I’m coming up for air. I had my training trip out West, three weeks of Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. madness, a week off and then I just returned from leading my first over-the-road 16-day tour.
The sixteen-day tour has been the most challenging. Leading a group of 40 through 3,800 miles of the American West means you need a lot of fodder to kill the time. Every day was a challenge. Besides the pressure of being an authority about all the destinations, its culture and the other randomness you see along the way, I had to be everyone’s mother, friend, referee and counselor. Some of the highlights and low lights:
Cute kids: The average passenger age for a motor coach tour is 55-plus. This tour I had two 14 year olds and an eight year old. The eight year old was my little helper. She was so excited to be my shadow and help pass out national park maps. She livened up the group. Kids have a special presence that lightens up the hardest of hearts.
Grumpy old guys: I should say it was one grumpy old guy. Sixteen days shot this guy over the edge. He was always grumpy, but after day seven, he was done. Everyone he sat by was subjected to his venom. Even when he made his way up front, his mood about sent me over the edge. I didn’t feel like a confident adult when he was up front. Everything I did or said was returned with a snide remark or a roll of the eyes. From that day on, I banished him to the seats in the back. I don’t need him to bring the entire tour down. I wash my hands of grumpiness.
Beautiful couples: The wonderful thing about touring with a mature crowd is you meet a lot of neat people that have been married for 40 and 50 years. This tour had one particular couple that has been married more than 50 years. The wife had a stroke a couple years ago, and is doing well, but she’s somewhat forgetful. The husband was so patient and kind. Everywhere we went they both had such enthusiasm. They were excited to see each place and they always did it holding each hands. I told them they were such a cute couple. He told me with a sly grin, “She used to hold my hand because she loved me, now it’s so she doesn’t fall over.” The love was so evident. In sickness and in health.
Nurse duty: Every pharmacy along the trail was visited by our guests, and even the hospital in Custer, SD. One guest’s asthma started acting up. We were able to get her to the doctor at the hospital on July 4 and then pick up prescriptions at the hospital in Deadwood, SD, the following day. She was very grateful for the help.
Personality conflicts: On this tour we had a couple of friends that talked a ton. They annoyed all the people around them, so I was creative with the seat rotation so everyone could “enjoy” their conversation.
Big game: We saw a mamma bear and two cubs at Yellowstone! They were playing in a tree and it was the cutest thing. Also I saw the most massive elk. His antlers were still in velvet and he was having trouble going through the trees. I can’t imagine how big he’ll be when the antlers are done growing. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a good picture through the coach windows.
Lack of sleep: This is my own fault. I didn’t feel prepared enough or comfortable with all my commentary so I got four to five hours of sleep a night. Sometimes less. However, I’m now more prepared, and I know what I need to do to improve on the tour and my performance.
I say all this, and I still love it. You have the challenges and little sleep, but there aren’t many who get the chance to see these sights once, much less work in them. This particular tour started in Scottsdale and went to Sedona, Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Billings, Custer, Deadwood, Cheyenne and Denver. See what I mean? Who wouldn’t love having challenges in these locales?
It’s all for the love of travel.