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!
People my age received their driver’s license 65 years ago; which was the last time they reviewed the laws and driver “best practices.” For the last 65 years, we have just coasted – have not taken a driver’s license exam and have not reviewed the laws. Our biggest worry is the eye exam.
The AARP offers a Smart Driver course; either on-line or at a 4 hour class.
We recently took the course in a four hour class at the local senior center. While we expected to be bored, it was informative and at least made us think. It costs $15 for AARP members and $20 for non-members.
The best ideas we could relate to.
- Having a blind side mirror.
- Only making right turns if possible, which delivery services such as Federal Express practice; not because their drivers are old, but because of the savings in time and gas costs.
- Learning about roundabouts.
- The safety devices on new cars, including back-up cameras, blind side beeps, and several more. Beware, that these can also be confusing and distracting if you are old. They take getting used to.
- Timing lights at intersections.
- Stopping distances and following distances.
- Fog lines.
- Left and right mirror settings.
- Not pulling into the intersection while making a left turn.
- Seat adjustment for airbag protection.
- Steering wheel hand position adjustment; not 10 and 2, but 9 and 3. This protects your hands from the airbag in case of a crash.
- Anti-lock brake system.
- Lane markings.
- Space cushion around your car.
Then of course, if you take the course, your insurance company will give you a break; anywhere from 7.5% to 15%; which more than pays for the course. I think it also useful for you to have a record that you took the course. You never know when that may come in handy.
REMEMBER, you are OLD, and you will be described as “elderly” or worse in any police report or newspaper article.
THINK OLD! DRIVE OLD!
I still drive and around the city it is not too bad. I use a a few tricks, such as turning right as much as possible, but when I get on freeways, which is about the only way to get from city to city any more, I am faced with drivers coming up on my left and getting in my blind spot.
For $10, I fixed that thanks to a few rental cars and
Amazon.com. You affix a blind spot mirror to the driver and passenger side mirrors and you can see the cars right next to you.
It is hard to turn an old neck to look without the mirror and it is also a distraction.
AARP SMART DRIVER COURSE FOR SENIORS – I got my license 63 years ago and no one is going to tell me how to drive!Posted: December 13, 2017
The AARP Smart Driver Course, is worth the time and money. You can’t not afford to take it, and you aren’t doing anything but watching TV any way.
The course is available on-line and at various centers around the country. GOOGLE: “AARP SMART DRIVER COURSE.”
I just took it on-line. It took me four hours and I had two months to complete it; however, I did it in one afternoon. The reasons I took it are:
- Cheap – I got a deal and only paid $19.95 for the course.
- Update – It is 63 years since I got my license and a few things have changed; especially the way they mark the streets.
- Reminders – After 63 years (and 3 years since I took the classroom course) I need to have my mind refreshed; especially where my life and the lives of others are at stake.
- Insurance discount – this varies by state and insurance company, but I expect at least 5%.
- Not taking the course may work against you. The insurance company knows how old I am, and as much data as they collect, I am sure that they note whether or not I have taken the course. I have nothing to base this on, but then I may be paranoid about companies collecting information on me.
- Makes you aware that you are not alone in the way you drive at 77; and gives you some techniques to use. I especially liked turning left by going around the block in right-hand turns. The parcel delivery companies have discovered that they save a lot on gas and accidents by programming right turns for their drivers whenever they can.
- What insurance companies consider. It is always good to know. In New Mexico one insurance company considers a number of things, that as an old person you should at least be aware of.
- Medicine and booze. The course talks about the effect of liquor, as little as one drink, and its effect when taken with medicines, both prescription and over-the-counter. Remember, you are old, you probably take a number of pills and your body may not react to them in the same way as it did 50 years ago.
- Physical and mental problems. The course reminds you of them, as if you weren’t aware already. You don’t want to be picked up for drunk driving when you can’t walk a straight line when sober at age 77. You don’t want your picture in the Albuquerque Journal at the end of the month as a convicted drunk driver.
- I tell people I took the course. It may head off attempts to take your license and your car. I received positive feedback and questions from other old people that I told about the course; so, I am telling you about it.
The course is designed so you have to watch everything and give feed-back before moving to the next segment. You can’t just click through it in a few minutes and get your certificate.
Outsource is a business term whereby certain activities are contracted out to other businesses or individuals. The reason is that the task can be done cheaper, safer or better by another and it allows the outsourcer to focus on its primary task.
This can be applied to old age. At 75, due to physical and mental problems, it may be cheaper, better and safer to have certain tasks outsourced. It may even turn out to be life-saving if you decide to climb a ladder and clean the leaves out of the gutters instead of hiring it done.
At 75 you need to think about what you can outsource and what you can do yourself.
Ten things that you might consider outsourcing:
- Anything that requires a ladder, a stool or standing on the couch to fix.
- Medical advice
- Paying bills – you can outsource with automatic payment plans, an accountant, or a kid.
- Legal advice
- Charitable donations
The list is not complete. You should modify it according to your needs. Old people are stubborn. They think that they are more competent than they are. They think that they can still do things, that they can’t do. The result is that they frequently injure, kill or bankrupt themselves when with a little outsourcing they could continue to live happy, productive lives.
The most important part of outsourcing is KISS. (Keep it simple, stupid.)