This page contains information about recreation as it pertains to Second Lifers.

If you're still exercising daily, you may be interested in one of Gordon's other websites: Agemasters. There you get honored for running, walking, swimming, cycling, or wheeling your age in miles or kilometers. You may also have a son or daughter, or God forbid both, who would be interested. (It's free!) Just check the site at the link above.

Super Second Life Newsletter

1-1-06: Why not bike across America?
I mean, you’ve got 30 extra years to cross the country. Just dust off the cycle, wrap up your duds, fasten your
helmet, and off you go!
That’s what Associated Press’s Calvin Woodward just did, averaging about 40 miles a day at 12-15 mph,
according to Pulitzer’s Santa Maria (CA) Times of 12/30/05. It took him 88 days, three flat tires, and more than
30 angry dogs to cover about 3,500 miles, from Washington, D.C. to Newport Beach, passing through Union
County, Kentucky; Chester, Illinois; Garden City, Kansas; Pueblo, Colorado, and Flagstaff, Arizona. (A car’s
travel in a day is close to a week’s travel by bike.)
He mostly took much less travelled roads, and one converted railroad route through much of Missouri. He was
overwhelmed by the silence, surprised by the number of trains, delighted by the openness of strangers, and
intrigued by the “waves of immigration (that) reach(es) deep into places where neighbors have known
neighbors for generations, except when they left for a better life.” Since he had to cross the Rockies in the
summer, rain, blistering sun, and hills also were his constant concerns.
According to Woodward, the TransAmerica Trail is the mother road for intercontinental bicyclists. It started in
1976 when the now Adventure Cycling Association laid out the 4,248-mile route between Astoria, Oregon, and
Yorktown, Virginia. It publishes authoritative maps of the TransAm and other routes, laying out the terrain,
history, quirks, and services of each section.
Such a trip would satisfy a rainbow of New Year’s resolutions: more exercise, less poundage, meeting new
people, even “meaningfully filling lonely hours”!
More than you bargained for in 2006? Then why not a piece of the country at a time, pedalling a few days with
friends, nibbling off the grand crossing in fun, digestible bites?
That’s just what my twin brother (surprisingly, also 67), kid brother (about 60), various nephews (springlets, in
their 40s), and I plan to do this summer, covering the Pittsburgh to Cumberland trek. (We cycled the
Cumberland to Georgetown [all-Maryland route] in the summer of 2001, a bit under 200 miles.) I’ll share some
of the 2006 adventure in a later newsletter. If we keep up this blistering pace, about 200 miles every six years.
Bill and I will be 173 years old when we reach the Pacific Ocean. It would be quicker if we didn’t have to keep
slowing down so the nephews don’t get discouraged.

9/1/03: Circumambulation, or keeping out of the rocking chair.

I’ve never met or seen most of the geniuses, crackpots, and curious sorts I write about in this newsletter, but not Dr. Cyril E. Zoerner, a 70-year-old writer, college dean, solo sailor, and explosives operator. Cy is a close friend who had the appropriately weird idea of walking around the world, or at least the 24, 902.4 miles (around the equator) that would take. That translates into 52,593,024 steps, beyond those needed for everyday living.

He started this bizarre feet on June 9, 1987 and finished it a month ago, on August 1. His comment? “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing. But if I had to do it again, I’d take the Greyhound.”

What prompted this foot-loose challenge? A near-death heart attack, and the certainty he’d never live long enough to complete it. (His newest challenge? Walking the distance from Manhattan Beach, California, to Hanau, Germany.) The reaction of Cy’s wife and kids? They’ve never been sure he was totally sane but they’re glad he’s still around.

The sojourn took him to over 10,000 feet in the Colorado Mountains and 280 feet below sea level in Death Valley. How do I know he didn’t cheat (much)? I was his beach-trekking mate on his longest single-day slog, 44 miles in 12 hours, between Carpinteria and Ventura, in California.

Get back to us, Cyril, when you reach Hanau! (Or have Laura tell us where the Greyhound washed ashore.)

7/1/03: Why not just start riding the first bike you see at the station?

Go ahead if you’re visiting Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, or Cologne. But first call the English-speaking operators of the Deutsche Bahn, the German railroad (the number is on the bike), give them your credit card numbers, get an access code, punch it into the lock, and pedal away. When you’re done, call back, stop the rental clock, and just lock it to a sign or another secure object at a major intersection within city limits.

The cost is about six cents a minute, $17 a day, or $70 a week. There are 3,000 of them now, at the train station or almost anywhere downtown. And easy to see: the $1,700 bar-less cycles are sturdy, red, silver, and lightweight. That keeps the theft rate at 1%.

More information? Go to Even more impressive would be slip-in legs we could rent, to climb the mountains (or even steep hills). Or mind-body vaporizer/reassemblers we could sit in, pay a fee, and instantly be back home (or elsewhere), without hassling the airport or airlines.
5/1/03: A reprieve, sort of, in eating and exercise.

Remember when the Surgeon General’s report in 1996 told you to get in 30 minutes of exercise a day? The new federal update just out from the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of
Medicine doubled that to a full hour!

Don’t panic or quit altogether. The report is based on a moderately intense level of activity, like climbing stairs or brisk walking. If you significantly increase the intensity (like running and hard swimming), as little as 20 minutes daily might be enough. And it’s cumulative, so if you walk vigorously to and from the train or bus, walk to lunch, and keep moving all day, you might never
have to jump into sweats.

The diet component of the report has also been modified. Rather than 50% of your intake from carbohydrates, that has been changed to 45-65%. If you’re sedentary, 45%; a marathon runner, 65%—you figure out the personal match in between.
11/1/02: Now we need an hour a day of exercise?

That’s what the National Academy’s Institute of Medicine says in a study released in October.

For those to whom 30 minutes three times a week (according to the Surgeon General in 1996) was 80 minutes too many for their hectic, non-stop schedule, where are they going to find the extra time now?

The answer is in the fine print: the hour doesn’t have to come from non-stop sprinting or endless laps in the pool. It can be the walking we all do, gardening, cleaning the house, and other such activities, but it should be done vigorously and in 10- or 15-minute increments. Jump rope while watching TV? Do arm curls (one arm at a time, please) while driving to work? Riding the stationary cycle while reading a novel?

Then you must match the exercise with your caloric consumption if you want to remain (or become) properly svelte. The goal is a sustainable balance that gets your weight to its desired plateau, then the dedication needed to keep it there.

9/1/02: You know you’re starting to drag when…

For years I’ve run foot races, from 5Ks to 50 milers, but there are certain races that shout particularly loud truths. The most striking for me was a Mission Bay Marathon in San Diego a few years ago. Mind you, I had noticed that when it came to the finish line, while I was never near the front, there had recently been a lot more front than before. But I was still nosing out the widows and children…

About half way through the grinder, near Sea World, I heard this voice yell what I thought was “Gordy,” and since my name is Gordon I suspected somebody knew me and was being friendly. I looked around but none of the scattered wives or homeless looked at all familiar. So I kept chugging along. Then I heard it again, louder and closer, and I turned my head just in time to see a game fellow on a silver bed flying down the hill, pushing himself with two long poles. He was yelling “gurney” and warning me that he was about to run me over!

I leapt aside to let him pass, alarmed that I was falling behind the bed-bound. Passing him on the next hill restored my pride, at least until we approached the Padres baseball park where, to finish, we circled the parking lot, entered a gate in center field, and ran about three-quarters around the inside of the stadium.

There were several thousand souls in the stands, mostly patient spouses waiting to pick up their weary mates. Usually a cheer or two would announce the end of their wait! But the moment I entered the gate the entire throng broke into applause and shouts of encouragement. You can imagine my alarm! I knew it wasn’t me they were cheering, the first woman had already finished (plus probably 500 more), and I was dumfounded until I saw sneaking past me the pride of San Diego, an Olympic medal winning walker!

Worse yet, the walker was picking up steam. The shame of it, being beaten by a walker! I’ve never dug deeper. I dropped my head, lifted my throbbing feet, pumped my arms, and beat the golden boy (who was almost my age) by less than a foot!

I hope I have enough sense to quit before I finish behind a stander.

12/15: Want a free “2002 Challenge” tally sheet?

When I recently mentioned the “2002 Challenge” at, where you tally your daily walking, running, wheeling, swimming (x 10), and/or cycling in kilometers or miles to reach a composite 2002 during the coming year, several folks asked how I keep track.

I created a monthly chart that I fill in every couple of days, and multiply that day of the year times 5.5 to see if my pace is ahead or behind what I need to reach the goal. (I’m right on schedule if I’ve reached 165 miles on the 30th day.) I then make 11 more copies of the original, write the respective month on each, and I’m set.

If you’d like one of those originals, just email me ( and put “2002 tally sheet” in the subject line. I’ll email it back in a Word file that you can simply open up, print, and copy. (If you’d prefer it faxed, please put your fax number in the message part of the email.)

It’s free, of course. (You must provide the exercise.) What do you get if you reach your 2002 miles or kilometers before 12/31/02? Listed in the 2002 Honor Roll. Love notes from stars or starlets. A blister. Bewilderment from your kids. Bimonthly SSL Newsletters. Fit.

11/15: Too old and stiff to enter the Olympics? Hardly.

Did you know that there is an annual Olympics for senior athletes, one in the summer with 18 activities, another in the winter with seven winter events, in alternating years? This year the 2002 National Winter Senior Games will be held in Lake Placid, NY, from January 4-11. Competitors have usually won or placed in prior local and state competitions. Interested?  Find out if there is a local organization near you from the National Senior Games Association at (225) 929-7670; check the qualifying details at

A grand wee fellow and friend from Princeton, Illinois, named Guy Sibley won most of his events at the nationals in his low 80s and early 90s before he passed away a few years back. He laughed that he just kept outliving his competition! Guy was a farmer most of his life who went to the pier with me one morning in Hermosa Beach, California, to drink coffee while I ran. He was about 85 then. The next time we went I noticed that he was sweaty when I came back from my run, and he admitted that he wanted to see if he could run a half mile, so he had. The next thing I knew, after returning home for the spring, he heard about the Illinois Senior Olympics, drove to it, and entered some events. Not only did he win but he was also hooked, and most of the rest of his life was structured around this fun new activity. He ran sprints, did the long jump, and tossed a softball, if I remember correctly.

Just thought I’d share that because I was so proud of this wisp of a man who was half-deaf, skinny as a green bean, and very funny. He used to kid me that there he was, three times my age and shriveled, winning Olympic gold medals while I was struggling just to keep up with widows and children!

What sports are included? In the winter: alpine skiing, cross country skiing, curling, figure skating, ice hockey, snowshoeing, and speedskating. In the summer: archery, badminton, basketball, bowling, cycling, golf, horseshoes, race walking, racquetball, road racing, shuffleboard, softball, swimming, table tennis, track and field, triathloning, and volleyball.

11/15: A physical and mental challenge.

How many of you are looking for a true physical (and mental) challenge? Something doable (for most) and memorable, an accomplishment that we will post forever (if my kin can be trusted) for others to see on an Honor Roll (four, actually)—free!

What you must do to receive this bounty (and become an Age Master) is run, walk, cycle, swim, or wheel your age in either kilometers (multiply miles by .62) or miles. Did you just pass out? Don’t. It’s doable, but it ain’t easy. Check out all of the details (and see the current Honor Roll) at

Walking comes immediately to mind. That’s possible but a grind. Cycling is easier and faster and we don’t care if you drive 50 miles to the top of the mountain (if you’re 50) and ride down, wind to your back all the way. (You can even stop and lunch en route.) Running is surely the hardest. Swimming is a bit different. There, rather than doing it at one time, you swim a kilometer or mile a day until you’ve matched your age in that many days (i.e., you swim 53 kilometers in 53 days if you are 53). So logistics are also a huge factor in swimming.

Want more? We have a 2001 Special going on, with its own Honor Roll if you tally a total of 2001 kilometers or miles in 2001. We will do the same in 2002. If that interests you, read about the current activity since swimming has a multiplier of ten (i.e., you get 10 miles toward the 2001 for every mile swum). The rest are 1=1.

This isn’t limited to second lifers, so share it with your kids and friends, although we put 15 years old as the youngest we will record. A suggestion? Oil up the ten speed, pop for a sandwich en route, and make it a family challenge.

Not enough of a challenge? If you equal your age in two events in the same age span, you become a bi-master; three, a tri-master (and the first)!

The concept intrigued me when a running buddy, Ed Damron, ran 40 miles when he was 40. Then Chuck Kelsey ran 44 when he was 44. I did 50 when I was 50. All of us were on the downslide in racing times, with no hope that would reverse, so I thought that there should be a way to honor endurance rather than speed. The Age Masters Honor Roll is it. Ed and Chuck were the first to get honored (by cycling); Canadian Ken Elliott, post-heart attack and 67, is the current record setter; I conned my brothers into qualifying on our recent C & O Towpath excursion that I over-reported on these pages, and there is plenty of space left in the Honor Rolls for you.

Just don’t kill yourself by exercising to health! Work up to it. Set your age match as a goal for three or six (or 12) months off. Shoot for the kilometer match first. Then the skies are the limit.

There is an alternative. A rotund friend says he’ll tip an ale to every new name, though it’s a bit exhausting typing in the web address to check the newcomers!

11/1: What our subscribers say and think…from Emily Kimball, author of A Resource Guide for Aging Adventurers (

When Emily told me about her trip to China and some of the activities of the older folks there, I asked her to share that with the Newsletter readers…

A Great Day in the Morning


I was lucky enough to travel to Beijing, China, last fall with the American Society on Aging. The ASA’s annual trip is organized so that participants can study the Chinese response to aging. My group consisted of just four Americans. We were guided by a wonderful Chinese interpreter. With a van and driver at our disposal, we visited senior centers, senior universities, welfare institutions, nursing homes, and hospitals. We also met with the Director of the National Committee on Aging.

Of the many remarkable things I witnessed, the thing that impressed me the most was the amazing scene I experienced on my early morning runs to Coal Hill Park in downtown Beijing. It was here that I really felt the vitality and friendliness of the Chinese people. By 7 a.m. the park was overflowing with people—many of them older—involved in all sorts of exercise and recreation.

I first came upon a group of older men with long handled paintbrushes bent over, drawing calligraphy on the sidewalk. Next to them was a large group of people practicing Tai Chi.  Further along and spread around a large green square area (with a leader at one end) were 50 older people performing Quigong. Even further was a younger group participating in a vigorous aerobic workout. Beyond them I was truly shocked (and thrilled) to find a group of couples who were waltzing to the music of a boom box. And remember it is only 7 in the morning!

Continuing around the park, I came upon an energetic young man teaching the cha cha. I joined in for a while, to the side. After a few minutes, he stopped, looked at me, waved, and said, “Hi!”  Everyone laughed. Hearing music coming from the top of a nearby hill, I climbed up to find five elderly Chinese men paying instruments and singing opera!

Next I encountered a group of people scurrying around carrying small rackets, and I realized I’d found a badminton court. After I watched for several minutes, one of the players asked if I’d like to try it. (This of course was all in hand motions since very few Chinese speak English and my Chinese was zero.)  I had a very enervating 10 minutes of play. Lots of stretching, bending, jumping, running, and laughing. It was such great exercise and fun that I decided to recommend a badminton court to all senior facilities when I returned to the U.S.!

I found experiencing the vitality of life in the park such an inspiration that I ran there every morning and continued to participate in many of the activities. One day I returned at noon to see what was happening then. Nothing. Just groups of Japanese tourists exploring the park. I wished for them that they had been able to experience the excitement of the park at daybreak. There is nothing like it!

11/1: Running for someone else’s life…

After the Twin Towers fell on September 11, America’s giving heart directed millions of dollars to victims of the terror attack. In the process, many other, vital charities got lost in the dust. Betty Boyce, a Santa Maria friend, is quietly, one-to-one, restoring the balance.

Twice, the slim, 5’2” computer applications textbook writer and motivational speaker has completed the New York City marathon. After having open heart surgery to have a mechanical heart valve inserted in 1999, she’s about to do it again—with a flashlight in hand, in case it’s too  dark by the time she finishes. A born runner? She began at 69. “I hated to run,” she says, “but I needed an exercise and I met Stu Mittleman, a world-recognized trainer and endurance runner.” Stu is a genius at training both runners and non-runners to complete marathons.

So what? Betty has a peck of pledges for every mile she runs, bridge she crosses, or borough she enters, all to donate to curing an extremely rare bone disease, fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), that affects one in two million people worldwide by causing bone to form inside muscles, tendons, and ligaments. (Researchers are convinced it has a connection to other, more common bone-related conditions, like osteoporosis.) To her, the affliction isn’t that remote. Her local 10-year-old friend, Stephanie Snow, has FOP. So Betty runs for funds, provides editing and publishing help, and even donated her removed aortic valve to FOP research. (Incidentally, Betty’s pledge email is

Stephanie Snow’s mother calls Betty “an awesome family friend. She and our Stephanie are truly living proof that life is full of possibilities.” Millions of dollars? “About $3,000 for the other two marathons. About $1,000 so far for this one,” says Betty.

And how do her 73-year-old bones like the training and pounding? Each day she exercises from 45 minutes to more than two hours, mostly around dawn. “The more I do,” says Betty, “the younger I feel.”

9/15: How long will we be able to drive?

We all agree that a 105-year-old coot, with his dog, shouldn’t be driving the school bus. And when great-great granddaddy heads to the pub in his jalopy (or even his spiffy Jaguar), neighbors are prudent to park in their garages.

But when is it time for the rest of us to turn in our keys? And who decides, or even tells us we’re a menace on the road?

Jim Lehrer’s "The NewsHour" on August 14 showed the issue’s complexity.

First the numbers. Since 1975 there has been a 30% increase in those 65 and over killed in car crashes, and by 2030 there will be 70.3 million potential drivers in that category. On the other hand, seniors have fewer accidents. Why? They are smarter, know when they drive best, go to bed earlier, and avoid risky situations.

And while everybody knows that the faculties needed to drive well deteriorate with age, night vision begins to fade at 37 and body strength, in the early 50s. So the “science is out,” they said, on when is one is “too old to drive safely.”

The problem is more than physical. Taking the keys can be emotionally devastating. More than a blow to independence, it directly affects a seniors’ quality of life, mental outlook, and sense of well-being. Joann Reddy, no longer driving, said “It’s a drudge. Like taking away your arm. Particularly since I drove the ladies to Mass.”

Many wait until retirement to leisurely travel by car, or they move to the country. MIT’s Joe Coughlin says that 70% of America’s seniors live away from accessible public transit, which will affect the Boomers the most. “We’re on a collision course.”

Six states now require seniors to take requalification driving tests, and others are looking into it. Massachusetts, on the other hand, is typical of most states that are leery of age discrimination, and since it is too costly to retest everybody, focus on ability at any age to remain licensed.

A new program recently began in Boston called Drivewise that removes the pressure from families, health producers, and doctors from dictating when driving should cease. It subjects the person to three days of extensive testing (and costs about $1,000 that isn’t covered by insurance), to advise the person whether they should continue driving. It also informs the licensing state.

A Dr. Gifford took the test, to see if his Parkinson’s disease and age made his driving unsafe. While he passed, he nonetheless decided to rely on his wife’s chauffeuring on the days he felt less confident. The wife’s comment? “The golden days aren’t quite as golden as we expected!”

9/1: New senior-style triathlons begin on 9/9 in Chicago (actually Naperville)

Of course, any of us can enter a regular triathlon but there’s always the danger that the pit crews and time-takers will be at home in bed before we finally limp across what we imagine was the finish line. And there’s that problem of looking like a dumpling at a pretzel convention.

No longer! AARP and the USA Triathlon group are joining forces to offer the first seven of many scaled down triathlon versions for the 50+, beginning in (or near) Chicago on 9/9, followed by Nassau County (NY) on 9/23, Dallas 10/14, Raleigh (N.C.) 10/20, L.A. 11/4, Tampa/St. Petersburg (11/18), and Honolulu (12/2).

“We’ll also offer health fairs and clinics at each event,” says AARP’s Katie Sloan. “We’d like to draw about 500 people to each one. Nobody should be intimidated. They’ll be fun.” (Particularly for the survivors.) There will also be a free, no-registration one-mile run or walk for family and friends immediately following each race.

Forget the Iron Man. The new distances will be a 400-meter (quarter-mile) swim, 12.4-mile (20K) bike ride, and a 3.1–mile (5K) run/walk (or crawl). Participants can enter solo or in three-person teams, one person for each event. Cost is $30 per person, $75 per team. There’s another bonus: all registrants receive a training manual (12-week program), plus the option of a coach-led (8-week) training program near each venue.

Check the website at for more specifics, locations to register, and “Top Five Tips for Triathlon Training” provided by AARP / USA Triathlon.

7/15: We’re muscling the kids out of the gym!

Exercisers 55+ are the fastest-growing age group in health clubs, according to a just-released study by the industry trade association. “In 1987, less than 10% of the members were older than 55; now it is almost 25%” says IHRSA’s John McCarthy. That means that about 8.2 million of us (of a total 33 million) are lining the pools, cycling nowhere in place, and hip-hopping with Hugo or Hannah.

Maybe we’re scaring the rest away. It is surprising how the svelte kids recoil at corrugated running pants and geriatric sweat rather than cheering our death-defying acts.

What percent of the people older than six belong to a health club? About 13%. Far more run, walk, cycle, and cavort out of doors.

6/1: “Exercise can push back the threshold of dependence and disability by 10 or even 20 years,” says Ralph Warner (59), author of the excellent Get a Life: You Don’t Need a Million to Retire Well.

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Gordon Burgett
(800) 563-1454