A Sad Farewell, A New Beginning

IMG_5010As 2014 draws to a close, we are caused to reflect back on the previous six months in particular, which has been an emotional roller-coaster for our family, but also where we have experienced the Lord’s blessing and provision in ways we could never have imagined when the year began.

1543750_10203597102626754_483870467_nLeaving the United States, where we spent a little over three years, was a tough time for our family.  We left behind fantastic friends and a tight church family, where we were privileged to serve and fellowship for most of our time there. We take with us many memories and experiences that we will treasure for the rest of our lives, but whilst we have left our friends physically, parts of our hearts have remained with them in Southern California.

randsburgAfter finishing seminary in August, the packing up and selling of all our possessions began in earnest, as we raced to meet a deadline to get a shipping container loaded and sent ahead of us.  After that, we were keen for some vacation time.  Concurrent to this, the candidating process with NZ churches began, to see what the Lord may have in store for us back home.

IMG_5982During our last few weeks in California, we were graciously offered accommodation with the Longs, a dear family from our church family at PBC.
We are very grateful to Paul and Karen for their generous and kind hospitality, and really enjoyed a few weeks with them in their home.  After a final Sunday morning of worship and fellowship at PBC, we spent a final few hours with our closet friends in the afternoon, before flying back to New Zealand.

IMG_4706The arrival back home engendered a mix of emotions – the sadness of leaving behind our close friends in the States, but also relief to finally be back in New Zealand – the land of cooler weather, but fantastically fresh food and really good fish n’ chips and chocolate.  There was also the added bonus of being reunited with family and seeing our church family at Heretaunga Christian Center.  We are very grateful for our families and for those at Heretaunga, who not only embraced us warmly, and also provided us with accommodation and gifts which enabled us to survive the next couple of months as Mark continued the candidating process at a couple of churches.  As we look back on this period, we remained astounded at God’s constant goodness and kindness toward us.  We are greatly humbled and thankful to Him, Who has never failed us, Who is constantly faithful to us, and Who promises to supply all of our needs.

New-PlymouthThe final blessing that we experienced this year came in the form of Mark receiving a call to be pastor of New Plymouth Bible Chapel starting in the New Year.  So after two months based in Wellington, our family moved once again to New Plymouth.  Another move, another farewell to family and friends, but a new beginning.  We cannot begin to describe the immense blessings that God has lavished upon us over the past four years, but we are very excited to begin serving God’s people in New Plymouth and to lead them to growth in Christ and worship of the great God that we serve.


Randsburg, CA

randsburgThis past weekend we took a drive out into the middle of the Mojave desert with our good friends, Dan and Julie Hovey, to visit a living ghost town called Randsburg.  The town is off the beaten path, about 2 1/2 hour drive north of LA, and just off the historic 395 highway.  It sits between Death Valley and the bottom end of the Sierra Nevada.  In fact, Randsburg is one of the few living ghost towns that still remains in California, and not surprisingly, the town is less busy during the week, where it resembles an actual ghost town, but is more lively during the weekends.

IMG_5874Randsburg was established in 1895 when gold was discovered in the surrounding mountains, by three men: John Singleton, Charlie Burcham, and F. M. Mooers,  and even today, it still bears some of the buildings that were built in to the late 1890’s.  One of the oldest buildings in Randsburg is the Post office which was built in 1896.

IMG_5901Since the town is in the middle of the desert, Randsburg is more preferrable in the Fall when the weather cools off, than it is in the heat of the summer months.  It is it is popular for historians interested in the gold history of California, as well as being a common destination point for off-road vehicles and dirt bikes.  In fact the Navy Seals do some training there in order to become acclimated to real desert conditions in the event of a deployment.

IMG_5875The Randsburg General Store, which has been running continuously since 1896, is a good place to meet, to have a meal and to wash down your burger with an old-fashioned phosphate soda. The General Store is known for its long counter and stools, which are all original to 1904, and which is also the same year that the soda fountain arrived.  The main street, called Butte Avenue, also features a real western saloon, which is still active today, a couple small inns, a museum and several antique stores.


The Karate Kid (1984) Filming Locations, Part 2

Yesterday, we took the morning to visit a couple more filming locations of the classic 1984 movie, The Karate Kid.  You can find Part 1 of  our visits here.

In the previous post, I mentioned that there was actually two separate filming locations for the Cobra Kai dojo.  In Part 1, I discussed one location, and yesterday we visited the second dojo location, which is found in the center of LA.

IMG_5852This is the corner of Wilshire Blvd which was the dojo, opposite to where Daniel and his mother were having a meal.  This is how it looks today (unfortunately, and going from memory, I did not get quite the right angle – Gah!).


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This is the same corner of Wiltshire Blvd as it appears in the movie.





In the movie, the restaurant in which they were eating was called, “The Orient Express,” and this is what is looks like today.  It is now called “Express Restaurant and Club.”




We found the Golf n’ Stuff in Norwalk, LA.  Amazingly, much of it is still intact, including the mini-putt golf and bumper boats.  Here is a shot of the car park area today.


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Here is how the same car park looked in the movie. The glaring difference is the removal of the water slide since. You can just make out the electricity tower to the right


This is the main entrance today.  This arcade is now closed on weekdays, so we could not go in and see what it looks like inside.



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Here is how it appeared in the movie.



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And again in a later scene.







Even the main sign at the front of the park is still there.




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This is a glimpse of the same sign in the movie.



Tahoe Revisited

IMG_5754Last week, we returned to Lake Tahoe in Northern California.  We were there last year when Denise’s parents visited last summer, but going to Tahoe is like Mecca for Denise, since she is such a huge fan of the TV show, Bonanza, and because Tahoe was the fictional setting for the show.  Bonanza aside, Tahoe is a beautiful place to visit, and was once again made possible due to the generosity of our good friends and next-door neighbors in our apartment building.

IMG_5763For this trip, we were accompanied by one of the youth group leaders at Placerita Baptist Church, Amanda Hovey, who has been instrumental in discipling, and loving on both Victoria and Maddy during our time here.  We are very thankful for Amanda and were blessed to have her join us for the week, and for us to get to know her a little better.  It sure made the week more fun!  Amanda did ultimately triumph as Yahtzee champ, with a phenomenal score of 626, but I am sure we will get a chance to seek revenge!

IMG_4485On the first full day in Tahoe, we went back to Virginia City, which is a favorite of ours to visit.  On this return trip, we wanted to do the Stage Coach ride, but this was closed for the season, so we did one of the trolley tours instead.  This was particularly informational, and gave us a better understanding of the history of the town, as well as introducing us to some of the historic buildings we missed last time.  As a bonus, we saw several groups of wild horses grazing on the outskirts of the town.

IMG_4537Throughout the rest week, we mostly relaxed, and hiked around the parts of the lake that we had not managed to see in our previous visit.  A day spent at Round Hill Pines Beach at Zephyr Cove, which is on the south-eastern side of the lake was a highlight.  A popular resort for weddings and other gatherings, Round Hill Pines beach is a beautiful, golden beach, that had good amenities and facilities. Complete with a tiki-bar, it had that sense of a real resort.  The beach itself consisted more of very small IMG_5756pebbles rather than sand, so it wasn’t conducive for making sandcastles, but it also meant that you didn’t carry home half of the beach’s sand in your gear and blankets. The water was not quite as cold as we expected, and was wonderfully clean and very clear.  Although it has now been outlawed, we were allowed to do some crabbing on the rocks along the small jetty, with the proviso that we returned all that we caught.  We managed to catch a couple dozen crawdads, which are essentially fresh-water crayfish.  The kids loved this and really got into it!

IMG_5833Two further highlights of the week, were the mile-long hike down to the Vikingsholm castle at Emerald Bay, as well as introducing Amanda to a little more NZ culture.  For this, we made damper over the grill.  Often the main food for bushmen, hunters and campers who spent days, or even weeks in remote bush, the damper turned out great, and we had fun cooking it.  A visit to the historic town of Truckee rounded out a fun week, despite the fact that we failed in another attempt to spot a bear.

The Karate Kid (1984) Filming Locations, Part 1

Now that school is finished, we have the opportunity to do some fun things, as well as take a much-needed vacation.  In the next couple of weeks, we will be spending a week in Tahoe, and another week traveling up to Seattle.  That should be a fun trip, but it is a very long drive.

Yesterday, we took a day out, to travel around LA to find some of the sites that were used in the classic 1984 movie, The Karate Kid, starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita.  We managed to get around most of the locations, but not all, as LA is a big city, and it takes hours of driving, not to mention battling a lot of traffic. We will save the other locations for another time.  However, it was amazing that many of the locations in the movie, even after thirty years, have been virtually frozen in  time.  I have taken some stills from the movie, so you can see.

The first stop was the South Seas Apartments in Reseda.  We have already commented on the apartment building here, which was the home of the LaRusso’s in the movie, but it was neat to go back there and revisit this awesome location.




This is the South Seas Apartments today.



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This is how the front of the apartment building appeared in the movie.






This is the inside of the building today, as you enter the front gate.  The pool looks a lot better than it did in the movie!  The LaRusso’s apartment (# 20) is up the far stairs, and in the far left-hand corner.



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Here is a shot of the building interior as it was in the movie, where Daniel and Freddy are walking along the pool heading up to his apartment.






Outside Apartment 20.




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Apartment 20 as it appeared in the movie.





As you walk out the side gate of the building, you enter the car parking spaces. This is the side gate today, looking back toward the building.


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This is the side gate as it appeared in the movie.  Miyagi’s workshop was constructed for the movie, filling the parking space directly to the left of the side gate (see above).


IMG_5713To find the beach scenes, we traveled to Leo Carillo State Beach in Malibu. This is the part of the beach today, where the the game of the soccer was played, where Daniel and his friends had a cook-out, and where Daniel took his first beating at the hands of the Cobra Kai.

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This is the same corner of the beach as it appeared in the movie.



Directly overlooking this section of the beach, is where Johnny and the rest of the Cobra Kai’s were riding their motorcycles, pausing in front of the #2 lifeguard tower.  Here is the tower today.


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Here is a shot of that same lifeguard tower, which is clearly seen in the movie.



This is the path, as it looks today, that Johnny and the Cobra Kai’s rode their bikes down, and onto the beach.  The overlooking lifeguard tower can be seen on the left.


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This is the scene in the movie. Notice the lifeguard tower on the left.



We found the school that was used in the movie in Woodland Hills, CA.  It was previously a Junior High School, and was derelict for a time, but now is being used.  Here is how the part of the school looks today


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This is how the same covered walkway as it appeared in the movie.






The school plague that is seen in the movie today.



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The same plague that was clearly seen in the movie.





To find Ali’s house, we had to travel to Encino, a very exclusive and nice part of LA.  Here is Ali’s house today.  Still frozen in time!


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This is the same house as it appeared in the movie.



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Not much has changed with the house, and even the column of bricks that Daniel kicked over as he nervously spoke to Ali’s parents…






is still there.





In the filming of the movie, two Cobra Kai dojos’s were used.  Here is one.  This is the location
 where Daniel and Miyagi went to confront Kreese.  Here is the exterior of the building today.


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Here is the same building as it appeared in the movie.





Posing as a mild-mannered potential customer, I managed to get inside the dojo, which is being used as dojo / fitness center.  This is what is looks like today.


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This is the inside of the dojo as it appeared in the movie.



Stay tuned for the second installment of The Karate Kid Filming Locations.

Four States in Six Days

A few weeks ago, the girls went on a road trip with the Burling family.   The trip started out with a long drive to Tombstone, Arizona, where we spent our time in a small town filled with gift shops, gunfight shows, old buildings, and even a “theme park” name Helldorado where you could play some games such as mini golf, pan for gold, watch a gunfight reenactment and even just enjoy the atmosphere. Being a western fan, Denise has always loved the idea of visiting Tombstone.


After staying there for a night, we continued on to El Paso, Texas. Since we have come all this way to California, we decided we might as well visit Texas! El Paso is a small border town on the edge of Texas, only a few miles from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. We stayed just one night in El Paso, but drove up on a Scenic Route to view most of El Paso, and see some of Mexico. It was cold and foggy that day, but we still managed to get a good view of what was surrounding us. We couldn’t help but take a look at Historic Downtown El Paso. It had a very different feel, but what was familiar, was seeing a Starbucks right across from the parking lot.


On our way to Roswell, New Mexico, the following day, we encountered some difficulty. Just 60 miles from El Paso we were stopped at the Border Control. After a short while, everything was cleared up and we were continuing our journey to Roswell. We stayed two nights in Roswell and saw alot of ‘aliens’. Our friends we travelled with a very much into aliens, so they really wanted to visit Roswell. While we were there we visited the UFO Museum which was rather informative. To top that off we proceeded to Area 51- Alien Zone, where for a couple of dollars per person, we could take some photos with latex aliens all set up with different displays. Surprisingly, that was a ton of fun.


On our last leg of the journey, we spent a night in Williams, Arizona, just to break up the remainder of the trip. In Williams, we explored the small town which was mainly stocked with native Indian souvenirs.


IMG_1241Overall we had an awesome trip, but it was very tiring as we travelled over 2000 miles. We enjoyed getting to see the country more before we head back home to New Zealand.

Universal Studios Hollywood

IMG_5384Today, Denise and I got a chance to go to Universal Studios Hollywood with the EF group, and accompanied by our very good friend, Georg Hoglo.  Since we enjoy movies, and are quite familiar with the movies produced through Universal, we looked forward for a fun day out.  Doing Universal Studios also marks the last of the major theme parks in Southern California that we have visited, after Disneyland, Six Flags Magic Mountain, and Knotts Berry Farm.  Since there are no amusement parks of note in New Zealand (sorry Kiwi’s, Rainbow’s End does not count), it has been a fantastic opportunity to experience these awesome parks over the last three years.

IMG_5527Situated near central LA in North Hollywood, Universal Studios began life as a bunch of movie studios situated on a 230-acre piece of land.  In 1915, owner Carl Laemmle opened the studios to the public, as a way of making a few extra dollars.  For an admission charge of 25 cents, people could come in, sit on the hillside and watch movies being filmed.  Over time, Universal Studios has grown, and continues to grow in order to accommodate the popularity of the park, while still operating as a working movie studio.

The first thing we did after arriving was the very popular Studio Tour.
This tour is essentially an hour-long tour on an open tram, whereby IMG_5513visitors are driven through working backlots of real Hollywood movie studios, as well as seeing some sets from a few of the more well-known movies, such as Jaws, War of the Worlds, and Psycho.  Recently added to this tour is a fantastic 360 3-D attraction, whereby you experience some of the heart-pounding action from Peter Jackson’s King Kong movie up-close and personal.

Throughout the day, we made our way throughout the entire park, and managed to get on most of the rides, and attractions, including the very entertaining live IMG_5538WaterWorld show. Based on the movie starring Kevin Costner, WaterWorld contained lots of action, stunts, jet-ski tricks and a bunch of pyrotechnics, during the 20-minute show.  We really enjoyed this, and especially seeing all the public sitting in the “Soak Section,” get absolutely drenched. Although, we too got soaked on the Jurassic Park ride.

IMG_5540The weather was almost perfect for walking around a theme park, in that is was cloudy for some of the day, yet still a very comfortable 85-90 degrees (26-29 degrees Celsius).  Towards the end of the day, we took a walk through Citywalk, which is an area just outside the main gates, and which contains dozens of stores, places to eat, and a seven-story IMAX theater complex and concert venue. We had a great day out and what better way to end the day, than with a Double Chili Cheeseburger from Tommy’s. We are really going to  miss LA. We have had an absolute blast.


Men’s Fishing Charter

IMG_5343This weekend, the men at Placerita Baptist Church chartered a fishing boat, and Mark was blessed to be able to go along on the trip, thanks to the generosity of one of the men at the church.  It was welcome respite from the studying, reading and writing seminary papers.

IMG_5371The day started early, since the boat was leaving from Newport Landing, which is based, as you can imagine, at Newport Beach, CA.  Newport is truly a seaside oasis in Southern California, with beautiful beaches, amazing houses, a 3 mile long boardwalk, lots of things to see and do, and the most perfect weather.  However, since Newport Beach is one and a half hours drive from Santa Clarita, coupled with the unpredictability of the LA freeways, an early start was necessary.

IMG_5304There was about 30 in the party, and all met up and gathered at Newport Landing to get the necessary equipment, such as rods, tackle, and a California fishing license.  From there, we boarded the Aggressor, and headed out, right on 7AM.  Immediately the crew had the grill going, so most men had breakfast burritos to fuel a day of hauling in tons of fish.  Well, that was the hope anyway.

IMG_5316We headed out for about an hour and a half, to somewhere, at a guess, between Catalina Island and the mainland.  But along the way, we stopped by a barge to pick up live bait.  Once anchored, we were in a fairly shallow part of the water, about 150 feet, but it didn’t take long before we were catching a lot of sculpin.  I had never heard of them, but they are essentially a bottom-dweller fish.  The sculpin weren’t huge, and we only kept the ones that were at least 10 inches long.  The biggest one caught was about 3-4 pounds.

IMG_5335After some time there, and grilled burgers for lunch, we set off again for some deeper water and on the search for Bass.  We had a neat encounter with a big pod of dolphins, who had decided to swim toward us and then swim both alongside and under the boat.  We anchored again and fished for some Sea Bass, which we managed to get, along with some Mackerel, Barracuda, and an odd colored fish called Sheephead.  This time, more fish were chucked back than was kept.

The crew filleted the fish for us as we traveled back to the landing.  It was a long but really fun day, so we traveled back home tired, sunburnt and eager to get the freshly-caught fish on the pan.

Halfway House Cafe

IMG_5273One of the fascinating things about living in Los Angeles, is that everything around you, and everything that you see, has potentially featured in a movie, TV show, or commercial at some stage.  Such was the case, when we saw a small, and seemingly innocuous-looking cafe while driving to a friends house on the Sierra Highway.  Standing on it’s own, we thought that the cafe looked a nice place to have breakfast.  So last weekend, we did just that, and headed out to it.

spacecowboysAs it turns out, the Halfway House Cafe, a classic American diner, is one of those locations that has featured in movies, TV shows and commercials, and it has plenty of interesting memorabilia hanging from the walls to prove it.  To list a few, the Halfway House cafe has featured in movies such as Space Cowboys, Life, Heartbreak Ridge, and Georgia Rule, and appeared in TV shows such as Criminal Minds, Heroes, Monk, The A-Team, The Fugitive, Sons of Anarchy, and Starsky & Hutch.  It was also the location of a Pepsi commercial, featuring Cindy Crawford.

halfway_cafeIn the early 1900’s, the cafe was initially a trading post, and as its name suggests, it was the half-way point between Los Angeles and Palmdale (Palmdale is approximately 60 miles north of LA).

Today, the cafe still has that western saloon feel about it, especially with that classic American counter that I really like. The menu contained the usual fare that is found at any classic American diner, but still worth the visit.


The LA Dodgers

Last weekend, we were given tickets to watch a baseball game at Dodgers Stadium to see the LA Dodgers take on the San Francisco Giants.  We have already been to two previous Dodgers games, but this clash had a particular bite to it since it represented a rivalry with the Giants, stretching back to the 188o’s.  Historically, the Giants have it over the Dodgers head-to-head, but as the saying goes, the next game is all that matters.

IMG_5154Dodger Stadium is an iconic stadium, located in an adjacent neighborhood to central Los Angeles, which holds close to 60,000 people, making it the largest stadium in the Major League.  Built in the early 1960’s, it is also one of the oldest MLB stadiums.


Upon entering the stadium, you are immediately confronted with the various fast-food and merchandise stands, where all items on sale are expensive.  One of the more famous items is the “Dodger Dog,” which is essentially a regular hotdog served in an aluminum foil wrapper, to which you can add whatever condiments you wish, such as onions, relish, ketchup and mustard from a self-serve station.  Once seated, we could purchase other things to eat from the various vendors who wander the stands, but at drastically increased prices.  Needless to say, we stuck to just the Dodger Dog, and some coffee.

dodgersThe atmosphere at the game was fun.  The announcer indicated the start of the game by declaring, “It’s time for Dodger baseball!” just before the players ran out onto the field. The crowd appeared very knowledgable about the game and passionate about their team, with the majority of the fans decked out in their team colors, which made the stands look like a sea of blue and white – the colors of the LA Dodgers.

Throughout the game, there were snippets of entertainment and subtle promotion, as well as the chance to spy the odd celebrity.  Well, it is LA after all!  At the middle of the seventh innings, there occurs what is called the “seventh innings stretch” whereby the game comes to a temporary halt, the entire crowd rise to their feet and sings an old song, called “Take me out to the Ballgame.”

As to the final score that night?  Well, since we have adopted the local LA sports teams as our own, such as the Dodgers, the Clippers and the Kings, it doesn’t really matter what the score was, but we had a great time anyway!