In This Issue:

FEATURED TRIP: West Coast Swing
CRUISE OF THE MONTH: Summer Holiday with the Queen
JOURNEY OF THE MONTH: Golden Gate Holiday
BEHIND THE SCENES: Tour Manager Conrad Tausend
THE WAY IT WAS: The Era of the VistaDome
PHOTO OF THE MONTH: New Year's at the Grand Canyon
VIDEO OF THE MONTH: Yellowstone from the Air
DID YOU KNOW? A Sound for the Ages
A TASTE FOR TRAVEL: Pickled Watermelon Rind
SHIP OF THE MONTH: Holland America’s Veendam
TRAIN OF THE MONTH: The Empire Builder
TRAVEL TIPS: Packing Light and Smart
NATIONAL PARK TRIVIA:The Yellowstone Park Transportation Company
IN YOUR OWN WORDS: Guests Speak Up




FREE Deluxe Hotel Night Before or After ANY 2015 Departure*


Featured Trip

West Coast Swing

Beginning at just $2,795 per person, this 14-day trip is an exciting combination of rail and ocean liner travel both up and down the Pacific Coast and inland into the Canadian Rockies. Ride the Coast Starlight, the Talgo train, the Rocky Mountaineer Streamliner train and sail Princess Cruises lovely Coral Princess while visiting Seattle, Vancouver, Whistler, Astoria, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Offered one-time only on September 10, 2015, this trip will sell quickly so call us at 1-800-323-5893 or click here for more details.



The Coast Starlight flies along the waves.

Back in 1939 Canadian Pacific put out a wonderful little brochure appropriately titled “Glorious British Columbia” and we’ve always been captivated by that era and that description. This heading summarizes perfectly our view of this beautiful region and next fall, we have a truly glorious holiday that features train travel, an overnight stay in Seattle, two full nights in lovely Vancouver at the Sheraton Wall Centre, sightseeing including a visit to Queen Elizabeth Park, two nights in the alpine mountain resort of Whistler and a visit to Victoria, British Columbia. Nicest of all, our guests will travel from Vancouver to Whistler over the British Columbia Railway aboard the superb Rocky Mountaineer passenger train - the first train over this route in many years - enjoying a journey of stunning beauty past Howe Sound and Britannia Falls in comfort with big-window coaches, an open-air observation platform, and even traditional English afternoon tea aboard. Naturally, there’s also a cruise involved as well as a number of special dinners and events as well.

This popular uncommon journey begins with a scenic train ride up the California coast to Seattle (you can board from any point in California along the route) aboard the classic Coast Starlight train which feels as if you are flying above the beach on several segments. Once in Seattle, our guests stay at the modern Westin Hotel in the heart of the city with the Emerald City’s waterfront, ferries, aquarium and Pike Place Market just a short stroll away. The next day it’s time to travel north to Vancouver along the stunning scenery of Puget Sound aboard the superb Talgo train where guests enjoy two nights at the Sheraton Wall Centre along with a welcome dinner and sightseeing. After soaking in local landmarks like Grouse Mountain, Stanley Park adjacent to downtown and the charm of Granville Island’s boutiques, art galleries and fresh markets, guests aboard the Rocky Mountaineer bound for Whistler along a stretch of track universally praised as being among the most beautiful in the world.

The classic elegance and sleek lines of the Coral Princess. Photo courtesy of STX France.

With two full days in Whistler, guests have plenty of time to enjoy the European-style cafes, intriguing shops, biking or four of Canada's top-rated golf courses. Saving the best for last, our guests then board Princess Cruises’ sleek Coral Princess at Vancouver for a rare Pacific Coastal voyage south to Los Angeles. This is a wonderful and unique way to sample ocean travel, with daytime stops in Victoria, British Columbia; a return visit to Seattle, Washington; and port calls in quaint Astoria, Oregon, and vibrant San Francisco en route. Onboard, guests can choose to do it all or nothing at all. Of course, we host a very special evening in the elegant steakhouse onboard during our voyage south to Los Angeles.


Summer Holiday with the Queen

Beginning at just $1,995 per person, this 7-day trip departing New York on July 29, 2015 is an ocean lover’s dream and includes the legendary Queen Mary 2, train travel and fabulous Waldorf Astoria.
Call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.

The rare chance to experience this amazing ocean liner on a shorter cruise.

• FREE round-trip train travel from any city east of St. Louis/Omaha/St. Paul to New York City.
• Guests may schedule their travels to allow more time in New York before or after the voyage.
• Special Bon Voyage luncheon on sailing day along with transfer to the pier.
• 6-day cruise sailing round-trip from New York City with port calls in Halifax and Boston.
• All meals & entertainment aboard the ship are included.
• A professional Uncommon Journeys tour host aboard Queen Mary 2 with special events and a cocktail party exclusively for Uncommon Journeys guests.
• Overnight hotel stay in New York City the evening before sailing at the incomparable Waldorf-Astoria, including all taxes & luggage handling from the hotel to the ship.
• Complimentary transfer from the pier to Penn Station after the voyage.

Golden Gate Holiday

Beginning at just $1,995 per person, this 7-day trip on a private Streamliner train begins in Salt lake City on June 14 and August 9, 2015 and features sightseeing in Salt Lake City, passage on the original Transcontinental Railroad, winery visits in Napa, sightseeing in Sausalito and all two nights in the storied Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Call us at 1-800-323-5893 or click here for more details.

The Golden Gate Bridge is just the beginning of this amazing journey.


•Overnight stay in Salt Lake City at the Four-Diamond rated Little America Hotel, one of our favorite hotels in the American West. Since we do not board our train until late evening on day two, for maximum convenience, we have arranged for our guests to occupy their luxury accommodations until late evening. A Salt Lake City tour is also included as is breakfast and a special welcome dinner.
• Travel from Salt Lake City to the San Francisco Bay Area aboard our own 1940s era Vintage Streamliner train, the Great Western Limited with all meals, wines & spirits while aboard. We have our own chef and stewards and this is a civilized way to travel with fine dining, fresh flowers and elegant surroundings. All guests enjoy sleeping car accommodations with all rooms having in-room facilities. Our route takes us over the original Transcontinental Railroad, the storied Overland Route past Donner Lake and through the majestic High Sierras in daylight.
• Two-night stay in the lovely Napa Valley at the luxurious River Terrace Inn overlooking the Napa River in downtown Napa with deluxe accommodations and breakfast daily. Also included is a luncheon journey aboard the famed Napa Valley Wine Train that includes a winery visit and tasting.
• Sightseeing tour to Sausalito with plenty of time to enjoy this picturesque town with its stunning view of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.
• Two-night luxury hotel stay in San Francisco at the storied Palace Hotel, the grandest and most historic of all of San Francisco's grand hotels, with plenty of free time to enjoy Everybody’s Favorite City. We have included a City Sightseeing Tour and special Farewell Dinner as well.

Tour Manager Conrad Tausend

Nobody loves his job more than Conrad.

People love our trains, they love our ocean liners, and they love our national parks, historic hotels, unique sightseeing tours, special dinners and exclusive events. But they go positively crazy over our staff, especially our Tour Managers. A guest favorite for many years, Conrad Tausend epitomizes that special kind of person who loves what he does and wants you t have just as much fun as he’s having on every trip he guides. Born in Milwaukee, which he describes as “your basic slice of the Midwest with great family values and a distinct change of seasons” he returned to live in his hometown 15 years ago after an equal amount of time traveling. Discoveries can’t be made by reading a book and looking at pictures, he tells us.

His love of travel began when he was just a child and his Mom and Dad took him on vacations utilizing everything from an old Nash Rambler station wagon to an intercontinental Pan Am Boeing 707. As a seven-year old, Conrad dreamed of being an astronaut but eventually settled for seeing the world from a land-based perspective. As he grew older, he always wanted to escort tours but never pursued that new dream until 2009 when he saw an ad for Uncommon Journeys and was lured in by the phrase “every tour escorted by a professional tour manager to handle all the details” and thought that description was a perfect match. He sent a “polite but assertive cover letter” and was hired immediately after his Chicago interview. Three months later he was in training and to date has escorted well over 75 tours. He regularly escorts the most tours of any staff member because he’s so eager to do it and always makes himself available for each new adventure.

He’s committed to making certain the itineraries come to live that expectations are met and then exceeded, and imparting narrative that’s accurate and complete while mixing in folklore and humor. His favorite destinations are the national parks in the United States but he still sometimes has to remind himself to stop and smell the roses. One time he notes that he was “walking briskly along the south rim of the Grand Canyon on my way to accomplish something simple having to do with guest service and caught myself saying ‘Conrad, look where you are!’"

As you can imagine, in his travels he’s met many interesting and inspiring people. One of the most memorable was a retired Korean War Major in the U.S. Marine Corps, “who told me that he would have been happy to have me in his command back when. I respectfully responded that we could have been effective Co-Commanders for the benefit of all!”

A film enthusiast who always takes the opportunity to see discount matinees in un-crowded theaters during the week, he admits that by the time the Oscars roll around in March, he’s “seen them all.” His love for life explains his personal motto” “Every Day is Saturday!” He infuses every trip he escorts with the same enthusiasm which is one of many reasons our guests specifically book trip for which he is the assigned Tour Manager.

The Era of the VistaDome




Historians often argue over the heyday of the railroads. Those who focus primarily on the freight aspect argue that the heyday ran from the 1870s to the 1940s. On the passenger side, most gravitate toward the 1940s and 1950s and the increased introduction of sleek Streamliner rail cars, some billed as Vista-Domes thanks to their curved glass roofs that allowed for panoramic views. We fall in the category that favors those steel and glass cathedrals of 60 years ago. There may be something special about a train; but there’s something extraordinary about a Vista-Dome.

If you visit the Uncommon Journeys website, you’ll see how we characterize travel in one of the astounding railcars that have been lovingly restored and impeccably maintained and are now running as part of our private Great Western Limited, reserved just for Uncommon Journeys’ guests. However, we find the best possible descriptions are not our own. Old advertisements touting the joys of travel in a Vista-Dome are fun to read for both their linguistic stylings and the accurate verbal picture they paint. Though the railroads that first operated Vista-Domes no longer do so, Uncommon Journeys is proud to offer our guests amazing Pullman accommodations and Vista-Dome comfort on our private Great Western Limited train. You’ll never forget your first Vista-Dome! 

New Year’s at the Grand Canyon

The serenity of a snow-dusted canyon.


Perhaps the only thing more inspiring than the Grand Canyon is the Grand Canyon in December with a light dusting of snow that brings out the red and orange colors of the plateaus and canyon walls. While we have plenty of trips that visit the Grand Canyon this year, only one features the solitude of winter on the South Rim with our 8-day New Year’s at the Grand Canyon trip departing December 29, 2014.

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Yellowstone from the Air

The World From Above documentary series takes on the expansive landscape of Yellowstone National Park, one of the destinations voted by Uncommon Journeys guests as their most favorite. In this superb 25-minute video, you’ll get a new perspective on the popular features that have made Yellowstone, America’s first national park, a true national treasure.

A Sound for the Ages

Two eras meet in the sound of the Queen Mary 2.

The Queen Mary 2 carries on the legacy of the original 1936-built Queen Mary, now a hotel and attraction in Long Beach, CA. The new ship incorporates the very same ship’s horns that once gave the Queen Mary its mighty roar. Today, you can travel on the Queen Mary 2 and be reminded of the crossings of the 1930s on the ship’s immortal namesake every time the horn is sounded.

How Posh Came to Be

The P&O liner Orcades in Egypt in the 1950s. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Travel on P&O ships before the era of air-conditioning led to the invention of the word “posh.” The coolest cabins were those on the shady side of the ship which, on the run eastward to India was the port (left) side and westward back home to England was the starboard (right) side. The most sought after tickets were stamped with the abbreviation P.O.S.H.



“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.”
Robert Louis Stevenson

Pickled Watermelon Rind

Begin with juicy fresh watermelons for the ultimate Pickled Watermelon Rind.
Photo courtesy of  Steve Evans/Wikipedia Commons.

A classic dish once served on trains during the Golden Age of travel, pickled watermelon rinds have fallen off the radar screen these days. However, our private Streamliner train, the Great Western Limited, is proud to served this traditional favorite in our Vista-Dome dining car. It might sound a bit odd, but pickled watermelon rinds are the king of the condiments. Just try this recipe from David Bonom as featured in the August 2007 issue of Cooking Light magazine. Be sure to visit for more fantastic side dishes.

1 (6-pound) watermelon
6 cups water
2 tablespoons salt, divided
1 teaspoon pickling spice
3 (1/4-inch) slices fresh ginger
2 whole cloves
2 whole allspice
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup white vinegar

1. Carefully remove outer green layer from watermelon rind using a vegetable peeler. Reserve remaining watermelon for another use. Cut rind into 1/2-inch pieces. Bring 6 cups water and 5 teaspoons salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add rind to pan. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain rind. Place in a large bowl.
2. Place pickling spice, ginger, cloves, allspice, and cinnamon on a double layer of cheesecloth. Gather edges of cheesecloth together; tie securely. Combine cheesecloth bag, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, sugar, and vinegar in saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour hot vinegar mixture over rind. Cool to room temperature. Cover and chill 12 hours.
3. Strain rind mixture through a sieve over a saucepan; return solids to bowl. Bring liquid to a boil; carefully pour over solids. Chill at least 8 hours before serving.

Note: A six-pound watermelon yields about two pounds of rind. Keep rind fully submerged in pickling liquid for best results, and leave the cheesecloth bag of spices in with the pickled rind so the flavor intensifies with time. Refrigerate for up to two weeks.


Holland America’s Veendam

Holland America’s elegant Veendam has set the standard for mid-size ships.

Built in 1996, Holland America’s classic Veendam is the fourth ship in the Statendam-class ships which launched a new era for this venerable 140-year old company. The “S-class,” as they are known, signaled an era of expansion for Holland America that continues to this day. However, these ships were designed to forgo many of the flashy features of contemporary ships in favor of a cozy, welcoming atmosphere characterized by a modest but stunning three-deck atrium, warm woods, and antiques that celebrate Holland’s globe-roaming explorers of days gone by. In addition to a two-deck dining room that overlooks the stern and the ship’s wake, the intimate Pinnacle Grill is a sought-after reservations-only restaurant that serves the finest Pacific Northwest cuisine in honor of Holland America’s Seattle headquarters location. In fact, on most of our trips which feature this grand ocean liner, we include a special dinner here just for our guests. Completely refitted in 2001, this 57,092-ton ship carries just 1,350 guests as compared to today’s 150,000-ton cruise ships with 4,000 or more passengers fighting for each square inch of public space. The Veendam is a true classic and one of our favorite ships sailing with one of our favorite cruise lines and has earned the accolade of Uncommon Journeys’ Ship of the Month! She’s featured as part of our 12-day Elegant Palm Springs cruise tours departing March 10 and November 1, 2015.

The Empire Builder

The scenery visible from the Empire Builder is among the most stunning in North America.

When Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out to explore the West and lead an expedition to the Pacific, they paved the way for millions of settlers and the emergence of a nation and the building of an empire. Eventually, the railroads straddled the new nation and portions of Lewis and Clark’s epic journey became part of one of the most famed rail routes in America. But when Great Northern Railway launched the first Empire Builder on June 11, 1929, the name was not intended to honor Lewis and Clark but instead James J. Hill, an old-time railroad man who had consolidated a number of weak railroads into the Great Northern Railway and then had the foresight to run the line to the Pacific Northwest back in the late 1800s. Great Northern introduced sleek diesel-powered locomotives in 1947 and by the 1950s, a scenic dome car had joined the train for the use of the first class passengers. Just like today, the Empire Builder was scheduled to travel through the most scenic areas of the Cascades and Rocky Mountains during daylight, particularly Glacier National Park which Great Northern had a big part in getting established through extensive lobby efforts in Washington. That’s why we think that this great train has earned the honor of being named Uncommon Journeys’ Train of the Month. The Empire Builder is featured on our 12-day Great National Parks of the West train tours departing July 7 and September 1, 2015 and our 14-day Best of the West train tours departing June 14, July 12, August 9 and September 6, 2015, among others.

Packing Light and Smart

Roll your way to a great vacation. Photo courtesy of


• Make packing simple by packing light. If you find you need an extra pair of socks or an umbrella during your journey, they are easily purchased along the way at very low cost.

• Roll, don’t fold your clothes when packing your suitcase. You’ll maximize the space that way.

• Lay a piece of tissue paper on each item of clothing you plan to roll. As you roll, the tissue paper will keep the layers from touching and help eliminate wrinkles. Even without using tissue paper, rolling clothes produces fewer wrinkles because with traditional folding, the items at the bottom of the stack gets crushed and creased.

The Yellowstone Park Transportation Company

The only way to travel.

Though Yellowstone is perhaps best known for Old Faithful, the geothermal geyser that announces its presence with a plume of super-heated water and steam just like clockwork, there’s a hidden, man-made Yellowstone you probably never knew existed. In nearly a century and a half, the methods visitors have used to visit the park and traverse its roads and trails has varied from horseback to luxury motor coaches. Not part of the landscape, these forms of transportation became an indelible part of Yellowstone itself and what you may not know is that Yellowstone National Park has a historic vehicle collection to preserve these reminders of the past. More than 30 motorized and horse-drawn transports have been maintained for posterity. The Yellowstone Park Transportation Company, which later became the Yellowstone Park Company, operated stagecoaches through the park, as did the Monida and Yellowstone Stage Company which was better known as the Yellowstone-Western Stage Company. In the collection are turn-of-the-20th-century buses, touring cars and trucks as well as fire engines and scooters operated by the National Park Service. Many of the historic vehicles are on loan to other museums where they can be viewed and the National Park Service is hopeful to someday build a facility that showcases this extraordinary collection. Yellowstone National Park is featured on more than a dozen of Uncommon Journeys trips each and every year.

Guests Speak Up

Sometimes guests bring home more than just pictures.

“Please accept this letter of appreciation for a job 'well done' by your staff on our Wonders of the West Tour beginning September 3rd. Being a first time rail vacation my wife and I were unsure of what to expect. Tour Manager Conrad Tausend relieved all our uncertainties. We choose the escorted tour because we wanted to see as much of the beautiful National Parks as we could, (and we will do more) have the ability to view all the beauty of the lands (rather than keeping your eyes on the road because you are driving) and to ensure that we see the greatness all the parks had to offer (due to familiarity). Conrad always explained to us what was to be expected and any concerns that there may be for people who had limitations. He had truly made this trip fun. He was a history teacher, a game show host, and a true friend that was passionate about what he did. His choice of associates was a major plus. Ricardo, our bus driver, continuously maintained the bus in a peak condition and made every effort to load and unload at the closest point to our destination. Every evening the windows were cleaned and the bus as well. Water was also provided everyday if the passenger wanted something to drink. Ricardo truly was a blessing. Michael, our Park guide, was a true gift who was informative, dedicated and passionate about parks. You have quite a team; keep up the great service you provide.” – Don & Kathy

“We were on the Wonders of the West trip from September 3-14 with Conrad Tausend and can’t say enough about him as a Tour Manager. He was perfect! On some of the longer bus rides he kept us informed with factual information as well as delightful stories of significant people of the area we visited, (which made us forget how long we were sitting!) He was considerate, good humored, patient, well informed and efficient. Your company was quite wonderful also with all the lovely extras provided, (boxes of chocolates at the beginning of the trip, and ice cream treats at the town of Grand Teton.) The accommodations at the hotels were lovely and we enjoyed the trip tremendously. We just wanted you to know what a gem you have in Conrad as an employee.” Helen & Paul

To submit your own comments about a trip and to be featured in our monthly newsletter, just email us.



* Note that this is an EXCLUSIVE offer that is made available ONLY to subscribers of this e-newsletter and must be redeemed by calling Uncommon Journeys at 1-800-323-5893. This offer expires on October 31, 2014 and is only available for new bookings.