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Many of you know our older daughter and her husband have been working toward the adoption of a daughter. Yesterday, July 11, Kaytie was made an official part of their home, joining Jace as our grandchildren on the Hernandez side of the family. No adjective describes fully the power of the day. Paulo was patched in, via conference call. The judge asked him why he wanted to adopt Kaytie. He gave a simple, powerful statement. The judge said it was one of the best rationale’s for adoption he had heard. Until Rachel spoke. I don’t have a copy of what Paulo said, but here are Rachel’s words:
Your Honor, I have known that I would be asked this question for many weeks and I have struggled to put my feelings into words. Part of me feels very guilty to say that, but Kaytie’s life, especially the beginning, has not been easy and therefore perhaps that it is why I couldn’t just give an easy answer. I don’t know a lot about Kaytie’s first 6 years but I know that the culture of where she was what not one that cultivated love, learning, laughter or loyalty. Thankfully she found her way to a loving home filled with several foster siblings, and a foster mom whom Kaytie loves fiercely and I don’t think will ever forget. When she entered this home she did not know the basic things most 6 year olds know such as colors, animals, letters, or numbers. She struggled with coordination and strength. She did not like to speak to others and was obviously afraid of much. Through diligence, love, and patience she has surpassed what anyone thought she might accomplish. Since she came to be a part of our family she has grown even more. Her favorite color is pink, with purple as a close second. She hasn’t met a dog that she didn’t instantly want to pet or take for a walk. Her favorite letter is K for Kaytie and her second favorite letter is J for her brother Jace. She loves turning somersaults into the ocean waves, swinging, and riding her bike. And she is learning to live with less fear.
My life has been very different from Kaytie’s. I have been blessed to know a lot of different kind of loves from many different people and if I am honest most of those loves have come with only a few challenges. You may be familiar with the Love Chapter in 1 Corinthians 13. There are many characteristics mentioned about love in these verses but not one of them says that love is easy. My love for Kaytie, if I am honest, it is not easy. But I have learned much about love and perseverance from this 7 year old. It has helped me gain another glimpse at just how much God loves me and how I am called above all else to love others. I read a quote that says “’Family’ isn’t defined by last names or by blood; it’s defined by commitment and by love. It means showing up when they need it most. It means having each other’s back. It means choosing to love each other even on those days when you struggle to like each other. It means never giving up on each other.” I believe this world be a better place if we all defined family in this way. So, today and all of my days, I promise to be strive to be that kind of family for Kaytie.
The judge said he thought it was impossible to improve on what Paulo said, but Rachel did it.
As a pastor for more than 40 years, I have often preached and written about love that is distinctly Christian. Rachel’s comments contain more power and passion than any sermon I remember preaching. If you aren’t sure what love is, here it is, lived clearly…and fiercely.
We welcome Kaytie Hadassah Hernandez to this family of love.
The Park Service ran antique buses restored by Ford Motor Corp.
Tuesday was a recovery day from riding and many of us took a hike in the Lamar Valley of the park. If you’ve never been to Yellowstone, the Lamar Valley is where you want to go to see wildlife. We heard wolves and saw hundreds of bison. We met two hiking guides, Josh and Emily Jo, who took us on a 4-hour trek. Both were very helpful and fun to be with. Their business is Yellowstone Hiking Guides. I would recommend them. They taught us a healthy respect for bison. Listening to the thunder of a stampeded far across the valley was a unique experience.
The next day started with an encounter with a large bison on the way to breakfast. Ed and I came around the corner of a cabin and there he was, just a few feet in front of us. After the warning of Josh and Emily Jo on the previous day, we backed up and detoured around a couple of cabins.
After breakfast we rode out of the Lake Lodge area and began our longest day. The first several miles were flat, in evergreen forests or beside the lake. The remainder of our miles were outside Yellowstone on US 14 and US 20. We began climbing as we left the side of the lake, making our way through new growth forests which were snoring up where a fire had been. The claims start to run together, but the downhill side was quite memorable. It was the safest downhill we saw and most of us flew down the mountain.
From there we made our way to Cody. The grade was largely downhill, but the winds was 20 mph+ from our front-right, making the ride much more difficult. We rode along the Buffalo Bill Reservoir and descended through a tunnel as we approached Cody.
After 81 miles, we met the van at the Irma Hotel, which some described as “funky.” Others said “quirky.” Their breakfast may have been the best part of the stay there. Hey – it is historic. You can stay at a Best Western anywhere. Gunslingers strutted though parts of the hotel. I never figured out if they were paid or just loved the personna. One of the riders in the groups saw the regular evening gunfight in the street outside and said it was lam
On Sunday we took a taxi to the La Quinta Inn in Belgrade where we met the guides and other riders. Emily and DeAnne, our guides for the week, set up bikes with our pedal and seats, loaded us up and shuttled us to the West Entrance to the park. Traffic was lined up to enter, meaning once inside and on our bikes, the pent up line of cars, trucks, and campers came whizzing by for the first several miles. As we went deeper into the park, traffic became more spread out and slightly less of a problem.
Almost immediately we started to see the quintessential Yellowstone scenes: large meadows cut by streams and evergreen forests. Our first test of climbing came at Gibbon Falls. It wasn’t terrible, but we had begun to creep into higher elevations than we were accustomed.
One person who had visited Yellowstone as a child told me all they remembered was traffic. Traffic became problem every time we saw wildlife. If a bison was off to the side, cars in both directions stopped on their respective sides of the road, making it difficult for two way traffic to move forward.
Deeper into the park we took a narrower road past Victoria Cascades. This road was off limits to buses, campers, and trailers, making it much more enjoyable for us. In fact, there was very little traffic at all. As we came back to the main road we had short, steep climb that left us all short of breath. We were keeping track of altitude and thought we had passed the highest point for the day, but we were wrong. A quick downhill and then another, longer, steep climb was a challenge.
We made our way to the Lake Lodge area, having to stop twice for bison on the road. Rangers bumped them with their SUV’s leaving us safe passage. Our first day we rode 58 miles and enjoyed ourselves all day.
The next day we rode from the cabins at Lake Lodge to Old Faithful. This stretch is one of the busier in the park, as everyone wants to see Old Faithful. We ate lunch, prepared by our guides, in the parking lot and then went to see the eruption. I guess you need to go if you are already there, but many of us found it a letdown.
Following lunch we road 6 miles to the Firehole Lake loo, where we saw an abundance of sulphur springs. The ride back to Old Faithful was against a strong headwind and accompanied by the heavy traffic in the area. Eleven of the thirteen riders in the group, including me, decided to take a bump in the van instead of recrossing the continental divide in the wind. Our second day mileage was almost identical to the first day.
Ed Hine, Tom Watters and I arrived in Bozeman on Friday afternoon, in order to have a day to adjust to the change in altitude. The Yellowstone trip promised higher climbing than any of our previous Lizardhead trips.
Ed loves to fly fish, so he secured a guide and took Tom and me along for the day in search of trout. We fished the Gallatin River, which is, by all standards, one of the finest rivers anywhere for fly fishing. We went early to the Bozeman Angler, where we meet the guide which Ed had prearranged. We had a wonderful day, with a patient guide who continuously pointed Ed to the better spots and helped Tom and me learn to cast. I had a few good strikes but did not land any fish.
We ended our Saturday by catching up with all the other Lizardhead riders for dinner at the Open Range restaurant. Most of the group are people we’ve ridden with on other trips, but there were a couple of new faces and we all anticipated a good first day on Sunday.
Thanks to everyone who has been stopping by this week, looking for updates on the Yellowstone cycling trip. I did not have opportunity to write a preview, and once we arrived in Montana/Wyoming, cell service and wifi were almost nonexistent – at least int he places where we were.
I’ll be posting a review of the trip over the next few days.
Thanks to everyone for prayers over the past few days. I’m home from the hospital and all went very well with the surgery. I hope to use some of my down time to catch up on writing here. I also plan to get on the phone and catch up with members of the church family who have had pastoral needs over the past two weeks.
My plan is to be back in the pulpit on December 21, but the surgeon hasn’t committed to that date, yet.
Thanks to the staff which is taking on my duties, in addition to their own, during this advent season.
Advent Peace to each of you.
From our family gathered in Spain to the rest of our family and friends everywhere. More photos later.
We started the day with a shuttle to breakfast at the Rustic Skillet restaurant, with its dinosaur theme at several of the tables. There was only one server on duty, but she was very engaging and capable. She challenged my order of two English muffins and peanut butter, saying “That’s not enough if you are climbing McKenzie Pass.” I stuck to my order, preferring to eat constantly on the ride over too much on the stomach. After eating, we arrived back at the Belknap Springs Lodge where we brought luggage to the van and loaded our pockets with food for the morning, before heading out.
From the Lodge we rode a mile and a half to the road leading up the pass – with the summit 22 miles up from the intersection where we turned. The landscape was temperate rain forest at the bottom of the climb. For our last time in Oregon we cycled past ferns and moss-covered trees. Right on schedule, between 40 and 50 minutes out, faster riders began to pass us, but when we stopped for a break after the first hour, we counted 8 riders still behind us. The terrain turned more to a forest of Douglas Fir by the time Steve and Wayne (among the Texans) pulled along side and rode with us for three or four miles. A little over half way to the top, they left us and Tom joined us for much of the remainder of the climb. We stopped a couple of more times to eat and drink without the concentration or effort of the climbs which was at a steady 6% grade. The road was full of switch backs and “S” curves as we wound our way, ever upward.
Emily, our guide, had told us we would come upon a lava field, but when we did, we were not prepared for the startling change in scenery. We went from green forests to a wasteland of volcanic rock in just a short distance. Among the rocks the only life visible life consisted of the rare volunteer evergreens that had found a toehold of soil from which to sprout. Many of the trees were dead, looking like tall gray fingers pointing out of the rocks. We dropped briefly back into the tree line, then out again into an extension of the lava field. Off to our right, almost lost in the glare were two beautiful snow-peaked mountains. It was an amazing sight.
A couple more miles and we caught a glimpse of the van, ahead and above us, parked at the summit. As we approached Emily starting ringing the cowbell, as if we were racing for King of the Mountain points in the Tour de France. She made the summit experience fun.
After spending some time at the summit, taking in the view, we began the 18 mile descent into Sisters, Oregon. The first five miles included sharp turns, but with 12 miles to go, the road turned straight as an arrow and the grade decreased to about 3%, allowing for fun, fast riding toward the Sandwich Depot, were we ate and ate prior to the shuttle back to Portland.
Friday was my favorite day on the tour. The changes in scenery along with the continuous climb and fast descent provided much variety and fun.
Thursday was our most challenging, and my least favorite day. The challenge was not the length or the grade. It was traffic and route. Again, this was a day where we were forced to detour because of the fires. After shuttling back to Dexter Reservoir (except Ed Watters and Tony, who rode from Oak Ridge) we started off on some nice back roads that included a beautiful covered bridge.
After pedaling briefly on some good roads, we turned onto highway 126. With the exception of short periods were parallel roads allowed us off the highway, this was our route for the rest of the day. It was a steady, shallow uphill grade, often in the sun, with a narrow shoulder.
Before the break I picked up my second flat of the trip. Again, John was nearby and because we were near the morning break stop, he threw my bike in the car and we drove the short distance to where the others had stopped. After snacking while John repaired the tire, we set off again on highway 126. It was more of the same. Drivers were mostly courteous, but it was unnerving sharing the lane with semi’s and logging trucks. After lunch I packed it in for the day and rode in the van to our destination at Belknap Springs.
The lodge at Belknap was the wonderful. The pool outside the lobby was fed by natural, hot springs. How good it was to relax in the pool after 6 days of riding.
The day did not offer much opportunity pictures or sight seeing. We all wish we could have seen the original route which was closed due to the fire.