In 1936, the idea of inexpensive lodging for young travelers
appealed to me.
Youth hostels were new in this country, but in 1937, I
proposed a summer hostel tour for a few Christian College
students who planned careers in physical education. The idea was
not accepted. Thirty years later my children and three friends
bicycled in England on rented bikes and stayed in beautiful old
country houses, castles and other buildings that had been made
into youth hostels inexpensive accommodations for people
"traveling under their own power."
In l966, Nancy, Walt and a friend, Barbara, returned for a
900-mile bike tour on the continent and in England, Scotland and
Wales. We usually cooked two meals a day in "members’
kitchens" and met travelers from various countries including
Japan, Iceland, Australia, New Zealand and others. Youth hostels
made this international experience possible and at minimum cost.
I was asked to present an all-school assembly for Christian
College’s students; many were eager to make a similar trip.
In 1969, two girls asked me to take them hosteling and bicycling
in Europe. The dean asked, "Could you handle the planning,
the flights, reservations, first aid and bike repairs?" Yes.
"The girls would pay all of their expenses?"
"Yes," I said, "they’ll also need bicycles,
rain wear, saddlebags, and I can get them at a reduced price from
our son Walt who owns a bike shop. The students would keep their
bicycles after the trip." It was approved, and I began to
plan this first tour, 45 days, for seven young women and me.
The dean approved granting one hour’s credit in physical
education for several hundred miles of pedaling on all kinds of
terrain. "The college will charge a matriculation fee for
any traveler not enrolled in the college at this time," he
said. I immediately studied maps, hostel accommodations and
interesting things to see and do. The itinerary included three
days each in Iceland, Paris, London and Spain.
The two girls who initiated this trip were eager to go to
Spain, so they could practice their Spanish. As we pedaled across
the border from southern France, they clammed up and were too
timid to speak a Spanish word!
To make matters worse, the San Sebastian hostel that had not
responded to my reservation letter with international postal
coupons for reply and an international bank check to secure our
The hostel warden brushed me off in Spanish. I told him of my
blue mailer with extra postage and check for down payment; he
summoned a helper who spoke a little English. He explained that
this hostel is always closed to travelers in summer.
"But I sent return postage for an answer." Suddenly,
I spied my own blue mailer on the desk, unopened! Where could
eight tired bicyclists get lodging for three nights? It was the
toughest situation I faced, in any of three European trips I lead
for Christian/Columbia College students! The warden’s helper
explained that it was holiday time, with mammoth fireworks
exhibits and dancing in the streets every night. "Most
places are filled," he said. I had budgeted $50 per person,
and we were lucky to find two small third-floor rooms with a
shared toilet and tub!
The gals were great troopers! We attended the festivities, ate
in our rooms a lot and spent lots of time on our tiny balconies
watching Spaniards whoop it up all night.
After the fireworks display, we were leaving the beach in a
tightly knit crowd when a girl whispered, "Mrs. G, our
backsides are being fondled!" I said, "Step in front of
me!" They did. I gave the guys a dirty look, and the problem