Baby boomers can’t “get away from it all” any more

When we baby boomers were young, a vacation was a true vacation. A vacation from bills, from jobs, from bad news. But today, as BoomerCafé co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs just found out, “Getting away from it all” ain’t what it used to be.

Last month I took a vacation. It was bliss. Almost.

It was a two-week trip to Italy, biking in the Dolomites. That’s the “bliss” part. We Americans don’t know the meaning of “steep.” Nor for the most part, when it comes to pasta, the meaning of “fresh.”

Greg … taking a break with a spectacular view.

I do a lot of road cycling through the mountains where I live in Colorado. It’s fun and it’s fulfilling, but at the same time, tough, because it’s hard to take a long ride without someone putting a mountain pass in the way. Typical elevation gains for passes here in the Rockies run from, oh, 1,500 feet to twice that. And remember, even if it’s the lower number, typically you’re starting out at a lung-challenging altitude of 7,000, 8,000, sometimes 9,000 feet above sea level.

So it’s tough — a doctor’s stethoscope would confirm that — but not punishing. Our typical steep grades are maybe 6%, 9% at the most. In the Dolomites? We did some climbs where the average grade — underline average — was 9%. The steepest was 17!

A funny little story about that: on one particularly steep climb (and under a particularly hot sun), a friend riding maybe 50 yards ahead of me ran out of steam, and got off, and briefly began to walk his bike. Behind him, I was pedaling up this sharp grade at such a snail’s pace— moving barely fast enough not to fall over— that I perceived that my friend, slowly but surely, was pulling away from me.

The good news in all this (besides the fact that a 71-year-old veteran of heart surgeries and abdominal surgeries and back surgeries like me could pull it off) is that there is great food and wine each day at the end of the road. Italians take pride in everything they prepare. One day, at the top of a pass in a classic region called the Sella Ronda (four steep mountain passes with about a mile-and-a-quarter of elevation gain in only about 35 miles), we stopped at a hilltop restaurant. Nothing fancy; it was cafeteria style. But I asked for spaghetti bolognese, and what I got could be featured at a four-star restaurant in the U.S. They just like good food!

Riding through a charming (and flat!!) village in the Dolomites.

But the bliss of a fortnight in the cradle of La Dolce Vita — The Sweet Life — was blunted by the bulletins that came across the screen of my iPhone every morning when I got up and again at night when I retired. If I wasn’t beaten down during the day by the agonizing angles of the mountain passes, I’d get beaten down at night by the steady onslaughts of headline stories.

And in this day and age, it’s as if each headline was printed in disappearing ink. It was an unremitting bombardment. Thank heaven for Chianti.

Bicycling in Italy’s Dolomites.

The day I left home, for example, the headline story was North Korea’s slap in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s face. It called his just-ended two-day visit to Pyongyang — designed to advance any agreements reached at the Singapore Summit (whatever they were; we still don’t really know) — “regrettable.” North Korea accused the U.S. of making “gangster-like” demands to force it to give up its nukes.

But that is so last month. Since then, those “agreements” look thinner than ever.

Then there was a Supreme Court nomination, and news that many of the immigrant children who a federal court ordered be reunited with their parents still weren’t (the government even said it wasn’t sure it could), and the President openly alienating friends, tweeting his disapproval of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decisions for her nation and then of British Prime Minister Teresa May’s Brexit tactics after that (both women, by the way, stood their ground).

Why it’s worth climbing to the top.

And then, a blockbuster here at home: the Russia probe — or as Trump calls it, the Witch Hunt — indicted 12 Russian military operatives for hacking the computers of Democratic party officials, with the goal of disrupting the 2016 presidential election.

And the beat went on. When Presidents Trump and Putin broke bread in Helsinki, Trump seemed to think Putin’s bread was better than his. He stood in front of the world’s media and refused to challenge Putin’s claim that Russia had not sabotaged the presidential election. As if those Mueller indictments three days earlier hadn’t happened.

Looking at two friends ahead of me.

And the grand finale: when asked by a reporter whether he believes U.S. intelligence officials or Russia’s president, President Trump declared, “He just said it’s not Russia.” And then stumbled into this wordplay: “I will say this — I don’t see any reason why it would be … I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

That of course lead to his “clarifications” the next day: he meant “wouldn’t,” not “would.” Right.

Then the Michael Cohen story broke. Namely, that surreptitiously Cohen had taped Trump talking about a payoff to the Playboy Playmate who claims a nearly year-long affair (right after Melania gave birth to Barron, if you must know).

The next day, predictably, Trump pulled out the knives on Cohen. “Inconceivable” that a lawyer would tape a client, Trump tweeted. He also called it “perhaps illegal,” perhaps unaware that in New York State, the law only requires the consent of a single party to tape a conversation. “The good news,” Trump ended his tweet, “is that your favorite President did nothing wrong.” As if that puts the matter to rest.

All of that competed for headlines with the tragic story of the boat that capsized in a lake near Branson, Missouri. 17 people — including nine from a single family — drowned.

Finally, the day I traveled home, the president went to bat against the ideologues in Iran. His tweet, in all caps: “WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!” Supporters call it a game of chess. I call it a game of chicken.

And of course throughout my vacation, the president continued fighting his trade wars on several fronts. Never a headline story, but always a threat to the prosperity of American consumers and American businesses.

To be sure, there was good news while I was gone. With monsoon rains returning any moment, Thai officials moved to rescue the twelve boys and their soccer coach who’d been trapped two weeks in a flooded cave. Over the course of three days, they got them all.

So, go away for two weeks and you can’t escape the machine-gun pace of the news. Whether you’re cycling in the Dolomites, or promenading in Paris, or shopping in Shanghai, you can’t escape … unless you turn off your phone.

Greg’s book about the wacky ways of a foreign correspondent, Life in the Wrong Lane, is available from Amazon.


  1. America has picked up a bug, and she is very sick right now. She needs our love and support to get well.
    Next time you take a vacation Greg, do yourself a favor and leave the phone behind. We need voices like yours to help make her healthy and strong once again, so ‘down’ time for you is very important. The Emperor we have ‘in power’ right now, truly does have no clothes. And it ain’t a pretty sight at all!!

    1. Julie is correct. Dispensing with e-noise is something that we all need to do to a much greater degree. Perhaps if many many many more individuals disconnected the umbilical of their “smart” phones the abundance of garbage perpetuated on them COULD subside?

  2. I agree with Julie, Greg. There is some element of faith we must maintain, though it is really hard. We are living in a demented game show, Consequences or Consequences. It is extremely distressing that people cannot separate party from individual. I also find it remarkable that people without means could support people whose agenda is only to advance big business. You challenge yourself physically, my friend, but your mental challenge is the most fatiguing.

  3. Well Greg, you fooled me. I really thought you were writing about bicycle touring Italy, and was looking forward to a good read.

    But then you predictably turned it into a political hit piece.

    I challenge you to write stories about Boomers. Stories for Boomers. Uplifting stories. Stories that make us feel good about this time in our lives. Not “the sky is falling, we’re all gonna die” political BS. I’m not saying you’re right or wrong, I’m simply sick and tired of reading it/hearing it, almost everywhere I look. I know it doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve never read a political writeup on Next Avenue or Retirement – Only the Beginning, so I know it’s possible to have a BoomerCafe without politics dividing us! Because that’s what you’re doing, throwing fuel on the fire.

    I’ve said enough. I’m done.

  4. I greatly enjoyed Greg’s story for his clever approach to storytelling — two stories in one. Let’s face it … at our stage of life and with our experience, many of us are concerned by events, often violent, that we learn about in our country. It’s darn hard to escape thinking about such things, even during a nice holiday in Europe.
    I believe Greg informed us about bicycling the Dolomites while candidly sharing what was on his mind … and I personally applaud him for his honesty. It’s part of the baby boomer experience, I believe.
    Only thing I wonder about is the name of that village with the hanging umbrellas.

  5. Hey Denver, we need to have a lot of fuel thrown on the fire. Only then will there be enough ‘light’ to expose the frightening truth of the crisis that is happening to our wonderful country. She is being divided and abused badly right now, and people are scared and confused. Hatred is rampant, bigotry on multiple levels has reared its ugly head, and truth, freedom of speech, and the press is being attacked. We need more people to speak out. We need our system to work. Looking the other way and only writing nicey-nicey articles won’t help. Yes, we do need the informative, light hearted, and happy articles to read. They uplift us and put smiles on our faces. But if we can’t, won’t, or don’t want to read the unpleasant, cold, hard truth of the assault that is happening to our country, then we are doomed. It takes brave people to carry the torch and lead the lost out of the darkness and back into the light. Greg’s opinion pieces are torches of light. I say keep ’em coming!

    1. Julie. “More fuel” is what is dividing us further. We can’t reach out to each other thru the flames. We need to stop the flame wars, the rhetoric, the “us vs them” and get back to civil discourse and compromise. Remember that?

  6. Until the last sentence, I was worried you might have missed the obvious solution to a true modern-day escape. Our backlit windows to the world –for all their advancing glory- have us addicted, and many of us feeling both self-aware and helpless. The devices are like drugs to our brains, and your article could have easily substituted “nicotine” or “opium” for “iPhone,” although the anecdotal snips through your window might have been less worldly, less relatable. A couple comments ring true: maybe you should try leaving the phone behind sometimes. Did you need to know these things as you rode along, or might you have been better exclusively focused on the limestone scarps, cured hams, valpolicella, and the pace of your breathing? From one addict to another, I know resisting the urge to peruse the pages of daily routine is more easily said than –hold on… updating status– done, but sometimes I’ll turn mine off for this exact purpose, knowing I am too weak to otherwise ignore it.

  7. I enjoyed your story having biked through Tuscany myself, but I have to say I didn’t climb mountains like that. The scenery is spectacular! I found “GOD” (gelato of the day) at some point every day. Our travels are important to clear our minds and keep our hearts hopeful if only for a brief moment of bliss.

  8. Greg, well, the main stream media has never gotten over their ga’ls (Hillary’s) loss of the election. Although she managed to steal the primary from Bernie, she couldn’t steal the general from Trump. And the MSM will twist everything, every bit of news, and make up what they can, to turn Trump into: Hitler, the devil, Stalin, Freddy Kreuger, (take your pick), and so maybe it’s best just to give the whole newz feed a pause while you’re challenging those mountains. Keep on peddling, dude. Yes, hatred is rampant, mostly from the hysterical Left, but we will rise above it. Good biking article.

      1. David here, Publisher of BoomerCafé since we started nearly 20 years ago.
        First, BoomerCafé is not a “blog.” A blog is generally one voice or one rant. We have never been that. BoomerCafé is a website or online site of many, many voices, many opinions and stories from many people.
        Second, the subject of retirement is just small facet of BoomerCafé. Neither Greg nor I are the traditional retirement kind of people. When we started the site, he was teaching his boys snowboarding, as I recall, and I was fly fishing and kayaking in between demands of my day job. In fact one of the reasons we launched the site was because AARP ignored baby boomers. They ran an article I remember on “great places to dump RV waste.” That’s not us.
        BoomerCafé is for, by and about baby boomers with active lifestyles and stories/opinions to share.
        Thanks for commenting. Send us your stories.

    1. Hey Paul C, first let me make one thing clear upfront… I loath party politics, and didn’t support Hillary or Trump. Party politics serve only to divide and keep the populace fighting and weak in my opinion. Heaven forbid, if we all got together in this country, we’d be a force to be reckoned with, and government would serve us more, instead of itself. That said however, Trump doesn’t need the MSM to turn him into a character perceived by some as (to quote you) ‘Hitler, the devil, Stalin, Freddy Kreuger’, etc. He’s doing a very good job of that all by himself sadly. He says he wants to ‘Make America Great Again’, and if he spent as much time actually working for the people and doings things that benefit everyone as he does at his rallies seeking adulation, and defending and glorifying himself via Tweets, the country would indeed be greater than it already is. Instead we are a country divided and becoming more so every day.

      1. Hey Julie, you are not above politics or whatever you want to call what’s happening in the country. You obviously have taken sides, anti-Trump. And yes, I voted Trump and I support him. I consider myself an ‘anti-democrat’ because I believe the Left, the democrats, are dividing the country, and worse. The country is divided. We’ll just have to ride this one out.

  9. Greg, I agree with Denver. It seems that your articles are always political. There are many boomers who voted for and still stand behind our President. I wouldn’t dare share your posts on Facebook in fear of alienating half of my membership. Thankfully, there are other places we can go for stories for and about Boomers.

  10. In May, my husband and I took a month long vacation by a beach in Lanikai, Hawaii and never had the news on television or our devices turned on unless we were looking for places to visit or the weather forecast. I never slept so well, felt relaxed and happy the entire time because we weren’t tuned into any news. That was the best vacation ever because we didn’t allow politics or negative thoughts into our vacation.

  11. I am not opposed to free expressions of differing opinions. It’s that I cannot share one-sided political rants. I’m looking for more Boomer related content that is positive, uplifting and informative.

  12. Paul C, believe it or not, I actually haven’t ‘taken sides’. In fact, I feel a sadness for Trump, because he is acting like someone who was never loved or nurtured properly as a child, and thus the child and subsequently the adult, acts out in negative ways to get attention whatever, wherever, and whenever way they can. It’s the widening divide, anger, and brutal acted-out hatred that is engulfing this country that has me most concerned; and I’m just an old lady who cares about her country. But you’re right. We’ll just have to ride it out, and hope that at the end of it all, we’ll still have a country that is strong and free, and where sharing thoughts and opinions openly is a good thing.

  13. Greg, so glad you enjoyed your vacation!!! I love a well-written personal story.

    David, also, I did not realize you and Greg started Boomer Cafe 20 years ago. I joined around 2013, and that was five years ago. Just wish I’d found Boomer Cafe sooner.


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