Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Finally, Whales

After awhile, we moved away from the Common Dolphins who had surrounded us. We were heading back towards land, our cars, the end of the tour. We hadn't seen any whales but had be so amazed by the dolphin activity that the experience seemed completely worthwhile. We knew that there was no guarantee and that it wasn't even likely we'd see whales.

Then, "Thar She Blows." One of the passengers had seen a spout and the ship's crew confirmed we were in the presence of majesty. There were two or three gray whales in our vicinity. They moved the boat towards them, wanting to get close enough for us to get a good view but making sure not to spook the whales. Unlike dolphins, whales will swim away from boats if they are alarmed by them, they told us.

Making things even more difficult, we were moving towards submerged animals. From the surface, no one knew where they were or exactly when or where we might see them next. They told us that after taking a breath, gray whales dive and usually wait seven to twenty minutes before surfacing again.

So, we all stood out on one side of the ship, practically holding our breath, hoping to see something. I started to wonder if we hadn't spooked them or misjudged their direction, if we were even looking in the right direction, if I was ever going to see a whale when they spouted again.

I saw it. Then, I clearly saw the tail of a whale diving and then another tail. Alright, now I have really seen a whale.

We continued waiting and the whales would resurface again and again and again.

The time between sightings was five minutes plus. And since we didn't know where we'd see them, I didn't even try to take pictures. I figured I'd be lucky to see them with my own eyes and decided not to try to force any of my own sightings into a view finder. (photo credits to come)

My brother, however, was able to point his camera towards where the whales were and record a video. It isn't the same as seeing them in person but here is footage of the whales we actually saw.
It was a remarkable experience but it was still difficult to see much of the whales. I'm glad we didn't get closer and basically left the whales alone. I'm learning that the best whale watching I'm likely to experience will be while viewing a video or looking at photos the professionals take.

After awhile, I left my brother to go find Sam and watch the whales with him for a bit. When I found him, he was over it. He'd grown tired of straining to see the whales and was ready to hang out in the cabin and eat M&Ms. I was happy to be there with him.

Surrounded by Dolphins

After seeing Risso's dolphins, on our whale watching tour, we sailed along some more.

Passing the Channel Islands.

Getting a closer look.

They seem like they would have been a fun place to explore. Maybe next time.

All of a sudden, the water was teeming with dolphins.

Every where we looked, we saw them.

We were surrounded by dolphins.

We learned how the Common Dolphin travels in pods of hundreds or even thousands and works together to herd fish.

Pelicans follow the dolphins because they know where there are dolphins, there are also fish.

From the top deck of the ship, I looked down and watched as dolphin after dolphin leaped and swam right in front of Sam.

We stayed in their midst for a long time.

wards, everyone was giddy.

It was an experience I will remember all of my life.

We Saw Risso's Dolphins

After sharing lunch in Ventura, we boarded the boat for our Whale Watching cruise.

Several of us had taken motion sickness prevention medicine before the boat ride. Unfortunately, I still felt pretty green behind the gills when the boat was heading out at high speed and hitting the waves hard. Maybe fried fish for lunch wasn't the best idea?
Soon, we saw the Islands.

"Land Ho."

They were beautiful on the horizon.

Then, lo and behold, dolphins.

There were 15 or 20 in the pod.

Everyone headed out onto the side of the ship for a closer look and to take pictures.

I had only seen dolphins in the wild one other time. I'd been with my folks and brother that time too. We were swimming in Galveston the weekend after Amy's wedding. It had been amazing to see them while we were in the water with them.

But seeing them out to sea, from the boat was awesome too.

From the Island Packer's website, we knew the chances of seeing whales were slim. It sounded like we were most likely to see dolphins. We were thrilled. I was doubly happy that they slowed down the boat and my stomach was able to settle down a bit.

They told us these were Risso's dolphins. Our guide said this is the largest number of them he'd seen together at one time. Props to Island Packers for offering such an info filled, enjoyable, affordable experience.

The shot above is a close up of one of the resource books they had on board for us to use.

And here is one of John displaying the props.

More to come...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Are the World's Greatest Tacos in Ventura?

Our second day in Los Angeles was the day with the best weather.

We made plans to go on a whale watching cruise that would take us out near the Channel Islands that day.

Before boarding, we decided to grab some lunch. I requested the Surf 'N' Taco.

When I asked Sam if he wanted to have shark and he answered, yes without missing a beat.

He had eaten alligator in Louisiana and decided to add another ferocious animal to the list.

The place had some campy shots of sharks on their walls.

This one was our favorite.

On the surface, Sam's shark and fries looked the same as the fish and fries but we know they are quite different.

He ate most of the shark even though he said it was a bit rubbery.

My fish tacos were more fried batter than fish and paled when compared to those we get at Joe's.

But I was a fan of the variety found on their salsa bar.

So, while I don't believe the World's Greatest Tacos are in Ventura, we did have fun.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Bridge to John's House

While we were in Holly wood, my folks took Sam to the Guinness World of Records Museum, we met for lunch at Mel's Drive In. Then, I took my mom and Sam to the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum while Johanna left for class.

That afternoon, we went to see Bridge to Terabithia. I remember the book getting lots of acclaim when I was young but had forgotten the gist of it. I loved the movie.

After the movie, we went to my brother's house. When John and I were making plans for the week and thinking about activities like Disneyland and Universal Studios, we asked Sam what he wanted to do. His answer was play video games with John at his house. So we did.
Sam enjoyed playing Galaga. Then, he convinced my mom to play. John took her picture.

While it looks like she is enjoying playing here, I think her smile was more about knowing her play was being documented. Thanks for being a good sport, Mom.

Meet the Oscars

Our first morning in LA, we ended up going to Hollywood.

They were setting up for the Oscars.

Sam's standing where the celebrities arrive and are talk with the media before entering the building.

From there, we walked the path they would take along the red carpet through the hallway of what is mostly a fancy shopping area.

We looked at the names of movies that had won best picture in the past that were etched into the wall and noticed spaces set aside for movies of the future.

We climbed a famous staircase.

The Kodak Theatre, where the Oscar Awards are held, is at the top.

Outside, in the courtyard, it was a gorgeous day.

We enjoyed checking out this historic area.

In the above photo, Sam was standing in front of this pillar.

Here is a close up of the top.

These elephants were in the courtyard too.

Apparently, they are very old and significant.

It was fun hanging out.

We walked past some of the stars on Hollywood Blvd.

Sam didn't recognize many of the names but when we saw this one, I said, "There's our governor's."

Sam said, "I know him from the Terminator movies."

I loved having time with my brother.

Partying with the Powells - Uncle Pat

On Monday, Sam and I flew down to Los Angeles to spend time with my folks and brother, John and sister-in-law, Johanna. We were fortunate to have had John & Jo visit us in September and my parents visit in October. But then since we weren't going to be together for Thanksgiving or Christmas, we planned to take advantage of our school district's second winter break and meet in LA for a Powell family get together.

When they picked us up from the airport, I was pleasantly surprised to find my Uncle Patrick with my mom and dad. They had flown out to California early and driven down to visit him and his family in San Diego and Tijuana. Pat had some paid time off to use so he decided to ride back with my folks to say hello.

It was wonderful to see him. Sam taught him how to play go fish. Pat gave Sam a peso of every denomination and we shared dinner. However, I didn't get many pictures. I wanted to supplement this one with some wonderful ones my cousin Alan recently posted on the Powell family website. I love my Uncle's expression in this one of him with my Aunt Alice.

He still has the mischievous smile he was wearing, while cleaning off his plate, in this one.

My Aunt Maria seems to have ambushed him with a hug here.

They look stylish on some Christmas past lounging with my Aunt Cathy, Ariel's mom. I love them all.

Thanks for taking the time and making the effort to come to LA to spend the evening with us Uncle Pat. It was great to see you.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sam on our wall

Recently, I looked out the back door and saw Sam perched on the fence between our back deck and the neighbor's.

Wearing a sword no less.

I love this kid.

On his way back, he played chicken with the cat.