SANDPOINT — What do you do with a love for people and adventure, the joy of discovery, a VW bus and 30 years of bottled-up enthusiasm?
Create a highly unique, laid-back, groovy tour operation — at least that’s what Michelle Keener did, figuring there was no better way to share the “Most Beautiful Small Town in America” with guests than in a vintage VW bus. Thus, Feelin’ Groovy Tours was born.
After moving to North Idaho in 2011 with her family, Keener traded her business suits for hiking boots and began a journey of discovering a whole new way of living. However, being faced with a tough job market, she decided the timing was perfect to reinvent herself and pursue her childhood dream of becoming a tour director.
Keener’s reinvention started in 2018 by earning two important tourism designations — certified international tour manager through the International Guide Academy in Denver, Colo., and certified interpretive guide through the National Association of Interpretation in Fort Collins, Colo.
After lots of diligent research and numbers crunching with her husband and business partner, Tom, all systems were a big “go” and they were off on a new journey to find a late model 1970s VW bus that seats seven passengers, had sliding windows, a 2.0 liter, fuel-injected engine; and a large touring sunroof.
A serendipitous crossing of paths with Chuck Luettgerodt of Inland Aviation Specialties and VW UNLTD outside a local coffee shop in Sandpoint last summer was seriously a gift from God, Michelle Keener said. She said having a local, air cooled VW specialist was the missing link to her business plan.
With Chuck’s guidance and 40 years of air cooled VW restoration experience, they were able to locate a beautiful, 1976 VW bus in San Diego, Calif. While the bus was ready to go to auction, Keener nabbed the bus just in time, had her transported to Sandpoint last November, and the restoration project kicked off in December.
Keener said community support has been overwhelming, with a land-based tour operation long overdue in the region. There’s an abundance of things to see and experience in this area that most travelers are unaware of, Keener said. Her goal “is to delight guests beyond their expectation and enlighten their journey every step of the way.”
Keener said that, as Sly & the Family Stone sang, “It’s a Family Affair,” Feeling Grooy Tours really is just that. She said her husband, Tom, is a numbers-crunching machine and their daughter, Claire, a student at Boise State studying journalism and mixed media, has commandeered Feelin Groovy Tours’ social media campaign, photography and videography.
Michelle Keener said Feelin’ Groovy Tours wouldn’t exist without the creativity and talents of the FGT team members, a supportive community and a highly talented group of local artists whose work is featured on their touring bus.
“We hope to see you on a Feelin’ Groovy Tour this summer, where you’ll experience North Idaho’s stunning, pristine beauty and bluebird skies while discovering mountains and lakes carved out by Ice Age glaciers, learn about the people who pioneered North Idaho’s Panhandle region, Sandpoint’s raucous beginnings, and discover ranches, farms, museums, artists’ studios and more,” Keener said in a press release announcing the business.
Follow them on Facebook as well as on Instagram, or subscribe to their YouTube channel. Reserving a seat on Gwennie the Wandering Bird is an easy and user-friendly experience on the company’s website, FeelinGroovy.tours.
“If you’re interested in a private charter give us a call at 833-247-6689 so we can coordinate a tour as unique as you,” Keener said.