Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Nice Lodge

Hello from Bryce Canyon, Utah, where I'm happy to report that I'm staying in a nice, normal hotel room right outside the park! No bugs! When I called around for a room for tonight, they were filling up quickly. So, this one cost a little more than I usually like to pay, but considering how little I had to pay to share a room with cockroaches last night, the two-night average is right at my "okay" price!

Thanks for all your concern for my well-being! I did survive the night okay, but I'll admit (shhhh.....) that even though I DID turn off the TV, I DIDN'T turn off the light. I'm so glad I had an eye-mask along -veyr helpful when you have to sleep during the day, or in a light-filled room!

Today was a great day. I was able to enjoy God's wonderful creation at both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. I have some wonderful pictures, but because my last three nights consisted of 4-4-5 hours of sleep, I'm only going to share a couple with you tonight and the rest will have to wait until later. Maybe I'll do a whole post on Utah National Parks after I visit Arches tomorrow...

I was Zion National Park first, and rode the shuttle up and down the canyon, getting out in a few spots to walk around. One was a "hike", the others were "walks"! Here's The Court of Patriarchs -Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
This is The Weeping Wall. I'm standing under the overhang, and you can see the water that just drips off of it. A common site around Zion.
I arrived at Bryce Canyon just 30 minutes before sunset, so I got to a couple lookouts quick, but I'll go back again in the morning. I had NO idea it would be this incredible! I've been to the Grand Canyon lots, and while that's bigger, I have to say I might like this even better! It's just to interesting-looking!
There's no way that pictures do it justice, but there are all these rock formations they call "Hoodoo" that stick up out of the canyon. Very cool!

Tomorrow's more of a driving day, except for a few stops at Bryce Canyon before I leave, and then a trip to Arches National Park. I feel like I'm not getting that far east yet, but these are the main things I wanted to do on my trip, and I don't have a specific goal for getting home -either Wednesday or Thursday. Should be quite do-able!

Shady Motel Rooms

So really this day has been pretty good, but at the moment, I'm completely distracted by the fact that I'm in a... well.... "questionable" motel room. And... I'm not alone. There are two big cockroaches that are keeping me company. The problem is, I was really hoping to be alone.

I finally talked myself into enough courage to kill the one I could see (the other disappeared when I turned away for a second) and then that one fell off the wall and ran under the bed and I haven't seen him again yet. My sneaker was all set to become a weapon. I was super tired as I pulled into the driveway, and now I'm wide awake and I'm not sure I'll be able to fall asleep.

I wish you were here with me right now. Any of you. It doesn't even matter who, except it would be helpful if you were someone who can get close enough to a cockroach to kill it. But even if not, at least we could be nervous and wide awake together.

Okay, let me concentrate hard on not being distracted.

I started my day in my apartment in Long Beach, and I'm finishing it here in Mesquite, Nevada. It's about 70 miles past Las Vegas, not quite to the Utah border.

Packing up the last of my stuff today went well, mostly because Jim and Marilyn helped with so much yesterday that there wasn't much left to do. So, I wrapped it all up, stuffed it into my car (I guess that's the part that took the longest -I seemed to have aquired a few things while I've been here....), cleaned the apartment, turned in my keys, and took off.

I decided that I needed to see the ocean one last time before I leave, so I drove straight to Seal Beach. I thought about just driving by to "see" the ocean one last time, but my toes claimed they needed to actually "feel" it again.

So, I happily obliged!
I took a little walk on the pier,
watched all the people enjoying their day,
and was able to just spend some time in prayer, thanking the Lord for the really great summer He's given to me and praying about what's to come.
I got on my way and was soon out of the greater LA area, and up into the high desert. I figured since I'll be heading into Colorado in the next day or so, this might be the last time I see "desert mountains" for a while (as opposed to Rocky Mountains).
I saw a beautiful sunset in my side mirrors, so Candis, I took this picture just for you! :) Don't worry, I was completely safe when I snapped it!
I knew that I'd be getting to Las Vegas about the time I would be hungry, so I thought it might be fun to eat at one of the many good buffets. I had settled on the one at Hotel Paris, because it got great ratings. Well, I hadn't realized it would take 20+ minutes just to go the 1.2 miles down The Strip to get there. In other words: TONS of slow traffic! It did mean, however, that I could really see a few things on the way -there was plenty of time to look around.

Here are some of the MANY neon lights all around the strip. In fact, this picture doesn't really do it justice.
New York, New York
The Eiffel Tower in Paris. I figured since my layover in Paris, France in November is so short, we probably won't get to leave the airport and this might be the closest I get to the Eiffel Tower again. I'll just pretend I'm on a different continent. The Arc de Triomphe
Me pretending to be on a different continent. :)

The Bellagio might look familiar to you, especially if you've seen "Ocean's 11". I love the ending scene when they're in front of the hotel watching the waterfall/light/music show. It was fun to watch it tonight -but I had to do that from across the street because the crosswalk was a couple blocks away and I knew I wanted to get going.

Another look at the Eiffel Tower
I tried taking a self-portrait, but it really didn't come out well. But, a lovely couple walked by and the woman offered to take one for me, and the husband insisted we kept moving around to find just the right spot! Very thoughtful.

I had considered staying overnight somewhere in Vegas since I was tired, but upon moments of my arrival, I quickly remembered why it's nickname is "Sin City" and I ended up deciding that I didn't want to contribute any more of my money.

I hopped back in my car and took off for Mesquite, where I now sit with the cockroaches. I haven't seen either one in during the MANY times I've scanned the room as I've typed this blog, but I'm considering leaving the TV on while I sleep. That's not ever successful for me, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

If you happen to be reading this tonight, pray for me as you fall asleep. And if you don't read this until later, feel free to call and check to make sure I'm still okay.

My plan for tomorrow includes Zion National Park, and possibly Bryce Canyon as well. YEAH for national parks!!!!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Heading Home

And.... she's off! My stuff's almost all packed, the car's mostly loaded, the cooler's stocked with water, my iPod's charged and ready to go -I think I'm all set.

I'll be leaving California in the morning, to drive back to the midwest. Please pray for me as I drive the almost 2000 miles to home. Jim and Marilyn were a huge help to me this afternoon, and I just said goodbye to them after we enjoyed a nice dinner and wonderful piece of pie at "Polly's Restaurant and Pie Shop". It was really hard to see them drive away. They are so incredibly important to me and are such wonderful encouragement and support. I WILL MISS YOU BOTH!!!!

I think I'm all set to leave.

Except...... I'm not sure I want to go! I don't like the thought of leaving Jim and Marilyn, their sons and daughters-in-law, Chuck and Penny, and the great friends I have here in California. I don't like the thought of leaving the ocean behind. I don't like the thought of leaving nearly perfect weather every single day. I hate saying goodbye!

But, at the same time, I can't wait to get home! I can't wait to hug little David. I can't wait to have my parent's around for face-to-face conversation and advice. I can't wait to hang out with Aimee and see my other friends. I can't wait to meet the new little babies that have been born to many of my friends while I've been gone. And, even though it will start to get cooler, I really love fall in the Midwest!

I'll be taking the most direct route home, which will include a buffet dinner in Las Vegas, an overnight somewhere near Zion National Park, at least a 1/2 day spent in the park, a drive-through of Bryce Canyon and Arches National Parks, getting to finally meet my recruiter in Denver!, a fairly boring drive across Nebraska towards Iowa and then north to home.

I've decided to not plan out too much of this trip, but instead just see what I want to see, stop whenever I get tired, and then arrive home hopefully by Wednesday. That'll give me a full day in the Twin Cities before flying to Seattle for the weekend for a training session for Africa (I'm so glad I had enough frequent-flyer miles to be able to go!!!!), then flying back on Sunday, driving straight to Mankato, moving into my new apartment and starting my next job!

Do you think I fit in enough things for the week? :)

Please pray for safety for my travels, and check back for updates on my progress! I'm hoping for internet connections at the hotels so I can keep you posted!

Thanks for your prayers!

Reagan Library

A few weeks ago I was able to do one of the main things that I had on my list to do while I lived in California! I've really wanted to go to the Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, located in Simi Valley, about an hour and a half north of Long Beach. The Friday before Brian and Ronda came to town, I was able to meet Becky at the Library, and we enjoyed a fun time wandering around, learning a little more about Reagan's whole life (not just his presidency), seeing all sorts of great things, and just hanging out together. The library included all sorts of "stuff", photographs, gifts from people, documents, memorabilia, and also had the actual Air Force One and Marine One from his presidency. I took a variety of pictures, so here's a few to give you a taste of what we saw.

Similar to a car used on the campaign road. Pretty different from the jets they fly around in these days!

A replica of the booth where Ronny proposed to Nancy. (When I was a kid and our family went to Washington DC, I remember someone asking if we saw "Ronny and Nancy". They said it in such a way that I thought they were talking about some old family friend, and then realized they meant the President and his wife! -- We DID see them, but only through the fence as there was a big ceremony on the lawn welcoming a foreign president. French maybe? Mom, can you help?)
I don't remember the exact reason why this was in the museum,
but I thought the sign on it was pretty funny! Especially in light of the gas prices I've been paying here in California!
A variety of campaign buttons. Are these even used anymore?
A replica of the situation room when he was president. It's a lot smaller than what I got used to from watching "The West Wing"!
It was really amazing to walk into a room and see a full-sized plane there. And the fact that it's Air Force One was incredible! This is the actual Air Force One that was in use before the current one. Our current president has even flown in it -I guess it's last flight before it retired to the museum. You also see some of the cars from his motorcade.

On one wall behind the plane were huge US and USSR flags, with Checkpoint Charlie in between. Since the Cold War was in full force during his presidency, it was pretty powerful to see.
I took this picture for a little buddy, T, who loves flags! These are all the flags of the many countries that President Reagan visited during his presidency. Very cool! Fun sidenote: when I got home, I looked at some blogs and found that T became a big brother almost exactly as I was taking this picture for him!
Checkpoint Charlie
Becky and I posed to show you our patriotism, and to show how REALLY big this flag was!
Marine One
I guess the hangar that hosts Air Force One and Marine One can be used for banquets, etc, and in fact Becky's brother has been to a military ball right where we were standing. The pictures I've seen from that totally transform the room!
I remember learning from President Reagan's funeral in 2004 that he and Nancy chose this site/location for the library so that people could look out over the valley. Here's the view!
Walking back into the main library, we found a hallway where Becky was able to meet up with the President and talk about a few issues.
Here's an exact replica of the Oval Office on the day that President Reagan left office.
(I'm a HUGE fan of the TV show "The West Wing" -not that I agree with their views of different topics, in fact I'm often on the opposite side -but I love how much the characters want to do the right thing, and I love the quick wit and humor that's written into the dialogue. Anyway, it's really fun to almost feel like I was right there sitting in on a meeting!)
The room includes a replica of the "Resolute Desk" which has been used by many presidents, and currently sits in President Bush's Oval Office. If you haven't seen "National Treasure: Book of Secrets", go rent it and learn a little more about the desk!

I remember the day that President Reagan wrote a letter to the country telling us about his diagnosis of Alzheimer's. It impressed me that this man I already respected was able to end his public life with dignity, grace, and integrity.
(if you click on the picture, I think you'll be able to read the letter)
In the "memorabilia" section is a bat signed by the 1987 World Series Champs, the Minnesota Twins. Very cool! (it's the middle bat in the picture) How much do you think it's worth??

An actual section of the Berlin Wall. I think everyone's heard the famous speech President Reagan gave when he said "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Interesting sign around the gardens! :)
President Reagan's burial site. I vividly remember watching his State Funeral, and seeing Nancy leaning over the coffin at the end of a long week of goodbye's, clutching the flag that had just been presented to her.

An outside shot of the Library and Museum. If you ever have the chance to visit, DO IT! Visit ANY of the president libraries -it's a great history lesson and really memorable!
Becky and I had a lot of fun together that day, and I'm so thankful we've been able to spend time together this summer! Now I just wish I was going to be around to watch this belly grow even more! :) Since she's about the thinnest person I know, there isn't much room for this little one to grow inside her -it'll end up being a big basketball sticking out!
We decided to head to Malibu to eat dinner, and see if we could see anyone famous. Also, I hadn't been there before and wanted to check it out. Well, we didn't see anyone famous, but did see some pretty amazing (read: LARGE!) homes!! And, we ate a pretty incredible dinner at a wonderful Greek Restaurant! As I left to head back home, I drove along Pacific Coast Highway a while. It turns out it's only 10+ miles down the road to the Santa Monica pier -which seems to have become my stomping grounds around here.
It was a beautiful drive, and there was a great sunset, but I was a little too early for the best part. I saw it while I was already on the 405 freeway, but since Brian and Ronda were arriving that night, I didn't want to be late in getting home.
Thanks for the really fun day, Becky!! I'm so glad you were able to join me -it was way more fun seeing everything with someone else vs. if I had been alone!