Lunch was at the famous Varsity Restaurant. The original Varsity opened in 1928 and the downtown location is home to the largest drive-in in the world being able to hold 600 cars. The restaurant now has multiple locations including the one we visited on the outskirts of Atlanta. As we walked through the doors we were greeted with the cashiers asking "what'll ya have?" as is their customary way of asking for orders. Many of the group enjoyed the legendary orange milkshakes and complimentary hats.
After lunch everyone seemed more alert so it was time for a movie to help pass the time. I suspect you will find the teens either really excited to watch movies on regular sized screens again, or reluctant to watch another movie for at least two weeks after this trip. However, the in bus screens have been very useful in passing the time on some of our longer drives. Today is by far the longest drive of the trip. It is so long that Holiday Tours has to provide us with a relief bus driver for Clarence for a few hours to ensure he doesn't drive over his allotted hours. Bruce took over the wheel between south SC and the rest stop just south of Clemmons. We were grateful for his help but Clarence got an ovation when he returned to the bus to drive the last few miles to deliver us home safely!
It was a bittersweet moment pulling up to the Brookstown Inn. There were some tears shed at the thought of the trip being over and saying goodbye to new friends. But as we rounded the corner students plastered themselves against the bus windows as their family members came into sight. Some new tears of happiness sprung to life and the crew couldn't disembark quick enough. It was a very joyful scene to see the kids reunited with their parents and siblings. Even still the tears flowed during goodbyes. We urge everyone to remember the quote by Dr. Seuss that says "don't cry because it is over, smile because it happened." Many friendships formed in these 33 days are forever. So instead of goodbye we say see you soon!
The staff would like to thank all of the students who spent their summer traveling and exploring our beautiful country with the Grand Western Tour. We are grateful to have gotten to know each of you. Thank you to the parents, grandparents, and other family members who supported these students on their journey west. You have given them a priceless gift in memories that will never fade. We also thank all of the parents who have raised these students to be phenomenal young adults. The group received an overwhelming number of compliments from outsiders throughout the course of the trip. It speaks wonders about the values of the families they came to us from. So to that we say thank you for sharing your children with us as we truly enjoyed every day we spent with them. So for the final time the 2016 Grand Western Tour is signing off!