Tag Archives: retirement

Happy Trails, Part 162: Back to ‘hot and humid’

My wife and I are still in the midst of a wonderful journey through life. Nearly 48 years of marriage have taken us from Portland, Ore., to Beaumont, Texas, to Amarillo, Texas, and now to Princeton, Texas.

We’ve traveled a good bit, seen all but three of our United States and a good bit of the rest of the world.

Our final stop in Princeton, though, is reacquainting us with an aspect of our journey that we didn’t experience in our previous stop.

Humid heat is back in our lives.

We ventured from Portland to Beaumont in 1984, where we learned all about humidity; although I did live for a time in some sticky weather in Vietnam back in the day … but I digress. Take my word for it: You haven’t lived until you’ve gone through a Texas Gulf Coast summer with its requisite stifling heat and equally stifling humidity. I can speak only for myself, so I will: I did not ever totally embrace the humidity down yonder; I merely learned to expect it.

Then we ventured to the Texas Panhandle in early 1995. We spent 23 years there. The heat was the same as it was in the Golden Triangle. The humidity, though, was vastly different. Which is to say it’s the hackneyed “dry heat.” We broke an all-time record in Amarillo one summer when the temperature hit 111 degrees. But when the sun set at the end of that day, the temperature — as it does normally — fell to comfortable levels.

We grew quite used to that sort of high-altitude heat, given that Amarillo is perched atop the Caprock at nearly 3,700 feet above sea level.

Oh, but now it’s different.

We’ve migrated back to the “more humid zone” in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. It’s been blazing hot the past few days. Many more of those days are coming along this summer. And you can bet your sweaty armpits, the humidity has been brutal.

Has it been as rough as it is on the Gulf Coast? Hah! Nope. It is humid enough for me to gripe about it from time to time.

I’ve already boasted about my adaptability. I won’t belabor that point. I do plan to adapt to this new/old climate in Princeton. Hey, we lived in the Golden Triangle, for criminy sakes! This final stint — for the duration — ought to be a piece of cake.

Parking It, Part 1: The journey continues

I want to introduce to a new series of blog posts I intend to write on High Plains Blogger.

You know already about the series I write about the joys and occasional challenges of our “retirement journey along those “Happy Trails”; I also chronicle our life with Toby the Puppy and the “Puppy Tales” series; I like sharing the good times and the struggles of my journalism career, which truly gave me the “Time of My Life.”

I now have a new series to inaugurate. “Parking It” chronicles our journeys through the massive Texas state parks system, which my wife and I are glad to support with our tax money and with our annual purchase of Texas State Park Passes.

The state has 51 state parks. We have managed to visit 16 of them in our fifth wheel recreational vehicle. I am reluctant to declare my goal would be visit the rest of the state parks in the Texas Parks & Wildlife network. I’ll just declare our intention to get to as many as we can … and leave it at that. We just intend to stay at state parks whenever we travel in-state. Given the vast size of Texas, there remains a lot of this huge state to see.

When we do I’ll seek to offer a brief view into what we see and experience at the parks we visit.

Do I have a favorite so far among those sites we’ve visited? Not really. We have managed over the years to haul our RV to some state parks more than others mostly because of their convenient location.

San Angelo State Park is one site we’ve visited several times. We used to park our RV in Amarillo, even for a time after we moved from the Panhandle to the Metroplex. Now, though, we have moved our RV closer to us. However, when it was parked in Amarillo and we planned an in-state sojourn we found that San Angelo was a nice first-night stop en route to points in any direction from the South Plains location.

We returned today from two nights at Lake Bob Sandlin State Park, which is about a two-hour drive east of us. We had been there before, so we know the lay of the land.

Here is a cool thing to share: We have moved to a region of the state — in Collin County — that is within an easy drive to many, many parks.

TP&W does a wonderful job maintaining its park system. The staff at any of the parks is helpful. They personify the best in customer service, at least that has been our experience. I would be inclined to report something different if it occurs; so far, so good.

So, as our retirement journey continues and we continue to enjoy the Texas state parks system, I plan to take you on that journey with us. I hope you’ll enjoy the ride.

Frustration mounts, then subsides with this blogging business

I get along mostly just fine with this blogging technology I am learning how to navigate.

Until things happen such as what occurred this evening.

I was sailing along, pontificating about this and/or that. Then I posted an item about Donald Trump’s plan to stage a military parade on July 4. I don’t like the idea and said so. Except that my post didn’t see daylight.

Why? Because the Word Press platform on which I post these blogs failed to function properly. I lost my ability to “publicize” my entries.

I was so mad I could spit.

I called the hosting company I use to manage my blog “domain.” A young man walked me through the process of “restoring” my blog. I hedged, balked and said I’d call him back.

Then I turned to another expert, a young man with whom I am quite close: my son. He was busy at home and said he’d call back.

I then called the tech support outfit back, got another young man on the phone, told him my problem, he troubleshot it, then fixed it.

One little problem. All the text I had posted over the past 24 hours was wiped out. Gone. Pfftt. Vaporized.

I won’t repost this stuff that I lost. I’m just using this little episode to express my frustration and my gratitude for getting my blog back up and running.

Yes, I do love writing this blog. The technology is great … when it works properly. When it doesn’t it, um, is a pain in the posterior.

I’m marching on.

Happy Trails, Part 161: Meeting the neighbors

I am living, breathing, talking proof that rear-entry driveways have helped damage neighborly relations among folks.

How do I know this? We sold our house in Amarillo more than a year ago after living in it for more than two decades. We had it built from the ground up. It had a rear-entry garage that allowed us to drive our vehicle from an alley that ran along the rear of our homes.

We had infrequent exchanges with our neighbors. Why? We hardly ever saw them.

It’s different these days. Our retirement journey has taken us to Princeton. Our new home has a driveway that faces onto the street.

Here’s the benefit we have accrued from this new arrangement: We have gotten acquainted early with several our neighbors on our side of the street and also across the street.

My wife and I know the names of folks living in two residences across the street; we know the names of both our next-door neighbors, as well as the neighbors two and three doors to our east.

I have concluded that with front-entry driveways we have returned to a more neighborly environment than what we experienced for 22 years living in our Amarillo home.

It’s not that our neighbors in Princeton are friendlier than they were in Amarillo. Indeed, we became good friends with several of the families living on our street in Amarillo. It took some time, given the rear-entry garages that prevented a lot of regular face-to-face interaction with them.

Make no mistake that Panhandle residents pride themselves on their friendliness, their sense of community. We would hear about it regularly as we went through our day over many years.

Now, though, our daily routine as we go about our day in the home with our front-entry driveway includes a lot more frequent interaction with our neighbors along our street.

It’s nice to know the folks with whom we share this neighborhood.

Loving the blog, but not so much the back and forth

I’ve told you already how much I love writing this blog. It gives me a release for pent-up frustrations, enables me to say something good about people when they deserve it and it serves to help me maintain whatever skill I have in stringing sentences together.

Writing for this blog does produce some moments of frustration. I want to share one with you.

I have my share of critics out there in Blog Reader Land. I don’t mind that in the least. In fact some of them keep me humble, honest and I hope sharp.

Given that I distribute High Plains Blogger on a number of social media platforms, I hear from critics who challenge me with questions. If I am tough on Donald Trump, they want to know why I don’t recognize the sins of those on the other side of a given political divide.

I choose not to answer those critics. Why? Because their minds are made up. As is my mind … on most occasions and matters.

A couple of critics have challenged my reticence on social media. They don’t appreciate my silence when they take me to task. One critic once said that I don’t respond to those who disagree with me. I have actually gone back and forth with some of those who disagree with my world view. They are actual friends, not Facebook “friends,” of which I have quite a few — and a few of whom often challenge my spewage on this blog.

One fellow believes I also fail to correct misstatements on my blog; he calls them “lies,” apparently believing I make these misstatements knowing they are false. He manages occasionally to state what he believes is the truth, so I let that stand as the correction.

I choose to avoid the give and take, the back and forth and the attempts at getting the last word because I know it’s futile. I won’t change their minds. They won’t change mine.

As I have noted before, I prefer just to put this stuff out there. I let my assertions stand on their own and then let others argue among themselves over their validity.

But … I so love writing this blog.

This amendment issue is worth all Texans’ support

It’s not often that a Texas constitutional amendment election gets my juices flowing, but this year is going to present one for my wife and me.

Hey, we’re retired these days and we spend time cruising around Texas hauling our fifth wheel recreational vehicle behind our pickup. When we travel in Texas, we make it a point to spend as many nights as we can at one of the state parks.

So, the Legislature has decided to send a measure to voters this fall that dedicates a lot of money to maintain and improve our state park network.

I am all in on this one!

According to the Texas Tribune: In a big win for outdoor enthusiasts and day trippers alike, legislation that would ensure that the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission always get the maximum amount of money they are allowed to receive through a state sporting goods sales tax has passed both the House and Senate and heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature.

The 1993 Legislature approved a law that dedicated 94 percent of sales tax revenue to the state parks, with 6 percent going to the Texas Historical Commission. In the years since then, the state has been forced to use that revenue to balance the budget, depriving the parks system of money it needs for maintenance, upkeep and improvement of the system.

The constitutional amendment would ensure the state spends as much money as possible on parks, according to state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, author of the bill.

My wife and I recently moved to Collin County. We live with easy driving distance of several first-class state parks. We have enjoyed Lake Tawakoni, Lake Bob Sandlin, Eisenhower and Lake Arrowhead state parks.

We are — and this is not an overstatement — gigantic fans of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the state park system. We have enjoyed many of our state parks over the years. We purchase the annual pass that waives our entrance fees; we see it as an investment in what we believe is a first-class network of parks.

We obviously aren’t alone in making ample use of our state parks. TP&W Commission Chairman Ralph Duggins noted in an email that pressure on the parks is coming from a booming population and said that “this bill will give voters the chance to assure their future with a predictable, dedicated and sustainable funding stream.”

I am often highly critical of state government. Not on this matter, though. The Texas state park network is worth all Texans’ support.

Happy Trails, Part 159: RV’ing is fun, but not permanently

It’s time for me to make an admission.

Owning and operating a recreational vehicle has its limits on the amount of joy I get. It’s not that I dislike any aspect of traveling in a 28-foot fifth wheel, pulling it behind our beastly Dodge pickup. It’s that we actually can spend too much time in it before we get, oh, ready to park it and get back into the house we call home in Princeton, Texas.

I am prone to suffer from a bit of cabin fever.

We just returned from a four-day jaunt back to the Texas Panhandle. We attended a marvelous reunion with dear friends in Hereford. Then we came home.

Let me stipulate once again: We enjoy traveling in our RV. We enjoy taking it around the country. We’ve hauled to both the east and west coasts; to the Great Lakes region; along the Gulf Coast; all over Texas.

Each of those adventures is highlighted by a return home. We like living in a dwelling that is planted firmly on good ol’ Earth.

We did live in our RV for a time while we were preparing to sell our house in Amarillo in advance of our move to the Metroplex. We emptied in late 2017, put our belongings in storage. We brought in a paint crew to paint the entire interior of the house. We replaced the ceiling fans and repaired some other fixtures.

All the while we were living in our RV. We were parked at an RV park in Amarillo. We were able to travel to hither and yon. We would come back to the RV park. We would catch our breath and then head out again.

But it isn’t like many of our friends and acquaintances have done. I know some folks who have taken off in their RVs and spent years living in them.

I’ll be honest. That ain’t my bag. 

My wife and I have embarked on a marvelous journey into retirement. It involves our RV. We love traveling in it.

Living in it, though, is another matter.

Still, the journey will continue for as long as we are able to keep enjoying it.

Happy Trails, Part 158: Finding a new way to live

Now that I no longer have to worry about daily deadlines, or filling space on a blank newspaper page, or deciding which issues to comment on, I find myself pondering more personal matters.

One of them involves the way I live.

Oh, my wife and I have carved out a good life in retirement. We love our new home in Princeton, Texas; we laugh daily at Toby the Puppy; we enjoy spending more time with our granddaughter; we enjoy hauling our fifth wheel around the country.

The way I live, though, requires some tweaking. I got a lesson on it this morning. I visited the gym where I work out most morning and received a serious wakeup call from a personal trainer who conducted a full body scan on me and told me how I can shed the weight that has piled onto this old man’s body.

Yes, I’ve heard it all before. I have known for decades what I need to do. I need to exercise more, eat less and concentrate on maintaining that regimen for the rest of my life on Earth.

There. He told me — yet again! — what I know already.

This time it was a bit different. I saw the outline of my body as drawn by the scan. I saw the “tale of the tape,” so to speak. My gut is too big. My body fat ratio is out of whack. I saw the minimum calorie count I need to consume daily and, oh yes, I saw the maximum count I should not exceed.

So, with that I have decided to try a new way of living.

I have been blessed with relatively good health over many years. I don’t take a bucket load of pills each day. As I told the trainer this morning, however, I have discovered that it is “much easier to fall into bad habits than it is to acquire good ones.”

It’s not an old-age thing. It’s been part of my existence since, well, the beginning.

I’m going to turn the page beginning today. Time is no one’s friend, especially those of us who have much less of it ahead of us than behind us.

It’s time, therefore, to make the most of what’s left.

Happy Trails, Part 157: oh, the joy of anonymity

It takes me a while at times to recognize blessings when they present themselves, but I surely have found one related to our move from the Texas Panhandle to a small — but rapidly growing — community northeast of Dallas.

Forgive me if I sound a bit high-falutin’. It is not my intention, but please bear with me.

The blessing is in the anonymity I am enjoying in Princeton.

I spent many years in two Texas cities — Beaumont and then Amarillo — working in jobs that elevated my visibility. I wrote for newspapers that were essential to the communities they served. My face was in each publication fairly regularly; my name appeared on the pages’ editorial page mastheads daily. Those who read the papers — and they numbered in the tens of thousands in each region — got to know my name; many of them recognized my mug.

Even after I left daily journalism in August 2012 in Amarillo, I would hear from those who would ask, “Hey, aren’t you the guy from the newspaper?” Yes, I would say, although I might say that “the guy in the paper is my evil twin.”

Indeed, when my wife and I were preparing to sell our house in Amarillo, we moved into our fifth wheel, found an RV park on the east side of town. We checked in and the lady who worked the counter that day recognized my name and chortled, “Oh my! You’re famous!” It turned out she is related to a former neighbor of ours . . . but, I digress.

I no longer have those encounters in Princeton. I blend in. My wife and I are just two new folks strolling around our neighborhood with Toby the Puppy.

We go to the grocery store, we make our purchase, we leave. We’re just two folks doing whatever it is we want to do.

And so . . . I welcome this newfound status of being just another face in the crowd. Don’t misunderstand, I occasionally would get a rush over being recognized, especially when someone had a good word to say about the work I did at those earlier stops on our life’s journey. To be sure, not everyone I met in that fashion was complimentary, but that goes with the territory, too.

That was then. Those days are long gone. My life these days is so much better.

We aren’t alone in moving to the Metroplex!

This just in: My wife and I were part of a trend of those moving to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in 2018!

Who knew?

According to the Texas Tribune, the U.S. Census Bureau said more than 131,000 people moved to the D/FW area in 2017-18. The Metroplex remains the fastest-growing region in Texas, which is among the fastest-growing states in the nation.

In May 2018, my wife and I picked up our belongings and moved them to Fairview, a community tucked between Allen and McKinney in Collin County. Not satisfied with our living arrangement there, we then looked for a home to buy. We found one in Princeton, which also is in Collin County.

We have since learned a couple of things about Princeton. It is the fastest-growing community in Collin County and our investment here is going to accelerate rapidly over the next decade or so.

I have made no secret about why we moved from the Texas Panhandle to the Metroplex.

Is it at all possible that those other recent transplants to D/FW also have grandchildren they want to watch grow into adulthood?