Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Monday, March 18, 2024

Our First Trip Of The Year and I May Be In Trouble With You-Know-Who

 At KOA Campground, Branson, Missouri...

It's a little embarrassing that I have allowed this blog to remain unattended for so long, but it has always been a travel blog and, well, we're not traveling that much any longer. Besides, getting resettled into a real part-timing situation has been a bit more time-consuming than I thought. Now I remember why we went full-timing: Keeping up a stick-and-brick house along with an RV requires some work! It's all coming back to me now. Besides that, we've had to write some very big checks--first to buy the house and then to refurbish and furnish it. The older I get, the more debt-averse I am, so we are curtailing our travels to allow our reserves to recover. We want our only bounced check to be the one to the undertaker.

That doesn't mean staying housebound forever, though, so we decided to meet friends Larry and Carolyn here in Branson--always a favorite place to go. Our plan was to be here a week, then head back home, but it didn't quite work out that way, as you'll see later. 

Getting Phannie's contents ready for travel after she had been idle for several months was not without its missteps. When we were beginning to inhabit the new house, we had agreed to avoid, as much as possible, stealing items from Phannie in the process, because that makes loading the coach for departure so much more difficult--especially when the old memory is not firing on all cylinders these days.

While we were partially successful in keeping the old girl ready for travel, it was inevitable at times that we would just walk out in the garage and purloin something we needed in the house. We didn't make a record of the thievery, of course, so it was no surprise that we found some missing essentials when we began departure prep and after we departed.

Sandy's biggest headache was clothing. Anyone who knows her is aware she thinks that, unlike a man, a woman can never have too many clothes because of all the different styles required for different occasions and the inevitable variables of weather. In all the years of our RVing, bless her heart, she was never really able to simplify her wardrobe adequately. I am being charitable here; she probably holds the record for carrying the most clothes while fulltiming. (If this blog suddenly goes dark, you'll know she read this.)

Her massive clothes collection was the reason the closet rod in Phannie collapsed soon after we began fulltiming. The clothing on my side of the closet took up about ten percent of the total space, while her wardrobe took up the rest, along with a substantial stash in the storage area under the bed. Realizing she probably wouldn't get the hang of simplifying her clothing, I replaced the rather flimsy closet rod with a steel one and added bracing that would probably support a small car. There would be no more collapsed closet rods after that.

When we bought our house recently, it contained, thankfully, a huge walk-in closet, so she decided that--to shut up my "suggestions" toward simplifying her wardrobe--she would remove all her clothing from Phannie and bring everything inside the house, so she could sort it out. This was no small task, as there were enough items to dress most of the women  in the nearby town. Naturally, I was involved in transporting the clothes inside, and I couldn't help but notice that a number of them still had the price tag attached. Once everything was hung up in the house closet, there was room enough in there for her to assess fully her wardrobe, and the winnowing process only got under way after she shooed me away. She found clothes she had forgotten about or were tightly obscured in Phannie's closet, and I was careful not to mention those items that still had the price tags attached. (She knows where the guns are kept.)

Since both of us have lost a great deal of weight over the past couple of years, she began trying on clothes to see which items no longer fit. This was an exhausting project, but she delighted in assembling an impressive pile of too-large clothes that were destined for a charity donation.

I thought this might bring about an epiphany for her in terms of the number of garments required for part-time RV travel and, to my amazement, it did! As a result of her bravery, she had whittled them down from 121 items (yes, you read that right) carried aboard Phannie while fulltiming to 29 now! To be fair, I counted my own garments now in Phannie's closet and came up with 14. I'm not sure what the average number of clothing items are for RV travel, but this reduction of hers was stunning. I praised her profusely, and I have an idea that even she was relieved at her monumental effort at downsizing. 

You will recall that I mentioned her large walk-in closet in the house, right? I don't think there's a woman alive who is comfortable with extra unused closet space. We'll see how that goes.

Another thing we didn't do very well involved food. When we parked Phannie in her attached RV garage after we bought the house, we cleaned out her refrigerator and turned it off. That will, of course, have to be standard procedure from now on between trips, for obvious reasons involving perishable food. (We also discovered some rather basic food items missing; remember the thievery I mentioned earlier?) Two days before our departure to Branson, I turned the refrigerator on again so it would cool down and the icemaker would begin operating. Besides having occasionally "borrowed" from Phannie's pantry, we didn't bring back enough food from the house and the house refrigerator, and we found that we had to go immediately to the grocery store upon our arrival in Branson. This seems like one of those things we will just never get right.

I may have written before about our increasing intolerance for overnights between our travel legs. Over the years, we have tried to limit our daily travel to 300 miles or less but, for some reason, the hassle of making and breaking camp for one night has become  an anathema, so we decided to drive the entire 500 miles to Branson in one day. This required, of course, the hilly, curvy part of the drive through the Ozark mountains to be done after nightfall. While it was do-able, it was totally exhausting to manage all the twists, climbs and descents, downshifting and upshifting incessantly to control the speed and save the brakes. We had contacted the park in Branson earlier in the day, and they had no problem with a late arrival, but I'm not sure the other RVers there appreciated Phannie's noisy diesel as we snaked our way to our parking site at 9:30 p.m. Would I do such a long leg again? Probably not in mountainous driving in the dark. However, if the road had been an interstate or a level one?  Definitely. Was it safe? Probably not so much on this trip, but I think it would have been, had it not been for the mountain roads. Because Phannie's front seats are so comfortable with lots of legroom, normal driving is pretty easy.

A few days after our arrival in Branson, we noticed the electrical part of our water heater had stopped working. After performing what little troubleshooting I could do, we called a mobile repairman, whose ability to communicate reliably was rather severely compromised because he didn't answer his cell phone most of the time, and he didn't use voice mail. He came out to our coach, though, and discovered the problem right away; then he announced that he would have to go get some parts and that he would be back, leaving the electrical part of the water heater disassembled. This was late on a Friday afternoon, so I wasn't expecting him back during the weekend, which turned out to be the case. That meant we had to extend our stay and hope we'll see him again on Monday. 

If you've had to use mobile RV techs, you're probably aware that you never really know what you're going to get. A few are really great, but most of them are very busy and may not be able to get to you for days. Besides that, more than a few obviously have not attended a Dale Carnegie course on how to win friends and influence people. Sizing up this guy, it was obvious that he would not handle well my pressuring him, so I decided to give him plenty of rein and see what happens on Monday. We could have buttoned up and left, relying on the propane part of the heater, but we already owed him for the service call, and I would hate to start over again after returning home.

That gave us a free weekend, which we used to see a show and do some sightseeing. Branson is different in many ways from our first visit some 20 years ago. The entertainers popular then and whom we enjoyed have now either retired or passed away. There used to be nostalgic shows about music of the '50s, but these have been replaced by the '60s, 70s, and 80s. We don't remember getting older; what happened? There are still good shows, though, and plenty of entertainment to be had.

Driving around, it was obvious that it was early spring in lower Missouri; tiny green leaves were just beginning to appear on the trees, and the redbuds were in full bloom:

We also enjoyed a sunset in the Ozarks; that's Branson's Lake Taneycomo in the photo below:

We also did some shopping--well, Sandy did the shopping; I did the driving. We couldn't leave without getting some stuff for the grands. There was also a shopping bag that had a Chico's emblem; I'm not sure that one was for the grands.

Well, I'm going to close this for now; that'll give me an opportunity for another post to disclose how all this turned out.

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

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

Monday, January 15, 2024

Part-Timers Now, For Sure, But It Hasn't Been Easy

 At Bass Lake Christian Retirement Community, Lindale, Texas...

    I've been reading back over several posts. (I have to do that to make sure I don't repeat myself--a sure sign the buzzards are circling overhead.) By now, you know that we have moved diagonally across Texas to a true part-timers' setup. The official transition was not complete until a few days ago, as we had been living in Phannie under the RV cover until the house was ready for occupancy. (You can see a photo of the place a couple of posts back.)

    After eight years of fulltiming, there were some things about making the transition for which we weren't mentally or physically prepared. Another way of putting it is that we had no clue what it would be like to prepare for living in a house again. Yes, I guess our memory had faded that much.

    We were also slowed by our two-week holiday visit with the kids--which we couldn't miss, of course. Thankfully, we are a couple of hours closer to them now. 

    Almost immediately after returning from the Houston area, Sandy and I became ill. I was the first to fall, with fever and all the lovely side effects of the flu. My immediate visit to the doctor confirmed influenza (even though we had both had flu shots), but instead of prescribing the usual Tamiflu medication, the doctor gave me a prescription for a single tablet (I can't remember the name of it, but I have no trouble remembering that the one pill cost $75.) However, it must be the new best thing, as I began to feel better fairly quickly, as the fever subsided. Sandy's symptoms were not as severe, but the coughing and sniffling have persisted to this day. 

    The problem with going to part time RVing and moving into a house is that we didn't have much of anything to take from Phannie  to the house. Since we'll still be traveling in Phannie, we must leave almost everything inside intact! That left us with the necessity of furnishing the house from scratch! 

    Well, we must admit to some luck here, in that the former owners of the house were moving into an apartment and were unable to take with them any of the kitchen or laundry appliances. They asked if we wanted them for free, and we, of course, said, "Yes!" We also had a sofa and two chairs from the Hondo cabin and a second sofa that we had kept from our previous house so, thankfully, we had a good head start. 

    We still had a good bit of furniture to buy, and it certainly had not gotten cheaper in eight years! I had to buy a new computer, of course, and it is amazing how these things have improved in the last eight years! 

    The big surprises came in the form of the little things. We had no cooking utensils, dinnerware, silverware, plus dozens of other gadgets that are required. Simple things, like clocks, wastebaskets, bathroom and cleaning supplies--even tiny things like envelopes and stamps--all these had to be purchased. Every day, it seemed, we discovered we didn't have some essential thing, and we were faced with the need to borrow it from Phannie, hoping to remember to replace it later. When we start our next trip, we will almost certainly be in the same situation; we'll travel somewhere and discover items missing from Phannie that we stole for the house.

    Then there was the dilemma of making the house feel like our own instead of someone else's. The decor had to reflect our taste, and that was a bit of a challenge, since the buyer of our previous house eight years ago had also bought almost all our furnishings that we had picked out after a lot of thought. 

    Now, in the new house, it took a while to choose just the right things, but one idea that I had turned out superbly: I chose several photographs I had taken at various landmarks on our travels and had them made into large canvas wall-hangings. They turned out spectacularly well, serving a dual purpose as a reminder every day of the places we've been and the sights we've seen on our marvelous eight-year odyssey. We found there were more photos than we could reasonably hang in the small house, but we plan to switch them out from time to time. Here is a sampling of the ones hanging now:


Old Mine Near Marble, Colorado

Top: Old Barn With The Grand Tetons in the Background; Bottom: The Grand Canyon

Sunset Near Yuma, Arizona

    Finally, upon completing this post today, we are in the deep freeze here in northeast Texas. We are so glad to have Phannie tucked away from the elements and not sucking down the propane and electricity to keep us warm. 

(I should have pulled Mae under cover, too, but I didn't know it was going to snow. Lesson learned.) 

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

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