Our last trip to Milwaukee took more out of me than I expected. We have done the trip in three days, this time we took four days up and 5 days back. Still — when we got back to Los Fresnos — it took me a couple days to get back in the swing of things. If you haven’t noticed that since then my posts have been more reflective and I’ve been in a conscious-of-my-own-mortality sort of mood. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not in a morbid mood, we just know that there are changes coming in the future and we’re trying to suss them out. Over time, sure. But they are choices that need making.
That last trip wasn’t an ordinary, just-for-fun, roadtrip. Combining the emotions of our grand-daughter’s wedding with the adrenalin surge caused by heavy rains and several trip re-routes there was a lot of tension and emotive energy bouncing around the inside of that car!
Still, I think the very “idea” of traveling (for us) is changing into something it’s never been before. I say that on the eve of another trip — very different from the last. This will be just for curiosity. We’ll be in San Antonio to snoop around. We’ll visit the San Antonio Botanic Garden. We’ll take in the Blanco Lavender Festival. We’ll visit Peg’s Cousin. Pick up a table at one of the two nearby IKEA stores. And then we’ll return home. What started out as a three day, two night idea is now a 4 night, 5 day, maybe longer gallivant. This time there’s no adrenalin involved. It’s not about family emotion. It’s just a husband and wife exploring and enjoying life.
How is travel changing into some thing new? Well, that takes a little bit of family history.
If I think back to my younger days, I had parents who loved to travel. But there was a distinct divide between them. Dad could get in the car and go — being happy to be away from home for weeks or months (not that he got much of a chance to do that). Mom on the other hand wanted to be back home every couple weeks — which never seemed to fit well with the places my dad wanted to visit — but they negotiated and ended up with mutually agreeable trips. (If there’s one thing I appreciated about my parents it was that they aways had respect for each other)
Peg’s dad was quite different. Her mom passed early in our married life (We had been married less than 2 years when she passed) and Frank was a widower for 40+ years. Margaret had been the love of his life and when she was gone he had no interest in marrying again. That didn’t mean he lacked female company; he and his 20+ year girlfriend did bus trips together and day trips by car and had a very good friendship. When he left on a solo trip it was always three or four days — he wanted to be back to see his house. He had several “reasons” that he blamed for his urge to return home, but it really came down to the fact that 4 days was long enough to be away from home.
Until we retired, the bungy-cord bringing us back home was always our job. We had “X” days of vacation so we went as far as we could on that much time and returned, eager to leave again. Our daughter Kathryn is fighting that same fight now that she’s working and eager to travel; I think most of us who have jobs that keep us in one place do something similar.
The conversion to being RV’ers gave us a unique perspective because our “home” was with us. We weren’t on vacation, we were just “living” — but not always in the same place. It was a complete upsetment of our previous way of thinking. With our own bed, and our own kitchen the traversing of distance became insignificant. Stop when tired (or when we had previously planned on getting tired). Eat when hungry. It was all like floating on a cloud. And, most importantly, we had a list of things we wanted to do. We weren’t wandering around without a purpose. When the purpose was fulfilled the need to travel became more like the embers of a campfire on the morning after — memories of good things.
Now we’re learning a yet different way of travel. We no longer need to say “we only have 2 weeks” for this trip. That’s not accurate. Oh, I suppose we could say we can only afford to be gone for such-and-such a length of time, but the fact of the matter is that retirement is like a sliding scale: you can still afford things, you just adjust your timelines accordingly. If we wanted to take a longer trip now we would do something less expensive before and after to let the budget accommodate our desires.
The key difference for us at the moment is that haste is no longer a mandatory factor in our plans. We can let it be a factor — if we choose, or if we refuse to give in to the freedom we have. But it no longer needs to be a factor. Let me explain.
We made this last trip a slower trip more because the seats in our CR-V are increasingly more uncomfortable. It’s a base model 2004 CR-V. The more posh models have entirely different seating and it’s much more comfortable. But in this car we suffer from “hurting butt syndrome” There’s nothing glamorous about it. It’s age, or upholstery, or… well, just pick any excuse you want. We planned a couple stops along the way to have a “reason” we could tell others for why we took so long, but bottom line is that our butt hurt and we didn’t want to sit in the car for such long periods of time. Simple.
But, stop there. At almost 70 years of age there’s this automatic need to explain — as if anyone really cared why we took 5 days instead of 3! Our neighbors don’t care — why did I need a long story to justify to them the length of the journey. I’ll tell you why! It seems that almost all the 5th Wheeling Winter Texans take great pride in how quickly they make the trip and how fast they drive whilst hauling their 5th wheel trailers. (Curiously enough I rarely hear motorcoach travelers making the same boast. There are a few, but Class A RV’ers know how to relax!) I’ve been brainwashed by my peers to be in a hurry and quite frankly I’m determined to fight the programming and remain free-spirited in spite of the people around us.
So, we’re learning to think about travel as “what do we want to see and how long will it take us to see it.” No longer are excuses about not having time to do a certain trip, now it’s all about the reality of travel: the highways, the daily routine, weather, hotels, restaurants, etc.. And after a while some of those just get to be boring, same-oh, same-oh, same-oh. Parts of Texas can be very like parts of Wisconsin. Parts of New Mexico can be very like parts of Utah and Nebraska and North Dakota. Montana may have “Big Sky” but so do a lot of other states.
The other day I wrote about “seeing it all before” and for those who haven’t been full timers I’m not sure how easy it is to see the subtleties of the distinction I’m trying to make here. It’s kind of like a gradual acceptance that you’re ready to surrender ideas you’ve had for a long time for no more challenging reason than that you realize that you simply no longer need to hold those ideas. Travel is lovely. Travel is broadening. Travel is only one aspect of life and other things matter too. There are still places I want to go. Of course there are. There are still things I want to see. Of course there are.
But there is a difference now. 6 years down retirement I’m ready to rephrase my life. I suppose I could say it like this: I no longer need to travel because I no longer NEED to travel.
The result is that when we do take a trip everything about it is different.
Yesterday Peggy was saying to me, “I forgot how quiet it is here.” Clearly the rush and hubbub of Milwaukee city-life had gotten to her. Sirens, and car sounds, airports and construction traffic, and just the constant drone of human voices and activity. She’s glad to be home, and so am I. We love people. We had a wonderful time at the wedding. Which doesn’t change the fact that it feels good to “hear” silence.
When I was younger, if I was in the car, I had the Am/Fm radio turned on, the CB radio turned on (and I was talking on it), and I would be holding on a conversation with Peggy as we drove. When we headed out on our maiden RV trip from Milwaukee almost 6 years ago it seems we forgot to turn on any radio. I never bothered to hook up my CB. We cruised along at just under 60 mph and we enjoyed the sights passing in front of our large picture-window-like windscreen. We didn’t need the noise and commotion of the outside world. At times we talked about what we were seeing. But there were plenty of days when neither of us felt the need to say much of anything. We were quite happy just watching the world pass in silence — lost in our thoughts.
Life changes us. And you can’t write a script when you don’t know what changes are coming.
On this last trip I noticed that I spent way more time trip planning than I ever did in the RV. I’m sure that was an aberration. You’d think that needing to plan ahead for a 40 foot coach with a tow would be much the harder. But after all that time in the coach the one thing I missed was flexibility to be spontaneous, and car travel gets me back to that. Now it’s easy to pull over on a shoulder to take pictures. In the coach the shoulders often weren’t wide enough or hard enough to support us without getting stuck. In the coach we couldn’t just bop into town to stop at a botanical garden — we’d have to plan that stop. Find a place to stay overnight, unhook the tow, drive into a congested place, see what we want, return to the coach, and hook up all over again. But now, once again, I can be impulsive in a way I haven’t been able to indulge in nearly 6 years. That feels good. But when it comes to planning — flexibility sometimes overcome discretion. I look at too many options! This trip it was necessary because of the weather — but I learned an important lesson — and learning from our experiences is always good.
With the sale of our coach we’re looking more straightly into the future. When there was uncertainty it was hard to see a clear path forward. We had turned over the page for a new chapter in our life but the words for this new chapter weren’t going down on paper so long as the coach hung like a metaphorical Sword of Damocles.
We know we face some future choices. How will life unfold in S. Texas? How much of the year will we spend here after we get through this first summer? Will we plunge in and become legal Texans? Will we find a place up North (as in “Wisconsin,” or maybe “Milwaukee”) and split our time North and South? Are we really people who would feel comfortable with that bifurcated 6 on and 6 off sort of lifestyle. Or will we continue exploring the country and world from here? Or will we surrender warm winters and to it all from Wisconsin?
I don’t honestly know what we’ll do. I know we won’t make any hasty decisions — we might still be talking about this 5 years from now — or we might figure it all out in a few months — There’s no telling about us.
Right now I’m all in favor of not making any decisions and just enjoy the season and our surroundings.