Tours, Travels and Treasures
How to Explore the Jewels of the Chesapeake Bay Region
By Phil Ferrara
It is human nature to crave knowledge, companionship, activity, and fulfillment. Many of us want to expand our intellectual horizons, experience novel and interesting adventures, make new friends and gain a sense of accomplishment in life. If that describes you, read on.
More than a decade ago two inquiring and energetic Annapolis gentlemen, Brad Foote and Ralph Reeder, conspired to fulfill the needs of their many friends. They noticed that new people in their Chesapeake Bay community wanted to socialize and learn about the area’s culture, history and activities. Their vision led to the formation of a monthly tour group that has grown to include more than 50 friends.
Over the last dozen years their tour group has roamed far and wide around the Chesapeake Bay, visiting nearly 200 sites. The venues visited have offered a wide variety of informative and unique day trips. Brad and Ralph say they have emphasized their philosophy of “picking unusual things, the places you wouldn’t normally go unless someone set it up for you.” Their earliest adventures brought the tour group to the Goddard Space Flight Center, Fort McHenry and the Cryptographic Museum. In subsequent years they have journeyed along all points of the compass to such destinations as the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, the Decoy Museum in Havre de Grace and the John Dickinson Plantation in Dover. Tour group members have stood high up on the platforms of the Elkridge Recycle Facility and observed the mechanisms that divide paper, plastic, glass and metal into separate recycling streams. They’ve been seated in the balcony of the Strathmore Hall Music Center and learned about sound propagation and how musicians prepare their instruments for a performance. Brad and Ralph have left no stone unturned in their quest to help us explore the treasures of the Chesapeake Bay region.
Let’s discuss how you might initiate a tour group in your hometown.
First, identify the core group of people who would be interested in participating in tours. They might be a group of friends or neighbors in your community. The group could be all men or all women, or it might be a group of couples. From among this group enlist the cooperation of a good friend to partner with you as a co-leader. This will further simplify the task of planning and organizing tours by spreading the workload. Allow this tour group to expand as time passes, with the current members suggesting other interested persons who would like to join. It will probably grow quickly.
The second major step is the selection of sites to be visited. Based on the membership’s composition, determine the types of places your “tour group” might appreciate.
1. Ideas will come from the tour group’s leader initially, plus from word of mouth and the suggestions of members.
2. Places of interest can be found by reviewing the “events” section of newspapers or magazines or even by collecting brochures from a local visitor center or AAA travel office.
3. Keep a continuing list of new tour ideas for the future whenever they are mentioned to you.
4. Consider the impact of weather and seasonal aspects for every destination when you select it.
5. The potential list of places to visit is virtually limitless, bounded only by the imagination and energy of the group.
Last, let’s discuss the tour group scheduling and meeting organization. An important aspect is to keep it as simple as possible to encourage maximum participation.
1. Determine the frequency with which the group wishes to operate the tours. Monthly is a recommended starting interval.
2. For ease of communication, use e-mail as the primary means for all announcements and schedules.
3. Select a common assembly place in your hometown for all members to gather and consolidate into the minimum number of cars for travel to the tour destination. For simplicity, keep the same assembly point for all future tours. Our group uses a centrally located free parking area just off Route 50.
4. Plan tour destinations two or three months in advance. Select a day of the week that works best for the tour site. Your group might prefer to conduct tours on weekdays to cut down on crowds, or it might choose to hold some on weekends.
5. When calling a tour destination to make plans, arrange for a tour guide if possible. Also identify local restaurants near the tour site for a group lunch about noon or 1 p.m.
6. When making the final e-mail announcement about the planned event to your tour group members, be sure to provide two to three weeks notice and request responses indicating who is attending. Include date, rendezvous time, tour destination, lunch location and estimated return time.
7. When the tour is short, it may be of interest to conduct two tours on that same date with a conveniently located second site.
8. When possible, use the Metro or public transportation when leading tours into a large city. It reduces costs and travel challenges.
Now that you are familiar with the process of forming a “tour group,” call your friends and neighbors and propose the idea of starting one. Invite them to your home for a meeting to plan the details. Share this process with them, and urge them to join you in exploring the treasures of the Chesapeake Bay region.
The author, Phil Ferrara, is an avid hiker and traveler and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org If you would like a list of places visited by the tour group described here, please e-mail him for a copy.