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Hanging With The Old People

June 12, 2017

There’s lots of old people here.

Sweety? We’re old people.

I delivered my wife’s Mother’s Day gift over the weekend. We drove from our home in Pleasant Grove, North to Salt Lake City, turned left and drove to Nevada. We stopped in Wendover. It’s close enough to the Utah border that you can literally use the I80 mile markers to determine how close you are. Salt Lake City is at mile marker 188. The trip from Salt Lake City to Wendover takes about two and a half hours.

I remember when I first started paying attention to speed limits, the nationwide speed limit was 55 MPH. The lower speed limit was designed to help America conserve oil during the OPEC oil embargo of the 1970’s. Eventually, the price of oil returned to more reasonable levels and an effort was made to raise the speed limits. Senators from the Western states introduced legislation to raise the speed limit. Senators from the East where freeways are more congested, continually blocked their efforts. Finally, in frustration, the Western senators invited their Eastern colleagues to come out and look at Interstate highway 80 between Salt Lake City, UT and Wendover, NV. It’s straight as an arrow. There are no towns and only a few range exits for hundreds of miles. And as for the elevation change, I80 is the nearest highway to the Bonneville Salt Flats. The place that people come from all over the world to set land speed records. Flat is an understatement.

The senators flew over it in a plane. Ground traffic only goes slightly slower. The speed limit reaches 80 MPH a few miles outside of Salt Lake City. We were pushing 90 as we headed West. Were it not for the crosswinds, I might have been tempted to go faster. We don’t have tornados in Utah. The wind, especially in the West desert, picks a direction and sticks to it. As we roared West, the wind from the North was sustained at about 40 MPH. It was hard enough that passing a semi-truck on the left required quick reflexes. As our car entered the shadow of the trailer, the wind suddenly dropped to zero. I nearly hit the truck the first time it happened.

My friend John Moyer is a professional comedian and hypnotist. He says that Wendover is an old Indian word meaning “Mormons who like to gamble.” It rises like a neon oasis where the freeway enters the Sierra Nevada. You exit the freeway on the Utah side of the border. There is no official marker seperating Utah from Nevada. There doesn’t need to be. When you reach the first casino, you’re in Nevada.

We were on our way to the Peppermill concert hall for a concert. Gordan Lightfoot is not only still alive, he’s still touring. At 78 years old, he looked only slightly older than most of the audience. My wife commented on the number of senior citizen streaming into the the concert hall. Are these our peers? Have we finally crossed over that imaginary boundary that marks one as old?

I thought about it as we made our way to our seats. While there were people arriving using canes and even electric scooters, there were also a fair number of “younger” people. You know, people our age.

This year we will welcome our sixth grandchild. We’ll celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. Our youngest child enters high school in the fall. We own a home. We have four cars and a scooter. With one of my adult daughters staying with us for the summer, we even have a dog. We have become the grownups.

And yet, we don’t feel old. We are planning a series of staycations for this summer that include visits to lakes and mountains. In two weeks my boys and I will head to the a father and sons campout. At the end of the month I’ll take a group of boyscouts to Zions National Park and hike the Narrows and Orderville canyon.

As Gordan Lightfoot made his way on stage, I considered again the fact that at 78 years old he was doing a 90 minute show without sitting down once.

I’m not sure if I’m old or not. But, I think the trick is to keep going as long as you can. Old age will catch up to us all eventually, but he’s going to have to run to keep up.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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