I've come here to visit with John and Lorraine Hay, a retired couple that has spent most of the last ten years as "full-timers"---living the RV lifestyle year-round. Their Pace Arrow Class A RV, their third motor home since John retired in 1989, contains a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen, a dinette, and a sofa just behind the two big driving chairs. As Lorraine pointed out later, housekeeping isn't a big deal.
John, now 72, retired from a 32-year career with the Santa Fe railroad. Bypass surgery notwithstanding, he looks younger than his years. So does Lorraine.
"We've met more new people here than you can shake a stick at. What you did before has no bearing," John said. "You can stay in your RV or you can get out and mingle. Often there will be four to six couples outside and we'll cook dinner, play games, and play poker. We also play golf."
Lorraine said she was the one who first wanted an RV, which is not the usual pattern.
"My theory was that you shouldn't own because they depreciate," John said, explaining his initial reluctance. "But we can live in an RV much, much cheaper than we can live in a home. This park costs $225 (a month) plus electricity which averages around $30."
In fact, Winter Texans can live here for six months for a total of $1,235 plus electricity. A 12-month contract is $2,415 plus electricity. The basic rate also includes cable TV. How much you pay for your RV is up to you.
The location is midway between Austin and San Antonio, close to shopping, medical care, a number of lakes, and the relaxed living of Texas Hill Country.
Mr. Hay explained that he took early retirement because he had come to dread Monday. "When I started it was a family oriented company. A man who had worked his way up ran it. He had done every job. But as people retired attorneys who knew nothing replaced them. The environment changed." He said this matter-of-factly, without a trace of rancor.
He took an early retirement buyout.
"You can live on less money than what you were making. Figure the cost of clothes, lunch, payroll taxes, and whatnot. We found we were probably better off after retirement."
I asked if he ever missed work.
"I often wondered what it would be like but (when it happened) it was no problem. I never looked back. You know, a lot of people die before they retire. I didn't want to be one of them."
One very clear message from their 15 years of retirement and nearly 10 years of full-time RV-ing: life continues to have dilemmas and decisions. Mr. Hay explained that in their early years they had kept a house as a kind of base camp. But it became too difficult to manage. In recent years they had been spending winters in Texas and then dividing the hot months between long visits to their aging mothers. Both needed care and attention.
But they were facing a transition. Both mothers, the anchors of their travels, had died. They would continue to visit children, but they weren't sure exactly where they would go or how much time they would spend on the road.
"We always come back to this spot because all our friends are here," Ms. Hay said.
Asked if he had any concerns about the future, Mr. Hay smiled. "If we stop recognizing each other, then we'll know it's time to stop."
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