Sunday, August 31, 2008

Adv #5: TransAm North: NYC to San Fran via Canada

The next trek assignment I had was called “TransAmerica North.” The itinerary was designed by a French company for some of their French customers, and we spent 3 weeks trekking from NYC to San Francisco by going up through Canada. The tourists were 24 French students, ages 17 to 20, (plus 2 chaperones) and admittedly.....I was a bit concerned about this group dynamic before meeting them. I think I'm a fairly "agreeable" person that gets along with pretty much everyone I encounter...but this felt like a situation where I would have nothing in common with the passengers and it might be a tough time to connect with them. The outcome could not have been further from this though!

Starting with a tour of Manhattan, we then headed up to Montreal and Quebec City, then to Niagra Falls. Took the Tobermorry Ferry across Lake Huron, and went up over Lake Superior to Thunder Bay. Then down through Minnesota, over to Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse (in South Dakota) then Devil’s Tower (Wyoming), Billings Montana, and the beautiful “Beartooth Pass” drive from Billings to Cody, Wyoming. Cody to Yellowstone National Park, Jackson Wyoming, Twin Falls Idaho, South Lake Tahoe, and eventually to San Francisco.
Bill Gehrke was the other Suntrek tour leader driving the other van in the group, and here’s some of the things we saw: We can start with a group shot at the border leaving New York, and headed into Quebec. Pretty neat that I got to see so much of Canada this summer, both east and west (but west is better : )

Quick shot of Quebec City with Olivier and Mattieu in the foreground. What a great little city this was. Plenty of character and old world charm for only being a couple hundred years old.

A few of us together for a quick photo in front of Niagra Falls. Next thing we did was the famous “Maid of the Mist” boat tour that takes you pretty close to the base of the falls.

Eastern Canada, aside from Quebec City, was quite insignificant. I think it was some long rides for a group that was mostly jet-lagged, so even Montreal really didn't dazzle anyone and our first week didn't produce too many pictures. Okay, Niagra Falls is pretty cool. But the pictures below start to show that we’re back in the U.S. now when we crossed the border just south of Thunder Bay.

One of our first stops back in the U.S. was the Twin Cities, and we had a night to take the group to the Mall of America. Erwan is seen here yucking it up on one of the roller coasters with our other driver, Bill.

Hustling west, we stopped in places like the famous Wall Drug, and got to visit more scenery like Cathedral Spires and Mount Rushmore. Little Audrey (below) was one of my favorites amongst the group. I kept calling her “Tautou” as in “Audrey Tautou”, the adorable French actress that starred in the Da Vinci code. After a while, she told me that “Tutu,” pronounced about the same way is what you would call a small dog to get it’s attention. I stopped calling her that.

Have you seen the story behind the Crazy Horse Monument? If not, it’s amazing what is going on here. 65 years in the making thus far. The original sculptor has since passed on, and his family has taken over the project. Will I ever see the final product in my lifetime? This thing is absolutely huge, so I’m not sure. To help describe the scope of this: All of Mt. Rushmore would fit on the head of Crazy Horse. This thing is HUGE. Second picture is a model of what the carving will eventually look like. Someday...

Devil’s Tower (below) in Wyoming is an interesting phenomenon. Formed underground millions of years ago underground, it’s now exposed thanks to erosion.

Marie (a.k.a. “Morris) was also one of my buddies on the trip. The whole group was really great…I guess I just connected best with those who spoke the best English? This picture is along Beartooth Pass from Billings to Cody, Wyoming. What an incredible drive.
Yep, Mo Mo (Eduard) even got this chipmunk to smoke, too. Someone in the background must have had just the right snack to offer. In just my third tour now, I'm still being reminded that squirrels and chipmunks and such are not as common in Europe as they are in the U.S. Passengers are going nuts for them.

At about 11,000 feet, a mid-August snowball fight sounds pretty good, eh? Just found a patch of snow along the route.

And when we come across what looks like a neat swimming spot….so be it. Here’s Bill about to freshen up a bit, still along Beartooth Pass.
We saw the rodeo in Cody that night. They put on a totally entertaining exposition of what a rodeo is like. Full of laughs and some real live action. Most of the tourists were really surprised about how violent rodeo is, and I recommend anyone see this show if you're passing through town.

Not even ten minutes into Yellowstone, and we’ve already got an enormous grizzly in our sites. You just have to know how to scratch them behind the ears just right.....and then they won't bother you.

We even found some time to do a little rafting on the Yellowstone River. The best part was, none of these folks had ever done any rafting before. Even a little class 3 bump here and there can provide some thrills if it’s your first time.
Now THIS was amazing. The Boiling River in Yellowstone is heated by the lava 2 miles below. (In case you didn’t know, 1/3 of Yellowstone NP sits atop an active caldera. It’s essentially a volcano that could blow again anytime.) So the Boiling River is created and was coming out of the ground at a temperature that we could barely stand to touch. This pictures below show how the Boiling River (coming from above) spills into the Gardner River (the lower portion.) The neat part is that the Gardner is extremely cold, about 45 degrees fahrenheit at that time, and it mixes right there with the Boiling River Find the right places where the two mix and its an incredible sensation! One side of your leg is uncomfortably hot while the other side is uncomfortably cold. Back and forth, spots all over your body are constantly changing temperatures when submerged in the water along here. Bring your swimsuit, this is a MUST "Feel" experience in Yellowstone.

Artist’s Point in Yellowstone is appropriately named. Just beautiful. And yep, the yellow is sulphur.
Julie, you’re so cute. Small town girls from the north of France. Just my type…
Above is just a series of photos from Yellowstone. Mammoth Hot Springs, the Geyser Basin, Old Faithful (about to go off with the Park Ranger talking to us about it) and many other things to see in Yellowstone are incredible. Don’t come to Yellowstone without at least 3 days to see the many geological phenomenons here. Not to mention the wildlife!
In the pool at Nat Soo Pah Hotsprings Campground in Idaho. Yep…Julie….you’re alright. The movie ‘Dirty Dancing’ was on our mind, and I felt like proving my shoulder was okay….having just had surgery on it last year!

An even better picture of Julie is appropriate now. Yow.......

Back in San Francisco now, we had to check out Lombard Street of course.

Axelle and Celine were part of the gang checking out Lombard Street with me, too. This pretty much marked the end of our three weeks together. I'll admit, I was a bit choked up when we were on the Bay Bridge with San Francisco in our sites. Having listened to Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco" so many times on the 3-week trip, plus getting through some definite high moments and many "low's" together, the end of our three weeks together was really a bittersweet moment. It also marked the end of 6 consecutive weeks of work for me, and considering that this is work where I'm surrounded by customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a can imagine what that feels like to finally have a break coming up. (Looks like I have a week off.)

And just after I finally dropped off the French gang at the airport after 3 weeks together, who is there riding beside me in the car but Mr. Handsome himself. Nice tuxedo, pal! He looked at me and said “Away, put your weapon. I mean you no harm!” Tell me he doesn't look like Yoda...

Great group, the Frenchies were. When I first learned I’d be doing a trip with such a young group, admittedly, I was concerned about how well I could possibly connect with them. It worked out really well though, and there’s quite a few of these folks that I’ll continue to stay in touch with.

1 comment:

  1. Just my favorite travel !!!! Verry good remembers...