March 11, 2002
Northshore seniors dream up trips to nearby and faraway destinations
by Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
Oh, the places they'll go! Branson and Queen Charlotte Islands and New England. And don't forget the places they've gone: Norway and Mexico and the Woolly Prairie Buffalo Co. in the Skagit Valley. The seniors at the Northshore Senior Center in Bothell have traveled to plenty of fun places. And, they look ahead to many more adventurous travels.
The volunteers who work in the Center's travel office—known as bookies—dream up interesting treks to nearby and faraway destinations. They also plan and organize the trips. "We go to a variety of places," says bookie Margaret Parke. "Tomorrow we go on a mystery trip." No one knows where the mystery trip will end up, but that's part of the fun. Other day trips scheduled for the coming months include high tea in a Gothic Tudor castle, a tour of Buddhist Temples in Canada, a junket to Mt. St. Helen's, a jaunt to Issaquah for a Krispy Kreme 'goody', an organ recital at Benaroya Hall and a guided tour of a Mukilteo lighthouse.
"We try to offer a variety of places so that everyone can afford to participate," says Parke. But she admits that even though the events are varied, there are times when a planned trip doesn't seem to garner interest, like the day-trip to the Rosalie Whyel Museum of Doll Art in Bellevue. "I planned a trip to the Doll Museum and not one person signed up," says Parke. She mentions another event that wasn't a hit with the seniors. "Not a soul signed up for the quilt show," she notes.
Parke, a retired Special Ed teacher, sits inside the travel office with fellow bookie, Betty Width, a 20-year veteran retiree of Marshall Paris Insurance in Bothell. On this day, Width oversees the travel office, working at a desk in a small room where picturesque travel posters decorate the walls along with a rack chock-full of colorful brochures. As the two bookies talk, several people pop their heads in the door. One woman asks, "What time do we leave on Sunday?" Another stops in and inquires, "How much for a single to go to Branson?" Several men come in to pick up brochures of trips they might sign up for later on.
In all there are six bookies, each managing the office one day a week and usually from 9 to 3. Once a month, the bookies and their substitutes get together to discuss issues pertinent to their travel job. They also discuss the trips. "We have to get everyone enthused about the trips," Parke asserts. In addition, the bookies hold a trip party about once a year. "It's open to anyone," says Parke. "Travel companies are here, willing to answer questions." Working with travel companies is a good part of the bookie's job. They spend time on the phone seeking the best deals with companies willing to cater to seniors.
"We're not a travel agency, but we work with travel companies that deal with seniors and know how to keep us happy," says Parke. Seniors don't have to stay in five-star hotels, but Parke says they do want moderate, comfortable accommodations that meet senior needs. Elevators and an airport shuttle service are a must. Parke adds, "We do like bellhops to carry heavy luggage."
The bookies sort through the information the travel companies send them, choosing trips they think seniors might enjoy. They're not always certain if a trip they choose is one seniors would like. "Sometimes we have to pull it out of a hat," says Parke. Width adds, "And if it strikes their fancy, we're lucky." Most of the time, they get it right as dozens of trips have struck the seniors' fancy. An excursion south of the border to Copper Canyon, Mexico is one example of a trip the seniors thoroughly enjoyed. The journey included scenic sightseeing, shopping inside a cave and a wild and bumpy bus ride on a narrow road at the edge of a mountain. Parke places her hands in a praying position and looks up to jokingly signal her apprehensions during the bus ride. But even thought she may have experienced a few hair-raising moments, Parke gives the impression she wouldn't trade the Mexico experience for a million pesos. She has an album of photos depicting the country's red canyons, tropical flowers and towering cactus. Width mentions another popular trip and says, "We went to Norway a couple of years ago." Parke opens her album displaying photos of the Scandinavian trip. Snapshots of stone churches, waterfalls, fjords and gabled storybook homes grace each page.
However, Parke says that seniors aren't as eager to travel overseas as they were a year ago. She says, for now, they feel more comfortable sticking closer to home. "People are hesitant to travel right now because of Sept. 11, " she explains. But the sign-ups for day trips continue to go strong. When asked what day trip is a favorite with the seniors, Parke answers, "Woodland Park Zoo is certainly one." Width comments that another past favorite was the Asian Art Museum. The choice of eateries for lunch, she says, may have contributed to the trip's success. Says Width, "We went to the Succulent Noodle for lunch."
Both Parke and Width love travel and their wanderlust passion factors into their dedication as bookies. Parke has served the Senior Center as a bookie since 1999 and Width since 1993. The seniors who sign up for the trips offered through the Center's travel office recall unforgettable memories, some writing them down. One of the seniors who traveled with the group to Copper Canyon kept a journal and later shared it with Parke. Describing the excitement felt in the early morning hours the day the odyssey to Mexico began, the journal's first page states: "By 5:15 am a bunch of white-haired seniors (and some without hair) mill around in the early morning dark in the parking lot next to the police station in Bothell. An air of nervous expectation shuffles in the air as folks joke greetings one to the other. The bus appears from out of the dark and sibilant brakes swoosh to a stop. Family members kiss their 'adventurers' good-bye.... There is no fooling around as driver quickly stows baggage into the innards of the big bus, and soon we are off to join early morning commuters on the highway. Poor sods, they gotta work while we play."
Good times wait for seniors interested in 'play' while the rest of the world works. For more information, call the Northshore Senior Center at 425-487-2441 and ask to speak to a bookie.