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Everything Changes

The more messed up this world gets, the more God makes sense.

Home, James!

Sunday, March 20, 2005
The anticipation is growing! After this sleep I will pick up the truck (and my friend Bob) and start driving North! Yippee! I have never been so excited about coming home! The trip was good... but, it's over now and I can come home! (I may have already said most of this in a previous blog, but I need to declare it again!)

Tonight I'm in Conway, Arkansas... and boy, are they cowboys or what! Cowboy hats, tight blue jeans with a pack of chewing tobacco pressed into the back pocket, cowboy boots... yikes! I gotta get OUT of here! (I actually BOUGHT a pair of cowboy boots when I lived in Missouri... but I was young then... and stupid!)

Okay... don't get offended if you are of the boot-wearing persuasion. It's nothing personal. It's just a strong indication that I AIN'T home yet!

But I will be - soon! Approximately 32 hours and counting! Good-bye Motherland, hello Country of Permanent Residence!

See you soon! (That is, if you live in my city... )

:-)

Saturday, March 19, 2005

And The Beat Goes On (Lauren Barlow - Barlow Girl) Posted by Hello

*Tour Log

Miles: 9545 (**15361 km)
Diesel Gallons: 1351.96
Truck Hours: 159
Days: 32
Hotels: 24
States: 18
Walmart Visits: 10
Number of Sleeps Until Home: 3
Concerts Attended: 2
Flat Tires: 1

*As of March 18th
** Converted at: http://www.stabb.com/tools/convert.html

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

My Touring Companions

Left: Kutless' bus - owned by Patty Loveless [http://www.pattyloveless.com/]
Right: Barlow Girls' bus - owned by Barbara Mandrell [http://www.barbara-mandrell.com/] Posted by Hello

Moo-ving On!

I watched the sun rise again this morning. Beautiful. Maybe I could be "in" to mornings. (Ahhh... maybe not.) But today's sunrise was far removed from my recent viewings. Today the sun rose across the VERY FLAT South Dakota prairies. Farmland as far as the eye could see... and cows! LOTS of cows! I'm talkin' HUGE head of cattle on GIGANTIC farms. I've never seen this much farmland and I've been a lot of places. Not many PEOPLE here... but cows? Yup. Got 'em.

I'm in Sioux Falls, not to be confused with Sioux City (which was in Iowa on the way to Sioux Falls). Tonight's concert is at the University of Sioux Falls - which is a Christian Liberal Arts University - [http://www.usiouxfalls.edu/]. "The traditional motto of the university is Culture for Service, that is, we seek to foster academic excellence and the development of mature Christian persons for service to God and humankind in the world." Cool.

Tonight will mark the long trek homeward. Well, sort of. It feels like that anyhow. Or maybe I just WANT it to feel like that! We go back south, first to Danville, Iowa and then 2 more stops in Arkansas. Tour ends near Little Rock. And then... I drive... towards Canada... and drive more. Lots more. (It is, like, 1100 miles from Little Rock to Brantford... what's that in kilometers... ummm... 50 million?!)

I can't wait to come home. The Arkansas shows were "added" to the tour a couple weeks ago. Too bad. It would have be nice to be home a couple days earlier. At this point I am planning to arrive home VERY early Tuesday AM... sleep a bit and then get ready to go away on Wednesday to visit my sister and her family in Illinois for Easter. I know... am I crazy?! I just finish driving over 10,000 miles across the U.S. and I'm gonna get back in a car and drive more?

Yup. And then some.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

World's Largest Truckstop!

It's official... I'm a trucker... been to the Iowa 80. [http://www.iowa80truckstop.com/] World's largest truckstop. (We're talking LARGE - this place even has handicapped parking for 18 wheelers!) Actually, Dwight (who IS a trucker and the current tour bus driver) said, "You gotta stop at the Iowa 80!" - so I did. Took a few pics and wandered around the gigantic truck stop (at, like, 7:30AM). Didn't go up to the Driver's Lounge, but I'm sure it would have been SO MUCH fun!

:-)

I'm in Des Moines, Iowa for a "sleep" (and laundry) before heading northwest to the next venue in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

(Man, I'm far from home!) Posted by Hello

Monday, March 14, 2005

You Are Here!

One of the strangest things about this tour, schedule, etc., is that every day seems just like the day before. Except for a different bed, in a hotel room that is basically identical as the previous room, everything is the same: drive all night, drop the truck off at the venue, "run" to the hotel, check-in, go to the designated "King/Non-Smoking" room, sleep, "run" to the venue, pick up the truck and start the cycle all over again. I'm not really sure what day it is or if I'm coming or going.

Thank goodness that each and every room I stay in is thoughtful enough to let me know EXACTLY where I am.

:-) Posted by Hello

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Rock & Roll

This is Brad. Brad Duncan. [http://www.bradduncan.org/] Brad is the Tour/Road Manager. He is also speaking at all of the shows. Brad was the lead guitarist, songwriter and founding member of Fusebox [http://www.fuseboxmusic.com/] which started as the backing band for Rebecca St. James [http://rsjames.com/]. He is holding a guitar autographed by all of the Strong Tower Tour artists that was given away at one of the shows. Harley shirt, shaved head, earrings, the longest goatee I've ever seen, guitar player... now THAT'S a guy that rocks!Posted by Hello

Countdown To Spring!

There are 7 or 8 days until Spring... apparently "The 'first day of spring' is the Vernal Equinox, which is actually an astronomical phenomenon, having to do with the position of the sun. It doesn't just occur on a particular day, but at a particular time. And this varies a bit from year to year." Either way, it just needs to arrive. And quickly.

I drove from Dayton, Ohio to a small town south of Grand Rapids called Hudsonville last night. It was very snowy. When I landed in Hudsonville I could NOT believe the amount of snow here - you know, that "pretty white stuff" that Canada gets a LOT of?! Sheesh... this is the most snow I've seen in years! Even the highway ramps were completely covered with snow! Ugh! (Could this have ANYTHING to do with the fact that I bragged about the beach and beautiful temps a few blogs ago?)

Thankfully the hotel has a pool and spa. Haven't had a chance to "spa" much on this trip. Unfortunately this hotel is FULL of kids! (And so was the hot tub.) I found out that Hudsonville is not exactly the most "happening" place in Michigan and that families often venture out to this hotel to celebrate birthday parties, etc. There is also a hockey tournament going on nearby in Big Rapids - wherever or whatever THAT is... Big Rapids, Grand Rapids... is there a Bigger or Grander Rapids near by? And are there actually rapids anywhere around here?!

It IS my day/night off, so hopefully I can sneak in a quiet Sunday morning "spa" time before I go back to bed around noon. ALTHOUGH... it probably won't be "alone" time. Bob came with me to this hotel. His family (including 3 MORE children) arrived this evening (while I was sleeping). Haven't seen them yet, as the kids were sleeping when I finally woke up. I may have to "spa" with them.

Welcome to Hudsonville - Michigan's Salad Bowl! [http://www.hudsonville.org/]

Saturday, March 12, 2005

James & Lindsay

James plays guitar for Kutless and happens to be one of the nicest people on this tour. Apparently his online bio says his hobbies are "tattoos, cooking and Bible studies!" Nice combination, eh?! [The shirt he's wearing in the pic says something like "Jesus loves me AND my tattoos!"] He told me that he feels that God wants him to pastor when the whole "Kutless" thing is over. Said he loves to hang around people with a "pastoral" heart. I think he'll make a great pastor.Posted by Hello

"Saudades"

Friday, March 11, 2005
I received an email from one of my old Brazilian roommates today with the Subject reading "Saudades". In English, "saudades" is best translated "homesicknesses". It's kind of weird... it's like saying, "I have homesickness for you". While it is true that I AM "homesick" for Brazil and all my friends there, I am having "saudades" for MY home!

Yesterday, as we drove into Kettering, Ohio I spotted a Tim Hortons!! I couldn't believe it! Timmies in Ohio?! My runner told me that when Wendy's bought Tim Hortons they opened their U.S. Corporate offices in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus and vicinity is now the "test market" for Tim Hortons! A "sign" from the Great White North! [http://www.timhortons.com/]

So yesterday, while I was driving, I started planning out my trek home... you can tell that I am just about "done" with this trip when I start trying to figure out exactly what day & time I will arrive back in Brantford! Don't get me wrong, it has been good, but I am ready to come home and sleep in my OWN bed!


Kutless @ Rocketown

(Sorry I haven't updated - there hasn't been Internet access at the last 2 hotels! What would we do without the Net?! And today the hotel only has dial-up! So... I am hoping to update on my "day/night" off on Sat/Sun... in Dayton, Ohio today and driving to Grand Rapids tonight @ midnight!)Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Can I Have Your Autograph?

Every night after the concert fans wait to get an autograph from the band members. Tables are set-up in the venue's lobby and hundreds of fans wait patiently in line for the bands. Barlow Girl is actually sponsored by Sharpie! [http://www.sharpie.com/] Good thing, cuz these guys will give away their John Hancock to THOUSANDS on this tour!

[Top to bottom: Kutless, Barlow Girl and Stellar Kart]Posted by Hello

The Longest Drive

15 hours in a 5-ton. Not my idea of fun! Especially since my trip started in Florida (along Alligator Alley [http://sofia.usgs.gov/virtual_tour/alalley/] - I have never seen so many live gators in my life - very cool) and ended in the rainy Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee. (Thank goodness for "overdrive" pay!!)

It is not "normal" for a tour to include a lengthy drive like this, but sometimes tour "management" decides they want to change-up the itinerary. We were supposed to go to Jacksonville yesterday, but they cancelled that show so we could get to Nashville a day early. For some reason they wanted to set-up the production equipment last night.

Tonight's sold-out concert is at Rocketown [http://www.rocketown.com/]. Michael W. Smith’s Rocketown is a 38,000 square foot facility which includes a drug and alcohol free nightclub, skate park, coffee house, cybercafe and much more. Rocketown Youth Services provides a safe haven for trouble youth with the hope of Christian mentors challenging them to be responsible moral citizens.

I am hoping to go to Rocketown tonight... just cuz I can. Hey, I'm here! Why wouldn't I go check it out?! Besides... I need to do something fun tonight before I drive through more of the Appalachians on my way to Virginia! [http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/nalnd.htm]


The Palms of North Miami

(And yes, Dan... I actually took THIS pic too!) Posted by Hello

Best Day Off So Far

Sunday, March 06, 2005
"This is the best day, weather-wise, so far this winter!" That is what my friend Eric said about the weather today in North Miami. Almost 80F (27C) and not a cloud in the sky. Top that off with a stay at Eric and Elise's waterfront condo, dolphin spotting, a Mini Cooper to get around in AND a walk along Eric's parent's private beach on the ocean and this has turned out to be my best day off so far. (Too bad I have to go back to driving in a few hours!)

I will still be in South Florida for one more day, but then we start heading back to the North: Nashville, Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, South Dakota, Iowa and a couple of added shows in Arkansas. Although I don't miss the cold weather and snow back at home, I am starting to miss my BED! Living in a different hotel every night gets monotonous. Another reason why it was nice to stay at Eric and Elise's place today.

I have taken lots of pics here in South Florida, so I will try and post one or two later today! You know, pics of palm trees, beautiful beaches, ocean views... ;-)

I am praying that the next week or so will birth an early spring up North. Dunno what that darn groundhog said about his shadow, but here's hoping!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Okay... who (in their right mind) would deliberately ANNOY an alligator?! (Yes... I actually took this picture when I went to the beach the other day... and I'm on my way to Florida in a few minutes to find MORE beaches - preferably WITHOUT critters.) Posted by Hello


Morgan & Mandy Posted by Hello

Fried Apples & Grits

Ten years ago I met a guy online from Alabama (named Morgan) that was preparing to become a youth pastor. We kept in contact over the years through email and once I even spoke with him on the telephone. When our runner brought us to the hotel this morning there was a sign that said "Welcome to Trussville". Immediately I remembered that Morgan's family was from Trussville. So I called his mom and found out that I was only 5 minutes away from his family's house!

Tonight Morgan and his girlfriend Mandy took me out for a breakfast - "southern style" - complete with grits and fried apples. I remember eating grits a couple of times when I was in college in Missouri but I don't remember them being this tasty! With extra margarine and lots of sugar (the REAL stuff) I chowed down on a taste of the south that we don't see much of in Canada, if at all!

Morgan and Mandy then took me on a tour through Trussville - which Mandy (who happens to be related to MOST of Trussville) helped me properly pronounce - "it's Trus-vull" she said! "Not Trus-vill!" I find myself picking up the accent down here. I seem to slide into their southern drawl so easily! And I end up saying things I would never say... words like, fixin' - "Are you fixin' to go over there?" (Yikes... I gotta lose this before I come home!)

Before Morgan dropped me back at the hotel we stopped at the local Winn-Dixie. Now I know that most of you think that Winn-Dixie is a movie about a dog, but it happens to be the name of a grocery store chain here in the south. (The dog in the movie is actually named after a sign in the grocery store.) Morgan wanted to send me home with some Winn-Dixie Grits. Yee-haw!

[http://www.winndixie.com/]

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Sunrise @ The Gulf

Well... I made it! And BOY was it exciting! I don't think I've ever watched the sun rise before - not deliberately anyhow! B-E-A-utiful! Perfect sky, the sound of the waves on the beach, seagulls (and other flying things like cranes and eagles), alligator warnings in the park (!) and not ONE DROP of that "pretty" white stuff that is HAMMERING my hometown. More later... gotta get some sleep... just wanted to let you know that I actually made it to ocean for the sunrise like I had hoped! Posted by Hello


Stellar Too!

Adam (lead singer for Stellar Kart) and his wife Sharon - who "mans" the merchandise table for the band and travels with the 4 Stellar boys in a converted van, complete with a queen-sized mattress in the back - God bless her! Posted by Hello

Hello Sunshine!

It was 65F and beautifully sunny yesterday as I drove through Houston towards my "day off" destination of Beaumont, Texas! (That's about 18C for my Canadian friends...) Awesome! This is the kind of weather I have been longing for on this trip! And after a week and half of unusually cloudly and rainy weather we finally got SUNSHINE!

Later today I am hoping to drive down to the Gulf of Mexico - about 30 miles from here! The next tour stop is Orange, Texas (only 30 miles from the Gulf) which gives me some extra time to catch a sunrise, take some pics and still arrive at the venue by 9:30AM.

I actually "slept in" today! Which is so weird. To sleep in until 1AM? Strange. Will my body ever recover from this unusual schedule I've been keeping?! Dunno. But after a few extra hours of sleep today (after my longest drive yet - 11 hours) I am feeling quite refreshed! Good thing... cuz after tonight's show I have to drive all the way to Birmingham, Alabama!