We collect National Park cancellation stamps when we travel within the USA. On the way out from Springfield, Ilinois Denise asked if I could get a quick stamp from the old railway station in Springfield.
I went to the railroad station and the door was closed but the hours on the door said they were open and so was the door so I let myself in. Once inside the historic depot I noticed no one was there so I walked briefly around the depot looking for the stamp and found it at the ticket booth. It was while I was getting the stamp ready I hear this voice…
“Hello”, said the voice.
“Hello,” I replied. Must be a park ranger I thought.
“How are you doing?”
“Good, I just came to get a stamp and then I will be on my way”
“I am going to miss you dearly.”
Wow, this place must not get many visitors.
“I am now on my way to Washington DC.”
What is this guy talking about?! I went to the next room from where I heard the voice. It was at that point that I came face to face with a video projection of an actor portraying Abraham Lincoln, giving Springfield a farewell speech from the station (sadly he never came back). And that is my story on how I had a conversation with Lincoln. I am happy to say Lincoln was a kind host and I was able to get my stamp and continue on my way.
Abraham Lincoln is an interesting character in history because he is so well loved that he is claimed by so many places. He was born in Hodgenville, KY in a simple log cabin, but as an adult he clearly made Springfield, Illinois his hometown.
In 1839, Springfield had become the new capital of Illinois. In 1842 Springfield was a growing city and was a perfect setting for Lincoln to set up a law practice. Him and Mary were not poor but they did not have a lot of money either. The story goes that when Lincoln arrived he asked the local shopkeeper how much bed sheets were and when he was told they were $17 he had to buy them on credit from his profits as lawyer.
Lincoln’s practice went well and he was soon able to pay off his debit and in 1843 for $1,500 he was able buy a house and a small plot of land. Lincoln’s home started out modest and as his prestidge grew so did the house. Mary Todd Lincoln employed help but she really liked to cook so she had a very nice stove (even though the kitchen itself was small). The highlight of the house was seeing Lincoln’s desk. I can only imagine all the idea he had there.
Unfortunately, Abraham Lincoln never made it back to Springfield alive. After being assassinated, there was a very solemn funeral train back to Springfield in which Lincoln was laid in state at the capitol building and then at the Oak Ridge cemetery in a huge memorial tomb.
The Lincoln tomb is an impressive structure that features on the outside scenes from the civil war and on the inside impressive amounts of granite and marble. In the first room you will find the model sculpture that is featured at the Lincoln Monument in Washington DC. The dome in the first room is made of palladium which is supposedly one of the more durable metals on the planet. In the burial chamber you will find a big tombstone, which 10 ft. under is buried Abraham Lincoln. They had to bury Abraham Lincoln under 10 ft. of concrete to prevent grave robbers. Also in the burial chambers is the crypts of Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of Lincoln’s four sons, Edward, Willie, and Tad. There is a memorial to the eldest, Robert Todd Lincoln, who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, which is interesting because if you look close they made a mistake on his birth year and had to correct it (he was born in 1843). If the tomb looks bigger than it should be it is. It was meant to be a tomb big enough for all of the Lincoln family, but most of the Lincoln family chose to be buried elsewhere so they wouldn’t be overshadowed by President Lincoln’s memory.
As a kid growing up in Southern California I was no stranger entertainment. We are indeed the Entertainment Capital of the World. Radio, television, music, and film making, as well as the abundance of tourist and amusement attractions in the region, undoubtedly makes us the #1 entertainment place in the world, except for one thing, the stage.
To find the best musicals, the greatest musicals, there is only one place to go, and that is Broadway, New York City. They know, we know it, and if you ever go to a show on Broadway your pocketbook will know it.
Shows on Broadway are expensive. There are ways to try to mitigate. You can do what we did and try to find a show like Groundhog’s Day that is previews and rush it. That is when you go to the theater the day of the show you want to go to and see if there are any discounted tickets. There is a cost to that, in our case it cost us $119 dollars when we walked out during intermission when we discovered how much bad language can be crammed into a 4 minute song (it is a lot). It also means that you can you can find yourself 3 rows behind comedian Caroline Rhea. You just never know what is going to happen when you follow your dreams and perhaps that is why Broadway is so magical, because it is a not only a place of dreams, but it comes with a soundtrack.
Today (4/23/17), Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is opening on Broadway. It is amazing show. It brings in that magical mystical musical adventure that is Broadway. A mix of new and old songs, it brings new twist to the Roald Dahl classic. It is very different than both the 1971 Gene Wilder and 2005 Johnny Depp version.
It has the “Pure Imagination” song, it has some definite dark moments (when the oompa lumpas start singing you know something bad is going to go down), but it is unique, and they are my favorite part in the musical. How they do them is something you have to see for yourself.
As magical as seeing a show on Broadway was it was kind of eye opening. First of all the theaters are very close to each other, which is good because they are all in walking distance. The second was that they are all very small, or at least smaller than their Los Angeles counterparts. The term Broadway show does not necessarily mean that the show plays on Broadway, which is a street in New York, it more refers to how many seats the theater holds. If the theater has over 500 seats it is considered a Broadway show. The largest is the Gershwin Theater (currently playing Wicked) at 1,935 seats and the smallest is the Helen Hayes Theater (currently under renovation) at 597 seats. Compare that to the 2,703 seats at the Pantages and you notice the difference. The third thing was parking. At $38.01 an hour, you are not parking on Broadway. You are going to take public transportation in, which is fine because the streets.
I am very happy to have been able to have finished this experience for the list. Saying that however I am OK watching the new musicals preview at the Macy’s Thankgiving Day parade and waiting for the good ones to come out to Los Angeles.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
We were anxious the morning we were to go and visit the Statue of Liberty. We got to Battery Park very early, too early. Arriving at Clinton Castle Fort (which is also a national monument) we found the line where we needed to confirm our reservation tickets, but we told that we could not get in the line until 30 minutes prior to our start time. I wasn’t sure why this was, when we finally did get to the line we found out that your start time doesn’t really matter. The ferrys just constantly run and when you get to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island you are allowed to stay on each island as long as you want.
As soon as we got to Liberty Island we headed straight for the crown. You are not allowed to bring anything with you into the statue except a camera and one bottle of water. They have lockers you can rent for $5.00 at the gift store at the base of the statue.
Despite having gone through intense security before getting on the boat, to go to the statue you have to pass through security again. Inside the base of the statue, the first thing you see is the old torch, which is nice because from inside the statue, even at the crown, it is hard to see the torch. Not to mention the passageway up to the torch has been closed to visitors since 1916 when German spies blew up some ammunition and the shrapnel got lodged in the torch in what is now known as the “Black Tom” incident.
After climbing a lot of steps you get to the pedestal. The pedestal viewing area is very windy and cramped. There are a lot of people and it can sometimes be hard to get past them. From the pedestal you can get a good view of the base of the statue and see the old walls of what used to be Fort Wood, which was what was on the island before the statue.
Continuing upward in a very narrow (only one person can go at a time) spiral staircase, you get to the crown. There is very limited space at the top. When we went up there were two rangers keeping a watch on the statue and stairs. They were very informative and told us an interesting story about the real intentions of the statue.
Here is a video:
Going back down we got our backpacks once again out of the lockers. There are two gift stores at the island. The one at the base of the statue of liberty is very crowded, compared with the store at the landing with the food court, that has most of the same stuff (Denise said they had different postcards) and is less crowded.
AJ always enjoys doing the Junior Ranger program every time we go to a national park. It is a free activity and you get a cool badge for your adventure. The junior ranger program is much shorter than other junior ranger programs. We completed it rather quickly with the audio tour that is included with all tickets. The audio tour looks like a phone receiver with a lanyard and at different points you put in a number and the virtual guide explains what you are looking at. At the end of junior ranger program we got to meet ranger Louie, which was cool. He is one of three rangers that go up to the torch to make sure it is always lit (except for that one day, but that is another story).
From Liberty Island the ferries run every 30 minutes to both New York and Ellis Island.
This was #11 on my all time goals list. For the rest of the list please go to goaltravels.com
It was an expensive but the “Goraiko” (sunrise shot) was worth it.
Getting up to the top of Mt. Fuji was for me (John) a long and strange journey. 23 years ago I had been a California Youth Ambassador assigned to Japan. My job at the time was to promote California by going to different places in Japan. In the four months I was in Japan I went everywhere and everywhere I went was Mt. Fuji. On a clear day it dominates the Japanese skyline as it can be seen from almost anywhere on the main island and sometimes even on the smaller islands. As I traveled the land I saw Mt. Fuji over and over again. It seemed to call out to me and I remember starting to call it Fujisan (my friend Fuji). Even though I called Mt. Fuji my friend, it was a friend I didn’t really know and so I knew someday I would have to come back to visit.
On July 1st, AJ and myself (John) set out from Toyko to go and climb Mt. Fuji. Mt. Fuji is 3,776 meters high, which comes out to about 12,389 ft. tall (half the size of Mt. Everest). It took us 24 hrs. to reach the top from the 5th station (the tallest point you can get to by bus). Our goal was to see the sunrise from the top of Mt. Fuji, which we did on July 2nd, 2016.
Even though we trained for three months, we really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, even after summiting we weren’t quite sure what we had done. Despite that, looking into the rising sun struggling to break free from the clouds we knew instinctively that we had done something significant.
The beginning of our hike up to Mt. Fuji started at Shinjuku station in Tokyo. Transporting over 3 million passengers per day, Shinkjuku station is registered by Guinness World Records as the busiest transportation hub in the world. To give you a hint as to how big this station is, it has 51 railway lines that cross it. The bus station is on the 4th floor. It is amazing in itself to see how they drive these giant highway buses in some very tight corridors. It had already been a busy morning, since Denise and I had been to the Tsukiji fish market earlier in the morning. AJ and I arrived at the Shinjuku station at about 8 a.m. It took us awhile to find the right platform, but thanks to a tourist information center on the first floor we found our way to the bus ticket sales counter. I had prepared the day before by having the concierge service write down “I would like one adult and one child ticket to Mt. Fuji” on a piece of paper. I handed it to the sales lady and she responded “ie”, that means “no” in Japanese. At first I thought the paper was written wrong so I mustered my broken Japanese and muttered “Ni kippu kudasi Fuji”, which means “two ticket please Fuji”. Again “ie” but this time she handed me a timetable which clearly marked that all the bus tickets were sold. “Great!! All this way to be told I am idiot because I didn’t make a bus reservation.” I was told that there was a train that I could take but it would cost me double the amount of the bus and I wouldn’t get to the 5th station until 2 p.m. This was a problem. Starting a hike up Mt. Fuji at 2 p.m. would get us up to our mountain hut in the dark. Doable, yes, but not a fun way to start an epic hike. So while I tried to figure out what we were going to do, AJ decided he was going to do what he does best, twirl around like a mad man. I guess it worked because after a few minutes of him twirling a lady handed me a paper with the number 252 on it and said that if I came back at 9:52 a.m. I could try to get a cancellation ticket. I thought “what do I have to lose” so I took the number and we came back at 9:52 a.m. and to our surprise they called our number. We were very happy to get a seat on that bus. So happy that I made sure that I reserved and pre-paid for a 12 p.m. bus returning to Shinjuku station. I didn’t want to be stuck at the Mt. Fuji 5th Station without a return ticket.
The bus trip was about 2 hours long. As we slowly headed into the interior of the country, things went from metropolitan to very green. At the base of Mt. Fuji are many different towns and villages. The side we were ascending from was from the Shizouka prefecture. The bus made a stop at the third station which is home to an amusement park known as Fuji-Q. From there we turned up a road called the Fuji Subaru Line. The Fuji Subaru Line is a road that is only open in the summer, which is the when Mt. Fuji is officially open for climbing.
The Mt. Fuji 5th Station, or as they translated it on the bus, the Mount Fuji Fifth Step, is kind of a weird preview for the hike that was about to come. That is to say, it didn’t represent at all the hike that was about to come. The Mt. Fuji 5th station is basically a tourist trap. It is like that part on Main Street USA at Disneyland where you walk through the shop just to find a door that opens right into another shop. There were hikers there, but there were also photo spots, horse rides, vending machines, and a very colorful shrine. They sold these souvenir walking sticks there as well. We had our own hiking sticks but bought a half a stick so that we could put it in my backpack and get branding stamps along the way. They also had ice cream at the 5th station. It was kind of hot when we got our hike started (at 12:30 p.m.) so we felt mountain berry (tasted just like strawberry to me) ice cream cones were the way to go.
The trail from the 5th station to the 6th station was kind of deceptive, in that it was very easy. It was a little bit steep in some places, but it was very well maintained, and it had lots of tree cover that offered nice shade. There were a lot of signs warning people not to go too fast and each sign had an estimated time of arrival to the next station along with the distance. There were also signs at the beginning telling people not to do a “bullet run”, go up and down the mountain in one day. The sign said we would get to the 6th station in a little over an hour which we did in about 40 minutes.
Getting to the 6th station we thought the hike was going to be a lot easier than we expected. We happily paid our 1,000 yen (about $10 USD) conservancy fee (completely optional, but who doesn’t want to protect the trails) and continued on our way. Right after we paid our conservancy fee, the trail changed dramatically. First of all, there were no longer any trees. Second of all, the dirt trail turned into a decomposed volcanic (Mt. Fuji is really a volcano not a mountain) rock trail. Then finally, we started to climb up the first of many steps on the trail. Despite this new development we pushed on.
About 200 meters (think two football fields) away from the 7th station we came upon two interesting things. The first thing we came upon was a television crew. At first we marveled at the fact that there was a television crew on top of Mt. Fuji and started to wonder what they were filming. Then they saw us and got really excited. We knew that July 1st was the first official hiking day of the 2016 Mt. Fuji season. What we didn’t know is several locals had reported to the ranger station a story about this little American boy attempting to climb Mt. Fuji. So, the local news station got a hold of the story and sent a crew to find this American boy. And so there, right at the cooled lava flow, which is the other different thing AJ spoke to a news crew. AJ was not at all shy, anyone who knows AJ knows that he will talk to pretty much anyone about anything. The news crew I think got a little more than they bargained for, not only did they learn that his name was “AJ” and that he was from California, but they also learned that he is “8 and a half years old and goes to Madison Elementary School” and that he “is strong and prepared for the hike because he does jogathon at school.” The news crew was a little bit confused about what a jogathon was but they smiled and thanked us for the interview. AJ was very excited about being interviewed and told everyone on the mountain how “famous” he was, which kind of turned out to be true, because pretty much all the hut owners and workers knew AJ’s name going up that mountain. Whether it was by word of mouth or because of that interview I can’t say for sure, but his fame did get him some privileges on that mountain.
After leaving the news crew we started to climb up several lava flow formations. These lava flow formations were very rocky and pretty steep. Steep enough that to navigate them you needed to use both your hands and feet. No rope was required, but they did have guide ropes that showed you the way up the trail. Starting at the 7th station, we started to pass by a series of huts, which we used as rest stops. At the first 7th station hut we stopped and had our lunch, which was some 7/11 sandwiches that I had bought for the trip. At each hut there was a bathroom that you could use for 200 yen (about $2 USD) and different things for sale. The higher you went, the more expensive things got. While at one of the 7th station huts, AJ made a friend of a 15 yr. old girl from Winchester, CA. Winchester is very close to Riverside, CA, so those two had lots of things to talk about. AJ’s friend walked with us a long time on that trail.Which is good because it took AJ’s mind off the constant pace of the trail.
As we were almost to the 8th station my legs started cramping pretty bad. I don’t know if it was due to altitude or the length of the climb, but every time I had to scramble up a big rock my legs started to spasm. AJ was like a billy goat and loved the big rocks, but not me. Just as I was about to get to the first 8th station my legs seized up so bad that I slipped and fell on a stairway. It was so sudden that I barely had time to break the fall with my walking stick and arms. I fell on my behind really hard and it hurt even more. It took about 10 minutes of rubbing my thighs with my hands before I got my knees to bend again.
Needless to say, my climb from the 8th station to the 8.5 station where our hut was located was very painful. At the Mt. Fujisan Hotel, which is the biggest complex on the mountain, but still a hut and definitely not a hotel in my opinion, AJ’s friend left us. It was just me and AJ going up the mountain together to get to our hut. It was very painful climb and just before arriving I experienced another muscle spasm episode and literally crawled up the last set of stairs to the Goraikoukan hut.
I chose the Goraikoukan hut for two reasons. The first reason was that it was the highest hut you could stay overnight in on the mountain. This would give us the most amount of sleep time and yet have the opportunity to make it to the top of Mt. Fuji by sunrise. The second reason is that as part of their package they offered a hot dinner (it was about $150 for the both of us). There was a little confusion about our reservation, but I had my pre-paid reservation number with me. Also, the hut owner recognized AJ and decided it was big honor to have him staying at his hut so while we were at the hut AJ got to stay in the fire circle, which is something normally only the workers were allowed to do, but for AJ they made an exception. Our bed for the night was a futon mattress on a tatami mat. It wasn’t anything luxurious but after a full day of hiking it was all that we needed and I slept with no problems.
At 1:30 a.m. I could start to hear the movement of hikers and AJ told me that he needed to use the bathroom. I told him that once we left the hut, we could not come back and that we would have to start our hike up the mountain. He was OK with that so we got our stuff together, went to the bathroom, and started to hike up Mt. Fuji in the dead of night. I had packed two headlamps, but decided it would be better to have AJ use his headlight, put him in front of me and we would both be guided by his light. I had my headlamp on standby in case something happened to his. Right when got out of the hut we were faced with a big gust of wind that blew both of our hats off our head. We found my hat later in the morning, but AJ’s pokemon hat was never found.
Going up in the middle of the night was slow progress. We were tired both physically and mentally, but there was nothing to do but to go up so we did. At the 9th station we found a 1 yen coin and decided to put it in the tori gate for good luck. I also saw what looked to be a memorial cross, a little reminder that you didn’t want to mess around too long at the top of Mt. Fuji or you could be next. At the 9th station we saw the stone guard dogs of Mt. Fuji that legend says protects Mt. Fuji by sending down wind, rain, and thunder. The legend says that they make sure that only those with real intent make it to the top of Mt. Fuji. We were tired, but at that point nothing was going to stop us from making it to the top.
The top of Mt. Fuji is marked by rocked carved shrine and a obelisk declaring the shrine the 10th station. We climbed a little more up to the crater and found another obelisk that we believe was marking the highest point in Japan. The top was very cold and windy. We were told that the weather was -23 C (-10 F). It was COLD! It was so windy that while at the crater I had to grab AJ because he kept blowing away. At the top there were some wooden pallet looking benches which we sat next to to wait for the sun to rise. It was very foggy and it looked like the sun, like us, was struggling to get through the clouds. We had wanted to get a branding stamp at the top of Mt. Fuji, but because of the wind and cold, all the structures (including the shrine) were closed. We took several foggy pictures and decided to start heading down the mountain.
The first part of the down hill climb was particularly slow because we had to use the up trail. Normally there is a different trail for climbing down Mt. Fuji as there is going up, but because of a mini avalanche a few days prior the first part of the downhill trail was inaccessible. We dodged all the uphill climbers and eventually got back to the 8th station where we were able to go down the downhill trail. The downhill trail is composed of crushed volcanic rock and is kind of slippery. It is also used by the hut workers to drive these little tread tractors up the mountain, which is how they get their supplies up and down Mt. Fuji.
The downhill was very long. After the 8th station there was no water stops and we ran out of water at the 6th station. AJ kind of lost it a little and cried just about 300 meters from the 5th station. I knew he was dehydrated, because I was as well, but I told him that there was nothing we could do about it until we got to the 5th station. It seemed like forever to get to that 5th station but we did. We finally got to the 5th station at 12:30 p.m., which means we were on that mountain for 24 hrs. It was a long time. So long in fact that we missed the 12 p.m. bus that I had pre-paid. Luckily, I had enough money and there was space on the 2 p.m. bus (it cost about $26 USD one way).
We got back to our hotel about 4:30 p.m. and you would think that after an adventure like that we would just crash in our beds, but that was not the case. We had just enough time to take a shower, get ready, and move on out because we had an appointment with the Robot Cafe for that evening, but that is another story all together.
Here is a little video of our thoughts while climbing:
I like blogging. I like creating blogs and I like writing in the blogs that I create. I don’t really make any money off it and it’s sketchy as to how many people actually read those blogs. It is always interesting to me to see what is going to be popular and what is not. I really never know what is going to catch on. Case example is my first blog post to get over 20,000 views. It was a fun blog post, I like working on my genealogy but I really don’t know that many other people that are interested in that kind of work. To me there is lots to find in looking at our past, but I don’t have many conversations on the topic.
Apparently, however if people are not talking about it, they are reading it. My blog post regarding 150 generations quickly overtook it’s nearest competitor (A Walk in Tijuana). I officially saw that on 12/10/14 I had over 20,000 hits on that blog post. On all my blogs I keep statistics. My statistics gives me some interesting data about the people who come and visit my blog. My Pedroza Place blog is kind of just a family journal of sorts. The idea was that it was going to be a place that Denise and I could write about our family adventures, but most of the blog posts are done by me (John).
The dynamics of those who read my blog (but seldom comment) are very interesting. The main commenters are from the United States, but the main readers are global. I get people visiting from all over the world. Most of them come from China. I suspect that a lot of them are really just spambots trying to leave stupid comments on my blog, but I know not all of them. For example I see some of the China hits using firewall maskers, which I think is against the law in China. Why anyone would want to risk political strife to read my family blog is beyond me. Recently, I have been getting a lot of Europeans. The Asians and the Europeans are not commenting, but they are unique and they are reading. I hope one day they make more comments and I can interact with them more. Until then, it is kind of fun to know someone is out there reading.
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3
I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints when I was 18 years old. As such, except for a brief time when I taught a 10-11 yr. old class, I never went through the Primary program. In order to graduate from the Primary program and get your Faith in God award you need to memorize all 13 Article of Faith. I always admired the children that could do this and ever since I first joined the church wanted to emulate them. It has taken me a long time to memorize them, but mostly that was because I have been procrastinating about it. Last week I had the Bishop quiz me in front of the Teachers and Priests and I am pleased to say that I passed. I also did this little video, it isn’t perfect, but I did do this all in one cut and all by memory and that is good enough for me:
If you want to memorize the Articles of Faith you can do so too:
13 Articles of Faith
We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
I have to say that in the past I was never a fan of any piece of mail from Aspire. Not that I blamed them or anything, I mean they were just doing their job, but every piece of mail I got from them was a constant reminder of this proverbial knife I had over my head.
Unlike other forms of debt student loan debt never goes away, it always accrue interest, and it cannot be discharged by the court. After graduating in 2008 I cannot begin to explain how happy it mad me to get this letter. With this paid in full notification I now have no personal debts to anyone. Not saying I don’t owe anyone any personal gratitude, but I find the terms for paying back gratitude is usually easier than that of money debt (not to mention that is something you really can’t pay back).
How Did I Do It?
Well, it wasn’t easy. The first thing I had to do was assess my personal situation. Like many people this was not fun. To assess the situation I had to write out everything relating to me and money. It wasn’t fun, everyone likes to spend money, but I had no joy in being accountable for it.
Then I had to talk to Denise about it. Being married means nothing is really just yours. There were some hard conversations. I knew that if we were ever to pay this off we were going to need to make some big sacrifices. All those money advise columns like to talk about if you just cut out that daily frappuccino from your budget you can afford anything. Maybe that works for some people but we are not coffee drinkers and even if we were we would never spend that much money on something like that. Discussing our finances came with a lot of tears but we got through it as a couple.
In the end we dedicated $500 a month for student loan payments. That was almost triple our minimum payment! That caused us to make serious quality of life choices. We downsized majorly. We have one car which we use sparingly. After running the numbers we moved to closer to my work to take advantage of lower costs on the car and to take advantage of public transportation (which is not always cheaper but the key is we have options). We have a budget and every dollar is accounted for by the end of every month. We shop at the discount markets (which sometimes require use of a foreign language).
In addition to the budget we invested. In addition to my regular job I make money in other ways. I registered my own private business, I sell on ebay, and I do other odd jobs on the internet. All the money I make from these extra sources I put into the stock market. I am not Warren Buffet, but I do my research and make a pretty good return (I have average over 30% in the last three years). It is all little stuff but it adds up.
Day after day, month after month, year after year we have been doing this and it has all been piling up. Eventually one day I looked at the budget and I saw that if we used our savings and cashed out our stocks we could pay off the loan, so we did.
So Now What?
Simple, we keep going. In making the last push to pay off the loan we dipped into our savings and had to cash out some stock options. Some would argue that would be a bad move based on opportunity costs lost to interest, but after running the numbers I found we would save more by paying off the loan early. In fact by my calculations we saved ourselves about $25,000 dollars by accelerating our loan payments. That is money we will be able to reinvest in ourselves. We have decided to pay back our savings at a rate of $400 a month, the difference being now all the interest earned comes to us and our monthly budget has a very good padding, because let’s face it, no one is ever 100% sure when it comes to finances.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu
Today the Pedroza family did our first Grand Canyon Training Walk. As far as both speed and distance goes it was terrible. 2.18 miles in 47 mins. That comes out to about a 21:30 min/per mile pace (If you want to see the map go to http://runkeeper.com/user/elderp/activity/206620605). Yeah, we are not setting any speed records anytime soon, BUT, it was a start. And start is a good thing. We are hoping that gradually over one year we will work on this very humble beginning and increase our pace and distance to the point where we as a family will get to the bottom of the grand canyon and back again. It is very hard to contemplate this task at the moment, but I know we can do it.
Looking back at my blog entries I started my goal of visiting the California missions in October of 2009. Back then it was just whim really. We were on our way back from Bakersfield, on our way to Disneyland and we just happened to be in San Fernando. Didn’t think or write about it much at the time. In fact the last part of that blog post is dedicated to me getting a high score at Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, but everything has to begin somewhere.
One by one up and down the state we went. Sometimes we saw lots of missions together. Other times we saw them one by one very slowly. Then in the quick instance it began it ended. That is how a lot of goals go. It can be sad, but it is also kind of nice to know the proper order of things. If you are interested in the details here are the blog post entries themselves, many good memories lie within those words:
I have this older friend at church who I would always ask how he was doing and he would always reply to me “Well John,I woke up this morning on the green side of the grass so it can’t be that bad.” In general I consider myself an optimist. Life is way too short to be a grumpy person. It takes too much work in my opinion to be a grumpy person and it doesn’t help you much at all.
Mark Twain once said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that. But the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
Despite it’s appearances the world is a very balanced place. It seeks a general equilibrium. Just like a pendulum, the more energy you put into something the more you will get energy you get back. The key however comes in making sure your energy is being placed in the right thing.
Case in point I present the following video (warning emotionally this may be hard to watch):
Now one might view this video and say “Oh my gosh! These people are horrible!” but I don’t really see it that way. What I see some very passionate people that put a lot of effort in the wrong direction. The world wants equilibrium and so it brings them Gordon Ramsey, arguably one of the best chiefs in the world, but unfortunately they cannot take the help. I am sure you can find part 2 of this video on the Internet, but I will spare you the train wreck. In the end Gordon Ramsey quits helping them and the couple has a total melt down on Facebook. Really sad, but very preventable.
I think the problem becomes that people want success, but they want it instantly. They want to achieve a goal but think they can do it with no real work. Real success only comes through consistent practices over time. Shortcuts are usually illusions that unfortunately waste your time. You need constantly be on the watch that what you are doing is in balance. Go for your dreams, do the impossible (impossible doesn’t really exist anyway), but do it in a manner that is sustainable and will support you on your journey. It is a hard path to find (very narrow), but it is out there.