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.

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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.

Knott’s Berry Farm

IMG_2955With Maddy’s birthday this week and Victoria’s recent 15th birthday, Denise and I planned to surprise the girls with a trip to Knott’s Berry Farm to celebrate their respective birthdays.  So, yesterday morning, we woke the girls up relatively early and informed them we were going out for “a walk.”  A  short while later, and after a quick stop at Macca’s for some breakfast, we embarked on the one hour drive south to Orange County.  Our destination was still unbeknownst to the girls.

IMG_3041Once we pulled into the park, the game was up and huge smiles adorned the girls faces.  We actually couldn’t have picked a more perfect day, as being a school day, the lines were short, almost all the rides were open, and the weather was typically beautiful.

IMG_3025The park, based in Buena Park, California, started in humble circumstances in the 1930’s.  Walter and Cordelia Knott began selling fried chicken and such was the popularity, people used to line up outside their door.  Wanting to entertain the waiting customers, Walter built old-west themed attractions.  From there the park expanded to where it now has over 165 rides and attractions.

IMG_3023We really had a great time.  It seemed less hectic that other parks, there were more rest areas and there was a greater variety of attractions.  The park is essentially divided into six differently themed areas spread over approximately 150 acres, which is all very comfortably walkable.  The rides we enjoyed the most were the Ghost-Rider, the Xcelerator, the Silver Bullet and the Stagecoach ride.  But just walking around the Old-west themed attractions was equally fun.  The day ended in fantastic fashion, where in the open-air Wagon-camp theater, we watched the live Western stunt show.  This was my personal favorite part of the day, and one which we all enjoyed immensely.

IMG_3058We are thankful that we could celebrate the birthday’s of our girls at Knott’s Berry Farm.  They are precious to us and a much welcomed gift from God.  They are growing fast, and continue to be a blessing to us.
May God continue to bless our daughters richly.

 

Vasquez Rocks

IMG_2732When it comes to visiting movie locations in Southern California, there is perhaps no site that has appeared in more movies than the Vasquez Rocks.  Famous for featuring in such classic TV shows such as Bonanza and Star Trek, as well as many movies, we have keen to visit this site for quite some time.  In the weekend, we took an afternoon out to visit this well-known park.

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The most recognizable rock today.

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The same location as seen in a Star Trek episode from 1967.

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Another shot of the same rock.

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The same location as seen in the 1997 movie “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.”

 

IMG_2799Located just twenty minutes from our house, the Vasquez Rocks Park, which was amazingly accessible and easy to get around,  made for a great family outing.  Whether you wanted a gentle hike around the fascinating rock formations, or a more challenging workout by climbing the natural structures, there is something for everyone in this scenic area.

IMG_2787We were eager to climb the rocks, many of which jutted out of the earth at a forty-five degree angle.  Once we got to the top of the most famous rock, we were afforded beautiful views around the park and beyond.  Definitely one of our favorites places to visit.

Malibu Getaway

Malibu is one of our favorite spots in California.  It is a strip of 21 miles of prime Pacific coastline at the top end of the Santa Monica Bay, which is known for it’s ocean scenery, beautiful beaches, not to mention being home to many of the Hollywood movie stars and personalities.

Last weekend, Denise and I were blessed to spend a few days in Malibu, which was made possible by a family who generously let out their guest house to seminary couples.  This allowed us to escape to the beach for a few days, to relax and have some uninterrupted time together.  Naturally, I took my school work with the best intentions of getting a lot of work done, especially at this end of the semester, but once we arrived, my study was pushed aside for the sake of spending some quality time with Denise.

We grabbed some lunch at the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe, then spent the rest of the afternoon walking a few miles along the beautiful coastline.  Paradise Cove is a great spot to spend the day, which explains why the location has been featured in many movies, TV shows and commercials.  After a restful afternoon, we indulged in a little reminder of home by having fish and chips for dinner at Malibu Seafood.  Actually, the fish and chips weren’t bad and were definitely the best we have had in the U.S. thus far.

The next day, Denise and I went for a bike ride (guided by our kind host) along the very scenic Westward Beach Road which runs at the base of sea cliffs. At the end of the road, we parked our bikes, hiked up Point Dume and took in the wonderful views which were afforded to us.  On the way home, we stopped by Zuma Canyon Orchids, where we were kindly given a guided tour of the property and the operation by owner George Vasquez, who is essentially the ‘supplier to the stars’.  George mentioned that we had just missed Janes Leeves, to which I quipped that George should call her up and tell her she left some plants behind in an attempt to get her to come back. We also saw pots owned by Maria Shriver, the Beckhams, the Ramsays and many others who had ordered orchids from George.

The orchids were beautiful and even though the people who worked with the orchids were obviously very talented in orchid arrangement, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the creative genius of our awesome God, by which, much like the scenery along the coast, His glory really is being constantly displayed in His creation.

Denise and I are very grateful to have spent a few restful days in Malibu, courtesy of the generosity of the Ryan family.  We highly recommend this experince to every seminary couple and are already planning to go again some time in the new year.

Orientation 2012

This week was orientation week at The Master’s Seminary and I was greatly humbled earlier this year when the seminary asked me, along with eleven of my fellow students, to be an orientation leader for the seventy incoming students who start this Fall.

As much as possible, and as early as possible, the orientation leaders committed themselves to welcoming the incoming students (not forgetting their wives and families) and assisting them, in any way possible, with their shift to Southern California.  This often meant, physically moving furniture, unloading trucks and generally answering any questions about the seminary or life in Los Angeles.  Once all of my guys were settled into their new homes, I combined with another group and hosted them all for a BBQ meal.  It was a great chance to get all the men together and for them to meet each other before Orientation.  The friendships formed in these early days are very important as they will all go through seminary together and even beyond.

This year, orientation was a little different.  A lot of the usual events occurred, such as the lunches, the campus tour, the dreaded English grammar and bible proficiency exams and the dessert evening, but a change to the preaching program this Fall meant that the seminary slotted the ‘Fundamentals of Preaching’ class into the orientation.  What a thrill for the new students to come to orientation and spend three hours each morning listening and learning from two of the foremost preachers going around today: Dr. John MacArthur and Dr. Steve Lawson.  Man, how I would have loved that at my orientation last Fall!  Here is the first session on the first morning which was presented by Dr. John MacArthur (I even spotted myself in the video!).

To serve as an orientation leader over the past few months has been a wonderful experience as well as enabling me to meet more of the men that God has sent to the seminary in preparation for ministry.  It is fascinating and quite astounding, how each man has a remarkably different background and story as to how they came to the seminary, yet the evidence of the providence of God working in the background in each of their lives is very familier.

I am grateful for each of these men and looking to further developing my friendship with each one as the semester progresses.

Venice Beach

Denise and the girls are travelling to Lake Tahoe tomorrow, so we decided to take a family afternoon out at the beach.  We had not yet been to the famous Venice Beach, which is only a forty-five minute drive from our house, so after church, we headed there.

Venice Beach is famous for many reasons. One such reason is the bodybuilding era of the early 1970’s where people such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and many other famous bodybuilders used to regularly work out at the area known as ‘Muscle Beach Venice’.

We arrived at Venice beach but once we saw the twenty-five dollar charge to park near the beach, we decided a walk would be nice, so we drove a few miles away from the beach until we found a free park on the side of the road.  This took some time as Venice beach is obviously a popular place to spend Sunday afternoon as there were cars and people everywhere.  Almost every possible parking space was taken and many more were trying to find a space to park.

After grabbing some lunch at the beach and taking in some outdoor basketball, we walked a few miles up and down the Ocean Front Walk, which was interesting.  The atmosphere was definitely carnival-like and packed with a broad variety of stores, street performers, artists and musicians.  While the experience was interesting, there were some elements along the promenade that made my girls a little uncomfortable.  One such element was the existence of several ‘clinics’ where you could legally buy marijuana for medicinal purposes.  From what I could understand, you would visit one of the clinics, pay a fee to get a consultation with one of the Venice Beach marijuana doctors in order to get approval to buy some marijuana as treatment for whatever ailment or chronic condition you might have.  Like I said, some of what we saw was interesting.

After taking in the sights along the Ocean Front Walk, we spent some time on the beach before heading home.