One of many Praying Mantis' that we collected for a closer look at Grandmas house. This one bit Lauren and drew blood as she positioned it on this rose for a perfect shot. So far she hasn't shown any signs of turning into a super-hero.

In McMinnville, we spotted this peculiar looking arrangement, a horse-logger. We read about him the next day in the local paper- the horse pictured at the rear of the trailer collapsed on the roadway a few minutes after we caught this photo and died from a stroke. Interesting, and sad.

This morning, it was back to strict water conservation, generator running to cook toast and heat water and straight into the homeless shelter at 915am- we’re back on the road- and I’m getting ahead of myself.

Simon and Henry below the space capsule on display in the Evergreen Space & Air Museum. Slow museum day is good for home-schoolers!

We threw off the lines and departed from the comfort and safety of grandma and grandpa’s home last night after two full weeks of the comfort of family. We go into a different frame of mind to be parked for so long- as we pulled out last night, with no disrespect intended to our kind hosts, a couple of the others remarked that it felt good to be rolling down the highway again. It is a free feeling, and one worth mention. When we travel on vacation and fly or drive- we leave the home and all of its ‘stuff’ far behind. The only opportunity for industrious activity is to take on a project around the relatives’ house or sit around and chit chat (which is good).

Collecting strawberries at one of grandmas friends farms.

With a bus parked outside of the vacation destination it’s a little different. Our ‘stuff’ is only a few steps away. For example, during our time at this stop we changed the oil on the generator, changed the oil on the van, replaced both holding tank valves, cleaned the bus several times, replaced wipers (a 2 hour job), washed the outside of the bus, replaced the fridge latch, constructed an outdoor movie screen, replaced the blinds on four windows, home schooled in the mornings, etc etc. All that at times we could have been sitting, chatting. So is it better to RV your way along on vacation? I still think so, but I could do better in the social aspect of keeping things in balance, so I’ll be working on that skill as we continue along. We did get a day of yard work in, which was good for everyone to be involved in something industrious and productive- as well as for the benefit of the garden and the grounds.

In the name of biology class, we collected some healthy pond samples to use in a lab on Monday. In home school, biology includes relationships, problem solving, leadership and anything else that comes along. We're enjoying the smartly organized curriculum "Exploring Creation with Biology" for 5 hours a week.

Back in our intimate classroom setting, complete with all of that new-fangled microscope and audio visual equipment. We try to play Thomas Dolby's 80's hit: She Blinded Me With Science to start off each biology class, unless the kids catch me getting it ready and derail it. Oh well, next class.

Grandma really wanted to take a bus tour somewhere, so we loaded up last weekend and headed for Mt St Helens Volcanic Monument, just a 3 hour drive from their home. Taking the bus without a van was a bit of a risk, but we expected that we’d be able to navigate the route without problems since many commercial tours did it throughout the year.

Mt St Helens off the starboard bow, steaming along the 45 mile access road through layers of history that we've only read about.

Thank you bystander, for this perfect family photo.

We were able to tuck Grandmas electric scooter under the bus, so she’d have a full range at each stop. Everything went along fine for the whole day, until we stopped at a town after dark on the way home for dinner- we’ll call it “The Sizzler Incident”. May I just say that I learned something about driving a 45 foot bus into unknown territory after dark, and the kids learned a few choice words from the mouth of a large man that was particularly perturbed by my driving finesse in a tight restaurant parking lot. For the record, we didn’t hit anything & no one was hurt. We ate somewhere else, and then continued home as kids tucked in for the night (huge perk to taking your bus/home to the tourist site).

This one reminded us how cool the hunt for a geocache is! It was part of an old abandoned fish hatchery. The cache was located behind the wall to the right of the kids, which had to be reached by grasping the top of the wall and shuffling out on the ledge on your toes, how exciting.

Geocaching lured us out into the Willamette Valley countryside, and we bagged a few caches and avoided the poison oak we ran into- hooray! Geocaching is fun.

Now, this morning- we pitched in a little at Open House Ministries in Vancouver, Washington. We arrived last night, and had opted to leave the van at grandmas, as well as Trevor- who was going to stay and do some work for them. It’s easier to maneuver the bus without that van tagging along, or having to separate upon arrival- it also makes us more intentional about our driving- since we can’t just hop in the van and run an errand. I think I like not having the van along: we can do U-turns on a city street, back up at will or take a few laps looking for the perfect spot- when we arrive late enough at night (which we did).

Sorting out which toys worked and which ones had to be passed up in the donation room at OHM. Some toy testing also occurred.

So up and at em this morning and into Open House Ministries to bake 40 dozen cookies and sort some donations. We ended up at this location by contacting a friend that served as a pastor at our church at home- who had just moved here just a few weeks ago. OHM is an established, family focused, Christian ministry that offers folks a place to live (30 families), job coaching, GED classes, parenting lessons, personal counseling and a plan to get them back on their feet, versus taking them in for a few nights and then turning them back out. The facility is clean and well organized, and Mark seems to fit in very nicely- he will certainly become a valuable asset working with the people in need, here. OHM is funded privately and is a real, working project that deserves any gifts you deem worthy.

It is a pleasure to see familiar faces on this trip, and Mark and Gini's were welcome sights! Here, where we over-nighted across the street from Mark's new place of employment in Vancouver/Portland.
Mark, Anya, Kelly, Gini and Mark.

We enjoyed our brief visit with Mark and Gini, then headed a few blocks away to visit the downtown park and burn off some stored energy before returning to the bus via Vancouver Fire Station #1 [with an LTI tiller truck- one of 2 for this city of 250,000 residents]. To wrap the day up, Kelly’s reading Farmer Boy, and we’ll make tomorrows plan once the kids heads are all down and quiet.

Simon working hard to unload the weeds before Trevor drives the truck again, back on the farm. I recall the days that I would do about anything just to get to drive. 30 minute drive to the store in a snowstorm for a stick of butter? No Problem! Trevor is enjoying the pick-up truck driving opportunities there.

This concludes another day on ourBigtrip. Any Portland suggestions from out there? Call em in!