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Road tripping with OLLI’s “Dixie Chicks”

They’ve photographed the lush greenery and cascading waterfalls of Table Rock State Park and the mile-high peaks of Pisgah National Forest. They’ve explored beneath the soaring sandstone cliffs of Zion National Park and the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park.

For three members of Furman University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), trips through beautiful landscapes have been part of a beautiful friendship for Kathleen Allen, Barry Gilmer, and Carol West.

Their story of friendship has been selected from more than 100 entries to be part of a nationwide contest sponsored by the Road Scholar Program as part of its 40th anniversary celebration.

Road Scholar, founded in 1975 by friends Marty Knowlton and David Bianco in 1975, is a not-for-profit organization with a mission to inspire adults to learn, discover, and travel. It currently offers educational trips in all 50 states and in 150 countries around the world.

Her Canon Rebel camera still fresh out of the box, Allen first met Gilmer and West about four years ago in OLLI’s nature and landscape photography class. As they trekked through Upstate parks taking pictures on Thursdays, Gilmer shared her expertise with Allen and West and the trio continued to learn from each other.

“They are so creative and gifted in photography,” said Allen. “I learn from them all the time.”

It didn’t take long before the trio began hitting the road regularly, driving to different locations with the photography club to take pictures and arranging trips through the Road Scholar program to photograph scenic locations across the country.

“I think we did click right off the bat,” said Gilmer. “We love reading. We’re curious. We all have quirky senses of humor.”

Despite their 20 year age difference and busy schedules, the trio, now known by the nickname, “Dixie Chicks,” has continued to grow closer.

Allen teaches part-time with the Education Department at Furman and stays busy with family and hobbies. Gilmer rides her bicycle, makes baskets and spends time with her 18 grandchildren.

“They’re so busy with their own lives, but they’re so supportive and giving with their time,” said West. “They always have time to be there for you. Their friendship is priceless.”

The trio is tentatively planning a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine as part of a joint adventure through Furman OLLI and Road Scholar.

Voting for the Friendship Contest is open through July 31. The grand prize winner will receive a $5,000 Road Scholar gift certificate. View Kathleen, Barry and Carol’s story at

Last updated February 10, 2015
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Clinton Colmenares
News & Media Relations Director