Saturday, March 13, 2004

San Francisco Trip

James had business in San Francisco January 20-23, and we decided to make a family trip out of it, including the weekend prior as well as the MLK holiday.

We had a rather rocky start to the trip due to sickness and a hanging bag which remained hanging in our closet at home. Our first San Francisco experience was spent shopping in Mervyn's as James had no clothes other than what was on his back–not an impressive first impression of San Francisco for the kids, but it got better!

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On two different occasions we visited Fisherman's Wharf. We toured some historical ships. We took a Bay Cruise (described by M in his portion of the letter). We savored clam chowder and crab. We laughed at the sea lions, some frolicking near the pier bothering the sleeping wet "gunnysacks" piled atop one another. At frequent intervals, hoarse barking erupted and fierce posturing led to pushing battles which ended with a sea lion losing his place on the stack. They were real animals!

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The kids particularly enjoyed some street performers. S took a shine to the "Silver Guys": men who had spray-painted themselves and their clothes silver from head to toe. They stood stock still until a passerby dropped a coin into their cup which set them into robot-like gyrations. The first Silver Guy we encountered would shake hands, speak in a strange hissing voice, remove his sunglasses to reveal eerie silver-contact covered eyes, draw a fake gun, and pose for any desired pictures. S cried when the rest of us wanted to move on to see the sea lions again. She was thrilled when we ran across another Silver Guy later who had candy as part of his act!

Speaking of candy, we tasted the best chocolate EVER from the shop Chocolate Heaven at Pier 39. We snacked on chocolate-covered dried blueberries, strawberries and apricots. It is a good thing we don't have that store at home.

We also listened to a steel drum band. James came in the house the Saturday after we returned home to inform me that the kids were out front, beating on tin cans, with a paper cup labeled "Tips" strategically placed in front of them.

On the Lord's Day, we worshiped at the closest Orthodox Presbyterian church to our motel. We were surprised to find that they use the same Psalm books that we have and sing Psalms acapella. Following the service, the members graciously invited us to eat with them at their fellowship meal. We enjoyed talking with different folks and marveled at the way Christian community and a like precious faith makes the world seem to be a smaller place. "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" (Ps. 133:1)

One of the members, Pam M., invited the kids and me to visit her family's horse ranch. On Thursday, I drove our rented mini-van with the kids over the Golden Gate bridge and on the freeway to her ranch. She and her daughter, Suzy, teach horse-back riding lessons to kids. Suzy rode with S while Pam taught the boys some about horses (see M's letter). Suzy rode with M while E rode a horse all by himself (a very docile horse, mind you). Later, even M and S had a chance to ride solo. I got a kick out of seeing the delight in their eyes and comparing their small bodies to the massive horse. The kids felt useful while helping to curry some of the horses and feed them hay. Pam gave them "hay rides" in a wheelbarrow.

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The M's had us over for dinner that evening at their house by the bay. James took a ferry across to join us after work. We enjoyed getting to know the family a little. Suzy had just finished school in Colorado to become a certified horse trainer. Stephen, Pam's son, recently went on a missions trip to Uganda and he shared his slides with us. We didn't get to meet Pam's husband, Ray, because he was working and the other two kids were at Covenant College. We were impressed and blessed by the Ms' ready hospitality in the middle of their busy schedule.

The kids and I also enjoyed outings to the Legion of Honor art museum, the botanical gardens, a Dutch windmill replica (especially fitting as E just finished the book The Wheel on the School set in the Netherlands) and the ocean. We experienced a year's worth of field trips!

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This week the kids have been pretending to be cable cars and trolleys personified. Another time, M was pretending to pack to move to San Francisco... I think they enjoyed the trip. M informs me that "next time" we have to go and see the giant redwoods.

We're thankful to God that we were able to incorporate James' work trip with a family vacation and for His provision of safety in travel.

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