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New Tires

Last week I got new tires on my pickup, and on the way home, stopped to fill it with gas.

If my wife had been able to clear her schedule, we might be halfway to Patagonia now.

There’s just something about the potential of a full tank of gas that always makes me ready to hit the road.

I’ll stand by the pump, watch the gallon counter, and do the math in my head to figure out how far I can get before I had to fill up again.

I admit the math gets more compelling when the weather turns toward winter. I figure each tank of gas on a trip south will, on average, raise the air temp about 11 degrees. Five tanks of gas puts my toes in the Gulf of Mexico. Five more after that I’m at the equator, with winter just a distant memory.

This week I turn 65. Between the new tires, tank of gas, and a significant birthday, I’m feeling a little twitchy.

It’s one of those birthdays that are supposed to make you think about your life. More specifically, about retirement.

That’s a problem for me, because a lot of people don’t think I do work of any sort, so they don’t think I have anything to retire from.

I’d dispute that. Granted, there are days - to be honest, quite a few of them - an outside observer might think that letting my wife’s dog in and out and watching my grandchildren play sports is all I do, but checks still show up in the mailbox, so I must be doing something.

I guess I’m supposed to be working on my bucket list. I couldn’t think of anything except to someday finish remodeling the kitchen and then get a new knee. I looked up other people’s lists to see if I was missing something. The first thing I saw was, “spend a year backpacking through Asia.”

Yeah, that’s not going to happen, unless my wife gets to bring all five grandchildren. And I have a feeling I’d be carrying the five-year old’s stuff. That’s okay at the county fair, not so good when hiking the Great Wall.

I crossed a few other possibilities off the list right away. I’m definitely not running with the bulls…I have a little trouble strolling with the chickens without tripping. I’m also not going to be trekking through the mountains in Nepal or playing rugby. Maybe I could boat down the Amazon, if there was air conditioning involved and NO giant snakes.

I think these bucket list items are written mostly by young people.

Hiking in the rainforest, jet skiing to a volcano or doing yoga in Bali? I don’t think those are the goals of people who are worried about kicking the bucket. A few years ago, I was teaching a writing class and had the students answer the question, “If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?” Usually the answer would involve a rock star or famous actor. But this particular class was made up of residents in a nursing home, and the answer I loved the most was, “I’d like to have coffee with my neighbor Mavis one more time. She died three years ago.”

I think about that often. And I think that when I look at my daily schedule, I’m working on my own bucket list on a regular basis. It’s nothing flashy, nothing that anyone will ever admire on the internet, but I’m content with it.

I’m probably not going to drive to the equator. I looked into it, and apparently there’s 125 miles of rain forest in Panama where there’s no road. In addition, in several countries there’s a problem with drug cartels killing tourists. That would be an issue for me in particular, because I can’t pass as a local anywhere south of, oh, central Iowa.

But I’m not giving up. New possibilities come with every full tank, and pretty soon I’m going to drive somewhere.

Copyright 2019 Brent Olson

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