The Salt Shaker ~ September 2020

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.  Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.”  Psalm 95:1-2 NIV

Hello to our family, friends, and followers:

Praises – God’s assistance in removing splinters; safe travels and the beautiful country we live in; God is always in the details and cares about the little things!

Prayers – Awning material to arrive soon; travels to Arizona; winter RV parking where God wants us to be; cabin remodel to come together in next two weeks.

We’ll start our September update remembering what it was like on the 9th.  We woke to darkness and ash falling like snow.  By noon it was “twilight” but with dark, red skies.  At 3:30 pm it was like dusk with lots of ash on the ground and a heavy smoke smell.  By evening Connie captured the feel of the day as being like an overnight stay in a Walmart parking lot under the lights – everything is a bit tinted and off in color.  John had attended the evacuation procedure meeting but thankfully we were not included in the evacuation area; we found out later that once the order is issued you must leave in your vehicle without your trailer because of the road width and possibility of meeting fire engines coming in.  It was a very strange day, someone compared it to a 24-hour day in Alaska!

Although we kept busy with 125 volunteer hours, progress seems slow on the cabin remodeling!  Connie removed carpet pad, staples and nails from the bath/bedroom area, sweeping and finding those missed as she went.  The old shower was removed as well as lots of pipe from the crawl space and the old walls.  John rebuilt new ones to accommodate a separate larger shower and smaller bathroom space.  PEX plumbing was researched, materials purchased, and the plumbing started with a central manifold panel and shut-offs for each line.  An opening and wider entry was made in the kitchen, and lots of sweeping!

We continued with Sunday online church services, sometimes two, and it is so good to “see” our church families!  Not quite the same as physically being there, especially in the fall with abundant produce from the gardeners; here we have post office produce!  One Sunday morning we hiked up to “mushroom rock” with our phones (for pictures and making calls).  This is a well-worn 1940’s path that used to go by Indian Rock (a metal sculpture that is no longer there) as well as the grist mill (curved bowl shapes in the rocks where Indians ground grain).  We listened to 3 songs from our phone, heard “I’ll Fly Away” from YWAM worship, and made calls to our families.  We thought the air was fairly clear during our hike but proceeded to get quite smoky by afternoon.  Our Sunday in Oregon we attended an outdoor service with a great worship team and message, even though it was cold and damp. 

As we worked and walked around, we continued to see our animal friends.  We had hummingbirds at our feeder the morning after hanging it up, much to our surprise with the heat.  The deer eventually were identified with a 4-point buck leading his harem of mama’s and almost grown babies; 7 total.  There is a partridge family of 6-8, they scurry around so fast and come down the road towards the cabin we are at.  Also a few turkeys (11 now that travel together) and have grown a lot, almost ready for Thanksgiving!  Not animal friends, but (perhaps) only in California will you see isle robot sweepers, donut peaches, and key cars! 

We make our walk to get “sweet” water for drinking every day or two.  It is so good and refreshing, and doesn’t have a taste or smell like some water does.  As we see it coming from the “mountain” it presented a thought to ponder:  God created everything including an amount of water that changes form and is recycled and filtered naturally so, is this water some of the original creation?  We introduced our nursing home ministry friend Larry to the mineral water and the “sweet” water during his visit with us this month.  We manage to cross paths in our travels every few years and it was wonderful to have him stay alongside us for a few days.

Part of our time this month was spent in preparing three ½ hour concerts for the SOWER “Western Woundup” Reunion held every two years at Aldersgate in Turner, Oregon.  Connie worked most of the month preparing a knit half-pi shawl for the silent auction, and finished it just in time for our travels.  We spent one day driving north, mostly on I-5, passing a few areas where the fires had crossed over the interstate.  On arrival we had helping hands to get our instruments into our “handicapped” lodge room, saved for us because it had the most floor space along with a small refrigerator and microwave.  Our concerts went well, and it was great to be in music ministry again.  We were also able to show our instruments to a young man who retrieved his grandfather’s guitar from a closet.  John worked with him putting on new strings and showing him some chords to start with, we’re sure this was a divine appointment!  We played a few games, hiked around the grounds, experienced real rain, and enjoyed the cool weather.  This is a beautiful place to “retreat” and step back.

After the Reunion ended, we took an afternoon trip to Silver Falls where we hiked some trails in the rain.  It is a beautiful state park, created in the 1930’s with WPA (Works Projects Administration, skilled men) and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps).  This is considered a temperate “rain forest” with 80” of rain annually producing lush green trees, some covered with thick moss.  Our last stop led us on a downhill hike to North falls (136 feet) where we were able to walk behind the falls, something Connie can cross off her bucket list.  Of course, whomever goes down must come back up the trails and multiple steps to get back to the van.  We then took a 15-mile detour to stop at the Gordon House, a Frank Lloyd Wright home designed when he was 89 in 1957.  We saw the road sign on our way to the park and opted to make the extra drive even though we were a bit chilly, damp, and hungry.  With fall in the air and leaves on the ground, it was worth it!

We took the scenic route home for a mini-vacation, hoping to get a glimpse of Mount Hood.  It was cloudy and rainy, but the drive was beautiful despite the weather.  Our first night was spent in Bend, Oregon at a not-so-great hotel with pool and hot tub; exactly as it sounds, very hot water (which was great) and non-working jets.  Day two was visiting Crater Lake where we purchased our senior lifetime National Parks pass at the north entrance.  We intended to do this back in February but all the parks and sights closed down from COVID.  It was a beautiful, although scary sometimes, drive along the west rim with lots of stops at viewing areas.  We had sunshine to help since it was very windy and cold.  We left on Highway 62, a wonderful downhill scenic drive through the forest along Annie Creek that eventually turned to rolling hills where recent fires had come through, seemingly parting around individual homes.  Our motel in Klamath Falls was wonderful and quiet with a country feel that provided a wonderful night’s sleep.  Day three took us through more Indian territory (no public access to any roads leading off the highway) and through Warm Springs, Oregon which had no public restrooms (water shortages according to the signs).  We finally found the pit toilets just outside of town at the Duschambre River landing, along with panhandlers, one of whom asked us to pray for her father Richard Crooked Arm, dealing with depression from COVID restrictions.  We drove through some fairly desolate buttes and most of the way around Mount Shasta; wonderful scenery making you think of old Westerns and Montana “big sky” country.  We made a stop for a few groceries in Red Bluff, CA and headed for home – how wonderful to sleep in your own bed after 9 days!

Last, but certainly not least, our repairs update.  Fresh water tank spigot(s) have been purchased but we have not made the time to complete the repair.  Kitchen faucet is operating fine without the handle, but will need to be replaced sometime.  Trailer brakes have been a costly repair, only 2 of 4 were working with metal/metal (no pads).  Everything is new now as well as lug nuts and John was able to watch and learn for future maintenance.  Awning repair is in the works, a used arm was located for pieces and the fabric has been ordered.  The way things are going, and as a final attempt to keep us from the reunion perhaps, our water filter canister sprang a leak.  We found water on the floor, thought it was something else, and realized about bed time the filter canister was leaking.  Off went the outside water Thursday night.  (Keep in mind we have no fresh water storage with a leaky spigot even if our water pump worked.)  John was able to bypass the filter by connecting the pipes together on Friday afternoon so we could shower and prepare to travel.  Early Saturday morning there was no water again (thankfully no puddles on the floor) and Connie thought she heard something around 5 am.  On getting up we found the brass fitting for the water hose to the trailer had snapped leaving the hose on the ground with a huge puddle of water under the trailer.  Off again went the outside water, and we packed and left.  (We purchased the part needed at a RV dealer in Salem, Oregon and John made the repair the day we returned!)

This whole year of travel was planned around the SOWER Reunion in Oregon.  As Christians we know Satan is always trying to stop us from accomplishing God’s working in and through us, and this year has been a test of faith and trust for us.  We will say it is getting better but still not easy to understand “why us” in the midst of trials – but why not us?  Our faith and trust have definitely grown, and we have confirmation from our projects as well as our music ministry that God is using us, in the midst of our struggles!  To God be the glory.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith . . .”  1 Peter 5:7-9a (NIV)

Thanks for traveling with us!
We so appreciate your prayers and notes of encouragement!!

John and Connie Nicholas, Salty Strings Music Ministry

Contact Information:      Mail:  John & Connie Nicholas ~ Salty Strings Music Ministry,
3916 N. Potsdam Ave. #3962, Sioux Falls, SD  57104

Phone – John 909-336-8910 or Connie 909-336-8912      Email –
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  • October 26-30 – Traveling to Eloy, AZ with a possible “layover” in Indio, CA
  • October 30-November 25 – Youth Haven Desert Ranch, Eloy, AZ (south-central)
  • December-January-February – Time off?  Destination(s) undetermined