Chapter 1: Trail Magic
It was with a heavy heart that Bob and Elaine Fitzsimmons packed up their RV Mobile Home and prepared to leave the Albuquerque area. “You know, Elaine, I really thought the situation at La Vida Aureo would be exactly what we were looking for.”
“I agree, Bob. The facilities were beautiful and everyone we met was so pleasant. But, as we both realized, all of those outstanding attributes come with a comparable cost which would have put us in a financial hole. I forget sometimes we were very fortunate when you received this RV as a surprise gift when you retired from Boeing. Without that, we would still be stuck in St. Louis trying to eke out a comfortable living on our modest pensions and Social Security.”
“Well, it won’t help to dwell on what might have been. C’mon, let’s finish packing and get moving. I’ll buy you breakfast on the way out of town. I’m pretty sure I saw a Cracker Barrel near where we get on I-40 heading west.”
The Fitzsimmons secured the RV and drove out of the La Vida Aureo Guest parking lot. It was a typical Albuquerque weekday morning and most people were operating on mañana-time so there was relatively little traffic. They pulled into the Cracker Barrel parking lot less than an hour later and were able to find a convenient space in the rear lot. They went inside and were shown to a table. As usual, the service was prompt and friendly. They ordered and sat back to enjoy their coffee, knowing their breakfast would soon be presented.
At the next table, a middle-aged couple was deep in conversation and staring at the laptop computer in front of them. Elaine could not help but overhear most of their conversation.
The woman said, “I’m certain we could get a spot at one of the Arizona State parks for all of next Winter but we need to get our name in early. I particularly enjoyed Lost Dutchman State Park near Apache Junction. The fact that we were there last year should help us get in again. If we act now, we should be able to get our first choice. Since we’d be returning Volunteers, we might even get our choice of assignments! I mean, cleaning bathrooms wasn’t as bad as I feared, but there are lots of options.”
“You’re right. I’ll make an application on-line before we leave. We should probably include a second choice just in case. Any suggestions?”
“Let me look in the book again. I’ve heard good things about Catalina State Park near Tucson. Patagonia Lake would be another choice if we want to secure a spot for the winter months. There are some really nice parks in northern Arizona that we could try to get into for the Summer, but let’s lock in next Winter first.”
“You know, we were very fortunate to come across that book someone left on the table at the Cracker Barrel in Dallas. I had never considered we could live a completely nomadic life until I read NomadLand by Jessica Bruder. She chronicled several couples who live full-time in their RV and travel around working part-time jobs to support themselves. I was particularly surprised to learn about Amazon’s program called CamperForce to hire people living in RVs and Campers to supplement their holiday and peak need times work force. Working at Amazon provided a reasonable income and helped us get back on our feet. Without that, I’m not sure how we could have survived.”
“Yes, we were lucky. To be honest, I was very worried when we lost everything a few years ago. I didn’t know how we would survive and we didn’t have much put away for any emergency. Fortunately, our RV was almost paid for and we just began this adventure without any real plan. But, we met some people who were in similar situations and many helped us develop a plan of our own. All in all, I think we’ve done OK. Nothing fancy, but my confidence grows each year and I’ve come to look forward to new places, people and adventures. And, we now actually have some money in the bank!”
“I have to confess that I too was apprehensive when we were first faced with the situation, not really sure how we would even survive. But, I have always had faith in people and believed in what I call Trail Magic. Time and time again, we’ve met someone who provided us the information we needed to take the next step. And, as we’ve gained experience and confidence, we’ve been able to do the same for lots of other folks.”
“OK, enough philosophizing. Get on the computer and make sure we have an Assignment at Lost Dutchman locked in. Then, let’s get back on the road. Despite your confidence and faith in people, I have always dreaded this stretch of I-40 west of Albuquerque.”
Both Bob and Elaine Fitzsimmons had sat quietly during the entire exchange between the other couple. Despite trying to be polite, they could not help but overhear essentially all of the conversation. Their breakfasts had been served a few minutes earlier but remained untouched. They picked at their pancakes until the other couple finished and left. Elaine was the first to speak. “I’m sure you also heard enough of that couple’s conversation to realize our situation could be much worse. Just yesterday we were concerned we couldn’t afford a fancy place like La Vida Aureo, but we are really quite fortunate compared to many others.”
“You’re right, Elaine. I had never put a word on it, but we’ve also experienced our own version of Trail Magic as we’ve travelled around visiting Military Bases. We’ve put lots of miles on our little RV Home since we left St. Louis and had our share of positive experiences. We certainly have a lot to be thankful for. Anyway, let’s finish our breakfast and get on the road. I want to be well into Arizona before it gets dark. I’d like to spend as little time in New Mexico as possible.”