California Coast and Wine Country

By Charlie | September, 17, 2008

This is a Journal of what it is like to see the California Coast, Yosemite, and Wine Country with Edgerton's Group Travel

By Charlie Adams, Speaker and Group Travel Host


This trip took place starting in mid September of 2008 and went for 10 days. Edgerton's is doing this trip again in late September of 2013. It is sold out.

September 2008

We boarded a motor coach for the morning drive to O’Hare Airport. Trisha O'Hanlon was the Manager of this trip. I have worked several trips with Trish and she does a tremendous job! As host, I welcomed everyone to what would become a very special trip! I can’t wait to tell you everything that happened! Let’s go!

Well, we arrived in Los Angeles after a nice 3 hour and 40 minute flight from O’Hare. One of our Edgerton’s travelers, Lloyd Fillio of Elkhart, bore a striking resemblance to actor Clark Gable. I just knew people would gasp as he walked through the airport, but they didn’t. Another one of our travelers, Roger Cramer of Fort Wayne, was the spitting image of Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz. We called Roger “Coach Holtz’ the whole trip.

We were whisked to our hotel for the next two nights, the Crowne Plaza of Beverly Hills. Some travelers got out and made the walk to Rodeo Drive. The Hotel was very nice. As always, Edgerton’s had done a great job lining up the hotel. Edgerton’s had a Welcome to California Dinner for all of us at the hotel restaurant. I sat next to Christine Weiss and her friend Ursula Deubel from Germany. They are dear friends who decided to make the trip together. Christine works at Notre Dame. She told me she gets many of the emails intended for Coach Charlie Weis. Remember her name? Christine Weiss. She even gets phone calls from fans thinking they are reaching the coach!

After breakfast the next morning, we were off for a tour of Los Angeles. We had a walk-on guide who was steeped in knowledge of L.A. We visited Mann’s Chinese Theater where a version of Batman draped his cape around Ed and Pam Walz. Captain Jack Sparrow, or was it Johnny Depp himself, carried on a lively conversation with Thelma Loudin. Thelma’s husband Bob, who built two houses on my street in Mishawaka, was nearby bending down putting his handprints by those of famous stars. 

We walked the route the movie stars take to the Kodak Theater for the Academy Awards and got a great view of the famous Hollywood sign. We then were taken to the Los Angeles Farmers Market for shopping and lunch. It is BIG! One of our travelers, Dick Vining, went across the street to get a new suitcase because his zipper had broken – on his suitcase, not his pants. 

Next was a trip to the Getty Center where we were so fortunate to see the Bernini portraits. We roamed the gardens and soaked up the remarkable exhibits. When we got back to the hotel some of our travelers went out on their own. One couple went to the WestwoodCemetery to see the final resting places of Marilyn Monroe, Walter Matthau, Burt Lancaster, Natalie Wood and other famous celebrities.

The next day we began our journey north from Los Angeles by celebrating the 44th wedding anniversary of Jim and Jackie Yahne. It is so exciting to see couples celebrate anniversaries on Travels with Charlie trips. I’ve had couples travel with me. Solo travelers. Sisters. Friends. Brothers. Mothers and Daughters. All kinds of combinations. We drove north and stopped in Santa Barbara to Mission Santa Barbara which was founded in 1786. I can see why so many people want to live in that sun splashed city! 

On the motor coach I often told jokes and shared inspirational stories. We all laughed as we journeyed up the highway. As host, I bring a lot of material along to share. My goal is to make sure people are entertained and they can take away some positive inspirational stories that they can apply in their own lives.

This trip just kept getting better. By late morning we were in the charming Danish village of Solvang, California. It reminded me of an Edgerton’s Travels with Charlie trip throughout Colorado that saw us visit the Swiss village of Ouray, Colorado. Solvang had a distinct Danish American feel. We walked all over the town. Many travelers had authentic Danish food for lunch. The desert known as Aebleskiver was a big hit! It is like a pancake and a waffle formed in a tennis ball shape with raspberry sauce and powdered sugar. Oh, it was good! 

From there we headed north along the beautiful coast towards San Simeon. By late afternoon our motor coach had pulled into the BW Cavalier Hotel, located on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Once again, Tom Edgerton and his staff had found a very special place to stay! We got out and excitedly ran to see the view! The waves were crashing on the seashore below. Travelers almost sprinted to their rooms so they could get out and explore. Paul and Marlene Guard collected sea shells and rocks along the beach. Terry and Susan Garner of LaPorteCounty had the experience of the trip! They ran into actress June Lockhart in the lobby! That’s right, the former star of Lassie and Lost in Space was staying at the hotel. She couldn’t have been nicer to Terry and Susan. June was in San Simeon to go to the HearstCastle where a friend was having wedding vows renewed. Edgerton’s always tries to have celebrities visit with the guests (!). 

That night we had prime rib that was mouth watering . . . and big! We walked the beach. They had roaring bonfires for guests to sit around and listen to the ocean at night. What a place to stay!

We were up bright and early for a delicious breakfast (14 meals were provided by Edgerton’s on this particular trip) and the short trip to the Hearst Castle! Those of us who had been on Edgerton’s trip to the Biltmore were anxious to compare the two “rather large houses.” We first went to the HearstCastle visitor’s center for a remarkable 40 minute movie on an IMAX sized screen. It set the tone for the winding journey up to the Enchanted Hill and Case Grande, the 115 room estate of the late publishing empire giant, William Randolph Hearst. We were stunned by the grandeur of the place. The Neptune Pool was a sight to behold. Maria Shriver had held a reception there a few days before our arrival. Hearst used to swim everyday and lived 20 years beyond the life expectancy for someone in the early 20th century. That reminded me how important it is for all of us to exercise in some way each day. What is your exercise routine? Tom Edgerton goes down to Pinnacle Athletic Club and runs the treadmill just about every day. Way to go, Tom! 

We toured the 2700 square foot room that served as somewhat of a cocktail hour area for his guests. Winston Churchill, Howard Hughes, and Amelia Earhart had been in that very room. Then it was on to the dining room and the lengthy table. Hearst would sit at the middle. He loved hearing stories. If you were good, you stayed across from him at dinner. After awhile, though, you got seated towards the end. That was a sign it was time to go. Cary Grant had that routine down. He never overstayed a visit and was invited back over 40 times. 

We saw the tennis courts where Charlie Chaplin used to play, walked through the guest houses, and saw where he kept polar bears and all kinds of animals. Afterwards, we were all inspired to go out and live opulent lifestyles!! 

Upon leaving San Simeon we stopped on Highway 1 to see Elephant Seals lounging on the beach. This was remarkable. We got within 20 feet of them. Then, it was on towards Monterey for lunch. You could feel the presence of 1962 Nobel Peace Prize winner John Steinbeck there as he had spent many years observing life in Monterey. There were some very creative street music players, including one fellow playing the guitar with a chicken on his head and rabbits in his lap! 

From there we made the famous 17 mile drive at PebbleBeach. We saw the fairway of the 18th hole at PebbleBeach, which has been the home to several U.S. Open golf tournaments. Breathtaking homes and views were around every turn. We stayed in Santa Cruz at a charming hotel with a pond full of gold fish.

The next day would see us begin the exciting journey to…Yosemite! At lunch I talked with Barb Watkins and Nancy Raudman, who were traveling together as friends. Both are cancer survivors and inspirations to us all. There are so many special people that are a part of Travels with Charlie. I never cease to marvel at their life stories. As we journeyed towards Yosemite we couldn’t get over the landscape of California. There was never a dull moment. David Thompson and his wife Mary Ann couldn’t get over how hilly California was as a state. David thought it was flatter.

Our arrival to the Yosemite View Lodge was met with tremendous excitement. Again, another gem of a place to stay. Our travelers almost walked on air as they came out of their rooms talking about the beautiful river views. The rooms were gorgeous and spacious, with fireplaces and leather chairs. The Lodge was tucked into the mountains just two miles from the Park entrance. Ulla and Christine darted off for a quick swim at one of the three swimming pools. Bob and Thelma and their good friends Ed and Terri Yanke journey down a stream to watch fly fishermen in action. Later, over 25 of us gathered for drinks and conversation before going off to dinner.

The Lodge provided a hearty breakfast for us. Then we hopped into the motor coach and made the drive into Yosemite National Park! It was breathtaking. Over 1200 square miles of God’s incredible work were on display right before our very eyes. We drove south towards Mariposa Grove and the massive sequoias we had heard so much about. Upon arrival we hopped out and began a one mile walk into the forest. We passed Fallen Monarch, which was incredible. Then, we caught up with a park guide who shared fascinating insights on the trees. These sequoias, which sometimes lived to be almost 3000 years old, were massive. She told us they came from a seed the size of an oatmeal grain. As we hiked deeper, we came across Grizzly Giant! It was enormous. The branches were bigger than all of the other non sequoia trees nearby! Frances Dickson and her husband Regie stood in awe. “It just makes you want to say, ‘Thank you, Lord’ when you stand before something as awesome as this,” said Frances as her jaw dropped.

We continued on a short distance to the California Tunnel Tree. A hole had been cut out in 1895 for stage coaches to go through the tree. Then we went to the Yosemite Visitor Center to see the award winning Spirit of Yosemite short movie. Tour Manager Trish then gave everyone several hours to tour the Park. Several of us went to eat lunch at The Ahwahnee Hotel, which is nestled between Glacier Point, Half Dome and Yosemite Falls. Katherine Hepburn and the Queen of England were among those to have dined there. Ulla and Christine went on a nine mile bike ride. I broke off for brisk and challenging hike up a mountain to get an awesome view of the monolith Half Dome. We all met at 6 to go back to the Lodge. Ed, Terri, Bob and Thelma stayed for an evening meal at The Ahwahnee Hotel.

Yosemite was a remarkable experience, but the next day we were headed through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the fertile San Joaquin Valley on our way to Napa Valley. We couldn’t get over how winding and high the road was coming out of Yosemite. Our driver, Jimmy, did a remarkable job of navigating us. We stopped in the charming town of Sonora for lunch. When I looked up I saw Nancy McLaughlin leading her husband Bill on a shopping excursion. Nancy is a professional shopper who is always focused and on a mission!

The afternoon saw us travel through Stockton and see the headquarters of Jelly Belly, the famous jelly beans. We arrived in Napa at the Napa River Inn. It is built within the walls of the historic 1884 Napa Mill. The rooms were beautiful. Paul and Marlene had three wings to their room. Bakeries and shops were connected to the Inn. Many of us headed out to nearby downtown Napa for dinner. Tuscany was the choice of about 20 in our group. It had an open exhibition kitchen with a wood fired pizza oven.

Tremendous anticipation greeted us the next day as Edgertons had us ready to go on the famous Napa Wine Train. We arrived and had a Wine Tasting and then it was “All Aboard” for a trip back to a gracious era of elegant rail travel. The rail car reserved for Edgerton’s was luxurious. Everyone settled into comfortable seats and peaceful views of vineyard after vineyard. The Train went 18 miles out and 18 miles back over three hours. The appetizers were delicious during the first half of the trip. The second half saw us escorted into the Dining Car. Oh, what a meal. I had the Grilled Salmon with Pappardelle Pasta and Sautéed Spinach in champagne ginger cream. I thought to myself that a glass of Miner Viognier 2006 would go well with that particular dish. No, I am not that smart or sophisticated. That’s what the menu suggested. The Wine Train was everything it had been built up to be. It was really interesting to see the different vineyards, including the one owned by director Francis Ford Coppolla. Our host said he bought that with money from the successful Godfather movies.

Our day wasn’t done. After departing the train we went on a private group tour of the Madonna Estate and Vineyard. It was named after the original Madonna, not the singer. It was created in 1922 during Prohibition of all times! They named it after Madonna thinking the catholic churches would want to buy wine from there, and they were right. We got to walk through the rows of vines and look at the grapes up close. We were told a healthy vine could live up to 100 years but usually lost its best zip after thirty years. Our host, who bore a striking resemblance to WNDU TV's Jeff Jeffers, took us into the buildings where we saw oak barrels from France that cost $1000 each to store wine. Inside we had our second wine tasting of the day (!) and a demonstration of a unique wine bottle opener. Pam Walz of Walkerton gave it a very good shot at opening a bottle with the device. Our tasting included a 2002 Estate Cabaret Sauvignon, which had dark fruity flavors with spicy and earth tones – a great selection to go with Cioppino!

From Napa we got on our motor coach and headed towards San Francisco! First, we had a stop at Muir Woods, which is about 12 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. We took two shuttle buses up the winding road to the entrance. Our driver, Rick, shared stories of having driven Clint Eastwood and Robin Williams on separate occasions. When told by studio executives not to ask Clint for his autograph, Rick said that was fine “as long as Clint didn’t ask for his autograph!”

Oh, what a peaceful place Muir Woods turned out to be. We got out and had a leisurely stroll through the deep, lush woods. We walked right by powerful coast redwoods that soared up towards the sky! Muir Woods was declared a national monument in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt, so we were seeing it during the 100 year celebration. Large Douglas Firs also impressed us as we continued our walk. Three deer grazed just ten feet off our trail. We got back to the gift shop for a lunch of soup and sandwiches before making the trip to San Francisco.

It took just minutes and we got an incredible view of the City by the Bay. Our motor coach went across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a gorgeous day. September is a great time to visit because of Indian Summer. Edgerton’s arranged for a San Francisco expert guide to join us and she shared all kinds of insights with us. I thought the Cliff House above the beach was very interesting. The beach was massive. We got some great pictures from the Cliff House area. Below, a couple was getting married while surfers challenged the waves. We went through parks and up and down city streets. After three hours we arrived at our hotel. It was the Argonaut, part of the elite Kimpton Group of hotels. Again, Edgerton’s did a remarkable job of arranging a very special place to stay. We were on Fisherman’s Wharf, just around the corner from Ghiradelli Square.

Many of our travelers got on cable cars to go up and down city streets. The famous “worlds crookedest street” was six blocks above us on Lombard. Alcatraz was nearby. Pier 39 and its many seals was down the street. What a place to stay!

This was a free day for travelers so folks did different things all over the city. As a motivational speaker, I delivered a midday talk at The Commonwealth Club on Market Street. For over 100 years they have provided speaking events for their members. As I spoke in one room, former Secretary of State George Schultz spoke in another room. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was speaking there that particular week as well as actor Alec Baldwin. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his New Deal speech at the Club. VP Dan Quayle delivered his famous Murphy Brown speech to the group. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice presented her new policy initiatives before her 2005 tour of the Mideast. Other speakers have included Walter Cronkite, Al Gore and Katie Couric. I spoke about my 2008 book “Stoke the Fire Within” (Corby Publishing) and insights from peak performers I covered during my 23 years in TV News and Sports. I also have a passion for speaking on the college athletics recruiting process and educating families on how to navigate the recruiting trails. As a Senior Speaker for the National Collegiate Scouting Association of Chicago, I speak all over on this subject. You can go to for more information.

Edgerton’s arranged an unforgettable Farewell Dinner for our final night. We had private tours of Chinatown. We stopped for group tea at Vital Tea Leaf and then it was onto Four Seas Restaurant for Chinese food that was delicious. And, man, was there plenty of it!!

On the final day we had time for a leisurely breakfast at the Argonaut and then it was time to head to the airport. Our gracious motor coach driver Jimmy told us how much he had enjoyed driving us around California for the week. Trish’s husband Bob did his famous Irish Jig in front of the hotel. Bob does a better job when he has a Manhattan! Since Notre Dame had defeated Purdue, traveler David Thompson – a Purdue alum – made good on his wager and sang the Notre Dame Fight Song with Bob in front of everyone. What a good sport! We drove to the airport and a nice flight back on United. Edgerton’s had a motor coach waiting at the airport and we made the drive back home, stopping in LaPorte, South Bend – Mishawaka, Elkhart and Fort Wayne for travelers to get off.

Oh, what a trip this turned out to be. It very well could have been my favorite trip of all the Travels with Charlie that I have hosted. I told Tom Edgerton that we have got to do this trip again, and initial plans are to have it every two years. I can’t wait to do this trip again. If you would like the information sent to you, contact your local Edgerton’s office today to make sure you get it as sure as it is made available.

Of course, one of the traditions of Travels with Charlie is that everyone gets a DVD of the trip that I produce along the way. In my 23 years of TV News I learned a lot about producing Specials on TV, so I take those lessons and apply them to the DVD. I capture every step of the trip so travelers can have special memories of the sights and sounds of the trip. If you ever need to contact me about any trips, email me at

Charlie Adams

Group Travel Host, Edgerton's Travel


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