Tag Archives: retirement

Life teaches stern lessons

To be candid, my bride and I have not envisioned ourselves sitting on easy chairs at the beach, watching the tide roll in and out as we march on through our retired life.

Our plan always has been to travel hither and yon. We sold our RV recently, but our travel plans remain intact.

But … first things first.

We have a health issue to battle and to whip. You see, my bride was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in her brain. The doctor removed most of it. The plan now is to blast the rest of it out of there through an aggressive treatment of radiation and chemotherapy. The docs are clear about the intent of this therapy: to shrink what’s left of the tumor … with the aim of eliminating it altogether!

My optimism is high. More importantly, so is hers. This challenge has taught us many valuable lessons. We are receiving love from family and friends. It’s even coming from people we don’t know well. The lesson has been to accept it with open arms and hearts.

The next lesson has been that no matter how smoothly your journey through life has been, one should always expect to encounter the occasional shock to one’s system. My wife’s shock arrived the day after Christmas when she received the diagnosis of a mass in her brain.

The journey, though, continues along a different path than what we had envisioned. The destination remains the same and for that I will stay focused. More importantly, so will my bride.

Our blessings mount even as we embark on the effort to face down this challenge. They provide us with optimism looking ahead. They are coming in the form of the love that is pouring forth. I can state with absolute certainty that the love will sustain us.


Journey takes dramatic turn

My bride and I have been on a marvelous journey since we both retired from our full-time jobs more than a decade ago. The end of my career came suddenly; my bride chose to end her working life on her own.

We have been “living the dream” ever since. Well, this week our journey into retirement took a startling and dramatic new turn.

Our recreational vehicle travel time came to an end. We sold our RV after hauling it on a two-week excursion to the Pacific Coast. We visited friends and family along the way. We had a blast. We were comfortable in our downsized travel trailer.

But … a couple of issues emerged along the way. The trailer wasn’t working quite the way it was supposed to work. What did we decide while on the road? We decided (a) we are too old to deal with these niggling issues that keep cropping up and (b) that neither of us was skilled enough to repair these problems on our own.

We decided before we arrived at our California destination that the trip on which we had embarked would be our final one in an RV.

We’ll keep traveling. The difference will be that we intend to stay in hotels along the way, or at RV parks that offer cabins, or with friends and family scattered across this great land.

We’re taking a philosophical approach to this decision. We owned three RVs: two fifth wheels and a travel trailer. We took all of them to both ocean coasts, along the Gulf Coast, to the Great Lakes, throughout the Great Plains, over the Rockies, the Sierra Nevada, the Cascade Range, the Appalachains and we saw the western half of Canada.

We had a great run. We saw many places and had countless joyous experiences. It is now time to do something else. We have decided to take another leap of faith.

Where will our journey take us? That remains to be determined. However, we are confident we’ll know it when we get there.

We are still living the dream.


Changing reading habits

Once upon a time, when I was a full-time journalist working to improve my performance at my craft, I would travel to here and there and pick up newspapers along the way.

My goal was to read them, to glean some ideas I could take back with me to the newspaper where I worked.

Man, those days have disappeared. So has the habit of reading newspapers around the country.

My wife and I just returned from a two-week journey to the Pacific Coast. I didn’t pick up a single newspaper. Heck, I barely saw a single newspaper.

We ventured through cities with strong newspaper traditions: Albuquerque, Phoenix, Bakersfield, Sacramento to name just four. We stayed for a few nights in Santa Cruz, Calif., which has a paper I would read when we visited my sister and her family; not this time! I had no interest in seeing the San Jose Mercury-News, or the San Francisco Chronicle.

I did pick up one newspaper along our nearly 3,800-mile trek. We stopped for a bite in Memphis, Texas on our way home. I saw a copy of the Red River Sun, which I believe has replaced the Childress Index as the paper of the region. It contained a lot of community news: reunions, award ceremonies, city and school news. Hey, it’s the kind of thing I am writing these days for the Princeton Herald!

But I am a freelance writer these days, which kind of frees me of the responsibility of looking for ways to improve the newspaper for which I write; that task belongs to my bosses.

It’s not that I miss the opportunity to see what other newspapers are doing to present their news and commentary. It’s just that I am still getting accustomed to the idea that I no longer have to worry about the hassles associated with persuading my bosses to implement the changes I pick up along the way.

Yep. Life continues to be very good.


Truck keeps me alert … seriously!

I want to tell you a quick story about a motor vehicle my bride and I just purchased. It’s a story about how technology is being deployed to protect human life. I never knew such technology existed.

We purchased a 2022 Ford Ranger pickup from a dealer in McKinney. We ordered it from the factory in Dearborn, Mich. We added a couple of bells and whistles that weren’t part of the truck “package.”

What we did not know existed in the list of the truck’s on-board doo-dads was a system that alerted us that we might need to pull over and rest up before proceeding.

We haven’t taken our truck on too many long-haul trips just yet, but we found out en route to Amarillo recently that when we get too close to the lane on either side of our vehicle that it flashes a message that “suggests” we should pull over. If we keep swerving, then the “suggestion” turns into a direct order. And, yes, our Ranger has a display that shows us whether we are crossing the lane.

Perhaps I need to study these things more carefully or be more alert to what others may know already. I did not know about this technology!

What do I think of this alert system? I like it very much. Because if I am swerving because of fatigue, it tells my wife and me that I need to turn the wheel over to her. She also is smart enough to follow the advice given by our new truck.

Will this technology prevent the macho men among us on the road to do the smart thing, to pull over and to rest up before proceeding? No. It likely won’t. However, since I don’t consider myself to be a macho man, then the warning likely will work wonders for me.

It might prolong my life and enable my much better half and me to continue on this marvelous retirement journey.


Journey goes on

Our retirement journey has taken a new turn, with a new vehicle towing a new recreational vehicle.

You know already that we traded in our 29-foot fifth wheel for a 21-foot travel trailer. We’ve taken our new trailer out on a couple of short jaunts. We hauled it behind our big ol’ pickup, Big Jake, the 2011 3/4-ton Dodge diesel beast.

We bid so long to Big Jake today and took possession of our new — and a good bit smaller — truck. It’s a Ford Ranger. We’re toying with what to name it. I am increasingly stuck on Kemo Sabe. Whatever.

The new truck is a beaut. It’s brand new. Ford built the 2022 vehicle per our specs. Just for my wife and me. It’s big enough to haul our travel trailer.

Our journey, though, has changed, but mostly because of outside influences. The price of gas makes long-term travel too expensive for us. So, we’re re-evaluating how we intend to use our new truck and our new RV. Best guess? We’ll stay mostly close to home. Indeed, Texas is big enough for us to be able to visit state parks hither and yon.

Now, does this mean that extended travel is out forever? Hardly. We’ll wait a little while, see where fuel prices go. If they come back to Earth, well, we just might hit the long and winding road to points farther away.

Toby the Puppy, moreover, will have to get used to new travel digs. We remain confident that he will adjust just fine.


So long, Big Jake

RAY ROBERTS LAKE STATE PARK, Texas – We have taken Big Jake the Pickup on the final excursion we will share with the beast.

Big Jake is headed for somewhere else. My wife and I hope the big ol’ Dodge Ram finds a new home with owners who will love him as much as we do. We expect Big Jake to continue to give the new owns as much satisfaction as he delivered to us for many years.

What you see behind Big Jake is our new travel trailer, the severely downsized version of the recreational vehicle we continue to take on our retirement journey to points hither and yon.

I must acknowledge, though, that hither and yon will be a good bit closer to home than we have taken our previous RV. These fuel prices are killin’ us, as you can imagine.

What is taking Big Jake’s place? We have ordered a Ford Ranger pickup. Ford Motor Company notified us this week the truck has been built per our specs, it’s been inspected, and it is being shipped as I write this brief blog post.

We took Big Jake and our travel trailer to a state park we have visited before. Lake Ray Roberts is just a bit north of Denton, about 60 or so miles from our house in Princeton. It’s a gorgeous park, as are practically all the parks within the Texas Parks & Wildlife system.

I am just posting this blog to let you know that our travel plans are being amended slightly, at least while the fuel prices continue to zoom out of sight. I do hope they can return to something resembling sanity.

As for Big Jake, it’s getting time to say so long to the muscular truck that has taken our previous RVs to both coasts, through the western half of Canada, to the Great Lakes and to more than 30 state parks in Texas. Big Jake served us well.

As for our Ford Ranger, the new vehicle doesn’t yet have a name. I am toying with naming the truck Kemo Sabe. Think for just a moment about the symbolism of the name.

Meanwhile, our retirement journey continues.


Now … for some good news

We live in an era of delays, shortages, dashed hopes and frustration … correct? Not entirely.

I want to share a bit of good news that just arrived in my email inbox. It comes from the manufacturer of the pickup truck we ordered in March.

My wife and I went shopping recently for a truck to replace Big Jake the Pickup we have owned for several years. We ended up buying a brand-new Ford Ranger pickup. Except they didn’t have a vehicle in stock at the dealer in McKinney. We ordered it from the factory. We chose the bells and whistles we wanted installed on the vehicle and placed the order.

Ford told us the vehicle would be scheduled for production the week of May 23. Today came the message that told us the production schedule had “changed.” I cringed. Then I opened the message. Ford decided to start assembling the vehicle next Monday, the week of May 16.

I mention this because of all the negativity to which we’ve been subjected. Inflation, supply-chain crises, shortages of parts … blah, blah, blah.

Our retirement journey is trudging on regardless of when our new vehicle arrives. It looks for all the world, though, as if it will arrive ahead of schedule.

Who knew?


Getting used to new wheels

Our shakedown cruise hauling a down-sized recreational vehicle has taught me some lessons.

We traded in our 29-foot fifth wheel for a shiny new 21-foot travel trailer. We like the new unit … a lot! Even while struggling just a bit with constrained space in the new trailer, we are committed to it and we believe our scaled-down retirement travel itinerary will suit our new wheeled “digs” just fine.

We hauled it to the Texas Hill Country and found out as we motored down some back-road highways that our truck pulls the travel trailer just as easily as it did the fifth wheel.

Oh, but get a load of this: We ran into a “road closed” blockade along Texas Highway 236 near Foot Hood. We had to back the trailer up and turn it around. We were able to do so with much greater ease than we would have been able to do with a much more cumbersome fifth wheel.

We have what they call a “one-butt kitchen” in our trailer. We have fewer square feet of storage space. We will need to figure out what goes with us on the road and what stays home. The good news for me is that I married to an expert in making these key decisions. Therefore, I will defer to her … mostly.

The even better news is that our retirement journey is still heading for the open road. Just not as lengthy a stretch of road, but we’ll still be venturing our way further into retirement.


Mother Neff would be proud

MOTHER NEFF STATE PARK, Texas — I have spoken glowingly about the Texas state parks system, its amenities and all the recreational opportunties they offer to retirees … such as my wife and me.

Today, I want to take a brief moment to speak about something you might find weird. Too bad. Here goes anyway.

We came to Mother Neff State Park in Coryell County for a brief outing in our new travel trailer. I had to use a restroom. What I saw when I entered was stunning.

The public restroom was immaculate. As in eat-off-the-floor clean, man.

You don’t need to see a picture of the place to get the idea. Just know that the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department is on the job keeping these public facilities suitable for, um … the public!

I took a moment to thank a park ranger who happened to be nearby. He accepted my thanks with gratitude.

Therefore, I want to proclaim that TP&W is worth the investment Texans are making.


Why can’t these people heed the message?

My wife and I settled about three years ago in a lovely subdivision in Princeton, Texas. Our house is comfortable, our neighbors are kind and friendly. We are living happily in retirement.

We don’t make many demands. However …

We posted a “No Solicitors” sign next to our front porch. It’s visible to anyone who walks to the front door.

Maybe it’s a sign of the times, but it begs a question that seems to have no answer: Why can’t solicitors heed the message on the sign?

They don’t heed them. The latest spike in unsolicited business seekers happens to be the pest-control folks. We had a young man come to our door this afternoon. He laughed off the message on the sign. My wife told him she doesn’t do business with anyone who ignores the sign and sent the young man on his way.

I won’t belabor the point. It’s just a source of frustration that is fleeting in the moment. It passes and we go on doing whatever it is we are doing when the doorbell rings and someone wants to sell us something we don’t want to buy.

There’s no cure for this kind of ignorance. I just learned long ago that when I see signage that warns me to avoid a potentially angry response that I should heed the warning … and stay away!