And Then They Were One ….

This is the quintessential picture of Wendy and Clay, taken just a month after we met in the summer of 1978. We were old souls in young bodies. We were each at crossroads, ending one phase of life and looking forward with great anticipation to the next. Wendy, at 17, had just moved to Indiana, graduated high school, and was looking forward to heading off to college. Clay, at 19, was back home in Greenwood, Indiana after his first year of college and preparing to serve a church mission for 2 years.

But what happened? The world stopped for us. Suddenly, instead of focusing on our next big adventures, our eyes refocused on the here and now. Falling in love was not on the agenda, it was not convenient for either of us, and it was not in either of our playbooks. But we fell, and we fell hard. Now, for a few months, before we parted on our unique journeys, our focus was brought to the present.

How can I describe the feelings we had for each other? Our souls longed to be intertwined, focused at an sub-atomic level. To be one. We knew the synergy of that chemical bond would create more than we could even imagine.

I studied Wendy. And I became fascinated and awed. Being with Wendy brightened my entire life!


You may find this particular post an abrupt departure from our usual topics of travel adventure, investing, etc. But this blog is really a journal and our primary audience consists of our grand children and their grand children — on and on through the ages. In short, we write this blog so that our descendants can have a glimpse of who we are. To help them find courage, wisdom and perhaps a new understanding about themselves. To help them on their life journeys. And we do it to show our love for them (even though they might not yet have arrived on planet earth yet and we will have long since departed when they finally read it). So to our descendants, we hope that you too can feel our love through our words.


The summer of 1978 was the best three months of my life — June, July and August. Wendy and me, our first date, our first kiss. How do I describe our first kiss. Impossible. Let’s just say that it was a moment never to be forgotten. In that exquisite experience our spirits sparked and aligned.

We became enveloped in each other that summer. The more time we spent together, the more we longed for each other.

And then it was time to part. We each had our path. Wendy was headed for Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Clay was headed for Ventura, California on a two-year mission. Parting was agony.

In my head, I calculated the odds that Wendy would still be unattached in two years. Slim to none. BYU is a marriage factory. Coeds typically don’t last two years, it just doesn’t happen.

So I struck a deal with God. I committed to the Lord that I would focus my entire being on doing His will for the next two years. Not half-hearted, but all in! Whatever He wanted, however I could help in His work. In exchange, I hoped that He might consider producing an impossible miracle: “When my mission is over, could I please have her as my wife?”

When you propose a bargain with God you don’t know if he will accept it. So you work on hope and faith. Those are different from covenants which He defines and you accept. With covenants (like baptism, the Sacrament, and eternal marriage in the temple), He defines the commitments on both sides. His commitments we call blessings. Anyway, with my “bargain”, all I could do was work hard and hope.

Two years is a long time. Especially when you’re young. Especially when you are having completely new experiences every day. My missionary service those two years took me to Studio City, North Hollywood, Thousand Oaks, Ventura, San Fernando Valley, Santa Maria, Lake Isabella, and Ridgecrest, California. In each of these communities I was invited into the homes of families and individuals to teach them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the process, they became a part of my life and I theirs. They shared with me their life’s challenges and together we applied the principles of the Gospel to help them find their way through life.

This was intense work. It was full of joy, sorrow, success and sadness. Each week was a lifetime of intimate experiences with people I came to love and it completely absorbed me. It changed me. I learned about life and the amazing variety of difficulties people face. I learned of the suffering that can come to people through no fault of their own, but from choices their parents, spouse or children make.

But more importantly, I witnessed the miracle that can come, the complete change that takes place, when a person turns their life over to God. When they hand over their guilt to Him, when they hand over the right to judge another to Him, when they turn their focus from being a victim, from being hurt, from seeking pleasure in doing things they aught not, when they work from a new understanding that the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings —- it is a miracle to behold. They become a new, happier, glowing, delightful person– full of love, completely changed.

They really should create a half-way house for returning missionaries. The work is so intense, you’re just not ready to re-enter the normal world. Two years of complete focus also means two years of no TV or radio, and certainly no dates, no dancing, no kissing … you get the idea. It’s a strange lifestyle. And then one day they ship you home in your white shirt with your nametag, suitcoat, tie, and black leather shoes. The real world is like being on Mars without a life-support system.

I remember my parents and family picked me up at the airport. My youngest brother, Jonathan, was 11 years old and already taller than me — on his way to 6 feet-something. I can still remember him looking at me like I really was a Martian. I could read his mind, “This cannot be my brother. He is too strange for words.”

But they were weirder than me by a mile! My father had thought it would be a brilliant idea to get a perm. He looked quite incongruous as a Superior Court judge in somber black robes and a kinky hairstyle. He had also become enamored with Volkswagens of all types. He had a stable of VW Bugs, a Karmen Ghia, and the ubiquitous VW Van with carpeted benches on the sides that converted into a big bed in the back. So these alien life-forms picked me up at the airport and stared at me in the van all the way home.

Home. I sat at the kitchen table in my suit and looked out the window at the neighborhood and thought “I really would like to knock on all those doors and share the Gospel” while my mother sat looking at me, wringing her hands, and finally insisted I change into casual clothes. I obeyed my mother, but I felt completely out of whack in jeans and a t-shirt. I needed a halfway house!

But there was not time for a transition. Life was happening. I needed to leave for BYU in a few days.

Wendy — well, let me backtrack. One of the most awesome things while serving in California was that I received letters form Wendy that were just spectacular. Spectacular, you say? Oh yeah. First off, they smelled good – perfumed. Not fair! And Wendy is an amazing writer. In her letters, always uplifting and encouraging, she was able to reveal more of who she was. If you know Wendy, you likely realize that she is incredibly intelligent. A very quick mind.


Wendy is scary smart and it truly was frightening at times. After we were newly married, I remember the first time we read in bed. She was reading a novel and I was reading a history of Winston Churchill. Suddenly I became annoyed. What was it? Oh, it’s her page flipping. Why was it annoying? Well, first of all, she was turning three or four pages to my one page. How is that possible? Is she just messing with me? So I look over and watch her. She is completely unaware of me. And what I see is terrifying! Wendy is reading with an intensity I had never witnessed before. It’s like watching a laser beam consuming the typeface. Fast and furious! And when she flipped the page it was with force! That was the second annoying thing. And it all scared me very much. So what did I do? I kindly asked that she turn her pages more quietly as I sat trembling at the intellect I had married.


Wendy’s letters to “Elder Smith”, as I was called, were fantastic. But over the months and years, we drifted. We each had our own worlds and we were each focused on our own worlds. And then my long-time friend, Chuck Brown, sent me a letter notifying me that Wendy was dating someone I knew. Well of course she was dating. But, dang, that was painful. And so, to minimize any further pain for either of us, and to make sure she did not feel she was betraying me in any way, I suggested we not write any more (or something to that effect).

So when I arrived home in Indiana, I hadn’t had any contact with Wendy for at least six months. I knew she wasn’t married but I didn’t know if she was attached to anyone. She seemed like a long ago dream.

And quite frankly I didn’t know what I would do with her if I saw her again. Let me emphasize, no dates and no kissing for two years. That will mess you up! I had no idea what to do with a girl. Before my mission? Oh yea. I was ever so suave, ever so confident. Now? I was lost.

What to do? Time to man up and face the music. If she was engaged, it would be a relief in one small way because I was in no shape to have any kind of relationship or even hold hands. Slightly terrified here. So I called Wendy and she invited me over.

I knocked on the door and Wendy opened it with a baby in her arms. Oh. Hmm. A lot can happen in six months, but . . . Wendy laughed and told me the child was her niece. Funny girl. Smart girl. Clever ice-breaker.

Wendy was absolutely gorgeous, poised and confident. She glowed! But I instantly saw that she was not the same woman I had dated two years ago. She was more mature, less immediately trusting, more savvy, and somewhat wary. And did I mention she was scary beautiful?

I was a mess. Completely uncomfortable in these jeans and t-shirt, talking to a girl with the intent of — what? I had no idea what I was doing or how to do it.

Wendy had mercy on me. She never placed any expectations on me. I asked if she would like to accompany me to the cemetery where my grandparents were buried. A strange first date, but I didn’t know if I would survive the experience, so the graveyard seemed convenient, in case she just wanted to leave my corpse there. And by my grandparents’ grave we began to talk. And we talked and talked like we had two years before.

Next day my parents informed me they had asked Wendy if she would like to ride with us to BYU. This was coming from the Dad who wanted me to explore my youth, take my time, date lots of women, delay marriage as long as possible.

Huh. I guess I’ll have some more time with this woman creature, trapped in a van with no escape.

We departed and then the realization of what was happening started to crystalize in my mind. Remember the VW love bug with the fold down bed in the back? What the …? I’m supposed to lay down in this bed with her all they way to Utah? What the…?

Yep. I needed a half-way house. But no time for that. Man up and transition. You’ve got weird parents with strange ideas and you’re in the Hippy Love Van for the next several days with a beautiful woman. Deal with it.

So off we went laying in the back of the van, staring at each other — and we began to talk, just like we had two years ago. I was entranced and fascinated by this intelligent, beautiful creature. What a delight! And how crazy and terrifying. Especially when we had to camp in one tent and stay in one hotel room for the four of us along the way (with two double beds… girls in one bed, guys in the other). What the…??? Gotta love those sweet parents, who never noticed how uncomfortable we young people were with the situation.

My parents dropped us off at BYU and I half figured Wendy would fold back into her life and forget about me. But Wendy had mercy on me. My last area during the heat of the summer was in Ridgecrest, which is in the Mohave desert. It’s inhumanly hot there in the summer. Mission rules require you to stay indoors from 1pm to 3pm during the summer months. People who live there have what they call green rooms. It’s a special room with no windows to the outdoors, typically with murals of lush green flora. They usually have tiny waterfalls burbling and cascading. Anything to cool their skin and heal their mind from the heat.

Well, my body had been seared by the desert sun in that last area of my mission and I had lost the ability to eat much. I was a physical wreck, and I had lost weight. Skinny, burnt, dehydrated, malnurished, and I couldn’t eat. So Wendy proposed that we split the cost of food and she would cook dinners for me. Not that I could eat much, but, that sounded great.

Transition to college life again was fun as far as academics were concerned. I loved my classes, but the social scene was — well. Let’s do a flash back to the September 1977, my freshman year. Freshman orientation included a week of the best bands on planet earth. The dancing was outstanding! Girls everywhere! It was a party! Disco was in full swing, and I was in heaven!

By September 1980 something had happened to the music. They did something called slam-dancing to New Wave music. It was murderous! Revolting! I needed more than a halfway house for the dance scene — it just wasn’t going to happen.

As for the social scene, flashback to 1977, my friend and I had a contest to see who could have the most dates in a weekend. We were each in the double digits. 1980? Not so much. I was not ready to deal with that yet. Life had moved way too fast and I wanted my slow, steady, thoughtful transition, thank you very much.

But, we danced anyway!

Dinners were awesome and slowly but surely I was getting my appetite back. And Wendy was just amazing to talk to. Okay, mostly to listen to as I’m not much of a talker. I’m great with questions though, and so I listened and learned and observed and marveled.

You know where this is going. We fell in love again as we ate together, talked together and went on simple dates. Once again that desire to be together as one soul increased into a yearning. Problem was, dagnabit, I needed my transition time! Life was moving way too fast! I’m thinking marriage and I’m also thinking I need to run away!

Logic was my only way out. So I suggested we make a spreadsheet (this was before computer spreadsheets, but I was already doing them manually). On one side we would list all the reasons NOT to get married. On the other side, the reasons TO get married. Well, it was a lopsided list. I had written down all sorts of logical reasons NOT to get married on the left side of the chart. On the right side was only one reason, and it outweighed all the others. We could be together.

We could be together, our souls intertwined. There has never been anything more powerful in my life. It’s like Wendy was made for me and I was made for her. Yes, we could wait. Until I completed college, got a graduate degree, established myself as a provider. But could I wait?

A part of me saw that the miracle I had prayed to the Lord for was now being delivered. It was up to me to accept the gift, not on my timeframe but on His. A woman like Wendy was not going to be single long. And for some reason I could not fathom (still can’t all of 41 years later), she loved me. How was that possible? I had no career, a part-time job, no car, and I no longer had any charisma.

Time to man up! No time for transition. Life is moving and it’s time to jump in and do it! So, during Thanksgiving break I proposed and Wendy said “Yes”. The plan was to get married in April, after the Spring semester. But why wait? So then the plan was December 30th, near the end of Winter break. Who needs a transition? A five week engagement is totally do-able.

Truly, once the decision was made, I was completely and totally ready to move forward. We could be together, our souls intertwined. Forever. I’m in!

After finals in mid-December we hurried back to Indiana where the women furiously planned the wedding stuff and Wendy suffered through a severe bout of strep pharyngitis. December 29th both families drove to Washington D.C. where we were to be married. We had several cars loaded with people. Wendy and I had been given my parents car as an incredibly generous wedding gift, so Wendy and I drove by ourselves to the temple early in the morning of December 30th, 1980, trailed by all the families in their cars. It was quite an experience.

On the way to the temple from our hotel with that wagon train of cars behind us I was very quiet (and Wendy was very beautiful). She looked over at me and said, “Are you all right?” Truth be told, I was barely breathing. It was such a big moment. So Wendy said, “Well, if you die of fright, there’s the funeral home.” as she pointed to a funeral parlor. Next she pointed to a jewelry store. “And, if you forgot the ring ….” My eyes got really big and I spluttered, “I forgot the ring at the hotel!” I immediately did a U-turn in Washington D.C. traffic and hit the gas, passing our wagon train full of people with their mouths falling open.

We finally made it to the Washington D.C. temple. It is ethereal. In that temple, special men, known as sealers, can bind husband and wife together, not just ’til death do you part, but for time and all eternity, so long as you live your life equal to the special covenants you make in the temple.

Washington DC Temple

Walking out of the temple, hand in hand with Mrs. Smith was the most wonderful feeling. I cannot express my joy, to be intertwined, soul to soul with Wendy.

At our wedding reception in Wendy’s parents’ home, Southport, Indiana

Now, at age 62 I am so grateful that the Lord accepted my bargain. I now understand that He knew all along what He wanted for me, what was fore-ordained for me if I lived worthy of His blessings. He knows best. And He has a way of putting into our hearts what He knows we need so that it becomes our desire as well. It is a powerful thing!

So that, dear children, is how Wendy and Clay became one.

~ Clay


Air Traffic Control Tower – Naples

Have you ever been in an airport’s control tower? It’s an amazing experience! You’re perched high above the world with an incredible view of the sky in all directions. Well, that’s what we bought in Naples, Florida.

Not a control tower, exactly, but something even better. A 6th floor end-unit condo overlooking the forest and Little Hickory Bay, with views to the east, south and west.

Sunrise to sunset views.

Sunset over the Gulf from our lanai

And, even better than a control tower, it had three bedrooms, a fridge and a stove.

Oh, and a lanai with two of the most comfortable easy chairs.

You can see the Gulf of Mexico in the distance

So heres, the story. The last time we posted about our home in Naples (Winter Cottage by the Sea), we were living in a double-wide trailer.

Home Sweet Mobile Home

Our objective was to live there 6 months during the winter and perhaps travel the other six months, or live in Sequim, WA in our fifth wheel during the summers. Then we found Florida to be so delightful, we decided to stay year round and enjoy it. However, the idea of living full-time in a 50-year old double wide — in hurricane country, just didn’t add up for us.

What to do? Time to go on a hunt, which we did. We had a great time exploring Naples, trying to figure out what would tickle our happy button enough to motivate us to part with a big chunk of money. And that’s what happened when we found Bay Forest, a gated community at the very far north end of Naples. We chose a 6th floor condo overlooking the slash pine and mangrove forest, with the beautiful bay and Gulf views in the distance.

Bay Forest backs up to a 500 acre nature preserve with daily glimpses of snowy egrets, great blue herons, tortoise, raptors, and even the occasional bobcat, alligator or dolphin.

Baby bobcat
Gopher Tortoise- about 13 inches long

The big seller for us was the 2 1/2 mile nature trail which includes a boardwalk out into the bay.

Fishing for gold at the chickie hut on our community’s private pier
Daily walk around Bay Forest

And what a fantastic place to hole up during the pandemic! We closed on the property just as the Covid was getting underway in March, 2020. Oh, did I mention we bought it Turnkey, meaning a place that is not only furnished, but it includes all the pots & pans, silverware, linens, etc. that is required to move in with nothing but suitcases full of your clothes. This is quite common in Florida.

It also had a garage to protect the car from storms, and we added hurricane impact windows. Now, we were safe, secure and so very content living in our Naples control tower.

But we also got an added bonus: our son Jesse, wife Terri and grandkids, Eric (10) and Hazel (8) came back from Mexico to live with us when the world shut down at the beginning of Covid-19.

It was a wonderful five months having them tucked in with us, as they homeschooled, rode bikes, played in the pool, and swam in the Gulf.

Hazel with unicorn helmet, exploring the neighborhood
Hazel and Eric- best buddies

Jesse is a digital nomad, so working from home was no problem. Terri is an amazing cook, and introduced us to the Instant Pot and tuna rice on romaine lettuce wraps with Tajin seasoning. Yum.

And then it was time to say goodbye as the kids headed off to Oregon for new adventures.

Naples seemed like it would be our forever home . . . but . . . then we got this really crazy idea last July, even for us . . .

Secrets, Miners and Gunfights! Part Three

Drop Your Weapons and Smell the Roses!

Twenty miles north of Bisbee, Arizona, as the buzzard flies, is the town of Tombstone, where Clay and I strolled the old boardwalks and watched the re-enacted gunfight at the OK corral.


Clay, waiting his turn




It seems that Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holliday were not necessarily the good guys in this altercation.  They just had badges at the time.




OK Corral gunfight re-enactment

During the silver boom, the townsfolk wanted families to come settle so they downplayed the violence.  If there was a hanging or a lynching, the local coroner sometimes wrote under cause of death, “Emphysema of the lungs due to high altitude, which may or may not have been caused by strangulation from a rope.”

There was also a lot of lead poisoning (one slug at at time).

The Good Enough Silver Mine was one of the original wealthy strikes and on an underground tour of that mine we were shown the remnant of the silver vein left behind when it closed down in the early 1900s.  The mine shafts criss-crossed under the town itself, and miners would crawl up through air ducts into the basements of the saloons, saving an outside trip that went the long way around.



Good Enough Mine (credit:

Although Tombstone has burned to the ground several times, it was the flooding of the mines that ended the silver boom.  Tombstone has resurrected itself with tourism and become known as The Town Too Tough to Die.  

The local newspaper is the Tombstone Epitaph and the middle school mascot is a Gravedigger.



A Rose in Bloom


You need a platform to see even a small part of this massive rose tree!

Tombstone’s other claim to fame is the Rose Tree– a white Lady Banksia rosebush planted from a single cutting sent over from Scotland in 1885. When its canopy of roses was a quarter of its current size (8000 square feet) it was listed by Ripley’s Believe it or Not! as the world’s largest rosebush.  Luckily, it was in bloom while we visited.



Massive gnarled trunk of the rose tree.


It was a fun-filled April 2018 — full of childhood memories, family history and old western towns, but also gettin’ a mite warm.  Time to mosey on up to higher elevations and laze around in the soothing, cool Ponderosa pine forests of Show Low, Arizona.


Tombstone at sunset: showing off as usual


Thanks for riding along with us for a spell.

See you down the trail.



Secrets, Miners and Gunfights! Part Two

Bisbee, Arizona:  Attitude with Altitude



Spending a year in Bisbee as a 5th grader was a neat experience.  When I wasn’t rabbit hunting in the hills with biggest brother Creed, or listening to the mountain lion eat brother Mark’s pet rabbit on the carport, I hung out with my best friend Gigi, an 11 year old raspberry snuff-chewing cowgirl whose father worked in the Copper Queen Mine, Lavender Pit.


Lavender Pit, Copper Queen Mine (

We had great adventures together on her family’s small cattle ranch or shopping at the Phelps Dodge Merchantile Company store, where Gigi was allowed to put the snuff purchase on her dad’s store credit.  It was a different time.


Greenway Elementary School with mountains of mining tailings dumped behind it.

Crumbling Victorian homes still cling to the steep hillsides of the mining town with 1880’s buildings and the ghostly memories of tawdry red light districts and the dangerous saloon crowds of Brewery Gulch.


Brewery Gulch: guns, muck, fights, loose morals and hard liquor


Come to find out, my mother’s family had history here.  Her father, Willard White, was born in Bisbee in 1910 when his father, uncle and maternal grandfather worked in the Copper Queen mines.

As a young girl, I knew Willard’s mother, Laura Edna Brizzee White Lee and loved her dearly.

Great Grandmother Laura and son Willard White, with impish grin.

White Laura Willard in surry

Laura and Willard- Bisbee Arizona hills in the background


This time, as I strolled through the quaint streets of Bisbee, I pictured Laura in a prim starched white blouse with long skirt and hat, looking in these same shop windows or reading a book in the old library that is still being used today.


The library is on the second floor of the building on the left


There are tons of stairs throughout the town going from street to street at they climb the hills.

The mine shut down in 1975, just 3 years after we left Arizona.  That was tough on Bisbee and the town nearly died until the hippies, looking for cheap drugs from the nearby Mexican border towns, moved in with their VW vans, free love, guitars and dogs and resuscitated the economy.

Talented artists, shops and tourists soon followed and now the town is back with a new, funky vibrance.


From what I have observed of the native inhabitants, this motto seems about right.


I spent time at the mining museum library finding some relatives names in the payrolls and town directories, then we took the Copper Queen Mine underground train tour with Clay’s sister Teri and brother-in-law Doug Cole (who came down for the day from Phoenix).  It’s so nice to see relatives and friends!


Doug and Teri Cole, looking dapper in Day-Glo vests and stylish hard hats

After taking the old-fashioned work train deep into the mine, I pictured my Great Grandpa Charles Thomas White and Great-Great Grandpa Henry Willard Brizzee, Jr. using faint candlelight to pinpoint the swinging of their sledge hammers against a heavy round iron tamping bar over and over to create a 2 foot deep hole in the granite.  When they had 20 such holes clustered close together in the rock face, they would load each with dynamite, light it up and scurry away.   Each blast created 30 tons of rubble which they would shovel out in choking dust before hammering holes again to repeat the process.  Dangerous, hard work, but it paid well.


Hey, I work with my hands, too– just not hundreds of feet underground!

As I stood exactly where my ancestors had worked under such brutal conditions,  I felt some tender nostalgic roots find their way through the hard rock into fertile ground.


Copper Queen Mine train entrance


Stay tuned for Part Three– Gunfights!

— Wendy

Americana Emersion


Jackson, Wyoming

Ahh, we are drinking deeply in Americana this week as we meander along the Oregon Trail on our way to the Northwest.


Can’t seem to get enough of the famous pioneer trails! Oregon Trail, Baker City, Oregon.

We are camped at Mountain View RV in Baker City, OR.  This town is ready for Halloween!  The city streets are decorated with hay bundles and scarecrows.  The gold and orange leaves are falling in the neatly manicured old neighborhoods where, in just 24 hours, children will giggle with the thrill of knocking on doors and asking for treats.  What fun!

As I sit here writing, I can hear the distant train whistle.  The other day, we had lunch at a prototypical diner, Inland Cafe.  Wow!  Step back in time!  We had the sweetest waitress, a magnificent turkey dinner and a take-home cinnamon roll that melted all the way down. All for $22.  Don’t you love a diner where the town folks come in to talk about whatever comes to mind?

We just returned from attending the local LDS church, which you can see from our motorhome window.  One couple knew us because they had just been through the Martin’s Cove trek leader training program we helped lead in Wyoming.  We love to attend church each Sunday everywhere we go.  The Baker City 1st ward congregation is chuck full of children. These parents are doing an excellent job of raising their young ones.  It gives us hope for the future.  We enjoyed the Sunday School interactions.  Where else can you get this kind of wisdom and good feelings even though we have never met these people before? The church, it’s teachings and programs are the same all over the world.

Before we were full-time travelers, it was hard to tell the difference in our lives from one week to the next.  But now —- stuff is happening!

We started the week Monday morning by reeling in the electrical cord and leaving our 6-month home at Missionary Village near Devil’s Gate, Wyoming.  Our mission responsibilities there had ended.  But we couldn’t get out of the campground because some rogue missionaries (Elder Crist — repent!) had blocked the gate with detour signs.


Road crew was busy preventing our departure



Even the wood-working team got in on the shenanigans!

It was bittersweet to leave that place that stores so many memories for us now.

The weather was favorable, so we chose to head west via Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  We followed the Wind River Mountains northwest.  There was some snow at Togwotee Pass, but the roads were dry.  Pine trees!  Tetons!  Snake River!  After 6 months in the dry, sage-covered sand, we were ready to drink in the cool mountain scenery.

After window shopping and dinner in Jackson, we found a wide spot in the road and slept soundly that night.



I don’t know many places that sell genuine triceratops fossils other than Jackson. At $300,000 it was a bargain! But, since it wouldn’t fit in the motorhome…

Although we considered a jaunt up to Yellowstone, all the animals Wendy wanted to see (moose and bear) are in winter disappearance mode and it was a rainy,cloudy day so we decided to continue on west instead.

Next stop: Uncle Earl and Aunt Sandy White’s place.


You should see their garden in the summer- I’m coming back for the strawberries and raspberries.

Wendy has some amazing relatives. They live on the Snake River in a little Idaho town called Heyburn.  Here they have a small farm (White Cloud Ranch) where they raise a bobcat, cheetohs (exotic house cats), dogs, fancy chickens (Silkies, Frizzles), quail and peacocks.


We gathered multiple kinds of delicious fresh apples off the trees and took home a carton of multi-colored exotic chicken eggs.


White Cloud Ranch is a treasure trove of fascinating hobbies and we’re always welcomed with great food (including purple fried breakfast potatoes, Sandy’s eggs, home canned pears and grape juice) and loving kindness.  We so loved the peaceful, fall scene looking out over the Snake River as the roosters crowed, chickens clucked and the peacocks strutted.

If you ever need any down-home therapy, head for the White Cloud Ranch!  Having family is a wonderful thing.

The next morning we rolled on to Boise, Idaho.  This was my first time visiting the city and I must say, I was surprised and impressed.  The economy is healthy and it’s a beautiful place with nice weather. They call it the Banana Belt as it remains relatively temperate in the winter.  So for those of you who would like to live out west, Boise should be on your possible’s list.

We arrived Wednesday afternoon and tracked down our friends, Chuck and Tonya King from our college days at Brigham Young University 33 years ago.


We raised our first babies together at the Provo laundromat and thrift stores. They’ve been hard to catch up with over the years as they were living Hong Kong and Mexico City. We had a delightful dinner with them and reminisced and caught up on children’s lives and future plans.

Next day we visited Great-Uncle Cecil and Aunt Elsie Grow (Wendy’s relatives on her mother’s side).  It just happened to be Uncle Cecil’s 89th birthday.


These people are endless!  They’re fit!  And they were so kind to us. We also spent time with Orri Grow (Grant’s son) and his daughter Natalie, who were visiting their grandparents. Wendy had fun quizzing Cecil and Elsie about their genealogy.

Wendy has fond memories of spending time in their home as a child and hanging out with their sons Craig and Grant.

Cecil and Elsie have served five missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We hope to have that much energy to continue serving over the coming decades.


Missionary plaques for Riverton California, Mongolia, Kenya, Nauvoo Illinois, Monterey Mexico

Friday was another 130 mile drive to Baker City, Oregon.  (You will notice we don’t go far each day.  What’s the rush?  The joy is in the journey.)  Saturday we were able to grab the last jet boat of the season with 15 delightful German high schoolers to go down the Snake River through Hell’s Canyon.


Hell’s Canyon, Oregon- deepest canyon in North America at 7900 feet.

The canyon is formed by the meeting of two techtonic plates and not from the river carving its way into the earth.

We boated through level 4 rapids down the Snake and had lunch on the grounds of a remote, off the grid cabin at Sheep Creek. A bald eagle soared past us as we returned upriver. It was a wild ride intermixed with peaceful scenery.

And here we sit comfortably in our home on a Sunday afternoon.  One of the best things about this lifestyle is we can travel without pushing hard to get somewhere.  Plus, we’re never exhausted and rarely uncomfortable — because we bring our home with us including our couch, recliner and the most comfortable bed we’ve ever owned. (We also like the dishwasher, washer and dryer.)

Anyway, that’s what we did at our house this week.  It was a great time full of new insights, scenery and ideas.  How much fun!


Work Camping On the Road

Retirement Plan #1 was to retire on January 1, 2018.  By then we would have plenty and to spare in our retirement portfolio to buy a motorhome and be full-time, no-work travelers.  But we were simply running out of physical and emotional gas.  When it’s no longer fun, it’s time to make a new plan.  Hence, Retirement Plan #2.

Retirement Plan #2 is to work several months each year to fund our annual expenses, live cheaply so we don’t have to work more than a few months a year, and let Clay grow the earnings of our portfolio until they can support our annual expenses.

So how does one find work on the road to support this nomadic lifestyle?

Working on the Road

There are tons of interesting opportunities to earn money or volunteer while living on the road full time. Some pay money and some give free RV spots with full-hookups in exchange for a bit of your time each week.

Locum Tenens (LT)

There are opportunities for medical professionals to work and live on the road full time doing locum tenens (temporary) assignments.  So if you are a doctor, dentist, CRNA, nurse practitioner, nurse or physician assistant, this may be for you!


Ready for the operating room on locum tenens assignment

You can make the arrangements yourself with a hospital or practice (and keep all the money you negotiate for your fees), or you can become a subcontractor for a professional LT company that does the legwork and gets the assignments for you. That’s the easiest way to go, but you share the hospital’s pay with the LT.

For me, having a reputable company managing my contracts is more important and so much easier than doing it myself.  The LT company arranges travel, housing, utilities, cable/internet, car rental as well as the endless paperwork for getting state licensure, hospital privileges and recommendations.  So far, I have been very pleased with CompHealth.


What if you’re not in the health profession like me?  Actually, the vast majority of work opportunities for full-time travelers are outside the health profession.  And if you follow the weather, you can easily live in your RV year round while doing temporary assignments.

Following is a partial list of organizations with job sites for full-time travelers.  Click on the links to research each site.

A free site for RV workers and the businesses that need them. Employers can submit listings for volunteer work camping positions, paid positions or a combination of both. Positions can be seasonal, temporary, short or long term, full or part time. RV workers can submit a detailed online resume to let employers know they are available.


Want to work while you travel? Want to hire RVers looking for work? The Job Board matches job opportunities with traveling contract workers who want full or part-time work.


Ever wonder what type of people pack those boxes of stuff you order from Amazon?  Some of them are people who live in travel trailers and motorhomes!

According to their website,, the Amazon CamperForce program brings together a community of enthusiastic RV’ers who help make the holidays bright for the customers of the world’s largest online retailer, As a CamperForce Associate, you’ll begin this seasonal assignment in early Fall and work until December 23rd in either: Jeffersonville, IN, Campbellsville, KY, Murfreesboro, TN or Haslet, TX. Amazon offers great pay, a paid completion bonus, paid referral bonuses, and paid campsites for its CamperForce Associates.

So, you work on your feet 10-12 hrs a day  packing boxes, but you also get in shape and form lasting bonds with other CamperForce members.

Freelancing online

There are many companies who need projects done but don’t want to hire and take care of permanent employees. Thanks to the internet, there’s a ton of jobs to choose from online.  Here is a link to the largest such job site:


State Parks

State parks around the country are looking for volunteers. has multiple opportunities from campground hosting, maintenance hosting, day-use host, archive explorer/museum assistant, trail ambassador and … interpretive hosting at lighthouses.

Lighthouses! And unlike some other states, Oregon only requires a one month commitment, but you can work longer.  A travel blogger ( gives a lovely commentary on lighthouse hosting.

Volunteer Park Rangers

Another option is signing up to be a volunteer park ranger at dozens of  federal parks around the country.  In exchange for a full hook up RV site, a couple or single person works a total of 32 hours in a week. So, if there are two of you, 16 hours a piece.

Work might involve manning or womaning the gift store or information booth, checking in guest campers, collecting daily use site fees or acting as a tour guide.

Sitting Bull Falls- Gem of the Desert

We found this place by going to one of our favorite sites, and looking under “Carlsbad, New Mexico- Things To Do”.  Sitting Bull Falls made the list — it is over an hour’s drive west of Carlsbad in the middle of desert nowhere.  But oh so worth it. You don’t need to go digging for gems in the desert – it’s just sitting there for the taking.

After driving to the end of a narrow river box canyon with high ridges on three sides, the white haired volunteer ranger ambled up to our Jeep when we parked at the lovely picnic table area with individual sturdy stone pavilions covering them.

Showing him our handy dandy Interagency Use Pass (which gets us into most of the National Forest and National Park areas for free for a year after paying $80) saved us the $5 per person day use fee. He told us about the Falls and how to go up and over the rim of the canyon for a nice hike that would take just over an hour to complete.

We peppered him with questions about his volunteer ranger service. Five months ago, he and his wife came to see the falls, but the gate was locked. They asked at the ranger station far down the road and discovered the falls were closed because there were no volunteers to staff the falls.  They couldn’t keep it open, except for 3 hrs a day, four days a week. Which was hardly worth it after such a long drive to get there- and how would you know if it was closed or not? There are no up-to-date websites on the area.

The old guy said, “My wife and I will host the site in our RV and commit to stay a year.”  The rangers were thrilled to have them and now they live on site with full hookups,  a cement pad, a stone covered picnic area and a privacy wall that partially blocks the canyon winds.

We walked the trail along the typical dry rocky desert canyon wall, rounded the corner and saw…. an oasis of lush green vegetation and sparkling waterfall reminiscent of a Hawaiian paradise. It was all kinds of yummy rolled into a feast for the eyes.

Using our hiking packs as pillows, we laid down on the warm sandstone beach, soaking up the rays, listening to the rush of the waterfall and the wind as it rushed in waves through the canyon. I practiced meditation breathing just to see if I could clear my mind completely. Even if just for a few seconds.

I need to do more of this.

After gathering up our mojo, we took the hike right up the canyon walls in switchback carved stone and wood steps up to the top of the ridge, careful of where we placed our feet on the boulder strewn path.

We would not have made the trek if some kind souls hadn’t rated the experience on Trip Advisor. Thanks whoever you are!  And we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the falls if this couple had not volunteered to stay a year in this remote, but beautiful place.  We thank you.

White Sands National Monument- Sandy Beach with No Ocean

In the middle of the typical New Mexico desert is an atypical oasis of white sand that fills the basin between the circle of surrounding mountains. A truly zen place to explore.

There was a sunset hike scheduled so we met the volunteer park ranger for a walk on the dunes. He and his wife live in their RV and were here on a 3 month assignment. This was just one of the many places they had worked. For 32 hrs a week, split between the two of them, they got a free full hook up site and did whatever they were assigned to do during their work hours.

And they got to tromp around the sand dunes, which always stay cool to the touch, even in the heat of summer, because they are not silica based sand, but powdered gypsum.

There was so much to see and learn, and then the magnificent sunset.

What a great job!

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument- Condos with a View

Above Silver City, New Mexico, after driving on winding roads about 2 hours through high mountain pines is the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. The mile long hike up to the dwellings starts in a canyon next to a rippling creek with crossing foot bridges, cool green vegetation and beautiful rock formations.

The dwellings with their 46 rooms are carefully crafted inside natural caves. The hearty people who lived there bounded up and the down the rocky face to retrieve water in the creek at the bottom. No baby gates, so you needed kids with self-preservation skills.

Volunteer rangers staff the nice visitor’s center, the trailhead and the dwellings themselves.

Don’t these look like amazing places to live while volunteering?



Things to Do Around Oklahoma City

The Longer You Stay, the More Things Happen

You’re still in OKC? You must really like the place!!

Not so fast, buckaroo. It’s all about the waiting. Patiently waiting for good news. We’ve been here a week getting repairs on the Detroit Diesel motorhome engine.

In the meantime, a call came in from the body shop in Blairsville that has taken on the assignment to sell our Infiniti G37 coupe. Hey we could use some good news: maybe they have a buyer!!

Nope. This is all about a series of unfortunate events. Never in the history of their business as this EVER happened. They are SO sorry.  Uh oh.  Sorry about what?

Apparently an employee at the car rental agency that shares their building pulled up in a rental SUV, jumped out and went into his office. A few minutes later the SUV, which was not in park and did not have it’s parking brake on, rolled down the lot and crashed in our car. Creamed it.

We had a pristine car for sale. Now we have a severely damaged car that will need extensive repairs and will never be worth the asking price. Arrggghhhh. We’ll have a discussion with the car rental agency about this, I assure you.

Then we got a call from the truck engine shop- “You’re good to go. RV is all done”, they say.  So we packed our stuff up from the motel and showed up at 3pm while the technician was finishing his paperwork.  We asked him how the test drive went, and he said “Ahh, we were just getting to that.”  30-minutes later the technician tells us the test drive did not go so well.  An engine warning code is coming on, so we’ll have to keep it another night.

Back to the motel, get another room (yay, change of scenery) and unpack.

I could use another watery zen sandwich on my floaty thingy in the motel pool, but the weather is too cloudy and breezy. Will settle for a classic TCM movie and see what tomorrow brings.

So while we have been waiting this past week, what have we done? I’m glad you asked, because it has been surprisingly interesting.

Things to See and Do in OKC

~The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

So, I’m not a cowgirl, but this is a fascinating, huge place. Every gallery leads into another 2 galleries, with lots of twists and turns. From Native American art to saddles, old cowboy movies, rodeo, hundreds of barb wire samples (I didn’t know there were so many designs!), John Wayne’s memorabilia collection, art by Russell and Remington and a jaw-dropping collection of five groups of 16 foot high oil painted triptychs of scenes from the West.  It is well worth a visit.

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End of the Trail Monument

Out Where the West Begins, by Arthur Chapman, speaks to my need to roam this vast country:

Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger,
Out where the smile dwells a little longer,

That’s where the West begins;
Out where the sun is a little brighter,
Where the snows that fall are a trifle whiter,
Where the bonds of home are a wee bit tighter,

That’s where the West begins.
Out where the skies are a trifle bluer,
Out where the friendship’s a little truer,

That’s where the West begins;
Out where a fresher breeze is blowing,
Where there’s laughter in every streamlet flowing,
Where there’s more of reaping and less of sowing,

That’s where the West begins.
Out where the world is in the making,
Where fewer hearts in despair are aching,

That’s where the West begins.
Where there’s more of singing and less of sighing,
Where there’s more of giving and less of buying,
Where a man makes a friend without half trying,

That’s where the West begins.

~Oklahoma River

Bike and walking paths that follow the river on both sides, beautiful landscaping. Home of summer water sports.  Very cool place to spend time.  We’ve enjoyed hiking and biking these trails.

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Oklahoma River walking trail

~Land Rush monument.

in 1889, unassigned lands were opened to up in a race on April 22. At high noon, 50,000 people raced off to grab either a town lot or up to 160 rural acres. Those who cheated and hid out in the brush ahead of time to claim the best pieces of land were called Sooners.  (And now you know!)

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Oklahoma Land Rush Monument


~Bass Pro Shop

The river walk leads under the highway and into lovely manicured areas by the Land Rush Monument and the downtown hotel district and a Bass Pro Shop. I don’t think I’ve ever been in one of these stores before. (Hey, we’ve lived in Blairsville for 14 years.  We were thrilled to get a Walmart.)  This store is an event unto itself. The clerk said this was one of the smaller Bass Pro Shop stores, because it didn’t have a restaurant.  But it did have a herd of taxidermied bison running across the top of the clothing displays; an entire coyote family; a grizzly bear scaring off rock rappelling mannikins; a river camp with an old cabin and a rusted pickup truck over an aquarium fishing hole filled with huge live game fish; and acres of things to buy, including  an indoor fleet of enormous pontoon boats.

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I resisted the urge to be a conspicuous consumer and only walked away with my replacement Leatherman mini-multi tool (which the TSA so kindly confiscated on my last flight) and a set of sporks for our Bento lunch boxes.  I really liked the ice cream making soccer ball and the camoflaged foodsaver vacuum systems for hunters.

Can see myself in a small inflatable rubber row boat: on a lake, fishing for our supper, napping when I feel like it- away from it all, rocking to the rhythm of the water. There might be room in the RV basement for an inflatable boat.


Attended the Prairie Circuit Finals in Duncan, OK. The winners will go on to the finals in Kissimmee, Florida in April, 2016. Steer wrestling, calf roping, team roping, barrel racing, bareback horse riding, saddle horse riding, bull riding. Exhilarating and fun. We’ll be doing this again.

An older man, skinny as a rail, tan as a nut, maybe 110 pounds after a full Thanksgiving dinner, sat next to me in the stands. He had on a cream straw cowboy hat, a pristine ironed cowboy shirt, blue jeans with a sparkling sheen of heavy starch, with a crease so sharp it could cut you and Sunday go to meetin’ cowboy boots. He was the real deal.



~Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK

When is a heritage center sweet? When the darling little guide tells you with great sober sincerity about your Experience Theater ahead of time- to make sure you are prepared for the 4-D event. You are immersed in a cattle drive up from southern Texas due north 1000 miles in 100 days to Kansas City, herding longhorn cattle in all kinds of weather and danger. You smell the sage, feel the thunder of cattle hooves, sense the wind and even get wet in a thunderstorm. Fun for all ages.

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~Western Wear Stores.

These are everywhere and they are HUGE. I mean, can you really sell 500 pairs of $500 cowboy boots or thousands of pairs of jeans and plaid shirts??  I don’t know, but they sure try.



~Disc Golf.  

We went walking at the Will Rogers Park the other day and saw groups of people- all ages from little kids to teenagers, young adults and older folks like us playing the different holes of a large disc golf course. It was heartening to see and no one was on their cell phones: no texting, tweeting, twerting or tweeking. We have the equpment, just need to get started!

At the rate we are going, we may become experts at the game before we leave OKC. Got plenty of time.


What about the airplane?

The single most frequent question I’ve had from family and friends in the past few months is “What about the plane?”

They’re speaking of 212CS, the RV-4 airplane I spent 8 years building and the past 15 years flying. They know me as the airplane guy. Perhaps I gave them an aerobatic experience or landed near their home for a visit. They just can’t imagine me without my wings.

Test flight in March 2015 after extensive overhaul and paint.

Test flight in March 2015 after extensive overhaul and paint.

Well, the short answer is, I sold it.

When Wendy and I contemplated our next phase of life we considered any number of possibilities, including a bigger airplane or a faster airplane. We imagineered a life in Italy, Australia, Uruguay, Ecuador, Costa Rica and the Baja Peninsula of Mexico. We explored all kinds of possibilities over the past few years, we lived them in our minds and took vacations to simulate them.

Wendy and I are great planners. I specialize in thinking outside the box, and Wendy excels at researching all my crazy ideas. We love to dream together. And each of us is careful to ensure that whatever our plans might be, it fills the needs of the other.

Sometimes we get stuck in life because of our possessions. We want to continue to grow, explore and develop ourselves. But often, such growth requires leaving our beloved “stuff”, and our foot gets stuck in the possession trap.

This step forward in our lives required that we sell virtually everything. And while the airplane was the most difficult to consider selling, it wasn’t that big of a deal for me. Yes, I did shed a tear after I watched 212CS take to the sky at the hand of it’s new owner. But I could not ask for a better new owner. He loves her and is an extraordinary pilot. She is in good hands.  Here’s a link (with Randy’s permission) of his most recent video post of 212CS.

There is a time and season for everything. Building 212CS, and then flying her has taught me much and provided me with some amazing experiences and memories. Through her I met some of the finest people you will find on planet earth.

Now it’s time to explore the world with my sweetheart, Wendy, at my side. And we’ll do so in Zane, our 45-foot Newell motor coach. How much fun is that!


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Zane and Squirrel (our Jeep towed vehicle)- with motorhome sisters at the Newell Factory– ready for new adventures!

President’s Day — well, sort of

After a great visit with our (grand)kids and (grand)kittens in Wisconsin we decided to spend some time at the Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, IL. We figured, if it could be done easily, let’s do it.

Wendy called ahead and got permission for us to spend the night in the bus parking lot next to the library. It cost all of $5 to put Zane in there. Next morning we walked across the street and learned about Lincoln, the Great Debates and the Civil War.

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Not all presidents are created equal!

It just so happens that I’m also reading the recently published book by Dr. Ben Carson (presidential candidate). I find that books by candidates are a great way to understand what makes these men tick, rather than the soundbites we get from the media.

So this day was President’s Day for me (Lincoln and Carson). A pleasant day. What a great life!

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Abraham Lincoln

We left Springfield in the afternoon and rolled on Southwest through St. Louis toward our next hard stop — Miami, OK where we have an appointment at the Newell Factory for Monday, Oct 12th.

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This night we stayed at a truck stop where we gassed up. Truck stops are free and can be very busy places with trucks rolling in and out all night long. But we sleep well. Just close the windows, turn on the generator and run the A/C and it sleeps like a tomb (or a really comfy hotel, since we have never actually slept in a tomb).

As Wendy was looking at videos for purchase at the truck stop market (because there’s nothing else to do when you’re at a truck stop), a sweet older African American man, a long distance trucker, said very softly, “I like your house.”  She smiled at him in thanks and he continued, “Your RV is what we wanted to get some day, me and my wife. She would spend hours on the internet looking at all kinds of rigs, dreaming and planning.  I’m close to retirement and we wanted to spend our time traveling the highways together.  But she died last year, and now, I’m on the road with my daughter. I’m still going to get that RV, because it was our dream.”

Wendy came back to the RV and hugged me. With tear-filed eyes, we gratefully acknowledged our blessings: that we are young enough to enjoy this experience together and have enough energy and health to do so for many years to come.


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Old Route 66- the heart of Miami, Oklahoma

Moving to Florida- for an entire week


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Retirement?!?  Are you Bats??

After planning for three years and spending the past year trying unsuccessfully to sell my solo ENT medical practice in Blairsville, Georgia, and while still negotiating the sale of the hearing practice, we decided to walk away.  We had felt an overwhelming urgency to leave, strongly prompted to go now. Not in 2-3 months. Now.

I quit my practice on September 3- stunning our loyal staff. Losing a job is never easy and they had no warning.  But, I’m a surgeon and I like to cut cleanly and get the healing started up as soon as possible.

I had seen 16,400 people over the past 14 years from the surrounding 9 counties and 3 states.  It was a well-run and professionally adminstered practice (thanks to Clay) and I was treated very kindly by the local hospital and my 200 referring providers.

But it was time to go. To be done living and working in Blairsville. Sold the house, the airplane, the hangar and the extra car.

Not quite done working, though. If we had sold the practice, we would have been able to live off the dividends of the investments that Clay has so carefully cultivated over the years. That didn’t happen, so I will do locum tenens (temporay doctor) assignments around the country for 3 months of the next few years until dividends equal yearly expenditures.

So, now what?

Clay and I both made quick Labor Day Weekend trips to see our Moms (Clay to Greenwood, Indiana and me to Plymouth, Michigan).  So grateful for our brothers and sisters who watch out for them.

Then, on Tuesday, September 8th, we released parking brake and took off for Crestview, Florida to establish our new state residency.  We had already changed our mailing address to the Good Sam Mailing Service in Crestview, as well as arranging health and auto and RV insurance from that location.

Establishing Florida Residency

The first full day in Florida, after paying for a week at the Eagles Landing RV Park in Holt, Florida, we showed up at the Tax Collector’s Office in Crestview.  Three hours later, we had Florida Driver’s Licenses, Voter Registration Cards, an official Declaration of Domicile (for taxation and residency), library cards and picked up our accumulated mail at Good Sam Mail Service (also called My RV Mail) and were back in the RV having lunch.  Pre-planning is the key.  There are plenty of websites about how to establish residency.

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Good Sam Mail Service — can you see our mailbox?

Why Florida?

Yes, we were residents of Georgia for 14 years- but there are three states that work very well for residency when you live on the road full time and don’t plan to spend very much time in any one state: South Dakota, Texas and Florida.  Health insurance for full time travellers is becoming hard to find in South Dakota. Texas requires a special driver’s license to operate a motorhome (including a driving test expecting you to parallel park the RV. Seriously???  Forty five feet of motorhome— at no point, I promise you, will I be parallel parking her. No offense, Zane dear, but you’ve got a generously endowed rear).  And they want it inspected every year.  Too many hassles.

Florida has no state income tax, good health insurance for people like us and they understand snowbirds when it comes to jury duty.  And you don’t have to renew your driver’s license in person for 16 more years.  I’ll be 70 by then.

So, legal Florida residents, a week later we were back on the road, heading up the Mississippi River to Wisconsin to see our children and grandkids.  Stay tuned.


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Clay fulfilling the dream: watching barges on the Mississippi River