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Wally’s year, 2014 – A year in review from a bear’s perspective

Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.
Ralph Waldo Emerson.

TeddyThe dream began when I saw my first stuffed mascots on TV.  There was the Canadian Olympic moose, the Charmin bear and various NHL and NFL mascots.  But the dream really began to unfold when I saw the Geico Insurance, Gecko.  Here was a little green guy travelling all across North America. He had ridden the Stanton Island Ferry, learned to two-step in Texas and stood on the Golden Gate Bridge.  What a life! And no weird costume, just himself, au natural.  This was for me. To view the Gecko’s trips. (In Seattle) or  (line dancing in Texas)

I frantically began researching all about mascots and looking for a travel company that was in need of one. There were several, but the only one that really fit my criteria was the posting by Wells Gray Tours, a world to experience. This was exactly what I was looking for.  I felt I could meet all the requirements; I am a Canadian, flexible, I have no dietary or geographical restrictions, I am  friendly, lovable, domesticated, and can fit within the carry-on luggage restrictions. 

The Interview

Canadian Canadianmoose Goose





I arrived early so I could analyze the competition.  There was the Canadian Beaver, Canada’s national symbol (but isn’t he vegetarian and restricted to fresh water?), the great moose, Canada’s Olympic mascot (Will those antlers fit into the carry-on space?), the brown bear, Mr. Grizzly (size and personality did not exude friendly and lovable).  I thought I was in a good position.  Then, as fate would have it the door opened and in walked Miss Canadian Goose, Canadian Airlines mascot in all her feathered finery and puffed up chest.  My heart dropped through the floor. Not only was she beautiful but she had experience and reputation. She had represented the airline that exemplified customer service.  I felt deflated but was too embarrassed to leave.  

The Director of Sales and Marketing, Joan Niemeier, was the interviewer and I felt an immediate connection with her. I left the interview feeling good.  Then three days later (Why do they always make you wait?) I got the phone call that said I was hired. I was elated! Did you know bears dance for joy in the woods too?

All that was needed to make it official was; signing the contract, getting fitted for a uniform (Yikes, this could be a deal breaker. I am not wearing a funny head mask. Oh a blue shirt? No problem), and schedule a cloning.  Cloning, what is cloning? A genetically identical copy of me. Really? Does it hurt?  Why do it?  Good news! Cloning does not hurt but it allows Wells Gray Tours to have several of me on the road at one time.  Who knew?  This gives every guest a chance to travel with me. Cool!

The Wells Gray Tours Team

 I was introduced to the staff at their annual spring retreat and everyone was there.  It was a great weekend of planning and comradery.  I was excited to meet the Tour Directors; Aina, Brigitte, Brian, Lisa and Marion.  This is the team I would travel with and the ones that would help me adjust to life on the road.  


Wineglasses I encountered my first challenge with my new job at the retreat and was glad I was among these new friends and colleagues.  I refer to it as the grape encounter!  As you are all aware bears like to eat and grapes in the interior of BC are a delicious fall treat for us and indulge, we do.   Wine, grapes in a bottle was new to me, but delicious and so smooth on my palate that I quickly found myself stuck upside down in a glass trying to capture every last drop. Oh what a feeling, I could “bearly” stand and the morning after….   “You aren’t the first and you won’t be the last,” laughed the staff. Wineglass

There have been some changes at Wells Gray Tours this year.  New to the team in 2014 are Terri Wirtz, Office Manager in Kelowna, Adam Hanna (ballroom dancer extraordinaire , Office Assistant, Victoria, and Maria Fraser, Office Assistant, Kamloops.  Another new face frequently around the Kamloops office is baby Charlie Dilling, who is making his Mom, Stephanie proud as he starts to take his first steps.

Promotions within the company include Stephanie Dilling moving into the position of General Manager, Fraser Neave is now the Director of Product Development and Kerrie Niemeier has become the Director of Sales & Marketing.    Joan Niemeier will be stepping down as the Director and Sales & Marketing and will be taking on a part time role as Marketing Consultant.  Joan was my first connection with the company so I am sad to see her leave but she says will be very busy pursuing a riding career with her four legged partner Jewels.   I wonder, does she know those animals buck?

Highlights for Wells Gray Tours  this year were receiving;  the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award for Distinction in Hospitality and Tourism, being named a finalist in the Kamloops Business Excellence awards for Service Provider for 11 + Employees and winning the bid to host the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce Travel & Learning trip to China in 2015.

The Travel

I must admit I love being on the road and think I have the perfect job.  Why you may ask?  Well, it is because I am not only exploring the world but I am getting to do it with all of you.  It is you, my Wells Gray Tours family of travellers that make every trip so special.   You have “Welcomed” me with open arms, shared your seat on the coach, carried me in your shirt and pant pockets, stuffed me in your hand bags, shared your meals,  seated me on mountain tops, taken me swimming with dolphins and included me in your photos.   I am truly blessed to share my travelling adventures with all of you.

China Food Shoulder mountain

I know I will soon be seeing many of you on our Christmas and New Year’s tours and I am looking forward to celebrating the holidays with so many of you. For those that will be enjoying the holidays at home with family and friends I send you all Wally hugs and best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  I am looking forward to seeing you all in 2015.  

Wally’s year – Written by Joan Niemeier