Ramping Up to Retirement

I hope to retire in nine years or less and if I can convince the Bos Lady, I know where we’ll put up our heels to enjoy a life without nine-to-fives.

San Diego, California.

Of course, retirement in this coastal city of bliss is wholly dependent on the survival of America, which is hardly a given under the watch of their current Commander in Chief.

We traveled to San Diego a couple of years ago to enjoy a wonderful week in this beautiful southern California city. To kiss an old cliché, San Diego was “love at first sight” for me. So much was so new to this born-and-bred Canadian prairie boy: the harbour and the ocean; endless sun and January’s 20-plus degrees; massive ships and supersonic US Navy fighter jets; friendly people and beautiful museums; Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo, Coronado Island – I could go on and on.

The Bos Lady and I stayed in a beachfront condo in the small city of Oceanside, about 60 kilometres north of San Diego. Watching the tide come in might seem like watching paint dry to native Californians, but our wonderment at this divine phenomenon never waned. And on mornings when mighty waves crashed like so much thunder on the rocks protecting the sea wall, we were reverently awestruck.

Each morning, we would pack our rental car with the necessities for the day and head south to the big city via Interstate 5, which runs along the Pacific coastline from the Mexican border just north of Tijuana to the Canadian board just south of Vancouver. Minding our budget and the cost of gas, the rental we had booked was one of them micro-sized imports with a four-cylinder motor scarcely bigger than your grandma’s Singer sewing machine. So navigating the on-ramps to I-5 would raise our stress levels during the first few forays…

The on-ramps to I-5 are a different world than the on-ramps to the Anthony Henday freeway here in River City, Canada. Perhaps with a nod to the supposedly more relaxed River City driver, our on-ramps are quite generous in length. Some seem as long as the runways at Edmonton International Airport, and so many drivers believe they have all the time in the world: they dawdle on the Henday on-ramps, rarely getting up to the speed of the traffic they are merging into, with predictable results. In contrast, the I-5 on-ramps are short. They demand drivers get up to speed, fast. Americans yell “Go!”, Canadians caution “Let’s just process this for a bit.”

The traffic flow to I-5 on-ramps are governed by traffic lights located just before the ramps. The red-green light cycle is very short – only a few seconds—and allow only two to three vehicles to proceed onto the ramp at any one time. This timed sequence enables small pockets of vehicles to merge quickly and effortlessly into the I-5 traffic.

On the first day, Google Maps took us efficiently to the I-5 on-ramp closest to our Oceanside condo, and I was feeling good about that. Driving in a new city has its built-in stressors, but our smooth arrival to I-5 opened the door to a completely unwarranted machismo: Hah! Little Canuck navigates the great American west! Peesacake!

With Machismo strutting about in my head, I join the line of drivers waiting for their green piece of the on-ramp traffic light. What is this? What’s a traffic light doing at the foot of the on-ramp? I don’t know what to make of it, don’t know what to make of this at all. Machismo stops dancing; bolts for a cameo gig elsewhere. My hands squeeze the steering wheel tight and my stomach flip-flops in a tizzy. Just do what the guy ahead of you does. But guy ahead of me scoots ahead in the last split-second of the green. Shoot, now what? Light turns green. I jump on the accelerator (but politely, like many River City drivers) and get onto the ramp – and HOKEY DINAH, THE MERGE LANE ENDS JUST RIGHT UP THERE!! My brain shuts down all but Life Sustain functions, punctuated by the Whoop!Whoop!Whoop! siren that means GO! GO! GO! GO! I pin the pedal. Shoulder check in a panic. GO! GO! GO! the Whoops whoop at full roar. The import’s little Singer screams in full-blown whine. The Bos Lady screams in silent full-blown panic. White worry floods her knuckles on shaky hands that latch onto the import’s Oh Shit handle. GO! GO! GO! GO!

And we make it. Phew! In spite of it all, we make it smoothly. Not a single I-5 driver has honked at us, the import’s little Singer has not exploded into a million shards of menace like so many POTUS tweets, and neither of us has peed or pooped our pants.

As the tide of adrenaline goes out and nerves quiet their chattering, my main man Machismo busts down the door like nothing’s happened: How ‘bout we check out the USS Midway today? Big ship, big guns! Good times!

Yes, it’s gonna be a good day. A good day in sunny San Diego, where retirement whispers.

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