Adventures In The Apple Valley


“Follow the white van! . . . That’s not a sentence I thought I’d ever say,” – Kris

I’ve recently returned home from a weekend of adventuring with my Dragon Slayers.  Pastor has been trying to figure out a weekend we could go on a road trip to his cousin’s apple orchard for a while –

—– Friday —–

Friday morning, we woke up at 2 A.M.  Giselle and Kris had slept over, so we made our caffeinated beverage of choice (coffee for Kris, tea for Giselle and I) and loaded all of our stuff in the back of my car while we waited for Madison, Pastor, Mrs. Cindy, and Seth to get there at 2:45, before leaving at 3:15.

I was honestly a little surprised at how well we all were managing to function on four hours of sleep.

Giselle drove her family’s van, and we put all of the luggage in the back of my car.  Kris rode with me and we sang at the top of our lungs for the first two hours, pausing to ramble about boys and friends and Jesus and college whenever we had a thought in our mind that wanted saying.

About an hour and a half in, Kris and I were calling Giselle, complaining of hunger.  I can’t remember what town we were in, but we saw a McDonald’s and stopped for coffee, food, and bathroom breaks.

We didn’t know, but the lobby wasn’t open yet.  The sliding doors wouldn’t open when we walked up, and so . . . Pastor pushed them open and walked right in.

That’s the story, boys and girls, of the time we unintentionally broke into a McDonald’s at 4:45 in the morning on my Pastor’s lead.

The lady in charge was very gracious – she let us all the bathroom and didn’t yell or kick us out, but she did make us go through the drive through to get our food and drinks.

Kris and I saw a shooting star at 5:32, and we screamed out our wishes into the dark.

It wasn’t too long after our Bastrop Bucees stop for snacks that Kris began to fall asleep on me, and I watched the sun rise as we drove through Austin.


It was breathtaking.

When we reached Llano and the Apple Valley Orchard owned by Uncle Johnny and Aunt Susan, they almost immediately put us to work picking apples and then pressing those fresh and delicious apples into fresh and delicious apple cider.




Let me tell you, that’s a work out.

Giselle and Kris got overheated and we spent a large portion of the afternoon just hanging out.  Seth played the guitar Pastor gave me, which we named Patricia, and We played card games like solitaire, Nertz, and Double Psychedelic Crazy Eights Progressive with Uncle Johnny, eating pretzels out of a pink glass bowl.

Once everyone had a chance to rest, we loaded up and headed into town to eat some of the best pizza, drink coffee at Fuel, and watch Antman at the small-town theater.  When we reached home again, we stayed up until midnight playing more card games and writing songs out of our adrenaline-fed delirium.

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—– Saturday —–


IMG_0546Saturday was a doozy of a day.  Giselle had been sick the afternoon before, and Kris went to sleep feeling nauseous.  She didn’t feel much better when she woke, so most of Saturday morning was spent in quiet time, reading, and more card games.  Pastor had given us our next book the day before, so I spent about two and a half hours on top of my car with my Bible, journal, and The Screwtape Letters (C. S. Lewis).

Those were a good two and a half hours.  The sun was coming up and I was the only one awake, besides the adults.  There was a storm rolling in, dropping a light shower of raindrops on me before swerving around and away.  It was peaceful.

Mrs. Cindy called me in when the others began waking up and eating breakfast.  She shared with us the verses we needed to read before Pastor’s talk that evening, and we played more card games and made more music while we waited for Kris to feel better.

Seth’s ankle was swollen, so everyone was nagging him about keeping it elevated.  I think it was Aunt Susan who suggested wall sitting, and I got really excited ’cause I really like to sit like that when there’s an empty wall.


Kris woke up around the time we were sitting down to eat lunch, and she was feeling better (Praise God!) so we made plans to go into Llano when Pastor and Uncle Johnny got back from the farmer’s market in Austin.


Our first stop was this really beautiful bookstore, packed with treasures.  They had every genre; there were new prints with beautiful artwork on dust covers and old, disintegrating bindings of classics, and they were almost all cheap.  There were some antiques and a room in the back with walls of cases of movies.  Kris hit the mother load – finding classic Disneys for between fifty cents and two dollars.

IMG_0588 IMG_0587 IMG_0590We meandered through some antique stores after that, looking for whatever oddities and knick knacks we could find.

I found the entirety of Handel’s Messiah.  Madison found a little back room filled with Native American stuff, like beaded bracelets and bone whistles.  Seth spent half an hour digging through a basket of old photographs and Giselle hunted for a floor length mirror everywhere we went.

We found an alley.  I got really excited and asked if we could take artsy photos against the brick wall (they didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped so I’m only posting two).

Funny: I told Seth to move right, to get under the window, and he starts freaking out.  “There’s a window?”  He turns in a circle, looking up for it, and jumps onto the ledge that jutted out from underneath.

It was a window of a shop, and a customer looked up right as he was looking in.


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Our energy drained, we decided we needed coffee, so to Fuel we went where we spent a good amount of time drinking coffee, playing piano on the stage, and talking Jesus.

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After a few adventures in the grocery store and at the barbecue place, we headed home for dinner and more hanging-out time.


Snapshots of Nerds, by Nerds.

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Pastor gave us The Big Talk that night.  He singled each of us out, talking about our strengths and how we needed to be courageous with those strengths inside the group, inside the safe place.  Because how will we be courageous out in the world if we aren’t in our circle of closest friends?

It was, honestly, a rough talk, and I felt a little broken by the end of it.

Pastor and Mrs. Cindy headed to bed shortly after that; Kris followed suit, and the rest of us went outside to look at the stars.

They’re gorgeous out there.  The sky is so clear and empty and big, you can point out constellations (if you know any) and see the milky way.  We saw shooting stars from our blanket-clad spot on the driveway before we became afraid of the shadows and retreated indoors.

—– Sunday —–

the view from the barn at the orchard -

the view from the barn at the orchard –

Sunday morning was mountain-climbing day.

Okay, so it was a Texas hill, but still.  We woke up early and drove to Enchanted Rock State Park, where Pastor tried to bypass a law and drive in early.

We were laughing so hard, and ducking our heads down below the windows, until Pastor pulled over and got Mrs. Cindy to get in the driver’s seat.

“It just dawned on me that these are state police people,” he said very calmly when he got back in.

We took Patricia with us, and Giselle spent the whole climb strumming and singing, making up her own songs to entertain us while we climbed.  We dubbed her “The Bard,” our troubadour.


IMG_0637 IMG_0658Kris had to stop about three-fourths of the way up.  Her knees had gone numb, results of the two knee surgeries she had when she was younger, but the rest of us had a forty-five minute worship session and Jesus-talk up on the cliff face.

I’ve decided that the outdoors is my favorite place to be.  It’s refreshing and calming and peaceful, and the closest to God I can get.

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After our climb, we cleaned up and packed up at the orchard, headed to Llano again for pizza, and then hit the road to head home.

The drive home might be one of the best parts of the entire trip.  We started out with Kris and I in Kiki again, with everyone else riding in the van.  But we switched halfway through Austin.  Pastor and Mrs. Cindy took Kiki while all of the kids rode in the van.

Basically, I don’t like driving in Austin.  I didn’t know I was going to be in the first place, and my knees were shaking so badly I didn’t think I could physically do it any further.

The rest of the drive is blurring –

Highlight: The Book People.  That bookstore, though.  It’s in Austin and it’s the biggest bookstore I’ve ever been in.  I think that I had an attack of some sort thinking about all of the options hidden and stacked in the shelves.  It was glorious and literally overwhelming.  I want to go back with a large amount of money to spend on all of the gorgeous prints and covers that I hadn’t ever seen before.

Highlight: driving down the highway, watching Giselle and Seth crazy-dancing in the front seat.  A big truck towing a boat pulled up alongside, and the man inside mimicked their wild motions, leaving everyone in both vehicles gasping laughter

Highlight: DJing with Seth from the very back; playing film scores and laughing as the girls tried to place the movie and composer, and failing completely because, for most of us, music is an enjoyment and hobby, not a passion.

Highlight: detouring to the Married Friend’s house to say hi, use the facilities, and share some of our adventures with them, laughing so hard we literally couldn’t breathe and ended up on the floor.

Highlight: watching the sun set in a glory of red and gold, turning the sky into a world of fire.  Dozing, off and on, in the back seat to the sound of book rants and soft singing and loud laughter.

Highlight: my friends.  My beautiful, wonderful, adventurous, loving, gentle, wild, courageous Dragon Slayers.

They’re the biggest highlight of all.


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