James Thibeault stops in Brattleboro Monday on the first leg of a bike trip from the Canadian border in Ver­mont to the Mexican border in Texas. (Mike
James Thibeault stops in Brattleboro Monday on the first leg of a bike trip from the Canadian border in Ver­mont to the Mexican border in Texas. (Mike Faher/Brattleboro Reformer)
Tuesday April 30, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- The year James Thibeault turned 65, his mother and three close friends died.

What Thibeault labels "life stuff" began piling up, and he recalls that his quest to live to 100 "had become a tug of war, and the couch was winning."

So the Charleston, W. Va., resident decided to do something about it. Thibeault compiled a book of advice for baby boomers, and now he has embarked on a Canada-to-Mexico bike trip to spread the word about what he believes is an urgent need for simpler, healthier living.

"We're not nearly as healthy as we think we are," Thibeault said Monday during a stop in Brattleboro. "We bought the ‘forever young' bill of goods that Madison Avenue sold us."

Thibeault's trip began Friday near the Canadian border in Norton. He passed through Bellows Falls on Sunday and was continuing southward on Monday after his Brattleboro stop.

He already had been somewhat familiar with this area: Thibeault grew up in Massachusetts and has family in Keene, N.H.

The first part of his journey will end in Charleston, W. Va. Later in the year, he'll ride west before turning southward, following the Mississippi River and eventually ending the trip in Brownsville, Texas at the Mexican border.

As a veteran of long bike rides -- Thibeault rode cross-country solo at age 60 -- he said planning this trip "didn't seem to be a problem for me." But the 66-year-old said logging so many miles still requires some adjustments.


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"The biggest thing is getting used to being on the bike seat," Thibeault said. "It's not a comfortable place to be."

He added that "I'm getting in better shape each day. My mantra is, it will be easier after the first week."

It helps that Thibeault is taking plenty of time to talk to fellow boomers -- defined as anyone born between 1946 and 1964 -- along the way. He has a helmet-cam and an iPad and is recording some of those conversations.

There are no shortage of boomers to talk to: Thibeault says there are 10,000 people turning 65 every day. And he is asking them to "slow down, get moving and put a little adventure and fun into their lives."

His book is called "Boomers: 400+ Tips and Hints from the Generation that Refuses to Grown Old." As the title suggests, it's a compilation of pithy advice for getting healthier and happier.

Tip No. 1 is "let your hair thin, but not your enthusiasm." The final tip -- No. 457 -- is "know where to find help."

In between, Thibeault hopes readers find some valuable advice to improve their lives.

"There are simple things we can do to stay healthy. A big part of it is our attitude," he said.

He espouses some basic tenets including the need for more physical activity, less television and fewer sugary drinks. Don't always park in the closest spot, Thibeault counsels, and use the stairs if you can.

"Walk every opportunity you have," he said during his Brattleboro stop. "And carry a bottle of water."

Thibeault is fond of asking baby boomers what makes them happy. In Vermont, he is hearing common themes including health, family and the outdoors.

"They want to be outside," Thibeault said of his conversations over the past several days. "They want to be on their bike. They want to be on their motorcycle. They want to be on their horse. These things make them happy."

Those themes likely apply to the broader baby-boom generation, which is at a critical juncture, Thibeault said.

"I think we're at a moment in history. The question is, will the Woodstock generation continue to be youthful?" he said.

Thibeault wonders whether his generation can overcome reliance on mass-media messages and fast food.

"Will they rise to the occasion and do some of the things that these Vermonters say they want to do?" he asked.

More information is available on Thibeault's blog -- www.livewithaboom.blogspot.com -- or www.facebook.com/livewithaboom.

Thibeault sums up his philosophy and his hopes near the end of his book's introduction.

"Remaining healthy, vibrant and productive to l00 or beyond is not a silly dream. It is the end product of a century of advances in public health, medicine, education and increased commitment to wellness. All of these factors have brought us to this moment of historic mass longevity," he wrote. "Now, the challenge (and the opportunity) is to use this additional life time to evolve into more enlightened, compassionate humans. This quest could be the greatest of all the boomer accomplishments."

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.