Friday, September 28, 2012

DAY 9 - Sunrise Travel

Friday was the last day of our Sunrise Northwest Coast Tour.   It's been so much fun that I hate to see it end!

Our group arrived this morning at Pier 33 for a boat ride to the island and our tour of Alcatraz made infamous by housing notorious prisoners - Al Capone, "Machine Gun" Kelly and the "Birdman of Alcatraz" Robert Stroud.

Today was a historic day as the space shuttle Endeavor was scheduled to fly over San Francisco Bay on its final flight to a Los Angeles Museum.    We had hoped for a glimpse of this once-in-a-lifetime event, so we were thrilled when the flight went right over our tour boat on the way to Alcatraz.   We had a front row seat to history!

After the Alcatraz tour, our group headed to the famous Pier 39 which offers a multitude of stores and restaurants.  With a choice of either tilapia with mango sauce or steak, we all enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Fog Harbor Fish House Restaurant.

The restaurant was a wonderful choice as they were well-prepared for our group, seated us in an area with stunning views of the  Pacific ocean and they made it special for some of our travelers as we celebrated their birthdays with candles on their desserts and sang to them.

We spent the afternoon on a bus tour exploring the wonders of San Francisco - Chinatown, Little Italy, Golden Gate Park area and Nob Hill.    Sunrise Tours always offers a "Sunrise Surprise" on each trip.   Our tour guide, Ruth, outdid herself as our Sunrise Surprise was one of the highlights of the trip -- a cable car ride!   It was so exciting as some of my new found friends were much braver than me as they chose to hang off the side of the cable car!  

Later in the day we returned to the Fisherman's Wharf area for dinner and shopping.

Our tour manager, Ruth, did an exceptional job in meeting all our needs.  Our bus driver, Steve, did a fantastic job of safely driving us from Portland to San Francisco and maneuvering that enormous bus.  They made a great team!   This truly was a wonderful experience and I'd highly recommend using Sunrise Tours as overall our hotels and restaurants were high quality and the selected events were fun and appropriate for a Boomer group.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

DAY 8 - Skunk Train Ride

Here's our Sunrise Tour group waiting at the Train Station and on the tracks in Ft. Bragg, CA before boarding the famous Skunk Train steam engine.  Started in late 1885 as a logging railroad, the Skunk Train began carrying passengers a few years later, but it didn't gain its nickname until 1925. In that year, small, self-powered trains started traveling the tracks. The combined fumes from their gas engines and the coal stoves that kept passengers warm were so pungent that locals often commented: "You can smell 'em before you can see 'em." It wasn't until recent years that the name was changed officially from the California Western Railroad to Skunk Train.  

A special treat on the train was the singing train man who entertained us with several songs and playing the guitar. It was a fun ride through the Redwood Forest to Northspur where we disembarked and enjoyed a catered picnic lunch of barbecued tri tips, chicken, corn on the cob, baked beans, assorted salads and ice cream.   It was a very enjoyable day on the rails. After a very leisurely lunch, we re-boarded the train for Willits where we were picked up by our driver. 

We then made a brief stop in the quaint town of Healdsburg which is renowned for its many wineries.   I had just enough time to relax with my new found friends on the trip and enjoy a glass of wine!  Here are several shots of us enjoying the day! 

DAY 6 - Crater Lake

What a joyous day to awake to the pristine beauty of Crater Lake!

We took a Trolley ride around the lake narrated by one of the Park Rangers.   And as the old saying goes, "A Picture is worth a thousand words".    Well, I think these pictures speak volumes as to the breathtaking vistas of Crater Lake.

DAY 7 - Trees of Mystery

Before leaving our motel I just had to have a pic with one of the Blues Brothers who was parked right inside the front door waiting to greet you when you arrived at the hotel.

This morning we visited the Trees of Mystery which is a beautiful, very dense forested area in Northern California.  We walked almost a mile up the interpretive trail through the Redwoods to the Skytrail Gondola for a ride through the treetops to the top observation deck. We found breathtaking views of the trees and the Pacific from the top deck.

There's a gigantic statue of Paul Bunyon greeting you as soon as you arrive in the parking lot at the Trees of Mystery.  It's really cool because they have someone observing the visitors as they approach the statue; so "Paul Bunyon" actually answers questions and makes comments which obviously thrills little kids as they  approach this mammoth statue.  Here's some shots of our Sunrise Tour group in front of Paul.

From there we made a brief stop in Eureka, CA and had lunch at the Bayshore Mall. We took the Drury Scenic Parkway through the majestic redwoods to the Humboldt Redwoods State Park Headquarters and Visitor Center.
Some tour members took a nature walk but I opted to watch the movie on the 1964 Great Flood which hit the area on December 18,1964 and shut down the highway system in that area for months.  This was considered a 100 year flood and the worst flood in recorded history on nearly every major stream and river in coastal Northern California.

We dined this evening at Silver's at the Wharf.  This was a lovely restaurant with exceptional service and very tasty food ranging from Pan-seared Fres Rock Cod to Linquini Alfredo Pasta.   I'd highly recommend this place.

Another fun-filled day on our Northwest Coast Adventure!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

DAY 5 - Scenic Oregon

At this age, having been around the block once or twice, it's really hard to do something new for the first time. But today was an exciting exception because I took my first dune buggy ride over the massive sand dunes near Florence OR. It was so thrilling that at times I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride.

I hesitated going because of the sign warning customers: "If you're pregnant or have a bad back you should reconsider going". While I don't have to think twice about being pregnant, I often suffer from back pain. But I'm so happy I went for it because it was such a fun experience.
So how about you? When's the last time you did something for the first time?

We ate dinner this evening in the rustic main dining room of the majestic Crater Lake Lodge where we're staying. We were offered several tempting main course choices and I had the chicken with tomato/pesto chutney which was cooked perfect.

The historic Lodge originally opened in 1915 was designed to resemble a European hunting lodge and it definitely does with several huge stone fireplaces and rustic and mission style furniture. The National Park Service assumed ownership in 1984 and with a $15,000,000 total renovation, the Lodge re-opened in 1995 total restored to its original splendor.

Breathtaking Crater Lake with a depth of almost 2,000 feet is the deepest lake in the U. S. With its surrounding cliffs, pure blue color and volcanic past, it's one of the most photographed lakes in the U.S. The lake lies inside a volcanic basin created when the 12,000 foot high Mount Mazama collapsed over 7,700 years ago following a large eruption. In May 1902 Crater Lake became our Nation's sixth National Park.

For more info on the National Parks Service:

I have found the pristine natural scenery of Oregon and especially the Crater Lake Area so beautiful that I definitely recommend you add a visit here to your Bucket List!

Monday, September 17, 2012

DAY 4 - Sunrise Tours

Today our lively Boomer's group boarded the Discovery for a marine life cruise.  I opted out because I tend to get sea sick and I just didn't want to chance it.   They had a wonderful time on board seeing whales, sea lions and even got to do some crabbing.  When they returned and told me about the 4 ft swells, I was really glad I hadn't been onboard.
 After the cruise, we lunched at the Original Mo's restaurant located on Bay Street in Newport, OR.  It was an authentic seafood restaurant with excellent menu choices.  It's so popular with both locals and tourists that they had to expand with the Annex across the street which has a view of the harbor and boats offloading fresh seafood. Famous diners include Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Henry Fonda and Robert Kennedy who loved the chowder so much that he took a couple of buckets with him back to LA on his campaign tour. P.S. the founder was a highly spirited lady who died in 1992.

The last stop on today's packed scheduled was the Newport Oregon Aquarium.  
   Forbes Traveler, USA Today, and Coastal Living named the Oregon Coast Aquarium among the top ten in the nation.

I've been very impressed with the Sunrise Tours itinerary  for this trip and especially the exceptional lodging and delicious meals.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ocean Shots

Here's a few shots of me, Madonna and Ruth enjoying the beach! What a fabulous morning!

DAY 3 - Northwest Coast Tour

It was a crisp, sunny day as we left Portland headed down the coast to Newport, OR.   We made several stops along the way, with the first at Cannon Beach.  It was so exhilarating as I had time to walk the beach and I loved wading in the Pacific Ocean, but it was bone-chilling cold!

From there we went to the Tillamook Cheese Factory for a brief tour and cheese tasting.  This is one of the top 10 tourist attractions in Oregon, so during the summer months it gets between three to five thousands visitors a day!   That was shocking to me as it's not that large.  I tried some of their world famous ice-cream which was great.

Later in the day we stopped at the Depoe Bay and Whale Watching Museum and Center.   I was disappointed that we didn't see any whales even though there had been 8 sightings that morning.  But then a little further down the coast we took the old highway 101, on the Otter Crest Loop and saw several whales.

Our last stop before arriving at the Elizabeth Inn was the Yaquina Light House.  I found the exhibits in the Interpretive Museum there quite informative and enjoyed learning about the struggle to build it in that remote area.

The picturesque Elizabeth Inn is located right on the Ocean with breathtaking views from most rooms.   We have a spacious, ocean view room with a fireplace.  With free salmon chowder at 5 pm every afternoon and fresh baked cookies every evening at 8 pm, I can overlook the fact that they have only one elevator.   That's the only negative  - you could wait several minutes for the elevator!