Tag Archives: RV

Happy Trails, Part 95

The three of us — my wife, Toby the Puppy and yours truly — are enjoying one of the peculiarly fascinating aspects of retirement as my wife and I have defined it.

We have moved to the the third RV park in Amarillo since we vacated our former home in October 2017.

Our two-week sojourn downstate was yet another glorious trek through Texas, where we saw family and friends — and, oh yes, resolved a mechanical difficulty at the front end of that trip.

Then we returned to Amarillo. We moved from one end of the sprawling to the extreme other end. From east to west.

We intend to stay at our current location for a month, maybe two. After that? Well, I’m not entirely sure.

We also located a place in North Texas where we would like to resettle. I’ll have more on that at the appropriate time.

For now, I am delighted to share with you that this mobility mode — hauling our current home to a new site — is all that it’s cracked up to be. One of the joys of this retirement journey so far has been to tell those who ask that our “home” is attached to the hitch in the bed of our pickup.

That keeps us mobile, nimble, ready for whatever else awaits.

Happy Trails, Part 94: Home is where you park it

It’s not often at all that I adopt a bumper sticker slogan as a mantra for living.

But I have done that very thing. We now live according a slogan we saw on an RV: Home is where you park it.

We just returned from a two-week sojourn — all in Texas — through the South Plains, the Hill Country, the Piney Woods, the Golden Triangle and the Metroplex.

Along the way, I adopted a new manner of referring to “home.” You see, now that my wife and I are no longer tethered to property attached to the ground, we now refer to our fifth wheel as home.

So, instead of saying I’m “going home,” I find myself referring to some geographical location. Home is attached to the back of our pickup, or it’s anchored to an RV campsite temporarily — until we head for the next place.

Our return to Amarillo reminded us of one of the “charms” of living on the High Plains of Texas.

It’s the wind, man!

Holy moly, it was howling when we departed in early April. It was howling today when we pulled into our RV park/temporary residence. We had read about the wildfires that scorched lots of ranch land; this afternoon, we saw evidence of them along U.S. 287 just west of Clarendon, where we understand the fire caused closure of the highway for several hours while heroic firefighters battled the blaze.

This arrangement — an RV serving as our “home” — won’t last forever. I don’t want to give away too much, but we might have located a precise location to resettle once we depart Amarillo on a (more or less) permanent basis. I’ll have more on that later.

In the meantime, our life now is a reflection of a slogan made popular by other RVers.

It’s cool.

Happy Trails, Part 93

MELISSA, Texas — This likely won’t come as a huge flash to most of you, but I’ll offer it anyway.

My wife and I are spending a couple of nights at an RV park just down the highway from our granddaughter and her parents. We’ve been on the road for a couple of weeks.

I am torn by the notion that I cannot take my mind off of what is happening in Amarillo, where we are current headquartered.

The wind has kicked up on the High Plains yet again. It has ignited fires all across that sprawling landscape. I heard on the news this morning that Fritch, Texas, about 50 miles north of Amarillo, was evacuated because of the deadly threat posed by wildfire.

It occurs to me that it is going to take a great deal of time for me to put Amarillo in the distant past. We intend to move soon to North Texas. We have inched a bit closer to making a decision where we might move and on what terms we will relocate.

However, my mind is occupied as well by what is happening in the community we called home for 23 years.

It’s not a surprise.

Our life together took a dramatic turn in the spring of 1984 when we relocated from Portland, Ore., my hometown, to the Texas Gulf Coast. We picked up, packed up and moved our young sons to another culture. We didn’t leave Portland behind, either. Then we departed Beaumont for the Texas Panhandle in January 1995. Beaumont has stayed in our hearts and minds ever since … along with Portland.

Now we’re set to move on from Amarillo. We’ll settle in another community. Yet the misery that frightens our neighbors in Amarillo gnaws at us from afar.

We’ll be returning to Amarillo in the next couple of days. We’ll hang loose there for a time before shoving off yet again. I cannot project precisely where we’ll end up. I can, though, predict that Amarillo be on my mind — more than likely for as long as I draw breath.

A lot of good things are happening there these days. Downtown revival is under way. The state is rebuilding huge chunks of Interstates 40 and 27 in Amarillo as well as the southern loop. The city is repairing and renovating streets.

And, oh yes, those damn fires keep threatening people and property. These are our friends and neighbors.

I cannot possibly forget about the danger they face.

Another ‘first’ occurs on this journey

MELISSA, Texas — Life is full of firsts, isn’t that correct. First born. First kiss. First traffic ticket.

How about this? First recreational vehicle setup in the middle of a ferocious North Texas thunder and hailstorm.

Yep, my wife and I cleared that “first” with mixed results.

Our day started out calmly and peacefully as we pulled out of our RV campsite just north of Beaumont, where we had visited with some of our many good friends. We hooked our RV up to our truck, shoved off and headed north to this community just north of Dallas.

We arrived under a darkening sky. We need to navigate our way through some road construction, pulled into the RV park where we had reservations.

Then it happened. The sky opened up. And it poured torrents of rain. The thunder roared. The lightning flashed.

Before we got out of our truck after we pulled into our reserved space, the hail began pelting — no, pummeling — our vehicles. The hailstones were size of agate marbles, man! They beat the daylights out of us.

I sought to unhook the truck from the fifth wheel, plug in the water line and hook up the electricity.

We fled inside the RV. We decided to wait it out. The hail didn’t stop. The noise was deafening. We had to shout at each other to be heard over the roar. Toby the Puppy was frightened. Heck, I was scared. So was my wife. We wanted it to end, I’m tellin’ ya.

The hail then began to subside. Aha! I’ll take another pass outside at finishing the setup.

That was a mistake! I stepped outside. The hail returned in full pummel mode. It beat on my noggin. I lowered my head to keep my face from getting pounded by the hail … and then I walked smack into the tempered-steel fifth wheel hitch on the front of our RV.

I cut my face in two places: on the bridge of my nose and on my forehead. Yes, it bled! My wife was horrified. She pulled me inside the RV, applied an ice pack wrapped in a dish cloth.

The end of this tale? Well, the hail stopped. We finished setting up. The blood stopped coming out of the cuts on my face.

OK, there’s a glimmer of good news. Our pickup didn’t suffer any hail damage; nor did the fifth wheel.

We know this is only a first-time event. It won’t be an only-time happening. Hey, we live in Texas, where the weather is spectacularly unpredictable.

Our journey will continue.

Happy Trails, Part 92

LOCKHART STATE PARK, Texas — We are glass half-full types of people. My wife and I have tried to live that way for our entire life together, which totals more than 46 years.

Thus, it is with that optimistic outlook that we ponder what could have been a catastrophe, but which turned out to be only a minor hiccup on our retirement journey.

We ventured to San Angelo State Park a few days ago. As we approached the park, about 30 miles from our first night’s destination, we made a sharp left turn across the median on U.S. 87.

The steering wheel locked up. The brakes weren’t nearly as responsive as they should have been. We limped across the highway and onto the parking lot of a state rest area.

I noticed at that moment the water temperature gauge on the dashboard was registering “very hot.” We managed to get the truck — with our fifth wheel in tow — to a spot out of the way, next to a curb.

We spent the night in the rest area. We got the truck repaired the next day and proceeded to the state park.

Why is this good news? Because what happened to us about 30 miles from our destination could have happened in the middle of nowhere. It could have happened, say, in the middle of the Eisenhower Tunnel just west of Denver; it could have occurred on the bridge crossing Lake Pontchartrain west of New Orleans; it could have happened in the middle of the Nevada desert, or in some remote area of southern California.

That it happened at a well-lit rest area in West Texas just a few miles northwest of a significant city — San Angelo — sent us a clear message that we should count our blessings.

We do that. Every day. We are blessed with sons who make us proud; our health is good; we sold our house in a timely fashion; we are enjoying our freedom and mobility.

Our pickup difficulty only slowed us part of a single day. We have proceeded to Central Texas. We will head soon to the Golden Triangle to catch up with friends who were bedeviled by nature’s fury, which came to them this past summer in the form of Hurricane Harvey. Then we’ll head for the Metroplex to visit with our granddaughter, her brothers and her parents.

It could have gone a lot worse than it did on that first day of our latest sojourn.

We must be living right.

An alternative to the SH 130 race track uncovered

LOCKHART, Texas — I am happy to report a bit of good news to you as a follow up to an earlier blog post about getting caught on the race track that also is known as Texas 130.

We found our RV camp location at Lockhart State Park, after some difficulty finding our way off of Texas 130, and its posted 85 mph speed limit. That’s all fine. It’s history.

What we discovered is that U.S. 183, which is the highway we intended to take from Austin to the state park, actually runs parallel to Texas 130.

It serves as a sort of frontage road for the nearly 30 miles we need to drive from visiting family members to the place where we’ve parked our fifth wheel RV for a few days.

Good grief, man! If I could have found this highway the first time — the day we arrived in the Austin area — I wouldn’t have had so much angst to share with you in that earlier blog post.

As it turns out, U.S. 183 allows us to cruise along at a “leisurely” 60 to 65 mph, while we watch the speed demons roar along at breakneck speeds just a bit over yonder on Texas 130.

What’s more, we get to do so without being charged a toll.

Who knew?

Life is full of surprises, yes? Some of them are nice surprises to boot!

 

Happy Trails, Part 90

LOCKHART, Texas — It’s time for me to come clean.

I once wrote an essay about a Texas state highway that I swore I’d never travel. It is Texas 130, a stretch of toll road between Austin and San Antonio.

Why come clean? Our retirement journey took us to Texas 130 this afternoon. This is the highway with the 85 mph speed limit. Eighty-bleepin’-five miles per hour, man!

I was alarmed enough that the Texas Department of Transportation allowed motorists to blast along Interstate 10 west of San Antone at 80 mph.

But … 85 mph?

That was the last straw. I am not prone to breakneck speeding on the highway. I won’t poke along, but I cannot fathom having to keep up with my fellow travelers who are so willing to drive faster than most sane motorists would travel.

Well, we ventured to Central Texas from San Angelo today. Our trusty GPS hasn’t been updated to include some of the new construction that’s been finished.

Suddenly, without much warning at all, we ended up on Texas 130 with our fifth wheel in tow behind our Dodge pickup. How in the world did that happen? Well, I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.

We blundered our way to our next RV campsite at Lockhart State Park. We found a suitable site. We got hooked up. Then we sat under some shade trees to enjoy an adult beverage. We toasted each other for “navigating” our way through the highway chaos that exists in Austin.

As for Texas 130, I now intend to renew my vow to never return to it.

We’ll spend the next few days visiting family in the Austin area. And by golly, we are going to do all we can to stay far away from the state-sanctioned race track disguised as a public thoroughfare.

Wish us luck. Please.

Happy Trails, Part 89

I don’t like doing this, but this post is going to mix a bit of current politics and public policy with another musing about retirement.

You see, I’ve mentioned already that my wife and I intend to visit North America while hauling our RV behind our (now repaired) pickup truck.

What I’ve neglected to say is that North America includes another set of countries. They are south of the United States, starting with Mexico and going into Central America.

We are a bit concerned about traveling into Mexico. It has nothing to do with the people there, or the country. We’ve both ventured across the border. The last time we crossed the border was in 1974, when we drove from San Diego into Tijuana and then to Ensenada. We took a cruise with our sons from Galveston to Cozumel in 2011, but that doesn’t actually count as a “border crossing.”

What is troubling to me is the rhetoric coming from Washington since the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States. He campaigned on a pledge to build a wall across our southern border; he vowed to make Mexico pay for it. He accused Mexico of “sending criminals” into the United States, as if suggesting that the Mexican government is responsible for some so-called deluge of illegal immigration.

He has continued to sound sharply critical of those who live in Latin America.

My fear is the potential fomenting of anti-American bias in that part of the world, which could put tourists — such as, oh, yours truly — at risk of harm by those who might notice the Texas license plates on our RV and our truck.

Do you get my drift? Of course you do!

I ventured to Mexico City in 1997 on a four-day journalism-related trip. I love that city. I want to show my wife the Aztec pyramids I got to climb. I want to take her to the spectacularly colorful Folklorico Ballet that I watched. I want to treat her to tacos the way they are prepared in Mexico.

At this moment, though, I am fearful of hauling our RV there to see those sights.

If only we could cease this in-your-face rhetoric that I suspect is not being lost on those wonderful continental neighbors.

Happy Trails, Part 88

SAN ANGELO STATE PARK, Texas — I chatted up a young tow-truck driver this morning and then said something that sort of just flew out of my mouth.

I was telling him about being retired, about selling our house and how our fifth-wheel RV is our “residence.”

“That means we have nowhere to go,” I said. An instant later, I corrected myself. “Or, you can say that it means we have everywhere to go.”

Yes. I should have said the second part first, and then omitted the rest of it.

You see, the RV lifestyle we have adopted means that (a) our “house” is hooked up to the back of our pickup and (b) we have an entire continent to explore while we are still able.

We have embarked on another fairly short-term trip. It’ll last about two weeks.

We’ll depart San Angelo State Park soon, heading to Lockhart State Park just south of Austin. After that we haul our “house” to Village Creek State Park just north of Beaumont.

We owned property in Beaumont fro 1988 until 1995. We loved that house. We enjoyed the street. It was quiet and heavily wooded. A hurricane took care of much of the tall timber in our old neighborhood not long after we departed for the Texas Panhandle.

Hurricane Harvey inundated the Golden Triangle this past summer and we want to see the damage that the storm did to our house. I hope it’s intact these days.

After visiting friends in Beaumont, we will shove off for North Texas to see our son, daughter-in-law and our granddaughter.

Then we return to Amarillo.

I hesitate now to call Amarillo “home,” for the reason I cited at the beginning of this blog post. Our “home” is riding along with us wherever we go.

***

Pickup update: I am happy to report that our pickup truck, which broke down on U.S. Highway 87 yesterday afternoon, is fixed. It’s healthy. Good as new … or almost!

I spent a good bit of time trying to find a towing company and then a mechanic to repair our truck. The power steering broke. It turned out to be that the water pump also blew apart.

It’s all repaired.

And we are on the road again — in search of the next big surprise. We just want it to be a pleasant one.

Happy Trails, Part 87

SAN ANGELO, Texas — How do I say this without sounding too much like a whiny baby.

Let me try this out just for kicks: Our retirement “trail” isn’t particularly “happy” at this moment. My wife, Toby the Puppy and I are spending the night in a Texas rest area. We’ve put the orange cones in the rear of our fifth wheel. We’ll wait for the morning before someone hauls our pickup off to a dealership service center to get repaired.

Dang it, anyway!

We were driving southeast along U.S. Highway 87 this afternoon just a few miles out of San Angelo. I pulled across the median to park briefly at the rest area for an, um, pit stop. We made the turn and then — boom! — just like that, the power steering went out. The engine overheated dramatically.

We limped into the rest area. We made a few phone calls, most of which were futile. Then we made a command decision: We’ll unhook the truck from our RV in the morning after we call a towing service to retrieve our truck for what we hope is a fairly quick service.

It’s not all bad news. We have electricity available. We hooked up our lengthy power cord to the outlet. We have some fresh water in our tank, so we can wash up.

Hey, we knew all along that our journey along the retirement road wouldn’t always result in a pothole-free drive. There would be this or that bump along the way. We’ve had a couple of them already but they involved a fifth wheel we owned prior to the one we purchased in 2017. This is the first truck-related boo-boo we’ve suffered since we embarked on this retirement trek.

We won’t sweat it. We’ll just get past it.

Then we’ll head on down the road.