Tag Archives: RV

Happy Trails, Part 20

SAYRE, Okla. — We have discovered a feature of RV travel that we didn’t expect to find.

It’s called “Public RV” camping.

We discovered it in this community that sits precisely midway between Amarillo and Oklahoma City. We camped at a city-run park that just happens to have about 60 RV campsites. Some of them are pull-through sites, which is our strongly preferred type; they have water and electricity; we get decent antenna TV reception.

And we paid all of $12 for our overnight stay. Twelve whole American dollars! 

We have discovered this form of RV camping while scouring through our huge directory of campsites across the country.

My wife and I have made pact that we’re going to look for this kind of campsite as we continue our trek across North America.

We aren’t too big into those fancy-schmancy RV “resorts.” People are packed too tightly into some of them we’ve seen. We prefer a more “rustic” setting to park our fifth wheel.

We do use our Texas state park pass that gets into our state’s parks for free; sure, we pay for nightly use, but the pass waives our entry fee.

Sayre’s park is actually quite nice. It’s clean, well-manicured, well-lit, pet-friendly.

It’s also inexpensive. We fixed-income travelers appreciate that aspect of “public RV” camping most of all.

Happy Trails, Part Nine

More than two weeks into this full-time retirement life and I’ve made a bit of a discovery.

I am suffering not one bit, not a single hint of separation anxiety from my previous life.

That’s right. I do not miss waking up early each day, getting myself cleaned up and throwing on clothes suitable for the workplace. Nope. None of that has overtaken me.

I retired officially from the final part-time job I was working in late March. I clocked out, shook a couple of colleagues’ hands, hugged my boss’s neck and said goodbye.

Then my wife and I hit the road the next morning for the Hill Country and then motored west with our pickup and fifth wheel to Ruidoso, N.M. We have two more road trips already planned out and are beginning to formulate a travel plan for one or two after that.

I had anticipated some angst after leaving the working world. I hit it pretty damn hard for nearly 37 years in a pressure-packed environment. I lived by deadline working for four daily newspapers: two of them in Oregon, my home state and two others in Texas, where my family and I moved in 1984.

But it hasn’t occurred. Not a single time have I missed the grind. Not once have I wished, “Man, if only I could be back on the job reporting or commenting on this or that issue.”

It hasn’t happened. I don’t expect it will.

I told a member of my family this week about that lack of separation anxiety. My family member has been retired for a number of years and she has adapted quite smoothly to a life of relative leisure. I am not sure she quite gets why my own transition into this new life has gone so smoothly. Her expression seemed to suggest: Well, what in the world did you expect?

I believe I’ve just answered that question. I expected to miss my former life more than I do. I am glad, though, that I do not.

Three of the four part-time jobs I worked since leaving daily journalism were media-related gigs. I don’t expect any of them to return, although one of those jobs might — I want to stress might — return in some form. If it does, it will have to be right. It will have to be something that will make it worth my time and effort.

In a perverse way, my time actually has gained even greater value as my wife and I continue this journey toward points unknown.

Happy Trails, Part Eight

I am happy to report that our first full-retirement excursion was an unqualified success.

We returned home after spending about 10 days on the road in our fifth wheel RV.

We spent the first part of it in the Hill Country of Texas visiting family members: my wife’s brother, two nieces, our “nephew in law,” and two great-nieces.

Then we headed west, toward Ruidoso, N.M.

But first we had some wind with which to contend. We pulled up in the Davis Mountains region, then trekked northwest toward El Paso and straight into some gale-force winds that kicked up a whole lot of dirt.

Our fuel mileage plummeted as we powered through El Paso and then headed north toward Ruidoso.

But we got there and spent a couple of nights at a campsite next to my sister and brother in law, who had driven in from their own vacation spot in Mesa, Ariz.

We had a serious blast with them. They departed and we stayed on to trudge along some mountain trails, which we did each day until our departure this morning.

Here’s the best news: Neither of us was particularly anxious for our journey to end. And this feeling, I venture to speculate, will accelerate as we move more deeply into this retirement life.

We came home, plan to do some laundry and then we’ll refocus on our next journey to, oh, hither and yon.

Open road awaits

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

I happen to be a good place right now. At this moment.

One week from today, my wife and I will become fully retired.

What lies ahead? Well, we don’t know — precisely. We have lined out a general blueprint that involves travel in our pickup nicknamed Big Jake, our fifth wheel recreational vehicle, spending more time with our precious granddaughter and eventually — let me emphasize, eventually — moving from the High Plains of Texas to the Metroplex region.

I am having a wonderful time telling colleagues at the auto dealership where I work part-time about our upcoming plans. Invariably, they ask: What are you going to do? Where are you going?

My answer: I don’t know. That’s the answer to both ends of that question. We do not know.

It’s the adventure of it all that excites us at this moment.

I’ve been telling friends all over Amarillo that my wife and I believe we have one big challenge left to meet. This appears to be it.

We have decided to pick up and move everything we own down the road a good bit. Do we have a detailed, finalized plan lined out? Not yet. It’s coming.

Our plan at this moment is to simply “go on down the road.” We don’t yet know the location of our final destination. Our immediate plan is merely to travel, to see the sights and hear the sounds of this wonderful continent of ours.

We’ve set foot in 47 of the 50 states; we will make it a clean sweep — possibly very soon. We have visited four Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. We’ll get to the rest of them, too … at least we hope.

The open road awaits us.

We will embark on it with joy in our hearts.

Retirement won’t mean disengagement

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

As I listen daily — and nightly — to news about the state of our national government under Donald J. Trump, I might be tempted to shuck it all when my bride and I hit the road during our retirement years.

Full-time retirement, I caution you, won’t mean full-time disengagement from the world that continues to swirl around us.

The former — full-time retirement — is approaching at a quickening pace. The latter, well, won’t change once we cross that threshold.

The only difference might lie in that as we travel a good bit more in our RV, we’ll be visiting portions of North America that don’t share the groupthink that is so prevalent in the Texas Panhandle. As such, my intention will be to talk to those we meet as pass through their communities. I hope to glean from them their view of the world.

We’ve had the joy of traveling some already in our RV, which we’ve owned for a couple of years. This past autumn, we took our longest trip — distance-wise — to southwestern South Dakota. It gave us a hint of the adventure that awaits us as we tool our way across two massive nations: the United States and Canada.

Along the way, I intend to be connected fully to the world.

Tempting as it might be — such as it is at this moment as the “news” is broadcast in the background of my home office — I won’t toss it all aside. I suppose you could say I am not wired simply to toss it all aside while we simply travel, kick off our shoes and not have a care in the world.

Modern technology has advanced to where we expect to be connected every mile of our journey. I intend fully to use that technology to keep this blog blazing away with praise where it’s warranted and, oh, criticism where that, too, is deserved.

I hope you’ll join us on our ride throughout North America.

Transition quickens toward next step on our journey

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

The pace toward full-time retirement is quickening.

I’m getting more ready for it to arrive.

For the time being I’m now down to just one part-time job. A second part-time gig has been put on hold; I have been told it might be reactivated, perhaps soon. I am keeping my options open.

At the risk of getting the bum’s rush out of Dodge, I need to explain why the pace is speeding up a bit.

We’re packing up our house. More to the point, my wife is doing the packing. She’s really good at this stuff. I’m a bit of a stick-in-the-mud. We’ve made no secret of our desire to relocate. That day is coming along. Our family is aware of our plans and some of our closest friends have been given a detail or two of what we intend.

But listen up … please. That moment is not yet on the horizon. We aren’t moving in the next 45 minutes. We’re just preparing to take one final huge step in our life’s journey together.

We’re in our 60s. We have good health. We have lots of things we want to do. We have many places we want to see. We have the time, the inclination and the energy to haul our fifth wheel around the continent — and that is precisely what we intend to do.

Our journey together has taken us to 47 of the 50 states and a handful of Canadian provinces. We’ve been able to travel abroad to Asia, Central and South America, Europe and the Middle East (which, yes, is part of Asia). There’s always been a time limit, however. Work awaited back home.

We’re looking forward now to taking more time on the road and exploring some of the grandeur that surrounds us in North America. We have some family responsibilities to clear up.

The road ahead, though, is starting to clear out.

We hope to be ready soon to see what lies ahead.

Hey … what day is it?

retirement.pic_

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

I once knew this guy, the late Neil McKay, who was fond of poking fun at people.

“Aww,” Neil would say, “he doesn’t even know what day it is.” He meant the jab in a sort of kind-hearted way.

If he were around today, he could say that very thing about me.

It would be true … almost!

Back in the day, when I was working full time for a living, I had to know what day it is. It was imperative. I lived on deadlines and getting my work done by a certain time and a certain day — or else. Journalism makes those demands on those who practice the craft.

Now? I’m hard-pressed on occasion to keep ’em straight.

I’m aware that today is Friday. In fact, I rolled out of bed this morning knowing it. But the days do arrive when I cannot quite grasp the day of the week.

I end up looking at my watch — yes, I still wear one of those things on my wrist — to make sure I know the day.

The notion of retirement is freeing me of the time-sensitive obligations that tie down most of you working stiffs. Even though I’m there yet and have not arrived at the “fully retired” stage of life, I find myself grasping at times for information that I had locked in my noggin.

The day of the week? Gosh, I don’t know. Let me check.

My major concern these days — other than planning the next RV outing with my wife or awaiting the next visit with our granddaughter — seems to be ensuring that I am able to see the sun rise the next morning.

Four years and two months into this new, semi-retired phase of life, I’m happy to say … so far, so good.

Facing down an RV demon

canyon

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.

bison

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.

Another travel milestone crossed

Retirement

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

GALLUP, N.M. — I wasn’t waiting consciously for this revelation.

However, I knew I would recognize it when I felt it.

It occurred during our latest trip pulling our fifth wheel through three states.

The revelation showed itself when I realized I wasn’t thinking instinctively about returning home. Yes, I thought about when we would get back to our home on the Texas Tundra, but it was a conscious thought, one that I had to decide to think about.

We visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Sitting Bull Falls … all in far West Texas and southeastern New Mexico. Then we tooled over to Casa Grande, Ariz., between Tucson and Phoenix, to visit my uncle and aunt.

We have laughed all along the way, ogling the sights and enjoying Mother Nature’s splendor. We have enjoyed catching up a bit with family members.

Through it all, I haven’t harbored a single instinctive thought about going home. When we first started taking our RV onto the highway, I would think about the end of a particular journey. I couldn’t help myself. It never detracted from my enjoying the many moments we’ve shared so far. However, those thoughts did cross my mind.

Now we find ourselves getting caught up routinely in the real-time joy we experience on the road.

I mention this to signify that our comfort with our 28-foot fifth wheel has taken us to a new level of enjoyment in the travel we plan to do once we declare ourselves to be fully retired.

We’re not there just yet.

However, we’ll know when that moment arrives, too.

 

Angels were watching over us

SOMEWHERE ON INTERSTATE 40, N.M. — My wife believes in angels.

After what happened to us today en route home from four nights in Santa Rosa, N.M., I think I’m going to join her in that belief.

We set out this morning from the RV park where we had camped out and headed east in Interstate 40. We got about 25 miles down the road when a couple came along side and began pointing frantically toward the rear of our RV. They were yelling something that sounded like “rear berries.”

We pulled over. So did they. We got out and looked at the rear of our fifth wheel. One of the left rear wheels was smoking. The “rear berries” turned out to be burned rear bearings. The couple offered us a kind word of support.

We didn’t get their names, so I’ll refer to them as Mr. and Mrs. Angel.

Mr. Angel told us he’s a retired California Highway Patrol trooper who in his retirement years hauls vehicles here and there. He and Mrs. Angel were towing a trailer carrying a pickup headed for Texas. “I’ve seen a lot of these things over the years, ” Mr. Angel said. “It’s a good thing you didn’t go any farther and had the wheel fly off,” he added. Gee, do ya think?

“Are you folks all right?” they asked. Yes. We’ll be fine.

It was around 9:15 a.m.

We called the RV club to which we belong, as it has a roadside assistance program we purchased.

As luck would have it, we happened to be on a spot on the freeway with excellent cell phone service. We got an operator on the line, told her of our dilemma and waited for her to look up someone who could help us.

She found someone — in Santa Rosa!

“He’ll be there in 30 to 35 minutes,” she said.

Nearly an hour later, he arrived. His name is Joey Muniz, owner of Big Rig Truck Service. “I’ve been doing this for 36 years,” Muniz told us, “and two times I’ve been involved with semi trucks rear-ending me on the highway.”

That was about the first piece of information he gave us. I’m not sure why he said that — whether to warn us to be alert or to assure us that it’s only happened twice in 36 years. Neither motive gave me much comfort, truth be told.

He tore the wheel apart. Good news. There was no damage to the hug or to the axle. Joey — the third guardian angel — echoed what Mr. Angel had said: “If you went much farther, the wheel would have flown off and you have been in a world of hurt.”

He told he’d have to take part of the wheel assembly back to his shop, find new bearings and pack them in grease. “I’ll be back in two hours, maybe less,” Muniz said.

Seventy-five minutes later, he pulled up. He had the bearings. He packed them in grease. He put the assembly back on the fifth wheel. But he had to improvise just a bit. The hub cover had flown off when the bearings burned up, so he had half of a Dr Pepper soda can that fit perfectly over the hub. He clamped it tightly so it would keep the dirt from getting inside.

“This’ll get you home, I promise,” he said, to which I responded, “If it doesn’t, I’m calling you.” He then said, “I’ll come fix it … again.”

After more than four hours stranded on that stretch of I-40, we finally were on our way home.

Just one final thought: Have you ever wondered, “Where are the police when you need them?” We sat there for hours and didn’t see a single New Mexico State Police trooper drive by. Hey, just wondering … you know?

OK, Joey didn’t work his magic on our RV for free, but I still consider him a guardian angel. As for Mr. and Mrs. Angel — wherever they are — many thanks for being there at just the right time.

You’ve made a believer out of me.