Reflections in the Rear View Mirror

If there is one constant in a fulltime RVer’s life, it has to be the D on the transmission indicator on our dashboards as we head out in the morning. The only time we put it in R to back up seems to be when we are parking our rigs at the end of the day. A scene from the movie Gumball Rally pops into my head where an Italian race car driver named Franco looks at the guy in the passenger seat and says “First rule of Italian driving…” as he reaches up and snaps off the rear view mirror and tosses it out of the car “…what’s behind you isn’t important”.  

And while Diana and I like to examine the history of the locations we visit, there is still that forward movement of wondering what’s over the next hill or around the next bend. Shift to D, turn on the radio and step on the gas. It’s right about that time when life taps you on the shoulder and reminds you that Franco’s statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

Part of our preparations to leave Florida and head west have been to take care of authenticating our mortality, so to speak.  In other words, preparing wills and similar paperwork.  Our home base is the Sunshine State, so this is the place to take care of that business.  Traipsing our caravan across the country in two separate vehicles places a greater need for such documentation, especially when one of us has 14,000 pounds following in close proximity.  Snapping that rear view mirror off would be ill-advised!  So we plowed through the perpetual paperwork (pardon the pun), moving forward with our feet on the gas…just wanting to get it completed.  On St. Patrick’s Day, we had a noon appointment to sign our wills and have them witnessed and notarized, so we went about our morning routine in preparation for the meeting.  That’s when I sat down in my recliner and checked my phone.  There was a text from my former coworker Barb that read, quite simply “Hey. Just wanted to make sure you heard about Richie.”  Well, considering Richie was one of the two people I kept in somewhat regular touch with from work (Kenny being the other) and it wasn’t him telling me what happened to himself, I knew this wasn’t going to be good. So I casually replied “No, what’s up?”, hoping to hear he won the lottery or something.  It was not to be.  A flurry of texts came in from Jeff, Stephen and Barb to tell me he had passed. From what has been told to me since, he had kissed his beloved wife Connie goodnight, took a few steps towards the bedroom and collapsed from a massive heart attack.  62 years old, planning on retiring and looking forward to having more time for golf.  Now don’t get me wrong…Dickey-boy had a lot of fun in his life.  In addition to golf, he loved NFL football and his Detroit Lions, along with classic rock music.  He knew several people in the music industry, played a little guitar, and was close friends with the members of Foghat.

Our VP, Joel, took this tongue-in-cheek photo of us, poking a little fun of the long-standing brothership we shared.  I proudly own that, as we worked side by side for 30 years and had each other’s backs.  He thought the world of Diana, and we indeed are both going to miss him.  The irony of finding out as we were about to sign our wills wasn’t lost on us, nor was the fact that the beach bar we toasted him at was playing classic rock instead of the usual trop-rock.

It dawned on me later that one of the songs playing was The Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps.  Nice song selection, Richie…looks like you just picked up a DJ gig upstairs. 😉

Suddenly, I noticed I had eased off the gas and had slipped the shifter to N.   Instead of thinking about our upcoming trip, I found myself pondering the past.  We were fortunate enough to meet up for dinner with Bob and Pat from Michigan Traveler, and Bonnie and Fred from HappiLEE RVing this last weekend.  Bob and I both grew up in Allen Park, Michigan, and we spent a week together at Wild Cherry, so we have a lot of past in common.  Fred and Bonnie and us met at the RV-Dreams Rally and we’ve seen each a couple times other since, so we have a fair amount of history. Bob and Fred are both retired military, and the couples spend a fair amount of time at the US military FamCamps, so we thought it would be fun for them to meet.

It was good to pause and reflect a bit and catch up on everybody’s lives.  🙂

Just after that, we had some business we needed to take care of up in Green Cove Springs.  We saw that Linda and Steven, our friends we met at Amazon, were very close by.  We contacted them, and they invited us to join in on a lunch date in Jacksonville they had with Howard and Linda, founders of RV-Dreams.  It was those two who’s seminars at a Grand Rapids RV show in January of 2014 provided the final nudge to get us on the road.  With no firm plans to leave our jobs at that point, their presentations caused us to go home and crunch some numbers.  By March 21 of that year, I was retired, and Diana was done at work by July 1.

Our lunch turned into a wonderful two hour conversation on what this journey we are on means to all of us.  Not only was the future discussed, but the past was reflected upon.  I detected a few misty eyes on a couple of heartfelt points that were made.  We were so engrossed in what everyone was saying, we didn’t notice that the servers had turned up all the chairs at the surrounding tables and the restaurant had closed over a half hour earlier.  Yeah, it was that good.  What finally caught our attention was the silence during a pause in the dialogue. The music had stopped playing.  Oops…time to head down the road!

We spent the night in St Augustine and toured there with Steven and Linda the next day.  

They had not been there before, and they wanted to see Castillo de San Marcos, among other things.  

It was fun to experience St Augustine with them and look forward to all the plans we have for the future!

I called Kenny last night.  We reminisced and had some laughs, along with sharing what we are currently doing in our lives.  It was really good to hear his voice again. So while everyone I’ve interacted with over the past week are ready to shift into D to see what’s around the next bend in their lives, life itself provided us with a bit of a lesson that we ought not forget the images in the rear view mirror. 

Even though there is sadness mixed into the joy in our memories, we need to listen to the music of our youth and laugh at the silly pictures in our minds. As George Harrison sang “I look at the world and I notice it’s turning. Still my guitar gently weeps…”

Rock on, Richie…Rock on.

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30 thoughts on “Reflections in the Rear View Mirror”

  1. Lovely post and well said. Loss has a way of helping us reflect. It was the loss of my mom that lead us to going full-time. She encouraged us to “live” while still young and healthy – a subject I’m trying to share with my children.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully written post and message Jim:) Life is so short and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. That’s why we hit the road as soon as we were able. So sorry to read about the lose of your friend. How nice to meet with Howard and Linda. We haven’t seen them, in a very long time. Safe travels as you move west. Maybe we will finally meet up in person:)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very well put Jim and a beautiful tribute to your friend Richie.
    Contemplating ones mortality is never easy and sometimes makes us take a step back and consider what the heck we are doing with our lives.
    I worked as a Registered Nurse for 40 years and in that position spent many hours with folks toward the end of their lives. I can tell you that the regrets they expressed were all about relationships neglected and chances not taken. No one ever told me that they wished that they had worked longer, amassed more riches or bought the next new toy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It was awesome we were able to meet up with you guys, it’s not something we even thought would happen once we knew we didn’t have to travel to Bushnell. Funny how things work out! We’ll be keeping an eye on your westerly travels. Take care!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. When I read this I was sitting in line get our oil changed and I wanted to wait till I was back to a full-size keyboard to respond.

    First of all thanks for sharing your personal story. It’s certainly not easy to see longtime associates pass, specially those we rubbed intimate elbows with.

    I applaud you for getting the nitty-gritty continuation contingencies out of the way while you are there in FL. We have had ours done for some long time but I know that I need to process a change to accommodate recent changes in our situation. Out on the road, after someone has passed, or been incapacitated is too late to do those things.

    You didn’t specifically mention MEDICAL POWER OF ATTORNEY. Because you are traveling it would be good to have clear instructions with you in the Car/RV. State laws vary so much that it’s important that you have explicit instructions about what you want to happen to you if you are unable to give consent or withdraw consent on your own. If you were full time in one place you could file a copy with your doctor and your most likely hospital patient record but that won’t do any good with the likes of us gallivanting around the countryside. Give it a few thoughts.

    We dearly love St. Augustine. Of all the Florida locations I think that is the closest to something we would like but too expensive to put down brick and mortar for US.

    when you hit the road again, have fun, but be careful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Looking at your blog, I see you lived near Hines Park. I grew up in Allen Park, as did Bob from Michigan Traveler.

      It feels good to have that paperwork in place. Better to do it sooner than later. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Jim, thanks for sharing this message with us. I know we’ve talked about the frailty of life and how important it is to grab the moment and let’er ride! We are so sorry for the loss of your good friend.

    Looking forward to being with you this summer. Safe travel friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Bravo Jim! It is very important to “stay the course” moving forward while being mindful of the past. The past teaches us lessons that can help us move into our futures. I am so sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve thought about your post off and on all day. It touched me deeply and Tim and I are so sorry for the loss of your friend.
    Peace and blessings on your journey
    Wanda

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A really great post Jim, one that touched a lot of us. I suppose the reason we come with all gears is because they’re all appropriate at different times. So sorry to hear about Richie and glad that he’s finding you through the music waves. What a great meet up, I bet that was a fun conversation :-))))

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is so very true, Jodee. That transmission is getting a workout lately. 🙂

      Richie and I had a lot of conversations about music, so I’m sure I’ll be catching more waves from him at some point. We actually were both at the same The Who concert in 1975, a full nine years before we met. He had many great backstage stories from the musicians he knew, and he was quick to point out that they were all regular folks who put their pants on the same way we did…one leg at a time. 🙂

      Like

  10. We certainly are blessed to be able to live this lifestyle at a relatively young age. Although we are always moving forward it is times like this that make you put it in neutral and reflect on the past. Too many people never get that opportunity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So very true, Jim. It’s a subject we don’t like to visit, but our mortality demands attention from time to time.

      I do have a funny story about Richie: He flew out to Lake Havasu to visit a buddy once, and he came back and told me about “this bar that was way the **** off the road, out in the middle of nowhere. Totally solar powered and they even had a fake church out there”. Of course, I couldn’t totally comprehend what he was telling me, especially the church part. Then I started seeing Desert Bar on everyone’s blogs and I understood what he was talking about. I smile that he beat me out there. 🙂

      Like

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