Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fabulous Findings on our Family Funtrip!

We Can't Forget the Dinners!
We have established a fun and sometimes costly tradition on our family vacations: Absolutely NO chain restaurants for dinner! We take turns choosing our dining experience for the day.
Randy was first. He selected a Basque restaurant in Elko, Nevada called Toki Ona. 
The menu made us wonder. It listed a hamburger or you could have a HOT hamburger. (That was a bit worrisome!) Another item was a half balked chicken. (I wonder what the fully baked one was like.)
Anyway, the amount of food they brought out made our eyes (and our stomachs) pop! First was clam chowder and bread for all, then salad, then a rice dish, then green beans, then spaghetti, then potatoes baked and french fried! By the time they served our MAIN course, we couldn't down a bite! Now THIS was definitely a dining experience!

I was next
And selected what turned out to be a  fancy restaurant named "Eagle's Landing" on California's June Lake. Terrific ambiance, great food.

Emily chose a 50's diner from our car's Global Positioning System.
It was a FUN place out in the middle of NOWHERE on our way from Yosemite to Santa Clara.
Notice the photos on the wall of our booth: "Father Knows Best", "Leave it to Beaver"
The owner played the Jukebox just for us.
The girls HAD to have a picture with Elvis!

Audrey played it pretty safe and chose Pizza from Vito's in Santa Clara, California. (We forgot our camera, so we went back the next morning to get this shot.)

The VERY BEST food and atmosphere came from Randy's second choice, Dipsea, not far from the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Our meals were unique, colorful, and delicious. This restaurant makes all their own dressings from scratch. I wonder if they would give me the recipe for their Ranch if I asked. We all agreed it was the BEST we had ever tasted.

We had far too much fun here. The challenge? to make the biggest frown and smile possible without showing your teeth.

If you chance to meet a frown...
Quickly turn it upside down!

Fabulous Findings on our Family Funtrip!

#10 Lake Tahoe
On our way home, we took a little detour to a sandy beach on Lake Tahoe.

The water was so cool, clear, and inviting...

...I just couldn't stay out of it; I went swimming clothes and all! My daughters thought I was absolutely nuts!
I eventually coaxed Randy into the cold water!
I am definitely coming back here next summer for more than just an hour or two! A week or two would be GREAT!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fabulous Findings on our Family Funtrip!

#9 San Francisco
The Golden Gate Bridge from one end...
...and the other.

Sharing a Ghirardelli's peanut butter and chocolate Gold Rush Sundae.

Sleepy, Sea Lions at Pier 39
They are oh so smelly... 
...but SO fun to watch!

Fabulous Findings on our Family Funtrip!

#8 The Muir Woods

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."
--John Muir
The Muir Woods can be found across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Franciso. We had planned to see the Redwoods National Forest but changed our plans last minute. This is the second best place to see Giant Coastal Redwoods, the tallest of all living things.
The tallest coastal redwood at Muir Woods is about 258 feet, approximately the height of a six-foot person stacked head to toe 45 times. The average age is between 600 to 800 years, with the oldest being at least 1200 years old. This is still young for redwoods as they can live up to 2200 years.
"This is the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world,"
--John Muir 
Family Circles -- There is something so interesting about these giant redwoods: You can't see it very well in this photograph, but hundreds of years ago a single large redwood grew here. Then disaster struck. The trunk of the large redwood was killed, perhaps by repeated and severe wildfire. From where we were standing, we could see the original tree trunk, dead and blackened.

Despite the damage, the tree did not die. Below the ground, it's massive root system was still alive. Before long, hundreds of young, bright green sprouts began to come up around the circle formed by the root crown of the original tree. Some of those sprouts have grown into the full-sized trees that stand today in a circle around the original trunk.

There must be an analogy in here somewhere...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fabulous Findings on our Family Funtrip!

#7 Great America Theme Park
Santa Clara, California
Flight Deck was the favorite roller coaster--a twisty turny, upside down, inside out kind of corkscrew ride. Me? I liked the gondola ride. I don't know what has happened to me. I used to LOVE roller coasters, but this time around even with Dramamine I turned green on nearly every ride! I was a good sport and tried most of them, but when Randy and the girls were ready for their second time around, I suggested lunch then spent a very relaxing afternoon to myself in our nearby hotel. I will never keep the rest of the family from all the fun, but I think I am, as of today, finished with amusement parks. I prefer having my feet planted firmly on the ground.

The end of this video is just for you, David!

Fabulous Findings on our Family Funtrip!

#6 Yosemite
My first visit to this wondrous place.
Camera Tricks
The weathered old and the tender new.
I love this photograph!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fabulous Findings on our Family Funtrip!

#5 June Lake and the Mammoth Branch
The hotels near Mono Lake were all booked for the night, so we called Boulder Lodge up the road a few miles. They had two rooms left. "We'll take one!" It was located on the edge of June Lake, a breathtaking spot!
The gal at the desk noticed my CTR ring and asked if we were members of the LDS church. Her father-in-law just happened to be the branch president of the local branch and we were able to inquire about the particulars of the next morning's Sacrament Meeting. 
It was a tiny chapel. Only twenty-seven people attended, including the four of us and five running camp attendees (One of which was a resent convert that Audrey met at the Los Angeles Temple earlier this summer -- VERY small world). Our meeting began a bit late; Branch President McCoy was waiting for the high counsel speaker to arrive... he never did. I played the electronic piano which was equipped to play the hymns with the push of a button if needed, Randy blessed the Sacrament and gave one of five volunteer messages, the girls performed a musical number. We were happy to help. President McCoy has been a member of the church for just 18 years and has served as the Mammoth branch president for the past 17 years! This is a resort area, thus their attendance varies from week to week. Last week they had a congregation of 170, this week as mentioned, only 27 -- eight were regular members of his branch. 

Fabulous Findings on our Family Funtrip!

#4 The Tufa Towers of Mono Lake
What in the world is this very weird stuff that looks as though it has bubbled up out of the lake? I learned something on this trip: It is called tufa (too'-fah). Tufa is essentially common limestone that forms in a very uncommon way. Underwater springs rich in calcium mix with lake water rich in carbonates. As the calcium comes in contact with carbonates in the lake, a chemical reaction occurs resulting in calcium carbonate--limestone. The calcium carbonate forms as a solid around the spring, and over the course of decades to centuries, a tower will grow. 
Tufa towers grow exclusively underwater, and some grow to heights of over 30 feet. The reason so much tufa can be seen around Mono Lake today is because the lake level fell dramatically after water diversions began in 1941.
Anyway, you've got to see it to believe it!