closing escrow today on condo town home

(Rachelle) well we’ve officially got the american dream. sure i’m thrilled, but i have to admit, i’ve never been one to aim for it either. it may seem so strange to say that, but i tend not to subscribe to what the majority wants (i’m too creative for that). i wasn’t one of those girls in high school planning their wedding, picking out their china patterns, dreaming of their white-picket-fence homes with husband, 2.5 kids, and dog. no, i pulsate on creative curiosity, a love of life, discovering beauty and living with wide-eyed wonder. none of this suburban mediocrity for me. so along the way, an infinitely-wise God has me married with child and buying our first brand-new home. i am humbled, grateful and chuckle that this is my life.

dj and i don’t want some secluded cul-de-sac home where you have to drive everywhere. how i miss walking to the metro in bethesda, md! we wanted a walkable community to engage with people and life. aliso viejo may be a bit boring and white-bread, ’scuse the term, but it is clean, safe, stunningly-beautiful and filled with fresh air and gorgeous scenery. so we chose Vantis South Latitudes as our permanent abode for at least the next 7 years to get jeremiah through middle and high school. check out the pics, our model in plan 4, the hawkins. it is a 3 floor loft style condo/townhouse. my main concerns was having lots of natural light and some place to finally make art in a permanent studio. at present i am making art on our dining table, surely about 5-steps backwards from previous art-making environments i’ve had. so i’m thrilled to have a small space in our tandem garage and a window. like i said, i’m not a typical homeowner who relishes in luxurious bathrooms and kitchen updgrades. i just wanted art space and light all these years and now i have a little more.

closing today. dj’s done all the work, we just pick up our keys and voila we’re moving in! open house and bbq gatherings to come!

where to buy window vinyl sticker

One of the questions we get with our Xterra is the nice domain name sticker on the back.

xterra at north rim grand canyon jacob lake inn

We got it from for a great deal. They sell Domain Name Decals to put on your vehicle or anywhere you’d like. You get 2 decals for the price of 1 with free shipping — just $10. They even included 2 smaller stickers, which we put on the side windows — so they cars that we pass can also see our domain name. 🙂

Leaving Las Vegas

Today we reach our final destination of Southern California: Westminster, California, to be specific, near Huntington Beach. We logged just over 4,000 miles on this cross country drive along the southern route with some zig-zagging to make this a most memorial family vacation too.

We stayed overnight at an off-strip hotel in Las Vegas, taking in a few of the better sights and sounds amidst the notoriously edgy city known as “Sin City.” The temperature was kickin’ well past 100 degrees, so the hotel pool provided some (albeit crowded) relief. I lucked into a last-minute slot for a 25-minute massage at the hotel spa, my highlight of the day.

After much deliberation over reading a few mixed reviews along with my desire to try something new, we had supper (an early dinner at 4:00pm) at the Bellagio Buffet. My line-waiting reading material of choice was the iconic Mark Driscoll book, Confessions of a Reformission Rev, but the short wait only afforded me a Driscoll one-liner. (cf. a Facebook fan club: Mark Driscoll is my homeboy) The most popular item seemed to be the king crab legs (meticulously pre-cut in half lengthwise so you didn’t have to work at digging out the meat), or it may have seemed the most popular b/c those legs visibly hang over most of the buffeters’ plates. Food was very good, though not quite as dazzling as the first time we went a few years ago.

Afterwards, we view more Chihuly glass sculptures in the Bellagio lobby and the dancing water fountain show — so good that Jeremiah wanted to see it twice. Then a stop by The Venetian. And to top off the night, father and son went bowling just before midnight. (The score was unevenly split: Dad 121, Son 49.)

The sleep was passable on a very mushy soft queen bed.

[update] We arrive at our final destination, Rachelle’s parents place, just before 2:00pm local time. The trip odometer reads: 4,072 miles. Video below is a small excerpt of the last leg of our drive.

edging along the North Rim of Grand Canyon

All of creation speaks of God’s power and beauty, especially at the Grand Canyon. Words cannot fully describe its essence. Even photos are not sufficient to capture the scenery. This place is both deep and wide! Way bigger than big or enormous. 3 highlights among many:

  • Walking into the Grand Canyon Lodge and seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time has to make everyone of us go WOW!!! From here we hiked over to the Bright Angel Point as well as along Transept Trail. view from North Rim
  • Going off-road towards Point Sublime in our 4-wheel-drive Xterra simply because we could. It woulda took 2 hours to go 18 miles, but after 5 miles or so, we were still winding through forests without any sneak peeks at the supposedly incredibly sublime view. We didn’t want to spend 4 hours+ in the Xterra for this round trip, because that’s what we’ve been doing for 3,500+ miles already, so we turned it around.towards Point Sublime
  • Point Imperial makes the Grand Canyon much more grander. The viewpoint spans way past the 180 degree panorama, and at its furthest point you can see 80 miles out. After this lookout, seeing smaller slices of the Grand Canyon was a little less satisfying.Point Imperial

The anticipation of seeing something new and spectacular energized me to be a morning person for a day yesterday, even though I’m not known as the outdoorsy hikey campy kind of guy (though the walking part, casual hiking, I’m enjoying more now). Much more could be said about the journey to Grand Canyon North Rim, which is only open from May to October, and supposedly only 10% of Grand Canyon visitors see the North Rim. Most visitors (90%+) go to the South Rim where there are more amenities and more people; probably way better for people watching, but who comes out here for that?

There’s lots of information all over the map about the Grand canyon, but it is hard to find the essential information. If you only had a day (like we did), my recommendation would be to see the North Rim: stay at Jacob Lake Inn (there’s a gas station here; but if you’re a long-term planner type, get a 1-year-advance reservation at Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge). Start at the Grand Canyon Lodge and get the glimpse of Grand Canyon through the big picture windows while sitting in the leather sofa. Walk over to Bright Angel Point (30 minutes round trip). Go 4-wheeling to Point Sublime. Drive over to see Point Imperial. Return to Jacob Lake Inn and enjoy a thick milk shake and homemade cookies. Sing praise to God along with all creation.

I can’t find the Kid’s Meal!

After a 9-hour driving day, we pull into Jacob Lake Inn, where we’ll stay for the next 2 nights. We left downtown Santa Fe after a 3-crepe breakfast at 8:00am, and get here just after 5:00pm. (It’s actually 4:00pm local time, because this part of Arizona doesn’t observe Daylight Saving Time.) A mostly boring drive was intermittently interrupted by incredible vast open space framed with water-etched cliffs. Along the way we saw yellow cautions signs for deer, horse, and cow. One road-side stand offered Indian Tacos and another Buffalo Jerky.

We stopped for a quick lunch at KFC in Tuba City about 2:00pm. I paused longer to pick something out to order because the menu board was too busy and cluttered. Even Jeremiah exclaimed, “I can’t find the Kid’s Meal!”

Similar to KFC’s sibling Yum Brand franchise restaurants: Taco Bell, Long John Silver, A & W, and Pizza Hut, their menu boards offer too many options as if splattered by Jackson Pollack. I like the much cleaner menu boards of a Chipotle, Potbelly, Wendy’s or even McDonald’s. We have eaten once at Wendy’s on this trip, and have thus far avoided McDonald’s.

I thought we could maximize and cram one more thing in today, and drive the hour to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park so that we could catch the sunset tonight, but I was out-voted. So we’ll be staying around the Inn and resting for tomorrow’s day hike.

For those of you keeping score at home, the Xterra trip odometer says 3,361 miles. [ We’re way out in the sticks, so no cell phone coverage, no mobile Internet; I found this Linksys signal in the nicer Lodge part of the Jacob Lake Inn campus, but there’s no lobby to sit in nor an outlet to plug into, so I’m crouched in the hallway to make this post. What a person goes through to keep people updated. 🙂 ]

hey hey Santa Fe

art gallery in Santa Fe We pull into Santa Fe soon after noon, after gaining an hour for crossing into Mountain Time. Santa Fe is known as “the city different” and a “center of the arts”, the city name is translated as “holy faith”, and for a visual artist like my dear wife Rachelle, this visual beauty wonderland has no equal. So the first thing we do is drop off Rachelle along the Canyon Road art galleries for 5 hours of uninterrupted visual art feasting.

Vibrant colors dot the city just as they do the sunset:

Santa Fe sunset Santa Fe sunset draws a crowd

Travel tip for Santa Fe tourists searching for where to stay: instead of picking a franchise hotel chain along Cerrillos Road, we found 2 lovely & affordable places downtown Santa Fe (yes, walking distance to the Plaza!): dancing ground of the sun and Camas De Santa Fe. We’re staying at Camas, with free WiFi, and love it!! (and rates were super low via [note: granted these 2 have mixed reviews on TripAdvisor, but if you want a top-rated inn on the same block, go with The Madeleine]

dancing ground of the sun Camas De Santa Fe

Get Your Kicks on Route 66

It’s been a nearly perfect day on the road. It rained in Dallas for 5 straight days but now we’re driving Route 66 in gentle sunshine. The weather’s been great so far on our trip, not too hot but we might be baking in the stretch before us thru’ NM, AZ and NV. Just stopped in Clinton, OK at the Route 66 Museum and cranked up the volume on our “Route 66” song off the Cars soundtrack to go along with the landscape. Compared with being cooped up in suburbia, the open road before us seems a glorious freedom.


Psalm 119: 41, 45 (The Message)
Let your love, God, shape my life
with salvation, exactly as you promised; …
And I’ll stride freely through wide open spaces
as I look for your truth and your wisdom;

We’re heading to Amarillo to eat juicy steaks at the Big Texan restaurant.

at the Big Texan

Recommendation: read the Lonely Planet’s Road Trip Route 66 (that work gave me.)

Colors of the Day: The Black and White on the Route 66 sign

Beauty and Terror

Spent a couple hours in Oklahoma City on the emotional ends of the spectrum. The Oklahoma City National Memoral and Museum was sublime and terrible. One forgets how horrific this act of violence was pre-9/11. I didn’t remember that so many children died (19). The memorial is beautifully designed and conducive to reflection and memory.
Oklahoma City Memorial


Walking just a few blocks south we went to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art to view the largest collection of Chihuly glass sculptures and installations. If you’re out in Ok. City, this is not to be missed! The breathtaking swirls of colors, shapes and forms was pure joy, about the same feeling from viewing The Gates by Christo in New York City’s Central Park in February 2005. Since we just saw the movie Ratatouille last night, I told Jeremiah that when Remy the rat describes his love of food, this is what great tastes would look like: an explosion of Chihuly glass!

Chihuly glass tower

Departing Dallas

We are very grateful for David and Lucy Wang whom we met in 1991. Dave and I served as youth counselors at Dallas Chinese Bible Church and went through the June 8, 1992 DCBC Mineola accident together (cf. Jessie’s post about the accident.) All four of us knew each other before we were dating, when we were engaged, and attended each other’s weddings. It was very memorable to stay in their home this past week and I even re-slept on Lucy’s sofa that I crashed on over a decade ago. Still as cool and comfy as ever!

Since Dj doesn’t wax nostalgic (as Edna Mode says in The Incredibles, “I never look back, darling, it takes away from the NOW!”), I do all the reflecting and “what if’s” around here  What would our lives have been like had we stayed in Dallas since we got married at AABC in 1995? I’m pretty sure Dj would have turned out the same, but I would have stayed in my small circles and root deeply in suburbia. Nothin’ wrong with putting down roots, but part of my soul might have died with gaining the American dream. And there’s plenty of American dream in the country of Texas — mini-mansions for $300,000 or less and all the big box stores to go with it to fill em’ up. Out in a Frisco neighborhood for 5 days, I saw less than a dozen folks walking around the perfectly-manicured streets. Granted these were the weekdays, but the world can be so shut out and the eerie isolation so palpable you can gasp gulpfulls of loneliness. The ills of American suburbia have been widely documented and filmed, but I’m looking forward to reading these titles soon:

Dallas Discoveries

  • The ultimate scrapbooking store: Recollections, 4 locations in the Dallas area. Please, please come to Southern California soon!
  • The Craft Guild of Dallas: has fine letterpress and book binding studio