Rapid City, SD-based tour operator, Shebby Lee Tours, has been “marching to a different drummer” ever since the company began offering group tours thirty-three years ago. Beginning as a provider of step-on guides in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the company eventually expanded its coverage area to include the entire western United States and its services to include complete vacation packages for curious travelers seeking a unique travel experience.
In keeping with the company slogan, “It’s not the Destination, it’s the Journey”, itineraries often include less known (and even unknown) hidden treasures. Coach drivers have been known to compete to drive Shebby Lee Tours’ programs because they eschew interstates in favor of winding, scenic routes whenever possible.
“The downside is that so much of the traveling public doesn’t know what’s out there to be discovered” states company president & founder Shebby Lee. “If I had nickel for every participant who tells me that they came on a particular tour because it included the last state in the country they hadn’t yet visited! It’s so sad, because they always have a good time, and even admit that they should have come sooner!”
In addition to non-traditional travel routes, Shebby Lee Tours’ itineraries include unique experiences not available to the general traveling public. For example, Custer’s Trail offers the opportunity for participants to take a trail ride across the same Dakota prairie that the 7th Cavalry traversed on their march to destiny. On the Bleeding Kansas program participants join in the debates about whether the territory should enter the Union as a slave or free state. And travelers on the Lewis & Clark Trail enjoy authentic meals and music, interaction with living historians, and even replicating some of the Corps of Discovery’s experiences on the trail.
According to Shebby, “The historic places and trails in the great American West are symbols of our shared heritage. They provide wonderful stories about the people and events, places and landscapes that give meaning to our nation’s development and to our own lives.” Participants in the “Vanishing Trails Expeditions” are provided with recommended reading lists prior to departure and all tours are led by professional tour director/historians.
What’s next for this ground-breaking company? “Civil War states are gearing up for the Sesquicentennial of the outbreak of hostilities (2011).” But as usual, Shebby Lee Tours has a slightly different take on the event. “Most people don’t know that significant events leading up to the war took place in Kansas Territory”. The company has therefore introduced “Bleeding Kansas: Where the Civil War Began” in 2007 and plans to follow up with “The Civil War on the Border” (Kansas-Missouri).
Shebby Lee is a historian, writer and tour operator specializing in the historic and cultural heritage of the Great American West. Her early training was in the theatre and she served a tour of duty as an entertainer with the USO. She is also an Admiral in the Nebraska Navy.