Volume 14, Issue 30 ~ July 27 - August 2, 2006


60 Goes the Boomer

Along with about 330 more every hour

by Margaret Tearman

Depending on your perspective of aging, 2006 is either a very good year — or a not-so-good year.

It is the year we Baby Boomers start turning 60. A large chunk of our country is qualified to hold a boomer ID card: 78.2 million Americans were born between 1946 and 1964. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 7,918 boomers will celebrate their 60th birthday every day this year, which works out to about 330 per hour. That’s a lot of candles.

The phenomena has been featured in stories from National Public Radio to Newsweek to the New York Times. Locally, our TV network affiliates are broadcasting regular stories on the subject, one in particular profiling the sometimes quirky ways some birthday kids have chosen to celebrate the milestone.

Which got me to thinking.

One of these ’46ers is my husband. He turns the big 6-0 in August. So, in keeping with the spirit of the occasion, I announced his birthday present would be a vacation to any place in the world — that’s any place in the entire world — where we will toast his birthday as the clock strikes midnight on August 10. The destination will be entirely his choice. I suggested he give this some very careful thought, as it will be a once-in-a-lifetime birthday party.

While he considered his options, I enjoyed fantasies of a remote, wild and certainly international vacation.

He has always wanted to see Mongolia. We sit through every National Geographic special on the region. Yes! That’s it! He will choose Mongolia! I am giddy with the certainty that I will finally visit the great plateaus of my dreams.

Then again, we have often waxed poetic about the prospect of traveling to a cooler clime, perhaps Norway or Sweden. Or even Latvia, where we have friends. Just about any place other than Maryland in August.

I waited with barely contained patience while he considered the options.

Finally, he announced he had decided where he wanted to go for this very special birthday celebration.


Is this some kind of joke?

I reminded him I said we could go anywhere in the world.

But my husband, bless his heart, has chosen to spend his 60th birthday in beautiful downtown Chicken, Alaska (www.chickenalaska.com). Smack in the middle of the Alaskan outback. Five hundred miles from nowhere. No electricity. No indoor plumbing. A year-round population of fewer than 50 souls. Only three buildings (One is a saloon, I’m glad to say; I think I’ll need a drink).

My slightly eccentric husband explained his choice.

Ever since he saw an episode of Lonely Planet where professional backpacker/traveler Ian Wright spends a day in Chicken, it’s someplace he thought he’d like to go. Probably wouldn’t under normal circumstances, so that qualifies it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

It is wild, if by no other measure than the grizzly bear population (four hapless — I hesitate to add now headless — humans have already been mauled to death this year in the vicinity of Chicken).

And, he reminds me, it is most definitely remote. I can’t argue with that point.

He promises we can make it an international destination simply by traveling another hundred or so miles to Dawson City, located deep in Canada’s Yukon Territory.

Exactly how, I asked, will we get to remote, beautiful, downtown Chicken? Interior Alaska doesn’t exactly boast an elaborate transportation system. Once outside Anchorage city limits, human population is sporadic. Hotels, motels, B&Bs and hostels are considered unnecessary evils by all but a few enterprising Alaskans. Where accommodations do exist, they are separated by many miles of lonely road.

Tent camping is out of the question (see grizzly bear above).

No problem. He has it all figured out. We will rent one of those great American land barges, a Class C Winnebago. A ridiculously expensive Winnebago, certain to guzzle gallons and gallons of equally expensive gas. (Alaska merely supplies the oil; it has to be shipped elsewhere for refining, and then shipped back to Alaska for consumption. Cha-ching.)

There can be no arguing. It is, after all, his birthday, his milestone, his choice. So it is decided.

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