There Is Here

Like so many others across Canada and beyond, I am doing as I should, and staying home during this COVID-19 pandemic.

In mid-February we traveled to visit family in Malaysia and while gone, seeing as how the car would just sit in the garage, I put parked car insurance on it. When we returned to Edmonton, we did 16 days isolation and then, due to the situation, any travel for me was restricted to a limited number of places. So, being retired, I just stayed home, and my car insurance remained unchanged.

Don’t get the idea that I had no desire to get out once in a while. Of course I did. And also, in the garage, I had a way to make that happen. My motorcycle!

Now, seeing as how a motorcycle is not a car, I couldn’t get parked car insurance for it, therefore its insurance remained in full force. So I could get out and move around a bit – right?

There was, unfortunately, a bit of an issue however. Mother Nature. Seems that this year, she had decided that Spring would be delayed. And delayed. And delayed. The last two years, I was able to get out on my bike end of March, beginning of April. Not this year. First day out, when the roads and weather were fairly decent, was April 15. And more importantly, the #%&*@^ ice was finally gone from the laneway in front of the garage.

In the month since my first journey out this year, I have been out on the bike about twenty times. There were a few blank days due to low temperatures or rain, with a wee bit of snow thrown in as well. It is Alberta after all.

The question is, with all this COVID-19 stuff, where do I go. You may have heard an expression, “you can’t get there from here”. In my case, I can. Because, you see, there is here.

I would go out for a ride, sometimes 150 to 200 kilometres, and my destination was always my start, so, there is here. The only stop I might make on a ride was to fuel up, and that was seldom as my bike gets very good fuel mileage.

I know I am not alone in this type of endeavor. I have a number of retired military comrades who also ride, and for many of them the experience is the same.

Bottom line. It is really nice to get out, see different areas of surrounding countryside, receive “wind therapy” as we call the ride. However, until such time as we can actually go more places, this fact will remain accurate.

There is here!

Yes, We Have No Bananas

I have a friend. His name is Jim. Usually though, I refer to him as Gunky. Strangely enough, usually he refers to me as Gunky. That’s the way we roll. The title of this post is one of our favourite expressions.

Jim and I first met September 1970 in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia, when we began recruit training for the Canadian military.

We have both gone through a great many stages in our lives, some with each other, however most apart. Yet, in some inexplicable fashion, we were always together, linked by some unfathomable force.

Such has been our friendship over time.

What is friendship? I came across this description from Friendship – Simple English Wikipedia. “Friendship means familiar and liking of each other’s mind. People who are friends talk to each other and spend time together. … A friend is one who admires a person’s skill and helps or encourages them to make the right choices and do not get into any trouble at all.

If one fires up their favourite search engine and enters “friend” or “friendship” there comes a plethora of information, some of which may actually be germane to one’s personal situation.

Generally, I believe that each friendship is unique, and as such, one can have many friendships (be they casual or profound), all different in some way (minuscule or significant).

Interestingly enough, Jim and I are what could be considered a “loose fit” for the description I provided above. Particularly the ‘talking to/spending time with’ and ‘not getting into trouble’ parts. You see — we don’t really do these parts as described.

‘Not getting into trouble’ is a topic for another time. Suffice to say, there could potentially be more than enough subject matter available.

The ‘talking to/spending time with’ is my focus for today. I believe this area shows the depth of our friendship.

First, the ‘spending time with’ part. Oh yeah, we have had times where we lived together (basic training, trades training 1970-72) or lived close by (1984-87 while I was stationed in Nova Scotia). For the most part however, we have lived far apart, and on more than one occasion, have had absolutely no idea where the other was.

As far as the ‘talking to’ part, this might be considered by others to be a bit of a “dog’s breakfast”, particularly during the periods we were not near each other. That would account for forty-four of the last fifty years. Actually for the last ten or so years we have been connected via social media (primarily Facebook), so now there are only thirty-four years to account for.

During those years we would pop in and out of each other’s lives on a sporadic basis, often with gaps of several years. One thing however was consistent. When we would get together, it would be as if no time had passed, as if we had just spoken the day before. On occasion even our conversation subject would continue from our last encounter. For example, years ago, I was living in Ottawa, there was a knock on the door, and there was Gunky, unannounced, unexpected, but definitely not unwelcome. In he came, we sat down, shared a beverage (or two), and continued as if it were a normal daily visit. Four years ago, while Kim and I were in Nova Scotia, we stopped in to visit he and Ruby. It was just as if we were regulars at their place.

I have always marveled at this aspect of our relationship and consider it an indication of how deep our friendship is.

There are, of course, many other aspects of our friendship, things we have done together, experiences we have shared, and so on. This particular aspect is one I cherish and am extremely thankful for.

Take that Gunky!

Wind Therapy

Many folks will read the title of this blog post and know instantly what I will be talking about.

As I go thru life I have done and enjoyed a good number of things. One that I did when younger, then missed out on for about forty years, and have taken up again, is riding a motorcycle.

Riding a bike on an open road provides that magic panacea, “wind therapy”.

It matters not whether one is alone, or with a group, wind therapy is present.

Like many bikers, I frequently ride alone, often on lightly traveled roads that have varying characteristics (up and down, nice curves), usually at or near the posted speeds. It can be, to a degree, therapeutic, this wind therapy.

Other times, we ride in groups, perhaps two or three riders, often about ten or so, sometimes many more as is shown in the video below.

Leaving Wainwright heading towards Edmonton.

This ride occurred in August 2018. The Rolling Barrage is a rolling fundraiser presented by Military Minds Inc, in support of veterans, serving members and first responders, as a show of strength, and unity to conquer the stigma of PTSD. A good number of the participants ride from the Atlantic to the Pacific across Canada. A number of our local veterans rode from Edmonton to Wainwright (just over 200 km) to meet the Rolling Barrage and accompany them to Edmonton. The video is from my helmet cam showing us leaving Wainwright with a police escort.

Most bikers are very generous people and we can often be seen getting our wind therapy by riding in fundraising charity events. A definite win-win situation.

The reason for this blog post in mid-December. Well… I miss my wind therapy! Although I can’t get out on the bike in a Canadian winter (it is hibernating in the garage), today I can reminisce with my videos and share with others, giving me a pseudo fix at least.

Getting Older – Not Fussy About It

Not really sure about this getting older thing. I’m not going to say I’m old, because there is always folks who are older than I, and at least one of them will be sure to point that out. At least that’s how it seems to go.

Anyway, last month I entered my eighth decade, which surely means I’m getting older, at least by some scale of measurement.

I know that I have gotten to the point that I actually do suffer from what I call (very tongue in cheek) part-timers, when I forget things part of the time. There are many folks who tell me that they suffer from the same thing. For instance, when speaking of someone, I can see them oh so clearly in my mind, however their name seems to be on holiday on the far side of the moon or some other unreachable place. Makes for a great conversation as we try to identify them utilizing a number of various descriptive techniques, to essentially no success. And then, of course, the person’s name comes to vivid recollection long after the conversation has been completed, in the process accomplishing nothing, other than creating the occasional utterances of frustration generated verbage.

As well, there are times when my body gives the occasional indication that there are other aspects to growing older as well. Occasionally with a sharp reminder that “you can’t do that anymore”, but generally with usually subtle hints that I am not as quick, flexible, strong, sharp-eyed, handy (you get the idea), as perhaps I once was. When these hints occur, they may be met with a degree of frustration, however mostly with the realization that they “come with the territory”. I also have an arthritic hip and at some point I will be able to relate to Steve Austin when at least part of me becomes a bionic man.

Becoming older brings other aspects though, one of which is entitled “retirement”.

Now “retirement” is an interesting phase of one’s life. I am at a bit of a loss as to how to define it in real terms. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines retirement as “withdrawal from one’s position or occuaption or from active working life”. However, should you ask, say 100 people, to describe retirement, you would likely get quite a number of different responses. I know retired people who are seldom home because they travel so much, others who say they have never been so busy in their lives, still others who sit at home and do absolutely nothing. For myself, I am actually somewhere in the middle. For instance, I had never traveled outside of Canada and USA until I was 60 and went to Switzerland for a Kiwanis Convention. Now I travel to Malaysia for two to three months almost annually and scoot around Asia a bit while there. After retirement I worked as a casual guard in a RCMP cellblock for over six years, I remain active with Kiwanis in Canada and Malaysia, am active with a veterans group in Canada, and just over two years ago I took up motorcycle riding again (after 40 years). Does that mean I’m busy, busy? Not really, as I also spend quite a bit of time at home, much of that online for both volunteer and personal activities.

Getting older also means, losing people that I know, at what seems an ever increasing rate. Now, throughout my life I have lost people I have known as a result of natural causes, and usually they were quite a  bit older than me. This is no longer the case, as essentially some are around my age or younger. Each occurance does tend to give me pause for thought.

Are there benefits of getting older? Of course there are. Experiences I have had, people I have met, the good I have been able to do for others, and of course, grandchildren. I would not be the person I am without getting older, making mistakes, learning from them, helping others avoid them.

Getting older is not a bad thing, it is not something I dislike, I am just not fussy about it.

And one more thing. You will note that this whole blog has been about getting older. It has not been about growing up, because I never plan to do that.