Friday, June 8, 2012

California Adventure

This blog post is dedicated to our parents who instilled within us a love of travel--either every 3-4 years to a new foreign posting or every summer in a motor home or station wagon to some new place in the USA. We hope our children will grow up with similar fond memories of fun times together as a family. We also hope that their grandparents, who are not quite up to the long drives of yesteryear, will vicariously enjoy this family vacation.

Summer vacation officially began with a trip to Logan on Memorial Day followed by a Tuesday morning departure for our California Adventure. We were delayed in our start when the running board on our 12 year old Toyota Sienna fell off when I stood on it to load the roof top carrier. It seems some of the bolts on the back end had fallen off over time. There was no way I could unbolt the front bolts so I used bungee cords to hoist it up and drove down to Johnson Tires--where for free (it helps that Joel is good friends with  a fourth generation Johnson) they raised it up and undid the bolts. We then drove nine hours to Huntington Beach California for an hour on the beach followed by fish tacos and taquitos at Wahoos. We then checked in for a four night stay at the Del Sol Inn just across the street from the entry to Disneyland. The two queens and a bunk bed was an added bonus.

Next morning we began our three day adventure at Disneyland--the happiest place on earth.
I love the grounds of Disneyland. These blue delphiniums remind me of my Grandma and Grandpa Fife's beautiful garden
The final room of It's a Small World--where everyone is dressed white. Does this make it the celestial room of Disneyland?
 The princess float in the afternoon parade. Sarah has never been a big fan of Disney princesses--even though her name means princess.
Fun on the Tea Cups

That night we watched Fantasmic! from New Orleans Square. The setting was Tom Sawyer's Island (below) and the boats and rafts (above) that ply the waters around the islands

The grand finale with Disney characters floating by. Part of the show included projecting images on a big screen of water. It was all very impressive. 

Day two started out at California Adventure. The wait in line to Toy Story's Midway Mania was only about one hour.

Ride two on California Screamin--a great roller coaster.

Tide-to-go to the rescue when spaghetti sauce splattered Sarah.

Mickey's Fun Wheel was fun. We made sure we got one of the cars that rocks. Marie got soaked the most on Grizzly River Run.

We took a break to walk through Downtown Disney. The Lego store was the favorite. Outside the boys built lego cars to race. The dragon and knight are built of legos.

That night we joined the throngs to watch World of Color at Paradise Bay. I didn't get any photos but it was an impressive display of fountains, fire, lights and color. Many excerpts from Disney shows were projected onto a large water fountain screen.

Day three began with a return to Space Mountain.

Joel's souvenir was this crazy hat that he wore all day.

Turtle Talk with Crush in which Joel has a humorous discussion with an animated turtle. 

Sorcerer's Workshop where after answering questions you were told which Disney Character we were most like. Notice Sarah's french braid. She is a master at self-braiding her hair.

On Tom Sawyer's Island--which was a childhood favorite of mine.

On past trips to Disneyland we have used the Tiki Room as a cool respite and the only place where Joel and Will as toddlers would fall asleep. This time we all stayed awake.

Return trip on Splash Mountain. Got to love the fast passes.

Earlier in the day while waiting in line at the Tower of Terror we spotted a Springville Red Devil shirt. I told them we were red devils too and they told us they were at Disneyland with the SHS orchestra and that they would be performing later that day. It took a while to find out the performance venue, but we did get there in time to enjoy the last two songs. Conductor Dr. Tsugawa is Sarah's Jr. High Orchestra director. We made sure to say hello.

Spending three days in the park meant that we were able to do some of the things we haven't normally done--including watching these humorous and talented Hillbillies in the Golden Horseshoe Review. I remember this place as one of dad's favorites at Disneyland.

Watching the Broadway quality production of Aladdin. Very entertaining.

The end of three great days. Notice Tinker Bell flying across the sky.

Saturday June 2nd we headed north via I-5 and the agriculturally rich Central Valley (lots of almond and pistachio groves). We then cut across to Monterrey where we spent 2 1/2 hours at the amazing Aquarium. One of newer exhibits was about Jelly Fish. Sarah liked these dark blue ones.

The other cool new exhibit was on sea horses and sea dragons. I had no idea there were so many strange varieties.

The large, two story kelp forest.

Feeling various tide pool animals and plants.

The many colorful varieties of tropical fish, eels, corals etc. testify of a very creative Creator.

I have gathered dead sand dollars on beaches, but this is the first time I have seen how they live.

Experiencing what it is like to be under the waves as they crash to shore.

The Aquarium is housed in old fish canneries along famous Cannery Row. If not for closing time, we could have spent a lot more time here.

Looking across Monterrey Bay to Seaside where we spent the night in a Holiday Inn Express. That evening we went to dinner (pizza) with my good friends Brad and Charlie Orsburn.  We were compatriots in the Chicago Hyde Park Ward where we joined forces in helping some of the at risk youth in the ward. Next morning we attended sacrament meeting at the Seaside Ward. Amazingly, 90% of the congregation were in their seats for the 9:00 am start--something yet to be accomplished by our Spring Creek 18th ward. Maybe the punctuality can be attributed to the many military families in the ward. We enjoyed the testimony meeting. Sarah was impressed by the two deacons who bore their testimonies.

After church we drove northward along the coast via Santa Cruz and its impressive boardwalk and beach-side amusement park (which seems to be the inspiration for the boardwalk and roller coaster in Disney's California Adventure) to Pescadero Beach. There we enjoyed exploring the tidal pools and gathering rocks and shells.

Sarah loved the color on the inside of this crab shell. We took a photo instead of having the soon to die barnacles on the shell stink up our car.

An interesting Mickey-shaped arrangement of sea plants.

Next stop the Golden Gate Bridge on a beautifully clear afternoon.

We then drove through the city (a first for everyone in the family but dad) to an Indonesian restaurant. 

There we met Marie's nephew Ian (who grew up in Indonesia) and his over-due wife Anne and Marie's niece Hannah who lived in Indonesia for two years as a teenager and then for a year on a Fullbright fellowship and her husband Mike. We ordered a wonderful variety of tasty Indonesian dishes--even a tofu/tempe dish! Everyone enjoyed the sate (satay).

Four days later Anne gave birth to Henry Winfield Lowman--a name we all first heard at dinner.

We then drove to the Lighthouse Hotel in Seaside arriving at our room just in time for the end of the sunset. This is the view from our room. Thanks to my nephew Adam Marquis for arranging for a family discount. We enjoyed a stroll on the beach and then from the cement boardwalk we dodged waves splashing ashore at high tide.

Next morning Marie and Joel were the first to spot whale blow spouts and then a whale far out to sea. Pretty exciting for all or us. It was a raining morning as we drove into San Francisco. We drove via  breakfast at McDonalds (the kids enjoyed their first ever sausage Muffin), the AT&T baseball stadium, Chinatown and the winding descent of Lombard Street to Fisherman's wharf.

There we enjoyed seeing the trolley car turn-around-point, a walk along one wharf (a national park) seeing all kinds of old ships and then on to the SS Jeremiah O'Brien.

The O'Brien was one of hundreds of liberty ships hastily built (by Rosie the Riveters) during WWII to transport troops and supplies.

A few days after the initial Normandy invasion, the O'Brien carried a load of solders across the English Channel. It then made seven more trips with supplies that were pulled out of the hull via the green covered entry ways. A few years ago the O'Brien sailed back to Normandy for the 59th anniversary celebration. It is the only Liberty Ship that still sails.

We explored  the whole inside and outside of the ship. A museum in the hull showed this diorama of the O'Brien being unloaded off the coast of Normandy. In ninth grade I did a research paper on the Normandy Invasion, but it was not until today that I ever thought about the post-invasion supply links that were so needed to win the war.

Sarah the riveter.

Just up the wharf was a fun find recommended by cousin Hannah. Musee Mechanic is a collection of antique arcade games that are still playable. Joel and Will both chose to play different versions of baseball.

Sarah had her palm read and we all played some 1960s pinball. I guess that means my childhood is now antique. We then enjoyed clam chowder and fish and chips for lunch followed by a stop at Ghiradelli square for some chocolate.

The rain had stopped so we went back to the Golden Gate Bridge for a walk from the south end out to the first tower.

Final stop was Pier 39 for some seal watching and hat buying.

Drove across the Bay Bridge where this sign shows local displeasure at the new span being built with Chinese steel.

The beautiful Oakland LDS temple. We took the photo for a Primary assignment to have each family visit a temple. We then went to Hannah and Mike's for dinner then drove to Merced for the night.

From Merced we drove to Yosemite via the south entrance. First stop was the impressive sequoia tress in Mariposa Grove.

This is a mixed forest with a wonderful combination of tree-trunk colors.

The impressive old grizzly tree which is 1,800 years old. One of its branches it thicker than the trunks of the surrounding non-sequoia trees.

The snow plant.

A drive-through tree from yesteryear.

We then drove to Glacier Point for a spectacular view. Half dome in on the left.

Yosemite Valley and upper and lower Yosemite falls.

Yosemite Valley and Bridal Veil falls.

Getting misted at the base of Bridal Veil Falls.


I loved the contrast of the silver grey-green color of the distant trees and the bright emerald green of the meadow.

We then drove up and over Tioga Pass out the east entrance. I remember doing this drive years ago in the motor home. From Olmstead point looking westward you can see the backside of Half Dome.

A park ranger was at the stop with special glasses that let us all take a view of Venus on its transit between the earth and the sun.

Looking east toward the eastern portion of the Sierra Nevada range.

The drive down highway 120 from Tioga Summit (which was closed earlier in the day because of snow from the previous day's storm) was steep and scary. Will took extra caution by buckling behind all three seat belts.

We didn't pass many cars as we drove via US  6 on the 2 1/2 hour drive to Tonopah, Nevada. US 50 is called the loneliest highway in America, but US 6 is a close rival. Our reservations as the Best Western got mixed up so when we arrived at 9:30 pm the only room left was a smoking room. We decided to see what else we could find. After visiting three other motels and having no-luck (plus getting pulled over for going 42 in a 25--the officer was very nice when I told him of our hotel crisis which had clouded my focus on speed limits) we finally found success at the National 9 Inn. When I told the officer we were thinking about driving on to Ely he told us that that road has lots of animals on it at night and we would do better to stick it out in Tonopah.

This hotel will long be remembered by our children as the worst stay in a hotel they have ever had.

The last day we drove up and down the basins and ranges of Nevada, through Delta and then home. Here is Ely between its two ranges (I"ll use this slide in my geography class when I talk about the basin and range region of the western US). It was not necessarily a restful vacation, but it certainly was fun and at times even educational. I'm already starting to think about where we should go next year.


  1. Chad, no one can ever accuse you of coasting on a vacation. For you, it's always 42 in a 25. Well played. Great memories of a similar trip for us.

  2. Wow, what a great trip! I'm glad your stay at Lighthouse was better than the stay at National 9 Inn. Your pictures of Yosemite are beautiful! Adam and I are already planning a central coast trip this fall, I may refer back to this post for some ideas.

  3. Great images of the Liberty ship. Wanted to ask permission to use your photo of the diorama of the ship off-loading on a Rhino barge. Working on a war diary of a former Liberty ship sailor and the image would fit nicely on the gentlemens page. Would be happy to insert your photo info, copyright and link back for permission to use. Thanks, Sgt. Mac ;)

    1. Sgt Mac. I am happy to let you use the photo. Make sure you identify the the diorama as being a part of the O'Brien ship museum and then give my name Chad Emmett and the blog url.