As our fourth year of fulltiming is rapidly coming to a close, we've been talking more and more about how much more of this we'll be doing and what our exit might look like. There are a probably a couple of reasons that have led us to this contemplation: 1) A shocking number of our fulltiming friends have suddenly sold their rigs and gone back to stick and brick houses; and 2) This has been a bit of a a rough year for us, healthwise. If these things hadn't happened, we probably wouldn't even be talking about it.
Our friends who came off the road made their decisions for very disparate and valid reasons, including age, health, family needs and, well, just because they wanted to settle down again. This is all understandable and quite inevitable at some point for all of us, but it is a little sad in that we will not be crossing paths as often now that they have settled permanently in distant locations.
The number two issue that has affected our thinking is the health challenges that have befallen us. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll remember that Sandy and I took a nasty spill on a sidewalk in Fredericksburg, Texas back in April, in which she broke her nose and I wound up severing most of the tendons in my right shoulder that control my arm, rendering it more or less useless. Sandy recovered pretty quickly, thankfully, but regaining the use of my right arm after the painful shoulder surgery has been a slow process that is not yet complete. I would say I'm about 85 percent back to normal, but that's largely because I'm still doing the daily therapeutic exercises they prescribed; I'll probably be doing some of these for the rest of my life, they tell me. If that weren't enough, I began having difficulty with my left knee after the fall, as it was that knee and my right shoulder that took the brunt of the impact. The knee, which was already arthritic to a degree, finally became painful enough that I began using a cane for walking. With all this going on, I suppose it's no surprise that we began assessing just how fit we were to continue this freewheeling lifestyle that is not without its own kind of physical demands.
Fortunately, as fulltimers, we had the ability to relocate ourselves to where the best medical care is available. The Houston area made the most sense, as our family lives nearby, and I was able to get surgery, therapy and other treatments from the very best medical professionals that Houston has to offer. Because of the efforts of these talented doctors and therapists, my shoulder and knee problems have largely diminished to a point where they don't really bother me any longer, and a knee replacement is not even a remote consideration, thank God. So, if you ever have medical issues like mine, I would highly recommend Sterling Ridge Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in Houston as nearly being able to perform miracles, so long as the patient does his/her part in doing the prescribed therapy--something that is critically important. So, with all this being said, we no longer think that medical issues will be forcing a change any time soon, thankfully.
Let's talk about the fulltiming phases that we've been through in the last four years, acknowledging that there may be similarities and differences when compared to others' experiences.
The usual first phase for fulltimers is the vacation phase. That's when they are finally free, like horses escaped from a corral, and they zoom around the country, thinking they have to see it all as quickly as possible. We really didn't go through this phase, as we had already been RVing for more than ten years, and we had already seen a lot of the country. Besides, being on the move all the time is exhausting and not conducive to any real enjoyment of taking a more in-depth look at the wonders all around us and visiting with friends. So, what did we do? We went to the Rio Grande Valley for a good part of the winter, thankful that, now as fulltimers, we didn't have the obligations and worries about the house we just sold.
So, I suppose we went right into phase two, which was more of a "taking it easy" traveling phase, in which we avoided one-night stops if at all possible. We discovered that we could find interesting things to see just about anywhere, so we made as few one-night stops as possible; instead, they extended to two or three nights unless we were on a tight schedule for some reason.
Phase three became more of a "go and stay" phase, in which we pick a wintering area in the south and somewhere up north for a stay in the summertime. Sometimes these involve staying at one park for the whole time but, usually, we have to move around now and then, as long term reservations are harder to find, especially if we don't make them early--something we don't do very well. This "go and stay" phase is the one we're in now, we think. Something we haven't settled is finding RV parks desirable enough that would entice us to return every year for an entire season. A complication is that many of our friends who have left the road don't travel to our former destinations for the whole season any longer, so we are a bit rudderless in that regard. However, there are still places we want to go and things we want to see; we haven't yet exhausted our bucket list. We think that when we find the perfect place to which we will likely return for the season, we'll know it.
Meanwhile, of course, we are frequently drawn back to the Conroe area for obvious reasons (see below):
It's hard not to be around grandsons Mason, Sutton and Pryce. They are the greatest!
Meanwhile, Mindy is getting started in a new nursing job at a local hospital that she says she likes much better than the old one; that's pretty exciting, too:
She's even been given a nickname by her new co-workers, that being "Barbie." I think it fits, don't you? It also means she's finding acceptance and friends, fitting in nicely with her new fellow employees.
I'm also very proud of son-in-law Tyler, who is a site superintendent with a large commercial construction company in Houston:
Although very young for such heavy responsibilities, his talent and work ethic drew quick recognition from his superiors, and he is currently in charge of multiple phases of the construction of a huge 200,000 sq. ft. hangar/maintenance facility for United Airlines in Houston:
Meanwhile, we're getting ready for our winter travels again--just as soon as I'm finally released from treatment by my knee doctor--I have a series of injections that I must complete first. This winter, we'll be in the southwest U. S.--New Mexico, Arizona and California. This will be the first time we've wintered there, so we'll have a lot more stories, I'm sure.
Frankly, we have no idea what our fulltiming exit will look like. We know we're not ready yet, now that our injuries and health issues seem to be fading factors. We've noticed, of course, the very nice houses that our former fulltiming friends have chosen, and they look beautiful and appealing as stick and brick homes. However, we are not yet at the point where we want to return to the upkeep and confinement that this would mean for us. I'm sure we will know--as they did--when the time is right and where we should end up.
Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life;
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.
We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing.
---George Bernard Shaw
"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood