Sunday, September 19, 2010

Water Slides and Jungle Time

Can we squeeze just a little more out of the summer - bask in the sun and frolic (and yes, I used the word "frolic") in the water before it’s officially fall? I vote yes! Water parks are still open, on weekends only, and a fun way to make the most of these last days of summer.

Mosey over to the small to mid-sized Dry Town Water Park in Palmdale, which boasts an Old West theme. Enter through buildings and facades of Main Street, U.S.A. and notice that a real, modern-day sheriff is always on duty here.

Climb the steps up to the main water slide tower which has three different slides emerging from it. The blue slide, Devil’s Punchbowl, has a large vortex that swirls riders on tubes around and around the center, encircling the hole before being sucked down into it and ending in the small splash pool, wh ere all the slides converge. The red slide is mostly enclosed, which gives it a bit of a scarey feel as some of the ride is then dark and unknown. The yellow slide is convertible-style - an open top. Grab a tube and ride down the slides by yourself, or with a buddy in the double tubes. I like the view from atop the tower as you can see for miles and miles - the surrounding town and the adjacent mountains.

Let your worries float away as you drift along in the 925-foot, circular Big Rock River. Plop in a tube or go sans tube - either way, just go with the flow, literally.

The colorful Little Miners Camp kids’ area has some special features besides several short slides. It also has primary-colored pipes with water squirting from them, a shallow-water play area, cargo nets, water hoses, and large, upright rings to walk through that shoot out water. A favorite feature of this area is the huge bucket that fills up with water and tips over at certain intervals, drenching visitors waiting in anticipation of this event, as well as those who are underneath it, but unsuspecting. (The latter is probably more fun for the onlookers.)

For adults, and kids who need a break, there are plenty of lounge chairs, both in the sun and under shade canopies. Dusty’s Grill sells hamburgers, sandwiches, hot dogs and other snack items, and there is also a Hawaiian shaved ice stand on the premises. Yum! Outside food isn’t allowed in, but if you pack a picnic lunch you can go out to your car and eat it on the nearby grassy strips as a park hand stamp allows you to exit and enter the park as often as you want within the same day. Tip: Wear water shoes of some kind as the pavement can get really hot. Life jackets and tubes are available free of charge. Locker rentals are available inside the water park.
Dry Town is part of the Palmdale Oasis Park, which also includes an adjoining, multi-laned, 25 yard x 25 meter regulation competition, year-round swimming pool (with a separate admission and contact info) and, next door, a recreation center with a basketball court and a variety of classes.

What I especially liked: The water park wasn’t so big that you got lost (obviously, as I’ve mentioned all of its features), but the size and affordability made it a great place to hang out, eat, get cooled off, and play with some friends for a few hours. Plus, Dry Town Water Park is clean, safe, and nicely-landscaped.

What:Dry Town Water Park
Where:3850 E Ave S
Palmdale, CA
Contact info:(661) 267-6161 /
(Disclaimer - Always, always, ALWAYS call first as hours and prices fluctuate!)
Hours:Saturday and Sunday through the end of September for this season, 11am - 6pm.
Admission:$13 for Palmdale residents 9 years and older; $16 for non-residents
$8 for Palmdale residents ages 3 - 8; $11 for non-residents
2 years and under are free
Discounts are available for senior citizens and active military, and during twilight hours only on certain days.
Parking is free.
(Always check on-line for potential discounts.)

The school year begins and summer happenings are being relegated to memories. But wow - what memories! Actually, more than just memories. My summer was full of defining moments - moments, hours and days that impacted my mind and soul so powerfully that I am changed because of what I got to be a part of and experience.

I, along with 39 others, left for Quito, Ecuador towards the end of June to be a part of a short-term missions team for two weeks. Although this was my fourth year in going, I didn’t know exactly what to expect as what we do and who we interact with tends to change, sometimes minute by minute, in "Flexidor" (its apropos moniker).

Our team took a 7-hour bus ride from Quito and then a 3-hour canoe ride (on long, skinny, wooden canoes with motors that held about 30 people each) on the river through the jungle, passing by wooden huts with thatched roofs, people waving, and an incredible variety of immense and lush green foliage. I kept thinking - I get to do this! (Even when the 2 x 4 that I was sitting on got hard for my bottom I was thinking - I get to do this. No exclamation mark.) We reached the village of Zancudo which is a village of 400 people, formed long ago by escaped slaves, and our home for 8 days.

It was hot here. Really hot. Sweltering hot. And humid. Really humid. We got off the canoe, greeted some of the people in the village and just stood there, sweating. Not doing anything; not even moving; just sweating. Then, we carried our duffel bags through the single, main, dirt road (it reminded me of an Old West town) past a conglomeration of side-by-side, single-story and two-story homes made of wood or cement or combination thereof, up the hill on a dirt trail to our large, rectangular "house", while wearing pants and trudging in our rain boots, and we sweated a lot more. Welcome to the jungle!

We set up our mosquito nets, tucking them tightly around and underneath our sleeping bags and went back down the dirt trail to the village. We met some of the people who graciously welcomed us; we played some soccer with the villagers on the mud and grass field; and we began to filter the rainwater so there was drinking water that our gringo stomachs could, well, stomach.

I won’t give you such a detailed description of our each and every day here because you don’t have the time, patience, or desire to hear it all, but I will share just a few highlights.

The "technical" part of the mission’s experience was this: There was about 95 people on our whole staff, comprised of a melting pot of Christians who, besides the U.S., were from Canada, Columbia, Argentina, and Ecuador, including three different organizations in Ecuador (who counseled the kids and were the leaders of the Bible camps) and six indigenous tribes - the Waorani, Schuar, Achua, Quichwa, Chachi, and blacks. We were united in Christ, while using English, Spanish, and hand motions to accomplish God's multiple goals for this time period. We put on two, five-day vacation Bible camps in Zancudo - one for high schoolers, where over 100 attended from Zancudo and neighboring villages to spend five days and nights, and one for children 12 and under for those living in Zancudo. Simultaneously, we had a travel team that went just down the river, about a half hour by canoe, for two consecutive days to do a vacation Bible camp for 120 kids at one village, and then another two days of camp at another village with about 80 kids, plus all the adults who came to listen, watch, and even participate in the activities each day. These kids, and adults, face some of the same struggles that we experience in our North American culture - drugs, disapproving parents, abuse, lack of education, teen pregnancies, etc. - and so much more, including lack of technology, material possessions and job opportunities.

What was our role here? What could we do or offer, especially in the short amount of time we had here? Our team went to Zancudo with only one overriding purpose/desire/mission - to love the people effectively, in God’s mighty, gentle, and compassionate love. We did Bible stories, songs, crafts, and games, yes. More importantly, I think, we hung out with the people, especially the kids, who clung to us like they were desperate for attention, for touch - maybe there were. They held our hands and climbed on our backs (usually several of them at once!) and pulled at our arms so we would hold and hug them. And we did. What an honor.

Many of the mission team members were high schoolers who had never seen such need, who had never been exposed to such harsh living conditions and to children with big, brown eyes that begged and clamored for love. The hearts of these high schoolers (as well as the adults on the team) were overwhelmed, and mostly overwhelmed because these children so openly and joyfully received the love that we could give them so freely and honestly. I’m not sure who ultimately received more - the kids of the village or the mission team members. I guess it really doesn’t matter. Love was the goal and love was achieved. And love changes us, no matter the dosage.

I’ll share just one more highlight, seemingly small or insignificant, but relationships - connecting with people - is always big. A woman of the village was down by the river, actually partially in the river, washing and scrubbing and beating the clothes. And I mean beating the clothing with a large, thick, solid, wooden paddle. I tried it and lasted about 10 minutes - no wonder these women are buff! I was on the steps watching her. She engaged me in conversation, so with my limited Spanish and her non-existent English, we somehow chatted about our kids and her life in the village. Then Patricia (I understood her name!) asked if I liked fruit. I answered, "Si". She asked me to stay right there (I think), carried up a basket of her cleanly-beaten clothing, and came back a few minutes later with a tray of bananas. She, who had so very little, shared some of her very freshly-picked bananas with me. That truly touched my heart.

This was just a small part of my summer "vacation" - what a blessed adventure! Thanks for listening (i.e. reading). Let me know if you’d like to hear more.

This was our mission’s trip theme: Joshua 22: 5 "But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his way, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him, and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul."


  1. These are amazing photos! Thank you for sharing your journey and I am sure to check out the water slides with my son.

  2. I love the Lama walk - where in the world did you find that??? - you are a hoot!! will pass it on

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    1. Love your book Susan! Thanks for sharing!