3 year quest: Cliff & Doris Wurster
As a retired military couple, Cliff and Doris Wurster are certainly no strangers to travel. Doris served as a nurse in both the U.S. Army and Air Force and retired as a lieutenant colonel. Cliff is a retired Air Force Colonel and has worked in logistics his career. The two met while stationed in the Philippines, and their careers spanned the globe, from Southeast Asia to Europe to the Middle East. Cliff’s father also had a career in the Air Force, so moving and living abroad frequently was part of his lifestyle since his birth.
All the time spent abroad did not curb the Wursters’ desire to travel. It took me to different places. But once his only son, Paul, grew up and began self-taught at the Air Force Academy, Cliff retired and the couple embarked on his three-year nomadic adventure across the United States in his 43-foot camper. Part of the quest to find the best place to settle permanently.
The trip was carefully planned, spending months at a time at various KOA campgrounds.
“Doris would go to the library and make a list of things she wanted to see and do during her tenure. “We always had a purpose. A destination was always something we wanted to experience to see if this was the place we wanted to retire to.”
This trip took us to many destinations around the country including Gettysburg, Florida, Virginia, Utah, Montana, and California. They stayed in their respective locations for months at a time and participated in the KOA Work Cooper program. The program included about 20 hours a week of work doing everything from cleaning and mowing the lawn to working in the campground store to serving campers Sunday pancake breakfasts. In my spare time, I explored the surrounding area in a Jeep towed behind my RV.
Cliff said he found many places west where he wanted to retire (“I’m a cowboy at heart”). During her time in the Army, she was stationed at Valley Forge.
“I loved Pennsylvania, I thought it was the most beautiful place, especially in the snow,” she says. “He wanted to move to Wyoming, where he had to drive 17 miles to get bread.”
So after 48 years of marriage, the couple reached a compromise, returning to State College, Cliff’s alma mater (Cliff graduated from Penn State University in 1967), and keeping a vacation home in Salida, Colorado. Maintaining two homes helped me curb my wanderlust.
“The biggest post-retirement adjustment was that the lifestyle we were used to was, after just a couple of years of living in a place, it was time to go. Having a place to go to Colorado gave us the opportunity to break our routine patterns, so when you came back it was fresh again here. says.
They sold the RV once they had settled down, but continued to travel, motivated by a desire to make up for lost time (time Cliff had to be away from Doris and Paul while on duty).
“I missed out on a lot of things. … So we’re trying to make up for that. My relationship with my son after retirement is very close. We’re catching up,” he says. “So, these three things are my motivation now.”
One of Cliff’s ways of giving back while at State College is by being heavily involved in Rotary. But even on the road, the Wursters give back. For example, Doris and Cliff both enjoy fishing and have spent several summers volunteering as part of a fish study in Yellowstone.
One of the highlights of our recent trip was a trip to Canada with the Pennsylvania Alumni Association, where we took the train from Calgary to Vancouver. Most recently, last winter he spent five weeks in San Antonio, Texas, where his son lives with his family.
Wursters, 78, hasn’t finished checking off her to-do list. At the top of that list is a trip to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in Canada, as well as a trip to New Zealand.
157 countries & counting: Jim & Alice Wanbold
It’s much quicker and easier for Jim and Alice Wambold to list places they haven’t been than it is to list places they’ve been.
This is because out of the 195 countries on the planet, couples have visited 157. They’ve also been to all 50 states, to every continent, to every sea, to every ocean, and to just about every major river. It’s the only place I haven’t visited.
It all started when Jim was a professor of mechanical engineering at Penn State University. He was appointed to the International Committee and attended conferences in Europe and Asia. Alice joined him on many of those trips.
After Jim retired from college in 1991, the couple began cruising, sometimes with friends and sometimes just the two of them. Their ultimate goal was to join the Travelers Century Club, made up entirely of people who have visited over 100 countries.
“We got to 100 countries and kept at it,” says Jim.
The couple found themselves accidentally participating in some pretty big historic moments during their adventure. They were in China near Tiananmen Square during the 1989 protests.
“We left the day before the real shoot started,” says Jim. “The hotel we stayed in was where the TV guys were. There were bullet holes in the walls of the building I was in.”
Later that same year they were in Berlin when the Wall was torn down.
“There’s a small piece of wall that I picked up somewhere,” says Jim.
Some of their favorite trips didn’t make much news, but they were memorable (“cold,” they say). For example, a trip to Antarctica or a trip to Spitsbergen, the Norwegian town closest to the North Pole. From a polar bear within the town limits.
Both Jim and Alice say that seeing new places and meeting new people is the best part of traveling.
“I have friends everywhere from cruising and the committees I was on,” says Jim. “So we go visit people all over the world we know.”
After 62 years of marriage and over 157 countries, traveling together remains a top priority for the couple. Next is a tour from Quebec through New York to see the fall foliage in late September.
In addition to the frequent vacations that most plan for themselves, they have a home in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, which they visit at least once a year. They say there is only one big item left on their to-do list, if relations with Russia allow. It was a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Mongolia.
enjoy the beauty of nature: Denise & Beth Ricker
When Denise and Beth Ricker go on adventures, it’s usually a long one.
“We don’t like long flights, so if you’re flying somewhere, we recommend staying for a while,” says Beth.
But they seem to be enjoying the long voyage.
One of their favorite trips was a three-month cruise in the South Pacific on a small boat. The cruise went from Tahiti to Fiji to Guam, stopping at small islands along the way.
That was in 2009. Now that sea levels are rising, “I wonder how many of those islands are still left,” says Beth.
Rickards has made several river cruises through Europe, including a cruise through the Erie Canal to New York and Canada’s Thousand Islands, and another boat trip through the Erie Canal and all the Great Lakes. They also cruised from Portland, Oregon, along the Columbia River to the Snake River.
Their most recent trip was a boat trip last year from New Orleans up the Mississippi River to St. Louis and then to Minnesota. Some traveled by boat.
Married for 58 years, the Rickers celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on a three-month overland trip to Australia and New Zealand.
They both say one of their favorite places is Iceland. They visited Dennis for only two weeks in 1999, before he retired from the Applied Research Institute at Penn State University, and then returned in 2016 for an extended stay. In his 17 years in the meantime, they say, the country has changed a lot.
“Oh, how strange,” says Beth. “They’re really into tourism right now, and there are more people everywhere. When I first went there, we stayed in boarding school, and it became a bed and breakfast during the summer. Now We have a hotel.”
Both Rickers are fascinated by volcanoes and have seen them up close in Iceland, Hawaii and New Zealand on a helicopter ride with a volcanologist. Exploring the natural world, they say, is the most interesting part of their journey.
“When we’re in Europe, or even here, there are beautiful museums and stuff, but nature is the most beautiful of all,” says Beth.
They thoroughly enjoyed their three-week Oregon road trip, enjoying the coastline and mountain scenery.
“But you don’t have to go that far,” says Beth. “Even in Pennsylvania, it took her a week and a half just driving Highway 6. It was fun.
Beth says one of the few places she hasn’t been to yet is Alaska, and next on her to-do list is a boat trip around Washington’s San Juan Islands.
After all the travel, Beth has one piece of advice she wants to share. Because I don’t want to know that one day I’ll reach a point I can’t reach and I’ve missed things. ” T&G
Karen Walker is a freelance writer at State College.