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The mid-life hobby… cars, flying, boating, hunting?

August 23, 2011

I may have mentioned this before, but I’m getting old (crap, this blog may be getting a theme).

From my teens to my late-thirties I’ve been a sports hobbyist – football, basketball, softball, golf. I always enjoyed playing sports. It was usually my only form of exercise, as I detest the monotony of most workout programs. But as I get older two things have happened, less people my age to play sports with and my rising level of sports suckitude (I wasn’t very good at most sports to begin with, except when I cheated, and boy can I cheat).

Now that my career is fairly stable, my Master’s degree is all but wrapped up and home life is pretty routine, I think it’s time for a hobby. But what to choose.

On a side note, I’m fairly certain my wife will not be agreeing with any of the above or following statements. I could always try to figure out a way to earn a little more money, technically the Master’s degree isn’t finished (not my fault, blame my thesis advisor), and as for home – we’re still kicking around the idea of a second kid and I have a home repair list as long as my arm. Oh, and I could definitely stand to drop a few or 50 pounds. So let’s just agree that a hobby isn’t “necessary.” 

I think my desire for a hobby could be traced directly back to my grandfathers. I was blessed with three. Grandpop Parker was a pilot and a boater. He liked little Cessna airplanes and smaller boats. Grandpop Walsh was a boater, too, but he was a powerboat upgrader. He started with a small runabout and now owns three boats including a 50-foot cabin cruiser. My Grandfather Houghton was the king of the hobbyists – gardening, wine making, hunting, fishing, gambling, and volunteering with hunting club, Republican club, ambulance department, and local sports leagues.

Now, I suspect, each of these endeavors could be traced back to a single common thread, socializing. All three grandfathers are/were great socializers and their hobbies reflected that. In the previous list only flying tends to foster a more isolated experience, which I suspect may be why Grandpop Parker eventually gave it up (much to the delight of my grandmother).

So nowadays, what’s a fella just sauntering into middle age supposed to get his jollies doing?

I do have a few interests I’d consider.

As you may have noted in previous posts, I have a certain appreciation for our four-wheeled friends. There’s hasn’t been a car made that I wouldn’t hop behind the wheel and tool around in if given the keys. Both my wife and I have discussed the notion of buying a third car, something sporty to drive on those days when my Ram 1500 and her Toyota Highlander just doesn’t cut it for zipping around the local rural roads.

Here’s where having a car hobby could pay off, buying a older model car in need of some TLC and turning it into a fun little sunny day roadster. The early model Mustang or Camaro would be a great little car to tinker with. Perhaps an early 90’s Nissan Z-series, an 80’s or 90’s Jaguar XJS, a Mini Cooper S, or maybe put together a kit car. Unless, of course, we get a windfall, and then I’m just buying a Roush-tweeked Mustang.

Pros: A car hobby is pretty simple. There are a ton of places to get parts and instructions. It’s the kind of thing that has a practical application and since we’ll be able to keep a spare car in our garage, it’s always around to tinker with or drive.

Cons: In general, being a car enthusiast can be a little pricey, as older cars need a lot of TLC. Only a scat few actually appreciate in value and only if royally cared for (not something I’m known for). It’s also hard to stop at just one car. Either you want to flip it for a nicer car or you start acquiring them. Generally speaking, that’s not a wise marriage decision.

Family factor: The wife likes to drive, the boy could help me tinker and might one day get the car.

C’mon, haven’t you always wanted to fly? What, you’re afraid? No worries, the number one recommended antidote for a fear of flying is learning how to do it yourself. Once you understand the mechanics and science, those big commercial airliners don’t seem so foreboding. For me, I had the misfortune of being born just a few years after my grandfather gave up flying, but he alway talked about loving it. His third (and final) wife was a airline stewardess and her father was a World War I pilot. I suspect he enjoyed flying as much for the family dynamic as he did for the actual fun of it. Most people I know who are pilots wouldn’t trade that hobby for any other. It’s one of the few activities left where you have real freedom from most of the harassment we drivers feel on a daily hourly basis.

Pros: Do I need to say it? How cool is it that you could drop, “I’m a pilot” into almost any conversation. Tired of traffic? Not an issue, let’s just take my plane down to the Outer Banks or up to the Hamptons.

Cons: It’s not cheap to learn how to fly. To get qualified for visual and instrument flying will likely set you back a couple thousand dollars. And then there’s the plane, they’re cool to own, but there’s no such thing as a cheap one. And if there were, do you really want to fly it? Oh, and one other thing, planes crash, so do cars and boats, but not usually from several hundred/thousand feet in the air.

Family factor: The wife can barely stand letting me drive, do you think she’ll enjoy me piloting?

All three grandfathers have owned a boat, from a small fishing skiff to a few monster power boats. I’ve loved them all. When my Grandfather Parker bequeathed his 39-foot Jersey to my parents I was thrilled. Finally one of the boats was a generation closer. Sadly, due to the constraints of work and family, I haven’t made it down to the boat very often, but when I do I always enjoy it. I love the smell of a marina. I also like the camaraderie of the boating lifestyle. I’m convinced most people get into just to hang out on the dock, drink and chat.

Pros: You get to be called “Captain” or “Skipper.” Sunrises and/or sunsets over a large body of water. Fresh seafood. Beer at noon, cocktails at dusk. A home away from home. Boat eggs (basically, scrambled eggs with onions and garlic, but I loved when my grandfather cooked them for breakfast on the boat). And don’t forget, two of the coolest guys on TV lived on boats, Quincy and MacGyver.

Cons: This one is simple, a boat is a big hole in the water you throw money into. They break down all the time. They’re expensive to repair. Fuel prices are through the roof and no one ever offers gas money for a ride. Boats don’t increase in value. Unless you live in the South or West coast, it’s barely a five month hobby.

Family factor: Excellent family time, everyone has something to do – fishing, sunbathing, napping, swimming, eating, drinking, socializing, no TV.

Now technically, I’ve done this one twice, both times hunting waterfowl. I loved it. The second time I went out it was 17 degrees at 5 AM when we hit the woods. I spent the morning watching a small family of deer meander up river and just as dawn broke a flock of Canada geese flew by and I did my best to eradicate everyone of those little sky rats. I missed them all. My hunting companion winged one of the geese. He wasn’t able to fly and began swimming away. We didn’t think it was right to let him suffer, so I finished him off from about 50 feet away. It wasn’t a proud kill, but it did give me a taste of what hunting was like, as well as field dressing a bird, so I chalk it up to an educational experience.

So you may be wondering, why only two hunting trips. Simple, I don’t own a shotgun or any other hunting gear, except for a hand-me-down undersized compound bow that I’m not very accurate with since it’s geared for someone 6 inches shorter than me.

However, all that’s about to change. My grandfather Houghton passed away a little while back. His shotguns and other gear are coming to me.

Pros: If you’re a nature lover, and I am, it’s a really great experience. As a matter of fact, I’m probably just as likely to be shooting with my camera as I would be with a gun. While I hate to get up early for work, I love rising before dawn for an outdoor activity, be it fishing or hunting. Sunrises. The quiet of the morning. The brisk air. The dew. It’s peaceful and perfect. Also, there’s the added benefit that since the dawn hours are really the best time to hunt, by the time dawn has passed, you’re ready to head home and get your day started with the family. It’s also as cheap as you want it to be, you can either get overloaded on gear or you can keep it simple, just a shotgun and a few hunting supplies. Free (and delicious) meat. Oh, and for those of us who have become accustomed to having our food only available at the super market, I like the idea of knowing how to hunt for my food, in an addition to being able to gather Doritos and beer.

Cons: No one likes it when you kill Bambi or Thumper. The anti-NRA folks tend to lump hunters into a general anti-gun group. Getting winged by some other moron with a shotgun (always best to hunt on private land). Putting a hole in your foot or head (though you could do the same thing with power tools, which I use a lot too, and I still have all my fingers and toes).

Family factor: Hard to gauge, on the one hand, not a lot of daylight hours spent away from the family, on the other hand: smelly, dirty, bloody. There’s no way the wife is going to hold a gun, let alone stand next to me while I do, the boy won’t be able to come with me for another 13 years. I’m not sure if either of them is looking forward to a winter of venison and goose pâté.

Other options that I didn’t list – wood working (I already have a lot of the tools), photography (ditto), local theatre, learning the violin or re-learning the piano. These all have the chance to become hobbies, but let’s face it, they all lack a certain coolness factor inherent in the preceding four activities.

Yup, that's me holding my one and only kill. Disregard the smile, I wasn't proud of it. In the future, I won't be one of those guys who poses with their dead animals.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. August 23, 2011 11:30 AM

    Fly, there’s nothing like it.

    More fun than sailing stuff, less messy than shooting stuff.

    (If you can get qualified for a couple thousand, that’s a bargain. I realize San Francisco is expensive, but I’m looking upwards of 10k for 40-50 hours – which is the usual qualification time required).

    • August 23, 2011 11:54 AM

      I do think I’d enjoy the freedom of flying the most, though the start up costs are a bear. Looking back on it, I think I would have been wise to funnel my money into flying lessons as opposed to a Master’s degree.

  2. Jennifer permalink
    August 23, 2011 11:44 AM

    Few comments from your lovely wife:
    First – you don’t like people…you don’t like to socialize, so why would you take up a hobby that required interaction with others?

    Second – yes, I would hold a gun…as long as it was pointed at you 🙂

    Third – you don’t know how to take care of your things/clean up after yourself when working on something. Your car is never clean, the camera equip is rarely put away in a timely manner, and don’t even get me started on the condition of the basement/garage tool area. Hobbies require a certain level of organization with items, which I just don’t think you possess

    Fourth – obviously, I’ve read this post.

    • August 23, 2011 11:52 AM

      Ha! True on all counts.

      Which reminds me, that gun cabinet is going to be triple locked 🙂

      Thanks for reading the blog!

    • August 25, 2011 9:33 AM

      I enjoyed the read. I too have car issues and a messy garage. Organization? Hey, everything is where I left!!!!!

      I’m lucky my wife doesn’t read my blog!!!

  3. Erin hensh permalink
    August 23, 2011 12:41 PM

    I’m thinking knitting or sewing then you can at least do something about all the bad fashion your always complaining about…..

    • August 23, 2011 1:18 PM

      Great idea! I like the practical application.

  4. Etta permalink
    August 23, 2011 11:42 PM

    I think hiking. Great scenery, good exercise, time with Jack. And the opportunity to search for places to hide the bodies.

  5. Lou permalink
    August 24, 2011 11:48 AM

    Ha! “you don’t like people…you don’t like to socialize, so why would you take up a hobby that required interaction with others?” Priceless! I vote +1 for regional theatre.

    • August 24, 2011 1:46 PM

      Oh yeah, my wife knows me best. And aren’t the best actors introverts?

  6. December 12, 2013 11:33 PM

    A family that floats together, stays forever…haha
    Really expensive though but boating has been our life! No other hobby can beat 😉

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