Each month we take you on a journey with one of our Tour Operators thru the experience of one of your peers. Come along with us on the journey.
NOVEMBER 2012 Featured Operator: CTN Travels
“Headin’ to the Hills
With 20+ years bank club director experience under her belt, Val Kelsey, Premier Club Director from D.L. Evans Bank (Burley, ID) could just as well have done all the planning by herself for an 8-day motor coach tour to the Black Hills. However, her years of experience have also taught her that sometimes it is best to leave it to the experts. In doing so she saved herself a lot of time and money. Having worked with Rick Pharr of CTN Travels for almost 10 years and 20+ trips, Val had full confidence having Rick take over all the planning. In fact, after so many years of working together, Rick knows many of Val’s customers personally and knows what they like. Val handed over her ‘wish list’ for the trip and Rick was off and planning!
The itinerary was full but it wasn’t ‘cookie cutter’. “Rick always thinks outside the box, Val shared. “He listens to my wish list and then always expands upon it and makes it even better.
On their journey to South Dakota the group saw many sights including the stunning Grand Tetons and Devil’s Tower before reaching their first South Dakota destination of Deadwood, SD. The group stayed 2 nights at the wonderful Deadwood Gulch Resort. Rick had arranged a special reception for the group upon their arrival and many of the local ‘characters’ were there to greet them, like Wild Bill. “It is a wonderful resort and the hospitality top-notch. Val added, “Not to mention, there is something for everyone. For those that didn’t want to gamble there was a shuttle to go into town or the resort was enough outside the city that you could have peace and quiet if that is what you chose.
As a veteran Tour Operator, Rick has years of experience and a rolodex of contacts to assist him in planning a very unique itinerary. He also is very diligent about working with other Heritage Partners when planning regional tours. In this case, he reached out to Michelle at Deadwood Gulch, Julie in Rapid City and Amanda at Crazy Horse Memorial to make this tour the very best for Val and her club. In fact, whenever Val’s travelers hear that Rick will be the one planning the tour they always get excited and sign up. “They know that Rick always provides the best and they trust him. He always adds the extra special touch and the guides he chooses are always so kind and caring too which make such a huge difference, beamed Val. “My customers appreciate Rick’s caring touch and have absolutely come to love that about him. Val trusts her customers to Rick. She knows that working with him will save her travelers $100’s of dollars and there is no way she could make the same arrangements as a tour operator because she does not have the contacts, network, buying power, and negotiating expertise like Rick and the others do.
One vivid memory for Val was the visit to the Tatanka Museum. Funded by actor Kevin Costner this museum tells the story of the relationship of the Plains Indians and the bison. Val had shared with Rick that one of her travelers was fascinated with bison which is why this stop along with Custer State Park were included on the itinerary. While at the museum, the group was escorted up to the bluff overlooking the valley to be told the story of the buffalo by their Native American host. However, the above mentioned traveler stayed back from the group because she couldn’t walk that far and didn’t want to bother anyone with pushing her wheelchair. When the group returned, the Native American host noticed that the woman had stayed behind and, completely unprompted by anyone, proceeded to push her in her wheelchair up the bluff for a personal presentation. This was her last trip with the club as she died shortly after. “These are the kinds of people that Rick works with. Caring and attentive hosts and guides that go the extra mile to make their adventure memorable, Val shared.
“From the unique venues, excellent food quality and entertainment, to remembering the little extra’s from trip to trip, Rick doesn’t miss a beat, laughed Val. “He remembered that many of my customers like trains and so added that to the itinerary even when I didn’t request it for this particular tour.
The Black Hills area has so much to offer. It is a visually breathtaking and historically rich tour that travelers remember forever. The Badlands/Rapid City area offers Badlands National Park, Chapel Hill, Journey Museum (Host site for the 2013 Peer Group Welcome evening) along with the iconic Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore (Host site of the 2013 Peer Group Closing evening). For Val Kelsey, choosing to offer this destination was as easy as the decision to work with Rick Pharr of CTN Travels to make it one of the most memorable trips for her special club members.