One of the main fears that old people have is losing their driving options. Most of us are addicted to cars. We have been driving the 450 miles from our home in Albuquerque to see our grandchildren in Tucson for years; but, since I turned 79, I am rethinking my driving before someone else rethinks it for me. Our sons watch us…
We were making the trip over two days, with a nice stop and a visit to the hot springs spa at Sierra Grande Lodge in Truth or Consequences, NM; however, now we need to think a bit further out. My no-driving future may be closer than I think. Time to experiment with a few alternatives.
Last week, we drove to El Paso; a straight 270 mile shot on I-25. We took the Amtrak from El Paso to Tucson. Cost $50 each, each way. The train was 3 hours late out of El Paso, but except for the usual stress that old people feel about sitting around in a train station, not a problem. Coming back we got into El Paso 45 minutes early, which meant that we could drive back to Albuquerque before dark. Since it was Saturday afternoon, there was not much traffic on the freeway. Dark and large trucks worry old people.
Our son met us in Tucson and the next morning we rented a car from Enterprise, who picked us up. Thus we had a car in Tucson. We turned it in on Friday at 5 and got a ride to the train station the next morning. You can save a bit of money if you go through Costco Travel.
The coach train seats were great; much better than coach airline seats.
The food was questionable. Take a look at the train menu. Next time, a picnic lunch.
Boarding was a snap. We lined up, the conductor scanned our e-tickets and gave us a paper slip with our seat numbers. We had to climb a narrow stair-case to the upper level, but, you can’t have everything when you are old. No elevator.
The train, including the bathrooms, was clean.
The observation car was comfortable with tables; and, many people with laptops, cell phones and card games.
There were electrical outlets, but no wi-fi on the Southwestern Trains. Since I am addicted to my blog, I use a personal hotspot from T-mobile; (I pay $5 extra a month for extra gigabytes and T-mobile works all over the world.)
Note that cell phone reception is not the best between Lordsburg NM and Tuson, but…
The train was not crowded; about 20 % full.
You share tables in the dining car. We were seated with an interestig man from the Phillipines who was seeing the world. He started out working on Costa Cruise Ships, heard about truck driving in the US, and came here. He is an American Citizen and drives refrigerated trucks across the US. He was going to New Orleans to pick up his car, then to Chicago to start a new truck driving job in the Northeastern part of the US. He has no overhead and plans to return to the Phillipines after Australia and New Zealand
He is also working on a blog, but has not yet published it.
In El Paso, we parked in a secure garage for $10 per day. It was about 2 blocks from the train station and a block from the bus station. It is manned 24 hours a day.
The El Paso train station is an imposing old building; but not marked in any way. So we drove around it a few times and ended up back on the freeway before someone pointed it out. Downtown El Paso is confusing. Next time we will recognize the train station. Experience works, even in old age.
The train station is large, not used much: one passenger train a day in each direction. It has vending machines, one of which takes your money and does not vend; but, there is a warning sign. All the usual junk food. Nothing healthy. Cookies, candies and chips. No restaurants close by.
Three unplanned hours of waiting.
The net result: when we really can’t drive we can take the train, even though it will mean a bus ride from Albuquerque to El Paso, which can be arranged through Amtrak. You have to walk from one station to the other.
Since there are no longer any non-stop flights from Albuquerque to Tucson, we are considering flying through Las Vegas.
Another option that I will have to try alone, since my wife is not interested, is the bus to Tucson. It is reasonable, goes through Phoenix and leaves and arrives at decent hours, albeit 12 hours apart.
The lesson learned is that I have several relatively safe options to get to Tucson; all of which I will try before I have to use them. Even at my age I can figure out what to do now that I have done it.
We can adapt to our age.
You should check out alternate means of travel.
THINK OLD! TRAVEL MORE!
If you visit Santa Fe, New Mexico, a visit to Tesuque Glass Works will provide an interesting experience; perhaps even better than the tours of the Corning Glass Museum in Corning, New York, since at Tesuque, you are closer to the action.
You can watch expert glass blowers turning out works of art, which are for sale.
If you arrange for it in advance, you can also take classes and blow your own creation. For classes contact:
You are traveling; and, of course you have to eat. Mostly it is too expensive and probably not good for you; but, at your age who cares?
I am interested in places and ideas for eating well but frugally. This means getting the most for your money, having a new experience and maybe meeting new people. And, as always, you may have a story to tell. No one is interested if you ate at a chain; however, going to a church supper in a small NM town will give you a story to tell.
Share a plate. Old people eat less. Most places will let you do it, though some charge an extra $3 or so. Always split a desert.
I have tried the following:
1. Eat at Whole Foods or other gourmet grocery store. You get good food in reasonable quantities and can eat it in the store or take it with you. You will also feel good since it is organic, humanly raised and free of additives. Your grandchildren will love it.
2. Try a university. Parking may be a problem; however, they usually have salad bars and other interesting menu items. Sometimes you can even get a beer or glass of wine.
3. Hospitals have gotten better, at least in their cafeterias. I can remember when it was all fried, but now they have salad bars and other items that reflect their “dedication” to health. Don’t stay too long as you might catch something; they are places to avoid except for a quick meal.
4. Frequently, you can visit an assisted living facility and in exchange for listening to the sales pitch, get a free meal. This would be my last resort in most cases, having seen some of the food.
5. Some chains have reasonably priced healthy food. If you see a Chipotle or a Subway, stop. Two of you can share a burrito or a 12 in. sub, for about $6 to $8.
6. Picnic. Stop at a store and buy what you need for a picnic. Remember that left-overs may be a problem.
7. Frequent bed and breakfasts. Have a big breakfast, an apple for lunch, and a nice dinner with a glass of wine.
8. Service clubs, if you are a member. Watch for signs giving the day and place as you enter a town; or, go on-line.
9. If you belong to a private club, golf club, health club, or tennis club, check them out for reciprocity. Usually they can arrange for you to be a guest and use the facilities in another town. There will probably be a small fee.
10. Church suppers are always interesting; especially in small rural towns.
11. Small town events can give you interesting food.Try the Ramp Festival in Cullowhee, NC; or the matanza in Belen, NM where you can eat outside your comfort zone.
12. Never forget museums; especially if you are in Europe. Some of the best food I have had has been at museums in Madrid, Vienna and London. The same applies to US museums. At least look at them.
Pick up small town papers. Visit your old home towns. Use the internet. Try something new. Check out small town chambers of commerce. Explore.
The High Line is an urban path that used to be an elevated train track. It runs from Gansevoort Street about 1;45 miles to 34th street. Access is by stairs and elevators. The 34th street end is about three blocks from Penn Station, so you can take a train or subway there and walk over.
The four phases were opened in 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2015. It is similar to the rails-to-trails program and other programs that have created unusual walking paths. This one is smack, dab in Manhattan and snakes through a valley of skyscrapers, with 40 added in the last 10 years and more under construction. Walking it you are surrounded by windows looking out on the High Line and cranes rigging new construction.
You can walk, but not bike, the distance. There are over 210 species of plants; and, of course, old train tracks.
There are places to sit, and ares that allow for a picnic or party for up to 20 of your friends. In addition, there are numerous events planned for the summer. Around each stair/elevator, restaurants, and bars are springing up.
I did not see any toilets; only, numerous signs on restaurants that restrooms were for customers only.
The High Line is not as wide as I expected; but, it is a use of old second story train tracks.How wide can two elevated train tracks that go through downtown Manhattan be? It is a great idea and should be, and has been, replicated in many places.
It is a tourist destination only if you want to see one of the performing groups, if you want to see what could be done in your backyard, or if you are curious.
Such paths provide old people a chance to get outside, to walk, to meet and socialize with friends and to interact with their environment.
I would like to see:
1. Chess/checker/etc. boards so that old people could play chess/checkers/cards/ etc. like they do in Europe and small town mid-western town squares.
2. Drinking fountains.
4, Maybe, but it would be tricky, ice cream carts, coffee carts, etc. on the path. Perhaps they could use the second-hand carts that airlines used to use before they stopped providing food/drinks/etc. on flights.
5. In the open space, early morning tai chi as in San Francisco China Town.
If you are interested, take a look at the following:
I checked out New Mexico on Trailink and discovered that the 16 mile long bike/walking path, 100 yards from my home was listed, in addition to dozens of others that I had not heard about. Wherever you go find an interesting walking path. Walking is what a “good” old age is all about.
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
The Wheels Museum at the Rail Yards Market in Albuquerque is a must for railroad buffs and for anyone who wants to remember back to a simpler, younger age.
The volunteers who staff the museum are knowledgeable and helpful. They like what they are doing.
If you like model trains, there are several large layouts including one from the Clovis Model railroad club. There are a number of cars, trucks and various pieces of train equipment
I liked the horse drawn milk wagon as it reminded me of my childhood in Kansas where the milk was delivered to a box at your back door and the horse knew all the stops.
The museum is located in an old railroad storage building and is next to what used to be the only roundhouse between St. Louis and California and where they repaired engines. The old roundhouse is still in existence, empty, huge and now used for movie sets and for a weekly market. Rumor has it that it may be sold to CNM and used for film courses.
Next to the long abandoned train buildings are the tracks where there is a daily Amtrak train in each direction and numerous freight trains.
You can catch the RailRunner to Santa Fe or to Belen 7 days a week. It is free for seniors on Wednesday, but parking downtown is a pain. Better to park at the Montaño station and catch the train there.
If you like the Wheels Museum, you should also visit the 17 year restoration of Santa Fe Steam Locomotive # 2926 by the New Mexico Locomotive and Railroad Historical Society. You can visit on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1833 8th NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Or, check them out on-line at nmslrhs.org.
New Mexico is a fascinating place for train buffs, and if you are here during the State Fair, there is a great model train exhibit, put on by the Rio Grande Valley HO Model Railroad. In 2019, it is from September 5 – 15.
I live in a home with three bedrooms. At some point I will need care; especially if I elect to live-in-place. I need a cheap solution; especially at night. Someone to allay my fears of the dark and to answer the phone, the door and generally be a human presence.
A caregiver who is really just an elder-sitter would cost me $20 per hour or $240 a night and I would be asleep. That comes to $87,600 per year; a bit much given my social security of $1600 per month and no pension.
My solution is a student nurse. She can make aging in place workable.
Average student loan debt for graduating nurses is $30,000. The average cost of board and room at UNM for a student nurse is $8580 per school year. This does not include non-academic periods. For three years rooming at the geezer’s, this would be a savings of $25,740; not counting the non-school year times.
I spoke informally to a lady at the UNM nursing school and to a fourth year student nurse, both of whom said it was possible to provide a nursing student with board and room in exchange for staying overnight at my house.
The student would live in one of my empty rooms, use the spare bathroom, eat the food from my “ice box” and check up on me, calling 911 as necessary.
She would be free during the day for classes; could have a boy/girl friend stay over, and could cut her student loans by at least $25,000.
She could do a paper on practical geriatrics for her geriatric course. She could study me, bring fellow students/professors around; and could generally get academic mileage out of her stay with me. I could be the guinea pig for geriatric research programs.
I could visit my kids during exams; and, we could work out something for periods when she had to be away.
She would have enough expertise; more than an elder-sitter; and, would know what to do in an emergency.
She would be better trained and vetted than the usual care-giver. I am afraid that someone is going to scam me or that a care-giver is going to steal my valuables and medicines. A nursing student has a career to lose if she does something unethical or illegal.
A win-win for both of us. She could even drop me off at the adult day-care on her way to classes. And could share my Meals-on Wheels.
When she graduates, she could provide me with a replacement from the entering class.
And I would be the envy of the senior community.
In 1971 a bunch of homeless people (hippies) took possession of an abandoned military base in the center of Copenhagen, Denmark and Freetown Christiania was born.
A few years ago I visited Christiania in Copenhagen, Denmark. It has become one of the major tourist attractions in Copenhagen and home to about 600 people; and took me back to the 1960’s. Since 1971, Christiania has evolved and has become a co-op instead of a squatters’ habitat.
When I was there, there were signs warning about marijuana which was freely sold, although illegal; there were simple restaurants; there were all sorts of craft stands; and houses in various forms of construction. The organization was informal but in 2012 they voted on who could live there and had developed some form of ownership and property rights.
The hippies resisted all efforts by the government to remove them. They have entered into contracts for utilities and trash; and , have obtained not only the right to own the property, but have government loans to finance the property.
The set-up is largely like a co-op with the existing residents voting on new residents and making the rules, such as they are.
It is located a 30 minute ride or a 45 minute walk from the Central Train Station. You might still get illegal marijuana with little apparent risk from the authorities, but there may now be internal restrictions. Times are changing and hippies are growing older. Maybe they should look to medical marijuana?
It is worth a visit; especially if you grew up in the 60’s and it is going strong today. I don’t know how many of the original squatters are still there, but they would probably be in their 60’s.
It may even give you a few ideas as you grow older; and, feel the need of a delayed alternative lifestyle.
For more pictures and reasons to visit Christiania, see : Buzzfeed
Google: Christiania for up-to-date information and “alternative tours.”
I can’t help but update this blog to show you the New York Times review of the restaurant NOMA near Christiania.
A second update showing problems in Christiania is reported by The New York Times, even though it has become a major tourist attraction.
On Sundays from 9-3, May 4 – Nov. 2, you can visit the Rail Yards Market near downtown Albuquerque, NM. The site is next to the tracks and is in a huge old Santa Fe Railway repair shop. The market has over one hundred vendors and artists. It draws thousands of people. Outside there is plenty of free parking and a line of food trucks.
Inside, which is free, you find artists, bakeries, local produce, music and crowds. Turn down your hearing aid.
Rail buffs, and most other people, especially those of us who can remember riding the train to college, will be fascinated by the interior of the Santa Fe Railway Repair Shop, now abandoned, waiting a new life, and used as the setting for a number of movies.
To learn more about the rail yards visit the City of Albuquerque web page.
Maybe you are looking for a second career in your retirement. Central New Mexico Community College in conjunction with the Street Food Institute offers a course in “Street Food.” Maybe you should apply. Visit Craigs List to find food trucks for sale.
The bottom line is that for a few hours on Sunday morning, you can’t go wrong, and you will see a part of American History. Drive through the surrounding streets and see “new town,” which came into being with the arrival of the rail road over a hundred years ago. Then compare it to “Old Town.”
Gertrude Winifred Tyler
2-4-1882 to 9-29=1980 – age 98
When I was between 5 and 10 years old, in the late 1940’s, I used to visit my grandparents in Villisca, Iowa. I would spend time with my grandfather’s two sisters, who were in their 60’s, and who were unlike any other women (housewives) that I knew. My recent interest in genealogy has proven how unique they were.
Gertrude Winifred Tyler was born in 1882 in Villisca, Iowa. She graduated from Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa in 1909 followed by a Master’s Degree in Education from Columbia University in New York.
In 1913 she opened Stevens Memorial Suining Girls Boarding School in Suining, Sichuan, China, for the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. She ran the school for around 30 years.
During this time she made numerous trips back to the US and I found her name listed as one of 19 US Citizens on the passenger manifest of the Nippon Maru, which arrived in San Francisco from Yokohama, Japan on July 16, 1919.
Gertrude had a large collection of Chinese wall hangings and artifacts. I have some of the hangings, but most of her collection is now in the Villisca Public Library.
Bertha Marie Tyler
9-6-1879 to 12-7-1971 age 92
Aunt Bertha, taught school in Orient, Iowa, graduated from Simpson College in 1912 and received her Master’s in Education and Psychology from the State University of Iowa in Ames, Iowa. She was then a school principal in Orient, Iowa and the Superintendent of Schools in Orient, Iowa for 16 years.
From 1934-1938 Aunt Bertha lived in Little Rock, Arkansas where she was the Dean of Women and Professor of Education for Philander Smith College, a college established in 1877 for freed African-American Slaves and still in existence and thriving today. The school was supported by the Methodist Church.
I wrote to Philander Smith College and they sent me an electronic copy of the 1935-36 College Catalog, which lists Bertha as the Dean of Women and Professor of Education. It also shows that tuition was $27 per semester, room and board was $15 per month and laundry was $4 per year. Tuition is now $12,564 and board and room is $8,250.
In 1938, Frank P. Tyler, Gertrude and Bertha’s father was in ill health. Gertrude and Bertha, abandoned their fascinating careers and came back to Villisca to run The Tyler Ice And Coal Company and the family slaughter house, which fascinated a 9-year-old boy on summer vacation.
The ice plant consisted of a huge room with a saline solution where they froze water into 100 pound blocks of ice, which were then split into smaller blocks and delivered throughout Villisca, as everyone still had ice boxes after WW II. Another part of the ice plant consisted of lockers where people stored their frozen food until they were ready to use it. The predecessor to the ice plant was a pond where they cut ice in the winter, stored it in warehouses insulated with saw dust and sold the ice in the summer.
The slaughter-house was a few blocks a way and only a small building where a couple of cows and pigs were slaughtered each week. The animals were shot with a .22 rifle and hoisted up on a winch to bleed out before being cut up. Gertrude and Bertha made blood pudding out of the blood and used every part of the animals.
My genealogy research so far has been on the internet; but, the next step is to track Gertrude and Bertha on the ground; visiting actual sites in Villisca, Iowa, Indianola, Iowa, Orient, Iowa, Columbia University, Ames, Iowa and maybe even Sichuan, China. It will be my own Genealogy Road Show, but will be on-site.
Last summer, my wife and I tracked her paternal and maternal ancestors through upstate New York and had great luck with local libraries, historical societies and genealogical societies, not to mention court houses and cemeteries.
This was originally published in the Albuquerque Genealogical Society Quarterly (July 2018)