A Chinese Proverb says the longest journey starts with the first step. I’m off to the Houston Rodeo, not because I’m a rodeo aficionado, but because I’ve got the best friends on the planet. Jack Rigby had a number of opinions. One, that the rodeo was fun, two, I was in need of some fun, three, I like to travel in the RV, four, I should get back to traveling in the RV, and five, a change of scenery and focus was the best thing for me. I think Jack is correct, my family thought Jack was correct, so off I went to the Rodeo. You want success in your life? Pay attention to your friends.
Life has been very emotional and confusing since Louise died. Prior to her passing, there was always the urgency to return, an itch that needed scratching, and the longer I was away, the more insistent the itch became. This time it’s different. This time, for the first time in my life, I have no direct obligation to anyone or anything. I can no longer take care of Louise. My children are adults, successful with full lives. My parents are no longer alive, and my brothers and sisters are independent and self reliant. I am retired, and no longer do independent work for pay. Life is my ocean, and I’m free to sail anywhere on the ocean with the RV. It’s only the second time in my life this has happened, and the first was life altering.
I’ve traveled in the RV enough that packing wasn’t a problem. Taking care of Louise changed me for the better, and has made me a more patient man. There was no rush in packing this time. I was excited to embark on what I call the third half of my life. Packing took the time it took, and I just motored through it all. I commissioned the water system the day before. I’ve de-winterized a water system once before on the road. NO. FUN. It’s a job that’s done once a year if you’re fortunate. Levers to throw, tanks to be plugged, valves to be shut and opened.
The antifreeze was dumped, the system was sanitized with bleach, the system dumped again, and then the system was partially filled. It was then, I realized that it would go down to 19 degrees at night. Let’s see. Nineteen degrees, water, ice. Not good. It’s not the first rodeo I’ve been to in that regard, so a heater and a 150W bulb in the water bay, and I was set. I brought the hose in so it wouldn’t freeze and need to be thawed out in the morning. I am happy to say nothing in the RV froze, it was all good.
When we moved into our home, the road it was on was essentially a country road. The traffic was occasional, if fast. Unrestricted development over the last 40 years has turned the road into the main thoroughfare from the south side of town to the commutation highways on the north. There was bumper to bumper traffic for over an hour in front of the house. I wasn’t in a rush, and it meant that I would avoid commutation traffic elsewhere, so I became one with the cosmos and went with the flow, or in this case, the lack of it.
Once I was off, it was a day of Interstate Highway travel. The Federal Government and corporations have done an excellent job of making the interstate road system uniform. Aside from an occasional sign that says “Welcome to XXX” (fill in the state) everyplace looks like anyplace else. Same businesses, stores, warehouses from the same set of plans, the same cookie cutter housing developments, the same blocky apartment complexes distantly related to soviet style housing, except this time with designer paint. Granted, they have trouble with some of those pesky mountains you see in the distance as you travel down the valley, or zip through the passes, so everyplace doesn’t really look like Kansas, but I’m sure that they are working on it. I believe gravel is still in demand.
Now that I travel alone, I find that Audio Books make the time pass pleasantly, and keep me from going nuts. I developed a habit of being aware of my surroundings in my first real job, so when I drive, I look down the road a quarter of a mile, left rear view mirror, right rear view mirror, speedometer and gauges, GPS, woods to the side, cars that pass (did the driver have black frame eyeglasses or tortoise shell frames?). You get the picture. Generally, by the end of six hours I’m shot. With the audio books, I’m still really aware of my surroundings, but at a more normal level. Time flies. Add in several phone calls, and a stop every three hours or so, and the miles add up. I had planned on driving about 425 miles for the day, but somehow managed to travel 660 miles. That’s too many miles to drive in one day.
My plans were fluid, so I just kept on driving, as I wanted to short day to follow. I was planning on visiting some friends in Alabama, George and Donna, and didn’t want to rush to get there. Mostly, I didn’t want to arrive too late. Most of the rest stops along I81 were packed, and I wanted to stop someplace at about 9PM. One, outside Talbott KY, looked like it was in the right spot. I immediately found a parking spot that was open, but a location less in traffic was the goal. As I was looking around on foot, a driver asked me if I was looking for a spot. He was parked next to a vacant lane, and said he was only staying for a half hour. A shake of the hand, a drive to the end of the lane, and I was settled for the night. There are really nice people in to world. We should all aspire to be one.
Kentucky is certainly not the northeast. In New York and New Jersey, there are strictly enforced rules regarding idling any engine, especially diesel engines. The rest stop sounded like an orchestra getting into tune. Big diesels, small diesels, mean growly diesels, refrigeration units, generators, auxiliary power units were all singing their own song. Perfect location for running my little generator to heat up dinner. A quick dinner, and off to bed very early. Sleep was a little elusive, not because of the noise, but because of circumstance. The furnace was on, the bed was comfortable, and the growl of the commerce around me lulled me to sleep. All in all, a good start to the third half of the rest of my life.