Several times a year we drive the 450 miles from Albuquerque, NM to Tucson, AZ to see our grandchildren. The trip takes about 7 1/2 hours, but since we are retired and have extra time, we explore along the way. In old age, you come to realize that the trip may be as important as the goal.
Between Albuquerque and Tucson, you can find a number of interesting things all in New Mexico and all just off I-25: the Very Large Array Telescopes near Socorro, NM, the Hatch Chile Festival and Sparky’s, SpacePort America, Elephant Butte Lake, and, usually an overnight stop at the Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa, owned by Ted Turner which in addition to providing an interesting Lodge, also provides tours of Ted Turner’s nearby ranches.
Since I originally wrote this, Spaceport America has restarted tours.
The lobby at Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
In our 70’s the Sierra Grande Lodge gets us out of our comfort zone, which is good, if at times unnerving. I haven’t had bison in 63 years, when I had it at Philmont Scout Ranch, at the end of a 37 day trek at age 14. The restaurant serves bison burgers, bison rib-eye, and if you just want to test the water, 4 ounces of bison steak in a great pasta dish. You can eat indoors or out; the patio is great:
The Lodge, like many other places in T or C has it’s own hot springs. There are indoor spas and an outdoor one. The naturally hot water has made T or C a destination for a thousand years. It used to be called Hot Springs, NM until it won a 1950 radio show contest hosted by Ralph Edwards, and changed its name.
We like the outdoor spa; private but open to the stars. In our 70’s we are out of our comfort zone for nude bathing; and it may even be pornographic, but a half-hour soak removes a lot of age-related soreness and is included in the price of your room.
Outdoor hot springs spa as Sierra Grande Lodge.
Next time you travel to see your grandkids, look around you, take your time, and try to get out of your “old” comfort zone. You may learn something new.
The point is; especially at your age, you should be interested in the journey, not the END of the journey.
I went to Panama on a Road Scholar trip. The trip includes tours of Panama City, a boat trip through the Panama Canal, and a train ride back, a chance to see how the new locks work and the chance to experience Panama. There are 10 things that made my trip easier. Fifty-five years ago, when hitchhiking through Europe, I had no money, few needs, and a lot of self-assurance. Today, at 77 I am a bit more careful, not looking for surprises, and aware of my age. So…
- No tips. Road Scholar is all-inclusive except for a few meals. I hate to worry about tipping.
- Health care. Get insurance. The real problem will be if you have to be shipped home; dead or alive. The cost for transferring your sick body back to the US can be debilitating, and may bankrupt you. If you do decide to permanently leave while abroad, consider cremation. Consider the insurance offered by the program and also look to your credit card.
- Get the American Embassy contact information. Know if there are any problems and know where to go for help.
- Take a Kindle or better an i-pad with kindle books downloaded on it. You can also adjust the size of the type. Books are heavy and a thousand plus books, including guide books, can be uploaded on a Kindle and new books ordered from your library or from Amazon while abroad. You are too old to be lifting books.
- Check your debit and credit cards and notify the card companies before you leave. You don’t want them denying your charges.
- Take two money belts. One from Eagle Creek to hold your pants up and to hold your money; and one to hold your passports, information, money and credit cards.
- Think simple and minimal. Jeans are usually fine. Wear them and take a light weight pair of pants that you can wash and use if you have to dress up. See what Road Scholar suggests. Suitcase. Rick Steves’ Rolling Carry-on.
- Wear walking shoes. Take yoga shoes/slippers for the hotel, etc.
- Light weight underwear that can be washed, or dropped off at a cleaners for a few bucks.
- Know a few practical things about Panama. They use dollars, have ATMs, English spoken in addition to Spanish, no visa required, jeans are fine.
You can really reduce your needs by packing like the geezer does for the beach.
Every town has a library. When you travel, a library can be your best friend. You can find:
- Information about the town you are in.
- A bookstore that will sell books that the library no longer wants or which have been donated for as little as $1 for hardback and 25 cents for paperbacks, many of them recent best-sellers.
- Frequently they have cafes where you can get a coffee and food.
- They have computers that you can use.
- They have interesting programs and sometime trips for anyone who is interested.
- Local and national magazines; see what is going on in town and read the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal.
- And, finally there is a huge magazine rack with the latest magazines; most of which you don’t get, and which take you out of your comfort zone.
Old people are afraid of dying while on an international trip. Most are afraid of dying period; however, 99% of people die at some point, and once you reach 75 you are more aware of the probability that you will die; especially if you are going overseas.
Basically to make things easier, you need a 3 x 5 card:
- Embassy telephone number
- Insurance policy – Company and policy number.
- Airline and confirmation number.
- Emergency contact number.
- Home town physician and number.
- Hotel name and number.
- Family telephone numbers.
- Home town funeral home number.
- Tour operator number.
- Simple statement as to wishes. Cremate, ship home, bury abroad…etc.
- Travel insurance name, telephone and policy number.
- US Embassy number.
- The simple solution for your representative or next of kin:
- Travel insurance to pay for shipment of body, cremains.
- Contact the American Embassy where you are. They have a 24 hour number.
- Contact Funeral home in your home town.
- Carry on cremains in a sealed, TSA approved, container.
- Have foreign mortuary ship body to your home-town mortuary.
- Collect belongings
- Get copies of all paperwork – Embassy, police, doctors, hospitals, funeral homes, airlines, autopsy report, etc
- Notify: Embassy, family, police, funeral home,
Remember that what is a unique and terrible experience for you is a common event for the embassy, the funeral homes and the airlines.
Some useful web pages:
ACOMA PUEBLO – SKY CITY
On Saturday, May 14, 2016 I visited Acoma Pueblo Sky City located 370 feet above the desert on a mesa 65 miles West of Albuquerque, NM. It has fewer than 50 permanent residents living in homes on seven acres of New Mexico mesa top.
San Esteban del Rey Mission dominates Sky City. Established in the early 1600’s, it now has no priest. A service is held yearly on September 2 and is open to the public. The church was started in 1629 and completed in 1640.
There is a still-used cemetery in front of the church, with burials in dirt hauled up from the desert floor. The church’s is 150 feet by 40 feet and has a dirt floor. It is simple inside and is undergoing some reconstruction, but is still 95% original.
The streets in Sky City are dirt. At intersections cisterns collect rain water. There are no utilities. No water, sewage, gas or electricity. There are some generators and port-a-potties everywhere. They were installing a huge water tank on Saturday, so the water problem may be alleviated.
Commercial port-a-potties have replaced the outhouses suspended over the edge of the mesa that I remember from 40 years ago.
Until the 1920’s there was no road to Sky City, just a single-file path cut into the steep side, which made it easy to defend. A movie company agreed to put in a dirt road in exchange for the right to film. In the 1950’s a second movie company paved the road. Today it is used for busses and on the week-ends for residents cars and trucks as they work on their houses.
The Acomas are matrilineal and the homes in Sky City are owned by female tribe members. The youngest daughter inherits. They cannot be sold. Non-Acomas cannot stay overnight and of course there is no Airbnb.
The residences are from one to three stories, and usually reached by means of ladders.
Each family is responsible for their own repairs and the only restriction is maintaining the earth colors, so in repairing the homes, concrete block, insulation and modern roofing is used.
Traditional Food can be had in the cafe at the visitor center.
Fifteen miles away, on I-40, is the Sky City Casino owned by the tribe and which provides income and tourists. The Casino has a hotel and an RV Center.
At the visitor center you buy your tickets, visit the museum and gift shop and eat at the restaurant.
You board a small bus and make about a 10 minute trip to the top with an articulate and knowledgeable guide. You can also walk up and down, but… remember your age.
- Tours: daily on the half-hour
- Location – 65 miles west of Albuquerque, NM, off of I-40.
- Hours: 9 – 5
- Cost – $20 for seniors
- Casino and Hotel –Sky City Casino Hotel
- Bus to top- Small bus
- Pottery- see museum and tables set up by residents.
- Toilets – Nice at Center on desert floor, port-a-potties on the mesa
- Museum – small but impressive – lots of excellent pottery
- The streets are dirt and rough. You can fall.
- Hot in the summer. Take a hat and water. Buy a bottle from tables
- Toilets are port-a-potties.
- Senior rate is $20.
- Senior Centers have tours at various times of the year – check bulletin boards and senior magazines at centers.
- There is an RV park next to the Casino.
- Never forget local Senior Centers. In Albuquerque, the Manzano Mesa Multigenerational Center, has a trip to Sky City Cultural Center $ Haaku Museum on May 25, 2016. Depart at 8:00 am – return at 5:00 pm. $9.50 for transportation and $20 admission.
- See the ABQ 50+ Activities Catalog.
- Sky City Cultural Center.
- New Mexico True
At 77, I am a “good” driver; maybe a few problems with eyesight, hearing and attention span. I usually know where I am going. The AARP driving course for seniors lowers my insurance rates; and, I avoid driving at night, on freeways and with my kids, who watch me. They know that I saw my father take his father’s car keys. He and I agreed that he could keep his car as long as he didn’t drive it; so, it was parked for several years.
My car has a few dings. I renew my license annually, not for 10 years anymore. MVD and I joke about the eye test.
So, I joined UBER. It was scary. I didn’t know what I was getting into; and, learning to call UBER on a smart phone?? I had to know where I was going; I couldn’t just drive around looking for the place I thought I wanted to go. I also had to know where I was.
I tried UBER in Tucson; clicked on the UBER App; typed in my address and the restaurant address. It took three tries and a bit of deleting, but I did it.
In 3 minutes a picture of the UBER driver, car make and license number appeared on the screen. Two minutes later he was there; just like his picture, and took us straight to our favorite restaurant. The trip cost of $6.32 appeared on the screen; I clicked ok, clicked that the driver was great and he clicked that I was a great passenger. We parted company. We had a nice dinner, re-apped UBER. Same deal, different driver. Cost $5.47; total cost $11.79, no tipping, no money; the amount on my credit card minutes later. The drivers were both great, interesting, and I didn’t worry about the extra glass of wine.
AAA reports the average cost to own a car in 2015 was $8698. For two of us, that comes to $17,396. I don’t think I spend that much, but….. I don’t really want to find out.
My wife and I have two cars, even though we usually travel together. Kelly Blue Book says a dealer would give us about $25,000 for them. Do we need two cars? No cars? One car and UBER?
How many trips do we need to take? One a day? How far do we go? Mostly close to our condo. Seven trips a week; 14 UBER trips; averaging $10 per trip, which may be high. $140 a week; or, $7280 a year.
Using UBER we have a chauffeur, do not cause accidents, are calmer, etc. We even age better. Have you ever had someone say: “Do you see that car?” 10 times a trip?
The bus costs 50 cents and goes most places, but takes longer. Kids work, grandkids are too young and neighbors would rather car-pool with UBER.
The bottom line is: UBER could save us up to $10,116 per year. Even a $1000 savings would be worth it. The real bottom line is that our driving years will soon come to an END; our cars will be taken from us; we will move in with UBER and use the $25,000 for four years of UBER.
Maybe UBER will have caregivers in ten years…..; hopefully, with a car.
UBER is experimenting with programs for seniors, that include, senior-trained drivers, special cars, etc. No details yet.
The New York Times recently reported on UBER’s new ride sharing program which should interest seniors and save them money.
Since I originally wrote this, The New York Times has reported on ride-sharing which fills niches that UBER does not cover, yet. The one that interested me the most was Lift Hero, which provides rides for old people. The web page is down for maintenance, but keep checking. UBER was running a test program for old people in Tucson a few months ago, but I have not seen anything on this recently.
Transportation is a real and growing problem for old people; especially where public transportation is not available.
When you travel, think UBER. I have had success in Panama and Montreal, Canada.
A change of senior-mind-set is required.
I am 77. I need clothing that I can wear everyday and everywhere, that is cheap, that is always acceptable and that can be washed. I do not want to check it when flying. I want to hoist it into an overhead bin by myself. I don’t want to worry about theft.
I have chosen black walking shoes, sandals, 2 pairs of jeans, 2 turtle-necks, 2 shirts, 7 socks, underpants t-shirts and handkerchiefs. I have one blazer and one hooded rain jacket. All, except for the blazer can be washed together, in one load. Everything is black. There is room for miscellaneous items.
It all fits on me and in the 14″x18″x12″ bag in the picture. I can go on an archeological dig, eat at a four-star restaurant, attend a wedding or a funeral, attend a concert and live out the rest of my life in a long-care facility with nothing more than what is on me and in the bag.
It is cheap, universal and requires no thought. It is easily replaced. It gives me a unique, but acceptable, appearance, and not an offensive one.
We visited the Eden Project in Cornwall, England on May 15, 2014. We took the train from Paddington Station in London and the bus from the St. Austell station to the Eden Project.
The Eden Project, which opened in 2002, was built-in a 35 acre reclaimed, open clay pit, 180 feet deep. It was partially filled with soil and recycled waste. On top of this was built two enclosed biomes; one a Rainforest Biome and one a Mediterranean Biome.
The Rainforest Biome is about 750 feet long by 330 feet wide and 150 feet high. It contains over 1,100 different species of plants and has areas devoted to West Africa, Southeast Asia, Tropical Islands and Tropical South America.
The Mediterranean Biome is about 90 feet high and contains over 850 different species of plants. It represents the Mediterranean, South Africa and California.
In addition to the two major Biomes, there is a Core educational, administration and museum building along with an Outdoor Biome. There is an outdoor stage, paths, parking and a land train.
There are several restaurants serving a variety of “responsibly sourced, fairly-traded, direct sourced, organic, seasonal, and/or local and freshly made” food.
We spent a day there and could have spent more time. They have a lot of special events during the year, including “The Art of Stories,” “Harvest,” and “Christmas at Eden.”
There are numerous Bed and Breakfasts” in St. Austell. We stayed for two nights at The Grange in St. Austell.
It is easy to get there, even if you are old. Take the train from Paddington to St. Austell; check into a bed and breakfast: take the free bus from the train station to the Eden Project. Enjoy.
You should compare this to Biosphere 2 in Tucson, AZ and Arcosanti in Cordes Junction, AZ. You should think about how old open-pit mines and remote places can be re-configured as educational, research and residential communities for the future. Maybe you would like to live in one. Maybe it is a partial solution to the aging problem.
If so, go to their web pages; they all allow for interns, visitors, and maybe a new career.
The Guide – Eden Project Books, revised edition 2016.
Eden Project -http://www.edenproject.com/whats-it-all-about
Biosphere 2 -http://b2science.org
In 2010 my wife and I went to Macedonia for two weeks with Habitat For Humanity to help build an eight unit apartment unit. We had volunteered with Habitat in Albuquerque, and had spent two weeks in New Orleans helping to restore homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina, involving Habitat, but not through Habitat. This was our first Habitat trip out of the country, although we had lived in Eastern Europe as volunteers and had been to Macedonia before.
Roma family collection insulation wrappers and other non-needed materials to resell.
Photos of Habitat For Humanity, Macedonia.
We are retired and in 2010 were 68 and 70. Old age was not a problem, nor was our inability to speak Macedonian. It was not scary and we had no problems. Get travel insurance as Medicare does not work in Macedonia.
Habitat has a branch in Macedonia and has US volunteers who live there for six months and help to coordinate the short-term volunteers. I had a friend from Albuquerque who gave up his law practice in his fifty’s and went to Chile for six months to coordinate Habitat projects there.
None of the 18 or so people who were on our team had any construction experience; however, there was a Macedonian Contractor who worked with us along with a future resident of the apartments that we were constructing. This was a lot like Earthwatch, where you pay to volunteer, meet interesting people and see a new part of the world in a deductible way. We did five Earthwatch trips at a younger age, and that is also worth looking into. We have seen all the museums that we want to see for awhile, so volunteering is the way to go.
We worked from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. We stayed in a local hotel which also provided meals. We took a bus to the job site and ate lunch on the job. We wore old clothes, hard hats and gloves.
At this point in the construction, we were assigned to help with pouring cement which was mixed on site and moved in wheelbarrows. We also removed cement forms and pulled out the nails. The wood would be used on future Habitat sites. The construction is much simpler than in the US; it is mostly manual labor. There is not a lot of equipment. But, we did build homes.
The wrappers that the insulation came in along with the bent nails that we removed were recovered by a family of Roma (Gypsies) who came each day in a horse-drawn wagon and used a magnet to locate the nails in the ground. They would straighten and re-sell them. A Roma family was scheduled to move into one of the apartments when finished, but not the ones in the wagon pictured above.
We worked for two weeks, took trips around Macedonia on the week-ends, did not get sick or injured, had a great time and came home with different stories to tell.
The food was simple, local and good. The hotel was clean and the venue for a few weddings while we were there.
One night we had dinner at a winery and probably drank too much wine. Macedonia has a number of vineyards and wineries, so the trip was worth it just for that.
At the time of posting this blog, I could not find any Habitat opportunities in Macedonia, but there are some in Romania, as well as the rest of the world. There were two Habitat home building projects in Macedonia in 2017 and I expect more in 2018. Go to Habitat in Veles to see the costs, work, itinerary, etc. for 2017. This will give you an idea of what we did and paid.
We met interesting people from other parts of the US and from Macedonia.
And, we deducted the trip.
Just pick a part of the world that needs help and go for it.
Habitat For Humanity – Volunteer opportunities –
Macedonia – via Wikipedia