Yellowstone Tour (Day 1 of 7) : AKA “The day we almost got left behind in Los Angeles”

Back in December 2011, our family joined a 3-day tour that started in Los Angeles, stopped by in Las Vegas and took us to the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  We enjoyed that experience so much that we decided to avail another tour offered by the same company – Seagull Holiday.  This time, we signed up for their 7-day Yellowstone National Park tour, which begins in California and takes us to several states (Nevada, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming).

Just like in 2011, my dad booked the tour online and he received a confirmation email telling us that the tour bus would be picking us up outside of the 88 Ranch Supermarket.  This was actually our pick up point back in 2011 too.  Kurt and my aunt dropped us off at 88 Ranch before 7:30, which was the pick up time according to our email.

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It was a cold and wet morning

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Waiting patiently for our bus.

By 7:45, our bus still hasn’t arrived and we were getting a little worried.  Just a little, because there was another family there waiting to be picked up as well, so we knew a bus was coming.  They told us they signed up for the 3-day Vegas/Grand Canyon tour that we went on 2 years ago.  They had the contact number of their tour guide and they managed to get a hold of him.  Their guide (Chris) told them that the bus got stuck in traffic but it will be there in 5 minutes.  Unfortunately, our email didn’t provide us with our guide’s contact number so we had no way of reaching him.

A few minutes later, Chris arrived with his yellow Sea Gull Holidays bus.  He was in a rush from being behind schedule.  He ushered the other family into his bus and was about to leave when my dad called out to him to ask if our bus was right behind him.  He told us that there was no other bus and that he was the last one.  Naturally we were surprised to hear this since our email specifically said that our bus would pick us up at that supermarket.  My dad informed Chris of our situation and Chris told him that our tour group was expecting us to meet them in Vegas.  Whut??  Obviously there had been some sort of misunderstanding, because our confirmation clearly told us that we were to be picked up in Los Angeles.  We showed Chris the email and he made some phone calls to see if he could sort things out.  Waiting on the side while he talked to his company was very nerve wracking.  We didn’t know how we were going to get to Vegas or if we were even part of the tour at all.  Hearing snippets of Chris’s phone calls made us even more nervous because like most Chinese, he spoke *REALLY* fast, and it didn’t help that we couldn’t understand what he was saying (I think I mentioned in my entry back in 2011 that Sea Gull Holiday is a Chinese company.)  Finally, after several long phone calls, he told us that his bus was on its way to Vegas and that he would give us a ride there while he tried to find our real tour guide.

Chris told us that we were lucky because he had to pick up the other family at the supermarket too, otherwise we probably would have been waiting there for hours for a bus that was never going to arrive.  I’m not sure why we got our information wrong, but it’s probably because we didn’t book our tour directly with Sea Gull Holiday.  Their site was down at the time (if I remember correctly) so we made our bookings through another website, and this website contacted the company for us.  I guess some important information got lost during translation.

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Chris’s bus with his tourists

After a few more phone calls, Chris informed us that he was able to get in touch with our real tour guide (Tim) and that he would be waiting for us in Vegas.  Phew~  We breathed a little easier after hearing this.  We sat back and prepared ourselves for the 4-hour ride ahead.

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 The bus had seating arrangements but there were 2 empty rows in the back so Chris was able to accommodate us

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My mom passed the time by playing 2Fuse on her iPad

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While I stared out the window and tried to find the meaning of life.  J/k~

It was actually nice not having assigned seats on the bus because we got to spread out at the back and ended up with 2 seats each 😀

About 1 1/2 hours into the trip, we stopped by Barstow Station for a potty break.  This was also our first pit stop back in 2011.  Ahh, memories~

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There were two bathrooms at the rest stop.  Ezra and I discovered in 2011 that most people seem to go left when they don’t know the way.  As a result, the bathroom on the left wing of the station had a really long line, while there was barely anyone in the bathroom on the right wing.  Yay for us!  Since we made it out of the bathroom much earlier than the rest of the crowd, Ezra and I had time to look around the rest stop.  They had a food court there, as well as a gift shop.  (I think there were at least 7 other buses travelling together with us, so you can imagine how many people were in line to use the toilet.  The guides try to space us with 10 minute intervals between each bus so the lines wouldn’t be too bad, but sometimes the buses catch up to each other.)

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Lots of Betty Boop wallets

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Collectible lighters

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Candies~

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Yummy chocolates

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And more candies 😀

After a while, it was time for us to get back on our bus.  I spent the next hour sleeping and woke up only when we stopped for lunch at an outlet mall.  (It was the same mall we stopped at back in 2011.  Memories again~)

There was a food court at the mall and there were plenty of choices, but since 80% of the tour group were Chinese, most of us headed straight to the Chinese counter.  I think it was called Lotus Express or something like that.  We were one of the first buses there so we managed to get our food before the rest of the crowd arrived.  We chose it because it was one of the few stalls there that served rice. (We’re Asian, what do you expect.)  And true to the stereotype, Asians can be very cheap when it comes to certain things – so instead of getting one small drink each, we bought this huge cup of iced tea for the entire family to share:

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Look at it!  It’s as big a my head!

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Slurp~

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I bought this wallet a few days before our trip because the only wallet I packed with me was the one I use in the Philippines, and I didn’t want to empty it out.  This was on sale at Hot Topic for $6.  So cute right?

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My dad took this picture of the Sea Gull Holiday tour guides while they were eating lunch.  When we got back to L.A. after our tour was over, we browsed through these photos and discovered something very interesting – OUR REAL TOUR GUIDE WAS RIGHT THERE WITH US!!!  Tim was there in front of our eyes, eating lunch at the same place we were at.  Which meant that he was with one of the 7 (or so) buses travelling with us from Los Angeles that day.  Tiiiiim~  You were in Los Angeles but you didn’t pick us up??  *SOB*  How could you Tim???  How could you???

(Of course we had no idea who our guide would be at the time this photo was taken, and we’ve never met Tim before so we didn’t know what he looked like.  But if we did …. just kidding!  Tim’s actually a very nice guy, which we learned during our 7 days together.  I’m sure it’s not his fault that we almost got left behind in L.A.  We love you Tim!)

In case you’re curious, Tim’s the Chinese guy with the black hair and yellow jacket.  What do you mean that description sucks?  It’s perfect!  Alright fine, Tim’s the guy talking to the guide in the red cap (he’s the second guy from the right).  And Chris, the other tour guide who we hitched a ride with, is the guy in front of Tim (third guy from the left).

After lunch, we had about 30 minutes to kill before we had to get back on the bus, so we decided to look around and shop for a little while.

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Mirror shot at one of the coat shops we stopped at.  They had so many adorable jackets and I was so tempted to get one, but I knew I would never get a chance to wear it in the Philippines and it would just be a waste of money T__T

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Another mirror shot with Ezra and my mom

Since we didn’t feel like buying anything, we just walked around the mall to stretch our legs before having to get back on the bus.  Ezra found a lot of these rides for kids begged my dad for quarters so she could ride them.  Obviously she’s too big for them so he refused.  She settled for having her pictures taken on them instead.

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There was also a small arcade there

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IMG_3904Finally it was time for us to head back to our bus

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Quick shot of Ezra before we got back on our bus.  I might be remembering this wrong, but I think that’s the Mojave Desert behind us.  (Our itinerary said we would be passing by the Mojave Desert, but it seemed like the whole day all I saw was desert, so I’m not sure which of those was Mojave.)

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Back on our bus on the way to Vegas

Some pictures of the view that my dad took from his seat

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Finally, we made it to our destination : Circus Circus!  IMG_3920

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I used to love this place as a kid.  My uncle used to take us here and we would play lots of games and watch some shows.  I remember he was really good at the games and we always went home with armfuls of prizes.  But we wouldn’t be staying there, at least not that evening.  We were just there for another bathroom break and for Chris to hand us over to Tim.  We got our luggage from Chris’s bus, said goodbye and went off to find Tim.  All the buses were waiting in the hotel parking lot so it wasn’t that hard.

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Yay~  We’re finally on the right bus!  Again, it looked like there were some problems with our booking and we ended up having to sit at the last row.  It appears that, just like Chris, Tim just squeezed us in to his bus.  But there was plenty of room, so it was no problem at all.  We looked around, took in the new faces, and got settled in.

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We had one guy in our group with bright red hair.  Ezra and I called him Kenshin.  It was nice having him with us because you can totally see his hair from afar.  So anytime we got separated from Tim and the gang, we would just have to look for his flaming red hair and we would know that we’re still with the group.

We also had another Filipino family with us in our group, which was nice.  But we didn’t get to know them until the next day because they sat at the front of the bus.

Just before we left Vegas, Tim welcomed everyone to his bus.  He also informed us that “four friends did not show up today” and would not be joining the tour.  It makes me wonder if those “four friends” were in the same situation as us and were left waiting at some lonely supermarket parking lot in L.A. because there was no Chris to give them a ride to Vegas.  Hmmm…

Anyway, we didn’t really have any more major stops after this.  We spent the rest of the afternoon on the bus on our way to Utah – which would be our final stop for the evening.  On the way there, Tim pointed out the Virgin River Canyon.  It was very lovely, but unfortunately we had to admire it from our seats because we didn’t stop to take pictures.

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We did make one quick stop at another outlet mall for dinner.  We only had an hour here so Tim told us to avoid shopping and to use our time to eat.IMG_3944

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There weren’t a lot of food options to choose from and we ended up grabbing some burgers at Carl’s Junior

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After dinner we stopped by this chocolate shop to get some dessert

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Yummy caramel apples 😀

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And chocolates~

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The chocolates looked good but we went with our favorite caramel apples of course

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Yay!

After a few more hours, we made it to our hotel – the Rodeway Inn at Utah.  It was a very small hotel with only two floors and no elevator.  We had a lot of bags with us (as usual) and not that much muscle, so we had to make two trips up the stairs.  Our room was on the 2nd floor so Ezra and my parents carried what they can up to our room and I stayed behind to watch the rest of our stuff on the first floor.  Here’s a picture of my reflection on the glass door while I waited for them to come back.

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The Inn may not have elevators but they do have super fast wifi, which is more important, right?  I managed to download an audio book of Pride and Prejudice on my phone so I could listen to it during our long bus rides.  (Although I never finished it because I always ended up falling asleep the moment the bus started moving.)

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Our room had three beds.  I can’t remember what our sleeping arrangements were but I think my parents shared a bed while Ezra and I each got our own.

It was very cold that night, which I was not expecting.  Like I said in my last entry, this was in May so I packed mostly clothes for spring and summer, not realizing it was still pretty chilly around this time.  I was lucky I packed a couple of leggings and cardigans which I used for layering.   My aunt also lent us a few sweaters to keep us warm.  It was so cold that night that my mom left a bucket of ice out on the sink before she went to bed and when we woke up the next morning it had barely melted!  And that’s indoors, can you imagine how it was outside.

Anyway, I will end this entry here.  Aside from almost getting left behind by our tour, nothing exciting really happened that day.  We spent most of our day on the bus staring out the window or fast asleep.

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Good night!  Time for us to rest up and get ready for Day 2 of our tour.

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6 thoughts on “Yellowstone Tour (Day 1 of 7) : AKA “The day we almost got left behind in Los Angeles”

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