Sunday, September 07, 2008

Day Trip to Napa Valley

Yesterday was a long, interesting, inspiring day. I've come to San Francisco (San Mateo to be exact) for a 4-day conference on Risk Management, but I came early to take a tour of area sites related to the history of my church. What started out as a fairly "intimate" group of 75-80 turned out to be a well-behaved mob of more than 200 people on 5 tour buses rather than the original 2. That's OK. As I said, we were well-behaved. Instead of the travelers getting rowdy, bus #5 decided to go up, or down as the case may be, in flames (literally) and had to be abandoned barely 15 minutes into the journey north into the Napa Valley.

Our destination was two-fold: first to Angwin where one of our denominational colleges, Pacific Union College, is located and Elmshaven, the last home of Ellen G. White, one of the founders and early leaders of our church. It took about 2 hours of travel north, through San Francisco itself (did you know that one of the reasons it's one of the most beautiful cities in the world is because it has the three necessary ingredients: ocean, bay, and mountains. That's according to our bus driver.), the famed Napa Valley vineyards, and into the mountains above St. Helena.

The organizers of this tour had a very special day planned for us. First, we met in the college church for an inspiring presentation by Christian artist/scupltor, Victor Issa who, according to his website, "is one of the foremost figurative sculptors in America today, and is heralded for his remarkable ability to make bronze appear alive. His artistic hallmark "Creating Living Bronze" is the embodiment of his life-focused spirituality, respect for the human figure, love of life, passion for perfection, and undaunted perseverance. Victor has been sculpting professionally for nearly two decades. His works have been featured in shows and exhibitions across America since 1985. Victor's sculptures are displayed in private and public collections worldwide."

Victor did a presentation for us called "Testimony in Clay" that began with a clay bust of Christ which he than proceeded to transform live into Christ on the Cross and finally Christ the resurrected Savior. He worked to music and narration about Christ's ministry... It's hard to describe here, but it was moving and powerful.

We ate lunch in the college cafeteria and then got a tour of the campus, which interested me as I've always heard it is one of the most beautiful college campuses (it is) and one of our graduates is planning to go to school here. Also, one of my college friends is head of the Honors Program and a professor of English there. I'm friends was the president as well, and was glad to find myself in his tour group (remember, there are more than 200 of us doing this, so they had several group leaders to show us around). One of the highlights of the tour was a visit to the May Pavillion where they have a collection of several dozen animals from all over the world donated by a couple of alumni.

Once done with PUC, we went down the mountain to St. Helena where Elmshaven is located. I had really been looking forward to seeing this home. I'm one of those who loves standing in the room where an author wrote, seeing the chair or desk where best sellers were born, looking at manuscripts with my own eyes, glimpsing the author's work in their own hand. Ellen White was a prolific author and many aspects of the Christian walk. I've read a significant number of her books, and this year our staff is reading her book Education, a great treatise on the value and purpose of Christian education, so I was eager to learn about the place where this book was written.

Imagine my dismay when, after only hearing details about one of the 8 rooms of the house, someone stepped into the house and called "all buses are leaving NOW! It was not a joke. We were SO disappointed! Several of us rushed through the rest of the rooms, madly snapping pictures so we could research them later, and got ourselves back to our bus rather unhappily, as you might imagine. We never did find out why we had to leave in such a rush, but such was our misfortune.

The rest of the afternoon was spent on the bus, it seems. We had to go a round about way back to San Francisco because of a major traffic tie-up thanks to a sporting event, so we didn't get to cross the Golden Gate Bridge as had been promised. Instead, we saw it from the distance of the Bay Bridge, which is actually longer.

We stopped for refresh- ments at the San Francisco Central Adventist Church, which has historic significance because it is one of very few buildings to survive the Earthquake of 1906. It's a lovely old building, built in 1892, and the church members were very generous with their snack of crackers and cheeses, falafal, quiches, fruit, and corn bread.

We arrived back at the hotel rather tired of sitting, but having enjoyed a lovely day.


Heidi said...

I believe I had a class (government?) with Issa's daughter at Southern. Very talented.

It's so much fun to read about your experiences in the Bay Area because I've now spent some quality time there (both as a youngster and as an adult).

While PUC is very beautiful, I still prefer the beauty of red brick and white columns in the South! :-)

Rondi said...

Truth be told, I didn't think much of the buildings, but the setting is amazing...breath-taking, really...

Rondi said...

Oh...and there was a time when I would have said AUC had the upperhand on beautiful buildings. Back when I attended, many of the buildings were old brick covered with ivy...quite lovely.

Heidi said...

I can see how AUC would have been breath-taking. Guess it goes to show the importance of keeping up a facility.

sunny said...

Great shot from the bay bridge. I've often thought that would make a fine photo but assumed it would be impossible what with the traffic and all. How on earth did you do it? From a moving car window? Whenever we drive across the bay bridge I can't help but think about the 1989 earthquake that caused part of it to collapse and there were deaths. It comes unbidden to my mind. And, whenever I take the BART under that same stretch of the bay I think of those folks who were stranded under there for six hours after the earthquake. Doesn't stop me from crossing the water though. Hey, life's always a risk, eh?

Rondi said...

Yes, I took that shot through the bus window, at an angle to avoid as much reflection as possible. My camera is an 8.0 and I used the athletic setting which makes the lens faster (or something). I was surprised to get as many good shots as I did (I took a lot). I was also surprised not to have to use the "remove color cast" feature on Photo Shop the way I had to for my bus pictures in Greece. I've been experimenting with settings, though, and apparently the athletic one works pretty well. It might be the bus windows were less tinted here than in Greece, too. Not sure.