Home » 2013 West Coast Summer Road Trip

2013 West Coast Summer Road Trip

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Today, my sainted father would have been 100 years old. Twenty-seven years ago his passing left my fifty-nine year old mother a widow. For all of the decade of her 50s, my mother was at my father’s side through his struggles with cancer and open heart surgery. When I reached the age my mother was when she became a widow, I thanked God lavishly that my husband was beside me. I still do. When Wayne’s dad was only 58 years old, he suffered a debilitating heart attack that left him unable to work outside the home. When Wayne reached the age his father was when he became disabled, I thanked God with a full heart that He had given me the grace to have my husband healthfully beside me. These life-altering events prompt me to continually express my gratitude to God for blessing me with my husband and to faithfully demonstrate that gratitude to Wayne as well as to pray that God will graciously allow Wayne and me to grow old together with good health and productive, significant lives that make a difference for eternity.

On August 21, we crossed the border from New Mexico into Texas. Oh, what a good feeling that was: We had returned home! There just was a satisfying, secure, comfortable feeling being home in Texas. Funny thing — I had never considered myself a Texan in all of our almost four decades living in the state. And yet, today, as we crossed the border into the state, I was happy to be home — in Texas. Oh, sure, it is hot and humid in the long summer months in Houston; we have to contend with fire ants, cutter ants, copperhead and coral snakes, high summer air conditioning bills, the absence of mountains and breath-taking scenery and the fragrance of lilacs, but this is home. And I am happy to be here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The drive from Albuquerque to Roswell, New Mexico, today was relatively uneventful. The area through which we drove was sparsely populated, and there was hardly any agricultural activity along Highway 285. It was sad to see dilapidated and shuttered buildings in the few communities through which we drove. The mountains that frame the city of Albuquerque are quite beautiful. Beyond Albuquerque, the topography consists of rolling hills and dry land with short grass and scrubby growth. Last night’s lodging at the Fairfield Inn provided no refrigerator, so a grocery stop for the next day’s lunch was not possible. Being on the road, we ate a Subway lunch and a Red Lobster evening meal.

Roswell, New Mexico, is noted for the reported crash of an unidentified flying object on a ranch northwest of Roswell sometime during the first week of July 1947. Rancher W.W. โ€œMackโ€ Brazel told authorities that he and a young man found debris from the crash as they rode their horses out to check on sheep after a fierce thunderstorm the night before. Brazel said that, as they rode along, they began to notice unusual pieces of what appeared to be metal debris scattered over a large area. They also saw a shallow trench several hundred feet long that had been gouged into the ground. People began to believe that what Brazel had found was wreckage from an alien spacecraft since a number of UFO sightings had been reported in the United States that summer. The government, though, claimed it was simply the wreckage of a weather balloon. Nevertheless, Roswell, New Mexico, established the reputation of being affiliated with UFO sightings. Main Street businesses today continue to carry out this theme. The city has a museum devoted to research on the theories of UFO’s and aliens. KG

Monday, August 19, 2013

I had not looked forward to this day. A travel day of eleven hours as suggested by Mapquest just did not appeal to me. Oh, how surprised I was as the day progressed! The scenery as we traveled through Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico to reach Albuquerque was awe-inspiring and spectacular. I had no idea that Utah was so beautiful. I marveled at the beauty of God’s creation throughout our drive. Wayne and I made frequent stops just to admire the incredible sites through which we traveled, converting a projected eleven hour trip into a 13 1/2 hour adventure. Several times during the day, Wayne and I commented on how truly blessed we felt for the opportunities we had experienced, for the precious people we had been with, and for the glorious creation we had witnessed during our road trips of summer 2013.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Wayne awoke at 6:00 A.M. with the threat of inner ear infection, unable to move his body without sensing that he was spinning out of control. Having experienced immobilization previously from inner ear infection, we treated his condition with caution. I went to the general store, which was open at that hour, to get Dramamine and to order a humidifier to be brought to our room. Wayne’s symptoms indicated altitude sickness with dizziness, nausea, headache, and nosebleed. Keeping his body hydrated with water and hydrating the air in our room was necessary. Earlier plans made for the day were set aside to treat Wayne’s condition with bed rest and quiet listening to Christian music. While observing and caring for Wayne, I continued to work on detailing European travel plans.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

On this pleasant, but rainy, day in Park City, Utah, Wayne and I hunkered down and focused on detailing plans for our upcoming European adventures September through November when Allen & Rhonda Krahn will join us in Germany, and Ken & Paula Hancock will join us in Switzerland. Wayne & I have travel planning down to a very pleasant, harmonious art form! Together, we agree upon our destination. When traveling with friends, we prioritize their interests, desires, and needs and incorporate all of these factors into the plan. Wayne then goes to work to examine the route and the dates on which we will stop along the journey and the most advantageous mode of transportation. While I then reserve the most comfortable, economical lodging using as often as possible reward points we have accumulated over the years through our brand loyalty, Wayne researches the historical, cultural, religious, and geographical sites to visit while on our journey. Wayne takes care of the “fun!” He is so good at doing that. ๐Ÿ™‚ We then determine any day trips or tours that might augment our abundant interests. I then fine tune the details by arranging the most comfortable, economical, value-driven, goal-achieving travel plan. We review our plans together, and then I prepare a binder that includes all of our travel information, tickets, vouchers, and other documents. Travel planning, while it is time-intensive, is so enjoyable; it is like taking a mini-vacation in our minds.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Park City, Utah – here we are! We chose to relax in this pleasant mountain setting for a few days. Our villa at Marriott’s Summit Watch is comfortably equipped with a full kitchen and a washer and dryer. We enjoyed the walkable Main Street lined with clean, colorful shops, baskets filled with hanging flowers, and eating establishments that offer outdoor patio dining. We are also using this time of quiet to complete our travel plans for the remainder of 2013.

We learned that Lyle Lovett is in town and will be in concert tomorrow evening here in Park City. We have never been to one of his concerts, and want to go very much. Unfortunately, reserved seats are sold out. We will try to purchase tickets just to sit on the lawn to hear him. I do not want to miss this opportunity to participate in a Lyle Lovett concert.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

It was another long day of travel as we continued our journey south toward home. Much of the land along Interstate 84 was dry with sparse vegetation. Thriving farmland that produced corn and potatoes and grassland for cattle was irrigated. As we entered Utah, the rolling hills morphed into a more mountainous terrain with narrow rivers flowing beside the interstate. We were happy to arrive in Park City, Utah, where we will relax for several days before embarking upon our final push home. KG

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

As we continued on our southeasterly descent to Boise, Idaho, we left behind the cool, invigorating climate of the Pacific Northwest and re-acquainted ourselves with warmer temperatures–much warmer! ๐Ÿ™‚ We traveled on Interstate 82 through Washington State, then transferred to Interstate 84 in Oregon. The enormous diversity in topography within our United States was evident. Today, we drove through lush, beautiful wine country and on rolling, tree-less mountain roads. We passed irrigated hills and valleys planted with corn, fruit, grain, and trees lined carefully in straight, impeccable rows. Mountains of limestone were being artfully mined, and lakes appeared as oases in desert-like hills. The countryside was beautiful and appealing with its own unique qualities. We admired the resourcefulness of the people who populated the land and worked to make it blossom and produce. Wayne and I sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” as we drove through the majestic countryside. It was a long day of travel that included a time change before we arrived in Boise for a night’s stay at the Fairfield Inn.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Today, as we left beautiful Seattle, we turned the van toward home driving southeast to Yakima, Washington, for the night. I felt a sadness leaving the appealing Northwest and the dear family and friends who live here. We had not allowed enough time on this trip to see Portland and Seattle as thoroughly as we would like. Wayne suggested that we might perhaps return next September to Seattle and stay a month in one of the great neighborhoods near downtown. This would also allow us to see the fall colors in the Cascades and perhaps do another cruise to Alaska. We have fallen in love with the glorious Northwest!

Monday, August 12, 2013

What a blessed day this has been, another reminder how precious friends and family are to us and how thankful we are that, through travel, we have the privilege of remaining connected with them! Today, we had the joy of visiting with dear friends, Vic and Shirley Hippe, in their beautiful Tacoma home overlooking Puget Sound. Vic was senior pastor at St Luke’s in Federal Way for many years and had retired five years ago but was, nevertheless, still serving God in other ways. He and Shirley are preparing to leave in a few days to serve in ministry in Hong Kong for the next four months. How wonderful it was to be with them!

This evening we had the joy of being with my cousin, Sheryl (Cattau) Channer, and her husband, Bruce, whom I had not seen since their wedding 45 years ago. It was pure delight to be with them in the beautiful city that has been home to them throughout their marriage.

Wayne and I feel so blessed for these wonderful experiences. We have only one regret with our Seattle area visit: we did not get to visit the Chihuli Museum of Art where the fabulous glass works of an artist we admire greatly are on display. A return visit to the beautiful Northwest will be in our future plans.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

What a wonderful Lord’s Day! We had the pleasure today worshipping with friends at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Federal Way, Washington, and participating with them in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Seeing Vic and Shirley Hippe, friends from the Mega Church Conference, we planned to do lunch together on Monday. Sunday afternoon was enjoyed with Robert and Jan Grothe, whose mother is Cathy Mattson, a Salem member during all our years at Salem. Robert and Jan met us at our lodging at the Residence Inn downtown. From there, we took the trolley to Seattle’s Public Market. Lunch was eaten at Beemer’s Cheese where organic cheese is manufactured and served. We toured the famous Pike’s Place Fish Market. Can you believe that gorgeous floral bouquets are sold there for $5 and $10? We observed the lengthy lines at the very first Starbuck’s, and we visited the colorful bubble gum wall. It was a delightful day.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Another fabulous day with friends, both old and new, in God’s beautiful creation! Wayne’s college friend from St. John’s College, Winfield, Kansas, Steve Peterson, who now lives in Sammamish, Washington, upon learning that we were coming to Seattle, invited us to join him and his family for a visit to Mt. Rainier. Leaving our lodging at the Residence Inn Downtown Seattle at 7:00 in the morning, we drove to Elbe, Washington, where we met Steve; his wife, Itsue; his children, Luke and Meg; his brother, Dave, who is pastor at Lamb of God Lutheran Church in Seattle; and Dave’s congregational members, Vic and Wendy.

What a glorious experience today on Mt. Rainier! The sun was shining; the clouds had lifted; we were blessed to be able to see the full majesty of the mountain range. Both Steve and his brother, Dave, are artists who paint with oil. Often, they paint from what they have captured on film. Knowing the national park well and having envisioned future paintings, they brought us to breath-taking sights and led us on picturesque hiking trails.

It was a full, exhilarating day. We retired earlier than usual in anticipation of our worship experience tomorrow at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Federal Way with friends.

Friday, August 9, 2013

What a scenic drive we encountered today on our nearly twelve-hour journey from Seaside, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington! After a walk on the beach past the hundreds of people who had gathered at Seaside for the 34th Annual Volleyball Tournament, we remained faithful to Wayne’s commitment to follow Highways 1 and 101 up the Pacific coast from San Diego to Seattle. We crossed the mighty Columbia River in Astoria, Oregon, and entered Washington, the Evergreen State. With its roadways flanked by mountains of evergreen, Washington State certainly exhibits its moniker. For much of the trip, we traveled the perimeter of Olympic National Park. At the Quinault Rain Forest in the Valley of the Rain Forest Giants, we stopped to hike to the world’s largest spruce tree. At a height of 191 feet with a circumference of 58 feet, we felt minuscule standing beside it. The harbors, bays, and lakes along the Pacific coast and northern Olympic National Forest entertained us with their pristine beauty as well as did the glamorous pink, purple, yellow, and white wild flowers that lined the road. This was a logging region with an organized system of reforestation.

We left northern Highway 101 and began the descent to Seattle on Highway 104. On Bainbridge Island, we boarded a ferry that took us over to Seattle, concluding a beautiful day on Highway 101. KG

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Every day is filled with wonder and often amazing surprises. Today was such a day. We planned to visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory in Tillamook, Oregon, since it is one of our favorite cheeses. We learned that it takes ten pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese. It pleased us to know that the company is jointly owned by the dairy farmers who contribute the milk for the product. We also sampled the marionberry, huckleberry, and blackberry ice creams produced at Tillamook.

As we read more about Tillamook, we learned that the annual county fair was being held today. Because Wayne and I have fond memories of our families’ involvement in our local county fairs while growing up, we decided to experience a county fair anew where “USA Today” has voted Tillamook’s County Fair one of the ten best county fairs in the continental United States. Viewing the exhibits, sampling foods of local eateries, visiting the animals that were being shown, watching a live race horse and a model-T race where drivers were compelled to hold a pig as they drove were all very fascinating and reminiscent.

Driving along the beach on Highway 101 to our lodging at Seaside, Oregon, was a spectacular scenic drive. After our wonderful experiences in Tillamook, we were tired. KG

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

It was a memorable day shared with friends, Mark and Miriam Hoelter of Portland. Miriam served for six years with Wayne on the Board of Regents at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. During those years we forged a wonderful friendship. How very special it was that they were able to devote their entire day to be with us!

We began our day with a visit to Washington Park filled with acres of fragrant, colorful, blooming roses. It is no wonder that Portland is known as “The City of Roses.” We received an intimate tour of their beautiful home nestled within a verdant forested community with a patio that is the serene setting for leisurely mealtimes. The magnificent Multnomah Falls, Mt. Hood, and Concordia University were all park of a heart-warming, happy day.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What a fabulous day this has been! Today, we not only saw nature’s incredible beauty, but we also had the absolute delight being with friends and family. College friend, Grace Mueller Allen, whom we had not seen since college graduation but with whom we were Facebook friends, had been following our travels on Facebook. Learning that we would be only fifteen miles from her home, Wayne and I had the pleasure of visiting with her and her husband in their beautiful home overlooking a conifer forest.

The sensational Oregon Garden of Silverton was just around the corner from their home. With one of the largest collections of dwarf and miniature conifers in the country, the conifer garden was beauteous as well as the numerous colorful, fragrant plantings and water features. It was impressive to learn that the city of Silverton and the Garden had a partnership in which the wetlands cool the city’s treated wastewater with up to 700 gallons of water passing through a series of ponds. The Garden won the 2002 Honor Award for Environmental/Sustainable Design from the Oregon Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Leaving the Oregon Garden, we drove through fields of agricultural plantings and acres of Christmas tree farms, including a one lane gravel road, to reach Silver Falls State Park, the largest state park in Oregon. Silver Falls, situated within the foothills of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, covers more than 9,000 beautiful forested acres that showcase an undergrowth of ferns, winding creeks, and stunning waterfalls, including the South Falls, which tumbles down 177 feet.

Our next visit was to the Oregon State Capitol building in Salem built in an art deco style. The Oregon Pioneer statue, a twenty-two foot, eight-and-a-half ton bronze statue with gold leaf finish, stands atop the capitol building.

Even before reaching Portland, Mt. Hood came into spectacular view. As the tallest mountain in Oregon, its prominence was impressive. Portland, located on the Willamette River, is truly beautiful. It was easy for us to reach Marriott lodging in the historic downtown.

Our evening was fabulous! Wayne and I had the pleasure of going to dinner at Veritable Quandary with our niece, Jaime (Werner) Jungen, daughter of brother Dan and sister-in-law, June Werner of South Dakota, and Julie Almquist, grand-daughter of my uncle and aunt, Martin and Leota Werner from Battle Creek, Nebraska.

Re-connecting with family and friends on this West Coast trip has been a blessing for us, truly heartwarming. KG

Monday, August 5, 2013

Leaving Coos Bay, we entered the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area with dunes as high as 500 feet and a mile long. The area covers forty miles along the coast and has over 14,000 acres open to dune and trail riding. The dunes in this stretch of the state are the largest expanse of coastal dunes in North America. How beautiful it was driving on Highway 101 through the Oregon Dunes! We parked the car and managed to walk our way up to the top of one of them, stopping before we reached the top to eat blackberries that were growing in the sand.

We arrived in Florence that skirts the Siltcoos River. Best Western Plus is located with outstanding views of the river, a beautiful place to remember for future travels in this area. Florence, with a population of 8,500, has a charming Old Town area that we visited. We entered Siuslaw National Forest with its stunning views: colorful wild flowers, cliffs, emerald forests, sand dunes, rivers and creeks of blue, old bridges, and the Pacific Ocean.

Traveling north on Highway 101, we came to the enchanting little community of Yachats (pronounced YAH-hots), population 688, with well-kept homes that flaunt thick colorful floral plantings. Tucked between the green mountains of the Coastal Range and the Pacific Ocean, it is truly beautiful, a vacation spot to which to return. We stopped in Waldport for a cup of clam chowder. Nestled between the ocean and the Siuslaw National Forest, this little community’s motto is “Where the Forest Meets the Sea.”

We followed the beautiful coast with colorful wild flowers touching the highway until we reached Newport, a fishing village that claims to be the “Dungeness Crab Capital of the World.” We lingered here, walking past the fish-processing plants and canneries, and took a picture of the Yaquina Bay Bridge, designed by C. B. McCullough. Although McCullough has designed numerous bridges in Oregon, this bridge is noted for its soaring steel arch and Art Deco flourishes.

It was at Newport that we left the beautiful Oregon coast with its cool temperatures to travel inward and into warmer temperatures. Having read about the fifty-one covered bridges in Oregon that give the state the distinction of having the most covered bridges west of the Mississippi River, we drove off the beaten path on our way to Salem to find the Harris Bridge, built in 1929. We arrived early evening in Salem, the capital of Oregon and third largest city in the state. The Willamette River runs through the city which has been nicknamed the “Cherry City” because of its importance in the cherry growing industry. Salem is distinguished because the 45th parallel, which is the halfway point between the equator and the North Pole, passes through Salem’s city center. We rested at Marriott’s Residence Inn, eagerly anticipating visits in the next few days with friends and relatives. KG

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Wayne & I are just so thankful that we have this time to enjoy a leisurely trip along the Pacific coast delighting in the scenes and experiences afforded by this glorious drive. What an amazing God we have to create such beauty, contrasts, and variety in this world for the pleasure of His creation! Thank You, Lord.

We have totally been mesmerized with the travels along the Pacific coast, especially Northern California where we had not traveled before. This afternoon we entered the state of Oregon for our first time ever. We continued to be in awe with the beauty of God’s creation. Soon, we drove through Brookings, the location where Lewis and Clark wintered in 1805 and 1806. A little north was Gold Beach where settlers came in the mid-1850s during the gold rush. We crossed the Rogue River Bridge that spans 1,898 feet, declared a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1982. Port Orford on Highway 101 boasts a dolly dock, one of only two in the United States that hoists boats in the commercial fishing fleet in and out of the harbor with a huge crane. Langlois, the Cranberry Capital of the West Coast, was the next community on the scenic highway. We drove into Bandon’s Old Town located at the mouth of the Coquille River. We were amazed to learn that Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, located on a bluff with expansive views of the Pacific and pathways over streams and into an open coastal forest of fir and cedar, was named the best golf resort in North America by “Golf Digest,” excelling even Pebble Beach.

As the sun began to set, we arrived at our evening’s destination: Coos Bay, Oregon, the largest city on the Oregon Coast with a population of 16,000. Coos Bay is surrounded by a beautiful bay, lush emerald forests, and the Pacific Ocean. It is a city that celebrates its history in shipbuilding, lumber products and tradition as the regional hub for Oregon’s south coast. Its mild, marine climate is the result of the moderating influences of the Pacific Ocean and rainfall induced by the Coast Range. The Coos Bay, North Bend, Charleston area is an all season destination for fishing, hiking, and traversing over the Oregon Sand Dunes.

We enjoyed a delicious meal of fresh fish and returned to our evening lodging at the Red Lion Inn, reserved through orbitz.com.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

My dear husband knows how enamored I am with gardens. Out of his love for me, he planned an afternoon for us at the Sequoia Park Garden in Eureka. This small, yet showy, garden was established in 1906 on land donated to the city by the Glatt family. It has been continually developed and is amazingly free to visitors. A nostalgic wishing well rests in the center of the garden surrounded by a host of gorgeous flowers: iris, begonias, soapwort, bridal veil, gladiolas, Canterbury bells, alyssum, lobelia, impatiens, Love in a Mist, painted tongue, petunias and painted daisies, among others. Hundreds of dahlias in a variety of colors and shapes were in full bloom. A romantic gazebo bedecked in flowers finds a home in the garden. What a beautiful experience!

We chose to walk beyond the garden and past the zoo. Surprisingly, we unexpectedly came upon a city park that provided a playground for children among the towering redwoods and magnificent walking paths through a forest of hundreds of redwoods with lush ferns growing at their feet. We embarked on a journey among these giants that took us on walking trails through the forest across wooden bridges and beside a babbling stream and a musical waterfall. It was a tranquil, serene garden in the midst of the city given to the people of Eureka by a benefactor who wanted to preserve the giant redwoods for the pleasure of generations upon generations yet to come.

We traveled on to gaze upon the delicate homes of Victorian gingerbread and arrived at the historic Old Town where a street festival was being held. What fun! What joy and delight is shared among the people in this beautiful community!

It was time to return to the Best Western. We walked from there to the grocery store where we purchased beverages for tomorrow’s journey to Coos Bay. What a lovely day it has been!

Friday, August 2, 2013

How can a projected three hour trip from Fort Bragg to Eureka, California, take a full day? Easily! If you had traveled with us on Highway 1 and the Avenue of the Giants in California, it would certainly become very clear to you! Highway 1 from Fort Bragg, as it hugs the Pacific coast until it ends beyond Leggett, is filled with stunning scenery, narrow two-lane roads, rarely-placed guard rails, countless curves, turns, and drop-offs so steep that the bottom is not able to even be seen.

We detoured from Highway 1 to arrive in Leggett, California, where Wayne drove THROUGH the Chandelier Redwood Tree that rises to 315 feet in height. Shortly beyond Leggett, Highway 1 ended, and we began our northward trek on Highway 101. Soon we entered the Avenue of the Giants, a scenic 32-mile stretch of highway maintained as State Route 254 that leads one through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The Avenue of the Giants is the largest redwood park of all California state parks. The coastal redwoods are the world’s tallest trees reaching heights over 360 feet tall & can be over 2,000 years old. Not only did we drive on this highway, but we also stopped numerous times just to gaze upon God’s marvelous creation, eat our picnic lunch, and hike through this incredible stand of trees and woodland fern.
After leaving the redwood forest, we returned to Highway 101. Ferndale, California, a city in Humboldt County sometimes referred to as “cream city,” beckoned to us. Farms with extensive acreage showcasing huge herds of cattle led the way to Ferndale. With a population of 1,371, the city contains dozens of well-preserved Victorian store fronts and homes. These are also known as “Butterfat Palaces” due to construction occurring in the 1880s when considerable wealth was generated in the dairy industry. The entire town is registered as California Historical Landmark.

Returning to Highway 101, we arrived at the end of a beautiful, contemplative day in Eureka, the principal city and county seat of Humboldt County in the Redwood Empire region of California. Our lodging at the Best Western is within walking distance of the Humboldt Bay. While eating our evening meal overlooking the Bay, we had our first encounter with an earthquake tremor. Everyone in the restaurant looked up and around with a gaze that revealed an adrenaline rush as the survival instinct became alerted. When no further tremor occurred, everyone visibly eased and resumed what they had been doing before.

The temperatures have been pleasantly cool throughout our journey; Wayne planned our itinerary to reflect perpetual spring! Needing a little more warmth for our travels, we walked to Kohl’s where Wayne found a light warm jacket on sale for $11.00, a savings of $44.00. It was just what he needed. We walked back to the Best Western, thankful for another wonderful day that God has given to us.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Can it really be August already?! I am absolutely loving this year; it is beyond fantastic! Our leisurely West Coast road trip has been phenomenal…and we still have 21 more days to enjoy this adventure. We are incredibly thrilled being able to take the time to nestle in for a spell in a community and experience life among the people who live here…it is beyond awesome. Every human being has a story to share, and everyone has value. Being a part of their life, even if for just a while, is a blessing we cherish. And to experience this in such beautiful surroundings is an additional blessing for which we thank God.

Today our dwelling was in Fort Bragg, the largest coastal town in Mendocino County, begun in 1857. Within three miles of Fort Bragg is the 47-acre Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, the only botanical garden in the continental United States located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Wayne and I were mesmerized! We devoted three inspiring hours strolling through the well-tended gardens, fern-covered canyon, pine forest, Digger Creek that flows through the gardens to the ocean, and spectacular vistas located along the Pacific Ocean. The rhododendron is the signature plant of the garden ranging from tree forms up to forty feet high to delicate dwarf plantings. The dahlia garden with over 450 dahlias in full bloom was spectacular. Along the pathways were numerous benches for seating. We saw an elderly couple seated on one of the benches sharing a bottle of wine while each reading on their Kindle. Other couples lingered in the seating sanctuaries. We became one of them, enchanted by the views, the sounds of chirping birds, and the ebb and flow of the ocean tide below.

Leaving the garden, we parked the van in Fort Bragg and began a walk through the charming community. We stopped at a little Mom & Pop restaurant that prepared hot dogs. The sprouted wheat bun and all beef hot dog with “the works” was delicious, so satisfying. Next door was an ice cream shop with homemade ice cream and waffle cones that tempted us. We yielded, along with a never-ending stream of customers. At dusk we walked along the Pacific and then shopped at Safeway for our travel food for tomorrow. It was a glorious day!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What a God-blessed day! We had the wonderful pleasure of visiting with Daniel Kushner, CEO and Design Director of MONO, a company that designs and creates products to support people involved in creative occupations, such as musicians, photographers, videographers, and other individuals. Daniel also happens to be the son of our friend, Cecily Kelln. Coincidentally, Daniel’s place of business is across from the Marriott Courtyard in Larkspur Landing where we were staying. It was wonderful to see him in his place of business, to observe the products he has created, to hear him share his life’s story, and to hear his vision for the business. We then walked to the Marin Country Mart where we lunched with Daniel and his beautiful wife, Lauren, and three precious children. It was a most delightful time.

Wayne and I then left Larkspur Landing for Fort Bragg. Instead of taking Mapquest’s recommended three hour route on Interstate 101, Wayne and I chose to take the road less traveled, Highway 1, the Coastal Highway, and what a phenomenal pleasure it was!
The trip took almost seven spectacular hours for a variety of reasons. The road included a multitude of curves, sharp ascents, deep descents, narrow two-lane roads, and construction activity. The scenery with the Pacific Ocean on our left and mountains and meadows surrounding us was a superlative experience. We stopped at our favorite little food mart at Valley Fort for their famous macaroons, which we think taste even better than those at Chinatown. We arrived at our Best Western lodging at Fort Bragg shortly before nightfall and did not bother to go anywhere else for the evening, content to nibble on the grocery items we had brought with us.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What a wonderful day in the San Francisco Bay Area! I have loved staying at Larkspur Landing. It is such a pleasant, quiet place and so close to the Larkspur Ferry, which offers a short thirty minute ride to San Francisco, where we spent our day.

After docking at Pier 1 in the Port of San Francisco, we enjoyed touring the Farmers’ Market with abundant organic produce, baked goods, and fresh flowers. We took the bus to Union Square, and from there, we walked to Chinatown. We lunched at Cathay House, a Chinese restaurant located at California & Grant across from the Old St. Mary’s Cathedral, where concerts are held daily at noon. And what did the fortune cookies reveal? For me: “Work on improving your exercise routine.” For Wayne: “Remember three months from this date, good things are in store for you!”

After visiting Old St. Mary’s Cathedral we walked to the Patron Church of St. Francis of Assisi; then, on to Little Italy, appropriately located on Columbus Street, adjacent to Chinatown. We next visited the dual-spired St. Peter and Paul Cathedral at Washington Square on the corner of Filbert & Stockton.

We continued down Stockton Street to Pier 39, a family-friendly space filled with a carousel, live entertainment, shops, and eating establishments. We chose to eat dinner at Cioppino’s before boarding the bus that would take us to the Ferry Terminal. The Larkspur Ferry returned us to Larkspur Landing, happy and content, thankful to God for His blessings to us.

Monday, July 29, 2013

We left the cozy, compact communities of Menlo Park and Redwood City to resume our journey north to Larkspur Landing, located east of San Francisco within steps of the ferry that transports visitors to locations along the Bay. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in the fog and arrived at our lodging, the Marriott Courtyard, set in the beautiful bayside community of Larkspur Landing. Having skipped breakfast, we walked across the street to meander through the character-rich area of the Marin County Mart providing unhurried waterfront dining and shopping. We chose to eat lunch at the Rustic Bakery where wholesome, organic, freshly-prepared foods are served. We enjoyed artichoke soup. What a treat!

We had a relaxing afternoon window shopping, then ate dinner outside at the Marin Brewing Company under warm heaters in the sunshine and crisp cool air. It was delightful, such a pleasant community, so close to San Francisco and yet so seemingly devoid of some of the “craziness” for which San Francisco is known.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

It was a beautiful Lord’s Day in California’s Silicon Valley. We worshiped at Bethany Lutheran Church in Menlo Park located in a quiet, verdant neighborhood. We were warmly welcomed into the fellowship of the multi-cultural congregation by numerous members, the first of whom was Linda, Jon Coyne’s administrative assistant. We were privileged to participate in Holy Communion during the beautiful service. We were enormously impressed by the congregation’s prayer ministry found online at http://www.bethany-mp.org/prayer which enables people to place their prayer request online and to also click on a link to indicate when they have prayed for someone. If one is reluctant to navigate the Internet site, one can simply call the church office and speak with Linda, the administrative assistant, who will handle the request.

We followed Jon’s recommendation and ate brunch in Woodside at Buck’s Restaurant, a staple of the Silicon Valley clientele. Buck’s actually reminded me of the Klein community’s Strack Farms, popular and down-home.

We drove through the fashionable Atherton community on our way to Stanford University, recognized as one of the best research universities in the world. The private university was founded in 1891 by Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane Lathrop Stanford, to remember their son Leland Stanford, Jr., who died of typhoid just before his sixteenth birthday. During his lifetime, Leland Stanford served as governor and later senator of California.

We visited the Memorial Church, which was constructed in 1903 by Jane Stanford as a memorial to her husband, Leland. The Stanfords, who were religious, but not committed to any denomination, wanted the church was to be open to people of all faiths. They believed spiritual and moral values were essential to a young personโ€™s education and future citizenship. The church is an architectural masterpiece that stands at the center of the campus and is among the most prominent, interdenominational churches in the West.

We then viewed the sculptures of Auguste Rodin, which he completed in 1889. The Burghers of Calais (Les Bourgeois de Calais) serves as a monument to honor the heroes of Calais in 1347 during the Hundred Years’ War. Calais, an important French port on the English Channel, had been under siege by England’s Edward III for over a year. Philip VI of France ordered the residents of Calais to hold out at all costs, but starvation eventually threatened them. Edward offered to spare the people of the city if any six of its top leaders would surrender themselves to him understanding that they would be executed. Edward demanded that they walk out wearing nooses around their necks and carrying the keys to the city and castle. One of the wealthiest of the town leaders, Eustache de Saint Pierre, volunteered first, and five other burghers joined him. It was this moment and this inspiring combination of defeat, heroic self-sacrifice, and willingness to face imminent death that Rodin captured in his sculpture.

Wayne & I napped, went to the movie, “Red 2,” then bought a small watermelon to share in the room before retiring for the night.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

We had such a delightful Friday evening with Jon and Karen Coyne. We visited for a long time over a glass of wine in our lovely suite. Then, we walked to Fisherman’s Wharf and lingered over an exquisite meal. Friends are truly blessings from God.

This afternoon we left our splendid accommodations in Monterey and drove to Redwood City admiring the beautiful scenery as we traveled north. Jon had alerted us to the neighborhood in which our lodging, arranged through Expedia, was located. His description had been accurate! After checking in at the office and presenting our pre-paid confirmation, a requirement of Expedia, we carried our luggage upstairs as there was no elevator. We walked up the stairwell on stained, torn, dirty carpeting and arrived at our requested “non-smoking” room. Opening the door, we recognized immediately by the dank, musty odor that the “non-smoking” sign on the door was a misnomer! Our accommodations for the next two nights were a 180 degree contrast from what we had experienced at the Monterey Marriott. I immediately thought of the Apostle Paul’s words: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. Philippians 4:11” We were going to be just fine.

We trekked out into the community where a Blues Music Festival was being held. Hundreds of people mingled in the cool outdoors browsing through all of the many booths that lined the main street. People dined outdoors; families happily strolled the streets. It was a happy celebratory summer night in Redwood City.

Friday, July 26, 2013

We woke up in our luxurious Marriott suite in beautiful Monterey overlooking Monterey Bay and Fisherman’s Wharf. After a delicious complimentary breakfast — I hope we never lose our gold elite status! — we drove the few miles down Highway 1 to the quaint, picturesque, floral-lavished Carmel-by-the-Sea. Wayne and I became enchanted with the small-town Bohemian appeal of this unique village when we first came here seventeen years ago on our 25th wedding anniversary. Since then, we have returned here among the pine trees and pristine ocean waters to share this beautiful haven with our children and friends. This little community, rife with peaceful European ambience, is filled with art galleries, antique shops, boutiques, and intimate restaurants that spill out into fresh air garden settings. While we are here, the annual Bach Festival is occurring. As we leisurely walked along Ocean Avenue, we frequently heard German spoken and also French. How wonderful it is that visitors from abroad are also drawn to this idyllic sanctuary in America!

We look forward now to sharing the evening with our friends, Jon and Karen Coyne, who are coming from Menlo Park, where Jon pastors a congregation.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What a beautiful day! We left the idyllic resplendent hide-away at the Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn and headed north to Monterey on Highway 1. Mapquest said it would be a forty minute drive; however, Mapquest did not take into account how mesmerized we would become by the amazing spectacle along our route and how often we would stop to view God’s breath-taking creation before us on Highway 1. I marveled, too, at man’s handiwork in carving a road through the mountains and building the bridges, including the historic Bixby Bridge constructed in 1932, that enabled people to traverse the land.

We arrived in Monterey and strolled along Fisherman’s Wharf before checking in to our room. How utterly amazed we were to learn that we had been upgraded to the spectacular Presidential Suite! The two-story suite in Room 815 is beyond amazing with views of Monterey Bay from three sides, an amazing bedroom and living room combo, a huge dressing room and spa bathroom and an office space all on the first floor. Upstairs is a living/dining room/bar great room adjoined to an outdoor patio with dining seating and views of Monterey Bay and the city on a hill. We are ever so blessed! We are thrilled that our friend, Jon Coyne, and his wife will be coming to visit us here tomorrow evening. This luxurious suite beckons to be shared.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

We ate a fantastic breakfast of organic, homemade foods in one of the four cozy, intimate antique dining rooms that form the award-winning restaurant at the Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn. We ambled along a walking trail on the grounds with views of the redwood canyon, high meadows, cattle grazing in a far-away field, a waterfall streaming from the mountain above to the canyon below and on to the Pacific. From our vantage point at the canyon peak we gazed upon the Pacific Ocean gently ebbing and flowing, creating white foam far below us, while the fog drifted in and out of the scene. Highway 1 curled its path in the distance. We sat for a long time saturated with the beauty, solitude, and aloneness of this quiet oasis.

When they purchased the property in the early 1930s, Helen & Helmuth Deetjen envisioned a condensed version of a Norwegian village set within the coastal redwood Castro Canyon. Having no children and heirs, they left to future generations the “sole and absolute discretion for the purpose of maintaining the Big Sur Inn as a restaurant and Inn for transient guests so that the public may enjoy the natural beauty, charm, and scenery of Big Sur Inn and so that the Big Sur Inn be maintained in nearly the same manner and style as operated by the Deetjens during their lifetime.” The Inn, a registered National Historic Site, is operated by the Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn Preservation Foundation.

The afternoon lent itself to reading on the porch while sitting in a rocking chair and then curling up atop thick comforters for a refreshing nap. We dined by candle light, then headed up the road for several miles to the Tap House where we could acquire Internet and cell phone service in order to post our travels on our blog and assess whether there were any messages that required our attention.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What a day this has been! Wayne and I rented a sunbuggy to ride on the sand dunes at Pismo Beach Oceano Dunes State Park. I was SO thankful he was driving and not me, because there were too many times that I closed my eyes and just prayed…out loud! Zooming to the top of a sand dune and not seeing the other side was like snow skiing on a black slope; it was almost death-defying to me! It is amazing being out on the sand dunes alone…it felt to me as if we were experiencing infinity, unending sand, nothing but sand and sky in every direction. It was quite an amazing experience.

Traveling north on Highway 1, we passed Morro Bay, home of one of California’s few remaining fishing fleets. Along the Embarcadero is the Morro Rock, the seventh in a chain of volcanic peaks called the “Seven Sisters.” Just north of Morro Bay is the enchanting village of Cambria where the Pacific touches the pine forest. We strolled through this quaint community with its antique shops, vintage clothing, and dainty eateries, reminding us of our own Fredericksburg, Texas. We just “had to” stop in at Linn’s Restaurant for its famous olallieberry pie. The olallieberry was developed at Oregon State University and is genetically 2/3 blackberry and 1/3 red raspberry. It is the primary fruit grown at the local Linn Family Farm. As we proceeded further on Highway 1, we made another stop along the way at Point Piedras Blancas where thousands of elephant seals have found protection.

Highway 1 took us through the Santa Lucia Range and into the Los Padres National Forest on a two-lane road with hairpin curves amidst breath-taking mountain and ocean views. We reached our lodging at Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn, which is on the National Register of Historic Buildings. Here, a quaint collection of buildings constructed with rough-sawn siding and hand-hewn beams is tucked into towering redwoods on a landscaped mountainside beside the Castro Canyon. Our little Edys Room is quite rustic with wood floors, thin batten-board walls, and flat wooden ceiling, a bed, wooden rocker, small antique desk with antique lamp, and a tiny bathroom into which only one person can fit at a time. Larger rooms feature wood-burning fireplaces and bigger bathrooms. The old hand-hewn two-part wooden Dutch doors have no locks or keys but can be secured from inside the room. Everything is rustic California chic–muslin sheets and a thick comforter for the cool evenings and dinner with fresh flowers on the table, a wood burning fire place, and classical music accenting the mood. With no cell phone service, no Internet, no television or radio, simple tranquility is the offering.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Today, we were both hurting and in pain. How we would have benefitted from a chiropractic adjustment! Without that availability, we were so thankful to have a coupon for massages, $45 per person for a couple massage for an hour in length for each of us. What a deal! What a blessing!

We then drove in to the enchanting, tree-lined community of San Luis Obispo, a walkable community with attractive pastel-colored Craftsman homes accented with floral yards sheltered inside white picket fences. The gentle San Luis Creek meanders through the town’s center. The weather is beautiful; the scenery exquisite. San Luis Obispo has a charming downtown shopping district filled with historic buildings. The Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, built in 1772 by the Franciscans, is in the heart of the city. The Mission is still an active Catholic church. Signs downtown remind visitors that smoking in public is strictly forbidden throughout the city. San Luis Obispo is regularly considered one of the top ten best places to live in the United States.

We chose to eat dinner at the Creekside Brewing Company on the patio overlooking the San Luis Creek. The setting was inspiring. Along with a meal of mahi mahi and both red and golden beets, I sampled the Hop & Bothered amber-colored imperial IPA brew packed with west coast hops and the aroma of citrus and tropical fruit. Wayne ate the grilled pork chop with cooked red cabbage supplemented with the summer wheat brew with flaked wheat, Cascade & Mt. Hood hops, and a citrusy and spicy hop aroma. We then took a long walk through the beautiful small city before returning to our lodging for the night.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

We were blessed by our worship experience at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Orange, California. Our friend, Tim Klinkenberg, is senior pastor and was the preacher for the service. The special music was beautiful as it captured the theme of the service.

After worship, we sought to find a dining experience advertised on the television show, “Diners, Divers, & Drive-Ins.” The first location on the marina had an hour long waiting period. The second location was closed on Sunday. We settled for a “Jack in the Box” fare as we continued our journey on Highway 1, arriving late in evening to our lodging at the Marriott Courtyard in San Luis Obispo, California.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Today is my sister Rachel’s 64th birthday, her last year before Medicare! Today, as a new crown was put on my tooth, I was sadly aware of the challenge of having Medicare as my primary insurance as it does not cover dental and vision care. Nevertheless, the California dentist did an excellent job of repairing my tooth.

Friday, July 19, 2013

We received the anticipated package from the San Diego Marriott only to open it and find that we had been sent a different iPad, a much older model for which we do not even have a charger. Wayne called to the San Diego Marriott to report the error and inquire about the return. I entered a second loss report on chargerback.com. We are both so dejected at losing Wayne’s iPad that carries over a thousand superb photographs from our 2013 encore travels.

To try to alleviate the depression into which we were both sinking, we drove to Fashion Island to walk around the area and to adjust Wayne’s mobile phone at the Apple store to receive audible rings from calls. We then went to Balboa Island and walked along the Pacific Ocean, sinking our feet into the sand and allowing the waves to splash upon our ankles. In spite of this diversion, we are still abysmally sad about our loss.

After returning to our villa, I broke my temporary crown while eating a piece of chicken. Thankfully, tomorrow I will get a new permanent crown. I hope all will be well.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How grateful we are to God for His gracious answer to our prayers! Wayne’s iPad that we had left in our room at the San Diego Marriott Gaslight Quarter has been found. Today I called again to the hotel requesting for the second time to speak with security. I was told that they would not arrive until 2:00 PM, but then I was asked why I wanted to speak with security. I told the gentleman that I wanted to make a police report: (1) Either housekeeping found the iPad and kept it, or (2) Housekeeping overlooked the iPad, and the guest who followed us in the room may have taken it. Just a short time later, I received a telephone call from the hotel’s director of human relations notifying me that the iPad had been found, and it would be mailed to us. We are so grateful and so thankful to God.

It was a quiet day in the villa as Wayne and I spent time with arrangements for upcoming European travel. Our spirits were greatly lifted to learn that Wayne’s iPad was found and would be returned to us.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I am so sad. Not only did we lose Wayne’s iPad, but this morning while eating a piece of toast, one of my crowns broke, and I had to find a dentist who would build a new crown for me. The cost for a new crown? $1,780.00. Oh, this hurts. It hurts really badly because, now that I am 65, I am under Medicare, which does not cover dental or vision, and my Concordia supplement does not cover what Medicare does not cover. We are now on a fixed income. I am so sad about this unplanned, unexpected expense; nevertheless, I am thankful that my tooth can get fixed this week before we are scheduled to leave Newport Beach on Sunday. Will we have to alter travel plans because of this unexpected expense? I will do all within my power to minimize expense as we proceed with plans for the remaining year.

Monday, July 15, 2013

I went to the “Welcome” at 9 AM where I learned about the opportunities available this week at Marriott’s Newport Villas. Still concerned about our missing iPad, we drove to the Apple store on Fashion Island. Wayne had already locked his iPad using his mobile phone. In tracking the whereabouts of the iPad, there is no indication that it has been connected to Internet. Its whereabouts are a mystery to us. We ate lunch at The Cheesecake Factory, then strolled through the shopping center before purchasing groceries at Whole Foods and returning to our villa.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Today we bid farewell to San Diego. Perhaps on another visit to this fair city we may take the time to visit the San Diego Zoo, with more than 4,000 creatures from nearly every corner of the world or San Diego’s 1,800 acre Safari Park, which has more than 375 species that roam exhibits that are designed to resemble natural habitats, or San Diego’s SeaWorld, which is connected to the Pacific Ocean. We drove by the zoo and Safari Park as we traveled north of San Diego. Unbelievably, we also chose to pass by the botanical gardens, which cover thirty acres of an Encinitas private estate that was donated to the county by Charles and Ruth Larabee in 1957. We may also put on our “wish list” the 1,200 acres of Balboa Park that overlook downtown San Diego. It is the largest urban cultural park in the country with more than fifteen museums, theaters, and other cultural institutions, including the Spreckels Organ, the world’s largest outdoor musical instrument. Ah, there were just too many things to see and do in San Diego in the short time we were there.

As we drove north on Interstate 5, traffic became ever so congested and slow-moving that the supposed hour and a half drive took much longer. Nevertheless, we did not complain because the view was incredible with bourganvillas cascading over the highway and oleanders in full bloom forming a colorful wall down the median. Once reaching Highway 1, we dawdled as we drove through the beach cities built up beside the Pacific Ocean.

Upon arrival at Marriott’s Newport Coast Villas, we were delayed with check-in and also disappointed with the location of our villa. After finally checking in to our villa, we were ready to just relax indoors and so we ordered a pizza.

It didn’t take us long to realize that Wayne’s iPad was missing. Our hearts sank, because over a thousand photos of our encore year are on Wayne’s iPad, and we had not had enough memory to save all of them in Dropbox. We called the hotel. The only minimal help they suggested was to go online and register the loss at chargerback.com.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

It has been a pleasant Saturday in San Diego, California. Before we continued on a long, leisurely walk from our hotel in the Gaslamp District, we gained energy for the stroll ๐Ÿ™‚ by stopping at Ghiradelli’s to share an intense dark chocolate sundae. (Dark chocolate, you know, lowers blood pressure, and the calcium in the ice cream is beneficial in combatting osteoporosis! ๐Ÿ™‚

Having yesterday visited the seven-level, open-air historic Westfield Horton Plaza and strolled throughout the sixteen square blocks of the historic Gaslamp Quarter, today we trekked up and down the stairs of the architecturally beautiful convention center to reach the marina and Seaport Village. This fourteen-acre complex, filled with over fifty little shops, has miles of bayside cobblestone paths ideal for our afternoon stroll in the sunshine. We joined the throngs of people enjoying the day while kayaks, sailboats, and jet skis plied the calm water and colorful kites painted the sky. We lunched on salad at the Harbour House in Seaport Village. Finally tired, we returned to our room for a summer nap.

Riveted as has been much of the nation, we watched news of the “not guilty” verdict in the George Zimmerman case and ate a late dinner at the Old Spaghetti Warehouse just a short walk from our hotel.

Friday, July 12, 2013

I cannot believe how pleasant it is here in San Diego! We left Phoenix yesterday with its stunning desert landscapes — amazingly beautiful — while experiencing high dry heat temperatures only to arrive here in San Diego to temperatures of 74 degrees at high noon. We ate lunch at an outdoor bistro, and I wished I had worn a sweater! How fun it is! The beauty of yesterday’s road trip continues to replay in my mind’s eye. How truly special it was! I continue to marvel at the varied topography of God’s beautiful creation that titillates the senses wherever we roam.

We enjoyed our afternoon stroll through the Gas Lamp Quarter of San Diego admiring the old buildings redesigned for use as retail stores, art galleries, restaurants, and casual taverns with outdoor seating. Street lamps from days of old line the bustling streets. San Diego Padre fans were everywhere as the team is in town for the next few days; in fact, Wayne and I have a front seat view of the game from our hotel room window.

We stopped at the Gas Lamp 15 Reading Cinema on Fifth Avenue to spend several hours at the movies watching the action-packed “White House Down.” After the show, we walked across the street for a $3 Happy Hour brew as we sat and watched the world go by. Ah, this is vacation!

The evening crowds going to the Padres vs. the Giants game tonight expanded significantly as game time approached, some wearing clothing identifying them as Padres fans and others conspicuously supporting San Francisco. We were able to comfortably sit in our room watching the throngs of people who had entered the stadium as we listened to the game on television and observed the action. Yes, we are enjoying San Diego.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What a wonderful time with family today on our last day in Phoenix! Unfortunately, the day before had been such a strain on Charlotte, both emotionally and physically, that bed rest was necessary for her. Jennifer and Michael were ever so solicitous of Charlotte’s needs taking phone calls, addressing whatever issues arose, delivering food to her bedside. We gathered with them in the kitchen preparing cheese dumplings, a Graumann family favorite comfort food, a standard in our family’s heritage. It was a joyful comfortable visit with Jennifer and Michael on the day of their second wedding anniversary. They are individually delightful and together a spectacular team. We are so grateful they have found each other and have the rest of their lives to deepen their loving relationship. We prayed with Charlotte and hugged her and Lorraine good-by. It was sad saying good-by and leaving family during this time of grieving. We lingered as long as we could.

Leaving the dry, sandy, beautifully landscaped Phoenix and traveling southwest to San Diego offered vistas of verdant farm fields on the flat lands below the Gila Bend and Maricopa Mountains. Fields were lush with corn, cotton, and other produce. The desert lands boasted of stately saguaro. The mountains followed us as we drove west on Interstate 8, providing a stunning contrast to the dry desert flat lands. Twenty miles outside Yuma, we became surrounded by the Fortuna Foothills as we passed through them. Leaving beautiful Yuma with its acres of irrigated farmland, we entered California. In the distance, the hills appeared to be snow-capped. We were, in reality, approaching the Imperial Dunes Recreation Area with its picturesque rolling wind-blown sandy beauty and pristine blue canal running through it. Gorgeous! We stopped at a rest area to capture a photo and use the restroom. Ooh, what an experience using a toilet again akin to an outhouse! Upon reaching Imperial County, the sand dunes disappeared from the flat desert. Acres of irrigated farmland began to claim the soil for miles upon miles. This land that provided so much food for our nation was the site of heated fights over water rights. Continuing our drive on Interstate 8, we once again drove through desert as we neared the mountains that looked like enormous rock piles through which we would drive to reach the Pacific Ocean. Hundreds of wind turbines made use of the strong winds in the desert. The world God made is SO beautiful. We stopped several times as we drove through the mountains just to let our eyes become saturated with the splendor of the scene. We reached Laguna Summit at an elevation of 4,055 feet and then began the long descent. As we moved through the mountains to the other side, we began to see evergreen trees, deciduous trees, and low green growth. Upon reaching the city of Alpine, it seemed we had returned to civilization as homes, cradled among tall evergreens, became visible in the twilight. Quickly, dense population was upon us resting in the mountains and hills. It was 9:30 PM before we arrived at our San Diego Marriott Gaslight Quarter lodging for the next three nights.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

This has been a most wonderful day, the day of Don’s memorial. Wayne and I awoke before dawn, waiting for an expectant call from Lorraine, hoping she could travel standby to Phoenix on the early morning flight from Dallas. Learning that she had boarded the plane, we drove to the cell phone lot at the Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix where a fantastic lighted board lists the flight status and notifies those waiting when passengers are ready to be picked up. It is such a helpful accommodation; I hope Houston will soon add this to their offerings.

After picking up Lorraine, we drove on to Charlotte’s home to be with family before the 2 PM memorial service. How wonderful it was to see Don and Charlotte’s many neighborhood friends arrive; what a unique group of loving, caring friends! With 28 family and friends comfortably seated in Charlotte’s great room, Wayne began the service at the appointed time “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Charlotte provided a very touching welcome to the precious friends who had gathered. Wayne shared words of comfort and hope from the Holy Scriptures. Jennifer offered an emotional tribute to her father who was so very dear to her. This was followed by a heartwarming video of Don’s life, exceptionally produced by Jennifer. Friends and family members shared remembrances of Don that captured the warmth, humility, intelligence, and unique qualities of this great man who had touched the lives of so many people in meaningful and life-impacting ways throughout his life. Wayne wrapped our hearts around the promises of God with his uplifting words, then blessed us as we held out our hands to receive the grace and peace God richly provides.

Homemade cookies and punch were served as guests mingled and reminisced. As the clock neared 9 PM, Wayne and I left with Lorraine, who spent the night with us.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

We left Las Cruces as the sun was rising on the mountain peaks of the city. Though the land was flat and sandy, except for irrigated patches of trees that had been planted in perfect rows, the mountains on the horizon provided a picturesque view as we drove through New Mexico on a quiet interstate.

As we neared the Arizona state line, the beautiful, but unpretentious, Langford and Pyramid Mountains were beside us. We had entered Arizona’s Old West Country and were headed to the state’s Golden Corridor in the Phoenix area. Stopping at a rest area, Wayne called to his sister Charlotte in Surprise, Arizona, our destination near Phoenix, only to learn that Charlotte’s favorite sister-in-law from Don’s family, Margaret Zimbrick, who had planned to come to the memorial service to be with Charlotte in Surprise, had just suffered a heart attack and was being hospitalized. What irony; what sadness! Wayne and I are all the more thankful that we will be able to be with Charlotte and Jennifer during this time of grieving.

Traveling on, once again in the desert we saw impressive stands of healthy green trees, uniformly shaped, planted in perfectly neat rows, equidistant from each other throughout. Were these pecan trees? I wondered. At last, I saw a sign: Pecans, Walnuts, & Wine. Sure enough! All the groves of immaculately groomed orchards that we have seen have been pecan and walnut trees, and now we were seeing vineyards in the flat, dry desert. Nearing Tucson, the flat land gave way to gentle hills. A few lonely cows were seen as they struggled for survival from the dry, barren earth. As we approached Benson at the outskirts of Coronado National Forest, the scenery suddenly became breathtaking as mountains of enormous red rocks, many precariously situated, greeted us “close up and personal” at the edge of the interstate. That short stretch of rugged mountain was just a teaser for what more we could see if we entered the national forest for a visit.

Tucson, the second largest city in Arizona, has been built on sandy flat land surrounded by the mountains of Saguaro National Park and Coronado National Forest. Northwest of Tucson on Interstate 10, farmers had planted acres upon acres of thriving crops, many of which appeared to be healthy fields of cotton. The roadside became imprinted with mesquite trees. The saguaro cacti began to peek with stalwart dignity through the sand.

Our arrival in Phoenix was fraught, however, with challenges. After checking in to our lodging, we returned to the van only to find that the van refused to start. A gentleman tried unsuccessfully to jump start the van. Wayne called a KIA dealer to make arrangements for the car to be serviced. Wayne also called for KIA roadside assistance. When the gentleman arrived, without providing any assistance, the van “mysteriously” started. (I think the prayers of God’s people were being answered!) We drove to the KIA dealer where we waited while the van was being serviced. The KIA serviceman determined the van needed a new battery By 5 PM, we were back at the hotel. Wayne’s sister, Lorraine Koch, who was set to arrive between 10 and 11 AM, still had not arrived, and we had no message from her. Furthermore, she has no cell phone. It was quite worrisome for us. Lorraine had not given us her flight information, and we had no way of reaching her. Our anxiety about her safety increased.

We picked up take out food to take to Charlotte’s for dinner for the family that had gathered. We stayed with family, then returned to the hotel. Lorraine had finally called & left a message in our room. She had had trouble all day with flight connections and was stuck in Dallas for the night. She is on standby for a flight out of Dallas set to arrive here at 8:40 AM tomorrow. We will pick her up whenever she arrives in Phoenix. The memorial service for Charlotte’s husband, Don Zimbrick, is set for 2 PM tomorrow, at which Wayne will officiate. What a day it has been filled with a lot of emotion, but we are so grateful Lorraine is safe and the van is repaired and safe for us to continue our journey.

Monday, July 8, 2013

How beautiful it was driving through the varied Texas landscapes as we travelled on Highway 290 to Interstate 10 through the state! The unpopulated landscape filled with short trees, shrubs, yucca, and the limestone rock of the Texas Hill Country was eye-appealing in its solitary strength. The stunning limestone rock walls that beautify the geography from the hill country to Bakersfield became less frequent as we travelled toward Fort Stockton. Wind turbines that capture energy from the wind dotted the ridges around Bakersfield. At Fort Stockton the abundant picturesque hills seemed to vanish as we left Texas Hill Country and entered Big Bend Country. The flatter, more desolate landscape in Fort Stockton followed us for many miles before rolling hills once again reappeared. Irrigated fields and groves of trees were visible. Oil fields and a few windmills dotted the horizon. Limestone rock pieces still populated the flat, deserted land. As we approached El Paso, the soil became more sandy and desert-like. We lost the 80 miles per hour speed limit. Large swaths of irrigated patches were visible in the parched land as the area became populated. El Paso is a sprawling modern city set in the desert framed by beautiful mountain vistas. Stately cedar trees reached for the sun in some of the developed areas. El Paso borders both Mexico and New Mexico.

Leaving El Paso, we soon entered New Mexico and approached Las Cruces, our evening destination where we had spent one night of our honeymoon forty-two years ago. Huge herds of cattle were being raised outside Las Cruces, the first cattle we had seen since we left Sonora this morning. The ever-present mountains on the horizon provided a contrast to the desert scene. Irrigated acres of trees neatly lined the interstate for a brief while.

We arrived at our comfortable lodging at the SpringHill Suites in Las Cruces. Our evening meal was enjoyed at Luna Rossa Winery & Pizzeria, a popular family-owned Italian restaurant where foods are prepared from scratch with natural ingredients and pizza is fired in a brick oven. We took a short drive through some of the subdivisions, admiring the stucco homes and desert landscapes in a city that rests in the shadow of beautiful mountains.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

We arose at 5:30 AM to begin our next journey during this, our first year of retirement, in order to worship with family, Lois & James Marburger and Jason & Kathryn Turnipseed, in their home church at St. John Lutheran Church in Lincoln, Texas. It was wonderful to be with them and to receive the Lord’s Supper with them in worship.

Leaving Lincoln, we traveled through Bastrop to return to Highway 290 as we continued our journey west. It was heartbreaking to see the endless fields of dry, lifeless corn that followed us, and the acres of burned, denuded trees from the 2012 destructive fires around Bastrop.

The contrasting geography of Texas was beautiful to behold as we drove through the state from the piney woods of Tomball through the rolling limestone hills of Austin and Fredericksburg and on to Interstate 10 in west Texas where walls of beautiful limestone framed the road on our route to Sonora, Texas, where we stopped at Days Inn for the night. KG

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