Tag Archives: retirement

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.

A preview of Canadians’ opinion of U.S.?

MONITOR, Wash. — We’re ensconced in our fifth wheel in the driveway of my cousin and his wife.

We are preparing very soon to venture into Canada, where — as I reported previously on this blog — I intend to ask our Canadian hosts what they think of Donald J. Trump and the country he was elected to govern.

My cousin might have given me a preview of what I can expect to hear.

He told me of a Canadian colleague/friend of his who he asked about Trump. He said his friend laughed. He laughed out loud. He laughed hard.

Tom, my cousin, told me his friend said he doesn’t quite know what to make of Trump, other than he is providing his neighbors in Canada with plenty of laughs.

Tom told me, “So we’ve become a laughingstock” to our Canadian neighbors and allies.

Yep. More’n likely.

So, with that we’ll venture forth. I’ll have my notebook and pen at the ready. I’ll pose the questions with all the non-bias I can muster. I’ll hope for the best.

I hope those Canadians don’t laugh in my face. If they do, I’ll just have to tell ’em that many millions of us Americans ain’t laughing.

Happy Trails, Part 167: Now … to Plan B

EUGENE, Ore. — It helps to have a bit of good luck on your side.

Such was the case when we pulled into an RV park where we had made a reservation. I won’t tell you the name of the joint. I will say that it was in a sh**ty neighborhood. And …  I will tell you that the spot we had reserved was what the attendant at the office called a “curbside site.”

We pulled in. We grabbed the paperwork off the office door; the place was closed for the Labor Day holiday. We found our site. We tried to pull in. We couldn’t get close enough to the curb, because there was an RV-truck assembly in front of us. The lane marked at the rear of our RV made it extremely tight for us to unhitch the truck and remove it from our fifth wheel.

Then we made a command decision. We ain’t staying. We had the “luxury” of walking away because we didn’t put a deposit down.

We looked through our RV directory and found another site. We called. They were open! The lady at the desk said “Sure, we have a spot for you.” We made the arrangements and drove in.

So, what’s the moral of this brief tale?

I guess I need to check the “rating” of every place we select before calling ahead; we also need to be sure we can find a backup in case the first site is as unsuitable as this one turned out to be.

Hey, no harm, no foul.

Our good luck is holding firm.

Happy Trails, Part 166: Avoiding a catasrophe

I thought originally I would keep these next few thoughts to myself. Then I changed my mind, which I am entitled to do.

They involve a near-catastrophe on U.S. 287 just west of Wichita Falls, Texas.

We were tooling along the highway per our normal speed of around 60 mph; we never take our pickup/fifth wheel assembly to the posted speed limit of 75 mph. We also are quite aware of the distance we should keep between our truck and the traffic ahead of us.

So … we’re on our way to Amarillo, having been told earlier in the morning that wildfires had closed Copper Creek State Park, where we intended to spend the night before tooling into the Big A.

Traffic was moving along nicely. We approached a rise in the highway. Then, in an instant — and a frightening instant at that! — we saw a car that had just crashed; it was facing the wrong way on the highway.

What does one do when he spots something like that, with traffic in the other lane? I’ll tell you what I did. I slammed on the brakes! Hard! I stood on ’em!

The truck by itself would have stopped quickly. Not this time! We were hauling our fifth wheel, which weighs, oh, several thousand pounds. The truck would not stop!

I kept maximum pressure on the brakes … until we brought it to a full stop — about five to six feet from the driver’s side door of the car that had just crashed on the highway.

My wife and I sat there for seemingly forever. I had to catch my breath, as did my poor wife. The young man in the car in front of us appeared dazed from the impact he had endured. His vehicle’s air bags had deployed and I reckon he was jarred by the device designed to save his life.

I rolled down the window and asked him if he was all right. He said he was “just waking up.” He looked for all the world as if he didn’t know where he was at that moment.

At this moment, I cannot recall how much distance we had to bring the truck/fifth wheel assembly to a complete stop. Nor can I tell you precisely how I managed to get our rig around this fellow without tipping the fifth wheel; the highway sloped sharply to our right. Other motorists were stopping to aid the young man. We had our hands full and our minds focused intently on one thing only: bringing our truck to a stop.

I do hope he’s all right.

I am happy to report two things coming from this near-miss. One is that the fifth wheel trailer brakes worked perfectly; the other is that the entire assembly stayed in proper alignment as we sought desperately to avoid crashing into this young motorist’s vehicle.

I do not need to be petrified any more than I was in those perilous few seconds once we spotted trouble.

We now shall sally forth. With caution.

Happy Trails, Part 165: RV becomes interchangeable

Our fellow retirees perhaps have fielded the same question that we get on occasion: How do you like traveling in a recreational vehicle?

My wife has come up with the perfect answer: It becomes whatever we want it to be. She then will explain how our fifth wheel becomes our “home” by the lake, or in the mountains, or on the beach. It’s interchangeable. It becomes wherever our travels take us.

When we lived in Amarillo, we had many friends who would talk of spending weekends at their “mountain cabin.” They drive off to Angel Fire, or Red River, or Taos, or Santa Fe. During our years in Beaumont, our friends would love to escape for a weekend at Crystal Beach, or Bolivar Peninsula.

Now that we are foot loose and able to do what we want, when we want we are able to enjoy the unique ambience that all those places bring.

It’s easy to do. We just hook up our fifth wheel to the hitch in the pickup we named Big Jake, grab a few groceries and a few changes of clothes … and then we hit the road.

RV travel has its assorted challenges, to be sure. You can guess what they present: mechanical issues, inclement weather, traffic delays … all those sorts of things. We deal with them as they present themselves.

It also brings much joy and relaxation.

Among the matters that bring smiles to our faces is the knowledge that we can enjoy the vast variety of nature’s splendor that awaits us as we travel along the open road.

Parking It, Part 2: Make way for the flames

AMARILLO, Texas — We had every intention this morning of parking our fifth wheel RV at Copper Breaks State Park just south of Quanah, in Hardeman County.

Then something got in the way.

Fire, man! Flames! Lots of ’em.

We knew about the fire that had broken out. We called the state park office to inquire about any fire danger. That was four days ago. The ranger said the park was open “at this moment.” There was no imminent fire danger, she said, “right now. But you would do well to call us as you get closer to your departure date.”

Deal. Then I forgot to call ahead before we set out from Collin County.

About an hour or so on the road, the phone rang in the truck. Texas Parks & Wildlife headquarters in Austin was on the other end of the call. “I’m so sorry to tell you but Copper Breaks is not accepting any arrivals today” because of the fire danger. She asked if we had any alternate preferences. I mentioned Lake Arrowhead State Park near Jolly. “Hold on, I’ll get back to you,” she said.

Lake Arrowhead had limited availability; only water sites were left. We decided to come all the way to Amarillo.

The point of this blog, though, is to say a good word about TP&W’s alertness, that the agency was able to get in touch with us and inform us of the danger in plenty of time.

You might know already that I am a giant fan of the Texas state park system. We do all we can to support it financially. We enjoy the amenities. The parks are well-groomed. They are customer friendly.

TP&W also is willing to keep a sharp eye out for those of us who forget to do their due diligence before hitting the road.

Happy Trails, Part 164: The open road awaits

Is there such a thing as “half a bucket list”?

I’ll ponder that one for a time. Whatever the case, we’re now in preparation mode for a lengthy trip aboard our pickup, which will be hauling our recreational vehicle behind it.

We had billed this as a “bucket list” trip, you know, one of those things you want to do before you, um … well, you know. We had planned originally to take our RV from home all the way to far western Canada and then we would follow the trans-Canada highway to the Maritime Provinces.

Then we got cold feet … sorta. We decided we didn’t want to stay away from our new home all that time. What’s more, we would miss our granddaughter too much. She’ll be in school by the time we hit the road, so she’ll be busy meeting new friends while getting reacquainted with existing friends. (I refuse to call them “old” friends, because 6 year olds do not have “old” friends.)

So, here’s the plan we’ve mapped out. We head northwest to the Pacific Northwest. We’ll see family members along the way. We’ll stop in Portland for a few nights. We’ll attend a party for my brother-in-law, who celebrates one of those “landmark” birthdays.

The first few days of our sojourn will be fairly tight. We have to be there in time for the party. After that? Well, then we turn into serious vagabonds.

We will have no deadlines. No plans to be anywhere at a certain. The open road awaits and we’ll see how far we want to travel before we park it for the night.

Once we leave Portland, we’ll end up in Vancouver, British Columbia. Then we head into the Cascade Range and then the Rocky Mountains. We’ll come down from the peaks and head onto the prairie. We’ll drive to Winnipeg, Manitoba before we turn south and return to the U.S. of A.

My intention along the way is to visit with Canadians to seek their perspective on matters that are convulsing on our side of the border. You know about what — and whom — to which I refer. Yes?

One day, perhaps in a year or so, we’ll see the eastern half of Canada, thus finishing off that particular item on our bucket list.

This journey we’re planning explains precisely why we chose to live like this in our retirement years.

As I told a neighbor just the other day: We’ll return when we decide we’ve driven enough.

I surely intend to keep you apprised of our journey as we trek along.

Heading north in search of ‘international’ view of POTUS

Very soon, we’re going to pack up our RV and head north. We’ll cross into Canada near Vancouver, British Columbia, and begin a trek across that equally vast country.

Along the way I intend to ask lots of questions of our continental neighbors. I want to find out what they think of Donald John Trump and whether his vow to “put America first” and to “make America great again” is playing well with rank-and-file Canadians.

Our initial plan was to travel the length of Canada west to east. Then we thought differently. We have decided to do the western half first; we’ll visit the eastern half at a later date.

There’s been a lot of chatter in the U.S. media about U.S.-Canada relations. Some of it has suggested that the nations, two of the world’s closest allies, have grown apart in the Age of Trump. The president has disparaged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on occasion; Trudeau has returned a volley or two himself, although I must say the young PM’s retorts have been much more dignified and restrained.

Trump has slapped tariffs on Canadian goods shipped into this country. He has sought to craft a new trade deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he has called a “total disaster … probably the worst deal” in human history.

Does the “put America first” mantra go down well with our neighbors, with whom we share the largest unprotected border on Earth? Just how do Canadians feel about the way Trump has talked to and about Trudeau? The Canadians also are a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which aims to protect Europe against aggressors. What is their take on Trump’s belief that NATO nations need to spend more on their own defense or else possibly losing American participation altogether?

My much better half and I will get the chance to visit our neighbors up close for several weeks as we travel through the western provinces. We’ll likely get as far as Winnipeg, Manitoba, before turning south and headin’ for the house.

I look forward to sharing what we learn along the way.

Happy Trails, Part 163: Not missing work … in the least

This ain’t exactly a flash, but I’ll offer this note nonetheless.

Retirement has proven to be everything it is cracked up to be — and then some!

I say this as someone who for 37 or so years relished my craft as few others have done. It’s not that I was a brilliant print journalist; I didn’t win a lot of prizes or receive tons of professional acclaim. I did enjoy modest success and I am proud of whatever contributions I was able to make in pursuit of the career I chose.

To that end, I half-expected to suffer some form of separation anxiety from work when my career ended in late August 2012. It wasn’t an entirely unexpected end, but it came a bit earlier than my wife and I had anticipated.

Still, when it happened I went on down the proverbial road and have looked back with decreasing frequency as time has marched on.

Why tell you the obvious? Why say it here?

It’s just that I keep hearing news reports about the state of print media and how vastly different a form it is taking than what I encountered when I walked into my first newsroom in the early 1970s.

A friend told me recently that the last newspaper on my journey through print journalism is suffering plummeting circulation numbers. The Amarillo Globe-News is printing about 20 percent of the total daily copies it was printing when I joined the staff in early 1995. For dinosaurs such as me, that is, um, hard to swallow.

However, I no longer have to worry about my professional future. I am done working for a living. I am free of the hassles, the deadlines, the whims and preferences of my bosses (except, of course, for my wife). I still write, but I write for myself. I can say whatever I feel like saying, within reason, quite obviously.

I don’t know when this event might occur, but if the opportunity ever presents itself, I might decide — if our paths ever cross — to thank the fellow who reorganized me out of a job in 2012. He spared me the misery he and his corporate partners inflicted on so many of the colleagues I left behind.

I know it’s a form of damnation with faint praise. However, it is sincere. Retirement has made me a happier man.

Heading to the Sod Poodles souvernir shop

I have just made a command decision, which is easy to do, given that I am the only one who follows my own orders.

My wife and I are heading to Amarillo in a few weeks. We’ll spend a couple of nights there before shoving off on one of those bucket-list sojourns in our fifth wheel.

Before we go, though, I intend to visit the Amarillo Sod Poodles souvenir shop, which I’ll presume is somewhere downtown.

I want a Sod Poodles ballcap. I might even purchase a t-shirt.

Is this a big deal? Well, yeah … kinda.

I want to support the city’s AA minor league baseball team. I cannot get to any games, given that I live now in Collin County, which is about a seven-hour drive southeast of the Texas Panhandle.

However, I intend to visit the Soddies’ shop. I want to wear the team’s colors when I venture about my daily errands once we return home.

Oh, and I intend to wear the cap while we’re motoring across western Canada. Maybe our north-of-the-border neighbors will ask about that goofy-looking critter that adorns the cap.

I’ll try my best to provide an answer.