Category Archives: Family

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.

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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!

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Battleship USS Iowa

IMG_4161Last weekend, we were pleased to meet up with a friend from New Zealand, Phil Rickerby.  Phil attends our church back home, and he had spent the previous month back-packing around Canada, before spending a week in California.  We invited Phil to spend the weekend with us, so we drove down to LA to pick him up.  Before we headed back home, we went to San Pedro to tour around the USS Iowa battleship.

 

IMG_4129The USS Iowa, known as the “Battleship of Presidents,” since it has hosted more US presidents than any other battleship, including Roosevelt, Reagan and George H. W. Bush, opened as a museum in July, 2012.  The tour on the battleship is essentially self-guided, which takes approximately 90 minutes.  While the museum is still being completed, there are several guides stationed around the battleship to answer any questions, and an interesting gift store.  Of particular interest is the bathtub that was installed specifically for President Roosevelt.

IMG_4206Built in 1940, the USS Iowa saw four decades of action through World War 2, the Korean War and the Cold War.  In 1989, an explosion occurred in the Number Two 16-inch gun turret during a firing exercise, in which 47 crew members were killed and over a dozen injured.  This proved to blight, an otherwise impeccable record of the battleship during it’s time in action. After finally being  decommissioned in 1990, the battleship was used as a training vessel, until it’s arrival in the Port of Los Angeles.

Yosemite

IMG_2781Every year, a family at Placerita Baptist Church runs a ministry, whereby they organize a camping trip to Yosemite National Park.   They have been running this ministry for a number of years, so much so, that Yosemite has become their “home away from home,” and now their trip has become incredibly popular.  As a result, it is often difficult to get a spot as places fill up fast. However, we were blessed to be able to go this year.

IMG_3937After four days in Lake Tahoe, we headed south and drove to Yosemite National Park.  We took the east entrance to the park via the Tioga pass, and this proved to be a bit of a masterstroke (completely by accident, of course), as we were able to view a large portion of the park as we made our way to the Yosemite Valley.  The road was slow, but easy, and incredibly spectacular.  We were hoping to see some wildlife whilst at Yosemite, and things seemed to get off to a good start as within minutes of entering the park, we had to stop the car as a deer ambled across the road right in front of us.

IMG_3978While at Yosemite, we stayed at Housekeeping Camp, situated in the Yosemite valley and beside the very scenic Merced River.  Who would have thought it, but there was also a nearby beach on the river, where the children, and parents for that matter, could go swimming.  The cabins were constructed from concrete, where three of the walls were solid concrete and the fourth ‘wall’ was a thick curtain.  A wooden fence enclosed the front of the cabin, thus creating a front porch area – perfect for outdoor dining and entertaining.  In separate building were the restrooms and showers.  Yes, we were indeed camping!  At Housekeeping, we also had amazing views of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls, right on our doorstep.  It was truly amazing to wake up to a further display of God’s amazing power as evidenced in His creation.

IMG_2871By staying in the Yosemite Valley, we were able to explore some of the incredible sights that Yosemite had to offer.  For the next few days, we hiked, cycled and shuttled throughout the spectacular Yosemite Valley, viewing the incredible mountains, the plunging waterfalls and serene meadows.  We also explored the other camps in the valley and their respective gift stores.  We had a great time at Yosemite, and sharing the experience with members of our church made it much better.  We spent each evening gathered around a campfire, getting to know others better and participating in great fellowship.  We are thankful for the time spent here.

Lake Tahoe

We were home for a week after arriving back from Arizona, before embarking on another journey.  This time, we headed for Northern California. First stop was the Sequoia National Park en route to Lake Tahoe.

IMG_3718The Sequoia National Park comprises of over 600 square miles of forest, scenic meadows and mountain peaks.  But the real attraction for us, was to see some of the largest trees in the world, specifically, the giant sequoia tree which are apparently unique to California and Oregon.

???????????????????????????????The jewel in the Sequoia National Forest is the ‘General Sherman,’ widely regarded as the tallest living tree at present.  Standing an impressive 275 feet (84 meters), General Sherman also boasts a trunk diameter of 36 feet (11 meters).  Comparatively, in New Zealand, we have giant kauri trees, our largest and most well-known native tree. The kauri are mainly found in the subtropical northern part of the North Island, of which the largest of them is known as ‘Tane Mahuta,” (translated from Maori as “lord of the forest”).  Tane Mahuta stands at over 168 feet (over 51 meters), with a trunk diameter of over 45 feet (14 metrers).

IMG_3814After a couple of hours in the Sequoia National Park (I know, a couple of hours in the park just doesn’t do it justice), we headed north for Lake Tahoe.  Along the eastern side of central California, is the Nevada Sierra mountain range.  Densely forested and featuring  rugged, impressive mountains, the ‘High Sierras’ contain some of the most popular destinations in the U.S, of which, Lake Tahoe is one.

IMG_3750We were blessed to be given the use of a cabin for a few nights by a neighbor.  The cabin was situated on the Truckee river, which runs along the northwest side of Lake Tahoe.  At over 6,000 feet above sea level, Lake Tahoe is beautiful body of water, surrounded by pine trees, and is the highest lake of it’s size in the U.S.  Tahoe is a very popular tourist destination and past events such as the 1960 winter olympics has increased it’s popularity as a resort.

One of the key attractions for Denise was the actual Ponderosa Ranch.  Situated near the northeast shore of the lake, where portions of the TV show, ‘Bonanza‘ was filmed.  Sadly, the ranch was bought by a local property developer in 2004 and was subsequently closed to the public.  A high fence now conceals most of the ranch, so we couldn’t take clear shots of the famous Cartwright house.

Ponderosa

 

Film Crew on the set of Bonanza at Ponderosa Ranch, Tahoe in the early 1960’s.

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The closest shot we could get of Ponderosa Ranch. The Cartwright family home is mostly obscured by the trees.

 

 

IMG_3834Other highlights of our few days in Tahoe was the impressive view overlooking Emerald Bay and the gondola at Heavenly village.  We also took a day out to visit Virginia City – a historic gold mining town in Nevada, which was initially prosperous in the 1860’s.  Much of Virginia City has been carefully preserved, so when you visit, you literally feel as though you are stepping back in time.  With over 100 historic buildings, complete with the furnishings of the time and the original  boardwalks, the town bustles with activity.  We took a tour through an actual old gold mine that is accessed in the back of the Ponderosa Saloon.

The Grand Canyon

It has been an amazing trip through the Arizona desert.  We took a day out from our time in Sedona, to make the two-hour drive northwest to the Grand Canyon.

IMG_3582Vast.  Perhaps the best way to describe the Grand Canyon.  Like most things, pictures do not and cannot do the Grand Canyon justice.  Standing at the edge of the rim, you are immediately struck by the sheer immensity and magnificence of it.  The creative power of God in full display.

Arguably, Arizona’s premier and most distinguishable landmark, next to Sedona, the Grand Canyon is a stunning 277 miles long, and more than a mile deep.  The Colorado River snaking in a southwest direction on the canyon floor.

IMG_2548There are two main entrances from which to view the Grand Canyon: the South Rim and the North Rim.  We entered the Canyon via the South Rim, and from Mather Point, essentially because of it’s proximity to the Grand Canyon Village and the visitor center.

IMG_2543Starting from Mather Point, we walked the well-marked trail along the rim, parts were fenced, and other sections, astonishingly, were not.  In fact, it was quite frightening how close you could get to the steep walls that descended all the way down to the canyon floor, and even more frightening to see some visitors virtually dangle themselves over the edge.  On one occasion,  we had to walk the kids away from the edge for fear of a person disappearing over the side due to two overly daring visitors.

IMG_3586Free bus shuttles regularly ran back and forth between the visitor center and certain points along the South Rim.  This made getting around the Canyon much easier and also meant that a lot of walking was not  necessary.  A final stop at the Grand Canyon Village to browse through the souvenirs completed our time at the National Park, and in the doing so, another ‘bucket list’ item was checked off.

IMG_3595On the drive home, we grabbed some lunch at Cracker Barrel, an southern-themed restaurant and gift store chain that is not in California, but one that our American friends often raved about.  We now know why – lunch was great and the store was both captivating and interesting.

Sedona

IMG_2541In the middle of the Arizona desert is a truly spectacular oasis, comprising of stunning canyons and amazing red rock formations.  To reach Sedona after leaving the Hoover Dam involved eight hours of driving, but the scenery was worth it once we arrived.  Sedona is an astonishingly breathtaking place, where the landscape is absolutely incredible.  Words simply cannot describe how amazing Sedona is.

img_1435The town itself is quite vibrant, where many of the stores are art-orientated, but is also very much focussed on tourism.  There is much to see here and do in Sedona, whereby the town offers a fantastic blend of interesting stores to browse through, while also catering for the visitor that is more responsive to outdoor activities, such as hiking, jeep tours, and mountain biking.

Much of the town looks fairly recent (the town was incorporated in 1988), and has been constructed in such a manner, that the buildings complement their landscape.

IMG_3561One morning, we drove 20 miles to the small town of Jerome, a ghost town perched 5000 feet up on a hill and which looks out over the Verde Valley. Once a historic copper mining town, Jerome is now a tourist and artist community, with a small population.  Sections of the town was destroyed by fire in the late 1890’s, but many were rebuilt shortly after.  These buildings, which are now over a hundred years old, are still there and have not changed much since.

Cathedral_RockThe afternoon was spent at Oak Creek Canyon, a stunning 16-mile gorge, containing streams, waterfalls and waterholes, where we could enjoy the water (however, beware the slippery rocks as you cross parts of the creek to the swimming area), and the red rocks scenery.  Along the creek and within the canyon, there are many campgrounds, picnic areas and other natural features, such as sliding rocks, that ensure a fun day out.

The Hoover Dam

IMG_3537After a very busy semester for us all, we eagerly anticipated some time off this summer as a family, and also looked forward to Denise’s parents visiting us from New Zealand for six weeks.  We decided to take this opportunity to view some of the country, and hit the road.

IMG_3522The first road trip saw us drive to Las Vegas, then to Sedona in Arizona, and back to Los Angeles.  A mere 1500 mile round-trip, which if it was at all possible, would be like driving from Wellington to Sydney and beyond.  We only covered parts of three states (California, Nevada, and Arizona), but it was enough to get a sense of the absolute vastness of this country.

After a whistle stop in Las Vegas for one night, whereby we were accompanied with the Burling family, we headed Southeast toward Sedona, stopping off just 35 miles along the way to see the very impressive Hoover Dam.

IMG_3525The Hoover Dam is a massive structure that forms part of the border between the states of Nevada and Arizona, and sits upon the Colorado river.  Built in the 1930’s, the Hoover Dam is considered to be the largest dam in the world, providing much of the power and water to the Southwest of the United States, which is largely an arid desert climate.  We soon discovered exactly how dry it was as we drove through it!

For $US11, we parked the car, and spent hours walking across the dam, further gaining an appreciation of it’s immensity and size, as well as being able to view the spectacular highway bridge that stretches across the Colorado river.