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Shedding the Yoke....


Fulltiming in an RV has different connotations for different people. Some seem to think it is an endless series of travels in a recreational vehicle; seeing wondrous sight after another until they recede into a blurry kaleidoscope of memory. Some use the RV to migrate south in the winter and then north in the summer; maybe a conventional stick house awaits them on one end or the other.  Hey, if it works for you, go for it!

Fulltiming in the Old Girl didn’t involve a countdown ’till the last day of work for me or anything so pre-structured with forethought.  The last kid left home and the big empty space was wasted on an old hack like me — better off rented out to a paying customer. After all I had a recreational vehicle and a metal shop building outside of town where all the man toys lived; suited me to a “T” and then some.  I was all caught up in The Stuff.

The heyday of the Man Toy era

Tools and air compressors and DISH TV with a beer fridge and regular hard wired bathroom throwed in to boot. I worked a little on the Internet every day in the Old Girl parked in front of the shop, I sold a hot car every now and then and played plenty. It was exhausting. One of the true joys back then was going racing with the kids. It was a great family project but grueling at the same time. If the car was prepped and ready, it took a week to pack the trailer with tools and contingency spares for every conceivable catastrophe. It was more exhausting and hectic than I even care to remember.

Sometime in 2007, it all started to slip away.  Maybe it was the beginning of the recession;  I don’t know.  Whatever was coming down was spiraling way over my head.   Over the course of just a few short months,  70% of my annual income just dried up.  Mind you I am not whining,  it is what it is.  So I went from acquiring assets to liquidating property.   Sold this, sold that,gave the other thing away…. It was painful at first because I had been drinking the Kool Aid for all those many years.  You were judged by how much stuff you had managed to attain.

So here I sit now.  Everything I own is here in the Old Girl or in the Suburban parked out front.   The Boy bought the Race Car at a bargain price and it lives in Biloxi now.  The Girl bought the 1987 IROC Camaro and it lives in a storage shed in South Dallas along with a half dozen tubs of my stuff and a washer and dryer.  She will retrieve it when Uncle says it is time to come back to The States.  I could have given them the cars — they were sold for pennies on the dollar.  When you buy something with hard dollars, it means more and is worth more.  That is a life lesson, Jack,  So that is the balance sheet, the accounting, the sum total.  My life as a series of debits and credits. Not much of a way to judge a man.

If you came to a pity party, you are at the wrong house.  This inexorable migration from Corporate America to the Right Now Today has not been purposeful or planned in the long term with this specific goal in mind. Nope, not at all.   I did not divest and simplify because I was omniscient; I wish I was that freaking smart.   I did it because it was what happened. Fate. Karma.  Cleansing. Peace of Soul.  It had to be as it is now for me to get where I am ultimately headed. I could not even begin to guess what the final destination might be.

So all this introspection has to be the result of something, right?  Cause and effect.  Well, it is.    All of us hear the stories about people who worked their entire lives just to retire to that dream home and live the life they always wanted but something happens.  Usually, right after they retire,  there is some heart wrenching accident that kills them or the  cancer gets them and we all shake our heads and wonder “How can that be fair?” Like Life is fair to begin with.    My bro and I work for wealthy clients and usually what we are doing is prepping their retirement estate for ‘that day’.  Most of them are 40 to 50 something and their money has been made in oak paneled offices where your belt has to match your shoes and you pick up most of your laundry at the dry cleaners.  Their dream is to retire to the land,  buy a John Deere tractor, a Ford King Ranch and some mama cows to tend.  They dream of the day when they can wake up, put on Wranglers, a pearl snap shirt and a big hat and go out to meet the day.   Building fence, shredding pastures, working a chain saw and herding cattle is the way they want to go out at the end of days.  The truth is their corporate life has left them ill prepared for ranching or farming.   They don’t have the fortitude or physical stamina at that advanced age to learn something as mentally and physically demanding.  Most end up being discouraged and disappointed.  It is a shame.

This week I headed off to Austin for some business and I got the same uneasy feeling I got when I traveled down to that Houston last fall.   People with their head all wrapped around City Living and it raised many questions in my mind – just like it did last Fall.  The difference this time was I didn’t need to know the answers.   Later that night I was reading an RV Forum and an innocent question tipped me over the edge even farther.

I guess it is de rigueur to put that little USA map on your RV and attach brightly colored stickers on every state you have visited. There are even queries on the RV Forums as to whether you are ‘allowed’ to place the coveted sticker on your map if you just do a drive by across the state instead of actually spending time in that state. Christ!  So the question on the forum was there any organization that recognizes you if you have been in all 50 states; specifically, the poster wanted a cap or a Polo shirt (I can’t make this stuff up) that badged him as one that has done that. It put me over the edge, and then some.

Then, just today I was watching one of those shows on HGTV where we get to live vicariously through other people as they purchase a house.  These 2 guys were looking at this hideous house in Southern Cal — and it was $750k!!   The ‘good’ house were over $1 mil.  And I am sitting here looking at all 200 square feet of the Old Girl and thinking about my quality of life and my peace of mind  and the fact that I didn’t have to have a bigger lawn mower or BBQ grill than my neighbor directly across the privacy fence… and I had to smile.

Step by step. I am putting a distance between what was and what is.  The jumbled mess in my brain that used to look a pile of tangled white coat hangers on a closet floor is starting to straighten out.

My Dad used to tell me I would give my last dollar to someone if they asked for it.   Evidently, that action was not acceptable.

My Dad told me I would be dead before I was 30.

What he didn’t know was that I secretly wished to join a commune.  That was the thing to do back in the day.  Probably woulda done it too if I would of had a car or something to escape.  If I would have been 18 years old instead of 14 in 1969, I probably would have hitched to Upstate New York and done that thing at Max Yasgur’s Farm.

When we were racing, two of the races each year were held at Ft Stockton, TX.  After several visits,  I started to admire the folks out there in Far West Texas.   They are cut from a different cloth,  something that you just don’t see these days on a regular basis.   That and Montana is probably the Last Frontier left in the country.  Life is lived by the drop and close to the marrow.

Marathon,TX Wall Art

Your word is worth more than your bank account,   Pickups, by and large, don’t have expensive, shiny wheels,  a good dog is a mark of respect and you raise a finger or two off the wheel when you meet another vehicle on the road.

What Austin and Houston and Dallas lost in their headlong rush to be hip and urban never left West Texas.    I don’t remember a Starbucks in town.. That is how it should be.

We always have some slack time at the job and I am resisting the hitch itch to take off toward toward Ft Stockton while I am waiting for the next job to fire up.

West Texas Blogs…. I read 4 blogs every day.  Herewith is 50% of my expended bandwidth:

The Oasis of My Soul

The Field Lab

Warning! These blog posts are addictive because they strike a rung on our common DNA ladder.

End Note: I got the Zune back from the liberals in Washington State==Likewise the LaCie drive; so I am back in the music business.  The LaCie refurb crossed the border at Laredo.  I pay attention to stuff like that.  the Zune came back all shiny and new looking but loaded with foreign music on the hard drive.  One pretty hot video of a Brazilian girl singer in tangas.  You get to name your Zune  so this one is named Brasilia.

In keeping with this evening’s theme I offer up Stephen Stills.  Not just any Stephen Stills  — Stephen Stills at 62 yo — still rocking!   Checkout all 7:33 mins of Wounded World /Rocky Mountain Way from the Live at Shepherd’s Bush album.  He still has the licks-and the voice.

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5 comments to Shedding the Yoke….

  • Any idea where you’ll be going next?

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  • Yeah, I feel the pull of West Texas every time I go out that way. Used to feel the same tug with the coast, but it’s as grown-up and hipster as the cities.

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  • CJ

    Wish we were in Marathon, snagging free wi-fi from The Gage Hotel.

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  • Bob

    I’ve briefly touched base with that “west Tx”, small town thing. I’ve tried to relate that experience to “non Texans” and they give me that “Kathy” look. Their perception of Texas is Dallas. I know west Texans don’t care but I do.

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