Friday, November 28, 2008


What a great Thanksgiving we had! In the morning we helped prepare meals for residents of subsidized housing throughout the Denver area. Several weeks ago we searched online for "Thanksgiving volunteers" and found a program that needed help cooking from 9 to 12, so we signed up.

When we arrived at the Polish Club in west Denver, we found probably 25 volunteers there already, some busy stirring in pots in the kitchen. Others were opening cans of fruit and green beans and pouring them into large aluminum pans. By 9 am 50-75 more people had arrived. Joe and Barb have been coordinating this Thanksgiving dinner for eight years in memory of Barb's dad. Local housing authorities give them the names of residents who would appreciate a hot meal for their family on Thanksgiving. This year the plan was to deliver meals to 3500 people.

We were assigned to one of three serving lanes. I poured gravy over turkey (1200 pounds had been cooked on Tuesday), mashed potatoes and stuffing. John dished out fruit. Other volunteers carried two take-out boxes from server to server. This went on for nearly three hours, until all 3500 boxes were filled with Thanksgiving dinner. As each box was filled, another volunteer covered the fruit and beans with plastic wrap so the gravy didn't run into those sections of the box. Then the box and a cookie were tied in a plastic bag and stacked for the drivers, who arrived at 11 am. When we left at 12 almost all the meals were on their way to hungry people and the clean-up crew was hard at work.

Volunteers ranged in age from pre-teens to senior citizens, with a large number of 20- and 30-somethings. The project is a family tradition for a number of the volunteers. This is only one of many Thanksgiving feeding programs in our community this year, one of thousands or tens of thousands across the country. Especially in tough times like we are facing right now in the US, it is encouraging to see so many people giving part of their holiday to share with others.

When our volunteer work was done, we went home to rest for a short while, and then we joined our family for turkey. Each year our son, Eric, and his wife, Liz, host the family Thanksgiving dinner. This year four of Liz's six brothers and sisters were there with their families—many of the children are in college or beyond. Liz's dad and wife were there as well. I think our group numbered over 30. We ate our fill and caught up on each other's lives since last Thanksgiving. What a blessing to be surrounded by family.

Today we will cook our own turkey—how else can we have leftovers?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Planning for Next Summer

We're looking for volunteer assignments for next year. Since we have decided it would be nice to spend more time in Colorado for a change, we have applied to the Colorado State Parks. On our way north from Arizona and New Mexico we talked with the volunteer coordinator at Lathrop State Park in Walsenburg. It is our favorite park on the Front Range and they have two slots for maintenance volunteers, as well as campground host positions. We aren't interested in serving as campground hosts, but we do enjoy maintenance. One of the slots includes staffing the Camp Store at Lathrop, as well as doing maintenance. We think we have a good chance of getting that position from May through mid-July. We certainly hope so.

We also applied on-line for three other state park positions and this week Barr Lake State Park, located on the northeast edge of the Denver Metro area, called. It is a day use park with a hike/bike trail, wildlife reserve, nature center and fishing. We had never been to the park, but said we would like to come. Since we couldn't arrive till mid-July, they have to see if someone can cover the early part of the summer. Yesterday we drove to Barr Lake and fell in love with it. We watched two large flocks of Canadian Geese land on the lake and saw hundreds of other birds. Beyond the birds, it is very quite. We would really enjoy being there and hope it works out.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. In the morning we will volunteer as cooks for a charity serving holiday meals to residents of low-income housing. When we finish at noon we will come home, clean up, and go to our son Eric's house for Thanksgiving dinner with him, his wife and her large family and our two grandchildren that live here. It will be a full day, and we will be continually reminded of all we have to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Life is Different Here

We've been back at the house for just over two weeks. Life is certainly different here.

We go to the Goodson Recreation Center to do our workouts and to run on the track. We lived most of the seven plus months we were on the road at low altitudes—sea level to maybe 2000 feet. About a month before we came back to the house we started taking iron supplements which allow our blood to carry more oxygen. Each time we go up 1000 feet or more, I have a tough time the first run or two. So I expected to have trouble when we ran the first time at the gym. I was delighted when I ran the entire three miles without having to slow down to a walk. It probably helped that we had run once while we were at Chatfield. That run I only made it a little over two miles.

One sign of our new way of life is when I change purses. When we are in the RV I always use my fanny pack. It holds all the things I need and frees both hands for whatever I want to do. If we do go somewhere that I want to look a little more sophisticated, I leave the fanny pack in the RV or the truck and John has to carry what I need. But when we are living in a house in a city I feel I have to be just a little more formal. So, on our first Saturday back I moved things into a small purse. I don't like the purse—it is too small. But I hate to buy another for only a few months. I just have to suffer a little while we are here.

When we return to the house there are always many tasks waiting—we sweep out the cobwebs, trim the trees and bushes, clean the rain gutters, wash the windows. For several years the brickwork around our concrete patio has been deteriorating. This year we were determined to repair it. We have had lots of experience with landscaping projects this summer and knew we could get the job done.

After a trip to Home Depot for pressure treated boards (boy are they heavy), we tore out the old wood and removed the bricks. We measured, cut and installed the new wood framework. Would you believe, we bought just the right amount of wood! We didn't have to make a second trip. At least not for wood. We had two tubes of sand in our garage that we used to place in the bed of the pickup for traction during the winter. Since we now leave the RV hitch in the bed, we don't need the sand. So we emptied the tubes into our construction project to seat the bricks. The next day, we went to the Big Tool Box, our local hardware, for five more tubes of sand. We returned later for six more, and yet again for another six. We didn't figure the sand as well as the wood.

Here is the project—after the framework was in but before we put in the bricks, and now all complete. Yea! We are so glad we tackled it right away. And we got it done while the weather was nice. Today the temperature never got above the low 30s.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cost of Our Travels

        Today diesel is selling for $2.76 a gallon in our part of town.  During our travels this year, we paid as much as $5.60 a gallon one time in a resort service station.  The standard for quite a while was $4.19 a gallon.  So today's price looks really good.


        We have been asked how (or why) we can travel with fuel prices so high and the economy in such a state.  One part of the answer is we aren't getting any younger and how do we know it won't be worse next year or the year after that?


        But the expense of our type of travel isn't much.  From March 24 to November 4, we drove 10,700 miles and only about 7,000 miles were driven towing our trailer.  Many people drive at least 15,000 miles a year just going to and from work and driving around town.  We went from Colorado to New Mexico, then Arizona, then California, on to Oregon, back down to California, then Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico, before returning to Colorado. 


        We were on the road for 228 days.  Four months—119 days—we were volunteering and didn't pay anything for our RV site.  In addition, we had four free nights at Pilot Knob in Yuma, AZ, in return for a sales presentation, and three free nights at Alpine RV in Morgan Hill, CA, while we waited for some work on our new RV.   We were also reimbursed for a week-long stay in California while our truck was being repaired  The total cost of our RV sites for the seven plus months was $ 2759, averaging $11.59 a night. 


        When we are away from our house for that period of time, we spend much less on gas and electricity at the stick house.  We do budget billing with Public Service for these expenses.  Before we began our extensive RV travels, we paid over $200 a month for these utilities.  Today we pay $98 per month.  That offsets part of our travel expenses.


        When we add up RV sites, fuel while towing the trailer, propane, and RV maintenance, our travels cost $5,185.  That doesn't include food, but we have to eat wherever we are and almost all our meals are prepared in the RV kitchen.  It also doesn't include the driving we do in the truck where we aren't towing.  We spent a total of $3300 on fuel during the months we were on the road for all our driving. We spent more for one week of luxury cruising in the Caribbean in 2000 than we spent for seven months of travel this year.  We prefer this type of travel.


        Obviously, I haven't included the cost to purchase our RV in these calculations.  But if we choose to own an RV, why not travel when we can do it this inexpensively?


Friday, November 07, 2008

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

On Tuesday we winterized the 5th wheel trailer, and then put it into storage. For those who don't understand winterizing, that means draining all the water from the plumbing system in the trailer and replacing it with non-toxic antifreeze. We have done this ourselves for several years, but with the new trailer there were new procedures. So it took some study, some thinking, and some nervous work. But the job is done.

Then we drove to the house and finished (we thought) unloading everything that we need in the house. (That evening John went back to the trailer to get one load of things we forgot. Today we made another trip.) Then we drove to the storage lot and parked the trailer. The final step is to remove the batteries. But that was easier said than done. They are in an insulated storage box with a very tight fit. Six-volt golf cart batteries are very heavy. We could not find any way to lift them straight up with our arms extended straight out. We are still wrestling with how to solve that problem

The good about being back here in the Denver area is easy to see. We had a marvelous sunrise Tuesday morning before we left Chatfield State Park.

We have already seen our son who lives here three times, his wife and our two grandchildren twice.

Kylie, our oldest granddaughter


John, our only grandson

The bad includes the dust all over the house, the leaves and debris in the gutters and yard, the "stuff" we need to put away. It also includes all the "stuff" we have in the house that we don't need during the seven or eight months of the year we are on the road. When we return, it almost makes me feel laustrophobic. And then there is all the space. In a 36-foot trailer we are never far apart. Wednesday morning John went to the basement to ride his exercise bicycle. I went to the second floor to work on the computer. I got lost in what I was doing, and because I couldn't hear John, I only went to the basement 10 or 15 minutes after he began working out on weights. Since we share the same weights, we must coordinate our workouts. And I hadn't started at the right time.

The ugly includes the piles of papers and other items on most surfaces around the house—things we need to file or put away. Then there is the bag of small spice containers I use in the trailer that need to be combined with those in the house or be thrown away. And the neglected house plants that need repotting and the outside shrubbery that needs trimming and the windows that need washing.

We love our life on the road. We love being in the house where we are close to family and friends and all that is familiar. But the transition from one to the other leaves a lot to be desired.

Monday, November 03, 2008

We're in Colorado

We are back in Colorado and this is our last night out in the RV for 2008. If cold and possibly snow weren't coming in the next 2-3 days, neither of us would be ready to move back into the house. It isn't a matter of coming "home." Our home is where we are at the moment—the RV for 7 to 8 months of the year, the house the rest of the time.

Here in the Denver area we have family and a lifetime of living, friends, history and most of all, family. When we are on the road we have adventure, new experiences, the opportunity to make new memories and new friends.

We are spending two nights at Chatfield State Park, about 12 miles from our house. We started out here in March. We are finally getting smart—it is easier to learn what we have forgotten to pack and easier to pack up and not forget to take something back to the house when we spend a couple of days doing all that. In past years we have had to ask our son to overnight the cord and charger to the computer; we have called home and said "please removed the lettuce I left in the refrigerator. It won't be any good when we return in several months." We also have returned to the trailer storage area to retrieve the forgotten bag of potatoes (wouldn't that have smelled great the next spring?)

The last four days of our 2008 travels have been spent here in Colorado, first in Lathrop State Park in Walsenburg, and now in Chatfield in Littleton. These sites have allowed us to really enjoy the large front window in our new RV. These two photos show our view of the Sangre de Cristo Range from Lathrop and of this morning's sunrise over the Denver metro area. These are really good memories as we end our travels.

Tomorrow we will winterize the trailer, take the last items back to the house and put the RV in storage for a few months. These tasks are always bittersweet.

Check the blog over the winter as we plan next year's travels.