Retirement? So Soon? Birth, elementary school, middle school, high school, university, marriage, Viet Nam, children, graduate school, work, grandchildren and retirement. It all goes by in an eye blink.
The little Yamaha 250 CC motorcycle has been serviced (chain tightened, new plugs and an expensive replacement rear-view mirror) and I'm bolting it on the back of my retirement recreational vehicle (RV) and heading out with my faithful companion of 40 years to the southwest corner of the United States for the months of October and November.
Along the way we will meet many strange characters: a snake-breeder, hurricane disaster recovery workers, Navaho Indians, museum curators, ugly bikers, Arizona balloonists, antelopes, a blue-eyed Mormon, black ravens, artists and mystics.
There are many amazing national parks in Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. We've seen a few, but this is an exciting chance see more while I'm still perhaps competent to drive. The Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Roswell, Page/Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon, Lincoln and Billy the Kid, Ruidoso, Mescalaro Apaches, Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, Bandilier National Monument, Santa Fe and other places and people of the southwest high plains.
I have a wireless cellular modem for my laptop and plan to write daily journals. Who knows... I may be inspired to write an blog two from a mountaintop in the West. I have a digital camera and hope to upload a few pictures as we go.
Mrs Phred is responsible for packing food, spices, games, camping equipment, books, clothing, recreational items, first aid supplies, maps, cooking utensils and toiletries. I'm in charge of maintenance supplies.
Tools brought along include:
A copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. A large, adjustable open-end wrench. A packet of 50 pairs of disposable latex gloves for use while dumping the waste tanks. A carpenter's hammer. Electric drill and drill bits. Fuse tester. Jumper cables. Multi-meter. Chisels. Carpenter's level. Sets of both metric and standard wrenches (socket, box and open-end). Two spray cans of WD-40. Chain lube (The chain should be cleaned, tightened and lubricated every two tanks of gas. Cleaning a motorcycle chain with WD-40 is a little controversial but it's easier than packing a gallon of diesel fuel). Electric air pump. Battery charger. A tube-patching kit. Feeler gauge. Test lamp. Allen wrench set. Oil-filter wrench. Hacksaw. Assorted screwdivers. Inverter. Flashlights. Spare AA and C batteries, plumber's snake and plunger. A small aircraft mechanic's mirror on a stick-and-swivel for looking into awkward places. Standard and truck-size air pressure gauges. A 100-foot extension cord. Cleaning rags, bucket and a scrub brush on a pole. Electrical and duct tape. Jumper cables. Superglue. All this takes two large tool kits and weighs about 150 pounds.
Wood screws. Motorcycle sparkplugs. Metal screws. RV taillight bulbs. Bailing wire. Oil and oil filters for the RV. Light bulbs for the RV interior. Extra air filter, oil and sparkplugs for the RV generator. Replacement engine serpentine belts. Spare 12-volt deep-cycle marine battery. Bicycle tubes. Tube patching kit. Tire puncture repair tools. Brake and transmission fluids. Chrome polish and automotive wax.
After the obligatory and very touching retirement ceremony, we depart at 4.00am on 8 October. In the ceremony, I get a walking cane with an attached rear-view mirror and a squeeze-bulb bicycle horn, some gasoline debit cards and a dive trip for two to La Paguera, Puerto Rico.
It's 3 AM. I'm in Falling Waters. My laptop celluar modem has three bars this morning. A good omen. I can blog until the sun comes up.
Falling Waters is a place in Florida off Interstate 10 between Pensacola and Tallahassee. A small park but very beautiful.
Falling Waters contains the tallest waterfall in Florida. A stream plunges 73 feet down a sinkhole into the mouth of a cave and disappears into the cave to return to the aquifer. It's just a trickle at this time of year, but the lake is still warm.
Florida is mainly limestone, honey-combed with underground caves carved by water. Sometimes these collapse and swallow a house or a highway or drink a lake.
Last night, the park ranger showed us some strange insects and many snakes... he has over 300 snakes in his house and is breeding corn snakes for special colours. He reminded me of Gregor Mendel gone mad. He claims he can sell his specially-bred albino corn snakes for $1,500 each. On eBay?
Rose early, hoping to see the Navigator's Triangle overhead and the Milky Way cutting through it. No light pollution, clear air and the moon-set early in the PM. Perfect conditions... except that the clouds blew in overnight. This is a nice place. We will stay an extra day and try out the motorcycle on the North Florida back country roads.
There's always tomorrow... Deneb, Vega and Altair will wait.