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Quintessential Tours Clients - The Ridgard Family

About the Ridgards   |  About their Trip   |   Letter from Paul and Gina  |  Photos
TRIP SNAPSHOT
Trip Length: 12 Days
Pickup Date: June 1st
Drop-off Date: June 12th
Rough Distance Traveled: 1404 Miles
Pickup Location: Radisson, San Francisco (Fisherman's Wharf)
Drop-off Location: Best Western Raffles Hotel, Anaheim
Overnights: Trinity Alps (Coffee Creek), Mount Shasta (McCloud), Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Monterey, San Luis Obispo
Group Size: 2 adults, 2 children
Vehicle: Minivan
Guide: Bob and Tess Cunningham
 
WHERE DID WE TAKE THEM AND WHAT DID THEY DO? Read Bob's day-by-day narrative of the Ridgard's trip.
Photo: Jeff Lowe
San Francisco 2 days on their own before pickup

We picked the Ridgards up in San Francisco in the early afternoon, after they'd had a couple of days to get over jet lag, and explore the sights of the City by the Bay. We immediately got under way for a long 6 hour drive to the Trinity Alps, a remote and scenic region of Northern California.

On this particular trip, Tess would join Bob as co-guide. Her having been born and raised in Ireland, not far from the Ridgards' home town, turned out to be a great plus.

Photo: Bob Cunningham
Trinity Alps 2 nights

Where San Francisco had been a supreme hit with the girls, The Trinity Alps were always going to be a highlight for Paul and Simon. Paul couldn't wait to arrive, and sink his teeth into what truly is the great outdoors.

Trinity Alps Highlights
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Played card games in the middle of a quiet mountain lake (Lewiston) while eagles and osprey battled for lunch in a spectacular aerial display.
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Caught trout and smallmouth bass on Trinity Lake.
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Hiked to the remote alpine Stoddard Lake.
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Played with the horses at Eagle Creek Ranch
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Paul demonstrated the amazing Irish ability to eat spuds in large quantities, impressing the locals in Coffee Creek so much that he got his picture in the paper.
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The same night as Paul's feat of sput-eating bravado, Chloe impresses a crowd of locals with an Irish step-dancing demonstration.
Mount Shasta 1 night

Continuing with the theme of remote California beauty, we took the back roads through Scott Valley, for an afternoon near California's majestic volcanic Mount Shasta.

Mount Shasta Highlights
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Had a gourmet dinner on the historic Shasta Dinner Train, which skirts the base of the mountain.
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Swam at McArthur-Burney Falls, while looking for eagles (and finding a pair) on shore.
Mount Lassen Visited en route to Lake Tahoe

On what would be a scenic full day's drive from Mount Shasta to Lake Tahoe, the highlight stop was at Mount Lassen, not so much for the volcanic interest as for the fact that large quantities of snow remained from the winter, and the family had a grand time playing in it.

Photo: Bob Cunningham
Lake Tahoe 2 nights

After a long drive from Mount Shasta down California's scenic Highway 89, the family was ready to slow the pace a bit, and the girls were happy to be back in civilization. Tahoe is one of those gems of a place that appeals to both lovers of the outdoors and of the more refined pleasures in life. Two nights here turned out to be maximum fun for everyone.

Lake Tahoe Highlights
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Took an early morning hot air balloon ride over the lake on an absolutely spectacular morning in the Sierras.
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Sunbathed on a sand beach near crystal clear water, and breathing the clean mountain air.
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Enjoyed dinner at the top of the Heavenly Valley Ski Resort gondola.
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Paul and Gina took a break from the kids, and enjoyed a late night at the casinos, just across the Nevada state line.
Photo: Bob Cunningham
Bodie Ghost Town Visited en route to Yosemite

Between Tahoe and Yosemite, down a dirt road, is a hidden attraction to which we love to bring clients. Bodie was one of the most notorious of the Sierra Gold Rush towns, complete with the requisite brothels, casinos and shoot-outs. Kept in a state of arrested decay by the State Park Service, it's a real step back into Wild West history.

In a surprise announcement, when asked at the end of their trip, what their favorite stop was on the entire itinerary, Gina -- who tends more towards a love of modern conveniences and fashion shopping -- announced that her favorite stop was Bodie.

Photo: Jeff Lowe
Yosemite National Park 2 nights

One of the most spectacular spots in the world, Yosemite is always a favorite with our clients. 2 nights here allowed for the Ridgards to experience it at a modest pace.

Yosemite Highlights
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Skirted the edges of the still snow-covered Tuolumne Meadows.
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Took advantage of the warm skies at high elevation (despite the snow still on the ground) for an afternoon lunch on the shores of Tenaya Lake.
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Played board games around their wood-burning fireplace, while semi-camping at high elevation, in the Tuolumne Lodge tent cabins.
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Complemented the wilderness feel of the Tuolumne Lodge with the 4 star accommodations at the historic Ahwahnee in Yosemite Valley. This was a real splash out for the Ridgards, who generally preferred less elaborate accommodations.
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Hiked the Merced River Canyon (with guides Bob and Tess) up the mist trail to see two of Yosemite's most spectacular falls, Vernal and Nevada.
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Spent an hour and a half checking out a group of three climbers on El Capitan.
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Stopped at the Mariposa Grove for a stroll among the largest living things on Earth; the Giant Sequoias.
Photo: Bob Cunningham
Monterey Peninsula 2 nights
Another excellent mixture of nature and civilization, the Monterey Peninsula appealed to the whole group, with Paul and Simon enjoying the otters, harbor seals and aquarium the most, and Gina and Chloe preferring downtown Carmel's window shopping, and nearby Gilroy's serious outlet shopping.
Monterey Peninsula Highlights
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Shopped the Factory Outlets for great deals on the family's fall wardrobes.
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Went Sea Kayaking with sea otters, harbor seals and other wildlife in Elkhorn Slough.
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Visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row.
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Window-shopped the fine art galleries in downtown Carmel.
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Had their first Mexican meal.
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Drove 17-mile Drive
Photo courtesy of Jeff Lowe
Big Sur 1/2 day, driving through
We didn't stop for much more than a few pictures here and there in Big Sur, as we had to make time, but did make time for a quick walk out to the McWay Waterfall in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
Photo: Jeff Lowe
San Simeon Coast 1 night
A last night on the road brought us to the heart of the Central Coast, where the family did some sightseeing in San Simeon, before staying the night at Central Coast Landmark, the Madonna Inn.
San Simeon Highlights
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Hearst Castle was a big hit, particularly with the kids.
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The elephant seals at Piedras Blancas, with numerous males hauled out for the summer molt, impressed everyone.
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The Madonna Inn, though, may have been the winner, with the family staying in the Safari Room, and eating at the famed pink tables of the Inn's steakhouse.
Photo: Jeff Lowe
Venice Beacha 3 hours
The drive from S.L.O. went pretty quick, as the family was anxious to get to Disneyland, and not too keen on a lot of stops. We did manage a stop in Venice Beach, where the group shopped, ate burgers and enjoyed the street performers and other characters of this quintessentially Angelino beach.
Photo: Jeff Lowe
Anaheim 3 nights on their own after drop-off
Our time with the Ridgards ended in Anaheim, where the group would spend the next few days at the Magic Kingdom. We developed a close bond with the Ridgards, and are happy to say that we continue to keep in touch, and have visited them on our frequent trips back to Tess's home country of Ireland.
   
ENDURING MEMORY - "WOULD YOU LIKE PATTY OR LINK SAUSAGE?"

We were having breakfast at a typical American diner in McCloud, California, when Paul got an alarming question from the waitress. "Would you like patty or link sausage?" she asked. Paul looked both confused and a bit defensive.

The issue was twofold: Firstly, "patty or link" isn't generally a choice you make in Ireland. There, it's either "sausage or no sausage," as the only kind of sausage is link. Secondly, the waitress, as with most Americans, prounounced the t's in patty like d's. In Ireland, there's a world of difference between patty and paddy, which can be a pegorative term for an Irishman when spoken by the wrong person.

When Paul asked the waitress what she had said, she repeated the question. Still not sure what she her point was, Paul looked like he was getting a little hot under the collar, when Tess and I both realized what the issue was. I clarified the question, explaining about our American sausage choices, and everyone had a good laugh (except maybe the waitress, who remained a bit perplexed).

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