Visit to learn more about the Space Education Centers in Utah. Visit and for information on joining a simulator based school space and science club.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

On the Road With Bill Schuler

Hello Troops,
While all many of us are stuck at home during this Spring Break Bill Schuler, our Space Center colleague, is on the road hunting down new destinations for his other job, a tour director for West Tours. This is Bill's first report 'On the Road'. Written just to make the rest of us jealous I'm sure.
Mr. Williamson
Greetings Space Center Staff, Volunteers and Fans.

I am writing you from beautiful Woodlawn Washington. Doesn’t that sound like a private mental institution? “Sorry Bill isn’t available, he’s resting at Woodland.” Truth is I am on the road for spring break. I generally do this every spring break. I pick a direction and go. I love snooping out new places. One year I even ended up in Mr. Williamson’s home town, Rapid City, South Dakota. This helped me understand Vic much better. Any town with concrete dinosaurs, 7 story churches, the worlds largest drug store, and statues of dead presidents peppered through its downtown streets is going to have a profound impact on any young intellect residing there.

Well I’m not in South Dakota, This year I decided to come up to the Northwest then drive down the coast. This isn’t entirely for pleasure. Being a Tour Director in the summer, the better acquainted I am in an area the more valuable I am to the company employing me. As I am being sent to run more tours of the Northwest and Coast It is in my best interest to better acquaint myself with the area. I took off about noon on Friday and made it as far as the Idaho, Washington boarder before calling it a night. I wanted to get closer to Portland that first night but I ran into 2 blizzards on the way. Fortunately I have four wheel drive and new tires, so chains did not come into the picture.

Next day I cruised through the Columbia River Gorge, which is very beautiful. Among other things I stopped at Vista House on the Gorge’s scenic highway. It gives you a fabulous view of the Columbia River Gorge. That however, was not its intended purpose, it was a fringe benefit. In reality it was at the time, the most expensive bathroom ever built. It was built in 1918 for the ladies who complained of the primitive nature of the comfort stations on the then new road. I also drove the Mount Hood Loop, a very scenic road here in Oregon, when you are not driving through a blizzard. I even stopped at a famous ski lodge that had snow up to the third story window. There should be a photo of the lodge with this post. Can anyone tell me what 1980s movie was filmed here, exteriors only.

The next day I spent in Portland, mapping out a more definitive tour of that city than I have done in the past. Portland is a beautiful city, if you don’t happen to need to drive through it. To put it mildly, this town is very motorcoach unfriendly. Imagine yourself as the Flight Officer aboard the Voyager and you must navigate through an asteroid field, except when you do it you are hung upside down by your ankles, blindfolded, hands crossed behind your back and tied, wearing headphones playing Nirvana at 300 decibels.

That done I headed for Seattle. This town I know well because I used to spend the summers up here while I was working for Holland America Line doing tours of Alaska and the Canadian Rockies. I hadn’t been there in ten years so I needed to refamiurize myself with the area. It can be rather grueling to map out a tour route cold turkey, I knew where all of the important sites where but the ballet of getting from point A to point B is another story. I was not looking forward to this day.

Then a bit of serendipity came in. While inspecting the hotel my company uses, I hear what sounds like a world War II tank rumbling down the road. I also hear strains of “Saturday Night Fever. Over this I hear very enthusiastic, nearly hyperactive commentary. I turn and behold a 1944 war surplus General Motors Amphibious DUK. Once used to deliver troops and supplies to World War II beachheads. As it races past propelled by some demented soul, I read the side of the vehicle, “Duck Tours!”

I think, Why not! I grab my faithful iPhone and type in duck tours on google maps. A moment later I see they are based near the Space Needle about 1.2 miles from my current location. The weather this morning was clear and warm so I went for it. With clipboard, paper and pen, I was able to rough out a suitable tour of the city. The tour guide had a very enthusiastic, bordering on silly, delivery but it worked fine for the 1.5 hour tour. I would never get away with that kind of frantic delivery on a 7 to 10 day tour. At the end of 2 days the group would mutiny, skin me alive and tack my skin on the side of the motorcoach as a warning to all other tour directors.

Tomorrow I head to the coast, the part of the trip I am really looking forward to. I am done with all the big cities, now its time to putter along, see the sites, hike and such. Looks like it will be wet and cool. That’s OK I grew up on the California Coast where fog is elevated to a religion. With sites like the Tillimook Cheese Factory, Blimp Hanger Museum, Sea Lion Caves, Worlds 2nd shortest river and Trees of Mystery, I won’t let a little rain get in the way.

So much for life on the road.


The First Starbucks

Seattle Monorail

The Ballard Locks

The Mystery Lodge

Reporting From the Road

Bill Schuler
Post a Comment