We are so lucky to live in this beautiful country where we are free to roam and explore as we wish. With that in mind, a group of us flew into Billings, Mont. and jumped on a charter bus to go “where the deer and the antelope play.” We headed out via the Beartooth Highway south into Wyoming.

I have always thought there were a lot of switchbacks on the way up to Paradise, but it was nothing compared to the Beartooth. We had an amazing bus driver who was not afraid as we looked over the edge and down thousands of feet. At the summit, we were just over 11,000 feet. The air was bitter cold and thin with heavy wind gusts. We were later to learn that a blizzard was just behind us.

Our first stop on the trip was the Bill Cody Ranch just out of the city of Cody. Here we had a barbecue dinner, rustic cabins built into the woods, horses for trail rides, and the true feeling of a dude ranch.  This was home for two nights as we explored the Wild Bill Cody Museum, saw a western music show and enjoyed a rodeo. Wearing our jeans and t-shirts, we felt right in the swing of things.

Our second stop was in Thermopolis in the Wind River Canyon. It was here that we took a float trip down the river. We were given the choice of a gentle float to see the canyon or a true whitewater experience over the rapids.  A fun time was had by all. At the end of that experience, we stopped off at Star Plunge, one of several hot springs bathing areas. The water temperature is 168 degrees as it comes out of the ground, and so they cool it down to a pleasant 104 to 128 in the pools. What a wonderful end to a day of water fun.

In the morning, we ventured out on the range to the Legend Rock archaeological site to walk a one-third mile loop which let us see 15 numbered petroglyph panels. Some of the carvings were as much as 11,000 years old. A very good brochure gave explanations of what we were seeing. It would be interesting to have had time to study these more in depth.

That afternoon, we reached Casper and spent some time in the National Historic trail Museum.  Here we could follow the pioneers as they converged on Casper and passed over the Platte River. This was the major crossroads of the Western trails. At this point you made your decision to go on the Oregon Trail, the California Trail or the Mormon Trail. Hundreds of thousands of people came through with wagons and horses.  Eventually the railroad came along, but Casper remained the central location.

As we headed further south, we came into Cheyenne, the capitol of Wyoming.  Our first stop was the Terry Bison ranch for bison burgers and a train ride out to visit the herd.  It was feeding time, and the bison were conditioned to these strange people who give them treats. We were reaching over the sides of the train cars and putting treats onto 14-inch tongues that quickly recoiled and then came back for more. These huge animals were docile while we were feeding from above, but we certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be on the ground with them moving around.

The next morning there was a tour of the city, teaching us even more about the history of the old west and how important this area was to the growth of our great nation. We saw the capitol, which is being renovated, and the train station where the first big steam engines brought those who built the railroad and opened up the west, making it much easier for people to migrate further west to the Gold Rush and the end of the Oregon Trail.

The last stop on our journey was Laramie at 7,500 feet elevation. By now, most of us had acclimated to the higher elevations, but others were having some problems breathing, so we kept long walks to a minimum. We did visit the first territorial prison and learned how they housed prisoners. Certainly nothing like the luxury they have today. It would take an entire column to tell you all about that.

Travel and all that we learn from it is one of the best experiences of life.  We are so blessed to be able to do this. Many trips are coming up in the next few months. Sign up now for Treasures of Egypt (May), Iceland, Land of Fire and Ice (July), Alaska cruise on the new Norwegian Bliss (August), Viking River cruise from Prague to Paris and then an add-on to Normandy (September).  Keep in touch with Linda Finch at 253-927-8207 or get on the email list at linda.finch@gmail.com.


A travel group poses for a photo at the National Historic Trails Museum in Casper, Wyo.

There are times when everything seems to be against us and no matter how hard we try to make it all work, it just doesn’t come together. You put in an alarm system to protect your house and still someone finds a way in. You drive carefully, paying attention, and another person, probably on their phone, uses you as a magnet. These things just happen, and there is nothing we can do about it.

That seems to be the case when traveling, as well.  The trip is planned, the bills are paid. Maybe you have even packed the bags, and then you break a hip.

 That just happened to a lovely lady who was taking her entire family of 12 on an Alaska cruise.  Thankfully, she had taken out trip cancellation insurance,

We insure our cars and our homes and even our health, but when it comes to trip cancellation insurance, many never give it a thought. Basic coverage will insure against unexpected illness or injury of you and/or your traveling companion; hospitalization or death of a non-traveling family member; legal obligation such as being called for jury duty or as a witness in a court case; and unforeseen natural disasters either at home or at your destination.  Of course, the details vary with the provider and with each plan, but at least you have a chance of getting back all your pre-paid, non-refundable trip costs.

If you purchase cancellation insurance at the time you make the initial deposit for your trip, it may even cover pre-existing conditions. Perhaps you have been fighting cancer but are now in remission and need to have a wonderful trip just to reward yourself. Take out the insurance at the time of deposit and eliminate the worry of not getting money back if problems show up later on. Keep that positive outlook by making sure you are covered.

There is also insurance you can purchase that will cover you for cancellation for absolutely any reason.  It costs a bit more, but you can cancel because you received a wedding reservation, you learned of a new baby coming into the family, you decided you didn’t like your roommate, or whatever excuse you can make up.  You must insurance 100 percent of your pre-paid, non-refundable trip cost. Cancellation must occur 48-72 hours before departure, depending upon the plan, and benefits may only cover 50 percent-75 percent, depending upon the policy.

It all boils down to giving you the option of booking that trip you are thinking about without worrying about the “what if” that might come up. So think about some of the trips we have planned.  Sign up for the Albuquerque Balloon Festival in October, or take a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi in November.  Look ahead to 2019 and see the Treasures of Egypt, take a riverboat from Prague to Paris and then stay on for another trip to Normandy.  Join me in my desire to visit the Holy Lands.  These things may be in the future, but they do sell out. Book now, take out insurance, and dream about the wonderful events of the future.

For reservations or information, call Linda Finch at 253-927-8207 or get on the e-mail list at linda.finch@gmail.com.


Growing up Catholic (I graduated from Aquinas) means that for all my life I have taken so many things on faith.  Then I entered the Age of Travel.  I toured cathedrals, learned about the Crusades, and began to see it for myself.

My first real eye-opener was on a Mediterranean cruise when we stopped at Ephesus and all of a sudden I was walking in Christ’s footsteps where He wrote to the Ephesians and Patmos, where in a cave John wrote the Apocalypse. Now these things actually meant something to me.

Then I read Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Jesus.” Now those places and stores were jumping off the pages.  My desire to travel to these lands was beginning to grow.

My daughter just returned from a trip to Jerusalem. She has promised me that this is the most life-changing adventure she has ever been on.  I now want more than ever to pursue this. Would you like to come along? Let me know. If there is enough interest, we will put a group together and step back thousands of years to find out some of what makes us who we are and where our beliefs come from.

If this is not for you, then perhaps one of our other trips will be.  There may still be space available on either of the Alaska cruises. The first is on Princess, departing July 1 for a 14-day land and cruise tour.  The second is a seven-day cruise round-trip out of Seattle, departing July 29. On Oct. 7, depart to Albuquerque and the famous Balloon Fiesta, where you see the night sky light up as hundreds of colorful balloons rise high above the crowds.

Look ahead into 2019 and try a Viking River Cruise. We are holding space Sept. 17 out of Prague on an 11-day cruise through Germany ending in Trier and heading to Paris. You may leave the trip there or transfer to another, which is a seven-day cruise out of Paris to Normandy.  These do sell out fast, so don’t wait too long and be left on the shore.

Remember to send an e-mail to linda.finch@gmail.com and ask to be put on the e-mail list to find out about quick day trips. Those are the ones that come up suddenly when the time is right. An e-mail goes out and off we go to see something in the nearby area.

For further information on any scheduled trips or to plan your own, call me (Linda Finch) at 253-927-8207.

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By the end of the year, you will need either an enhanced driver license or a passport in order to board an airplane. This has been coming for some time and has been extended to cover 2018. Keep this in mind when you renew your license, and ask that you receive the enhanced variety.  Having this will also allow you to cross the Canadian border in a car or on a ship (still need a passport to fly across).

While you are at it, you might want to look into TSA-Precheck. This is a nice luxury that mostly allows you to go through screening faster and easier. You don’t have to take off your shoes, take your laptop out, pull out your 3-1-1 liquids, take off your belt or a light jacket. You attach your TSA number to your airline reservation. It is then printed out on your boarding pass and you are allowed into that special lane at security.

It is very easy to get the TSA number, but it takes a bit of maneuvering.  You go online to the TSA website (www.tsa.gov/precheck) and complete the applicable form and schedule a date and time for your in-person interview. Take your passport, birth certificate, enhanced driver license or other government-issued ID and head out for your interview. You may schedule in Fife at the IdentoGo office in the Pacific Plaza (kind of across from BJ’s Bingo) at 4500 Pacific Hwy. E. suite D. They are open Monday-Friday from 8-12 and 12:30-4:30. Cost is $85 for the five-year pass.  You can go there without an appointment, but then you will definitely have to wait. It took me about five minutes before they called my name when I got mine.

Now you are ready to travel so much easier. Look into the trips we have right here in the U.S., such as the four-day coastal cruise on Holland America departing May 1 from San Diego to Vancouver, or the May 25 Collette tour of historical homes in New England, an exploration of Wyoming on a road trip the end of August, or the Albuquerque Balloon Festival on Oct. 7.  We even have space with American Cruise Lines for a Mississippi River cruise on Nov. 11.

There is still room on the July Alaska cruises. We have one July 1 for 14 days which includes a seven-day land tour of Mt. McKinley/Denali and Talkeetna, and another on July 29 which is a seven-day round-trip out of Seattle.

Our latest “trip of a lifetime” is in October 2019 with a nine-day Viking River Cruise from Prague to Paris.  This then hooks up to a seven-day cruise of Normandy.  Reservations become tight on these small boats, so make plans early and join us on these exciting trips.

Join our e-mail list and learn about day trips in and around our area. There is still space available for the tulips on April 19, and plans for into the summer will continue to come out.

For reservations and further information, contact Linda Finch at 253-927-8207 or linda.finch@gmail.com.