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Quintessential Tours Clients - Pat and Joan

About Pat and Joan   |  About their Trip   |   Letter from Pat  |  Photos
Trip Length: 4 Days
Pickup Date: September 27th
Drop-off Date: September 30th
Rough Distance Traveled: 570 Miles
Pickup Location: Radisson Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco
Drop-off Location: Red Lion Hanalei, San Diego
Overnights: Carmel, Cambria, Santa Barbara
Group Size: 2 adults
Vehicle: Passenger Van
Guide: Bob Cunningham
Photo: Jeff Lowe
San Francisco Several days prior to pick-up

We picked up Pat and Joan mid-morning at their hotel in San Francisco, where they had spent a few days seeing "the City" on their own. We headed immediately south, eschewing the fog-bound coast for Skyline Drive, which runs down the center of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Photo: Bob Cunningham
Santa Cruz Mountains En route to Monterey Peninsula

After a scenic drive, the fun began with a train ride through redwood forests. Joan, who is an active environmentalist, particularly interested in trees, this was a rewarding place to begin the trip. We rejoined the coast in the small town of Davenport, where we stopped for a quick lunch, before continuing south to Monterey.

Photo: Rex Soper
Monterey Peninula 1 night
We arrived in Monterey in the early afternoon, and took the rest of the day and much of the following morning exploring.
Monterey Peninsula Highlights
Visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The jellyfish exhibit was particularly popular.
Took a slow drive around Lover's Point and 17-mile Drive, stopping to walk along the coast, and spot several well-camouflaged harbor seals.
Joan indulged her love of jazz with a visit to the KRML radio studio, situated in downtown Carmel by the Sea.
We began our search for the Pinus radiata, the Monterey Pine. More on that below.
Photo: Pat Scott
Big Sur and San Simeon/Cambria 1 night

We took a late start on the trip south out of Carmel, and enjoyed a leisurely drive through the Big Sur Coast, stopping several times for photos, including at McWay Waterfall, where we took the short walk out to this secluded overlook.

We rolled into Cambria in the early evening, and the ladies turned in after an early dinner.

We had booked the accessible tour of Hearst Castle for the following day. Because that tour is only offered at specific times, we had some time to kill before getting back on the road for the trip to Santa Barbara. While Joan and Pat checked email and looked at a couple of local art galleries, I continued the quest for knowledge that we'd begun in Monterey.

Pinus radiata, or the Monterey Pine, is a vital timber crop in Australia. Here in California, the species has been affected by a canker that's destroyed its viability as a productive crop. With the species being so vital to Australia's economy, there is, of course, great concern that the infection doesn't spread across the Pacific. Joan had been working with an Australian senator on the issue, and was hoping to find examples of the canker to photograph and take home.

So, while the ladies were exploring art galleries in the village of Cambria, I sought out the local California Department of Forestry station. I struck gold here, finding an expert on the subject. So, before visiting Hearst Castle, I brought Pat and Joan up to the station, and we were treated to an expert's discourse on the canker, its effect on the Monterey Pine, and also on the Cambria Pine, which has proven to be immune to the canker. Joan was able to get several pictures of the canker on different trees, and return to Australia with more knowledge on the subject than she'd come with.

Big Sur, San Simeon and Cambria Highlights
The short, and easy walk to the McWay Waterfall; in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
The great Pinus Radiata canker hunt.
Hearst Castle, where the accessible tour made it possible for Joan to enjoy a tour that features quite a few hills and stairs.
Photo: Bob Cunningham
Santa Barbara 1 night

After Hearst Castle tour, the afternoon was getting on, so we pretty much bee-lined it for Santa Barbara, with a stop along the way in Solvang. Before saying our good-nights, we discussed options for the following day, which we'd left open. The two things that seemed to be most appealing to the two were:

-an afternoon of artistic indulgence at the Getty Center
-a back-to-childhood day with a visit to Disneyland

Photo: Jeff Lowe
I was both surprised and delighted with the ladies' decision to go to Disneyland on their final day with me. This would prove to be one of the highlight days of our 2007 season for me. See more below.
Disneyland Highlights
The ladies screaming like teens to the thrills of "Star Tours."
Getting a bit misty-eyed at "It's a Small World."
The newly revamped "Pirates of the Caribbean."
Photo: Pat Scott
San Diego Several
After a long day at Disneyland, we finished up with a nighttime drive into San Diego where I would part ways with the two. They would continue their holiday on for several more days in San Diego, and a trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

Having left the last day of the itinerary unplanned, we discussed a couple of options on our last night together in Santa Barbara. I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived to pick Pat and Joan up in the morning, and they informed me that they had decided to do Disneyland. It would turn out to be a highlight day not just for Pat and Joan, but one of the most memorable of the 2007 season for me.

When we arrived at Disneyland, the ladies asked me to join them. I carefully weighed the pros and the cons. A day at Disneyland? Work on my laptop at Starbucks? And back and forth I went. After an agonizing second and a half, I took the ladies up on their offer, and we headed for the entrance booth.

While we were walking towards the park entrance, it quickly became clear that, given the sheer size of the park, Joan (who was operating with only one lung) was going to have a very tough time trying to enjoy it on foot. Fortunately, I was able to recommend that we rent a wheelchair at a rental counter located just inside the park entrance. This allowed us to move freely about the park, and as an added bonus, we were afforded front-of-the-line access to all park rides. It also allowed me to burn a few calories while pushing Joan through the Magic Kingdom.

A bit nervous of some of the more exciting thrill rides, we were all a bit nervous about Star Tours, which is a high-paced ride that simulates space flight. I did my best to explain how much of a "thrill" this attraction could be, and feeling sufficiently warned, the ladies decided to make a go of it. 20 seconds into the space flight, I heard Pat whooping it up like a 17-year old on a high speed motorcycle. "THAT WAS BRILLIANT!!" was the universally agreed assessment as we exited the simulator.

The day moved on, and included the Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, Jungle Boat and other great attractions. But the highlight of the day for me was undoubtedly while we were waiting in line at "It's a Small World." In one of those, "everyone's still a kid at heart" moments, Joan got a little choked up as the top of the hour came about, and "Small World's" grandiose clock began doing its thing. This was the kind of happy day that people who have had a close brush with death appreciate more than most. I believe that moment at "Small World" was simply the point that her appreciation for survival and for happy days reached its highest poignancy. For me, having played my role in making the day happen, it was a moment of "this is why I do this."

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