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Monday, July 29th
Ok, plucking over 120 pictures out of 350 from Saturday is a challenge, but here they are.
To wrap things up, Saturday morning was the final get-together back in the church we performed in Friday night. This includes revealing secret pals, comments from sponsors, awards and a final communion. The morning serves to both wrap up a successful tour while setting up the Homecoming performance. It’s an emotional, bitter-sweet day when everyone wants to get home, but regrets having Tour end. After singing the Benediction one more time on the road, we headed for the buses.
Since we were only in Great Bend, it was a relatively easy travel day. Lunch was in Salina, and that’s when the bus saga took a new turn – as I understand it, John (Faith bus) noticed a bolt in one of the tires, so the tire was changed there in Salina. Luckily it didn’t throw off the schedule too much, and after stalling a bit along the way, the caravan arrived right on time – 5:00.
After many hugs, pictures and loading suitcases into cars, it was time to setup – which by now is amazingly smooth – a final sound check, instructions and costume change.
Needless to say, the audience was anxious to get in and seated, and of course the Singers were just as anxious to put on another great performance.
Thanks to Janet Alexander and the entire Homecoming committee – which I understand was a large, enthusiastic group – for all the decorations and goodies.
Friday, July 26th, Midnight and back in Central Time Zone!
Eat breakfast, sit on bus, eat lunch, sit on bus, setup, eat dinner, change into costume, perform, change out of costume, load truck; that’s about all it takes to describe today. It was another interesting church (lots of doors and confusing stairways, at least for me!) and a nice audience of about 100. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the performance.
The word for today seemed to be “bittersweet” as everyone realizes we’re on our way home tomorrow for the end of tour. But it’s gonna be a great Homecoming! Speaking of Homecoming, tomorrow will be a busy day and certainly a busy evening, so please be patient and I’ll try to get those pictures posted early next week.
Thursday, July 25th, 10:30 or so.
Only two major events happened today – we drove, we sang. Along the way there was a bit of bus trouble, but we’re rolling fine now thanks to help from the “home office” in St. Joe. The bigger issue was lots of construction which brought us to the church a few minutes later than normal, but again, the Singers setup, ate, dressed into costumes and hit the risers right on time, as usual.
Tonight’s church is actually a church Paul and Debbie Kunz attended about 20 years ago, that made for great connections. And as you’ll see in the pictures, it’s a very nice church with one of my favorite backdrops that we’ve seen so far. Then the walls and ceilings made for great places to focus our colored lighting – and that was even better since Paul is our lighting guy. It was also one of the larger audiences we’ve had, so everyone enjoyed the performance. In fact, one of the pastors (now known as “Pastor Dude” thanks to Sophie) was quite emotional as he closed the service,
Tomorrow will be another “two-event day” as we travel all the way to Great Bend, Kansas.
Wednesday, July 24th, Late
A big sight-seeing day and quite a few miles after that. So we started the day with a rafting trip on the Yellowstone river; technically we were not IN Yellowstone, we just put into the river near it in Gardiner. ALL the Singers and sponsors were in rafts for the nine mile, two hour ride. The first part included a couple of class 3 rapids (for those of you that know what that means, which I don’t), and then the rest was fairly calm. I didn’t ride so that I could take pictures, but I can say everyone seemed pretty wet by the time they got to the pick-up spot.
After a lunch picnic in a near-by park, basically in the shadow of Yellowstone’s entrance, we loaded up and all headed into Yellowstone. We tried to get into a parking lot on one side of the Falls, but it was so crowded, the buses went around to the south rim. I, on the other hand, went into that parking lot and quickly took in the sights – they call this the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and it is a VERY large canyon.
After the canyon, it was off to the signature feature of Yellowstone – Old Faithful. We had just missed it at about 5:00, but that worked out well for everyone to eat, shop and get ready for the 6:29 (predicted) geyser. By my watch, it was within about five seconds of exactly 6:29! I have to say, it didn’t blow me away as far as a dramatic event (could have used some great music and lighting!), but what impressed me the most is that it is so “faithful”. How can something in nature be so predictable for so long. They do hedge a little and say it’s within +/- 10 minutes, and the interval changes a bit over time. I’m anxious to read the book I bought to see if they know why it is so regular. But again, can you imagine being the first human(s) to discover this geyser, and then realize it was so regular!
As soon as the geyser made its appearance, we loaded up the buses and headed out the south entrance of Yellowstone. Of course there were many more great natural features (straight, wide roads are not one of them); and our path took us through the Tetons, which is also beautiful. By now, it was getting dark as we headed to Riverton, Wyoming. The buses didn’t arrive until about 11:15 p.m. so everyone pretty much headed straight to bed. As a bonus, it’s a new Hampton Inn with really nice rooms – probably not as nice as the ski lodge in Golden, but it’s pretty nice!
All in all, it was a busy day, and even with quite a bit of bus time and load/unload, in no time at all, everyone will be remembering the features they saw in Yellowstone.
P.S. Yellowstone Raft Company also takes up-close-and-personal photos as the groups go through the rapids. As I type this, I don’t think they have any posted yet, but the link is http://yellowstoneraft.smugmug.com or start at www.yellowstoneraft.com
Tuesday, July 23rd, Really late
We got a lot done today…after a relatively short drive (175 miles) we arrived in Gardiner, Montana. After getting the hotel keys and rearranging a few things, the buses headed into Yellowstone Park. Quick factoids about Yellowstone: it is the first/oldest national park in the U.S. (and maybe the world), and Gardiner is the original entrance. I think I head the stone entryway we drove through appears in some of the original photographs of the dedication. We headed to the Mammoth Falls, which is where hot water flows like a spring, bringing with it minerals that accumulate over time. Another one of nature’s amazing features.
After a quick move-in into the hotel, we headed to the church, which is just down the street. Although the church was fairly small, but oddly enough, has a fairly large front area which allowed a somewhat normal setup for risers. The audience was quite small, but as always, the Singers didn’t let that stop them from another great performance.
Then it was back to the hotel for Tour Worship. This is one of the events that can’t, and shouldn’t be captured in pictures or video. The service included a lot of singing, testimonials from the worship committee and then “open mic”. Lots of funny stories and heartfelt comments about the true value of New G as well as the “family” it provides to so many. The success of New G can’t be traced to one particular event or purpose, but Tour Worship would rank right up there.
Monday, July 22nd, 11:00 (Mountain Time)
We met back at the church at 7:00 to enjoy breakfast, more great cooking and hospitality. A group of the church members even sang to US. It was quite a bit of bus time and an early lunch because there simply aren’t many places to eat (fast food that is), between Bonners Ferry and Helena. The drive was long enough that we were a bit rushed setting up and eating in time for a 7:00 performance. But this far into tour, the Singers are a well-oiled machine and were more than ready on time.
The church is a fairly new building with very high ceilings and a wide open front area. Chris even got to play a very nice grand piano for “Untitled Hymn”. Since the church is rather large, the crowd appeared small even though there was a nice number on-hand. But what I found interesting is that the audience included many young kids – as young as three years old (she asked if she could learn some of the “dancing”, which she did with the whole group after the performance). So with so many kids and a responsive audience, it was another memorable performance. There were even some New G alums in the group who also had connections to past sponsors.
Sunday, July 21st, 11:00 (Pacific time)
Fairly busy day! First a performance at another church in Golden – one where New G had performed in the past. After a nice lunch, we loaded the buses for the trip to Bonners Ferry, Idaho, which meant it was time to cross the border. All in all it went VERY well, I think the whole process only took 40 minutes or so. Even Gilbert had no real problems (for those of you that may not know, Gilbert is from Indonesia and in the U.S. on a student visa. Prior planning kept things running smoothly). I will say the border agents are pretty serious, and frankly, the only issue is when agents seem to want to do things differently from each other! Oh, and if you’re an adult and your name is Aaron King, I think they want to talk to you – but OUR Aaron King is fine!
By crossing into the Pacific time zone, we gained an hour and arrived at the church even before our hosts. After setting up, we had time to talk about events coming up later this week (mainly the rafting trip) and run through some songs.
Then “the meal”, this was a great one (they’re all good, but some really hit the spot with our group). Three churches had gone together to host the group for the meal – we even get breakfast at the church in the morning – and our host homes. Best of all, it was a tremendous audience for the performance. Not only was it perhaps the largest so far, it was easily the most responsive and engaged. Of course the Singers fed off that energy and it all lead to a standing ovation. I had one patron tell me the performance could easily compete with any professional group!
Oh, and I forgot another significant moment in the day – we turned our phones back on! I’m sure cell providers noticed a spike in the Bonners Ferry area.
Saturday, July 20th, Midnight
I guess you could say we spent quite a few hours on the buses, but it’s NOTHING like driving across western Kansas (I can say that, I’m from Kansas); the mountains and everything that go with them are amazing. Much like the red jammer tour, every corner lead to a marvelous site of mountains, valleys, rivers, waterfalls and even wildlife. I think the count was two small bears, an elk and countless small animals. There was also what was probably a raven that met the bus and his maker at the same moment.
So we started at Lake Louise in Banff National Park. This is where people go to take postcard photographs – so we took a bunch too. I can’t imagine being the first humans who crested one of those mountains and laid eyes on Lake Louise – simply beautiful. Then we had a slightly longer than expected drive up toward Jasper Park to see the glacier. As it turns out, the glacier has receded so far since New G was last there, we were unable to walk ON the glacier since it had a significant creek of rushing water (as we would probably call it in Missouri). There were also barriers that prevented us from getting that far. It was a significant walk even though we got the buses as close as possible; added difficulty included a fairly steep climb on a lot of rocks. But it’s fun to know that the lines on those rocks were created by the glacier, thousands of years ago. You can debate global warming – and we did a little – but the fact is, the glacier is receding faster than it is replenishing. They had markers of where the leading (receding) edge of the glacier was at the time, all the way back to 1908. I’d say the current edge was a good mile from 1908.
Friday, July 19th, Midnight
Another relatively short travel day up to Golden, B.C. On the way, we took an extended lunch break since we had plenty of time. Originally we planned to get to the hotel, which is actually a ski resort, but after Phyllis and I headed up to the resort, we found a single-lane bridge and decided to show the lead bus driver what it was going to be like plus it was another 10 miles up the side of a mountain. So we sent the buses directly to the church for setup. Then a driver, Phyllis and I headed up the mountain; it turns out the bridge has many logging trucks, semis and charter buses that use it, so we knew that part was fine. Then we found the resort, got the room keys and made sure we had a plan for moving the buses around.
Back at the church, everything had been setup and everyone was eating a nice hamburger meal, served by the church. The church was much smaller than the last few nights so setup was a bit different, but if you know this group, you know they adapt. Again, not a huge crowd, but again, a great performance.
After tearing down, we made the trip up the mountain and checked into our hotel(s) – we’re split up between three buildings. This will be home tonight and tomorrow night, which also includes Tour Worship and a nearby conference center room.
Thursday, July 18th, 2013, (Finally got pictures posted)
A relatively short travel day started by asking hosts to have the Singers back to the church at 9:00 a.m. – a nice change from the previous two mornings. And as a bonus, it was Walmart day; besides basic food purchases, I think a lot of secret pal gifts were discovered in a wide variety of aisles.
Luckily, the Walmart food served as lunch for some since we were in a bit of a time crunch by lunch time due to slow traffic getting to Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park where the Red Jammer tours started. These 17 passenger “buses” (you’ll see them in the pictures) were originally built in 1939. When New G was on this tour in 1999, the jammers were about to be retired and all tours with them would be stopped. In fact, New G was the last large group to use them, and more notably, a series of special pictures were taken to be used in a magazine commemorating the end of an era. But wait…the Ford Motor Company stepped in and completely refurbished the buses, finding and/or making new parts, installing propane/gas combo engines and much more. It saved the red jammer tours and now 33 buses are still in service (500 were originally made in 1939). Our tour guide told us the body had about 500,000 miles on it and the engine, about 100,000.
So the actual tour…it follows a 52 mile “Going-to-the-sun” road, although we only went 17 miles up to the summit, then back to the where we started (in the past, New G has done the full tour ending on the east side). Once again, the pictures can’t tell the whole story of how impressive Glacier National Park is in person. Bemo talked about how it’s hard to comprehend the “3D-ness” of it. I agree, it’s hard to imagine how vast and dramatic this area of the country is, and we haven’t even been to the “big” mountains yet. Rather than me trying to add more description, take a look at the pictures and then think even bigger, and be sure to ask the Singers their personal impressions.
Anyway, after the three hour tour (insert Gilligan’s Island music here), we headed to Whitefish, Montana for dinner at various fast-food stops. Then we were off to actually enter Canada; the port was named Roosville, a rather unremarkable area but with the typical drive-through lanes for cars and buses, etc. The agents were very nice and impressed with the organization of our paperwork – considering we’ve been working toward everyone having passports (or appropriate paperwork) for nearly a year, it was nice to have everything go smoothly. It took a little while to get the numbers of people reconciled, but it all worked well and took about 45 minutes. And yes, even Gilbert had no problems.
The experience getting back INTO the U.S. will probably be different, but at least we know we’re on the right track. Then it was about another hour to Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada to check into the Days Inn. By 10:45, the hallways were quiet, and best of all, we dont’ load buses until 9:30 tomorrow.
All in all, it was a smooth day thanks to the cooperation and maturity of all the Singers. By the way, I forgot to mention that we were asked to sing a couple of songs in the lobby of the lodge where we checked for the jammers. I HOPE to get a Youtube video posted later tonight, but Internet access in the hotel seems a bit overwhelmed.
Wednesday, July 17th, 2013, 11:00 p.m.
Much less bus time, another beautiful drive through Montana and a magnificent church, that about sums up the day. So when you look at the pictures, you’ll see more of the drive around a huge lake, but again, pictures don’t do it justice. As we approached Kallispell, you could see a storm brewing. About the time I got into town, it started raining, and that quickly changed to hail, then much more rain and bigger hail. Knowing that all the good spots under roofs would be taken, I headed to a residential area and parked under a tree. It didn’t stop the hail from hitting me, but it at least slowed it down. Many others had the same idea – you’ll see pictures of the hail. I heard other areas had 1″ hail. The buses were still on the road and I know they slowed down a lot and it was noisy, but we all seemed to get out of it without hail damage. By the way, within an hour, the flooding was gone and the streets were dry (nice to NOT have humidity).
So the last 100 miles were pretty hilly so that made it a bit longer drive (not to mention the hail), but we arrived at the church about an hour earlier than normal. This gave Bemo and Carol a chance to clean up some parts of songs as well as add/tweak some choreography. Then we devoured an Italian themed dinner which included spaghetti, meat balls, alfredo, pizza, plenty of bread and a lot of things I never made it to. One Singer was noticed for having a delicately heaping plate of all manner of food; he tried to claim he was on a diet and was focusing on the salad, but all we could notice was a few leaves of lettuce poking out from under the meatballs. (But it really was a masterpiece of stacking!)
This was a host-home night and that always guarantees you a decent sized crowd – not huge, but we don’t judge the success of a performance by the attendance. As you’ll see in the pictures, performing with emotion is not a problem for this group. And as Bemo always says, “if we can change or affect just one person, it was worth it”.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013, 11:00 p.m.
An early morning “call time”, an eight hour bus ride and a full performance makes for a big day. The audience was rather small, but once again, it doesn’t stop the Singers from putting out full emotion. Everyone back home can be proud. This was a last-minute addition to the schedule, so there wasn’t time for the church to find host homes, so we are in two churches and a near-by dorm. Card games (that I don’t understand), piano playing, video games and various activities are the norm – as well as quick showers. And Joey is even practicing his drums – luckily on a rubber pad!
Monday, July 15, 2013 (later that evening)
Yep, it was a great performance, in a beautiful church. Although the audience may not have been huge, they were very responsive and very appreciative; and as always, the kids sang their hearts out. At the end, the pastor made an interesting observation: “New G has named their buses Faith, Hope and Love. And tonight they have brought us faith, hope and love”, and I detected plenty of emotion in his voice.
In fact, the group was able to “sing for their rooms”, meaning that extra people came forward to house some of the girls so that none of them needed to stay in the church. The guys are staying in a different church, so please pray for Paul who is staying with them tonight!
Since we have a fairly long drive tomorrow, everyone is due back at 7:00 a.m.
Monday, July 15, 2013 (around 5:00)
Sorry for delayed update, here’s the story: Carol was in “The King and I” (she was “I”, aka Anna) which closed last night. She and I (aka Scott) drove up today and caught up with the group at Mount Rushmore. The group had been there about an hour and a half, I think. (Carol and I were there 15 minutes!). By the way, if you’ve never been to Mount Rushmore, it is impressive – how could they create something so big! Also, when the group was later asked who had never seen it before, probably half the group raised their hand – another great thing about New G – many opportunities to see and do new things while spreading the word of God.
As far as performances the last two days, I only had a minute to talk to Byron, but he said the first night performance (Sioux Falls) was “rockin’”. The pastor was in tears at the end and his wife could hardly get out words. You may have also seen a comment posted on the ngsigners page from Pierre that the performance was “inspiring”. So within the first 24 hours, they had four “rockin” and “inspiring” performances. I can hardly wait to hear them tonight. Can you imagine what Homecoming will be like? Do you have your tickets!
Saturday, July 13th.
Three buses, an equipment truck, 80 singers and 13 sponsors, family and support team pulled out of Ashland United Methodist Church parking lot at 10:04 a.m. (Two more of us will join the tour Monday, but more on that for another post). They’ll head north on I-29 for Sioux Falls, S.D. – and as one of the drivers noted, it should be easy to find since Sioux Falls is right on I-29.