Category Archives: Vacation

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.

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.


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.



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




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.


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.