As I begin this year's card, I'm camped in the United States Air Force Academy's FamCamp just outside Colorado Springs. (FamCamp is what the military call their recreational campgrounds run by the bases.) Out of the 105 campsites here, there are only about 6 or 7 other occupied RVs.
It is snowing lightly, the wind is blowing with gusts upwards of 40 miles per hour and the temperature is expected to get down to 19 degrees tonight. Luckily the campground is full of tall ponderosa pines which do a good job of protecting the trailer from the worst of the winds.
If you are one of our long-time friends, you already know that I lost Tom last January. I created a set of web pages in his memory which can be seen elsewhere on my website. As you can imagine, this year has been very difficult.
After Tom passed away, I came to realize I couldn't afford the house in Castle Rock on the income I had alone. Portions of it were now reaching 50 years old and would be requiring substantial repairs. Also the utilities were quite high.
I had already been planning what I was going to do if I lost Tom before I passed away. I hired a company to come in and do an estate sale, which emptied the house of 35 years of stuff. I only kept some of my computers, clothes, a few of my antique telephones and a few personal items I couldn't part with. I put the house on the market and by late May it had sold for a bit more than the asking price at that time. This gave me the money to begin the next phase of my plan which was to buy a new custom built 5th wheel travel trailer and a new truck to pull it. I am expecting the trailer to be my home for the rest of my life. Both it and the truck are paid off so I only have to worry about maintenance and taxes.
The trailer took 5 months to build and it was finally delivered in late September. In the meantime, the manufacturer had purchased my old trailer from me and was renting it back to me, essentially for free, until the new trailer was ready.
I consider my first official night as a full-timer to be October 13, 2018.
Originally I had planned on carrying on a running daily dialogue on my website like I did back between 2005 and 2011. But writing being very difficult for me and without Tom by my side, I have had a great deal of difficulty in getting motivated to do anything that I find difficult. If I find myself bored and can get motivated, then I may start the daily blog again. I do keep my webcams running, and if you have Google Earth installed on your computer, you can see where I am and the campgrounds I have stayed at during the year. See the links just above the webcam images on my home page.
I was only able to attend 6 rodeos this year. I missed Finals rodeo due to a brake failure in the trailer. One of the wheels wasn't put together properly, a bolt fell out and one of the brake pads fell off. This allowed the hydraulic piston to come loose and the brake fluid all leaked out. It took me about a week to get it fixed and that was the weekend finals was held. However, I was able to attend IGRA convention which was quite successful.
Finically, I am doing well. It took a few months to get through the financial issues after Tom passed away, but thanks to Tom's wise investments, the luck of buying houses low and selling them high, and the money which came from stock in SAIC (the company Tom used to work for) I have a decent income from what I call my allowance plus my Social Security and my portion of Tom's.
Health wise I'm doing ok. The cancer treatment last year did a real number on my immune system though. Back in 1991, when I first came down with AIDS, my T4 count had dropped to 0 where it stayed for a bit over 2 years. After the protease inhibitors came out, it took me 20 years to build my T4 count back up to 650. (A healthy person's count can range from 600 to tens of thousands if they are sick. The best mine could do was 650.) The chemotherapy dropped my count down to 230. After a year it has only climbed back to 336 so I have to be very careful not to catch anything. Basically I lost about 15 years of progress on that front.
For the last 34 years, barber Tom had cut my hair and trimmed my beard. I can't do my hair myself so I have taken to shaving my head when the hair gets to about an inch long or before some event I am attending. A lot of my friends tell me they think I look better this way. I guess it is a good thing that shaved heads seem to be in fashion now. I'm not going to shave the beard. I spent most of my life wanting a beard and when I was finally able to grow one it took me way too long to grow something half way decent. It's taken me almost a year after the chemo to get it back to full.
The small Christmas tree in this year's photo, with its 1950s antique lights, is the same one Tom and I had used in our first trailer in 1989 and 1990 while we were touring the country on our 2 year trip.
I only have one small printed photo of Tom in the trailer at the moment. I have lots of photos on the computer but each time I start going through them I start crying. Maybe, with time, I will be able to hang some on the wall. I miss him so much.
Since I didn't really visit any interesting places this year, rather than create my usual descriptive pages, I'm just going to put a couple of galleries below.
I hope this holiday season is good for each of you. My best wishes to you for a productive year to come.
You can see all our previous Christmas Cards on my private website.