Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My Two Summers as a Tour Director

When I was 20 years old, I got a Summer job managing package tour groups for a company called Berry World Travel out of Kansas City.   It didn't pay a lot, but then nothing much did in those days, especially for a student on Summer break.

My first year as a tour escort, I was assigned to an eight day train/bus tour called the Colorado-Yellowstone.  I would pick up my tour group in Chicago. Typically, there would be up to 40 people in these groups..  This in in the days before Amtrak. We boarded a Burlington Route passenger train for an overnight trip to Denver. From there, we spent two nights in Colorado Springs, did the Pike's Peak' tour, then back to Denver, where we were booked on a Union Pacific Passenger train to Salt Lake City. After ne night in Salt Lake, there was another train to Idaho Falls, where a bus picked us up and took us to Grand Teton National Park, then on the Yellowstone.  Our last night in Yellowstone was at the Mammoth Hot Springs. The next morning, a bus took us to Livingston, Montana, where we caught a North Pacific Railroad, passenger liner, headed for Chicago. After getting my group settled on the train, I left them at Billings, Montana, where I caught a flight to Chicago, where I started with another tour group the next day.

Sometimes, I alternated the Colorado-Yellowstone tour with different itinerary called the Colorado 8 Day.  It was similar except that it stayed in Colorado the whole trip. Instead of Yellowstone, we traveled around Rocky Mountain National Park.  It wasn't a hard job, except that I worked the whole Summer without a day off.

My second Summer working for Berry was a combination. Most of the time I was doing the Jasper Park-Canadian Rockies tour.  The itinerary for the Jasper Park-Canadian Rockies tour started in Edmonton, Alberta, by train to Jasper Park for two nights, then by bus to Lake Louise for two nights , then on to Banff for two nights . After that, we took a bus to Vancouver, B.C. Then, a ferry took us to Victoria, B.C., and then on by a ship called the Princess Marguerite to Seattle.    At that point, the trip ended and I would pick up a new group and do the same thing, except in reverse order. 

Along with that, I escorted a couple of Berry Tours called 'The California Headliner. With this one, we started in Chicago, where we boarded the Santa Fe Railroad's 'Super Chief' passenger liner. After about thirty hours on that train, we got off at Williams, Arizona, where a bus picked us up and took us to Grand Canyon National Park. After a day, we went back to Williams and boarded the 'Super Chief', which took us on to Fresno, California. From there, we bussed to Yosemite National Park. After a night there, we bussed to San Francisco. After a night in San Francisco, we took a train to Los Angeles.  I was in Los Angeles a week or so after presidential candidate Bobbie Kennedy was assassinated. My group and I stayed at the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Blvd, which was where the attack on Kennedy happened. In fact, the bus driver who drove us around Los Angeles was the same one who drove Kennedy around during his fateful campaign stop there.  The year was 1968.

That was also the last year I worked as a tour escort. The nest year,  after I graduated from college,  I enlisted in the Army and ended up in Officer Candidate School at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. 

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