Tag Archives: fifth wheel

Happy Trails, Part 153: Weekends galore!

Those who have been retired far longer than my wife and I have been will understand what I am about to say next.

I am having a bit of difficulty understanding that the term “weekend” no longer is relevant to either of us.

We have embarked on a two-week sojourn that will begin in Amarillo. We’ll pull our fifth wheel south to San Angelo, then to the Hill Country, down to the Golden Triangle, then to New Orleans, to Shreveport and then home.

What’s different about this particular journey is that we’ll be parking our RV in a new storage place just around the corner and down the street from our new home in Princeton, Texas.

Which brings me to the “weekend” point.

My wife has reminded me that we’ll be able to grab our fifth wheel and take it on short trips to any of the numerous state parks surrounding us in Collin County.

“Sure thing,” I have said. “We can plan a weekend trip.” She laughs out loud at me. “No-o-o-o! Don’t you get it? We don’t have to wait for the weekend,” she responds. “We can go in the middle of the week. No crowds. Others will be working.”

Well, duhhh.

I just will need to keep all of that in mind once we get a wild hair and want to haul our fifth wheel out of storage and head out for some quiet time in the woods, or next to a lake.

I’m getting the hang of this retirement thing. Every now and then, though, I need a knock on the noggin to be reminded that weekends are for working folks.

Puppy Tales, Part 57: Who needs travel training?

I laughed out loud when I heard this tidbit from a pet-training expert.

He talked about a dog he had given to a couple that was looking for a dog to replace their previous “baby” that had died. The training expert talked about how he gets dogs accustomed to travel by letting them sleep in their kennels prior to sending them to their new “pet parents.”

Why did I laugh? Toby the Puppy was born to travel. He remains in constant travel mode. There was no need — none at all, zero, zilch — to “train” Toby how to travel.

He’s a natural at it. I long thought my mother-in-law was the world’s greatest road warrior. She surrendered her unofficial “crown” the moment Toby the Puppy joined our family.

We ask him: Do you want to go for a ride? His response is that he whirls around like he Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian Devil. Yep, he’s ready for a ride. He stays ready. He was born ready.

When we travel with our fifth wheel, Toby is good to go the moment he settles into his bed, which my wife and I place on the console between the two front seats. He might circle once or twice before settling down for his road-trip nap.

Did we have to “train” our puppy to do this? Hah! Hardly. He puts his mother and me to shame with his travel endurance. It comes naturally.

Happy Trails, Part 112: Back to the beginning

Not quite 47 years ago, my wife and I recited our sacred marriage vow — in the quickest 22-minute ceremony of my life — spent a glorious honeymoon in the Cascade Range of Central Oregon and returned to start our life in a two-bedroom apartment in southeast Portland.

Our monthly rent in 1971 was — get a load of this — $135.

Many years later — after owning four homes in Oregon and in Texas — we have returned to our “roots,” more or less.

We have decided to return to apartment living.

I must stipulate the obvious. Our rent today is nowhere close to what we paid when we began our life together. You don’t need to know what we’re paying these days; just know that it is many times more than what we paid back in the day.

We are thrilled with this turn our life has taken.

After we sold our Amarillo house we decided quickly to forgo the search for a new house to buy, to take on another mortgage that we likely wouldn’t be able to outlive, to be saddled with house repairs as they occurred.

We decided to rent. Yes, our intent was to “downsize” significantly from the house we owned in Amarillo. We did unload many of our possessions, but not enough of them. We have managed to stuff our remaining belongings into this apartment in Fairview, although it doesn’t look as though it’s stuffed.

Fairview is a lovely community tucked between Allen and McKinney in Collin County. The sign at the city limit says the population is around 7,200 residents, although I am absolutely certain it’s much larger than that today.

Our grand scheme goes something like this:

We’ll use the apartment as a jumping-off place for the travel we intend to pursue in our retirement years. We own a 28-foot fifth wheel that we hitch to the back of our pickup. It served as our home for several months while we prepared to sell our house and then put our dwelling on the market. Our fifth wheel served us well in that capacity.

Now it’s being returned to its original mission, as a recreational travel vehicle. We will use it frequently, weather permitting, as we hit the road across North America.

We already have returned to the Cascade Range. We’ve taken our RV to all three coasts and to the Great Lakes region. There’s plenty more to see and enjoy.

We will return home to our apartment, just as we did when we began this marvelous journey together. It’s been a great ride so far.

However, we aren’t nearly finished.

Facing down an RV demon


This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on upcoming retirement.

Yes, I have demons. We all do … I believe.

One of my demons involves the recreational vehicle my wife and I own, which is a 28-foot fifth wheel we pull behind our three-quarter-ton pickup.

On our most recent trip, I managed to face down my RV demon.

We went to Caprock Canyons State Park, which is about a 90-minute drive southeast of Amarillo. It’s a beautiful park, with rugged back country that one must see to believe.

It has several very nice campsites.

They’re all back-in sites. No pull-through sites. When we made our reservation at the state park, I asked perhaps three times whether there were any pull-through sites. “No sir,” came the reply. “They’re all back-ins.”

All righty, then. We’ll do it.


So, we went to Caprock Canyons. We arrived at the park gate, said “hey” to a group of bison grazing near the office, and then drove to our site at the Honey Flats camping area.

We pulled the RV to the site, then positioned the truck and the fifth wheel in a fairly straight alignment with the site. I surely understand the principle of backing a vehicle up with another one hitched to the rear: you turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction of where you want to turn the attached vehicle.

I backed the rig up. No sweat.

OK, truth be told, I had done this once before. We drove to an RV resort in Mesa, Ariz., a year ago, where we hooked up with my sister and brother-in-law. It, too, only had back-in sites. I managed — after considerable grief and perspiration — to get the vehicle backed into the site. I had considerable navigational help from my wife, sis and bro-in-law.

After backing in, I was exhausted. Pooped, man.

This time, at Caprock Canyons, the ordeal was far less stressful.

For that I am grateful. I haven’t conquered the demon just yet.

However, it’s on the ropes.

We plan to knock the RV demon out soon enough.

Journey coming to an end

at the beach

COLORADO CITY, Texas — It hasn’t been the Trip of a Lifetime.

My wife and I have experienced a couple of those already in our 44 years together.

We did, however, answer a key question: Are we able to spend more than, say, a long weekend on the road in our fifth wheel travel vehicle?

Our answer? Yes … absolutely.

It’s our final night on the road. We’ll get up in the morning, unplug the water and the electricity and head to Lubbock for lunch with two of our best friends in the world. Then it’s home to Amarillo.

We’ve had a wonderful time catching up with some old friends along the way. We saw family members … including our precious granddaughter Emma.

We have nearly completed the big circle that covered roughly have of our huge state. We’ve taken in a good portion of Texas’s amazingly diverse landscape: from the Caprock, to rolling hills and the lakes, the Piney Woods, the Gulf Coast, the Hill Country — and tonight we camped out at Lake Colorado City State Park, which feature the cactus and scrub brush common in West Texas.

Our pets — our dog and cat — proved to us that they’re both excellent travelers. We took a gamble with our 13-year-old kitty, Mittens; she didn’t let us down. Toby the puppy? You know about him. He’s the coolest customer … ever!

Our latest journey is about to end. My wife and I are convinced more than ever that, yes, by golly — we can do this when the time comes to quit working for a living.


This journey is going to test us

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on upcoming retirement.

A big trip is in our future. I’m not nervous about it, but I am a bit anxious.

We’ll be on the road for two weeks and one day, if all goes according to plan. It’s going to be an in-state adventure with our fifth wheel RV, which my wife some time back nicknamed “Sally,” as in the late astronaut Sally Ride. You see, our RV will ride it us, get it?

We’re planning to head east and south through Texas. We’ll go to a state park just north of the Dallas area, where we’ll visit with our granddaughter and her parents. Then we’ll mosey southward toward the Beaumont area, where we lived for nearly 11 years before moving to the Panhandle more than 20 years ago; there we’ll catch up with some dear friends. Then we’ll head to Houston to see more friends. Then it’s on to Corpus Christi for some sand and surf. Our last stop will be the Hill Country to see more family and some friends.

This trip, though, is going to have an important new wrinkle added to it.

My wife and I had been thinking separately about what to do with our 13-year-old kitty, Mittens. Then my wife broached the subject out loud this weekend: Why don’t we take her with us?

OK, there you go. No worries, then, about keeping her in the house. We’ve known all along we didn’t want to board her somewhere; she wouldn’t do well in the care of strangers.

So, for the first time we’re going to take her with us. It’s going to be something of a trial run, as we intend to travel more extensively as we inch toward full retirement.

Mittens is in good health. We have some time plan how we’re going to do this. We’re kicking around a few options to employ while we’re on the road. We’re confident she’ll be just fine once we stop and get comfortable in our sites along the way.

Oh, of course we have Toby the dog, who’s proven to be a tremendous traveler. He’s one cool customer.

Mittens, though, might present some challenges for us.

Keep us — and her — in your thoughts as we ponder our plan of action.

We haven’t told her yet. We’ll save the best for last.

This beats ‘free hot breakfast’ any time

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

DODGE CITY, Kan. — My wife just said something that tickled my funny bone.

“You know,” she said, “this is great. If we were staying at a hotel, we’d be fighting with others waiting to eat a ‘free hot breakfast,’ which of course really isn’t free; it’s just part of the room rate. I love doing this.”

“This” happened to be eating a light breakfast in our fifth wheel, which has been parked for the past four nights at an RV park.

We’re about to pack it up and head back home.

But her point about traveling this way, avoiding the occasional hassle of waiting in line to serve up overcooked — or undercooked — scrambled eggs, greasy sausage or bacon and lumpy oatmeal, is the way to go.

Not only that, and this remains one of life’s unsolved mysteries: The food tastes better in an RV than it does in a hotel. It’s like eating a hot dog at a baseball game. As the late singer/talk show host Mike Douglas once said, “A hot dog tastes like a filet mignon at a baseball game.”

The same can be said of a lemon muffin, yogurt and frozen fruit, and a cup of coffee — which is what my wife and I consumed this morning.

Well, the fun’s about to end. Got to get ready to go.

Knock yourselves out, hotel guests.


First big RV trip: a rousing success

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

We can declare our first-ever multi-state, multi-day trip in our recreational vehicle to be a success.

And a rousing one at that.

We shoved off from Amarillo the morning of March 21 and arrived back home just yesterday. Our travel took us to Mesa, Ariz., where we met up with my sister and brother-in-law, who had driven their RV from just north of Vancouver, Wash.

We had a serious blast with them, enjoying the sunshine, a bit of fellowship with fellow RV owners encamped at the park in Mesa and visiting with our aunt and uncle, who live about an hour’s drive south of the Phoenix area.

Except for a couple of mechanical issues we’re going to resolve with the folks who sold us our fifth wheel, our trip began and ended well for us.

But we did learn a valuable lesson while towing our 28-foot RV: Do not venture somewhere until you know for certain whether you can be comfortable getting there — and then coming back out.

We pulled out of the RV park Friday morning to start our trip home, but then we decided to take a gander at an attraction called Tortilla Flats, about 25 miles or so northeast of Mesa along an Arizona state highway. We looked at our map and assumed we could keep on going to a more significant highway once we finished visiting the attraction, which was billed as a replica of a ghost town.

You know what they say about assuming … yes?

Tortilla Flats sits along a very narrow road, with plenty of curves, switchbacks and, I should add, some seemingly harrowing areas. We hauled our fifth wheel through and along all of it en route to Tortilla Flats. For a bit of the trip in there, the road was bordered on side by rocky cliffs and the other side by, well, a serious drop-off into a bright blue lake full of boaters and kayakers.

I had a nightmare scenario of getting the fifth wheel too close to the edge and being pulled into the drink backward by the plummeting RV.

We got there just fine, but then learned that getting out would present a bit of a challenge. The paved road became an unpaved road once we got past Tortilla Flats. We were advised by a young restaurant waitress that we should just go back the way we came in.

Well, OK. But to get turned around, we had to take the RV up a dirt hill, onto a parking area and get it pointed in the right direction for the return trip back to Apache Junction. It required us to back the thing up.

We sized up our turning area and decided we could get the truck and the RV lined up to back up in a straight line enough to get it turned toward the right direction.

So … we did.

And out we came. Back to Apache Junction, back to the main highway and off toward Payson, Holbrook and then on to Gallup. N.M., for a night’s stay.

We breezed home along Interstate 40 the next day.

All is good. Our fifth wheel has been cleaned of the bugs that splattered it on the way to Mesa.

Once we get the mechanical issues resolved, we’ll be ready to ride.


RV camp fellowship is for real

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

MESA, Ariz. — I want to introduce you to Jonathan.

He’s retired from the Army; he’s from San Antonio. He and his wife are hauling across the country a gigantic fifth wheel. They are parked next to my wife and me at an RV park in Mesa.

This morning they demonstrated what I had heard about RV users, which is that they are helpful beyond belief.

The toilet in our 28-foot fifth wheel backed up this morning. I scratched my head wondering how to unplug it. Then I started walking down the street to where my sister and brother-in-law — who are much more experienced at RV travel — are encamped.

Jonathan was standing next to his monstrous RV. “Hey, good morning. How’s it going?” he asked. “Not so good,” I said. “My toilet is backed up.”

“Do you have a ‘twirler,'” he asked. I said no. “Well, use mine,” he said.

A twirler is a device that serves as sort of a flusher. You hook it to your water supply, stick the device into your commode, turn the water on full blast and — presto! — you’re good.

Jonathan then proceeded to explain several helpful hints about how to prevent this kind of thing from happening. What to buy. How to use it. Where to install it. The whole nine yards, man. We got a serious — but good-natured — lecture on the joys and occasional trials of RV living.

We had heard many times about the friendliness and cooperativeness of RV campers. Until today we hadn’t actually had a need to solicit help. Actually, the help we got today came mostly unsolicited, but we appreciated it more than either of us can express.

So I’m doing so right here.

We wish Jonathan and his wife safe travels as they head toward South Dakota on their next adventure.

My wife and me? We’re heading home very soon. We both are a good bit wiser about traveling with our recreational vehicle.


Land line may go when retirement arrives

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts about impending retirement.

Having spewed already about the difficulty of cutting ourselves loose from our home telephone, some friends have reminded me of what I’ve noted already.

Retirement is going to bring a whole new lifestyle for my wife and me that more than likely will require us to cut the tie that binds us to our safety line.

Gosh. I didn’t even think of it.

Our retirement hopefully will feature travel. Lots of it, in fact. We’ll be on the road for extended periods of time in our fifth wheel. We intend to visit most of North America. We hope to take our fifth wheel to Mexico as well, but first things first: Our southerly neighbors will need to get control of the drug thugs who are running rampant, terrorizing tourists and other innocent victims.

But I digress.

The land line that has been such a staple in our lives isn’t going away any time soon, at least not immediately.

Eventually? Yes. That will be determined at a later date. For now, I’m having a lot of fun working my three part-time jobs. The RV awaits. When we climb aboard in our retirement years, I’m expecting to be fully mobile.