Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Musings on our Lifestyle

written Wednesday, December 31, 2008
New Years Eve
Rockport, TX

Tonight marks more than the turning of the calendar to a new year -- it's also the completion of 18 months of fulltiming in an RV for Dar and me. Wow, a full year and a half! It certainly doesn't feel that way.

When we started in July of '07 each of us had different thoughts about how long we could do this. Dar thought the minimum was five years and it'd probably be much longer. I was thinking, oh, maybe two years and, if things went well, maybe a year or two more. But after a year and a half it really feels like we're just beginning. We've made the big adjustments... being away from family for long periods; living in 300 square feet and without the clutter of so much landfill-destined stuff; having 50 different campsites during a year. I'm now more in synch with Dar on this question. We'll see how long the money holds out.

During 2008 our thoughts changed from "we're on vacation mode" to "this is our normal living mode". It doesn't feel at all strange to wake up in the morning, a little groggy, trying to figure out where we are. We know we'll stop traveling at some point but we don't pine for a traditional house -- not yet anyway. We're in the groove. This is what we have right now and we're enjoying it too much to think about alternatives. We're experiencing a real sense of freedom that's very addictive... if you let it be so.

There are so many things to see in the USA it's impossible to see them all. Our preference from the beginning was to focus on rural and small town America and minimize exposure to the big cities. I've found the feel of one big city is pretty much like the rest thanks to homogenous institutions like Outlet Malls, Starbucks, Network TV, and WalMart. In our explorations we prefer natural wonders and history. We prefer staying in wooded well separated campsites instead of RV Parks. You might say we want to experience the old, more locally focused, America.

One of my goals when we started was to find that place we'd like to live once our vagabond days are over. Looking back that goal was probably driven more by the weather than anything else. Foolish me. I've come to realize, over the past year and a half, that there isn't a single perfect place; that there are compromises everywhere especially when it comes to weather. I've also come to realize that in a lot of ways, like Dorothy said, there's no place like home. People... friends and family... are much more important than the weather. Well, what d'ya know, it took this guy 57 years to figure that out?? Just call me a slow learner.

T

Monday, December 22, 2008

Rockport Musings

written Monday, December 22, 2008
Rockport, TX

I'm in one of those unproductive periods that pop up every once in a while. Writing in the blog is easy when we're out exploring historic places, national parks, dramatic terrain, and the like. But often, when we park in one spot for an extended period of time, my mind takes a break and my writing muscles start to atrophy. A friend of mine claims there is no such thing as writer's block -- only laziness. That may be. But whatever the reason there's been a paucity of posts to the Sabbatical blog this month.

I thought it might be interesting to recount a few statistics about our lifestyle in 2008. These all relate to where we park the bus-house -- campgrounds, RV Parks, and boondocking -- and some statistics about the bus-house itself. And these are all for the year 2008:

Number of Camps/Moves:  59
Average Stay: 6.2 days
Longest Stay: 44 days (In Wisconsin for Wedding)
Total Cost of Camping: $4,911.10
Average Cost Per Day: $13.42
Most Costly Per Day: $31.00 (California -- where else?)

Bus-House Miles Driven: 9,941
Gallons of Diesel: 1,310
Miles per Gallon: 7.72 mpg
Cost of Fuel: $4,953.35
Average Gallon: $3.78/gal
Cost per Mile: 0.50/mile

Considering that my last property tax bill for one year in the western suburbs of Chicago was almost $8,000, spending $10,000 for camping and fuel, two of our largest expense categories, isn't too bad.

T

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Congratulations

witten Monday, December 15, 2008
Rockport, TX

Mom

Carol Mae Hoch is my Mom. This past Friday, December 12th, she officially retired after more than 30 years of service to the Meals On Wheels Program in Beaver Dam, WI. During those years, with high standards and a passion for the program, she was responsible for recruiting volunteers, scheduling, finding replacements when necessary, and generally making sure that all the hot meals prepared by the local hospital kitchen would be delivered around the city to those unable to fend for themselves. The program doesn't just deliver nutrition, it delivers human contact, it delivers hope. She and Dad also delivered meals for the program every week, something they'll continue to do in the future.

And, if you hadn't already guessed, she did all of this as a volunteer, getting "paid" only with the satisfaction of having helped those in need. She was honored during a luncheon this past Friday.

Congratulations Mom on a job well done!

Thom

Monday Morning in Rockport

written Monday, December 15, 2008
Rockport, TX

First thing this morning I'd like to remind readers that the front page of our website (www.tdhoch.com) is updated every day. As opposed to this blog, which is updated with a new post only when there's something interesting to write about or when I feel like it, the front page is a quick daily summary of our location, the weather we're experiencing, a brief "What's New?" section about what we're up to, and a photo or two which I try to make interesting. So if you have a link that takes you directly here, to the RV Sabbatical Journal, you may want to change that link so it'll take you to the front page first. Once there, the blog is only a simple click away.

Last week, on Friday, the front page had a tribute to my Mom for her more than 30 years of service to the Meals On Wheels Program in Beaver Dam WI. But I realized later that because the front page of our website isn't saved anywhere -- when it's updated the previous day is lost, gone forever -- there is no permanent record of that tribute. So to remedy that problem I'm going to do a separate post immediately following this one that covers the essence of what I wrote last week.

Life around the RV Park here in Rockport has been a little mundane and I'm falling into a routine that I'm not particularly proud of. First, I'm not exercising every day as I should -- and there's absolutely no excuse for it. Certainly not the weather. When we lived in Illinois I'd be out walking  sub-freezing mornings on snow covered sidewalks and roads, slipping and sliding my way to what I hoped would be improved health and longevity. Lately I've been sleeping later and when I do awaken, find myself stuck to the computer screen -- sometimes for hours. The massive amount of stuff that's available online is truly amazing and it's easy to blow great gobs of time chasing it. Each day I read large portions of 5 or 6 different newspapers. I carefully check the weather around the country on sites that contain detail and forecasting tools available only to professionals a few years ago. There are edgy news oriented blogs and online magazines with well-written articles you can't find anywhere else. There are online forums for any interest you can think of... I belong to a number of them that cover various aspects of fulltiming, motorhomes, and RV'ing. Then there are millions of personal blogs out there... I read at least 6 or 8 each morning.

Yikes! What am I turning into? What am I missing? I think I "need a life"! I think a few changes are in order.

T

Saturday, December 6, 2008

In Rockport Early

written Saturday, December 06, 2008
Rockport, TX.

It's way past time for an update. I think my last post to the blog was almost a week ago... way behind again.

In my last post we were getting ready to leave Texarkana and move south. Because our reservations in Rockport for the holidays had us arriving on the 12th, we had a good week and a half to kill along the way to the Gulf Coast -- about the right amount of time for a stop in Austin to see the State Capitol and the LBJ Library and Museum at the University of Texas.

So on Monday, December 1, we escaped from Shady Pines RV Park near Texarkana and headed south on US-59. The agreed upon route for the day had us picking up I-20 west near Marshall, to US-271 to Tyler, around the west loop to TX-31, which we could take all the way to a Corps of Engineers campground on Navarro Mills Lake, about 30 miles northeast of Waco. The plan was to enjoy the Corps park for a couple days, if it was decent, before heading down to the Austin area for the weeks main event. But fate intervened and the plan changed on the fly.

First, let me explain our thinking about the holidays. While our lifestyle is nomadic and most every week we're moving somewhere new, the idea of settling in for the Christmas and New Years Holidays makes it possible for Dar to exercise her drive to decorate the bus-house with colored lights, a small Christmas tree, and all kinds of other stuff. It allows us to get closer to a holiday family -- all the other campers here at the RV Park. And it allows us to linger in a place where there's a good chance the weather will be good and warmer than most of the continental U.S.

We really hit it off with the group at Sandollar Resort last year even though we were only here for less than a month. By the middle of January we were back on the road, heading west, and exploring West Texas and the Big Bend area -- and man-o-man, it was cold.

The entire state of Texas is tilted toward the Southeast and the Gulf Coast. Most all big rivers run from the northwest toward the Gulf in the southeast. Conversely, any route to the north and west is an uphill climb. For instance, in Rockport we're sitting at a few feet above sea level. By the time we got to Marathon in West Texas we were over 4,000 feet. And elevation means it's gonna be cold in the winter -- we hit a low of 6f degrees one morning in Marathon. It was all I could do to get Dar out of bed to make coffee that morning.

Anyway, back to our thoughts for this winter. Back in September we decided to do the Holidays in Rockport again and, if space was available, to spend up to two full months -- December and January. This would allow the world to warm a bit before setting off on further explorations in 2009. Sandollar Resort, like most RV parks, has some sites that they rent out monthly and others that are daily/weekly. Monthly sites are a much better deal at about half the cost of daily/weekly sites. Last year we had one of their weekly sites which are more available due to the higher price. When we made reservations earlier in the fall all the monthly sites were spoken for, so we reserved the same weekly site and put our name on a waiting list for a monthly.

Monday, as we were driving down TX-31 on the way to Navarro Mills Lake the phone rang. It was Sandollar Resort in Rockport letting us know that a monthly site had opened up and would be available until February 1. Perfect! After about 2 minutes of deliberation we let them know we'd take it and could be there in two days.

Where TX-31 intersects with I-45 I pointed the bus-house south and we pressed on to the town of Madisonville, TX where we overnighted in a WalMart parking lot.

The next morning, Tuesday, we continued on I-45 South to the Houston area, picked up the Sam Houston Toll Road, circled around the west side of the Metroplex, and caught US-59 West. After another hundred miles or so, we stopped in Victoria for the night.

Wednesday morning the drive into Rockport was 65 miles but complicated by strong gusty winds. By 1pm we had the toad disconnected had eased into our site. But with all the reunion greetings it took the rest of the day to get settled.

So, here we are for nearly two months. Even during our extended stays in Vancouver, WA. and in Wisconsin, we have never been in one place for two full months. In a way, this will be an experiment -- the suppression of a need to travel and explore, to find what's waiting for us over the next mountain range. But I like Rockport. And Dar likes Rockport. Good People. It's not pretentious and there's something about being right on the Gulf. Two months will evaporate and we'll be off on new adventures before we know it.

T