It was a brisk and misty rainy day in Deadwood, South Dakota. Deadwood Gulch, is a true wild west town…which boomed to well over 5,000 inhabitants during the gold rush of the late 1800’s. It cycled into a massive state of disrepair afterwards as the population fell to less than 1000 throughout much of the next century. However, Kevin Costner’s involvement in the region and the wildly popular HBO series “Deadwood’ brought it screaming back to its booming former self in the 2000’s. As the final resting place of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, it has long romanticized the gunslinging, whiskey swilling, larger-than-life characters of the American Wild West.
Once you have toured Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park the Black Hills and the Crazy Horse Monument what is a tourist from balmy Costa Rica to do on such a chilly, misty day? Wine tasting seemed like the obvious choice to keep warm and happy.
A cute little Sturgis satellite winery of Belle Joli on the outskirts of Deadwood offered a very limited selection of generous wine pour flights for just $5. We chatted with the pretty black-haired hostess with deep blue Pacific eyes. One of the first questions asked in a tourist town is, “Where are you from?”. Well, kinda Texas via Costa Rica. But I told the story of how this tour was inspired by my writer friend who started a campaign #50by50, to visit all 50 USA states before the age of 50. I decided it was time to see my final 4: Idaho, Montana, South Dakota and lastly, North Dakota.
Pacific eyes girl was an enthusiastic listener and was impressed by my domestic travel goal. She said she lived in Deadwood, but was originally from North Dakota, having visiting this area often throughout her childhood. She gave me the impression that saving North Dakota for state number big 5-0 was quite uninspiring. She suggested driving a short loop into the state and then out again. She told me there was nothing there to see. “Really, just miles and miles of nothingness and quite boring.” was her overall critique of her home state.
Another couple in possibly their late 50’s or early 60’s had arrived at the winery and they were browsing around the gift shop, while the tasting bar was fully in action. We moved over to allow them space to enjoy some wines, as well. Number one question from Pacific eyes to them was, “Where are you from?” and their reply was, “North Dakota and we bet you are going to back pedal about what you just said.”
She actually didn’t back pedal, but we did have a nice conversation with this couple about the merits of North Dakota and its beauty. As well as its brutal winters and the occasional dying livestock from cold and starvation. They introduced themselves as the Snyders and Mr. Snyder had an accent just like a good friend of mine in Austin, who is originally from North Dakota. It was fun to hear that upper midwest/Minnasota-y accent fooling my wine buzzed brain into thinking I was there talking to Ron.
Mr. Snyder was impressed with my journey to see all 50 states. He asked a lot of questions about which state I found most beautiful (Are you kidding? How can one answer that, when all have beauty?) But high on my list were Alaska, Hawaii, California, Texas and rugged beauty like Arizona, Utah, Oregon, etc. I also noted some specific journeys like the drive from Miami to Key West, Niagara Falls, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and seeing New York City for the first time.
Then he asked something that caught me off guard. Was there a defining moment in my life that allowed me financially to afford extensive travel like that? I explained there really was not. I didn’t win the lottery, I had not received an inheritance and I was not a trust fund baby. But I explained that my father, Ace, had instilled in me to save money at an early age, to invest and diversify and never live beyond my means.
As I described my father’s early advice, I could picture him all those years ago sitting down at the dinner table with me talking about savings and 401K accounts and stocks and IRA’s for retirement. Imagine being a late teenager and early 20-something meeting with your father to talk about retirement? I remember my glassed over eyes. “Retirement? Are you kidding? That is like light years from now.” I said to myself silently.
I remember buying that amazing forest green BMW 325i convertible years ago. His words still echo in my mind, “A car is to get you from point A to point B. You need nothing more”. I remember all his crappy used cars (alright, that is not fair, some were perfectly fine used cars, but lacking any glamour whatsoever). I got my drivers license at 16 and if you didn’t own a car back then (many kids didn’t), you borrowed your parents every chance you could. My mom owned a pretty cool Cadillac, in which I loved to cruise. But when I had to borrow my dad’s car? I always hoped a friend could drive instead.
The Snyders agreed with my way of not living beyond your means. It is probably a salt-of-the-earth conservative core value that is very popular in North Dakota. They have 3 kids in which they have instilled that same way of thinking. Although they are concerned about one of them. Mr. Snyder laughed at my extravagant car purchase story. He said sometime you have to live a little. He then whipped out a couple of photos from his jacket pocket. He showed me the beautiful 1950’s car he is spending a lot of money restoring and his brother’s airplane. Yeah, sometimes you to have to live a little.
Ace was very methodical in his retirement advice, helping me max out every employment 401K with profit sharing, ESPL (employee stock purchase plans) at a discount, helping with down payment loans for real estate, etc. He would roll his eyes when I was not following his advice and occasionally I would get a “What the hell do you think you are doing?”. But mostly he was supportive and assertive with his advice. Somehow something must have sunk in. Because his advice was golden and has allowed me to live the life I dreamed of at an earlier age than most.
It got me to musing…..it is never to late to change your lifestyle to live within your means. Start spending less now. Of course it is really damn hard. We are bombarded with over 10,000 advertising messages EVERY day. This is outdated, your phone is a dinosaur, you will be sexy if you buy this, you will be happy in/with ______ (fill in the blank). I am guilty for falling for it from time to time. After all, I am a product of my generation and culture.
But it can be done. Just like better eating habits or quitting smoking or working out, it takes serious willpower and commitment. Make a budget. Stick with it. Start putting money away or invest it. Do it before it touches your wallet so it will not tempt you. Pay off your debt and make THAT growing account be your sexy new purchase. Nothing will feel better.
As for that that amazing BMW I used to have? I am now driving a 10-year old car with a bunch of kilometers on it, in both countries. Nope they are not sexy. Nor are my unpainted nails or my no-name clothes and accessories. But I would like to think my life is. And I owe much of that to saving and investing the old fashioned way. My dad, Ace, rocked.
Monday Musings. Have a great week.