And then there was Robin
For the last five years I have struggled to make Historic Tours of Texas into a business. My tax accountant informed me, every year as tax day approached, that my efforts smacked of whimsy, a pleasant hobby that was losing me money on a tour-by-tour basis. It was, of course, equally pleasant to get money back from the IRS for my failures, but that was not my intent. But how could I possibly ask my friends to pay for the tours?
It was a party, after all.
My father, born and raised to be hospitable, shared the same ethos with his children, or at least with me. Glad-handing, whether one had the money to share or not, was not only acceptable but expected. I can remember grand parties where dozens of friends and neighbors arrived to celebrate some occasion or another, always Halloween, since my birthday, and later my brother’s birthdays, were in October. The problem, from my mother’s viewpoint, was the lack of funds to carry it off. But it was always fun, and paying the piper would come later. Maybe.
So, how did I come to start running tours? I’ve been taking students on tours for years. I believe it was back in the 1970’s, when I first started teaching, that I took two busloads of high school students to St. Augustine in Florida. Of course, the boys found a way to buy beer and sneak it on the bus. The small, slender, young female intern on the second bus had trouble keeping the very large, cheerfully drunk football players in line. But it was a great experience, and one none of us will ever forget it. Neither did the principal.
And then there was the time we (my newly acquired husband Barry and I) took a dozen students to Europe. It was part of a Study Abroad program, so there were other students, other teachers, and nurses as part of the group. Since the students were teenagers, it wasn’t surprising to have one jump out of a second-floor window. Not to commit suicide, mind you. He had accidentally locked himself in his room and was too embarrassed to call for help. It only resulted in a sprained ankle and lots more embarrassment. Another girl, perhaps desperate to get away from home, got engaged in every one of the six countries we visited. Even got a diamond (very small) in Italy but we got her back home again, sans husband.
So taking people to places to see unusual things is in my blood. Upon retiring from 40 years of teaching history, and taking students on tours, it was perhaps inevitable that I would start taking friends to places like the San Antonio missions, or to the Copper Canyon to see Western Mexico. But how to turn it into a business?
I’ve met several friends who also tour, in particular the many members of the Houston and San AntonioTour Guides Associations. None were interested in joining me. Several had their own tour agencies. Others worked for large international companies. Still others did tours in the National Parks or in Washington DC or New York. Creating a whole new business was of no interest to them whatsoever.
In 2019, I was fortunate to find a 15-passenger party bus, bought for me by my husband. Very large, very black, very spacious, it had limousine-style seating, lights in the ceiling, a sound system, a stripper pole, and a number of problems. It was, after all, 20 years old. Still, it worked for taking people on tours. It was so much more comfortable than bench seating where a sore neck and a twisted back were inevitable from trying to talk to people behind you. And my 70+ church guests enjoyed the stripper pole – at least the idea of it which always brought a laugh!
With only me to do it all, I had to lecture while driving 70 miles an hour and try to negotiate into and out of tight parking areas. It was difficult but the tours got more regular and more popular. But who could I find that could drive so I could share all the exciting stories of the places we visited?
Just as Covid struck, I lost the services of my dear friend Jackye when her daughter spirited her off to Calvert. She had made muffins for us on every trip. Jackye, although she was 80+, loved going with me and enjoyed playing hostess to the riders on the van. Without her, I was left without tours and without help.
And then SHE came, bearing gifts.
Robin Logan, California born and bred, comes from a long line of attorneys but has a medical bent and a love of cooking. For the last twenty years, she has worked as an EMT driving an ambulance. Notice the “driving.” When she got Covid and had to quit driving the ambulance, she turned to her other love, cooking.
I ran into her at one of the wineries where she was offering to prepare foods that would pair nicely with different wines. The wineries weren’t interested. I, on the other hand, appreciated her little Snack bags. The little bags would take the place of the muffins. And on top of that, they were tremendously creative.
When she came in to the office to chat, unlike my tour-guiding friends, she saw the opportunities that my little tour business had to offer. She was willing to come aboard and help create a real business.
Robin is a natural born saleswoman. Not that she was wasted as an EMT but when it came time to open up the tours again, post Covid, Robin has taken off like a rocket.
At half my age, she is young enough to know how to handle Social Media. Our Historic Tours are now popping up on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. She loves to hunch over the calculator, punching away, figuring profits and percentages. A stranger is just a friend she hasn’t sold a tour to, YET. But friends don’t get unprofitable bargains. They pay up like everyone else. No glad-handing here! She sells people on tours wherever she goes.
And she can drive—day or night, tours, wedding parties, bar-hopping. She can do it all. I do the talking. She does the driving.
What will happen as people begin getting out of their lock-downs? Will they sign up for our tours? The time is right. The bus is newly overhauled. The road beckons. And Robin and I are ready to roll. So, it's time to give us a call! Check out the website - it's finished- finally, thanks to the new Factotum Robin Logan.
Questions & Comments?