On Turning 70

One of the reasons for this Southwest adventure was to celebrate the fact that we were both turning 70 this year — and sure enough, like clockwork, I did so on March 9th. (MRM has months & months to go.) It was a wonderful day — perhaps the best we’ve had climate-wise and relaxation-wise.

We’re at the Sam Houston National Forest, about 40 miles north of Houston, surrounded by tall pine trees. After the onslaught of kids last weekend at our last site, it’s nice to have peace and quiet and few campers. We leave tomorrow for a couple of state parks in Louisiana as we start the trek northeastward.

Frankly, I’m still a bit surprised to be seventy. I remember years ago in Syracuse, when I was doing a lot of road racing in my early forties, knowing some of the “ old farts” who plodded along toward the end of the pack. I admired them, wrote a couple of magazine articles about one of them — and now find that I’m one of them. It is a new age group — always one perk of turning a new decade for runners, skiers, paddlers, etc.

I got a nice early birthday present here: I added the red-cockaded woodpecker, an endangered bird, to my life list. This forest is one of a few in the south that supports this bird, which needs specially-managed pine habitats to survive. They nest in living pine trees and are rather rare. I knew they were around here, but scarce — and was advised that early morning and dusk were the best times to try to see them.

There’s a place with some known nests about a mile from here so I went up on Monday night to take a look. It was showery and I had the Vizsla with me — not exactly great birding conditions. After spending some time traipsing around and dodging showers, and seeing nothing, I decided to try a bird call from my iPhone. (I don’t like to do this because I’ve heard that it can confuse the birds but thought — this is probably the only time I’ll be here…) Well, no sooner had I played the call from the iBird app when two woodpeckers repeated it. I was astounded — and saw one fly by and then saw another one land on a pine tree not far away. I got a great look — the bird is sort of like a downy woodpecker without the white on the back. It matched the drawings I’d studied and of course, the call was also the same. I was psyched. I’d stepped on the dog’s leash and she was patient as I watched the woodpecker for 10 minutes or more.

My birthday started, as most of our days do, early. We had coffee and yogurt in our separate beds reading email, blogs, and news feeds on our iPhones. (I wonder how many 70-year-olds start their day that way — perhaps more than we think.)

I took Penny for a nice walk on the woods loop where she can run freely and then decided to take a birthday run. I wanted to do 7 miles for 70 but since I haven’t been running much this trip, opted for an hour. It wasn’t pretty but felt pretty good — and a nice start to the day.

Our daughter Jen, unbeknownst to me, had arranged an email blitz and I got many emails and Facebook greetings. Several cellphone calls and messages and a text message or two. It was great hearing from folks and it made me realize once again why the Post Office is losing money. One package (which was wonderful) and one note but the rest all electronic.

We had an easy day, enjoying the wonderful weather, and opted to cook out rather than drive 20 miles to a restaurant. (Mary took me for a birthday lunch — which was delightful — the next day.)

It’s wonderful to celebrate this milestone with Mary, my friend and partner … and Penny, who with her constant need for exercise and attention, keeps me moving.

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