The Good Way

I was having a little quiet time this morning, some reflection, prayer, and bible study.  This bit of scripture was part of the lesson:  

‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’ Jeremiah 6:16 NIV

I think most of us want to walk in the Good Way.  But how will I recognize it?  As Christians we often default to ‘Follow Jesus’.  But how do we apply that today?  I’d like to think that my prayer time, my bible study, and classes, help me with this.  But I have to ask, is the  Good Way the same for everyone? 

I have to think that we each have a path, and it’s not the exact same one for everyone.  But there must be some common denominators.  Are we not all supposed to at least be headed in the same direction?  Surely we all want to live a good life.  But what does that mean?  

Sometimes it just seems like this. Photo by author.

The longer I live, the more I’ve come to understand that our best life isn’t simply living well.  Best often means living rightly, doing what we should, not just what we want. And we won’t always enjoy what comes our way.  Living well, more frequently these days, seems to be the about overcoming adversity, enduring suffering, and understanding how to operate in difficult times.  

I’m learning it’s as much about service, mission, and ministry.  In the Christian vernacular ‘ministry’ even has multiple contexts.  So much yet to learn, even as my hair grays and I start to need glasses to read the finer print.  In many ways I feel like I am just now learning how much I don’t know.  Yet the journey ahead is exciting, if a little daunting.  I feel like the best is yet to come.  

I hope you find the Good Way today.  Or at least go in search of it.  If you’re ahead of me, on that path, I pray that you’ll show me, and if you’re behind, I’ll do my best to show you.  And with God’s grace we’ll get there in our own time.  

Go West…

This summer my wife and I took our oldest granddaughter camping.  But not the usual weekend at one of the state parks.  We made an 1800-mile journey from our home in southern Michigan, up through our state’s upper peninsula to Cody Wyoming and then further west to Yellowstone National Park.  It’s something I’ve wanted do for many years.  Bringing our little travel trailer wasn’t always part of the plan but it seemed like it would be an adventure, and it was, to say the least. 

We would have done the trip sooner, but like so many things, the COVID pandemic made a lot of things uncertain.  So, we waited until 2021 to do it.  We loaded our gear in the camper and the crew cab of a 2019 Chevrolet Colorado pickup and headed west.  We stopped overnight twice on the way and saw a lot of the American west that I hadn’t seen in many years.  The plains states are beautiful with many historic sites and scenes, but the most exciting thing about that drive was seeing mountains rising in the distance.  While the anticipation was high for the grown-ups, by the time we got in to Cody it had been almost three days in the truck, which was a lot to ask of our young passenger.  She was a good sport though and was looking forward to playing at the campground.  

Our camper and truck rig at the rest stop. Photo by author.

After driving for two days on flat land, the climb up into foothills of the Rocky Mountains was a welcome change of scenery. However, being flat-land dwellers most of the time meant we had a pretty steep learning curve on the winding mountain roads. I drove the whole final leg of the trip to Cody through the Bighorn mountains. The little pickup did an admirable job for a v6 and we rolled into the KOA near Cody in the early evening. It was great to get settled, and enjoy the barbecue put on by the folks that run the campground.

During our first day in the park, I was amazed by how developed it is.  While there are many miles of nearly empty and secluded wilderness, there are park amenities that I never expected.  There are gas stations, an entire village with a post office, multiple souvenir malls and even a service station where you can get your oil changed!  I must admit the development was a bit of a disappointment, but in exchange it was also a convenience.  We could get fuel, snacks, and goodies pretty much whenever we wanted.  What we could not get was a table in a restaurant.  All the indoor dining was still closed due to COVID.  Finding a table outside was a challenge sometimes, but we didn’t let the pandemic precautions get us down.  At the Cody and West Yellowstone KOA campgrounds we stayed at, we were able to dine in at their outdoor grills.  

Elk grazing and relaxing in the village. Photo by author.

We explored the park, the surrounding towns, and the campgrounds for seven days.  We also took a raft trip on the Yellowstone River.  We took a lot of pictures.  We saw bison, elk, and eagles, but no wolves or bears.  The bison are so accustomed to people that they would wander up and lay down, right next to the walkways and even on some of the trails.  We tried to be prudent and give them a wide berth.  Still, when they decided to go walking down the middle of the road, there was little to be done to avoid them and we would sometimes sit in mile-long backups waiting for them to clear the lane! That was Ok, though, we were visitors in their space, and I was happy to give them a wide berth.

Oh give me a home… Photo by author.

We also marveled at the deep canyons and waterfalls, and the variety of geography.  Even though the whole park is on a high mountain plateau, there were plenty of river beds and even a large lake to go with the steep, forested mountainsides and canyons.  Everywhere we went there was a beautiful landscape and despite there being thousands of cars and likely tens of thousands of visitors it wasn’t hard to find a quiet, out-of-the-way place to enjoy a view in relative peace and solitude.

One of my lunch stops while exploring the park – Fire Hole Canyon. Photo by author.

Of course one of the highlights of the visit was Old Faithful. The village around the geyser has it’s own exit (which was under construction!) from the main road through the park. While we were waiting for the first eruption of our visit, our granddaughter made fast friends with children from another family visiting from Michigan and they worked their way to the front of the crowd on the walkway in front of the geyser and waited to see if they would get showered with water.  They were only a little disappointed that the wind was blowing solidly the other way and they never felt a drop! 

Old Faithful Inn exterior; Jim Peaco; July 2003

After our days of exploring and traveling the mountains and plains, I understand why people fall in love with the west.  But I’m captive to the woods, waters and fields of my home state.  Michigan has hundreds of inland lakes and rivers, and endless acres of public recreation land, but it pales in comparison to the scale of Yellowstone.  There is no doubt we will go back.  I’m not sure I will be eager to pull a camper through the winding mountain roads again, but as we learned the park is full of beautiful lodges and cabins so I suspect we will avail ourselves of one of them.  We enjoyed a brief visit to Tetons National Park, but it wasn’t nearly enough, so we will also hope to find time to visit there and stay longer for some exploring.  For now, it’s fair to say that I have many fond memories of our adventure and plans to return.  

You can check out my Flickr Album with more pictures here.

Mt. Haynes and the Madison River. Photo by author.

About Yellowstone National Park – Yellowstone National Park is the oldest national park in the US National Park system.  It was created in 1872, via a law signed by Ulysses S. Grant.  The park is approximately 2.2 million acres of lakes, rivers, and canyons on a high mountain plateau in the caldera of a dormant volcano.  The park is dotted with active many geothermal artifacts including geysers.  The most famous is Old Faithful.  During our morning visit to the grounds around Old Faithful we saw it erupt three times.  The magma chamber beneath Yellowstone is believed to be over 37 miles long and up to 7 miles deep!  

In Praise of the Blob

“It’s just transportation.” I hear this every now and then when I’m engaged in conversations about cars. I enjoy these conversations and when someone interjects with this statement it just feels like pouring cold water on a pleasant camp fire. But I get it. Some people don’t care about what is or isn’t under the hood and they just want to get ‘from point A to point B.’

This is a little different than the American car culture we hear so much about on television and in magazines. While the automobile may have been invented elsewhere, it’s well understood that Mr. Ford turned it into a consumer item. Once our country got on wheels, people really got moving. I would argue that our incredibly dynamic economy simply would not exist as it does today without the automobile. More than this, cars are, in many cases, an expression of one’s personality and lifestyle.

I wasn’t a car kid growing up. My Dad was kind of a car guy, and my brother even more so, but what interested them was old cars, with carburetors and large displacement V8 engines. These classic muscle cars are amazing, but what I eventually found fascinating isn’t straight line acceleration and speed, but cars that handle, carving up scenic country roads and eating up the miles on the highway when you want to get somewhere. I eventually learned that I have an affection for all things mechanical and electronic and while my career eventually led me into technology work, I still have a place in my heart cars and motorcycles.

This brings me to an article I read a few years back in one of the auto magazines (sorry auto writers, I don’t remember which one!) where the author was lamenting how automakers were turning all of their offerings into homogenous ‘blobs’. It took me a bit to figure out what he was on about, but I realized he was right, at least on some level. Every US manufacturer and an increasing number of others is packing their product lines with ‘Crossover’ vehicles. Basically vehicles that range from swollen versions of compact hatchbacks (Honda HRV, Chevy Trax etc…) to larger mini-van come SUV-ish types (Ford Edge, Chevy Traverse etc…)

The lamentation in question centers around the decline of the sedan and the rise of the lowest-common-denominator of unibody chassis and transverse mounted engines and body styling borrowed from eggs. Now in fairness, automakers have long followed one another as markets have evolved. Every era of the auto industry has done this, and it’s been tough to divine vehicles from different manufacturers without nameplates and product lines from any given marque from one another, at least until you actually drive them.

Honda Blob (HRV). Photo from Honda web site.
Chevrolet Blob (Trax) Photo from Chevrolet web site.

I briefly followed along, empathizing with the author, and realizing that I started driving around the time when cars started to become more like transportation appliances and less expressions of personality and vehicles to take on adventure (I took drivers education in a Toyota Corolla). In a post-modern era where more interaction is virtual and a large cross-section of a generation of (not just) Americans are foregoing driving altogether, finding cars and trucks with personality is getting harder to do. The idea that there’s a market for unique vehicles is still evident in the demand for things like Jeep Wranglers, but the number of vehicle models that break the mold is shrinking quickly. Even one of my favorite marques, BMW, is succumbing to this, with a growing line of ‘X’ vehicles, which are their entries into the blob-UV market. Thankfully many of their models remain solidly in the longitudinally mounted engine, performance oriented chassis category, but I can’t deny they’re caving to market forces.

BMW Blob (X1) Photo from BMW North America Web Site

But after all that I’ll take up the other side of this. There are a lot of ‘Point A to B’ types who simply need to get there, wherever there is. Not everyone needs a vehicle that reflects their lifestyle. Not everyone has a lifestyle that involves going places. Modern engines and electric motors make the getting there more efficient. Modern safety tech means that even if you have accident on the way there, you’ll probably survive it, and maybe even walk away unscathed. And in the not-too-distant future you probably won’t have to drive at all. Your autonomous transportation pod will take you there and you can spend the whole time on the way on your mobile phone (as many drivers do today!). Or as the pandemic has proved, you might not have to go at all.

As for me, getting there is half the fun. I still like engines. I still like the process. I like to see and engage the road on the journey. My vehicles are more to me than transportation appliances. I like to talk to like-minded people who grew up wanting a car (or a few of them) and dreamed of going places. I know the days of things like this are numbered. But then so are mine. The future belongs to the blob. Long live the blob!

People Still Do That?

This was a statement a friend of mine made after I told him I was the president of my amateur radio club. I wasn’t surprised by his question. He then admitted that his favorite pastime seemed to be declining too (flying model aircraft). It seems our interests are turning much more to the virtual and much less to the real 3-d world of non-simulated physics. But I digress.

Amateur radio seemed to enjoy a bit of a renaissance during the pandemic. People stuck at home decided to learn about radio and eventually even take their FCC exams online. I was excited by this. Radio isn’t my first love, but I do enjoy it, enough to eventually volunteer to help lead my radio club when a lot of the long-time club members decided they didn’t want to do it any more or had passed away. I’ve even managed to encourage my wife to get her license and join me as a club officer!

So, in the days of mobile phones and the Internet, why are people interested in radio? Well, for those of us who are technologically inclined, it’s seems a natural extension of technology and communication. The idea of being able to keep in touch even if the infrastructure takes a hit, appeals to many (myself included). I’ve lived long enough to see, first hand, a widespread power blackout that lasted long enough to make telephone service of all kinds, questionable. Self-sufficiency still has it’s adherents.

Further, in this post-modern world, operators have combined radio and the Internet to create opportunities for people to use all sorts of different technologies to communicate in all sorts of modes. Amateur radio is not longer just reclusive nerds tapping morse code to one-another around the world, contesting to see who can fill in all the boxes to get a certificate. And in some less developed countries, volunteer amateur operators still help facilitate communication when grids are down and the normal lines of communication simply aren’t available.

Ham radio lends itself heavily to do-it-yourself types, with many operators building radios from kits, building their own antennas, and of course, installing and using their equipment in their own homes and vehicles. I didn’t get interested in amateur radio until I was almost forty, but it bit me pretty hard after that. I now have several radios and participate in a various volunteer activities.

If you’re interested in amateur radio and all that it entails, reach out to your local ham radio club. If you can’t find your local club through Google, reach out to the Amateur Radio Relay League (the advocacy group for amateur radio in the United States), or click on this link: