Tag Archives: RV

Happy Trails, Part 33

This ongoing series of blog posts is supposed to chronicle the joys of retirement that my wife and I are enjoying.

We are enjoying many of them. We just returned home today after traveling 3,175 miles from Amarillo, to East Texas, to Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota. We spent some glorious family time with our sons, our daughter-in-law and her sons, our precious granddaughter, our daughter-in-law’s parents, my cousin and her husband.

My wife and I saw a lot of beautiful country along our sojourn and spent plenty of great “quality time” with our family members.

We had a serious blast, folks.

But …

Our trip had a couple of serious hiccups, which I’ll explain.

On our return home from St. Paul, Minn., we pulled into a truck stop/travel center in Springdale, Ark., where we discovered one of our RV’s wheels was seriously out of alignment. We looked closely and discovered it had burned through some bearings. The wheel was shot.

We summoned a service guy, who told us the axle was damaged. We needed a new one. He brought it the next afternoon — after my wife and I, along with Toby the Puppy, spent a sleepless night in the truck stop parking lot. The noise of semi-trailers coming and going all night — along with the oppressive heat — kept us up all night. We ran our fifth wheel off the battery, which didn’t run our air conditioner.

The service guy replaced the axle the next day and we proceeded onward.

Then came the trip home from Allen, Texas, where we spent a couple of days and nights with granddaughter Emma and her parents.

We journeyed home with our shiny new rear axle holding up just fine. We pulled up to our Amarillo house, got out, then tried to open the slide on our fifth wheel so we could empty our pantry.

The slide doesn’t work. No response to the switch. It’s deader than dead, man.

We’ll get that problem fixed quickly.

So, the upshot of this story? Not every excursion is trouble-free. We have to learn to cope with stumbles and hiccups along the way. I believe we did all right in that regard.

We don’t need more opportunities to present themselves.

Internet can be addictive … you know?

SALLISAW, Okla. — My name is John and I am addicted to the Internet.

There. I said it. I admitted it. Is that the first step toward a cure? I have no earthly idea if that puts me on my way. I’ll deal with it.

We came to this place near the end of our latest two-week sojourn in our pickup with fifth wheel in tow. We had spent a miserable previous day getting a major repair done to our RV, so we decided to pull up to a municipal park just north of this quaint eastern Oklahoma community.

We wound our way back into the woods, found Brushy Lake Park. Set up our RV site. Paid the fee. Then I sought to open up my laptop to write a blog about, oh, this and/or that.

Oops! No cell phone service. No service means no Internet. No Internet means so surfing the universe of information and opinion for grist upon which to comment.

For the briefest of moments, I felt — how do I say it? — a bit lost. I love writing this blog. I love doing so from different locations where my wife and I end up. I was unable to do so for an entire evening.

I got over my Internet separation anxiety fairly quickly. I figured, “What the hey?” I’ll get back into The Game as soon as we depart and return to within some cell phone service network — and I’ll reconnect with the Big Ol’ World of Internet.

I’m savvy enough about the Internet to know that I should take every single thing I read on it to the proverbial bank. I know a lot of it is merely someone else’s opinion.

However … I did experience a bit of withdrawal until I was able to return to what passes in this day and time as The World.

Oh, the park where we spent the night? It was beautiful, quiet and full of peace.

Happy Trails, Part 32

WOODBURY, Minn. — This blog isn’t about my being a mechanical dunderhead, although that will become evident as you peruse this brief post.

It’s about the recreational vehicle community and the overarching friendliness that pervades it.

My wife and I found ourselves without hot water at the start of the day. We pulled out the user manual for our fifth wheel. I pored through it looking for ways to troubleshoot the problem. I flipped switches, checked breaker fuses, tested the propane levels. I came up empty.

Then we spent the day visiting my cousin and her husband before all of us returned to our RV park; my cousin wanted to see this “mansion” in which we travel. Her husband is a general contractor, but admitted to having limited knowledge about RV propane fuel systems.

We fiddled around outside in the dark, flashlight in hand, flipping more switches and getting a bit more frustrated with each passing minute.

Then up walked a young man named Andrew. “Hello. Are you fellows having trouble with your water heater?” he asked. “Uhh, yeah!” I said.

“I’m an RV tech,” Andrew responded. Quite suddenly, when I heard the words “RV tech” I’m quite sure I saw a light shine on Andrew as if the darkness was lifting all around him.

He checked a few switches, asked about whether my wife and I were running our water heater on electricity or propane. We turned off the electricity, turned on the propane switch and then — presto! — the pilot light lit.

We now have hot water. Andrew offered us a helpful hint on how to operate our water heater. I’m still uncertain what caused the system to fail on us a few hours earlier, but I have an idea on what to look for when we take it in for service.

We thanked Andrew profusely. He said he was parked two spaces over and saw us lurking about in the dark. So he thought he’d come over and lend a hand.

Therein lies the spirit of the greater RV community as I have long heard it described. We all pull together, lend a hand when appropriate and seek to smooth the rough patches for our neighbors who we believe might be in some distress.

Andrew came to the rescue. I appreciate him more than I expressed in the dark of night.

Happy Trails, Part 31

STRAFFORD, Mo. — As we travel around the country in our pickup truck and fifth wheel, we meet the nicest people, most of whom are chock full of helpful information.

So, we pulled into an RV park just outside of Strafford, which is a bit east of Springfield, Mo. We checked in. The nice woman, the co-owner of the park, walked us through the usual stuff: directions to the public shower, the Dumpster, TV listings, Wi-Fi connection, directions and approximate distances to the nearest retail outlets.

Then she pointed out something that kind of caught me by surprise. “Here is the county where we’re located, Webster County. The other counties around us are this, this and this. You need to know where you are if you’re watching the weather and we have some serious storm alerts.”


I said nothing to the RV park co-owner. However, of all the RV parks where we’ve stayed, I believe this is the first time we’ve been told about the potential for — how should I put it? — potentially deadly weather.

As I noted, the vast majority of RV park hosts are gracious in the extreme. I appreciate greatly this lady’s willingness to share some emergency information.

I guess my question is: What happens if we have to bug out — in a hurry? I guess I’d better develop a quick-exist strategy … pronto!

Puppy Tales, Part 36

LAKE ARROWHEAD STATE PARK, Texas — Never let it be said that we don’t cater — even in a perverse sort of way — to Toby the Puppy.

We arrived at this state park about a dozen miles south of Wichita Falls. It’s hot as hell out there … about 100 degrees.

The state park ranger in the office greeted me while my wife took Toby for a walk in the heat.

“We have a reservation,” I told her. She looked it up, found it and asked, “Do you want a pull through?” for your fifth wheel RV. I said yes.

“OK, I have two options. I can give you one site that has no shade but it quite lengthy or I can put you in another one. There’s a problem: It’s got a lot of prairie dogs.”

I thought about that one. I consulted then with my wife. We agreed. We wanted the site with no shade. Why? Because the prairie dogs would drive Toby nuts. He’d want to play with all of them.

We went to the unshaded RV site.

Should we have encamped among the prairie dogs? Some might say “yes.” We chose to save Toby the headache of being refused permission to scamper off to chase the little critters.

Therefore, we had the puppy’s best interest at heart. Meanwhile, we are baking in the hot sun.

Oh, the things we do for our little baby.

Happy Trails, Part 30

We had hoped it would be the Mother of All Garage Sales.

It turned out to be a first cousin once removed, or some such thing. Still, I rate it a success, but not the wing-dinging rousing success my wife and I had sought.

We had hoped to sell a big and beautiful entertainment center. We purchased it about 30 years ago in Beaumont, Texas. Then we hauled it way up yonder to the Texas Panhandle in January 1995. A neighbor came by this afternoon and said, “I wish I could find a place for that,” to which I replied, “I do, too” wish he could find a place for it.

Then he talked himself into snapping a picture of it and sending it to his wife. He left and said he’d call later after taking care of some errands. We chatted a couple of hours later and it turned out that his TV is too big to fit in the centerpiece of the entertainment center.

No deal. Damn!

But no sweat. The furniture piece is now ensconced in a charitable organization warehouse and it will be peddled to someone who can use it.

Our garage sale is over. It’s likely our final such event before we pull up our stakes and head southeast toward the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area.

First things first.

We’ve got to find a place to store the worldly goods we have left in our possession. We have to do a couple of things to the house we’ve called home for 21 years. We have to contact a Realtor. Then we put our crib on the market … and hit the road in our RV.

Our retired life is unfolding in increments. We take one step at a time. Still, our retired life today cleared a big hurdle.

Now, for the next one.

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.