News Bus tour didn’t quite go south
By Shelda Lunsford
Oct 2, 2017, 09:37
If you know any of the Rector kids of Allerton, and there are quite a few of them; ten to be exact, then you know they never lead dull lives—there is always an adventure just waiting for one of them to find. Recently one of those adventures, and two of those Rector girls, merged their vacation time into new memories for all involved.
“I always wondered what it would be like to go on a bus tour,” Hazel Rector Nash stated. “So when my sister Teresa Crowley agreed to go on a tour with me, it seemed the right to do.” No stranger to travel, Nash spends a lot of time on the road. Sometimes it is relatively local, going back and forth from her home just south of the IA border, to Osceola for a quick hello with her oldest son Justin, helping him keep her grandchildren mobile, regarding school events. Just as often it is westward travel, toward the Rocky Mountains in CO, to visit her youngest son Joe. Other times, Nash and her husband Volney, will simply hop in the car and go on a spontaneous mini-vacation, surprising each other with various destinations—all of them interesting and most of them just plain fun.
One location Nash always wanted to return to was in Montana, revisiting Glacier National Park where her and her husband had first travelled to, 42 years ago. Another thing Nash had wanted to do for several years was to take a charter bus tour filled with other vacation seekers, going on a pre-determined set of locations, spending several days sightseeing and visiting points of interest along the route. It seemed a dream come true when Nash ran across a Facebook page, advertising a charter tour to beautiful Glacier National Park, including several other stop-locations along the way. It turned out the dream really was too good to be true—the charter trip was scheduled for the exact same time her husband had scheduled an elk hunting trip to Colorado, and wouldn’t be able to take the tour with her.
After doing further research and a couple of contact phone calls, Nash decided to push forward with plans to go ahead and take the trip by herself; Volney could go ahead with plans for his elk hunt and Nash would have an exciting adventure of her own, which would give the couple talking topics for long after the individual trips were finished. “Going with my sister Teresa really wasn’t planned very much at all,” Nash shared. “When she told me she had always wanted to travel that direction sometime, and had also wanted to take a bus tour, it seemed like fate that we would share our first bus tour together.”
Purchasing tickets wasn’t difficult at all, according to Nash. A credit card number was all it took to validate our seats. A deposit was made in early May, vacation days were scheduled from their employers and the sisters were ready for departure. Nash received an invoice approximately 30 days prior to their tour start date, an itinerary was received which stated they would visit Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and the anticipated return to the once visited Glacier National Park. Reviews of the tour company were good so both Nash and Crowley looked forward to their upcoming trip.
The first step in their journey was an evening trip to Des Moines for an overnight stay because they had an early morning departure time and decided it would make sense not to make an early morning drive before loading on the bus. Once in Des Moines the sisters learned they couldn’t leave their vehicles in the hotel parking lot, so after quite a bit of discussion and arrangements through the tour guide, they learned they could leave their cars at a nearby Hy-Vee store. After a first attempt at parking, the tour group was told they had parked on the wrong side of the store and needed to move them to the opposite side. During the transition from one side to the other of the store, Nash heard a distinct buzzing and noticed the lights flickered on her sister’s car, but in the haste to move the cars and get across the lanes of traffic on the east side of the Des Moines airport—where the bus was parked, she forgot to say anything to her sister about the strange sounds from the car. Even though it was not the best of starts to a bus tour, the sisters put away the disorganized parking episode and settled down to enjoy the first leg of their journey.
Forty-one people loaded on the bus in Des Moines. Nine others got on board near the Omaha and Council Bluff area. A total of 50 passengers plus the tour guide and bus driver headed west towards their first scheduled stop, which was Cheyenne WY. No one had told the sisters that the bathroom on the bus was for emergency use only; thank goodness the tour agency was aware of this and several impromptu stops were made long before the Wyoming border had appeared. The sisters thought they had good seats, located far from the door of the emergency bathroom, but soon learned it was proper bus etiquette to rotate seats—every so often people moved from the seat they were at, with the right side of the bus moving forward one seat and the left side of the bus moving backward one seat at a time. This way, everyone had their turn at sitting next to the bathroom door!
Nash said the hardest part of being part of a bus tour was just letting go and realizing she was not the one in charge. Not being able to coordinate their movements and stops was hard for her to get used to. She said it got better when she just gave up and realized she was at their mercy and might as well give in.
Yellowstone National Park was scheduled for the second day of their journey. Nash had told Crowley to expect to see a lot of wildlife and settled in to enjoy all the wonderful places she would soon share with her sister. “I was just so underwhelmed,” Nash said, “Not only did we not see any animals, we barely saw any of Yellowstone at all. The bus tour only included a very small portion of the park, just the area surrounding the Old Faithful geyser was the only part of the park we visited—and only one hour was allowed for the group to stay. If not for the camaraderie we were beginning to share with our fellow passengers, I would have been ready to stop the tour right there.”
The second day of the tour, after the stop at Old Faithful, included travelling on to Cody WY, then backtracking to Billings, Montana. It was 10:30 pm before the second day ended, and the group had not even had their evening meal yet! The sisters keep telling each other how crazy the day had been. They were tired! Their motto by the end of the second day had become, “We will start out each day with lower expectations that we have the day before. That way we won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t improve.
Day 3—Billings to Bozeman to see the Grizzly Bear Encounter (the compound had 5 bears). According to Nash, at least the information they received was good. They travelled on to The Museum of the Rockies, which turned out to be a dinosaur site. “Who would have thought that the Museum of the Rockies would just be a place where there were dinosaur bones?” Nash commented. Then the group moved on to Missoula, where they spent the night.
The fourth day started with a stop at White Fish Pottery and the Conrad Mansion near Kalispell, then the tour group had a ride on Flat Head Lake, but because it was during the off-season there was no food or snacks offered on the ride, so the group once again had to wait until they had returned to Missoula for another post-10 pm meal. “The group was beginning to be upset with the scheduling. It wasn’t just us two that thought things should have been a bit more thought out,” Nash commented. But, it had to get better according to Nash, because day five was the anticipated visit to Glacier National Park!
They travelled back up to Kalispell and the west entrance of Glacier. Nash knew from the news that the west entrance was closed because of the nearby forest fires, but when she tried to tell their tour guide the entrance was closed, the guide chose to not listen. Nash was correct. The bus could only enter the gate and had to turn around and leave. They then travelled around the south edge of the park and tried to enter at the east entrance, but were unable to visit any other portion of Glacier. Nash was upset. The whole reason for the tour was to visit this particular park. Both sisters, (by now the whole bus group identified them as ‘the Sisters’), were getting a bit tired and almost cranky. Crowley had recently broken her arm and had only had the cast off a few days before the trip started. Nash was starting to experience a headache, which was unusual for her. As day six and seven passed, it seemed as if the tour bus was just circling around and around the same route—into Montana, back to the entrance to Yellowstone, over into the edge of Idaho and then repeat. They did venture into Jackson Hole WY, and visited a place called Terry’s Buffalo Ranch, which was a 27,000 acre operation, but Crowley was getting tired of her arm exercise therapy and Nash’s headache had taken hold for real!
A bright spot of the tour for the sisters; they were the youngest on the bus, but the ones they decided were older were not so old and the ones they thought younger were the older ones and if it hadn’t been for the movies the bus tour provided and the afternoons of Bingo and games of ‘Guess about Me’ the sisters weren’t sure they would have made it through the last couple of days. Nash’s headache turned out to be an abscessed tooth, which caused her face to swell terribly and forced her to seek care as soon as the tour was over, and as a final insult—the strange noises Nash had heard in Crowley’s car during the parking situation at the beginning of the trip, turned out to be an electrical short. The sisters returned to Des Moines, tired, sick and in the middle of the night, with a car that wouldn’t crank. The sisters finished their disappointing trip to Glacier National Park with a jump start from Triple A!
When asked if she would do it again, take a charter bus tour, Nash immediately said yes! “If you want to get an in-depth tour of our national parks, a tour is probably not for you,” Nash shared. “But, if you want to go on a trip to have fun with your fellow travelers and have no preconceived concept of what to expect, then I would definitely recommend it. If I go again, I won’t book a tour to places I have already been and know well. I would go somewhere I have never been before, and then I wouldn’t have any comparisons to make between a chartered tour and a self-guided trip. I would go east…I would definitely go east.”
For those who want to know, the bus tour Nash and Crowley booked cost approximately $1,200 per person for 9 days and included rooms each night and breakfast each morning. It also included 3 lunches or 3 evening meals, whichever you chose. The rest of the meals were out-of-pocket costs. The sisters chose Elite Tours and said they might do a bit more research before booking another through that company. They didn’t know if the tour group they chose was better or worse than the average company, but suggested a bit more searching might find something more suitable for them.
When asked if Nash had any plans to book a tour which included all 10 of the siblings going together,” Nash quickly replied, “If it is a BIG bus…then yes!” Knowing the large number of family members the Rector family contains, it might be a very good idea to use a very big bus indeed.