Old Diary, Travel

Gosh Darn Destinations

While driving to Jackson for the day we had an interesting conversation.  You know, one of those, “Well, yeah, we do that, but we never thought that we did that” coversations.

It was a beautiful day — in fact we have been commenting on the fact that since we arrived in MS that the skies have been so very clear after all the rain we had in IL.  I had been looking at the map and realized that if we took a drive to Jackson we could do about 1/2 of the route Southbound on the Natchez Trace — so off we went. Nov 3 2014

You may remember that we did a drive of a section of the Natchez Trace in January of 2012 — while we were still trying to sell the house in Cudahy.  And being this close just begged to be re-driven.   Also, being good citizens of Polish extraction we had to drive through Kosciusko, MS.  If you don’t know it, Tadeusz Kościuszko was a Polish General to assisted the United States during the American Revolution.  We have statues and a park named after him in Milwaukee (a heavily Polish city at one time) and this Mississippi city  was named after him as well.  He was a military engineer and leader — who oversaw the building of state-of-the-art fortifications — including those at West Pointe — Home of the Army Military Academy.

We enjoyed about 60 miles along the Natchez Trace, a little shopping at the Whole Foods Market (Malted Barley syrup & a loaf of sourdough) as well as lunch at the China Belle restaurant (home of a rather unusual Hot & Sour soup made with tomato!)

Montgomery CountyBut back to my story.

As we drove through the tiny town of Duck Hill, MS (population 732) I saw a couple buildings I would have liked to photograph and I slowed but didn’t stop.  As we drove on down the road I was sort of kicking myself for not stopping.  And from that point arose our conversation about….

Destinations

How do you feel about destinations?  My entire life I have been one of those On Time people;  early to work, never miss an appointment, take a dry run if you don’t know how to get where you’re going so you won’t be late.  I haven’t tried t let go of that kind of punctuality –never felt any need.  But I also haven’t learned to let go of the concept  of a destination and timeliness connected to it!

Someone asked me the other day if we have gotten over feeling guilty about enjoying our retirement so much.  I responded that I didn’t have any problem with guilt;  what I should have said was that I still have a hard time being spontaneous!

I can poke along down the road and take weeks to get anywhere even though it might be possible to make the trip in 2 days — but what I am still learning how to do is to say in the middle of a trip, “Oh hey, let’s just stop here and we’ll get to our next destination a day or a week later!”   Its ever so hard for me to re-assign an arrival date once I have put a mark on my mental calendar.

Perhaps that’s part of the reason we have ditzed and dithered about our stops along the way from WI to S. Texas.  Not having ‘done’ South Texas before I was a little concerned about finding a place we liked for the winter.  So that aspect of our trip I wanted to lock down.  And being free to stay longer here, or shorter there has been a real delight.  While we are locked in for four months we are sort of  planning not to plan when we leave S. Texas — giving ourselves an open schedule.  I think I want to play around some more with not having a destination.

OH, and that building I wanted to photograph…..

We stopped there on the way home. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

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P.S.:  We’re here in Grenada for 6 more days.  This time next week we expect to be in Bayou Segnette State Park, just outside New Orleans.  We will have been at this Corps of Engineers park for 28 days and we’ll be ready to leave by the time next week comes around.  We’ve explored the area, relaxed, read, and made a lot of friends.  It’s been a good place to stay.  

 

 

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Old Diary

Inertia

You know how when you start running downhill your feet get to going really fast and it’s hard to stop?  I sometimes think that RV’ing can be like that.  You get started at something,  like a pattern of travel.  And at those times the best thing in the world can be to break the inertia.


Inertia
in·er·tia

  • a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged.
    “the bureaucratic inertia of government”
  • PHYSICS
    a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.

 

Habits are incredibly strong.  They’re great to have when they help you but they can be a real pain when a habit takes over and you do things you don’t WANT to be doing, or shouldn’t be doing.  I know. I tend to EAT out of habit and my waistline hates me for it.

But back to RV’ing…

flipping calendar

it may seem to take a long time for us to decide where we’re going but it’s a process we enjoy.

We’d be the first to agree that over the last two months we have been struggling with decisions about where to go.  Since leaving our volunteer gig at the Oregon Dunes we have waffled on just about every aspect of where to go next and how long to stay.  It’s as if our time with the Forest Service wasn’t RV’ing at all.  We were just living in an RV.  And because we got into a different headspace, our planning skills atrophied like unused muscles, to say nothing of warping our sense of finances (10 months in a row of no campsite expenses resulted in some pretty posh living for us).

Let me assure you that after 2 1/2 years of RV’ing we have not run out of places to go (meaning places we WANT to go).   Our problem has been more re-learning how quickly we can afford to see them, and how to most efficiently accomplish our wants.

Let me explain.

I say repeatedly that there is no right way to RV.  I know people who approach this with the ultimate of discipline and forethought.

organized

And then there are others who aren’t so organized.

Not so Organized

We’re somewhere in between.

For 45 years poor Peggy has put up with a guy who doesn’t know the meaning of being involved.  I’m one of those guys who has to be committed.  I’m sure you could tell that when we were  volunteering on the Forest.  I didn’t have to do all the things I did there — I wanted to do them.  I had a vision of what I wanted to accomplish in the time we were there and I was hell bent to get those things DONE before we departed. (Even though I’m a little burnt out right now, I’m glad we did.  I’m proud of what we accomplished there.)  What happens, inevitably, is that I get really enthused about something and then need to slow down or change things to be enthused about.  The only constants in my life are my faith,  my wife (and family), and photography.

snowball rolling downhill

Whoops…. how do I slow down now?

I’m kind of like that proverbial snow ball rolling down hill.  I start out slow — getting a feel for where I am or what I’m doing.  But gradually I pick up speed until there’s no holding me back.

Self knowledge is advantageous.  We (both of us) have learned to consciously insert pauses in our life to slow down this runaway  snowball, to exert a slowing force upon our momentum and to get ourselves (mostly me) back under control from total commitment to a sort of gentle cruising along!  That’s where we are right now.

After rushing to finish up our Forest chores, then rushing to get our solar installed, and rushing to get back to Wisconsin to meet appointments made long before installing solar was ever talk about we were clearly in a tizzy. This second two weeks in Grenada is just what we needed to really get back to normal retirement.

Habit does not help with inertia.  For example — Peg and I are both ‘nosey buggers’…. when we pull into a new campground the first thing we do — every single time as if we were programmed — is to go reconnoiter.  The afternoon we pull in we check out the campground.  The next day we check out the local town, or surrounding area.  No one says we have to, it just happens. We’re nosey!

Also, we don’t sit around in our easy chairs very many days before we are back in the car and snooping around other things or I’ve gotten my cameras out and I’m looking for things to shoot. I haven’t done that as much in the last 2 years as normal, maybe I’m getting tired of carrying around 10-30 lbs of gear everytime I get out of the car. For a while there, I used nothing but my iPhone — just because it was convenient.

Are we restless souls? Sure. I’ll own that!  I truly believe that was part of the reason we decided upon a mobile retirement.  We may park for weeks on end but we don’t actually sit STILL for very long.  Not even literally — I have never been able to SIT quietly without moving and fidgeting.  I’ve even broken chairs because I move around so much.

One of my ways of breaking momentum has been reading.  I have to force myself to slow down to read; to take the words one by one; to let my brain wander around the space that the book’s characters abide.  And since we left Oregon I’ve been reading up a storm — a book every day or every two days. In addition, I’ve been catching up on chores.  I’ve been coming up with new projects and actually getting some of them done.  This has actually been quite restful for me.

Our upcoming 4 month stay in S. Texas is a bit of an experiment.  I honestly  don’t know if I can stay in one place for 4 months (without some kind of a ‘job’ to do).  Even before we retired it seemed that 3 or 4 months would be about as long as I could go before I had to be off in the car on a photo trip or I would find some other excuse to travel.

Texas wildlife refuges

National Wildlife Refuges in Texas

So, the 4 months in one place in Texas will be more like having a pushing off point.  With over 500 RV parks in South Texas, several National Wildlife Refuges, as well as 5 World Birding Centers the park we have picked for the winter at should be a great location from which to check out the Rio Grande Valley as a region we may want to return to — either periodically or regularly.   We’ve have been in the valley before, but neither of us has spent any appreciable time there.  We arrive there in a little over a month.

We’ll be here another 9 days, then 4 near New Orleans and a couple 7 night stays in Galveston and Matagorda — we’re not going to do a lot of driving in a month!

Roadmaster_ChassisHave you’ve noticed that our driving style is changing?  What we are discovering is how completely different Serendipity is to drive than was Journey (our last coach).  Journey being a Winnebago was built on a Freightliner chassis with 4 airbags.  Serendipity being a Monaco product uses a Roadmaster chassis with 8 airbags.  This coach is also 8 feet longer than the other and most of that 8 feet shows up in a longer wheelbase.  Serendipity is far more stable in the wind, less tippy on an incline, and the engine/transmission match results in a more positive response without many more horsepower (the Journey always had a time delay between when you depressed the throttle and the coach responding — I came to believe it was due to the engine/transmission match — a smaller sized transmission than should have been mated to the engine).

We don’t like 400+ miles days in the coach.  Heck, I’m not so keen on 400+ mile days even in the car anymore even though I used be able to do 700+ miles in a day.  My butt just gets too tired and as we get older things like blood clots in your legs get to be something you should protect against.  But in Journey I was tired by the time we’d driven 150-200 miles. In Serendipity I find 300 miles is a nice day’s trip.  Please understand, that’s a statement based only on 11 days behind the wheel in 7 months.

We still have a lot of learning to do with this new coach.  With 4 slides instead of 2 it just seems like we should be actuating those slides a little less often.  And because a 300 mile trip is more doable in one day, the idea of traveling 2 days worth of driving in only 1  day just makes sense to the mechanical part of my brain.  If it’s easily doable,  and comfortable — why not?

How long does it take to set up and tear down?

stopwatchAs long as I’m talking about such things — let’s talk a little about process.  Setting up at a new site and getting ready to go at an old site are each about an hour’s work.  There are things to move inside the coach, might fall or tip in motion. Then we retract our slides, retract our satellite antenna, raise our jacks, unhook water and electric and stow away the cords/hoses.  That’s just about an hour start to finish.

If we are dumping wastewater and refilling we often need another 30 to 45 minutes — a task we often combine with hooking up the CR-V — as there’s not much to be done while we are refilling our fresh water.  That’s a process you can’t hurry,  you’re dependent on the amount of water a garden hose can move at 50 lbs pressure (max) while going through a filter that only moves about 3 gallons a minute.  You do the math.  With a 100 gallon tank — you can see how that might take a while (depending on how much water we USED in our last stay). I know it’s an extra 700 lbs to carry while we are driving, but if we don’t know where we’re stopping we’d rather have the water on board than count on filling our tank when we arrive at the end of the day.  So we usually finish dumping and stowing the wastewater hose long before the freshwater has been taken on board — plenty of time to hook up the car for towing while we wait.

Coffee Woes

French Press Coffee Maker

Our French Press

Hamilton Beach Brew Station

It was nice until it developed problems holding it’s water! Sounds like an old man to me.

You may remember that about a year ago we bought a new coffee maker.  As long as we were going to be on the Forest for the better part of a year we decided that using our french press ALL the time wasn’t necessary.  We have been careful about accumulating more possessions but the french press made good coffee but didn’t keep a half-empty pot of Joe warm.    And so it was that we found this Hamilton Beach Brew Station.  I read all the Amazon reviews and everyone loved this coffee maker.  Indeed — we did too for the first year.

But now…. he leaks.  Well, it’s not so much that he leaks as that condensation drips back down into a part of the coffeemaker where water is not supposed to accumulate and if we don’t check it every single day it leaks out onto the counter/shelf.  Actually, the coffeemaker is starting to sound like an old man with prostate problems!

We’ve been mopping up after our sloppy coffeemaker for a few weeks now and I suspect that we’ll seek a better solution.  The brew station idea was good, but scratch this implementation off our list of good ideas!

When we bought this one Peg was afraid of a glass coffee pot in the coach — breakage danger.  The Winnebago suspension bounced around so much that we were sure a glass pot would break.  The Roadmaster ride is so much softer that we aren’t nearly as concerned.  So — we’ll see what we end up with — whenever we get sick and tired of mopping up after an incontinent coffeepot.

Thanks for stopping by!  I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

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Old Diary, Travel

Simple Pleasures

There is something special about this time of year.  Perhaps it’s not the time of year that’s special as much as it is our reaction to the end of summer and the approach of winter (in whatever guise we experience it).  Or, it’s possible that the shortening of days makes us more reflective and somber.

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Steam rising, almost obscuring the fishing pier

One of the reasons we like slow travel — or even extended stays at various places — is that you get to see things you would have missed with only a single night’s stay.  Slow Travel gives you time to notice things;  time to let subtle differences sink in; time to realize that the world is more wonderful than you ever imagined.

You can do the same thing if you live in Sticks & Bricks — sure.  The ‘problem’ however, is that it’s possible many people simply don’t take the time to reflect and appreciate what’s right in front of them.  A mobile life — sort of forces you to see what you might have overlooked had you been bored with the setting or tired of looking out the same window at the same-oh, same-oh, same-oh that you have seen everyday for the last 40 years.

When we finally leave this place we will have spent 28 nights on the edge of this pond adjacent to Lake Grenada.  We aren’t actually on Lake Grenada, we can see it in the distance, but the causeway and some intervening lowlands lie between us and the 28000 acre lake caused by the dam here.

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for scarcely an hour these whips of steam rise off the water

I have made a number of sunrise photos while we’ve been here; I have looked at this lake at other times in a hundred different moods and while it’s a small place it keeps revealing itself over and over again in different guises.

I am loving each day here in the same way I loved our time on the Oregon Coast.  There it was the fog and the trees that seemed to change by the day, sometimes by the moment; first enrobed in mist, then revealed like some model walking the runway who dramatically opens her coat or flashes a bit of thigh.  Nature is sexy.  Nature is unpredictable (a fact that even the weathermen must agree with considering the sometimes inaccuracy of their forecasts).

These steam-rising mornings are infrequent.  At least in this part of the world.  And they aren’t the same when they do occur.2014110208020802  Sometimes the steam rises four or five feet off the surface of the water.  At other times just a few scarce inches…. no longer standing proud, but rather creeping along on little cat feet as if stalking prey by stealth. I know all my readers aren’t Christians, or people of any faith whatsoever but given the complexity of this world and the way that nature continues revealing more and more intricacy about the way this universe works I find that the very things others use to discount faith are the things I find strengthening my own.  All this cannot have happened without a First Cause, that is to say a Creator.

You have to be watching to see the steam rise off the water.  Like my friend Amy Woods in Rugby England who said it’s good to be “Ready and Waiting”  as a photographer I have found her words to be a virtual Master’s Course in Photography.  You have to be Ready and you have to be waiting.

When Peggy was still working and I would go off on my photo trips I regretted her not being with me but I also thought to myself that it would be boring for someone else to be along with me when so much of the time I was sitting  on a wooden pier, or a rock, or laying on my stomach with camera in hand.  But I underestimated her and since we’ve been RV’ing I’ve realized she’s infinitely better at being Ready and Waiting than I am.  I love having her with me when I’m out in the field taking pictures; except I sometimes talk so much that the critters don’t come ’round…. <sigh, my fault – – but then I’m not worried about making living now and talking with my sweetie is one of my great delights>

We aren’t good birders.  Partly because we don’t know very many bird calls and a huge part of birding is being able to recognize the calls so that you know what you are looking for. This last half week we have seen a very different group of birds than we had before.  A lot more smaller birds, warblers, finches, etc.  I would have thought they’d have been further south by this time but it’s wonderful to see them darting through the trees.

This morning Peg was watching a couple little guys flitting around the coach — I didn’t see them, I only participated in the conversation after they had flown past the window.  She commented to me about how amazing it is that they fly so quickly and they are so tiny, but that they seem to follow one another through even the most complicated of twists and turns.  It they were humans it would be choreography and it would take weeks to sync so closely with another.  The birds seem to do it ‘naturally.’   Well, duh……

Thanks for stopping by today.  I really do appreciate your comments and having you along for the journey.  I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

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I thought it interesting the way the sun sought out a crevice between the trees to shine through.

Images, Travel

Still Another Sunrise

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Put a guy in a place where he can’t see the sun rise for a few months and it’s bound to have consequences….. Yet another sunrise.

Images, Travel

Another Sunrise

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Old Diary, Travel

Awareness of Minority

I don’t often rant but I’ll make an exception today.

I follow a couple RV’ing websites.  There might not be any ‘wrong’ way to RV but sometimes I like to know what other people are doing with their RV lives.

millenicom_devicesFlat towingThis morning I checked one of those sites to see yet another day filled with complaints that Internet on the road is going to cost more and that fewer and fewer automakers are offering new cars that can be flat towed behind an RV.

It made me wonder whether some people are discovering for the first time in their lives what it’s really like being in a minority?  When what you want isn’t what the majority wants it’s going to be inconvenient, and harder to find, and it’s going to cost you more.  And that’s just the way life works.  Get used to it!

There’s a company called Millenicom that purchased bulk excess wireless internet capacity from Verizon and sold it to their customers for less than the rate Verizon was charging.  Not all that surprisingly Verizon got smart and bought out Millenicom and now the great Internet Bargain that was…. is no more.

You can imagine the cries of outrage and the screams of wallets ripped open in the rape of consumers by Verizon!   Yeah, yeah, yeah…. Does anyone think that a large company isn’t going to take notice when they are selling more and more and not making their profit margin?  Selling excess capacity is fine — when you can’t use it yourself.  But when your customers want that excess and you’ve already given it away you’re left with egg on your face — and you take action to correct that.

That is capitalism — pure and simple.  Sell for a profit.  As much profit as you can manage.

On the other hand there are those who have realized that car makers do not consider RV’ers as their primary sales market!  A hue and cry have gone up as RV’ers are realizing that fewer 2015 automobiles with automatic transmissions are able to be flat towed. I’m shocked!  How can that be?  Why there’s a booming population of RV’ers out there who need flat towable cars and how dare the automakers stop making them?  The fact that car makers sell a lot more cars to the rest of the population than they do to us must has slipped someone’s mind.  And the fact that it’s more important to them to make transmissions cheaply, efficiently, and lightweight — than it is to make them flat towable — somehow doesn’t sink in.

The Purpose

Why am I saying these things?  I don’t like being sarcastic.  I don’t like being negative.  The point I want to make this morning is that leaving the world of Bricks and Sticks puts you into a minority.  I don’t care the color of your skin, or your religious leanings, or your sexual preferences…. if you’re going to live in a tin can you are going to be the exception rather than the rule.  You’ll find that businesses don’t always know what to do with you, friends don’t get it, and family won’t understand basic realities of living  on the road as opposed to touring or vacationing.

There is no Utopia!  RV’ing has a lot of good features; there are also drawbacks. RV’ing is not a way to hide from your troubles.  If you have problems you’ll bring your problems along with you.  RV’ing can be less expensive than maintaining a HUGE home, but RV’ing isn’t cheap and if you make certain mistakes you can find RV’ing to be more expensive than the bricks & sticks life you once lead.  And one unassailable fact will always remain true — if you want to be in the vanguard, if you want to be a trendsetter — it’s going to cost you!

For Us

Peg and I have no regrets about our mobility decision.  We love what we’re doing; there are surprises and sometimes we have to change our plans because of money, but we’re having a ball. Every day we wake up and give thanks for the blessings that are ours.

But almost every day we have conversations with RV’ers and wannabe-RV’ers who never considered the costs of RV’ing.  Oh, I’m not talking about the $$$$ it takes to buy an RV or the costs of staying in a campground overnight — though truth be told many are shocked at how quickly those numbers can add up;  but the costs in how others would treat them (people and businesses), the costs of becoming part of a minority rather than a majority, the cost of suddenly finding that what you want is not what the rest of the world wants and you may be penalized for having unusual desires.

sore thumbRealizing others don’t value mobility as much as you do can be a real sore thumb moment. Something goes wrong with your RV and you can’t find a dealer, or the dealer doesn’t work on those parts, or they are booked solid for the next month — and what do you do? It’s part of the lifestyle!  Get used to it.

When we chose to go RV’ing we made the decision knowing that after a lifetime of marching to another drummer that going RV’ing wasn’t going to change that — we’re still marching to a different drummer and we’re fine with that.  united-states-populationYou just have to accept that there are somewhere around 9.6 Million  RV’s on the road in the US.  There are some 317 million people in the U.S.  Clearly there are a LOT of people who aren’t into RV’s and they are the ones who form the majority, who set the standards, for whom designers design. If you are comfortable being part of the minority — then RV’ing may be for you.  But if you need to march with the majority — maybe this isn’t the perfect solution for you.

So, there you have it.  My periodic rant.  Thanks for stopping by today.  I promise I’ll be more positive tomorrow, and I’ll talk with you then.  🙂

 

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Old Diary, Travel

Here They Are

I mentioned Bob and Janice Flanigan this morning.  We had more time to chat with them this morning before they continued on their way, so here are a couple of shots to share.

The telltale of a PLQ -- the rear window on an '05, '06, '07, '08 Holiday Rambler Ambassador

The telltale of a PLQ — the rear window on an ’05, ’06, ’07, ’08 Holiday Rambler Ambassador

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Curbside view — Things change and the factory decided to mount their awning over the top of their lounge slide.

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Bob, Janice, and Peggy

It is always interesting to me that RV’ers who have never met before are so commonly friendly and open.  I think about next-door brick & stick neighbors and while I made friends of neighbors while we were stationery live-ers I really don’t recall them being as friendly as most RV’ers we’ve attempted to get to know.

In any campground there are campers who are clearly there to be with their family, or by themselves.  Then there are the ones who walk the roads just looking to make friends.  Sometimes I hide from them.  While I love people I’m not always ready for that sort of friend-making.  But those in between, can be the most lovely people we’ve met along the way.

With identical coaches (except for the model year changes)  we had a lot of approaches to RV’ing to share.  We share a lot of outlook on life, and I could see in their modifications to their own coach the kind of changes I might make, or might have made in ours given enough time to get around to them.

It was a fun day, and thanks to Bob and Janice for choosing to Just Stop By — without warning.  They’re off to a volunteer gig in Florida and we wish them well — and hope to see them again along the way.

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