(TRAVEL) Call of the Wild Highway

By Jug Varner

I have been a travel junkie all my life and had visited several states before I joined the Navy as a teenager. Fortunately, the naval career provided an abundance of travel opportunities by land, sea, and air, as did various civilian situations afterward — so that there are few places in the USA that Bonnie and I have missed. Only Alaska, Montana, and North Dakota have eluded our itineraries, for some reason — but we are not through yet! For some of us, traveling is an itch you just have to scratch.

Although we have visited in several foreign lands, seeing our own country always has been our first priority, preferring the highway to airline routes where possible. We also stay at downtown hotels instead of outlying motels if we plan to see or do anything in a particular city. You get a better feel for the town, and generally better food and service at a quality hotel. I think Bonnie would be perfectly content to live in a hotel full time! Consequently, good bed and board take priority over everything in our trip planning, and we remember a city for that reason as much as its historic and tourist attractions.

Things have changed considerably over the years, however. The diversity of cities and states, formerly the primary motivation for a visit, has been diminished a great deal by the sameness of national franchising, especially food. Regional fare is available, of course, but it takes a bit of research, trial, and error to find the favorite places of the locals, where the average tourist never goes.

Travel experts say there are several unique cities everyone should visit. Boston, New Orleans, San Antonio, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. head that list. I would add Charleston SC, Key West, and Santa Fe, at least. There are a number of other places worthy of writing home about — in fact I have. Some of these are included in my stories listed under TRAVEL.

In addition to the eight places named above (and the many attractions they offer) we particularly enjoyed visiting Chautauqua and Cooperstown NY, Gettysburg and Hershey PA, Hale Koa Military Resort (Honolulu), Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn MI, Mackinac Island MI, and Mount Rushmore SD. All are in those travel articles.

Being a meticulous travel planner, I am sometimes overly thorough — but that is advantageous in two ways. If you actually make the trip, you know exactly where to go and how to get there, with no surprises. If you cancel your plans for some reason, you have enjoyed it vicariously and have a good future reference. Over time, we have compiled a long list of places to NOT stay or eat, plus a few select ones we liked and want to return to if the occasion permits. I suppose when it comes to food and bed you could say we are more than a wee bit discriminating!

Despite road rage, questionable bridge structures, overabundance of trucks, and never-ending road construction, the highway offers the safest and most convenient mode of travel for us. Unlike the days of my youth when getting there in a hurry (with the aid of black coffee and No-Doze pills) and the final destination were the top priorities, we now enjoy the luxury of time, affordability, and diversity. There are some things about being senior that has distinct advantages.

For nature lovers it is the “call of the wild” that beckons. For us, it is the “call of the wild highway.”