Hi, my name is Allen and when I was 89 years old and had just finished carrying on about what I perceived to be a societal proclivity to underrate the capacity of older people to participate in various activities my grandchildren 'suggested' that I should create a blog.  At the time my wife, one grandson and his partner, and I had driven from Los Angeles to Vail, Colorado, to be with my son and his partner in Colorado for a vacation. 

The specific activity involved in the discussion was Tai Chi.  My wife and I have participated in Tai Chi classes at Santa Monica College (SMC) Emeritus Program for a number of years.  These classes teach all three sections of the Yang Family Long Style Tai Chi.  There are classes at the beginner, intermediate and advanced level. The students range in age from their late fifties to their 90s. There are students whose capabilities are undiminished as well as those with various degrees of diminished physical capability.  These differences are not all simply a result of age.  The instructors handle this diversity in capability by instructing the students that they need only perform each move to the best of their ability and, if necessary, sit down and rest.  I had just contrasted this with what my wife and I had encountered in the majority of senior facilities we visited where many, and sometimes all, of the physical aspects of "Tai Chi" had been downgraded or removed "to accommodate the age of the participants."  Simply put, I believe that the philosophy embodied in the SMC program should be that the seniors themselves decide the when and how one's individual capability is limited and not have the activity downgraded by some presumed limitation arbitrarily imposed.  Let each participant set their own limit.

I posed for the Loveland Pass picture and the Bryce Canyon picture on the right during a recent road trip.  Before proceeding further I must state that I did not climb to these heights nor did I hike extensively to reach these signs.  But I did hike to these signs and in the areas around the signs where my physical capabilities and the terrain permitted it.  More about our trip.

In March of this year my son invited my wife and me to join him at his two bedroom timeshare in Vail in mid-May 2021.  Like most of those in our age group my wife and I had been essentially house bound because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the prospect of a trip, any trip, had great appeal.  While we were fully vaccinated, having had our second Moderna dose in February, we were concerned about possible contact with unvaccinated people whether we flew or drove.  As time went on and CDC guidelines for fully vaccinated people changed removing restrictions on contact we decided that by mid-May making the trip was feasible.  We chose to drive and to make it a vacation for our whole household which added a 24 year old grandson and his partner.

I planned a route where we had two overnight stops before reaching Vail and three stops on our return home.  We would visit state parks, national parks, monuments, etc., both going and coming. While no health or physical limitations existed relative to the drive, I had concerns relating to physical limitations arising due to altitude and hiking. Fortunately, the possible altitude concerns were rendered moot by my limited hiking ability.  Restricting my hiking to within my comfort zone would satisfy any potential altitude limitation.

We took the trip, shared the driving, and the major attractions we visited were, in this order, Valley of Fire Nevada State Park, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Capital Reef National Park, Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, Petroglyph National Monument, Petrified Forest & Painted Desert, Walnut Canyon National Monument, and the Grand Canyon.  The young adults hiked and climbed as befit their ages, my wife did the same in a more limited manner and I was content hiking shorter distances where there was level ground or minimal grade.  I missed very little, suffered no discomfort, and joined with the others in having a wonderful time among vistas of magnificent beauty.

Most importantly, I did the maximum of which I was capable and that is the message of this blog.

Unfortunately there was an unexpected price to be paid for undertaking the long drive.  Shortly after our return I awoke one morning and as I attempted to turn and rise up to get out of bed I experienced a severe pain in my lower back. This problem caused me to seek medical advice and treatment.  Fortunately the problem was diagnosed as my having strained my lower back musclature.  My  age, sitting in the car during the long drive on our Vail trip, combined with lack of adequate physical exercise during the over one year of pandemic isolation, each contributed in some way to this problem.  After a short stint of physical therapy, the purchase and use of lumbar support pillows for our cars, and continuing careful exercising to strengthen my back, legs, and abdominal muscles my lower back problem was sufficiently improved and I was ready to engage in activities evaluating my new "normal" capability. 

Initially I tested my "recovery" and the effectiveness of the lumbar support pillow on the short trips involved with normal household errands and shopping.  When I felt satisfied that these activities could be done without meaningful discomfort, my wife and I planned a road trip to the Palm Springs region.  The trip was to encompass five days (4 nights) and to be primarily driving to areas in and around Palm Springs which we either had not visited or had not visited in many years.  Palm Springs is close enough to our home to allow us to terminate the trip and be home in about 2 hours if necessary.  Happily, it was not necessary.


Day 1, Monday, our trip from home began as usual driving surface streets to the freeway and eastward on the I-10 toward Palm Springs. I drove the first leg which ended with breakfast in Covina. My wife drove the rest of the way to Palm Desert, however, on this trip rather than taking I-10 to CA 111 we "left the interstate" (I-10) at Banning to travel to our Palm Desert lodging via SR74, the scenic Palms to Pines Highway. A route that involved winding mountain roads, additional travel time, and much more attractive vistas. Regretfully, in our many past trips to the Palm Springs area we had never even thought about taking this scenic detour. We arrived in plenty of time to check-in, rest and refresh, and then have dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory. All in all, a successful pleasant day.

Day 2, Tuesday, our first full day, began with a leisurely breakfast and a late start as our plan was to circumnavigate the Salton Sea visiting Salton Sea State Recreation Area, Bombay Beach, Dos Palmas Preserve, and Salton City. Each of these locations were reputed to be worth a visit. The drive began on the eastern side of the Salton Sea and ended with a drive along the western side. The Salton Sea State Recreation Area consists of campgrounds and picnic areas surrounding the Salton Sea. At the time of our visit the visitor center was open. The view over the water is pleasant but the smell from dead fish and other contaminants told a tale of ecological failure.

The story of how the sea was formed over a century ago by a levee break, how resorts developed around its shores, its contamination and the problems associated with its location over 200 feet below sea level are well documented and reported and no one visiting the lake should be surprised by what they see. Nonetheless this largest of California’s lakes is worth a short visit. The sea has long been a home to migratory birds and its contamination threatens them and other wildlife. Hopefully some of the plans for rehabilitation of the area will be brought to a meaningful fruition.

On the day of our visit flocks of ducks could be seen swimming on the water. We can only pray they survive their swim. After driving down a long unpaved road to the Dos Palmas Reserve we were disappointed when we found ourselves in a deserted parking area surrounded by fencing with signs announcing that the preserve was closed (and clearly had been closed for some time) to avoid further ecological damage. Signage at the beginning of the road would have been appreciated.

We had learned about Bombay Beach from internet stories about its history as a resort area and from Wikipedia commentary which described the 2021 Bombay Beach Bienniale Art Festival held in the lowest community in the United States. The festival featured both temporary pieces and permanent installations such as the Hermitage Museum (designed by Greg Haberny), Bombay Beach Opera House (designed by James Ostrer), and a drive-in theater. What we found was a earthen berm around the beach with a wooden stairway and signs advising us that the stairs led to private property and that we should not trespass.The remainder of the “town” consisted of what appeared to be derelict deserted mobile homes.The only item of interest was a sculpture of a crashed plane by artist Randy Polumbo. Hard to know to what extent the pandemic affected what was still there to view. Leaving Bombay Beach we traveled south to the southern end of the Salton Sea, then west through the farmlands of the northern Imperial Valley, and then northerly along the western border of the Salton Sea back to Palm Desert. It was a restful day and for the most part a satisfying excursion. Most satisfying of all was the fact that I had driven for 3+ hours, on and off, and I arrived back at our lodging without lower back pain or distress.

Day 3, Wednesday, was a day of rest and planning.

Day 4, Thursday, the  chosen activity was a visit to Joshua Tree National Monument. This is a place we had visited before, the last time over 10 years ago with grandchildren. It is a location with its own type of natural beauty. The pictures tell the story. For me it was another successful test of whether my lumbar pillow allowed me to drive 3+ hours without lower back pain or distress.  As a result, my wife and I were able to take advantage of a free Thursday night admission to the Palm Springs Art Museum

Day 5, Friday, the end of an enjoyable and successful excursion, both from the standpoint of having enjoyed the things and places we visited and having stayed within my maximum physical capability .  A slideshow additional photos taken on our excursion can be seen by clicking this link.

Click this link to follow our activities as I turned 90 and went from an octogenarian to a nonagenarian.