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The Westcoast Connection Blog

Life Changing Experiences

Cali-forEVER – California & the Canyons

Cali-forEVER - California & the Canyons

Hello again family and friends of Cali and the Canyons,

After a few days of consecutive hikes in Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon and some off roading in Sedona, we arrived in Scottsdale, Arizona for a well deserved rest. Three weeks have passed now since we landed in San Francisco and the group has seen a great diversity of landscapes from the forests that surround Lake Tahoe, the sandy beaches of the California coast, to the expansive canyons of the southwestern US.  By the time you read this, we will all be at airports or in the air but we did want to give you some updates on our adventures the last 8 days or so.

One of the main highlights for most of the trip members was our time at Universal Studios. Though the attractions and interactive tour we took were a blast, the main excitement came when Daniel W noticed someone waiting in line to enter the park that he thought he recognized from the movie White Chicks. He approached the gentleman and asked, “are you Terry Cruz?” To all of our amazement it was him and the trip members went wild with excitement and began to say things like, “man you are a legend among mortals!” Having not even entered the park yet the Trip Members were already pumped up which helped them enjoy the rest of their experience at this interactive park. Of all the areas in the theme park it seemed that Harry Potter World really transported them to another dimension as they sipped on butter beer (a butterscotch shortbread drink), explored Hogsmead and all its shops, and followed Harry and his friends on an epic journey through Hogwarts in the new ride Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey. Finally, we ended our day by making our way back to the UCLA dorms where we got a little taste of what it’s like to live in a college setting.

The following day, we went to the Museum of Tolerance where we were able to have a glimpse into the trials and tribulations that those of different race, religion, and orientation have to deal with on a daily basis. Through interactive exhibits and displays we were put in the shoes of these individuals to gain a deeper understanding of the lives they lead on a daily basis. At the end of our tour we were all lucky enough to be graced with the presence of an Auschwitz survivor. He told us all his story of what he went through and how lucky he felt to be there with us able to teach us about this extremely low point in human history. He told us he hoped that his words would inspire us to educate others to do something so this tragedy would never happen again to the human race.

After the museum we headed into Beverly Hills where we strolled down the famous Rodeo drive. Though we didn’t spot a Kardashian, we all felt like stars! We spent the rest of the day at the Farmers Market and ended with a great meal and show at the Improv.

On the following morning the group headed to the Los Angeles Food Bank where we volunteered a few hours of our time. Some of us sorted through usable produce in the refrigerator section while the main work force was dedicated to organizing the boxed and canned goods in the main warehouse. In the two hours that we spent helping, we were able to organize and sort enough usable food for over 20,000 meals. As a group we really felt like we made a huge impact on the hunger problem that LA faces.

The next morning we departed from our dormitory at UCLA and made our way towards San Diego. On our way we stopped at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas for a surfing lesson with some expert instructors. Though nearly all of the trip members have never stepped into the Pacific Ocean, let alone on top of a surf board, most went into this experience with full on excitement. Surfing is no easy task but with the help of the instructors most were able to stand up for their first time and ride a wave into the beach.

The next big highlight was our time in Las Vegas as we walked the famous strip seeing well known places like the Venetian, Caesar’s Palace and the water show set to music outside of the Bellagio Hotel. We all were able to get a dose of adrenaline as we rode the thrill ride X-scream on top of the 112 story tall Stratosphere and the 63mph roller coaster outside of the New York, New York hotel. The biggest excitement came from our friend Jared G who was able to take a selfie with Toronto Raptors player DeMarre Carrol inside of the Monte Carol hotel where we were staying.

After Vegas, we spent time in the National Parks and ended our journey at a great resort in Scottsdale. We have enjoyed our 3 weeks together and none of us will ever forget the summer of 2016. Best wishes to all who are reading who shared in this wonderful experience.

Safe travels and to all our trip members ‘say it again’!!


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