To crib from a popular lyric, Jeff Sandy, 35, figures he has the world on a string. He gets paid to do what he loves most: He travels. And when he isn’t traveling, he rounds up others who share his enthusiasm for the open road. Sandy is employed by Trek America, North America’s largest tour operator for 18-35-year-olds.
The company’s pitch: see the U.S., Canada and Mexico on $30/$45 a day. The prices make Trek America one of the nation’s least expensive first-class tour operators in the U.S. (Take a back seat, Arthur Frommer.) Vacationers take in the Grand Tetons, Arches National Park, Grand Canyon, Zion, Yosemite, Big Sur, Lake Tahoe, Lake Powell, Lake Shasta, Mt. Rainier, Crater Lake, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Dinosaur National Monument, Durango, Colo., Santa Fe, N.M.. In Canada/Alaska they travel to Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper National Park, Vancouver, Whitehorse, Dawson City, Fairbanks, Denali National Park, the Kenai Peninsula and Skagway.
Trek America swings south to New Orleans and Florida, north to Washington, D.C./New York. One 14-day tour takes in Cape Cod, Boston, Acadia National Park, Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, Niagara Falls. And the granddaddy of tours (nine weeks) features nearly 50 stops, Los Angeles to New York, with visits to Universal Studios/Disneyland. Other groups travel to Mexico (Baja, Mazatlan, Guadalajara, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Palenque, Tulum, Cancun, Isla Mujeres, etc.).
As for young Sandy, he hit the road after obtaining a college degree in economics. It didn’t take him long to decide that the freedom of travel held greater appeal than a stuffy office crowded with computers and calculators. Particularly after Sandy was introduced to the lifestyle of Trek America, which was luring Britishers on specialized tours of the U.S. Sandy signed on as a guide. Soon the Brits were joined by Europeans, South Americans, Australians and Israelis. And eventually Americans piled aboard the buses to roam the U.S. with the foreigners. The upshot of all this is that Trek America evolved into the grande dame of tour operators for young travelers, both from abroad and the U.S.
Sandy met his wife, a Corsican, on one of the tours. And although he’s climbing the executive ladder with Trek America, he daydreams about quiet moments in Alaska’s Denali National Park and the wilds of the Kenai Peninsula, as well as other pristine spots.
Young vacationers are delivered through the U.S., Canada and Mexico in sleek mini vans. To keep costs down, they pitch tents in campgrounds with showers, grocery stores and laundromats, contributing $30 a week to the food kitty and sharing in the cooking. Occasionally they overnight in a hotel. But mostly passengers recharge their souls in the wilderness of a forest. Or along a peaceful seashore--hiking, biking, riding and sometimes rafting and canoeing on rivers. They pick places tour buses can’t go. Or won’t go. Obscure names pop up. A two-week tour to the Grand Canyon, to Bryce, Arches National Park and Monument Valley figures out to about $540 in the low season/$730 in summer. A total of 35 tours (two to nine weeks) cost vacationers $30/$45 a day.
In the process, foreigners get a new perspective on Americans, becoming acquainted with Small Town, U.S.A. Americans joining them are often high school and college graduates looking to get the kinks out before settling down and facing the real world. People like Sandy who traded a calculator in a small office in Santa Cruz for a window on the world.
Trek America, P.O. Box 1338, Gardena, Calif., 90249. Call (213) 321-0734 or (800) 221-0596, outside Los Angeles.
B&B; With a Beat: Besides providing shelter, Bonni Marie Kinosian teaches her guests to dance. Everything from disco and jazz to ballroom/belly dancing. Kinosian operates a three-story Victorian B&B; in Coronado--across the bridge from downtown San Diego. To set the mood, Kinosian named the 13 guest rooms for dancers and artists, from Baryshnikov and Degas to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Loads of antiques. Stained-glass doors/windows. Oriental rugs. A carved wooden fireplace. Guest rooms are furnished with brass/pre-Civil War sleigh beds. Private baths (two with claw-foot tubs). Besides teaching dancing, Kinosian whips up the breakfasts. Honey cakes and baklava, rolled grape leaves, stuffed zucchini, rice pilaf. Health cereals for those who worry about cholesterol/calories.
Coronado Victorian House, 1000 8th St., Coronado, Calif., 92118. Call (619) 435-2200. Rates start at $175, double occupancy.
On Track: Rail buffs are being wooed by Los Coyotes Travel of Buena Park with a $319, four-night tour to Albuquerque/Santa Fe, N.M. Four departures: April 25, May 23 (Memorial Day weekend), Aug. 29 (Labor Day weekend), Oct. 24. Groups leave Los Angeles Thursdays, return the following Monday. Travel via Amtrak’s Southwest Chief superliner. A welcome dinner and accommodations at the Albuquerque Hilton, a motorcoach excursion to Santa Fe, a side trip to an Indian pueblo/trading post, a shuttle to Albuquerque’s Old Town, transfers, taxes. These are popular tours. Early reservations advised. Details from Los Coyotes Travel, 8350 Los Coyotes Drive, Buena Park, Calif. 90621. Call (800) 448-9566.
Kaui: After falling in love with Kauai years ago, Bob and Marilyn Hepler of Encino vowed to return. Only this time they were determined to put down roots. They write: “We were especially fond of Poipu, and so one day we trudged on foot from one end of the beach to the other until at last we stumbled across the right place--a condo with an unobstructed view of the ocean, the surf crashing nearby and a little cove with sea turtles. We were home! The sunsets from the lanai are magnificent; there’s a sense of peace everywhere.” Still, because the Heplers aren’t retired, they live most of the year on the mainland. As a result, they are sharing their idea of paradise with others. I pass along the details: The condo sleeps six guests (two bedrooms, two baths, a full kitchen, a lanai). Rates $152 (May 1-Dec. 1), or $190 during the high season. Bob and Marilyn Hepler, 16744 Adlon Road, Encino, Calif. 91436.
For other condominiums (car included) on Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Molokai and the Big Island, contact Creative Leisure, 951 Transport Way, Petaluma, Calif. 94954. Call (800) 426-6367.
Boston Replay: Last week I told our readers about Boston’s oldest hotel, the Copley Square. A bargain, I said, at $45 a day for two persons (a full breakfast, free parking). Alas, turns out the rate is $45 per person rather than $45 for two guests . Still, at $90 for a double it’s a bargain in a town where rooms at major hotels cost well over this figure. The $90 is a special rate while the refurbished Copley Square observes its 100th anniversary.
Copley Square Hotel, 47 Huntington Ave. at Copley Place, Boston, Mass. 02116, (800) 225-7062.
Canada--Ruthann and Walt Poindexter, Los Angeles: “Arundel Manor, a delightful B&B;, 980 Arundel Drive, Victoria, B.C. V9A 2C3. Beautiful waterfront setting, lawns, gardens, a cheerful lounge with fireplace, full breakfast. Rates: $70/$85 U.S.”
Wales--Joan Stuart, Woodland Hills: “Nant Ucha is the most charming farm B&B; in Wales. A converted 17th-Century barn. Off the main road. View is wonderful. Very serene. Nant Ucha Farm, Garth Llangollen, Clwyd. LL20 7YH, Wales. Rates:$25/$30 per person per night.”
England--D. Reed, Seal Beach: “An outstanding B&B;, Leasow House, Lauerton Meadows, Broadway, Worcestershire WR12 7NA, England. Perfect base for sightseeing in the Cotswolds. Rates: 36/44 per night.”
England--Helga Fultheim, Long Beach: “Moss Hall Hotel, 10/11 Moss Hall Crescent, Finchley, London N12 8NY. Rates: 13.50 single, 20 double.”
England--Eileen and Bob Hirsch, Van Nuys: “A very desirable B&B; for nonsmokers, Sandalwood House at Back-Ends, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, GL55 6AU. A full English breakfast. Evening snacks. Rate: 15 per person.”
Scotland--Wendy Jenkins: Praise for Muir B&B;, 60 Ferry Road, Edinburgh, Scotland EH4 2TT. Rate: 10 per person, including breakfast.
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