Good Evening Camp Courageous,
The Travel group is on the road yet again. This time we are flying to New York City. Are departure time from Camp was 2pm. Traveler Duane Jones was waiting patiently for us, as we opened the doors at 1:30pm. Traveler Harold was also suppose to meet us at camp, but he was sent to the hospital this morning, so he will not be attending this trip :(! Harold is a great person and he will be greatly missed! At least he is doing much better.
After we found out about Harold, we started our drive to the I-80 Truck stop in Walcott. Here we met the travelers from HDC. BJ Fifer, Cindy Graham, Annette Grimm, and Ms. Kathy Crowley. They were super pumped about the trip. They hopped on the bus and we started our drive to Iowa City. We were making pretty good time, until…We ran into a bad traffic jam. We were at a standstill for at least 20 minutes. Firetrucks went flying by, so we knew there had to be a car on fire. So we hope everything was okay. We started moving and then another 20minutes went by and we moved even faster. We tried looking for evidence of the crash, but there was nothing. The crew cleaned it up pretty quick.
We arrive at the Pizza Ranch in Iowa City pretty late, but we called all the staff and parents ahead of time, to let them know what was going on. They appreciated that. When we got their, the final 5 joyful travelers were cheering at us as we pulled up. Travelers Janeen Edwards, Doug Sieren, Tana Rowe, Shelby Fischels, and Michael Lewis. It is a great group of travelers. There staff/guardians signed in and we had a great dinner at Pizza Ranch.
After dinner we boarded the bus and made our final drive to Des Moines. Two hours later, we were at the hotel. We are staying at the SpringHill Suites in West Des Moines. We will be up pretty early, probably earlier than all of you ;), and make our way to the Des Moines airport. Our flight leaves at 6:25am arrives in St. Louis, and then Newark.
Have a great night everyone and please send well wishes and prayers for a wonderful and safe flight and trip. We are off to New York!!
The Travel Team
Good Evening Camp Courageous,
We have made it to the Big Apple! It was such a smooth travel day. We began our day around 4am, it was pretty early, but the travelers were up and excited about getting to New York. We checked out of the hotel and made our way to Des Moines International Airport. We checked into Southwest Airlines and made our way to the gate. The wonderful thing about traveling out of Des Moines, it wasn’t to busy and the gate was not that far from TSA. Sometimes traveling from a smaller airport has it’s perks. We flew from Des Moines to St. Louis, which was a very smooth flight. The flight attendants were so nice and treated our travelers with kindness and respect. We arrived in St. Louis in plenty of time to walk over to our next gate. Check out the Camp Courageous Facebook page of how excited our travelers are. They couldn’t wait to visit New York.
Before we knew it, it was time to board our flight. We pre board our flight and started our way to Newark international airport. We had another outstanding flight crew, they talked and laughed with our travelers. As you know, the travelers ate it up, when other people talk to them. Telling the staff what they want to see the most. It was a smooth flight and we arrived early into Newark. We waited for the passengers to exit the plane before we did and then we stopped by restrooms before we made it to baggage claim. As we retrieved our luggage, yes all of our luggage arrived to Newark, we made our way to the Welcome Center where we met our Super Shuttle vans, so they could take us to our hotel.
We are staying in New Jersey, right off the Hudson, at the Homewood Suites, a Hilton favorite. This hotel provides spacious rooms and complimentary breakfast and evening dinner! So we hit the jackpot with this hotel. It also has a complimentary shuttle that takes us to a water taxi that we will be taking tomorrow, to Manhattan.
After our smooth drive to our hotel, we unloaded, checked into two of our rooms, since we arrived pretty early, and made our way to lunch. We ate at this restaurant in walking distance to our hotel called Bareburger. It was a DELICIOUS burger place. Everything they made from scratch. The soda was even Natural soda! That surprised me, I didn’t know there was such a thing. Anyways, check out our Facebook video to see how hungry our travelers were! They devoured their meals.
Once we were done, we walked back to our rooms, checked into our other rooms and relaxed for the rest of the evening. It was much needed, because everyone was super tired. We had a simple dinner at the hotel and relaxed for the rest of the night. Tomorrow we continue our venture, this time to New York City!!
Stay tuned to our fun Tuesday!
The Travel Team
Good evening Camp Courageous,
It has been a wild ride in the Big Apple! This morning we had such a hearty breakfast that the travelers gobbled it up. We were planning on leaving our hotel at 8 AM when an unfortunate situation happened right outside our hotel on River road. Well actually it was further down on River Road but the traffic was backing up and our free shuttle from our hotel was stuck in the traffic. There was an accident not too far from there and it backed up with traffic for a very long time so our shuttle didn’t return back to our hotel until two hours after we were supposed to leave! Crazy right? But our group has such a positive attitude that we made the best of the situation and waited for our shuttle to return. These things happen that we have no control over so we decided to play some cards, watch TV, and just hang out and talk until the shuttle returned. Since the shuttle took two hours to return The hotel did not want to send the shuttle back out because it probably would’ve taken a longer time. But we had some great news, north of the hotel was another water taxi location so we ask the hotel to make this accommodation and have the driver, when he returned take us, to that water taxi and they agreed! Thanks Homewood Suites! Since we were limited on time, a group of us decided to walk to the water taxi while the other group waited for the shuttle since only seven could actually get into this free shuttle. So we took the small group to walk in New Jersey and it was a pretty quick trip there and the other group made it there a little before us which was perfect. The crazy thing about this water taxi location is that it ended at 9:45 AM and it was 11:30 AM when we arrived. We of course did not know this until we got there but Melissa worked her magic, talked to the wonderful manager from the waterway taxi and they sent a water taxi ride over to our location just for us! Our own private water taxi. Take a look at a video on the Facebook page to see the fun adventure we had in that water taxi. Capt. Tom was full of smiles and very understanding and showed a lot of our campers how to steer the boat and told them the history of the city along with 911. The other mate was Lee who is a professional tour guide. He also gave us a great story of the city and told us that he is actually a survivor of the World Trade Center he was on the 22nd floor when the planes hit. He couldn’t tell us more about that experience because we ended up at the pier in great time. We said bye to our new friends and made our way to a food stand not too far from the pier.
After lunch we hopped on the Big Bus tours. This is the best way to travel to see New York, some great tour guides and some professional drivers getting through that city on a double-decker bus. All I can say is amazing! That’s why I’m glad leaving the driving to the professionals. We saw a lot of the city from the pier to Madison Square Garden, Empire State building and many more fun places that we either read about or saw in movies. The big bus took us around the city and ended at Time Square. We got off the bus, found the welcome center, did some shopping at the M&M store which you can see the video on a Camp Courageous Facebook page.
After we did some shopping we hopped on another Big Bus where we took the redline to downtown Manhattan. The tour guide we had on this trip was also an awesome guy! He was very entertaining, telling us a lot about the history of the city recommended where we should stop, where we should eat, where we should shop, pretty much everything we would need to know as tourists. He was such a great tour guide that when we stopped at one location he jumped outside the bus and grabbed a bunch of free yogurts from a vendor who was promoting their new yogurt. It turns out that these new companies hand out free samples so people can try out there products. The name of this yogurt was Noosa. It was delicious! I recommend this yogurt if you see it in the stores.
We continued touring the city on the redline route seeing famous places like the New York city library where the Ghostbusters were filmed at the beginning of the movie, saw a church where president Donald Trump was married three times there and we saw another building that was used in Spider-man.
The bus dropped us off at the mighty chasing bull. We took our pictures and made our way to the 9/11 memorial. We saw the North and South pool. We took our time, remembering that day and all the lives that were lost and saved. It’s a beautiful site to visit. It was worth the trip. We then made our way to the One World observatory. The now tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. It was 4 billion dollars to built! Crazy! But it is worth the visit. They built this building so strong that it would take a lot to bring it down! It is 1776 tall. This was the year we won independence, and its the same hight as symbolism as the North twin tower. It was a perfect time to visit this place, because it was already dark and we could see how bright New York City looks like at night. It was great to see.
After our visit, we made our way to the water taxi and made our way to Port Imperial. The original pier we were suppose to be at before the events of this morning. The shuttle picked us up and took us to the hotel. Since we were on the go. We also finally had dinner. It was a late supper but it tasted that much better! It was Chipotle! Delicioso!
Tomorrow is another full day. Keep your fingers crossed that River road doesn’t have drama like it did today!
Good evening Camp Courageous,
The travel group began another tour of New York City. This time we had such an easy trip to the city. We actually ended up getting to the city earlier then expected. We got here so early that we made the first Big Bus Tour! But we didn’t stay on it long. Since we didn’t get to tour the Empire State Building yesterday, we decided to tour it first thing this morning.
It was a good thing we did. The Empire State Building is a staple when coming to New York City. So the traveler’s really appreciated taking a tour of the building. We learned about the history of the Empire State Building and took a tour of the observatory. The observatory is the place where we step outside and see the scenery of New York City. What a place. There are TONS of buildings, tons of people walking the streets of New York. It’s crazy how these New Yorkers can build such huge buildings and there are more and more going up everyday.
We took group and individual pictures and then shopped at their gift shop.
After our visit, we made our way to Boardway street. Where we found our way to some New York Pizza! It was delicious! Right next door to the pizza place was our theatre. The Lunte-Fontanne Theatre, where we watched the performance, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. The traveler’s were so surprised! I have kept this secret the entire trip and they were begging me to tell them. Once I did, they shouted for joy because some of them actually guessed it when I asked what they thought it was. The show was a musical and it was excellent! Such a great group of actors. We can’t come to New York and not see a play or musical on boardway. There were a lot of songs that we knew from the movie, Willy Wonka, and there were a lot of new ones. Actually they made the musical suitable for this day and age. These performers did so awesome that we gave them a standing ovation! It is worth seeing again and I recommend it for all our Courageous friends.
After the show we did some shopping and made our way to the Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. Five floors of our favorite stars. From Harrison Ford to Jennifer Lopez. It was great to see the traveler’s wanting to take a picture with their favorite stars. We also went through a haunted/ghostbuster exhibit and a super hero exhibit. The super hero exhibit also had a 4D movie. We watched the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and Spider man face there villains in this hero saving movie. 4D offers, the 3D glasses along with water spraying in our face, wind blowing, and a little nudge in the back. Pretty funny stuff. After the show we finished touring the museum and made our way to the gift shop.
It was such a busy but fun day in New York! Lots of great memories were made today. After everything we hopped back on the Big bus and made our way back to New Jersey to our hotel to have supper.
It was a good but busy day. Lots of fun but it was great to be back to the hotel.
Tomorrow is our last day and we can’t wait for what we have planned! Have a great night!
Good Evening Camp Courageous,
“The best way to make your dreams come true, is to wake up.” -Muhammad Ali
Today the traveler’s dreams came true! Not only today but all week. They have been dreaming all year for this opportunity to go to New York and it became a reality. A dream that most people take for granted. These individuals had the best time of their lives on their vacation, I bet they will be talking about it forever. Not just because of all the great things they saw, but because of the people they encountered. The real New Yorkers. The people who care and showed so much love to our participants. Everyday I mentioned about the generosity of these individuals towards our travelers. Today was no different.
We started our last day in New York with a bang. We hopped on the Ferry and took an 18 minute ride to the end of Manhattan. Where we began our tour on the Statue of Liberty ferry. That’s where the continued generosity began. Today we are matching, wearing our purple travel shirts and I’m so happy we did! The security guard stopped us and told us to jump to the front of the line. We got to the boat, the crew helped with Kathy and guided us to our seats. We enjoyed our beautiful cruise ride to Liberty Island. Taking tons of pictures and enjoying the beautiful scenery. Manhattan looked so peaceful! We got to the island and the crew immediately helped us off the boat and two managers told us, “Make sure to come straight to the front of the line, we will stop the line for you!” Can you believe this? I was shocked and proud to hear this. Was it because we were all matching and we stand out? Maybe. But hey, this generosity was brighter than I have ever experienced traveling.
We arrived on the island and began our peaceful tour of Liberty Island. We took tons of pictures with Lady Liberty and the New York skyline in the background. We walked around the island and then we stopped and marveled at the city. We spent about 10 minutes sitting and reflecting on the week and looking over the water and seeing how big this city is.
We did our shopping and ate a very delicious lunch! Some had salmon, fish and chips, and sushi! Well, I did anyways 😜.
After our meal we made our way to the boat, where we went straight to the front of the line and the crew welcomed us on with open arms.
We road the cruise line, waved at Lady Liberty one more time and ventured over to Ellis Island. We took our picture and let some people off the boat. We then made our way back to New York.
When we got to Manhattan, the big bus tour was waiting for us, so we took the red line around the rest of downtown, learned some more history and made our way to Times Square.
We had one more tour to venture on, so we hopped on the blue route bus, which was called Uptown. This is where the love of a person escalated beyond belief. There is a man named Joshua who was our tour guide on this route. He is very outgoing, high energy, tells it like it is, and full of love. He recognized our group right away and he not only praised our group, but began to thank us for all the love and kindness our travelers show to others! He explained to everyone how to respect us, how to talk with us, and how to be patient! Everything I have thought and said many times to others who don’t get it. Joshua had the platform and used it wisely! Joshua was someone I could write five pages worth of blogs about, he did not stop talking once! He told us all we needed to hear about this city and more. He entertained us beyond belief and made sure our travelers had the best vacation of their lives! He sang, he danced, he cheered, and he praised others. He clapped our travelers hands, listened them, and laughed with them. Especially BJ, Shelby, Janene, and Michael!
We loved this tour so much, we stayed on it the entire time. We also had one of the last tours of the night, so we had to stay on to make sure we made our next bus. Towards he end of the ride, I asked Joshua to wish Melissa a Happy Birthday!
That’s right it’s Melissa McGill’s 25th (kidding) Birthday! Happy Birthday Melissa!!
Back to the story! Joshua came up, knelt down and sang to Melissa a lion king song! I got it on video! So after she was over her embarrassment, I handed her a loaded chocolate cake! She gobbled it up.
After Joshua’s song, he continued his tour and made sure we had a great end of our vacation in New York.
After the tour, I gave him some praise for all the love he showed our group. I asked him two questions where are the closest restrooms and where can we catch the last bus. He immediately turned to service mode and made sure we got on our bus. He talked to his supervisor and they had a bus waiting for us, so we could use the restrooms and make it to our bus without rushing. Joshua went above and beyond to do this for our group. His manager, Walter, was also very nice and mentioned how he heard about our group on Tuesday, from another bus driver who got us that yogurt. So they have been talking about our group at their offices. Believe me, Big Bus tours is the way to travel. We had such a great week traveling with them, that I HIGHLY recommend this agency to everyone. We traveled with them in Miami and San Francisco. When we go to London in 2020 we will definitely use them, that is where their headquarters are.
We got on our bus, toured the last 20 minutes and made it to our water taxi right before 7pm (EST). When we arrived at our pier and waiting for our shuttle. A lady approached us and wanted to know more about our group. She actually was looking us up on her phone. She read the website on the back of our shirts ;)! This lady is named Jacklyn and her sister lives in California and has Down Syndrome. She assists in a lot of her sister’s programs and seemed to love the disability community. So she asked permission to bring some snacks over to our hotel for our group. She also asked to take a group picture. So we got together and she took the picture. She will be posting on her Facebook page. Thank you for your kindness Jaclyn.
We then had a nice driver who picked us up, and THEN we made it back to our hotel just in time for the dinner to close, and the ladies from the hotel, threw in some more food in the oven for our group. What a wonderful hotel this has been, what a wonderful experience this has been, what a FANTASTIC vacation this has been for the travelers.
As I was writing this blog, Jaclyn called from the front desk. She was here with her special treat for the travelers. Check out the Facebook page if you can, to see what she brought. It was an Oreo ice cream cake!! YUMMYY!! The travelers were so happy! They kept thanking her and Duane Jones kept hugging her! You got to love Duane’s hugs! We sang the camp song, sang Melissa the Happy Birthday song and enjoyed this delicious cake. Jacklyn also gave us a bunch of deserts to take home with us on the flight back to Iowa. THANK YOU JACKLYN!! After the travelers thanked her and went to bed. Melissa and I stayed up and talked with Jacklyn about her story and ours. We talked a ton about the Camp and we made sure to get her contact information. We will definitely keep in touch.
No matter the bad, there is always good things that come from traveling with the Travelers of Camp Courageous. I have traveled for 8 years and I am always amazed how blessed these individuals are and the love that they bring to people’s lives. They never see the bad in people, they are happy, excited, and make people feel so good. I am always reminded, they can teach us a whole lot more than what we can teach them. What I have learned since I have worked for Camp Courageous, don’t sweat the little stuff, enjoy the now. Things will always fall into place, even if I don’t think they will. I am proud to serve them as their Travel Director, as their traveling company of choice. The travel team will continue to bring memorable vacations for all of our travelers.
Vacation is not just for the rich, it’s not just for the “normal” people. It is for everyone, “because we are more alike than different.”
Bright and early tomorrow morning we head back to Iowa. Please send well wishes and prayers for a safe flight and drive. Have a great night everyone.
The Travel Team