About Odyssey Tours With Clay Jenkinson

Becky Cawley and Clay Jenkinson met in 1999 at a planning conference before the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial (2003-09). Plunked together at a banquet, they asked each other what they wanted to do for the Bicentennial. Both said immediately that they wanted to lead tours on the Lewis & Clark Trail.

That was almost 20 years ago.

Their tours are widely acclaimed for their sheer pleasure. Becky and Clay take their guests to some of the most beautiful and pristine places in the American West. There is always a great deal of learning, but the learning is lubricated with laughter, adventure, intellectual playfulness, and good wine.

The amenities are excellent without getting in the way of what Theodore Roosevelt called “the strenuous life.”

Odyssey Tours has floated the Green River in the footsteps of the explorer and water reformer John Wesley Powell (1834-1902); followed the trail of Lewis & Clark in Montana & Idaho (our signature tour); Oregon and Washington; and the Dakotas; explored the homeland of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) in Virginia; and toured the world that made John Steinbeck (1902-1968) on the California coast.

I appreciate the passion you put into all that you created for us. This is one of three journeys, in my life, that created life changes in me.
— Allene from California

Our annual four-day humanities retreats at Lochsa Lodge just west of Missoula have enabled scores of adults to immerse themselves in the humanities in a playful, unpretentious, and at the same time rigorous way. Our retreat themes have included: Thoreau’s Walden; the poetry of Nebraska poet-laureate and Indian historian John Neihardt; books of the road, including The Odyssey, On the Road, Travels with Charley, and The Grapes of Wrath.
Becky handles bookings, customer relations, and the logistics. Clay handles the humanities, and leads the adventures in canoe or hiking boots.
Clay says, “Our customers return again and again. That’s the surest sign that we are providing great adventures in great places with great customer service for great guests (now friends).”

Small Groups, Big Difference

Even though many miles separate me from those I traveled with in the summer of 2015, I still feel very close to everyone from that trip. And simply being part of the Ody family enriches my life. Truly.
— Carrie from Vermont

One of our most frequently asked questions is: Will Clay be there for the whole week or does he just appear for performances? We are proud and honored to say Clay will be with you for the entire week. The tour bus does not leave without him. Having Clay S. Jenkinson as our humanities scholar brings valuable, quality information and fun to all of our tours. We are delighted to have him on-board for the duration of each tour. The other most frequently asked question is: How large are the tours? Our group size is small, usually between 20-25 people. We realize this makes a big difference. We do not wish to change the dynamics of the tours. Be sure to book early. Wait-listing works and is always available.

Cultural Tours We’d Like to Create

  • The Atomic Landscapes of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Los Alamos, Alamagordo, testing grounds in Nevada and Colorado. Oppenheimer (1904-1967) is Clay’s favorite Chautauqua character.
  • Jefferson’s France. Paris, Arles, Nimes, Aix-en-Provence, and the fabulous Canal du Midi between Marseilles and Bordeaux. Clay has done this one twice previously. It is pure luxury in the footsteps of America’s da Vinci.
  • Homer’s Mediterranean. A ten-day tour of Homeric sites in Greece, the islands, and the coast of Asia Minor. Athens, Delphi, Mount Olympus, Mycenae, Pylos, Sparta; Crete; and the ruins of ancient Troy. Clay has led this trip twice previously. He spent the early summer of 2016 touring Homeric sites with his daughter Catherine. Clay was a classicist before he was a historian.
  • Theodore Roosevelt Country. The badlands of North Dakota; Mount Rushmore and Wind Cave National Park; Devils Tower; Cody, Wyoming; Yellowstone National Park. Hiking, horseback riding, performances by Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), and extensive talk about conservation and the American West.
  • A Literary Journey through Great Britain. Clay studied four years at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. The Lake District (Wordsworth and Coleridge); the London of Dickens, Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Johnson, Boswell, and John Donne; Oxford and Cambridge; Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare); the Devonshire of Sir Walter Raleigh; the Tower of London and its celebrated inhabitants (Sir Thomas More and Walter Raleigh); and more.
  • Rome for Lovers of the Humanities. Clay spends several weeks per year in Rome teaching a capstone course for a semester-abroad program. Classical Rome (the Forum, the Ara Pacis, the Pantheon, Ostia Antica, Hadrian’s Tivoli); the Rome of the High Renaissance (Raphael, Michelangelo, Pope Julius II, Benvenuto Cellini); Bernini’s Rome, Caravaggio’s Rome, Goethe’s Rome; Mussolini’s Rome; Fellini’s Rome.
The trip was exceptional, and we thought the people were some of the best we ever traveled with. We felt we got to see all we could in connection with Thomas Jefferson, and of course Clay just brings it all to life for everyone.
— Sandee and Frank from Wisconsin

Clay Jenkinson is also available to lead small groups to these sites: families, a few couples, good friends. His schedule is set long in advance, so it is best to make early enquiries for personally led cultural journeys of three days to three weeks. In other words, we can put together a special tour for your group, and tune it to your interests.


  • Clay wants to take the Northwest Passage over the landmass of North America. This is possible now, thanks to global climate change. This was one of the dreams of civilization for five hundred years.
  • Mount Kilimanjaro and the Source of the Nile. One of Clay’s principal interests is the British linguist and traveler Sir Richard Francis Burton.
  • Antarctica. No explanation necessary! Clay wants to do this before it is too late.
  • The Colorado River and its Canyons. Preferably in dories, as John Wesley Powell would have insisted.