The Retired Life

The Retired Life

As a retiree of several years. I enjoy the freedom to make my own schedules, choose my own entertainment, and treat mealtime as another high point within a generally satisfactory day. That’s of course subject to the various health-related issues that seem to crop up periodically, particularly in recognition that this former Cathedral of Health is now held together by my local pharmacist rather than by an athletic trainer.

Many of us follow the volunteer path; I see many of my peers involved in scheduled activities such as delivering for Meals on Wheels, Foster Grandparents activities in the schools, fund raising events for various charities, and others. I, however, although believing that all of these are worthwhile, have a problem tying myself into a set schedule, preferring to pursue other avenues of interest that allow me a strong measure of freedom to move about as I see fit.

Locally, I serve as Board Chairperson of an education-related foundation connected to the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, allowing me to indulge two of my passions—my interest in dinosaurs begun in my childhood, and my fifty years of working at various levels of education. Our goal is to involve more and more children and adults in learning about dinosaurs through classroom visits, virtual interaction into schools, Roads Scholars (Elderhostel) programs, and others. The Center’s website, wyodino.org, has lots of visitors and is only a sample of what can be seen if one visits The Center in Thermopolis, which has been described by several travel organizations as “the best dinosaur museum in the U.S.” Among our many displays is one creature 106 ft. long from nose to the end of her tail! We also have the “standard T-Rex, Triceratops, and many others. Many of the creatures were excavated in Wyoming; the Big Horn Basin Foundation has dig sites just outside of our Thermopolis home as well as near Douglas and Lusk, Wyoming.

On a more global scale, I have traveled to many places, both in the U.S. and overseas, evaluating schools for their required five-year reaccreditation under the guidance of AdvancEd, an organization that helps with school improvement for over 30,000 schools including most of those in the U.S. as well as those on military installations and private international schools. This draws upon my somewhat extensive background in school improvement and other educational concerns. Again, participation is voluntary, and I reap the rewards of travel while hopefully providing a beneficial service to schools throughout the network.

And for the rest of the time, there’s always lawn care, home improvement, and that most evil of pastimes, GOLF! Which leads to my other volunteer activity.

Last week, I worked four days as a volunteer to the Wells Fargo Golf Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina. Actually, I was able to couple this with my other passion, seeing two of my three grandsons! (and of course their parents, and my wife who recently purchased the nearby town house where I stayed during my visit.) The weekends before and after the tournament were strongly devoted to watching the two boys, ages 8 and 12, play baseball games and the older one also in a basketball tournament. Lots of energy and fuel was expended in driving back and forth to various locations for the games, some of which were as far as 25 miles away. But my rental car proved intrepid in delivering me to all the sites, and I finally got to see the 12-year-old pitch—-his reputation had preceded him, and his 20 strikeouts in 9 innings were a real treat! And his brother proves to be a good hitter, going 4 for 4 and 3-for 4 in the two games I saw.

First, a word about rental cars. When I first began planning for the trip, I accessed websites devoted to car rentals and unhappily found that the cheapest rental at the Charlotte Airport, for the 10 days of my stay, was $560! Some were more than $600. Not good. But, I dimly recalled, car rentals away from an airport are often cheaper, so I first called my wife and asked if she would pick me up at the airport, to which she agreed. She did say that if I had to get a ride back to the airport, she would not be available as she would be at Ft. Bragg leading one of the school evaluations. And a taxi from her house would be $60!,

So, I looked for “Ground Transportation” on the airport website and discovered that the local transit authority offers a bus service from downtown to the airport, for $2. I called the transit authority to find out the route, so I could see if there were any rental car companies along the way. A very helpful lady not only described the route and schedule, she also provided me with the names and phone numbers of four rental companies nearby. I called three of them and the last one, Avis, gave me a car for $229, the same one that would have been $560 at the airport! And when I arrived at the counter to pick up my car, the agent courteously upgraded me to another vehicle! I signed up for their “membership” packet, on the spot!

Now back to the tournament. As I described last year, there are over 3000 volunteers used to put on such an affair and, in my opinion, many of their assignments would not satisfy my inner needs. Parking lot attendants miles from the golf course, security checkers with those lighted wands, emptying trash, ferrying courtesy cars back and forth to the airport, etc., those don’t appeal to me. I want to be where the action is! And for a significant part of my time, I was back where I worked last year, supervising middle school aged kids up to age 12 in the roped off area below the grandstand and behind the practice range. The kids get to see all the golfers up close, and I make sure they get to the right place to stand to get autographs. I even provided a sharpie pen. Most of the golfers are very cooperative, and I had to stand aside when the kids rushed to get Ricky Fowler’s autograph. While Jim Furyk was signing, I congratulated him for the Foundation that he and his wife have established to help underprivileged kids, and he responded with a firm “Thanks!” He seemed surprised that someone was asking a non-golf question. My grandson got lots of autographs on Sunday, and was especially fortunate to have one from Phil Mickelson who is to be greatly admired for the time he expends in signing for everyone, even after a bad day on the course. A real gentleman!

There are times during the tournament when we have little to do and have to find ways to entertain ourselves. Fortunately, I had downloaded my niece’s most recent book, Afterthought, by K.A. Krisko, from Kindle, so I had something to read. It is her seventh book and the beginning of a series about a female sleuth untangling mysteries wherever she happens to be. Earlier books included a fantasy series also available on Kindle. I strongly recommend them, particularly the gift she has for describing the setting in which events occur.

For those planning their first visit to a big golf tournament, you need to know that the odds are that the weather will either be too hot, too cold, or excessively rainy. Take lots of money with you because you can’t take food or water through the security check and, unless it’s at the Master’s (good luck getting a ticket) where they charge reasonable prices for food and drink, expect to pay at least $4 for a hot dog or $5.50 for an ice cream bar. If you’re one of those who wants to sit at one of the holes and watch all the players go through, your folding chair and your umbrella cannot be in their sleeves due to security concerns. On the other hand, if you want to follow specific players, be aware that unless you’re well over six feet tall, you may not be able to see over the crowds that cluster around the more well-known participants. Sunscreen is a necessity, but make sure it’s in a clear plastic bag along with any other items you can take in. Usually a list of what is allowed is provided along with the ticket, but it’s a good idea to visit the tournament’s website in advance in order to be prepared. Parking is usually several miles away and access to the course is by free shuttle bus, unless you’re very well connected. Very well. Don’t expect to be able to go into the clubhouse or any of a number of other venues reserved for the 2%.

Finally, you can apply to be a volunteer on the website, being aware that you probably won’t be able to view the tournament during your work days. Volunteers have to purchase “official” outfits, usually at least a shirt and hat, and possibly a rain suit. My first venture cost me about $250, but this year it was only about $80, for a different shirt and hat. You do get a pass to use on those days when you’re not working, and possibly a one-day pass for a guest. I recommend that the practice rounds are the best to watch—you can take pictures (not during the actual competition, the clicks of cameras disturb the golfers who are seeking lots of money), get autographs, maybe talk to the players, and avoid the large crowds that appear for the last four days. However, the hot dogs are still $4, and the pain of paying for one or two is only slightly lessened by your awareness that there are sufficient numbers of PortaPotties to serve even the most discriminating tastes. So why volunteer? One can temper the lack of being able to watch the tournament with the knowledge that all of these events are fund raisers for worthy charities, and that you have helped. ( It’s also a tax-deductible donation.)

As for me, I’ll watch the tournament on TV from the comfort of my massage chair.

 

Always Be Happy    To Our Youth

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