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IC couple keeps the spirit of Jack Kerouac alive with coast-to-coast ‘bus adventure’ startup


Brian and Lesley Tripplet
Brian and Lelsey Triplett have a serious case of wanderlust. — photo by Shauna McKnight

What is the quintessential American experience? Is it a cheeseburger at a backyard barbecue? Watching the sunset over the Grand Canyon? Gazing at the Rocky Mountains in Colorado? That’s what one Iowa City couple wanted to figure out.

Brian and Lesley Triplett, co-founders of “On the Road Bus Adventures” launched their company last year with the hopes of giving travelers a taste of every slice of culture the United States has to offer. This year will mark their first full season taking six road trips with travelers from across the globe.

Each 7,000 mile trip across the United States takes 25 days. The total cost is $2,900 and includes lodging, daytime activities and two meals per day. Adventurers must be 18 or older, and can choose from two routes: a southern and northern route. Northern travelers will begin in San Francisco, head to various attractions like the Redwood Forest, Badlands National Park, Chicago, Memphis and ultimately end in New York City. Participants along the southern route will experience Hollywood, the Grand Canyon, swamps in New Orleans and Washington D.C.

-- photo courtesy of On the Road Bus Adventures
photo courtesy of On the Road Bus Adventures

It all started before Brian and Lesley met. When Brian graduated from the University of Iowa, he had an intense desire to see the world, so he packed his car and headed to New York City. Sitting at a bar one night, he met a German man who was interested in seeing the interior of the United States, but wasn’t sure of the best way to do that. They ended up on the road trip of a lifetime.

“Of course, things like the Grand Canyon left an impression on him, but it was also things like being at a waffle house in the south and playing Johnny Cash on the jukebox,” Brian said. “Just to see him experiencing America really left an impression on me. So I’ve always wanted to recreate these experiences, and it wasn’t until I met Lesley and we started dating that I shared that idea with her. She gave me the spark that I had been needing.”

After they made decision to move forward with the bus tour idea, Brian and Lesley had a lot of work to do before they could put their plan into action. While living in New Zealand, they gathered research working at a hostel by handing out surveys to guests. This information was extremely helpful when planning their routes across the United States, Brian says.

Finding transportation was surprisingly easy. They bought the first used bus they found, a 15 passenger vehicle which does not require a commercial license to operate and was the perfect size for travelling with small, intimate groups.

“Well, we went to Google, and we typed in ‘used bus.’ We found this really reputable company called Midwest Transit. They’ve been around for about 30 years,” Lesley said.

-- photo courtesy of On the Road Bus Adventures
photo courtesy of On the Road Bus Adventures

The couple’s marriage in August of 2012 marked the unofficial launch of their company. On their Honeymoon, the couple flew to Europe where they travelled around to different countries hanging posters for their US road trips in youth hostels.

However, their research didn’t stop there; they also investigated the routes they would be taking. Because booking for 14 people has to be done far in advance, they headed out on their own journey along the northern and southern routes to find lodging, activities and attractions for travellers along the way.

In 2013, they took their first trip with seven people from around the world. They took the southern route across the U.S. Brian described the experience as very surreal.

“I remember being there, like, oh my god there’s people on this bus and this is really happening,” Lesley said.

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According to them, their trip could not have gone any better. The traveling group became fast friends, and it quickly became clear to the couple that this was more than just a business.

“The group got really close right away and everyone was pitching in,” Brian said. “It wasn’t like a tour. We didn’t want this to have the feeling like we’re the leaders and you’re the followers. Everyone was on this road trip together.”

The couple says one of the memorable moments from their trip was watching their group experience the Grand Canyon for the first time. Lesley and Brian blindfolded everyone and led them to the rim of the canyon before removing the blindfolds.
 
 

“Everyone reacted differently,” Brian said. “Some of them broke out into laughter. Some were speechless. Some were stunned. And those are some of the extra twists we like to add on to make it special.”

Their first trip of 2014 kicks off on May 25, heading out of San Francisco along the southern route. For more details about On the Road Bus Adventures and their summer trips, visit www.ontheroadbusadventures.com.


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