Travel With Bradley

New Year’s Yellow Brick Road Mystery Journey

New Year’s Yellow Brick Road MYSTERY Journey

December 29/19

We gathered as usual for our pre-departure dinner in Woodstock last night. Everyone enjoyed the beef entree. There were many reunions in the dining room as many sign up for this fun getaway year after year.

This morning after a hearty breakfast buffet we loaded the coach (capacity 50 passengers) and started our journey. Border crossing was quick and friendly. The US Custom agents were teasing my passengers by telling them they knew where we were going on this Mystery adventure.

Weather was ideal for this time of year. We drove into some drizzle but driving conditions were perfect.

Lunch was at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Ohio. Since it was Sunday it was packed when we arrived but within 20 minutes we were all seated. Service was excellent. Moe, the professional manager, went out of his way to look after us. I was in touch with him a few times before we arrived and I could tell by his demeanor that he could easily handle our group even though they were already very busy. I provided everyone with $25. to cover their meal – everyone had funds left to spend in the gift shop. Surprisingly their Christmas merchandise was already pretty much cleared out but there were a few 70% off sales.

We made the expected Walmart stop so everyone could pick up their favourite items that they can’t find at home in Canada.

We arrived at our hotel in Middletown, Ohio and enjoyed a cocktail reception before continuing to an excellent family run dinner theatre. The capacity crowd of 600 was quickly served and the food was delicious. Their holiday show was a big production for a dinner theatre and it was excellent. We were all impressed.

December 30/19

It was a very windy morning but the sun was shining.

We took advantage of a hearty breakfast at the hotel and were on the road at 8am.

Most of my passengers thought we were going to head South to Tennessee so they were surprised when the coach started heading North!

Was surprised to see an Amish “courting buggy” (open air) on the road in these frigid temps. I’m sure the two young ones were wrapped in blankets.

We enjoyed an exceptional homemade meal at an Amish home outside of Shipshewana, IN. Tossed salad with homemade dressing to start – noodles – whipped potatoes – garden vegetables – beef (everyone said it was delicious) and baked chicken. Dessert was a choice of blueberry cream pie (real whipped cream) and/or pecan pie (decadent).

The chicken was so yummy, so I asked our hostess how she prepared it. Very simple – skinless chicken thighs dipped in egg and then coated in crunched up Rice Krispies! None of our group imagined she used Rice Krispies. She of course added some spice to that coating too – but let me tell you her simple recipe is a winner!

Our host John boarded our coach after lunch and toured us around the Amish countryside. His wife’s family pretty well line one country road – every farm is owned by a relative. We stopped at a few Amish businesses along the way so my passengers enjoyed shopping. John shared many stories with us. Eighty-five percent of the local Amish men use to farm and now eighty-five percent of them work in trailer manufacturing plants. John retired after working in the plant for over 30 years.

After retirement he built his own trailer – one of my passengers asked him how he transports it. He recently hooked it up to his tractor and pulled it 25 miles to a campground where his family spent their vacation and he then used the tractor to bring the trailer back home.

John and his wife are wonderful hosts. I’m thankful that they are always willing to open their home to my passengers.

We checked into a boutique hotel, filled with Amish charm and got ready for dinner.

Dinner was another Amish Feast (meatloaf and fried chicken) – we had a choice of a number of pies for dessert.

The Musical that followed was a hit with my passengers. I couldn’t get over how well cast the production was. Every actor played their parts perfectly.

A big production for a relatively small stage. Well done!

I arranged for an ice cream sundae social when we returned back to the hotel. The ice cream parlor staff set it up for us in one of their banquet rooms. Everyone sat around and chatted while enjoying their treat. There was some ice cream left so I found a few children with their parents that were staying in the hotel and invited them. When my passengers saw a line of children come into the banquet room they gave them a round of applause – a nice Canadian welcome!

December 31/19

Breakfast was excellent. A chef prepared the tastiest omelettes – thin batter stuffed with meat/veggies and cheese. Many of my passengers also raved about the baked French toast.

Through the night snow fell – plenty of it. When we departed at 830am the roads were slick and there were a few automobile accidents but that didn’t stop the Amish – many were out on the road with their horse and buggies. For the first time ever I saw a double hitch – 2 buggies being pulled by 1 horse – we joked that the husband must be in one buggy and his wife in the other!

Our break stop was at a Starbucks Service Plaza – nice bonus.

The weather continued to improve as we headed towards…… Chicago.

We were greeted by two reps at the historic downtown Macy’s store – the original Marshall Fields.

There was a bit of time to explore before lunch on the 7th Floor in the famous Walnut Room. We were very fortunate to get reservations as this is their busiest time of year as locals flock yearly for the “Christmas Tree Buffet”.

The Christmas Tree that dominated the dining room was as extravagant as the deluxe buffet. Everything they prepared was so delicious. The many deserts were bite size so we tried a number of them!

After lunch we were met by 3 tours guides who explained the history of this store and building. After a very informative hour tour we were on our way to Lincolnshire, an upscale Chicago suburb were we stayed in a beautiful resort that recent underwent a $20 million dollar upgrade.

At 6pm we gathered for a 4 course private “Travel With Bradley”banquet. It was an impressive meal and the servers so kind.

We then moved into another section of the resort for a champagne and appetizer reception.

It was then SHOW TIME – the Frankie Valli and Four Season tribute was just excellent – 7 piece band with 4 upfront singers.

Afterwards we entered a ballroom and brought in the New Year at 11pm – at home in Ontario it was 12 midnight. The patrons soon figured out what we were doing and they started snapping pictures of us. Most of us retired to our rooms but a few decided to stick around for the Chicago New Year countdown and balloon drop.

January 1/20

That a beautiful sunny day!

The breakfast buffet at the resort was a very high quality. We so enjoyed it.

Stopped at the Michigan Welcome Centre for a quick break stop.

Soon afterwards we enjoyed a “New Years Day” buffet in Marshall, MI – another excellent meal!

Crossing the border took no time at all.

I passed around homemade cookies to welcome everyone back Canada.

We arrived back in Woodstock in good time and road conditions were ideal for those that drove home.

We royally brought in the New Year – a New Decade.

Everyone agreed it was a perfect Mystery Journey.

Happy New Year to one and all!

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