LOCK HAVEN – Love to travel but don’t have an interested spouse or family member to join in your endeavors? Do you want to go to Branson, Nashville or the western national parks? Or maybe even to Ireland for the Penn State football game in August?
Look no further than the Pennsylvania Happy Travelers Club, which is based right here.
The 13-year-old, non-profit organization’s guidelines are “to inform, educate and create interest in travel,” according to Dolly Confer, club president and lead trip organizer.
Confer, a former Office of Aging employee, has for years been an avid traveler who realizes that coordinating “group travel with affordable prices and making friends while seeing the country” is her calling as the leader of the program.
Donna Yarnell, of Flemington, travels with her husband or a friend on these club trips. She has been a member since its start.
“The trips are inexpensive and you meet so many nice people. I especially liked the trip to Mount Rushmore and the Badlands area in general,” Yarnell said. “I also have been to Branson three times with the club.”
Many of the planned trips are a week to 10 days in length. Most of the travelers are in the 50-and-older age group.
In April, 103 people are packing their suitcases to travel to Branson, Mo., for all the spectacular shows that the city has to offer. A club trip to Branson usually occurs every other year.
Spaces remain on another trip planned this year, the New England trip to Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The fabulous trip, set for June 22-27, features the longest sky ride in New Hampshire, the Loon Mountain Gondola ride in the White Mountain National Forest.
Then it will be on to the Lake Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad for a ride along the shores of the lake between the towns of Meredith and Lakeport and always within view of the lake. The railroad line was built in 1849 long before development along the remote lake. Now, the line passes through the front yards of many of very, nice resort homes.
Once a part of the Boston & Maine Railroad, the tracks brought tourists to the lake for summer vacations from the late 1890s until the 1950s.
Included will be a visit to Kennebunkport, Maine, where guests will take a Lighthouse Lover’s Cruise, featuring views of four lighthouses, including Portland Head Light, Maine’s oldest lighthouse.
Another trip for 2014 is an adventure to the Black Hills in South Dakota, featuring Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial. It will include Yellowstone National Park. Although the 15-day trip by bus is full, a waiting list was created because of the interest it generated.
Anyone can join the Pennsylvania Travelers Club. Membership is only $5 per year.
Benefits include input into what kind of trips and destinations would be enjoyable and cost effective. Then, the ideas are voted on.
Members also have a picnic and Christmas party for all to get together and reminisce. Officers are elected and committees are organized.
The 100-person membership roll includes people from all over central and northeast Pennsylvania. However, you do not have to be a member to travel with the group.
Meetings are held at 6:30 p.m. on the second Thursday of every month in the first-floor conference center at the Lock Haven Hospital skilled nursing facility, 24 Cree Drive.
Over the years, the club has visited sites such as:
Savannah, Jekyll Island and St. Simons Island, Ga.;
Pigeon Forge, the Smoky Mountains and Historic Gatlinburg, Tenn.;
The Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Las Vegas;
Colorado and the Rocky Mountains;
San Antonio, Texas; and
At Christmas time, the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, N.C.
The club is an excellent opportunity for anyone to see the state, country or the world, to learn and to experience new places with a well-organized group of old and new friends … and, to make some unforgettable memories.
Peggy and Harry Wenker have been traveling with the Travelers Club for many years. Residents of Woolrich and members of the club, they have taken two overseas trips and the rest in the U.S.
A favorite trip was to northern Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. They traveled the countryside by tour bus.
A tour director onboard narrated the entire trip, giving educational information about sights along the way and history about sites to be visited.
Among the favorite places visited on the trip were Oberammergau, Germany, and Zermatt, Switzerland. From the Zermatt hotel, they watched goats with bells around their necks walk back and forth along the mountainside.
Harry remembers “the perfect weather to see the Matterhorn Mountain (on the border of Italy and Switzerland) the peaks still covered with snow in June.” While riding the ski lift to the top of the mountain in Innsbruck, they “could see our hotel down below.”
At Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s retreat high atop a mountain ridge in Germany, the couple enjoyed the story told of the reddish-colored fireplace of the Italian marble provided by Mussolini.
Collette Tours sponsored the European trip. The company provided excellent lodging and good food options, according to the Wenkers.
Another favorite trip was to South Dakota. The Wenkers enjoyed the nighttime lighting of the presidential faces of Mt. Rushmore.
A visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial monument, which honors the culture and living heritage of North American Indians, fascinated them. They learned that some of the granite blast shavings were used in construction of the Avera Cancer Institute in Sioux Falls.
Also given to the cancer institute are blast fragments that are used as focal points in a labyrinth (an outdoor healing garden retreat). Some of the club travelers were onsite at the time of a blasting.
Readers, send Judy your questions and comments at traveloguer@comcast. net.