Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Our trip to California started early in the morning - the first alarms I heard went off around 2:30 am (central time) on Thursday, August 28. Less than 10 hours later (just before 10:00am California time) we had arrived at the Sacramento airport and were being warmly greeted by the Hector family! We had met the Hectors when they visited us back in May after the CPC's presbytery meetings. Much sooner than we had then expected, we were able to return the favor and visit them. :-) Our sister church, CVP, had invited us out to be a part of their first annual family camp and our whole family made it out to California for what turned out to be a wonderful, memorable week-plus of visiting.
And, as I said, it all started with Hector hospitality. Thursday, after picking us up at the airport, and taking us out for an early (for California) lunch and brief driving tour of Sacramento, we headed up to the hills and the Hector home. As you can see in the picture at the top of this post, their 'backyard' looks slightly more interesting than most backyards here in the Midwest!
Our time at their home was very relaxing and enjoyable. Chess, card games, the pool, a rattlesnake on the driveway (yes, we brought the rattle home), foosball, pictionary, good food, and various discussions filled the hours we spent at their home.
On Friday, however, they took us on an outing to see another side of California - the Pacific Ocean!
We took two vehicles - some went in the van, some went in the RV. In the RV we entertained ourselves through the hours of driving in a number of unique ways. Pictured above was our rubberband shooting contest...
We did finally arrive at the ocean, slightly before the lunch hour. Some chose to walk immediately down to the water, while others got lunch out! Thankfully, despite the strength of the ocean, at the end of the day all family members were still accounted for when we loaded up the van! And yes, that is a more serious comment than might be initially assumed.
The Hectors documented our day far more carefully than we did - and part of Saturday morning's fun was looking through the 800 or so pictures that they took! It is amazing what a good camera and a good eye can produce!
Some of us got wetter than others, but I think it was impossible for anyone to be near the beach and not get wet that day!
After everyone had had enough of the water, the sand begged to be molded and shaped, and built up... various techniques were practiced and a sprawling sand castle of sorts soon took up a large area of beach.
Then it was time to rinse off, dry off, and head off! But before heading home we had a couple of stops to make. First was to a tide-pool area where we observed various small species of ocean life. Then, just down the coast, were a herd (??) of Harbor Seals. The beach was closed off, of course, and we were unable to walk down to see them. So instead we walked up to see them... through a grove of trees, to some cliffs that overlooked the beach. You can't really see them in this picture (below) but they were down there laying on the sand.
On our way home, the Hectors took us through San Francisco - but the fog was heavy, so we used our very active imaginations to picture the Golden Gate bridge!
On Sunday, we packed up and bid adieu to the Hector home. After church, and lunch and visiting, we went home with the Schroeder family and experienced some more wonderful hospitality. I don't know, people talk about southern hospitality and I know I've experienced some of that, but we all commented on this trip about how very welcomed we felt everywhere. Not even like we were guests that were being entertained, but like we were truly a part of things and that they all really wanted to not just get to know us, but to establish relationships with us.
Our time with the Schroeders was brief, but long enough for some great conversations... and a few new games! Monday morning was spent mostly packing everything because it was finally time to get to the purpose of our trip: The 2008 CVP Family Camp in Pinecrest, California!
Camp Chinquapin is a quiet little camp up in the Sierras - that is, it was until we all arrived and then it was no longer quiet. From Monday through Thursday the camp echoed the laughter, games, songs, and chatter of a church family that loves to be together. The Erber family was truly blessed and refreshed by the families of CVP. We pray that God will bring many more opportunities for fellowship between us and them - and between our church and theirs! We have new dear friends on the western coast and we are so grateful for you all!
Of course, we were at a camp, and Volleyball must be played - regularly, frequently - when at a camp! The first couple games didn't look so good, but by the end of the week there were some pretty sharp looking volleys! And some pretty closely matched teams, despite the sun ever shining in our eyes.
There was nearly always a lengthy line of players rotating in as there were about twice as many players as there was space!
Of course, it wasn't all play and no work! :-) The church had invited us to join them at the camp to share with them some of the things that God has been teaching us. Dad spoke to the entire group each evening, and one morning they split into a mens session and ladies session.
Ah, the many wonders of a camp! Volleyball, basketball, foosball, bike riding, hiking, a campfire with songs and s'mores, meals resounding with chatter... and jokes. They had divided the families into 5 teams for the week, and there were various point earning opportunities throughout the week that could accumulate up to a grand total by the end. Many of the games were organized into tournaments for that sake, and thus had a little more than the typical competitive edge. The foosball tournament was hotly contested and followed carefully by a larger crowd than might typically be expected.
One point-earning accomplishment was to learn (and report to the camp director) something interesting about the Erber family... hmmm.
Ah, and then there was the hike to "Cleo's Sauna". It was supposed to be a hike to Cleo's Baths (and some did actually make it), but since we took the wrong fork, well...
It was a memorable, and truly very fun, hike! It started out quietly enough as we followed a pleasant path around the lake.
And then it turned a little more rigorous...
...yes, the sun was hot, and the rocks were hot, but at least it was dry heat! :-)
And throughout the hike everyone pitched in to make sure that everyone made it and was doing well. Whether it was a helping hand, a word of encouragement, a joke, a song, a picture, a shared water bottle, a smile...
...hey, even wimps like me were able to make it!
By the time the group of nearly 40 of us made it to the turn around point, we were several miles from the camp, a mile or so from the lake (it's kind of hard to judge distance on that terrain, though), had been hiking for almost three hours, and were nearly completely out of water - maybe it would have been better if it wasn't dry heat after all! But in pleasant company temporary dehydration isn't so bad, and what water was still around was willingly shared with all in need.
When found, shade was very pleasant. And with Mrs. Walker's permission (even though we risked being late for dinner) as soon as we got back to the lake, everyone jumped in! It was a brief, but much needed and enjoyed refreshment - and all soaking wet we were soon afterwards back on the path to the trail head.
Mr. & Mrs. Hector met our group there with their van and maybe I shouldn't mention how many of us we fit in for the drive back to the camp...
Dinner was perhaps a slightly quieter affair that evening - perhaps. But despite the workout of the afternoon, I don't think anyone skipped out on the evening entertainment: a dance!
They were English country dances and we had an enjoyable time with a few dances that we already knew, and also learned a couple of new ones! Incidentally, the gentleman who came up to the camp for the evening to call the dances had been in Jamestown last June and had talked with Nathan Del there and mentioned Resounding Voice in conversation before we had established any such connection!
Lots of smiles...
On the next day, Wednesday, most of the young folks on our team hiked all the way around the lake - for fun, and for points! Did we mention that we had a couple of competitive families on our team? I didn't make it on that hike, but the report is that they did make it to the "jumping rocks" and enjoyed jumping the 15 foot drop into the lake, found an abandoned water bottle, swam and kayaked in the lake, and over all had a wonderful time together.
That evening was our last evening together. It was also the night of the "Talent" show! I can't even start to describe the evening to anyone who wasn't there - and perhaps it is better if I don't!
Let me simply say that "Talent" is a very broad, inclusive term. Lots of skits and songs...
And, yes, our whole team got up on stage...
Afterwards, many of us stayed up late - trying a couple of new dances, and then just sitting around talking, and sharing from a vast store of jokes, puns and riddles. It sure is a good thing that blondes are such good sports!
Thursday morning came around all too quickly. After breakfast, there was time for a few more games, and then it was time to pack up. Before everyone left, however, there was one final gathering to announce the winning team. It was ours, of course! Just kidding!! Well, it was our team, but it was NOT of course. In fact, we had very much anticipated coming in second, and were rather surprised to hear that wasn't the case!
Team "Limited Atonement" (yes, there were five teams), we had a wonderful time getting to know you all during the week! We're glad to have been your teammates and can't wait to see you out our way in next spring!
After we had finally loaded up the vehicle that one of the church elders had lent us for the week, and dragged out our good-byes as long as possible, we left camp with the Walker, Hector and Gregg families to get pizza for lunch! Of course, lunch couldn't last forever, and we finally had to say our goodbyes to the Greggs and the Hectors, as well. But, our visit wasn't quite over yet, as we headed to the Walker's home for our last night in California!
Everyone was tired from the several days of camp, so we turned in early that evening. But we did get to spend a bit of time with them on Friday morning talking and playing games, of course! Thank you Walkers, for your warm hospitality! We were encouraged and challenged by your life and conversation. It was a blessing to get to know you all better!
Then, finally, the clock struck noon and it came time to head back to the airport. Somehow, despite odd computer errors, we did manage to make it back home, landing just before midnight on Friday night. Of course, as you may have read in a proceeding post, we arrived back home around 1:30am on Saturday morning.
The rest, you might say, is history - or you might say it is laundry, grocery shopping, catching up on phone calls and emails, and other items necessary to returning again to normal life! Back here on the home front we are enjoying appropriate humidity levels, cool temperatures (we had our first fire of the season in our wood stove this morning - just to burn off the dust, of course), and the busyness of a life that is falling back into routine and looking ahead to upcoming events.
Yet, we are not without plenty of reminders of our trip west. Slightly darker skin than we had a couple of weeks ago, sore muscles that are finally relaxing, a few persistent bruises, many special memories, pictures and emails keeping us in touch with California, deeper friendships, new friendships, warmed hearts and stimulated minds...