Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to School Expedition

It is September, and the marketing media has bombarded us with the phrase "Back to School", throughout its print, radio, and TV advertising campaigns. However, ever since my visit last year to the beautiful place shown on the photograph, hearing the phrase "Back to School", takes my mind "Back to Schoolhouse Beach"! I think one thing that makes Schoolhouse Beach so memorable to me, was the difficulty involved in getting there: Automobile drive to Branson Airport; flight to Milwaukee, Wisconsin; car rental in Milwaukee for drive several hours north to Door County, Wisconsin; boarding a ferry across Lake Michigan to Washington Island; boarding a tram on Washington Island that gave a circle tour of all that beautiful place had to offer---in particular, the memorable Schoolhouse Beach!!

There are lots of things about Schoolhouse Beach that make it memorable, not the least of which was the $250 fine PER ROCK, for removing any of their unusual beach stones, as warned in the sign at the bottom of this collage.

Even though we were not supposed to put any of the stones in our pocket to take home as a souvenir, kids (and adults, too!), were welcome to pick up the stones to toss into the water, to see if they could make them "skip" across the surface , in the age-old tradition of such activities. You might say that little children is how the beach got its name. That is because, in the mid 1800's, a log schoolhouse was built at the location, to educate the children of the hearty folks who inhabited Washington Island in those days. I found these words, written by Norbert Blei, on the Washington Island website ( ) that eloquently expressed my thoughts about the rocks on this beach: "Pick me up. Let me make a home in your hand. What purity of shape. Touch and feel. (But do not take, under penalty of fine.) Run your fingers around the smoothness, the satisfaction of being nothing more than stone. The wonder of white glowing within. Not another one like me in sight. Drop me, throw me elsewhere on the beach with a clack. Or pass me into the hands of a small child, to toss, to skip back to the blue waters where I was born. And will slowly make my way back to Schoolhouse Beach for generations to come, where historically, naturally I that garden of white stone."

In addition to the activities suggested in the quote above, visitors can create whatever sculptures they wanted to, and leave them there for the next group of visitors to admire. I speculated that whoever made this design was familiar with the Canadian province that has a similar symbol on its flag.

The first time I saw a stack of rocks like this one was in near-by Canada, and I was told it was an ancient tradition of the native American tribes to place markers similar to this, along their trails, to identify locations. So you might think of this design as a precursor to our bright green signs and "mile marker signs", seen on Interstate highways in North America!

It took a lot of storms and wave action to smooth out these limestone rocks to make them the shiny, white sculptures they are today. The heart-shaped rock shown in this photo, made me think of the Bible verse that says, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26 NIV) I am thankful that through lots of storms and "wave action" in my own life, God is, slowly but surely, removing my heart of stone, and giving me a new heart and a new spirit! (Disclaimer: PBPWMGINFWMY! That is a reminder to: Please Be Patient With Me. God Is Not Finished With Me Yet! ) Now it is time for YOU to take a "Back to School Expedition"!! What do YOU think of when you hear that phrase??? Miles of smiles! Tricia

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Crystal Cove State Park

Labor Day Weekend is often considered the unofficial end of summer, and time to pack away one's beach gear until the next season. However, there is a very special beach I was able to visit recently, that is popular year-round, and has a steady stream of activities, regardless of the season. I am speaking of the beach at Crystal Cove State Park, that is located between Laguna Beach on the south, and Newport Beach on the north, in beautiful Southern California. The top photo of this collage shows the logos of the two non-profit organizations that have made this possible. The bottom left photo shows a wheel chair with balloon tires, designed especially for use on the sandy beach, and is a reminder for me to mention that Crystal Cove State Park has several wheel-chair accessible activities, including a handicap-equipped, overnight rental cottage. The photo on the right is a reminder for me to mention, that there is a bus that takes visitors from the parking lot, across Pacific Coast Highway, and down into the ocean side, beach part of the state park.

The cottages at Crystal Cove started being built in the late 1920's and 1930's, and continued for the next couple of decades. The land was originally owned by the Irvine Company, which owned most of the area's coastal ranch lands. It was sold to the state of California in 1979, for preservation as a state park. Those who lived in the cottages (called "Covites" by the locals) could do so until 2001. At that time, the state awarded a private developer the rights, and a sixty year lease, to turn the cottages into a luxury resort. However, a certain third-generation "Covite" resisted the plan, and proposed an alternate plan, which "won out" in 2003. As a result, 22 of the cottages have been restored and are available for rental. This photo shows one of the cottages, with the top photo showing the plaque proudly displayed on its porch, and the bottom showing a view of the front of the cottages, that faces out onto the Pacific Ocean.

Even if you are not able to get an overnight rental cottage at Crystal Cove, be sure to at least try the Beachcomber Cafe located there. As the top photo indicates, they serve ice cream, burgers, sandwiches, and cold drinks. The view they have of the ocean is stunning!

In 1979, the Crystal Cove district was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and that is also the year the land was sold to the state of California, to be used as a park. The placard shown in this photo is an illustration of placards located through the large park, to help visitors understand the rich history of the area. Part of that history includes the making of the 1988 movie, Beaches, with Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey. If you are like me, you may not remember the movie, but I bet you will remember its theme song---You Are the Wind Beneath My Wings--- which won a Grammy Award.

This photo shows the difference between a state park beach and the beach of a luxury resort. If you will recall the photos you have seen of beachfront resorts, they most likely had matching lounge chairs, lined up in perfectly straight rows, with matching beach umbrellas, matching towels, and matching tropical drinks. That is definitely NOT what you will find at Crystal Cove State Park! If you would like to learn more about renting a cottage here, check out for instructions, along with links to other interesting attractions in the area.

The group I was with for the visit to Crystal Cove State Park is shown in this photograph. Everyone was studying their map of the park, to dream about which cottage THEY would like to rent, and, exactly which cottage was the one where the movie Beaches was filmed. As we visited the park, we felt the wind against our faces, saw the surfers riding the roaring waves, and listened to the sounds, as the waves crashed against the beach. It brings to mind Psalm 93:4 that says "The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea." That reminds me to be certain that I am relying on the LORD as the "wind beneath MY wings"!! Miles of smiles! Tricia

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Santa Anita Park Expedition

On a recent trip to Southern California, I had the opportunity for a return visit to Santa Anita Park. Santa Anita is a thoroughbred racetrack in Arcadia, California. My previous visit there was as a guest of someone who had a box seat to watch the races, and who also knew statistics about the horses that were running that day. On my visit to the park last week, there were no races scheduled, but that in no way means that the park was closed down. It is a year-round operation for training and boarding horses, as well as a site for catering special events. There is also a food-service operation, called "Clockers", that is open to the public (lower right photo), and seemed to be doing a booming business, selling coffee and breakfast meals, on the day I was there. Considering the park's close proximity to the Hollywood film industry, it is not surprising that the facilities there have been used in the filming of many movies. For example, Santa Anita's vast parking lot and exterior served as the entrance facade for the fictional "Wally World" in National Lampoon's Vacation movie. That art deco-designed facade and grandstand (lower left photo of collage) has been designated as a historic landmark. That is because it was opened in 1934, and has---for the most part---been in operation ever since it opened, although not always for horse racing. For example, during the 1942-1944 period of World War II, Santa Anita was used as a Japanese American internment center, with up to 17,000 people living in the horse stables.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to tour the "behind the scenes" part of Santa Anita that contains the stables and other support buildings for maintaining horses. If one plans ahead, they too can take a peek at the stables area by signing up for the free, guided "Sea Biscuit Tour" that is offered at the park. The lower photo of this collage shows the tram that transports visitors on the Sea Biscuit Tour, on the multi-acre area that comprises the stables location. For those who may have forgotten, Seabiscuit is the name of a VERY FAMOUS thoroughbred race horse that is closely associated with Santa Anita Park(he raced there eleven times) and Santa Anita history. In fact, Santa Anita is known as the "Home of Seabiscuit", and there is a life-size statue of him in the paddock area of the park. Of course, the tour includes a visit to the statue, several filming locations for the movie, as well as to the "Champions" gift shop at the park, where one can find all types of merchandise related to horses, and Seabiscuit in particular. Sea Biscuit was stabled in "Barn 38" (middle and upper right photo), between the years of 1937 - 1940. Seabiscuit is most famous for winning the 1940 Santa Anita Handicap race. The horse became even more of a legend during the past decade because of the extremely popular movie made about it, simply entitled "Seabiscuit". In that movie, Tobey McGuire played the jockey who rode Seabiscuit to victory .

When you take the tour of the stables area, if you are like me, you may be surprised to see automatic washing machines sitting uncovered, outside many of the stables (lower photo). Apparently training horses can be a dirty business! I was also surprised to see how some of the stables area were "dressed up" with window boxes, decorative shutters, clever signage, and flowering plants. Notice the massive size of the trunk of the tree shown in the middle photo of this collage. I learned those are called Pepper trees, and these gorgeous, shade-producing trees line the roadways throughout the stables area.

Since Santa Anita is well-suited to handle large numbers of horses, trainers, athletes, and spectators, it is not surprising to learn that it was used as the site of the equestrian events of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. I had the good fortune to get to attend some of the equestrian events at the Summer Olympics held in Atlanta, Georgia, and those events included a lengthy bus ride to get to the somewhat rural, venue. In contrast, Santa Anita is just east of Pasadena, in a densely populated area.

When you tour the stables area, you will get to see the horse hospital (middle left photo), the "detention/holding barn", the exercise boys and girls out (lower left photo), workers washing the horses, and workers toting off straw (new straw is put down in the stables daily, and the old straw is hauled off to farms where mushrooms are grown). Every horse I saw the day of my tour, had a bit and bridle on its head. Those terms reminded me of the First Place 4 Health memory verses I have learned that try to get me to see the power of the tongue, and the difficulty that us human beings have, in trying to control it! Although our tongue is tiny in comparison to the rest of our body, what the tongue says can influence the direction that our bodies take. That is what the Bible verse in James 3:3 is trying to show us: "When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal." If you would like to learn more about Santa Anita Park, just log onto and trot on out to So Cal for a visit you will never forget!! Miles of smiles! Tricia

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Expedition Celebrating 96 Years!

I had the wonderful opportunity this past week, to fly out to Los Angeles, California, to attend a very special occasion. It was an all-day event to celebrate the 96th birthday of my Aunt Charlotte. She is shown in the bottom photo of this collage, with two of her grandsons. Notice that she is walking and smiling---two of her many wonderful traits, that have contributed to her longevity. The top photo of the collage shows the giant-sized banner that was hung between two of the massive oak trees that provided a cooling canopy of shade for our group. The celebration was held in a city park in the L.A. suburb of Glendora, California, which (if you know your Route 66 history) contains several miles of that very historic, U.S. roadway. My Aunt Charlotte was alive BEFORE that famous highway was even started, and she traveled it many times on trips she would make back to Arkansas to visit relatives there.

This photo shows Aunt Charlotte's two sons and their wives. Don is on the left, and Bill is on the right. For one of her previous birthday celebrations, a family member did some research to find out just how long she had been a licensed beautician. They learned that she had been licensed in the state of California for at least 50 years, AND that she held the record for that state, of maintaining her license (required to continue working---which she did up until a few years ago) for longer than any other California beautician license-holder. Furthermore, she held the record of being the longest, continually licensed beautician of ANYONE west of the Mississippi!! That is something to be proud of!!

These are just a few of the dozens of snapshots taken at this happy occasion. The top photo shows the "Birthday Girl"; the two below that show Don's kids; the one in the center shows two of Bill's daughters; the photo to the left of that shows just a few of the grandchildren, great grandchildren, and one great, great grandchild! The photo to the right, shows some of Charlotte's nieces and nephews that were able to attend. The bottom two photos show more of her grandchildren and great grandchildren, with the one on the right representing FIVE generations!!

Trying to get a group that large, all posed for one picture, is sort of like "herding cats", but this photograph shows everyone who attended, that we could entice into the snapshot. The presence of all these people is a great tribute to the life that Aunt Charlotte has lived. She is a good example of someone who has followed the advice (and reaped the health benefits) given in Proverbs 3:7-8 (The Message) that says "Don't assume that you know it all. Run to GOD! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life!" I have gratitude in my heart for Aunt Charlotte's example, AND gratitude to all those cousins in California who worked to make this event so enjoyable ----providing me, and all who attended, with "miles of smiles"!! Tricia

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