We are retired and eat out frequently; especially when on vacation in Florida. I got to thinking about what I liked in restaurants, given my age of 78. I like small French, Mexican, Italian and Chinese restaurants. I like table cloths, cloth napkins and water. I also realize that I am inconsistent, so you should take this list of a baker’s dozen with a grain of salt. Trust but verify, a senior’s mantra!
- Quiet – The app Soundprint registers noise in restaurants. I, like many old people, am deaf and it is hard to hear in a crowded restaurant where the tables are close together or where you are seated near a large group of people.
- Share a plate – We don’t eat as much, so if we can share a plate, even for an extra charge, that is great.
- Smaller portions – We don’t need huge portions, or all you can eat buffets.
- Water – some of us drink a lot of water, and I, at least, judge a waiter by whether or not my water-glass is kept full.
- Parking – easy access and spaces wide enough to get in and out of the car with ease.
- Uber or Lyft – Uber or Lyft is great for old people. They are fast, convenient and allow us to have a glass of wine, without worrying about drunk driving. Nothing like a newspaper article that describes me as “elderly.”
- Enough light to read the menu – Not only am I deaf, but I have trouble seeing in dim light. My i-Phone, with its built-in flashlight, has been a boon to my old age. Until you are old, you don’t realize how hard it can be to see in dim light.
- Simple choices – My mind is not as quick as it used to be, so the fewer, easier, and simpler choices, the happier I am.
- Doggy bags – if we can’t or don’t share a plate, a container to take half of our food home is great; even if we don’t have a dog.
- Non-fried preparation – Digestion can be a problem; and, of course I am very conscious of the life expectancy tables. I like to keep my options open.
- Easy access – I need to get to my table and to the men’s room. Stairs, rugs, close tables, servers, folding tray tables, and using the hall to the men’s room for storage can lead to falls and always makes me nervous. Remember, falls are the leading cause of …….. for seniors.
- Bargain – a price I think is fair,
- Non-processed food – Too much food today is processed – at my age not only do I not need it, it is bad for me.
One French restaurant that I like is Chez Colette’s in Belleair Bluffs, Florida, which meets all my criteria.
Walking on the beach and breakfast at Crabby Bill’s in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida.
I was raised in the mid-west and have lived in New Mexico for over 50 years, so the beach has always drawn me.
My wife’s family lived in Largo, Florida and Indian Rocks Beach has been a place she has been familiar with for over 50 years.The attraction has rubbed off on me.
Our life there is simple. We rent a condo overlooking the beach, we rent a car through Costco, we use Uber, we go to the library and frequent consignment stores. We have wi-fi. Good restaurants are within walking distance.
My morning routine is what makes my day. I wake-up early and walk a mile and a half on the beach to Crabby Bill’s, a restaurant/bar that awakens at 7:00 AM. It is simple, indoors and outdoors, and caters to different customers depending on the time of the day. At 8:00 AM there is a smaller more mature crowd. At noon and in the evening they serve great fresh fish and beer at long communal tables.
Prior to breakfast is a stop at the CVS Pharmacy next door for the New York Times, a habit I have even in New Mexico. (Today, the first time in years, they didn’t know what I was talking about when I asked for the NY Times.)
As an aside, since old people always have something wrong with them, don’t forget that CVS Pharmacies have a “Minute Clinic.” They can handle all sorts of minor health problems; and, if nothing else triage you and get you more help if needed. You can get a place in line on-line, but I have always found them to be quick, helpful and professional. Why go to an emergency room unless it is an emergency?
I read the times while eating the All American Special with crisp bacon for $6.00. I then walk a mile and a half back to the condo; hopefully with a new blog topic.
Fresh air, great breakfast and the news by 9:00. What could be better?
Traveling for long periods of time, or staying in one new place for a period of time, requires a routine if you are old. A necessary part of that routine is exercise. The YMCA, the club of our childhood, provides the setting.
The YMCA is available nation-wide, is usually open for long hours, has skilled instructors, and a variety of programs. If you are old,it can be free.
The trick is to have a Silver Sneakers membership through your insurance plan. Free at home means free at most any place you travel in the US, and if you are visiting children and grandchildren, you need some place to go and something to do during the day. The Y provides that; without worrying about walking on strange and often busy streets. Exercise is the key to successful aging.
The best bet is an insurance-paid Silver Sneakers plan. This is good nation-wide at YMCAs and many health clubs. You have no excuse.
If you belong to a YMCA in your hometown, either through Silver Sneakers or with a paid membership, you can ask to have your name put on the Nationwide Membership List, which can be accessed by any YMCA in the country.
If you don’t have an insurance-paid plan, you can always pay a small fee to use the Y. It depends on the place, but most of them seem to have fee schedules topping out at about $75 per month. The schedules also seem to only go to age “64 and under,” so as an old person, it may be free anyway.
We are in Florida, for a month and checked into the Clearwater, FL YMCA. We were on the Nationwide Membership list, courtesy of the Albuquerque YMCA, which meant that we had a home YMCA and were eligible to use other facilities; however in Clearwater, it was limited to a max of 24 days, and the Y suggested we use our Silver Sneakers membership, giving us unlimited use of all facilities and access to all classes.
The Clearwater Y is a new and modern facility and has every class you could imagine, including Silver Sneakers exercise, chair exercise, yoga, pilates, Tai Chi, etc. In addition, there is a pool, a hot tub, basketball court, a complete weight room and every sort of exercise machine.
If you don’t believe me, check out the Clearwater Y.
It also provides numerous trips to local restaurants for lunch, other events, and classes on topics that should be of interest to old people.
If you want to go outdoors, there is a 1/4 mile walking/running track, but if you come from New Mexico, it is better to walk on the beach, which is also free.
Trainers are available for a reasonable fee.
Nationwide-membership in the YMCA
New Mexico is the place to go if you want to get off the ground. Last week-end we went to the glider field at the Moriarty Airport, 50 miles from Albuquerque. There we saw dozens of gliders and several tow planes. A 15 minute glider ride from Sundance Aviation costs $105 and you fly with an FAA approved, experienced pilot. The only downside is that you have to weigh less than 220 pounds and be under 6′ 5″.
Near by is the US Southwest Soaring Museum which unfortunately was closed on Sundays.
Naturally this got me to thinking, and I discovered over Albuquerque via Google:
Trike Flights – This is an air tricycle. You can get a 30 minute ride for $100 with a licensed Sport Pilot. For an additional fee you can have a video made showing you in flight. I frequently see these mechanical trikes while I am walking along the Rio Grande.
Plane rides at Vertical Lift Aviation.
Parachute jumping. Starting at $375 with Albuquerque Sky Diving.
Hang gliding with High Desert Hang Gliding.
All near or in Albuquerque and while I have only taken a balloon ride, the others have intrigued me. I have not taken any but the hot air balloon ride, an Albuquerque must, but am intrigued at 77 and sorry that I missed them earlier in my life. I am toying with the glider ride.
More my speed is the Sandia Peak Ski & Tramway which will take you on a 2.7 mile tram ride to the top of Sandia Peak from Albuquerque. There is sking, a restaurant and great hiking. At your age, watch the altitude which is over 11,000 feet. You can always sit in the restaurant and enjoy the view with a glass of wine.
The big draw in and over Albuquerque is the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta held for a week every October, where up to a 1000 balloons participate in a mass ascension, among other events. And of course, there are hot air balloon rides then and the year around. The traffic is horrible, but if you have an RV, there is great RV parking next to the grounds. Balloon pilots and their chase crews are hard to keep up with at my age, especially in the evening.
There is also the Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Foundation Museum.
Most mornings I can see hot air balloons following the Rio Grande River behind my home, which is about my speed.
It is worth soaring above the New Mexico desert, there is no age limit, and it gives you some great stories and pictures to impress your grandkids with.
I have been coming to Tucson for over twenty years and have never tried a Sonoran Hot Dog. Recently I have been reading Anthony Bourdain’s books, Kitchen Confidential and The Nasty Bits, in which he advocates seeking out the authentic cooking of the place you are visiting.
It was raining, unusual in Tucson, but we parked behind the cart and the tent that covered it and ordered our hot dogs with everything. It was one of the best hot dogs that I have ever eaten; even better than those at The Dog House in Albuquerque, of Breaking Bad fame.
Two hot dogs, two drinks came to $6. We ate in at picnic tables. There was one cook who turned out hot dogs in minutes, complete with hot peppers.
The hot dog wrapped in bacon and in a special bun has onions, tomatoes, salsa, mayo, mustard and cheese. The Sonoran Hot Dog is unique to Tucson with over 200 places serving them; mostly from carts or food trucks parked in vacant lots. I have discovered a few in Albuquerque, but have not tried them yet.
Well worth the trip. Now, every time we come to Tucson, a Sonoran Hot Dog will be on the menu.
To find a Sonoran Hot Dog near you: Google “Sonoran Hot Dog”+ name of your town. or, if you live out of the Southwest, Google “Sonoran Hot Dog”+recipe, and make your own.
And, of course, mine turned out:
On Friday, January 26th, 2017, I followed hundreds of bison being rounded up on Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch, near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The tour was sponsored by Ted Turner Expeditions and was the 2nd annual Bison RoundUp. The tour part of the roundup lasted for 2 days and the bison on the 250 square mile ranch had been collected over the last several months. This was the last collection of bison and herds of 200 to 500 bison were driven into pens where they would be weighed, tagged and checked before being released.
The roundup lasted about 5 hours each day and involved 4 cowboys on horseback and 4 on ATV’s keeping the bison in line. The bison followed a truck that they mistook for a feed truck. Behind the herd, 15 of us who had signed up for the tour watched from ATV’s.
The 28 Turner Ranches are home to 51,000 bison.
The roundup is not advertised and will become an annual event. I received an e-mail invitation since we had stayed at the Sierra Grande Lodge in T or C, New Mexico, which is owned by Turner. The first class restaurant serves bison and the Lodge has natural hot springs spa tubs available to guests along with massages.
Turner Expeditions offers numerous other tours on the various ranches; all directed toward conservation and the preservation of natural habitats.
The Ladder Ranch has no paved roads, is 29 miles from T or C, and is near the Amadaros Ranch, another Turner Ranch. It is also near the NM Spaceport and Elephant Butte Lake. There are several vineyards that produce good wine. Turner’s Vermejo ranch is in Northern New Mexico, near Philmont Scout Ranch, where I first ate Bison in 1955.
The cost was $175 plus tax for a 7 hour day including driving time to the Ladder Ranch.
The guides were great and informative – they knew all about the flora and fauna on the ranch and a lot about the history.
The bison roundup is fascinating; with real cowboys and bison that are genetically pure .
In addition to bison, we saw a 40 Elk in a line and numerous birds. The ranch is a wildlife paradise.
I was told that there were about 27 bison bulls for 1500 cows, and that last year all but two of the cows had calves; however, I was unable to verify this.
And, of course, if you want to eat bison, the Sierra Grande Lodge serves it.
or, it is available at Whole Foods.
Dale Chihuly is a glass sculpture who creates large masterpieces of blown glass. I recently visited the exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden where Chihuly’s works were displayed on the grounds.
I am at a loss to understand how the glass sculptures can survive in an outdoor, park setting.
Chihuly Exhibition at New York Botanical Garden until October 29, 2017. I saw it in the Bronx. This blog is updated as it is now as the Vanderbilt Mansion in Asheville, NC.
If you get a chance, you should visit his works which are displayed around the world and visit the exhibit in the Bronx. (Closes the end of October 2017.)
Visit the Chihuly web page to learn about the sculptor and his works.
If you are in New Mexico, there are two Chihuly works in the dining hall at United World College in Montezuma, New Mexico. UWC is also interesting, located in a renovated Castle built in 1881. UWC is worth a visit and the idea of a castle in New Mexico that is more than 100 years old is something to think about.
The exhibits and the collections all seem to be in places that are interesting on their own, even without these exhibits.
If you are old, the Kindle, or a similar e-reader, is the “book” for you. It is cheap and small. You can take it with you on trips. Get an adapter if you go overseas, but it works fine. Just go to Amazon.com.
For old people, like me, the best thing is that I can adjust the print size. Have you tried to read a paperback recently with your eyes?
I was flying back from Kosovo a couple of years ago and stuck my Kindle in the pocket of my soft-sided suitcase, which I then checked. Wrong move! My Kindle got smashed and was unusable. I had to buy a new one, but I was able to download everything I had purchased from Amazon.com onto the new one at no charge. Then a few years later I was able to download everything on my I-Pad, again at no charge. However, I still use the Kindle with its large print capabilities.
Kindle books are cheaper that hardbacks. And, you can get free books and cheap books from Amazon.com.
In Albuquerque you can check out Kindle, and other e-books, for two weeks for free. I presume that most libraries have this program. And, old people whom I know frequent libraries, so…..
Your Kindle will also handle magazine subscriptions. The magazine on Kindle is better than trying to pack magazines for a trip; and, if you are like me, magazines tend to accumulate and accumulate and accumulate. Go Kindle.
It is small. See my post on geezer’s clothes for life. My kindle fits in the bag along with all those clothes.
Finally, the Kindle holds a huge number of books, both in the Cloud and on the Kindle. I keep travel books, especially about a dozen Rick Steves’ books, along with books I reread, such as Walden. My Kindle has over 500 books, including mysteries, the Complete Works of Shakespeare, Thoreau and Emerson; not to mention a half-dozen books on how to blog when you are old.
I am trying to reduce the geezer to his essence. Pretty soon I will be able to travel by Wi-Fi and my grandkids can just download me whenever they want to see me; otherwise I will exist as some sort of permalink.
On January 20, 2018 I attended the 2nd Annual Tucson Japanese Festival at the Pima Community College Downtown Campus Center on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
When I visit a town I look for events that may be unique and unusual. I am interested in something that I don’t know about and that is out of my comfort zone. The Japanese Festival was an ideal event.
Parking at Pima Community College was easy. The lines were long for food items, but worth the wait for unusual offerings, including Takoyaki Balls, (Octopus balls) which were prepared by cooking ground octopus and spices in electric Takoyaki Ball Cookers, which you can find on Amazon.com.
The Festival provided a half-day of activities including; Mochi pounding, Martial Arts, Japanese dance and Japanese flute performances.
Most large towns have unique ethnic communities and are worth visiting, and Tucson is no exception. Just Google the city and the ethnic group that you are interested in. Tucson has an active Japanese community which provides many interesting events.
Of course, if you are like me, the idea of Octopus Balls is intriguing. I went to the Japan Centre for their recipe. You can now add an Octopus Ball cooker to the small appliances that your kids will inherit, but in the meantime can prepare Octopus Balls for your friends in the “home.”
This post had to be edited to announce that Sparky’s won the Green Chile Cheeseburger Challenge at the New Mexico State Fair.
Sparky’s is the place to stop in Hatch, NM. It is just off I-25, 185 miles South of Albuquerque, NM and 38 miles North of Las Cruces, NM. The population is 1673; with 12.3% over 65. Thirty Thousand people show up on Labor Day for the Hatch Chile Festival. Hatch green chile is known throughout the Southwest and can be found in any New Mexico grocery store.
Sparky’s is a great stop if you are going from Albuquerque to Tucson and taking the Hatch-Deming by-pass to I-10. The by-pass passes huge dairy farms, a solar farm and a wind farm, not to mention cattle ranches and fields of green chile, and of course the omnipresent immigrant check-point.
Sparky’s has collected every large fast food statute that you can imagine and has placed them along the highway and around Sparky’s.
You can order the green-chile cheese burger and have it cut in half if you are old; or, even if you are not. The geezer is a big advocate of shared plates. You order/pay at the counter and find your own seat. It may be outside or next door where there is a stage, sound equipment and the largest collection of cookie jars that I have ever seen. If you are over 70, it is nostalgaville. Things you haven’t seen since the 40’s.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, they have bands you never heard if you are over 70, playing country and the blues. It is closed on Mon, Tue and Wed. so plan your trip carefully.
You might think that you would be out of your comfort zone at Sparky’s; but take it from the Geezer, you will feel right at home. The Geezer is an advocate of leaving your comfort zone, as long as it doesn’t hurt. Beats the usual turnpike fare.