Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Don’t be afraid to discover pleasures of traveling solo

While I waited for my luggage to be unloaded in Honolulu, I went to "Travel Assistance" and asked about accommodations within 10 miles of the beach and the business district - for only one person - for less than a week. My luggage was a bicycle, two stuffed saddlebags and the small carry-on bag, which strapped to the front handlebars.

The 10-mile limit made it easy to ride to the beach and to the airport for my flight to American Samoa. It was not a crowded tourist season, so I was offered a complete housekeeping apartment that would accommodate six people. I paid a reasonable rate as one non-smoking, non-cooking renter. My bike stayed indoors with me, and I unpacked only the necessities from the saddlebags.

This 1968 trip was the "rest and recreation" part of my sabbatical leave from Christian College, now Columbia College. Chub stood firm in his belief that I should not go alone. One morning he said, "If you are dead set on going, I’ll not stand in your way."

I immediately asked my travel agent to secure the documents necessary for travel in a part of the world I had never visited. Three weeks later, I was in Hawaii! Chub and I retraced part of this trip together a few years later.

I immediately discovered freedoms and disadvantages of traveling alone. I saved time at baggage pick-up spots. There was no flipping a coin to decide between a bus trip through the pineapple fields or biking to the beach. However, I almost said, "Hey, look at that" several times to people who weren’t listening!

I jotted a few words in a notebook about insignificant things I knew Chub and our grown children would have enjoyed, and I took lots of snapshots for them. Soon I found it easy to visit with other people traveling alone while seeing so many things for the first time: Honolulu, the sunken Arizona Memorial, huge fields of almost ripe pineapples, the Blow Hole, surfers riding gigantic waves, parents and their children playing in wet sand.

On the flight to Samoa a woman from North Carolina gave me some tips about traveling alone. "Friends and families miss a lot by staying together and not making new contacts," she said.

She and I discovered our common interest in bicycle touring and agreed that when two or more travel together they have more waiting to do in restaurants, bike shops and at ticket windows, baggage pickups and restrooms.

A lone traveler seeks more information relating to his or her own interests. In New Zealand, my questions were about sheep farming. In Australia, it was gold mining, and in Fiji, it was about the natives themselves. Chub and I bicycled together in Australia and New Zealand several years later.

When I led a Columbia College bicycle tour in Europe in 1972, the students were "doing London," so I took a short side trip alone to a village named Stoke Poges. I stood in the churchyard that inspired Thomas Gray to write "An Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" in 1751.

It was not Gray’s poem that took me to Stoke Poges; it was a tiny stained-glass window depicting a two-wheel contraption - thought to be the world’s first concept of a bicycle. The window was from a design found in a sketchbook of a versatile inventor, engineer, architect and artist who died in 1519. I’ll tell more about this remarkable man on another Monday.

My photo of the tiny stained-glass window is reproduced in black-and-white in my new book, "Just Leave The Dishes," available by calling Whip-Poor-Will Books at 442-6759.

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