San Fran Trip Part 1: Alcatraz, Walt Disney Museum, Sugar Ray and More

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This year has been Zach’s first year in a management position with Aflac. He has done some managing in the past but it was more of a training position in order to move up to a full management position. It’s been a BIG year of change for Zach with work and in his position it’s much more difficult to make the Aflac trips. 

When we found out he earned the National Convention trip this year we knew we had to go…not only because it was in San Francisco which is a place we’ve never traveled but also because it’s a big honor to earn the trip as a district manager! 

However, going on the trip was TRICKY for us. Zach’s Dad is also killing it this year with work and earned the trip as an associate. As y’all know Mrs Charlotte is amazing about keeping our babies for us when we travel. She understands first hand how the Aflac trips work as they’ve been in the business for decades and they had to find childcare back in the day too for the same reasons!

Not only does she understand but she truly loves that quality time with her grandbabies. So it’s always been a win-win situation. Zach and I get to have quality time on a free trip from Aflac…Mrs. Charlotte gets quality time with the kids. 

With Mr Rusty and Mrs Charlotte going on the trip it presented a tricky situation for us regarding childcare. We REALLY debated whether or not to go. A big part of us felt like we shouldn’t take the trip. Asking people to help with the kids isn’t something I feel super comfortable doing. But at the same time…we never know what the future holds.

Especially after Zach’s diagnosis with MS I’ve just been more hardcore about taking the tripdoing the thingsmaking the memories. We fully believe Zach will continue to be healthy but we also can’t know that for sure and we’d never want to look back and have regret over the things we didn’t do when we could do them. 

So we took the trip! 

We lucked out that it fell over the kid’s fall break. Aflac usually does 4 night stays and typically we add on a night but this trip we didn’t. We worked it out where Spear stayed with Mema the entire time we were gone and then Casey kept Tess for the couple of school days (since she and Carter attend the same school) and we paid a sitter to help with the big kids as well as paid Zach’s cousin to keep all the kids over the whole weekend. 

It’s never easy leaving the kids when we travel. That Mama Guilt is something fierce but this time? Whew. I was ON EDGE about it all. I worried about all the plans we’d made. All the people involved. All the little details that were part of making it all happen. I knew the kids would have SO MUCH FUN with their cousins and babysitters. And it was super nice knowing they’d be at OUR house rather than being shuffled from place to place. But still. It wasn’t easy! 

We had the early morning flight out of Valdosta. We arrived at 5:00 am for our 6:15 flight…Zach’s parents arrived at 6:15 for the 6:15 flight babaha quiet the adrenaline rush for them to start the trip! I’m still shocked they were able to get on the plane!

Tessie and Carter had SO MUCH FUN!!!

I’ve been doing The Last 90 Days Challenge with Rachel Hollis and LOVE IT. Basically you just write out 10 things you’re thankful for each day, drink your weight in water, wake up an hour early, and spend 30 min exercising. The water has been the biggest change for me because I’ve always been TERRIBLE about drinking water! But I got all my water in before we boarded the plane out of Atlanta!

I have learned I travel best if I only watch ONE movie on a flight AND make sure I get up and walk around. Since we had literally just been to California a month prior I struggled with what to watch and randomly decided to watch Three Identical Strangers. 

Y’all. It’s crazy good. I was expecting it to be what it was AT ALL. It’s a SUPER interesting TRUE story that will surprise you!

When we arrived in San Francisco I was blown away by how nice the airport was. It was like the nicest bathroom I’ve probably ever been in!

Arrival day with Aflac trips is always INSANE. SO MANY PEOPLE arriving at the same time to a hotel is bombarding. Usually we like to arrive a day earlier than the Aflac people so we avoid the headache! 

We were able to get lunch and check in pretty smoothly AND got the hook up with a SUPER nice room. Our hotel was the San Francisco Marriott Marquis. Zach told the guy we had left our four kids at home and he said “I’ll hook you up” and boy did it! We had a full living space and a large corner unit. It was SO NICE!

With only two full days to explore all that San Fran had to offer we wanted to make the most of ALL of our time that we could. The MAIN reason Zach wanted to go to San Francisco was to see Alcatraz. So that was our #1 must do ticket item. Thankfully I was able to get us tickets on our arrival day and we got settled in the room then headed over to the cruise boats for the tour! 

Of course on our way I got a call from the sitter…Britt had a fever. Carter also ended up puking so plans had to change with where Tess stayed. Y’all. I couldn’t even deal haha I’m on the street in a foreign city while Zach is trying to find our Uber and I’m trying to be a MOM to my kids literally across the country. 

Thankfully Britt ended up being FINE. And everything worked out with Tess. And no one else got sick. But whew bit of a rocky start!

Right away we were just in awe at the beauty of San Francisco. We have really come to LOVE California. It’s just SO pretty and has so much to offer! Apparently October is peak season for visiting San Fran because it’s the lowest fog so you can truly see all the sights. It did NOT disappoint!

Alcatraz Island

#lifelongdream

I went into Alcatraz knowing NOTHING about it. I knew it was some sort of prison and that it was in movies. That’s it. I don’t even think I’ve seen the movies it’s in. I truly assumed it was something Zach would enjoy and that I’d be bored. ha!

I’m not a museum girl typically and didn’t have super high expectations about this experience. But y’all. It was AWESOME. The audio tour is SO well done. It’s perfectly timed so you never, ever get board and we were done with the entire thing in under an hour. Perfect amount of time. And it’s so well done where it really draws you in. We both left wanting to go back!

I especially think it’s a GREAT thing for a pre-teen/teenage boy. We have San Fran on our list of places to visit with the kids now. I was just shocked at how many times I thought “Kye would love this” on this trip! 

You can get my tunic here! (I’m wearing a small)

And shoes here (so comfortable!)

Showers! Can you imagine bathing in such an open area?

Cells

A LOT of Alcatraz reminded me of The Walking Dead when they lived inside the prison. I mean I guess maybe all prisons look similar but this was my first time inside a prison so it was all new to me! Zach actually works at prisons pretty regularly so he’s a prison pro (he does benefits for the prison system in Georgia). 

It’s so interesting how Alcatraz is located in SUCH a beautiful area. It was part of the punishment: the prisoners could see the beauty of the world they were missing out on. The island is so close to shore (but too far to swim) that they could even HEAR a lot of events that would take place. On NYE they could hear music and it was a favorite night for the prisoners. 

This room especially looks so much like The Walking Dead!

Many famous prisoners stayed at Alcatraz

Getting to go into the cells? DUH that was happening!

Solitary Confinement Cells

The SUPER interesting part to me of the tour was about the escape attempts. There was a story about a time that prisoners planned an escape and it went wrong and became a legit battle. Officers died and it went on for several days and reinforcements had to come help. 

When you have ALL DAY EVERY DAY to think you come up with some clever stuff…

The actual bar they separated to escape. 

Places on the floor where gunshots happened during the battle. 

They opened and closed the cell doors for us! And told us a story about how some tourists one time GOT STUCK INSIDE and that it took FOUR HOURS to get them out!

Video one of doorsVideo two of doors. 

Mechanism to open and close doors. 

Alcatraz wasn’t just home to prisoners but many families lived there as well and it was neat to see their areas and the things they did while living on the island. 

The coolest escape story is about men who dug their way out of their cells using SPOONS and made dummies laying in their beds to fool the guards. And then they went through the duct system to get out! It is not known if they actually lived or died but it’s assumed once they got to the cold water to swim that they never made it to shore as they were never seen again. 

One of the cells with the actual dummy and the area that they dug out in the wall. 

You can see the spoon on the ground

It was also neat seeing the kitchen area and to hear how seriously meals were taken for the prisoners. The staff had a board where each knife had to go in order to make sure nothing was stolen from the kitchen. 

Alcatraz was closed in 1963. It was an expensive prison to run being located on an island and it was also a time where things were changing in society and people were concerned about proper treatment of prisoners. 

Even the gift shop was EXTREMELY well done with really cool signs showcasing the different rules and regulations of the prison. We could have spent some dough in there on stuff because they had such cool things!

I really wanted to get a set of the meal trays! How cool are these?

Such a great start to our days together…love this man and so thankful he’s MINE!

Heading back!

Zach got a book about the famous prisoners who stayed at Alcatraz and we got Kye a comic book about the most famous escape (the dummy head one) as well as a cup πŸ™‚ 

Aflac also hooked us up with some awesome goodies! We were each given a book bag and a water bottle and I was given a bracelet with a San Fran charm. I am obsessed with these water bottles…they are perfect for getting in all my water each day πŸ™‚ 

We had assumed Alcatraz would take a long time and assumed we’d miss the free Aflac dinner but we actually made it back in plenty of time and headed over with Zach’s parents to eat and mingle a bit! 

Free food and a fun theme? SIGN ME UP!

Such SKILLS

On all Aflac National Conventions they always bring in great speakers and this trip was no different. The next morning we had breakfast and then went to listen to Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Roger Craig. They talked about their time with the 49ers and they did a great job! It’s always awesome to me to have the opportunity to hear people speak who have a lot of advice and life experience to offer. 

A couple videos of them speaking: video 1 and video 2.

The staff at our hotel were on strike starting the first day of our trip. Awesome. I got some slack on Instagram for venting about it (we didn’t get our room clean…didn’t have clean towels…etc during the stay) but y’all these people apparently go on strike REGULARLY. We learned from Uber drivers that the hotel staff makes $17 an hour which is $2 over minimum wage in San Fran and MANY locals would GLADLY take the jobs that these people are complaining about having. 

I’m SO thankful to everyone on Instagram who helped me plan out our trip! I truly would have been LOST without yalls recommendations and advice!

We tried to arrange things where it’d make Ubering as cheap as we could and had our Uber make stops at some of the big sites we wanted to see that were on our way to other places…like if you’re in San Fran you MUST see the Full House House right?!?!

It cracks me up that the owners are THIS mad about people wanting to see their home. I mean when they bought it they KNEW what it was. They KNEW what they were getting into. Why not embrace it? Heck why not put some life size statues up of Uncle Jessie and charge a buck for a pic? 

I would not have even KNOWN that The Walt Disney Family Museum existed if it wasn’t for my IG friends…so again THANK YOU! We headed there that morning and it’s located in SUCH a beautiful spot. Incredible view of the Golden Gate Bridge!

I really knew nothing about the museum going into it (Notice that’s a trend this trip. Y’all we’ve been traveling SO MUCH that I can’t keep up haha). Only that it was a museum about Walt so I was IN. Alcatraz was Zach’s “must do” and this was mine!

It also did NOT disappoint. It was SO well done with SO much detail and I was so thankful to be able to just take my TIME and soak it all in and learn more about the man behind my happiest place πŸ™‚ 

This is from the apartment above the fire station on Main Street in Disneyland where Walt would stay

Oscar for Snow White

I did not know that Walt LIED about his age to be able to fight in the war!

He drew a lot during war time and developed a lot of his talent. 

I think the story behind Mickey is SO interesting. First Walt had Oswald. At the time Walt worked under the Universal umbrella and traveled to NYC to check in with them where he was told they were done with him but keeping Oswald as well as his staff. 

Walt had to start completely over. And without his character. This is the actual telegram he sent back to his brother, Roy, explaining the news. Something I love about Walt is his constant optimism. He had faith it’d all work out and it did!

On the train ride back from that meeting he created Mickey. Who he originally named Mortimer but then his wife suggested Mickey instead. Sometimes failure brings out our greatest success!

Universal did eventually trade Oswald back to Disney World a few years ago in exchange for a news reporter! 

So cool seeing some of the old artwork and just thinking about all the effort and energy that goes into making an animated film. 

I also love that Walt’s story has adoption as part of it. He’d always desired a large family and his wife, Lilly, had several miscarriages. After they had their first daughter, Diane, they then adopted their second daughter, Sharon. 

Had to take a pic of Donald’s background for Britt πŸ™‚ 

I watched the Won’t You By My Neighbor documentary about Mr Rodgers and think he and Walt Disney had a good bit in common especially in how the characters they created were representations of themselves at their truest form. Mickey is Walt. Walt is Mickey. 

Zach was especially interested into all the mechanics behind making the movies happen. It’s SO interesting to me how many things Walt invented or had the idea for and had his staff create. Really so many simple things we take for granted were huge, new ideas back then!

I also didn’t know that Walt did so much during war time to help with the efforts. These pin-ups cracked me up!

More beautiful views!

 

 

There were many moments during our time at the museum where I got chills and seeing one of the benches from THE park where Walt was inspired to create Disneyland? So. Awesome. 

I love the story behind Disneyland. Walt was at the park sitting on the bench watching his girls play on the carousel. He had the idea to create a place where children and their parents could truly enjoy it together

Walt’s home was very interesting too. He was super into trains (hence the presence of a train at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom) in fact all transportation fascinated him. He had a train that went around his house and the caboose he built himself. 

Fun fact: Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland was build prior to the movie being made πŸ™‚ 

I also kinda love that opening day was a pretty big flop for Disneyland. TONS of things went wrong and it didn’t go over so well but then it only got better and better from there πŸ™‚ 

Orignal tickets

Walt invented animatronics when he invented The Tiki Birds of The Enchanted Tiki Room. He furthered this development by making an animatronic of Abe Lincoln (featured in Great Moments with Mr Lincoln). 

I loved getting to see how the Tiki Birds come to life. This is what it looks like under each bird. The motions are all recorded and played back over and over again. I was even able to test it out myself!

Carousel of Progress

Disneyland was Walt’s baby but Disney World was his DREAM. I LOVE hearing about how Disney World came about and the grand plans Walt had for it and how he was so smart in buying up so much cheap land to develop. 

I loved all the photos of Walt with Lilly and their family. He was a family man! 

Zach teased me but y’all I got so emotional reading about his death. I knew already that he’s dead, of course, but still just thinking about this incredible man dying too soon it just hurt my heart. I cried! Not even gonna try to deny it. 

The night before he passed he was laying in the hospital with Roy and was pointing to the ceiling to make plans for Disney World. 

I truly enjoyed the entire museum SO much. Be sure to visit The Walt Disney Family Museum next time you’re in San Francisco!

I also totally feel like Spear needs this for his room…I just didn’t want to carry it around with me the rest of the day!

I also want one of these E Ticket shirts! HINT HINT πŸ˜‰ 

And LOVE this tote. MORE HINTING πŸ˜‰ 

We had a bit of a struggle getting an Uber but then headed off to hunt for LUNCH!

An area that a lot of people said we needed to explore was Sausalito. It was over the Golden Gate Bridge and a bit of a drive but we were all about trying it out! We stopped for some pizza for lunch at San Drino and the owners are legit, legit Italian which made the whole experience so awesome. 

The food was AMAZING. 

Zach is really into this guy who does pizza reviews (“one bite everybody knows the rules”) so he had to do his own version

We just took our time walking around the town, up and down the Main Street. Going into shops and checking everything out. It was BEYOND beautiful! 

We fell in love with San Francisco but y’all there is also a lot of negative about it. I saw a woman snorting cocaine on a street corner. I saw a drug transaction take place right in front of me on another corner. And while walking in BEAUTIFUL Sausalito? We saw a lady literally peeing all over herself. Just standing in the middle of an open park. Peeing. Down her legs. Then taking napkins and putting them in her pants to wipe. And y’all. There was a public bathroom literally around the corner. 

Ice cream stop had to happen! YUM!

Everyone on the trip was all “I’m going to bike/run/walk the Golden Gate Bridge” and we’re over here like “I’ll take an Uber over it!”

The hills are EPIC

Another must stop spot in San Fran is to see The Painted Ladies. Which are also featured in the opening of Full House and most people think the real Full House House is one of the painted ladies but it’s actually not! We did an Uber stop and hopped out and got some pics then hopped back in πŸ˜‰ 

One of the IG recommendations was to rent one of these small cars to do a driving GPS tour of the city. Right up our ally because we don’t love big tour groups and it’d be so fun to explore a new city together on our own! We booked it…but then when we started talking to Aflac people they told us the cars were SUPER tiny and that Zach may not fit. 

Legit concern. 

I called and sure enough they have a height limit of 6’3.” Zach is 6’6″. Oh well not meant to be! We canceled and they were super nice about refunding our money!

Awards Night!

When we first learned Zach made the trip Aflac announced some of the speakers and guests and when I heard that MARK MCGRATH was emceeing the awards banquet I totally fan girlled OUT and Zach made SO much fun of me haha

But who didn’t love some Sugar Ray back in the day, am I right? I also went to see them in concert in 7th grade. My dad took a friend and I to see them and we had NO CLUE about their other music aside from the top 40 stuff on the radio. Turns out they were pretty hardcore back in the day before selling out. 

Like Mark was drinking on stage. Stripping off his clothes to practically nothing. Pulling teenage girls up on stage and checking their licenses to make sure they were legal then making out with them.

Pretty exciting stuff for a couple of 7th graders to be witnessing! 

I’ll be real…usually the awards nights are SO LONG and SO BORING. But this one? Mark McGrath did AMAZING. 

Yes. He’s had WAY too much work done and no longer really even looks like himself but he OWNS who he is and that he was big in the 90s and isn’t big now and he just rocks it. Seriously he was SO great. Everyone had a BLAST and I really, really hope Aflac starts doing this for all awards nights! 

After the awards Sugar Ray performed a concert! DUH I HAD TO BE THERE. 

Zach cannot stand live music. He just can’t. In the past I’ve skipped the live music but I really wanted to see Sugar Ray. And it was located at our hotel so it wasn’t a big deal at all to just stay and then go up to the room when it was over. I’m so glad I stayed and enjoyed rocking to the 90s. πŸ™‚ 

 

Cool MIL status! She stayed for awhile with me!

Again, Sugar Ray owned who they are. They are a band from the 90s. They didn’t try to play new stuff or recreate themselves. They played their hits and they played hits from other groups in the 90s too. It was a BLAST!

 

Five videos from their performance…betcha know all the songs πŸ˜‰ video 1, video 2, video 3, video 4 and video 5!

Aflac has brought so many great people into our lives and I loved getting to spend more time with Karen while we were there! We have the same movie taste which, duh, means instant friendship πŸ˜‰ I’m hopeful we can hang when she comes to Valdosta in the future! 

The first part of our trip was SO FUN. We loved, loved, loved exploring San Fran together and all it had to offer! More to come in Part 2!

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journeyofphood

Hey Y’all, I’m Emily! I’m a stay at home mom and consider parenting to be my passion. Disney is my happiest place and I love making memories as a family together. I’m a big believer in transparency and share all of my real-life moments as a mother of four.

My work has been featured on Today Parenting and Babywise.Life. I’m also honored to be a member of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network.

You can read more about our family on my About Me page. Also be sure to follow along with me on Instagram, FacebookΒ and Pinterest!

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