Saturday, April 12, 2014

Delta Tour Business... Long Overdue

Delta tours ready to roll in a heartbeat 
by Gene Beley, Delta Correspondent

April 10, 2014 4:57am

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•  Two well-known Delta women to promote North Delta region
•  Overcoming startup frustrations, conflicting paperwork and more

Barbara Daly with new tour bus
(Photo by Gene Beley)

Partners Sue Schaber and Barbara Daly
(Photo by Gene Beley)

The long secret to success even before “Go West, young man” has been “find a need and fill it.”

Two women says they have found a need for a Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta tour service and are ready to roll with their first tour in early May after receiving their final bus transportation permit clearance from the California Highway Patrol on April 9t.
Entrepreneurs Barbara Daly from Clarksburg and Sue Schaber from Isleton have teamed up to launch Delta Heartbeat Tours. They are long-time residents of the Delta who look forward to making the Delta a destination place for people from all over the world.
They say they are just fed up with government bureaucrats treating the Delta like it is just a small red dot on the map or swampland to be looked upon only as a reservoir for California water.
“Just last week we were in a meeting in Clarksburg and a gentleman stood up and said that he has talked with people from the Department of Water Resources who were given a recent tour by DWR,” begins Mrs. Daly. “When they came out to the Delta they didn’t see any people. They were taken to places very lacking of life. They were brought out again by another group and taken to different areas and they were so shocked what a different tour it was. We’re going to be meeting with this man to talk about getting more tours from Southern California.”
The fledgling tour bus partners say they have people lined up and ready to pay for their first bus tour and will work with hotels in the Bay Area and Sacramento for future business.
And they’re not afraid to talk about the governor’s proposed twin water tunnels while en route and what the $67 billion project will do to residents in the Delta.
Mrs. Daly, mother of five children and a Clarksburg Library librarian, has a home overlooking the Sacramento River whose view would change to three, three story high pumping plants if the Bay Delta Conservation Plan’s twin tunnels becomes reality.
Ms. Schaber says she has a background in advertising and marketing and fits well with Mrs. Daly’s experience in business and research. But it has not been an easy road for them to get all the permits and insurance. Along the way, they needed the help of Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottolli and California State Rep. Jim Frazier to help them cut through some red tape.
“We knew what our passion was,” says Ms. Schaber, “but to put it together and make it happen has been difficult. Over the past several months, we’ve been stalled quite a bit by a lot of red tape and the learning process to know exactly what was required to start a business like this. We thought it would be simpler.”
The partners say Messrs. Nottolli and Frazier were really helpful in “opening doors for us so we could move forward.”
“Originally, the paperwork was pretty daunting,” adds Mrs. Daly. “The pile kept getting higher and higher. It had to be all separated out so it could be understood. I’m an expert now. I went from amateur to master in a couple months’ time.
“I spoke to the DMV and the California Public Utilities Commission. They admitted that their paperwork is out of date. Some of the papers don’t match and contradict themselves, so it was a big job like to get our TCP number for the buses, but we did it.”
“There were some discouraging days but there are also some indications from a higher power that we were doing the right things and just had to be patient, Ms. Schaber adds. “The commitment we made to each other, as well as what we planned to do, was important.”
They both started with an investment of $10,000 each, “but then that gorgeous bus came along and we needed to get the insurance in place,” chuckles Mrs. Daly. Ms. Schaber then vented her exasperations dealing with the insurance requirements.
“The insurance is worst than the permits,” she says. “They expected us to start paying the insurance even before we launch the business, which is ridiculous. I don’t mind paying the due diligence, the Workers’ Compensation, but that’s when the business begins operating. This insurance thing has been very upsetting to me. It makes it very difficult for people to start a business when we have to put so much out of pocket before we can start.”
“We have also had to have insurance in this office and they will cancel us as soon as the business starts to roll because we are new, said Mrs. Daly. “Then they will have to rewrite it and double the premium because we are new. Also, the only place we can get Workman’s Compensation insurance is from the state so there is no competition for pricing.
The women say a typical tour might start by picking up the guests at several Sacramento hotels and showing them a historic building in Old Sacramento once owned by Newton Booth, a former governor and state senator who lived in the time the Delta levees were built. “Then we’ll take the people to the Capitol to the rotunda and a private room that shows a picture of the Gov. Newton Booth,” says Mrs. Daly. “We’ll continue to the city’s Historic Cemetery where there is a beautiful memorial plot honoring the former Governor Booth. We’ll proceed to Land Park near Freeport that starts the real Delta tour and enjoy wineries like the Bogel Vineyards, one of the oldest in existence. We’ll take the tour guests to Locke, the Chinese community, and have a docent tour there. We’ll also have fun crossing the river by ferryboat that will take us by bus to a Delta island.
“We also have a great history museum in Rio Vista, as well as the Dutra Museum there to learn how the levees were reinforced.”
“We have events like the Courtland Pear Fair, Cajun Festival on the Delta Loop this year, and the Rio Vista Bass Festival. With the Bay Area on one side and Sacramento on the other, people can get here within one hour.”
Mrs. Daly says another big attraction is the Old Sugar Mill in Clarksburg, just a short distance off scenic Highway 160. “It houses 10 wineries,” she says. “It used to be an old sugar beet factory but has been totally redone and is just gorgeous inside.
One key element of their business will be a map they have developed. They say no one previously made a good land map of the Delta. Previous ones have been made for boaters and the DWR maps omit even the towns. Mrs. Daly says when she began thinking of the Delta as a place of community history and nature that they combined all of those things into a map. Her bigger goal is to promote the entire Delta community to raise its economic viability in the entire region.
Both women say they just have a “real interest in bringing more awareness to this beautiful region.”
“We know what we have but many people don’t know how to come out and enjoy the Delta.”
They say that some older people, especially, are afraid to drive the river roads -- and with good cause when you see frequent crosses noting fatalities where cars have plunged into the river or canals. Some of those fatalities have been after people have enjoyed the Delta bars and wineries too much and the bus tour will promote a safety angle to enjoying the Delta. They stress their new bus driver, Keith Palmer, has passed a rigid safety test and has all the proper licenses.
“Our target market is tourism and to bring more people into this region to enjoy all the special things we have here — whether it be the birds like Sand Hill cranes, the river, or the art and history, or the restaurants. We want everyone to love it as much as we do.”
The women have been provided office space by Gene Colver, owner of Deckhands Marine in Walnut Grove. Their address is 14090 Highway 160. Their website to book tours is: Their phone is 916-776-4010.

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