Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

In about an hour Sarah and I are going to hit the road for a long drive up the Pacific coast, eventually landing in Portland, the “City of Roses.” I’m very excited because not only do I love the coast (and, well, road trips in general), but Portland is one of my favorite cities in the world. Here are a few things I’m looking forward to:


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Our Visit to Mosaic

My wife and I were in LA this past weekend to go to Disneyland, and since we were in the area, we decided to pay a visit to Mosaic, a multi-ethnic, arts-focused, predominantly Gen-Y church that meets at a variety of locations in the greater-LA area.  It is pastored by Erwin McManus, who is a phenomenal author and speaker, and it is also home to author/speaker Eric Michael Bryant.  We own books by both of these people, and we regularly listen to the Mosaic podcast, so we were pretty excited about visiting.

Despite the fact that it is a “mega” church in the sense that it is large, it has no permanent home, with each campus meeting at a local high school, college, or other community center.  The service we went to (9:30am in Pasadena) was staged in the auditorium of a local college.  So after navigating through the neighborhood trying to find a parking spot, we followed we walked onto the campus and discovered a party going on.


We walked towards a large crowd of people hovered around booths with a familiar tune floating in the air.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but as we got closer I realized it was the beat to a song by Common, which is not really “traditional” church music.  As it turns out, the music was coming from a DJ that was tearing it up right there in front of the building.

Keep in mind this was the Easter service.

As I surveyed the booths (with the hip hop music in the background), there was the traditional assortment of first-time visitor info, ministry brochures, and resources for purchase, but they also had a recycling booth, tables dedicated to service and justice, both foreign and domestic, and a booth dedicated to promoting the various kinds of arts (dance, music, movies, writing, photography, etc) that Mosaic integrates into their services.

It’s safe to say that I liked this place from the start.

Once the doors opened, we moved into the auditorium which filled up quickly.  I walked out to use the restroom to discover people sitting on the floor and in the aisles because there was no more space.

The worship was contemporary, really no different than most churches that don’t use a hymnal.  After a few songs, we were introduced to a Jewish member of Mosaic that specializes in improv comedy (his name escapes me).  He shared his testimony, and then he and his team performed a side-splitting improv routine about post-church brunches.

Erwin came out and delivered a nice hope and joy filled sermon (classic Erwin) about the theme of “Beauty”, which also included a wonderful short film and dance routine with interesting parallels to the Easter story.

If I could sum up the whole atmosphere of the place with one word, it would be “joy.”  Easter is a time of great joy and I really feel like the men and women at Mosaic took joy seriously, if that makes any sense.  I appreciated Mosaic’s creative use of various art forms in worship, and I felt like it was a community I could get involved with, should I ever choose to live in the overcrowded, smog-infested hell-hole that is LA.

But that’s a blog for another day.

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Sarah and I spent out honeymoon in beautiful Windsor, CA, which in the northern part of Sonoma Valley, right in between Healdsburg and Santa Rosa.

We departed for the traffic-filled 3-hour drive to Windsor just after the ceremony (with a quick stop at Taco Bell), and arrived at the WorldMark resort just after sunset. The room itself was amazing, with a large living room, fireplace, full kitchen, and a balcony. The rest of the night needs no explanation… 🙂

On Sunday we relaxed and walked around downtown Windsor, which had a rustic feel to it. It had a local bookstore (that’s a plus), a map store (that’s a big plus), and a great burger place for lunch (even better). After that we went to the movies to see Fred Claus.

Monday, with the clouds dark and rain likely, drove a few miles to the Safari West, an African style safari were an eccentric tour guide takes you on a Jeep ride past exotic animals. They had cheetahs, cape buffalo, giraffes, and probably hundreds of other animals. We enjoyed a wonderful steak at Charlie’s, located next to the resort.

Tuesday went to Napa for the Napa Valley Wine Train, a calm train ride through the valley that featured excellent food, some wine tasting, and fantastic scenery. The chef even came out at one point in order to point out Robin Williams house on a mountain. On our way back, we stopped by Sonoma to browse, and we found another great bookstore, and we got to visit Baksheesh again. Baksheesh is a “fair trade” retailer, which means they sell goods made by people from all around the world, and they actively promote smart consumerism, which means buying things that benefit the global community. They also have a huge selection of nativities from countries around the globe. We bought one from Israel, and vowed to buy one every year. That night we enjoyed a lovely dinner at Langley’s-on-the-Green.

On Wednesday we did some wine tasting. We had a driver pick us up in a luxurious Lincoln, and, with his expert knowledge of the region, he guided us to the best wineries around. Here are some of the places we went:

  • Twomey – This place has a modern art feel, with glass walls that overlooked to Russian River Valley.
  • Armida – A pretty winery located on a hill that specializes in making PoiZin (“Zin” as in “Zinfadel”…get it?).
  • Rosso & Bianco – This winery was basically a shrine to Francis Ford Coppola, which made more sense once we found out he owned the place. It also had a delicious Italian food restaurant where we ate lunch.
  • Ferrari-Carano – This place was amazing. It had a beautiful garden all around the property, and a building that looked like a mansion.
  • Bella – The tasting room for this winery is a cave built into the side of a hill! How awesome is that!?
  • Christopher Creek – This was a small winery with a very knowledgeable guy working the tasting room.
  • Rodney Strong – A very large winery with a walk-thru tour of the whole wine making process.

We ended up taking a nap afterwards and then went to see Enchanted, which was hilarious.

Thursday was Thanksgiving, and we opted to spend it on the beach. So, we drove along the Russian River, passed through Guerneville, and settled in Bodega Bay, where we enjoyed a picnic of the beach. When we got back, we went to dinner at the only place open – the Irish pun, which displayed a sign reading “Tired on the in-laws? We’re open!”

On Friday we went on a nice drive through Calistoga, Geyserville and Healdsburg, stopping on the way at the Petrified Forest, and the Old Faithful Geyser, both of which were much more exciting on paper.  That night we went out to eat at the best )and the most expensive restaurant I have ever been too – The Farmhouse Inn.  We had duck, rabbit, and several things we couldn’t pronounce, but it was absolutely delicious.

And that was it.  Saturday morning we took off and went back to our real lives.

Here is a slideshow of pictures throughout our honeymoon.  

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I’ve been a little stressed out lately. There’s been a wedding to plan, work, articles to write, family drama, and more all piled on me at once. So, I decided I was going to take a day to relax. I used a vacation day yesterday and was going to just go to the beach by myself and relax, but I decided that I would make my trip more expansive than that. Maybe it was the fact that I just read Into the Wild, or maybe I was just feeling adventurous, but in the end I decided that it would be a good day to just wander with no destination or route in mind.

So, that’s what I did. I wandered. You can see a relative map of where I wandered by following the link below (ignore most of the pinpointed places though; they exist simply because it was the only way to keep Google Maps from sending me to the Interstate every time I typed in directions).

View Larger Map

The one place I knew I wanted to go was through the San Antonio Valley, which is a sparsely traveled alternative way to get to the coast in the No Man’s Land between  580 up north and 152 farther south.  The road leading through the mountains – Del Puerto Canyon Rd. – is rumored to be a nice place to go motorcycle riding.  I don’t have a motorcycle, but I’m always down for a good drive.  So, I headed south to Turlock and turned west to Patterson.  Del Puerto Canyon start at the end of Patterson on the other side of I-5.  It’s easy to see why no one drive it – it’s a windy road with switchbacks that keep your average speed at about 30 mph.  It was beautiful though – the path winded along a creek with the walls of the mountains towering overhead.  I passed an off-road park and came to a fork in the road with north heading towards Livermore and south towards San Jose.  I opted for south.  As I continued, I got out from time to time to enjoy the surroundings, observe the wildlife (plenty of deer), and enjoy the silence that overwhelmed the landscape.  I saw maybe a dozen cars during the whole trip through the canyon, and all but two of them were in between Patterson and the off-road park, so it was a refreshing change of pace from the plethora of noise in the city.

The highlight of my whole trip was my ascent up Mt. Hamilton, which was just outside of San Jose.  It was a steep climb (which gave my Versa a chance to flex some of its best-in-class-horsepower), and it got really foggy as I was making my way up.  I could see the road, but everything off to the side was covered in haze, like I had just wandering onto the set a of a new version of The Headless Horseman or something.  As I got to the top of the mountain, I broke through the fog and pulled out at a turnout to look at what was basically the top of the cloud completely covering the entire landscape.  It was like the view you get from an airplane: a sea of fluffy white clouds covering the vast expanse of the sky, with only the highest mountains sticking their heads above the mass.  It was absolutely beautiful.  I can’t find the cord to get the pictures off my camera, but it looked something like the 3rd pictured down on this page, but with clouds covering everything.

After admiring that work of art, I passed through San Jose (more than 3 hours after leaving Patterson) and made my way to Half Moon Bay, a place I had not been to since I was little.  The town was not as charming as I remembered it, but it was a good place to grab some fish and chips, browse through a used bookstore, and reflect on the beach for about an hour.

After that, I headed south down Highway 1, which every Californian should do once in their lives in order to truly appreciate how drama and beauty of the coast.  I passed through Santa Cruz, and continued south until I got to Aptos, a place that holds a special place in my heart.  When I was in high school, my parents owned a beach house in Aptos, and we used to visit every other weekend to relax and enjoy the beach, which I did frequently.  There was also a hiking tail a five minute walk the other direction.  That place is special to me just because of all the memories.  Aptos will always be “the beach” for me, the place where I will automatically go to when I desire to see the coast.  I drove by our old house (which looks completely different, grabbed a slice of pizza at the place down the street, and decided to head back.

This part of the trip was not as spontaneous, because it was the same route I had been driving to-and-from Aptos for years, but it was a nice little bit of nostalgia.  The drive up 152 through Hecker Pass and through the San Luis reservoir was as gorgeous as always, and the drive north from Los Banos once again caked my windshield with so many bugs that I felt like I had just committed genocide.  I finally pulled into my driveway at about 7pm, concluding a twelve hour day of driving and exploring that covered about 300 miles.  Most would not call that a relaxing day, but to me, it was just that.

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The World Race

While I was blog surfing today, I came across a very interesting ministry called The World Race.   It premise is simple: a small group of young adults start out in Mexico for training, and then the race begins to get to their next country.  Once they get there, they spend the rest of the month working with local ministries, which could include church planting, helping the poor, disaster relief, and so on.  At the end of the month, they get a new country and the teams race there to work with another ministry.  This goes on for a year.

One of the things that strikes me about this program is the dedication it takes.  Requirements include:

  • World Racers abandon everything before they go.
  • World Racers therefore have to depend completely on God.
  • World Racers purpose is to give as they go.
  • World Racers live with the poor.
  • World Racers build community – a deep sense of family – with one another.

I’m amazed at people who sign up for this.  I think about projects like this and then think about all the bills I have, the luxuries I live with, the opportunities I have here, and a million other reasons to not do it.  But these people are taking Jesus commands literally and leaving all they have to be with the broken, to live among the poor, and to care for those that are least in this world.  I have an extreme respect for these people.

Plus there’s a race, so not only do you get to change the world for Christ, but you get to win something!

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Iguaza Falls

Iguaza 2This is pretty much the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I instantly made it one of my life goals to visit it someday. It’s on the border between Brazil and Argentina.

How can someone look at this and not see that there’s a God?

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