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Bruton Parish - Itinerary

Day 1: San Diego - Los Angeles
I picked the kids and their chaperones up in Mission Valley after they had spent their first day exploring San Diego's Presidio and Zoo on their own. After introductions, we headed north towards Oceanside, for a stop at the first mission on our trip: the Mission San Luis Rey. As would be their custom throughout the trip, the kids explored the mission with their chaperones and their youth pastor, Sandy, used the exploration as a teaching instrument.

After a must-do stop at Jack in the Box, which apparently doesn't have franchises on the East Coast, we continued up the coast to the Mission San Juan Capistrano in South Orange County. The group spent more than an hour here, exploring the mission, as famous for its migratory swallows as for its more serious Spanish, Mexican and Christian history.

Our mission exploration completed for the day, we continued our trip north towards Los Angeles, surprising the kids with an unplanned drive through the village of Laguna Beach and a stop at Venice Beach and the Santa Monica Pier. Our final stop for the day was another treat: dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe in Beverly Hills.

Day 2: Los Angeles - Malibu - Santa Barbara - Solvang
Day 2's itinerary included two more missions, beginning with the Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana, located in the San Fernando Valley. After a couple hours at the mission, we headed south for a little bit of sightseeing in Hollywood and Beverly Hills. We caught the requisite sights, including the Hollywood Sign, the Walk of Fame, and spent a solid hour window shopping on Rodeo Drive, before moving on.

We took the coastal road through Malibu, through Oxnard, and made it to Santa Barbara in time to spend an hour at the Mission there. As day turned into evening, we continued north, toward our destination for the night of Solvang.

Day 3: Solvang - Lompoc - San Luis Obispo - Morro Bay
Two more missions would be on the menu for today, beginning with the Mission Santa Ynez, right on the edge of Solvang. After visiting the mission, the group had lunch in Solvang, and we headed east toward the Mission La Purisma Concepcion de Maria Santisima near the somewhat remote town of Lompoc.

The mission La Purisma Concepcion has been developed as a California State Historical Park. Efforts have been made to portray the mission as it would have been during the heyday of the mission system in the 18th and 19th centuries. After some time exploring the exhibits, Sandy and the kids set out on a hike into the hills, and didn't return until they had completely spent their energy and hydration reserves, and couldn't wait to find the comfort of the vehicle.

We completed the day with a drive through San Luis Obispo to the coastal town of Morro Bay, where the group had dinner by the harbor before settling in for the night.

Day 4: Morro Bay - San Simeon - Big Sur - Monterey
Taking a break from California's missions today, we headed north from Morro Bay towards Hearst Castle in San Simeon. En route, the group stopped for some serious beach exploration at a state beach south of Cambria.

As is often the case, Hearst Castle was a tour highlight, and the beautiful weather in San Simeon had us excited about the scenic drive through Big Sur.

Unfortunately, Central Coast weather isn't always cooperative, and Big Sur greeted us with a thick blanket of fog, continuing all the way from Ragged Point to Carmel, with just a few oases of clarity. Fortunately, despite the fog, we were able to enjoy stops at a few vistas, where we could see far enough to get some appreciation for the area's rocky coastline, and rolling inland hills.

The day ended with the group staying with a sponsor in the hills overlooking Carmel Valley. From the heights of their sponsor's home, they were able to enjoy a sun-soaked vantage over the fog-shrouded coastline.

Day 5: Monterey and Carmel
After 4 straight days of traveling, the group took it easy on this day, staying in the Monterey Area. Getting a relatively early start, we took them to Fisherman's Wharf, where they boarded a boat for a trip out onto the Monterey Bay to see the whales. The group returned to port three hours later, with glowing reports about what was considered by all to be a trip highlight, and took some time for souvenir shopping on the wharf.

After Fisherman's Wharf, we stopped at a deli, where the group picked up sandwiches for a picnic lunch at Carmel Beach, before visiting the Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo, the resting place of California's mission patriarch, Father Junipero Serra. The day concluded with some serious strolling and shopping through the streets of downtown Carmel by the Sea, before another night with their Carmel Valley sponsors.

Day 6: Monterey - San Bautista - Sunnyvale - San Francisco
The final travel day of the trip saw the group head east from Monterey for a visit to the Mission San Juan Bautista. After the mission, we took a detour to meet up with one of the kid's friends for lunch at a Sunnyvale In-n-Out Burger, and then headed north to the City by the Bay.

With the group staying in the heart of Fisherman's Wharf, everyone decided to enjoy the area's attractions on foot for the remainder of the day, before turning in.

Day 7: San Francisco
One of San Francisco's most famous attractions, Alcatraz, was the starting point for this morning, with the group taking the 5 minute ferry ride to the island from Pier 41. Returning a couple hours later, the group split up, with the girls taking the cable cars to Chinatown, and the boys joining me for a trip to the Haight-Ashbury District.

We spent an hour at "the Haight" before driving back across the City, where the group had dinner together. Finally, after dinner, the kids were treated to a surprise trip to see the Giants play the Texas Rangers at the downtown AT&T Park, in what turned out to be a thrilling game that ended with the home team winning a one-run game on a 2-out RBI single in the bottom of the 8th inning.

Day 8: San Francisco - Home
The final day of the trip would not be dull. After checking out of their hotel, and storing their bags with the front desk, we headed to the final mission of the expedition: the diminutive San Francisco de Asis, Mission Dolores. An hour spent at the mission was followed by a trip out of the City, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and up to see old-growth coastal redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument. The group spent a couple hours hiking around the easily navigated trails of Muir Woods, taking in the splendor of the thousand year old giants.

On the way back to San Francisco, we dropped Leslie off to see a friend in Sausalito, and then took the kids back to Haight-Ashbury, as the boys had convinced the girls that they had missed something special the day before. We reconvened back at the hotel, where we collected the luggage, and headed for Grace Cathedral, where the group attended services before we headed for the airport for their flight back to Virginia.

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