After a jam-packed fun-filled four days in Los Angeles, we continued south to sunny San Diego. Our first stop was Moonlight Beach in Encinatas where everyone took part in surfing lessons. Many trip members exclaimed it was the most fun activity yet – Deanna, Drew, Jason R, Brittany and Jake especially. After the lessons were over, the entire group spent the afternoon swimming and frolicking in the Pacific Ocean. That evening we dined at Islands – a famous California restaurant – and challenged the group to “Twin Night”. Hannah Bl. and Zoe dressed up as Minnie Mouse… Alex, Luke and trip leader Derek rocked the grey polos and salmon shorts… Matt E and Garrett wore matching shirts and checkered shorts… Stef, Ashley, Paula, Dana, Julia F, Sam M, and Hannah Bu. donned black tops and jean shorts… Eric and trip director Jesse sported their new matching Jordan’s.
The next day was all about the famous San Diego Zoo. We were very lucky to have the great grandson of the zoo’s founder as our tour guide – and our luck continued when we spotted a polar bear, baby giraffe and tiger – animals not usually seen during the daytime. Andrew adopted a panda but don’t worry… it’s not coming home with him. And Zach R was seen walking around the zoo in his very own monkey mask – it wasn’t hard to mistake him for the real thing.
After dinner, the group went to play Laser Tag. Dylan had an incredible game and with his sweet moves and team strategy he was able to take away the win. Victoria had an amazing performance her second game around and improved her score by a lot! What a come back! We returned to the hotel and then spent the remainder of the evening with a big pool party.
After a good night’s sleep, the group was rested and excited to hit up Las Vegas and be a part of the electric atmosphere. Seeing the famous strip lit up at night was thrilling. Our first stop after dinner at Buca de Peppo was the Venetian where we were amazed by the replication of San Marco square – complete with live pigeons and singing gondoliers!!! From there we walked towards the Bellagio and were lucky enough to see the full volcano exhibition outside of the Mirage. At the Bellagio, the group was in awe of the dancing water show to the music from Chicago. Our last stop for the night was the Stratosphere Tower where all trip members were excited to ride the 865 foot above ground BIG SHOT! Eric, Ariel, Landon and Mark all agreed that the drop at the beginning was scary but after that the view of Vegas was breath taking.
The next day trip members enjoyed a chill day pool side enjoying the lazy river and wave pool at our hotel. Rachel, Chloe, Cydney, Jake, Landon, Josh, Olivia, Jamie, Eric, Patrick, and Ariel spent the majority of their time having a dance party in the wave pool. Many trip members also enjoyed taking a break from the sun in the lazy river. Jeremy and Pat got to meet former Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus at the Forum Shops in Caesars Palace (no…not the real Caesars Palace). And Jamie and Josh went on their very first upside down roller coaster at New York, New York. They both had such a great experience that they wanted to go again and again!
On our way out of Vegas we stopped at one more famous landmark – the famous Las Vegas sign! And then we hit the road through Zion Canyon to Bryce Canyon, our last camping stop. Before arriving in Bryce, we headed to dinner for an authentic Chuckwagon Cookout where the group participated in a reenactment of a classic Western film: Mitchell and Jon opened the film as the coyotes… Olivia and Jeremy were the wagon masters… Julia B and Sam R were the pioneer couple… Jack H and Zach R had a showdown as the good and bad cowboy, respectively. It was hysterical! After a hearty and authentic home-cooked cowboy dinner complete with gravy and BBQ sauce, we pulled into our campsite. You wouldn’t believe how quickly our tents were set up – the trip members are pros! The first tent up was that of Sam M, Hannah Bu, Victoria, Hannah Bl, and Lily – quite impressive. Their tent was also the first one down when we packed up. The whole group spent the evening around the bonfire, with Dylan on his guitar (as usual). Trip members were introduced to the classic campfire dessert of banana boats where a banana is stuffed with chocolate and marshmallows and is thrown on the fire to melt into ooey-gooey deliciousness. The star-lit sky at night was breathtaking – Andrew spotted almost a dozen shooting stars.
The next day we journeyed down Bryce Canyon during our hike – what an incredible sight it was! Julia B snapped tons of pictures – and Dylan and Landon were quite enthusiastic on the trail. Getting to the bottom was an amazing accomplishment. We returned to the site for a yummy grilled cheese lunch (prepared by Andrew, Parker and Nick) and fancy tomato caprese salad. The rest of the day was spent with some friendly campsite competition games. Sam M and Mark were the captains of the winning Blue team – and Hannah Bl and Jeremy were the captains of the red team. The competitions started with an Oreo cookie challenge and a talk-off. Lily rocked the cookie challenge and was able to slide an Oreo from her forehead to her mouth in just a couple of seconds. Jamie and Olivia talked it up for a few minutes until Olivia paused – it was clear they had tons of practice. And then the games continued with a relay race – Sam R was the perfect toilet paper mummy, Parker and Andrew and Sam M and Cydney showed off their three-legged racing skills, and Jeremy reminded us all again how much he loves sweets at the blindfolded pudding eating station. Lily also took Trip Director Jesse’s challenge to memorize all the lyrics to “We Didn’t Start the Fire” which we listen to every day – she truly rocked it!!! The day ended with our last group bonfire of the summer and a celebration of Matt L’s birthday!
That’s it for now,
The Westcoast Blogger