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Snacks, snacks and more snacks is how our big adventure to the beautiful state of California began. As a matter of fact, it didn't take long for some members of the group to decide Southwest Airlines had chosen us to be members of a focus group. Our task, if we choose to accept it, was to taste test every snack known to mankind. We had peanuts, raisins, cheese and crackers, etc, etc, etc. I know I was relieved just to land so the snack parade would STOP. Finally we arrived at LAX, transferred to another plane, landed in San Jose and we were off on our great adventure.
Our first walk was in Stockton. I felt at home traveling to this walk because the traffic was just as horrendous as it is here. Despite some stop and go aggravation, we got there in one piece ready to see the sights. The start/finish was at a McDonald’s which was nice because despite the multitude of snacks, I was HUNGRY. After a quick Happy Meal, I was good to go. One of the highlights of this walk was going through the University of the Pacific, the site of many Hollywood films. The directions were a bit confusing for this part of the walk and when we asked some students for directional help, we got some hilarious replies. One young man told some Bad Pennies that he couldn’t direct them to Morris Chapel because he had never had a class there!! We also had the opportunity to see some of the homes in the area and to enjoy the variety of architectural styles.
After we finished, it was back to the van and back to our “home base”, our hotel in San Jose.
Our next walks were in Carmel with the first walk of the day at
Point Lobos. If I used words like breathtaking, serene and spectacular to describe what we saw here, it still wouldn’t convey how lovely it
was. As a point of interest, in 1960 Point Lobos was established as the first underwater reserve in the U.S. This walk was tied for no. 10 in the 1998 top ten year rounds and that is a well deserved honor. One of
the checkpoints included in this walk was a very interesting stop at a Whaler's Cabin and Whaling Station Museum. After we pulled ourselves away from Point Lobos, the next walk of the day for some of the group was the Carmel year round. At the risk of repeating myself,
I would again use words like breathtaking and spectacular to describe what we saw on this walk. There is something so hypnotic about the sound of the ocean I found it very hard to keep walking. I just wanted
to stop and "mellow out" (in California lingo). There wasn't much time to spend in the town of Carmel which was just as well since I didn't want to carry too much stuff home on the plane. After these two very satisfying walks it was back to our San Jose "home" to relax.
Our final full day in California began with a tour of the Winchester Mystery House. Words would never adequately express the odd and yet fascinating home of Mrs. Sarah Winchester. Heir to the
Winchester Firearm fortune, she spent many years of her life planning, changing and then rearranging just about every aspect of
this incredible home. In addition to the regular tour of the home, we also went on a behind the scenes tour. For safety purposes, you are required to wear hard hats on this tour which made quite the fashion
statement. After a visit to the gift shop to make some necessary purchases, it was on to San Francisco. While some in the group might disagree with me, this was a TOUGH walk. At some points, all that
kept me going was the thought of some Ghirardelli chocolate. I don't know how the Bay Bandits did it but I swear we never went down any hills, just UP, UP, UP. It would have
been helpful to have some mountain goat ancestry during this walk. In between attempts to
catch my breath, I WAS able to enjoy the sights and sounds of San Francisco. From what I could observe, the people who live there really LIVE there. They were riding their bicycles, walking their dogs and enjoying all their city has to offer. It really is a city like no other.
Some of our group even had the opportunity to enjoy the talents of some Jazz musicians in Ghirardelli Square, a real highlight for them. This memorable day concluded with a dinner at which we drew three names, these folks were the Bad Penny from their respective vans (the lucky winners were Dot Jim and me). Then it was time to pick someone for the highest honor of all, the Baddest Penny of the trip. At the risk of sounding conceited, I am pleased (I guess) to say that yours truly won the Baddest Penny of the trip award. It is an honor I do not take lightly. We returned to San Jose once more and got ready to come home early the next morning.
I would close by saying that one of the nicest things about these trips has been the opportunity to get to know some terrific people. They encourage you, watch out for you and if need be, drag you up hills. I was scarcely in the door from this trip and I was already looking forward to the next adventure.
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