Rainstorm in Fargo

Info silverhawk
18 Sep. '20

It's amazing how much time you have once you retire.  You have nowhere to be at any certain time and no people you just have to be there to meet.   You have no deadlines and no tasks that absolutely have to be done before the corporate visit on Tuesday.  It's like a curtain between you and your life has been lifted and you can see yourself doing what you always wanted to do.

That's what I thought I was going to see when I cleaned out my desk and went to the retirement party at my office.  It was exciting to know that no longer would my life be dictated by some corporate edict or some problem that had to be solved right now if the entire business wasn't going to immediately collapse.  

It was just that way for about a month.  I could stay up late or go to bed early depending upon how I felt.  I could watch movies on cable any time I wanted instead of falling asleep in the middle when watching at night.  I could do anything I wanted to do...except after a month I didn't know what that was because I'd already done everything I could think of doing.  There was a reason for that, and the reason started bothering me because of George Mills.

I was one of those guys who worked twelve hours a day at my office and then worked another couple hours at home.  George was one of those guys too.  George lasted six months after he retired before keeling over in his neighbor's back yard and croaking.   It was at his funeral I realized George had never said anything about any hobbies or anything except work.  He even had a complete set of work files in his home office that he kept updated to the current information so he could work at home.  His wife said George had a heart attack, but I figured George had just given up because without his job, he had no reason to keep living.  

I didn't want to go down that same road, but it looked like that was where I was headed.  After a month, it was hard to get out of bed, shower and shave, and then get dressed.  Other than a weekly trip to the grocery store for some frozen dinners and some beer, I just sat in my house.  It was still winter, and when spring finally made the grass grow, I'd have to mow about once a week, but that was all I had to look forward to.  

When I got home from George's funeral, I sat down and took stock of where I was in life.  My list was both encouraging and a little dissappointing.  

The worst mistake I'd made was marrying Marsha when I was twenty and still in college.  It was a time we were both studying hard during the week and playing hard on the weekends.  When we graduated, me with a degree in engineering and Marsha with a degree in finance, it was still good for the first couple of years.  After that, the marriage went downhill pretty fast.

It wasn't a money problem because we were both making good salaries.  The problem was me.  I know that.  I couldn't stop working, even on the weekends, but Marsha wanted to go out and have fun on those weekends.  She finally started going out by herself and in the process, met a guy who didn't work all day, every day, and then come home and work at night too.  After the second year, we had a serious talk and decided to split and go our separate ways.  Marsha didn't want anything from me, so other than spending about two months salary on a lawyer in case she changed her mind, it didn't cost me anything except my time and a lot of soul searching.

That soul searching led me to realize I probably wasn't going to change relative to my work habits, so another woman probably was going to work out the same way.  I dated a little at first, but it never worked out because there was always some important project I had to finish.  After I canceled a date or two, she’d tell me she had already made other plans.  I finally stopped trying.  

All that work did get me a rapid rise in my company, then a higher paying job at another, and then another until by the age of sixty, I wasn't a millionaire, but I had enough in the bank I didn't have to work to live comfortably.  I'd bought and paid for a pretty nice house, drove a new car every couple of years, and in general was pretty happy with my life.

I retired that year thinking I was young enough I'd still have time to catch up with everything I'd missed.  What I ended up being was lost with nowhere to go and nothing to do.  I needed some way to occupy my time or I was going to end up like George.  

One afternoon, I was sitting on my couch and watching a travel show about national parks when I thought maybe I had an answer to my problem.  

After a lot of thought, I'd figured out that work had given me three things I needed to be happy - something to plan for, something to do to follow that plan, and a way to keep learning.  I'd looked at a bunch of hobbies other people enjoy, but none of them really interested me.  They either required a lot of equipment and space or took a long time to learn.  Watching about national parks was a different story.  All I needed to go to a national park was me and I didn't need to learn anything first.  I’d learn just by going there.

How to travel was the next question.  Though my job had required flying a lot, I never liked it.  I always felt like I was trapped in an aluminum tube and couldn’t do anything to help myself is something happened.  Driving wasn't that way.  If I wanted to stop to look at something, I could stop.  If I was hungry, I could get something to eat.  If I was tired, no matter what time of day, I could just pull into a hotel and get a room.

After a little figuring of costs, it looked like traveling around to parks might be fun, but it would be pretty expensive what with the cost of hotel rooms and eating out all the time.  There was also the problem of my house.  I couldn't just leave it empty for a month at a time, and a month is about what it would take to get to and back from some of the parks I found that interested me.  I was driving back from grocery shopping one afternoon when the answer pulled up beside me.

The motorhome looked huge, but the driver wasn't having any trouble negotiating the traffic.  It just took longer to change lanes and a lot longer to accelerate.  All I knew about motorhomes was that you could live in them, so I started doing some investigating on the internet.  What I found convinced me this was the answer to most of my problems.

I looked at several types, and decided the type they call "Class A" was what I wanted.  I didn't need to be able to sleep six people, but they were big enough they wouldn't feel like living in a closet and they were really nice inside.  They all had heaters for winter and air conditioning for summer, and even though most campsites had receptacles for electricity, the big motorhomes had on-board generators for power.  I could park it anywhere and still have all the comforts of home.

There were a lot of them for sale within a hundred miles of me, so I took several trips to look at different makes and models.  I knew I wanted one less than forty feet long, because some states and some campsites have a length limit of forty feet.  

After looking at a lot and driving a few, I decided a Thor Challenger was what I wanted.  It had everything I could ever want plus some.  The driver’s seat and passenger’s seat were more like living room chairs than car seats.  It had a little kitchen with a microwave, a two burner propane stove, and a sink.  I only needed one bathroom, but it came with two and they weren't really much smaller than the bathroom in most apartments.  One had a shower, and one had a tub with shower.

It was roomy on the inside too, thanks to three sections that extended a few feet once it was parked and leveled.  Those extensions made it possible to have a king-size bed and a double bed that folded up into a couch for the wide-screen television set on the opposite wall.  It had a surprising amount of closet space too, and the kitchen had room to store pots and pans and a small pantry.

One thing I really liked was the full size refrigerator.  A lot of the smaller RV's had tiny little refrigerators.  I didn't want to be grocery shopping every day.  The damned thing also had three television sets all cable ready - one in the master bedroom, one across from the couch, and one on the outside under the electrically extended patio awning.  

It had power everything, including a system that self-leveled it when parked.  I didn't realize I needed that until the salesman explained that most campsites aren't level, so without it, I’d my jacking it up level by hand.

The price he quoted me was just shy of two-hundred thousand, but I'd expected that and I had a plan.  If I was driving all over the US, I wouldn't need my house, and my house would more than pay for the Thor and still leave quite a bit to add to my travel cash.  A month later, I sold my house and everything the Thor already had that I didn't need two of.  After I picked up the Thor and temporarily parked it at a local campsite, I was ready to start except for my car.  

I'd seen a lot of cars towed behind motorhomes, but I really didn't see the need.  Most grocery stores have huge parking lots, so I could just drive the Thor to a Walmart and get my groceries before I parked for the night.  It took another week to sell my car.  

The day after the check for my car cleared, I emptied the black water tanks, filled the clean water tank, and then drove to a gas station.  Seeing the dollars add up when I filled the eighty gallon fuel tank was a bit of a shock, but I'd figured the fuel cost into my travel budget.  The Thor was supposed to average about seven miles to the gallon, so fuel would still be cheaper than driving my car, eating every meal in a restaurant, and paying for hotel rooms.

It was June by then and the days were warming up in the northern states, so my plan was to head North from Nashville and drive across Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Washington and then turn South.  Depending upon how long that took, I'd go South for the winter through California, then turn East and drive to Florida.  That plan was pretty flexible.  I wasn't in a hurry to get anywhere.

I'd already seen as much of Chicago as I wanted, so I bypassed it and headed into Wisconsin.

I didn't push my schedule.  Driving time was from about nine in the morning until three in the afternoon.  Then I'd start looking for an RV campsite on the GPS unit.  The point was to enjoy the drive and I did.  Sitting up so high, I could see for miles ahead of me, and I could also look down into the cars that passed me.

Just watching the country change was worth the drive.  It was relaxing just driving along and watching the fields and forests go by and watching the other people in their cars.  Sometimes, those people weren't really relaxing.  The first day, I realized what I'd read about what truckers saw was true.

The rear facing camera on the Thor had picked up the black SUV when it passed the semi behind me except it didn't just pass.  It pulled up to go around the semi, but slowed to the truck's speed for about thirty seconds before driving on toward me.

When it got closer, in my side mirror I could see a man driving and a woman in the passenger seat.  When it passed me, it did the same thing as when it passed the truck - when the SUV was even with my side window, it started pacing me  When I looked down into the passenger window, there was a woman sitting there, only she wasn't just sitting.  She was slumped down and her top was unbuttoned and pulled away from her naked breasts, and those breasts were pretty impressive.

She looked up a me, grinned, and then lifted her breasts and sort of wobbled them up and down.    Then she licked her lips, took a nipple in the fingers of each hand and pulled her big breasts into long cones.  As the SUV accelerated, she smiled and waved.

Well, that was pretty weird, I thought, but it was just the start.  I never realized there were so many women who apparently like showing themselves to complete strangers.  There weren't hundreds, but over the next few weeks if I was driving past a large city on a weekend, I'd see at least one.  I saw more bare breasts than I'd ever seen outside of movies on cable.

There were also a couple who were covered on top but naked from the waist down and obviously masturbating.  One was even completely naked.  As that sedan drove along beside me for almost a minute and the woman worked her fingers in and out, she looked up at me and pursed her lips in a kiss.  Right before the sedan drove on, the driver reached over and pinched her left nipple, the woman's mouth opened in a little "O" shape and she arched up as far as the seat belt would let her and her thighs started to quiver.

Well, I might have been sixty, but I wasn't immune to what a naked woman can do to a man.  Some of those women were young, but most seemed to be more mature, mature enough I'd have loved meeting them and wouldn't have felt like I was screwing some college girl.  Most were with a man so I figured he was into showing off his wife or girlfriend and might not mind sharing her.  There were a couple where the driver was a woman too, and I wondered if they were both into the exhibitionist thing and if they both might like a little sack time with an agreeable guy.

I would have been more than agreeable to both those little fantasies.  It had been a long time since I'd slept with a woman, but I hadn't lost the urge.  It was my damned job that stopped me from trying.  I never met any women except the women at work and they were all married or too young.  Oh, there were the checkout girls at the grocery store.  Most of them weren't married, but they were even younger than the women at my job.  Most looked young enough they were probably still in high school.

The first night I pulled into a camping spot was also interesting and made me think I'd chosen the right way to spend my time.  I'd leveled the Thor and was hooking up my electric, black water and clean water connections when a guy walked up with two beers, handed me one, and said "Hi.  Haven't seen you before.  Where you from?"

That night, I found out a lot of the people at RV campgrounds know each other.  I thought my idea of living in an RV all the time was probably unique, but a lot of people were doing the same thing.  They'd hook up at an RV camp from time to time and share stories of what they'd seen and done.   It was almost like there was an extended family of RV campers out there.  By the time we all went back to our RV's for bed, it was almost midnight and I'd made a bunch of new friends.  Well, truth be told, they were the first actual friends I'd had in a long time.  I'd worked with a lot of people but was too busy to make friends with any of them.

Most were about my age and were making the best of their retirement by seeing the US.  While some still had permanent homes somewhere, for many their motor home was the only home they had.  They'd plan their trip to be at a daughter or son's home for the holidays, but other than that, they lived, as one woman told me, "Free as when we were twenty and just married with no kids."  

As I motored through Wisconsin and then into North Dakota, I kept seeing a few of the same people, and I met a lot more when I parked for the night.  It was always the same.  I'd pull into my spot and hook up.  While I was doing that, somebody would walk over to say hello and invite me to spend some time with them.

Most of the RV parks also had tent camping sites, but those were usually used by younger couples, often with kids along once the schools let out.  I like kids, but I also like quiet, so I usually asked for a site some distance away from the tent spots.  

One afternoon when I was rolling through Fargo, North Dakota it was raining like hell, and I mean raining so hard my windshield wipers were barely keeping up.  I'd seen the weather forecast and knew that was probably going to happen, so I'd called ahead for a reservation and booked it with my credit card.  It was a good thing I had, because when I pulled into the campground, there was only one spot left and that spot was next to the tent sites.

After pulling onto the pad, I leveled the Thor and ran out the extensions but didn't go out to hook anything up.  My holding tanks were far from full and I had most of the 150 gallons of fresh water left in the water tank.  The generator came to life when I started it so I had electricity for everything.

The rain let up about half an hour later while I was deciding what I was going to have for dinner.  It was then a Jeep Wrangler drove into the tent site beside me.  A woman got out, opened the back, and pulled out a bag.  In the bag was a tent, and she started setting it up.  It wasn't a big tent like the families I'd seen using, but it was big enough it was taking her a while.  

She had the back poles in place and was working on the poles at the entrance when it started raining again.  In less than a minute, I figured she was soaked through to the skin and she still didn't have the tent so it would stand up by itself.  She wasn't going to get it to stand up either.  The wind that blew in the rain wasn't especially strong, but the tent was acting like the sail on a sailboat and it was obvious she wasn't strong enough to control it.

I opened the side door on the Thor and yelled, "Hey, there.  You're not getting anywhere.  Come inside until this rain blows over".

She looked up, gave me a funny look, but then ran over to the door and stepped inside.  She said, "Thanks.  I thought I could get my tent up before it started raining again, but I was getting drenched out there", then chuckled.  

"I think I better just stand here until it quits or I'll drip all over your floor."

I didn't quite know what to say because she was the first woman I'd met in anything resembling a social environment in years.  All I could do for a few seconds was look at her.

She wasn't the young girl I'd expected to see.  She looked about my age or maybe a little younger but I could see a few strands of sliver in her wet brunette hair.  She was wearing jeans and a T-shirt that were both soaked through, and that wet T-shirt was sort of stuck to the bra holding her big breasts.  When she smiled at me, I snapped out of my trance.

"No, the floor is vinyl and it'll mop up just fine.  Come on inside and dry off".

She frowned at me.

"No, thank you, unless your wife has a robe or something I can wear."

I figured when I said I wasn't married, she'd think the worst and leave.  I didn't want her to do that.

"Ma'am, I'm not married, but I might be able to find something you could wear.  I think you have a bigger problem than that though.  You didn't get your tent set up so it'll be as wet on the inside as on the outside.  You don't have anyplace to sleep even if it does stop raining."

She frowned at me again.

"I can sleep in my Jeep, thank you.  I've done it before and it didn't kill me."

"What about eating?  I don't think you're going to be able to start a fire or light a stove in the rain."

She cocked her head.

"Are you asking me to spend the night with you?"

"No, I'm just offering you a dry place to sleep, right here on my couch by yourself, and something hot to eat.  Oh...and something to wear until your clothes dry out or you can get some dry ones."

She was still looking at me with her head cocked to one side, so I tried to explain myself.

"Ma'am, I've only been doing this for a few weeks, but one thing I've learned is most of the campers are friendly people who help each other out.  That's all I'm trying to do.  I'm not trying to suggest anything else."

She looked at me for what had to be a minute, but then she smiled.

"I guess it would be a lot nicer here than outside in my Jeep.  Thank you for making the offer.  I don't know what you'd have that I could wear though.  Maybe a shirt would work, but you're a lot taller than me and my...well, I'm bigger in other places than you are, so your clothes aren't gonna fit me at all."

I smiled, both because I'd evidently convinced her I wasn't a serial killer and because for some reason I was happy she was going to stay.

"I think I might have something that will work.  Come on back to the bathroom and I'll get you a couple towels.  You can take a shower if you want.  If you do, I'll have to give you some soap and shampoo.  I never use this bathroom.  I use the one in my bedroom, so this one doesn't have anything in it."

"You have two bathrooms?"

"Well, yeah.  It came that way."

She grinned.

"A shower would feel pretty nice.  I'm starting to get cold."

I got a fresh bar of soap and my bottle of shampoo, and picked up a washcloth and two towels from the cabinet in my bath.  Then I searched the little dresser and found the pair of sweat pants I'd bought when I thought I was going to start running every night after work but never did.  They still had the store tag on them.  I found a chambry shirt in my closet that would be way too big but would at least cover her, and then took it all into the second bathroom.

She was standing there looking in the mirror, and laughed when I came in.

"I can see why you made the offer.  You feel sorry for me because I look like I've been half drowned."

I put all the stuff on the little vanity.

"You'll feel a lot better once you get dried off.  While you're doing that, I'll go see what I have that we can eat."

After I heard the shower start running I looked in my freezer to see what I had that would serve two.  Frozen stuff was all I had because I was only using my microwave.  That was easier than cooking and I didn't have anything to wash except my silverware.  I found two frozen dinners that were the same.  Why that mattered to me I don't know, but it did.  I hoped she liked beef and noodles with broccoli.  I had beer and soft drinks, so I hoped she liked one or the other.  

It took her about half an hour to get showered and dressed, and when she came out she was frowning.

"I look like a bag lady, but I guess that can't be helped.  You don't happen to have a comb do you?  Maybe if I do something with my hair it'll look better."

Well, she didn't look like any bag lady I'd ever seen.   Her hair was wet and kind of stringy looking, but what she was doing to my shirt and my sweatpants was pretty fantastic.  My chest size is 38 and I don’t have much belly fat so I usually buy trim fit shirts.  Even though she wasn't wearing a bra, she'd not been able to button the top two buttons and the third button looked like it was under some strain.  Sweatpants usually don't really fit anybody, but her wide hips and small waist made my sweats look like they were made for her.

She saw me staring and smiled.

"If you're done staring at me, would you have a comb?"

I'd bought a package of combs when I stocked the Thor, and in the package was one of those big combs I remembered my ex using sometimes.  I gave it to the woman and she went back into the bathroom.

When she came out, her hair did look better.  It still wasn't dry, but it wasn't just wet strings hanging down to her shoulders.  She saw me staring again, and frowned.

"If it wasn't still raining so hard, I'd go get my hair dryer out of my Jeep.  I don't normally look like this, at least not when other people can see me.  I guess you'll just have to put up with me looking this bad."

I tried to put her at ease.

"Ma'am, you don't look bad at all so I won't be putting up with anything.  I'm glad I could help you out.  That's all I wanted to do, by the way, and nothing else."

She smiled.

"That's what all men say.  We'll see.  Could you stop with the Ma'am thing though?  My name's Tracey, Tracey McMannus.  What should I call you?"

I liked her smile and found myself smiling back. I walked over and held out my hand.

"It's a pleasure to meet you Tracey.  I'm Pete Holmes.  I uh...I found us something to eat if you like beef noodles and broccoli."

Tracey didn't say much while we ate and that was killing me.  I really wanted to know why a woman was tent camping by herself.  I mean, if she'd been in an RV I could maybe understand, but I never thought women liked "roughing it".  She seemed to have a strong personality, but she was still very much a woman, so much so that I had to stop myself from staring at her.

We were sitting opposite each other at the dinette table, and everytime she moved, her breasts moved under my shirt.  If she raised her arm to reach her glass of soda, that breast raised up too.  If she moved her arm from her container of noodles, so did her breast.  

It was worse when she got up and picked up our glasses and silverware.  She bent down and her breasts rolled up into the gap where she'd left the shirt buttons undone.  I was staring at her deep, soft cleavage and almost didn't hear her say, "I'll wash up if you'll show me where you keep your dishwashing soap".

I managed to look at her face and say she didn't have to do that.  

She just waved her hand.

"It's the least I can do since you saved me from the rain.  Now, show me where your stuff is so I can get it done."

While she washed up, I turned on the main television and started Netflix through the Thor’s built-in wi-fi hotspot because although the campground had cable hookups at each site,  I hadn't plugged in the cable connector.  It was Netflix or nothing until it stopped raining.  I was scrolling through what was available when she walked over and sat down.

I asked Tracey if she had any preferences as to what she'd like to watch.  

She chuckled.

"After everything that's happened to me today, I think I need a good laugh or two."

The movie was OK, not something I'd have watched, but Tracey seemed to enjoy it.  When it ended, it was almost ten.  When I asked Tracey if she wanted to watch something else, she looked at her watch and then smiled at me.

"I'm not a night person, so I think I'll turn in.  Is this the couch where I'm going to sleep?"

After unfolding the couch to make it into a double bed, I got a sheet and a blanket from my closet along with one of the pillows from my bed and helped Tracey make the bed.  I made sure all the doors were locked, and then wished her a good night and went back to my bedroom.  

The next morning, I woke up at six.  Not wanting to catch Tracey dressing, I figured I'd get  dressed and wait until I heard her moving around before leaving my bedroom.  I was dressing when she called through the door.

"Hey Pete.  Are you awake yet?"

I said I was, and she asked where I kept my coffee pot and coffee.  When I walked out of my bedroom, Tracey was bent over looking in my refrigerator.  She looked up when she heard my bedroom door close.

"You don't have much to eat in here.  Wadda you do - eat out all the time?"

"No, you're just looking in the wrong place.  Try the freezer compartment.  I usually have either a sausage and egg biscuit or french toast sticks."

Tracey frowned.

"Eating all that boxed stuff will kill you, you know?  It's full of chemical preservatives.  You'd be better off making things from scratch."

I shrugged.

"I guess I don't like cooking all that much.  The coffee pot is in the cabinet over the sink and the coffee is in the cabinet under the stove.  I'll fix it while you decide what you want to eat."

She grinned.

"I know what I'm going to eat.  I just have to go to my Jeep to get it.  You make the coffee and I'll be right back."

I had the coffee brewing when she knocked on the door of the RV.  When I opened it she had a frying pan in one hand and a plastic grocery bag in the other.

"I didn't see any pots and pans in your cabinets, so I brought my own.  I like my eggs over easy and my bacon crisp.  How about you?  I didn't see a toaster either, but I brought a loaf of bread and a stick of butter and I'll manage without one.  You'll have to show me how to light your stove."

It was the best breakfast I'd had in years.  Tracey even managed to toast bread over one of the stove burners.  She said she always did it that way when she camped because all she had was a two-burner propane camp stove.

When I finished two eggs, three slices of bacon, and two slices of toast, Tracey smiled.

"Now, wasn't that better than a frozen biscuit?  It isn't that hard to cook. You should learn."

"I know how to cook.  It just takes too long when I'm tired from driving or when I have something I want to see.  This was really great though.  Thanks for fixing it."

She grinned again.

"It's the least I could do after you gave me dinner and a dry place to sleep last night."

I shook my head.

"All I was doing is what I said - helping out a fellow camper."

"Well, I really appreciate it.  I think I'll go finish setting up my tent so it can dry out before I pack up and leave today."

I said I'd help her, partly because she'd probably need help if the tent was as wet as I figured, and partly because I'd discovered I liked being with her.

We did get her tent set up but it was a struggle because we had to drain the rainwater out of all the folds before we could lift it up onto the poles.  Once we got it set up, I looked inside and saw the rainwater had accumulated inside almost an inch deep.  I looked back out and frowned.

"Tracey, this tent isn't going to dry out today.  It's full of water on the inside.  I'll help you drain it, but it's gonna take at least until tomorrow night before it's dry enough to roll up and pack.  Unless you have somewhere you absolutely have to be tomorrow, I think you'd better plan on using my couch again.  I was going to leave today too, but I can wait."

It looked like she was getting ready to tell me no, and I decided I couldn't let her do that.

"I can't let you drive off knowing you're going to have to sleep in a wet tent tonight.  If it's...if it's the site rental, I'll take care of that for you."

Tracey cock her head.

"You don't need to do that, but why would you?"

Well, I hadn't really realized what I was saying when I said it.  It just came out.  When I thought about it, it probably did seem fishy to Tracey.

"No reason, really, except no woman should have to have things that rough.  I just thought maybe...well, since you're camping in a tent...maybe you have to watch how you spend your money...that's all."

Tracey smiled then.

"No, I don't have any problem with money, so the site rent isn't a problem.  You're probably right about the tent though, so I'll take you up on your offer on one condition.  We need to go grocery shopping before lunch.  If you eat that frozen stuff for breakfast and dinner, I'd hate to see what you have for lunch."

Tracey drove her Jeep to the closest Walmart, and I had to admit it was a lot easier than driving the Thor through traffic.  It was pretty nice riding with her too because I was starting to like her.

We came out of Walmart with a roasted chicken, two kinds of pasta - the little screw kind and spaghetti - a head of lettuce, a pound of ground beef,and a big can of tomato sauce.  Once we were back inside my RV, Tracey made a pasta salad with the screw pasta, diced chicken breast and lettuce with a dressing she made from what she already had.  That was lunch, and it was a lot better then the hot dogs I'd planned on having.  

The campground where we were camped was next to a state park, and after that lunch, I really needed to either walk around or take a nap.  I figured Tracey wouldn't like me taking a nap so I asked her if she'd like to walk one of the trails in the state park.  She laughed.

"My Joe would have taken a nap while I walked by myself, so this will be new to me.  Let's go."

It was during our walk I learned who Joe was and why Tracey was tent camping.  That was after I explained why I was driving around in a big RV by myself.  Tracey listened to my story and then smiled.  

"That's why Joe and I bought a tent and the Jeep.  He'd worked for almost fifty years before he retired at sixty-eight and was going crazy with nothing to do.  He liked history, and after six months of doing nothing, decided we'd tour the country looking at historic places.  He thought we'd understand the older places better if we lived in a tent like they did in the early days, so he went out and bought one.  I wasn't too sure about a tent.  I mean, a tent doesn't really have walls or anything to protect you, and if it's cold out side it’s cold inside too.  At least he bought cots so we didn't have to sleep on the ground.

"Our daughter and her husband moved from their apartment into our house so there'd be somebody there to take care of it when we were gone.  We started from Milwaukee in April of last year and drove South. We got as far as Shiloh in Tennessee.  We'd walked around the battlefield most of the day.  When we were walking back to our Jeep, Joe said his chest hurt.  Half an hour later, he was having trouble breathing, so I drove him to the hospital in Savannah.  He passed away while they were trying to get him stablized.  The doctors told me he'd had a pretty bad heart attack at Shiloh and had another one while they were working on him.  

"After I got Joe back to Milwaukee and had the funeral I had to decide what I was going to do.  I couldn't very well move back into the house because I remembered the years when my mother lived with us and I wouldn't wish that on anybody else.  What I decided is to do what Joe wanted to do.  I'd travel around with my tent and visit the places he wanted to see.  It sounds weird, I know, but I thought maybe he'd see those places through me.

"Anyway, I did spend a couple of months with my daughter until the weather got cold, and then headed back South where it was warmer.  I spent the winter camping in Georgia and Florida, and then started following the warmer weather north.  I was doing fine by myself until yesterday.  If I'd known it was going to rain so hard, I'd have gotten a motel room."

I said I didn't think any woman would like living in a tent.  Tracey just chuckled.

"You mean because I don't have all the comforts of a house like a kitchen and a bathroom?  Well, I like to cook, but I can cook just fine on my little stove, and all the campsites I stop at  have a central bathroom with showers.  I like sleeping outdoors in the fresh air and listening to the crickets instead of in my house in Milwaukee in the stale air and listening to the traffic go by.  I would trade that for my tent any day, now that I'm used to it."

We talked about a lot of things as we walked along that trail, and I was surprised at how easy it was to talk to Tracey.  She seemed to like listening, but she wasn't backward about giving me her opinions about what I said.  She thought retiring early like I did was a good thing.  She was five years younger then Joe and had been after him to retire for years because he'd been diagnosed as a prime candidate for a heart attack.  She wanted him to relax and enjoy life and hopefully avoid the heart attack that killed him.  He thought he should keep working to build up his 401K so they wouldn't have to worry about money.

She thought it was perfectly normal for a woman to be camping by herself, but she wasn't a big fan of the women's liberation movement.  When I asked her why, she shrugged.

"I suppose it's fine if a woman wants a career before anything else, but they're missing out on a lot by not having a husband and a family.  I was never sorry I was a stay at home mom.  I liked being there when the kids came home from school, and I liked fixing dinner for us every night.  Now, mind you, I didn't object when Joe wanted to go out for dinner on my birthday and our anniversary, but I was happy doing all the cooking the rest of the time."

The more we talked, the more I liked Tracey.  She was a very intelligent woman with her own ideas about life, but she was about as down-to-earth as a woman could get.  By the time we got back to my RV, I was getting really comfortable with her.

I got a lot more comfortable when she started making dinner.  I hadn't actually smelled food cooking in a long time because I just used my microwave for everything.  The aroma of spaghetti sauce filled the RV and it smelled like it was going to be fantastic.

By the time Tracey said everything was ready, I was starving.  When she sat a plate of spaghetti smothered in sauce in front of me, I’d have gorged myself even if I hadn’t been hungry.  Tracey’s spaghetti was better than any I’d had in a restaurant.

We talked a little after dinner, but Tracey said she wanted to get an early start the next morning, so we turned in about nine.  Well, Tracey turned in.  I spent the time trying to first read a book and then trying to watch a movie.  I wasn’t successful at either because I kept thinking about how nice it was having Tracey there and how that would change when she left.

I thought about asking her where she was going next, and then decided she’d just think I was trying to follow her to convince her to do something she didn’t want to do.  Truth be told, I would have been following her, though just for the company and not anything else.  That’s what I told my self, but I knew she’d never believe me.  I was still thinking about some way to end up camped in the same campground the next night when I finally fell asleep.

I woke up the next morning to the smell of bacon frying and hot coffee.  Tracey smiled with I walked out of my bedroom.

“Just thought I’d send you off with a good breakfast again.  You really should eat better breakfasts so you’ll have energy until lunch.”

While we ate, I wanted so bad to ask where she was headed, but I didn’t.  After we ate, Tracey washed everything and then took her skillet and what was left of her bacon and eggs and bread to her Jeep.  I helped her take down her tent, roll it up, and stick it in the back of the Jeep.  When we were done, Tracey smiled.

“This has been a change for me.  Maybe we’ll meet up again some time.  Where are you headed next?”

What I’d planned was to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora.  When I told Tracey that, she shook her head.

“I’m going there too, but first I’m going to The Knife River Indian Village.  They have a collection of Hidatsu and Mandan Indian relics that Joe wanted to see and it sounds interesting.  You ought to go there too.  It’s not quite as far from here as Medora, and there’s a campground for RV’s and tent campers in Stanton, and you can walk from the campground to the village.”

It was a surprise that Tracey asked me the same question I’d debated with myself about asking her.  As a result, it took me a while to answer, and Tracey grinned.

“You’re not saying if you will or won’t.  Does that mean you don’t like my company?”

I shook my head.

“No, I like your company.  I just didn’t figure you’d want me going where you went.  It does sound interesting though, so I’ll detour to Stanton and stop there too.  I’m in no hurry to get to Medora.  What’s the name of the campground?”

Tracey said she was going to the Downstream Campground in Hazen instead of the one in Stanton.

“It’s a Corps of Engineers campground, so it’s a little better than the one in Stanton and there are some other things to see there too.  You should probably make a reservation though.  This time of year, it might fill up pretty fast.”

Tracey drove off while I made a reservation with my cell phone  Having her there for two days had used up a lot of my fresh water, so I stopped by the dump station, emptied my black water tanks, and then filled the fresh water tank.  That done, I programmed the campground address into my GPS and started driving.

I stopped to fill up at about lunch time, and while I was eating the fast food burger, I realized how much better Tracey’s chicken salad had tasted.  I also missed her sitting there and talking while we ate.  It was strange in a way.  For so many years I’d live by myself and didn’t think I really missed not having people around.  Now, I did, or at least I missed having Tracey around.

When I got to the campground I stopped at the office, paid my site fee, and got a map to my campsite.  All the sites were back-in sites, but with the rear facing cam on the Thor, that wasn’t a problem.  Within fifteen minutes of shutting off the engine, I had the Thor leveled, the extensions out, and the electricity plugged in.  My plan was to find out where Tracey was camped and ask her if she’d like to go into town for dinner.

I’d just locked up the Thor when Tracey came walking across the road.

“I see you found the campground.”

“Yes, but how did you find me so fast?  I just got here.”

Tracy grinned.

“I cheated.  I made my reservation after you did and I told them we were traveling together and asked for a space close to you. I guess I drive faster than you do because I stopped at a grocery store on the way and I’ve had my tent set up and have been watching for you for half an hour.”

I chuckled.

“I can drive as fast as you drive, but it takes me a while to get up to speed.  Why did you ask for a spot close to me?”

Tracey looked at the ground.

“Well, I kinda liked when we took that walk and I thought maybe you’d want to take another one after dinner.  I got the stuff for dinner when I stopped at the grocery store, that is, if you’ll let me cook for you again.”

There was no way I could refuse her, nor did I want to.  It was, I hoped, an indication that Tracey liked me.  I wouldn’t let myself think any further than that though.  I couldn’t.  Thinking there might be more and then finding out there wasn’t would have crushed me.

Dinner was pork chops, broccoli, and a pasta salad with a chocolate cake for desert.  Tracey hummed to herself the whole time she was cooking.  I sat on the couch and watched her.

She seemed to be having the time of her life.  I know I was.  She looked like she belonged in my tiny little kitchen in her shorts, tank top, and running shoes.  That was a feeling I’d never had about a woman before.  Oh, I’d had the same fantasties most men have about this woman and how she’d be in bed or that one and how I wished I could see her naked, but not once before Tracey did I ever imagine how any woman would look in my kitchen.

Dinner was great.  Eating with Tracey was even better.  She seemed to be really happy and that made me happy too.  After dinner we walked along the shore of the lake and talked until the mosquitoes came out in force.  Then, we went back to my RV for a movie on Netflix.  That seemed really natural too, both of us sitting there on the couch and watching a movie together.

After the movie ended, Tracey yawned.

“I think it’s time I go tuck myself into bed in my tent.  Are you coming with me to see the ”Knife River Indian Village” tomorrow?”  If you are, I’ll come over tomorrow morning and fix breakfast.”

I couldn’t bring myself to say what I wanted to say – that she was welcome to spend the night again.  She’d have thought I was asking something I wasn’t asking, and I didn’t want to risk losing her as a friend.

“Sure.  I’ll be up and have the door unlocked at about seven if that’s not too early.  I’ll have the coffee made too.”

As I fell asleep that night, I was wondering if there could be more with Tracey.  She seemed to like me.  I knew I liked her.  She was just plain fun to be with, but I thought maybe she more than liked me.  I hadn’t been around a woman socially in so long it was hard to tell, but she seemed to walk closer to me than on our first walk, and when she talked, she kept touching me on the arm.

Breakfast was sausage patties and pancakes, and they were great.  So was sitting there and eating with Tracey.  I’d thought we’d just go to the Indian Village and then pack up and go our separate ways, but Tracey was full of things we could do.  After she rattled off her list, I figured it was going to take us a couple of days.

Tracey wanted to see Fort Mandan, the site where the Lewis and Clark Expedition spent a winter.  She said there was a replica of the orginal fort there.  She also wanted to see the McLean County Museum, the Sioux Ferry, and the Garisson Dam Fish Hatchery.  When I said she was cramming a lot into one day, Tracey frowned.

“It sounds like you want to be rid of me.”

I shook my head.

“No, I don’t want that at all.  I like seeing things with you.  I just didn’t think you wanted to stay more than a day.”

Tracey smiled then.

“I made my reservation for three nights.  Maybe you should do the same or you might end up sharing my tent with me.”

On our way out of the campsite in Tracey’s Jeep, I did just that.  When I came out of the office, Tracey grinned.

“Did you get the same spot?”

“Yes I did.  I reserved three more nights, just in case.”

“Just in case of what?”

“I don’t know.  Just in case it takes us longer to see everything than two more days I guess.”

Tracey put the Jeep in drive and grinned.

“So maybe you do like me a little.”

The indian village was interesting and so was Fort Mandan, though I thought there was more to see at Fort Mandan.  As we toured the different buildings, Tracey kept pointing out things to me.  Sometimes, she didn’t know what those things were and asked me if I did.  It was that way at the carpenter’s shop and at the blacksmith’s shop.  It was fun telling her what this tool was used for or how the carpenter or blacksmith would have used them.  She was surprised that all the logs were vertical instead of horizontal and asked me why.  I didn’t know, but one of the rangers explained it to us both.  It was because they could build long walls that way without having really long logs and the fort needed to be pretty big to hold all the men in the expedition.

While we were close, we also went to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive center.  That was interesting too.  It was almost one by the time we got through all of that, so we drove back to the campground.

Tracey fixed lunch for us both in my RV and then suggested we take another walk.  We were down on the river bank when Tracey looked out over the water and then sighed.

“You know, I had a lot of reservations about camping when Joe said he wanted to start.  I mean, I’d be giving up everything I’d lived with for all those years and starting out living in a way I didn’t know anything about.  

“Now, when I come to a place like this and just watch the river go by or see the birds singing in the trees, I don’t know if I could ever go back to that old life again.  I see something different every day and I keep learning about things I never knew before.  It gets lonely sometimes, but it’s still worth it.”

I said I didn’t think she could possibly be lonely, and Tracey frowned.

“Why would you say that?  Aren’t you lonely sometimes too?”

“Well, yes, but that’s different.  You had your husband before while I haven’t lived with anybody in years.  Besides, I would think you have a lot of men trying to meet you.”

Tracey grinned.

“You think men are just dying to make it with a woman as old as I am?  Let me let you in on a little secret.  If a woman hasn’t found a man by the time she turns forty, she’s probably not going to, at least not a man worth having around.  Most of those are already married, and a few of the ones who aren’t usually aren’t all that interested in women, if you know what I mean.  The rest are going through their mid-life crisis – I call it the ‘I’m still the man I was at twenty thing’ – and are looking for girls, not women.  They may talk to women as old as I am, but the first blonde with little boobs and a tight little butt who walks by…well, you can see them looking for a way to end the conversation.”

I didn’t think like that, and that’s what I told Tracey.  She just laughed.

“You mean to tell me that those young girls we saw today didn’t do anything for you?  I saw you looking at them.”

“Well, yes, I looked, but no, I didn’t want any of them.  They were pretty, but they weren’t women, not yet.”

Tracey frowned.

“You mean you’d only want an older women…a woman like me.”

I nodded.

“Well, yes.”

Tracey grinned then.

“I’ve heard this line before.  What you’re really saying is you’d like to spend a night with me and then you’d be gone.”

That upset me.

“No, that’s not what I’m saying.  You’re putting words in my mouth, and it makes me a little mad that you think that.  All I’m saying is you’re a nice looking woman and I thought men would want to meet you.  I guess you don’t.  I think we need to go back to the campground now.”

Tracey didn’t say anything on the way back and I didn’t either because I felt bad about what I’d said to Tracey.  She probably did have men telling her that.  I’d jumped to conclusions and accused her of thinking that about me when I didn’t really have any reason to.  What I should have done was left out the part about her putting words in my mouth, because she really wasn’t.  I was acting pretty immature and I was mad at myself for being that way.  I liked Tracey and didn’t want to lose her as a friend.

It wasn’t until we got to my RV that Tracey finally said something.

“Pete, I’d planned on making dinner for us.  Are you mad enough that I should just go back to my tent or could you stand having me around long enough to cook some burgers?  I got some potato salad and other stuff to go with the burgers and I’ll never eat it all myself.”

The look on her face told me she really wanted to do this, so there was no way I could say no.

“Tracey, I need to apologize for what I said back there.  What you said just struck me wrong and I overreacted.  I’d like it if you cooked for us again.”

I thought Tracey would probably cook our hamburgers on my stove, but when I helped her bring everything from her Jeep to my RV, she handed me a small, portable propane grill.

“Joe never liked burgers fixed on a stove, so we bought this little grill to take with us.  I’ll set it up on the picnic table beside your RV and we’ll have real, grilled burgers.”

The hamburgers were great and so was everything else, but I think that was mostly because Tracey was sitting there at the picnic table across from me.  It just seemed right, you know?  I mean, not since I was first married had I sat across the table from a woman, but it felt like it did back then.  

When we finished eating, Tracey and I took all her stuff back to her Jeep.  She was putting the potato salad and other things that needed to be kept cold in her little cooler, but when she opened it, she said, “Oh darn it.  I forgot to get ice.  I’ll have to go up to the office and get some.”

I knew that wasn’t going to work because when I’d checked both times I’d payed for my space.

“Tracey, they don’t have ice up there.  I checked.”

Tracey sighed.

“Well, I’ll have to drive somewhere and get some unless…you don’t have much in your refrigerator.  Could I put my stuff in there until morning?”

I put the portable grill in her Jeep and then carried her cooler back to the Thor.  Tracey put all her stuff in my refrigerator and then smiled.

“Now it looks like a refrigerator should look – milk, eggs, bacon, lettuce, meat, and leftovers.  It’s what my refrigerator always looked like at home.  You should keep it that way.  You’d be healthier.”

“Well, I probably would if I wasn’t traveling by myself.”

Tracey grinned.

“What you need is a woman to go with you.  She’d take care of the cooking so you wouldn’t have to.”

I sort of laughed.

“At my age and the way I’m living, there’s not much chance of that happening.  There aren’t many women who’d like roaming around the country in an RV.”

Tracey smiled then, but it was a different smile than I’d seen before.

“Maybe you aren’t looking where you should be looking.  If you did, you might be surprised at what you find.”

Well, that confused the hell out of me.  Was Tracey saying I should look at her?  It seemed that way, but we hadn’t known each other very long and I didn’t think women were quite that straight-forward.  If she wasn’t talking about herself, what did she mean?  She still had that odd smile when I answered.

“I’m not sure what you mean by that.  Are you saying I’d find you…that you’d like to go with me?”

The smile changed to a grin.

“I don’t know.  You haven’t asked me if I would.”

I shook my head.

“I never really thought…I mean, I think we’re friends now, but…well, that would be a big step for you to take, wouldn’t it?”

Tracey touched my arm and sent a tingle up my spine.

“Pete, what happened to Joe changed the way I think about things.  You never know what’s going to happen to you, so putting off things you want is not something I want to ever do again.”

“Is that something you’d want…to travel with me, I mean?”

Tracey moved her hand from my arm to my chest and sent another tingle up my spine.

“If you’d like that I would.”

I didn’t have a chance to reply because Tracey put her arms around my neck and pulled herself close enough I felt her breasts pressing into my chest a little.  She smiled.

“I can do other things besides just cook.  Women need things just like men do, you know.  We just aren’t quite as forward about it as men.”

It felt odd to put my arms around Tracey’s waist.  I hadn’t done that in years, but it just seemed to be the natural thing to do so I did it.

“You’re being pretty forward right now, Tracey.”

Her eyes sort of flashed when she smiled.

“I know I am, but you weren’t doing anything except being nice to me.  Sometimes, a woman has to take the lead.”

“So, where are you going to lead me?”

Tracey didn’t answer me at first.  What she did was kiss me softly on the lips for a couple of seconds and then pull gently away and smile.

“That depends upon you, Pete.  Do you feel like I feel?”

I felt like a guy before that first time when I walked Tracey back to my bedroom.  It was that feeling of excitement knowing what was going to happen but not quite believing what was happening was real.  It got real as soon as I closed the door behind us though.  Tracey pulled her tank top over her head and then grinned.

“You do the rest.  I like it when a man undresses me.”

My hands were shaking a little when I unhooked Tracey’s bra and she chuckled.

“I think you’re afraid of me.”

I shook my head as the last hook slipped out of the eye.

“No, I’m not afraid of you.  It’s just been a very long time.”

Tracey shrugged her shoulders and her bra straps slipped down her arms.  

“I’m sure you haven’t forgotten how, but if you have, I’ll help you remember.”

I hadn’t forgotten how.  I was just still amazed that this was happening to me.  That turned into a need for Tracey when I unbuttoned and unzipped her shorts.  When they fell to the floor, I was looking at black mesh panties that did nothing to hide the patch of hair on her mound.  A couple of seconds later, those panties were lying on top of her shorts, and Tracey was unbuttoning my shirt.  When she pulled it back over my shoulders, she pressed her bare breasts into my chest and sighed.

“I’ve waited so long to feel this again.”

She kissed me again then, and this time, it wasn’t like before.  This time, the kiss was a deep, open-mouthed kiss that made me catch my breath.  When her tongue slipped between my lips, I forgot all about being worried that she was some sort of dream I was having.  When she backed away and started undoing my belt buckle, I forgot all about everything except the sensuous woman in front of me.

It had never been with my wife like it was with Tracey.  My wife had been agreeable to sex, at first, but never really participated much.  She’d just lay there while I aroused her, and when she was ready, she’d tell me.  

Tracey didn’t just lay there on my bed beside me.  Her lips sought mine and took away my breath again while her hands stroked my chest, my back and my hips and she pushed her mound into my stiff cock.  It really was a first time for me, the first time I made love with a woman instead of to a woman.

When I cupped her left breast and stroked her nipple, Tracey shuddered and then gently pushed my head down to that breast.  When I kissed her nipple, Tracey moaned and felt down my belly until she found my cock.  Her soft fingers gently stroked my length, then circled the head.  

I don’t remember much else about the foreplay that night.  It was still a little like a dream, except there was no doubt in my mind that Tracey was no dream.  When I slipped a fingertip between the soft, hair-fringed lips between her thighs, Tracey moaned and rocked her body into my finger.  She was already a little slippery, and just a few strokes of that finger inside her told me she was ready.  Tracey told me that with a whisper too.

“Pete, I want you.  Just start easy.  It’s been a while for me too.”

I did start as easily as I could.  It took several short strokes before our bellies met, short strokes that were the most incredible feeling I’d ever felt.  Even more incredible was the way Tracey rocked her hips up to help me.  I knew then that she wanted this as much as I did.

Our lovemaking was slow at first and involved a lot of kissing and Tracey stroking my back.  As she became more and more aroused, she sped up the rocking of her hips and I followed her lead.  When she dug her nails in to my ass, lifted herself up to my stroke and held her breath, it was hard not to just lose it and let go, but I fought the feeling.  

A couple of minutes later, Tracey gasped and rocked her hips up even higher and drove my cock a little deeper inside her, deep enough my cock head slipped into something very wet and slippery that seemed to suck at it when I slowly withdrew.  I'd no sooner pulled almost all the way out than Tracey moaned, “Oh God, Pete.  I’m there.  Don’t stop.”

My next stroke caused her to gasp, raise up into that stroke, and then hold her breath again.  She stayed up for a couple of seconds, then gasped and her thighs started to shake.  I felt her nails in my ass cheeks again and then her little cry as her hips started to rock up and down.  I couldn’t hold out any longer and pumped into Tracey three times while her contracting passage milked at my cock.

When she stopped shaking and rocking her hips, Tracey eased back down on the mattress and pulled me down until my chest flattened her breasts.  She kissed me until I had to stop so I could breathe and then whispered, “I don’t think I’m going to sleep in my tent tonight.”

Well, I could tell you about the next morning, but it would just be a repeat of that night.  Let’s just say Tracey and I found something that night and the next morning both of us had been looking for.  I didn’t realize it before because I wouldn’t let myself hope for something that probably would never be, but afterwards, Tracey was something I didn’t think I could give up.

I told her that when we had breakfast the next morning.  Tracey grinned.

“I was hoping you felt that way.  I don’t want to give you up either.  So what do we do now?”

What we did was get a hitch so I could pull Tracey’s Jeep behind the Thor.  It’s worked out better than I thought.  It’s a lot easier getting groceries and supplies in her Jeep, and a lot nicer having her in my shotgun seat while we’re driving between places we want to see.

She’s there right now with her map, watching for the sign that will take us off I-5 to Fort Vancouver.  The GPS would tell me that, but Tracey likes giving me the directions.  Once we get to our campground, we’ll set up, have lunch, and then tour the fort.  She’s going to grill some steaks for dinner and then we’ll probably watch a movie.  After that…well, this morning, Tracey said said she needed to relax tonight.  Relax is the word she uses when she means make love.  She seems to need to relax about every other night, and I’m not complaining.

Our plan is to make our way back to Milwaukee in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then go south for the winter.  Tracey has told her daughter and son we’re coming and they’re planning on big holiday dinners for both.  She also told them she won’t be alone.  When I asked her what they thought about that, Tracey just smiled.

“I think my daughter understands.  She said she hoped we’d get married, but she didn’t seem to be insisting we do before we get there.  My son…well, he and Joe were pretty close so Jimmy said he’d have to meet you to see if you were OK before he decided.  Don’t worry, Pete.  Jimmy’s an engineer too.  You two will get along fine.”

I guess we’ll see what happens.  Tracey and I have talked a little about marriage, but she’s happy like we are and so am I.  I guess we’ll see about that later.

Well, Tracey just told me the exit is coming up in a mile, so I have to change lanes.  Seeing the country turned out to be everything I’d hoped for.  With Tracey sitting there beside me, it’s more like seeing life as it was meant to be instead of what I thought life was.  Retirement turned out to be pretty great after all.