Mystery tour ends up in Natchez

Published 1:05 am Sunday, November 11, 2007

Plane ticket — check. Passport — check. Luggage — check. Destination — unknown. Imagine boarding an airplane without knowing where it will land. Fear, worry and panic would be the normal reactions for most. But for members of the Detroit-based Nomads Inc. travel club this is not a problem, it’s a luxury.

The group recently left their friends, families and homes behind for their latest mystery destination — Natchez. Close to 100 nomads landed at the Natchez-Adams County Airport Thursday morning and were greeted by hoop-skirt clad women serving Southern-style pralines. Period clothing and Southern delicacies were the passengers’ only clues as to where they might be.

“We had no idea where we would end up until we landed,” Nomad traveler Betty Sloboda said. “I’ve always wanted to come here, but I thought it would be on a steamboat, not an airplane.”

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After disembarking, itineraries for the trip were passed around and for the first time, the group knew where they would spend the next four days.

“They have no clue whatsoever where they will be going when they board the plane,” Jay Kirkpatrick with Sweet Magnolia Tours said. Kirkpatrick, along with Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, helped arrange the vacation for the travel group.

“They never know until they get where they’re going,” he said.

The group spent the weekend absorbing as much Natchez culture as possible. They toured antebellum homes, slept at the Eola Hotel, ate at King’s Tavern, searched for ghosts and rode in horse-drawn coaches. They even found time to learn the patty cake polka at the Southern Ceremonies living history tour.

“This is one of the most unusual groups that has been here,” Marsha Colson with Natchez Pilgrimage Tours said. “They’re doing so much in such a small amount of time. They’re really getting a good taste of Natchez.”

Sloboda said she has enjoyed her time in Natchez, but doesn’t have plans to return.

In fact, she doesn’t have plans on returning to any of her previous travel destinations.

“There is just so much to see in the United States and in the world,” she said. “We try not to repeat the same destination.”

Sloboda may not be returning, but Nomads Inc. is. The traveling club is bringing another group of nomads to Natchez next weekend and they too will be kept in the dark until the plane lands.

Kirpatrick said the mystery tours have become so popular, that all scheduled trips are sold out.

The travel club was founded by a group of Detroit businessmen in 1965. Over 1,000 members of the group have flown around the world on one continuous journey. Nomad trip director Pam Cline said at least of the travelers on the Natchez tour has logged over 1,000,000 miles since joining the club. The Nomads’ Boeing 727-200 airplane has totaled over 9 million air miles and members have safely traveled over 850 million miles.