Tag Archives: RV

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.

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.

Happy Trails, Part 153: Weekends galore!

Those who have been retired far longer than my wife and I have been will understand what I am about to say next.

I am having a bit of difficulty understanding that the term “weekend” no longer is relevant to either of us.

We have embarked on a two-week sojourn that will begin in Amarillo. We’ll pull our fifth wheel south to San Angelo, then to the Hill Country, down to the Golden Triangle, then to New Orleans, to Shreveport and then home.

What’s different about this particular journey is that we’ll be parking our RV in a new storage place just around the corner and down the street from our new home in Princeton, Texas.

Which brings me to the “weekend” point.

My wife has reminded me that we’ll be able to grab our fifth wheel and take it on short trips to any of the numerous state parks surrounding us in Collin County.

“Sure thing,” I have said. “We can plan a weekend trip.” She laughs out loud at me. “No-o-o-o! Don’t you get it? We don’t have to wait for the weekend,” she responds. “We can go in the middle of the week. No crowds. Others will be working.”

Well, duhhh.

I just will need to keep all of that in mind once we get a wild hair and want to haul our fifth wheel out of storage and head out for some quiet time in the woods, or next to a lake.

I’m getting the hang of this retirement thing. Every now and then, though, I need a knock on the noggin to be reminded that weekends are for working folks.

Happy Trails, Part 148: Feels like the first time

This is going to sound strange, coming from someone who’s been married for 47-plus years, but I’ll say it anyway.

I am feeling almost like a newlywed in this new home of ours.

This ain’t our first home-buying experience. Not by a long shot. The house in Princeton is No. 5. It’s quite likely our final stop before they throw me into the ground.

My wife and I find ourselves talking about the house. We talk about how much like its kitchen, or its back yard, or its master bath. Whatever . . .

We end up reminding ourselves of when we were first married. Y’all know what I’m talking about when I mention how we used to refer to each other as “my husband” and “my wife.”

Suffice to say we don’t do that any longer. It’s been a rapid-fire four-plus decades. The house is a different matter.

We moved from the Texas Panhandle to the Metroplex in May 2018 after living full time for a period of time in our fifth wheel. We sold our Amarillo house in March 2018, but lived in our RV while we prepped the house for sale. Once we got it ready and put it on the market it was gone — poof! — just like that.

I figure the time between the purchase of this home and the previous one — 23 years! — means that we were primed for this sort of emotional reaction to the new place.

Now we’re residing in our “forever” home. We’re here for the duration. The next stop will be the final one . . . and you know what I mean.

For now, we’re making an enjoyable acquaintance with our new digs in Collin County. To be honest, I don’t want the newness to wear off.

Happy Trails, Part 133: Free room and board?

LAMESA, Texas — I am about to let you in on a little secret, although it’s likely not a secret to veteran RV travelers.

If you want to park your recreational vehicle free of charge, just look for those “public parks” in your RV directory.

We rolled into this West Texas town with a population of about 9,400 residents. We had called ahead when we saw a listing in our RV directory that caught our attention. It was a “public park.” So I called. It turns out the RV park is part of the municipal park system.

The lady at City Hall told me we could stay here for free for a maximum of four nights. It has water and electric hookups; no sewer, but . . . we can take our waste water with us to the next location.

We have found some of these public parks on our travels over the past three or four years. We stayed at one of them in Sayre, Okla.; if memory serves, the nightly rate there was $10, which we considered a heck of a bargain.

While traveling in Texas, we prefer to stay at state-run RV parks. Given that we’re big fans of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, we like supporting the state park system. The parks where we’ve stayed over the years have been well-manicured, well-appointed and generally quite gorgeous.

We buy a state park entrance pass once a year to waive our entrance fees. Since we’ve made ample use of the state parks, the pass is worth the investment.

But tonight we’re getting some free room and board at a city park. Keep this kind of thing in mind if you’re like my wife and me and enjoy the open road in your RV.

If you venture to Lamesa, here’s a tip: The locals pronounce the town name La-MEE-sa, not La-MAY-sa.

It must be a Texas thing.

Hoping for perpetual Wi-Fi on these journeys

COPPER BREAKS STATE PARK, Texas — I was sweatin’ bullets last night, man. You see, I have this streak going that I want to maintain and I feared that a lack of adequate Internet connection at our RV site was going to derail the streak.

High Plains Blogger has managed to post something for 715 consecutive days. We pulled into our RV site near sundown at this wonderful state park, but once we got settled, I found that my cell phone service isn’t the best, which might have deprived me of the ability to post a missive on my blog.

Never fear. It comes and goes, but it mostly stays.

That brings me to my point. Our retirement journey is taking us hither and yon across the country. We want — and intend fully — for it to continue for well past the immediate or moderate future.

One of the aspects of RV park-site shopping, though, will have to include Wi-Fi availability. That also must include cell phone availability. Why the linkage? If I cannot connect to a viable Wi-Fi network, I can use my handy-dandy smart phone to provide me with the “hot spot” I need to connect to the Internet.

However, if I don’t have enough cell phone strength, the hot spot is rendered useless. (My tech-savvy sons will enjoy my relative “fluency” in this kind of techno-speak.)

So, to keep the blog going — for better or worse, depending on who’s reading this stuff — I need to stay connected to the big ol’ wide world of Internet telecommunications.

My wife and I do enjoy parking our RV in more rural settings. However, we aren’t yet into what they call “primitive camping.” We like the amenities associated with most RV parks: water and electricity and sewer service when it’s possible. I consider one of those amenities to include Wi-Fi service.

I am retired, for sure. I am not surrendering to old age. If my noggin is still functioning and if I can still strength sentences together, I’ll keep this blogging thing going for as long as I am able.

For those of you who say you enjoy these musings, I’ll do my best. For those of you who say you dislike them, but can’t stop reading them … too bad.

Happy Trails, Part 125: Great RV neighbors

COPPER BREAKS STATE PARK, Texas — I had intended for this blog post to be a high-minded tribute to the Texas Parks & Wildlife department’s state park system.

Specifically, I intended to write about how easy it is to back into TP&W park sites. I would pull our 28-foot fifth wheel up to the site, straighten the truck/RV assembly out and back it all in. Slick, man! No sweat!

For some reason I don’t yet know, it didn’t work out that way.

I want instead to devote most of this post to the neighborliness of RVers. I’ve experienced their friendliness and willingness to offer a hand. This time an angel named Jim stepped up and said, “Hey, do y’all need help backing in?”

We answered simultaneously, “Yes!”

We offered him the keys to the truck. He took ‘em and back the rig into our spot.

We learned that Jim and wife, Brenda, have been traveling for two years full time in their RV. They’re originally from Hereford, Texas, just about 30 miles southwest of Amarillo. They’ve been just about everywhere in this country, Jim said.

He also told us he began backing up semi trucks when he was 13 years of age. His father hauled cattle in these big rigs, Jim said, so he got indoctrinated early. “Yep, that’s Hereford, all right,” I said with a weary chuckle.

I do not intend to speak ill of TP&W and its system of state parks. Indeed, the agency does make its back-in RV sites quite accessible – even more for brain-dead RVers such as yours truly. My wife and I are huge fans of the Texas parks system and we visit them whenever we can when we’re traveling in-state. Copper Breaks is a lovely site just south of Quanah in Hardeman County.

Maybe I’ll do better the next time I have to back our RV into a site. Not this time. I’ll chalk it up to, oh, a long day on the road. Yeah, that’s the ticket. I was tired. That works as an excuse.

Now that we’re here, we intend to relax for a few days. We can do that now that we’re retired.

Puppy Tales, Part 57: Who needs travel training?

I laughed out loud when I heard this tidbit from a pet-training expert.

He talked about a dog he had given to a couple that was looking for a dog to replace their previous “baby” that had died. The training expert talked about how he gets dogs accustomed to travel by letting them sleep in their kennels prior to sending them to their new “pet parents.”

Why did I laugh? Toby the Puppy was born to travel. He remains in constant travel mode. There was no need — none at all, zero, zilch — to “train” Toby how to travel.

He’s a natural at it. I long thought my mother-in-law was the world’s greatest road warrior. She surrendered her unofficial “crown” the moment Toby the Puppy joined our family.

We ask him: Do you want to go for a ride? His response is that he whirls around like he Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian Devil. Yep, he’s ready for a ride. He stays ready. He was born ready.

When we travel with our fifth wheel, Toby is good to go the moment he settles into his bed, which my wife and I place on the console between the two front seats. He might circle once or twice before settling down for his road-trip nap.

Did we have to “train” our puppy to do this? Hah! Hardly. He puts his mother and me to shame with his travel endurance. It comes naturally.