I have some of the most interesting tour clients! I’ve launched this blog to share their stories–starting with a special group from Annapolis, MD. (You can meet others on the testimonials page and on my Youtube channel) Videos of their adventure are coming soon!
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I’m not currently on Saipan! I’m doing the “Jamaican in China & Beyond” vegan/nomad/cheapskate thing and documenting it on my @askavegan channel! Right now, I’m in Cambodia getting swindled by an unscrupulous tuktuk driver! Follow/Subscribe to the channel to stay up to date with the fun!
Seattle, Washington resident, Andrew Kennelly, completed his mission of visiting all 50 US states a few years before the pandemic. “What’s next?” he asked himself. “Well, why not visit the US territories and commonwealths?” he answered! And that’s what he did! He used up all his frequent-flier miles to book a trip to Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. I entered as a character in Andrew’s story when he decided on the once-in-a-lifetime, requisite tour of Tinian! I’ll let Andrew tell the story as outlined in his review of my tour on the Tripadvisor website:
I am normally an independent traveler who does not feel a need or desire to hire guides. However, I made a rare exception for my day tour of Tinian, hiring Mr. Walt Goodridge to take me around. Five years ago, when I first considered a visit to Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, I had bought Walt’s book, There’s Something about Saipan. I enjoyed the book, and then I noticed Walt was also mentioned extensively in another book I bought, The Not-Quite States of America. So it would seem he is something of a local celebrity and has a fascinating personal story: An Ivy-League educated native of Jamaica who gave up a good engineering career in New York City to relocate to Saipan. And then I happened upon his website and saw that he offered tours. I figured I had to meet this guy and I bet he could give a pretty good tour. I also figured that most likely in my entire life I would spend at most one day on Tinian so I wanted to make sure I got the most out of it, and did not miss anything important.
Anyway, Walt picked me up at my hotel (the Saipan Hyatt) and then we went to the Saipan Airport. The first great part of the daylong adventure to Tinian was simply getting there – a 15-minute flight on a 5-passenger 1974 Piper Cherokee Six with a 300HP Continental TIO540. The views of Tinian from the plane provide a great “preview” of what is to come.
After arriving in Tinian, we jumped into a rental car (Walt arranged it) and we set out on our Tinian tour. The majority of a tour of Tinian will, appropriately, be focused on sites relevant to World War II. There are a number of World War II era buildings, most of them originally Japanese-built and subsequently repurposed by American forces. They are in varying states of decay, but mostly structurally sound so you can walk into and onto them. The fact that they are left to decay naturally, as opposed to being “restored”, is, in my opinion, neat.
Perhaps the highlight of the trip is viewing and driving on the actual runway used by the Enola Gay when it left on its mission to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Two other sites of high significance are the pits used to load the atomic bombs (“Little Boy” and “Fat Man”) onto the Enola Gay and Bockscar respectively.
Other worthy sites around the island include various bomb shelters, Shinto shrines, abandoned artillery and vehicles, Chulu Beach, a currently operational Voice of America transmission facility, life-size replicas of “Little Boy” and “Fat Man”, the “House of Taga” (think of it as a tropical Pacific Stonehenge). I also found a drive past the recently-abandoned Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino to be interestingly eerie. A brief drive through San Jose, the one and only village on Tinian, where the vast majority of the island’s population lives, is interesting.
Walt obviously knows his history and is a wealth of information. If he doesn’t know something, he’ll acknowledge as such and make a note to look into it and get back to you. Perhaps more importantly, however, I enjoyed talking to Walt over the course of the day about his own story and about what life is like in Saipan. He’s an “open book”, willing to share much about himself, and there are no “off-limits” questions.
We concluded our tour of Tinian and made the short flight back to Saipan. After returning to Saipan, Walt offered to take me to one or two sites in Saipan to fill up the remainder of the day, but my jet lag was kicking in and I needed some rest so we called it a day. But it is a day I will never soon forget.
I absolutely recommend engaging Walt for a tour of Tinian. Reach out to him directly, though, no need to book through some third-party booking site.
You can tell by Andrew’s thoroughness, attention to detail, and generosity lavishing what is now my “best review ever”) that he was a fun and interesting client to hang out with! Hope we can hang out again if you’re ever back in this part of the world, Andrew!
According to Andrew (this post is “public”): “I very rarely post more than 5 pictures in any Facebook post, the maximum number of thumbnails that will appear. But my experience today touring the island of Tinian (5.8 miles/ 9.3 km south of Saipan) was so overwhelmingly great that I really cannot sum it all up in just 5 pics. So here is an “annotated album” of 30 slides.
As it appears in the Marianas Variety AND the Saipan Tribune (Thur, March 16, 2023)
Alex Dunn, former United Airlines pilot of 32 years and one-time pilot of the lone, operational B-29 used by the Commemorative Air Force for traveling air shows, recently visited Saipan for DiscoverSaipan.com‘s World War II Pilgrimage tour. Dunn is seen here with John S. Castro-Mames, project coordinator of the Seafaring Traditions Program in Susupe along with author/guide Walt F.J. Goodridge.(Photo: Tyler Warwick)
The Saturday, March 4, 2023 cruise ship arrival here on Saipan was canceled due to high winds which made the docking a safety issue. Here, however, is a Tripadvisor review from one of the day’s “almost-customers,” Roger Cook:
I began corresponding with Walt in August 2022 in advance of a planned cruise stop in March 2023. Walt responded immediately and an engaging dialog ensued with Walt proposing a fascinating full day group tour of the island. We continued to email regularly over the next several months as the group grew to nearly 40 members.
On the morning of our arrival, as the ship steamed toward the entrance to Saipan harbor, the Captain announced that weather would prohibit us from making the port call. We were greatly disappointed. We had been looking forward to meeting Walt and touring Saipan with him.
Gracious, as always, before the day was out, Walt had already refunded half of the group their fees and was working on the balance. I would urge anyone planning to visit Saipan to contact Walt, an honest man who offers good value with a delightful manner. I may never get to Saipan, but I will treasure the experience of working with Walt forever.
Hey Roger! Even though we never got to meet, it was great having you as my one-man, pre-cruise, tour marketing department and as my onboard contact as the docking situation evolved that morning.
We needed to rent one of the vans from the evening before, but–as this was not my first time at this rodeo–my team and I waited at the airport rental agency before signing out the other vans while we waited for your email about the captain’s decision. A few other passengers on the ship emailed me as word of the cancellation spread, but we didn’t call it a bust until we got YOUR email!
Cruise ship arrival days are a rarity here on our little island, so I do hope you get to swing by this corner of the planet in some other way. There’s a lot of history and mystery to see and experience here on Saipan, Tinian and Rota!
Thanks for the review!
Walt (“The Jamaican on Saipan!”)
P.S. Thanks as well for your amazing generosity in helping defray the costs. FYI: For this and any business service I offer, I like to charge only for results. So, even though I did, in fact, incur expenses in the lead-up for the day, I don’t believe the potential customers should be penalized if they don’t receive any of the results they anticipated–particularly if the reasons are not under their control. It probably won’t endear me to my competition, but that’s my policy and I’m sticking to it!
P.P.S. On the bright side, I gave away all the boxes of Chicken Kelaguen wraps from Herman’s Modern Bakery (a sample of local Chamorro cuisine that was to be a surprise for the group) to gas station attendants, strangers and friends as I tied up the day’s loose ends. So a few (non vegan) folks got free snacks from the day’s outcome!
2023 is, in fact, the Year of the Cat (if you’re in Vietnam; Rabbit for others)! So–as a “cat person” myself, perhaps it’s no coincidence that I found myself at the Saipan Cares for Animals “virtual shelter” run by Executive Director, Beth Pliscou, and her staff. While no longer operating as a shelter since relocating the facility, the clinic does provide, to members of the public, all the services the clinic once provided to their shelter animals, free of charge–if the citizen (the person who may have found the stray dog or cat) provides the shelter. Services include spaying, neutering and vaccinations.
Local celebrity and “relic hunter,” Fabian Indalecio has a warm spot for Saipan’s strays and neglected pets, and so encourages visitors (such as my tour clients who wish to contribute to his Battle of Saipan museum) to, instead, make those contributions to Saipan Cares for Animals.
In this short video, a recent tour client and I did just that and made a quick, but cuddly visit to the clinic on Middle Road….on the first floor of the green building…across from the Shell gas station…that’s next to First Hawaiian Bank! Watch until the end for a cuteness-overload!