Tripfinder.com is the online division of Network Travel Services, LLC. Founded by Lyn Edwin Cathey in Dallas, TX in 1988. NTS/Tripfinder.com is currently headquartered in Memphis, TN.
To transform the process of selecting and booking leisure travel, making it as fun and enjoyable as the trip itself. We emphasize that maintaining a sense of relationship, humor and inquisitiveness makes both the booking process and the trip itself more enjoyable, helping to smooth the way.
Lyn Edwin Cathey now resides in Memphis as well, having a wife, daughter and dog…one of each.
His passions include travel, travel writing, playing the guitar (country, folk, blues & bluegrass) and photography/videography. He also enjoys cooking, comedy, comedy cooking (“Does this taste funny?”) and tries hard to live a healthy lifestyle – working hard, exercising regularly, eating right, thinking pure thoughts…all stuff too boring to actually bother with.
Lyn’s love of travel began shortly after graduating from San Jose State University with a degree in Commercial Art & Graphic Design. The subsequent 15 years were spent earning a living as a musician / entertainer. Often during this period, Lyn was featured as a headliner on top cruise ships around the world – see “Show Me Your Creds” below. We suspect that it was during one of these exotic cruises that Lyn was infected by the Travel Bug. This disease is apparently chronic and he has yet to recover.
In the 24 years since its creation, Network Travel Services has been through several iterations, including brick & mortar storefront operations as a ‘cruise only’ agency in Dallas – then becoming full service. Operations today are primarily online via the Tripfinder.com brand.
Visit & ‘like’ the official Tripfinder.com Facebook page.
Visit & ‘like’ Lyn’s personal Facebook page.
In The Beginning…
Show Us Your Creds, Banjo Breath!
Messing about in the travel industry in general – and with cruise ships in particular – began in 1973 in the port of San Francisco. In the spring of that year, I was earning a comfortable living “busking” (performing on the street for tips) – usually at Fisherman’s Wharf and the theater district.
One afternoon after several profitable sets on the center stage in the courtyard of the Cannery, my street music buddies and I were stretched out on the Marina Green, counting and dividing up our loot, when three young crew men of Pakistani descent approached. They invited us to return with them to their ship for a jam session. Expecting a funky old freighter or container ship, we were pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a big beautiful white British cruise ship (the Spirit of London, later renamed the Sun Princess…even later to gain fame as TV’s Love Boat).
Walking down the pier in the most worldly, nonchalant manner I could muster – tough to do for a transplant from Arkansas – I was stopped in my tracks – slack jawed and bug eyed — being in proximity to the largest, most massive piece of machinery I’d ever seen that did not display the John Deere logo.
Once on board we headed for crew accommodations, passing thru a 500 seat state-of-the-art showroom. Our new found friends kept saying in heavily accented English “You play here! You play here!” This got me thinking. Maybe I could get paid to ride one these floating pleasure palaces.
The plot thickens…
Back ashore I looked up the phone number of the company (P & O Lines), got the entertainment director on the line and found that they were, indeed, in the market for a musical comedy duo.
At the time, performing was either a solo affair or as banjo picker in a Bluegrass band, so the duo aspect presented a bit of a challenge. But I knew a possible solution. James Nesbit Kolb was a local standup comedian who also played guitar and sang. (Hey buddy – it’s me, Hogbody ! We need to reconnect – if you’re reading this…)
Pitching the idea to Jim, I suggested that we put an act together and audition for the gig. But, being the fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants guy that he was, he countered with the suggestion that we audition for the gig first, then put the act together – if accepted.
Our total audition preparation consisted of me sitting in one evening at his local club gig, basically filling the role of his straight man/side man (on banjo and guitar).
Looking and sounding like a Redneck version of the Smothers Brothers, we taped a couple of songs in a live club venue (the Mother Lode on Union Street), had a photographer snap pictures of the two of us on stage and sent the package to the cruise line.
What the (bleep) do we do now?…
Much to our surprise, they offered us a contract, starting immediately. That was all well and good, but there was one problem – we didn’t have an act. This small detail made me nervous…but was “not a problem” according to my new partner – we’d just have to wing it.. make it up as we go.
Looking for love in all the wrong places…
During this 15-year period – ship gigs saw me working in one capacity or another on Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Princess, Sitmar, Royal, Royal Viking, P & O, Paquet Lines, Eastern Steamship and Pacific Far East Lines.
Initially, several variations of shipboard employment were tested, such as a multi-duty jobs as staff member/entertainer with Carnival & Paquet; another as band leader (Eastern Steamship Company), once as a solo lounge performer (Western Steamship Company) and one time as entertainer/shore excursion guide in the Mediterranean on Royal Cruise Lines.
Finding the right groove…
But nothing beat the employment designation of Featured Act. It meant the best accommodations, best money, backup orchestras at your disposal…and the lightest work load of all…maybe only two or three shows per week! From then on it was “featured act” or nothing.
End of an era…
In summary – working ships was a thoroughly pimped experience – I was privileged to live and work with thousands of very interesting people – some of whom remain in touch. I also saw much of the world, every nook and cranny of the Caribbean – made good money – met more than a few celebrities – ingested copious amounts of outstandingly good food – had too many drinks bought for me by overly generous passengers, staff and fellow entertainers – with whom many great adventures were shared – too numerous to tell here. (One of these days, over drinks in the Lido Bar…)
Time to Grow Up…
But Pee Wee Herman, I’m not. We all have to grow up some day. By age 38 I’d had enough and was ready to settle down.
Too many late nights…
Weary of the constant travel required of the entertainer/musician lifestyle, the next career phase was owner/manager of a Cruise Only travel agency in North Dallas. This quickly grew to include other basic agency functions such as airline tickets, hotels, car rentals, etc. and the hiring of associated staff to handle the workload.
With the exception of meeting my soul mate (on a blind date no less…how pimped is that!), getting married and starting a family – this 25-year long ‘agency owner’ phase of life was relatively un-pimped. There was way too much of that 9 to 5 drill – fixed schedules – cranky clients – employees to coddle – deadlines – payroll to meet – now all dirty words in my book!
Truth be told…
There are nice perks to owning a travel agency – many memorable vacations – mostly cruises – at reduced cost – indulging champagne tastes on beer budgets, etc.
Graceland, here we come…
In 1999 – in response to an employment opportunity offered to my spouse – we pulled up stakes and moved – lock, stock and agency – to Memphis, TN- birthplace of Rock & Roll and Home of the Blues – where we find ourselves today. And make no mistake about it, Memphis is a great city! From here it is easy to let the good times roll.
——— Continuing the Sordid Saga of the Edwin & Buford Show ———
A shipwreck waiting to happen…
Mr. Kolb and I boarded the ship a few days later; having no real act, not even a name for our act. Nor had we given any thought to stage costumes. However, we had heard that there were formal nights aboard ship. So, we rented tuxedos, deciding at the last minute that this would make for suitable stage apparel.
Ten minutes before our first show, with an audience of hundreds eagerly awaiting our debut, the band playing warm up tunes, we were in the dressing room being interviewed by the cruise director, the MC for the evening.
Asking how we wished to be introduced, we just looked at each other and shrugged. Jim said “my hero is Buford Pusser of ‘Walking Tall‘ fame. So I’m going to go with ‘Buford‘ as a stage name”.
I thought to myself, well “Lyn & Buford” just doesn’t sound quite right. Then I had a brilliant flash of insight. My middle name is “Edwin“. That resonates much better with Buford. “Edwin & Buford” – the nerd and the redneck! Performing in tuxedos! With such an incongruous image maybe they won’t notice that we don’t have an act.
The cruise director thought it was all just a backstage put-on for his benefit. Little did he know!
Making a splash…
The band played us on, looking sharp in our cut-away Armani tuxes. I began my verbal introduction to our first number. “Ladies and gentlemen this first tune is the theme song to the movie ‘Bonnie & Clyde‘; two of the most notorious thieves to ever roam the countryside.”
At that point Buford interrupted me with the following harangue: “Hold it, Edwin. Speaking of thieves, there is one loose on this ship! Valuables have been disappearing from passenger’s cabins. It’s a shame such a thing would be allowed to occur on a five star cruise ship such as this…but someone had to say something. Be forewarned!”
The ensuing silence was deafening. People could be heard whispering…”I thought this was supposed to be a comedy show?”
I counted off the song. As Buford’s right arm went down to strike the first guitar chord of the first tune – twenty five pieces of silverware – borrowed from the ship’s dining room – slid from this tuxedoed sleeve, hitting the stage floor with a loud clatter. There was deafening silence for about a three second beat during which time the audience realized that it was all a put-on – then came peels of laughter.
Sealed with a hiss…
That one opening gag secured our reputation with Princess Lines. From that moment on we could do no wrong…until the following week.
Buford could be quite vengeful when slighted, real or imagined. Getting even was simply a matter of aiming his ruthless, barbed wit at the unsuspecting perpetrator – usually in a very public setting.
Sparked by a now forgotten run-in with one of the ship’s British officers – probably having to do with the contested attention of a young female passenger – in a subsequent show the following dialog ensued:
Buford: Hey, Edwin. Did know an old guy died during the last cruise?
(Actually someone had died on the previous cruise – Buford’s humor was nothing if not topical.)
Edwin: No kidding? They sure did a good job of keeping it quiet. How do you think they got the body ashore without anyone noticing?
Buford: Simple. They just dressed him up as a ship’s officer and walked him off!
Buford had to lay low for a couple of days following that show. Apparently ‘keel hauling‘ is still a legal disciplinary option under British maritime law.
Yours truly in the crosshairs…
Not surprisingly, one day I found myself the intended victim of a Buford prank. I am not sure what my transgression was – but it probably had to do with my insistence that we actually develop a rehearsed act – for those (frequent) occasions when the ad lib approach wasn’t working.
Buford felt some kind of retribution was in order – for even suggesting such a thing.
Living low on the hog…
The next day Buford returned from a port call in Ensenada, Mexico with a (real) hogs head in a bag…a head that looked and smelled as if it had been several days since detached from the rest of the hog.
While I was out on deck catching some rays, he slipped into my cabin, placed the hog’s head face up in the toilet of my bathroom, Crazy Glued the eyelids wide open, pinned the jowls back to expose the canine teeth, then stuffed a lit cigarette up the nostrils to create a fire breathing effect. For maximum impact the toilet lid was then lowered into place so that the next person to use the toilet would find themselves eyeball to eyeball with this fire-breathing monster. Buford’s erroneous assumption was that the next person would be me.
He then tip toed back to his own cabin just down the hall – with the door slightly ajar – awaiting my imminent return.
International relations dust up…
Things went horribly wrong. With the worst timing possible, along came our room steward; a small, wiry, nervous, highly superstitious young man of East Indian decent, trying desperately to cope with the stress of being away from home for the first time, coping with a strange new culture – obviously headed directly for my cabin.
Walking down the corridor myself, I was suddenly grabbed by Buford and yanked into his cabin where he shouted “Edwin, quick, you’ve gotta get that cabin steward out of your room! NOW!” Before I say a word, we heard a blood curdling scream…from the direction of my cabin.
In an explosion of blurred motion the panic stricken room steward shot down the hallway, leaving a trail of airborne mops and buckets. Only an alert deck hand kept the panicked little guy from jumping the rail – an act that surely saved us from a charge of involuntary manslaughter.
How can we miss you if you don’t go away…
Shortly thereafter, having had enough of our shenanigans, we were informed by Princess Lines that our services were no longer needed. This is a phrase we were to hear over and over again – in multiple venues from multiple cruise lines – during the brief life of the Edwin & Buford Show.