A New First

We all have firsts in our lives. Our first Christmas, first day of school, first job, first child, first day of retirement, first grandchild’s PreSchool Graduation. These are all memorable, in their own way, and now I have a new first: my very first Elder Hostel (aka Road Scholar.)

I didn’t realize that when I signed up. Actually I didn’t sign up. My husband did.

“What are you interested in learning?” he asked, holding up a brochure from ‘Road Scholar. Adventures in Lifetime Learning.’

“Ahh…nothing…” I answered suspiciously.

But I knew that wasn’t going anywhere. We had had an agreement. We would do ‘An undisclosed location’ weekend every quarter.

“Umm…How many quarters’ overdue are we?” he didn’t need the answer as he pressed his point.

“I don’t need to learn anything…I’m retired…” I muttered weakly.

“The Art of Storytelling. It’s a week on Smith Mountain Lake just ease of Roanoke Virginia…How’s that sound?”

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to travel. It’s just that…well…the kids, the grandkids. I babysit once a week. And I have a temporary job once a month. An undisclosed weekend was one thing, a whole week and a half away was another.

But I breathed and gave way with grace.

“With grace?!” (“Hush, can’t you see I’m telling a story!”)

I didn’t get around to reading the fine print till the week before we left.

“Road Scholar use to be Elder-Hostel…” I mused uneasily.

It would be held in a conference center, I read, and there were nature paths for hiking. All right then. I had been to conference centers during business trips and church retreats. They were civilized places with restaurants and pubs. I could probably do this. It wasn’t like Roanoke was the end of the world.

We took it easy on the way down, traveling to the Maryland border on Friday, Roanoke on Saturday, and doing the final ‘easy’ leg of the journey on Sunday.

“Where are you taking us?” I asked in a panicked voice as we wound up a narrow mountain road with sheer drops and a proliferation of Trump/Pence signs. “Where are we?”

“Apparently nowhere…” was his answer when we stopped (and turned around) at the sign that read. “It is not recommended that motor vehicles travel beyond this point.”

He choose that moment to also warn me of something…”They may not have Wi-Fi down there.”

“What?! Go back to New England!” I gasped.

When we eventually arrived, the conference center was not quite what I expected. We signed in, my husband took a nap, and I decided to explore. I was hoping to find a place to get a cup of tea, (maybe a cold beer) and the promised nature trails.

But I never even found a vending machine. Then, the so-called “nature trail” disappeared after 100 yards. Undiscouraged, I bushwhacked until something slithered through the tall wet grass.

Things did not look up during the “meet and greet” where we were served hors d’oeuvres and encouraged to socialize. All they served was cheese and crackers and coffee and lemonade!

“I think we’re the youngest people here…” I whispered frantically to my husband.

He had gotten corralled by a talkative elderly gentleman who reminded me of my step-father.

“Story-telling…” I asked myself, way too late… “What kind of people take a course on story-telling?”

I could go on and on about the horrors of our week.

But, fortunately, this would not be the truth.

Things began to look up during supper, when one of our table-mates choose to break the ice by asking what book everyone was reading. Everyone perked up at that, and we all began to share book recommendations.

“Wow. This just might be my kind of crowd…” I thought to myself.

During the introductory meet and greet, we had all been asked if this were our first “Road Scholar” and, if not, how many we had attended. Quite a few had attended several, and one couple had been to 58. Our fellow “scholars” were mostly successful, thoughtful folks who had lead interesting lives. (People think I’m an introvert, but actually, I really like people. I’m just too shy to talk to anyone.) But, my husband isn’t and we socialized a lot. The food and accommodations were not spectacular but were fine, and the sessions were mostly interesting. Plus, not to brag, but we got to know and hang out with a genuine celebrity, a Times-best-selling author! We had actually read several of his books prior to attending the course, and we felt pretty darn pleased. (Hopefully the author and his wife also appreciated our attempts at discrete celebrity worship…)

And…whew…there was wi-fi.

All in all, it was a happy first Road Scholar.

“Would you do it again?” asked my husband.

“Absolutely!” I answered. “Um…I mean…someday…someday when the grandchildren are older…and the kids don’t need us so much and…”

“Great!” he said paging thru the catalogue “Look, there is a hiking corse in Yellowstone and a Grand Canyon rafting trip you can take your grand kids on. Which one do you want to do?”

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