A Park of Contrasts
The Desert The River
and the Mountains
Just on a lark, Ron decided to check the RV section which is a concession operated parking lot with hookups---no trees or picnic tables. There were two spots left.Ron paid for three days figuring that would get us through Easter; surely the other campground would be empty early Sunday with everyone leaving. After backing the Bounder in, we plugged into electricity, hooked up to water and sewer and since it was hot, ran the air conditioner. That evening, we worked on the computer, used the microwave for cooking part of the dinner and in the morning used the electric coffee pot and toaster---all without the noise of the generator.
I felt guilty and like something was missing. I was looking forward to getting out the old coffee pot and perking the coffee on our Coleman stove, but once we had the hook-ups, I didn't want to give them up.�
That evening we attended the ranger program in the campground amphitheater which was very interesting. Ranger Karen covered the history of the border in the park area. We were surprised to learn that even the Native Americans called the Big Bend area �the uninhabited land� and at first glance it does look dead and as though no one could possibly live there.
After visiting the centrally located Panther Junction Visitor Center early the next morning, we picked up the park brochure and two very popular booklets ---Hiker's Guide and Road Guide. I remembered selling those same books in our garage sale last summer; we had no idea we were coming back.
We looked over the guides and realized that we had done most of the hikes before; we made the decision to just kind of relax and enjoy the surroundings.
Each morning we took off for a drive or short hike, came back to camp early, turned on the air or sat outside and visited with other campers. And by Saturday, Ron paid for four more nights in the parking lot campground at $11 per night.
Ron rationalized, that we live in the motorhome; we're not on vacation and we deserve all the comforts. Besides the price was right. Sure he had planned on only spending $5 in the campground, but he said that the hookups were worth the extra $6.
We took rides through the desert, up to the mountains and to both canyons. We also visited the little Mexican village of Boquillas (Bo-key-us) and had tacos for lunch in that poor little village which is still without electricity. I really felt guilty then.
Hiring a Mexican boy to take us across the River. Boquillas
One hike we had tried to do before was the Grapevine Hills trail which begins near the end of the 7.7 mile long Grapevine Hills improved dirt road. Ron wasn't sure if they had improved the road or if the Toyota was a better piece of equipment than that old Horizon had been, but the road wasn't bad. The 2.2 mile hiking trail follows a sandy wash through massive granite boulders. The booklet describes the phenomenon as a result of �an uplift caused by a laccolith (a mushroom-shaped underground lava flow) that is now visible as Grapevine Hills.�
In addition to the 112 miles of main roads in the park, there are over 198 miles of dirt (rough stone) roads. Some are listed as �primitive� and they strongly caution that they are for �high clearance vehicles only.�
There are over 84 miles of trails which range from easy to difficult. The problem with some of them is the trail head can only be reached by driving many miles down the primitive roads.
The primitive trails are another story. The booklet warns �Some of the routes are still quite visible, at least in a few places. Others are marked by occasional rock cairns, or metal stakes, or not at all. For ANY of these hikes, a 7.5 minute topographic map, a compass, knowledge of the desert, up-to-date information, proper gear, and horse-sense are necessary commodities.� Although most of the 208 plus miles of primitive trails are listed as �strenuous�, there are a few classified as �moderate.�
Big Bend is a big park---801,146 acres and it is situated in such an
out of the way place that only the dedicated ever reach it. They have a
little over 300,000 visitors a year. Most come in March and April when
the desert cactus bloom.
Octillo in bloom
As new campers came into the campground, news was shared. There's no TV or radio reception in the park area. Except that Ron, because of his concern over the stock market just before Easter, did find that at about 10 p.m., he could pick up a Dallas radio station. That became a ritual---listening to the news late at night, and we learned that Arkansas won the basketball championship and that the stock market survived. On Monday when Ron and I drove up to the Basin (the very center of the park---deep in the mountains) Ron saw newspapers in the store. He actually purchased the Saturday edition which was still on the shelf so he could update his stocks on the computer when back at the motorhome.
He said he was glad to be able to get the market's closing reports for
the last day of March since that is when our fiscal year ends. We enjoyed
the park differently this time.
Seminole Canyon State Park, Comstock, Texas. Although we used this as a half-way stopping point between Hondo and Big Bend, it would be a terrific place to spend a few days. The canyon park features early railroad history along with Indian pictographs. The water and electric sites are level and wide, but don't expect any trees. Rigs with long overhangs should be careful of drainage dips on the access road. We scrapped several times and bent our hitch slightly. Cost for W/E is $9 plus daily entrance fee of $3. The park is right off of Highway 90 just west of Del Rio. You'll like it.
Big Bend National Park, Texas. Camping is $5 per night in the
three regular campgrounds (no hookups, showers or even hot water). The
Rio Grande Village Campground in the southeast corner has 100 paved, tree
shaded spots. Cottonwood at the southwest corner has 35 paved sites. There
are 63 gravel sites at Chisos Basin but only rigs under 20' can get there
because of the
El Campo R.V. Park, Van Horn, Texas. This is another overnight
stopping point because you wouldn't want to spend a lot of time in the
desert town of Van Horn. For $12 a night (with Good Sam, FMCA or
SKP discount), this friendly campground will give you a pull-through site
with full hook-ups including cable. They will also give you discount coupons
for just about every
Mission R.V. Park, El Paso, Texas. This resort-like park
has it all including tennis courts, indoor pool, hot tub, store, good laundry,
and whatever else you need is close by. It is right off of I-10 (exit 34)
and very handy to everything in El Paso. They also have pull-throughs for
overnighters. Another thing they have is trees which is rare for this area.
The back-in sites are wide and shady. Weekly rate is $97.50 and daily Good
Sam rate is $15.30. For what you get, the price is reasonable.
Wow! I had forgotten what it was like to work. The Coast to Coast Rally was really work, which made the trip to Big Bend seem like a vacation.
On March 30, my co-pilot and I shared a bottle of wine and toasted our fifth anniversary of full-timing. I couldn't think of a better place to do that, than at Big Bend National Park.
Gasoline at Big Bend was $1.299 a gallon, but I think most were glad that it was available.
My mother-in-law, Alice Sayles, is supposed to keep my Detroit Tigers on the ball (she's a big fan). At this writing they are 2 for 7. What's happening, Alice?
Robin Jenkinson (our subscriber from France) says that he misses my nvestment column. I'm glad that you enjoyed it, Robin, but rather than being a monthly column, it was only a series to explain our investment philosophy using some illustrations. Recommending stocks can be risky and I am not that brave.
The high point of the CC Rally for me was personally meeting many friends that we only knew through letters. We are truly rich in friends and consider this a great blessing. For all those that stopped by our booth to visit, thanks so very much---we treasure you.
Can you believe it? I was checked for age when buying beer at a San
Antonio HEB super market. I should tell you, though, that the computer
program on the cash register requires the cashier to enter birth dates
on every alcohol sale. I think some may have a problem with that.
and how we have changed
After five years on the road, it's inevitable that we look back and contemplate the changes that have taken place. Change has occurred not only in our living arrangements, but in our relationships, activities and even our values.
Those of you that have followed us over the five years know that now we do less �camping� and opt for the full service campgrounds. We live very comfortably in a large motorhome as compared to our original 24 foot class �C� without a microwave, couch or all the storage we have now. Although we wouldn't go back to those days, we remember them fondly and wouldn't trade that experience for anything. Barb often says it was like a �comfortable cocoon� and it was. We never felt cramped.
We are still best friends and lovers after five years and even closer (if that's possible). We still do everything together, except we are doing different things. The book and newsletter activities keep us busy and have cut into our hiking and biking. Since we don't plan any more big publishing projects, we plan on becoming more physical in the future. Our bodies need that.
Friendships begun in our first years have strengthened with yearly arranged visits and new friendships have enlarged the circle. Our biggest challenge continues to be maintaining and strengthening our family relationships. As their understanding of the full-time lifestyle increases, our mobility can work to enrich these relationships. We intend to work harder to encourage more family visits (especially in the winter when we are where it is nice and warm) and to have grandchildren visit in the summer. I'm sure we can work out some incentives. If friends from as far away as Minnesota and Arkansas can visit us, can family be far behind? Hey kids! I will pick up the motel bill and we will host some great meals at our picnic table.
Some think that this old conservative accountant has turned into a flaming liberal. I plead guilty if that means that I care more about people than things. As we travel this great country we meet so many wonderful people and realize more every day that this country's greatest asset is its people. In the future, our volunteer efforts may take a new direction where we can make more of a difference.
As you can see, our full-timing life has had many changes in the last
five years. Change is a fact of life. The opposite of change is stagnation
or death. As we said in the book, �You are the same person you were when
you left home� and basically we are the same. We were always changing before
we left and we continue to do so. The important values remain the same---our
God, our marriage, our family and our friends.
Coast to Coast had held two rallies before this big one, but they were rather small in comparison. Everyone showed up in San Antonio on March 13. In fact traffic was backed up for nine miles causing lots of lost tempers. The police weren't happy either. There were other glitches, but most of the attendees seemed to take them in their stride. After all San Antonio is a fun city to visit and there was plenty to do.
The Rally planners had filled every minute with many choices. There were shuttle busses which left every half hour all day long taking passengers to the River Walk and Lone Star Brewery. Many tours were scheduled for everything from the Missions to the LBJ Ranch out in Stonewall. During each of the three days, 18 different seminars were presented. Topics ranged from crafts by Hazel to Holding Tank Maintenance and Care. And of course we did our Full-timing Seminar. And there were joint meetings, fashion shows and games such as horseshoe pitching, bean bag toss, golf tournament, line dancing etc. But we didn't get to do anything but work, and we did a lot of that.
The first day (arrival day) wasn't bad; the rally hadn't officially begun. As soon as we arrived on the 13th, we checked out our booth and stocked it with our books, newsletters, signs and anything else we thought we would need. Our seminar was to be in the second group (11:30 a.m.) on the first day, so we went over to check out the place where all the seminars would be held.
The meeting rooms (paper drape partitioned areas in a large, tin roofed building) left a lot to be desired. Since three seminars would be going on at the same time, we worried about the noise and rightly so.
The exhibit booths opened at 10 a.m. and we were swamped with business. Ron went on to the meeting area ahead of me; I waited until the last minute. When I got there I couldn't believe it. For our seminar there was standing room only and many others couldn't get near the place. The building was a buzz with everyone from every group talking. We had been asked not to use the microphones because the group before had them too loud. We turned them down low and strained our voices. I had gone to bed the night before with a sore throat and the shouting didn't help. Those that could hear, seemed to get a lot out of the seminar and many made a special effort to stop by and tell us how much they enjoyed it.
The rest of our time was spent talking to wonderful people at our booth, but by the end of each day we were beat. We did not go to the first two dinners which were included; we just went home, fixed a cup of soup and went to bed early.
One of the things that Coast to Coast couldn't control was the weather. The first day, it poured rain just after we finished our seminar and didn't stop until late at night. All of the seminar speakers the rest of the day had to contend with the loud noise of the rain on the tin roof besides the other noises. We also had to contend with that rain noise in the exhibit area. It had a tin roof too. We sold a lot of books, took many new subscriptions for the newsletter, but as Ron said in his column, the best part was getting to meet all of you who we had previously only known by name and address. And we met a lot of new friends. Roger Ryman, President of Coast to Coast made a special effort to stop by and greet us too.
All in all, from what we could see, they did a good job for such a large first rally. They certainly had enough planned. Perhaps they planned too much because several mentioned that they were so busy they never did make it to the exhibition area. As an exhibitor, I would say time should have been set aside for �shopping� at the rally.
Ron and I both have a new respect for those who make their living by
doing one show after another. Next time, we want to play---not work. It
took me over a week to recover.
Want to see the GMA tape
Sure hope we meet again down the road as we want to see the tape of your GMA appearance. I had tuned in the morning it was shown, but we didn't get to see all of it as I was rushing around getting Idolia up and turning up the volume. What we saw we think, �you dun good.� As we were looking at RVs yesterday, we met a couple from San Antonio who had read your book and have a deposit on a motorhome. They both are ready to travel!!...
Max & Idolia Berry
Gained insight on TV interviews
Really enjoyed hearing about the taping of GMA. Now when we see a quick interview, we will look at it a little differently.
Pam (& Bob) Flint
Learn from other full-timers
...We love your newsletter and can't wait to receive it each month. We are going to full-time in about two years and are learning a lot from the full-timers that write to your newsletter.
Paul & Mildred Rose
Going to be �Significant-timers�
...I retired two years ago to the running of our Windyledge Bed & Breakfast. Our intent in a couple years is to be �significant-timers� in a motorhome. We have never owned one, but in the last three years I feel like I have �owned one� with all the research and reading I've done, plus shows and campground visiting!
I have purchased several dozen books on RVing and read them all with relish! Also I subscribe to most all the periodicals and magazines in the RV field. Movin' On ranks right up at the top of the list along with your book!!!! Like so many others who report to you the same excitement upon receiving Movin' On, I read it as soon as it arrives---every word---cover to cover.
I have always envisioned traveling in retirement. The curiosity of what is �over the next hill and around the next corner� has a great fascination. To be absolutely free to come and go wherever and whenever the spirit dictates.... There is so much to see out there...and the rest of our lifetime to do it!
My wife, Susan, and I are two years into our four year plan in retirement. Since the kids have all left, education responsibility costs met, three of four married and those costs met, we are spending the next two years enjoying our B&B business and allowing our pension and 401K (converted to an IRA) investment to grow. Then we will sell the house, purchase a smaller �home base� housing (Susan's desire), and then obtain the motorhome...After the first two years we will spend summers in New Hampshire (short travel trips off during the summer ) and the other 6-8 months traveling (�significant-timing�)! That's our plan.
Dick (and Susan) Vogt
Book and newsletter therapeutic
My wife Ruth and I are psychotherapists who find your book and newsletter very therapeutic. A real boost to help us through a Michigan winter. How you manage to make yourselves seem like good friends to many of us out here who have never met you is intriguing. We now speak of Ron and Barb regularly to friends and family and no explanation is required. In fact, we feel the same way toward many of those who write in the �Letters� section of the newsletter. I believe the reason for this sense of friendship is because of the dream (with all its variations) that we all share.
Ruth and I have always loved to travel and have done a lot of it. About four years ago as we were traveling in Florida, Ruth posed this question. �If you knew you only had a year to live, what would you want to do?�
Without hesitating I said, �I would want to travel in the West with you for an extended period of time.� Then she told me that she had come up with the same answer. What followed was the evolution of the dream into a plan and into reality as last summer we spent 14 weeks on the road pulling our travel trailer to Alaska. Well, we're back home doing the jobs we love. The problem is we're hooked and dreaming of being on the road full-time. The dreaming, of course, is great fun as we address all the issues that move the dream toward reality.
One interesting spill-over of all this is that Ruth and I, who have done numerous enrichment workshops for couples over the years, have now designed one called Sharing your Dreams. The reaction to our first offering of the workshop last week was very positive.
We're in our early 50's and we have not yet definitively answered that all-important question: WHEN? Meantime, your newsletters keep nourishing our dream. Thanks.
Dear Terry and Ruth,
What is �dry camping?�
Enjoyed last newsletter. So sorry we missed the GMA show. Have two questions on �Letters� section. One from Richards talks about �dry camping� and �router-routering� the black water. Have no idea what either term means?...
Glad to read that I'm not being foolish not to buy our toilet tissue in RV stores. Have been wondering if we would regret using Northern and Cottonelle---both dissolved very well---so now I feel better about buying cheap. Thanks.
Bil & Darlene Allen
Dear Bil & Darlene,
�Dry camping� or boondocking is camping with out
any hookups. What Judy meant by �router-routing� is having a septic company
come to pump out the black tank. These are also called �honey wagons.�
A �router router� is a trade name for a machine that cleans out tree roots
from sewer lines. Of course this wasn't done in the RV. That is also just
an expression for cleaning out a
Ready to make a change
Just wanted to tell you how much my husband and I enjoyed your book.... After reading �your book� we have decided that full-timing is for us!
We are also from Michigan and after this winter the South doesn't sound bad at all. We raised our two daughters in Fowlerville, which isn't far from your hometown. We now own and operate a resort in Houghton Lake, Mich. Although we very much like what we are doing, we are ready to make a change in our lives within the next few years.
Since we both enjoy working with people, we think we would like to try �workamping� as we are not quite old enough to retire!
Your book was the most practical source of information that we have found yet! There were times when I cried after reading some of your articles, because I know that is what I would do! My husband enjoyed all the helpful financial information along with all the practical tips Ron had to offer.
We can't wait to get your newsletter, by the way I saw the interview on Good Morning America. We felt like they were talking to our old friends. Thanks for writing such a wonderful book. Maybe someday we will meet on the road!
Rich and Wanda Townely
About the Lindy Motorhome
Just a note to answer John and Peggy De Hoog's question... about the Lindy motorhomes. They were manufactured by Lindy Mini Motorhomes of Hemet, California, a division of Skyline Corp of Elkhart, Indiana. They are no longer manufactured---think the last year was '86 or '87. Too bad---they are quality rigs with excellent design and style. I believe they were sold exclusively in the west. On our trip east this last year, we did not see any east of Colorado. However as you mentioned in the newsletter there are plenty of well designed rigs on the market and the RV shows are a great place to hunt for them. We saw a nice Coachman---20' with a rear kitchen and corner bath that we liked last fall.
We're hunkering down in the CA---AZ desert, traveling from one BLM [Bureau of Land Management] LTVA (long term visitor area) to another. Imperial, where we are now, must cover 5 or 6 square miles. People park their rigs where the spirit moves them---there are no designated sites---just open desert. It's dry camping---amenities are few and far between. This area does offer the mos---dump station, water, rest rooms (no showers) phone and newspaper rack. You can even have your paper delivered! There are a lot of snowbirds here as well as full-timers taking advantage of the mild weather and the LOW cost ($50 for 7 months). It used to be free but $50 is a bargain even if you only stay a few weeks. Most people we've met have been very friendly and helpful. Every night they have a roll call and announcements on the CB --- plenty of activities going on for those that want to get involved.
Next week we head out for our volunteer stint on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge north of here. We drove out yesterday to meet and visit with the current volunteers, the Don Keelers of Aurora, OR. Drove the 12 ½ miles on a dirt road to the little mountain top where we'll be living for the next month---about 25 miles from the nearest town (Quartzite, AZ). Will share our mountain top with a microwave tower so will have electricity. Water gets hauled in in a truck and we'll have a septic tank for sewage. Wow! Full hook-ups for a month! We're going to be spoiled rotten! Will be �working� 4 days a week---driving the refuge's 4x drive vehicle around to the various points of interest on the refuge, doing litter pickup and trail maintenance and mostly making people contact.... Can hardly wait to get started ---maybe we'll get to see some desert bighorn sheep while there.
Ellie & Bob Henderson
The day has finally arrived
We have been reading everything we can about full-timing including your newsletter and book and dreaming about the day we could do it. The day has finally arrived and we are now full-timers. I have retired, but my wife Marian continues to work. But Marian did retire as organist and choir director at our church where I was the minister. That makes a lot of difference too. We love it even though we are not traveling a lot. The plans are to hit the road in about 1½ years.
The decision was to go completely full-time and not to have any rented storage. That meant getting rid of all of our things that we had accumulated over our 41 years of marriage. It was indeed a job to sort through it all. After two garage sales and a rental truck trip to our kids homes to get rid of our furniture, we were able to fit everything in our 40' Bounder.
Many people think we are crazy. You can tell by their reaction when they ask you where you are going to be living and we say, �in our motorhome.� Usually there is a long pause and a kind of polite, �that's nice.� We love it and only wished we had done it earlier.
Arnon & Marian Lundborg
It has been a delight to have folks knock on our door and say, �Hi, we have your book and get your newsletter.� As soon as they introduced themselves we're old friends.
Karen Cunningham knocked on our door while we were camped in Johnson
Home for the threesome is a large fifth wheel with slide out and the tow vehicle is a supercab so there is plenty of room for them to travel in comfort.
The Cunninghams and Lucille are volunteers in a group called SOWERS
(Servants On Wheels Ever Ready). It is a Christian group which volunteers
labor and maintenance skills especially in church camps. When they left
us, they were on their way to a camp near Marble Falls where they will
live and work for two months. We had a nice visit and are real glad that
we got to meet them in person.
Editing this newsletter is very difficult. We read and re-read it many times, yet on our way home from getting it printed, I always find mistakes. Most are just forgotten comas or something small. In my first word search last month, I left out the �C� in Fredricksburg and the �E� in Roane. I could say that I was just checking to see if you were paying attention, but that would be a lie. Hope you didn't strain your brain looking for them. There's another word search this month and this one is a little more difficult. I hope I get it right this time.
Everyone commented on how horrible the photo of Ron and I was on the cover of the last newsletter. I agree, but I was trying to take a picture of us on GMA from our TV. It took me two rolls of film to get that one. I had to settle for the only one without streaks. You couldn't tell that I come from a family of professional photographers could you?
Oh what interesting people we have met. One couple has been full-timing for 25 years and they move every two or three days. They say they are �rally attenders.� I forget what kind of RV they have, but they go from one rally (basically the ones sponsored by their RV manufacturer) to another. They have been doing that for all those years.
Met a neat Escapee couple who have been on the road for two years in a 26 foot Class �C� and boasted that they have visited every state capitol since full-timing. That's a nice goal. They boondock most of the time, live entirely on their social security and don't tow a car. Just shows you there are all kinds of ways to full-time.
I was glad that we went into the RV campground in Big Bend. For one
thing it was actually quieter there. No one had to run their generators.
One beautiful morning we took a walk into the campground on our way to
the nature trail. Instead of birds we heard generators running from three
big motorhomes which happened to be in a semi-circle around a tenting family.
The family was outside eating their breakfast while the motorhomers sat
inside running their generators.
OK, when do we run our generator? We use it when we are running down the road and then run our roof air conditioner or heater. They are more effecient than the dash equipment, and at lunchtime we can use the microwave.
I wish I had room to print all of the wonderful letters we've received since the last newsletter went out. It broke my heart to only print one third of them and then only parts of each letter. I'm gonna make a scrap book of all the letters, so please keep them coming.
Ron mentioned Robin Jenkinson, our French reader, and I want to ask all of our Escapee friends who will be attending the Escapade in California later this month to please look for Victoria and Robin and give them a hug for us. They are in the U.S. just until early May. No, the house didn't sell yet. I'm sure they will be more anxious than ever to full-time after the Escapade.
One thing I don't like about this part of the country (Big Bend to El Paso) is that when the wind blows (and it does often) it is full of sand. I keep dusting and sweeping, but everything stays gritty.
Gotta tell you that my �handyman� has really become handy. Our TV went out and he investigated, figured it was the outlet at the wall, bought a new one and installed it. It wasn't an easy job either because they put these things in the most hard to get at spaces. He even kept his cool when the sparks were flying. I think I'll keep him and I won't tease him about not being handy anymore.
I was coming down with some bug before the rally started. We worked so hard and I used my voice so much that by the end of the second day I only had a whisper. Even resting the second night didn't help. I still didn't have much more than a whisper the whole last day. We decided to go to the last rally dinner on closing night. When we walked into the center of the coliseum 4,500 people were already seated and talking. After some looking, we located two seats. When we sat down, I explained to the couple across from us (in my biggest whisper) that I had no voice and couldn't talk. Carolyn said �That's OK, I'm deaf and read lips.� And that is exactly what she did until they turned out the lights. She and I had a great visit while Ron and Ed (an accounant and amateur investor) talked about their things. Wasn't it amazing that of all the people in that place, we would sit across from Ed & Carolyn Ponder of Houston? Neat people!
Heading towards Big Bend this time, we took route 90 west from Hondo to Del Rio and found it very pleasant. Much better than 290 and U.S. 10 west from Fredricksburg. Continuing west on 90 from Del Rio is kind of boring though. As far as you can see (and it must be hundreds of miles), you see nothing.
Karen Fleckenstein (one of our readers) wrote that because of all we write about Texas, she read the Texas State Guide and James Michner's Texas. Ron was tickled about that because he tried to get me to read it and I refuse. I just can't read Michner. He strongly urged his mother to read it before she came to Texas (she complained some, but read it) and says that everyone who visits the state should also read it.
Just heard that our friends the Rydings got a new computer with 424 mg on the hard drive and 8 mg of RAM. GULP! Mine is only a year old and already out of date. But I want what my son Jim has---a CD ROM. Ron doesn't like it when I talk of such things. Eight megabites of RAM! Unbelievable.
Too bad we won't have time to �do� El Paso. It looks like an interesting
From Liz & Don Ryding
People are funny!
In the Buckhorn Saloon
Remember we hang horse theives and
A bumper sticker in El Paso
I'm mechanically inclined
Big Bend Word Search
** Scramble answer next issue
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