Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, Toni Morrison, has admitted in interviews that she writes the story she would like to read herself. Unfortunately, doing what we want and doing it well is a gift that only a talented few possess.
I do identify with her sentiment, however. After all, I design tours that I would like to take myself. Sometimes – alas – I turn out to be the only one with a craving for that particular excursion. I have a backlog of fantastic tours that nobody but me wanted to take. (Well, sometimes there is a handful of folks who recognizes my genius. But it’s really hard to make a living in the group tour business without, well, groups!)
Sometimes it’s just a matter of being ahead of your time. Twenty-five years ago nobody was doing tours that are today all the rage. There’s even a name for them now: “experiential tours”, defined as experiences that are unique, customized and memorable.
Nobody was doing them except Shebby Lee Tours, that is. Our participants have always appreciated getting off the beaten path, interacting with historical interpreters, savoring authentic meals or tapping our toes to live period music played on well-worn instruments.
This last summer we got hopelessly lost on the Oregon Trail searching for an authentic log stage stop that had seen pioneer wagons kicking up trail dust as they headed West. None of us had ever been there (including the driver), and there were no signs because – well, nobody goes there. We were so far off the beaten path even Siri didn’t know where we were! After a few phone calls and knocking on a friendly door at an isolated farmhouse, we did find it – and were richly rewarded. Here we could not only walk but touch where history happened.
But it gets better: we were hosted by the granddaughter of the man who authenticated it’s provenance and took steps to preserve it so “rut nuts” like ourselves could touch history! Add in the thrill of discovery and it was one of the best of a long list of “goose-bump” moments I’ve shared with participants on one trail or another over the years.
I hasten to add that as a conscientious tour planner, I don’t make a habit of getting lost on the trail. But because we did, it allowed us to make the discovery together. And I have to say, it was a memorable highlight on an already memorable journey.
Here at Shebby Lee Tours we favor the “journey” over the “destination” because we believe it is the experience, the goose-bump moments that make for a truly unforgettable excursion. Even for Lewis & Clark, the Pacific wasn’t their destination; it merely marked their half-way point. (They had to return the same way they came, remember.) For us, it is the end of the trail. But reaching that destination is only part of the experience.
As always, we have a number of trail tours scheduled for this season, featuring goose-bump moments to satisfy the most inquisitive minds. In addition to the Lewis & Clark Trail, we have Legendary North Dakota, Show Me Missouri! and of course, the ever-popular Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup.
We invite you to join us this year for the journey of a lifetime!