Elderhostel Notebook #37, Nov. 18, 1998

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information about Elderhosteling and other learning experiences
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    From the Editors Notebook

    Elderhostel News and  Reviews

          Davis Mountains Environmental Education Center
          Valley Forge
          Hudson River Elderhostel
          History and Culture of Navajo people
          Pay in Advance Policy Stirs Controversy


    Editor's Notebook

 The new pre-payment policy for domestic programs (international
and service programs have always been pre-pay) has created some
concern among readers which prompted the news story on that
issue. I imagine we will hear more of this issue in the future.

I have added two elderhostel diaries from Bill Wilson,
bwilson@icx.net, to the virtual elderhostel section of the
Notebook web page. They are interesting and well illustrated
reports of Elderhostels to the UK and Central America. Check them

If a report you sent in is not in this issue, it will be
published in the next issue due about Dec. 1 as my reserve file
growing a little again. I try to keep the personals section up to
date and usually don't keep queries or comments in the reserve

I hope to do a story in a future issue about elderhosteling for
persons with physical disabilities and would appreciate any
comments readers have about their experiences either as a
hosteler with disabilities or with hostelers who have
disabilities: mobility, hearing, sight problems, etc.

   Elderhostel News and Reviews

Review of Elderhostel Program 43640-1025-01; 10/25/98 to 10/30/98
Davis Mountains Environmental Education Center
Indian Lodge State Park, Texas
"Frank Reisch" freisch@unicomp.net

This program included bird watching and stargazing in the Davis
Mountains of southwest Texas.

Lodging was at Indian Lodge located within the State Park. It
resembles an Indian pueblo and blends nicely into the scenery.
Accommodations were very nice and included cable tv (to check on
weather and news for junkies like me). The patio areas contained
bird feeders so many birds could be seen at the motel. (There was
also a special, baited viewing area within the park.) Park
campsites accommodate RV hookups or tents. There are also nice
picnic sites.

Breakfast was continental style, and most other meals were at the
Lodge's Bear Restaurant except for a noon picnic at Balmorhea
State Park and the last night which was at Cueva de Leon, a
Mexican style restaurant in the town of Ft. Davis. The meals were
adequate but nothing to write home about.

The Elderhostel host for this session was Wendy Forster, an
experienced and really gung-ho English lady who could identify
most birds, trees, flowers, stars and rocks, teach line dancing,
tell stories or crack jokes. She is a dedicated RV "gypsy" so she
may or may not be host for future programs.

Birding included walks in the park, lectures, videos or watching
birdbanding. The latter afforded a really nice opportunity to see
and photograph the birds up close. Over 50 different bird types
were seen during this session. Also seen during the walks were
mule deer and havelina (wild pigs).

One day was spent birding at nearby Balmorea State Park. This
site includes picnic and campsites, and a huge freshwater pool
where one can swim among the endangered Comanche Springs Pupfish
and the Pecos Mosquitofish.

Astronomy began with one-each informative night and early morning
lectures using low power telescopes and binoculars to see the
moon, planets and even the Andromeda galaxy. The McDonald
Observatory was visited twice; once at night for viewing of stars
and planets with 30 inch telescopes and once during the day to
view the sun and visit the large telescopes. It rained during
part of the night session so doctorial students gave very
interesting lectures on their research instead of telescope

Some free time was available so that visits to Fort Davis (the
historical site), Marfia (to view the mysterious lights), a
scenic park overlook or a 75 mile scenic tour in the mountains,
could be squeezed into the schedule.

Fort Davis was interesting in that the restorations of the
enlisted personnel and officers quarters gave a nice picture of
period military life. The Fort bookstore is full of interesting
western material. There is also an introductory video about the

The scenic park overlook provides a nice view of the motel and
campgrounds. Visit in the early morning for the best light on the

The final night consisted of a graduation "ceremony" when
everyone received his certificate and passport, recited a short
poem he (or she) wrote about a bird or star, and line-dancing
demonstrated by the host.

All-in-all, I enjoyed the program and the location. It was a nice
change of pace.

Since I had never been to southwest Texas, I extended my trip to
include San Angelo and the Caverns of Sonora on the outbound
trip, and Midland on the return to my home near Dallas, Texas.

A major attraction in San Angelo was Fort Concho. The day I
visited included a special period military reinactment ceremony
sponsored by the Texas Historical Commission inaugurating a new
Texas Travel Trails program featuring Texas Forts. The Fort
Concho tour includes a small number of period artifacts including
some medical instruments in addition to the restored buildings.

The Sonora Caverns were disappointing.

Midland's visit included the Petroleum Museum and the Confederate
Air Force Museum. Both were very interesting and worthwhile.

If anyone has specific questions send them to me via e-mail.

Frank Reisch


Valley Forge

Sponsor:  Valley Forge Historical Society

Facility:  Holiday Inn, West Chester, PA

Food:  Excellent, but no choices.  All meals were tasty.  Served
buffet style.

Courses:  Very interesting and well presented.  Actors were used
as Revolutionary figures to explain their mission during those
turbulent years of history.  Lectures per se were kept to a
minimum.  It is a novel idea and well received by the group. Two
all day field trips that enhance the classroom presentations.
Evenings continue with the Revolutionary War Characters and the
film of "1776" was shown one night. Overall you are kept
extremely busy and entertained as well. Competent coordinator
with an Elderhost couple on location.

I would give this EH an 8 out of 10 at this time and after the
renovation with a new elevator to take care of the steps and a
lavatory where the classes are held it should get 10:10.



Hudson River Elderhostel


The Elderhostel was held at Bear Mountain Conference Center.Not
at the Inn, at a nearby facility called Overlook Lodge. The Lodge
overlooked Hessian Lake and also the Hudson River. Leaves were in
full glory, days were warm, nights cool. Food was very good,
plenty of it. Breakfast buffet, cereal, fruit salad, toast,
danish.Coffee, tea, cocoa, juice.Lunches were served at the
table, soup and sandwich or salad. One day there was a salad
buffet, with 8 different salads. Desserts were cake or pudding,
with fruit as a choice.Each day had a seperate schedule, with
three  trips in the four days.

The other hostelers were pleasant, and conversation was
interesting. There was free time every day, and nothing was
rushed, for example one hour for each meal. The lectures were
interesting, perhaps more videos and slides than I am used to
-but then I'm used to none. We learned about the Hudson Valley
painters, taught by a Sister of the college that sponsored the
Elderhostel. She was an excellent teacher. Then Hudson River
Mansions, taught by a self-taught man who really knew his
subject, and is well versed in the preservation movement.

The third class was by a professor of the college, he was most
enthusiastic, but tended to get off the track. He is a docent for
Storm King Sculpture museum, and gave us a guided tour there,
which was good. On Thursday night there was a special dinner at
the Inn, followed by a party in a big room with a burning
fireplace, and people got up and told stories, or poems or jokes,
all nice. I was so enthused I also got up and offered my
important melodrama: "You must pay the rent", which was very well
received. We also sang sing-a-long songs,with a piano, received
our certificates, and our Elderhostel passports with stamps.
There are no negatives to tell you, and I am most anxious to go


San Juan Community College, Farmington, NM


The Elderhostel program we attended (subjects:  the history and
culture of the Navaho people and the works of Tony Hillerman) was
the best we have ever attended.  It was superbly planned and
administered, and even the students and faculty appeared glad to
have us on campus.  The president of the college took time to
address us the first day we were there.

The buildings and campus are beautiful, and the college is
interesting in itself. Both Toyota and Mesa Airlines maintain
training programs on campus, and the student body includes
Navahos, Anglos, and Hispanics.  A person who is at least one
quarter Navaho gets a tuition break.

We stayed in an above average Comfort Inn and took our meals on
campus.  The food, prepared in the college cafeteria, far
exceeded my expectations.  The programs were excellent; all our
instructors were Navaho except for the instructor on the
Hillerman books, and she had spent many years on or near the
Reservation.  The courses were much above average.  One of our
instructors was one of the Navaho code talkers in WW II; others
were Navaho who had grown up on the Rez and were retired or
active educators.  We learned a great deal about a culture which
is very admirable, and also learned, though this was not made an
issue, how badly the U. S. government has treated the Navaho.

We had a number of interesting side trips to the Navaho
Agricultural Program Institute, Aztec ruins,  two Navaho trading
posts, a tribal council building, and other nearby sites.

The staff tries to provide everything needed to increase the
elderhostlers' comfort.  I have back problems and was provided
with a chair with a solid back and arms.

The only downside was that we necessarily made several bus trips
a day between the motel and the college as well as on the field
trips.  The driver was most considerate (she made two trips to
accommodate those who wished to atttend the evening programs as
well as those who wanted to return to the motel), but the
climbing on and off the bus can be hard on the hip joints for
anyone who has arthritis in these joints. Sibyl Nestor


 Pay in Advance Policy Stirs Controversy

Among the changes announced in the U.S./Canada Winter Catalog is
a new policy regarding payment of fees eight weeks in advance
that has caused some concern for some Notebook readers.

The new registration polices are explained an page four of the
winter catalog and include new toll free phone and fax
registration, acceptance of credit cards for both the deposit and
program fee, and the use of a new ID number rather than the
previously used social security number.

The Notebook has invited comment from selected readers about
these changes, particularly the pre-payment and the following is
a selection of comments:

"I have signed up for an elderhostel in Hawaii in Jan and my
final payment is due at the end of November. I think this is OK
as it will probably discourage people from just not showing up
without calling etc. I think they still have options for refunds
if you need to cancel within a reasonable time. I like the fact
that you can charge the fee in this new system....some of us have
cards that give rewards."


"I don't like the new policy either, but I can understand why
they have instituted it. I went on a Windjammer Elderhostel last
year. I was fully booked and had a waiting list.  Two people on
the trip had been on standby and were able to come the last
minute. However, two individuals did not show up or contact
Elderhostel that they were not coming. They were not traveling
together. if they had called someone else on standby could have
gone. I don't know if they ever paid for the trip. It is very
hard to collect from people under those circumstances."


"I  was surprised to learn of the new pay schedule when I
received my Elderhostel confirmations. I think I liked it better
when you could pay at the Institution, but  it is also nice to
charge on a payback charge card. I guess I always think people
are trying to make money on your money when they want it in
advance. Like magazines, for instance. If you don't watch it ,
you can pay six months in advance."


"In the past year I've noticed a trend by Elderhostel
Administration to move away from their statement that "Plain and
simple is the essence of hosteling". Boston seems to view
hostelers as cash cows available for milking in subtle and not so
subtle ways. The obvious goal of advance billing total fees is to
increase the cash flow to Boston providing "float" which can be
invested and earnings made available to pay increased staff
salaries and administrative expenses.

Remember a "non-profit" has no "profit" because revenues are
largely absorbed by high salaries.

The change raises several issues:

1. In the past I have paid the balance to the sponsor when I
arrive for the program. At the 20 programs I've attended this has
been handled quickly and efficiently, with no waste of time.
There is no need for a middleman in Boston holding the fee
balances for about 2 months prior to the program.

2. I pay the fee balance from a money market fund that pays me
interest. Why would I want to forego interest for the 2 month
period prior to the start off the course or courses? If the class
is cancelled there will be another month, or a total of 3 months
where my money is tied up. Paying a $75 deposit is not a problem,
but $400 or $500 per program? No thanks.

3. The billing, dunning for late payment etc. will take up staff
time that can be put to better use. Perhaps a downsizing is in
order, if staff haven't anything better to do than harass
enrollees for payment.

4.If enrollees are to be billed up to 2 months in advance they
will defer registering until as few days as possible, holding
funds in accounts that earn them interest. This will, it seems
complicate the administration of the program in Boston, since I
assume many enrollees will do this, thereby delaying a decision
on whether enough are enrolled to justify a program.

5. The biggest concern enrollees should have is if there is a new
refund policy. Now cancellation means losing $20 to $75, which is
reasonable; however, in the future Boston will have $400-$500 in
hand. The risk of having an organization, increasingly
antagonistic toward enrollees, holding that amount per program,
bothers me. "


"I'm writing in response to your request for input about the new
fee schedules. Beginning in January, 1999, Elderhostel will
require full payment for a course two months in advance.

Wonder if Elderhostel will forward the money to the site
immediately or hold onto the money and collect interest on it?
Who will benefit from all this additional income? Must be all the
new bureaucratic salaries at the new expanded headquarters as I
fail to see any real benefit for Elderhostelers from any of the
new changes. Just a lot of new jobs and additional headquarters
staff replacing the barebones approach that has worked so
efficiently all these years.

They have not delineated procedures for the new payment policy.

What happens if the payment is not made two months before the
trip? Are they going to send dunning letters or cancel your
reservation? Are they going to charge late fees?

If a person cancels or an Elderhostel is canceled at the last
minute, which several of mine have been, how long will it take to
receive a refund?

If the money has been forwarded to the site do we have to wait
for each site's staff to process the refunds? Does Elderhostel
guarantee the safety of full payments?

It will encourage people to just wait till the last moment to
register and send in the full payment. Why do it ahead of time?

It may also result in more courses being canceled as a lot of
people won't register in advance and wait until nearer the course
time to register. "


"You can call Boston on the 888 number and they will tell you all
about the new policy and why the coordinators don't want to
handle it any more.  The lady said that the coordinators had to
put up front money for some of the contracts and personally I
don't believe that.  These hotels are in most cases so glad to
have their rooms tied up for a long period of time and like
having EH because they don't ruin their property etc.  Check it

" We have just gotten billed for our two EH in February.  They
are to be paid 5 days before Christmas.  I was quite upset to
have to pay these fees, before Christmas and second two months
before the EH.  That seems to me that instead of doing things for
the attendees, Boston is wanting to earn the interest on all the
money of all the hostelers until they have to pay it out.

I called Boston and told them that I objected to it and the lady
said they have been getting a lot of calls, but that I should put
it in writing.  At the EH we attended last week when I informed
the attendees about the new policy, they were so indignant that
we made up a petition and everybody signed it and we sent it on.

It might be okay for people who only attend one or two a year,
but Tom and I usually do about 8 and that is putting a lot of
money up front before you are even on site.  I prefer to pay on
site when we arrive as in the past, usually by credit card or
check.  I never had an objection to that.

I understand that the coordinators asked for that because they
didn't want to go through the money business at registration!

Well, I say Bah! Humbug!

editor's note: The toll free number referenced above is


From: BAHamm@webtv.net (Billie A. Hamm)

Subject: eh grand canyon

Looking for any info on "GRAND CANYON, AN INCREIBLE JOURNEY"--
this trip starts at marble canyon lodge and then moves to peach
springs. would like some feedback on lodgeing , food, etc. any
one that has taken this trip, please contact me. have signed up
for next march. its a 7 day trip.	THANKS


In your Elderhostel Notebook # 36 Bud and Jane Lauers (IL)
 wrote a wonderful review of our
Elderhostel program.

The only slight corection I would make is that we are located at
Ocean Park, WA which is ten miles north of Long Beach, WA.

We have just completed our 100th Elderhostel program at Ocean
Park Retreat Center since 1992.

Wendell Ankeny Coordinator 

Subject: Elderhostels in India
From: PassHunt@aol.com

I would appreciate any comments on Elderhostel in India.


A friend and I have been accepted into an Elderhostel in
Fairhope, AL in January.  Our accomodations are at the Grand
Hotel in Point Clear, while the program is sponsored by and held
on the campus of Faulkner State College in Fairhope.

Has anyone been there, done that?  What did you think of the
places and the program?




From: Sakafish@aol.com
Subject: Eckerd College Off-Campus Elderhostel

This is an inquiry about the off-campus computer-oriented Eckerd
College Elderhostel December 13-18, 1998.

Any ideas on what to expect from that Elderhostel?

As always, thanks very much for your help. KFF