Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sabbatical 2010

Better late than never, here is our blog entry for our Sabbatical trip last summer. Warning, this is a long blog entry.

2010 Sabbatical Blog

June 21st. Wildfire Safari. We saw cheetahs, lions, a bald eagle, the stone-gray back of a hippo submerged in water, bear cubs at play, a giraffe eating leaves off a tree. Alexis liked tigers. Brandon liked monkeys. Lester liked the cheetahs and bears. The monkeys were loud, and one was swinging from branch/pole to branch/pole.

We saw sun! Summer was finally here. Drove a windy freeway to Marge’s house. Baby Andy is 8-1/2 months old, and so cute! Such eyelashes. Jake is 3-1/2 years old. Also cute. Ashley was there working in the cornfields for the summer. Lots of corn jokes!

June 22nd. Marge took us to the California State Train Museum. We kept taking the wrong exit, but we finally made it! Alexis liked walking through the trains, especially the dining cars. There was different china for each train line. Lester liked the golden spike and the history. Brandon liked the trains, especially the mail train. Liz liked talking to Marge and looking at the retro toy trains.

We went to Old Sacramento, and saw old shops and the western-style boardwalk. We went into an old saloon that was very dark where you can munch on peanuts and order a large mug of sarsaparilla for 25 cents. Like Marge said, it’s like cream soda without the sugar and vanilla that makes it cream soda. Liz and Marge didn’t like it. Dad, Brandon, and Alexis liked it.

June 23rd. We said good-bye to Marge and the gang and the corn and went to Yosemite. On our way into the park, Daddy saw a bear. We hiked the Cook’s Meadow near the visitor’s center for a spectacular view of Half Dome Rock. Lots of mosquitoes. A nice couple from Pennsylvania let us use their mosquito repellent. We saw a ranger in the meadow assessing the health of the meadow. It was hot and sunny, about 88 degrees. In the visitor’s center, we saw rocks, including one over 100 million years old!

We hiked to lower Yosemite Falls. It was wet and cold and breezy from the mist. Huge granite boulders made great climbers. There was a lot of loud, pounding water.

We thought that we were staying in the park at a lodge, but turned out to be a place just outside the park on the loud, rushing Merced River. We ate pizza there, seriously the best light flaky crust that almost melted in your mouth.

June 24rd. Hiked to Mirror Lake. The kids made walking sticks and threw rocks. Lester and Alexis hiked Bridal Veil Falls. Alexis said it was “awesome,” but that she “didn’t get wet enough.” On the way out, we stopped at a fascinating viewpoint; it looked just like a picture.

That night we got to Carmel/Monterey. It was foggy and gray, but pretty. We went on 17-Mile Drive, but we had to pay $9.50! We saw the Ghost Tree, the Lone Cypress, Pebble Beach Golf Course where the U.S. Open had been held the week before. We also saw cypress trees, its leaves frozen into stiffness by the wind. It must have been 20 degrees cooler there! We saw beautiful homes, including one for sale for $11 million. It was over 7,000 square feet!

June 25th. We went to Point Lobos State Reserve and walked Cypress Grove overlooking the ocean. The moss was rusty from the sea spray. Note to self: Never wear flip-flops when hiking in Cypress Grove. We could seriously shred our feet on those barnacle-covered rocks. Visited China Beach, with beautiful white, Caribbean-style sand. There was lots of kelp (“kelp city” a la Alexis). Clear turquoise water. Almost looked tropical, but was Oregon-Coast cold. Alexis loved the beach and got all wet. We hiked near Bird Island and ate lunch.
We drove down the windy California coast. Beautiful! Clouds were brushing the tops of the hills, golden-orange wildflowers, blue ocean. We got slightly carsick. We stopped by a beach full of elephant seals. They were plopped on the beach, flipping sand on themselves. One was lugging himself toward the water. It was cold and windy but so cute!

We drove into Santa Barbara--loved the mission-style architecture of all the buildings, even an office-supply store and Old Navy! We drove forever looking for a restaurant. We found a Mexican place on the harbor with adequate Mexican food and slow service. Overall, we weren’t impressed with Santa Barbara.

June 26th. We visited the Reagan Presidential Library. We saw Air Force One, a replica of the White House (Alexis’s favorite!). We saw the suit Reagan wore when he was shot, a piece of the Berlin Wall, a replica of Ronald Reagan’s Oval Office (Daddy’s favorite!), and Reagan’s gravesite. We ate at The Hat, famous for pastrami sandwiches.
We visited G&G Dimit’s gravesite and checked into our hotel. It was called the Aloft. It was a new, super-modern place that only cost $50/night on Priceline.com. We went to Northwoods Inn for dinner, a fun, wood-panelled place where you can eat peanuts and throw the shells on the floor. Alexis especially loved that! We all loved their red-cabbage salad, house salad, cheese bread, and steak. The waiter was excellent with a sense of humor. He gave us a paper bag of peanuts for Alexis to make a mess of!

When we got back to the hotel, there was a party in the hotel lobby with loud music. Alexis started dancing around and Brandon stood there plugging his ears. So typical!

June 30th. On the 27th, we visited Pat and Dick in passing. We ate at Philippe’s in downtown L.A., home of the French-dip sandwich. We drove south to San Diego and straight into “June gloom,” a thick marine layer over the area. It was in the 60s.

We stayed at the Hyatt near the San Diego Temple, which was encased in scaffolding. On Monday, we went to LEGOland; it was a lower level than Disneyland, but still fun to see all the stuff that you can make with LEGOs, especially Miniland USA, major cities replicated in LEGO. Alexis liked one of the roller coasters the best. Brandon says he doesn’t know. Daddy liked the roller coasters the best.
June 29th. SeaWorld! The Journey to Atlantis was Alexis’ favorite. It is a wet roller coaster ride with a big splashy drop and some twists and turns. Mommy protected herself with Alexis’ raincoat. We also rode the Shipwreck Rapids. We got so wet at the end of Atlantis the second time, we went to these “people dryers,” but it wouldn’t take our money so we squished our way to the car. Brandon said he doesn’t know what his favorite part was. Mommy liked Atlantis and Cirque de la Mer. It was gray, except for a few minutes during one of the shows--enough to get burned. Daddy liked the Shamu show. We also saw a pet show, a dolphin/acrobat house, and Daddy went to a Sea Lions Live show while the kids and Mommy played at the Sesame Street playground.
June 30th. We left San Diego this morning, when it, of course, was sunny! Now we’re almost to Phoenix to spend a few days with Grandma Espinosa. We’ve passed near the Mexican border, and saw what looked like a new brown fence snaking over the sand dunes like a desert Great Wall of China. It’s much hotter here, well over 100 degrees, I’m sure. Stay tuned!

It was 114 degrees! We visited with Great-grandma Hoogendoorn, who is 90! She’s a little deaf, but still going strong with walking, bridge, her wigs, an her hundreds of movies!

July 1st. The kids played at a pool with slides, and Alexis went off the low diving board...only her second time! Bubba had fun with his floaties in the shallow water. Then Mom saw Eclipse with Steph and had Greek food with her and Di...stuffed peppers with a hint of mint..it was actually good! Daddy fixed the sprinkler system for Grandma Espinosa.

July 2nd. We went swimming with Grandma E., and Mommy and Daddy got fried. Mommy took the kids to the library while Daddy hauled junk the dump for Grandma E. Mom and Dad went out for so-so Mexican food, while Grandma E. took the kids to see “How to Tame Your Dragon” and ate dessert first (a waffle cone).

July 3rd. We went to a Fourth of July breakfast at Grandma’s church where we participated in a wheelbarrow race and musical chairs where they drew numbers for candy prizes. Mommy won twice, Grandma E. and Brandon each one once. Crazy! Alexis and Brandon participated in a Jell-O eating contest (Alexis was messier than Brandon). :-)
We went to Julie’s where the kids went swimming. We saw the whole family: Shawna and the kids, Ian and Slade (Slide, a la Alexis), Will, Danny, sporting a curly new ‘do, Julie and Amy. We went to Vito’s, a brassy Italian eatery for Grandma’s 90th birthday dinner. Grandma was surprised to see us all! Alexis saw her little cousin, “Slade,” and said, “Slide! Slide!” Brandon said to GGH, “In 10 more years, you’ll be 100!”

July 4th. We went to church with Grandma E. The Spirit was very strong. Grandma E is a happy new member. We went to Julie’s for a BBQ and birthday dinner. There was a cake for Shawna, Grandma H., and me. Among the three of us, we have 170 years of living between us! :-) Then Lester and Grandma and the kids went to the fireworks while Mom took a break.
July 5th. We said good-bye to Grandma E. this morning, spent about an hour searching for Great-grandpa Hoogendoorn’s grave site; turns out we were in the wrong cemetery! :-), but we finally found it. We then drove up to the Grand Canyon. Here are a few highlights:

1- We took a shuttle to Bright Angel and took a hike down the trail into the canyon. It was a rocky, switchback trail with mule droppings. Alexis and Daddy went ahead to the first resthouse (a 3-mile round trip), while Bubba and I trudged our way back up. We got a Butterfingers milkshake and water and waited for the other half of our family.

2- We also heard a ranger talk on the endangered California condors, and an actual condor flew overhead! Pretty amazing since there are only 184 in the world!

3- The Grand Canyon at sunset. The canyon seemed almost smoky in the dusk while the thin, pale strata gleamed in the rosy afterglow. Beautiful!
July 6th. We took the rim tour of the Grand Canyon and saw the Colorado River moving where there are rapids--an 8 out of 10 the sign said. Amazing!

We went to stay with the Masons in Albuquerque. As we were coming in, we saw lots of red cliffs and it reminded me of St. George. And finally, Mommy had another state! But she has a few more to go before she catches up with Daddy.

The Masons are expecting twins! (Boys, we found out later.) On Wednesday, we went swimming at a new rec center. Bubba went down the big water slide, a first! He is quite fearless in the water. Alexis, Nani, and Kale’a ran around like the Three Musketeers at the pool.

We also walked around the temple. Kale’a and Brandon were holding hands. So cute! That night, we went out for ribs and trudged through the sand and scrub to see their property. It was super windy, and Mahina says when they bring people to see it, it’s always windy! It was almost chilly.

We let the kids sleep in the family room, and they were up past eleven on all three nights! Bubba was thrilled to learn that they were Star Wars fans and could engage in light-saber duels.

September 26th. We’ve been home from our trip for two months, so I’m going to go from memory here. On Thursday, I think it was, we took the girls and Brandon to see Toy Story 3. Very cute! That night we played Power Grid with Mitch and Mahina while the kids watched a movie in the family room. Fun game, good times.

The next morning we said good-bye to the Masons and headed for Four Corners. We drove through some of the most remote and desolate country in the U.S.--part of the Navajo Indian Reservation. There is no direct route to get to Four Corners, so you have to really want to get there to see it. This, despite the fact that Mitch told us that the actual Four Corners is on somebody’s property. Too bad that it was closed!

I really wanted some “authentic” Navajo jewelry, so we went to this “trading post” in northern Arizona to use their scary bathroom and buy some jewelry. I got some turquoise earrings that are so authentic that they broke. But I can get them fixed.

The weather got cloudy and a bit darker as we crossed the border into Utah. We passed through Bluff, a small town that truly was well-named, with high sandstone cliffs all around. We continued to drive through some more amazing red rock country with fantastic formations before arriving in Moab, Utah, gateway to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. We holed up at a Super 8, and got some of the best Mexican food of our trip.

The next morning, we headed for Arches, a small national park with the most amazing sandstone arches! We were so excited, keeping our eyes out for the arches. Again, we saw the spires and arches and weather-worn red rocks. We hiked to a viewpoint and saw Delicate Arch from a distance. It is a three-mile hike, so we viewed it from afar. However, we did stop and hike up do Double Arch, which is two stone arches of red rock streaked with a darker color, bold against the blue sky. It felt like we were on another planet, almost.

We met Brian Bridge, Daddy’s missionary companion and friend, at the visitor’s center. We said good-bye to Daddy so he could explore more of the park with Brian and headed down I-70 toward Richfield. There are 100 miles of no roadside service, but it was beautiful and desolate. Mommy managed to take out a construction cone, and knocked out a fog light, which Daddy was able to put back together. :-)

We were so excited to finally reach St. George, where we spent time with family. Unfortunately, Grandma Leavitt died on Tues., 7/13/10; she was 89 years old. The next morning, we got a call that Daddy’s sister, Shawna Dimit, had died in her sleep. This was a complete shock to all of us as she was only 40 years old and seemed to be in perfect health when we saw her in Mesa 10 days earlier. So, we spent the last weekend of our trip driving between SLC and St. George attending the funerals of G-Grandma Leavitt, and later the funeral of Shawna Dimit in Salt Lake. We miss them so much!


Sarah said...

Wow sounds great!! My boys would be so jealous of teh safari and lego land....don't even get me started. I"m glad you posted it all. It gives me good ideas. So glad you guys got to do all that!

Jonene Ficklin said...

Elizabeth, love your blog (oh, the beautiful places you've been - love the travelogue!) and loved getting to know you at wifyr! I'm passing on the Irresistably Sweet Blog Award, because you are awesome!