Adventures without borders

Visitor to 50 states is among rising number of older travelers

September 02, 2007|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,Special to The Sun

Louise Haifley says her life has been filled with adventure and excitement as she has traveled throughout the United States. There was the time in 1933 when she went to the Chicago World's Fair and saw performances by Duke Ellington and Sally Rand. And she was stranded in Hawaii for 105 days in 1979 during an airline strike.

In July, at age 89, Haifley visited Alaska, where she saw glaciers and had a run-in with a bear. With her Alaskan adventure, Haifley boasts that she has now traveled to all 50 states.

"My trips have just evolved over the years," the Manchester resident said. "I didn't sit down one day and say I wanted to visit all 50 states. I just traveled wherever my life took me."

Haifley joins a growing number of seniors who have turned to traveling in their later years, said Olivia Schrodetzki, manager of the Mount Airy Senior Center. She has noticed a steady number of seniors traveling throughout the nation, Schrodetzki said.

"Our seniors are very active," Schrodetzki said. "They want educational trips where they can learn and see things that they haven't been exposed to before. They are younger- minded and more health-conscious about what they eat."

The center offers bus excursions that include a week in Vermont to visit a winery, a cider mill and a covered bridge; and 10 days in Florida with day trips to a variety of sites, she said.

Haifley's adventures began at age 11, when her grandparents took her to Niagara Falls.

After that, she embarked on journeys around the country, said Haifley, who was a middle and high school teacher for about 38 years.

After Niagara Falls, she traveled to Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Then came the trip to the Chicago World's Fair, she said..

"I don't remember a lot about the World's Fair," she said. "But I remember Duke Ellington, and I will never forget Sally Rand dancing. It was just wonderful."

She took a hiatus from traveling to attend Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College, where she earned a bachelor's degree in education. She also earned a master's degree in education from Towson University.

Florida honeymoon

Upon graduating from Western Maryland College in 1939, she married Francis Haifley, and the couple honeymooned in Florida, she said. Over the next three decades, she traveled in the West and Midwest, she said.

When her husband died in 1979, she went to Hawaii to spend a month with her son. While there she joined a whale club and went to a number of luaus, she said.

An airline strike stranded her in Hawaii for 105 days, she said.

"I got a job at a flower shop and made leis for luaus," she said. "During my time in Hawaii, I visited all the islands and had a lot of fun."

Other excursions included trips to Las Vegas, the Vanderbilt Estate in North Carolina, Charleston, S.C., Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon and a tour of a cemetery in Savannah, Ga., Haifley said.

"The cemetery tour was an unusual experience," she said, chuckling. "They took us around and showed us, and told us, who was buried where, and we danced on someone's grave."

She has taken day trips with other seniors over the years, she said.

Seniors often take trips that are coordinated through local senior centers, organizations or housing facilities, said Margie Hoffman, the trip coordinator at the South Carroll Senior Center in Eldersburg.

Popular excursions

Monthly excursions, including trips to Dover Downs, Delaware Park, Washington and art museums are popular, Hoffman said.

"We offer art classes, so we take the seniors on day trips to see various museums," she said. "Seniors love to travel. We're getting fewer seniors on the trips sponsored by the centers because they are moving into condos that coordinate their own trips."

Haifley's most recent trip was in July, when she spent 20 days in Alaska, the last place she needed to visit to claim a trip to each state, and it turned out to be the most exciting, she said.

She went through a one-way tunnel, took a cruise to see 26 glaciers and stayed in a remote lodge, she said. And she rode on a double-decker bus.

"The bus was windows on both sides," she said. "It got so close to the edge of the mountains we were on that I thought it meant the end for us."

During her stay, she attended bear school, she said.

"We took a ski plane out to the beach, but we couldn't get out because there was a bear on the beach," she said.

That wasn't her only bear sighting.

While she was sitting in front of the lodge, someone yelled that a bear was coming, she said.

"Up until then I couldn't get up the stairs without help," she said. "But when I heard that lady yell `Here comes a bear,' I was in the cabin in no time, with no help. I don't think I ever moved so fast."

She also panned for gold in Alaska, she said.

"I didn't find any, so I just bought some to bring home," she said.

Her luggage -- with the gold in it -- wound up in Texas but was returned to her several weeks ago.

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