Originally posted on 3/21/21
Whoever said that living in the past is bad only got it partially correct. True, it can prevent you from dealing with issues in the present or positive planning for the future. But, at my seemingly advanced age I have come to realize that thinking about the past is not exactly the same as clinging to it, and there are benefits in reminiscing.
They say that people relive the past because there are no surprises there. It's predictable. There is a comfort in knowing what transpired and what happened next. If you have an especially brilliant or exceptional success story, an acclaimed achievement, an unlikely victory or a bout of fame, it's fun to relive the moments, especially if you are unlikely to ever achieve them again.
I agree that dwelling on those events can prevent you from enjoying the present. However, I often find myself reliving some of my past achievements and have totally allowed myself to re-experience joy from them.
I once bowled an 808 three-game series in league, an accomplishment that few bowlers attain. There were nuances during the match that only very good bowlers would understand, like needing a 279 in Game 3 for my 800 series. That requires bowling a strike in 11 of the game's 12 frames and, on the one frame that wasn't a strike, an 8-count or lower would have ruined the pursuit. I had thrown a ton of strikes to give myself this once-in-a-lifetime chance, and I didn't need to throw a long string of strikes to do it. I had one opportunity for missing.
Except that I missed the very first frame, leaving a four-pin. I picked up the spare, but now the situation had changed. The 279 effort did not take into account a spare in the first frame -- anywhere else in the game would have worked. Now, I had to throw ten strikes in a row and any legal count in the twelfth and final frame. Finishing with 11 strikes would have given me a 290, but anything besides a strike in frames 2 through 11 would mean I couldn't realize my far-fetched goal. One ball at a time, one strike at a time, and I was able to get all ten of the necessary strikes, with my legs and arms shaking more and more as I approached the end of the game. I threw a seven count on my final ball for a 287, my best game ever, and an 808 total for the three games.
It is rare to throw an 800 series, more so without a 300 game, and I often relive those moments, not because I am avoiding anything in the present but to repeat some wonderful feelings about an extraordinary sports achievement. I could say the same about other things in my life I take pride in, from hitting a grand slam in a childhood pickup baseball game to running the table against a vastly superior opponent in pool, getting three straight 9-ball breaks in another match, each of the standing ovations I have received in karaoke, singing with my brother in a karaoke finals that took place in front a huge crowd in a county fair with well-known rock stars in the judge's panel, and more. Scenes like each of my kids' births, which I attended in person, my meeting Nadyne for the first time, my final day at work upon retirement, and other notable events in my life also invade my day at random.
But here's the thing -- reliving those moments helps extend my life's experiences. I feel like I allow them to live on rather than becoming the forgotten past. My memories are vivid, like how the bowling ball or cue stick felt in my hands, my nervousness before and during each, the trajectory of the bowling or billiard balls, the outcomes.
I lived about 17 hours in my 16 waking hours today, since several minutes were added from my reminiscing. Why wouldn't I want to do that?
Originally posted on 2/1/21
When we were in our sticks-and-bricks home, the view outside stayed the same, day after day, month after month, year after year. Not so in our fifth wheel.
Our RV bedroom has a slide-out, with the head of the bed sitting in a cubby that extends outward from the middle of the room. Each side of the cubby, next to our pillows, has its own small window. Our bedroom looks pretty much the same, day-to-day, at least since we remodeled it two years ago. Upon laying down in bed or waking up, it seems like home in our familiar room, just like in our stationary house did years ago. But look out the window and we are often amazed at our true location.
We move constantly, on average about every two weeks, so that's the longest we generally have any particular view. Whether we are in a forest, at the seashore or lakeside, in a crowded RV neighborhood or boondocking in an expanse of scrubland or desert, we almost always feel excitement when we glance though the curtains. We have even seen wildlife out those windows, including deer, wild hogs and a variety of birds. Once we thought we saw a bear, but we're still not sure that's what it was.
It's not always a delight. In one park we were bothered by black-crested titmice pecking on our bedroom windows almost our entire stay. That got old. Neighbors are not always diligent about turning off lights near our bedroom, and sometimes those lights are brilliant. Once Nadyne stayed awake late because she could see out her window that the neighbors had built a tall campfire in their site, then went to bed without putting it out.
All-in-all, though, we really enjoy having the comforts of home, our own bed and linens, and the familiarity of our bedroom, while enjoying the myriad of sights around the country. It's a dichotomy we treasure.
Originally posted 1/28/21
I've always been a photographer, at least since I was ten years old and my grandmother gave me a B&W Brownie camera that took 126-speed film. Even then my photos often looked like picture postcards. It was difficult to do enough chores to pay for film and developing. For those too young to remember, "developing" was the process of getting the photo from film to photo paper and cost money for each print. My photos spoke for themselves and I knew that it was a skill I possessed. In hindsight, perhaps I should have gone to school and become a photojournalist as soon as I could manage it. Getting married and having kids at a young age pretty much prevented any such career.
That being said, I've truly enjoyed this pursuit as a semi-professional over the decades with various 35mm cameras, first with film and eventually digital, and I estimate that I have taken about a quarter-million snapshots in my life. My current collection of higher-resolution photographs consists of over 30,000 pics, or about 3,000 photos per year for the last ten years. There is no better feeling of snapping a pic of an awe-inspiring scene, person, critter or event.
All is not all sunny and roses for a true photographer, with downsides that are all-too-common for us all. Here are a few of those drawbacks.
No "off" switch
I take my cameras with me nearly everywhere I go, ready for the spur-of-the-moment or once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity. But, since I'm married, I recognize that wearing my harness with both my Sony digital cameras (one has a long telephoto lens) doesn't always make me socially present. She's a real trooper about it but I feel guilty monopolizing our outings, so I'll sometimes leave the gear at home (in our case, home is a fifth-wheel RV).
Two things often happen while I'm trying to enjoy scenery or a function sans my gear. One is that my attention is always focused on the possible shots all around me, never to be taken. I'll see a flower or a bird and instead of just thinking about its beauty or uniqueness, I'm thinking that if I had my camera I might stoop down just so to get the correct angle or background, or move a little left to frame it between trees or buildings. Don't get me wrong, I do think about its beauty or uniqueness, but that is short-lived.
Second is that an awe-inspiring scene, person, critter or event appears before me and all I have is a smart-phone, which isn't even in camera mode when I want it. Wildlife photos, in particular, can be fleeting when you aren't ready for them.
No matter what I have invested in equipment, someone else has better, especially authentic professionals. I see photos published all the time that make me think about how I couldn't even get that shot with what I have.
You've seen the pros (or the wealthy wanna-be pros) walking among us with the telephoto lenses that are white, not black, two feet long, six inches wide. Some pros even mount their cams on anti-vibration, anti-shake gizmos that seem to hover in front of their faces. I estimate that the last pro I saw had equipment that cost over $50K, and that was just what was with him. I'll always envy that.
Always on the lookout for a shot can get you into trouble, like the time I passed a photo opportunity in the Colorado mountains, backed up on a cliffside road and nearly drove off the edge. I stopped in time, one wheel having dropped off the road, and my four-wheel drive pulled me back onto the dirt road. But this highlights what can happen.
On average, two to three deaths per year in the Grand Canyon are from falls over the rim, and similar accidents happen all over the country from photographers, pros and amateurs. It's so simple to lose sight of where you are, how precarious your position, and your focus firmly staying on the subject at hand.
I can't tell you how many times traffic on country or farm roads has prevented what looked like great shots. Once, in Georgia, I slowed down when I saw a picture-perfect ranch house at the end of an incredibly long driveway. Unfortunately, like much of the South and Midwest, there was no shoulder to pull off onto, and the six cars behind me weren't exactly thrilled that I slowed, let alone stop. I continued down the narrow road and looked for a place to turn around. After about two miles I ended up giving up on the shot, but convinced that I would have an opportunity for a similar pic on my drive. That didn't happen.
Likewise, I had to pass on a stunning farmhouse that had crumbled to the ground in Alabama and a century-old ranch entrance sign in Texas. Wildlife isn't usually cooperative, either, and I often miss by mere fractions of a second near-perfect views of birds, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, wolves and others, but especially birds, which can be frustratingly quick and skittish.
When I miss those opportune moments, they sometimes haunt me.
Photography doesn't pay
Everyone with a smartphone is a photographer these days. Give a monkey an iPhone 12 and look through its camera shots at the end of the day and you'll probably find at least one really good photo. Likewise people who turn their phones briefly away from their selfies in time to get a great pic, then plaster it all over social media like they've been doing it all their lives. Sorry, do I sound bitter? I'm not.
Professional and experienced amateur photographers have a difficult time selling their work. Writers are experiencing the same issue, with over a million titles being self-published every year from authors of various skill levels. It's difficult to complete with the sheer volume of it all.
At one time an average person seeing a splendid landscape print would consider buying it to frame and hang in their homes. I have bought many prints in my lifetime, even though I consider myself an excellent photographer. Now, that person may believe that they can do as well themselves, taking note of the aspects of the shot so they can try to duplicate them in the future. Of course, average people haven't invested the same money in equipment and haven't spent long hours, sometimes hundreds of hours, trying to be in the right place at the right time. But, somehow, they believe they can easily take a shot to hang on their walls.
Photographers that make a living from their passion are fortunate indeed, and those few career positions are scarce. Many popular magazines and websites, such as nature, science, news, fashion, leisure, travel and entertainment periodicals, use in-house photojournalists and accept outside work. There are just too few opportunities for the number of talented shutterbugs, let alone the masses with smartphones.
Originally posted 12/28/20
You may be aware that we are on the waiting list at an Escapees Co-Op in Texas. But, why winter in one place?
You may have read my article, My Top 9 Trepidations of Full-Time RVing, in which I describe several anxieties upon moving to and setting up in an RV park. Some of these are the availability and status of full hookup sites, cell and Internet access, parking and setup difficulties, weather on the road, satellite reception, road hazards, pet friendliness, and others. Consider the fact that we change campgrounds approximately every two weeks, so I experience these emotions more than two dozen times a year.
But, it's more than these apprehensions. Driving takes a toll, especially as we get older, and fuel is a big expense when you are constantly on the move. The cold of winter leaves little of the country available for visiting in anything other than frigid climates. The usual RV snowbird regions, i.e. Florida, Texas, Arizona and Southern California, are rife with more large rigs than small, leaving space, convenience, solitude and privacy all wanting.
Even with RVillage, a virtual RV community with over 350,000 members nationwide, telling us which other members are camping in a specific park we arrive to, RVers in a park are strangers. RVers are people, meaning that they include all types of personalities, social acumen and political persuasions, and not everyone is open to meeting newcomers.
I guess I'm saying that we miss friends and social circles in which to gather to share moments, stories and laughs. A two-week stay in an RV resort may afford us an acquaintance or two, but the process of our getting to know each other typically starts from scratch each time. Sure, there are stories from the RV lifestyle all RVers can relate to, such as many of the anecdotes I share in my book, "RV Life Happens," but there are only so many black tank tales or RV park complaints you can tell. By spending four of five months in one community, we can begin building some longer-term relationships.
One quick mention: We have made several valuable personal connections in RVillage and on the road, and some will become lifelong friendships. We don't diminish this possibility and always leave ourselves open to making new friends wherever we go.
Then there is the convenience of staying in a place long enough to see doctors and dentists, and to get RV repairs or maintenance performed. Although we have been returning to Denver each year for a couple of weeks to get medical and dental treatment, two weeks isn't always long enough. Last year I had to forgo one appointment when they couldn't make space within our travel window in Colorado. RV upgrades and repairs can be especially difficult around the country when parts and materials can take longer to arrive than we are camping in an area.
One of the reasons we decided not to spend considerable time in any one park when we started this adventure is that we both had many, many items on our go-to-visit lists and we were anxious to experience them all and cross them off. We have circumnavigated the country three times in three years and are about to embark on another grand circle, this time checking Yellowstone and Nova Scotia off our destinations lists. We have camped in 32 states and driven in 42, with more in our upcoming itinerary.
Now that we have seen so much of the country, we can afford to take time to relax in a single community for the winter. The Escapees Co-Ops make this affordable but some have waiting lists with hundreds of names on them. The sites have space and hookups for an RV of nearly any size and for one or more sheds or casitas. Fortunately, in our Texas choice, we started at #42 on the waiting list and, since were are now only #15, we will probably get a property either this winter or next. At that point we can make plans to move our stored stuff from Denver to the new site and move in when most convenient.
Lastly, it would have been nice this year during the pandemic to have had a permanent spot to hunker down in rather than having to worry about whether any or all of the RV parks we had booked would decline our reservations when we arrived. During national emergencies, we'd rather have a home base to go to.
So, why Texas? Several reasons:
All told, we have many reasons for being stationary in the winter, but that doesn't mean we plan to give up traveling the country. We'll still have eight months a year to continue our adventures.
Author, poet, photographer, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, sportsman,