Friday, January 10, 2014

2014 is Snow Laughing Matter

Jim and I traveled to Los Angeles on New Year's Eve to ring in 2014 with our daughter as she was unable to come home for Christmas. Unlike last year when we visited her in January, the weather was perfect. We had sun every day, no rain at all and temperatures in the upper 60s to low 70s. It almost made us want to live there. I say almost because I simply cannot handle the area traffic. Let alone there being lots of it, people cut in and out on the highways without signaling all the time. It seems so dangerous!

We arrived in time to take a cab to Katie's office, where we were able to meet her boss and many of her co-workers. It is fun to now be able to visualize her sitting at her desk. Everyone seems very nice. From there we went to her apartment to drop off our luggage, and then walked to a nearby Scottish restaurant for dinner. I love where she lives because you can walk to many different places and leave the car in the garage. The next morning, New Year's Day, we drove north to Ventura where we met my college friend Karen Smith and her husband for lunch. While they live in Washington, DC, the navy has transferred Mark to Ventura for a couple of years. It was so much fun to reminisce about our days at Iowa State.

Karen Smith and me

After lunch Jim, Katie and I boarded the Island Packers boat for a three hour tour (okay, it was three and a half hours, but most of you will know my reference to a three hour tour) of Channel Island National Park. The park encompasses five islands and the ocean that surrounds them. Officially this was a whale watching excursion, but we saw sea lions, dolphins, many birds and whales. We actually saw a humpback whale, which is unusual this time of year as they are normally further south on their migration to Mexico for the winter.

dolphins at play

humpback whale

whale tale

sea lion waves hello

sun sets on a great day                                                                                  

Katie had to work on Thursday, so Jim and I drove to work with her in the morning so that we could drop her off and use her car for the day.  We headed to Santa Monica beach, which was fairly uncrowded due to the early hour, and then down to Venice Beach with all of its uniqueness.

Santa Monica Pier

fitness, Santa Monica style

California sledding at Venice Beach

another glorious sunset in Venice
Friday after we dropped Katie off we went back to the Getty Center. We had gone here last January, but it was cold and rainy so we did not get to enjoy the gardens. I'm so glad we went back as it is absolutely beautiful!

Getty Center

Getty Center gardens

Jim and me

everyone's a star
After lunch at the Getty Center we headed over to the Getty Villa. From a beautiful, clear day we drove a few miles into cool fog. Weird. The villa is nice and its museums are interesting, but if I could only go to one of the Getty options, I would go to the Getty Center.

Getty Villa
Saturday we took it a little easy before making the two hour drive to Joshua Tree National Park. Located east of Los Angeles this 800,000 acre park is made up of two deserts. Obviously we should have arrived early in the day to see more of it, but what we were able to experience was really cool. We had asked the park ranger for the best spot to capture the sunset, and she definitely directed us to the right place.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua trees

Sun sets over the mountain

We had been touching base with home about the snow headed to St. Louis, so I wasn't surprised to find out that our flight home on Sunday had been cancelled. Unfortunately American left me a voice mail in the middle of the night so by the time I retrieved it on Sunday morning we had few options for rescheduling anything. They had booked us on a flight Monday night arriving in Dallas at 9:35 p.m. That didn't look too bad until we realized that the next flight for us didn't leave Dallas until 9:35 p.m. on Tuesday night! When I tried to call American I was informed there would be a two hour wait on hold. Yikes. No changes were allowed online at all. We decided to just go to the airport early on Monday and hope for the best. In the meantime, that left us with the opportunity to spend Sunday with Katie. We enjoyed a nice brunch in Glendale, walked around the outdoor mall in the area, and then drove the short distance to downtown so that Jim could see one of the urban parks in the area. We picked up brats for dinner and watched the season premier of Downton Abbey.

We drove to work with Katie Monday morning and then took a cab to the airport. The couple in line ahead of us had just returned from a 17 day cruise to the Panama Canal, and were trying to get back to St. Louis as well. I jokingly said that they would probably get the last two seats on the non-stop flight going out at 7:25 a.m. Tuesday morning. It turned out that they couldn't get any flight at all until Thursday! When we got up to the agent she was puzzled by the flights we had been given since they normally do not make you wait so long between flights. But she could not find any better alternative for us.

In Dallas we headed to a Comfort Inn near the airport for the night. Everyone on the shuttle bus had a horror story. The next morning my brother and his wife came to pick us up at the hotel, and we spent the day with them, my niece and my two great-nephews. That was the silver lining in the black snow cloud that was hovering over us.

Once we arrived back in St. Louis we were faced with clearing 12 inches of snow off the car - with no winter coats or boots! Luckily the shuttle bus driver helped us remove snow from behind the car so that we could get out. That was pretty nice considering it was nearly midnight and 16 degrees outside.

snow on our patio
What an interesting beginning to 2014. I wonder what the rest of the year will bring?

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