Drew, Liz, Rachel, Bekah, Marvel, Molly, Nathan, Alex

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Adventures in Spring Break

Who drives over a thousand miles to Colorado for spring break because of Focus on the Family?

Taylor University’s Adventures in Odyssey Club (AIOC), that’s who.

Colorado Springs, Colo., is the headquarters of the children’s radio drama “Adventures in Odyssey” (AIO), a long-running Focus on the Family production set in the fictional town of Odyssey.

On today’s Christian college campuses, it isn’t hard to find people who grew up listening to “Adventures in Odyssey.” Some of us, however, have continued listening to and loving the show even as we’ve moved beyond the target age range.

I interned with “Adventures in Odyssey” two summers ago, and, shortly afterward, started the AIOC. Since then, it’s been my dream to visit Colorado Springs with the club.

Last week, that dream came true.

On Friday afternoon, hours after spring break had officially started, eight of us crammed into a car and a minivan with an overload of snacks and suitcases and began our two-day road trip to the mountains.

We made a few wrong turns in Indianapolis and St. Louis, we found Kansas to be very long, and we were very sleep-deprived by the time we got there. But, even then, it was worth it.

All of the voice recording for “Adventures in Odyssey” is done in southern California, but there are still plenty of things for the well-connected AIO fan to do in Colorado Springs.

We visited the real Whit’s End (based on an ice cream shop/discovery emporium that is the cornerstone of the show), slid down the 3-story slide and sampled the ice cream. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

On our first day, Nathan Hoobler, one of the AIO writers, took all of us rock climbing at the Garden of the Gods. Our mission: to scramble up some shallow rocks to a sandstone ledge, then climb 90 feet up the route known as Cowboy’s Boot Crack.

Some of us were hesitant at first, but, in the end, we all put on the special climbing shoes, attached the rope to our harness, and made a go of it. Most of us made it all the way up, and have the pictures to prove it.

Later in the week, we met Dave Arnold and Paul McCusker, the main movers and shakers behind AIO. They have been with the show almost since its inception more than 20 years ago. Theirs were the names we grew up hearing in the episode credits.

On our behind-the-scenes AIO tour, we saw the Foley Room where all the sound effects are made. More goes into the post-production of an audio drama than meets the ear. For example, the Foley Room contains many shoes that are used to create the sound of footsteps, and each of the main characters has his or her own pair.

Some of us sat in on a Foley session. The sound designers used those shoes and other props to record the sound effects for an upcoming episode.

While we had more opportunities to interact with the Odyssey team than typical tourists, we agreed that the best parts of the trip transcended “Adventures in Odyssey.”

“To me, the most special thing about this group is how comfortable we all were together,” said sophomore Drew Neuenschwander. “I've been on several other spring break trips during which I've grown close to my team members over the course of a week, but when you go on a trip with friends you've known since you were a fall freshman, you're able to access a layer of depth and unity that can't possibly be reached with someone you've only known for a few months.”

“This was the best spring break I've ever had,” said sophomore Molly Anderson. “Most spring break trips consist of large groups of people, but with ... eight friends, we all got to know each other much better over the week.”

The Whit’s End in Odyssey is known as “a place of adventure and discovery … where kids, of all ages, can just be kids.”

We found that the same was true of the Whit’s End in Colorado Springs, not to mention everywhere else we went.

When we weren’t hobnobbing with celebrities, we were playing tag in the Focus on the Family parking lot, or having pillow fights, or jamming to music in the car, or watching movies together in our host family’s theater room.

“Overall, it was a great experience with wonderful memories, and I will not forget the camaraderie and fun times we shared,” said senior Rachel Steiner.

“This trip has helped us bond even beyond spring break week,” said freshman Alex Mellen. “[Now that we’re] back at Taylor, we try to see each other more often and carry on conversations we started in Colorado. Spring break deepened friendships, and we don't want that to be for nothing.”

-Liz Goldsmith

(posted in The Echo, 4/1/11)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sunday Adventure pt. 1

Yesterday, we visited Garden of the Gods, a national landmark just outside Colorado Springs. The sandstorm rocks there have been weathered into unusual and occasionally impossible-looking formations. (In other words, the picture on this blog's banner has not been photoshopped.) The unusual red rocks with the towering Rockies behind was spectacular.

We met Nathan Hoobler, producer for Adventures in Odyssey, there to do a little rock climbing. Nathan is an avid rock climber and took us to an outcropping that was easy enough for us to climb, but still an intense challenge.

Before we could climb, Nathan climbed up the rock face to insert an anchor for us. When he got back down, Marvel volunteered to go first. Drew followed him, then Molly, Liz, me, Rachel, Bekah, and Nathan. In the meantime, Nathan Hoobler set up a second rope some feet left of the first climb. This was a harder course, but Drew, Molly, and Nathan made it look easy.

The most important part of rock climbing is the belayer. This person held the rope that fed up to the top of the rock and was tied to the climber's harness. Nathan and Marvel did this for us.

Climbing real rock is a lot harder than climbing a man-made wall. Handholds and footholds aren't set up at regular intervals, and they may be camouflaged on the rock face. I often had to stop and look for a bump in the rock large enough to put my weight on or jutting out enough to grab on to.

We talked about trust a lot while climbing. Nathan Hoobler brought his climbing shoes, which had grippy rubber soles. When Marvel came back down, his first piece of advice was "trust the shoes." They could let you get a grip where you couldn't in tennis shoes.

We also had to trust the belayer and the rope he was holding. When I slipped and began sliding down the rock, I didn't go very far because Nathan was holding the other end of the rope. When I had climbed as far as I could (which wasn't quite to the top but oh well), to go back down I had to lean back away from the rock and walk backwards. I slipped a lot of times doing that. But I reached the bottom safely, and I really enjoyed the experience.

After climbing, we hiked other parts of Garden of the Gods, but I'll leave those adventures for someone else to post. :) Pictures also to follow.

--Alex aka Mitch

Sunday, March 20, 2011

We are here!

So, after about two days on the road, we arrived in Colorado last night.

...Oh wait, I bet you're wondering, "Who are you, and why is this important?"

Well, let's start with who we are. We are a group of students from Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. We come from all over the country but we all love the radio show Adventures in Odyssey (AIO), and we call our group the Adventures in Odyssey Club (AIOC). Current members include Drew, Bekah, Rachel, Liz (our wonderful club President), Marvel, Molly, Alex, and me, Nathan. There are also a few members who were unable to come: Will, Emily, and Becky.

Now, why should you care? Well, that's really up to you. We decided to come out here to beautiful Colorado (my home state) to visit Focus on the Family and sightsee during our spring break. This is where we can all meet and journal and let anyone who reads this know of the adventures we have here. You might actually get more than one perspective on the same events. But that's the fun part. You can see and read the different perspectives and get a bigger picture of what is happening.

So, soon we will have more posts up and you all can enjoy them at your leisure.

Loving being back home, and wishing you all well,