Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Day 33: Homeward Bound

As the bus draws closer to the end of the  tour at the Brookstown Inn in Winston Salem, there is a bittersweet feeling sweeping over its riders. Students are excited to see parents, siblings, other family, and old friends as well as sleep in their own beds and eat homecooked meals.  However, they are sad to say farewell to their new friends who became their Grand Western Tour family these past 33 days. 

As the students leave they will find over time that the friendships formed on this trip will sustain the distance between hometowns. Likewise, the memories made will last forever. Here are a few of those memories:

Suitcases so big students could fit in them.

The Holiday Tour bus that became home away from home.

Clarence Robinson, the hardest working man of the bunch. We were blessed to have such a sweet man keeping us safe on the roads through the summer.

Dinner the first night and the first group picture at Joe Huber's Family Farm in Indiana

Visiting the United States Air Force Academy and Cadet Chapel in Colorado, Springs

Riding the train through the Colorado mountains between Silverton and Durango

Dinner Chuckwagon style at the Bar D Ranch with entertainment from the Bar D Wranglers (Durango, CO)

Playing on the formations at Arches National Park in Utah

Riding the ski lift to the top of Snow King Mountain in Jackson, WY

Seeing the Grand Teton Mountain Range in Wyoming.

Yellowstone National Park (complete with Old Faithful and walking within ten feet of a buffalo)

Horseback riding at the 360 Guest Ranch in Montana

Rafting down the Flathead River near Polson, MT

Rocking out in their own music video at the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle, WA

Fourth of July fireworks in Seattle

The fearless leaders (Amber, Glenn, Nathan, and Molly)

Birthday celebration including karoke/dancing with DJ Deb in Gold Beach, OR

Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco to Sausalito. 

Visiting Alcatraz

Walking Hollywood Boulevard and the walk of stars. 

Hanging out at Laguna Beach, CA...

...And swimming in the Pacific Ocean

Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon in Arizona

Taking the Pink Jeep tour through the Sedona Red Rocks

Experiencing the desert and 100+ degree weather in Nevada, Arizona, and Texas.

Visiting the Alamo in San Antonio, TX

Getting overjoyed about the sight of a Chic-Fil-A

Walking down Bourbon Street in New Orleans, LA

The last night as a group spent singing karaoke at the Bourbon Cowboy in New Orleans (the last group picture) 

It was a summer of fun! As sad as we are to see our students go, we can say we were blessed to spend this summer with each one of them and get to know them. May they carry with them forever the memories made on this trip and with each other.

Signing off for the last time- GWT 2015

Day 32: San Antonio to New Orleans

We have officially concluded day 32 of our 33-day tour across the western United States. It's hard to believe there is only one more leg of our journey, until we are back in Winston Salem. This past month has flown by!

This morning, we loaded the bus at an early time of 5:30AM. We left San Antonio and traveled across the remaining part of Texas, down Insterstate 10. Everyone was exhausted, as you can see, from the sleepy passengers pictured below.

Soon after crossing the state border into Louisiana, we stopped at the Prien Lake Mall for lunch. The food court was perfect for our large group of 57. We were able to get in and out in no time! Unsurprisingly, the majority of the crew chose to eat at Chick-fil-a!  

It was a long day of driving, 543 miles to be exact, but we made it to New Orleans just in time for dinner. We met in the hotel lobby at 7:30PM and walked a few blocks over to Bourbon Street. For those who had never been to Bourbon Street, it was quite an eye-opening experience! 

Tonight we were lucky to have a private party on the second floor of the Bourbon Cowboy. We were greeted with flashing Mardi Gras beads and bottomless soda and water. Our meal consisted of New Orlean's favorites such as fried chicken, jambalaya, and red beans and rice. 

After we had our filling of food, the crew signed up for karaoke with the DJ. We were serenaded by arrangements of Piano Man, Hit Me Baby One More Time, Ice Ice Baby, and a special rendition of Gold Digger. 

There were mixed emotions in the air, as this was the last full night of the Grand Western Tour. New Orleans was the perfect location to celebrate such an unforgettable trip and the new friendships that were made. 

See you soon, North Carolina!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Day 31: San Antonio, TX

I The day began with an 11AM start (extremely late by GWT standards) which gave the students plenty of time to fit in a nice sit down breakfast at the establishment of their choice. However, many chose their standby- Starbucks. 

A short walk to the IMAX Theater brought us to the day's showing of The Alamo: The Price Of Freedom. The movie gave an account and reproduction of the fight at the Alamo using the most facts the writers knew.  We watched it on the second largest screen in Texas. Immediately following the movie we walked across the street to Alamo Square to see the Alamo which is not a shrine to the lives lost there. The Alamo was one time a mission fortress. A key battle was fought here between Texas and Mexico in the battle for Texan Independence. Even though the Alamo was lost during this battle, it laid the ground for the battle cry that led Texans to victory in the Battle of San Jacinto. "Remember the Alamo!!"

After touring the Alamo the students were given free one in groups of three of bigger. Some students walked the Riverwalk enjoying the sights and various foods and snacks. Others ventured to the mall for light shopping or even spur of the moment back massages. A few were brave enough to walk through one of the many Ripley's Attractions. 

The group reconvened for a group dinner at Fudrucker's during which students could pick from chicken sandwiches or the staple Fudrucker's burger. After dinner students were allowed more free time. This was when the majority of the ghost hunting happened. I am not sure they came across any ghosts, but they certainly enjoyed the search. 

As we move into the last two days of the trip it is clear this group has gotten close. Laughter could be heard late into the night!