just love it when those on the opposite side of the political spectrum manage to prove a point that I’ve given numerous times, although not that often yet on this blog. The funny part is that they were still fighting against conservative beliefs when they did it.

There is a liberal group out there called Media Matters that is constantly listening to conservative commentators on the radio and TV as well as what they can find in print in magazines, newspapers, and online news sources. Once they have their chosen stories, they then attempt to put a spin on what has been said or written.

It begins with a story in CNS News, an online news source, and the story was in regards to the situation up in Wisconsin with the Republican governor and the majority Republican Senate against the minority Democrat Senate members leaving town. Of course, who can’t know about all the public service employees, including teachers, who have been in the state capitol building in protest of the actions of the Republicans?

Some of the teachers had even taken school children from school to take with them to the protest. CNS News then wrote the story about the educational side of the story, saying that only 32% of Wisconsin’s eighth grade school children could proficiently read. Here is an excerpt from that story, with a link under it to the story online.

Two-Thirds of Wisconsin Public School 8th Graders Can’t Read Proficiently—Despite Highest Per Pupil Spending in Midwest

Tuesday, February 22, 2011
By Terence P. Jeffrey

(CNSNews.com) - Two-thirds of the eighth graders in Wisconsin public schools cannot read proficiently according to the U.S. Department of Education, despite the fact that Wisconsin spends more per pupil in its public schools than any other state in the Midwest.

In the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests administered by the U.S. Department of Education in 2009—the latest year available—only 32 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned a “proficient” rating while another 2 percent earned an “advanced” rating. The other 66 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned ratings below “proficient,” including 44 percent who earned a rating of “basic” and 22 percent who earned a rating of “below basic.”

http://cnsnews.com/news/article/two-thirds-wisconsin-public-school-8th-g#

 

Remember that number of 32%.

So then Media Matters publishes an article online, trying to counter CNS News’ story with this following information, which is their story in its entirety.

 

BREAKING: 8th Grade Reading Scores in WI Higher Than National Average

February 22, 2011 3:03 pm ET by Eric Boehlert

This gotcha headline has made the rounds on the right-wing blogosphere and Drudge today, as conservatives point to it as proof that Wisconsin teachers are not only causing union trouble in that state, but they’re awful at their jobs:

Two-Thirds of Wisconsin Public-School 8th Graders Can’t Read Proficiently—Despite Highest Per Pupil Spending in Midwest

Oh my!

From the far-right CNSnews.com [emphasis added]:

In the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests administered by the U.S. Department of Education in 2009—the latest year availableonly 32 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned a “proficient” rating while another 2 percent earned an “advanced” rating. The other 66 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned ratings below “proficient,” including 44 percent who earned a rating of “basic” and 22 percent who earned a rating of “below basic.”

Right. And here’s where the hit piece promptly falls apart:

Nationwide, only 30 percent of public school eighth graders earned a rating of “proficient” or better in reading, and the average reading score on the NAEP test was 262 out of 500.

That’s right, the reading proficiency rate for Wisconsin eighth graders is slightly higher than the national average. But other than that the article is hugely embarrassing to teachers in that state. Or something.

UPDATED: More CNSnews.com brilliance:

Only 39 Percent of Wisconsin Public-School Eighth Graders Proficient in Math, Says Department of Education

The national average for eighth grade math students? It's 25 percent. “

http://mediamatters.org/blog/201102220030

 

Now, here is where Media Matters proves my point. They correctly pointed out that Wisconsin’s rating was 2% higher than the national average in reading and 14% higher than the national average in math.

Can anyone remember taking a test in school where you passed any test with a score of 30% or 25%? National reading scores average 30% and national math scores average 25%. I would say that those numbers certainly support my claim that our education system, including teachers and administrators, has absolutely failed our students over the last several decades.

Thus, I still contend that the gross negligence needs to be completely eliminated, starting with the federal Education department then striking hard at the teacher’s unions and getting rid of tenure. At a later date, and further into this blog, I’ll post comments from some educators at both secondary school and college levels calling for an end of tenure.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Update on “And Perhaps Then Some”

In the previous posting, the heading includes the above words in the title, and those words were based on the information in the last paragraph or so of the Colton Burpo Part 2 news article. So, let me explain the “update” aspect.

I came home yesterday and spent quite a bit of time trying to find the story or something about the young lady who is an artist and had done an image of Jesus that Colton claimed was closest to what his “Jesus” looked like. Of course, I couldn’t find anything in the archives of Lori Henshey on the Examiner website.

However, her e-mail address was on the Examiner website, so I sent her an e-mail saying something to the effect that I couldn’t find the story and was assuming that perhaps the family of the young girl declined to participate with the story.

Lori Henshey responded this morning that the story needed more research than she thought and that she was still working on the article. She said that she should have it posted in roughly a week to 10 days or so.

She offered to send me a link to the story once it was posted online and I replied saying that I would really appreciate the courtesy. I also jokingly hinted that it would be nice if a copy of the Jesus image could be a part of the story.

I then got another message from her with a link to a gallery of the young lady’s paintings. So, allow me to share it with you as well. But, first, a little information might be in order. The young lady’s name is Akiane and in addition to her painting, she also writes poetry. She began drawing when she was four-years-old and painting at six.

I will give you the homepage of her website so that once you enter, you can learn more about her. From the homepage click on “Enter” and then once in further in the website, there is a link to her Gallery.

Once you are into the gallery, scroll down to the line where it is labeled “Age 8” and the Jesus painting is the second one from the left. Once you arrive at the image, be sure and read the poem to the right of the image. It, too, is a beautiful thing.

Enjoy. I certainly am. Also, once Lori Henshey’s story on Akiane is finished and I receive the link from her, I’ll share that as well.

http://www.artakiane.com/

After further thought, I’ll also put in a link directly to the gallery.

http://www.artakiane.com/gallery

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Colton Burpo Story And Perhaps Then Some

This story was on the TV news this morning and on one of our local talk radio programs.  When I heard some of the details, I had to go find an online source of the story.  The following story by Lori Henshey of the Examiner.com is especially intriguing when you look at the very last paragraph of the “Part Two” segment.  It involves a young girl, an artist prodigy, who has had a similar “out of body” experience AND has drawn a picture of Jesus.

That story I have to try to find.  In spite of Lori Henshey’s mention that her story was “next”, I’ve not found it yet.  But, as intriguing as this is, you can bet I will be looking.

Colton Burpo Goes to Heaven Part One.

Lori Henshey

January 3rd, 2011

Examiner.com

clip_image002

Colton Burpo describes a visitation to heaven in startling detail.

Photo: PhotoXPress

A few years ago, a three-year-old boy named Colton Burpo traveled to heaven. There he saw God, sat in Jesus’ lap, met John the Baptist (he was nice, Colton said), was shown an impending battle between good and evil, visited with deceased loved ones, viewed rainbows of otherworldly colors and noticed gentle animals milling about. Darkness did not exist in this heavenly sphere, Colton insisted, because the light of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit shone continuously.

The precursor of this event began just prior to family plans to travel from Imperial, Nebraska, to Greeley, Colorado, for a Fourth of July vacation. Colton came down with vomiting and diarrhea the day before the family was set to leave, which his doctor diagnosed as stomach flu. Next day, Colton seemed to recover, so the family continued on with their travel plans.

A day into the trip, however, Colton relapsed and began to vomit almost continually. His six-year-old sister, Cassie, became sick, as well, so Todd and Sonja chocked it up to a return of the stomach flu. However, as Cassie quickly recovered, it became clear Colton was much sicker than his doctor had originally thought.

In fact, his condition deteriorated so quickly that his parents, Todd and Sonya, rushed their son back to Nebraska to see his family doctor, where he was admitted to a nearby hospital for tests. While his blood work indicated nothing irregular, CT scans showed a strange and very large mass in his tiny tummy; doctors admitted they knew neither what the mass was nor what had caused it.

When Colton’s parents asked the doctor several times if Colton’s appendix might have burst – there was a history of this in the family – the doctor insisted that it had not because his blood work showed no signs of infection, i.e., a high white cell count.

Days past and Colton became sicker and weaker. Todd, a pastor, began to see the shadow of death on his young son’s face, a look Todd had often seen as he administered to parishioners in their final days of life. Panicked, Colton’s parents took him to a different hospital. There, Colton was immediately diagnosed with a ruptured appendix which had been leaking poison into his little body for five solid days.

The very sick little boy was taken immediately into emergency surgery. Though they kept it to themselves, the hospital’s medical staff secretly did not expect him to survive. It was during this surgery that Colton claims to have experienced his visit to heaven.

Dr. Melvin Morse, a pediatrician famous for his studies and books on children’s near-death experiences, has described many of his young patient’s brushes with death. He shows pictures his patients draw of a colorful heaven with Jesus and God, angels, rainbows and beautiful fields of flowers.

The difference is that all of Morse’s patients at some point actually died and were brought back to life. Colton – at lease to anyone’s knowledge – did not at any point actually die, although critically ill and definitely hovering on the brink of death.

A near-death experience occurs when a person – child or adult – actually experiences physical death and is brought back to life either spontaneously or through medical intervention. The name is a bit misleading, since it does not mean someone, like Colton, who is critically ill and near death. It means someone who has actually died and then returned to life.

Interestingly, people can and do experience certain aspects of the near-death experience when critically ill or in imminent physical danger – out-of-body experiences, known as OBEs, and life reviews are sometimes reported. This, however, does not explain Colton’s detailed experience, which happened to him while in surgery, especially since he was under general anesthesia and unconscious.

During surgery, Colton left his body and watched from above as doctors desperately worked to rid his body of the raging infection. He then traveled through hospital walls where he saw his father praying alone in a small room and his mother praying while on the phone.

After he left the confines of the hospital, Colton described in detail entering a heavenly realm where he saw angels, or spirit guides, Jesus and God. He met his grandfather – whom he had never seen as a young man – but later picked him from a photo when this man was healthy and in his youth. Colton didn’t recognize photos of his grandfather when he was an old man. As Colton says, in heaven "nobody is old and nobody wears glasses."

Even more shockingly, Colton told his parents that he had two sisters. When further questioned by Sonja, her little boy insisted that he had two sisters, but one of them lived in heaven. She had dark hair, he said, and seemed to know him immediately. She asked about her mom and dad.

What Colton couldn’t have known was that before he was born his mother had suffered a miscarriage. Though it had happened too early to determine the baby’s sex, Todd and Sonja became convinced that this child was their lost baby girl. Colton insisted she was in heaven and that God had adopted her. She was, Colton said, very excited to see her family when they would finally enter heaven.

Another very poignant statement from Colton came when he asked Jesus why he had to be crucified. It was, Jesus told him, so people could meet his Father. How simple and clear an answer to such an incredibly complicated question!


Colton Burpo Goes to Heaven. Part Two.

Lori Henshey

January 9th, 2011

Examiner.com

In part one of this story, we discussed how three-year-old Colton Burpo became deathly ill from a burst appendix, which was misdiagnosed as severe stomach flu.

By the time of the surgery, poison from the burst appendix had been seeping through Colton’s tiny body for a full five days. Doctors and medical staff did not expect him to survive. Not only did he survive, he thrived, even after a relapse that leaked even more poison into his body, necessitating a second surgery to drain several abscesses.

About a year later, the family drove by the hospital where Colton was saved. When Todd asked Colton if he remembered the hospital, Colton said yes, that was where the angel sang to him. Shocked, Todd asked what the angels looked like. Colton said one of them looked like Grandpa Dennis, but it wasn’t him “‘cause Grandpa Dennis wears glasses.”

“Dad,” Colton said, “Jesus had the angels sing to me because I was so scared. They made me feel better.”

“Jesus was there?” his father asked incredulously. Absolutely, Colton answered. In fact, he had been sitting in Jesus’ lap.

After this stinger of a comment, Colton went on to explain he had seen the doctor working on his body during surgery, as well as what his parents were doing at the time. How? “’Cause I could see you,” Colton explained. “I went up out of my body and I was looking down and I could see the doctor working on my body. And I saw you and Mommy. You were in a little room praying; and Mommy was in a different room, and she was praying and talking on the phone.”

So began the revelations of a little boy about what happened when he nearly died. Nearly. At no point did Colton die during surgery. He was near death, yes, but he did not die, at least according to official hospital records. This counts out what is called a near-death experience, which happens when someone dies and is brought back to life either through medical intervention or spontaneously. However, there are documented claims by people who have come near to death and left their physical bodies behind. These are called out-of-body experiences, or OBE’s. Perhaps this defines Colton’s experience.

As time passed and Colton turned four-years-old, he began to talk of his experience in more detail. He said Jesus had a cousin, whom he met. Jesus told Colton that his cousin had Baptized Him. Colton didn’t know his name, but he called him nice. Was this John the Baptist? Anyone familiar with the Bible would be surprised by that description. Fanatical, intense, relentless and wild, perhaps, but nice?

All of Colton’s descriptions were given in the present tense, as if what he saw was now. He said Jesus has a rainbow horse that only He is allowed to ride. He described many beautiful colors, explaining heaven is where all rainbow colors are. Jesus has markers, Colton said – which Todd, a pastor, later understood were the marks in Jesus’ hands and feet from the Crucifixion. Jesus has brown hair, Colton said, with hair on his face (a beard) and “Oh, Dad, his eyes were so pretty!”

Jesus wears a white robe with a purple sash – the only one in heaven who wore purple. And “he had this gold thing on his head,” Colton said. It had a “diamond thing in the middle, which was kind of pink.”

Colton said he did homework in heaven and that Jesus was his teacher. “Jesus gave me work to do and that was my favorite part of heaven. There were lots of kids, Dad.”

Colton explained that everyone in heaven has wings and all fly, except for Jesus who moves up and down like an elevator. He also described God, saying He and His chair are "reaaally big." He also tells how the Holy Spirit "shoots down power" from heaven to help us.

He said he met his miscarried sister, whom no one had told him about, and his great-grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born, then shared impossible-to-know details about each.

Todd asked his son – considering all he had done in heaven – how long he had been there. “Three minutes,” Colton answered matter-of-factly and turned to his toys to play.

Eventually Todd Burpo, with Lynn Vincent, wrote a book about his son’s experience. Colton chose the title: Heaven is for Real. The book, with its entire title, Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, is available through Amazon.com and Thomas Nelson books.

Did Colton Burpo go to Heaven and experience other things he described? Perhaps so. One thing is certain: the story is truly remarkable and a mystery difficult to write off as fantasy. It also corresponds to another child’s story of visiting heaven, where she describes things that Colton seems to have seen. A painter and child prodigy, her portrait of Jesus is the only one Colton has seen that he says looks exactly like His face. We will visit her story next.

http://www.examiner.com/religious-spiritual-mysteries-in-national/colton-burpo-goes-to-heaven

http://www.examiner.com/religious-spiritual-mysteries-in-national/colton-burpo-goes-to-heaven-part-two?cid=parsely#parsely

Monday, February 21, 2011

What Are American’s Priorities

My post topics have kind of jumped around. I’ve started a series that regards why and how we chose to full-time in an RV and how we chose our RV. I have the first installment of a series on education and its deteriorating condition. I’ve posted about the passing of some American heroes. And, I’ve touched upon my religious and political beliefs.

Many of those series are not completed and once those are done, I won’t have as much to write about on the same topic. However, two things are priorities with me that kind of shape who I am. One is religion and my belief in God and the other is my allegiance to America. So, today I will touch on my priorities and ask the question, “What are the priorities of our other Americans?”

Today in Bible study at church, our study leader had some notes on the board that were from a poll or survey done in America. While I don’t know for sure the source of the information, I believe he said it was conducted by the Harris group. At any rate, some of the findings of that poll or survey are very disturbing. So, since I now get to be concerned with the findings, please allow me to burden you with the same.

The poll or survey was taken of Christians in America. It covered a broad spectrum of Christendom, thus the reason for the disturbing results. According to one of his notes on the board, this poll was taken of the “visible church”, of which I’m not sure of the meaning. Perhaps a reader might be able to enlighten me until I find the poll myself.

Today…..

1. A majority of respondents accept the idea of Jesus as their Savior, but are not yet willing to call Him their Lord.

2. A majority believe Heaven is gained by good works.

3. A surprising percentage believes in some kind of reincarnation.

4. Oprah is believed by many to speak for God.

5. Less than 10% profess to be “born again” – as if we could be “un-born again” Christians.

6. Of the less than 10%, less than 4% (of the 10%) tithe to their church.

With point number 1, does this mean that the “professed” Christians want the salvation but are unwilling to fully accept Jesus? Perhaps it is just me, but I don’t believe that the two concepts should ever be separated. To do so is to be less than a Christian; to be nothing more than one who calls on the name of the Lord with the believe that nothing else is needed. While I am not God and cannot speak for him, I believe that the Bible is clear in this scripture:

“Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” Matthew 7:21

So, just saying that one has “accepted Jesus as their Savior” doesn’t mean that one is saved.

Point number 2 fails to take into account that there is NOTHING we can do to save ourselves (as I mentioned in another post) and that without God’s grace, we have no hope. We can do all the “works” that we want, give all of ourselves to charitable causes, expend every spare dime to our name to help people, but none of that will be enough to give us salvation.

Reincarnation, as mentioned in point number 3, means that we come back to this earth as another “carnate” being, or again, as a creature in the flesh. Perhaps I’m not learned enough, but I can’t find any biblical reference to coming back as another being. To expand upon that idea, the bible references “meeting Jesus in the clouds” upon His second coming, but I can find nothing to indicate that He will have an “earthly kingdom.” It may be that I am too unlearned to know, but if there were to be an earthly kingdom, why would we all (the dead and the living) meet him in the clouds?

Oprah speaks for God? What kind of mindset believes that any one speaks for God if they aren’t speaking from the Bible? While I respect the woman for what she has done with her life and how she has helped many others, I’ve not seen the credentials that she could speak for God. Many ministers that I highly respect would NEVER even consider such a possibility. Point number 4 is thus really a disturbing finding of this poll or survey.

Point number 5 flies in the face of the teachings of the Bible. A few verses for your consideration, the first two being the words of Jesus himself:

“Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3: 3

"Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'” John 3: 7

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,…” 1 Peter 1: 3

Point number 6 basically is saying that there is too many who are not acting upon devotion to God to help further his kingdom. While many seem to believe that “tithing” means 10% of one’s income, Jesus himself pointed out the widow who put in a “mite” in that she had given more than all that the rich had given. I doubt that God believes that we have to give everything we have, but he does hope for our commitment to Him.

It is my fear, based on the results of the above mentioned poll or survey, that Americans have been led astray of the teachings of the Bible, and that they are looking for a “religion” or “faith” that practices what “they” want to accept. God is the final judge as to who will receive a home in Heaven. It is fallacy to believe that our beliefs will be what save us. As mentioned in another post, we just as well worship an idol carved from half of the log we used to cook our meal.

Now, for a very minor touch of a point that may surface in detail later, I also fear for our country because there are so many who are unwilling to educate themselves to the dangers threatening our freedoms. A recent forum post has divided some RV enthusiasts who do not wish for politics or religion to be introduced to their favorite forums. They seem unwilling to believe that as RV’ers, their very dreams could be threatened by the actions of politicians and those that influence those politicians. While it is not a friendly topic, it is one that certainly needs a more studied consideration.

In regards to the reference above to us meeting Christ “in the clouds”, I have to believe the his radiance would surely make such a meeting to be in a beautiful place.

DSCN6619

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Another Warrior Has Passed

While there will be few whom I mention here that I will have actually known, they are still deserving of mention for their sacrifices and service to our country.  It is very little that I do in bring them to your attention.  May God be with the family of John P. Bodnar, former U.S. Marine, who served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.  His service to his country as a Marine spanned 32 years.

The following news story is about him with a link at the bottom to the actual story online.

Mourners Stand at Attention for the Late John P. Bodnar

Saturday, February 19, 2011

By EARL J. CATAGNUS Jr.
For The Times Herald

SGT MAJ John P Bodnar USMC

On Feb. 14, 2011, Sergeant Major John P. Bodnar United States Marine Corps (Retired) passed away.

WEST NORRITON — On Feb. 14, Sergeant Major John P. Bodnar United States Marine Corps (Retired) passed away leaving behind a legacy of greatness for not only his family, but this nation as well.

His 32 years of service as a United States Marine is riddled with heroic deeds that, quite literally, movies were based upon.

Being one of the fabled veterans of three different wars — World War II, Korea and Vietnam — Bodnar was a giant even among their ranks.
His viewing, held Friday, was crowded with people paying tribute.

Marine Corps and American flags lined the entrance to the Boyd-Horrox funeral home. Members of Warriors Watch, a motorcycle club dedicated to supporting “our nation’s warriors, past and present” were the standard bearers.

They stood at attention with faces cast in the stoic pose characteristic of the guardians of a sacred tradition for honoring fallen warriors.

Posted at the head of the casket stood an honor guard of Marine Corps League members, whose duty was to protect Bodnar during his final journey home.

Bodnar’s family ensured all who entered understood just who he was — a United States Marine, loving husband and caring father. They lined the halls with Bodnar’s pictures, memorabilia and many, many articles written about him and his exploits throughout the years.

In remembering his father, Albert Fitzgerald, Bodnar’s oldest son, said, “He was a loving and caring father.” He spoke of both his mother and father with loving affection and recounted how they met.

In February 1957, Bodnar met his wife, Margaretta. She was a travel clerk when he walked in for orders after a deployment to Japan. Seeing the young, attractive Margaretta, Bodnar continued to make visits to her office until they joined the bowling team together. Although they did not marry until 1971, at that moment their bond was sealed. Fitzgerald said, “it was a long courtship, but they thoroughly loved each other.”

But Bodnar’s life touched others as well.

State Sen. John Rafferty, R-44th Dist., said, “the sergeant major was a great American hero … a real gentlemen in every aspect of the word … he was always helping people and that speaks to his character.”

Bruce Castor, Montgomery County Commissioner, said, “ I knew him for many years.” In retelling a story, he said, “When I was a young attorney, he not only pulled me aside and talked to me about his time spent in the Marine Corps, but he even gave me advice on how I should try my cases.”
There was no American person or organization that the sergeant major was not willing to help.

In recalling a fond memory of Bodnar, Sgt. Maj. Calvin Books, retired from the United States Marine Corps Reserve, who knew him since 1971 when Books was a sergeant at Naval Air Station Willow Grove, said, “he was a fascinating character.”

Once when Books asked Bodnar about why he wore a European Campaign Ribbon, which, Books thought, no Marines rated because they were all in the Pacific during World War II, Badnor said, “Come on kid. I’ll tell you.”

At that, Books was captivated by an amazing story of heroism reminiscent of something that could only occur in a Hollywood film.
Bodnar’s funeral was held at Visitation of the Blessed Mary in Trooper. The sprawling church was almost full.

Escorting Bodnar into and out of the church were Marines from MAG 49 stationed at Willow Grove. The respect deserved by a sergeant major of Marines was given in every aspect of the word.

In a heart-wrenching eulogy, Bodnar’s granddaughter reminded all in attendance of the man she knew as opposed to the “strong and tough war hero” that everyone knew him as. With tears in her eyes and courage in her heart, she told of how “gentle, kind, and loving” he was. Calling him “pop-pop,” she told how he would leave individual notes every morning for his wife and her. Within the notes, he told his wife how “beautiful” she was and how his granddaughter “was the greatest granddaughter in the world.”

The weight of the love felt for this giant of a man was heavy among all those in attendance. There was no doubt that a great man had passed and left behind a heritage of bravery, kindness and eternal gratefulness in all those he met.

In a second eulogy, a member of the Marine Corps League summarized Bodnar’s career as a Marine.

Bodnar, a Collegeville resident, enlisted in 1940 after his graduation from Coatesville High School. At the beginning of World War II, he became one of the very few Marines “jump” qualified, and was labeled a “Para-Marine.”

Soon after becoming an instructor at the Marine Corps’ parachute school at Camp Lejuene, N.C., Bodnar was recruited by then-Major Peter Ortiz to become part of the Office of Strategic Services. Known as the OSS, this was the precursor to the CIA and was responsible mainly for the coordination, training and supplying of resistance movements behind enemy lines.

For Bodnar’s heroic actions behind enemy lines during the war, he received the Silver Star, and later awarded the Legion of Honor from the French. His team was the basis for two Hollywood movies, one of which starred James Cagney.

During the Korean War, Bodnar was with the 1st Marine Division in the Inchon Landings, and the Chosin Resevoir. He served two tours in Vietnam, one along the Demilitarized Zone and at DaNang.

In 1972, Bodnar, after serving 32 years, retired.

One word comes to mind when describing Bodnar – hero. Great men, heroes, are measured not by the actions they take, but the influence upon the people they leave behind.

The loss of Bodnar is an American tragedy. Buried with him are the memories of a truly courageous man who not only could recall a trying time in this nation’s past but also how he left his footprint on it. He leaves behind a grieving family, faithful band of brothers and a grateful nation. Fair winds and following seas, sergeant major.

Earl J. Catagnus Jr. is a Purple Heart recipient and former infantry Marine. Currently, he is working towards his doctorate in military history at Temple University.

http://www.timesherald.com/articles/2011/02/19/news/doc4d606faa132d3264236001.prt

As Mr. Catagnus, the author of the above story, expressed, I would also like to extend my wishes that many not forget what men such as Mr. Bodnar did for all of us.

Comments for a Forum Post

On RV Dreams forum, under the heading of “Money Stuff” is a thread dealing with prices and government’s contribution to them, along with discussions about oil exploration, government entities, just to name a few of the topics discussed. The tread title was “Go Go Juice On the Rise.”

I started to post some more comments, but by the time I was through, those comments ran too long for me to feel comfortable with it being on the RV Dreams forum. I have no real understanding about how text and photos contribute to “bandwidth” but I do suspect that photos would be a bigger “bandwidth hog.” So, I’ve decided to post my comments here and have posted on the forum thread that I would make my comments on my blog instead of at RV Dreams’.

Following are those comments:

Just a few more comments, if I may.  Text within quotation marks will be comments from others.

"I think the EPA, energy, and education depts need to be stronger.  I think the last thing we need to do is destroy more of our country's amazing wild spaces looking for oil."

Even the oil companies know that not all areas of the United States are conducive to exploring for oil.  However the EPA has done so much harm to American citizens and businesses with regulations that have been 'demanded' by environmental groups, some of whom have certainly been proven wrong in some of their claims.  Their regulations can affect anyone.  There have been incidents where individuals, including homeowners, cannot do with their property as they wish.  In the past there were instances of individuals who had property that tended to hold rainwater for a period of time after a rain.  They found themselves suddenly regulated by the EPA because the EPA declared the individuals’ property as 'wetland'.  Also, I would like to know how much the EPA is involved with the acquisition of land for the federal government.

The Energy department was started when the U.S. was depending on foreign sources for less than 30% to 35% of our oil.  It was started with a mandate to diminish that dependence, but instead, our dependence on foreign oil is now more than double the initial percentage.  I would suggest that if an agency can’t accomplish its mandate, it shouldn’t exist anymore.

What has happened to the education of our students since the advent of the federal Education department?  Having been a school board member, I have seen first-hand the diminishing levels of education of our nation's children due to Education department demands.  How many young people can count back change?  What classes are no longer taught but our schools teach diversity studies and sex education and even hand out condoms?  Are any schools still teaching Home Economics?  Plus, federal dollars handed out to the schools also tend to come with regulations and demands as to what those schools can do and teach.

I am a serious, amateur photographer and formerly involved with several industries, including agriculture.  I fully understand the need for conservation of our resources and dearly love photographing nature's beauty and its wildlife.  So, it isn't that I advocate exploiting our country.

"I also agree on the solar and wind.  If it was of any value at all, it wouldn't need to be subsidized.   (This part was an original comment of mine and the answer to it is just below.)

While your agreeing is a fact, your next sentence is an opinion.  New technologies often require subsidizing, and it is definitely in our interest to do so (my opinion   Besides we subsidize the oil and gas companies!  At a time when the 5 most profitable companies in the world are oil and gas companies.  Unless you believe tax cuts don't equal subsidies.  I sure do."

In regards to the last part of my original comment, I should clarify my thinking.  If the advocates of a new technology can convince others of the value of their technology, then there is the opportunity for private sources to help fund those technologies without using the taxpayer's dollars.  If they can't convince them, then they should perfect their technology, not ask the government to fund them.  A multi-millionaire by the name of T. Boone Pickens was strongly advocating wind generated energy, but now he isn't.  Originally, as long as he could be partially funded by the government with subsidies, he was willing to build wind generation facilities.  Now, he has stopped because he recognizes that natural gas is still cheaper and the consumers don’t want to pay extra for wind generated power.

I remember a few years ago at the Oklahoma State Fair in Oklahoma City there was a booth where one of the electric companies (involved with generating with wind) was asking people to sign up for a program where their personal energy would come from wind generation.  Upon questioning them, it was found out that if one signed up, one paid higher rates for that energy.  Plus, their energy was still coming in on the very same transmission lines that natural gas or coal fired generated electricity used.  Sorry, but I consider that as a flim-flam scheme, even though there were those that thought “green energy” was what they wanted to be a part of.

As for tax cuts being subsidies, it was the companies and the individuals who first earned the money.  If anyone is REALLY being subsidized, it is the government.  Other than hydro-electric generation plants that are owned by the government, no other entity that I can think of makes a profit for the government.  Government has proven over and over that they aren't capable of understanding how to profitably operating any business.  I currently work for a government agency and I see first-hand how few people really know truly good management principles.

There was another part of the forum comments that dealt with the differences in various categories that have come about within a period from January 2009 to “Today”. Since it was sort of lengthy and was printed as sort of a “table”, I don’t think it would fit within the margins of my blog pages and look right.  While I have a tendency to want to believe the data presented, I've not yet researched it to find out for sure.  I'm thus not inclined to claim that those changes occurred because of political reasons and actions.

I apologize for any misunderstanding I may have caused anyone with this blog post and the posts on the RV Dreams forums.  I also apologize for any feeling of this being a rather fragmented post.  Hopefully, I won’t be tempted in the future to get strange with the posts.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Government’s Effects on Education and Citizens

Some recent comment on RV Dreams forum has prompted me to begin a “sort-of” dissertation on education in America and the effects of government upon it. On that forum post, I had mentioned that with the increasing acquisition of land by the federal government, it has a detrimental effect on all of us. Part of the effect is in the additional power that the government, and any political entities or interest groups, will have in controlling the lives of its citizens.

For instance, environmental groups have clamored for years for the government to “step in and protect” the land from the rest of its citizens. That has led to restrictions by the government on what citizens can do with their own land as well as public land. A few years ago, there were major brush fires in California that cost a lot of people to lose their homes because of the difficulty of fighting the fires. You see, the environmentalists got the government to prevent the clearing out of dead brush over large tracts of land.

As a result, there was additional fuel for the fires that ravaged the state. Even the individuals that happened to own the land were refused permission to clear out the dead brush. Other instances have seen the government prevent farmers from working their farm land because some animal is making its home on that land. If the animal is not really in danger of becoming extinct, the government still wants to control what can be done.

Just this last year, there have been battles to protect a fish and it prevented the farmers from irrigating their crops. Can you spell devastating effects on the livelihood of the farmers? That incident also occurred in California and affected an entire valley, not just a few farmers.

Even what would seem to be good intentions by government can cause a negative effect on the citizens. I would like to address some of that and how it affects education in America.

In my past, I was elected to the School Board of a small community in Cimarron County. As luck would have it, that was the year that the state informed school districts all over Oklahoma that our budgets would be cut. In that particular year, the budget for our school for the entire year was $600,000. The cut we were going to have to make was $50,000. In order to meet that demand, we lost the music programs in our school.

During that period, many of us attended workshops and seminars, trying to come to an understanding of what we needed to do. In one of those, a presentation was given by the school superintendent of Boise City to the group of us. He basically explained that Cimarron County, and primarily the Boise City school district, held a very large portion of what is called State School Land.

When looking at land in Oklahoma, the state is divided up into ranges, townships, sections, etc. A township is 36 square miles. For each township, one section (640 acres) was set aside as school land. However, at the time of statehood and the institution of the school land, a lot of land in many townships was already deeded to individuals, communities, or companies. So, to still have the same number of sections of school land to match townships in the state, they added school land to Cimarron County.

At the time, a lot of funding for schools was derived from ad valorem taxes. The rub is that school land is not taxable for ad valorem taxes. So, the school districts with extra school land were being shorted on their tax base. In Oklahoma, there are approximately 745,000 acres of school land. Cimarron County has 236,000 of that land. So, one county loses the tax base on all that land. Cimarron County’s area is roughly 1,841 square miles, making it come to 1,178,240 acres. Thus, a bit over one-fifth of Cimarron County is non-taxable, just on the basis of school land.

If you added to that the additional land owned by the counties and cities and other government entities, you can get an idea of how bad that would hurt Cimarron County. Now, let’s look at the effect of government land ownership on a national basis.

Oddly enough, the Western states are hardest hit, which will be visible below when you see an image with each state having a graphic within its boundaries and showing the percentage of the land in that state that is federally owned land. Also, any income from fees, leases, mineral royalties, etc. goes to the federal government to be doled out to the states as the politicians so desire. Thus, a low population state that has a large amount of federal land within its borders will suffer more that more heavily populated states.

Keep in mind, the image below is federally owned land only. It does not include land owned by the states, counties, and cities and towns. If I remember correctly, this map represents the land owned by the federal government in 2008.

WhoOwnsTheWest

While that image gives a quick look at percentages of federal land, the following link will take you to a site on the internet that shows both federal and state owned land. It is a far more detailed indication of what land is owned by government and is non-taxable for schools.

http://www.propertyrightsresearch.org/2004/articles6/state_by_state_government_land_o.htm

While I recognize that a state’s education programs are supported by federal and state “appropriations”, it is usually distributed at the whims of politicians and who can garner the most votes and calls from citizens to those politicians.  That distribution is usually based on some arcane “formula” that is subject to change at the whim of greedy politicians and bureaucrats.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why We Did What We Did - Chapter 3

As we researched and discussed every aspect of what we were planning, I was the one that did the majority of the research on the forums, asking the questions that we wanted answered and trying to help others with what knowledge I possessed. While both of us did online research in areas that weren’t forums, I suppose that I still did most of that as well.

Since I was looking and reading a lot, I saw things of interest that I would try to keep Jo informed of, and some things just kind of “percolated” back in the recesses of my mind as “possibles” for our new lifestyle. It might be the way someone configured their fifth wheel, or perhaps a method used to accomplish some task, or perhaps it was just a picture.

The research led us to a lot of manufacturer’s websites to check out floor plans and amenities for every one that tickled our interest. An area created on our hard drive contained numerous pictures, floor plans, modifications done to RV’s, and even whole threads of forums were “copied and pasted” into Microsoft Word and saved.

What kind of got me in trouble one time was seeing a picture by a Mobile Suites owner who had posted a picture of his “rig” as part of his signature. One thing it had was a car hooked on behind the fifth wheel as a “toad”. I had also read of those who had both a truck for pulling their coach and a second vehicle, not always towed, for use for errands and sightseeing.

So, one day I mentioned to Jo that perhaps we ought to plan our RV to be able to tow a relatively small vehicle when we got on the road. That led immediately to her comment that if she was going to have a “toad” then she was going to look at the option of a motorhome instead of a fifth wheel. Yep, I had done STEPPED in it. That began the process of looking at motorhomes that would be big enough to full time in, especially since we would be living as “static” RV’ers until we retired.

While we looked at different dealerships, we were drawn eventually to McCleans RV in Oklahoma City because they seemed to have the widest selection. It didn’t take long to discover that for us to live in it, it would have to be at least a 40’ motorhome. That led us to the Tiffin Phaetons that were on McClean’s lot.

We had spent some time looking one day and the salesman informed us that should we need to, we could test drive the motorhomes in which we might be interested. I told him that if we did, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just a short trip for a few miles. Plus, it was extremely important that Jo drive it as well so that we could determine whether she would be comfortable driving such a large vehicle.

Since Jo was a farm girl, and had driven the farm trucks, I didn’t have any doubt that she would be capable. But, it was “being comfortable” that was most important. The largest vehicle she had ever driven was a short little stretch with the 18-wheeler that I was driving way back in the 70’s.

I also wanted to make sure that the engine in the motorhome would be capable for mountains and not have any problems with handling fairly steep inclines. Our salesman mentioned that we could drive out towards Geary, Oklahoma where there was a fairly long hill and try it there. I considered that to be alright since I knew the hill of which he spoke. In my own mind, I was already formulating that I wanted to stop the motorhome at the very bottom of the hill and start back up from a dead stop to see how well it accelerated.

An appointment was made to drive a 40’ Phaeton model QTH after work some evening, and on the appointed time, we drove out to the dealership and hooked up with the salesman. He drove it out of town and a bit West of Yukon to a spot where they weighed trucks on the interstate. That gave us plenty of room to park and change drivers. Since it was kind of rush hour traffic, Jo and I both appreciated NOT having to drive in that traffic.

2008_Tiffin_Phaeton 40 QTH

So, I asked Jo if she wanted to start first or whether she wanted me to. She decided that she was going to have to sooner or later, so it just as well be sooner. She got behind the wheel and I sat back in one of the couches and let the salesman help her with what the various controls were and how to set things for her to be comfortable. And, away we went. She ended up driving it roughly 25 to 30 miles and we then stopped at a truck stop at the turnoff to Geary, Oklahoma for me to take over.

I drove out to the valley we had decided was a good test and stopped at the bottom. After traffic cleared, I started up the hill which was a distance of roughly ¾ of a mile to a mile. The engine in the Phaeton never even hiccupped and gained speed all the way up the hill. As I prepared to turn, the salesman told me to NOT swing wide when I made a U-turn at a crossover in the 4-lane highway.

I made the turn with no wide swing and was absolutely amazed at the turning radius of the motorhome, and then we started back towards Oklahoma City. After a few miles, the salesman was comfortable that I knew how to handle the motorhome, so he turned to Jo sitting on the couch and asked her, “So what do you think?”

Jo’s answer was, “I’m not sure that he wants to know what I think.” I knew from that comment that she had been comfortable with driving the 40’ long behemoth. We drove back to the dealership where I turned it back to the salesman so he could take it back into the lot. I was again amazed at the turning radius as he navigated in through a very narrow gate without having a lot of room for turning.

With that little excursion, we were comfortable that Jo could handle that size of vehicle and that a motorhome was a definite option for our plans. That, of course, then began the research into the motorhomes for us. But, this was to just be the first of our test drives. It was roughly 100 to 125 miles round trip on the test drive of the 40’ Phaeton.

Our third camper, a 26’ Sierra travel trailer.

DSCN0855

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Why We Did What We Did - Chapter 2

Since the whole sequence of events in our saga of searching for a luxury RV has been over a span of more than 2 ½ years, I am pretty fuzzy about exactly what came first and then next. So, with that in mind, I’ll venture off into another avenue of what led to us picking up on only two of the options available.

We had dealt with travel trailers over the years. The image in yesterday’s post was the first camper that we ever bought. We lived in the Elkhart, Kansas area the farm and ranch operation where we were was just inside of the Oklahoma Panhandle, about 3 miles from Elkhart. While we had used my mother’s camper a few times on local trips, we decided to get one of our own.

We liked to go to the same places and we felt that if we had our own, then we would have more room for people if we had our own camper. We told our family members to keep their eyes out for a used camper in Cimarron County, Oklahoma while we checked around in Texas County, Oklahoma and Morton County, Kansas.

It ended up with us finding an older couple in Boise City, Oklahoma (Cimarron County) that wanted to sell theirs. We made a trip over there and met them and looked at the camper. It was about 15’ long with a single axle and was only priced for $1000. Inside there was a bed that made out from the rear couch, the dinette table made into a bed, and if I remember right, there was an upper bed over the dinette table in the front.

One really neat feature of the first camper was that it had a light over the dinette that was LP powered. It worked just like the Coleman lanterns in that it used a mantle inside that was lit. It ran off of the LP bottle, so it gave us light without us having to use electric very much. One bad thing about it was that with the single axle and no wheel-well openings, if one had a flat you couldn’t put on an inflated spare tire.

The closeness of the skirting to the wheel prevented that from happening. I found that out when I tried to take the tire and wheel off to repack the bearings when we first got it. When we went camping, we had to carry a deflated spare and something with which to inflate it. But, we never had a flat partly because I kept a close eye on tires and made sure we had good ones.

Our second travel trailer was one that my Dad had when he was alive. When his things went up for auction, I borrowed the money from the bank to buy his camper. It was a 21’ unit with dual axles. Unfortunately, after we bought that one, there weren’t really that many trips that we made with it before we got to where we couldn’t afford the trips for one reason or another.

Then about 2004, we bought a brand new Salem 26’ travel trailer. At the time, we had a Ford Excursion and a Ford F150 and I wanted an RV that we could pull with either one. First thing we found out that was wrong was that the F150 wasn’t rated to pull something so heavy. So, that got traded for a 2002 Ford F250. I guess I should mention here that when we were looking, Jo really wanted to get a fifth wheel, but because I would be doing about all the towing, she didn’t say much of anything to change my mind on the type.

Then, within about 6 months, Jo decided to trade off the Excursion for an Explorer. So, now we found ourselves with only one vehicle that could tow that camper. It was OK as far as campers go, but I really wasn’t crazy with how it towed. We had to make sure that we hooked up the equalization bars and the anti-sway bar every time we pulled it. Plus, it was a bear to maneuver when backing into campsites.

Two years after buying the Salem travel trailer, we went back to the dealer and traded it for a Rockwood Signature Ultra-lite fifth wheel. After only one trip with that one, I was convinced that fifth wheels were much easier to handle. Gone was the swaying in the wind when towing and backing into campsites was a lot easier.

After Jo’s suggestion to buy a luxury RV and plan for traveling, we pretty much decided that a travel trailer was out of the question. In addition to the towing and backing factors, the outside storage in them was quite a bit less than what the fifth wheels provided.

So, with our experiences with the two types, we pretty much decided that we would get either a motorhome or a fifth wheel. At the very beginning, we were pretty much thinking that the Mobile Suites was more likely, but we still planned to research both types. We had seen the DRV Suites models at our dealership, which by the way is Lewis RV in Oklahoma City.

With weight being a consideration, we fairly soon ruled out an Elite Suites because they are heavier than a Mobile Suites, partly because they have granite counters. We then began to look at floor plans to see what we would prefer. After some time, we were drawn to the 38’ models instead of the 36’ ones and we had two possibilities in floor plans that we liked.

One was a 38RLSB3 because it had some sliding glass doors that separated the living room from the kitchen/dining area. The other we liked was a 36TKSB3, but we gravitated towards the 38 until DRV came out with a 38TKSB3. One thing that tempted us with that one was the desk that was part of the entertainment area and right next to the peninsula kitchen counter.

With that arrangement, we could kind of spread out with computers and printers if we needed, plus, Jo had an embroidery machine, a serger, and a regular sewing machine that she occasionally used. With that much counter space, it would have been handier for her to use her sewing equipment.

While we liked all of that in a fifth wheel, I was to make a comment one day that threw us completely off track. That comes in the next installment, which is the consideration of motorhomes as well as fifth wheels.

Our second travel trailer, the 21’ unit that was my Dad’s.

Dads Camper001

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why We Did What We Did - Chapter 1

When I began to think about starting this blog, someone suggested that I could write about our experiences of deciding to plan on full time RV’ing, researching the different types of RV’s, and actually making our choice of RV. So, shall we start with the decision to full time.

Jo and I have been camping in tents, travel trailers and one fifth-wheel since 1976. If you’ve read my entries about Purgatoire River Campground, you will probably guess that we love camping, and I especially love the mountains.

A few years ago, we were driving home from work. Our route home takes us right by the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds, where the local RV dealers have a Spring and a Fall RV show. In this case, it was a Friday evening and Jo popped up with the idea of stopping at the RV show and looking at some RV’s.

We owned a Rockwood Signature Ultralite fifth-wheel that was 26 feet long. My thought was that perhaps she wanted to look at something a little bit bigger. You know, something like about 28’ to perhaps 32’ long. You can imagine my surprise when she starts looking at motorhomes and fifth-wheels that are 36 feet or longer.

So, when we had a slight break I stopped her and asked her what she was thinking. That is when she sprung it on me that she had been thinking about selling the house, selling everything in it, buying a luxury RV and live it in. After we retired, we could then travel the country with it as our home. Go where we wanted, whenever we wanted was what she was thinking.

Unknown to her, I had long wished that we could have a nice RV and travel the country. After all, I am a serious, amateur photographer and there is a lot of this country I want to photograph. I had never mentioned the dream to her because I thought that we would never be able to afford to live such a life-style.

After looking at RV’s that evening, she spent the weekend crunching numbers, considering what our pensions would amount to, along with Social Security, to see if it was even possible. She came to me later and said that she couldn’t think of why we couldn’t follow up on this idea.

After seeing the future possibilities, we decided to start looking at the different options, and seeing what each would cost us to purchase. She started the forum searching by finding the website for Suites Owner’s International Travel Club (SOITC) and registering for their forum in April of 2008. She chose that association because we had been looking at what was then called Doubletree RV’s out of Howe, Indiana.

The dealership where we had purchased our two previous campers also carried the Doubletree fifth wheels. Those are the Select Suites (base line models), the Mobile Suites (mid-range models), and the Elite Suites (the top of their line models.) We sort of started with the Mobile and Elite Suites models because they had the best amenities and we knew we would be picking our future home.

Later, while reading one of the forum posts on SOITC, I came across a post that spoke of Howard and Linda Payne and their website called RV Dreams. It was July of 2008 and after reading for a few days, I registered on that forum. I was later to also sign up on another forum called Fifth Wheel Forums. While Fifth Wheel Forums has categories for different brands of RV’s and trucks, the most thread traffic is on the category for the DRV Suites models of Select, Mobile and Elite. DRV Suites is the new name for Doubletree RV due to the similarity of the name to the name for Doubletree Hotels’ chain.

As we continued to research different brands of various types of RV’s, we learned that there are associations and forums for most of the brands in the form of an owner’s association. While RV Dreams is pretty much a “general” forum based more on the lifestyle than the RV types and brands, the owner’s association forums serve as a good source of information as to whether certain brands or models have significant problems.

Forums have a tendency to attract owners that have problems, so it is natural for them to have a lot of comments and questions about problems. While that can give a negative connotation to the brand, it also gives one an idea of how well other owners are about helping those in either problems or research. I highly recommend that when someone has an interest in a brand to try to find an owner’s association with a forum.

It is also necessary to look at different brands and models. By doing so, one can often discover in one brand or model a particular amenity that may not be in others. Then, one needs to keep those amenities in mind during the decision process. This is especially important with the construction of the RV. Don’t be afraid to crawl under the RV’s and check out frames, suspension, underbelly covers (in the case of travel trailers and fifth-wheels), and see it one brand or model outshines others.

This need to look at a lot of brands and models means that one needs to visit a lot of dealer lots and RV shows. Don’t be afraid to look at something bigger than what you are really planning on getting. By looking at bigger, you may find features that can be found on some smaller units but not on other units the same size.

Ask questions of forum participants and salesmen, but take none of them as gospel unless you find that a significant number of sources tell you the same thing. Dealers and salesmen can not necessarily be trusted. Also, ask questions on the forums. Even if you have a lot of negative comments on a forum about a particular brand that you are interested in, ask a question such as this, “Given that you were to buy another RV today, would you buy the same brand/model that you have now?” While many may complain about their RV, they may very well say they would purchase the same again. They might choose a different floorplan or add or delete some additional amenities, but many just might buy the same.

Whatever you do, make sure you make the process fun and informative. Good luck in your searches and researching.

Our very first camper, purchased used back sometime after 1976 and was 15’ long.

First Camper002

Monday, February 14, 2011

Gentlemen…Do Not Attempt This At Home

Ahh. February 14 has arrived with all the angst that comes with a date that I think was created by the devil. Or, an attention starved woman. However, in our house, it is different. There are no real worries for this holiday for me.

Now, at work, that is another thing. I work with six ladies, ranging from 57 to 74. No guys…just me. Over the years that I have worked with them, I’ve gotten no end of grief when I tell them that I just don’t do anything for Jo on Valentine’s Day; or, any other days as well. This is partly because I have a tendency to forget “anniversaries” and holidays like Valentine’s Day. I also almost always forget her birthday as well.

Over the many years, over 42 that we’ve been married, I’ve occasionally remembered to buy a few flowers or maybe a card, but we have never lived in places where one can do a BIG DATE with one’s wife. You know, something like agricultural areas. Even after we moved to the city, things really didn’t get much better. For a long time, we kind of struggled with money, trying to provide for the family.

Several years ago, I finally broke down and did what I thought would be nice. I didn’t want to do flowers because they wilt. I didn’t want to do a BIG DATE because it would only be a memory and later we probably wouldn’t even remember what we ate or maybe even where. Then I hit upon it. Or actually, I heard about it on the radio. A Vermont Teddy Bear would be just the ticket. It would be cute, it would last for a long, long time, and when she saw it, she would remember that occasion perhaps.

I perused the Vermont Teddy Bear website and decided upon one called “Undercover Lover” which is a bear dressed in a fedora, sunglasses, and a trench coat with a badge attached on the inside of the liner. I ordered it and had it sent to work. On the day it was to arrive, I told the receptionist to be sure and call me before she called Jo to let her know that a package had arrived for her.

That gave me time to get into a position where I could see her open it, and then after she saw what it was, I opened the door from where I was and joined her. Huh. She wasn’t really excited about it, but what the hey, I had surprised her.

However, since that day, she has informed me that I am to NEVER do that again. She doesn’t want money to be spent on her in that way. So, I adhere to her wishes and never buy her anything.

So, the ladies I work with have given me grief over the years. I have told them that Jo doesn’t want me spending money on her. I still get grief from them. Finally, when Jo was down in our work area for a little departmental lunch, the subject was brought up by one of my co-workers about me not getting her things, or taking her out, or anything else for that matter.

So, Jo simply told them what I had told them in the past and that she didn’t want the gifts, or chocolates, or flowers, or dates, etc. I think they have finally gotten the message.

I have written before that I am so blessed in that I have such a great wife. Jo told them again today at our departmental “Un-Valentine’s Day” luncheon that any money we had was to be saved for the time when we retire and start traveling. It was an “Un-Valentine’s Day” at work because of all the six women I work with, only one is married and NONE of the single ones are looking for a guy.

Now, I can’t say that I definitely know the secret to my success for not worrying about Valentine’s Day and other holidays, but I have a suspicion. Many years ago, I happened to fall in love and marry a great girl. The most remarkable thing with her is that she is a farm girl. Not only is she a farm girl, she is also a “Tomboy” farm girl. She doesn’t like the frilly and fancy.

So, if any of you guys out there are looking for a mate, look for a Tomboy Farm Girl. You’ll sure save money. One other thing I will mention about saving money is to do what I did. Marry your sweetheart on Christmas Day. Not only do you NOT forget the wedding anniversary, but you can buy one gift and two cards, thus saving more money.

Like I said…..

…..Do Not Try This At Home.

The Vermont Teddy Bear Company “Undercover Lover” Bear

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Services and Revelation

When our house sells and we move into our Mobile Suites, we won’t be traveling until we actually retire, which could be a 3 to 6 years down the road. So, this won’t be an issue yet, but it is enough to give me pause.

Currently we really enjoy going to church and being with like-minded Christians. Since it is taught in the Bible, and we all know first-hand that all of us have sinned, we seek to better ourselves. It seems a bit strange at times to hear of someone say something to the effect of, “I don’t like to go to church because there are so many hypocrites there. They practice one thing during the week and then go to church and try to act holier-than-thou.”

In reality, a church is really a collection of people who KNOW they are sinners, and at least make the effort to attend worship services so they can be encouraged by people, like themselves, that recognize their frailties and falling short of being worthy of God’s grace. So, instead of looking at them as hypocrites, we should always remind people that a church is a group of people trying to do better than they are. Considering that, can anyone criticize us for trying?

Anyway, at some time in our future, we won’t be worshiping with the same congregation for years on end as we have in the past. Instead, we will sort of be vagabonds. However, I hope to perhaps call myself a “Vagabond Minister.” I am not an ordained minister, so it won’t be that I can “officially” do some things. However, I hope to be able to minister to others by offering Bible study, so that we all (and I include myself here) learn more about God’s word.

In addition, I’ve been considering another option which could begin at any time and continue after we begin traveling. Since I have this blog, although it is lightly read at the moment, I could post an e-mail address on it and let it be known that I would be glad to offer up prayers for those in need. I hope to also do that ministry, a prayer ministry, once we travel by having some notice around our campsites offering that same service.

While we will miss the good people of our current congregation, we will have the opportunity to attend other churches of Christ in other parts of the country as well as offer some services within the campgrounds or mobile home parks.

You see, when we begin to travel, we may spend as much as three to six months in one place while we avail ourselves of the local and regional attractions like state and national parks, museums, and other interesting things. Thus, since we will be spending longer periods of time in some places, I think mobile home parks may be less expensive than RV parks. In the Oklahoma City area for instance, I know of three different parks that offer spaces to RV’s as well as mobile homes.

Our church congregation has been doing what we call Life Groups, which are small groups of individual, couples and families meeting together in the evenings in private homes instead of at the church building. That way, some people might consider attending small services instead of being in overly large groups of people.

With traveling, any groups that we would have would naturally be small groups, thus I think it could be an ideal opportunity to help grow spiritually with others wishing the same thing. Then, should the groups wish to, they could then attend regular worship services at the local congregations in the towns and cities they visit.

Since Jo and I have a copy of The Truth Project video series, that would be almost a first thing presentation to begin with a small group. Even if one isn’t a strong Christian in their beliefs, that video series can certainly strengthen Christian as well as encourage non-believers to study more. I have watched the series a number of times and EVERY time I watch it, I tend to learn something more from it.

As one watches the video series, they are struck with profound principles and ideas, tending one to think about that last profound revelation. That can easily lead to missing the following profound revelation when it comes by because one is still thinking about the first one.

Speaking of profound thoughts, suppose I told you that the book of Revelation was NOT about foreseeing future events, but actually the revealing of Jesus Christ to those who weren’t witnesses to his works and teachings. Would that give you pause? There is a book that while out of print officially (meaning not available in stores), the family of the author still offers the book for sale. It is a commentary of the book of Revelation by a Church of Christ minister who served as a minister for many years.

The book is entitled “As A Lamb Slain” written by a gentleman by the name of Floyd Irvin Stanley, who lived and worked in Rogers, Arkansas. Mr. Stanley passed away in January of 2010, but his family still keeps books available. Jo and I were introduced to the book during a Bible study of Revelation at the Lakehoma Church of Christ in Mustang, OK. That study took us 9 months to complete, using the Bible and Mr. Stanley’s book.

Even though I had been raised in the Church of Christ, I had never attended a Bible study on Revelation as an adult. I had developed an attitude that I didn’t even want to read Revelation because of all the “gloom and doom” within it. The study at Lakehoma opened my eyes and my thoughts to the fact that Revelation is a revealing of Christ, not a revealing of future events.

Jo and I have given copies of that book as gift to friends and family, and we are still in touch with Mr. Stanley’s family in regards to the book and getting more copies of it. In fact, we are in need of ordering some more from them. We went to Rogers once to meet Mr. Stanley and get more books from them. His daughter told us that Mr. Stanley’s father had told him to NOT publish the book until Mr. Stanley was at least 50 years old. That was so that he would have a mature understanding of Revelation.

While he was tempted at times to publish it early, he chose to adhere to his father’s wishes and held off. His daughter told us that it probably was a good thing since Mr. Stanley did revise parts of the book after he was 50 years old.

Mr. Stanley had a grasp of the meanings of much of the “figurative” language of Revelation, to include the true meaning of “666” and what the “figurative” figures, such as the beasts, really referred to and why. I guess I need to read through it again.

May God’s blessings be upon all of you.

Pike’s Peak from Garden of the Gods; Colorado Springs; August 2008

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