Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Two Years on the Road

December 12th marked the beginning of our third year since I retired and we hit the road as full time RVers. Most people assume that the biggest attraction of our lifestyle is the ability to move about and see new sights, and those are very important; but as we tell folks, for us the making of new friends and ability to visit old ones is the most important aspect of our lifestyle. In our travels, we've been able to connect with old friends that we first met in the early 70s (Brenda was still in her teens), stay connected with friends we made in the last few years, and make new friends in our travels. Our retirement careers really started off well when we pulled into the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife refuge for our first experience at volunteering. Met by Bob, the Outdoor Planner, we immediately felt welcome and he had us laughing every day. He and his lovely wife, Christine, have become good friends and we look forward to seeing them this spring. You can see by his picture that he was a hard taskmaster and very, very stern. The entire staff was wonderful; Kim and Deb, the two lovely ladies pictured, always had a smile and graciously accepted Brenda's cheesecake offerings. Steve, the manager, and all of the maintenance guys were great to work with, and collectively they're the reason we're anxious to return and volunteer again this spring. We met Dennis and Ann, our fellow full timer friends in early 2006 while hiking Cochise Stronghold in Arizona. Since then, we've met up in Montana and toured Glacier NP, and we're looking forward to seeing them again soon here in Texas. We hiked a lot of trails and drank a lot of beer together (not necessarily in that order), and although we're sad they're coming off the road and settling into a stick & brick house (that's what we RVers call a real house) near Austin, we know we'll pass through their town and see them again. This spring we spent time with new friends Bob and Trixie while in Southern Arizona. Trixie worked with our daughter as a flight attendant for American Airlines so we felt as if we'd known them for years. We had great fun exploring the back roads and restaurants along with their neat German Shepard, Pyro (Bob is a retired firefighter, hence the cool name). Visiting Lee Metcalf NWR this summer, we finally met Kirk and Pam, full timers and volunteers who we've followed for years by their web site. They've set the standard for our lifestyle, with over 8 years and 18 volunteer positions all around the country. You can view their website here. We had a great time showing them some of our favorite Montana places, including this photo taken at the Lost Horse Creek overlook in the Bitterroot mountains. During our month-long exploration of New Mexico's Gila Wilderness, we met John, who each day climbs a tower on the top of a mountain to watch for wildfires. He gave us an interesting tour of the tower, showed us how he tracks and reports fires, and gave us a neat "Smokey the Bear" scarf which doubles as our steering wheel table cover. Brenda of course returned the favor with a cheesecake! In May, we made new friends and welcomed new family as our daughter was married (finally!) in a beautiful service at Newport Beach, CA. We had the chance to meet many of her friends who we've heard about, and learned that there's nothing to compare with flight attendants, music, and alcohol if you want a great party. We spent six wonderful weeks on the Southern Oregon coast where we taught children how to become "Junior Rangers" and gave evening talks & walks at Harris Beach State Park. Angela, our ranger boss, always had a huge smile and an energy level to match. Such a great person - she taught us about the local plants and wildlife; and brought us her own organic eggs and fresh-caught fish! We also made friends with fellow volunteers Patti and Jim, and Hugh and Lynn, who we hope to see this year at Lee Metcalf NWR. Here in San Marcos, we've been visiting with old friends Tom and Janet, and will join them Christmas Day for dinner. Our next door neighbors and new friends Wayne and Cindy will be back from a holiday visit back in New York state just in time for the girls to do their after-Christmas shopping. Our time on the road has been memorable for so many things, but nothing more lasting than the friendships, new and old. We hope to see all of you again soon, and apologize to those we met but didn't have the opportunity to get to know better. For everyone, we wish a happy and successful holiday season and new year!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

San Marcos, Texas

We left Fort Huachuca a few days before Thanksgiving and once again turned east on I-10. Our first stop was Las Cruces, NM, where we always stop for dinner at La Posta, a historic restaurant just down from the RV park in the old town of La Mesilla. It was interesting to us that Judge Roy Bean, who became famous as the "law west of the Pecos", operated a freight line from what is now the restaurant. We seem to run into his name throughout the west; we passed again through Langry later in the trip, where the state has restored the Jersey Lilly Saloon (see our Jan 06 Blog), and last May visited Pinos Altos, a small town north of Silver City where he also operated a freight office. High on a hill west of Las Cruces, we stopped at a rest area where we noticed this huge Roadrunner; it wasn't until we walked up close that we realized that the entire sculpture was made of junk! Looking close, you'll see pots, pans, shoes....all sorts of stuff held together with what looks like chicken wire. See if you can find the spatula! It's one of those roadside oddities that is worth stopping to see.
Leaving New Mexico, we passed through El Paso, turned south at Van Horn, and passed through Marfa (Jan 07 blog), stopping at Alpine for the night. The next day we crossed the Pecos River and stopped at a scenic overlook high above the river and bridge, then drove through Del Rio and spent the night at Uvalde. On Thanksgiving Day, we pulled into our current location in San Marcos & still had time to visit Cracker Barrel for a nice turkey dinner. Although many of you know my aversion for Cracker Barrel, there weren't a lot of choices (my vote for "Whataburger" was overruled by Brenda), and it actually quite good. We're settled in now and are looking forward to exploring the area and visiting all of the holiday activities. We'll be heading for the San Antonio Riverwalk this weekend. Yesterday we made a trip to Randolph AFB, just outside of San Antonio where Brenda traded coupons for groceries at the commissary. It's a beautiful base, best known for the wing headquarters building known as the "Taj Mahal". It was a beautiful day; high 70s and sunny, and we even had time for lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings. We're looking forward to more warm days and chances to explore - stop back and see where we've