Wednesday, September 4, 2013

This Family: Wrapping Up our CA Vacation '12

DISCLAIMER:  Look what I found!  For some reason this never got published...  I remember jotting down the majority of this blog entry shortly after that fabulous vacation - I remember I wanted to still do a little bit of editing - and then I just plain never wrapped it up.  I was thinking I should just delete this.  But I just can't.  So -- here is the last CA Vacation '12 blog - now published.  Hopefully this is a "gentle re-entry" into keeping this blog somewhat updated and current.  There is LOTS to catch up - but I'm not holding my breath for an exhaustive recap of the last 13 months...!


We simply had the Vacation of a Lifetime...

It's been almost a week now since we got back -- so I want to jot down a few reflections looking back now on this crazy/wonderful Family and Trip:

Both Martha and I had Family Vacations out to California when we were young - and they were both extremely memorable.  We still remember some of the sights and places we visited - but what still lingers as a permanent blessing, really - is the time we shared together as Family.  I am praying that OUR CA Adventure will be no less the same in the years to come...

I am so VERY thankful that our Clan travels well.  We always have.  Back when our kids were young, I remember we would strategically drive through the night to get to places where we had to go a considerable distance.  They just slept all the way there!  But as they got older, they got used to being on the road without having to be asleep. We would listen to fun music, play silly word games or just talk - and we always had a box full of books, toys or other things/gadgets to help pass the time.  A lot of families are intimidated by "ride" part of a long trip.  Again, I am SO grateful that our kids have rarely complained - on the contrary - traveling together is something we have all learned to look forward to.  May that never change...

Lydia Ann
She is always playful and sweet and giggly - and stubborn - and FUN!
She was the driving force behind these "Mustache Sunglasses" that we are all wearing
in these photos.  She and Joel happily share - for the MOST part - the back seat in the van.  They have a good thing going back there - with books and videos and games.  We are so grateful for her energy and enthusiasm for the "small and not so small" things in life...!

Joel James
Our self-proclaimed "Mr. Total Package".  On this trip he was also "Mr. Bubba Cup",
as it was his job to fill with ice and water our Bubba travel mugs.  Joel never stops surprising us with "unique" insights and commentary.  We love him - and life without him would be unbearably boring.  We all still contend that one day we will simply be known as:  "Joel's Family"...!

Rebecca Linnea
Becky is a beautiful mixture of passion and sensitivity - of fire and feelings - of courage and quietness.  I know that there is MUCH going on in her heart and mind.  She sees colors that the rest of us don't.  She notices words and music that the rest of us don't hear.  I really love this about her.  It is SO GOOD for me to be her Dad.  There is much I am learning from the Beckster - and more wonderful and surprising lessons are sure to come... 

Joshua Paul
Hard to believe we have a High School Senior now!  This could very well be his last
Family Vacation with the rest of us.  Joshua is an amazing young man.  I have been saying this for some time now:  I am beyond BLESSED to have a son that I can completely and  fully TRUST - with my life and everything I have!  VERY few fathers have the privilege of saying that about their 17 year old son.  I look forward to this year - with a mixture of deep joy - and whatever the opposite of that is...

Martha Ann
She is really the Glue in our Family.  I will never be able to say enough as to how
great a blessing she is to me - and to our kids - and to absolutely  EVERYONE she interacts with personally and professionally.  There is not enough blog space in the universe to write about how much I love and respect and am blessed by this amazingly steady and dependable woman.  Do I really get to be her husband??  Astoundingly - God said, "YES...!!"  (But I know He's also winking at me and saying, "Don't mess this up, OK??")

Yup.  Loving this ride.  Trying really hard not to blink.  I am praying that there will be very little I miss as this family continues our journey forward.  God has - and IS - blessing me beyond any measure I could ever have hoped for...

Friday, July 13, 2012

2 Days to Make It -- HOME!

We were excited to be leaving Las Vegas - mostly because we were more than ready to head back to Iowa.  Back HOME!!  About 1500 miles to go...

Tuesday:  On the way to our hotel in Grand Junction, CO - we made a stop at Arches National Park.  If Vegas had a "wow" factor - this place has a "WOW" factor!!  I'll just let a few photos speak for themselves...

Wednesday:  About 1000 more miles to drive - in one day - to make it to Cedar Falls...!

We have shared an amazing 17 days!!  I am SO BLESSED that I GET to be FAMILY with Martha, Josh, Becky, Joel and Lydia...

'Life is a Highway...!"

Balancing Rock.

One of the several hundred natural arches in the Park.

"Another picture, Dad...?"  "OK..."

A great woman there on my left...

...that lets me kiss her...!!!

Arches all over the place!

Hiking pics...

The Tunnel Arch

"Hold it up."

My Girls: Even MORE beautiful than the scenery!

We caught the "magic light" on the drive out of the Park.

SO beautiful to see LIVE...!

Hauling it Home...

Gladly sharing the wheel with my Senior in High School 
- and some good conversation.


I am happy to report that we are HOME now 
- safe and sound!!

I'll have one more Final Blog in the next few days to wrap up this trip...

This truly has been a Vacation to cherish and remember for a LIFETIME...! 

Pawn Stars / Hoover Dam

There were 2 more things we absolutely HAD to do while in the Vegas area:  on Monday we visited The Pawn Stars Store and went to Hover Dam!

We had a BLAST visiting both places!

We found the Pawn Stars Store several miles north of the main part of the Strip.  Unfortunately, we didn't bump into any of the stars of the show.  We were told they hardly ever are at the counters anymore - but we did get to browse around at will inside the store.  We saw a few items that we recognized from some episodes on TV.  Joel was the most excited to be here!  He was relieved when we assured him we weren't going to try to pawn/sell him...  Haha!

The Hoover Dam was a must-see!  On a brutally hot afternoon (115ºF!), we drove out to catch this amazing structure - single handedly responsible (just about!) for much of the quality of life enjoyed by people on the west coast.  Did I mention is was hot??  We walked around on the top of the Dam and got a good glimpse of both sides - Lake Mead above and the Colorado River below.  We had a particularly fun time in the store - and the kids wanted to get some "Dam food" in the cafeteria!!  Funny...

We can hardly believe that we are on our last two days of this AMAZING vacation...!!

Excited to visit the Pawn Stars Store!

World Famous indeed!  Isn't Pawn Stars one of the 
highest rated Cable TV shows in history?

Luckily, the wait to get in wasn't too long...

Just like on TV!

Checking out the displays.

A Ring Revolver - I saw this episode!

A real John Wayne cowboy hat.  Cool!

Unfortunately, these were just cheap-o guitars.  
There weren't any famous ones displayed...

The Old Man Silver Coins - Saw this episode too!

Hood of a car with Rick's pic on it.

Josh asked what was the most expensive item in the store.
It was the top Samurai Sword - built in the late 1400's.
They guy said it was worth $200,000 to priceless...!

Next Stop:  The Hoover Dam!


Josh getting a call from his girlfriend, McKenzie!

Walking on the top of the Dam.

Fun in the Dam Gift Shop!

The kids were waiting all day to get some Dam food.
They settled for some Dam fries!

It was a HOT day - 115ºF!!

Sadddleback Church / Las Vegas

Time to start steering the ship towards home...

Our last stop in California was visiting Saddleback Church Sunday morning.  Rick Warren, probably mostly known as a prominent Christian author ("The Purpose Driven Life"), is the Senior Pastor of this "Mega-Church" (which he started in his kitchen in 1980).  We were fortunate to catch him on Sunday when he was co-preaching with two of his colleagues. We were blessed by our visit here.  It was good to hear Warren live and experience his "famous" Church.  Mostly, it was good to worship together with my family on a Sunday morning where Christ and the Gospel was proclaimed...

We piled back into the van and went to the next step on our Itinerary:  Las Vegas.  Talk about a contrast!!  As we pulled up to our hotel, The Excalibur, we immediately were taken in by the "wow" factor of this town.  After we checked in, we decided to take a stroll down the Vegas Strip.  We had fun!  No doubt, this town is built on making as big of an impression as possible!

As we walked around, the "wow" things we saw (the dancing fountains at the Bellagio, the fancy lights all over the Strip, the flaming volcano at The Mirage) started to mingle with quite a bit of observable "yuck" (drunk and "overexposed" people, lots of noise, "female escort" flyers).  Honestly, I am thankful were were able to walk around and experience some of Vegas WITH our kids.  We were able to have some good and frank conversation around what we saw and witnessed.  We know we will never be able to completely "shield" our children from "yucky stuff" in this world, but hopefully we can encourage them to make good/better/best decisions when they find themselves in "seedy" situations.

Monday we'll get to do some more things in the Vegas area...!!

The Worship Center after the Service we attended 
at Saddleback on Sunday morning.

I like it when Churches and organizations try to tell you
clearly what they believe and are all about...

Just outside the Worship Center.

Book Store & "Mission Mall".

A Baptism Pool ready for use.

Rick Warren himself...

A shuttle taking us back to the visitors parking lot.

Back in the van - movie time!

Road Dog...

Where we stayed in Las Vegas.

Across the street.

Taking a walk down the Vegas Strip at sundown....

Hard Rock Cafe.


The Bellagio Hotel and the Famous Fountain Show

Late night "snack" at Denny's.

It was good to experience Las Vegas Blvd together...!