How to enjoy New York City

By Joe Rector

It only took until now for me to finally reach New York City. I’ve said for years that I wanted to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and the window decorations at Macy’s. I learned plenty from this first and last trip to “the Big Apple.” They all deal with making such a trip a huge success.

The first thing to do is pick a good company for a bus tour. Amy found a company named Common Sense Tours. Their prices are fair, and the variety is large enough to keep a traveler on the move year-round. Common Sense Tours keeps in mind customers that aren’t rich. They plan trips with clean rooms, good food, and plenty of time to see things.

The next consideration is the guide(s). For our adventure, Liz Mitchell and Debbie Goff led the way. Both women had years of experience on tours, some of their own making and some with the company. The hosts like people, a vital point that is often overlooked. During our jaunt to NYC, Debbie kept us entertained with stories and jokes. She passed out snacks as we traveled on the bus. One rule during the trip was that no one should use the bathroom on the bus because what anyone left in there traveled with us the entire time. Instead, the bus pulled in places every couple of hours so that we old folks could take care of failing parts.

At one place we were supposed to eat at a certain time, but a party was going on in the front room, and we couldn’t get to our seats. Liz finally had waited long enough and scolded the manager. The party broke up, and we were allowed in. Guides like Liz and Debbie are worth their weight in gold when it comes to a successful trip. Thanks for taking care of us.

A good bus driver is also essential. Teresa was ours. This woman was no taller than five feet, but she handled a tour bus as if it were a toy. She made U-turns to move us onto the right roads, kept a steady hand to guide the bus during downpours of rain, and she even parallel parked the monstrous vehicle, something most of the passengers struggle with in cars. Teresa pulled the bus down one street that was narrow. Cars were parked on one side and outdoor eating sheds were on the other. With literally inches to spare on either side, Teresa maneuvered that bus without touching anything. Folks along the sidewalk gave her an ovation for her tremendous skills, as did passengers.

Adventures are a necessary part of a trip, and we had some. Amy and I walked across the city to visit Central Park. We hired a bike-powered rickshaw to cover the entire park and then return us to Time Square. At that place, a street show was just beginning. Our guide Debbie was picked to participate as one acrobat jumped over a line of folks. After more stunts and break-dancing, the performers passed their bags for donations. My wife put a bill in, and the music stopped. A new song played, and the leader came dancing toward her. Then, this reserved woman began dancing as well as I stood and watched in total shock.

The most important ingredient for a successful tour is the group. Ours turned out to be wonderful. Most were from the Cookeville area, and before long, Amy was figuring out how she might know some of them through direct contact or through knowing their family members. Everyone was relaxed and ready to have a good time. By the end of each day, we wanted to eat a meal and return to our motel rooms in New Jersey for an early turn-in.

Amy and I are looking at the list of trips offered next year. We’ll choose one with Common Sense Travel and hope either Liz or Debbie is in charge again. Anyone who is like me will want to give a bus tour a try. Debbie would tell first-timers all they need to do is get on the bus and leave the rest to us.

My next column will be about a special man who was on the trip. Anyone interested in a bit more information about our travels can visit