From San Diego to OKC

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Tomorrow will be the end of two months on the road. We are nearing 10,000 miles. During this time we have had about three sets of three days of consecutive travel. We’ve just finished third set.

Last Monday we were at Coronado Beach in San Diego. It was our kids last dip in the Pacific Ocean. We left that night and headed to Scottsdale, AZ to stay with the Millers overnight. They have been gracious to us two times now.

We left them on Wednesday, making our way to the Fort Worth, TX area. It was a two-day trip from Scottsdale. The first leg took us through Albuquerque to a little town called Moriarty. From there we landed in a town called Clarendon, which was three hours from Fort Worth.

On Friday we rolled into Benbrook, which is just outside Fort Worth, where we spent a couple of days with Richard and Lynette Driggers. It was an awesome experience; more on that in another post.

We then left Benbrook on Sunday afternoon, spent several hours at the Fort Worth Stockyards, and then drove to Oklahoma City, where Lucia’s sister and brother-in-law live. We arrived around 9PM Sunday night.

In seven days we went from San Diego to Oklahoma City, while making quite a few stops in-between. We’ll leave here on Wednesday heading to Kansas to visit with Lucia’s longtime friend and her husband, Barbi and Harty. We’ll be there for little over a week and then we’ll head to St. Louis, to Tennessee, to home.

We plan to arrive home around August 2nd, which will give us 74 consecutive days on the road. I told some friends before we left that this will be one of the dumbest things we’ve ever done as a family or one of the most blessed things.

It was the latter.

I would stay on the road another 74 days if it were possible. It was an amazing experience in every way.

The two things that I would immediately change would be (1) no three-day in a row travel days and (2) a better way to handle the podcasting equipment (having it on a rolling cart that opened up and expanded to a miniature recording lab would be fabulous.).

Our children travel amazingly well. They rarely complain and are always up for an adventure.

My job allows me to be a digital nomad, so it’s not really a hardship, plus you get to meet so many amazing Christians around the country.

(The picture above is from a place where the Driggers took us to lunch after the Sunday AM church meeting. It is called Joe Garcia’s near the Stockyards in Fort Worth.)

San Diego Zoo

IMG_2885We had a marvelous time at the zoo. I’m not up on my zoo experiences and what they should be like, but there is no question that this is the best zoo I’ve ever visited.

If world-class works for describing zoos, then this place is world-class. It was really a fantastic zoo experience.

There was a swing band. There was also a rock band. There were trampoline acrobatics. There was a “skyfari” (chairlift) across the park. (You could ride it as often as you liked for no additional charge.) That, in itself, was like a theme park ride for the kids.

They loved it.IMG_2714

There were kiosks and other small shops all over the park, where you could buy stuff.

There were scads of employees to answer questions, as well as those who cleaned up after us. It had a theme park feel to it, not a zoo feel.

There were also double-decker bus rides that provided guided tours that ran all day. Then there were other double-decker buses that took you from spot to spot throughout the park.

One more thing

They had animals too. Many of the animals I had never heard of. It was really an amazing place.

They were intuitive in how they administrated the park. It reminded me of a Mac computer, in that they did the thinking for you. It was well planned and laid out just right.

IMG_2888It was also not a big park. It was in the city of San Diego, which made it compact, though there was a ton to do, but yet laid out in such a way that it did not feel compact at all.

We arrived about the time they opened, and stayed after they closed. They had a kid’s petting zoo on the property, so we did that too.

There was also a “Sea Life” aquarium, with several tunnels in it.

You could tell they had spent time not only laying out the park, but administrating it. They also have done a good job envisioning the employees on how to take care of their guests.

Joan Embrey

The only downside is that seemingly nobody knew who Joan Embrey was. I asked several of the employees if they knew who she was, and the answer was always, “No”.

That was disappointing.

I grew up with Joan Embrey, who was a regular guest on the Johnny Carson show. She would come up from San Diego and bring an animal or two with IMG_2649her, and talk about the zoo and the animal with Johnny.

He would always make her visit funny.

Back then the world was a much smaller place, so to see the San Diego zoo through the Tonight Show was a treat.

My number one reason for going to the zoo was to see Joan Embrey. So, I started asking folks if they had heard of her and nobody knew who she was.

I was sad.

IMG_2887After several disappointing conversations, I finally found an older lady who knows Joan. The key word is “older”. She was an older lady.

That made me more discouraged.

After about an hour or two, we had made our way around the park and back to the front again, and as we were walking by a band on stage, I looked up and the sign said,

“The Joan Embrey Stage”.

Then I was really confused. She had her own stage, but the employees (the younger ones) had no idea who she was.

The new “face” of the zoo is some other guy, who has been in that role for 15 or so years, which means all the 20 somethings were little kids when Joan rode off into the sunset.

She now has her own home/ranch about 30 miles or so from the zoo, where she does her own thing in a more private setting, though you could go see her there.

That is probably more than you wanted to know about Joan Embrey, but it was important to me.

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Back to the zoo

It was really impressive. I’ve never been to a zoo and thought, “I want to come back to this place.” It was quite special.

They also have a safari park about 30 minutes away, which was about 8 minutes from where we were staying. We did not go there for a visit.

After they closed they put on a light/movie-type show that we attended. It was also IMG_2676excellent, as they had choreographed dancers that were backlit by a movie.

That was really well done too.

Ansa said it was her favorite zoo, and then she followed up with, “I don’t remember going to another one.”

One of the zoo keepers, who was working in the petting zoo, said that folks do come from around the world to look at their zoo.

I thought that was a good idea. Greenville could learn a thing or two, and it would be nice if they implemented some of their ideas.

The San Diego zoo is a non-profit, which apparently has been a good move for them as many folks have donated a lot of money, which has allowed them to have a great facility.

The NPO, plus Joan’s work through TV were two things that put this zoo on the map.

Next year they will celebrate their 100 year anniversary.

Two big thumbs up for the SD Zoo.

Legoland, CA

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The highlight of the trip for Haydn, and the main reason he wanted to come on the trip was to visit Legoland.

He, like nearly all children I suppose, loves Legos. They have captured his heart, and he’s great at building them.

Watch the kids on a one minute Legoland boat ride.

The home we’re staying at in San Diego is about 40 minutes from the park. That was nice. The traffic in San Diego is moderate, which is 10,000 times better than the traffic in LA.

Plus the weather here is borderline perfect. Seventy degrees, slight wind.IMG_2636

We arrived a few minutes before the park opened and left a few minutes after it closed. We drank every drop of the park, plus their Sea Life aquarium center.

See a short vid of the Capitol building and marching band in Washington, DC.

The park is really designed for children 10 and under. It is not Disney, but then nothing is Disney. Legoland is targeting the younger kids, though my kids had a blast being there.

The crowds were also small, which was a pleasant surprise. I talked to one of the workers, who did not know what it why the crowd was so small. He said they are usually wall-to-wall with folks.

IMG_2635Maybe because it was overcast and just after the 4th of July that things were slow. It was great for us.

Here is the shark tank video.

I asked another worker if all the Lego structures were literally Legos or poured moulds.

She said each structure was built with one Lego at a time; they were all real “life” Lego structures. Some of them had hundreds of thousands of Legos, even a million or two.

They glued them together to keep folks from tearing them apart.

The park was small, as far as theme parks go. We kept seeing the same people wherever we went. I think if we all stayed three days, we would become family.

Hollywood

IMG_2639We spent a couple of hours in and around Hollywood. We went down Rodeo Drive, Sunset Blvd, Wilshire Blvd, and up into the hills to capture a shot of the Hollywood sign.

You could not get to the sign.

It was under 24/7 video surveillance, plus there was security positioned at it to keep vandals from tearing it up.

We took this shot from Griffith Park. We could have hiked closer, but it was not worth it.

I took the children to the walk of fame. Mom and Tristen got out to see what stars they could find. They landed on Andy Griffith and Hank Williams, Sr.

It seemed to be a mile or two of stars on both sides of the sidewalk.

At ground zero for the “walk” was Grauman’s Chinese Theater, where the street at that point was a mad house. I’m not sure what they had going on, but there were 1000’s of people hanging out on the street, several of them in costumes, i.e., Spiderman.

We passed Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, which is a famous landmark. It would have been nice to go in there, but we were short on time.

The streets were slammed. All of Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Wilshire Blvd, etc. was full of IMG_2638people. We did not stay long, just long enough to see some of the main drags that you hear about in the news.

It was another area where you needed days to mill around to catch it all.

We took the kids down Rodeo Drive, where Chanel, Prada, Cartier, et. al., were selling their wares.

I did not have an extra $50K to drop on their merchandise. There were way more lookers than buyers.

Rodeo Drive was about a 45 second drive down one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world.

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Hollywood has a bittersweet interest to me. It was the place where I vicariously lived as a child.

In a world of abuse, there were no places to hide. TV became my safe haven, which made Hollywood a rescue mission for a lost kid like me.

The stars, the fame, the glitter, and the “happiness” was something I longed for. They had it all.

Then, of course, I learned better. Nevertheless, it was a haven for a kid who needed something to hang on to, even if it was a fake thread, laced with fake glitter.

USS Iowa

IMG_2554After leaving Muscle Beach, we found a hotel at the Port of Los Angeles. That provided a special and unintended blessing for us: the USS Iowa. We toured it the next day.

It has been 45 years since I’ve been on a battleship. Back in the day all North Carolina school children toured the USS NC, which is docked at Wilmington, NC.

I tried to see the Iowa through the eyes of my children since I was their age when I saw the USS NC.

It was a wow event back then, and I think it had a similar impression on our kids. It’s hard to tell sometimes because the world is so small today and video games and movies have made real life less real.IMG_2617

Nevertheless, I think they really enjoyed it.

The whole thing was sobering. The fact that the ship was designed to kill humans and that people who served on it were killed is hard to comprehend.

People giving their lives for our country is humbling.

We were able to go several flights up and one flight down. This was the ship that carried FDR to his meeting with Churchill and Stalin. They had his wheelchair in the ship, plus we toured the place where he hung out, slept, showered, etc.

IMG_2583That was cool.

There were a few movies being played throughout the ship, which was nice. They did not have that circa 1970 when I made my first pilgrimage to a battleship.

The kids got to crawl into a rack to get an idea of what it was like to sleep on a ship. It was not the easiest thing for them to do, but they did well.

You can see the strap near Tristen’s head (top bunk), which is there to keep them from falling out when the ship is tossing.

In one of the movies, a guy said he slept on the deck because it was too hot down below. A lot of them slept up top.

Muscle Beach

IMG_2526We had to take a quick detour off the PCH to find a hotel. We ended up in a town (maybe an Interstate intersection), which was about 30 miles inland. It was a place to sleep. I did a quick podcast in the hotel before we made the final leg to Los Angeles.

Our first stop was Venice Beach.

Oh my.

It was a cross between a carnival, a circus, the gym, a skateboard park, aerobics, whips, jugglers, ropes course, and there was the beach too. The kids were enthralled. IMG_2499

Tristen was figuring out how to have something like that in Greenville.

Venice Beach used to be called Muscle Beach. It is contiguous to Santa Monica. We found a good spot to park and started walking.

It was great to be there. I love people and you could not get enough of them at this place.

You can watch our Muscle Beach video at this link.

The kids spent some time on the beach. It was cold to me. It was in the sixties and the wind was blowing. We were the only people in hoodies on the beach. The regulars are IMG_2517used to it.

The upside is that it was July and we were in hoodies. That was a first for us.

Let me go ahead and state the usual: it would have been great to spend more time there. But we needed to find a hotel for the night.

Tomorrow: Hollywood.

The Master’s College

IMG_2506Somewhere between the PCH and the City of Angels, we stopped at The Master’s College, where I received my MA in counseling in 2000.

Hard to believe that it’s been 15 years.

I found a security officer to let him know we were walking around the campus. They were closed and there were very little folks there. That was nice that we had the freedom to mill around unencumbered.

We walked into a few buildings, to give the family an idea of what my college was like. It IMG_2511was also good to talk to the kids about college, living away from home, paying for school, and the benefits of an education.

They have yet to gain the “educational vision” at this point in their lives.

We made the hike to the cross, which stands behind the campus. Had to do that.

The college is owned an operated by John MacArthur’s ministry.

It sits a valley or two over IMG_2514from where Grace Community Church and The Master’s Seminary is located.

This is a fantastic school. It was one of the most transformational times of my life.

It has been one of the many means of grace the LORD has given to me, to help me.

Totally life-changing.

The P.C.H.

IMG_2386I did not necessarily leave my heart in San Francisco, though I loved it. Totally loved it, but was glad to leave. It had character. Tons of it. I saw the hilly streets. The trolley cars. The bridge, the forest, the Oracle (in Oakland), and the wharf area (Pier 39). It was really amazing.

Maybe it was because it was July 4th. Windy, cold, crowded, and oh my, was it busy. The tight streets was the last straw. I needed to breathe again. I needed a national forest.

The PCH was perfect

We chose to go down the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), which borders, for the most part, the Pacific Ocean all the way down to Los Angeles.

Let’s just say it was stunning. We saw…

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Lucia Lodge in the background

Lucia. A community that had a lodge overlooking the sea. There may have been 20 residents in the area, though I did not see any of them.

There were probably 200 tourist, if that many. They did have Lucia hats, T-shirts, and stickers. We bought all their Lucia stuff.

Elephant seals in San Simeon. They were scores of them. (See pic below.) This was nearly across the highway from the Hearst Castle.

You can watch a short Elephant Seal video at this link.

It was closed, which was okay. We’ve seen Biltmore in Ashville a dozen times. Hearst has nothing on Vanderbilt. Both of them are sad places. As Johnny Cash says, “My monument to dirt.”

Stunning coastline. At every turn, up every mountain, around every bend, on every flat area, it was all beautiful. The sun, the ocean, the mountains, the majestic spaces. God did well.

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Elephant Seals in San Simeon

Spouting whales. There was a section where we saw several herds of whales making their way somewhere. They were off in the distance, but discernible. We saw several groups along a several mile stretch.

Carmel by the Sea. This was one of the oddest towns. Clint Eastwood was one of their former mayors. They have a law where you can’t wear high heels. The town does not want to be sued if someone falls. There are also no numbers on any of the houses. You get directions by describing the home, not by address numbers.

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Santa Lucia in Carmel by the Sea

And the beaches were amazing. They also had a Santa Lucia street. (We took a picture.) The homes were amazing too, small and well done. This is a tempting town to live in.

We went through Monterrey and Pebble Beach too.

It would have been great to take the PCH over a two or three-day trip. But, I’m saying this about every place we visit. There is never enough time to git’er done.

We live in an amazing country.

 

The Giant Redwoods

IMG_1513Muir Woods Forest is called a national monument, not a national forest, though it is a forest. Teddy Roosevelt made that happen, and I don’t remember all the details. It is north of the Golden Gate Bridge, and about five hours south of the Redwood National Forest, which has taller trees.

The trees in Muir average about 240 feet in height, while the ones five hours north are about 100 feet taller. Nevertheless, these trees were tall enough.

They are in a valley, and you cannot see them until you’re in the forest. It is so odd. You IMG_1461come right up on the forest, but can’t see the trees. There are so many hills and other trees, plus the fog, that the giant redwoods are hidden.

They grow in a hidden environment. They drink from the creeks, the rain, and the fog–about 500 hundred gallons of water (though questionable) a day. They also have a shallow root system, but the roots grow outward, not deep. Therefore, they connect to each other and support each other, which is part of why they can withstand the elements.

It’s rare for one to fall. They live for hundreds of years.

IMG_2343The forest had the feel of entering into a “forest home”. It was small, tight, hidden by a canopy, and super dense. They had boardwalks everywhere, but w/o them it would be hard to navigate. It really was like walking into a forest home community where only wildlife and vegetation live. There was no elbow room, so to speak.

It was also beautiful. The height of the trees were hard to fathom. When everything is so tall, you can’t compare it to anything. We spent a lot of time like we were walking in Manhattan: we were looking up, staring at the giant redwoods.

The kids filled out their ranger books so they could earn their Junior Ranger badges. They were excited about that. They said the pledge and got their badges. That was nice.

We spent several hours in the forest. Unlike the Redwood Forest up north, you could walk IMG_1482this one. (The Redwood Forest you can drive.) We walked a lot, but it was not arduous at all. Quite satisfying, actually.

Because of the tightness (compactness) of everything, they did not have a lot of parking. We ended up parking about 3/4 of a mile on the side of a road. There was a ton of foot traffic making their way to the park.

The park reminded me of San Francisco in a way: it was small and tightly woven together. It does not take you long to get anywhere in San Francisco, though this weekend was probably one of the worst, with it being the fourth of July.

San Francisco

IMG_1631San Francisco is an intimidating town. We have spent the past six weeks in the forest and deserts of America, and then all of a sudden we’re coming up on Oakland and SF back to back, connected by bridges.

I’ve been dodging bison and elk for four weeks. Now I’m darting in an out of traffic in a city full of fog, narrow streets, and rollercoaster hills. Though the city is about six miles wide, it is tight and not easy to navigate.

It reminded me of Lima, Peru, in a way. Add a few trolleys and hills, and it’s about the same.

We found a place on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge, which put us out of SF IMG_2341proper, though it was quite tight and busy there too.

It also put us only a few miles from the Muir Wood Forest National Park, which is called a National Monument. Teddy Roosevelt got the trees passed as monuments instead of a park.

We were 20 minutes from Muir Woods and 15 minutes from Alcatraz, Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Golden Gate Bridge. It was the perfect spot.

We settled in around 9 PM on Thursday night, after about five hours of driving from Fresno. We slept in on Friday, which has become a normal course of action for us, and then spent IMG_2351nearly the entire day in Muir Woods Forest.

Later in the day we trekked back to the Golden Gate, but it was not in time to beat the fog. It came rolling in from the north and had most of the bridge covered by the time we got there. It was also windy and blustering cold.

We had our hoodies on, while trying to gain a good foothold from the wind, as we sought out the scenic viewpoints for the bridge. It was more of an ordeal than worth it, but we gave it a shot anyway.

We then went down to the Fisherman’s Wharf to walk around and eat. Zillions of people, all over the place. It was a far cry from where we had been up to this point.

Nevertheless, I loved the city. It had character at every turn, as well as history, It was oozing with his, old and new.

There were every kind of mode of travel known to man: bikes, walkers, runners, roller bladers, rickshaws, cars, trolleys, and miniature go-kart type things. These folks know how to get around, and they all work well together.

It was really a beautiful town, and like all the other places we’ve been, there is never enough time to see it all. This entire trip has been like skipping a rock across a pond: we’ve hit a few spots, but never stayed long enough in any one place to fully benefit from it.