“Do all you can, while you can, before you can’t.”
That motto has driven sixty-six-year-old Jim Finkowski throughout his life. Jim grew up in a small New England town but longed to work in the mountains. He got as far west as Minnesota before meeting his wife and establishing his family and career. Thirty-two years later, Jim and his wife moved to the mountains of Colorado for their retirement.
Jim’s parents retired as soon as they hit their sixties. He says that by their seventies, they’d quit doing things. He vowed that wouldn’t happen to him and he’d pack as much into life as he could.
“I started a “some day” (bucket) list. Every time I saw something adventurous, I added it to the list. You always need to be learning and can’t let yourself start to feel old. “Every decade I found a new adventure. At fifteen, I showed up at home with a motorcycle. In the early 60s, I made my own hang-glider and started gliding. In 1974, I took a road trip in a van to Alaska and the Alcan Highway.
“Our son turned out to be a motor head. He loved the little engines I got him. I wanted to get him into mountain biking but he wanted a motorcycle. When I turned fifty, we bought off-road motorcycles and began to ride together. Within a year he wanted to race so we both raced enduros and hare scrambles.
“The first year I’d wait for him, the second I’d chase him, and by the third year, I’d see him at the start, then not until we got back to the trailer. When college and other interests took him away from riding, I got into adventure motorcycling. My persona is that I do back-country discovery trips, usually with one other friend, but essentially on our own.”
The many adventure riders Jim saw while on a trip to Patagonia with his daughter in 2012 piqued his interest in riding in exotic locations—like southern Africa. He thought he’d enjoy that type of travel, but preferred to have it organized for him, especially the safaris. A chance opportunity to ride from a last minute opening, had him signing up to ride with Renedian in Mongolia. Africa came next.
“From my experience in Mongolia on the Gobi Discovery trip, I knew Rene is very calm and confident. If he understands you have riding skills, he gives you latitude, as long as you follow his instructions and stop and wait at the next intersection.
“It was the same in Africa on the Victoria Falls to Cape Town trip, and I pushed myself at the appropriate parts. There are times for riding and there are times to stop and enjoy the culture and scenery. That style of touring suits me and is why I‘ve signed up for Patagonia. Rene knows the big things that you should see. When you’re at the restaurant, you enjoy the local people. When you’re in the Namib Desert, you’re enjoying that.
“Now I live in an area with many active people. No matter what your interests, you just have to make a commitment, get excited about it, and go do it. Of course, there’s always something more exciting if you want to stretch yourself a little. Jim offers valuable tips for his style of adventure.
“Know your limits, what you can do, and how far you’re willing to push yourself. You have to know when you’re in trouble and when you’re not.
“Keep your energy up. I trained for climbing with a litre of water and a granola bar. When I got tired, I knew it was time to stop.
“Take whatever data you have at the time to make the best decision, knowing that things are dynamic and you may have to revisit that decision.
“Persistence is one of my strengths. I was always pushing the design limits at work, trying to make something work better. I bought a $20k motorcycle and drilled holes and modified it to suit me. I push my personal limits with my recreational activities.
“I live my motto: Do all you can, while you can, before you can’t.”
Photo credits: Jim Finkowski