I’m just a simpleton who likes to view life in a straightforward manner. When I view things like the U.S. Constitution I look for clear-cut answers. I am not a lawyer and can very easily get muddled in all the nonsensical jargon contained within legal documentation. I know that it is not nonsensical jargon to those for whose profession is legal representation but it is for me. With this in mind, please understand that when I speak of the U.S. Constitution I am speaking from the understanding of one who is not well educated in the reading of legal documentation. Now that I have made my best attempt at making a legal disclosure for my blog, let’s get started.
Yesterday, December 11, 2012, “in a major win for Second Amendment rights, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Illinois’s virtual ban on the carrying of any guns, whether concealed or otherwise.”
This is big news for those of us who live in Illinois. Both sides of the controversy are buzzing. Those who are in favor of gun rights are celebrating while those in favor of gun control are shaking their fists.
Let’s take a minute to look at the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Here is what it says, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
I side with those who interpret this to mean that American citizens have a legal right to own and carry firearms for the purpose of personal protection. I know there has been controversy over the terminology surrounding the word militia and whether or not it was originally meant to be capitalized. Some view it as meaning that those who are in some form of organized armed service are who is given the right carry weapons but many of us view it as meaning that all citizens have the right; and much of this is due to where it mentions the ‘security of a free state.’ Once citizens are no longer able to protect themselves, their freedom is lost. I tend to believe that we are meant to keep arms as a way to dispel the government from gaining too much power. Suppose for a moment that a dictator was elected into our government and established a military order to attack citizens who disagreed with his beliefs. It would be much more difficult to do such an action in a country where the citizens are armed than where they are disarmed.
I am not a violent person. I don’t hunt and personally take no pleasure in killing animals. (I have no problem who those who hunt, I just don’t enjoy it.) Despite being rather passive I still believe that Americans have the right to carry weapons for the purpose of self defense and I believe the Second Amendment guarantees that right. Our right to bear arms helps us protect one another from those who wish to harm us. I am glad that my state has finally been disciplined for its disrespect for our Constitution. I’m sure this is not the end of this war but I celebrate that our freedoms have been upheld.
One of the definitions for an oasis is: a place of peace, safety, or happiness in the midst of trouble or difficulty.*I have been working on my next novel, which is simply titled OASIS. I won't be giving away any spoilers today but let's just say that finding the oasis in the book is not so simple. This book is somewhat of an adventure for me because it is challenging my thought process. It is far different than The Night Terror and quite honestly very distinct from any book I have ever read.
The Night Terror was a Christian spin on the traditional monster in the forest story. It was a great book and challenged me to work hard. The book was a difficult process as it was my first endeavor in getting published. I am very grateful for all I have learned from writing it, but my level of excitement for OASIS far surpasses any of the emotions I felt with my previous project.
I think the main reason is because I have grown so much from penning my first book. I better understand the thought process behind writing a novel and now feel equipped to properly craft the story in a format that will engage the reader. I have a greater grasp on character development and on how to bring the reader into the protagonist's proverbial shoes.
A big part of The Night Terror was the incorporation of twists and turns. OASIS is also packed with hidden elements and teasers. The title has a very deep meaning in the book but your assessment of its meaning may change as you journey through its pages. I am very excited about this new adventure and greatly anticipate the day that I get to share it with you.
Today I am posting the 3rd chapter of my book, The Night Terror. You can read the first two chapters here: Chapter 1 / Chapter 2
You can purchase the book here: The Night TerrorIf you have read the book, please share this blog with others on Twitter, Facebook or whatever social media you use. Your help getting the word out is greatly appreciated!! Thank you, Tim. The Night TerrorChapter 3
Aaron Elijah Foster had led an exciting life. He had spent almost a decade as a good, highly decorated homicide detective in Chicago. During his years on the force, he had saved eight lives and helped solve twenty-seven murders. He was highly respected, but all that changed, when Susan was brutally murdered. He and Susan had been married for almost 12 years. In fact, the murder happened just a week before their 12th anniversary. After she died, Aaron lost his desire to work or to live. He could not bring himself to investigate more murders, knowing each one would be torment, causing him to relive Susan’s death.
The night of Susan’s murder, Aaron had heard the call go out over the scanner and rushed home. He was off duty and already travelling home with groceries. He was only a block away when he heard the call so he was the first on scene. When he walked into the
house, he saw the bloody body of his wife on the kitchen floor and the body of the assailant a few feet away. The assailant’s knife was on the floor next to his left hand and his body was lying in a pool of blood. Andy was kneeling on the floor holding his mother’s hand and a 9mm Beretta. Sobbing, Aaron broke down and embraced his son. Within minutes, a squad car and an ambulance pulled into the Foster’s driveway. Aaron explained that he had arrived home and discovered the assailant had attacked Susan. He said he shot the man, but he was actually covering for Andy. He knew it was wrong to lie on the report, but he wanted to protect his son from being questioned. Everything else about that night had escaped Aaron’s mind. The trauma was too much. He was never able to work homicide again.
One year later, Aaron moved to Carbondale, Illinois. He applied for a job with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources as a Park Ranger in Cedar Bluff National Wildlife Refuge. This was a far cry from working homicide in Chicago. Life was slower,
everything was more peaceful and the air was clean. He loved the outdoors and believed he had finally found a place he could start a new life. Nature seemed to bring him some peace. Listening to all the forest sounds—the water trickling, the birds chirping, the
squirrels scurrying—gave him serenity. He was enjoying the sights and sounds of nature when he met his second wife, Marcia. She was hiking one of the trails in the park. She noticed him working on a damaged sign and asked him some questions about the history
of the trail. She was gorgeous. As soon as Aaron saw her, he was intoxicated by her beauty. For the first time in years he thought he could love again. You could say it was love at first sight, but mostly he thought she was just really good looking. Aaron was a tall, rugged man who worked out frequently and spent much of his time outside,
so Marcia found him attractive as well.
Marcia Teresa Diego had recently graduated from law school at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (SIU C). She was Latin American and the youngest of three children having an older sister and brother. Southern Illinois had always been her
home. Her parents, however, had immigrated to the United States from Mexico and found work in the farms near Cobden, Illinois. They were very destitute. Growing up in a Hispanic family was challenging. They were very poor and made their living by working hard every day. Many people looked down on them. Marcia’s family had legally immigrated to the United States, but because they were Hispanic farmers, most people assumed they had immigrated illegally. Very few people offered to help the Diego family with one major exception. A local priest became close friends with the family. Marcia looked at Father Benjamin as family, calling him Uncle Ben. This embarrassed her parents, but Father Benjamin said he thought it was humorous. When Marcia was a little girl, Father Benjamin told her that he would make sure she could go to school and become whatever she dreamed of. Marcia said, “I want to make a difference when I grow up. I want to help out those who can’t help themselves.” Father Ben smiled, “I am sure you will do just that little one!”
Marcia had a very difficult life. Her older sister, Stephanie, disappeared and was never seen again. Her parents thought Stephanie had run away because she left the house after an intense argument with her mom. Because they never heard back from her, they concluded she had not merely run away but had been kidnapped or killed. The police had found one lead, but could never locate the suspect. It was as though he had also disappeared. After a few years, it was classified as a cold case, and she was presumed dead.
When Marcia turned 17, Father Benjamin kept his promise. He helped pay her way through college. It was their secret; Marcia told her family she had received a scholarship. Father Ben never said otherwise, he considered it a scholarship from above. Marcia did work as a waitress and paid half, but Father Ben paid the other half
of her expenses for undergraduate work and then law school. After her graduation from law school, Marcia was hired by a local law firm that specialized in offering legal services to the poor. When Marcia met Aaron, it was like her life had reached a pinnacle. Having lost his first wife, Aaron had become gentle. He didn’t seem to take life for granted and he treated Marcia like a princess. This all happened after that first encounter. That day
Marcia first asked for directions, but after talking for a few minutes asked Aaron for his phone number. “Mr. Foster, you have been very helpful. I wonder, however, if I could call you in case I have more questions, about the park, of course.” “Well, Marcia, you can call me Aaron. Since you would be calling me with questions ‘about the park,’ I see no harm in giving you my personal number.” They both laughed and exchanged contact
After a few calls and many texts, they went on their first date. Aaron was so nervous. He assumed that since Marcia was Mexican, she would prefer going to a Mexican restaurant. She was very gracious and accepted and they had a great time. At the end of the date, she asked if she could choose the location of the next restaurant. “Aaron, thank you so much for tonight. If we are going on any future dates, however, I must confess I really like Chinese food.” They both laughed and he agreed to take her out for Chinese next time. They began to date often. They went to see movies, went out to dinner and Aaron began to bring Andy on some of the dates. They were married three months after the meeting in the park. Marcia loved Andy and made every attempt to be the best step-mother possible. For several months, they operated like a perfect family, but as time went on things began to fall apart.
Working as an attorney was very taxing on Marcia who began spending more and more time working. Each case seemed to affect her personally. To escape the stress, she relied more on her friends and less on her family. She wasn’t intentionally leaving them out of
her life, she just felt like she couldn’t connect with Aaron as well as she could with her best friend, Brenda. “I have a very demanding job,” she would say to Aaron in defense of her late nights. Everyone knew that things were falling apart.
Aaron and Andy were almost at Devil’s Canyon Lake, a secluded area within the Cedar Bluff National Wildlife Refuge. Not too much activity took place in mid-October, but Aaron wanted to check on some college students who were camping in the park. When they arrived on Friday, Aaron made sure they didn’t have any alcohol and checked them for signs of drug use. They seemed clean, but he figured that just the fact that it was guys and girls could spell trouble. Sometimes that combination can be intoxicating enough,
especially when camping near a lake. Aaron had asked one of the other Rangers, Kevin, to periodically check on them. Knowing there would probably be some activity, he wanted to prevent them from harming themselves during the night.
As they approached the campground, the first thing to catch Aaron’s attention was skid marks on the road. Parking his truck on the edge of the highway, he climbed out and started to tell Andy to stay inside. Aaron had been so deep in thought that he hadn’t even noticed Andy was sleeping until that moment. Deciding not to wake Andy, he locked the truck doors and walked over to the skid marks with his flashlight in hand.
He followed the skid marks and realized they led off the road. He walked to a tree a few feet away and realized it had been hit by something. Approaching it, he shined his flashlight on it, revealing traces of red paint. His pulse began to race as the sense of urgency increased.
As he looked down the embankment, his flashlight beam bounced off something metallic; he realized it was the wheel of an overturned car in the gully. Running toward the car, he recognized it was a red Mercedes—Marcia’s car. Growing faint, Aaron continued to rush toward the car and slid as he approached it. He got on his stomach and looked into the car. Deflated airbags were everywhere and a roll bar had automatically deployed when the car flipped. He had trouble seeing because everything was so dark, but he could tell that Marcia was not in the car. He felt some type of liquid on the ground and dipped his finger into it. Examining it, he realized it was blood and concluded Marcia must have sustained some type of injury. He could only imagine the condition she must
be in, if she was even alive. “I can’t think like that,” he told himself,
“I must find her.”
For those reluctant to purchase my book, I decided to give you a sneak peak into the first three chapters. You can read chapter 1 here: Chapter 1
You can purchase the book here: The Night Terror Remember, it would make a great Christmas gift. Here is the next chapter... The Night Terror Chapter 2
Andy’s mother, Susan, was a beautiful woman, loving wife and mother, who cared deeply for her family. Aaron and Andy loved her very much. Her life had come to a sudden and tragic end when she was beaten and murdered; Andy was only 10 years old
at the time. According to the police statement Aaron shot Susan’s murderer, but Aaron knew differently; the assailant had actually been shot by son. It was self defense, but this tragic night had changed Andy. He would never talk about it; he couldn’t, he had been mute ever since.
Aaron went back to the bathroom and tried removing the ceramic from his back one last time. He was able to get most of the shards out then took an Ace bandage and wrapped it around his torso as best as he could. He figured he could have it looked at in the morning when he went to work. He began to wonder if his wife would be coming home soon. Aaron had recently remarried but was already experiencing marital strife. His wife had a tendency to stay out late with friends. On an occasional weekend, she would
not come home until the next day. Aaron began to think this would be one of those nights. He hardly ever saw her and wondered how long their marriage would last. In addition to not spending much time with Aaron, she had a very demanding job.The stresses of her job were wearing down her patience and only fragmented their communication more. Aaron became depressed and decided to try to go back to sleep to escape the pain of reality; he just hoped that he would not dream of the monster again.
After 10 minutes of lying awake, Aaron knew he could not go back to sleep. He kept thinking about his failed life, and whenever he closed his eyes he saw a vivid image of that beast and the trail of blood in its wake. He was tormented and could not escape the despair of emotional separation from those he loved. He found himself completely unable to slow his heartbeat. He had a sense of urgency to get out of the house; feeling as though there was something he had to do. He had no idea why, but he felt a strong desire to go to the campground. He remembered his nightmare; the monster had been at the campground at Devil’s Canyon Lake. Maybe that was why he wanted to go or maybe he actually was sensing something wrong. He hoped going would ease his mind. The idea of checking things out, calming his fears and proving to himself that it was in fact a dream offered him hope of attaining some solace. Escaping his torment seemed to be the only way he would find peace for the upcoming day.
Aaron proceeded to the bathroom to prepare for his journey. He took a cold shower; something about the sensation of cold water on his spine made him feel alive. To some degree he liked pain, it energized him and renewed his strength.
While he showered and dressed Aaron debated whether or not to take Andy with him. The way he saw it, he had four options: first, he could wake Andy and let him know he was leaving; second, he could leave him a note; third, he could leave and hope he would be back before Andy woke up; or lastly, he could take Andy with him.
He felt a strong sense that something was wrong but kept telling himself it was all in his imagination. This would be so much easier if his wife, Marcia, was home. Aaron called her cell phone but instead of ringing, it went directly to voice-mail. “Ah, her phone is off,” thought Aaron. He decided she was sleeping at her friend, Brenda’s, house; it would not be the first time. He decided not to call Brenda in the middle of the night; it would
just escalate things. Instead, he wrote a note for Marcia in case she returned while he was away.
Aaron decided to wake Andy instead of leaving him alone. Andy was a gentle young boy with a small frame, sandy brown hair and his mother’s deep blue eyes. He had a face that glowed with innocence. Although he was every bit of 13, Aaron still saw a five year old boy. Andy rubbed his eyes and spoke to his dad in sign language. “What is wrong, dad,” he signed. Aaron audibly replied to Andy, “I just feel that something is wrong at one of the campgrounds, and I am going to check it out.”
He could see fear in Andy’s eyes as if he too were replaying a bad dream. With a look of determination, Andy nodded and signed, “I will get dressed and come with you.” Andy climbed from bed, changed clothes and met his father downstairs. They clambered
into Aaron’s truck and headed for the campground. The time was 12:44 a.m.
Are you discontent with the life you are living? Do you ever dream of doing something else, but just figure that dream will need to wait until some unseen future date? Are you living paycheck to paycheck and working an unfulfilling job to just pay the bills? Do you spend time at work daydreaming about what you would rather be doing? If you answered yes to any of these questions, today’s blog is for you.
A few years ago Americans got on the purpose bandwagon. We wanted to learn what our purpose was in life and we then sat and dreamed about how great life would be if we lived out that purpose. That’s where many of us stopped. We never pursued that purpose and we never made plans to do so. We just daydreamed about what life would be if we were there. For others, they struggled to even define a purpose. They knew of several things they were good at and other things they enjoyed but defining a purpose seemed too vast of an equation for them to calculate. Still others never worried about it because they were spending all of their time working very hard to just survive. There were a few, however, who decided that it didn’t matter what they had to do, and they were going to achieve their purpose in life. Those people were successful, not because they had knowledge but because they had determination.
I know that not everyone got on the purpose bandwagon. Some thought that it was a method for people to become more selfish (i.e. getting what they wanted in life) or they thought the idea was ridiculous. Many of us, however, do believe that we were created with a purpose. For us that purpose is not a selfish thing because we believe God created us with a purpose that He put into us. Following that purpose is to pursue God’s plan for our lives, not our own. One passage of scripture that sums this up is Jeremiah 29:11-13. It says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”(Jeremiah 29:11-13 ESV)
The God who created you has a blueprint for your life. Learning your purpose is not about fulfilling selfish desires. It’s about fulfilling God’s desires for your life. Here is another passage to consider: Psalm 37:3-5 ESV: “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” (Side note: I encourage you to read all of Psalm 37. It’s really good.)
Did you see what it says? God will give you the desires of your heart. When we commit our lives to God and follow Him, His desires become our own. Trust Him. Commit your ways to Him. He will give you the desires of your heart. He will make His plans for your life come to fruition. We need to stop trying to make our purpose happen and begin seeking God to see how that purpose will unravel in our lives.
I am personally at a point in my life where I am willing to lay it down and discover God’s blueprint for my future. I can answer yes to almost every question at the beginning of this blog, but something is changing inside of me. I have realized that my happiness is not based on what I am doing but in who I am serving. When my desires line up with what God has placed within me, when I am doing those things for which He has gifted me and when I am following His blueprint for my life, I will live a fulfilling life with no regrets. I am beyond just obtaining knowledge; I now have determination to fulfill my God given purpose.
Are you willing to stop living life just for the sake of living life? Are you ready to put your gifts to work and fulfill the calling God has placed in your life? If so, jump on the train with me and let’s embark in the adventure of living life to its fullest – pursuing our God given purpose.
Combine a goal with a detailed plan and throw in some dedication and elbow grease and you can achieve great things. Such is the case with our kitchen. Julie and I have a great marriage because we balance each other very well. We seem to do terrific when we work on projects together. I must admit that we make a great team. We bought our current house in 2009. It's a pretty nice house for having been constructed in 1979. When we bought the house it still looked like 1979 though and needed some remodeling to say the least. We have remodeled the entire house including cutting a hole in a wall to open up the dining/kitchen area, carpeting, texturing walls, painting, etc. One of the most dramatic changes, however, has been in the kitchen. We have been working on a very tight budget. We did need to buy appliances and change the flooring when we bought the house, but we even saved in those areas. We have completed a kitchen remodel in a previous home but that did not compare to the overhaul we worked in this kitchen. We learned how to change a counter top, tile a back splash and upgrade existing cabinets all on our own. I have been able to work on my carpentry skills and Julie has perfected her painting.
Here is a list of what work we did to make our kitchen transformation.
- Put in new hardwood floor - with the help of Julie's father - Joe
- Cut hole in wall between kitchen and dining room with Joe's help
- Installed floor cabinets, counter and tiled the counter top in the hole to create an island
- Removed small coat closet to open up the kitchen more - with Joe's help
- Converted kitchen laundry closet into a pantry by renovating the old family room into a 4th bedroom/laundry room - with Joe's help
- Installed new dishwasher, refrigerator and microwave
- Installed new counter, sink and faucet
- Removed old back splash and replaced it with ceramic tile
- Installed new ceiling fan and cut hole/installed a fixture near the door to provide more light
- Positioned paintable wallpaper over the paneling and painted it green
- Installed new window
- Converted old cabinet over microwave into small open nook for baskets
- Primed and painted all cabinets, hinges and handles
We are still not finished. We are currently working on a plan to upgrade the ceiling. This has been a very rewarding project and I so enjoy working with Julie.
What are your thoughts about our remodel? - Tim
Bible Postscript"The worker deserves his wages.” - 1 Timothy 5:18b NIV
Do you ever wonder what it is you would do really well? Do you attempt new things in an effort to discover what it is you are passionate about? Are you trying to find your niche in life?
If this describes you, we have something in common. I seem to be constantly searching for my niche. The definition I am using today for niche is: a place or position suitable or appropriate for a person or thing.
In my lifelong search I have discovered many things in which I excel and enjoy: acting, writing, public speaking, leading or even being in nature. I have also found things for which I am not so gifted: singing, playing instruments, math, running, and sitting still during meetings.
I tend to look at life as an optimist with a twist – instead of seeing the glass as half full; I see it as an interesting object that distorts my view of what is on the other side. The water in the glass tends to obscure the objects on the other side of the glass, making them appear different than their natural facade. I look for the humor or distortion in life. “What is it about this current situation that just isn’t right and what is funny about that fact?” That is the thought that goes through my mind. I think it is why I have so much trouble sitting through a meeting. I tend to drift from the topic of discussion and focus on things that will make me laugh. I sometimes forget that everyone else is listening to the presenter and I make a comment to someone nearby. That’s when reality usually strikes.
I know these things about myself because I am always curious. I ask myself questions like “Would I be more fulfilled in life if I were to quit my job and become a professional actor, writer, or public speaker? What would it take to make that happen? Should I quit my semi-enjoyable, relatively easy, flexible job to pursue a new career? Are my and my family’s gifts being utilized to their fullest extent? Would we be better able to use our talents in a different environment, city, state or even country? Where will we be in ten years? Will we be happier when we live in a newer, bigger house and drive a nicer car or will we still feel the same with just nicer stuff? What is my niche?”
I’ve recently written and published my first book and I am now working on my second. This has not given me the flexibility to quit my job and be a professional writer. It is possible that can happen if I write enough books, but there is no certainty in that. It is definitely one of my passions, but I am not certain that writing in and of itself is my niche. If I were to combine it with public speaking and/or acting I believe that I would definitely be on the right track. One of my biggest questions has been whether or not to hold on to the security my fulltime job offers? I sometimes feel like it is holding me back, but it’s putting bread on the table and keeping the lights on. I have committed to stay in my current position until I can transition into something more fitting to my purpose. I do not feel it is wise to just quit a job that I somewhat like just to pursue a dream. I can pursue my dream and find my niche while I work in my current career. When a door opens where I can move into my dream job without bankrupting my family, that is when I will make the move.
In the meantime I just need to find my niche. What about you? – Tim
Jeremiah 29:11-13For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
I really appreciate great artwork. I love looking at a painting or professional picture and I admire the work the artist put into creating it. When I was young I used to look at pictures and imagine myself crawling through the frame and into the photo itself. I daydreamed of playing in the fall leaves or swimming in the cool stream. As time went on my imagination became more intricate as I would imagine myself teleporting to the destination in the picture or the place that inspired the painting. I would explore the area and embark upon new adventures.
Much hasn’t changed over the years. I still appreciate artwork and am still drawn to pictures that display various landscapes. Today, however, I try to figure out where the picture was taken and imagine myself travelling to that location to see the sights first hand. I love to travel and I find nature inspiring. I am fascinated by the ocean, mountains, rivers, trees and waterfalls. Whenever I see a waterfall I desire to go to that vary place and stand beneath the falls as the cool, crisp waters cascade across my forehead.
The difference between my childhood and my adulthood is the separation of imagination and reality. Many of my dreams have come to fruition because I love to travel. I have experienced the exhilaration of feeling the cold waterfall flood my face, I have been to the mountaintop and walked along the streams in the valley. The ocean is more beautiful in person than one could ever capture on film or with a brush. I don’t just look at a picture and dream anymore, I look at a picture and make plans. There are places that I plan to visit all around the world and I greatly anticipate the day I can see each one.
Many of us spend our lives looking at pictures. We admire the artwork, but never learn to appreciate the inspiration behind it. We daydream about what we would like to accomplish but we never make plans. We too often spend our time imagining instead of goal planning. Dreaming about going to London, Niagara Falls, Mount Rushmore, Honduras, Cancun or even Disney World would have never gotten me to those locations. I actually had to put my dreams into action. The same was true in publishing my first book. A dream of writing was great for inspiration, but setting a goal and then working to achieve that goal is what helped make the dream a reality. What are you dreaming of accomplishing today?
The gas tank worked loose from the Ford Bronco and propelled off the road into a nearby yard. I quickly stopped the vehicle, assessed the situation and called my insurance company. They called a tow truck and the local fire department because it was considered a hazardous spill. This is a true story and one of many collected during my days of off-roading.
I recently wrote about how my friends and I enjoyed caving a few years back. Another adventure we greatly relished was off-roading. This was another hobby that we set aside when we started expanding our families. It was mainly due to the expense. Owning and maintaining a vehicle for which the main purpose is to abuse it in mud and dirt can be quite taxing. I have personally owned thee vehicles that I used in my adventures: a 1988 Jeep Comanche, 1989 Ford Bronco and 1999 Toyota 4Runner. I still own the 4Runner but rarely take it off road anymore. Of the three, the best off road performer has been the 4Runner which barely ranks above the next contender. The second best was quite surprising due to the fact that it was a two-wheel drive truck. The Jeep Comanche was a monster and quite the brute. I took it places people would never dream of going in a two wheel drive pickup truck and it never let me down. As a matter of fact I took it just about everywhere my friends took their 4wheel drives and I don’t recall ever getting stuck or in a situation I couldn’t get out of. If it had been a 4wheel drive, I could have conquered almost any obstacle. It was a gem.
The Bronco on the other hand was a nightmare on 4 wheels. Its 4wheel drive continuously quit working and at the worst times. I had the automatic locking hubs switched to manual and still experienced problems with it. It was tall, wide and super heavy. It may have been a great work vehicle but was the world’s worst off road vehicle. I couldn’t even take it to the same places I drove the Comanche because the Bronco continuously let me down. One time I got stuck in it so bad that when my friend Joel tried to pull me out he got his Blazer marred up as well. If memory serves me correctly we had to have someone get Joel unstuck and then pull out my Bronco. It was that bad. I think that everyone hoped I would not bring the Bronco on an expedition because we all knew it would just mean that we would spend most of our time pulling it out of something everyone else went through with ease. I honestly think my Camry would have outperformed it.
The biggest adventure we had with that vehicle was the night I lost the gas tank after off-roading. The screws that held the gas tank were apparently rusted through and the constant joggling of driving through ruts loosened it from the frame. We had left our off road site and were in transit to my friend Stephen’s house. Joel was behind me and called my cell. “Tim, you are leaking gas and need to pull over,” he said. As soon and I pulled to the side of the road the gas tank dropped off the Bronco, and rolled into someone’s yard into which it continued to empty itself. I contacted my insurance company and they contacted a tow truck and the local fire department. The fire department came and sprayed fire retardant on the road and in the person’s yard and the towing company hauled the jalopy away. We were reminded of that night every time we went to Stephen’s house for a year because that was how long the grass stayed dead and brown.
Off-roading was an adventure and I do not regret those days. If you have a knack for exploring places, enjoy getting jostled around in the cab of a truck and don’t mind the possibility of getting stuck, buy an old truck, SUV or Subaru and have an adventure. Be warned, however, that it will cost you some serious money to keep that jalopy going. Also, don’t buy a Bronco for the purpose of off-roading unless you enjoy watching everyone else have fun. - Tim
The cavern was so dark that once I extinguished my flashlight the only thing I could see was the dancing orbs created by my eyes due to the extreme change. It was also refreshingly cool in contrast to the humid hot summer air outside. The cavern was a welcomed change from the rat race of life. In case you haven’t figured it out I greatly enjoy spelunking or caving. I love crawling into a crevice in the ground and following an underground stream into a vast array of solitude. A few years back Joel, Jason and I were caving partners and we explored together and sometimes led groups on endeavors into the world of darkness. My joy for exploring hasn’t ceased but it has been temporarily replaced with above ground exploration. This is mainly because my children are young and I reserve my adventure time for them. We currently camp and take nature hikes but I will one day teach them the art of spelunking.
In case you have never been in a cave I encourage you to do so. Face your fears and crawl under the dirt. If you are claustrophobic, try a tour cave out first. There are a number of caverns you can visit where there are lights, sounds and a person that explains the territory. It’s a different experience but a good way to get your feet wet.
If you are more adventurous, find some friends who explore caves and have them take you on a journey of your own. If you go caving bring two sources of light. You can carry flashlights but I prefer to have a headlamp and flashlight. By using a headlamp you free your hands for those times you need to crawl. It is always good to wear a helmet because you will bump your head often. You can purchase a helmet with a headlamp included or do what I did - make your own. Always have a least one secondary source of light. I typically carry two waterproof flashlights. I wear military cargo pants and put the flashlights in the cargo pockets. You will want good pants with sturdy material at the knees. You should also wear two shirts – a short sleeve and a long sleeve. You will need the sleeves when crawling and you may get chilly at times. I chose to wear wool socks because they keep your feet warm while wet. You can wear waterproof boots but some caves will have water deeper than your boots so know your cave beforehand. You may destroy whatever shoes you wear so bear that in mind when preparing. Some people who know they will be crawling opt to wear kneepads and gloves. No matter how tough you are your knees can take a beating when crawling on rock for a few hours. Some advanced caves will require climbing rope and an understanding of climbing and rappelling. If you have never been spelunking, stay away from those caves on your first journey. The best rule of thumb is to go with an experienced leader in a relatively simple cave. If you are with an experienced leader they should know to carry a first aid kit and necessary tools.
When carried out safely, caving can be a fun and rewarding experience. I encourage you to try something new and go underground. Have you ever gone spelunking? -Tim