From wandering vagabond to esoteric hermit — Crossing things off my bucket list in 2018 and 2019 and now I’m not

My lifestyle really changed in the spring of 2020. Before March 23, I was a carefree soul who traveled full time. I had my dogs and my cat and my motorhome and no particular place to be. In 2018 and 2019, we had racked up 16 states, over 60 rv park reviews, and over 30 sightseeing spots reviewed and photographed for posterity. (If you are interested in all my reviews and photographs, you can start here: animalsaboard.com).

I joked that I was a professional sightseer and I really enjoyed that moniker. There weren’t too many places along our way that I couldn’t enjoy without the dogs and the few places I did want to explore without them, (such as museums and live shows), I found it easy enough to leave them tucked in to their special spots in the motor home with their favorite toys for a few hours.

What was great about 2019 was a difference in me from 2018. In 2018, I was new to cross-country motorhome travel and was still learning a lot. I was able to overcome some fears and take some chances but mostly I played it safe. In 2019, now that I was more comfortable, I took the dogs and explored places that were a little more off the beaten track or just places I wanted to see that I had bypassed the previous trek across the US.

I was able to cross off the following from my initial bucket list when I first set off in June 2018. I know that pride is one of the seven deadly sins but I was really proud of myself for doing these things that had been on my mind for years previous. I would have to say, and I speak for the dogs too, that we enjoyed every single minute and never had any regrets.

  • Route 66 and the requisite trading post stores along the route — we traveled either the original route or a nearby highway from Southern California to Oklahoma City. I got some great photos at really iconic places I had been wanting to see in person, including the Giganticus Headicus and the corner in Winslow. I also bought a kachina doll, a serape, some leather boots, and sent several gifts home to friends and the folks.
  • The Gulf — I remember the very first day the dogs walked down the boardwalk and saw the Gulf Ocean for the first time. We were in Galveston. I spent a glorious 2 weeks playing in the warm sand and taking long walks along pristine pocket beaches. I also made a good new friend there that I’m still in contact with on Facebook.
  • The Louisiana Bayou — Besides the food, one of my favorite authors sets all her books in this area in cute little made up towns like Sinful, Louisiana and Mudbug. My only regret is that I booked RV Resorts instead of state parks most of the time and who knows if I’ll ever be back down that way. But what we did do was pretty memorable. The huge historical plantation Rosedown gave me many exquisite photo ops and memories. Another memorable day was the boardwalk hike among the alligators at Percy Quinn State Park in Southern Mississippi.
  • Myrtle Beach — I had been telling people I would go to Myrtle Beach one day for probably ten years. And we finally made it. I booked a rather older historical rv park right on the beach in the north area and I’m glad I was here and not at one of the more pristine fancy parks. We spent three great weeks exploring on foot, walking on the beach every day, or in the rental car, driving to sites and I took in a few shows without the dogs. This was my first exposure to “snow birds.” I got to know my next door neighbors, who had a house in Massachusetts and spent October through April every year in this RV Park.

There were several things I did in 2019 that I’m so glad I didn’t pass up. It started off with spending my birthday in a place that had fond memories from my childhood and then I got to see my neighborhood in New Mexico from the 1960s.

  • Calico Ghost Town — I had been here just passing through with a relative in the 90s and had always wanted to come back. Being able to spend a week in this quaint, Knotts Berry Farm vibe place was a memory I’ll cherish for a long time. And in the 1960s, my family had lived just down the road in Apple Valley. The best thing about Calico Ghost Town? All the attractions are dog-friendly.
  • Petrified Forest — I believe I was only about 5 or 6 the last time I had been here. It seems that when traveling from Southern California through to Oklahoma, which I was doing to visit my son, and planning stops every 200 or 300 miles, I kept missing this stop. So this time, I deliberately planned a stop with 4 days at the nearby KOA (Kampgrounds of America). We took a driving tour of the whole park and I checked out both visitor’s centers and gift shops while the dogs waited for me.
  • Roswell International UFO Museum — I found out later that the museum is actually dog-friendly but it was probably better for my crew to wait for me in the motor home in the parking lot. I’d been wanting to stop here for a long time and I wasn’t disappointed.

Unfortunately, some of 2019 didn’t turn out the way I’d envisioned. One place that is still on my bucket list is the Thumb of Michigan (again a place-setting for one of my favorite authors). I made travel arrangements from Oklahoma City all the way north and east, ending with 4 weeks at Lake Huron in two separate state parks. Then, disaster struck. I ended up staying in Oklahoma for tooth surgery and spent the rest of the summer recuperating. I had to cancel all travel plans for up north.

I did spend 2 months in Branson, Missouri, another bucket list place, that fall. Again, I wasn’t disappointed. We had some great adventures and memories while there. Then, it was time to start heading to my winter digs again. I was sad about not seeing Michigan but was headed to a restorative month back at the Gulf Coast through Thanksgiving and then on to my winter spot in Southeastern Texas.

By winter 2019, I already had plans and reservations through spring and summer 2020. And by April 2020, I was on the phone and email cancelling everything. My plan had been to spend two months visiting my elderly folks in Northern California, including getting to celebrate my dad’s 90th birthday in April. Then, at the end of May, I had plans to attend my first ever large RV Rally in Wyoming, with over 1000 people expected. I was going to spend the rest of the summer of 2020 exploring the Rocky Mountain states, which would all be new to me.

Instead, I spent from December 2019 to July 2020 in the same place in Texas, about an hour northeast of Houston. I finally left at the end of July and spent a month back in Oklahoma City to visit my son. From there, I thought maybe it would be safe to start traveling back to California. I was getting worried that I wouldn’t see my dad at all before it was too late. His health was really frail throughout 2020.

Traveling is still not advised so again cancelled plans to see my dad. In the meantime, I ended up at the top of a waiting list for a co-op RV site in New Mexico so I decided to pack in the traveling lifestyle for awhile. I moved to New Mexico at the beginning of September 2020 and bought a larger travel trailer to live in. My motor home is still in storage waiting for the day I can take her out again and get back to seeing this great country of ours. But for now, I must entertain myself with internet adventures, some writing projects, and my arts and crafts.

Across the U.S.A. at 60 mph

This essay was written in the summer of 2019 after I’d been on the road full time for a little over one year.

There’s something to be said for driving at a leisurely pace. Now that I’m retired I really don’t have any deadlines and I’m finding that, at 61, I’ve started driving like an old lady, which isn’t a bad thing. I’ve always enjoyed bird observing and seeing the sites but before I bought the motorhome, I was always on my way to somewhere else. I would slow down as I passed an interesting lake full of migratory birds or tiny waterfalls along winding mountain roads but then I was back up to speed limit, maybe a little faster even, feeling annoyed at slower drivers in front of me, especially if it was a trailer or large RV.

Then I bought the motorhome. That was in 2016. It’s not a large motorhome, only 24 feet, about the size of one of those small specialty busses you see driving around town or to the airport. My motorhome was actually smoother to drive than my little Hyundai car, with a powerful V10 engine and cruise control. And you can really see all the traffic up ahead unless you’re blocked behind a semi. I was very cautious at the beginning. But driving it soon became second nature and I found myself realizing I could go the speed limit, even on the freeway, with no issues at all as long as I had put all my stuff away properly. 

When I retired mid-2018 and headed out after selling the house, all of a sudden, I found that I didn’t want to drive the speed limit anywhere. How can you drive across New Mexico at 75 mph when there is so much to look at everywhere? As I started getting in the habit of driving more leisurely, I found that all those little cars and semi-trucks in such a big hurry would just pass me and be on their way like they’d never even existed. I felt like I was in my own little world traveling down the highways in a different dimension from everyone else and that other dimension changed me mentally too. I noticed that the anger I used to have often in traffic was gone and my concerns for what other drivers might think of me had also dissipated. It was a really freeing feeling. 

Sometimes, my son will call me early in the morning when he’s on his way to work and while we’re talking, he’ll start cussing out the “stupid” drivers next to him and I can feel him getting really worked up. I don’t like him to be in that position but he always brushes it off later as “that’s just the way it is.” I’ve mentioned that there are several country roads that he could take all the way to work and avoid the freeway. It might add fifteen minutes to his commute but it would save a lot of merging, cussing, and aggravation. He does not agree with me. We shall see if things change when he retires.

I was in a hurry once with the motorhome. It was a week before Thanksgiving and I was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I told the folks in Sacramento I would arrive for Thanksgiving, even though I hadn’t planned to be back until closer to Christmas time. They were missing me and my dad even sounded a little depressed on the phone. It’s the least a daughter can do I felt, as they had been very supportive of my taking off and wanting to travel the country. So I allowed myself eight days but was hoping to make it in less. 

It was November so I didn’t want to take I-40 back due to high elevations in parts of the country that might see snow and ice. I decided to take I-10 which follows the border to Mexico. I did 3,076 miles and arrived on day eight of my journey. The longest day’s drive was 518 miles which was my second day traveling across Texas. 

I was in such a hurry to get the whole week over with, I left by 8:00 a.m. every morning and didn’t stop until 5:00 or 6:00 every night, which included at least two stops per day because of the dogs. All I have to say is that I will never do that again. I think it took me a month to recover. From now on under 200 miles per day is my goal and I will take ten days to get somewhere that is 1,000 miles away if I have to.

Recently, things changed again. I am now towing a car. Even though the towing is pretty much seamless, you can’t even feel it and it turns like a dream, I find myself driving very cautiously. It says on the Oklahoma Turnpike (I-44) that the speed limit is 50 to 75, “no tolerance” they add on the sign. So I picked 60 mph, set my cruise control and drove 130 miles no problem. People didn’t get mad at me, they just passed me and I was left alone to enjoy my own little world of scenery and peacefulness.

I’m sure as I get more bold with the towing situation, I will start to feel more comfortable going faster, except maybe on city interchanges, but why go faster? I’m not bothering anyone, I’m not breaking the law, and I’m enjoying a blissful, stress-free retirement.

So when you are behind a slow moving motorhome towing a car and starting to get steamed because you can’t pass, don’t get mad. Think about those retired people in front of you enjoying the scenery and not having a care in the world. And hope that one day, you can be like that.

For pictures and descriptions of 32 sightseeing sites to date, go here.