Sunday, July 31, 2011

Home sweet home...

A house really isn't a home without the couches to sit on, the desk to work at, the kitchen to cook in, the family to cuddle with. A house really isn't a home until you put your own holes in the walls, hang your curtains, make your first spill on the new carpet, and let your dog roam around everywhere.  A house really isn't a home until you screw in the light bulbs, hang the pictures, make your bed, and Skype with your family to show it all off. A house isn't really a home without you in it.

Wherever I am, as long as you're with me, I'm home. All the other stuff is just like having you're favorite snack when you're really hungry. I could eat something else, but I want the chocolate-covered turtle chex mix. It's comforting, familiar, and fills me up:)

Thanks for making me feel home... I'm so excited to live in it with you.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I miss the darkness...

Hi everyone!

After some prompting from some friends and a little procrastinating, I am finally sitting down to fill you all in on our first week in Anchorage!

We arrived on Sunday, July 17th, a really rainy, cold day. Little did we know, that’s pretty typical for Alaska summer weather!  I have only worn my shorts and sandals once in the past 9 days, and that was being pretty brave.  The temperature stays pretty much around 55-65.  All of this will be much more tolerable when we receive our household goods and all of our clothes and I have more options to layer in.  Right now, the same three pairs of jeans are getting worn over, and over, and over again.  Maybe I should just go shopping!

Anyways, we moved in to our new house last Thursday.  This house is really nice. It’s a newer unit, with three bedrooms upstairs, a living room, dining room, and extra room in the front that we’ll make my office/piano room. We have a one-car garage, but a double wide driveway that can easily park four cars in it. Much different than our miniature mountain we had to park on in Bellevue! The only drawback was that the carpet smelled horrible from whatever pets the previous owners had in here.  At least, we’re hoping it was just pets and not that actual people…  So we complained to the housing office and they replaced our carpet through the entire house the very next day! We were very impressed with how quickly they took care of things.

We’ve been warmly welcomed by so many people, too. Last week two families from Jordan’s band at work had us over for dinner, and the pastor I’ll be working with had us over for lunch on Sunday.  I know lots of you are wondering what my new job will look like up here, so I’ll fill you in the best I can at this point.

I have been hired by an organization called Covenant Youth of Alaska (CYAK) to work at First Covenant Church in Anchorage with the youth programs.  I’ll mostly be working with high school and college students.  So far what that looks like is running youth nights on Wednesdays with other CYAK staff, working closely with Pastor Phil (the youth pastor at FCC), and raising funds to support my ministry and scholarship students to go to camp.  Speaking of camp, I’ll be hopping on a puddle-jumper plane next Tuesday to head off to the “bush” as they call it up here. I’ll be spending 5 nights in a village north of here with other CYAK staff and college students!  I am really excited to meet other CYAKers and my directors, plus get in a little fishing and berry picking!  I’ll definitely let you know how that goes, but please keep me in your prayers as I’m a little nervous to fly on the small plane to a place I’ve never been with people I’ve never met! 

Jordan is doing great with his new job up here.  The band had him working right away, and they played for the Governor’s Picnic on Saturday.  Jordan is playing bass in the jazz band and also a small rock band that comes out of people in the jazz band.  So far, so good… just really busy. He’ll be gigging lots over the next few weeks, and then he’ll be going to Japan for two weeks to tour over there!  I was supposed to go with him to see our dear Schmice friends and their new baby, but I’ll actually be going at a later time when things have settled down.  I can’t wait to see them!

Our household things have arrived in AK, so we’re just waiting for them to be delivered, hopefully soon. I’ll post lots of pictures once we get our things moved in. For now, we just have some temporary furniture to get us by for a few days.  We are so grateful to our friends Clint and Sandra for lending us their bigger airbed and for helping me make black-out curtains for our bedrooms! What would we do without you here to show us the ways? J They also took us on a beautiful hike last week to some glacial waterfalls.  It was so cool, literally.  The air temp drops like 10 degrees when you get close to the water! I have a couple pics of that night.

Thanks for hanging out with us on this blog.. we really love you all!

In front of the gardens in downtown Anchorage

Standing in front of the falls with Sandra, Noah, Jenna, and their little dog Lilly

This water had to have been only 33 degrees, but people were still swimming in it!

Jordan's first gig with the band!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Life in Anchorage...

... is a lot colder than I'm used to for July temps.
... stays light out much later and earlier than I'm used to.
... is providing some great housing for us!
... is looking hopeful.
... has answered prayers awaiting us here.
... has a really nice king suite for us at the Comfort Inn (but only until Thursday when we get our keys to our house!)
... was a little lonely today while Jordan was at work in-processing.
... is not as confusing to navigate around as expected.
... feels a little scary and intimidating to learn a new city, meet new friends, start a new job, develop a new routine.
... is still pretty exhausting as I'm just looking forward to sleeping in my own bed.
... is empty without our wonderful friends we've grown to love over the past couple years.
... has a really noisy train that runs RIGHT next to our hotel room (Patryn family note: it's bringing back bad memories of VA trip as kids)
... is providing some great friends already:)
... has a Kohl's, Target, and Old Navy... I should be all set.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pics from the last couple days..,

We drove around beautiful mountains like these for days... 
I believe this is Lake Kluane... the water is so blue you'd think we were in the tropics!

Jordan and Layla taking a stretch break at one of the many construction site traffic stops.

Great photo of them!

Right there are two VERY happy travelers! 

Hello Alaska, GOODBYE Canada!

Celebrating our last night of the trip with Alaska's biggest Margarita! Don't worry, Jordan helped me, and we barely made a dent in the thing. But the picture was fun!

Our first glacier sighting!

And they lived happily ever after... in Alaska!

We’re here! We arrived on Sunday, July 17th at about 2:00 in the afternoon and were greeted wonderfully by our dear friends Clint and Sandra! What a wonderful blessing it really is to have them here... so here's a last little bit of reading material for you before I end this unforgettable journey with you!

To end our trip, Jordan and I took the last 50 miles to discuss what our favorite parts and least-favorite parts of our journey were.  Ready, set, go!

Awesome: Definitely our meals at the Space Needle in Seattle.  Our seafood was amazing and the experience itself was once-in-a-lifetime (both to get there and to pay for it! Haha). I also really enjoyed my first mussel experience in Vancouver. Yum!

Could have done without: Gas station pastries for breakfast.  We finally ate a REAL breakfast this morning when we stopped at a diner between Tok and Anchorage.  Real eggs!!!!! Halleluiah!


Awesome: The smell of the ocean as we walked out of the Space Needle and as we walked around Pike Place Market the next morning.  Growing up on the east coast, going to the ocean was always something I enjoyed as a kid.  My family always made sure to boast about being on the ocean and smelling the air when I was in Nebraska.  We are soooo excited to be on a coast again.  Take that Mom and Dad.

Could have done without: There are many scents that could fall under this category.  To be brief, I’ll just make a list: wet dog, dirty dog, farts in the car, waste water treatment plant smell, sulfuric smells of the hot springs, the garbage dumpster at Sylvan Lake Campground in SD, and Jordan’s feet when he takes his sneakers off and puts them up on the dashboard.  I’ve known he has smelly feet since the first few weeks I started dating him, but should I really be punished in this way for two weeks in a car? (Sorry babe… )


Awesome: Again, many things could fit into this category. Let me break them down into more specific classifications:

SIGHT OF RELIEF: Definitely the state sign telling us we were in Alaska! We made it!

SIGHT OF FEAR: The herds of buffalo we encountered, especially the last one in which Jordan almost you-know-what in his pants when he saw 10 large buffalo staring him down and scuffing their hooves on the ground.

SIGHT OF AWE: Even though I’ve seen it before, Mt. Rushmore still takes my breath away. I’m not sure what it is, but something about how immaculate those faces are in the mountain, and the way people were standing up for Night Wing’s performance for the 4th of July just made me so proud to be a citizen of this country.  Jordan would also like to add that his first sighting of a glacier today on our drive was pretty amazing, too. 


Category 1- Campgrounds:

Awesome: Clinton Pines Campground in Clinton, British Columbia was so beautiful.  It was such a relief for us after staying in that yucky Super 8 in Vancouver.  We so enjoyed the peace and quiet, the fresh air, the cleanliness, and the nice people.

Needs Improvement: The campground in Yellowstone was a little rough.  Don’t get me wrong, beautiful scenery.  But the $3.50 shower charge, the swarms of mosquitos, and the noisy neighbors who stayed up all night sort of ruined it for us. Next time we’ll pack our screen tent, ear plugs, and a portable showerJ

Category 2- Hotels:

Awesome: The Pomeroy Inn and Suites in Chetwynd, BC was sooooo nice.  A really big room with our own Jacuzzi was exactly what we needed after a long day on the road.

Needs improvement: The Super 8 motels in both Thermopolis and Vancouver.  Ew. They were overpriced, smelled really bad (I should add that to the “smells” category), and one of the rooms had hair of some animal all over the bed sheets.  Again I say, ew.

I can’t put into words the feelings I am having at this moment. They much resemble the way I felt two weeks ago when we left Bellevue.  I’m so excited to just get there, meet new friends, see Clint and Sandra and their kids, and be off the road.  But I’m definitely sad this trip is over…. It’s something we planned and looked forward to for months, and it’s hard to believe that it’s over so soon!  And I’ll also add a dose of anxiety in there of what these next couple of weeks will look like as we settle in to a hotel and wait for housing to give us a house to live in. Thank you all so much for following us on this journey.  I’ve had many of you tell me you’ve been living vicariously through us by reading this blog.  If I leave you with anything at the end of this trip, it’s to get off your butts and take this trip for yourself!  Please do not make excuses for never taking the opportunity to see more of the country.  You will never regret it… promise! 

Also, thank you for those of you who have been praying for us along the way, even at odd hours of the night.  Your prayers and God’s faithfulness are what really got us here.  Just want to list some of those answered prayers: we made it here safely, we all stayed healthy (including Layla!), Jordan and I still want to be married (and more importantly, to each other, haha!), we didn’t have any issues with our car and didn’t even need that extra spare tire that’s been sharing the back with Layla (pretty sure Layla’s not going to want to part with her new “pillow”), and we had an amazing time and made some really great memories.  We prayed nightly for you all as well, and thanked God to have such amazing friends that love us so much. Thank you!

I’ll update along the way to let you all know how our move is going and when we get settled into life up here… stay tuned!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Buffalo, moose, and bears! Oh my!

Truly a different day today than yesterday.  We left our hotel this morning at 7:30 and hit the open road. Well, first we stopped to get gas. Then we stopped at a place to get our oil changed, but it was closed. But then we noticed one of the headlights was out, and thankfully we had a replacement bulb, so that took a few minutes for Jordan to figure out. Then we had to stop again because Layla’s head hit the light above her and we had to turn the light off. But seriously, after all of that, at 7:36 we really did hit the open road.

Today as the first day of our travels that we didn’t have an exact destination and reservation planned. Since we had no idea what the Alaska Highway was going to look like, we didn’t want to plan too much and then not make it to where we hoped we would.  After driving for the past couple days and seeing what the conditions were, we decided to try getting to Watson Lake tonight, about 650 miles from Chetwynd.  It was ambitious, but we did it! Twelve hours later, we were road weary and hungry, and just praying that the only hotel in town that allowed pets had a room left. God was really with us, as they had just ONE room left! Score!

But you don’t think I’d just leave you with that, do you? Of course not! There are always good road-tripping stories to tell, right? Well, I’ll tell ya, for about the first 6 hours today, I really thought the only exciting thing to write about tonight was going to be the fact that I actually heard a real, live Canadian say to us “Have a good one, eh?” That’s right, he actually said “eh!”. Ahhhhhh, I didn’t think it was actually true until I heard it. And it was glorious.

However, the stereotypical Canadian was not the only great thing that happened today!  We saw mucho wildlife on our drive!  Ok, so remember how we were totally shocked that we were encountered not once, but twice by herds of buffalo in Yellowstone? We thought we were pretty lucky to see that much, but apparently not! We almost ran in to two MORE herds today! Let’s recap what those conversations were like:

“HOOOOOOOLY crap! Again?! No really? Again?!”
“Get back there and hold her mouth shut so she can’t bark! They’re coming at us!”
“Layla, don’t you say a word”
“Seriously, this RV is tailgating us right now? I’m not charging through these beasts!”

Later on at dinner tonight Jordan shared with me that while I was turned around holding Layla’s mouth shut, about 15 large buffalo were staring the car down and one of them was actually shuffling his back leg looking ready to charge. He didn’t want to scare me, so he decided not to say anything. But he did get pictures!

On top of those two encounters, we actually saw three moose, five bears, and a caribou! I think what made today’s sights better was that we knew they truly were wildlife, and not just in a park.

So we’re staying in this hotel tonight, as it really did rain ALL DAY on the road, and we didn’t want to camp in wet weather. Remember the goal! No getting stuck in rain! After doing some research tonight, I think we’re going to try to make it to Tok, AK tomorrow (REALLY excited to be back in the US and turn our cell phones back on!), and then just one more day to Anchorage! That puts us there on Sunday, about four days sooner than we expected. I’m excited, Jordan’s excited, and we know Layla is excited. Although I think she’s really going to miss sleeping on beds with us, as that’s certainly coming to an end in our new home.

Time to catch some quick shut-eye before we clock another 12-hour day tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

(pics didn't post so I'll put them up later)

These fields were so bright yellow it was almost blinding.

Unfortunately, it rained like this our entire way through Canada.

Just one of the many rinky-dink gas stations we filled up at.

My first moose sighting! Well, second, but this one counted more because it was so close!

Our second time seeing moose that day

This water was so blue... it was beautiful!

A sight we're getting used to!

This is the guy that had Jordan's hard pumping... seriously, he wasn't going to let us through easy.

Just another of our hotels along the way!

Thursday, July 14, 2011


That was the sound of Jordan's wedding band falling somewhere in the abyss between the passenger seat and the middle console.  Yup.... let me hold you in suspense for a few paragraphs before I provide more detail. And no cheating by scrolling ahead. Yes, you have to endure my explanation of our day just like I had to endure experiencing it in real life. Read on.

The first plinking sounds we heard were at approximately 6:22 this morning as rain drops began sprinkling on our tent.  We've had one big goal this trip: do NOT get caught in the rain. Sooooo, I've never seen Jordan jump up so fast and get going in the morning.  We were packed and on the road by 7:02. Go us!

A couple notes on today's drive:

1. I am really looking forward to eating a breakfast that was not purchased at a gas station and way overpriced, and also doesn't come out of a crinkly bag inside a cardboard box. Ahh, I can only dream.

2. You almost didn't get a blog tonight as the adapter cord for my mac stopped working to charge the computer.  We ended up having to stop in Prince George around lunch time to find a new cord... it was like trying to find a needle in the haystack that is the remote towns of Canada.

3. We hit many delays this afternoon... one in which I had plenty of time to take Layla out for a walk, feed her, walk her again, and then do my "gotta pee but there's no where to pee" dance. After about 30 minutes of waiting I decided to take a hike into the woods across the street. Until I was rudely stopped by a wire fence that was impossible to jump in my skinny jeans and flip flops.  Poor planning on "popping a squat" preparation on my part.  Take note for future endeavors.

4. THANK the Lord for hotels on rainy days/nights! We are staying at a beautiful one in Chetwynd, British Columbia for just the night. It has a jacuzzi. I'm writing this really fast so I can be done with the blog and go soak for awhile.... our "road backs" are killing us from sitting in those Santa Fe mass-produced car seats.

5. After some approximate calculation today in our Milepost, it appears we have only 1700 miles to go til Anchorage! So, if we drive really fast, I learn to pee a little faster when we stop (I'm getting really good at it by the way- at one point today Jordan even asked if I washed my hands as I was so fast), and we don't get stopped for hours on end at construction sites, we may make it to our final destination by either Sunday or Monday! That's pretty optimistic, but at this point, we need to feel like the end is in sight.

6. Don't worry, I didn't forget to explain the first Plink! Jordan loves to play with his wedding band... you know, twirl it between his fingers and the like. Well, I think he learned a really big lesson today when it disappeared for a good 25 minutes in between the seats.  Luckily we were able to look as we were waiting at one of those really long stops in the road... so let me paint a little picture for you: passenger seat is pulled as far forward as it can go and the back is now bent forward as well. Did I mention I'm somehow still sitting in the seat? Jordan is pulling things out from under and around the seat, I'm upside down with my head hanging so I can see under the front side, and still, no sight of the ring. Jordan was just about to begin apologizing profusely to me for losing his wedding band, when I just reached my hand down one last time, and whatdoyaknow?! There it was! Maybe he'll keep it on his finger for the rest of his life like he promise me 2 1/2 years ago.

7. Not too many pictures today. We didn't have a chance to take any of us looking for the ring, as we were kinda tied up in that moment, and I was for sure not going to let Jord take any of me climbing into the slippery, wet woods to go pee. So just enjoy these few:)

The town we're staying in is known for these beautiful wood carvings! Jord snapped these when he went out to pick up dinner.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Traveling North...

Well, we're even deeper into this great country today and staying in a place called Clinton Pines Campground.  We've decided we are much happier camping in nice places like this than staying in skeezy Super 8 motels in a rather noisy, dirty, uncomfortable city.  Go figure.  This place is absolutely gorgeous... it's only got about 10 campsites and they give you free firewood! We haven't had a campfire this whole time, so Jordan got that going right away.

We left Vancouver around 9:30 this morning....sadly, the weather wasn't that great and what we had planned to do was to hang out at a park all morning.  After driving through crazy city roads for about 45 minutes to go 10km, I had pretty much had it with Vancouver and just wanted to get on the road and go to a place I knew would be more relaxing.  So, sorry Josh... maybe you were at a really remote, beautiful part of Van-town, and you were probably driven there instead of having to drive yourself.  We both hated the traffic, the crowds, and stupid one-way roads.  We're also pretty road-weary at this point, so we were glad to skidaddle outta there.

Anyways, onward and upward we drove for about 4 hours today on the Alaskan Highway.  Ya know what? This road is absolutely beautiful. So scenic. Most of the highway is only one lane, splitting into two on hills, so if you get stuck behind someone slow (like me) you have plenty of opportunity to pass by.  One thing I will say though is that when they do road construction and there's a sign warning you about 20 minute delays, they mean it. Now, to most of us, a delay means you might hit some traffic. In Canada, a delay means one man standing in the middle of the road with a stop sign for literally 20 minutes, with no cars coming from the other direction.  Until some magical voice on his walkie-talkie gives him permission to make the big move. Or in other words, turn his little sign around to read "slow". In which case you proceed.  We got stopped like this twice today, the first time in which Layla took it upon herself to get rough and tough in the back of the car and growl for 10 of said 20 minute waits.  Sigh. We just endured it and mostly laughed.

So tonight we cooked spaghetti for dinner, I'm doing three loads of laundry, and we took a little walk around the campground.  And how am I posting this you ask? Why we've entered the 21st century folks. You can now receive wi-fi from the very comfort of inside your Coleman tent:)

Just a few pics from today....

From east to west...

Wow, I can't believe we're finally in Canada, eh? It's been 11 days on the road, two weeks since we've been out of a real home, and too long since I've left my wonderful friends in Omaha.  Tonight Jordan and I talked about what a blur these past days have been... that we've covered so much and visited so many places in just a short time. I'm not only writing this blog for all of you, but for our benefit of documenting these wonderful memories, too:)

I should start from the start, though.  This morning we got up early and explored the famous Pike Place Market in Seattle.  Since we didn't have to check out of the hotel until 12, that gave us time to visit and leave Layla in the hotel.  We smelled some of the greatest smells ever at this market (quite a relief from what was mentioned in yesterday's post.. hehe).  First, we bought an enormous cinnamon roll at a little bakery, then bought some coffee at the very First Starbucks Store, and walked around the fish markets.  I guess if I had to describe this place I'd say it was a mix between artsy, throwback, and organic.  We're talking huge beautiful bouquets for only $10, all the baked goods you can handle, and fresh berries that the merchants let you try for free!

Probably our most favorite part of the day was talking to the man that owned this neat little bookshop downstairs in the market.  I wish I could figure out a way to describe him to truly give him credit for his unique and wonderful character.  I was going through the store, naming all the titles of children's books I used to love as a kid (sidenote: Thanks for reading to me so much as a kid, Mom), and he would start reciting the words to every book I mentioned! He was making Jordan and I laugh so much. We did buy a couple books, one of which I'm going to send to my nephew James, so I can't mention its title until he gets it (Hint for Juls: Think digging a cellar in just one day, can he do it?). But the second book we bought was just too funny to pass up, considering yesterday's blog topic: Pass the Gas.  Yes, a 1970s Japanese-originated "educational" book about farting.  Of course we had to buy it.

After a wonderful time in the market, we had to take care of business and close our of our Bank of America account that we've waited over two years to do.  We just needed to get to a city that had a BOA branch at it.  Then we headed back to the hotel and packed up the Layla-doo to head to Vancouver.

Crossing the border was surprisingly easy, and quite a beautiful place.  Our blood pressure did rise though as the customs guy asked us so many specific questions.  Easy questions that we know the answers to, but for some reason, when you're being interrogated, you just go blank. We survived and made it through without a hitch and quickly changed our GPS settings to metric!

Tonight we ate at this neat little restaurant called The Sandbar that had a happy hour special of mussels and beer for only $10! It was a first mussel experience, and I gotta say, I don't feel any stronger (ha, bad joke, sorry couldn't help myself). But I did enjoy them!   Then Jordan took me down to the beach to stick my feet in the Pacific for the very first time. Gotta say, it felt just as cold as the Atlantic in the Northeast!

These past 11 days have been really amazing, but we are desperately looking forward to a sense of normalcy again when we arrive in AK and get into our new house in a few weeks. You may not see much out of the blog for a few days, as we'll just be driving through Canada and camping most nights. I'll post when I can.... eh?

Wild King Salmon... this is what Jordan's dinner looked like last night before they cooked it!

In front of the very first Starbucks! Coffee tasted the same, though. 

The bookstore man told us to come check out this gum wall.... not my favorite part of our walk this morning.


Our sticker collection on our Thule! There was a Track Town USA sticker on the right side, but it totally fell off :-(

Hey Mr. Plugh! Didn't think you could do THIS with a saxophone!

Mmmmm, mussels!

"I can't get it... how do I eat these things?"

First dip in the Pacific!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What a beautiful night...

Last night we went to the Space Needle for dinner.  I made reservations awhile ago to make sure we got in because this is something I've always wanted to do.  It's a 500 foot tower basically, that has a revolving restaurant at the top.  You take an elevator to the top.  The kind lady on the elevator told us it was a 41 second ride up at 10mph, and the tower was built in 1962 for the Worlds Fair. We were seated at a beautiful table right by the windows (all the tables are on the edge or facing out so you can see the view). The restaurant revolves once around every 47 minutes, so you don't feel like you're moving too fast, but you get to see the entire city in one sitting.  It was so beautiful to see such a busy city and then these huge mountains just towering in the background.  

Not knowing what to expect, we just wore our best jeans and shirts.   That was the best we could do anyways, as we didn't pack fancy clothes to camp across the country!  We felt slightly underdressed as I looked around and saw women in dresses and men in suits, but then I saw a women walk in with 4 kids and she was in sweatpants, so my confidence was boosted:) I ordered an Atomic Berry Lemonade and the Seafood Fettuccine Carbonara and Jordan had a couple beers and the Wild King Salmon dish. It was absolutely delish!  Since we were surprised by a nice gift to take care of the bill for us, we even ordered tiramisu for dessert! My fave.

After dinner we did what any romantic couple would do on a nice night out on the town.  We took a romantic walk. I should mention it was through a Target.  But it was the coolest Target ever! You had to take an escalator to get to the main floor and then there was a second floor above that! Our mission: dog shampoo and organic fruit strips (we're addicted Rachel Keller!).  Our evening was full of laughs as Jordan somehow dropped one bottle of shampoo without tripping or bumping into anything, watched it explode, and then grabbed a new bottle; and also as Jordan laughed at me for the way I get carefully plan how to get onto escalators (they're scary and could suck me in!). Jordan shared with me how he felt like we were on a first date again and he was seeing me for the first time and falling in love all over again... aww. (Ok, I added that last part, but I'm sure he just forgot to mention it.)

After returning to the hotel, we gave Layla a nice scrub now and fell asleep. It's now Tuesday morning and we're going to head into the city, explore a little, close out our Bank of America account, and kiss the US goodbye for the next week.  Next stop tonight, VANCOUVER!