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The Most Valuable Plastic Card I Ever Lost

It happened on a beautiful sunny day. Not a cloud in the sky. We were on a Chol HaMoed excursion with our kids and grandkids. We had decided to visit Ellis Island to connect with our roots – our personal yitzias mitzrayim.

Great idea. The implementation was a challenge.

The line was outrageously long. It seemed like all of Flatbush, Boro Park and Kew Gardens Hills had the same idea.

Admittedly, we were not early. We had arrived at Battery Park at 11 AM. Yet hordes still streamed up after us. It became really hot. After about an hour’s wait, my wife offered to go directly to the booth and attempt to purchase the tickets in advance of lining up for the boat ride to the Island.

I suggested that she use my card as we were a sizable minyan, grandparents, children and grandchildren.

In the interim we took turns finding a shady tree, making the rounds, noshing, schmoozing with  acquaintances  on the line and passing the time while maintaining our position in the queue.

By 3 PM we were finally at the booth to purchase tickets for the ferry and were told that no more ferries would be leaving to the Island that day. Extremely disappointed, we ended up that day with a stroll around the park. There was a side benefit. The sun had been so strong that when my granddaughter returned to school they admired her tan and asked her where she had traveled, whether she had been to Florida for Yom Tov.

It wasn’t until mid–summer that I realized my card was missing.

“ No problem,” I said. “I’ll go on line and obtain a replacement.” It could not be done. I couldn’t even find a contact number to call. I wanted the card. It was fun. It gave me a good feeling. It was valuable.

I can recall using it for the first time. It was a Succos Chol Hamoed trip to the Roosevelt Mansion in Hyde Park, NY, the national historical site, home of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Upon arrival at the entrance, the concierge announced loudly “Anyone here 62 years of age or older?” I meekly raised my hand not knowing what to expect.

“Do you  have  a  driver’s  license?” I said “Yes.” He called me over and explained that the federal government has a program that for a one-time $10 fee I would receive special discount rates for admission to all national parks and historical sites. Reviewing the posted entrance fees to the Roosevelt Mansion we were easily able to work the numbers and establish that it was a great savings.

It is called the “Senior Pass.”

When I shared my discovery with a good friend,  he wasn’t impressed.

He  wasn’t prepared to go  public  with  his age, didn’t  want  to accept being labeled a “Senior.” Nor  did he even wish to  sign up with AARP.  For  my part, I received great satisfaction and enjoyment

using it, benefitting from my golden age, driving to Upstate New York parks with a “younger” couple in the back seat of my car and “treating” everyone to the entrance and parking fees.

It became a real challenge to get a replacement. I was desperate. I wanted the thrill again of treating my “young” friends to a day’s outing.

My web search revealed that I had  to apply in person because the official issuing the Senior Pass must verify age and residency. After multiple calls, I was advised to go to West Point Academy but this was not convenient for me. I was out of luck until I took my grandson to visit Tucson Arizona’s Saguaro National Park six months later.

What is the Senior Pass? Available to U.S. Citizens and permanent residents who are 62 years and older it provides discounted entry to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by five Federal agencies National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, and Bureau of Land  Management.  Their  names are familiar,

Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Everglades. These are thousands of acres across the United States nature walks, botanical gardens, hiking, biking and recreational activity.

The cost of the Senior Pass is $10, and it is valid for the lifetime of the pass owner. In addition to admitting passengers in noncommercial vehicles, Children under 16 are always admitted free,

i.e. translated your grandchildren are admitted free.

The Senior Pass offers tremendous satisfaction for “reaching maturity.” However, those could drop down menus on the web asking for year of birth are another story.

Great news for seniors and their families, I just learned that the Senior Pass  may now be purchased on line   at http://store.usgs.gov/pass/senior. html, though there is an additional $10 administrative cost tagged on.

Enjoy your travels!

ENDNOTE: Ellis Island does not accept the Senior Card.

—RGB

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