As we settle in a bit more here at Gulf State Park, I have been reflecting on “hanging out with a whole new bunch of people.” I have found that after almost 30 years of living in the same city and house, I have surrounded myself with “like minded” people. These are people who have the same interests and hobbies, same political and spiritual views, the same taste in music.
That all changes a bit when you pull into a campground and randomly park next to other RVers. I know we have one thing in common; we are spending an extended period of time in a house we brought with us. After that, the similarities or differences can be broad. Conversations start with “it’s a bit cold today, but nothing like home” to “where is home” or “how long you staying?” As you get to know some of your neighbors better, some personal views start to appear.
I have been doing some music at the park for Tues. entertainment night and Fri. jam night. If you have seen my guitar case, you have seen the collection of bumper stickers on it. Most of them (to me anyway) are benign but a few may be a bit more thought-provoking and maybe even offensive to some.
I’ve noticed two reactions to my bumper stickers. There are those who I consider fall into “my tribe” who tend to agree with my bumper sticker comments on life and might even tell me they like them and those who raise an eyebrow and I wonder if are thinking “what does he mean by that?”
What is more interesting is my reaction to their reactions. My intent with the bummer stickers is to express a perspective that might lead to a conversation or encourage someone to think about something differently. My intent is not to offend, and in fact it makes me uncomfortable when others are offended as I feel I’m being “judged.” I don’t like being uncomfortable, but it does challenge me to review what I believe because as the saying goes “if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.”
So leaving the comfort of my “like minded tribe” for a new tribe provides a reality check for me. It’s good for personal growth, but it does cause a bit of discomfort.
We have been in Gulf Shores at Gulf State Park about 11 days now, first getting to know our travel trailer and then getting to know the other people in the park and getting involved with the activities.
We bought our trailer in late summer but our search for a tow vehicle took longer than expected, we never got out for a “shake out” camping trip before leaving for this trip. Thus this is our shake out trip and we’ve had one teaching moment after another. Everything from hooking up, pulling, parking and traveling with our 2 cats, to learning that you can’t get much food in a 6 cubic foot refrigerator. During this break in period, I ended up wiring in a new side light on the trailer, a ten minutes job if Murphy isn’t involved. In short, it took a couple of days and trips for parts due to what I would call a grounding issue…trial and error can be SO time consuming. We also had temps overnight of 16 degree, cold enough to freeze pipes, so I blew out the water lines (I did bring a small compressor with me). Also drained and sanitized the water system. In doing so, I found an important drain plug that was hidden well from sight, but very important to find for working on the water system. Also, we had a number of electrical outlets that were dead until we found the “well hidden” but in “plain sight” breaker panel.
There are lots of snowbirds from the Midwest (WI, MN, MI and IL) at the park. Yesterday we played sand volleyball for two hours which felt good to get some lazy muscles moving. Last night we played bingo for the first time…not sure if Jenny will go back for the second time…too much sitting! Today we tried playing wallyball (volleyball on a racquetball court) at the local rec center. This facility is very nice for a city the size of Gulf Shores and consists of a pool, racquetball courts, weight room, fitness room, tennis courts and an indoor track, all available for $3 per day. We also joined the library and have checked out our first items.
As we get to know people, they remind me so much of the people we met when visiting Jenny’s parents in Florida during their snowbird days. Hard to define, but I would use “active” and “social” as two adjectives.
Originally we had planned to move at least two or three times as we discover what being a “snowbird” means to us. That plan has been amended a bit as now we are planning on staying here until mid February for sure, and if a site is available, through the end of February.
You know how it is when you think about doing something so much that you actually think you did it? That happened to me with my first couple of posts. My good friend jon asked “where are you” besides 550 miles south?” So in addition to learning the how to live in a tin can, on the road, in close quarters with the ones I love, I also have to be a better blogger or whatever I am pretending to be!
Jenny and I are at Gulf State Park near Gulf Shores, Alabama, about 1250 miles from home. Our camp site is about 200 yards from the intercoastal waters of the Gulf. The park is actually busiest in the summer, but definitely is geared to “snowbirds” also. It’s actually more user friendly to RV’s than tenters, has 500 sites, all have asphalt pads, are flat and level with sewer, water and electric hookups. We are not roughing it! It’s nice to have the state park land around us though instead of where some RV parks are right in the middle of the city with little space between the individual trailers. Not that there are a lot of trees around here, but we do have some greenery for the birds so our cats have something to watch outside the trailer windows. I am happy to report that our 2 cats are adjusting very well to living in the trailer. We were worried that they wouldn’t get enough exercise, but they continue to explore new spots to hide, lay in the sun or people watch out the window. It all tends to keep them up and moving.
Today with warmer temps we went on a longer walk and this sign made us both smile. I’m guessing the kids in the summer probably aggravate them more than us old folks at this time of year.
After lunch I went to a gathering of dulcimer players to listen, enjoyable to be around music. Friday night is an open jam and I will give that a try. I also had my first “it’s a small world” experience. I was introduced to a camper by one of the dulcimer players and as custom, went through the “where are you from” opener. Fred is from Iowa, but knew where my hometown of La Crescent was. It turns out his sister is married to someone I graduated from high school with. Small world.
We hope all our friends up north are surviving the cold temps and are glad to hear that warmer temps are moving your way. I personally am enjoying the look outside our trailer from AL compared to the look around the trailer in WI below.
I have been thinking of all you who are “toughing it out” in the sub-zero freezer called Wisconsin and Minnesota….especially my folks who endure it because that is “what you do”. I hope all escaped frozen pipes, dead batteries and are safe. Please keep in your prayers those that live on the streets.
We have been learning, mostly by making mistakes about the differences of living in a small, movable space verses our home. One challenge is finding a home for clothes, food and stuff so that it looks like we have some clue on “house keeping” on the road while balancing that with easy access and finding what we are looking for. If I had a nickel for each time Jenny’s has said “I can’t stand this mess”, I would have a couple of bucks to blow on “wine, Jenny and song”. Today we bought some clothes hooks so we can hang up our coats and pants. Amazing, most trailers have no or very few hooks installed.
Speaking of Jenny, she has had a cold/sore throat from almost the moment we left home. I am not used to her having such low energy. Hopefully she wakes up tomorrow with boundless energy.
We did get a copy of the activities schedule yesterday and there is a music jam and dulcimer group for me and a “folks on spokes” group for Jenny. It will be good to meet some new travelers and get involved in the things we love.
One of the reasons to write this blog is to give some insight to a few people who are thinking of “hitting the road” in the near future. If you have a question or observation, please feel free to share it and I will offer my “opinion”. We are still going to pursue workamping and in fact talked with a couple that works at the front desk at the campground reservation area and learned that for 16 hours of work each/week they get a free site. So for 32 hours of work they earn $500 which we didn’t think was too bad for being so convenient and actually might be kind of fun.
Be safe, stay warm,
We left the comfy, cozy confines of our little home and hitched up our other home. First day went “all in all” pretty well. Max and Kurt were not happy campers the first hour plus, but eventually quieted down. The trailer towed just fine, though we had a nasty headwind all the way which cut our gas mileage to under 8 miles per gallon (buy Exxon stock now)….we expected at least 10 per gallon. Put on 550 miles today, 10 hours of drive time. Good to set up and get the heat on. Trailer was so cold the can kitty food was frozen! Tomorrow will be a shorter day, temp predictions was in the mid to upper 40’s …Yippee!!! Time for a kiss from my sweetie and off to bed.