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.

dodger-dogs

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!

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.

IMG_3790

 

 

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.