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Well, it is that time of year. And lately we’ve been seeing these buses roll through town: up Main Street, past the carp-juice shop and what used to be the ice-cream store but is now another purveyor of distinctly frilly antiques, around the courthouse square, and off into the blue and distant west. Whence come they, we wonder. Whither go they? Who the heck are they? And — my teenager wants to know — what’s so Christian about these tours?

As it turns out, they come from Maiden, NC, right up the road from us. And they’re going pretty much wherever you want to go, if where you want to go includes the Amish country, the Southern Gospel Music Festival, the Badlands, Graceland, New York, Chicago, Niagra Falls, the Yukon, Dollywood, Quebec, the Southwest, the World’s Longest Yard Sale, and the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Cincinnati.

In 2010 they’ll take you to the famous Oberammergau Passion Play, though not on a bus direct from Maiden.

Sometimes the destinations are explicitly Christian, though I wouldn’t necessarily call them shrines. These aren’t pilgrimages, just vacations. They’re always clean and family-oriented; no trips to Vegas on these buses. And the people who run the company are decent folks whose began a lifetime in the travel industry by organizing a trip to Hawaii for a group of church friends.

I’ll admit right now that few things appeal to me less than the thought of riding a bus to Dollywood with a bunch of strangers, though I guess by the time we got there, they wouldn’t be strangers any more, which is part of the point.

And honestly, though we’ve been laughing at these buses in a “what is the deal” kind of way, I have to admire people who love organizing this much, and have a talent for it, and have built a business out of planning the kind of trips I’d feel good sending my mother-in-law on. I love my mother-in-law, and unlike my mother, she actually wants to go places like Branson, Missouri.

So. Burke’s Christian Tours. Not my thing, maybe, but maybe that’s not even relevant.

[Rating: 85/100]

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