I have yet to see a Geyser, but will soon be teaching multiple families and couples about how they work and at what time the next one will shoot off. What I did experience was the sheer anticipation of waiting 14 days to get handed a piece of paper with a bunch of whacky codes describing my whereabouts this summer. I believe this feeling was a bit like what it would feel like to be thrown in the air by Old Faithful himself, bouncing on some high pressured water that has been bottled up for too long!
An obvious amount of backtracking will be happening in this entry, as I hoped for the past 12 days that I could write an entry, and it never happened. But I’ll start with the inarguably most exciting part of training: My New Leader Schedule!! Yellowstone/Tetons! (see link on side bar to read about the trip!).
On July 10th I will shadow a walking casual inn trip for 6 days, and I will then have my first trip as a trainee doing a multi-sport family inn trip (biking, hiking, rafting, etc..). A long and restful 12 hours later, I’ll be leading my first Inn trip for 6 days, which brings me to the end of July. I have the first two weeks of August off and finish the summer with another Inn trip on the 14th followed by a Chef position with a family multi-sport camping trip. The bison, moose, bear, Tetons, Old Faithful, and I are going to have a spectacular summer together.
Remember my description of the parallel between receiving my summer schedule and a geyser waiting to explode? It’s about to happen all over again on July 1st when all of us eager new leaders log on to our Backroads system and merrily skim our entire September and October Fall schedule. This job is like a bunch of mini Christmases spread out quarterly during the year. I dig it.
I never thought my half sheet paper diploma from Backroads New Leader Training would feel as good as my masters degree, but I think I may have to mat and frame this mini diploma that feels like another bona-fide “Master of Art in Juggling the Same Tasks as a Teacher, but in the Outdoors”. The diploma reads: “Backroads is pleased to announce that after many days of hard work, small scrapes, and unidentifiable bruises, Hanna Brewer has graduated from the Hiring and Training Class of 2010 and is hereby entitled to all the rights and privileges therein, included but not limited to grease-streaked clothing, dirty fingernails, the best co-workers in the world, all-you-can- eat M &Ms, long drives, short sleep sessions and incredible ever changing office views”.
And as quick as a condor swooping through Zion, 19 of us flew away with a first aid kit, a coffee mug, and Backroads luggage tags. It was a bizarre night in the condos with only 8 of us left and the rest already off on planes to their summer destinations. It will feel strangely wonderful returning home and closing up shop for two weeks, unlike some of our friends who were on a plane to Alaska immediately after graduation. By 10 this morning, there were only 3 of us left, cleaning up remaining food and pulling the sheets off the beds. I have bonded with so many of the other trainees and we may not see one another again until the staff ride in the Pyrenees in Spain in October, or maybe even for some years….(this is the antithesis of that Christmas feeling I mentioned above)! But, all tears aside, if the “family” I just got to know is any indicator of hanging out with other Backroads leaders, then I can’t wait to lead with the rest of the bunch all over Wyoming.
Enter drum roll and snapshot of life in Utah. In the past 2 weeks I have:
- Perfected the art of backing up a trailer into a single parking space. Now I need to practice a manual van, so I can be sent to Europe!
- Trayed and Racked 12 bikes on top of a van, and then challenged a mentor leader to do squats with bikes extended in our arms above our heads. Very atypical behavior from me, wouldn’t you say?
- Successfully re-cabled an entire bike so that a guest can have whatever handlebars they want.
- Learned what not to do with my Backroads credit card, but more importantly mastered all the awesome things I can do with it.
- Prepared and delivered a few different talks that happen through out your week with a guest. Orientation talks about the area on the first night (most important way to “sell the trip” for 10 minutes, logistic talks about how the week will run with hotels or camping, interpretive talks about something in the area (**be ready for a summary of my lobster talk below), safety talks, route talks, and bike demos.
- Memorized about a gazillion new acronyms, as the company thrives on communication in the briefest of forms. I am also still confusing all my Boston Public Schools log-in numbers for my new 7 digit codes and passwords for Backroads.
- Tried to sleep 8 hours a night but it all averaged out to about 5 or 6 per night (I’m mildly obsessed with Emergen-C).
- Booked a $380 dollar one way ticket to Jackson, WY from Boston…I’m still getting over this value.
- Learned how to respond to sticky situations with guests and by August I’ll know that customer service will forever be imbedded in my body language and choice of words.
- Camped for 5 nights in Bryce and Zion National Park, climbed Angel’s landing with the assistance of chains to hold on to, showered in a creek all week, was up 2 hours before guests (and also before the sun), preparing some very slowwww drip coffee…clear emphasis on the “slow”, prepared a gourmet picnic lunch at 7 am, became best friends with saran wrap and aluminum foil, only to shove those beautifully garnished platters into coolers that would follow guests to the lunch spot on the hiking/biking route, biked in 25 mph head winds for 17 miles and I think the dirt is still washing its way out of my skin, slept outside every single night under the stars, even though 19 tents were pitched (Bryce = chilly nights! Zion = perfect star gazing weather), cooked with a dutch oven, learned how to take down those 19 tents at 6 in the morning after margarita night lasted until midnight.
- Shopped in a supermarket to feed 30 people for a week, which includes shutting down two check-out lanes with about 16 overflowing shopping carts, and then organized those goods into 11 coolers. No big deal, right? No organization skills needed for this job.
- Observed the ins and outs of the company and how “honest, open, and direct” it really is amongst its employees. Additionally, how flexibility for our guests is a big part of what makes us the #1 active travel company (well, besides stellar leaders).
- Taught Ed, a 50 something year old from WY, how to use all functions of Facebook. He is now addicted. Ed used to own/work at a hotel in Yellowstone that Backroads guests stayed at and he loved interacting with them and the company so much so that he left the job to join backroads! He is the only “grown up” and no one would’ve known it the last 2 weeks.
- Mastered over 25 games to play on family camping trips, not one of which I thought was cheesy, ie: getting an Oreo from your forehead to your mouth, a game involving pantyhose on your head, memory games, action games, and the list goes on….I can’t wait to play them with actual kids!
- Saw a T-shirt at a rural rest stop that read, “Lips that touch liquor will never touch mine” (no further commentary needed).
- Become googley-eyed at the plethora of discounted shopping I can do on the internet at some of the best outdoor sporting companies in the world! (still waiting for LuLu Lemon to be added to this…Ilsa, any strings you can pull?)
- Realized this will be the first summer in 6 years that I have not bought a plane ticket to an international destination, and in contrast, I will finally get to know my own country, really, really, well. This fact was validated when I found myself having to locate on a Southwest cocktail napkin where I was actually flying into for training and where I will in fact be leading this summer. (Grandfather Fortin, I know that must not make you very proud…but I could still name all the capitals!)
- Figured out the one thing I will not miss: having the driest, crustiest nose possible due to the arid climate….that, and being landlocked, oo! and watered down beers.
- Figure out the one thing I will miss: the dry heat vs. the humidity (but I’ll take that humidity for some East Coast ocean any day!)
I’ve now been writing this list between Salt Lake City and Denver, heading to Boston soon, and I think it could go on for some pages…I’ll continue in a future post. All in all, I am so excited to apply all this knowledge out in the field, but first I have 40 final exams to grade in Boston tomorrow and a classroom to clean up. Cue circus music: the juggling act carries on, sans intermission or peanuts.
**2 minute Lobster talk: I wanted to highlight a few things here, as I did have some great ideas from my dad and Shannon to get this talk rolling. I had a very fun (albeit nerve racking) time delivering it to 20 peers, and 7 leaders rampantly note taking. The following is the essence of an “interpretive talk” ie: insert when everyone is taking a break on the trail and getting water, or there’s lag time waiting for a ferry, cayaks, etc… So here goes (but picture it less scripted and contrived than this):
“Welcome to Camden and Rockland Maine! Tonight’s Menu: Red Lobster! We’re talking about the juiciest, sweetest, red Maine Lobster, the kind you simply steam for 12 minutes and dip in melted butter on one side and some white vinegar on the side. We are about to experience one of the most epic events in the State of Maine, “Lobstah Fest!” (cue a Maine accent and crazy face by me). We are about to take part in eating 20,000 pounds of red Maine Lobster! (cue options for those who may not even like lobster), I encourage you to sign up for the lobster race–the goal being to walk across as many partially submerged lobster crates as possible before falling into the water. What do you think the record is? (wait for someone to say a very low answer)…..4,501!!
As much fun as lobstah fest is, being from New England, I want you all to be able to talk the lobster talk tonight with the locals, so I am going to leave you with two main facts: # 1: Less than 100 years ago, lobster was considered the poor man’s food, being served to inmates all over in prison. # 2: “Lobster wars” is in fact a real term! It is especially used in the state of Maine, last summer when a long time lobsterman pull out a gun and shot another boater in the neck (they even knew each other!), all because the boater was a little to close to the man’s traps off the coast of Matinicus island last summer. Now, go make like a local and have a lobstah and a beeah, deah!”