Click this link to find out how you can make your own headlines in 2019.
You never know what kind of unique opportunities might happen on a MindStretch Travel Adventures trip. Here are four examples where we’ve made local headlines during some of our past journeys. Click each photo and check out the caption for each photo to get the back story.
Click this link to find out how you can make your own headlines in 2019.
We’ve always boasted that no day is ever the same on a MTA experience and that is so true! But even when we have a day planned…the unexpected comes up to just make the day even more extraordinary. Case in point: North Carolina Mountains adventure in 2017. We were spending a few hours one day in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and just so happened to arrive at the ranger station at the right time. They were having an all-day round-robin kind of activity program that day and if we participated in enough of the activities we could all (yes, ALL) become Junior National Park Rangers.
And so this photo is of the swearing-in ceremony after our day. All the boys (and adults) 13 years or older earned the title of Not-So-Junior Ranger and I have the patch and certificate to prove it. Being a national park ranger was one of my dream jobs back when I was just starting these travel programs and thanks to being with MTA at the right time…I can check that off!
No telling what extraordinary things will pop up this summer, but we hope you’ll check the website and get started wondering.
Click to check out our 2019 summer programs and remember...there's always the unexpected...
Excuse me, but I don’t get the resemblance!
Ever since the movie, Up, hit the big screen…kids have said I look like that old man in the movie. I don’t get it! There’s no resemblance at all! But the boys in the Colorado Rockies got a big chuckle in July 2017 when we were at Snow Mountain Ranch. A family was walking up the steps to our lodge and some little boy (probably about 4) pointed at me and said something to the effect of, “Look mom, he’s the man in the movie!” Well, our MTA boys just about fell over with laughter—embarrassing that boy’s mom. I’m sure both the little guy and our slightly bigger guys understood exactly.
Just the same, Mr. Fredricksen (Ed Asner) was an admirable character that loved adventure. And he was a kind (slightly elderly) gentleman. I’m honored to have that comparison.
There are plenty of adventures ahead for your own “Russell.” Check out what we have lined up for 2019 by clicking here.
(Just so you know, I added twenty pounds and twenty years to the right-side photo on Photoshop.)
Usually my posts have been from our most recent trips, but it is fun looking back at the MTA archives and glancing at photos from some of our past trips. This first photo was from our Alaska-Canada trip in 2010. Some of the boys actually needed to use this porta-potty we found on some road outside of Juneau and the beginning of a new “group photo” tradition was started. We continued this from time to time and most of the boys thought it was a good gag. The second photo is a bit more recent – Virginia Mountains in 2014.
So that you know, most of our boys are more resourceful than waiting in line for a smelly old porta-potty. You can probably imagine some other options.
Who knows if we’ll post such a picture in 2019, but it might be time? Check out what we have lined up for this coming summer by clicking this link.
There’s a secret reason we have “MindStretch” in our name. Of course we hope the boys will be drawn to the “travel” and “adventure” part of our moniker. However we throw in a little brainwork just because we can. Of course, traveling itself is enlightening and educational but MTA can toss in some real-world educational experiences that are even fun. These two photos represent one of those examples. So that the boys don’t have to raid the hotel vending machines for snack food, we’ll often take them to a supermarket near the beginning of each trip and instruct them that they can only spend “X” amount per person per room. You’d be amazed at how quickly their math skills are put to work when the kids try to figure out how much loot they can get for a set amount of money! They check the prices, they compare name brand to store brand, big size vs. small size, price per ounce, and work together to accomplish their mission. They’re proud of their math (and buying) achievements!
Click to read about our 2019 adventures and just picture your son making these great choices!
This photo is of the MTA staff we had for this past summer’s Virginia trip. I’m no math teacher, but some of these guys are and they would probably tell me that I was using the correct formula for figuring out the average age of a MTA staff member. Including me in my math (I was behind the camera) shows an average age of 54 years old. Actually, we have leader Andy Clack (second from right) for helping get that age down.
And we’re proud of this. Very proud. Because all of those years equal a lot of life experiences and a lot of knowing when to say “no” when a boy asks, “What could go wrong?” Or, instead of “no” we might suggest that we think this through first.
Yet, the boys still have fun – but safety always comes first.
Andy, by the way, was trying to convince us that these things were first generation smart phones. (If you haven’t guessed, they’re speakers at a drive-in movie we went to our first night in Virginia.)
Click to check out just some of the fun we have planned for 2019.
It’s Labor Day and while we certainly don’t put our MTA travelers to any “real” work during our trips, we are happy to celebrate this day. But in this photo you’ll see our motor coach chief mechanic, Carson, giving his first assessment of what’s wrong with our coach when it broke down during last summer’s Virginia trip. Carson, and others, soon had us up and running with a replacement bus and we didn’t miss a thing.
Carson is coming back next summer on our New England adventure and he’ll be happy to know we’ve made arrangements for a coach for that trip. In fact, we were so spoiled with the chauffeur-driven coach that we’ve made arrangements for a motor for both of our trips in 2019.
CLICK this link to check out to learn more about our 2019 adventures.
We’ve been home from our North Carolina Mountains adventure for nearly a week. I’ve spent a lot of this time putting stuff away from that trip and getting things ready for the next one. A special thing I’ve managed to do is take a look several times at all of the trip photos. They can’t help but remind me of the wonderful time we had.
This was an amazingly well behaved and fun-loving group, not that I was expecting anything else. The boys earned several treats thanks to compliments they received. And yes I know I still owe them some of those treats. It was one of the youngest groups we’ve ever had with over half the boys being ten years old. Of course, that means the other half ranged from 11 to nearly 15.
We were busy. It’s amazing how much we found to do not far from home. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the backdrop for several of our adventures. One memorable hike was up to Clingmans Dome where we were encased in clouds and couldn’t see 50 feet in front of us. But who can’t forget how cold it was trying to eat lunch up there before taking the hike. We had had a temperature drop of nearly twenty degrees in just the few minutes drive up the mountain.
Some of the kids saw elk on three different occasions and everyone saw them at twice. Some kids got a glimpse of a coyote. They all saw wild turkey and groundhogs and other assorted creatures including a flock of chickens at the historic farm at the visitor center at GSMNP.
I think even the boys were somewhat moved by the retelling in drama of the life of the Cherokee and their removal along the Trail of Tears at “Unto these Hills.” And the next day we got to visit a living Indian Village and learn even more. Several of our boys even joined in a Native American dance.
We had a few firsts on this trip. One of those was taking the boys into a bank so they could cash their ten or twenty dollar bills for ones (for the vending machines). But for me the most memorable “first” was participating in the Junior National Park Ranger training and being sworn in by a real-life ranger. The “older set” of 13 year olds on up earned their “Not-So-Junior” patch and certificate. And that included me - fulfilling a life-long dream of becoming a national park ranger.
And of course, the boys will long remember the ropes course and zip-line and whitewater rafting at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, the bowling tournament, the horseback trail ride in the Smokies…and more.
If you missed our adventures while they unfolded, you can check out the daily photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mindstretch/albums
And of course, stay tuned for our second trip, which gets underway on July 8.
During my first year of my travel camp program in 1978 I experienced the enjoyment of participating in a National Park ranger-led program for the first time. And it was way back then that I imagined how cool that would be to serve as a National Park Ranger. Well, years passed, decades passed…and it was never going to happen. But then I thought with retirement all but here, perhaps I could be a volunteer “ranger” at a nearby park like the Carl Sandburg Home or Cowpens National Battlefield site.
And now my dream has been fulfilled. Just this past week, when out adventuring with 22 kids in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I had the honor of having the title of “Not-So-Junior Ranger” bestowed upon me by Ranger Savannah and Ranger Mark (no, not this Mark). And I have the certificate and the patch to prove it!
It all happened while the MindStretch Travel Adventures boys were earning their “Junior Park Ranger” certificate and badge that I found out “not-so-junior” people (anyone 13 or over) could also get involved and become “rangers.” And so, there you have it. A life-long dream fulfilled.
It was a gratifying moment when I was on the phone today making lodging arrangements for our North Carolina Mountains adventure for this coming June 18-24. I wanted to stay at the same motel where we stayed on our last visit in 2015. The manager instantly remembered my name, our group, and the kids' incredible behavior. He said he remembered how nice our boys were, how pleasant they were at breakfast, in the lobby, etc. Now that's what I love to hear!
There's still room on this trip for three or four more boys. Check it out.
I never imagined that when I started taking kids on travel trips in 1978 that I would still be taking trips today! It has been a great ride and I'm looking forward to more.