It’s a wonderful life


“Age is only a number, a cipher for the records. A man can’t retire his experience. He must use it.”
Bernard Baruch, American economist, 1870-1965

Today, as I observe my 69th birthday, halfway through my fourth full year of retirement, I feel that I’m busier now than I was when I was working for a salary and helping raise three sons.
I told friends and family long before I retired in June 2008 that I didn’t expect to be one of those guys whose life loses meaning once it is no longer connected with a job. So far, I’ve been correct.
I’ve been blessed to have a multiplicity of interests and passions, among them: bicycling, photography, travel, history, reading, writing and tinkering with new technology. Now I can do all of those things on my own terms and schedule.
Retirement allowed me to fulfill a long-held goal: to ride my bicycle across the United States. I was able to do that in the fall of 2009, a 3,130-mile, 65-day, self-contained journey from San Diego, Calif., to St. Augustine, Fla. That trip was the genesis of this blog. I still ride regularly with friends and neighbors and hope that perhaps a couple more long-distance trips are in my future.

Feeding pigeons in Sarajevo, early 1970s

My latest obsession — as I noted in an Oct. 15 post, “Giving life to old photos” — has been impinging so much on my time that Jim’s Bike Blog has suffered for lack of attention. But it has been a project well worth the effort and time. During more than two decades with The Associated Press, including 16 years as a foreign correspondent in Russia, Europe and Africa, I shot thousands of photos. The negatives languished in boxes for decades until I decided about a month ago to pull them out to see what I have.
I’ve been posting the scanned and edited images on Facebook and on Flickr. Anyone can view the photos on Flickr at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/altonjim/. Take a look. I’d appreciate any feedback.
The photos have resurrected a raft of memories of a life filled with fun, family, travel and adventure. My wife and I and our three sons had the chance to live in some exotic locales and to have some extraordinary experiences.
Among them: Bringing our first son into the world in Moscow, then the capital of the Soviet empire; flying across Siberia in the dead of night seated next to an inebriated Russian fisherman from Sakhalin Island who sang “Hello Dolly” as passengers tried to sleep; helping spirit out of the Soviet Union the archives of Russian Nobel laureate Alexandr Solzhenitsyn; being interrogated at the headquarters of the KGB; attending the funeral of Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev; sipping tea at Buckingham Palace; poking around in a fossil-filled creek bed in northern Kenya with paleontologist Richard Leakey; and attending a circumcision ritual for teen-age boys at a remote village in western Kenya near Lake Victoria.
At this stage in life, one begins to wonder how much more time one has on this glorious planet. But if it all ended tomorrow, I can honestly say that I’ve had a wonderful, fulfilling, love-filed life and that I hope I’m ready for the next big adventure. In the immortal words of Jimmy Buffett: “Only time will tell if it was time well-spent.”

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6 Comments

Filed under History, Journeys, Travels

6 responses to “It’s a wonderful life

  1. Happy Birthday! I’m looking forward to reading more of your blogs and seeing more pics!

  2. Dale Armstrong

    Happy Birthday, Little Jimmie. I know too well the feeling that we’re busier now than before we retired.
    –DAle Armstrong

  3. John Vandevelde

    I know you are partial to Mark Twain. The age-related quote attributed to him that I like most is, “Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been.” You have few wrinkles, but a lot to smile about!
    Happy Birthday. I wish you many more birthdays, smiles and blogs.
    Best,
    –John

  4. Steve

    It is a pleasure to count you as a friend, Jim
    Ride on!

  5. flashriversafari

    Am absolutely loving your photos, Jim, and with them, the story of your travels round this most spectacular world. Thank you for your friendship and insight. So much to see and to do – your life and work are one hell of an inspiration! Neal

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