New Orleans, LA to Winston-Salem, NC
This is it! The last day of the Winston-Salem Grand Western Tour 2019. We were up early loading the bus at 4:10am. Everyone was soon fast asleep before we were even out of NOLA! We stopped about 4 hours down the road in Greenville, AL for breakfast at McDonalds. The group was awake after breakfast and the chatter and laughter increased as we made our way. We stopped on the other side of Atlanta in Norcross, GA for lunch at The Varsity. Everyone enjoyed their famous burgers, hot dogs, onion rings and frosted orange shakes. In true fashion, several bought their iconic red Varsity t-shirts as one last souvenir from the trip! After lunch, the singing and laughs continued as everyone enjoyed their last few hours together. As Ray turned our bus into the Brookstown Inn parking lot in Winston-Salem, the excitement level rose as everyone started spotting their families in the crowd. There were laughs, hugs and tears as we all said our goodbyes.
It’s hard to believe we began this journey 34 days ago when we gathered for dinner June 14 at Salem College. Departing Winston-Salem early on June 15 we embarked on a journey that would forever change our lives. 33 days, 25 states and more than 9,000 miles we traveled our beautiful country. We have shared memorable experiences and seen incredible sights. We have gone from being strangers to friends, creating a forever bond with memories to last a lifetime. While bittersweet, it’s exciting to be home with moments we will remember forever.
Godspeed and safe travels home! #WSGWT2019
San Antonio to New Orleans
Our day started pretty early by loading the bus at 5:30AM. Many of the travelers stayed awake most of the night to get the full effect of a "haunted hotel" so we had some pretty sleepy travelers.
A couple hours down the road we stopped for breakfast at a McDonaldʼs just outside Houston. Lunch was in a mall food court in Lake Charles, LA. During the lunch stop some of the group took advantage of the time and did some shopping before coming back to the bus. Oh and there was Chick-fil-a!!
Upon arrival at the Hilton in New Orleans, LA we checked into our rooms and took a few minutes to prepare for dinner. We headed out on the town with sharply dressed travelers. Our walk to dinner took us to Coterie Restaurant and Oyster Bar where each person got to pick from two starters and three entree choices with bread pudding as dessert.
Following dinner we led the group on a walk through the French Quarter, down Bourbon Street, to Cafe Du Monde, then finally to the riverside. The group quickly realized they had just enjoyed their last group dinner and activity and began snapping photos. Tomorrow begins early and the travelers will enjoy their last day together as the 2019 Winston-Salem Grand Western Tour!!!
Today was spent in the charming town of San Antonio. We started the day by watching an IMAX movie about the Alamo. The film featured a thrilling reenactment of the fighting that took place at the Alamo. After the film, we walked over to the Alamo together to get an up close look at what was originally known as the San Antonio de Valero Mission. Fun fact, Valero gas stations are actually named after it, and Alamo is Spanish for the cottonwood trees planted around the mission. After the Alamo, we spent the early afternoon exploring the city of San Antonio. Most groups found some shopping and explored the river walk area of San Antonio. One group also found a sandwich shop with sandwiches made of doughnuts! Towards the end of the afternoon many of the travelers visited the Menger pool before dinner. Once it was time for dinner, we enjoyed a group meal at Fuddruckers which consisted of some yummy burgers, chicken sandwiches, and potato wedges. After dinner we started our ghost tour of San Antonio. We learned about the local residential ghosts such as Sallie White who lives in the Menger hotel. We also learned about ghosts at the Alamo, many other haunted hotels, a re-purposed jail, a re-purposed hospital, the Spanish governor's home,
and a cathedral.
El Paso to San Antonio
Rise and shine! No one has ever said this group can’t wake up early. After loading the buses at 6:30 am, we had breakfast at the hotel before getting on the road to San Antonio. Ray had a long drive today of 550 miles across western Texas. On the bus this morning, many passed the time by catching up on sleep, playing games on their phones, or just gazing out at the Texas landscape. During this time, we lost an hour which put us within an hour of the time at home.
We made a lunch stop in Fort Stockton where we had the choice of McDonalds, KFC or Taco Bell. A few even ventured to Walmart for a little shopping. Imagine that! After lunch, we settled in and watched “Dirty Dancing” as we continued to make our way.
About 80 miles outside of San Antonio we had a mechanical issue with the bus. Ray made a quick thinking decision to get us off of the interstate and safely to a side road. He even managed to find the only shade tree on the road for us to park under. We waited there until another bus arrived to drive us on to San Antonio.
With the delay, we arrived in San Antonio around 11:00pm. We checked into the historic Menger Hotel, the oldest continuously operating hotel west of the Mississippi. Hearing that the hotel is supposedly haunted, we may all sleep with one eye open tonight!
Tucson to El Paso
This morning we said goodbye to the Wyndham Resort in Tucson. Some of us enjoyed sleeping in a little while others made a trip to the gym to get a workout in before departing. We loaded the bus at 8:45 to head for El Paso. Our first stop would be right down the road at McDonaldʼs. After a few hours on the road and losing an hour, we stopped for lunch and enjoyed some desert views in Lordburg, New Mexico. Upon arrival in El Paso we checked into our hotel and had a little downtime before departing to Carlos and Mickeys restaurant. We enjoyed a delicious authentic Mexican dinner that included flautas, tacos, and enchiladas. They also provided some live music in the restaurant. After dinner we took some time to celebrate our wonderful bus driver, Ray. We presented him with a gift, then Perrin and Stella spoke some kind words. “Thank you for always greeting us with a smile, putting us in a good mood, keeping us safe and making this the best summer of my life.” We are so thankful for Ray on this adventure. Letʼs hope everyone gets a good nights rest before staying at The Menger Hotel in San Antonio, the city's most haunted hotel.
We began our morning at the resort in Tucson. Many travelers decided to order breakfast at the Gold Restaurant located on the resort. After time for breakfast we departed for the Sabino Canyon. Once we arrived we boarded smaller buses that carried us down into the canyon. We took one stop during the canyon excursion to hike down into it a little bit to get some better views of the cacti and mountains around us. After a visit to the visitor center we came back to the resort and got lunch in individual groups. Some chose to order delivery while others tried something new in the Gold Restaurant. After lunch some free time was enjoyed by all. Free time included activities such as tennis, swimming, and basketball. Following free time we all enjoyed a group dinner together. Lasagna, salad, bread, and ice cream were provided by the resort. We ended our night at the resort with some more swim time in the pool and hot tub.
Sedona to Tucson
We woke up to sunny blue skies in the canyon town of Sedona. The temperature was already hot as we walked over to the breakfast room at the hotel. After breakfast we gathered in the lobby to wait on our pink jeeps to arrive. We were soon zipping through town on the Pink Jeep Tour of Sedona. Our tour guides took us through Bear Wallow Canyon, an area used for off-road vehicles. There were lots of laughs as we bounced along over rocks and boulders. We made a stop at the top for a group photo and everyone enjoyed climbing on the jeeps for great photo ops!
After the tour we loaded the bus to head to Tucson. It was hard leaving Sedona behind. We all agreed Sedona is a beautiful place and the visit was way too short. We stopped outside of Phoenix for lunch where there were several choices of places to eat. We also made a quick stop at Walmart in Tucson for snacks.
We arrived at the Westward Look Wyndham Resort and Spa in Tucson late afternoon. After checking into our rooms we gathered by the pool for a poolside dinner. We were served hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans, and potato salad, with watermelon for desert. Everyone enjoyed time swimming in the pool, or relaxing in the hot tub. Free time was given until 10:00pm before everyone headed to their rooms for the night. It was a fun filled day!
Las Vegas to Sedona, Arizona
With the Grand Canyon a few hours away we started our morning breakfast at the La Quinta in Las Vegas. After breakfast, we loaded up the bus and headed towards one of the most famous natural features in the world. Upon arrival at the Grand Canyon we walked out to a beautiful overlook to take in the spectacular views. We then enjoyed a picnic lunch in the park before we went to different vantage points around the Grand Canyon, ending at the Bright Angel Lodge. Travelers had a hour to venture around the village, visit several museums, eat ice cream, visit the gift shop and view more of the canyon. After enjoying some more views and fun we boarded the bus to continue our scenic drive to Sedona. Upon arriving in Sedona, AZ we enjoyed a pool party and pizza at the Arabella hotel.
This morning we departed from the state of California and started our trek back east. We also entered the desert area and finally experienced some warm weather. When we stopped for lunch we definitely noticed the temperature change. Our lunch spot offered some yummy options and some took the last chance to get an In-N-Out burger. After lunch we continued our journey into Vegas. As we entered, we drove straight down the strip to see some of the famous Vegas shops, hotels, and signs. Afterwards, we checked into our hotel and got ready for our night out. We started our evening by having dinner at one of the many different eateries in the Miracle Mile. Many of the travelers also took time to shop at the Miracle Mile. After dinner, we all watched the Variety show together. The show offered an array of entertainment. There were acrobats, skaters, comedians, and magicians. Itʼs safe to say we all got some laughs in and were blown away by the tricks. “That was so cool! I really thought the skater girl was going to hit her head” said Ellen. “My favorite was the dancing quigleys! They were so funny," offered VK. We ended the night by walking over to watch the Bellagio fountains and driving down the strip to see the well known night time lights!
Lions & tigers & bears, oh my! Yes, after breakfast we were off to the world famous San Diego Zoo. Excitement was evident on the bus as the travelers talked about which animals they were most excited to see. When we arrived at the zoo we loaded a double decker bus for a driving tour through the park. It was early morning, before the day warmed up, so many of the animals were out for us to see. We then had free time to explore the zoo on foot to see our favorite animal exhibits, ride the aerial tram and shop for souvenirs.
After the zoo we headed to Casa Guadalajara for lunch in Historic Old Town, the birthplace of California in 1769. We sat outside in the warm Southern California weather where we were served an authentic Mexican buffet of enchiladas, chicken fajitas, tacos, rice, refined beans and endless pitchers of lemonade.
The afternoon was spent touring the USS Midway, a retired aircraft carrier, at the San Diego harbor. The USS Midway was used from 1945-1992 which is America’s longest serving aircraft of the 20th century. The group enjoyed roaming the flight deck, climbing in some planes, and a few even took a turn in the flight simulators. Several stopped to listen to retired servicemen talk about life on the aircraft carrier.
We spent the evening in the beautiful seaside town of La Jolla where we had a catered BBQ dinner at the cove. We enjoyed BBQ chicken, baked beans and potato salad. We were entertained by the sea lions lazing on the rocks as we watched the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Free time after dinner allowed us some time for shopping and visiting the ice cream and gelato shops. It was a fun filled day!