Excerpt from A Rip Roaring Good Time
"We ain't getting any younger, you know. Aren't you about ready to hit the road?" I asked Clyde "Rip" Ripple, my husband of nearly fifty years.
"Don't get your bloomers in a bunch, my dear. All I need to do is get the jacks cranked up and the antenna cranked down and we'll be ready to roll. We have plenty of time to get to the Alexandria Inn in time for the party."
"Well, get to cranking, buster. I'm anxious to get the Chartreuse Caboose on the road." I had nicknamed our RV this after we'd hand-painted it that color one weekend in a fit of boredom. We'd highlighted it with a few scattered yellow sunflowers for a little added flare. If nothing else, it was easy to locate in a crowded campground.
We'd already eaten breakfast and as usual, I heard a chorus of snap, crackle and pops before I'd even poured the milk on our cereal. It was just part of being a senior citizen, as was the prune juice we drank to wash down the whole-wheat toast that completed our morning meal. Bacon, eggs and pancakes loaded down with butter and maple syrup had gone by the wayside when our cholesterol levels achieved "walking time bomb" status. They were just a fantasy now, as were a lot of other things we'd always enjoyed in our younger days. Even our sex drives were more often in "park" than not. Still, for both being sixty-eight years old, we felt we had a lot more active lifestyle than most folks did at our age. We made sure there was never any room on our schedule for bingo and potluck dinners, staples of many senior citizens' social lives.
Rip and I, Rapella Ripple, are full-time RVers, crisscrossing the country in our thirty-foot travel trailer. We both retired at sixty-two years old, the earliest we could draw our social security benefits. Rip spent his entire career in law enforcement, first as a beat cop, then as a detective, and finally as Captain in our south Texas hometown of Rockport.
I, on the other hand, have had a vast array of full- and part-time, positions involving dozens of different occupations. It's not that I'm a high-maintenance, incompetent, or difficult employee, it's just that I bore easily. I've quickly tired of doing everything from pitching magazine subscriptions, where I made random phone calls and was rudely hung up on ninety-nine out of every hundred calls before I could even spit out a full sentence, to working as a clerk at a stained glass art gallery, where the "You break it, you buy it" policy applied more often to me than the customers.
My favorite occupation was short-lived—a taste-testing job at a local ice cream factory, which I was forced to quit when I developed both lactose intolerance and a double chin. But lest you think I'm flaky or unreliable, of all of the many jobs I've had, I've only actually been fired once. And that was due to an unpleasant customer I was serving at a local restaurant who took it personally when I referred to her rowdy young son as an obnoxious spoiled brat who should be put in time-out until he graduated from college. Let's face it, some people are entirely too sensitive.
We found retirement to be less than it was cracked up to be after a full year of sitting on the couch staring at a TV, speaking to each other only briefly during commercials. Fortunately, we could watch the same shows every other month and not remember whether or not we'd ever seen them before. The most excitement we were apt to have in an entire week was visiting a nearby park to feed the pigeons, at least until one of us felt the need to go home and take a nap.
When it finally dawned on us that our rear ends were beginning to take root in the plaid fabric cushions of our couch, we decided enough was enough. After all, we were retired, not dead.
Within a month, we had sold our home, given away most of our belongings, purchased a travel trailer, and hit the road. We made no plans, followed no schedule, just let each day take us wherever it might take us, which on a couple of occasions was less than fifteen miles down the road.
Sometimes we moved daily from one RV Park to another, from one state to another, when we got a wild hair up our you-know-whats. At other times we would rest a spell and recharge our batteries—and I mean ours, not that of our trailer, or the truck we used to pull it with—and we'd stay in one park for several months at a time.
We would often work as what is commonly referred to as "workampers" to keep busy and receive free site rent in exchange for helping in the RV Park office, cleaning shower houses, doing lawn work or whatever needed to be done. As you'll no doubt come to realize, "free" is my favorite word. Occasionally we're even paid a small chunk of change on top of our free rent, which comes in handy with the outlandish price of gas these days.
But right now we actually had a schedule to keep. In the Cozy Camping RV Park in Cheyenne, Wyoming, just a couple of weeks prior, we'd met Lexie Starr, her husband, Stone Van Patten, and her daughter, Wendy. Lexie and Stone had been celebrating their one-year anniversary during Cheyenne Frontier Days. When another camper was found murdered, Lexie and Wendy had become involved in the case, and I'd ended up involved as well, to the extent we gals nearly bit the big one in the process of discovering the identity of the killer.
Two days after our new friends headed home to the Alexandria Inn, a bed and breakfast establishment they own in Rockdale, Missouri, I'd received a phone call from Lexie. The call resulted in Rip and I preparing to head east in order to attend a thirtieth birthday surprise party for Wendy at their inn.
There was an RV repairman in Rockdale who we'd arranged to have do some repairs on our trailer while we were there. Lexie had insisted we stay at the inn as their guests while our trailer was in the shop. Along with the word "free," I was also quite fond of its cousin, "guest." My favorite thing about being sixty-eight was the senior citizen discount that came with it.
Less than an hour later, we had Wyoming in our rear view mirror as we crossed over the Nebraska border. I had a feeling this trip would turn out to be one we wouldn't soon forget. Call it a premonition, or just a fit of fancy, but it was a feeling I couldn't shake. I was anxiously looking forward to finding out if there was anything to it, because boredom was nipping at our heels once again and I was more than ready for a little excitement.