Tag Archives: retirement

Puppy Tales, Part 79: What would he do if he caught one?

LAKE LIVINGSTON STATE PARK, Texas — We came to a place that is swarming with squirrels. They seem to be everywhere.

Their presence among us begs the question: What would Toby the Puppy do if he actually managed to catch one of them?

As you likely can figure out, Toby has gone nuts straining to get at the little bushy-tailed critters that scamper through our RV campsite. He sees ’em and wants to get at ’em. They scoot up a tree and Toby tries like the dickens to dig in enough to start climbing after the squirrels. Well, no luck there.

I keep telling Toby the Puppy that God didn’t put him on this Earth with the ability to climb trees. He dismisses that bit of truth-telling. He seeks to get up the trees anyhow.

I keep wondering what in the world he would if he ever were to catch one of them. How would he hold? Could he hold it? Would he be, um, aggressive and seek to harm it?

I ask these questions because he is so remarkably gentle. All he wants is to lick people’s hands when they reach out to him. He does get a little jumpy when too many children approach him. We were forced to advise some little girls camped not far from us about that; they were at Lake Livingston as part of a Girl Scout/Brownie outing. Toby wanted to visit with them — but only one at a time.

Back to my point …

I hope I never will find out what he does if he catches a squirrel. I don’t anticipate that ever happening.

He does get mighty excited, though, to see these potential “friends.” We just need to remember to keep him on the short leash.

Parking It, Part 3: An undiscovered treasure

MARTIN CREEK LAKE STATE PARK, Texas –– My wife and I some time ago declared ourselves to be in love with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

Specifically, we love the state parks system.

We have discovered what we believe is one of TP&W’s hidden treasures. Martin Creek Lake State Park is about a three-hour drive from our home in Princeton. We made the drive and then found this gem of a public park.

One minor difficulty proved to be no difficulty at all: Every spot in the park is a back-in space, meaning we had to back our fifth wheel into the space we had reserved. It turned out to be wide enough, roomy enough and, by golly, we got ‘er done!

However, the scenic nature of this park is quite stunning.

As we have found with all the Texas state parks we have visited since we took up RV life in retirement, this one is well-maintained, well-groomed and well-managed. There are plenty of scenic hiking trails throughout the park, which isn’t a large park.

What’s more, there is plenty of space between RV campsites. There’s no crowding of folks parked right next to the site next door.

So help me, I recommend to all of our Texas-resident friends that the state park system is worth using.

My wife and I make notes of those parks we intend to visit again when we see them for the first time. Martin Creek Lake has just elbowed its way to the head of the line of return-visit locations.

We love this place!

Happy Trails, Part 173: Back in the game, kind of …

This retirement journey on which my wife and I have embarked has taken its share of peculiar and surprising twists and turns. They’ve all been good and have brought us joy.

This latest twist compels me to tell you that I am returning — in a manner of speaking — to where my print journalism career began 40 years ago.

I am back to reporting on community news. It’s not a full-time gig by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. It’s a free-lance affair. I get to choose the stories I want to cover for a group of community newspapers in Collin County, Texas. The publishers are giving me free rein.

I have informed them that my wife and I might not be available all the time. We plan to be on the road during RV traveling season — which is essentially every season except winter, during which time we’ll have our fifth wheel parked, winterized and in a state of hibernation.

But this new gig figures to be a great ride for as long as it lasts. I do not yet know when I’ll call a halt to it. Maybe I’ll check out of this world with my notebook and pen in hand.

I started my professional journey in late 1976 on the copy desk of the Oregon Journal, which was Portland’s evening newspaper. I gravitated in early 1977 to the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier, an after suburban daily newspaper about 15 miles south of Portland. I took a job as a temporary sports writer, replacing the sports editor who was on maternity leave after the birth of her first child.

I covered high school football, baseball, basketball, wrestling, track and field.

The editor who hired me said there was a chance I could stay on if an opening occurred. It was a gamble to leave a permanent full time job for one that might end in a few months. It worked out. An opening occurred. I got hired permanently.

I got to cover police news, the courts, city councils, school boards; I wrote feature stories and I developed pictures in a dark room.

I gravitated eventually to opinion journalism, working on editorial pages in Beaumont and Amarillo in Texas. However, reporting and writing news stories is like, well, riding a bicycle. You do not forget how to do it.

My task now will be more limited. For one thing, dark rooms no longer exist in newspaper buildings; it’s all done digitally. I’ll take pictures with my I-phone and send them in via e-mail.

But I get to cover community news in Princeton, where we now live and in neighboring Farmersville, a town of about 3,200 residents just east of us.

I will have to learn a bit more about these communities as I work my around them, learning the names of the movers and shakers, gadflies and assorted soreheads.

I am grateful to my new employers for this opportunity to (more or less) get back in the game.

Am I living the dream? You bet I am.

About to set a blogging record

I am going to boast for a moment or two about this blog. Forgive me if I sound a bit self-serving.

Probably in the next 24 hours or so High Plains Blogger is going to set a record for page views and unique visitors for a single calendar year. What makes this bit of news boast worthy is that we still have two months left in this calendar year.

2019 will turn into 2020 soon. By the time it does, this blog will have shattered to smithereens the record it posted in 2018, which beat the mark it set in 2017, which was greater than the readership it had in 2016.

That’s the good news.

The not-so-good news (I refuse to call it “bad) is that I will have set the bar extremely high for the next record to be broken by the time 2021 rolls around.

My hope is that 2020 proves to be a banner year, too, for High Plains Blogger. I enjoy writing it. I thoroughly enjoy being able to spend the time that full-time retirement allows me to spend.

I am likely to have just a tiny bit less time over the next year. I have taken on a freelance writing gig for a local newspaper group. I will continue to write for KETR-FM, the public radio station based at Texas A&M University-Commerce.

My interest in maintaining my personal blog remains high.

I had two stupendous months earlier this year, in January and again in March, that enabled me to set this record. I cannot predict what events will transpire during the remainder of this year or next year that might send blog traffic through the roof.

I’m just proud of the record I am about set. I am hoping to maintain interest in this blog.

What’s left now is merely to offer a word of thanks to those who read these words and those who find them worth sharing with their own social media network of friends and acquaintances.

As for what’s ahead, well … let me at ’em.

Happy Trails, Part 172: The road takes another surprise turn

The reporter’s notebook you see here is meant to illustrate the surprise turn my retirement journey has taken.

I happened to be in the right place at the right time this week. I now shall explain.

We took out a subscription this past week to the Princeton Herald, a weekly newspaper that covers the community where my wife, myself and Toby the Puppy live. I asked the circulation clerk for the editor’s name. She gave it to me and transferred me to her desk; the voice mail machine picked up the call and I left a message.

I inquired as to whether the newspaper needed any freelance help from a retired journalist who has moved into this community, and made a few contacts here and there.

It turns out the Princeton Herald has such a need.

So, I am now working very part time for a newspaper … again! The editor, who runs the Herald and several other publications in this part of the Metroplex with her husband, is giving me considerable latitude. I will be able to sniff out my own stories whenever I feel like it. I might get be handed an assignment to cover a city council or another governmental entity. No sweat, right?

Of course, all of this hinges on availability, given that as retired folks, my wife and I might be unavailable, as we would be on the road to hither and yon pulling our RV across the continent.

But … that’s OK with my new boss.

Meanwhile, this retirement journey goes on. Life is so very good.

Happy Trails, Part 171: Where’s my calendar?

People have told me this would happen. It did. Today.

I went to the grocery store to purchase a few items. I had a coupon I intended to redeem for one of the items I purchased.

The cashier began ringing up my groceries. Then we had a conversation that went something like this:

Me: I have a coupon I would like to redeem.

Cashier: Thank you, sir. Oh, wait a minute. This coupon is expired.

Me: What do you mean? It says it expires on the Fourth of October. Today is the Third.

Cashier: No, sir. It’s the Fifth. The coupon expired yesterday.

Me: Huh? Are you sure?

Cashier: Yes. It’s the Fifth.

There you have it. I lost track of the day. I didn’t know what day it was. Oh sure, I knew in the moment that today is Saturday. I just didn’t know the day of the month.

The young lady who rang up my groceries was nice enough to apologize. “I’m very sorry, sir,” she said. “Hey, no worries,” I told her. “I’m the dunderhead, not you.”

So it goes. My retired friends told me they lose track of the days of the week as well. I generally have laughed it off. It’ll never happen. Not to me. I’ve still got enough of my marbles to know what day of the week it is. 

Hah! As of today, I no longer am certain of it. However, my life as a retired American is still quite wonderful.

Happy Trails, Part 170: Wonderful trek comes to an end

I am happy to report that my wife, Toby the Puppy and I are safely ensconced in our Collin County home. We pulled today into Princeton, Texas, at 5 p.m.

We unloaded our pickup and our RV. We locked the vehicles up in front of the house and we’re going to relax for the evening.

Now for a couple of particulars about our multi-state, multi-province trek through the western half of North America.

For starters, we logged precisely 6,037 miles on our pickup and, by association, on our fifth wheel. We traveled through seven states on our way to the U.S.-Canada border. Then we visited four provinces on our journey from west to east in that monstrous nation to our north. On the return to the U.S. of A., we crossed through six more states, not counting Texas — from where this journey began a little more than a month ago.

This is precisely the kind of trek we envisioned taking when we retired from our respective working lives just a few years ago. I quit working full time in newspapers in August 2012, but didn’t actually begin retirement until I turned 66 in 2015. My wife quit her accounting job a few months after I left my job at the Amarillo Globe-News.

Our retirement journey has taken us already to a lot of places, to both coasts, to the Great Lakes, through much of Texas and New Mexico.

This one, though, was something quite special to my wife and me.

We visited with family in the Pacific Northwest, then we trekked off to British Columbia.

Our journey began with a frightening near-collision just outside of Wichita Falls, Texas. We caught our breath and kept on going. Our journey through the western U.S. and into Canada was largely event-free.

Until this morning! We awoke in Tulsa, Okla., our final stop before we got home, and discovered a flat tire on our fifth wheel. Oh, what to do? Fix it ourselves? Call the roadside assistance program to which we belong? Or do we look for a local person to solve the problem? We lucked out. The RV park where we spent two nights has a handyman on staff who changes RV tires. We paid the gentleman a small fee for his effort and we were on our way to the house.

We saw much of Mother Nature’s splendor throughout our journey. We witnessed the big sky of the Great Plains of the United States and Canada. We drove through marvelous farming and ranching country. We peered at the Cascade Range and the Rocky Mountains.

It’s time to take a break. We’ll catch our breath. We’ll visit with our granddaughter and her parents and get caught up with what is going on with her.

The next trip awaits. I don’t know when or where it will take us.

That’s all right. It’s the beauty of retired life. We have the whole wide world at our disposal.

Happy Trails, Part 169: ‘Half-bucket list’ journey completed

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — We’re settled overnight in a place that looks nothing like the scene pictured with this blog post.

What you see in this photo is a glimpse of Canada’s Rocky Mountain range. My wife and I saw it the other day while driving east from Banff National Park in Alberta. It rained for three days while we were parked in an RV park in Golden, British Columbia.

Still, this view presented itself as we trekked toward Medicine Hat, Alberta. So I snapped a few pictures of the mountains we would leave behind.

We completed what I have called our “half-bucket list” journey across Canada. The Trans-Canada Highway traverses the country across the southern regions of its provinces. We had intended to see the entire length of the highway, but decided to cut it short by roughly half; we plan to see the eastern half of the highway at another time.

Our retirement journey has enabled us to visit much of the United States already. We’ve hauled our fifth wheel to both coasts, to the Great Lakes, over much of Texas. We’ve seen national parks, national landmarks, scenic splendor … just name it, we’ve likely seen it.

Canada presented another trekking opportunity for us.

The Canadian Cascades are as gorgeous as I had known them to be. As for the Rockies, well, the picture I’ve provided with this blog post tell you that they, too, are breathtaking.

The rolling plains on the eastern slope opened up under a huge sky. We journeyed through range and farm land.

My wife spotted a grizzly looking down from a hillside in Alberta as we zipped past at 60 mph.

This has been a wonderful journey, one that we pledged long ago to take. So what if we didn’t do the whole thing in one sojourn? We’ll get to the rest of it in due course.

The journey will continue. For now, though, we’re content to head for the house.

Living a childhood dream

REGINA, Saskatchewan — Every kid has a fantasy. I had my share.

I wanted to play professional baseball; the problem was I wasn’t good enough, nor was I willing to work to become good enough. That was my main fantasy.

Another one was popped up in grade school when we were studying the provinces of Canada. Saskatchewan was my favorite province. Why? Well, I was maybe 8 or 9 years old and the name sounded cool.

I wanted to go there.

Well, my fantasy is being lived out. We are here, in the provincial capital city of Regina.

My first choice was to spend the night in Moose Jaw, about 50 or so miles west of here. Why Moose Jaw? Because I also loved the sound of the name of that city. What kid doesn’t want to spend some time in Moose Jaw, you know?

We decided to travel a bit farther and we ended up in Regina.

OK, this is silly stuff. I am aware of that. However, our retirement journey has taken us to many exciting places as we travel around North America with our RV in tow behind our pickup. Indeed, our married life of more than 48 years has taken us all over the world.

It’s just that these childhood fantasies don’t always come true. Most of mine did not bear fruit.

This one did.

Saskatchewan is just as I learned about it as an elementary school student. It has its rolling plains, but as we got past Moose Jaw and rolled into Regina, we noticed the land got utterly flat, kind of like the Texas Panhandle Caprock with which we became so familiar.

And, oh yes, the sky here is big, just as it is in Texas!

So, our journey continues. The road is wide open and it is waiting for my wife and me … along with Toby the Puppy.

Happy Trails, Part 168: Oh, such splendor

GOLDEN, British Columbia — This photograph proves something I’ve known more or less by instinct over many years.

You do not need sunshine to reveal Mother Nature’s splendor when it is laid out before you.

We arrived in Golden, British Columbia. We parked our fifth wheel at an RV park. We unhooked the RV from the pickup. We grabbed a bit of dinner. We returned and my wife took Toby the Puppy for a short walk.

She returned to the RV and said, “You have to see this.” So, we did.

We walked about 200 yards to a bench and we cast our eyes on the Rocky Mountain range just east of us. Alberta sits on the other side of that splendorous view. We’ll be there soon.

This is part of the grandeur my wife and I expected to find once we hit the road in our RV. We’ve seen plenty of it already in the United States of America. From coast to coast we’ve soaked in all that Mother Nature has to offer. I won’t belabor the point by listing all those magnificent sights we’ve seen; I surely will miss a few. You get the point.

Our trip across much of Canada has been equally jaw-dropping, as the sight of those majestic mountains will attest.

We’re not entirely certain what the road ahead will reveal to us. Hey, there is no need on Earth to predict such a thing.

Whatever it is, I am positive it will give us unimagined thrills.

The open road awaits.