#28 Climb Mt. Fuji in Japan

It was an expensive but the "Goraiko" (sunrise shot) was worth it.
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.

Short Version:

The Yoshida trail is very well marked.
The Yoshida trail is very well marked.

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.

Long Version:

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.

At the third station there was an amusement park called Fuji-Q.
At the third station there was an amusement park called Fuji-Q.
The adventure started at Shinjuku station in Tokyo to catch a highway bus.
The adventure started at Shinjuku station in Tokyo to catch a highway bus.
This was our version of carbs-loading for the climb.
This was our version of carbs-loading for the climb.
The Fuji Subaru line is a highway only open during the summer that leads to the 5th station.
The Fuji Subaru line is a highway only open during the summer that leads to the 5th station.
At the base of Mt. Fuji there are many picturesque villages.
At the base of Mt. Fuji there are many picturesque villages.
The 5th station kind of looks like the gift shop section of Disneyland.
The 5th station kind of looks like the gift shop section of Disneyland.
A picture from the shrine at the 5th station.
A picture from the shrine at the 5th station.
My mom always told me "remember the day you left on" so we took a picture.
My mom always told me “remember the day you left on” so we took a picture.

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 trail from the 5th station to the 6th station is mostly very gradual with lots of trees and shade.
The trail from the 5th station to the 6th station is mostly very gradual with lots of trees and shade.

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.

AJ waiting at the donation center at the 6th station.
AJ waiting at the donation center at the 6th station.
There are lots of signs warning people not to try to go up and down Mt. Fuji in one day.
There are lots of signs warning people not to try to go up and down Mt. Fuji in one day.
The first marker of the Yoshida climbing trail is very beautiful with the fog and the trees.
The first marker of the Yoshida climbing trail is very beautiful with the fog and the trees.
The first part of the 6th station trail wasn't too bad, just a bunch of gravel.
The first part of the 6th station trail wasn’t too bad, just a bunch of gravel.
The ranger had a 4x4, which he used to patrol the trails.
The ranger had a 4×4, which he used to patrol the trails.

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.

Lunch break at the 7th station was sandwiches courtesy 7/11.
Lunch break at the 7th station was sandwiches courtesy 7/11.
Getting close to the 7th station the trail got very rocky.
Getting close to the 7th station the trail got very rocky.
It also got very steep.
It also got very steep.
Going up the mountain, I had enough cell service on my phone to capture a few portals on Ingress (location based game).
Going up the mountain, I had enough cell service on my phone to capture a few portals on Ingress (location based game).
AJ eating his sandwich at the 6th station.
AJ eating his sandwich at the 6th station.
On the way to the 7th station AJ was interviewed by a local news crew.
On the way to the 7th station AJ was interviewed by a local news crew.
AJ made lots of friends along the way. This girl was from Winchester, CA (very close to Riverside). She climbed and spoke with AJ from the 7th to the 8th station.
AJ made lots of friends along the way. This girl was from Winchester, CA (very close to Riverside). She climbed and spoke with AJ from the 7th to the 8th station.

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.

There were a lot of very long tour groups climbing Mt. Fuji.
There were a lot of very long tour groups climbing Mt. Fuji.
A shrine at the 8th station.
A shrine at the 8th station.
John arriving at the 8th station. Took me resting on both poles to stay upright.
John arriving at the 8th station. Took me resting on both poles to stay upright.

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.

A view up to the 8.5 station shows how steep the climb was.
A view up to the 8.5 station shows how steep the climb was.
AJ and John at the 8.5 Goraikokan station.
AJ and John at the 8.5 Goraikoukan station.

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.

The top of the crater was EXTREMELY windy.
The top of the crater was EXTREMELY windy.
AJ and John at the shrine at the top of Mt. Fuji.
AJ and John at the shrine at the top of Mt. Fuji.
The crater was very foggy and windy. From our view it looked like if you fell in it would be instant nothingness.
The crater was very foggy and windy. From our view it looked like if you fell in it would be instant nothingness.
Inside the hut it was warmer, but at 12,000 feet it was still cold enough to warrant keeping our cold weather gear on.
Inside the hut it was warmer, but at 12,000 feet it was still cold enough to warrant keeping our cold weather gear on.
AJ put in a 1 yen coin at the 9th station tori gate for good luck.
AJ put in a 1 yen coin at the 9th station tori gate for good luck.
AJ trying to touch the crater marker beacon.
AJ trying to touch the crater marker beacon.
Two guard dogs are said to guard Mt. Fuji at the 9th station by causing fire, wind, and thunder.
Two guard dogs are said to guard Mt. Fuji at the 9th station by causing fire, wind, and thunder.
To get goods up the volcanos huts use little tractors up the down trail.
To get goods up the volcanos huts use little tractors up the down trail.

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.

A view of the 9th station tori gate on the way down.
A view of the 9th station tori gate on the way down.

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).

It looks like there used to be a rescue hut at the 9th station but now it looks like it needs rescuing.
It looks like there used to be a rescue hut at the 9th station but now it looks like it needs rescuing.
AJ decided to take a stab at the ice pack on the way down.
AJ decided to take a stab at the ice pack on the way down.
These concrete structures are meant for you to run inside and shelter in the case of a avalanche.
These concrete structures are meant for you to run inside and shelter in the case of a avalanche.
Even though it was July there was plenty of snow to be seen.
Even though it was July there was plenty of snow to be seen.
The downward trail takes you through the heart of a very dusty side crater.
The downward trail takes you through the heart of a very dusty side crater.
A downward view of the Fujisan Hotel at the 8th station. The Fujisan Hotel is the largest of the hut complexes on Mt. Fuji, but to call it a hotel is a stretch.
A downward view of the Fujisan Hotel at the 8th station. The Fujisan Hotel is the largest of the hut complexes on Mt. Fuji, but to call it a hotel is a stretch.

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:

#33 Get a Blog Post Up to 20,000 Views

nighttrafficI 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.

If your are interesting in seeing my ever growing viewership of a post you are very welcome to check it out at:
http://www.johnpedroza.com/blog1/150generations/

Thank you for reading!

faithingod

#26 Articles of Faith Goal

faithingod“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

  1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
  2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
  3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
  7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
  13. 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.

www.mormon.org

#13 Eliminate All Personal Debts

loanpaidjpegedit

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.

A Family Walk

“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.

#15 Visiting all of the California 21 Missions

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:

S Fern, S Diego, S Barb, S Inez, s Gabriel, S Luis Obispo, La Purisima, S Buena Ventura, S Luis Rey, S Juan Capistrano, S Francisco Solano (Sonoma), S Rafael, S Juan Baustista, Soledad, S Antonio de Padua, S Miguel, Dolores, S Clara, S Carmel, S Cruz, S Jose #1

Naysayers vs. Reality

smileyI 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.

Some Thoughts on Belief

yodaIn Hebrews 11:1 in the bible it says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Now I have never met Yoda in real life and I am not going to say that I believe that Yoda exists, but the idea contained in the picture to the left is something I do believe in. So the question comes to mind what is belief?

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
Do not believe in traditions simply because they have been handed down for many generations.
But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
– Siddhãrtha Gautama (Buddha)

I have come to know that belief is an action. Belief is something you do. When you truly believe in something you will work to make that idea become a reality. The question does not become if you can believe. Everyone can believe in something. The question becomes is the something I believe good. If you can answer yes to that question there is no doubt in what you should do.

Learning Our Duty

“We never fail when we try to do our duty, we always fail when we neglect to do it.”
Robert Baden-Powell

Part of making goals is learning how to prioritize what is most important to you. This is going to be different for everyone. When you learn what is the most important that becomes your duty.

I think if I had to list my top 5 priorities it would go something like follows:

1) God – If it wasn’t for God I wouldn’t exist. I know that God the Father created me for to have joy and to learn to live with him again someday. He sent his only begotten Son Jesus Christ to redeem me of my sins. He guides me through the Holy Ghost so that I can learn to make correct decisions to return to Him someday.

2) Wife – I love Denise so much it is hard to put into words. She is my friend, my partner, my lover, the mother of my children, my confident, and my greatest cheerleader. I trust her with everything and place my hope and eternal happiness in making her happy.

3) Family – They love me unconditionally and so I am compelled to love them in the same manner. My family is by no means perfect, but even though we have tested each other many times I have found that family is a bond that cannot be broken.

4) Work – I believe that honest work makes an honest man. To that end I intend to give my all in the pursuit of happiness and prosperity. To my job I owe my loyalty and diligence. I have an unspoken duty to any employer to give them a hard day’s labour and in return I expect fair and adequate compensation.

5) Church – Some might be confused with this being number 5, but to explain Church (to me) is not the same as God. Church is a community of faith that helps us become closer to God. I believe that all humanity are brother and sisters. I believe that we must love and help all regardless of who they are, even if they hate me or do not agree with my beliefs.

“The List”

dreams It has been a very quiet birthday. I mean how does one celebrate their 37 birthday?! It isn’t what I would call a milestone in any sense. In fact it has been a pretty quiet birthday. Overall life is good. I can’t really complain. Life isn’t perfect, but it isn’t bad either.

Anyhow, I was thinking I wanted to give myself a present. I thought about it for a while and I decided for my own present I would give myself a new website. Designing a website is easy. I do that all the time, the hard part is deciding what the website was going to be about.

The name of the website is going to be goaltravels.com. This website/blog is going to be dedicated about making something out of nothing. It might be something great, then again it might be just another of many websites that have come and gone. As the name implies this website is about the goals and travel. More importantly, it is about the journey that gets to that goal.

So the first question of course is what is the goal? In 2010 I made a “list.” I made this list after I found a site calledhttp://only72.com/now-open/, it’s a site where you can get a really good deal, but it’s only available for 72 hrs. Well, on this deal, which I obviously bought, you got a bunch of self-help books (22 of them, pretty desperate I know) for only $97. One of the books was titled Reclaim Your Dreams. Basically, it talked about how we all have dreams and forget about them. Which got me thinking “Wait, a minute! I think I have some dreams, I think I even wrote them down!” So I looked it up and sure enough I did write them down.

I started to list my dreams out and then I decided I wanted to add some more and this is what I got:
(Completed / In Progress stuff is in parenthesis)
1) Hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
2) Visit Rome and Cinque Terre
3) See the Pyramids in Egypt
4)See the Capitols of all 50 states (CO, UT, AZ, CA)
5) Hike the PCT or AT (Started part of it)
6) Run a marathon (11/10/12, Santa Barbara)
7) Enter a food eating contest (done in 1995 UCSB)
8) Ride a mechanical bull
9) Drive all of route 66
10) See the White House (done 8/11/10)
11) Visit the Statue of Liberty
12) Visit Vienna
13) Eliminate all personal debts
14) Memorize one book in the New Testament
15) See all of the California 21 missions (S Fern, S Diego, S Barb, S Inez, s Gabriel, S Luis Obispo, La Purisima, S Buena Ventura, S Luis Rey, S Juan Capistrano, S Francisco Solano (Sonoma), S Rafael, S Juan Baustista, Soledad, S Antonio de Padua, S Miguel, Dolores, S Clara, S Carmel, S Cruz, S Jose )

16) Learn to milk a cow.
17) See a show on Broadway
18) Get a video to 5000 views (EDIT: Accomplished as of 12/2/12 my video “Calle Revolucion, Tijuana, Mexico” is at 16,698 views)
19) Weigh 184 (195 now)
20) Ride an Ostrich
21) Swim in the Hearst Castle pool
22) Participate in a historical re-enactment
23) write a book
24) write a comic strip
25) grow a vegetable garden
26) Memorize all Articles of Faith (Done 6/1/14)
27) Make a living with a personal business
28) Climb Mt. Fuji, Japan (Done 7/2/16)
29) Visit Tikal, Guatemala (Done March 2012)
30) Go on two missions (1 was 96-98 Buenos Aires North)
31) Visit the Sacred Grove
32) Become an Analyst / Manager
33) Get a blog post up to 20,000 views
34) Ride 100 miles on a bicycle.

I told Denise (my wife) about this list and she told me she also has goals and so I decided to list them as well:

1. Be a healthy weight.
2. Hike a 50 miler carrying own pack.
3. Week plus roadtrip in RV/Teardrop
4. See Independence Hall, PA.
5. Visit a Civil War Battlefield (at least 2).
6. Sew myself a dress that I love.
7. Knitt myself a sweater I love.
8. Grow a garden big enough that I can preserve some of it.
9. Read every book that I own.
10. Go on a mission.
11. Crotchet an altar cloth for a temple.
12. Visit Church History Sites (Carharage, Navhoo, Indep, Far West, etc.)
13. Visit observation deck of Empire State Building.
14. Bike across USA.

So there it is and the website is officially up and running. Writing this list has been an interesting exercise. It has told me two things: I have some more blog posts I need to write about and I still want to add more things to the list. If by any chance you are reading these and you’d like to help me fulfill some of these goals please let me know. I can be contacted by leaving a comment or by emailing me at johnpedroza(At)hotmail(dot)com. If you have some goals I would love to hear about them as well. I also would like any ideas you have for this website. It isn’t much to look at now but I am confident with a little bit of effort it too can be something special.