San Francisco to Anaheim
After an early breakfast at the hotel, we left the city by the bay for Anaheim. We traveled down I-5 where the landscape soon opened up to fields of agriculture on both sides of the highway. This scene continued for miles as we traveled along. At our first rest stop, we felt the first change in temperature. Things were finally starting to warm up. Time to lose the sweatshirts!
We made a lunch stop in Buttonwillow where everyone had several choices for lunch, with time afterward to buy some snacks for the road. The movie “Cars” entertained us as we continued on.
A few hours later we drove through hazy LA, where thankfully the traffic was moving along on a Friday afternoon. We arrived at the Embassy Suites in Anaheim mid-afternoon, checked into our rooms, and had some free time before dinner. Several walked to the nearby Target, did laundry, or just rested in their rooms.
Dinner tonight was at the Pizza Press, a build your own individual pizza restaurant. After dinner we returned to the hotel where everyone received their tickets for Disneyland, as well as instructions for tomorrow.
Can you say...
Today was day the travelers were most excited for while in San Francisco. Alcatraz didnʼt disappoint and neither did their free time in the city nor the fireworks!!! This morning we took a drive to the wharf and then a short walk to the ferry. From there, our group waited a few minutes then skipped the long line and hopped on the Alcatraz ferry. The views of the Penitentiary and San Francisco from the ferry were spectacular. Once we got to the island we took part in the audio tour which took us through the halls, cells and facilities where the most famous criminals were locked behind bars. Travelers were able to walk inside the cells, dining hall, see the recreational area and even the cell where a few of the inmates took spoons and created a hole to escape "The Rock!" The coolest part of this mornings adventure was seeing prisoner of Alcatraz, Bill Baker!!! He was available to meet, greet and sign his book in the store after the tour.
The travelers then had several hours to venture out into the city in groups of seven to ten. Today is the only day on the trip that they are able to use public transportation and from stories we have heard, they had a great time and spent a lot of their parents money!!!
We gathered in the hotel lobby to walk as a group to Chinatown for dinner where we enjoyed a family style dinner. A true Chinatown experience!!! After dinner we walked to a place to watch fireworks over the Bay. The travelers gathered on Pier 41 and awaited the fireworks display. Promptly at 9:30pm the first firework was heard as cries of excitement went up from the crowd! It was an amazing display of fireworks, somewhat hidden in the fog, and a perfect way to end a good American Independence Day!
We started the first full day in San Francisco with a city tour driven by Ray and directed by Laine. Laine showed us China Town and the Italian section of San Francisco. She also took us to Ghirardelli square, where she surprised us with some chocolate squares. We then saw the wharf, the financial district, the view of the city from twin peaks, and the Golden Gate Bridge. We ended the tour in Saulsalito, which is where we had lunch. Some groups had burgers, many chose Mexican, and most had ice cream at Lappertʼs ice cream. Sausalito also offered some great souvenir
and clothes shops for the travelers to explore. We then made our way over to an Oakland Athletics and Minnesota Twins game. At the game we enjoyed some traditional ball park grub: hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, and pretzels! We also got to be a part of the wave, singing take me out to the ball game, and got featured on the Jumbotron! In the end, the Twins took home the win, and the kids took home some souvenir hats and sweatshirts. -Haley
Gold Beach, OR to San Francisco, CA
After a fun night of dancing and celebrating birthdays at Jot’s Resort in Gold Beach, OR the morning started bright and early. A little bleary eyed, we made a short ride to Brookings, OR for breakfast at McDonald's. Several of our travelers mingled with a group of elderly folks that gather daily there for breakfast. The older group enjoyed talking to our young travelers, and complimented how nice our group behaved. Naturally, traveling with such a large group, we get a lot of curious looks and questions. Folks are always impressed, and compliment how well our group travels together, especially when they learn we're travelling for 33 days!
Leaving breakfast we soon entered into California as we drove down HWY 101 along the coast. We were afforded beautiful views of the Pacific with jagged cliffs running into the sea. We followed the Redwood Highway as we drove through Redwood National and State Parks. We started seeing glimpses of the majestic redwoods!
A quick stop was made at a rest area in Humboldt County where many took time to stroll along the Redwood lined trail to an ocean view. Many were intrigued when VK informed the group about a show on Netflix, Murder Mountain, that is based on true crime in the county. A snack of granola bars, fruit snacks and water were handed out as everyone got back on the bus.
As we drove through the Avenue of the Giants we were all amazed by the giant redwoods surrounding us. We made our way off of the bus and gazed up in amazement. Several of the travelers quickly ran up, and with outstretched arms, held hands surrounding one of the massive trees. Rebekah said, “these trees are bigger then I ever imagined!” Even with 57 of us walking among the giants, there was a quiet and peaceful feeling. Suzie commented, “I wish my mom could see this because she loves trees”.
We stopped for a picnic lunch at Benbow Recreation area. We enjoyed turkey & cheese subs, chips and cookies. After time to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, we loaded the bus and watched “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” as we continued our journey.
As we got closer to San Francisco the excitement on the bus grew. We soon crossed the bay on the famous Golden Gate Bridge with beautiful views of the city on our left. Ray navigated us to the Comfort Inn by the Bay, our home for the next few days. We dropped our luggage in our rooms and gathered for a brisk walk to Fishermans Wharf for dinner at the iconic California-born, In-N-Out. All enjoyed the famous burgers with their special thousand island sauce. Many bought t-shirts for gifts, or souvenirs to bring home. After dinner, free time was given to explore Fisherman’s Wharf area before heading back to the hotel. It was a long day of travel and we all look forward to a little rest in the morning before more adventures tomorrow!
Seattle to Gold Beach, Oregon
Our morning began in Seattle, Washington with breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn. We then loaded the bus for a long drive to Gold Beach, Oregon. We drove through Washington and into Oregon while seeing some beautiful scenery, playing games on the bus such as charades, and watching Good Burger. We stopped for lunch in Cottage Grove, Oregon where travelers got to choose their restaurant. The majority chose KFC or McDonald's. Our drive took us by Portland, Oregon and down highway 101 where we saw the mountains meet the ocean. When we arrived in Gold Beach we saw some amazing views of the pacific coastline. Perrin, noticing the difference in beaches said, “after traveling all these states, North Carolina is my favorite state.” When we reached Jotʼs Resort we had a delicious dinner of salad, mac and cheese, chicken and roast topped off with birthday cake. We celebrated all the birthdays that take place during the trip and of course sang happy birthday to them all. We then enjoyed the rest of our night with some music from an amazing local DJ. Some of our kids showed off their smooth dance moves, some joined in on some line dancing, and others participated in a couple of dance offs. The night was full of dancing and good times.
Todayʼs adventures started at our hotel in Issaquah. We enjoyed a group breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn. Then Ray Ray bused us over to the Space Needle. Fun fact: the Space Needle is 1,815 Milky Way bars tall! The Space Needle, built for the World's Fair, offers some breathtaking views of Seattle. Stella said she was in awe of the scenery. Some travelers went for an extra thrill by leaning onto the slanted glass walls that surrounded the observatory deck. Some also ventured onto the rotating glass floor. Also, shout out to Josh and Allen for conquering their fear of heights and walking onto the glass floor! We then went down to the bus where we met up with our tour guide, James, a native of NC. James took us around Seattle to see the major sights such as the salmon ladder. At the salmon ladder we saw a few salmon, blue heron, and a sea lion. We also saw and smelled some plants in the area: rose hips, lavender, and salmon berries. We then made a stop on the west side of Seattle so we could take in the views of the city from afar. While at our stop we saw some native groups arriving on their boat. Our tour guide James taught us how to greet them by putting both hands up and waving our hands back and forth. This was apparently a greeting used to signal that the parties were friendly and had no weapons. After parting ways with James we set out to explore Pike Place Market. Jane, Louise, and Sarah Frances found “the best cupcakes.” One group went to Hard Rock Cafe for lunch. Many groups visited the various ice cream shops, and many of the travelers found some shopping to do in stores such as Lululemon, Kavu, Patagonia, and the Seattle T-shirt Company. Some groups also used their time to visit the Pride Parade festivities. All in all, downtown Seattle was a great time. Later, we got all gussied up for a dinner at Ivarʼs Salmon House. At Ivarʼs we dined on some delectable salmon and Marsala chicken, along with house salads, corn muffins, lavender honey butter, green beans, and mashed potatoes.
Polson, MT to Seattle, WA
After breakfast at the Red Lion Inn in Polson, MT we loaded the bus and headed west to Seattle. We drove the back roads of Montana with its rolling hills, and pastures of cattle, horses and bison. The scenery soon changed as we drove along the Paradise to St. Regis Scenic Highway. The views were gorgeous as we followed the Clark Fork River as it meandered through the mountains and lodge pole pines. Many passed the time gazing out the window, while others slept. We soon crossed into Idaho and were greeted with views of beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene. A quick rest stop was made here where everyone had a chance to stretch their legs. The movie, “Blades of Glory” entertained us as we continued on our way. We stopped for lunch in Ellenburg, WA where there was a variety of restaurants for everyone. After lunch we watched the movie, “Sandlot.”
We arrived in Seattle mid afternoon, making a quick stop at our hotel to meet Bob, our driver into the city. We boarded his bus and off we went to downtown Seattle. Bob provided us with a lot of information about the city, pointing out landmarks such as Century Link Field (Clink), Starbucks headquarters, the location of the Grey's Anatomy hospital, Pikes Place, as well as the Space Needle. It was evident in Bob’s enthusiasm he was very proud of his city, and was eager to show it off!
While downtown we toured the Museum of Pop Culture (MOPOP). The exhibits and architecture of the building were fascinating. The building itself is shaped to resemble a smashed guitar (that supposedly was something Jimi Hendricks was known to do to his guitars while on stage). Mills said, “it’s so retro” when she saw the unique purple building. Special features in the museum included tributes to local Seattle natives, Jimi Hendrix and the music group, Nirvana. There was even a room dedicated to Prince, which included his outfit from the Purple Rain Tour. There were interactive exhibits where we could play different instruments and create our own videos. Lolly said, “it makes me want to be a music producer.” Many also enjoyed the Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy and Indie Games exhibits. The girls particularly enjoyed the fashion exhibit. Estelle said, “the flower arrangements on the models in the museum were stupendously placed.” Everyone enjoyed browsing through the gift shop buying t-shirts and mementos to bring home. Olivia summed up the experience by saying, “MOPOP makes my mind pop!”
Driving back to our hotel we were treated with a beautiful view of Mt Rainier (which Bob told us on average can only be seen about 79 days a year).
We checked into the Hilton Garden Inn which will be our hotel for the next two nights. Free time was given for everyone to have dinner on their own around the hotel. We were soon off to bed to rest up for a full day of sightseeing in Seattle on Sunday!
320 Guest Ranch to Polson, Montana
We started our morning with another delicious breakfast at the ranch. It may have been a bit chilly, but we still enjoyed seeing the horses wrangled across the road before heading to Polson, Montana. We enjoyed a picnic lunch at a rest area just outside of Missoula on our way to Polson. Upon arrival to our hotel, the Red Lion, we quickly changed into our water attire, loaded the bus and were ready for a thrilling white water rafting trip down the Flathead River. While rafting we took on several class 3 rapids. The two main rapids were called the Buffalo and the Eagle. After tackling the river some of us took a refreshing but cold jump in the water. We ended our day by having dinner at the Kwa Taq Nuk located on Flathead Lake, the largest fresh water lake west of the Great Lakes. The dinner was a Indian taco bar. We sat on the patio overlooking the lake with beautiful views while enjoying a live band.
We woke today, for our second morning on the ranch, to a delicious breakfast. Many travelers have remarked that the ranch breakfasts remind them of home cooked meals. Our first activity of the day was a trip to Earthquake Lake in Yellowstone. We learned from an informational video that on August 17, 1959, a night time earthquake rocked a Yellowstone camp and multiple cabins. After taking in the views of Earthquake Lake we ventured out on a short hike to see the cabins that once stood along the Madison River. These cabins now are found crumbled and partially submerged along Earthquake Lake. Upon return to the ranch we enjoyed a lunch of soup and sandwiches. Then we took some time to prepare costumes for the volleyball tournament. We had the following teams: acorns, bloodhounds, cops, dope dads, east coast red necks, fourth of july, and gangsters. And the winner was................ the Fourth of July team!!! There was also a winning costume team: The Cops! An added surprise was that Mary treated the winning teams to ice cream in the ranch gift shop.Huckleberry Ice Cream sandwiches for the win! After our volleyball tournament, we enjoyed some time to explore the ranch before dinner. The ranch served up a yummy taco spread for dinner. We followed up dinner with some more free time on the ranch. Many gathered around the bonfire while some played pool, corn hole, and ladder ball. -Haley
We woke up this morning in beautiful Montana at the 320 Guest Ranch. The cool mountain air was refreshing as we walked to the dining hall for breakfast. We were served a hearty meal of scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes, cinnamon rolls, yogurt and fresh fruit. Our stomachs were full for the morning activities!
We split into two groups for the days adventures, which included horseback riding and hiking. The first horseback group made their way to the barn where they were fitted with a helmet and matched up with their horse. Soon, they were off for a two hour ride through the Big Sky wilderness. The trails were muddy from the rain the day before, but the views were gorgeous. VK said, “it was fun! It was very relaxing and the views were extravagant.” The wranglers led the group through the Gallatin National Forest, eventually following the creek along the Buffalo Horn Trail back to the ranch. Settie enjoyed the ride but said, “my horse Little Buddy (aka lil’ Wayne) was naughty and ran me into a tree!”
The first group of hikers also traveled along the Buffalo Horn Trail that runs behind the ranch. Oliver said, “the hike was really muddy” while Gloria said, “the hike was a good experience, but very muddy."
Both groups met up for lunch which was another delicious meal at the ranch. Hamburgers, brats, cowboy chili and potato salad were enjoyed by all. Brownies and rice krispy treats were served for desert. After lunch the groups switched activities.
Tonight’s dinner was a Western theme served down by the roaring Gallatin River. As we walked down to the river, the ranch draft horses loped past us pulling wagons full of guests. We were served a delicious dinner of steak, barbecue chicken, cowboy chili, potato salad, corn on the cob and homemade cornbread. We sat around tables covered in red and white checkered cloths, and sang along with the strolling musician playing his guitar. Louise S. said “my favorite part of the dinner was the live music, and that we could request songs for him to play as we sang along. We had free time to make s’mores, play games and pet the horses.”
After dinner there was more free time for games of ladder golf, corn hole, and lasso roping around a metal cow. Some opted to use this time to do laundry, or just relax by the roaring fire. It was soon time to head to our cabins. We were all tired after a full day of fun on the 320 Guest Ranch.