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MOTHER: O MEANS GROWING OLD IS NEVER DULL

The mail has come, bringing with it yet another travel brochure. Gwen Jones throws it down with a cheerful apology. "Oh, Central America. I've already done you."

When you're 78 and want to see the world - the whole world - you can't afford to retrace your steps."This is no ordinary traveler," says Jones'daughter, NormaDee Ryan. "She spends months before each trip reading and studying about the place she will visit, so by the time she gets there, she knows more than the tour guides."

Lately Jones has been reading Pushkin and Pasternak and everything else she can find about Russia. She's memorizing some of the Pushkin.

Although she could have retired 15 years ago, Jones still works part time at the Salt Lake City Library. "Oh yes, I still work. That's the only way I can support my habit."

The habit has included trips to South America, Africa, Europe and China. After her trip to Russia with a tour group in June, Jones plans to fly by herself to Hungary, where one of her 34 grandchildren is on an LDS mission.

Of course, the grandson may have already left by then, but that's OK. "I've wanted to see Budapest since I read `The White Sky,' " Jones explains. "I want to see how the Danube flows there. I've only seen the Danube in Vienna. And I didn't see enough of that.

"This is not my youth, don't misunderstand me," says Jones. "This is my active old age." In her youth, Jones was nearly as irrepressible. During the Depression, she pawned her wedding ring to buy opera tickets.

"I used to think you had to be wealthy to travel. But I've found that you just have to be crazy. You have to want it more than drapes or new clothes."

And, she adds with a grin, you have to explain to your children, your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren that you won't be bringing home any souvenirs.