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News from the TTA

Westward Ho to Yellowstone Park by Janet Wong

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

Everybatty here? Our tour guide, Italian born, pardon me, Venetian born Sandro has picked up some Jamaican patois after 7 trips with Tsung Tsin. Yes, 54 of us are accounted for as we start on a bus trip to Yellowstone Park which is 1,900 miles away (3,000km). He isn’t wrong either. Our lower extremity will feel like it has doubled in size at the end of the trip.

It’s the journey, not the destination that is most enjoyable. Well, we did have great destinations, but the journey was exceptional due to the friends we travelled with. Paul

Saturday, September 1st we leave TTA at 7 a.m. accompanied by Sandro, our exceptional tour guide, and Blake, who would prove to be a tireless driver. Celina starts us on our journey with a prayer for a safe trip. We are half asleep as we have arrived from all parts of the GTA and beyond, including Lily from Jamaica, Sonja, Pat and Allison from Florida, and Charles from Pennsylvania. We wake up as we arrive at the border crossing at Windsor on our way to our first stop in Chicago. On our return trip we will stay there for 2 nights as Chicago has so much to offer. We hit a slight glitch. We are #4 bus in line and wait 2 ½ hours. The first 2 buses have Chinese passengers with more than likely, Chinese passports. Our turn comes finally. Surprise! We are in and out of Customs in 10 minutes and Charles even gets a welcome home greeting from the officer.

Day 2 - We depart for Sioux Falls, South Dakota after Mass. The long stretches of driving are livened up by Clive and Denise, our entertainment hosts.

I have been on a couple of bus trips with TTA and they have never been boring. There have been karaoke, singalongs, jokes, quizzes, bingo and these trips for the camaraderie, getting to talk to old friends and making new ones. Valerie C.

Mandison plays some great music on his harmonica and ukelele, and Sonja entertains us with her graceful Hawaiian dancing. Sandro gives educational talks along the way on the places we are going to see, and Charles enlightens us with his profound thoughts and ideas. Talk about treats! I think everyone will put on 5 lbs. from the amount of snacks that passes around on the bus for the entire 10 days.

Bert Wong with 'girlfriend' at Wall Drug

​​Day 3 - Dozens of hand-painted signs dot the highway for hundreds of miles from Minnesota to Wall, South Dakota advertising our first attraction, world famous Wall Drug Store which was founded in 1931. A museum, store (a kitschy Honest Ed’s) and cafeteria all in one, it still offers free ice water and has more than 2 million visitors a year. It sits at the edge of the magnificent Badlands.

There are many aspects of this trip that I truly enjoyed beyond my expectations. Travelling across the Badlands of South Dakota and into Wyoming was not only a treat for my eyes, but it only confirmed my belief in my Creator and all His Wonders. Marjorie Y.

The Badlands National Park’s unusual rock formations have lured many travellers over the years. The sharply etched rocks are spectacular against the clear blue sky. The peaks, gullies, and buttes that make up the Badlands landscape are faintly banded in colours of yellow, pink and green. At every twist and turn of the highway we see different formations, and the photographers with us, click merrily away.

Group at base of Mount Rushmore
Valerie Chung with President Ronald Reagan

Not too far away is Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The faces of George Washington, the nation’s first president; Theodore Roosevelt who embodied the vision of America; Thomas Jefferson who drafted the Declaration of Independence; and Abraham Lincoln, “the Great Emancipator” stand 60 feet tall. Built in 1927 and finished 14 years later, Mount Rushmore is a national treasure.

It’s been an incredible journey seeing all the places we have read about. Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse were amazing. Peter

After our visit to Mount Rushmore, we head down the road to Rapid City, known as the City of Presidents. Every intersection of the city has life size statues of a president at each corner. It has statues of 42 presidents. We walk the short blocks to take photos of the more popular ones, and stretch our legs before dinner.

Day 4 - The sound of the telephone woke me up. I am eager to start an exciting day, and look forward to more wonderful experiences and memories and friendship to last a lifetime. Velma

After breakfast we go to the station for our 2 ¼ hour 1880 Steam Train ride. Alas, the Steam Engine was being overhauled so we have to settle for the Diesel Engine. We travel First Class round trip from Hill City to Keystone going through the Black Hills and view abandoned gold mines and the natural scenery. The mining boom began in 1874 when gold was discovered, and this refurbished train ran on the first narrow gauge railroad to haul cargo and the public to several mining camps. Three miles SW of Keystone is Mount Rushmore National Memorial and south of Hill City is the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Chief Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial is awesome, even though it’s not completed. Only the head is finished and it stands 87 feet high compared to the Mount Rushmore presidents, who are each 60 feet high. The sculpture of Oglala Lakota Warrior, Crazy Horse will eventually be 641 feet wide and 563 feet high. It will take another 200 years to complete as the project is privately funded and does not receive any state or federal funding. Chief Henry Standing Bear said it was to let the white man know that the red man has its heroes too.

The Indians valiantly defended their lands. They had reasons that settlers could never understand, without knowing the attachment, the respect to their ancestors. They needed to continue the customs and ways nearest to their hearts. Joan

Group in front of Lady Dignity - South Dakota

On the way to Cody near Yellowstone, we stop for a break and view a beautiful statue of Dignity. It’s a sculpture of an Indigenous woman in Plains style dress receiving a star quilt. It stands 50 feet high and made from stainless steel and overlooks the Missouri River, near Chamberlain, South Dakota. It would be a wonderful sight to see at night, all lit up.

We drive through canyons with the bus hugging the sides of the precipice. The mountains that tower over us are majestic even though they are sharp and gray, unlike our Rocky Mountain range which is green and rounded.

The geological features which we saw on this very long trip were truly spectacular. I had no idea we had such beauty in this land, It truly makes me think of how great God is even though it took him a long time to create all this for us. Monica and Lily.

As we drive along the spectacular landscape and lovely farmland, it makes me wish that I could have been a farmer, living off the land. Better yet, a rancher raising cattle and riding on my horse. This is indeed beautiful country. Mandison

We spend the night in Cody, Wyoming a town named after William Cody aka Buffalo Bill. It’s an Old Western town that celebrates its rich history with daily rodeos during the summer months and museums that make up the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. It’s also the nearest town to the eastern entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

Buffalo crossing at Yellowstone Park

Day 5 - Finally, departure for Yellowstone, the second oldest national park in the world and though not the biggest, still covers 3,468 square miles (8,983 km). Along the route we see 4 black bears picking wild berries at the side of the road, and pass farms with horses and cows. The eastern entrance of the park is 54 miles from Old Faithful, the famous geyser. It’s called Old Faithful, as its eruption is punctual. Every 90 minutes it goes off and times for the eruption is posted on the board.

Old Faithful Geyser

We drive by the 20 mile long Yellowstone Lake and over the Fishing Bridge and spot numerous small geysers. The only wildlife we can see are small groups of bison. Within minutes of our arrival in front of Old Faithful, we spot thermal activity. The jetting grows, stops, and grows again 3 or 4 times until finally it shoots up over a 100 feet in the air, and lasts for 4 minutes. It’s quite a sight, and no postcard or documentary can make up for seeing the real thing. Fantastic!

Our park tour guide takes us on a 3 hour tour to the Lower Geyser Basin where we walk along the Fountain Paint Pot named for the reds, yellow and browns of the mud in the area.

One of 250 waterfalls

There are more geysers shooting up in the air.

Afterward, we visit the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and see the Lower Falls. There isn’t time to view the Upper Falls, but the Lower Falls is something to see as the river thunders more than 300 feet over the canyon walls.

This has been a wonderful experience, the beauty of the land and magnificent ‘Old Faithful’ fills me with awe and I am reminded of the hymn ‘How Great Thou Art’. Never mind the long journey, the sore bums, it has been a wonderful trip, forever etched in my memory. Yvonne

Awesome - it was great and wonderful to see Old Faithful again after 50 years. Still loyal and true. Nature at its best. Jeanette

Clive & Denise Yap Sam, Loraine Lee and Jennifer Sue Ho in front of Old Faithful

We drive back to Cody in time for a dinner and show at the Cody Cattle Company Restaurant. Clive is called up on stage to ring a big triangle (instead of a dinner bell) to announce the start of the buffet line. After we have eaten a homestyle American meal, a surprise birthday cake with lit candles is brought to Clive. Everyone in the restaurant joins in the singing of ‘Happy Birthday’. We enjoy a lively country-western music show. The 3 musicians are top notch and it is great entertainment.

Day 6 - It is time to make the return journey home. We leave Wyoming for Fort Pierre, South Dakota and pass fields of sunflowers, and grain. This is America’s food land. We make our lunch stop at Devil’s Tower National Monument, a monolith which is America’s first national monument. It stands 867 feet high (264 meters) and rises above the surrounding countryside and is a favourite for rock climbers.

Devil's Tower Monolith in Wyoming

I was most impressed by the message behind Mt. Rushmore, Destiny and Crazy Horse. The engineering was truly magnificent. The natural wonders of the Badlands, Yellowstone and Devil’s Tower were not only humbling, but at the same time, inspiring. Charles

Devil’s Tower was truly impressive - like a giant child turned his sand pail upside down. Breath-taking and majestic canyons and mountains. Yellowstone’s geysers, waterfall and gorge were spectacular. Shirley W.

Nature in all it’s beauty and vastness was in full display on this tour. A great experience. Celina

Day 7 - We leave Nature’s grandeur to visit man’s claim to fame. Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota though not the biggest mall in the world (determined by retail square footage), wins by sheer size - 4.2 million square foot. We can shop till we drop!

Anne and Paul Ardell on motorbike

Day 8 - Milwaukee, here we come. We are going to make a stop at the Harley Davidson Museum enroute to Chicago. Even if you are not a motorcycle aficionado, this display of motorcycles is a great exhibit to visit. We get the chance to hop on a bike and take photos, see the gradual evolution throughout the 100 years of the Harley Davidsons’ and take an actual ride on one, if you are daring enough.

Loraine Chin zooming along

We are back in Chicago where our journey began. The Rivers Casino is our stop for dinner, and the gamblers get their chance to give Lady Luck a try. Not naming anyone, a couple of fellow travellers win big but overall, everyone had a good time.

Day 9 - Holy Name Cathedral, one of the largest Roman Catholic diocese in the U.S. is our stop for Mass. It’s also a tourist attraction, and its Gothic Revival architecture is a fine example of Chicago’s fame as a city with great architecture. We get a city tour and see the Daily Plaza with the Flamingo sculpture by Pablo Picasso; the Sears Tower, now the Willis Tower and still the tallest skyscraper in the city; then go to Millenium Park to take a look at the Cloud Gate, a sculpture better known as ‘The Bean’ and take photos of it and ourselves reflected in the stainless steel plates. The nearby Crown Fountain is a video sculpture with 2,000 changing faces.

The famous 'Bean' in Chicago

Loraine and Wally Chin, Denise Yap Sam, Lipton & Shirley Wong and Pat Chin You

Navy Pier is the next stop. It’s Chicago’s No. 1 attraction and has 50 acres of parks, shops, restaurants and exhibition facilities. The 3,300 foot long pier sits on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. We have lunch there and disperse to either go shopping, take a River walk or go on a Chicago Architecture River Cruise. The latter is worth every penny. We are given a 75 minute guided architecture cruise of the historic Chicago River, getting commentary from a recent graduate of the program. Forty distinctive buildings are mentioned including John Hancock Center, Lake Point Tower, the Wrigley Building and Aon Center.

Clive and Denise Yap Sam in front of Trump Tower

Day 10 - It’s the last leg of our 10 day trip. We’ll reach Tsung Tsin by 9 p.m. We say our goodbyes, and wish everyone a safe trip home. Celina says a prayer to thank God for keeping us healthy and giving us a chance to see some of His creations.

I would like to thank each and everyone for making this trip a memorable experience. I will treasure this for a very long time to come. Thanks again for the memories. You all have been so kind and gracious. The group was a great mix of beautiful people. Many thanks to Sandro, Blake, Clive and Denise. Great job! Sybil and Mike

We would like to extend our heartfelt appreciation to Clive and Denise for all the hard work in organizing a wonderful and informative trip. Thanks to Blake for taking us through lots of driving and thanks to Sandro for everything. Trevor and Sadie

Some folks think it’s weird that we were leaving Florida and going to Toronto to do a tour of parts of the USA. This tour has been educational and we are most grateful for the opportunity to see the marvellous wonders of God’s creation, one example is the stark beauty of the Badlands with natural rock formations looking like cathedrals and castles. Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse were monumental sculptures on the sides of mountains. Truly, truly awesome!! Yellowstone National Park is jaw dropping and defies description. We have also learned a lot from the Trivia games, etc. on the bus. This is our first tour with TTA. You are a fun bunch and we look forward to being with you again. The common phrase from our neck of the woods - ‘Muchas gracias’ to Denise and Clive for organizing the trip, and thanks to all who helped to make it a joyful, happy memorable time. Sonja and Pat

Many thanks to Clive and Denise for organizing the trip to awe inspiring beautiful places and most of all to experience the camaraderie of old friends and to meet new friends. For TTA - I am so glad to be part of an organization that helps me to understand and learn more fully about my Hakka heritage. Anne

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