Monday, July 9, 2012

Silverwood Trip

We had a fun family outing to Silverwood and an Independence Day getaway with friends
Fortunately, the Silverwood campground was full so we opted for Farragut State Park which turned out to be a beautiful camping area with lush surroundings.

We had a great time at Silverwood, riding Aftershock several times and having a blast at the waterpark (as usual).
Justin's hoping to get his license soon

We also visited the museum at Farragut State Park.  A fascinating story of a landlocked naval station on Lake Pend Orielle that housed 30,000 military and 30,000 civilian residents.

 The evening of July 3rd, we went to Stateline Speedway and watched a demolition derby.  We met up with some good friends and Spencer was able to join us too.

There was some extra excitement when a compact demolition derby car got flipped on its roof!  I've never seen that before but the driver was okay.  He was bummed he couldn't continue because his seatbelt was no longer functional.
 After the derby, we enjoyed some fireworks.  It was fun family trip!

Farewell Barbecue for Spencer & Chelsey

We had a fun time with a farewell barbecue for our son and daughter-in-law as they prepare to leave for Des Moines, Iowa.

  We had several visitors and enjoyed their company.  We were especially grateful for extended family who made the trip and spent a wonderful time visiting.  Grandma and grandpa Shoemaker were here.  There was plenty of good food.

Chelsey is going to osteopathic medical school in Iowa and wants to be a pediatrician.  Spencer is going to nursing school.  They'll head out in their U-haul this week.  We'll miss them dearly but are excited about their adventures and opportunities!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas Eve Dinner
 We had a wonderful holiday gathering at our Richland home for Christmas.  We were blessed to have Spencer and Chelsey in town for a week from Cheney.  Paul had to work Christmas day so we had our Christmas festivities on Christmas Eve.  We had a wonderful Christmas dinner with marinated pork roast, baked potatoes, rolls, gravy, Denise's special cornbread stuffing, jello dessert and sparkling cider.

Yummy Dinner
Spencer & Chelsey and a Great Gift
We then spent a couple hours opening the wonderful gifts from each other and family.  The gifts were very well thought out and appreciated so much.  It was a fun time to show how we care for one another.  It seems the best part of gifts is seeing the joy on someone's face when they open a present you have given.

Justin was especially excited to get a 35mm camera setup from Grandma Lin.  He is planning on taking a photography class at school.
 We also took the chance to go see the new Sherlock Holmes movie together and played some games too.  We weren't sure if we'd get a phone call from Nathaniel at the MTC but he did send a nice Christmas E-mail that was wonderful to get (see   A joyous Christmas celebration at our home.  Merry Christmas to everyone! Love, the Shoemakers!

Friday, December 9, 2011


Flying Over Mount Rainier
We just returned from a spectacular trip to Mexico on a cruise ship.  It was a blast.  Nathaniel, Justin, Denise and I left just after Thanksgiving and flew down to LAX.  We had some great views of mountains as we flew to Seattle then went to Long Beach for 2 nights.

Mount Adams

Mount Hood, Oregon

Flying Into Los Angeles

The View From Our Hotel Room to Long Beach Harbor

Justin and Nate in the Pacific Ocean at Seal Beach and "Ray Bay!"

Dad and Justin Playing in the Waves
Our hotel was right in the downtown area by the waterfront, we spent some time exploring Friday night.  Saturday, we hopped on the transit bus and headed for Seal Beach at the recommendation of our hotel clerks.  They forgot to mention that Seal Beach and in particular the north end where we decided to play has the largest concentration of sting rays in the nation!  Hence, the name; Ray Bay!  Unfortunately, Justin and dad found this out the hard way with stingray stings.  The stingrays have a sharp, serrated point on the tips of their tails and swat when they feel threatened.  I got sliced right on the bottom of my foot and Justin got nailed on the top.  It was quite bloody and very painful as the tails have a poison which gets into the tissue.  We enlisted the help of a lifeguard who gave us the lowdown on the massive stingray population and the hundreds of wounds they treat every year.  He also provided us with the prescribed treatment: foot soaks in water as hot as can be tolerated.
Justin's Stingray Wound

Stingray Stinger

We nursed our wounds over the next week, the pain subsided after several hours but the wound on the bottom of my foot is still tender.  Saturday evening, we took the opportunity to take the short walk to the Aquarium of the Pacific, a fantastic display of sea life with vibrant colors and unique aquatic life and the opportunity to touch sharks, stingrays (with the stinger trimmed), jellyfish and more.  The aquarium was quite a sight!

Sunset/Moonrise Over Long Beach

Ready to Board Our Ship with the Historic Queen Mary in the Background

Sunday, we got up early with great anticipation. We knew we would be getting on the ship soon. Denise was a bit nervous worrying about all the logistics but it went smoothly.
We went to the deck to watch as we departed at sunset, it was beautiful and we were excited to be on our way.

Long Beach Shipping Port

After two nights at sea, eating, relaxing, eating some more, enjoying entertainment, eating some more, relaxing, eating some more, we pulled around the southernmost tip of Baja California and into the Sea of Cortez and Cabo San Lucas. The ship anchored in the bay and smaller boats took us to the port where we had to walk through the gauntlet of people selling their trinkets, fishing trips, water taxis and more.

Land's End, the Southern Tip of Baja California at Los Cabos

Our Carnival Splendor Pulling into the Cabo San Lucas Bay

Nate Checking Out the View of Los Cabos

One of Our Greeters as We Arrived in Mexico

We knew we wanted to go see the famous arch at Land's End and maybe even spend some time on a beach.  We got to do both.  After bartering with a couple of different water taxi services, we met Lozaro and Angelica, a husband and wife team who cater to tourists like us.  We felt we got a great deal on a tour to the arch and more so we climbed on the glass-bottomed boat and headed out.

Pelicans Were All Over

On Our Boat Tour

Sea Lion in the Bay

Our Ship Anchored in the Bay

Fish Through the Glass-Bottomed Boat

Los Arcos (the Arch)

La Familia

Sea Lion Colony
Pablo was our tour guide on the boat.  He took us to see the arch among the rock features at "Land's End" this is the very southernmost tip of Baja California if you look at a map.  There is also a group of sea lions that hang out here.  Also in this area is Lover's Beach.  It is unique because one side of the beach is on the Sea of Cortez, if you walk about a hundred yards through the rock formations, you are on another beach on the Pacific Ocean.  The Pacific waves are large, pounding and dangerous.  People are warned not to swim there but we had a good time playing in the waves of the Sea of Cortez.
Playing at Lover's Beach, Our Ship in the Background

Lover's Beach

On our Way out of Cabo San Lucas Bay

Land's End

One fun part of the on-board activities was the family friendly comedy shows.  Here, Justin poses with Jorge, our cruise director and Sean, one of the professional comedians who enterained us.

On Board our Apex Boat to the Extreme Canopy Adventure in the Jungle of Mexico

Wednesday, we docked in Puerto Vallarta, we boarded an Apex boat for a ride to our "Extreme Canopy Adventure".  We were excited about the prospects of zip-lines, repelling and more.

We arrived at a small, beautiful bay with a gorgeous beach to climb aboard old-yellow, military style 4WD people haulers to ascend into the Sierra Madre jungle.  The small village where we embarked from had mainly humble dirt roads but the main road up the hill was a steep, cobblestone drive that was under construction by hand!

One of the Yellow People Haulers

The small village we set off from

We got to the Adventure headquarters and got suited up in our harnesses.  After a briefing, we got matched up with our burros and we climbed up to higher elevations on a rough trail.  Some donkeys were more cooperative than others.  Justin's would not go or listen to his commands! 

At the top of the hills, we dismounted and got ready for our first zip-line run.  More than a hundred feet long and two hundred feet over the trees, it looked exciting and it was!  Even Denise enjoyed the zip lines.

We sped down several zip-lines then got to repel down a waterfall, that was awesome!

Our Adventure Group

We also got to do a "Mission Impossible" type repel straight down from a platform 60 feet in the air.  We then had the option of getting dunked!

Last Zip-Line, a Side-by-Side Race!

The final zip-line was a side-by-side racing adventure.

Map of the Extreme Canopy Adventure
On our boat ride back to Puerto Vallarta, we took the scenic route past some large rock features.  This rock island was home to hundreds of pelicans perched in trees.  We also saw some blue-footed booby birds and other colorful birds along the way.  We spotted several passages through the rock islands and our Apex boat driver got us up close for a good view.

Back on land at Puerto Vallarta, we visited some of the vendors.  Nate dickered with one merchant for a Mexican hoody and was happy with the $10 price he negotiated.  The picture below shows a trained seal who would strike different poses with tourists for "just $10!". 

Dusk at Puerto Vallarta from our ship

Dinners were very enjoyable.  We had wonderful service and very good food.  A good selection and plenty of it.  The dining experience was quite classy and it was all included in the cruise.  We also had the option of buffet style dining which we utilized for various lunches and breakfasts.

Part of the dinner each night was a performance by the servers.  They would do various dances while standing on top of the serving tables.

You can't get enough of the beautiful sunrises and sunsets and there were plenty of them.  This is looking off the back of the ship at a sunset over the Pacific.

The main lobby was amazing.  It was 8 stories high with 3 glass elevators.  Karaoke entertainers (who were really quite good)  sang throughout the day.

We saw a couple of whales while we were back in Cabo San Lucas on Thursday.  This big one was only about 30 feet away from our snorkeling tour boat.

Snorkeling at Chileno Bay
We took a short boat ride from Cabo San Lucas and snorkeled with some beautiful tropical fish in Chileno Bay, Santa Maria Bay and at Pelican Rock.  This was a dream come true for me as I've always wanted to swim with the fish.  See the video below for some cool underwater footage.

Santa Maria Bay

Paul jumping off Pelican Rock

Paul and Denise at Pelican Rock

Sunset over Cabo, Heading back to the U.S.

Los Arcos at Land's End (one of my favorite pictures)

Looking back on Cabo as we sail out of the bay

My Beautiful Sweethart

The Main Pool Area

The Main Pool Area from the other side

Paul Playing in a Ping-Pong Tournament

Enjoying a Comedy Show

Miniature Golf on the top deck

Our "Stateroom"  Small but Adequate

One thing I noticed about the cruise ship employees was they were from all over the world, very few from the U.S.  I think it is because the pay is not very good by U.S. standards but it is quite good compared to other parts of the world.  There were many people from the Philippines, India, Indonesia and dozens more countries helping us on our journey.  Most of them were very friendly and cordial and greeted us wherever we went.  This young man above really impressed me.  His name is Vikas.  He is from near Delhi, India.  He works to help support his sisters and mom and dad back home.  He wants to return to college to continue studying hotel management.  Vikas worked the pizza shop on the ship and he had the greatest smile and worked very hard.  He worked on the ship for 9 months at a time making $800 a month.  He was happy for this opportunity as he could only make $200 a month at home.  I told him what a joy it was to see his hard work and smile and he said that made him happy to hear a genuine compliment.  If I had a job for him and many others I met on the ship, I would be happy to have their work ethic as part of my business.

Early Sunday morning we pulled back into the Long Beach port, just in time for the sunrise.  We gathered our stuff and got ready to disembark.  On the way off the ship, the workers were already loading up tons of food and supplies for the departure of the ship later that day for the next 3000 cruise ship customers.

We took the public transportation train and bus back to LAX where we waited for our flight.  As we sat there, a guy sat down 3 seats from us and Justin got excited and whispered, "hey, that's the guy from Godzilla!"  Turns out he was right.  He's also a well known voice from the Simpsons, bit actor from Friends and Mad About You (he was married to Helen Hunt), played in Night at the Museum; Smithsonian and more.  Justin got up some courage and asked Hank Azaria for an autograph and picture, to which Hank replied "Want me to do your homework too?"  He was a nice guy and it was kind of cool to see a Hollywood guy in LAX as he was flying off to New York City.

It was such a wonderful adventure and awesome family vacation.  We enjoyed cruising and we're already talking about going again!