Fall 2022 Episode 2: Inland Empire and the Historic Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

Saturday, October 8, 2022, we drove out of town, pulling the fifth wheel and heading south on Interstate 5. Our first stop in Castaic didn’t turn out as planned. When I checked in at the office, I was told we didn’t have a reservation, but they showed we had been there on Monday. What?

Turns out I had made the reservation for the wrong day. There went $60 out the window flying in the wind. Castaic had no open spots, and neither did any other RV parks within 85 miles along our route. We ended up driving all the way to Jon’s brother’s house in Fontana after a stop in Glendora to eat and let the traffic pass. We flirted with staying overnight in a Walmart parking lot, but when I checked with the manager, she said they didn’t allow it. Jon wanted to stay anyway. I had visions of a security guard or policeman knocking on the door at 3:00 am to tell us to move, so I convinced my better half it wasn’t a good idea.

The next day, after a lunch trip to Vince’s Spaghetti in Rancho Cucamonga, we settled in at Rancho Jurupa Regional RV Park.

Hunter’s Moon hangs over Rancho Jurupa RV Park

Our goal while in Riverside was to check out the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, a National Historic Landmark. We both had grown up not too far from the hotel and watched it change hands and go through various renovations over the years.

Welcome to The Mission Inn

Plus, I had recently finished reading Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O’Brien. The book had mentioned the International Shrine of Aviators at the hotel, and I wanted to see it in person.

We found the atrium outside of the St. Francis of Assisi Chapel, where the plaques and the 10-inch copper wings are displayed and protected with a wrought-iron fence. The Flyer’s Wall was dedicated on December 15, 1932, and includes 160 names, including Amelia Earhart, James H. Doolittle, Chuck Yeager, and John Glenn.

Chapel door and stained-glass window. St. Francis of Assisi Chapel would be a lovely place to hold a wedding for up to 150 guests.

The shrine may seem small in comparison to statues and other monuments designed to honor historical figures, but I can’t help but think of the emotions that Amelia Earhart must have experienced as she signed her name on the wing. Finally, after risking her life for years and proving she could fly as well as any man, she stood in her rightfully earned place among them.

Flyer’s Wall
Amelia Earhart’s signed wings

The history of the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa begins in 1876, when a quaint 12-room adobe building served as a place for travelers to stay the night. Frank Miller is credited with expanding the humble beginnings into a full-service hotel with 200 guestrooms by 1903. Over the next 30 years, Miller expanded the hotel, incorporating elements from the 20 missions in California with historical architectural styles from around the world. He traveled extensively and brought back stained glassed windows, furnishings, artwork, and religious relics to decorate the inn.

After Miller’s death, the inn changed hands multiple times, was the subject of a bankruptcy or two, and closed in 1985. The current innkeepers, Duane and Keely Roberts, saved the property from the wrecking ball, bringing the Mission Inn back to life with a $55-million renovation and modernization project. The hotel reopened in 1992 to once again welcome guests to the iconic historic hotel.

Under the arches are seven of more than 800 bells Frank Miller collected

Since its reopening in 1992, the inn has received many awards from Condé Nast Traveler, USA Today’s 10 best historic hotels, and Historic Hotels of America. AAA has also honored the inn with a Four Diamond rating.

What is in the domed building?
Chandelier in the lobby area

Annually, nutcrackers and Christmas lights decorate the inn for the Festival of Lights Celebration that continues into the first week in January. On opening night, the day after Thanksgiving, they switch on the five million lights, animate 200 figures, and delight the city with fireworks. “Hey, Jon. We’ve got to go see this. Want to make another trip to SoCal over New Years?”

When researching the inn, I learned that during the opening ceremonies of the 30th anniversary of the Festival of Lights on November 25, 2022, a fire caused by fireworks broke out on a roof. It was a good thing the fire department stationed crews on the roof. The fire was under control within 10 minutes, without injuries sustained or evacuations needed. For a photo, click the Festival of Lights link above.

Saint Junipero Serra O.F.M. established the first nine of 21 California Spanish missions from San Diego to San Francisco when the Spanish occupied the land known as Alta California in the Province of Las California, New Spain. Now known as the State of California.

One of many statues in the hotel

The Clock Tower is home to a 1709 Anton clock in Nuremberg, Germany. The original clock face is housed in the museum for safety. What we see on the tower today is a replica. Four figures rotate every quarter of an hour: Father Serra Juan Bautista De Anza, St. Francis, the California Grizzly Bear, and a California Native American.

Anton clock with rotating figures
Six-story spiral staircase of the International Rotunda which was constructed in 1931.

The initials in the metal railing shown below honor figures in early California and Mission history. PJBS refers to Padre Jose Bernardo Sanchez (1778-1883), who served California for 30 years and was the father president from 1828-1831.

Metal railing around the spiral staircase
Rooftop gardens overlook downtown Riverside city buildings
Eclectic mix of architectural styles
The courtyard where we ate lunch
At the corner of 6th and Orange streets

Having visited the Mission Inn, I want to go back and spend a night or two in one of their uniquely appointed luxury rooms, or maybe in one of the 27 suites, should we choose to splurge. Hmmm! Something to think about.

Until then, we will continue our Fall 2022 adventures. Next up is Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Safe Travels

Fall 2022 Episode 1: Onward After A Long Hiatus

After a long spring and summer, fall had arrived. A week later, we examined our calendars to find no more doctor visits, no more physical therapy sessions, and no more reasons to stay at home until the week before Thanksgiving. Whoopee! Time to get out and explore.

We picked the de Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park for our first adventure when the Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs exhibit beckoned us from across the bay. It seemed appropriate to start out locally before packing up the trailer and hitting the road. On October 4, 2022, Laura, our daughter, and the two grandkids joined us for the field trip.

Laura, Jackson, and Maya Silvey at de Young Museum

The de Young Museum

After signing in at the ticket counter, we walked toward Wilsey Court. There have been many interesting exhibits displayed here, but the Resident Alien II, by Hung Liu is one that’s hard to miss. The 28-foot-tall version of Liu’s 1988 painting of her original green card doesn’t just compete for attention, it commands visitors to look and pay attention. This is something important.

Resident Alien II, by Hung Liu

Note the name change from Hung Liu to Cookie, Fortune, a pejorative term. Liu also changed her date of birth from 1948 to 1984, the year she immigrated from China to the U.S. to study at UC San Diego. The change in year commemorates the year she started her new life in America.

We had a few minutes to spare before our scheduled exhibit time, so Laura and the grandkids took a spin at the virtual reality experience, Ramses & Nefertari: Journey to Osiris, while Jon and I watched through the door. After seeing the pods where they sat wearing VR headsets move back and forth, up and down, and all around, I was glad I didn’t take a ride. No sense getting motion sickness before we saw the Ramses exhibit.

Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs

The pictorial in the photo below features Ramses with an axe in hand. The three shorter figures represent his enemies of Egypt: a Syrian, a Nubian, and a Libyan. Note how Ramses towers over his prisoners, reflecting Ramses’s power over the men he’s about to smite.

Painted Limestone Blocks

Waiting a few minutes to watch the multi-media production was worth the time. The production features Ramses’s triumph during his largest chariot battle fought at Kedesh. The narrative, sights, and sounds bring the battle to life in a way that a 2D format could not match.

Multi-media presentation of Ramses II battle at Kadesh

The replica below shows how the dawn light animates the facade of the Great Temple. The sun first illuminates the four colossal statues of Ramses, then the small sculptures of Nefertari (first wife), Isitnofret (second wife), and their children, then floods the interior with light.

Replica of the Great Temple façades

Artists used Ostraca (flakes of limestone) as their “notepads”. Below is a practice sketch of a king giving an offering. The one on the right is a depiction of the board game Senet, which was popular during Ramses’s time and symbolized the deceased’s passage through the Underworld.

Egyptian notepads consisted of flakes of limestone

Outer coffin of the ancient Egyptian artisan Sennedjem, who lived in Deir el-Medina (ancient name, Set Maat, translates to Place of Truth) during the reigns of Ramses II and his father, Seti I. Sennedjem, a skilled craftsman, worked in the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. His tomb was discovered in 1886 on a hill overlooking the worker’s settlement where he

Sennedjem’s outer coffin

Below is a falcon-headed collar and counterweight that belonged to Princess Neferuptah and a girdle with leopard heads that belonged to Princess Merit. wearing the double-headed leopard girdle hanging from the hips functioned as a protective amulet.

Imagine the weight of this collar

Painted and gilded cedar outer coffin lid of Pinudjem II’s wife, Princess Nesikhonsu, and inner coffin lid or Mummy Board of Pinudjem II

Coffin lids

We took a break for lunch at the museum’s cafe where they always have good things to eat and drink, and then we wandered around the other museum rooms.

Faith Ringgold: American People

Jon and I both enjoyed artist and activist Faith Ringgold’s exhibit, which included paintings, quilts, and other artistic forms. A few words came to mind while viewing the work; Strong and emotional and sometimes playful. Unfortunately, the exhibit’s last day was November 27, 2022.

Feminist Series #12: We Meet the Monster
American People Series #13: The Flag is Bleeding
Listen to the Trees: The American Collection #11
Mother’s Quilt
Detail of Mother’s Quilt

Hamon Observation Tower

The Hamon Tower was our last stop within the museum. It offers fantastic views from its observation deck at 144 feet above ground.

SkyStar Wheel and view of San Francisco neighborhood
California Academy of Sciences building with 2.2-acre living roof and UCSF Health buildings in the background

SkyStar Wheel

The SkyStar Wheel is a temporary installation that celebrates the 150th anniversary of Golden Gate Park and I found it interesting that the wheel stands at 150 feet tall. It weighs 465,000 pounds, and its circumference is 500 feet. The 36 enclosed gondolas hold 6 guests, except for the VIP gondola which holds 5 guests. At night, colored LED lights illuminate the wheel. Jon and I passed on riding the SkyStar during our visit, but now I want to be one of the 500,000 people that are expected to take the 12-minute ride. I still have time. The Wheel will be around until March 2025.

And, here’s a bit of trivia: Another Ferris wheel once graced the grounds of Golden Gate Park in 1894 during the Midwinter International Exposition. It stood 120 feet tall.

SkyStar Wheel next to the plinth where the arches once protected a statue of Francis Scott Key

On Juneteenth 2020 (Friday, June 19, 2020), protestors vandalized the Francis Scott Key statue and it was removed. Monumental Reckoning, composed of black steel structures referred to as the Ancestors and sculpted by Dana King, surrounds the foot of the plinth. The sculptures represent the first 350 Africans kidnapped in 1619 and brought to America. According to a sign on the plinth, the protestors targeted Francis Scott Key because of his views and actions against Africans in America. they also call for Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing to replace the Star-Spangled Banner as America’s National Hymn. Monumental Reckoning is scheduled to remain in place until June 19, 2023.

We always enjoy our visits to the de Young and the many exhibits on display. We feel fortunate to have seen the Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs exhibit, since it is unlikely we will ever travel to Egypt to see such historic artifacts. Visitors have until February 12, 2023, to see the statues, jewelry, and other objects on display. After that date, it travels to Europe and will be in Paris from April through September 2023.

Four days later, we had our fifth wheel trailer packed and drove off for a five-week trip to the mountains, to the desert, and to the ocean. Watch for new episodes soon.

Safe Travels

Hawaii June 2022 Trip: Episode 6

Poipu Athletic Club

We had two days left of our vacation. After all the hustle and bustle and wandering here and there the past week, it was time to take a break. With a pool, a gym, pickleball and tennis courts, and the Cabana Bar & Grill onsite, the Poipu Athletic Club seemed like the perfect place to relax.

Poipu Athletic Club Pool and Slide

The beach chairs next to the shallow lagoon suited us fine, and the shade sails kept the sun at bay. I settled in with a Mai Tai and watched as most of our group slid down the slide and splashed in the pool. I wished I could have joined them. Instead, I walked in the water on the steps to cool off. My dip didn’t last long. A group of roughhousing teen boys came too close for comfort, so I got out. No sense risking them bumping into my still healing broken wrist.

The club was a great place to ‘people watch,’ especially when the little camp kids came to play in the water. The young ones learning to swim were especially cute.

We wished we had taken advantage of this amenity, included with the rental house, earlier during our stay. But then we would have missed out on the other cool things we did.

Cue shark music

Kayak, Hike, Boat Ride

On our last full day in Kauai, Outfitters Kauai guided our group in tandem kayaks up the Hulē‘ia River. This trip took us through a National Wildlife Refuge where mangroves and other vegetation lined the shores. After the two-mile trip, we disembarked for a hike through a lush jungle and fern-covered valley. Think jungle images from Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park. Both movies were filmed in the area.

It’s slippery in spots, so watch your step
Short for waterfalls yet refreshing
Kevin and Bailey. The daredevils of our group.

Secluded pools and waterfalls, complete with a rope swing, were our reward after the kayak/hike workout. And while we rested, and the bravest took advantage of the rope swing, our guide selected juicy mangoes for us to eat and pointed out verbena flowers that tasted like mushrooms.

Our fellow kayakers and hikers
Still together after all these years

Back on the trail, we continued our hike to the pickup area where a double-hull, motorized canoe waited to take us back to our cars.

Smile time again
Glad we didn’t have to kayak back


A quick stop back at the house and we were off again. Our destination? Kalapaki Joe’s in Poipu for an early dinner. Jon and I had spent many happy hours at Joe’s during our last visit to Poipu and we wanted to see if the Mai Tais were still delicious.

Let’s celebrate

Alas, it was not to be. A crowd had already lined up outside the sports bar where the TVs inside blasted the last game of the NBA playoffs. While we prepared ourselves for another one-hour or more wait for a table, Bailey called other restaurants nearby. Lucky us, RumFire called back to say they had a perfect table for a party of eight.

Sun-kissed cheeks on smiling faces

Although much fancier than Kalapaki Joe’s, it was the perfect restaurant to celebrate our last night on the island along with our wedding anniversary of 47-1/2 years. (Yes, I know that’s an odd anniversary to celebrate, but there is a reason. We originally scheduled to celebrate our December 28th, 45th wedding anniversary at the end of March and the first part of April 2020, but Mr. Pandemic had other plans for us.)

Good times for all

No matter what birthday, anniversary, or other celebration guests are honoring at RumFire, they can expect excellent service, great food and drinks, and live music in the background. The fantastic view of the ocean and beach, should Lady Luck seat them near the windows, will make their visit all the more special.

Last chance for a hang ten pose

The day of kayaking, hiking, and boating, along with the upscale dinner at RumFire, is one I’ll cherish in the years to come. As the sun set on another fine day in Kauai, I pushed back bittersweet tears, not wanting to think about the family parting ways and boarding planes for our respective homes. Our Kauai adventure was one I will relive over and over. And this, our last day, turned out the best.

Miscellaneous and Wrap Up

With this post, we bring to a close our 2022 trip to Hawaii on the island of Kauai. But before we leave, a few more photos and honorable mentions to share.

Best Kauai souvenir ever? A rooster of course.
Bailey needs a few more lime slices in her drink

Grand Hyatt Hotel Spa

The women in our group recommend the Anara Spa at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa. Two of us had manicures and two of us had pedicures. Be sure to ask about day-use access to the spa facility when making reservations. We didn’t know until we arrived and missed out on sipping fruit-infused ice water by the pool and the use of the sauna, hot tub, and outdoor shower.

Toes and fingers polished

Nearby Shopping

At The Shops at Kukuiula, restaurants, shops, and other businesses are standing by to serve visitors. Its tropical setting provides plenty of shade and a few benches. Enjoy a farmer’s market on Wednesdays and live music on Fridays while browsing the stores or dining in a restaurant.

Watch out for tall green men

Shaved Ice

Shaved ice was a hit with our group. They had a contest to determine which place had the best treat. And the winner was?

The Fresh Shave.

First prize winner

Personal Update

Since we returned from Hawaii, we’ve stayed close to home. With physical therapy twice a week and doctor appointments once a month, there hasn’t been time to pack up the fifth wheel and head out. It looks like nothing will change much through September. Will October see us on the road? We’re waiting to see how the next round of physical therapy goes before we make any plans.

For now, we’re taking another hiatus and will be back with more adventures when we can.

Safe Travels

Note: A big thank you to Bailey Bishop for sharing some of her photos.

Hawaii June 2022 Trip: Episode 5

Smith’s Fern Grotto Tour Wailua River

What could be finer than cruising on the Wailua River in Kauai? I can think of a few things, and the Wailua River Cruise to the Fern Grotto, known by the ancient Hawaiians as Ma`ama`akualono, is definitely on that list. The grotto is part of the Wailua Heritage Trail.

Wailua Heritage Trail lists nine sites to visit with historical significance

We hopped on the Smith’s Family cruiser—the Johnny-Mac, aptly named after the captain—for a ride upriver. As we motored along, our guide regaled us with stories of the Smith family and ancient Hawaiian history and myths as we passed kayakers.

Frog face rock formation?

I was glad we were riding in a motorboat. The last time Jon and I were in Kauai, we oared our way up the river in a tandem kayak. Although we had difficulty getting in sync with our rowing, it was an easy ride up. Going back against the tide coming in was much more difficult. To our embarrassment, our guide had to maneuver behind us and push us down the river.

On my count, paddle, paddle, paddle

The flat-topped trees towering in the background of the photo above are Moluccan albizia or Paraserianthes falcataria in Latin. The trees, native to New Guinea, were brought to Hawai’i as part of reforestation efforts in the late 19th century. And, although they are beautiful to look at, the trees grew better than expected and have crowded out plants native to Kauai.

We disembarked at the Fern Grotto landing and took a short walk through the rainforest. The guide told more stories and the ‘cousins’ sang songs and danced the hula. The fringed lava cave is not as lush as it once was. Hurricane Iwa damaged them in 1982 and ten years later, Hurricane Iniki nearly destroyed the rest. After 30 years, many of the ferns have grown back, but our guide said they aren’t as thick as they once were.

The gang’s all here: Kevin, Laura, Jon, Maya, Jackson, Chris, and Bailey. I’m behind the camera.
Entertainment at the grotto
Boston Sword ferns grow upside down from the cave’s overhang
Etingera elatior or Red Torch Ginger
Loading up for the trip back

And on our way back, this lady serenaded us with Hawaiian songs and gave us a hula lesson. “Okay everybody, lift those hips and with your arms and hands make like a tree swaying in the breeze. Like this. Now like a wave on the ocean. You’ve got this.”

Serenading down a lazy river

The leisurely boat ride and short hike was a wonderful way to get into the Aloha Spirit, commune with nature, and let our troubles flow out to sea with the river.

Hanalei Bay

Not ready to head back to the house, we drove to Hanalei Bay. On the way, we stopped at the Hanalei Valley Overlook. Spread out before us was a valley of taro fields and the 4,363 ft. (1,330 m) Namaolokama mountain rising in the background.

Hanalei Valley Overlook

The 2-mile-wide Hanalei Bay is great for surfing, body boarding, fishing, picnicking, and watching the sunset. It would have been nice to walk the shoreline to the Hanalei pier, but the grumbling of our stomachs told us we needed food. “It’s only two miles, let’s walk,” sounded like a good idea.

Only half of Hanalei Bay fit in the photo

Again, our poor planning had us scrambling for a table to seat eight. Had we driven instead of walked from the beach, we might have beat the large party eating on the porch when we arrived. As it was, we had to watch them sit and talk for another half hour after they finished eating.

Telephone pole decoration seen on our walk from beach to town

A shaded picnic table and browsing through stores kept us busy during our one-hour wait for a table. Due to staffing shortages, other restaurants either were not open at all or didn’t open until 4:00 pm or after. The Arnold Palmer’s were refreshing after our walk and wait and our food tasty, so we couldn’t complain too much.

Tropical drinks, burgers, sandwiches and more await visitors at Hanalei Gourmet, in the Old Hanalei School
Stop in at Sand People and Yellowfish Trading Company for gifts and such, or relax with a massage at Hanalei Massage
Another view of Namaolokama from the town of Hanalei

It was a good thing we drove two cars that day. The heat had gotten to some of us and we were ready to head to the house, while the rest stayed to spend time at the beach. Next time we’re on Kauai, we’ll leave earlier in the day so we can spend more time in Hanalei Bay.

It looks like one or two more posts will wrap up our 2022 trip to Kauai.

Until then, safe travels.