The real dirt on me…

Did you know that a bleach spot on a black polo shirt can be easily fixed with a large Sharpie marker? Oh you might think it only works with a couple small little splotches of orangey light brown that accidentally showed up in an inconspicuous spot, but you’d be wrong…

On Wednesday afternoon this week, I was prepping our restaurant kitchen and putting away supplies. I looked down at my chest for some reason and saw a large area of strangely shaped bleach stain. It could have been transferred in any multitude of ways, but it didn’t matter. I grabbed a fat-tipped Sharpie, and filled ‘er in. I walked around for the rest of the evening with three or four square inches of marker scribbles on my shirt and I doubt anyone noticed.

If you only ever wear black, this little tip may help you out someday. 🙂

But anyway, this little moment connects up with another that has to do with clothes, or stuff or specifically shoes. I was on that long road trip a couple weeks ago, and the first night out in western Colorado, I ended up setting up my tent in a storm. I was high on the Colorado National Monument near Fruita and the conditions were yucky.

I have a woven plastic-threaded mat that I was using to protect the tent from the ground. After a night of crazy wind and rain, that mat was covered in sticky red sand-mud when I rolled it back up and loaded it into the car. Since I spent the next several days in a hotel, it was just as crusty when I unfurled it along the banks of the Colorado River just south of Lake Havasu. That moment of laying down my mat to camp again, dropped lots of Colorado mud, into the sand of Arizona.

That night was hot and dry and by morning, most of my camping gear was aired out and baked well in the desert air. I awoke very early after just a few hours of restless sweaty sleep and repacked my gear. It was just damp enough that some of those fine grains of ground went with me again.

The next night was spent in the grass along a mountain road near Telluride. My tent mat dropped junk there again, and picked up more, just like every other night under the stars. By the end of my trip, I had transferred material all around the country and broad home some too. I still need to visit the car wash and spray off the rest of that stubborn sand so it can wash down a Kansas carwash drain.

My silly stain solution that ‘fixed’ my bleachy blotted shirt told a story. Same thing is true with that tent and the mat that dragged dirt from the Midwest to the coast and back. This stuff in our lives tells our tales. I don’t mean to propose that we need material objects to have a great life. I think it’s more that these objects can record our travels, they interface with the natural world. These garments and fabrics are not spiritual like we are. They simply react to the laws of physics they encounter.

We can be reminded though, about the places we’ve been and the moments we’ve experienced by examining the dirt on our shoes…

In the bigger picture, my shoes don’t speak of an international adventure or far flung footsteps. Truthfully, I haven’t really been too many places, or seen very many things. I have a lot of Franklin County Kansas soil on my soles.

It’s always good though, to get out there and track through new mud. It’s even rewarding to work hard enough that I earn a few more stains on my shirt that I can fix with a marker. These things remind me that I am blessed to be able to keep exploring and keep adventuring in some little way, every day.

Between now and next week my friends, get some new dirt on your shoes…


Aaron Nichols

The most exciting thing I’ve done all summer!

With only 25% left to upload, it won’t be long until you can watch a 4 minute video about my roadtrip to San Diego and back, a couple weeks ago. Yes, I think it will be interesting to some, but probably not to most.

Even though I have great camera gear, and saw awesome scenery, the video came out a little dark. I rode over 3700 miles in the drivers’ seat on that trip, and veiwed first-hand everything from prairie to mountains to desert to ocean, there isn’t much landscape in the movie I made. Actually, the continuous walkaround ‘film’ I created just shows how I packed my car for the trip…

Big Whoop!

Actually, YouTube is full of videos that 99% of viewers would consider a complete waste of time to watch. There seems to be enough people clicking around on the interweb though, that somebody may find it useful or amusing to them.

Along with my stepdad Joe, we built an organizer system for the rear cargo area of my SUV. It gave me a short but deep space to slide an under-bed Tupperware box for my tools. On the other side of the divider was a place for my tent and tent-mat, a chair and my folded up sleeping cot too.  I screwed metal anchors to the top of the plywood ‘floor’ to tie down various tubs. I made a special spot for the Dog Roxy too, complete with her own rubber floor protector that she seemed to like to lay on any chance she got.

I thought back to my previous long roadtrip to make some improvements on my in-car storage solutions. I spent a lot of time before my trip deciding just how I wanted to arrange all my essentials and non-essentials and hope-I-don’t-have-to-use-at-all items inside the car. It may seem silly to You, but I just love designing things, and this overland voyage to the coast and back gave me a nice opportunity to do that with my camping gear.

In fact, finding tiny ways to improve the efficiency and organization of critical items is something I seemed to be obsessed with.

This car camping setup, is just one of many projects that I have spent a bunch of time planning out and fussing over. At our restaurant, this same drive has prompted me to reconfigure and re-imagine almost every area of our kitchen, bar, dining room, back room and office too. Tiny changes here, big changes there, I love to look at a setup and play with ideas on how we can make it better. I’ve certainly been made fun of, for trying to save our staff just a couple steps, or to reduce one set of actions down to its most important core.

Over time and over now thousands of plates of food later, I know that tiny adjustments to our equipment or procedures or even a change in the direction of the swing of a door, has made a huge difference. At least I’d like to believe it has anyway.

I am delighted when I can work or in this case, drive and easily have with reach, the tools and items I need most. When our staff can concentrate on cooking your meal, instead of fiddling around looking for utensils or an ingredient, I smile. You may laugh when I tell when I tell you that I spent several minutes looking for a cinder-block to hold open a door, rather than just go in and out of it three or four times. I’d say that next time I want to unload a bunch of stuff out of the car, that cinder-block will be right there, where I can use it.

If I were leaving tomorrow for another 3700 mile highway romp with my always-ready pooch Rox, I would again make adjustments to my vehicle setup. Overall though, I love the project itself and then working with the designs and ideas to see how they perform.

If you have four minutes that you don’t care about, and are somebody who watches the mundane on YouTube, click here, I’m glad to show off the most exciting thing I’ve done all summer… Pack for a Roadtrip!

Until next week, have fun my friends designing and improving your own world, as best you can.

God Bless


Aaron Nichols

Don’t be fooled by the Glory

Don’t be fooled by the majesty of the snow-capped-in-summer Rocky Mountains. Don’t be tricked by the pastel beauty of the Arizona desert at sunset. Don’t even get deceived by the blazing blue Pacific slapping powerfully again and again, against the sandy and sunny Southern California coast.

I was looking at these wonders of creation last week, on a cross-country roadtrip, where I met my wife and daughter in San Diego. As part of my trip, I wanted to capture various thoughts and realizations that appeared along the way. I spoke words into a small battery-powered voice recorder, and one of the segments included these words. “Don’t be fooled by the colored layers of the rocks and the heights those mountains and even these eye-popping views.”

Driving almost solo, for days on end, with only Roxy along for the ride, is one of my favorite ways to unwind from the world. Seeing the American West, in its vast and untamed glory, is thrilling every time I experience it. I love to look at jagged ranges of rock and shallow valleys that provide 100 mile views all around. It was interesting to me, that I was reminded during this amazing trip, to not be fooled by these awesome spectacles of God’s handiwork.

It reminds me of one experience I had on a bus down in the Ozarks. My wife and I were loading up with a crowd of canoers to head back to camp after a day on the river. One guy in particular wanted to talk to me, he was pretty drunk, and wanted to philoso-phize about life. I was sober that day, and offered him a water or a diet sprite, I think he took it.

He was talking about how his ‘church’ was a day out in nature. He respected the mighty Oak tree and saw it as a beautiful creation. I’m not sure he meant that he worshiped the tree itself. He was adamant though, that the tree was just as worthy of his attention as anything else. He was satisfied spiritually to sit in the presence of that tree and enjoy its profound elegance.

Blasting along the highways out West, I was feeling the same way. I was sucked into the grandeur of the scenery. One divine moment happened when I was slicing through the narrow plains by Rifle, Colorado on I-70. Mountains soared to the South and the rose slightly less to the North. It was late evening, but the sun was still out. A deep purple mass of storm lay ahead. I hammered the gas pedal toward it, taking on rain and pebbly hail as the light around me faded away.

The pitch black visibility was snapped and flashed intermittently by bolts of lightning. The loud rain smacking the windshield was only quieted by the deafening crackling thunder. The rain increased until I was driving through a shallow river on the road. Obviously, I had to slow way down and ride carefully through this downpour.

In my CD player, I had inserted a disk that was a recording from one of our Westminster Presbyterian Church services. It happened to be from the July 4th weekend from the year before. The evening I’m talking about was also on July 2nd, coincidentally. Just as the storm was at it’s worst, I heard a single booming voice through my speakers… “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord”… It went on, almost a capella… I cranked the volume… “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword: His truth is marching on!”

Our pastor Ron’s voice emboldened my weakening and tired spirit! I was instantly enthused and invigorated! The Battle Hymn of the Republic restored my confidence with instant rejuvenation!

Perfect timing, perfect song, perfect moment in a tempest squall in a tight mountain canyon! There was a raging river to my right and a vertical wall to my left. It was all chaos in the darkness and hail.  With Ron’s golden voice singing God’s power though, nothing could penetrate the breastplate of my faith.

Even all this though, the perfectness of it, the power of it, could be a moment of deception. Later on, as I watched the mountains touched by the colors of a clear sunset, and all the noise had calmed down. I wanted to tell myself not to be fooled by the awesomeness of it all…

See, as amazing as all this is, and was, these are the outward, worldly and even tangible proofs of God’s mighty hand of creation. The rocks and rain and even Ron’s powerful vocal chords are just things. All things have a short life in the grand scheme. As incomprehensible as it is, to gaze upon the Grand Canyon from the Southern Rim and drive along it’s vast openness, it won’t last forever. These objects we see with our eyes and touch with our feet are not the limit of God’s creative force. These are just reminders of God’s power.

The same exact Almighty, that crafted these world wonders, can duplicate these creations within the human heart. Our inner spirit is made of the same clay and can be molded by the same divine Potter. The mountains and the valleys and the vast deserted open plains within us, can be shifted by God. Where there was desert, God can make fertile soil. Where walls of solid granite stood, God can turn them to dust. Where the ground underneath is all quicksand, unsteady and loose, God can transform it to polished marble.

All the possibility we can see with our own two eyes, gazing upon these astonishing landscapes, or the intricate lodgepole pines, or the tiny mountaintop wildflowers, are nothing, compared to the changes God can make in our own hearts. If we open the invitation to Jesus Christ, the mountains move instantly, the murky seas dry up, blooms pop where there was desert before.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that all God’s beautiful work, is expended upon the world. There is immeasurable creativity left, for You and for Me. The Lord knows how much I still need it, and this small reminder encourages my Soul. My being is forever changed with God’ transformative power at work on me. The rest will be dust in the wind, and yet the beauty of new life with God, lives on perpetually…

Until next week my friends, Be Well, and may God Bless all your travels, as He has mine.


Aaron Nichols

MacGuyver Gourmet on Vacay!

So I ‘cooked’ my wife breakfast in the bathroom sink on Monday. High on the 28th floor of this Bayfront hotel in San Diego, California, it was the only option I could think of at the time. See, we are staying at a very nice place, but without a microwave or even a mini-fridge, our food options are limited.

Sure we could buy every meal at one of the many restaurants around. Or I could have ordered her room service, like I did this morning. However with almost a week to stay here, that $30.00 plate of two eggs would have added up real quick!

Since I was out walking with little JoJo in her stroller, and we cruised to the grocery store, I bought some bagels and cheese and a package of pre-cooked frozen sausages. Back at the room, as my wife was waking up, I told her that breakfast would be ready soon. I had put the brown round pucks into a ziplock baggie and laid them in the bathroom sink. With the water on full-hot, the sausages thawed out and even warmed up. Sous-Vide MacGuyver style, Yum!

We dined on a sandwich that was quite the opposite of the setting. It was basic and cooked in the bathroom. But these are the things I will probably remember about our trip.

We are in a stunningly beautiful setting this week. San Diego has weather that is almost unbelievable. Every minute outside is perfect for tee shirt and shorts. The people are friendly, and everyone you work with says ‘Have a beautiful day!’ Ha, how could you not!

Last Saturday and Sunday, I blasted across the open West, cruising many times between 85-90mph. The roads where open and the speed limits high. I made it down here in two long days of driving from home in Princeton, Kay-Ess. I loved the scenery, the freedom and the mission, to come see my ladies, here in sunny San Diego.

Why is it that the hiccups and the snafu’s are the items that stand out to me in memory about these fun vacation experiences? Why is it that the hotel room is just as much adventure for our little Joella, as the Zoo, or the activity of Mission Beach? As people, we must be wired to forget the comfortable, the neutral, the ‘good’ moments in time. The wide grey band of dandy happenings on this trip are like a card catalog that I have to search through to remember already. The best moments seems to come from the worst circumstances, if you can call anything here ‘worst’?

I tend toward the times that we had to ‘make do’ or improvise and get creative with our plans and activities. I am curious about what it would be like to vacation with money as no object. We could get a car to take us wherever we wanted to go. We could eat out for every meal and shop till we drop at every store we saw. It would be nice to just valet an Italian sportscar, instead of picking our way through the tight parking in my dog-stinky 96 4Runner…

But really, I cannot make myself believe that without any challenges or mini-adversities that we would enjoy ourselves that much more. We did spend a day at the beach, an a couple more would be fine, but after that, what fun is there just lying around all the time? We would want to stir up some mischief somewhere, right?

As of this afternoon, I will begin my journey back to Kansas. I might leave in just a couple hours. Right now, I have no idea which direction I am taking exactly. East seems like a good bet.

Having everything perfectly planned out, isn’t my idea of fun, and so I’ll pick up the dog and maybe then decide to which highway we will start motoring back in our road-ready 250,000 mile SUV.

The return mission is just like the first. See some country, drive like the dickens, and get home safe to see my girls, any which way I can. That is the perfectly un-predictable plan, I can appreciate, even when leaving such a spectacular place like sunny Southern California.

Until next week, my friends… ‘Have a Beautiful Day!’


Aaron Nichols

They come in threes

I got three quickies for ya. Read on if you dare…


About a month ago, I replaced all the exterior door locking hardware on our house. I bought the parts from a shelf full of them. They had about the same features and design all around. Some were fancier sure, but basically they were the same. When I installed them, I had to make some adjustments so everything lined up. The little plate and the catch, needed to mate up. I studied this arrangement for the hour or so I spent messing with it.

Overall, a flat piece of metal with a hole, is held to the thin wood door frame by a couple short screws. A spring loaded metal thingy snaps into the hole and that’s it. Overall, this system is so flawed. No one who really wanted into our house would be stopped by it. Yes, I installed the deadbolts too.

But still, our most basic form home security, isn’t real secure.  And even if it were, my house has windows. That glass could be broken without much effort. My personal sense of peace, in increased when the place is locked up tight, but I’d be foolish to think no one could get in. Criminals, Cops or a well-meaning concerned neighbor could break through if they thought it was on fire.

If I want real security in my life, I’d better look to something more than a new lockset and little metal keys for well being and peace of mind. 


In the garden my plants like peppers and tomatoes are growing quite well. These little tiny sprouts I stuck in the ground have developed and expanded. If all goes well they will flower and set on fruit, as many already have. From the tiniest of seeds, these organisms contain all they need to make a colorful bounty starting mid-summer through fall.

I could take the chance that a little water and some fertilizer will do enough to make their one season  life prosperous. But I do more than that. I build strong wooden trellis frames for my tomatoes. I hang a substantial string down to their bases. They twist around and hold tight to this support. They grow right up it, in fact. The peppers too get a stout bamboo stake to stand beside. I wrap a tie around that mini-post and the plant. Their flimsy green foliage blows in just a little breeze. Strapped up they stand a fighting chance against the storms of summer.

When the storms of my life come along, what foundational support structure am I going to hold on to? What is there so much stronger than me, that no matter what I’m facing, it is more powerful yet?


I water my garden with a hose. It’s just a flimsy tube that H2O can flow through. I am an amateur plumber with little experience, but I do know this. Water flows downhill. The slightest drop in elevation and water begins to run that direction. I also know that it cannot flow uphill. It will not climb or jump or crawl it’s way any higher than from where it originated without assistance.

I was hold’n my hose, shoot’n some water on my squash-bug-infested squashie plants and something occurred to me. I was holding that sucker at waist height. Water was blasting everywhere. The hose hooks up to the hose bib on the house at knee level though, at least a foot or more lower. How can that water flow uphill, through the hose and fire out with such force? Water doesn’t run uphill…

Well, even though my green and orange 25 foot hoses connect together, then connect to the house at knee-height, that isn’t the original source of the water. Nope, that water comes through my main line, which is not higher yet, it’s probably lower. It goes from my crawl space down into the ground and out to the meter. So that water is coming uphill right??

Of course not. My water line coming to the house is fed from a central City of Princeton water tower, probably like yours is too. That tower is waaaaay up high. I could stand on my roof with my garden hose and even though I was hooked in down at the ground, it would shoot with gusto, because the tower is so tall. I will always be downhill of that beautiful blue tower, and the pressure will always be strong. Especially strong enough to water my little garden spot easily…

When I am personally plugged into a flow of life force, I think it works the same way. I may get confused and see a local connection, that I can feel and regulate with a knob. Truly though, the real power comes not from where I can see, but much higher than that. The tower I’m talking about is beyond imagination. I think the force working in our lives is endless and always abundant, but only if we understand that we aren’t personally the source. It’s way up there, and providing all we need down here.

Until next week my friends, I wish you a week of noticing the truth all around you. Showing and telling the reality of creation and sometimes, glimpses of the genius behind it…


Aaron Nichols