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On the road again

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Couple combines two loves — travel and education


Story by Julie Rossman

Justin and Maxine Silvius have always enjoyed traveling. They took their first big trip overseas in 1980 to Scotland, to visit Maxine’s childhood pen-pal. They were hooked. They since have traveled to China, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, England and Scotland.

As the Kenosha couple has transitioned into retirement — Justin is a retired ELCA Lutheran minister, Maxine a retired music teacher — they have found Road Scholar Trips to be a great way to travel ... and learn.

Road Scholar, formerly known as Elderhostel, is a non-profit educational travel organization for adults. In existence since 1975, Road Scholar offers 6,500 different educational tours in all 50 states and 150 countries.

“For anybody interested in learning, this is a fun way to do it,” Justin said.

Since 2000, they have been to Road Scholar trips in Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, Georgia, the Ozarks, California, Chicago and Wisconsin. They have learned about music, theater, dancing, writing, art, nature and more through both educational lectures and field trips. The trips range from one day to a weekend to week-long trips. Sometimes they extend their trip a few days and stay on their own.

One of their favorites was a trip to Savannah, Ga., for a week of music at a well-known music festival. They enjoyed field trips to the city for special musical performances and dining out at different restaurants.

The also thoroughly enjoyed a “hands on” trip to the Ozarks, where they stayed at a YMCA Lodge Camp motel on a lake in late fall. “Hands on” was all about creating their own art projects.

“Joe (Justin) made a God’s eye, I made a basket,” Maxine said.

There were also classes on spinning and weaving raw wool.

Recently, they have felt a desire to stay closer to home, but still want to travel. Their most recent trip was less than an hour’s drive from home but was a place they never visited before — Lake Geneva.

The week-long stay at Covenant Harbor retreat center, on the shores of Geneva Lake, had them learning about “Fred Astaire: The Song and Dance Man,” “Women Comedians We Love” and “Theater behind the Curtain.” A highlight was a field trip to attend a world premier performance of “Daddy Long Legs” at the Skylight Music Theater in Milwaukee.

Both Justin and Maxine were impressed with the Lake Geneva trip and enjoyed the fact that they could still feel like they were getting away, but without the expense or travel time of a long trip.

“We live so close by but didn’t know about it,” Maxine said of Lake Geneva. “You don’t have to go across the country,” she added.

Accommodations, according to the Silviuses, are “modest but comfortable.” They often stay at colleges, retreat centers or youth camps. Though they sometimes dine out, most meals are provided at the places where they stay. Justin and Maxine agree that the food, often served buffet style, is always good.

Justin said he and his wife also enjoy interacting with folks they meet on the trips who have a similar interest in learning.

The Silviuses think the trips offer a great savings over planning travel on their own, and they like having everything included and planned out.

Bob and Ginny Trendel have been taking Road Scholar trips for eight years with a group of about 12 friends. The Trendels live in Racine most of the year and reside in Marco Island, Fla., for the winter months. Like Justin, Bob is also a retired pastor. Ginny is a retired organist, pianist and choir director and both occasionally work on a “fill-in” basis.

The Trendels’ travel group originates from the last congregation Bob served, in Deerfield, Ill.. The group invited them along on trips for years, and they accepted once Bob retired.

Group members have retired to places all over the country, including Washington, Indiana, Florida, Wisconsin and Illinois. Each year, they come together at a Road Scholar trip. Where they end up is part of a pretty complicated process.

“Each couple submits five preferences,” Ginny explains. “One person is in charge and they put all the choices on a ballot for a vote, and then the top five are voted on again.”

There’s no restrictions on where they go. They always choose a Sunday through Friday trip and always choose a level 1 or 2 trip. Each Road Scholar trip is rated for activity level, so participants can choose trips that best accommodate their needs.

Bob says there are so many potential programs to choose from, like spring training and other sports-related programs, movie and music themes and much more. “Sometimes there’s three different themes in one trip,” he added.

According to the website, there’s also international travel, service-related travel and multi-generational travel — a great way for grandparents to travel with their grandchildren.

Ginny has always been impressed with the talented and knowledgeable people who present Road Scholar programs. “We’ve met some very talented people; these are not just people they’re pulling off the streets,” she said.

Road Scholar also accommodates different health issues. Bob recalled traveling with a gentleman on dialysis. “They were able to ship his medications to where he was staying,” Bob said.

“They try to make everything very convenient and very comfortable,” Bob added.

Like The Silviuses, the Trendels won’t be traveling far for their next trip. The top vote-getter for this year’s trip was the Everglades — a mere 15 minute drive from their winter home. The trip will include study of the Everglades; including the birds, the flora and fauna, natural history and environmental issues. They’ll even have an air boat ride.

They both admit this trip was not one they were terribly interested in. “This will be a new adventure for us — we’re not bird people,” Ginny said.

“But we’ve never been disappointed,” she added.

Bob agreed, saying some past trips that he thought would be least enjoyable, sometimes ended up being favorites. “We all go into it with open minds,” he said.

“It’s a learning experience — we don’t want to stagnate as we’re getting older,” Ginny said.

As for Justin and Maxine, they are looking forward to another Wisconsin trip this spring where they will learn about George Gershwin and Irving Berlin and will enjoy a performance of “Porgy and Bess” at the Fireside Theater in Fort Atkinson.

For more information about Road Scholar, call 1-800-454-5768 or visit