Inspiring Super Seniors We’ve Met On The Road

We’ve met quite a few kooky interesting characters in our travels…

Senior Slabber
Senior Slabber Rockin’ the Range

“All the freaky people make the beauty of the world.”

~Michael Franti (Stay Human)

It’s always fun meeting new people on the road. We’ve encountered entertainers, odd balls, fun freaks, lots of fellow nomads, geniuses, gentlemen, plenty of good ol’ boys and just plain regular folks who left a good impression. They come from all over the world, from all walks of life, and of any age. I’ve learned it’s more difficult to connect with others our age, since most full-timers living this life are retitred. I’ve also discovered that really doesn’t matter.

Super Seniors Redefine “Growing Old”

Hanging out with the retired crowd at Fountain of Youth got me thinking about all those extra special “old folks” we’ve met since hitting the road ten years ago – and how they’ve made me re-think the whole aging thing.

Jim Nelson
Jim Nelson Sr.

My father was not exactly a healthy man. He died in his early 70s, because of certain lifestyle choices he chose. He often told me, “It’s Hell growin’ old.” He had a favorite motto too: “Screw the Golden Years!!!” He also liked exclamation points. He was a big man and always liked reminding me how much I was just like him. I love you dad, thanks for the genes.

Well, having met, interviewed, worked, and worked out with men his age and much older, I refuse to believe it has to be Hell growin’ old. (It certainly can be, I know, but that’s up to me.)

Take these “old” folks for instance.

Perk Vickers
Perk Vickers (10/05/1914 – 07/18/2014)

The first old guy who really got me thinking about “old age” and how I wanted to spend my senior years was Perk Vickers. He passed away just shy of his 100th birthday. I first met him in his mid-nineties when he was still roaming around Vickers Ranch letting us boll weevil workampers know how easy we got it. Perk’s secret to longevity? He liked his whiskey.

Senior Seasonal Slabber Bernie

During our early stays at Slab City, we would admire the “old man” up on the hill who built his own rig after drivin’ truck for many years. Bernie was 80, and his wife 75, when we first met. I didn’t believe that after seeing him climb atop his tall trailer numerous times.

Bob and Nancy Unden
Bob and Nancy Unden

For years, we would steer clear of the encampment of campers just down the road from Bernie’s spot at the Slabs. A couple years ago we discovered the daunting round-up of old trailers belonged to the nicest couple of Senior Snabbers we’ve ever met. In his eighties, Bob could also often be seen atop his trailer or out digging holes. Oh, and he built the Gopher Flats golf course.

Just how old is a “senior” anyway?

For some reason, now that I’m officially in my 50s, I’m getting AARP spam and seeing more ads for walk-in tubs. I have met men in my age group who look much older, with opinions and aptitude to match. And I have met men nearly double my age who blow me away with their physical and cognitive capabilities.

KiraVan Designer Bran Ferren
Bran Ferren with his KiraVan

KiraVan designer Bran Ferren is one of those geniuses we’ve met who is doing amazing things in his Golden Years. When we met him at SEMA 2015, we found him not only to be brilliant – and actively applying the technologies he’s developed – but also very kind, approachable, and quite young at heart. 

Ray Wylie Hubbard
Ray Wylie Hubbard in Alpine, Texas

Ray Wylie Hubbard recently turned 71, and after catching up with his tours at least a half dozen times now all I gotta say he is simply pure bad ass rockin’, and only getting better with age. This man is an outlaw icon of Americana music and his last three albums are his best ever yet.

Super Seniors at Fountain of Youth Spa

At eighty-something, Al is fit, trim and sharp as a tack. He can often be found at the Gym in the morning, or in the pool at night. He was the first to call us “kids” here at FOY, but these “seniors” are all kids at heart in my book…

Senior Swim Coach Elena
Senior Swim Coach Elena

At 83 Elena has been giving us swimming lessons. She can be found swimming laps in the pool almost every morning, while “bobbers” much younger than her do just that – bob up and down for their morning exercise, while crouching in the pool, there is no deep end here.

And then there’s Denny.

Denny Sullivan, Senior Olympics Decathalon Record Holder
Denny Sullivan, Senior Olympian

At 91 years “old” this man still breaking decathlon records in the worldwide senior olympics. He was the first runner to ever wear a (pre-production) Nike shoe in competition, and he still runs daily – and works out with his shot put, discuss, javelin, and whatever else he can use to keep fit.

Denny Sullivan, Senior Olympics Decathalon Record Holder
Denny’s Morning Routine

Oh, he also swims and still practices his pole vault. And he prefers to run his sprint mile, after his morning workout. Then he’ll do a distance run later in the afternoon. We last saw him this morning, after returning from an eight mile run through the nearby Chocolate Mountain bombing range. 

What’s Denny’s most important tip for making sure it ain’t Hell growin’ old? Don’t overdo it. Keep at it. Never give up, but don’t overdo it.

And of course, there’s Fred.

Trail Running with Fred
Keeping up with with Fred.

You can’t find much more inspiration for staying fit into those Golden years than Fred Hauptmann – super “senior” athlete and author of Damn, I Shot My Horse. I’m hesitant to even call Fred a Senior. I thought for sure he was yanking my chain when he said he was turning 70 soon. I figured him at least a decade younger. He is also still running, biking, and setting records, and likely will for years to come.

Only time will tell how those Golden Years will treat us. But one thing is certain, getting fit only gets harder the “older” we get. And it is up to me whether that will be Hell or not. I have always believed that “old age” is a state of mind. At least now I have some serious inspiration to keep at it. All I gotta do is never give up, and…

Don’t overdo it. I like that idea.

Will run for pie.
Will run for pie.

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