S: Heartlife TrEx 2011 - Southern U.S.
BC: Students: Griffin McElmurry, Grant Snodgrass, Caeden & Tienna Brusett, Daniel Royer, Ellie Morrow, Grace Wheelhouse, Kalen Kennemer, J.J. Pen | Staff: Kevin Brusett, Dave Snodgrass, Julie Pen, Brad Royer, Jonny Long
FC: HEARTLIFE | Travel Experience | 2011 - Southern United States
1: Day 1 ...the journey begins! We headed out of Portland at 5 AM, stop-ping in Caldwell, Idaho for a pizza buffet lunch while the trailer got new tires. Arrived at Layton Christian Academy in Utah by 9 PM.
2: Breakfast was had on Antelope Island surrounded by the Great Salt Lake. Biting gnats were pesky, but the landscape and wildlife (bison, antelope, and numerous birds) were beautiful. By lunch we were in SE Utah at Arches National Park. Nature's architecture was breathtaking, and the hot dry sun was a welcome change from Portland's gloomy weather. A short hike up to North Window Arch gave us a first-hand lesson on how the sandy wind scours out these rock structures; it felt like we were in a wind tunnel! | Day 2 - Salt Lake City Rehobath, New Mexico Packing the trailer was no easy task involving leadership, strategy and teamwork. Watching this happen was like either a well choreographed ballet or a train wreck. Luggage, ice chests, sleeping bags, sports equipment, propane stoves and food all had to be carefully arranged so that it was balanced and protected during travel. Grant and Griffin took the lead at first, but everyone helped and it wasn’t long before they had this task mastered.
5: Day 3 - New Mexico After a good night's sleep in our dorm-style accommodations at Rehoboth Christian School, Carol Bremer-Bennett (managing director) taught us about Native American culture. She explained how every detail of the Navajo cradle board (papoose) and hogan (house) is rich with significance. She also shared that as a Christian Navajo woman, she sees all of nature overflowing with God’s revelation. | Later that afternoon we arrived at Nancy and Randy Hazelbaker’s home across from a pecan orchard in Artesia. The toasty 98 degrees we stepped off the bus into felt mild because of the lack of humidity (the last measurable precipitation was 8 months prior). They had all the comforts of home waiting for us, including a potluck dinner supplied by their church group that included an amazing assortment of pizza, goulash, spaghetti, side dishes and a couple different types of enchilada.
6: Day 4 Carlsbad Caverns After a group meeting the night before, we decided to "carpe diem" and squeeze in a tour through these caves buried 750 feet beneath the ground. This meant "rise and shine" was 4:30 AM for most of us, with mandated sleep time for the first couple hours in the bus. Nancy & Randy fixed a FEAST of every kind of breakfast food imaginable to make sure we set off with full bellies.
9: Day 5 - Fort Worth, Texas Everything here was over-the-top good, larger than life or deep-fried (pickles, okra and corn-on-the-cob to name a few). We watched in awe as humungous Texas longhorns were herded (well, escorted on a leisurely stroll) down the main street while we stood a few feet away. This former staging area for selling and distributing livestock was impressive, to say the least. YEE HAW! | T | TEXAS
10: Next was the 6th floor of former Texas School Book Depository building in Dallas, now a museum commemorating the JFK assassination. Our hosts, Pam & Matt Wilson, arranged a headphone-guided tour that led us past artifacts, memorabilia and the recreated “sniper’s nest” where Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy in 1963. | Outside, we walked across the grassy knoll and saw the X’s on the street marking the places Kennedy received his fatal gunshot wounds. A newspaper containing all the controversial details surrounding these historic events struck up a fevered debate among the kids that lasted several days.
11: Finally, we headed to the Hilton Anatole where it was rumored a section of the Berlin Wall was displayed. Dave supplied an impromptu lesson on communism and the cold war, and after some phone conversations (plus a lengthy hike and a duck behind a wall of curtains), we found our relic. There is no better way to learn history than to see it first-hand like this.
12: Day 6 & 7 Covington, Louisiana We spent the next two days exploring the Northshore area of southern Louisiana where Wes Lockwood set us up in cabins on stilts above Lake Pontchartrain at Fontainebleau State Park. The screened porches provided the perfect venue for morning artwork assignments and evening conversations. In Covington, we enjoyed an outdoor concert featuring Don Vappie & the Creole Jazz Serenaders, followed by our first laundry adventure (another valuable lesson in responsibility and independence).
13: At the INSTA-GATOR Ranch, guide Jimmy Cochran (contestant on Cajun Croc Hunters) taught us about the four different crocodilian species and their efforts to counter the dwindling alligator population in the south. After feeding some larger ones their gator chow (similar to dog food) and a few mice, we got to hold and even name some of the babies (Ellie-gator will one day be swimming in a Louisiana bayou...or end up as a pair of boots).
14: Day 8, 9 & 10 – New Orleans, Louisiana Steve and Bronwen Niles, directors of the YWAM house we lived in for 3 days, graciously provided a safe haven in Algiers, just a few blocks from the levee holding back the swollen Mississippi River. A quick ferry ride brought us to the heart of the city. In Jackson Square there were an array of musicians, magicians, taro card readers and one-of-a-kind street performers. The beignets at Cafe du Monde were so popular, we went back several times!
15: New Orleans
16: Heartlife strives to teach independence, courage, and resourcefulness. One way to develop this is offering the kids a navigation challenge. Grouped with a staff adult, they were given the task of finding their way from the ferry dock to the WWII museum, to the Camellia Grill (which served up gumbo, grilled catfish and muffaletta sandwiches) and back. The National WWII museum’s powerful 4-D movie experience immersed us in the patriotism and horrors of the global conflict of the 1940’s. | Dave led an expedition down the Canal Street Trolley to “Art Spark in the Park” that boasted local artists’ creations. Everyone had a grand time exploring the outdoor exhibits and NOMA sculpture garden but came home a little crispified by the southern sunshine.
17: Day 11 - Gulf Coast We could tell we were in the south by the 1) southern drawls that made us want to mosey on the front porch awhile, 2) armadillo crossing signs, and 3) a dizzying array of spicy snacks offered at gas station markets. We met Wes and his kids at Fort Gains to explore this coastal Civil War stronghold. A leisurely lunch at a nearby park was followed by a reluctant farewell to Dave at the Mobile, Alabama airport. By sundown, we were entering Pensacola Beach, Florida where we had a campsite reserved near Fort Pickens along the Gulf Islands National Seashore. It was warm and dry with a full moon above, so we camped under the stars with the whippoorwills lulling us to sleep.
18: Morning brought clear blue skies, white sand beaches, easy boardwalk access to the azure blue Gulf of Mexico, and hardly a soul in sight. The breakfast team fixed pancakes with strawberries for us all, and after sampling a local favorite of boiled peanuts, we headed off to central Florida. It was surprising to find more pine forests than palm trees. After sundown, we unloaded at Orlando Junior Academy where Stacye Hill gave us a tour and made us feel welcome. | Day 12 - Pensacola Beach, Florida
19: Day 13 - Daytona Beach, Florida Boogie boarding in the Atlantic Ocean, swimming with pelicans diving for their lunches, watching manta rays jump and splash near the shore, surf shop browsing, sand-castle building and general beach bumming were the day’s agenda. In the evening, a grocery run and homework check ensued.
20: Journaling, science observations, Civil War reading and other required activities had to be completed and checked by staff to gain entrance into the “Happiest Place on Earth.” Two of the boys had not done all their homework and spent the morning sitting in a restaurant finishing their journal writing. The rest were paired with staff or buddied up and charged with phoning in hourly to Kevin. J.J. and Daniel eventually got their work caught up and enjoyed a half day at Disney World, and they learned a memorable lesson on the cost of procrastination as well. | Day 14 - Walt Disney World Our Orlando adventures included exploring the Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom - all in one day! Thrill rides were the most popular attraction, and with 4 different parks to explore, there were plenty of them.
21: Day 15 - Orlando to Augusta, Georgia Primarily a travel day, we still had time to explore the diverse architecture, colonial history and rich cultural offerings of Savannah, Georgia. This easy-going city held treasures for us to explore like fried green tomatoes, numerous little park squares with historical monuments, and a tour of the Brazilian tall ship Peacemaker. A backwoods drive through South Carolina brought us to Scott & Marisa Cumpston’s Augusta, Georgia home where we were treated to a backyard feast. After taking turns cuddling with Stinkerbell their pet skunk, the boys all crammed into a tent in the back yard while the girls enjoyed accommodations inside for a good night’s sleep.
22: Day 16 & 17 - Atlanta, Georgia New Bethany Baptist Church in Buford became our base camp for the next few days. We settled into a comfortable pace here, experiencing more amazing things each day. | The movie and exhibits of the MLK, Jr. museum gave us new understanding of the civil rights movement, while a face-to-face encounter with a local black youth gave us even more insight into the culture we were visiting. | One of the challenges the kids faced was the planning and preparation of their own food. They had to design, shop for and concoct their meals while taking into account the cooking abilities, dietary needs and preferences of all group members. No small task, this required teamwork, patience and creativity that flowed better on some days than others.
23: A plantation tour at Stone Mountain Park highlighted the stark contrast between the different classes living in antebellum communities not so very long ago (interestingly, the doctor’s cabin was closer in size and furnishings to the slave quarters than the owner’s mansion). We also got to face our fear of heights on a high-speed Swiss cable car ride up to the mountain’s summit and a ropes course with three levels up to 40 ft. high. As the sun set, we were treated to a patriotic lazer light and fireworks show that showcased the mountain’s Confederate Memorial Carving as a backdrop.
24: Day 18 - Sunday in Atlanta On this morning, we worshipped first at Dan and Leigh Snodgrass’ lakeside home, enjoying their two-story swimming dock, a home-cooked breakfast, and the beautiful sunshine. Then we joined them for services at 12Stone, the fastest-growing mega church in America. | Dan, who directs the video production of each service, gave us a backstage tour and we got to see how the people of this congregation use their artistic and technical skills to share the gospel with thousands of Georgians every week. Never one to miss a learning opportunity, Kevin shared with the kids about the latest musical technology we saw there.
25: Day 19 - Atlanta to Nashville On the northern border of Georgia, near Chattanooga, TN, lies the Chickamauga civil war battlefield where we learned from the museum displays and drive-through tour that over 50,000 men lost their lives in these fields and forest ridges. Nothing like seeing the land gives a better understanding of the tactics and turmoil of that segment of America’s history.
26: Day 20 - Nashville, Tennessee This exciting day started at 4:45 AM when the weather radio (supplied by principal Art Chaney of the Adventist Elementary School where we slept) blared out a severe storm warning. Everyone huddled around the gym doors to watch the crazy lightning and wind that swept over us. | Griffin, a budding musician, gleaned wisdom from Cody Falkosky, an up-and-coming guitarist with whom Kevin arranged a meeting while we sampled concoctions at a local frozen yogurt shop. | Tornado warnings & cicadas of Biblical proportion kept us all on edge as we toured the Parthenon, down- town Nashville, and the Opryland Hotel complex.
27: Dodging a series of super-cell storms, we landed at a timeshare where the kids swam and finished homework. Everyone enjoyed the rides, craftsmen & shows at the local amusement park. Kevin was coaxed into competing in a “Talk Like a Hillbilly” contest at a concert which regaled us with country song & dance numbers including a Christian worship sing-along. | Day 21 & 22 - Branson, Missouri
28: Day 23 - Branson, Missouri to North Platte, Nebraska You could hear a pin drop in the bus as we drove slowly through downtown Joplin on our way to pick up Brad from the airport. Police directed traffic through intersections whose lights were either without power, bent over, or missing (stripped from the pole). Volunteer work crews and Salvation Army tents were bustling on almost every city block, and National Guardsmen on ATVs were there helping as well. The magnitude of destruction was unspeakable...it truly looked like a bomb-struck war zone. | Flattened walls, shattered glass and hanging power lines were everywhere, while tree trunks striped of leaves, branches and bark stuck out above the rubble. Many thoughts and feelings were evoked by the devastation we viewed; the students spent the following hour recording those reflections in their journals.
29: Needless to say, a lot of time was spent on the bus! These days were filled with reading, schoolwork, practicing songs for graduation, sleep, mafia games and finishing up Jonny’s documentary interviews. | Brad helped out with driving the last leg home and we got one last thrill at the Birds of Prey center in Boise, Idaho. | Day 24 & 25 - The Drive Home