The beginning of this story is a familiar one, I think. My husband of 47 years had died, six months had passed, and I was still sitting on the couch. We had enjoyed a life of travel: first in tents, then in trailers (going from small to large and back down), and finally in motels. Throughout those years, we’d built a storehouse of memories, yet I wanted more. Could a widow in her 70s continue the joy of seeing America while traveling solo?
I owned a vintage Honda and while she lacked the “extras,” she did have the basics of brakes, gas pedal, clutch, steering wheel, and mirrors. I named her the Silver Steed. We “hit the road,” slowly and cautiously at first. Now, in 2017, I am another 10 years down that road—and an octogenarian. Many of those years included a solo cross-country adventure. (The last one was in the fall of 2016 and reached Fort McHenry in Baltimore, looking out to Chesapeake Bay.)
William Least Heat Moon had it right: America is best found, defined if you will, along its “blue highways,” those roads with speed limits below 65 mph. My daily mileage rarely exceeds 225 miles, and most of my adventures consume eight weeks or more. If you’re someone who has thought about the possibility of such travel, I would like to offer a few tips I have found to be true and useful.
- Joining a hotel rewards program reaps benefits. Points add up quickly, especially when one takes advantage of special reward dates and days of the week.
- America’s seniors can be found volunteering in a wide variety of information centers. If you find loneliness creeping into your day, stop at one of these sites. You will find someone very willing to chat at length, and you will also leave better informed.
- For me, picnics are less lonely than restaurant meals and usually less expensive. Picnic tables abound—in city parks, roadside rest areas, and at famous sites. Pick a scenic spot and you will be refreshed. Share a table and you will meet a fellow traveler.
- Focusing on reaching a daily mileage total is the quickest way to become stressed. Don’t do it. Focus instead on the possibilities between Point A and Point B.
As a final note, let me suggest that if you cannot stomach another glorious sunset, green vistas stretching into eternity, or staring into some natural abyss, it may be time to look at the Roadside America website. Here you can find the wacky, the outrageous, and sometimes, even the inspiring. For the past two years I have sprinkled my miles with these sites and laughed my way across America. It seems Dorothy had it right after all, because even Kansas looks great through that filter.
Myrna Loveland has been a social worker, wife, and mother. Now she is a retiree, writer, and solo traveler. Some of her tips have appeared in the Thurston-Mason Senior News.