Depending how the typing goes today, this may or may not be the last installment of “How did we get to here?” I don’t know how others do this, but I usually sit with an idea (topic) and just type and see where the keyboard takes me. Let’s find out…
Mid-summer in 2009 – Bill found out his then employer was going to be shutting down production and closing up shop where he had been Plant Manager since February 2002. When he started working for the company, it was owned/run by a man named Wayne, and was head-quartered in Chicago. It was run with an “ole boys club” feeling, there was a lot of parties, trips (golf outing boondoogles), etc. There were the usual bumps at first, but after the first year or so, Bill had settled in, cleared out the “dead wood” as he used to put it, and he was quite happy there. He had a team of people under him that he hand picked and trusted and the place was running smoothly. Bill would butt-heads with his immediate boss sometimes, but he wasn’t in town very often, and that suited Bill just fine.
Then in 2005 – things changed, Wayne sold the company to a larger company. Good part was, Bill’s job didn’t change a whole lot, some extra reports to send out, but overall, he was still happy there. When the deal closed, Wayne was very generous and Bill got a nice bonus, plus he took all managers and their spouses to Cancun for 5 days as a “thank you” for jobs well done. He felt like his managers were the ones that helped make the company worth was he was able to sell it for and he wanted to give some back. We happily accepted.
Now that you have a bit of background, when it was announced that the plant would be closing, Bill and I were like “now what will we do?” He thought he would be kept on until at least the following spring b/c the place had to be closed down and they offered him a very nice severance package to stay on. They also offered him the opportunity to take a job in corporate headquarters, which was still in Chicago, but he was not interested in that. The company had been sold again the year before and considering the changes he saw coming, he preferred not to work at the corporate headquarters. That, and we just didn’t want to live in Chicago. He decided maybe he would try something different than corporate America.
We talked about what did we want to do? Both kids were graduated from HS by this time and so we were adjusting to the empty-nest, but since they were both in state colleges, we really didn’t want to move yet either. Bill had started looking at CraigsList at motorhomes. I was unaware of this at first, and even when he did show me a few pics, I didn’t really believe he was serious. Then he actually went and looked at a few of them. Ok, maybe he might actually think about buying one. Then one day I get home from work and he says we are going on a road trip tomorrow. Ok?
We left out fairly early and by lunchtime we had arrived – about 2 1/2 hours later! There in the driveway of our destination was a Class C motorhome. Bill had gone to see it the day before and LOVED it. He said it was so clean and well cared for and the price was right – all excited like when he told me about the Citation all those years before. I knew we were about to buy it, unless I said didn’t like it at all and said NO. Well, I didn’t say no and we went back the following week to bring our “new to us” 1996 30′ Gulfstream Ultra back to Reading. It had a back bedroom, with a queen bed that you could walk around (remember me telling you about the travel trailer – the one side (MINE) of the bed was up against the wall?) It had a side bathroom with small tub/shower, a tiny kitchen area, a fold-down dinette and fold out sofa, not to mention the extra space above the cab. Knowing that most of the time it would just be the 2 of us, there was plenty of space. Bill got us a tow-dolly so we could tow his car, and other stuff we would need to go camping.
We decided we would do some traveling when his job ended. We always want to go to new places and our “new to us” RV was going to take us!
We took it out for a weekend locally in the fall, but our first BIG trip was to FL to see my parents. Our both kids actually went with us, I kind of insisted because I had a feeling it would be our last chance for all of us to get away as a family for a while. (I am typing this 4 1/2 years later – sadly, I was right) It was a bit crowded with 4 of us, but we did fine, and so did the RV. No problems at all! We stopped at rest areas to sleep for the night on the way down and stayed at a KOA near my parents for a week. While in FL, we visited Busch Gardens for the first time
went to dinner to celebrate Bill’s birthday
and Big Cat Rescue
and on the way home, stopped to see cousin Teddy and her family
It was a great trip, the RV drove fine, it was very comfy and I knew once it was just 2 adults instead of 4 – there would be plenty of room for an extended trip. When we got home, I got busy investigating where we might go next! We had figured that Bill would be done with his job somewhere between early May and June, so we could leave after that for wherever we decided to go! I knew I would have to get the ok from my boss to be gone an a longer than usual vacation, but I didn’t think it would be a problem.
Well, the week after we got home, Bill got his walking papers! Wow! We weren’t quite ready for that! The company decided the maintenance manager, Ken, could handle the rest, which would include working with the auction company that would be coming in and selling off items the company didn’t want. Thankfully, Bill was able to stay on working for the auction company “unofficially”. We decided to move up our plans and leave on our extended trip (we didn’t even know where exactly we wanted to go yet!) earlier than June, maybe late March to mid-April instead.
So, where to go? After much discussion, we decided on Grand Canyon! Neither of us had ever been there and it was definitely a bucket list item! I planned the route with a stop-overs in KY to see friends there, KS to see our niece and her kids, then south into OK with a right turn west into TX, then NM and finally into AZ. After Grand Canyon, we would go to Las Vegas and visit with Bill’s sister, then north into UT, right turn again into CO, where we would stop and see Goddaughter Quynn and friend, Elise and then back to KS, KY and then home to PA. We decided at a nice, not too quick pace would take about 5 weeks. We choose a leave date of March 30 and my go-back-to-work date of May 11. That would mean I would miss 4 weeks of work because my boss had already planned his vacation (which means the office would be closed) for one week in April. I spent every extra minute looking at campgrounds, stuff to see along the way, etc.
My boss was not super thrilled about me being gone that long, but after I explained to him it was our long-awaited 25th anniversary trip, he agreed it sounded like a great time and said they would manage without me. I was only working part-time and my co-worker agreed to cover my hours. We were so super excited to get going!
Our first stop – Bill with his Goddaughter, Rebakah
On the road to KS after a storm
In KS with the kiddos
Bill pulling off a piece of weather stripping that started flapping in the wind after driving through KS and OK
Palo Duro Canyon in Amarillo, TX
Everything is BIGGER in Texas!
Now that’s a steak!
IF you can eat all this within an hour – it’s FREE!
out on the town in Santa Fe, NM
Pecos National Historical Park, NM
On the road somewhere in AZ – we had never seen landscape anything like this before!
Painted Desert/Petrified Forest – I foolishly thought there would be a forest with standing trees!
Grand Canyon! I know I haven’t been saying a whole lot about the pics so far, but I must tell you, when I first saw the Grand Canyon through the trees, and then the trees stopped and the whole side of the road opened up next to me, it actually brought tears to my eyes! I was overwhelmed!
Our “home” in Williams, AZ
Day in Sedona/Jerome/Oak Creek Canyon with cousins Russ and Jan!
More Grand Canyon the next day. We took the shuttle all the way out to Hermits Rest to watch the sunset. There were a bunch of people there, some with HUGE fancy cameras, snapping pics every 10 seconds. They were talking among themselves, and I overheard them commenting about how last nights sunset was better! I mean, here we were in one of the most amazing, beautiful places on the whole EARTH, and last nights sunset was better? Is it me? Maybe they get to see a Grand Canyon sunset every night of their lives, but they obviously didn’t consider that this was some peoples ONLY time to experience a sunset at the Grand Canyon and their chatter could possibly ruin it for someone? Jerks.
Our last day at the Grand Canyon
Helicopter ride over Grand Canyon! I know some of you know this, but for those that don’t – I am somewhat claustrophobic, so the idea of getting me on a helicopter was a crazy one! But, I made up my mind I wanted to do it, and I even paid the extra to guarantee us the front seats and away we went! Knowing I really wanted to do this and also knowing the claustrophobic thing, some had suggested I take a xanax or shot of something strong before attempting to do this, but I just walked out and got in – no “help” at all! Just hubby by my side – that’s all that was needed
crossing the Hoover Dam – can’t do that anymore! Security was pretty tight – they actually SEARCHED the whole rig – had Bill open the outside compartments and all! They didn’t want their pics taken though – I had the camera out and they were like “can you put the camera down please?” OK – don’t need trouble with Home Land Security.
Vegas Baby! My cousin, Jane and her family drove in from San Diego to see us! We stayed at Circus-Circus and paid extra to have a tree!
We walked the strip, saw a show, visited Gold and Silver Pawn Shop (the one from TV!) – even got to see the Old Man! with Bill’s sister and her husband.
When our time in Vegas was over, we headed north into Utah. I was completely unprepared for Utah! I had no idea it was so beautiful and amazing! I had planned stopovers and thought we would spend a day in Zion NP, Arches NP and Bryce Canyon NP and then when we stopped north and Canyonlands NP, but seriously, we could have (and will!) spent a lot more time in Utah! We didn’t even go all the way to Salt Lake City.
Zion National Park
We didn’t make it to Bryce, as there was a snow storm happening the day we were supposed to go.
Dead Horse Point SP
On the road into CO
Day in Denver Aquarium with Elise
Out for drinks on Pearl Street in Boulder with Goddaughter Quynn
Estes Park with Quynn
When we arrived back at our campground after our day in Estes Park, we were planning dinner with Quynn, and after she headed home, we were going to start packing up to leave the following morning. We were going to stop again in KS for a couple days, then in KY for a couple days before heading home. Sadly, that isn’t how it went. We received a devastating phone call from home. Our brother-in-law, Joel (my sister’s husband), had gone out fishing as he always did and never returned home. We packed in a HUGE hurry, Quynn helped me find a flight home out of Denver, and after Bill dropped me at the airport (at 11pm!), he started the LONG (1700 miles!) journey home alone. It was a horrible way to end our wonderful vacation, but when family calls, you do what you have to do. I felt terrible that Bill had to drive that by himself, but I HAD to get home ASAP. Our whole family was shook to the core, especially my sister and nephew, and 4 years later the effects are still felt.
I will end today by saying this: going through that experience with my sister showed me up close and personal how important it is to live our lives each day like there is no tomorrow. I mean, you have to do a certain amount of planning, etc. but overall, you seriously might not be here tomorrow to do what you want to do, you have to do it NOW. I mean, I have (sadly) seen a lot of death of loved ones in my day, some taken way to soon, after fighting difficult battles with cancer or other disease, but the way Joel, who was young (47) and healthy, just went out and never came back – it was more to bear than anyone should be asked to.
I will continue “The Class C Years” another time, as I have gotten longer-winded than I thought I would. I’ll give you guys a break!