Traveling While Old

In my 20s, a friend and I took a road trip from Colorado to the West Coast in my VW Bug. We made no plans and only had a vague route—check out some national parks like Mount Rainier and Glacier. With our tent, sleeping bags and Coleman stove, we planned to camp along the way.

In those days before campgrounds fill up quickly and reservations are necessary, I didn’t make elaborate preparations. I didn’t yet know all the things that could go wrong: failing brakes (and mechanics who thought they could pull a fast one), my dog rolling in a dead fish at Lake Teton, a night on the beach so cold we wrapped ourselves in newspapers, and eating cold canned beans because we had no fuel for our Coleman stove.

Now, 50 years later, I’ve experienced many more misfortunes while traveling. After the last two trips to Great Britain resulted in flat tires from driving on the country’s narrow roads, I decided to drive as little as possible on a trip to Scotland two years ago, instead relying on trains, buses and ferries. Because my memory is not so great and because I wanted to control the trip as much as possible—I’m too old to be hitchhiking or looking for a place to stay at night—I planned every detail: reserved B&Bs along the way, bought tickets for the train and ferry before we left home, and even figured out the routes from the train station to our B&Bs. What could possibly go wrong?

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