Because We Can - Fulltime RV'ing

Journal Archive 2/11 - 2/20 2011

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February 12 Saturday

Heading to where it's warm

What is it about us and this cold weather? While we were up in Livingston becoming actual Texans, everyone was telling us that it isn't usually this cold. Now that might have been the case, but never having been there before, they also may have just been giving us the newby welcome wink.

Then we move down south to Willis, where the weather is considerable warmer and figure that it was so cold in Livingston because it was in the far north latitudes. However, our next move threw a monkey wrench into that line of thinking.

Residing in League City, south of Houston for a week while getting our Winegard Trav'ler dish installed, the weather wasn't exactly tropical, but it was pleasant enough that we could go out in the early evening without a jacket, or at least I could, as Linda is an established practitioner of the layered look.

Thinking if it was this nice where we were at, then if we moved a little further to the southwest to would be even nicer, proved to be a big mistake. We may have moved only 5 miles or so over to the other side of I-45, but in doing so we seemed to have crossed over one of the great climatological lines of the world.

Cold wasn't the word for what we ran into. Try four straight days of all time recorded breaking lows, and tell me what you would call them. During that time we took a day trip to the Houston Space Center, where we learned that you don't have to actually go into outer space to experience near absolute zero conditions, just take a ride on that tour tram they have on a day like we did.

We stayed at that park only long enough to get our new tire and then we were off to Palacios, Texas, the hidden gem of the coast as the Chamber of Commerce folks advertise. I don't know about hidden gems, but the day we got there was the nicest day we had experienced in months. That meant we spent time at the local visitor center finding out all there was to do in town and out, all the while thinking we may want to stay for longer than the three nights we had registered for at the Bay Side RV Park.

We went to bed that night looking forward to a day out on the bay front, driving down to the Gulf, wriggling our toes in the sand, and having a good time for a change. During the night Linda gets up which wakes me up, and what with all the shaking of the coach, has me wondering if there is an earthquake or something.

Looking back, an earthquake may have been more acceptable than what it was, which was the wind a blowing in the coldest front of weather to ever strike this place. All the next day it was either blowing or raining, with periods when it was doing both at the same time.


We did get out in the evening to go to a potluck dinner at the activity center of the park. Linda's deviled eggs being wiped out, which was exactly what she wanted. I've often wondered how a lady that takes her prize dish to one of these things, only to discover hardly anybody took any of it, feels. Is it, "great there is more for us to enjoy," or is it, "I'm a failure, I can't even cook anything decent."

Linda figured out a long time ago that deviled eggs is always a sure fire hit, but if she makes more than she takes, we get to enjoy them also. Like I always say, she's the best thing that ever happened to me. Though by now I was beginning to have my doubts about her current ability to pick RV Parks.


The thermometer the next morning tells the tale of the temperature. Compared to the temperatures we had during our time in League City, a low of 24.5° doesn't seem too bad. The temperature at the local weather station station this morning, however, was the lowest recorded temperature ever for any date since they started keeping official, or unofficial records, for that matter. All that is why we decided that as nice as Palacios was, and as many things as there were there that we wanted to see, we needed to be heading even further south.


When you loose the touch, you loose the touch, and as we were heading down the road of Life it was beginning to appear that Linda was definitely out of touch. Our erstwhile, ever on top of it navigator was taking us on roads where no RV had ever traveled, all the while repeating over and over, "It was a black line road, it was a black line road."


For two days in a row, our GPS kept telling us to turn, Linda kept insisting that the road was okay, there was something wrong with the GPS, and for two days we saw about as much of this as we did white lines in front of us. Eventually we did make it down to the Rio Grande Valley, where, if you are coming this way, fill your fuel tanks before you arrive, unless money isn't an object. It may be that RV parks are inexpensive down here, but they make up for it in fuel prices.

We are staying for a week or so at the very west end of the Valley, planning to share some time with some on-line friends, then heading off up HWY 83 towards Laredo and with our luck, much colder weather. In the meantime, I'll try to post every couple of days so all you all will be able to keep up with what's going on in this dream Life we sometimes live.

February 18 Friday

The end of the road? No way!


Wow, sometimes we never know where Sara is going to lead us, and what you see above is one of those places. All we did was to go to see some very good friends that we had never met, and anyone who is a fulltimer knows exactly how that can come about.

They are Roger and Dianne of the Travel with Whippets blog. We have traded emails and read each other's blog for many years, but until a few days ago, we had never met. They are an awesome couple and we are lucky to count them among our friends, but....

It happened when we turned the corner onto one of the roads that led back to where their RV site was located. Our guide, Sara N. Dippity was leading the way, and I think I said, "Wow," and Linda said, "Oh, wow," or it could have been the other way around. After that we just looked as we drove down the street towards their lot.


We had a great time visiting with the two of them and looking at their new coach house, which they were busy filling with the contents of a P.O.D.. They had filled it with those possessions they wanted in their new home and had shipped it down to Mission. It is amazing what you can do with a 12x24 building once you've lived fulltime in an RV.

Now fast forward to when we were driving out. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" "If you're thinking what I'm thinking, then we're thinking the same thing." "I like it." "I really like it." "I really, really like it."

The next morning found us back at Retama Village talking to Bill in the sales office. There was just something about the place that was really appealing to us, and it had nothing at all to do with it's high end reputation. In fact, if anything that was a negative, then we discovered that, that was only its reputation, it wasn't at all what it was.

Roger and Dianne had talked at length about how friendly everyone was, and it was that way in spades. The park we were staying at, Mission West RV Resort was anything but what it said it was, while Retama Village was far more than what it was said to be.

Someday we will be in our late 70's or 80's and when that time comes we would fit right in at Mission West. But we aren't, which was what made everything we were seeing at Retama fit in with how we live.


We spent the rest of the day talking it over. Was it what we really wanted to do? Was it worth the money? Would we use it? Was it a need, a want or worse, a whim? As we talked about it, we decided that we had been looking for something for more than a year. That we were not ready to settle down. That we have always leaped at opportunity when it was there, look at our quitting our jobs and taking up the fulltime life.

Sure there is a homeowners association, and the fees that go with that, plus many other things, not the least of which is that the coach house is a shell that we need to build out. By dinner we had decided that it was an absolute go for us, and that we would take the lot next to Roger and Dianne, not only because we would have awesome neighbors, but also because of the large section of our lot that would be behind the coach house, plus there was open area that backed up to Retama in that location edged with trees.


Once the papers were signed the next morning, and the deposit made, it was all over but the shouting. Fortunately we were going to able to do some figurative shouting as we had already planned to get together with Roger and Dianne that evening. Now understand, we hadn't said a word to them about what we were doing.

The plan was to go out to a Mexican restaurant that Roger knew about, but first they were stopping by our coach in Mission West Resort for some appetizers. After pouring the wonderful Rotta 2005 Zinfandel Giubbini Vineyard, Paso Robles, wine they brought, I proposed a toast "to great friends and great neighbors."

There was silence for a moment, then Dianne said, "Neighbors, did you say neighbors?" We both laughed and shook our heads yes. "When, where" followed by a tumble of words and laughter. Our "The lot next to you," thankfully didn't bring out a "There goes the neighborhood," but rather a "That's wonderful." Or at least something close to all that, since I don't think any of the four of us were into remembering anything other than sharing the joy of the moment.


We will close on March 31, and then be the owner of lot with a shell coach house. We don't plan to be back for close to a year, and even then, we may not finish the interior of the coach house till the following winter. We just don't know yet. Guess it's one of those, now we got it, what are going to do with it, deals.

One thing that we do know is that we have no plans to change the way we live, and that we bought with the only the winter in mind. There is a well organized rental pool for individual owners at Retama and we will probably be placing it up for rent next winter, though that may change if our travel plans change. It's that old, the only thing we know for sure is that we don't know for sure.

And for those that would still wonder why we did it: Because-We-Can.

February 19 Saturday

Resting away in Retama-village-ville

This morning, having been an early riser, I decided that instead of wasting my time, like I have been working at perfecting it over the past few weeks, I would try and be productive for a change. The result was new Homepage article that I not only enjoyed writing, but is also something, we who are either occasional bloggers as I am, or readers only as many others are, often overlook. Unless you have written a blog day after day for months or years at a time, you likely can not appreciate the effort expended to accomplish that seemingly simple task.

Likewise, those who manage a website that is in need of being continually updated to provide timely information fall into that same category. One that immediately comes to mind in that area, is the enormous amount of work that it takes to keep the Hitchitch website with its dozens and dozens of links, not only up to date by uncovering dead links, but also the never ending search to find new and relevant blogs to showcase. My hat goes off to Ron for the hours he puts into that site.

In no way am I trying to toot my own horn in all this. In fact, if anything, I am one of the examples of the blog, and/or blogger, that seems to run out of gas with time and slowly fades away. I really meant what I said in the article about giving something special to the person you will never know that sits in front of their computer and lives an alternate life through what he or she reads. But I'll leave it to the people who can give the rundown of their day in the, we met -, we did - with them, we ate -, to provide the mass of reading material to the masses, so to speak.

With all that in mind, let me fill you in on few of the things that made up our day. Unbeknownst to the world, due to my lack of writing the Daily journal, Linda has been under the weather the past few days. One of the ladies in the village suggest it might be the "Texas crud", as she referred to the mysterious malady that seems to affect those that come to the area.

Since we've been here for a week now, Linda ruled it out, but whatever it was, it wasn't pleasant, but it was quick to come, and quick to go. The problem is that while the main symptoms are soon gone, the affects of that late unpleasantness, as it might be referred to more genteel quarters, lingers on.

The result has been several days of housebound behavior, where the main form of entertainment is looking out the windows and watching the neighbors. We are currently located in one of the "for sale" sites, where they put up potential and/or new buyers. On our forays outside, we have had the opportunity to look at several more coach houses, and the variation in what can be done with these small places seems to be limited only by the vision of the owner.


This is one of the visions that remind us that we are not in an RV Park, but rather in a residential neighborhood; curbside garbage pickup by a BFI truck. At Mission West, where we were staying before we moved down here, their system was for those staying in the park to place their garbage bags in front of their site before 10 oclock every morning. Shortly after that time, a pickup truck would slowly drive by and someone would throw your bag into the back.


Sometimes things happen during the day that don't make headlines, yet they have an important impact on us. This slightly out of focus, well maybe very out of focus photo, is a reminder of one of those things. Anybody who has has the same overwhelming need in the morning can relate. There rests the empty, forlorn, last coffee bag in the coach, and the lady of the house says we're going to have to do something about it.

I acknowledge that many fulltime women, and a few men as well, have an issue with maintaining their hair in the style they were accustomed to after behind the security of the neighborhood beauty parlor, hair salon, etc.. Now Linda won't ever think of herself as a coffee connoisseur, but she does have certain standards when she takes that first sip in the morning, and they are not met with what can generally be bought at Walmart, Safeway, Kroger or the like. So with that in mind, I will try to post more on the hunt for the desirable bean in the coming days.


A photo of the lot we are staying at for the week. This is in Phase 1, so the coach house is a diminutive 12x20 versus the gigantic 12x24 coach houses in Phase 2 where our lot is located. I'd show you a photo of a lot in Phase 2, but the mansion sized coach houses on those lots would dominate the photo. Dreamer!

Anyway, this gives a fairly good representation of what an RV lot with coach house looks like in Retama Village. The split entrance as shown at the site in the foreground, the large area of concrete for your RV, other vehicles and patio area, along with the coach house can be seen on the site in the background where we are staying.


A street view showing what we saw that fateful night that when we first drove into this place. One thing you will notice as you walk around Retama Village, is the number of 5th wheels pulled by HDT's, or heavy duty trucks as they are called. We generally refer to them as semi's, but by whatever term, there is more than enough room for those monsters on these sites.

I understand that many of the "developments" or "resorts", or whatever term they use to describe themselves, that are like Retama, specifically prohibit these large trucks. Maybe that was one of the things that appealed to us about this place, while the cost and maintenance fees may serve to "restrict" the potential number of buyers, there is no attitude about not wanting "that" type of RV here.

I know I may be getting a little off base in some of my comments, but we are new at this thing, justifiably proud of the place, but certainly not trying to denigrate anyone else's choice of where or how they live the fulltime life, or even regular life for that matter. I will say one thing, if you don't like wind, this is not the place for you, which means Linda has been seen with as many as four clips in her hair at one time. To quote her, "I DON"T LIKE HAIR IN MY FACE." Capitals not added for emphasis, but only to provide a factual report of how those words are said.


By mid-afternoon Linda was feeling much better, having rid herself of what ever was afflicting her in several different ways, neither of which will be described. That meant she was ready to go for a walk. She said it was to visit Roger and Dianne, but I suspected that since our lot was next to their place, she may have had an ulterior motive in mind. As circumstances would have, they were not there, but that didn't mean we would be turning around and walking back.

Linda's only demand in where we have lived, has been the ability to see the neighbors, which stems from a childhood of living in a house where that wasn't possible. Here she is, standing on our lot, scoping out the potential view to the west. I wonder if she will want me to install a periscope in the coach house so she can keep track of all that is going on around us.

It's always fun when you get something new, which is what this is in more ways than one. As we have talked to more and more people, we see that the ways to design and finish the interior of these coach houses is almost limitless, constrained only by it size, not ones imagination. Also, that as much or little can be done by the owner as they have the desire or ability to do. And finally, that Linda is already hinting that we may be spending time in Retama next winter, once we leave Florida.

The most wonderful thing about that is not that she is mentally tying us down to spending our winters here, it's that her mind is working overtime designing and redesigning. Every once in while she just pops out a, "the (fill in name of item) would look great (fill in location inside or outside) the coach house." She's a kid again. A young woman, just starting on her journey through life, where all the world truly is a stage, and her Life will play out on it.

Sometimes we don't understand why we do the things we do. We wonder whether it was the right thing or not. Then we look into a face we have gazed at a million times over the years, and see the wonder of a child there, and it is then that we understand why Life should be spelled with a capital "L".

There are people who's life can be summed up with "Someday I'll" and there are people who's Life can be summed up with "Today I Did". And when it is all said and done, each had the opportunity to decide which type of person they would be.

February 20 Sunday

Out and about

The process of aclimatizing to our newly remodeled life has allowed us to see things that have always been obvious, but which we either overlooked or were oblivious of. Take the seemingly insignificant task of going shopping as an example.

Beginning in the fall with the first few arrivals, a mass migration occurs on an annual basis in this area. Known as Winter Texas, they inundate the southern tip of our great state, crowding together, and creating a significant economic impact. We, like most Texans, even if we are currently classified as only real pretend Texans during our probationary period, appreciate that, but abhor the mass confusion they bring.

That was why, Sunday morning at an hour any self respecting grizzly that was still recovering from a siege of late unpleasantness would still be hibernating, we were not only both up, we were already eating breakfast in anticipation of an up coming outing. Being quick learners, we have been told, and have learned through a small modicum of experience that to venture out on the roads of the valley during the middle of the day is to enter into that realm of mass confusion.

Armed with that knowledge we were preparing to do our shopping before the masses of Mexican day shoppers and the hordes of blue haired ladies descended on the local stores. With Linda still not at 100%, we didn't plan to make this an excursion, but since we were running low on necessities, like veggies, and absolute necessities - Linda's coffee - we thought we would try the HEB plus! over on the east side of Mission, which was just an exit or so beyond the Foy's we had shopped at the other day.


Fortunately I was able to find a lovely young model to spice up this photo of the store. Now we've shopped at HEB's numerous times before, find some which were good, and some not so good. We knew by the addition of the plus! to the name that this store was likely to be different, but just how different we didn't know.


The store proved to be much larger than a normal HEB, and while there was an improved selection of foods, or at least in our limited experience it seemed so, the main difference was in the "other things" we noticed. Maybe they have had these bag and tag stations in other HEB's, but for some reason we had never noticed them.

Linda for her part loved them, bagging her items, punching in the code and slapping the sticker on the outside of the bag. I think she was remembering our first experience with self pricing produce. It was at the COOP in Frutigen, Switzerland, where you had to do this same thing for anything you bought in the produce section, as they had no scales at the checkout counters.

So here is Linda demonstrating the process. Of course once she saw the photo, she wasn't going to sign the release form. It had something to do with her hair looking more like a rats nest than anything else. I tried explaining that the windblown look is something that all photographers strive to capture, and it looked like I'd done a great job of it.

Sometimes Life is tough dear, and just because everything isn't perfect doesn't make it bad. So, tough, it's going up anyway whether you like it or not. Get over it, babe. Of course you realize those were just random thoughts ricocheting through my brain, and if I ever uttered them, I'd discover just exactly why those Appalachian hill boys kept their hands off those Appalachian hill girls. Meaning, I'll just try to sneak this one up here and hope she doesn't notice.


What really sets the Plus! apart is the large assortment of "other" merchandise they offer. There was an enormous section devoted to kitchen "stuff", and I had to chuckle when I saw this display of Keurig Coffee makers. One of the websites Linda reads had a tale a few weeks ago about the Keurig machine they bought and all the problems they were having with it. She read it to me and we both got a good laugh. Guess there are gadget people, and there are practical people.

But I can't laugh too much because we have been guilty of the same thing. Guess that couple bought it because it would save them big bucks on coffee in the long run, only now it looked like it was costing them money. We feel the same way about that totally worthless Kodak Printer we bought based on their advertising that it would save us all kinds of money on ink. Well it certainly saves on ink, mostly because we can only get it work with one computer at a time, and then only if you keep reseting the controls. It reminded me of my first Kodak camera. It was cheap. I was young. I grew up. I got smart. I haven't used a Kodak camera in years. It's a stretch to make the leap from coffee makers to printers via cameras, but when you get to this age, the mind wanders a lot.


Eventually we arrived at the location Linda had been looking for since we first walked into the store, the coffee section. Maybe this photo should be subtitled: So many coffees, so few mornings. Though, once Linda had initially perused the section, it was more likely to be: You'd think a store this size would have a decent selection of coffee.

I was about to provide some comments about a few of the coffees I had noticed, when I realized that anything I said just might be akin to throwing gasoline on a fire. That makes the photo all the more accurate. Notice the sign above Linda's head and what it says.


When she walked around to the other side of the display, I took a photo of the coffee I figured she might buy, and as luck would have it, that's the one she picked. When I showed her this photo later, I was bloating over how I knew exactly which one she would pick. But I sure got my bubble burst in a big way when she very pointed, informed me that since she only drinks decafe, and they were out of every other decafe except that one, picking it was easy. I got the point, and decided that a zipped lip was better than a bruised lip.


This one is for anyone living in those latitudes where the present season is not only referred to as winter, but by looking out the window you can confirm that it is indeed winter. Then to compound that, don't forget what is on the bottom of each and every page of our website: Life is not a dress rehearsal, Don't be afraid to laugh, love and retire early.


Later we drove down to "our lot", and sat out in the front yard, though technically, I guess it should be called the front dirt, and enjoyed the sunshine. Later we joined the other couples who live in Phase II for a get together at one of the coach houses. It was great getting to meet our soon to be neighbors, and realizing that with only one or two exceptions, we all are, or were, fulltimers. Meaning we share that common special, "been there, done that", bond that those who are part of it know so well.

Yesterday I ended the Daily Journal noting that there are people who's life can be summed up with "Someday I'll" and there are people who's Life can be summed up with "Today I Did". What a joy it is to share time with a group where "Today I did" is the way everyone has lived their Life, and don't ever for a moment doubt that you can too, Because You Can.

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