Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Robin Hood Planning (Or Taking From Rich Planners and Giving to Poor Planners)

At home in Forth Worth...

Now, about the teaser from the end of my last post regarding our upcoming RVing plans:  It appears, Lord willing, that I will indeed be able to retire in June!  That is, unless the loopy politicians in Washington finally kill off capitalism and our investments all go south.

Sandy and I have given much thought to the kind of retirement ours will be.  It would be easy for me to toss the S&B and all of its expenses and irritations.  However, we both think we would need to have a home port somewhere with at least a modest bungalow that we could call home, with Phannie parked a few steps away when we aren’t on the road.  And since that’s essentially the living arrangement we have now (although it’s perhaps not quite a modest bungalow), the operative question is whether we can afford the expense of keeping the property and putting up with the worry factor when we’re away.  We think the answer is yes, but we’ll have to confirm that in actual practice.  So, we’ll see.

Now, back to the planning thing:   As I explained in the previous post, planning is not something that comes easy for me.  I occasionally have to do planning for the sake of avoiding chaos, but I generally keep it to a minimum, preferring spontaneity as I do.  Basically, my planning is limited to financial matters and trips.  Sandy isn’t particularly interested in planning either of these, so that’s where I have to man up and do it.  Luckily, the financial planning was largely done a long time ago and is more or less on autopilot; I don’t have to tweak it much.  As far as trip planning goes, I’ve always thought that less is more.  For me, planning a trip is simply envisioning a part of the country I would like to see and then considering what major attractions we might encounter along the way. But this is minimalist planning, done from a very high level and requiring rest afterward.  I could not possibly include at the same time planning about how to get there; that would be much too laborious.  I’m just smart enough, however, to know that picking a route is necessary at some point; after all, I probably need to know what direction I should point Phannie on the day of departure.   

With this in mind, it occurred to me that I might get blog readers to do some planning for me on our trip to Yellowstone this summer.  This will be our first trip after retirement—and the first one that will be open ended in terms of when we must return.  That in itself is a fantasy for which I’ve waited during my entire working career.

Departure from Texas will be in July, and we will be making haste toward Colorado to escape the blast furnace that is a Texas summer.  I don’t need much planning to get to Colorado, as that is pretty much a no-brainer.  I just point Phannie north by northwest and stop when we see mountains—piece of cake!  Near Colorado Springs, we’ll drop in on Ed and Marilyn for a few days at Mountaindale.  From there to Yellowstone, it gets a little fuzzy.  We love mountain scenery, but we’re not too interested in being frightened in our big rig on narrow roads with hairpin curves. We love bucolic settings such as those found in national and state parks, but sometimes we just don’t fit.  It’s a sacrifice we don’t mind making, however, for the sake of traveling comfort. 

We like small town settings, historical venues and eating in restaurants frequented by the locals.  We don’t follow sports, golf, fishing or hunting, and we can’t do much in the way of long walks or hiking (bad joints).  We like music, museums, festivals, rallies, tours, roadside stands, waterfalls, rivers, creeks and lakes.    

So, here’s where the Robin Hood thing comes in:  We would like for those of you who have more planning than you need to give us some since I'm too lazy to plan.  Somehow this seems entirely appropriate these days; even Warren Buffet thinks so! 

We would love to hear your ideas about a good route and attractions from Colorado Springs to Yellowstone, given the criteria I’ve described.  We’ll get to the rest of the trip later; I can only take so much planning right now.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Are You A Planner?

At home in Fort Worth...

I’m not; but I married one.  Sandy loves to plan things, and I don’t.  Here’s an example:  In preparation for our wedding day and honeymoon, Sandy spent weeks planning and packing her things for our trip to Hawaii.  Judging by the luggage she had placed in the trunk of our getaway car, she had prepared for every possible contingency of weather, activity and act of God, including perhaps even another attack on Pearl Harbor.

When we left the church at the conclusion of the wedding, we drove to what would be our apartment where I had already moved my things in preparation for our setting up housekeeping.  (Yes, I know it was very provincial to be living apart before marriage, but Biblical principles were important then, and they still are to us today—although we now seem to be in a rapidly shrinking minority.)

After carrying her over the threshold, I put her down and went to the bedroom to pack my bag for the trip.  She stood, mouth agape, in utter disbelief that I had given so little forethought to our honeymoon.  Within ten minutes, I was ready to travel without even once changing my mind about the few things I was tossing into my suitcase (note my intentional use of the singular form of this noun).

Sandy was initially hurt, I think, that I had devoted so little time to planning and preparing my wardrobe for our honeymoon.  Actually, she probably should have given me more credit:  In a very uncharacteristic and uncomfortable fit of planning, I had actually secured the reservations and tickets for the trip to Hawaii. (I really needed our honeymoon vacation to recover from this.)

Sandy soon came to realize that she had in her life partner a person desperately in need of her gift of planning expertise and, like most nurturing women, she definitely liked to feel needed.  At that moment, she probably said—under her breath—“Don’t worry, honey, I’ll take it from here.”  And so she has.  And it has worked, oh so well, for 36 great years.  I admit, somewhat sheepishly, that my honeymoon suitcase was the last one I ever packed.  She considered me so inept at planning that I could not possibly be trusted with packing even my own things for a trip.  Did I put up any resistance to her usurpation of my packing responsibility?  Are you kidding?  I was happy as a clam and still am.

That is not to say that my preference for spontaneity has not had a beneficial effect on Sandy. One more than one occasion, I devilishly announced that I was taking her on a surprise trip to an undisclosed location.  While her initial reaction was delight at the prospect of flying away on a romantic holiday, her giddiness quickly turned to panic as she contemplated how she could possibly prepare for such a thing.  My fear was that we would not be able to afford the excess baggage fees, as I fully expected her to pack, well, everything.

Over the years, however, Sandy has mellowed a great deal in her penchant for preparedness.  It’s a good thing, too, as the aging process has dramatically lessened my capability to tote around a massive number of suitcases.  In this regard, having an RV has proved a godsend, as we really don’t have to do much in the way of power packing when we go on a trip.  Much of the stuff we need stays on board when we're not traveling.  For several days in advance of departure, however, I’ll take a few things out to Phannie as instructed by Sandy, where they will stay—organized, thanks to her—until our return.  And on other trips not taken by RV, Sandy has also mellowed in her packing obsession.  One of the (few) benefits of getting older is attaining a greater discernment over what is important and what is not.  Comfort and simplicity trump just about everything, and there is a certain satisfaction in having attained that wisdom.

Why, you may ask, did I feel the need to go into this epic piece of reminiscence? Well, there is a reason, and it has to do with Phannie and planning, hence its appearance in this travel blog.  But that will have to wait for the next post.  This one is long enough.