Greetings From… Alcatraz

Stories from eight years of living on the road in America

By Michael Boyink /


Alcatraz. No visit to the San Francisco area is complete without a trip to The Rock. 

Our visit started on the mainland. We arrived at the docks, bought our tickets and entered a large staging area. Photos of infamous prisoners and quotes from the Alcatraz rulebook set the mood while we waited for our ferry.

The line to the boat took us past a professional photographer. For $20, she would take a souvenir photo of our family’s visit to the island.

She had a line of customers waiting. She would position them in a staged area and use her photographer magic to make sure  everyone had open eyes and a smile on their face. She’d take the photo and let customers know it would be printed and waiting when they returned.

What most caught my attention was the backdrop in that staged area.

It was a large photo of Alcatraz Island.

With the real thing waiting a short ferry ride across the San Francisco Bay, people were willingly paying $20 for a “souvenir photo” taken in front of an artificial Alcatraz.

I laughed about it then.

Now it makes me think.

How often do I do the same thing?


In the queue of life. Ticket paid for by Christ. My final reward looms just a short ways off. 

But I not only get sidetracked by distractions based on falsehoods, I pay for the privilege of doing so.

On the day of our visit to Alcatraz, we mumbled a quick “no thanks” to the photographer and continued down to the ferry. We were anxious to see the real thing.

May we live every day with that same intent.

Alcatraz Island served as the nations toughest federal prison from 1934 to 1963. It’s now managed by the National Park Service and receives over a million visitors per year. Learn more at