I expected the reactions I received from each traveler as I passed out the boarding passes on the curb at Sacramento Airport: A few raised eyebrows, a few expressions of surprise, and a few downright disappointed glares. No one wanted to think that a Sports Leisure Vacations Mystery Tour was headed for Ontario, California! But Ontario we were bound. Just the airport, mind you – our jumping off point for a four day tour exploring California’s Inland Empire on the Not An Oktoberfest Mystery Tour. I knew I had a big job ahead of me. Fortunately I had the tools to get it done – a list of solid attractions and restaurants I had scouted myself several months ago. Even though I hadn’t escorted a group of this nature in over ten years, I figured I was the natural choice to lead it – and to deal with those disappointed looks on the morning of our departure!
We started in the city of Redlands in San Bernardino County. Famed as the hometown of so many successful ranching and farming families, the community is filled with beautiful homes and architecture. One of those homes, Kimberly Crest, was our first stop. With it’s steep, one-lane approach, I immediately put the driver of our motorcoach through his paces. Lee Webb, one of our favorite drivers from Transportation Charter Services in Southern California, took it all in stride and drove beautifully throughout the tour. After exploring Kimberly Crest and its tiered gardens, lunch was included at Martha Green’s Eating Room in Downtown Redlands. Martha, who has a fair reputation as a cookbook author, chef, and television host, has put together a great menu of soups, salads and sandwiches. Of course, you can’t leave her place without stopping at the bakery counter for a cookie or other treat! Our final stop of the day was the Abraham Lincoln Shrine, just a few blocks away. It’s hard to believe that Redlands is the home of the largest depository of artifacts and papers about the Civil War and the former president west of the Mississippi.
After a restful night at the Hilton Hotel in San Bernardino, our home for all three nights, we paused at the California Welcome Center and learned a bit about the history of the city and Route 66, which passes right through the area. Next, a slow climb up the highway known as The Rim of the World to Lake Arrowhead. Of course, with the dense fog that surrounded us, there wasn’t much of a world to see. That said the sun made a guest appearance at the lake just in time for a paddle-wheel cruise and lunch and a little time for shopping in the village.
Our third and fourth days found us in and around Alta Loma, Rancho Cucamonga, Oak Glen and Riverside. A visit to the home and studio of Sam Maloof, the famous woodcarver and furniture maker who passed away just last year, was an unexpected pleasure for many. We also had fabulous colonial-themed dinner at Riley’s Farm, complete with costumed servers and hosts and traditional music of the time. Along with John Adams, Patrick Henry made an appearance and, with a little prodding, he recited his famed speech that ended with the immortal words, “Give me Liberty or give me death.” Sunday brunch at the historic Mission Inn was followed by a ranger-led walk among the groves of California Citrus State Historic Park and a visit to family-owned and operated Graber Olives before returning to Sacramento.
While the tour’s evaluations will have the final say, I am confident that all enjoyed the tour and everyone, including the two travelers who grew up in Riverside, learned more about the sites this region has to offer than they had ever known. I hope to put a similar tour together for next fall that will include another visit to Sam Maloof’s home and studio in conjunction with a retrospective of his work that is being hosted by the Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino in September 2011. If you are interested in joining us, call the office and ask to be put on the Priority Notification List!