Tag Archives: camping

Reflections on the 1st Anniversary of my Retirement

Time flies. It was one year ago this Sunday that I preached my final sermon as a pastor and said farewell to our wonderful congregation. We turned the page to a new chapter in our lives.

While I doubt that I will ever quit being a pastor at heart, I’ve begun to learn to go to church and sit in a pew. I’ve been learning what it means to go to church and have no responsibility other than to worship. I’d almost forgotten what that was like. For me church attendance was filled with responsibilities. I gave my all on Sundays and came home weary and, quite often satisfied. These days I come home less weary and less satisfied. Going to church no longer has “work” associated with it but it doesn’t carry with it the satisfaction only a pastor enjoys after an especially blessed Sunday morning.

Of course, Jackie and I didn’t retire in a normal way. The day after my last Sunday we headed out on a great adventure, traveling the country in our RV. It’s been a great year and we hope it has been the first of what will be many.

During the past year I stopped carrying an ink pen in my pocket. That meant I could shop for shirts without pockets for the first time in years. It took several months, but I finally stopped wearing a watch. I have a sun tan instead of a white band around my wrist! During the year Jackie and my mornings have morphed into a leisurely time punctuated by a long coffee break about 10:00 each day. Then, many evenings have been spent sitting outside watching the sky; counting the satellites that glide overhead. We’ve even seen a good number of shooting stars. We’re enjoying each other’s company in ways that were almost forgotten.

We aren’t quite there yet but we’re rediscovering something we haven’t experienced since childhood: the joy of doing nothing. Don’t get me wrong: we do a lot. We’ve gone sightseeing, taken hikes, and visited museums and National Parks. However, mixed in now, are days of reading or just fooling with the computer. There are times to just sit and watch the world go by; or blow an evening watching TV. Over the winter, when it was unusually old outside, we watched the entire Star Wars series, from beginning to end, every night for six nights in a row. No meetings to attend, no need to bundle up and go out and fight the weather or the traffic – just time to do what we wanted to do, which was, at that particular moment: nothing.

We’ve missed having family close by. Most people retire and spend more time with loved ones. We, in our own crazy way, retired and immediately traveled far from them. That absent time, though, was somewhat balanced out by the months when we were close by and available to them as never before.

So, here I am, one year into retirement. When anyone asks me how I’m enjoying retirement I generally respond with the quip that had I known it was this much fun, I would have done it 30 years ago. There’s no small amount of truth to it.

Plugged and unplugged

A friend of ours, I’ll call her “TB,” looked over my Miscellaneous writing and found that I have been rather inconsistent in my observations.  Following Hurricane Ike I waxed eloquent about our twelve days without electricity.  However, looking a bit farther back in my ramblings, she found my sanguine thoughts on camping unplugged and how peaceful it is.  What can I say?  Sitting beside a beautiful mountain stream with nothing more important to do than start the campfire for the evening is more fun than sitting in the garage hoping for a whisper of a breeze on a hot September Texas Gulf Coast day!

Still, I get the point.  A lot of things just depend on our perspective.

Sabbatical Journey #13

Tuesday was a wonderfully lazy day. We went out to eat good BBQ for an early lunch, stopped off at the store for a few items, and then came “home” to take a nap and read a fiction book. It was such a “do-nothing” day that I had to remind myself not to feel guilty.

Today, we looked through a couple of outlet malls, ate a Krystal’s hamburger (almost as good as a White Castle!) and then rode the trolley over to Gatlinburg. We strolled through town then rode back. Jackie is doing some food preparation for the next few days and I’m keeping an eye on the laundry.

We’re preparing for another sojourn in the wilderness. We’ll leave the comfort of full hook ups and the crowded conditions of the RV park to set up in Cades Cove in the GSMNP. We’ll be back to our own devices, relying on the camper’s resources for the next four nights. Two of my purchases today were in preparation for this jaunt. First, I purchased an old fashioned coffee pot – last week we boiled water and then poured it through a filter. Now, we’ll be able to make coffee on the stove. Second, in preparation for more mountain cold nights, I bought a catalytic heater and fuel. I couldn’t resist it when I saw it in the Coleman outlet store for just $23. Normally it would run $35+. So, we should stay warmer in the “between sleeping bag hours” of evening and early morning.

Of course, this means no Internet for awhile. I’ll keep writing and will post updates as I can. Meanwhile, we’ll focus on enjoying the beautiful mountains. That’s what brought us here in the first place.

The expense of living like this constantly takes me off guard. We intend to keep this as light as possible on the bank account, but money flows at every turn. As I just described, I made a couple of purchases in preparation for the next few nights. Right now I am doing three loads of laundry. The cost will come in just under $10. While we are camping, we want a camp fire each night. That means we purchase firewood. The cost of that is around $3 a night. Even doing stuff like this on the cheap is expensive! I’m not complaining though. We are thankful we can stretch a bit and enjoy this, our first major break in over eight years.

Sabbatical Journey #12

Camping Unplugged
We had never tested our Casita’s dry camping ability, so our three night stay at Elkmont was an uncertain one. The report card comes out pretty good. On the third evening we ran out of fresh water. Even though we ran out of water, if we were careful we still had room for one or two more night’s waste water in the holding tanks. Therefore, I carried water from a drinking fountain across the campground in one gallon water jugs and poured them into the fresh water tank. Propane and battery power held out just fine. The conclusion is that we can be fairly liberal with the Casita’s resources if we are willing to hook up and move to a dump station and refill with fresh water every two days. If we are careful and have a fresh water source we can last for, barely, four days. On the “thoughtful” front, I can’t help but note how priorities change when one is out in a small camper like this. At home, such as I just described never enters my mind. I think it’s a good thing once in a while to “unplug” from many of the things we take for granted and let other things (like: how will we keep warm without a furnace) take over. It’s good to be without a cellphone or TV and resort to building a campfire for both warmth and the evening’s entertainment. Somehow, I need to find ways to incorporate that realization into my everyday life.


On the other hand, we moved from the beautiful Elkmont camp with no hookups into Walden’s Creek RV Park in Pigeon Forge. I backed into the site, and had everything from sewer to electric to cable TV ready to hook up. However, I also have neighbors a few feet from me on all sides. No quiet mountain scene, no river rapids outside my door and privacy a bit hard to come by. Instead of waterfalls and wildlife and trails we have outlet malls and restaurants and amusement parks nearby. Those things aren’t bad. In fact, it’s a nice contrast. Still, this isn’t the “sabbatical feeling” I am looking for.

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Sabbatical Journey #11

May 18
We’ve been dry camping in the national park in one of the most beautiful spots imaginable. However, last night we ran out of water. I have carried some water back to the camper to get us through another night but we’ll move back out to civilization tomorrow. We won’t be in such a nice spot, but we’ll have a few more creature comforts. I guess all of life has trade offs, even camping.

Sabbatical Journey #10

May 17

With the sun shining and things warming up nicely, we drove into Gatlinburg and then up another park road. It is a beautiful drive and we stopped to hike a mile and a half up to Grotto Falls. What a gorgeous spot. We sat and ate a snack and soaked up the view before returning back to the pickup. From there it was back through the traffic jam called Gatlinburg and back into our entrance to the park. The rest of the day will consist of watching the whitewater just behind the camper, reading, and just maybe a nap! If the camper battery, water, and gas hold out we may just stay here an extra day rather than returning to civilization on Monday.

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