It seems to have taken just over one year after my official retirement date for me to feel like it actually happened. For the past year, it has felt somewhat surreal. I still looked forward to “weekends” (as if some “freedom” was attached to them). I still laid awake at night on Sunday nights, thinking about Monday morning and all the things I had to get done during the week. I thought about things that needed to be addressed at my former work organization and whether “someone” was taking care of that. I wondered what retired life should really look like and what I needed to do to make it so.
So today I am in the 24 foot motor home that my guy and I dreamed we would one day hop in and enjoy on many road trip adventures. We are parked on the shore of a beautiful BC lake, enjoying the sights and quiet time together. It is a Thursday, not a weekend. I finally realize that now I look forward to every day and that the week can be my weekend too (when it’s not so busy with everyone else vying for the same thing on their days off). If I am laying awake at night thinking about what I have to do, it is by choice and that there is something intriguing (and likely adventuresome) that is driving my mind to focus on it. I have accepted that I did a great job of leaving skilled and qualified people in my place to deal with all the things needed at my former work organization. It is still surreal, but more importantly, I realize that I am actually living what retired life “should look like” …and that is great.
“Retirement, a time to do what you want to do, when you want to do it, where you want to do it, and how you want to do it”. Catherine Pulsifer
“Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in a car“.
Growing up I was exposed to riding on and driving things much bigger than me. From the first time I hopped on my older sister’s bike and crashed into a curb with disastrous results (painful in a particularly sensitive area of a male’s body) I wasn’t happy just getting from point A to point B the old fashioned ways – walking or running. On my grandpa’s farm there was always something motorized that us kids got rides on. There were numerous tractors, swathers, combines and grain trucks. Sometimes there were even some older cars around that still had life in them. All they needed was the right amount of coaxing, a strategic hill to roll down for a rolling start (roll down the hill and pop the clutch) and some purple gas. Of course there were times you had to “hold your tongue” in just the right place and say a prayer to get things moving and when they did it was pure joy.
Once I got to be around 13 or 14 I was trusted enough (rightly or wrongly) to drive some of these farm machines on my own. First under the watchful eye of my grandpa or my dad and then eventually on my own. Driving tractors led to farm trucks and I always looked forward to the end of the farming season once the crops were off the field. The entire property became my race track and playground. I could have driven for hours going back and forth from one end of the property to another, the radio blasting some rock tunes of the day from the local AM radio station. My kids, sadly, never had the chance to experience things like this as my grandpa had passed on long before they were born. I never would have traded those experiences for anything else growing up.
As I got older and finally got my first car at age 14 (not yet even able to “legally” drive on my own) I felt like there was nothing better in life. My first car came from my grandpa’s farm where we rescued it from a slow painful death by dust engulfment and mouse migration. The car was a 1967 Rambler Rebel manufactured by American Motors. We lived in Calgary at the time and I can still remember making the trip with my dad to Stony Plain, Alberta to pick it up. We drove straight to Devonian Motors in Edmonton for a quick tune-up and a few other odds and ends before taking it with us back to Calgary.
I loved driving cars, looking at them, cleaning and washing them, and waxing them until their faded paint came back to life. I cleaned them inside and out and I was very picky about how clean they were. I scrubbed every inch of them including the trunk and engine compartment. In spite of my best efforts the Rambler always still had a bit of farm smell to it – a mixture of dust, grass, gardens and just general old age……but I was ok with that. Like any kids growing up in the 70’s CB radios were a big thing and I installed one in that Rambler. Who was cooler than me with a CB radio that looked like a phone inside my car?!!! 🙂 Of course, in those days you also needed to have a fuzzy steering wheel cover and a St. Christopher medallion hanging from the rear view mirror. My dad always told me St. Christopher protected you when you travelled. With some of the crazy stories my dad has shared over the years of his adventures in cars growing up, I always understood why he needed the extra protection. Lol.
As my kids got older I could never understand why they never shared the same drive (no pun intended) to get their first car. In my day having a car meant everything. It meant freedom and a way to escape when everyday life got you down. It was a signal of your arrival into adulthood and the responsibilities that came along with it. Most of all it just meant fun times…..lots of them. Sadly this car didn’t hang around long enough for me to get my license at 16 and take it on all my adventures. At some point my parents thought it was best to sell it, but that didn’t matter because not long after I would get my “real” first car. I purchased a 1978 Mustang II from my sister Sue.
Not sure why but my buddies never could resist bugging me about the color of this car. My friend Greg used to call it, “the bitchin’ butterfly”! Besides that it was a fairly bright version of yellow I am not really sure why it reminded him of butterflies but the name sort of stuck. Lol. Anyway, whatever made them happy I guess. Greg used to drive an old gold station wagon we all called, “gold trash” so we didn’t take any of the friendly ribbing too seriously.
After graduating from high school in 1982 and starting my career I purchased my next car which was another Mustang. It was a hatchback and was fire engine red. My first automatic transmission and sadly that was about the only option on this car besides power steering and brakes. lol. When my son got his first car I don’t think he ever warmed up to the fact that it never had air conditioning or power windows. As a kid I didn’t care if my car even had windows. It just needed to have a motor and 4 wheels….and not even good wheels. I guess the new generation has become accustomed to the finer things in life that we never had for many years. I eventually added a cassette stereo to it with a big pair of rear speakers and a nose bra on the front of the car. I’m not sure why I went with the nose bra because it was one more thing to “Armour All” but it sure looked great when it was all polished up. I remember washing it out in the driveway one Saturday afternoon when it was nice and sunny and hot out. Two dummies/tools/A**’s came driving by and one of them threw a milkshake out their window and tried to hit me. It never spilled a drop and I didn’t even know who they were. Once they got to the corner of the street they turned around and drove back past me. Not to be out-bombed as they came by my driveway, I hurled the milkshake back at their car and by some fluke managed to get it right through the driver’s side window…lol….it was hilarious! The shake went off like a bomb and sprayed everywhere inside their car. I was shocked that they didn’t bother to stop and “chat” with me about it but I guess their pride was hurt…. My son always loves to hear this story! My buddies never did come up with a name for this car but probably because I never had it long enough.
In 1984 Pontiac came out with a new car we hadn’t seen before. It was a rear engine two-seater sports car they called a Fiero. Now for those of you who know what a Fiero is, please stop laughing because I realise they had a penchant for catching on fire and had many recalls over the years. Eventually they faded off into the place where bad car designs go to die. That being said, when I got mine there was nothing better I could have hoped for as a 20 year old. I acquired the first one to arrive in Calgary at the time and it got a lot of attention for quite awhile when I drove it around town since most people hadn’t seen one before. Under the hood was the spare tire and a place to put the removable sunroof. In the trunk was the motor compartment and enough space to put a sleeping bag and tent but that was about it. There were speakers mounted inside the headrests and to this day I think they are the primary reason why my hearing is not always great …and not just because I am male.
During my first winter (it was spring actually) driving experience with this car, I realized it was not built to drive in any accumulation of snow. I only had my car for a month before I slid into someone in front of me and damaged the front end. So from that point forward, I bought “winter beaters” every October that I would drive until the spring when I could get my baby out of storage and take it back out onto the road. There were a string of hilarious purchases which I have documented below for your enjoyment and laughter.
The first one I bought was the 1972 Impala 4 door land yacht. This car was so big and long you could have fit 2 or 3 families in it for a Sunday drive. It had a gigantic pointy nose on it and it just floated when you drove it down the road (it would have floated on water too I am sure). Everything about it was green right down to the carpet, steering wheel, upholstery and dash. The two rear tires were virtually bald and considering I bought it for the winter in Calgary it made driving it quite hilarious. But like I said at the beginning of this blog post it was simply about getting from point A to point B. It didn’t have to be pretty…..just start each morning to get me to work on time. I paid $500.00 for it and sold it for $500.00 the next spring.
My second winter purchase was the Monte Carlo which was probably my favourite. It never looked as good as it did on the day this picture was taken. I was selling it at the time and a friend of mine and I had just finished wiping it down with gasoline to strip down the old finish and then we put on a few coats of turtle wax on top. We added some Armour All to the tires and it was ready for the Auto Trader. I remember it had an after market two piece sunroof in it that leaked like crazy every time I took it through a car wash. I was always much drier after I sold this one. I have to admit it did look pretty sharp after all the elbow grease. I think I got something like $1,500.00 for it but I only paid $1,200.00 so it made for a profitable winter beater.
My third and last winter beater was a 1976 Ford Granada. Like so many cars back then the manufacturers seemed to work with a very uncomplicated color palate. If your car was red then everything inside and out was red except the tires. My Granada even had some great detailing inside it like the fake wood panels! This car had wall to wall vinyl bench seats in it front and back. I remember getting it all cleaned up for the weekend inside and out and like any responsible car owner back then I got the old handy dandy amour all out. I hit everything in that car “including the seats”! No as the pilot of this vehicle having extremely slippery seats was not a great thing but for my passengers in the backseat it was truly hilarious. Every time I went around a corner with any kind of speed they would slide from one end of the car to the other. It’s amazing no one flew out of the car while we were moving. There were seat belts in it but not mandatory back then.
Like all good things, even cars have to come to an end. I loved my Fiero but at a certain point it was no longer practical. It had basically no trunk space and was completely useless for camping. So it was time to get what would become a string of SUVs for years afterwards. I say SUVs except for the brief period after I had kids when I drove “loser cruisers” (mini-vans) around. I still have to laugh every time I hear that term and I certainly don’t mean any disrespect for those of you reading who might be in that period of your life now . I will reluctantly share with you that one mini-van actually had the fake wood grain panels that ran down the sides. Yikes! Certainly not a vehicle to tell your buddies about while consuming a few brewskies down at the local watering hole. But first in my history of SUVs, there was a 1988 Chevy Blazer that I just loved and it ended up being one of the best vehicles I owned. The picture on the right is that Blazer along with man’s best friend. The cute dog out front is Levi my Sheltie who sadly is not around anymore. He used to just about drive himself crazy running around inside that thing when I drove it. He wasn’t really a great car traveller until he made himself car sick and then settled down for the balance of the adventure. He proved to be very good preparation for the kids that would eventually arrive. Come to think of it, sometimes the kids made themselves car sick too on our travels and wouldn’t settle down until they were green in the face. I think it was more from staring at their phones or the video games they were glued to all the time more than looking out the windows. lol.
I mentioned these bad boys a few paragraphs earlier and I am sure many of you reading this post lived through similar periods in your lives. Times where practicality took over from pride of ownership and testosterone. lol
When I first thought of the idea to write this post I don’t think I realized just how many vehicles I have owned over the course of my lifetime “so far”. There have been a lot of them in the past few years so rather than going on for too long I decided to just list them out so I can get this post finished and start thinking about more important things like what I am going to eat for dinner. Here is the line up:
My Dodge Neon, while not a particular great car, saved me from further emotional scarring by driving the mini van everywhere. My kids called it Dad’s racing machine which was funny in of itself.
I absolutely loved my Jeep TJ. There was nothing more fun than driving it on a hot day with the roof down and the doors taken out. It was so fun to drive and you couldn’t beat it in the snow during the winter. I never found a road it couldn’t drive on. It also had the standard hardtop roof that came stock with it that I took off in the summer. My kids loved it too but as my son got older and continued to play hockey, storage space became a problem so I had to go to a vehicle with an actual trunk and back seat. After the Jeep TJ I had a Mazda 3 for a few years but the hockey equipment got bigger, the hockey sticks got longer, and my son got too tall….lol. So this also proved to be short-lived and the SUV years returned (thank God).
I went on a bit of a run with SUVs after the Mazda and still drive one today. Since retiring and moving to the Okanagan and being away from cold weather I find my thoughts drifting off to the land of convertible tops and short squatty sports cars. This along with a long-held wish to travel (circle) the Canadian and United States coastlines by RV. My fiancé and I are in the planning stages of a six month road trip and travel adventure and we will likely embark on it next spring.
My kids are grown now and both are young adults. They have been driving for a while and in the last couple of years they have both bought their “first cars”! I was very happy on the day when they both finally decided, “Hey, I would like to get a car and drive”! There was a time there I think they were just as happy being chauffeured from place to place, hockey game to hockey game, and from home to work. I have to admit I got really worried for awhile. It has been nice to see them both get their “first cars”! <insert sigh of relief>. As a father I am so very proud of both my son and daughter and how well they are both doing.
They both have started on their vehicular journeys and I hope one day they will look back and remember fondly how much fun they had.
Do you remember your first cars and some of the crazy things you did? Please share some of your firsts in the comments section below. I would love to read about them. Cheers!
Not only did the family farmhouses of old have character themselves, they sometimes also had a band of characters fondly associated with them. These characters and their personalities brought with them features, much like your home would, except as I remember them a much more colorful and experiential zest for life we can’t always find these days. Much like the featured image (also posted below) I started this post with, my grandparents’ farm had characters of all sizes, shapes, ages and real-life experiences. That’s me in the picture with the exhausting smile on my face that seemed to come over me every time there was a tractor involved in anything I was doing.
You will notice the smile on my grandpa’s face is similar to mine but the decades spent riding around on a tractor may have dampened his enthusiasm somewhat. It also could have been a sign of mild exhaustion that often came about from having a gaggle of grandkids around for the weekend (actually he really didn’t seem to mind!). My brother Mark is the one riding on the gas tank and wearing denim coveralls and rubber boots. While I can’t comment on his fashion sense I can say his somewhat reserved smile could be a sign that he is enjoying his day or just holding on for dear life. My brother Tim (sitting on my grandpa’s lap) appears serious and is possibly thinking that Mark shouldn’t be sitting where he is, but also understanding tractors are fun and can’t hurt you. My cousin Don who is closest to the tire has a look on his face that seems to threaten the photographer not to take this picture. I am not sure who was the holder of the camera but I can tell you that every time I look at this picture I get flooded with great memories and not only wish we could go back to those times but also share them with the kids we all have now…..if only! My sister Sue is missing from this picture as is my cousin Rebecca. Likely they were in the house at the time gossiping about how stupid boys were for liking tractors and such (eyes rolling).
When we built our home in the Okanagan we built a pool shed to house some of the pool equipment and pool toys. We needed to keep it under a certain amount of square feet otherwise it would be designated an accessory building and fall under a mountain of bylaws and regulations. In the background of my featured image you can see several other “accessory” buildings. They had colorful names associated with them like the “white shack”, the “granary”, and the “tractor shed”. The names made sense to us because their names told us what they looked like or did. The white shack was white, the granary had grain in it and the tractor shed had tractors stored in it. (Actually, I’m not really sure about the name of the tractor shed, but since I can’t remember for sure, that seems fitting.) I have a butler pantry in my current home now and while it does hold pantry-like goods it most certainly does not have a butler in it. Boy things were less complicated when I was a kid. If you were able to see past me in the tractor picture, behind the large fuel tank, I can tell you with a great deal of confidence that was where the most important building of them all was located. Yes, that is where the “outhouse” sat. Close enough to the house to get to on a cold night and yet far enough away to dissipate any of mother nature’s odors!
While we all enjoy our conveniences of today like indoor plumbing and running water, I believe some of the speed I had running and skating came from my years of going out to the outhouse late in the evening. This was not something as a young kid you looked forward to but a bladder is only so big and even when it is “pitch black” outside a person can only wait so long. Waiting for the sun to come up just wasn’t a viable option. From the farmhouse (west veranda) you walked down a slight hill to the outhouse. There was a light on inside that gave it a warm and inviting glow…lol. We turned the light on at the house so we could at least point ourselves in the right direction. Now as a kid who spent time around a farm when we grew up, we knew about coyotes. Not the ones who play NHL hockey in the deserts of Arizona but the ones who roam freely at night in search of chickens and kids with small bladders forced into the dark abyss by their parents. The trip down to the outhouse wasn’t the problem, it was the return trip. You looked up to see the farmhouse at the top of the hill and then saw infinite darkness directly behind you. I am sure it was safe, but as a kid we knew the darkness held hundreds of coyotes and other assorted monsters our parents never told us about. This made it necessary to run like a madman back to the farmhouse before something could catch and kill us. In the summer it wasn’t bad but in the winter it seemed I was never able to make it all the way without falling or losing a boot in the snow…..ugh. All in all a very terrifying ordeal to take care of something that mother nature would describe as natural. As you read on you will learn that coyotes weren’t the only things going “bump in the night” that I remember.
Sometimes the characters and personalities we came across in old farmhouses were not the people living in or visiting them. They were the ones we can’t see, touch or hold on to. My grandparents’ farmhouse had many of these characters inside its walls although, depending on who you talk to, our individual recollections may vary ….but my memory is better than theirs so you can believe me! I mentioned in my last post the possessed stove that sat in the corner of the kitchen. If you were making soup with the burner turned on while stirring the pot with a metal spoon and then you leaned against the stove you got a heck of an electrical shock. Ouch! My dad said the stove likely had a short in it somewhere, which is scary enough, but maybe there was some other “not of this world” explanation? Hold that thought while I continue. The farmhouse had an old set of stairs that took you from the main level to the upstairs. The second level had two bedrooms similar in size with one corner closet and a window at either end. My grandpa slept in one of the rooms. I was told that when my grandma was still alive and getting on in years, she slept in the second bedroom ( a pretty common thing back then). Well, in the winter the farmhouse would get quite cold and rather than going out and buying carpet for the floor my grandparents would put newsprint down on the floor to walk on. My grandma sometimes used to sit in bed at night and read, casually flipping through pages of magazines before going to sleep. I can recall times when I visited my grandpa in the summer, laying awake in bed at night and hearing shuffling footsteps on paper-covered floors above me or the sound of magazine pages flipping. In both cases the sounds came from rooms that only held furniture. Yikes. I also recall one specific summer visit when I would hear a tap at the window around the same time every night. This went on for several evenings and I made mental note of it. On the weekend when my parents and family joined me at the farm I shared my story of the late night tapping with them and they found it hilarious. They took turns sneaking outside and tapping on the same window just to p*** me off. Much to my disappointment the tap never did happen again that night but after I had fallen asleep the blinds on the window beside me flew up to the top with a crash and literally had me jump out of bed……it scared the crap out of me.! I’m sure my cousins would be able to share similar stories with you and while it was somewhat unnerving/frightening as a kid, my grandpa would tell us it was just grandma visiting. As an adult I can relate to such a belief and take comfort in knowing that was probably the case. As a kid though, it made for some nerve rattling evenings …lol.
There are two other things that stand out in my mind about the character of the old farmhouse. When I went to visit my grandpa every summer for a couple of weeks, I stayed on the main floor in the living room and slept on the hide-a-bed. The stairs that led to the upstairs were very creaky and squeaked with every step you took whether you were young or old. Us kids we used to slide down them on our butts as the treads had worn smooth as glass over the years. Sliding down these stairs was risky at best because if you failed to stop yourself at the bottom you ended up either slamming into the ringer washer that greeted you or sometimes you impaled yourself on one of it’s control handles. Then there was the furnace. When it kicked in it made the most unusual sound, almost like a plane engine warming up. The smells that would come out of the floor vents then were like a cross between a dusty musty smell, burning oil, and every other smell that celebrated and marked the passing of time. Even today on the rare occasion my nose will pick out a scent when I am out and about that I can’t quite pin down but reminds me of the old farmhouse furnace.
Well this post could go on for another 1500 words or so, but may end up being too much of a good thing. Looking back at all these old pictures has brought a flood of memories/emotions back to me and I have enjoyed sharing them with all of you. So having said that, I can’t guarantee that this is the end of them!
Please share with me any thoughts, feedback or stories you might have. I am always open to suggestions and a helpful critique of my writing.