June 5 – Day 102
I arrive back in Austin and get picked up in my truck by Jon and Cody, we head to Phil’s Ice House to get a Holy Fuego burger which features a special sauce. Jon and Nate, two friends from Gateway, have been amateur chefs and have won some local competitions…Nate was even a competitor on the Food Network cooking show “Chopped”. They call themselves the Holy Smokers and have bottled their own sauce, one of my options for VANIMAL after completing my Appalachian ministry will be to donate the van to the Holy Smokers…maybe it will earn me a monk’s robe!

After finishing our lunch we head “home” I guess technically my home is in New Jersey since that is where my van is…remember I’m living in a van!

I contact some my teens, who know I’m home, and we meet up for a day of adventures and good food. I contact Brittany and Stephany but they are busy with arrangements and will not be able to meet me today. I spend the rest of the evening with my teens and then crash at Senter’s apartment. My first day back has been a busy one, seems like old times and I’m glad to be home and able to spend time with my kids.

Swimming at Megan’s


June 6 – Day 103
I get up early with my day pretty much already planned, I’m meeting some work friends for lunch at Chuy’s, I’ve been needing a tex-mex fix, then hanging with kids and finally driving to San Marcos to pick up the boat for a few days. The plan is to meet Chad and Callie for dinner (I get my BBQ fix) and then head back into Austin. I’m taking some teens out on the boat and still trying to meet up with Stephany and Brittany. I get a hold of Brittany on my way back to Austin and stop in at her Godmother’s house for a visit. I spend an hour with the girls and meet some of their family that are in town.

We plan to go out on the boat in the morning so I leave it hitched to the truck and crash at a friends house, the kids will meet me in the morning.

June 7 – Day 105
Going out on the boat in the morning is Cody, Austin, Lindsay, Megan, Savannah, Casey, Caso and later we are joined by Bijan. I will have to leave around lunch time, since today is the viewing before the funeral tomorrow and I need to do some shopping before going. I watch some of the kids ride and I’m impressed with their improvement. Casey is doing really good and I get to see her land her biggest wake to wake jump ever, then after landing a nice one wake toe side 180 she catches her front edge and finishes with a painful face plant!

Nomad in his natural habitat

Casey and I leave at lunch, she is going to spend more time with Stephany as they are best friends but first we stop at Torchy’s for some trailer park tacos and chips and queso, I am slowly hitting all my favorite restaurants that I have missed while on the trail. Casey drops me off and I take Cody’s jeep to get some clothes for the viewing and the funeral, then I get cleaned up and head to funeral home for the viewing. When the service was coming to a conclusion family and friends were invited up to share stories of Stephen’s life. Stephany, his youngest daughter, spoke beautifully about her father being with our Heavenly Father and what a comfort that brought to her, she was sad and joyful at the same time and it lifted my spirits to hear her speak so eloquently and maturely. I realize that these are no longer the young girls I knew just starting high school, they are growing up! I stay for the service and visit with the girls and other friends.

Another full day, some of it fun some of it sad…the girls are holding up as best as can be expected giving the circumstances, I wish there was more I could do for them but they are in Gods hands and I know that is a comfort to them both.

June 8 – Day 106
The funeral is in the morning and I’m meeting Megan Robinson there, I’m a little early and get to see the girls before sitting down. The ceremony is Greek Orthodox and other than the Lord’s Prayer I’m not able to follow much. Several of Stephen’s friends get up to speak about him and every story told are how I mostly remember him, I did not know him long or that well.

Brittany and Stephany go off to be with family and several of the kids and I go for some lunch. We try to figure out what to do for the rest of the day and most of the kids go home for naps, Abby meets us at Pluckers for lunch then she and I go to a movie. I head back over to Senter’s house and call it a night. We are hitting the lake tomorrow and I’m pretty tired.

June 9 – Day 107
We get some rain early in the morning so get a later start to the lake then expected. A lot of the teens I have not seen yet are coming out as well as some adult friends. It is a full “boat crew” reunion and I’m back at Lake Austin, were I have spent so many days of the last 13 years.

Cody and Senter take the teens out on the boat and I let them do their thing as I grab a blanket and take a nap in the grass waiting for others to arrive. Tim and Stephanie (Abby’s parents) arrive and we start the grill to cook some hot dogs for everyone. Later Ben and Ericka arrive and Ben has brought several cans of whip cream to have a whip cream fight with the teens. Towards the end of the afternoon the fight breaks out and we slightly “disrupt” a graduation party going on under the pavilion, most are amused but several were a little put out…sorry in not hanging with the sophisticated crowd, we like to have silly fun.

Post whip cream fight


We get the boat loaded up and for once I let them off from cleaning, I am headed to San Antonio to take the boat back to Chad and Callie (who are keeping it for me this season) and I don’t want to arrive too late.

It takes me about 2 hours and they have saved me some steak and corn for dinner, Chad also orders and picks up some green chili mac and cheese from Free Tails (another favorite of mine) and I have dinner. It has been a humbling experience for me both on the trail and back home to accept from others. I have such great people in my life and the trail is teaching me humility (some would say much needed).

We play some Halo, this is a special treat since Callie has not played with us in years, then watch a movie and head to bed. I will drive back to Austin in the morning to see what is next with the kids.

June 10 – Day 108
I spend the morning cleaning the boat so Chad does not have to deal with it. It is due for a very serious cleaning but that will have to wait until I’m back. I visit with Callie and play with my god daughter Addison, she I very much into princesses and wears a princess dress and boots to ride her bike.

Chad comes home for lunch and we have a nice healthy lunch, something I need to do more of! I pack up my stuff and head back to Austin.
The rest of the day is spent hanging round with the kids and catching up with some friends. I meet Senter and Megan for dinner and we have a nice visit, I then head back with them to Senters house to watch some tv and crash.

June 11 – Day 109
Today is my last full day in Austin and I don’t really have any plans. The kids want to see me again before I leave and a few of us end up hanging at the pool. I have plans to met the girls for dinner at Melanie and Dave’s house.

We have a good visit and then I head to Main Event to see some more of the kids in the rock gym, I say my good byes as I will be headed out in the morning, flying back to the east coast.

June 12 – 110
Not much to report today, just had many flight delays and ended up switching from American to Jet Blue to get to NYC. Took me almost 3 hours via subway and trains to get back to NJ…mostly because I was clueless on what I was doing!