Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Fulltiming: Do You Lose All Your Friends?

At Goldfield RV Park, Colorado Springs, Colorado...

We have been enjoying the afternoon showers that are often present here  in the mountains. The rain brings a freshness to the air and often a little chill that chases away the heat of the day (if you can call temperatures in the eighties 'heat'). Temperatures in the fifties and sixties are the norm at night here and yes, we feel for our fellow Texans whom we have abandoned in our flight from the hot weather down there. However, based on the gang that we've run into here in Colorado, we're thinking now that we didn't leave all that many of our friends behind after all!

Believe it or not, we have counted no fewer than three dozen of our friends--mostly RVers from Texas--with whom we have visited here this summer!  You've already seen photos of our local friends Phyllis and Vicki and the large contingent of RV friends occupying spaces at Mountaindale, about 15 miles south of town. Amazingly,  we have also been blessed with the presence of perhaps five or six additional couples, most of whom are members of our Tiffin Bluebonnet Club in Texas, but they also include new friends Glenn and Joy, whom we will see again in Estes Park. Here are photos of some of the bunch from our Tiffin club:

So what is a favorite pastime of the group?  Eating out, of course! This is a seafood boil-in-the-bag orgy at a place called Krabby's in Colorado Springs. It was a little messy but good, and we were well protected, as you can see. No one was injured in the process.  Left to right are Sandy, Chip, Hank, Jackie, Steve, Shirleen, Diane, Shirley and Art. A great time was had by all.

Hank, a member of the Elks, got us into an Elks lodge for an inexpensive but tasty taco dinner, after which some of the couples danced a bit to tunes from the jukebox. Art and Shirley in the foreground and Hank and Shirleen on the right. Suddenly, it was the fifties again!

Normally, we sit around outside in the cool early evening, but on this day, a rainstorm forced us to take refuge in Art and Shirley's coach. Not too shabby!  We engaged in a trivia game, and I think the guys won. We're not entirely sure, because we think Russia might have rigged the scoring.
I mention all of the camaraderie among these friends to illustrate a partial answer to the question I posed in the title of this piece--whether you leave all your friends behind when you begin fulltiming. The answer is that you not only don't lose your old friends, you gain many new ones!

In today's communications age, the world is a much smaller place than it was a few decades ago. We may not see the friends from our old neighborhood as often as we used to, but that doesn't mean we don't keep up with them through social media and visit them from time to time. It has been my observation that good friends are good for a lifetime, and the reunions are all the sweeter after a little absence.

When we began this adventure, we would never have guessed that we would meet so many new friends who, like us, share a common interest in this kind of travel and who enjoy each other's company. We feel doubly blessed that we have the health and resources to enjoy this window of opportunity to experience the freedom of movement around the country, enjoying God's creation. It will not always be so, of course; we will eventually have to hang up the keys, and we will rely on our memories (or what's left of them) and this journal to remember all the good times. But right here and right now, with so many of our friends around us, it is a sweet time we will always remember.

Oh yes, and we shouldn't forget that there is another contingent of friends I haven't mentioned who are touring other parts of the country now, with whom we will certainly get together in the fall when the great RV migration begins from the north back to the south. And, of course, with social media, we keep up with them and know when and where our paths are likely to cross. We are certainly looking forward to seeing them again.

Friends? We never had so many. So, if this is something that you're worrying about as a potential fulltimer, you can scratch it off your list. 

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I don't appreciate it as I should each day.

You don't stop playing when you get old; you get old when you stop playing.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Gatherings of Friends in Colorado

At Goldfield RV Park, Colorado Springs, Colorado...

After an uneventful 300-plus miles from Santa Fe, we settled in at Goldfield RV Park here in Colorado Springs. We don't normally stay at parks of this stripe, but suffice it to say that beggars can't be choosers. We made these reservations a few months ago after failing to find any other long-term accommodations here in the Springs. Apparently, if you don't make reservations here at least six months or more in advance, the more desirable parks will simply be unavailable. 
Goldfield RV Park in Colorado Springs
Goldfield has only one positive that comes to mind, that being close to Old Colorado City with all the attractions a short drive away. The main problem is that RVs are parked incredibly close together--so close that I think we could hear someone sneeze in the coach next door!

There is a woeful shortage of RV parks in the Denver-Colorado Springs-Estes Park areas, and the owners of the ones that are here know it: A space at mega-crowded Goldfield runs over a grand a month; Dakota Ridge in Denver is around $1800, and some campgrounds in Estes Park soar to over $2000 per month! Now I realize that the summer season is short and that this brevity has a significant effect on pricing, but this seems pretty breathtaking for a place to park! On the other hand, the law of supply and demand hasn't been repealed; they can charge a big price because they can get it.

Okay, enough ranting; let's move on to the fun part. While summer here on the front range is a little warmer than I had hoped, being with old friends and making new ones is a warmth to which we have looked forward. The day after we arrived, we joined a familiar group of RVer friends at Ed and Marilyn's Mountaindale campsite for snacks and laughter as nonstop harassment ensued among the guys; there was no place to hide. One cannot survive in this group with a thin skin, that's for sure. 

On our first Saturday here, we strolled around the farmer's market in Old Colorado City. This market, occurring every Saturday in the summer, was a much larger group of vendors than we had anticipated, and there was a crowd of onlookers moving slowly among the tents. We bought some fresh fruit and vegetables, along with some homemade sausage and pickles that we have really been enjoying. 

Fresh Colorado Peaches.  Yum!

Wares from the La Baguette French Bakery. So good, it's truly sinful.
 Soon thereafter, we met some new friends right in our RV park, by virtue of their stopping and chatting with us upon noticing Phannie's Texas license tags. We learned that Joy and Glenn are from a small town not far from my ancestral homeland of Nacogdoches in east Texas; they are headed to Estes Park for the rest of the summer.

Joy and Glenn and their beautiful Phaeton 
We hit it off so well that we went out with them several times to nearby restaurants. We happily add these fine folks to our constellation of friends whose paths we love crossing from time to time. 

We also visited with friends Vicki and Phyllis, who introduced us to a really good Chinese restaurant that served good-sized portions at a bargain price. It was exactly the kind of mom-and-pop joint that we love to discover:

These two delightful sisters are longtime residents of Colorado Springs--friends whom Sandy has known since high school. It was good to connect with them again.

At another lunch gathering, we met at Nairi Siam, a great Thai restaurant with some of our Mountaindale friends to enjoy fellowship with Trent and Teresa, who were visiting from Canada. By the way, this restaurant appears in my "Favorite Restaurants" page in this blog. (Few are able to achieve that honor.)

Marilyn, Teresa, Janet, Jackie, Denny, Bob, Ed and Trent
I found time one afternoon to replace one of Phannie's windshield wiper assemblies that was giving trouble. After having the driver's wiper deconstruct itself during a rainstorm on the way up here, I called the Tiffin factory in Red Bay, and their parts people sent out a new assembly to me right away. One of the nice things about Tiffin is that I can still order the exact part I need for Phannie, even though she is 12 years old now. 

On a recent Saturday, Bob and Janet invited us out to Mountaindale RV Resort for a wonderful taco salad lunch at their campsite. Most of our merry group were there, and we had a fine time sitting around and swapping stories. The 78-degree mountain breeze made for a delightful time there among the pine trees:

I suppose one could get the impression that all we do is eat and visit and, well, that's not far off the mark, I guess. However, we do make frequent excursions on our own or in small groups to see the beautiful scenery or visit the local attractions that appeal to our varied interests. Colorado Springs seems to have evolved into a summer gathering place for this group, and there are certainly worse places to enjoy our summer-long escape from the hot Texas weather. 

During the next couple of weeks here in the Springs, we'll be joined by several other RVing friends from Texas, and we'll be able to show them around to all the local discoveries we've made and introduce them to the Mountaindale group of friends; a good time will be had by all, for sure. After that, we will be heading to beautiful Estes Park, Colorado, where we hope to see Joy and Glenn again. 

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I don't appreciate it as I should each day.

You don't stop playing when you get old; you get old when you stop playing.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

New Chairs, A Water Park Weekend and We Head North

At the Santa Fe KOA, Santa Fe, New Mexico...

Upon our return from Hawaii, we had only a few days to reset our body clocks and undo all the packing we did for the cruise. In the process, many vows were made as to what we would do differently in the future in regard to packing and limiting the number of pieces of luggage that would be carried. (Did you know that we had to buy an additional suitcase in Hawaii for dirty clothes and the extra stuff 'someone' bought while there? Well, we did, and this is not unusual for us.) 

It was such a good feeling to carry the excess clothes and suitcases back to storage, leaving our regular accouterments stowed in their familiar places in Phannie. Now, will our fresh vows be broken in the future? Probably; we have never been what you would call strict with that sort of thing or with anything else, for that matter. So, resolutions, for us, tend to be a bit short-lived. Perhaps because we don't take ourselves very seriously, we have a good life and a relationship that is about as strife-free and stress-free as one can be. On the downside, we're probably always going to look like the Beverly Hillbillies traveling with their belongings piled up in their old Model T.

When we arrived back in Conroe, son-in-law Tyler was kind enough to bring out some new recliners that we had ordered and had shipped to his house. They were too large, of course, to fit through Phannie's door, so he partially disassembled them and then put them back together inside the coach. (I wouldn't want him to know this, but he is a really good guy.)

We had absolutely worn out our previous recliners, so we were glad to find these--all leather and very comfy. By the way, we have  nap-tested these, and they passed with flying colors!  Thank you, Tyler, for your help!

On our way northward, we stopped in Burleson, Texas to join our kids at the Jellystone water park. We get a big kick out of watching our grandsons have such a good time:

Here is a fresh photo of daughter Mindy and grandson Pryce: 

Below is grandson Mason with pal Yogi:

Sandy and I seemed best suited for just sitting around and watching the spectacle. These boys are pretty special to us:

Reluctantly, we said goodbye to the kids and headed Phannie northward in our quest to find cool air. In doing so, we stretched our usual 200 to 250-mile leg to 373 miles before parking at Oasis RV Resort in Amarillo for the night. (By the way, I-40 is a mess all the way through Amarillo--lots of construction.)

Unfortunately, catching up on our rest after the long leg proved a bit elusive, as a cold front blew through Amarillo after dark. The  gale-force wind from nearby thunderstorms was so great that we had to bring in the slides and stow the satellite dish, after which the park's electrical power was interrupted.  A few minutes later, the park's water supply also went off, probably because the park's water pump was affected by the power outage. Things calmed down around four a.m., and we were able re-deploy the slides and satellite and get a bit of sleep. Also, it had mercifully cooled down into the sixties--nice!

The next leg to Santa Fe was longer than usual, too--the better part of 300 miles. I mentioned above our historical limitation in a day's travel because we're usually not in any hurry. However, that may be changing, especially if we are traversing some geography that is not particularly appealing or where there are no interesting stops.  Such is certainly the case with the numbing nondescriptness of west Texas and eastern New Mexico topography. In such cases, I just put on an audiobook and keep the big bus cruising 'on the step.' 

I should explain that term, for I'm showing my age here: On the step represents a very old flying technique that may be as much an old pilot's tale as anything else. According to this theory, a pilot can achieve a little better cruising speed at a given altitude by first climbing above then descending back to the altitude into a 'sweet spot' of a cruising configuration. This has been the subject of hangar talk and barroom speculation among pilots for ages, and I've tried it, but the outcome was hardly convincing. I remain neutral but skeptical.  

Anyhow, the passing around of this shibboleth among pilots has diminished rather pointedly since computers began to do more of the flying than pilots. In the more sophisticated airplanes these days, pilots largely monitor the automation rather than doing hands-on flying, and the younger fliers coming up probably have no idea what I'm even talking about. Frankly, I'm not unhappy that I missed most of the automation; I enjoyed flying too much.

It should be noted that Phannie doesn't have much automation either, except automatic transmission and cruise control. She certainly doesn't drive herself, but I rarely get tired of driving unless we spend a good deal of time in a high traffic metropolitan area, which I desperately try to avoid. If we're on Interstate highways and other roads with little traffic and few stops, I sometimes take advantage of this and drive longer legs when appropriate.

One disappointment in reaching Santa Fe was that the place was having a heat wave. In fact, Denver, which is not too far away, recorded its highest June temperature in history! Wouldn't you know it? The temperature was in the nineties when we got to Santa Fe and it didn't abate for a couple of days. This is a bit unusual for a place that's above 7,000 feet in elevation. Another disappointment was the Santa Fe KOA, where we are set up until after the holiday rush. The park itself is okay, but it's all dirt and gravel and, therefore, very dusty. As the place is down in a canyon, the AT&T cell service is weak. But the worst thing is the water, which has a strong mineral smell and taste and is not as clear as it should be. We certainly don't drink it, purchasing our drinking water instead. We would probably already have moved, but getting space elsewhere around the July 4th holiday is unlikely.

We took the opportunity to hop in Mae and take an air-conditioned drive up to Taos and then over to Angel Fire to meet some friends who were staying at the Angel Fire RV Resort. This was one of the nicest RV parks we've ever seen, and the daytime temperature there at 8,300 feet was, mercifully, in the 70s and low 80s. Now that's more like it! We had a very nice dinner with our friends at the Angel Fire Country Club and drove back afterward. What a great evening!

Angel Fire RV Resort

I got a delightful surprise this week from the author of Reflections Around the Campfire, a breezy and well written RV camping blog that I discovered a while ago and have been reading ever since. I think Mary, the author, and I are kindred spirits, to a degree, in our writing styles. We both strive to make our posts readable and entertaining by trying to achieve more of a conversational or storytelling tone than one that comes across as bookish or travelogue-like. This sometimes isn't easy and, coupled with my obsessive-compulsive disorder that requires me to edit these posts to death while trying for perfection, my rewrites are many and largely unjustified, I'm sure. I mean, would you really stop reading this if I were to leave out a comma or use a dangling participle? I hope not, but I've not had much success in finding a help program. As I've mentioned before, I think this neurosis of mine originated with Mrs. Reed, an English teacher in high school who actually rapped her students' knuckles with a ruler if they failed to recite properly the rules of grammar. Of course, she would probably be in jail today, but I will always be grateful--even with the trauma she administered--for insisting on excellence; that experience served me incredibly well throughout my career. Thank you, Mrs. Reed.

But I digress.

Mary sent me a note saying how much she enjoyed Phannie and Mae and that she has included it as a favorite in the new blogroll that she has now added to her site. She linked to it in her latest post, as I have similarly done with her blog title above. This may not seem like a big deal, and everyone likes a high five, but recognition from a respected peer is pretty special to me.  Thanks, Mary; I'm glad we toil in the same vineyard.

After July 4th, we will be making our way to Colorado Springs, where we will meet up with a number of friends who are already there and with others who will be dropping in later in the month.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it as I should each day.

We don't stop playing when we get old; we get old when we stop playing.