Tag Archives: RV travel

Happy Trails, Part 182 : COVID shortens our leash

Our retirement journey has been reduced, narrowed, diminished a bit. We aren’t calling a halt to our recreational vehicle travel. We’ve just been placed on a dramatically shortened leash.

Damn you, coronavirus pandemic!

We had intended to spend a good bit of our summer months tooling around several states with our fifth wheel hooked up to our pickup.

Then the pandemic arrived in all its viciousness. It forced state parks to shut down. It has shuttered businesses that cater to folks like my wife and me.

I want to stipulate that we love the home we purchased in Collin County, Texas. We enjoy spending time working in the yard, arranging storage space to make it more usable for two retired folks.

We also enjoy greatly our RV and getting out of Dodge for a spell.

Except that this summer our travel will be restricted. Neither of us wants to push our luck visiting places that might become COVID-19 “hot spots” while we’re in the area.

Our plans now as summer approaches include a number of Texas state park visits. We’ll be spending some time shortly in Atlanta, Texas, at the state park in the northeast corner of Texas. Our new home puts us in close proximity to a number of state parks.

We had sought to get into a few of them closer to the house. We couldn’t get in; it turns out a lot of other Texans have the same idea and those parks were booked to the max.

We found some space at Atlanta State Park, so off we will go.

Retirement remains a whole lot of fun. We are hoping for an end to the health crisis that has limited our time with our precious granddaughter.

It also keeps us on a short leash. The open road awaits. It’s just not as lengthy as we prefer it to be.

Cabin fever is overpowering

I am making an admission with this blog post. It is that the coronavirus pandemic has afflicted me with a serious case of cabin fever.

The image with this post is of the fifth wheel my wife and I own, along with the pickup. The picture was snapped a year ago while we were parked for a couple of nights at San Angelo State Park.

But … here’s the deal: Texas has closed all its state parks. That means we cannot take our recreational vehicle for a trip to any of them. Nothing is open. The Parks & Wildlife Department shut ’em all down. It’s only temporary.

However, you have to understand something about my wife and me. We are ardent supporters of our state park system. We purchase a state park pass each year to waive our entrance fee into any of the parks throughout our state.

We can’t use it. TP&W has extended the park pass for two months past its expiration date, and we’re grateful for that.

In the meantime we’re stuck at home. That RV is parked about three miles away. Our truck is in our driveway. We don’t even drive the truck much, given that Gov. Greg Abbott and the city of Princeton have closed practically all outdoor activities, most businesses.

Cabin fever is the pits, man. Although it’s surely not nearly as perilous as the fever associated with COVID-19. Accordingly, I am grateful that our family has been spared the disease, although we hear from family members that they’re going stir crazy, too. We feel their pain.

The stay at home directive has shut down anything we can do with the RV. A private RV park is out of the question as well, as nothing in any community we would want to visit is open to visitors.

Do you get my drift? We are ready for the “social distancing” we’re all observing will have the desired effect and will reduce the infection rate sufficiently to allow Gov. Abbott and other officials to give us the “all clear.”

When we hear it, we’re likely to hit the road open as soon as is humanly possible.

Cabin fever is the pits.

Times — and customs — are changing as we fight disease

We made a command decision this morning in our house: We decided to postpone indefinitely our first RV trip of the season.

There you have it. We watched the news this morning and were inundated once more with the torrent of information and advice about how to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. One bit of advice hit us squarely in the face: Do your part.

So, we heard that advice and decided to do our part by staying off the road, away from gasoline service stations, away from convenience stores, away from fast-food joints. We’re staying home for the foreseeable future. How long that lasts is damn near anyone’s best guess.

We also have decided we can spend this foreseeable future doing household projects, embark on some tasks that need doing. Sort pictures and get ’em put away; we will start slapping some paint on the walls; our garage needs to be straightened out; the yard is emerging from its winter dormancy and it needs our tender loving care.

We also want to wave at our neighbors, wish them well, extend a kindness or three when it presents itself. Heck, we might just volunteer to deliver a random of act of kindness.

Thus, our lives are changing in real time. So are some of our customs.

The question of the day: Will we continue to practice good neighborliness as the coronavirus threat dissipates? I hope we do.

Thus, I truly believe as surely as I’m sitting here that I will continue to do my part.

Happy Trails, Part 175: Adaptability accentuated

The longer we live as retired folks, the more I realize just how adaptable I am.

I’ve told you already about how I discovered my adaptability gene when we moved in early 1984 from the community where I was born, was reared, where I came of age, where I got married and where my sons came into this world. We moved from Portland, Ore., to the Golden Triangle of Texas. Talk about culture shock, not to mention humidity shock!

We settled in just fine there.

Then we relocated to Amarillo a mere 11 years later. Once again, we settled in. We sank our roots deeply into the Caprock soil.

Then retirement arrived, albeit a bit unexpectedly. I learned quickly to welcome it. I discovered almost immediately that separation anxiety from work is greatly overrated.

We love telling people that “we’re retired.” We have learned that weekends no longer exist, that every day is a proverbial Saturday.

My wife and I both worked hard at our jobs for many years. We effectively retired the same year.

After living in the Panhandle for more than two decades, we relocated to the Metroplex. Adaptability anyone? We’ve got it in spades, man! We sold our house, we moved into our fifth wheel RV, lived in the “house on wheels” for a few months, then headed down the road, where we found our forever home in Collin County.

I mention all of this because the longer we live here, the longer we go about our days as retired folks, the more comfortable we both feel with this life we have embraced tightly.

At this point in our journey through life, I suspect strongly that our adaptability will start to exhibit some limitation. Neither of us, for example, is going back to work full time.

However, as we look back on our lengthy and fun-filled journey — and speaking only for myself — I am amazed at the adaptable nature I have been able to show … much to my pleasant surprise!

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.

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 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.