Rod’s thoughts on turning 70


I well remember watching my grand-father do cart wheels in the back yard.  He was 63 and I was just a little kid growing up in Stafford, Brisbane.  I was very impressed.  How could someone that old still do cart wheels?

My father wasn’t bad either.  He didn’t do cart wheels, but in his day, had played soccer for Queensland, was a handy cricketer and a pro sprinter.  I remember trying to race him once and he did me like a dinner.  Long walks in the early morning were still part of his daily ritual well into his eighty’s.

So I guess I have been very fortunate.  Good genes.

Though for a while, I had my doubts.  Most of my early years were spent as the runt of the litter.  Compared to all of my friends and class mates, I was like that little guy in the old TV ads where the muscle man threw sand in his face.  I did try for a while, but after three broken collar bones playing rugby league, I gave up.  Well, actually, my mother gave up for me.  I was banned, and confined to the less violent sports of tennis and cricket.  Even they were a bit of a struggle as I had trouble looking over the net or the stumps.

Eventually, I did grow.  The problem was that it occurred in my senior years at school and my mind was elsewhere.  Trying to coordinate the newly expanded anatomical proportions came a distant second to surviving the senior examination and avoiding the possibility of the dreaded repeat year.

I suppose it was not until I actually left school and went to teachers college that it first started to come together.  Teachers college was fun.  Not a lot of academia and plenty of sport.  I found that I could actually run a bit and I started to play rugby league again.  All of this was soon followed by a couple of years in the army and the physical demands were intense.

Apart from finally recognising that I had some physical ability, I also concluded that hard work can partly compensate for a lack of raw talent.  Maybe it was the army influence, or maybe I was just trying to catch up some lost time.

Speaking of time, my time started just after the end of WW2.  If you count one for every year since, it means that in December 2015, I will turn seventy.  That is getting on a bit.  But, I have made a conscious decision not to get morose about the ticking clock, and to just celebrate every day of my 70th year.

For the last 20 of those years, I have been with Karyn, and they have been the best twenty of the lot.  I celebrate every day I am with her, so this year is a double whammy.

We now live in Noosa and it was from there that we once again loaded up our back packs, and headed off for another adventure.  While Noosa is always a hard place to leave; leave we must.  We have flown to the UK to bike ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats (the bottom to the top) and then hike the Wales/England border (Offa’s Dyke).  This little jaunt will take us around five weeks and many of our friends and family think we are crazy.

The thing is, what we are doing is not unusual.   We will be riding with a number of people who are older than I am.  In addition, we have friends all over the World who constantly inspire me to keep going.

Our good friend Mary has just ridden from the top of New Zealand to the bottom.  Now, she didn’t do it easy like our little jaunt.  She carried all of her belongings on the bike and camped out.  She is presently doing the same thing in Cuba and South America.  In contrast, our packs are going in a van and I get to sleep in a bed each night. Yes!

Another friend, in his late seventies just completed a ride in the French Alps where he conquered all of the epic peaks from the Tour De France.  And, my good mate, Don Ardell from the US, is the World Sprint Triathlon champion in the 75 plus age group.

To cap it all off, I met up with a 70 plus acquaintance from Noosa recently who had just returned from an attempt on Mt Everest.  He nearly died on the mountain when he was caught up in the avalanche following the disastrous earthquake that destroyed much of Nepal and its people.  By the look in his eye, I think he may be planning to go back again for another crack.  Now for me, that is just one step too far.

Of course, the other thing in my favour in all of this adventure and activity is that I haven’t been hit by a truck yet, or caught some terrible life shortening disease.  Maybe they are still to come, but so far, so good.

So, here we are, in a lovely hotel in St Ives, Cornwall, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  Tomorrow we meet up with the rest of the group, and on Sunday, we start to ride.

Let the adventure begin.