8.22.2016

East Coast Tour 2016 || Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island. What an experience. We were so thankful for the opportunity to sing and visit there the second week of July.The only complaint was too little time---we were only on the island for two days, one of which was spent performing two concerts. But in spite of the little time, we had a marvelous time and met some great people.
On Sunday morning we sang and Mitchell preached at a church in Charlottetown. We met this sweet family (above) who also had ten kids...but their oldest was only thirteen! Their baby was brand-new. The father is a pastor so he was preaching at his church that morning but the mom brought all her kids to come hear us.
Rebecca with a new friend, little Amy. Her and her parents had just moved to PEI from India and they were attending the church we sang at Sunday morning. Isn't she just the cutest thing ever?!

Josh checking instruments a few minutes before our evening concert in Summerside.
Basketball in the church gym in Summerside. 
The fields were amazing. This is my kind of beauty right here. Breathtaking.

We met a family at our concert Sunday night who read our blog and had previously invited our family to come visit them when we were in the area. Monday morning they drove us all over the northern part of the island for a tour. 
First we went to the Anne of Green Gables visitor center/historic sight because we really wanted to go there. You know, just to say we'd been. The tickets to tour the house were quite expensive, so we got a picture in front of the visitor center, just to say we'd been there, and then we headed on. =) 

We went up to the northern part of the Island next to the ocean and took a gorgeous several mile walk on a trail there in the woods, along the water.
Now this is looking "Anne of Green Gables" -ish. =)
Doing the whole "tourist thing" and taking pictures...
This picture...so the people who aren't looking at the camera aren't looking because they were all trying to nudge each other off over the edge of the little cliff there. That would be true brotherly love.
The best family picture we could manage in the midst of laughter and wind whipping our hair all over the place.
All of the kids from our two families.
Monday afternoon after our hike we visited some other new friends' dairy farm. This was a big highlight-we loved it!
Checking out the amazing robotic milking system. Farmers always love to see how other farmers do it. =) This was super interesting to all of us.
Check out Taylor's smile. He is in charge of our calves and was very intrigued at the automatic feeder for these calves.
Now I think our farm is one of the most beautiful spots on earth. But if I had to choose a second most-beautiful location for a dairy farm...I think it would have to be this. Gorgeous. 
Group picture with our family + these other two families we got to know. What a blessing to meet such genuine families who opened their homes and welcomed in total strangers-us!
Sights out the van window as we drove over the island.
Walking on the rocks out from the dunes.
So much raw beauty.
Spending a little time on the dunes...
Random houses like this one that I HAD to photograph. All of the houses on the island were COLOR and not just your average color at that. Red, blue, yellow...all in row after row along the ocean.
We took this drive on our way home. We went through the trees on a dirt road for miles. It looked just like the roads that Matthew drives Anne home on at the beginning of the movie in Anne of Green Gables.

We were just ready to leave the island when I remembered that we had FORGOTTEN to take any of Denver's senior pictures while we were there! I was determined to have at least a few from there because really, how many seniors get their pictures taken on PEI? Not many. So we stopped the bus and literally flew out and grabbed a few and hopped back in and crossed the bridge. =)
Time to leave on the world's largest bridge over icy waters!

Hanging out at the front of the bus to watch our crossing over the bridge and offer helpful advice to the driver. =)
So long, Prince Edward Island! 

8.18.2016

Summer Tour East 2016 || Boston

We had an incredible time visiting + singing in Boston in early July. The whole area/surrounding towns have such rich heritage and culture! Being there was a definite experience that we won't forget for a long time. 

As always is the case with our city time, we were VERY ready to leave after just a few days. (these Bontragers just aren't city people!) 

But it was a wonderful adventure and we packed in SO MUCH considering that we were only there for three days. 

On Monday (July 4th) we visited Plymouth Plantation. It was the first time for we kids to be there.
 Fun Fact: Dad + Mom visited there one day twenty-seven years ago when they were in the area on their honeymoon! 

Above picture is us all standing at the entrance down into the village reenactment area, with the ocean in the background. It was such a gorgeous day!
We toured shops where various craftsmen were making their products. They chatted as they worked and answered questions about, well, anything we asked them. =)
In many of the little houses, there were people dressed up in period clothing, impersonating various colonists. These people were all supposed to talk in accent and as if they were literally that person living there at that time. Dad got a kick out of being a little tricky and trying to get them off their rythym by asking random questions and trying to start controversial  discussions. Some of us were forced to exit for fear we would start laughing. =)
Red, white, and blue day!
Just hanging out!
Dad + Mom!
Canon inspection at the fort.
Hudson observing a replica of a dugout canoe like the Indians would've used.
One of the guys took this picture in the gift shop and sent it to Carson. They thought he would appreciate it. =)
We drove around the town of Plymouth for a while. We would not recommend doing this on July 4th in a 45ft bus WITH a trailer to boot! Traffic was crazy and we could barely make turns. A certain family member, who shall remain anonymous, made things even worse by sitting in the front passenger seat of the bus and waving and smiling at random people to make them think she knew them. (some of us were so embarrassed!) It was actually quite funny because apparently most people see a tour bus like ours and think it's some big famous band. (which we're not! but they don't know that) So if the person in the front seat waves at them...it makes their day! This is what we discovered. We got lots of smiles and waves from that experience. =)

All of the houses were decked out with flags. Combine that with the stunning landscaping and architecture and you have a beautiful town by the water!
For Monday evening, we pulled in at a nearby park. The guys got in a couple great games of basketball, we celebrated Mitchell's 24th birthday with a party in the bus, and we even got to watch fireworks from the bus windows!
Mitch got this shirt as one of his gifts. Liz modeled it for him. Now we all want shirts like this!
Because Bontragers love bacon. Period. =)

On to our concert location...in a suburb of Boston. There was literally no where at the church to park the bus, so we parked at one of the church members' homes, a few miles away. Even this wasn't technically their parking lot, but a shared lot/alley in between several houses. It took quite a bit of bending and trimming and maneuvering to get our rig in there!

Success!
Tuesday morning was our first venture into downtown Boston. The pastor (of the church we were going to sing at Wednesday night) drove us there and we were all glad we weren't driving. Traffic was crazy!
So many of the old brick buildings were covered in vines growing everywhere.
Sights from the van window...
Finding parking was...hmm...extremely difficult to say the least!
This was so awesome-a plaque put right at the spot of the shoe store where DL Moody got saved! He has been one of our family's spiritual heroes for years..when us older ones were little, we had a cassette tape ("Your Story Hour", anyone?) with the story of his life, and we literally wore that tape out from listening to it so many times!
In a way, it was almost surprising that this plaque was still "allowed" to be up. It was definitely an encouraging thing to see-in the middle of a city and a people that has drifted so far from God and their heritage, still there were little signs, here and there, of the miracles that happened in that city!
On Tuesday evening we went back into town to help the church pass out flyers and invite kids to their summer Bible clubs. We also passed out tracts and talked to people on the streets and at a subway/bus station.

We were split up all over the place. Josh sent us the above picture on our group text loop, "I just met this really nice Christian man. We had a great time talking about the Lord! At the end of our conversation I had missed his name, so I asked him what it was, and he said it was also Josh! So I asked him if I could get a selfie of us two Josh's." =)

We had some great conversations. We met people who wanted to talk, people who didn't want to talk, and people who yelled and cursed at us. After a full evening we were still all grateful for the opportunity to go and shine our lights!

Wednesday morning found us up bright and early! We spent about an hour playing folk + gospel instrumental tunes on the Boston Commons. We also handed out our family cards (with the plan of salvation on the back) and invited people out to our concert that evening.
Finally found some yummy coffee in this big city! There were actually some great coffee hangouts all over the place that we were DYING to stop at, but you can't pull in just anywhere and park with a big rig like ours..which meant that we had to just gaze sorrowfully at many a sweet little establishment. =(

Smiles!

I also spent some time with Denver taking a few of his senior pictures around the Commons. (stay tuned for more of these to come!)
Dad + Hudson at the grave of Dad's childhood hero, Paul Revere.
Sisters in the big city!
Josh by the statue of Samuel Adams
Josh in one of the gallery's we visited at the top of Faneuil HallThis place was SO fascinating. 
We got to listen to this super talented guy for a few minutes. It made us want to run back to the bus (like how many miles away?) and grab our instruments and jam with him!

Allison, Rebecca, and Liz pose outside the old brick church where a lantern was hung from the steeple on the night of Paul Revere's famous midnight ride.
Window boxes were everywhere, filled will all colors of flowers and various plants. So gorgeous.
Around 12pm (well actually it might have been much earlier for some certain people!) our gang began to get seriously hungry. So we started on the lookout for pizza.
We gathered around and looked up different places on our phones. Some cost an arm and a leg, so those were cut. Some looked somewhat dinky and cheesy (no pun intended) so they weren't an option. We popped in at one that was definitely not much of a family atmosphere, so on we went...
Someone tried to lead everyone else to a promising looking establishment, via phone GPS but...somehow there was a misunderstanding and the time to get there was actually driving time, not walking time! So..after quite a walk and apparently making no progress, we figured out our error and finally did what we should've done in the very beginning...flagged down a local and asked for the best pizza place around. We were directed to Regina's Pizzeria.
If you ever go to Boston. YOU MUST EAT THEIR PIZZA. This place was a SCORE.
We are big pizza fans and we have had all sorts of kinds, in all sorts of places.
But this brick oven pizza at Regina's took the cake for being the best pizza we have ever had. 
Ready to dig in!! By this time everyone was starved and not too happy with me for wanting a picture! =)
At the far end of our table, across from Mitch, you will see one of our "Boston locals" friends. He went with us on our tour of the city and we had a blast hanging out with him! Hopefully one of these days he will come and visit us on the farm! =)
Back to the church for our evening concert!
Unloading in the middle of traffic was quite the experience. The church was literally right next to the street and there was nowhere to park the bus. So we had to unload everything (with traffic backed up behind us. We made record time!) and then dad had to drive the bus about five minutes away to park and then get shuttled back to the church by the pastor, with the church van. Quite the production!

We had a wonderful concert there that evening (alas, no pictures!) and headed north that night, afterwards.

As I finish this post, I'm reflecting again over all that we saw, all that we experienced, all the people we met. It was sobering to see how far our nation has fallen; how this city that of ALL PLACES has such a rich Christian heritage and foundation, has forgotten and nearly completely turned from the truths that constructed its very beginning.

I will close with these quotes by one of our great founding fathers, Samuel Adams:

"It doesn't take a majority to prevail but rather a tireless, irate minority, 
keen to set brush fires in the people's minds." -Samuel Adams

"The necessity of the times, more than ever, calls for our utmost circumspection, 
deliberation, fortitude, and perseverance." -Samuel Adams