When Bob Christensen retired after a career in telecommunications and traveling between Washington and Southeast Asia, he knew exactly what he wanted to do.
His love for traveling and culture led him to open his own tourism business.
“I was born and raised in Oregon so I am a Northwest guy,” said Christensen, who lives in Pendleton.
It was nine years ago he began offering tours through Roads2Travel Company in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Today, he’s offering trips closer to home via Roads2Travel Tri-Cities.
Christensen said a year and half ago he started developing unique local excursions to and from the Tri-Cities, Walla Walla and Pendleton for visitors who wanted to learn about the Mid-Columbia’s viticulture, history and agriculture.
The relatively new wine tour provider allows visitors to explore wine country, and taste wines along with local cheese and chocolates.
The “Tri-Cities Wine, Hard-Cider, Cheese & Chocolates” tour takes visitors to Red Mountain wineries like Kiona Winery, Terra Blanca, Barnard Griffin and Hedges Family Estate. But guests also can savor locally-made hard cider at Sun River Vintners and D’s Wicked Cider. Visitors can sample different cheese at the local, employee-owned Yoke’s Fresh Market and taste handmade chocolates and truffles at Baum’s House of Chocolate.
“We want them to not only taste the flavors of the region but we want them to learn the history as well,” Christensen said. “We also like to vary things, so that visitors can see and learn something new, something they haven’t seen before. For example, in the wine tour, we take them to the first organic vineyard in the area.”
The trip departs from the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick at 9:30 a.m. and returns by 3 p.m. Cost is $109 per person. The maximum number of adventurers per van is 14.
For large groups, tours are available using multiple vans.
Christensen also offers eight-hour freestyle wine tasting tours for those who know exactly where they want to go for wine tasting. Christensen has drivers in Walla Walla and Tri-Cities and rents vans so the number of tours and people he can take is never limited. Cost is $650 for a minivan with driver, or $750 for a full-size van and driver.
Amber Martin, director of sales and marketing at Clover Island Inn in Kennewick, learned some things about the Tri-Cities she didn’t know on a recent tour.
“We took our staff on a wine tour as an appreciation. Bob was an excellent guide. We went quickly through some wineries and took our time in others. I loved the Wicked Cider stop. I had no idea they had live music and a farmers market,” she said. “The final candy stop was awesome as well. The whole tour is well thought out and portrays the best of Tri-Cities. We are happy to refer guests to Roads2, as we know they will get first-class service.”
Christensen said the tours work best for bigger groups of people or for organizations wanting to bring their members together for a unique outing. He can book 10 people per trip and trips are offered every day, except for the “Evening at Wildhorse Casino” trip, which is from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Cost is $24.
Another of Christensen’s unique tours is an agritourism trip which allows visitors to explore and learn about Oregon’s sustainable agriculture and clean energy. The trip starts with a visit to the SAGE Center, an interactive visitor center in Boardman highlighting sustainable agriculture and energy.
It continues to Threemile Canyon Farms, a production farm with 25,000 dairy cows, a calf nursery, computerized crop circles and dairy-manure-methane gas generating electricity. The tour also includes a stop at Waterbrook Winery for a wine tasting and tour, and lunch with Oregon’s famous Tillamook ice cream.
“This is really a unique experience. This production farm produces over three million pounds of milk per day exclusively for Tillamook, and has over 200 calves born every day at the farm,” Christensen said. “We want visitors to see something they wouldn’t otherwise get to see and learn something unique about the process, experience iconic places, and meet the people who make the wine and tend the vineyards.”
Christensen said he is working on developing more tours and excursions around the Tri-Cities, especially geared toward the area’s history.
Last month, he launched a new “Tri-Cities Wine Tasting & Dinner Cruise Day Adventure” in partnership with Jay Denney of Water2Wine Cruises, which offers lunch and dinner cruises departing from the Columbia Point Marina in Richland. (See story on Page 38.) The cruise is offered Saturdays and paired with a guided wine tour, live entertainment and a four-course dinner.
“We already have lots of bookings through September,” Christensen said.
For more information, call 425-493-4555, visit roads2tri-cities.com or find the business on Facebook.
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