When I was young, I was a voracious reader. I mean I read everything, including my mom’s Good Housekeeping magazines. Don’t ask me why, but for some reason, I’ve always remembered an ad in there, and it has now come back to haunt me. You might even remember it – “GET RID OF HORRID AGE SPOTS!. Just buy their cream, and hey presto! The’re gone!

I guess you can figure out where this is headed; yes, I DO have “horrid age spots’. It was kinda like going shopping, getting back to your car, and finding a ding on the door. Disbelief, shock, anger, and then, resignation. Well, at least they’re not painful.

And age spots would be okay, if that’s where it stopped, but noooooo. Suddenly the back of my hand looks OLD. When did that happen? I remember when my facial hair started growing gray, and I finally convinced my wife I’d look sooo much better if I shaved the gray caterpillar off my upper lip.  Actually made me look a bit younger, for awhile. Then there are the incipient wattles, aka Turkey Neck. I’d shake my head in disgust, but I hate the flapping.

All of these are bad enough, but my nemesis is  – wait for it – hair. Hair on my head. Not the stuff on top, thinning and (ahem) soon and suddenly to go gray. No, I’m talking about the hair that is creeping up my neck and back, trying to peek out over my shirt collars. I’m talking about the zillion hairs in my nose that would pass for a mustache if I didn’t trim them. I’m talking about the ones growing out of my ears. Really, what evolutionary benefit does that impart to an aging male that is already showing signs of hearing loss (didn’t we all turn the amps up to 11 when we were young?). Seems like that little forest of ear hairs would keep even MORE sound out.

Finally, not to be outdone, are the Eyebrow Hairs. Why do they grow so much when the top of my head is losing so much? I’ve actually wondered if I could use them for a comb-over; certainly cheaper than getting hair implants!

At night, when I am dreaming, I am young, vibrant and strong. Well, in my dreams, I can also play the guitar like Eric Clapton, and I can often fly. Point is, I’m never old, or even middle-aged. But then I wake, jump in the shower, and there they are! Horrid Age Spots! Hey, what was the name of that cream again??? Asking for a friend.

Pre-tirement Test Trip

So, I’m pretired right now. I cut back from five to four days a week a couple of years back, and enjoyed a wee bit of extra time off. Then I cut back to three days a week last year and relaxed a bit more. Starting in January 2019, I have gone to only TWO days a week, and our new manager is generally scheduling me for Thursdays and Fridays! I call it “backing into retirement.” This approach is working for me, both financially and emotionally. Part of this blog will be about how we – and others – get the highest quality retirement within a very modest budget.  And part of it will be looking at how we adjust to this new stage in our lives when it’s just the two of us, 24/7.

Hitting the road, heading to distant horizons, and exploring are a huge part of what we like to do, but expenses can really add up! One approach that has worked very well for us so far is investing in a timeshare. Some limit you to a single location, for a specific date. The one we chose (no free ads here) has tons of locations in the west, more limited east of the Mississippi. We didn’t have enough cash for “New” credits; buying aftermarket (no free ads here either) saves about 75%!! Right now you can buy 6,000 annual credits for $2,400, which is enough to spend five nights every year at a beautiful resort at the foot of the South Mountain Preserve in Phoenix, with change left over.

The part where it really gets worth it is Monday Madness, where there are specials at various resorts each week, again for $0.08 a credit. And then there’s what they call “Bonus Time”. Once you are a member, if someone cancels their reservation two weeks before their stay, it is put up on the website, and you can grab it for $0.08 a credit, or $480. Anyhow, that’s what we used last weekend to head to Vancouver, B.C..

And – magic! We got completely packed and loaded nearly an hour ahead of our usual time. The sun was shining, and there was virtually no traffic on the freeway. The border wait was only 15 minutes or so. We saw at least two dozen bald eagles between the border and Vancouver. There were WAY fewer rude drivers in the city using their 500 horsepower trophy cars to commandeer the right lane (on city streets) to cut in front of lesser vehicles. There was a parking place right in front of the check-in office. AND – our room was ready two hours before check-in!

While this unit is was a wee bit smaller than in other locations, it had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, plus living and dining rooms – and an incredible view of the city, local mountains and the water! We quickly unloaded our luggage, then walked the half-dozen blocks down to the Hornby Street dock to catch the Aquabus to Granville Island. This fleet of cute little walk-on ferries are a legacy of the 1986 World Expo, and they remain a very vital part of transportation around this vibrant city. Granville Island is home to shops, restaurants, lodging, artist studios, bakeries, a cement plant (!) and a HUGE public market, jam-packed with fresh produce, specialty purveyors of coffee, meat, chocolate, poultry, cheeses, and so much more. We were on a mission to hunt and gather comestibles for our stay, and as always, had trouble limiting ourselves to what we could actually consume during our stay.

We headed to the Vancouver Art Gallery Monday morning. We had heard about their current exhibition “French Moderns: Monet to Matisse,” and were excited to check it out. The gallery is located in the old Provincial Courthouse, which opened in 1911, and is a visual treat all by itself. Our luck continued – the first Monday of the month is Senior Monday, admission by donation! And we got there just a few minutes before a docent-led tour gave us the historical context of the rapid metamorphosis of art between 1850 and 1950. They also have a great Emily Carr portfolio, and showcased some recent art designed to challenge our expectations on the story we expect art to tell.

That was an amazing experience. Now, quick, hotfoot it down to the ferry and to Granville Island again for lunch overlooking False Creek and Burrard Bridge. Check out the shops, do a bit of home-grown whiskey tasting at Liberty Distillery, pick up a few things for the grandkids, have a small appetizer and glass of wine at Bridges under the Granville Bridge, and head back home. Share a quick conversation with a couple from Tulsa who spend two months here every year. He only started up his car after being here 5 ½ weeks for a drive because he heard his battery might go dead if he didn’t. Watched the alpenglow on The Sentinels (twin peaks in North Vancouver).

Changed things up for breakfast with Lemon and Blueberry Scones, an Almond Croissant  collected at A Bread Affair, and an orange, on Granville Island the day before. We looked at each other and thought, this could work. Our out-of -pocket (not including my splurge on Trust Whiskey) was only about $230, and we didn’t feel deprived in the least.

With all of that, we didn’t even scratch the surface of what Vancouver has to offer. The huge expanse and views from Stanley Park, turn-of-the-century buildings in Gastown, stunning Queen Elizabeth Park, the West End, shopping on Robson Street ($6,000 boots, anyone?), Canada Place, pedestrian friendly paths along all the waterfronts, cuisine from around the world, and so much more.

How did we save a ton of money, plus drink great coffee every morning? Thinking that has to be a future post. How do YOU save money when traveling? What’s a destination you keep returning to because you love it so much? Leave your comments, I’d love to hear and share them!

Want to see all the photos from the trip? Please go to my Facebook page, I Am Gray!

#aging #seniorcitizens #seniortravel

Cheating the world out of a buck

I still remember the shock of getting an invitation to join AARP in the mail when I was a youngster – at what, age 50? That went in the trash faster than a paycheck disappears at bill time. Then one day, it seemed okay. I mean after all, just LOOK at all the discounts we can get! Then came the Golden Apple Card at Applebee’s, saving 10% on our meals there. We like to go to movies occasionally, so we’ve learned to ask at our local Regal Cinemas for our senior discount.  Nice! I could grow to like saving a few bucks here and there!

We love to travel, and visit our beautiful National Parks whenever we can, so the day I qualified (at age 62), I jumped at the chance to get a Senior Pass for only $10.00 so that I and three others with me can get into every one of our parks FREE. And that was before they doubled the entrance fees. Today, that same pass will cost you $80, sorry kids. Too much? You can also get an annual pass for $20, and then trade four of those in for a lifetime pass.

There’s also AARP discounts on hotels, car rentals, and so much more! As we edge closer and closer to full retirement on a very limited budget, our discount radar is being ramped up to full power. Cutting coupons for grocery shopping, taking advantage of dining offers, senior shopping days, whatever, we are on the lookout!  And as I look around, suddenly I see a whole host of my peers doing the same thing. While some of us benefit more than others, many I consider “well off” are right there with me, using their age to cheat the world out of a buck. Okay, okay, they AREN’T cheating, but if you are at all like me, you get this rich sense of satisfaction of saying “Whoo-hoo! I just saved $2.37 on my groceries!!’ It has moved from hmmm, let’s see if we can get this discount to more of a task or duty (“Did you bring the coupons?”) to a game I want to win. I can be competitive, and if I can score points against huge corporations, I win!

So, here is our good news for the day. If you are 55 years old or older, you can follow my blog FOR FREE! Everyone else has to pay double, sorry.