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To end 2016 and bring in the new year, I took a two week road trip from Wichita to Kansas City to South Padre to San Antonio, then back home again.
It started with a personal stop. A few years ago I heard about this conference called OneThing, hosted by the International House of Prayer (IHOP) that happens every year around New Year’s. A few years ago they introduced a Catholic track in their seminars, which is probably why it came onto my radar. It hadn’t worked out for me to go yet, and knowing that I needed to go all the way to south Texas the week after almost made me skip another year, but thankfully I had some new friends peer pressure me into going. To say it was an enriching and powerful experience barely does it justice. One night after a keynote and praise and worship, I ducked away to a room just to lay in silence and attempt to absorb what had just happened. Soon my friends followed me in, also overwhelmed by their own experiences.
For as heavy as it was, it was also loads of fun. Just hanging out with a small group of like-minded people, both joking around yet also diving into deep issues we face, was refreshing and enriching. I can’t imagine a better way to end a year or start a new one.
From their I headed the LONG way down to Los Fresno, Texas where my grandparents winter over. I’ve seen enough of I-35 in my life, so I went down through Louisiana. Day one was just a lot of driving, topped off with a attempt up a ‘paved mountain trail’ to a campsite, which was NOT paved and was NOT accessible due to the fallen tree about a third of the way up. I managed a 12 point turn on that narrow little road with my narrow little Prius, and made my way back down, parking away from risk of any falling trees. Day one of car camping was a part success.
The next day greeted me with tornado watches for the entire stretch I was hoping to drive. So I leave Kansas only to run into tornados, lol! I hunkered down in The Friendship House coffee shop in Mena, AR for both breakfast and lunch, editing and catching up on some business, while the storm passed on. The rest of the way was sunny and clear. That night I made it to a strip of beach east of Houston, that had been an access road demolished by hurricanes and never rebuilt. It was fantastic to sleep by the beach again, salty air, sand and all. It was surprisingly dark, so I spent some time shooting stars, hoping to catch a glimpse of the bio-luminescence that was predicted (no luck). In the morning, I braved a dip in the gulf, the air temp being just warm enough only because of the fact that I hadn’t showered in two days and needed a bath of some sorts, even if that meant in dirty sea water.
I made it to my grandparents’ place that evening, spending the next two days with them, my cousin, and her daughter. We scoped out alligator mommas and their babies at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, braved the gulf water again on South Padre Island, had the biggest onion rings ever at Blackbeard’s, a relaxed with many rounds of Rummikub and picked bushels of grapefruit off their tree.
I sadly said my goodbyes and headed up towards San Antonio. SEEK 2017 was just ending, but having decided three conferences in two weeks was a bit much, I settled on meeting up with some of my Catholic young adult friends their last day. Then my photography conference began, again overwhelming, but in a much different way. It was quite cold that week, so I didn’t have much chance to explore, but despite having not been there since right after high school, I remembered much of downtown, thanks to having an album from that trip that I’ve looked at a few times over the years.
I headed out early from the closing party and drove west through the Texas Hill Country. With a nearly full moon, I could make out the hilltops, just barely, and clearly see the 50+ deer in a span of a two-hour drive. I camped alongside the Colorado River, right North of Buchanan Lake.
The final day was a long drive, with one long break for lunch with a friend in Dallas, then rocking up to my weekly Bible Study only 45 minutes late, wearing yoga pants, a t-shirt and flip flops, because my last pit stop in Oklahoma was 70 degrees, but it was a nippy 32 degrees only 100 miles north in Wichita!
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