Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

June 3, 2002

News flash for the Jim O'Leary fan club members

Jim will be visiting the Gerry Smith residence at 1903 North Shore Drive, Waverly, Sunday, June 9, after 4 p.m. Fans (and autograph seekers) are welcome to stop by and say hello.

Morning. It is the purest time of day.

The air is clean and cool. I am walking down a hill towards the aroma of coffee and bacon. Overhead and all around me are the sweet, plaintive calls of wood thrushes.

I have just emerged from a log cabin built by the CCC in the '30s, but still solid and comfortable. I am surrounded by pine trees and early morning mist.

I am at Devil's Den State Park in the Ozarks of Arkansas, so inaccessible that the larger RVs can't make the turns into the park.

I am here because Jeanne had signed us up for an Elderhostel on bats, birds and the history of the Ozarks. This Elderhostel only confirms the suggestion made one time in jest that the entire state of Arkansas should be turned into one vast park.

It also confirmed for me that Elderhostels are the way to go.

Have I got a deal for you! If you are over 55 and want a travel bargain, look into the Elderhostel movement. I have now made 10 Elderhostels.

Every single one turned out to be the perfect vacation, even the time I had a cold, and even the two Elderhostels where I became hopelessly lost on hiking trails. I still can't believe how cheap our vacation at Devil's Den State Park was.

Here is some information from the Elderhostel web site under the heading "Learning helps older Americans stay active:"

"America's population is aging, but there has never been a better time to be be an older adult in the United States.

"While one in every eight Americans is 65 or older, today's seniors have far better health, a higher level of education and income, and more opportunities to maintain an active and productive lifestyle than did their predecessors.

"Among the many positive factors contributing to the well-being of American seniors has been the introduction of lifelong learning - both the concept and the opportunities to engage in it - over the past several decades.

"With the establishment of the first community-based learning in retirement programs in the early 1960s, and the founding in 1975 of Elderhostel - now the world's leading not-for-profit organization providing educational opportunities to age 55+ adults, older Americans have enthusiastically embraced continuing education and have benefited from it.

"Individuals who use their brains don't lose them. That's where programs such as Elderhostel can contribute to a healthy post-retirement lifestyle."

So it's a win-win deal.

The sponsoring schools, colleges, motels, state, and national parks use their housing, their kitchens, their employees (including professors), which are already in place. It would all just otherwise sit there without generating any income.

The overseas Elderhostels are the best bargains of all. Jeanne and I got to travel to Scotland, Costa Rica and Peru at the very cheapest rates.

Those rates included air fare, local guides, meals, and ground transportation. Absolutely everything was included in the one price deal made by the National Elderhostel Organization. We also met some of the most interesting people around, not all of them retired.

We went to one Elderhostel in Alabama, at an Episcopalian retreat center in the heavily forested and hilly William B. Bankhead National Forest, which was a "Service Elderhostel." A "Service Elderhostel" is even cheaper because the "tuition" is greatly reduced if you do volunteer work as part of the Elderhostel.

In this case, the volunteer service part was eating, hiking, and playing with deaf students from the State Schools for the Deaf from both Tennessee and Alabama.

We learned some sign language and, most of all, enjoyed the joyous company of these deaf students. Another stereotype bit the dust.

There we were, in the heart of Dixie, and the black and white deaf students and the black and white faculties (and black and white elderhostelers) from Alabama and Tennessee all lived and played together without a bit of self-consciousness.

Hugs all around, all the time. It must be a characteristic of deaf children to display physical affection more often than other children do, and their ability to enjoy themselves at simple past times, such as hiking and field sports, was very contagious.

Ready to get out of a rut and change your life?

Want to learn to drive a dog sled in Alaska? How about bird watching in South Carolina? Or learning all about classical music? How about following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark? Or cruising by luxury barge on the historic canals of France?

Take your pick. These are just a few of the thousands of classes listed in Elderhostel's catalogs.

These low cost learning adventures (costing about $200 to $300 per person) are provided to over a quarter million Americans every year.

Most of them last about a week and host around 30 to 40 Elderhostelers at a time. They stay in comfortable modest facilities and usually eat at campus cafeterias or dining halls.

I hope you will call, toll free, 877-426-8056 and ask for a free catalog. If you have a computer, you can access the web site at: www.elderhostel.org. Tell them "Jim Bob" sent you.

Jim O'Leary
461 Claremore
Corpus Christi, TX 78412
(361) 992-2168

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