Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Saturday, August 31, 2013


At home in Fort Worth...

It was not a particularly poignant moment when I shut off my FAA computer for the last time and handed in my ID badge and door access card.  There were few co-workers left in the office late on this Friday before Labor Day (it WAS a government office, after all), so the parting gestures were finished quickly, and I strode out the door into the scorching August heat.  Still it had not struck me as particularly momentous that I was officially retired, not only from a great job with the FAA but from my entire aviation career of 45 years. As I turned the car onto Freeport Parkway and headed home, I thought how great it is that I will no longer have to dodge the buckled pavement of that street, whose repairs had been ignored by the city of Irving for years.  That was it…no dramatic chords from Beethoven’s Fifth in my head, no sense of regret, no sense of loss...just a sneer at the rough spots in the roadway that I would not encounter again. 

My thoughts immediately turned happily to Phannie (Phaeton), the big gray motorhome I would be retrieving shortly from the Cummins/Onan service center in Fort Worth.  They had finished the yearly service on the genny, during which they had also replaced the fuel pump. The diesel engine that runs the generator had developed a problem of suddenly shutting down for no apparent reason and needing priming to restart.  After checking everything else, it was decided that a new fuel pump would be the answer, and they proved to be right. The genny ran perfectly all the way home.

My long countdown to retirement was made easier by planning for a long RV trip immediately afterward. For years I had pored over hundreds of posts by RV bloggers describing their idyllic lives on the road and the wonderful places they’ve been, and I was more than ready to join them. It was with that anticipation that I had planned a month-long tour of the mountain west that would include a stop in Colorado Springs to visit Ed and Marilyn and ending up in Yellowstone. It was not to be, however. Ed wrote me a nice note apologizing for needing to leave their mountain retreat earlier than planned, but that turned out not to be the issue in canceling that outing.  On a recent trip to Houston to visit our “kids” (as we call our daughter Mindy, her husband Tyler and our grandson Mason), we noticed a leak in Phannie’s black tank. The leak was apparently not located at the bottom of the tank, for it would not appear until after a couple of days’ use. Now if you are an RVer, you know that any kind of leak from a black tank is not something that you can ignore. We dealt with it by dumping the tank daily, but that is not the desirable method of managing a black tank.

I decided that the best thing to do would be to take Phannie back where she was born, at the Tiffin factory in Red Bay, Alabama.  Bob Tiffin has built a huge repair facility there, and we also wanted to see if Phannie was subject to a recent wet bay floor recall by the factory. Since we had a number of other small issues to be looked after at the same time, we decided this would be a good time to head to Red Bay and experience this legendary gathering of Tiffin motorhome owners taking advantage of the highly respected factory repair shop.  We knew, of course, that a wait is usually involved in Camp Red Bay, as the factory RV campground is known, but we thought we could make some side trips in the interim or afterward.  We’ll get underway in a few days and see how it goes.

As it turns out, I don’t really care where we go on our first trip in retirement. It will be so nice not to have to be so time-conscious as we were while I was working. For the first time, we will have the luxury of moving around when and where we choose, spending extra time at some places if we wish. That will be something to be savored, for sure.