Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The First 5 Days (Golden, CO)

Wow, I think we're really doing this!!

We have officially been full-timers for 5 days! And what a stressful time it has been. I thought we were through the hard part before the house sold, but that roller coaster of emotions is still going strong.

We'll start with day 1. We picked up the rig on Friday and it never really dawned on us that Fridays would be their busy day. We could have easily postponed until Monday if we had known. But anyway, it took us about 5 hours from start to finish to get out of the dealer, with probably half that time waiting in the customer lounge. The closer we got to completion, the more anxious we were getting. I "let" Tracy have the inaugural drive and she handled it like a pro. We made it the 2 miles to the campground with ease. Our reserved spot required parellel parking. We knew this when we made the reservation and expressed concern, making it very clear that we are newbies, but were assured that there would be help. So we tried it (with help), but couldn't quite get it in straight. Of course there were trailers on either side of us. So the fairgrounds staff member offered us a 50 amp site that was a back in. We jumped on it. We got hooked up just before the snow started falling.

The weekend was pretty busy with getting moved in. I really thought we had done a good job purging, but as we started bringing boxes and bins in, it quickly became apparent that not everything was going to fit. Here we go again. What can we live without? It is quite disheartening that we worked so hard to get rid of so much already and then realize that we have to do it again. So the weekend was primarily spent back and forth to storage, exchanging stuff. And for every box we opened, there was at least one or two things that didn't have a place (yet) and ended up in the middle of the floor in the way. I hate living in a disarray and that's what the last several days have been.

Monday afternoon rolls around and we are informed that we have to move back to our original spot. There's a high school rodeo coming in over the weekend and all the spots are resevered. What?? Why did they offer to move us in the first place? If we'd known we were going to have to move, we would have tried harder in the first place. There's no way that we're prepared to move this rig anywhere. With stuff spread everywhere, the slides can't be pulled in. We were just a bit irritated, to say the least. But ultimately, there's nothing we could do about it so we arranged for the fairgrounds staff to help us move it on Tuesday afternoon. In the meantime, we worked tirelessly getting everything into a place, a lot of which was on top of furniture or back in the truck.

So that brings us to today, Tuesday, day #5. I got up early and did some more prepping and then had some appointments to attend. When I returned in early afternoon, I noticed the power was not working in the coach. Hmmm, I know it was working when I left. So we tried some basic stuff, no luck. So we checked to see if the other RVs had power. Yep, no problems there. So I called the dealer and worked with the tech over the phone for probably an hour and a half. Still no luck, so he finally dispatched a tech to come out since we're just down the road. I was very happy about that because they typically don't make house calls and I was afraid they were going to tell us that we needed to bring it in. So the tech finally showed up and quickly determined that the coverter was burned out. He has no idea why it happened but he's certain that a new converter will do the trick. The only problem is that they didn't have one in stock. Figures. The parts guy will hopefully be delivering one in the morning. It's still unclear whether they will make a 2nd house call to install it. The tech said it would be up to the service manager to make that decision. I sure hope so, but I guess ultimately it won't make too much of a difference because we have to move tomorrow anyway. Due to our technical difficulties, we got a reprieve today, but we absolutely have to be out tomorrow.

I know these types of problems happen and this is the exact reason that we chose to stay close by, but I swear someone is testing us. This entire transition has been far more stressful that I even imagined. Selling a house is stressful enough. But it's not just a typical move. And then you add the financial stress. It's not like we didn't know we would be ending our income stream, but when it actually happens, it's a bit of a slap in the face. And then add the anxiety of towing something that you're not quite comfortable with yet. And if that wasn't enough, we've also been dealing with family health issues. I have no doubt that at some point we'll look back on this and say it was all worth it, but right now there are moments when I wonder why we've made the choice to put ourselves through so much. When does it get easier? Please tell me it does...

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Little R & R

As I discussed in previous posts, the last few weeks have been crazy busy. It's funny that no matter how much advance notice we have of things, I think it must be human nature to procrastinate. Although there was a lot we couldn't do until other things happened, there sure could have been a lot more packing done before the last week! Oh well. We got it done.

We closed on our house last Tuesday, March 16 but didn't officially have to give possession until Friday. We were almost completely moved out by Tuesday evening. We returned on Wednesday to do the final cleaning and the moving of the last few items. We had some pretty long, tiring days but it was worth it. We were able to fit almost everything into a storage unit. The closer we got to the closing date and the more tired we got, we started schlepping some stuff up to my mom's house, with whom we're staying until we get our new home. We didn't want to take too much up there, partially because we didn't want stuff spread around but also because we didn't want to have to move it the 30 or so miles back down to the rig when we get it. Between clothes and boxes, I think we ended up with about 1 full truckload of stuff so it shouldn't be too bad.

On Thursday I left town for a visit to my dad in Florida. Tracy stayed behind to spend some time with her mom who has been dealing with some serious health issues. I was hoping we'd both have a chance for some relaxation before moving on with the next phase of our transition, but I think I'm finding more rest than she is. I feel a bit guilty sitting in the Florida sun (although it hasn't been all that warm) while she is back in Colorado shoveling more than a foot of snow and dealing with family dramas. But I am there in spirit...really!

We will be picking up our rig on Friday, a couple of days after I get back into town. I am excited and nervous. I still have a lot of anxiety about towing something so large, but I know that comes mainly from never having done it before and once I do it a few times, I should be ok. I don't think it will be so bad driving, but I don't look forward to parking and backing in. But I keep telling myself if all of these many thousands of folks can do it, then there's no reason I can't!

I'm excited to start furnishing our new home though. I'm looking forward to organizing and unpacking all of our belongings, but I fear that we'll have way more stuff than will fit and we'll have to do yet another round of purging. This certainly has been an experience unlike no other.

One thing that I find interesting is that our venture always seems to be at the center of discussion, no matter where we are. While we were sitting at the closing table, where the conversation should have been about the new buyers and their excitement, it was all about us and what our plans were. And even here in Florida, each social gathering seems to turn toward our plans. The reactions are mostly positive, at least to my face, although I get the sense that some don't truly understand. And I guess I should expect that since they're not in my shoes. We all come from different backgrounds, have different drives, and find value in different things. It has been said many times that this lifestyle is not for everyone. I think there are a lot of people who couldn't even make it through the transition period. It's been a lot of work, but I know it is all worth it. I'm looking forward to the simple life, because it sure isn't simple getting there!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Where Will We Go First?

As we approach our D-Day, that is the question we are most often hearing.

This past Thursday, March 11, Tracy and I both completed our final day of 9-5ers! During our farewells, we were frequently asked about our future plans. One of the allures of this lifestyle is to not have too many set plans. This is a bit hard for me as a consummate planner. While I don't generally book every minute of the day, I do like to have a general idea figured out. But the older I get, the less I try to plan. I've often thought a fun road trip would be to hop in the car and choose a direction to head for awhile and then change directions and go that way for awhile and so on until you get tired of driving, ending up wherever you find yourself. No destination in mind, no plans, no schedule. Well, I've never done that...yet!

So it won't come as any surprise to hear that yes, we do have a plan. We pick up our new home on March 26 and will spend a couple of weeks here in Colorado settling in and addressing any issues which may surface. We will be staying about a mile down the road from the dealer and also about a mile from where we currently live, so our first road trip will be very short over well known roads. How's that for hitting the open road??

In early April, we will head to Texas to establish our domicile. We've had many questions about why we are doing this. The short answer is it's cheaper than Colorado. Texas has no state income tax, their vehicle registration fees are signifcantly cheaper than Colorado, and their insurance rates (for both vehicle and health) are cheaper than Colorado. But money is not the only reason. Texas does not require you to own property or spend any specific amount of time in the state to establish residency. As long as you have an address and register your vehicles, you can claim to be a Texan! OK, as a long-time Coloradoan and a Democrat, I'm not exactly proud to be a Texan, but that's just one of the many trade-offs we've had to make. So our first official road trip will be to Texas to do the necessary paperwork. There is still some drudgery and hassle with this lifestyle too!

Once we get that all squared away, we will head to Northern California. We have accepted a position at North Shore Campground for the summer. For those RV-Dreamers out there, this may ring a bell. It is where Howard and Linda worked last summer. Many people are surprised that we are starting out immediately working. Why not take some time to travel? Well, our initial intent was to do that. Since we didn't know how long it would take to sell the house and get the RV, we didn't figure we could commit to anything for the summer, so we were just going to roam. But then this opportunity just kind of fell in our lap. And it was certainly appealing. Although it is a full-time position, we get paid for all hours worked plus our campsite, including electric and water, is provided. We anticipate that we will encounter some unexpected expenses the first few months and having an income stream right off the bat will certainly provide some comfort as we figure things out.

But really, we always planned to "work" anyway. It will just be drastically different than what we've been doing for the past 25 years. The main difference is that these "jobs" will be temporary. We anticipate them lasting anywhere from 1 to 6 months. Some of them will be for pay; others may simply be in exchange for a site. We plan to take time off between commitments to "play". But we really hope that there will be a lot of play within the positions as well. We will be selective about which positions we accept, based largely on location and experiences they provide. So here's a sneak peak of our summer location. We will be living on a large lake (Lake Almanor) in the mountains (where the Sierras meet the Cascades). There are numerous hiking, fishing and boating opportunities. I anticipate it to be very similar to the Colorado mountains. For someone who has been itching to get out of the city for years, what's not to like?

Where will we go after the summer? We have no idea! We will probably start looking for a winter opportunity in early summer and will most likely remain in the western states. Next summer we are planning to go to Alaska! We briefly thought about making that our first destination this summer but were a little concerned that it might be too big of a trip for our first outing. So we'll get ourselves settled, build up our confidence a bit, and then tackle the Alaska wilds next year. It's a dream destination for both of us.

So while we have some short and long term plans, there will still be a lot of room for spontaneity and I'm sure they will change often. There is so much we want to do and see, it's hard to prioritize. We just have to remind ourselves that we have the rest of our lives!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Crunch Time!

Exactly one week from today we will be signing over our house to it's new owners. Life has been hectic, to say the least. We've been purging, packing and organizing like crazy. Even though we are making good progress, with each week that passes, the pressure increases. Yikes, we only have one more week! I haven't even had enough time to catch up on the blogs that I follow, much less write one! But I'm taking time out today to share our progress.

The house is getting bare and our living conditions are quite humorous. Almost all of our furniture is gone. We now have one chair and one lamp in the living room. They have been sold to a friend of ours but he graciously agreed to let us keep them until we move out. Tracy and I are forced to fight over the chair, because the other option is the dog bed! We bought Hunter a new bed, but will not let him have it yet. We thought we were saving it for the new house, but now it appears that we were really saving it for us. I have used it several times! Are we cruel parents?!

Our bedroom is not much better. We sold the bedroom set but kept the mattress and box springs. That is the only "furniture" left in that room, with clothes piled where the dressers used to be. We have brought the other lamp from the living room (sold to the same friend) upstairs and placed it on a milk crate, which serves as our nightstand. It's very dorm room chic!

All of the area rugs have been sold, so the house really echoes with the bare hardwood floors. The pictures and accessories have been removed from the walls. Oddly enough, we still have both TVs. We thought they would sell this weekend, but they did not, so at least we have entertainment...not that we have time to sit and watch!

We had our final garage sale this past weekend, which proved successful. Garage sale buyers are an interesting bunch. First is their eagerness. We had put a sign out in front of the house on Friday advertising the sale on Saturday. Several people rang the doorbell and asked if they could look early. We told them they would have to wait until Saturday. We also advertised on Craigslist. We had one lady ring the doorbell before 8am on Saturday asking when the sale would begin. The ad clearly stated 9am. So she just waited outside until the doors opened. There were a few others wandering around so we finally opened the doors at 8:30 and the mad rush started. It didn't calm down until about 10:30 and probably 75% of the stuff was gone. Wow! We had a few stragglers throughout the day and finally closed the doors at 2:00, an hour earlier than we had planned. We were exhausted!

It always amazes what people buy. We had a box of free stuff - old paint, fertilizers and stuff we just couldn't figure out how to price. That went quickly. There was also stuff that really wasn't worth anything, some of which we got free, but we put price tags on them and they went! Then there were the things that we didn't even include in the sale. We had a lot of outdoor pots in the backyard. They were pretty weathered and full of dirt so we didn't want to bother hauling them around. We were just going to leave them with the house. One person inquired whether we had any, so Tracy escorted them around to the back yard. As they were walking out with an armful, another lady asked if we had any more. She bought the rest of the pots and was enamored by a rock. Yes, a rock! We have several rocks as part of our landscaping and officially they should stay with the house. But she was adamant about buying this rock. She offered us $10 and made her ex-husband haul it out for her. Well, alright then! What's even funnier is that we had a $20 mirror for sale that she would only pay $15 for. We finally accepted the lower price and then she turns around and pays us more than that $5 difference for a rock that we would have probably given for free!

This weekend we also sold our 2nd car. We thought about keeping it as there are many advantages to having a smaller, more fuel efficient car for day trips. But we didn't really like the idea of having to drive separately and our car was not very practical for Hunter, so we'd probably end up driving the truck most often anyway. We ended up getting a decent price for it. Like everything else, it was a little less than what we would have liked, but we would have easily paid more than the difference in insurance and registration in the first year.

So things have really come together and now we just have to hunker down and figure out what to do with all of the remaining STUFF. Our RV pile continues to grow and I often wonder if it will all fit. I suspect we may be forced to do another round of purging once we realize there isn't enough room for it all. It sure would be easier if we we had the RV now to move items in. Unfortunately, we will not be getting that until later this month, which means that we'll have to move it all to storage temporarily. It's a bit of a hassle to have to do a double move, but that's the way it goes. I guess we can't expect everything to work out perfectly! I best finish this up and get back to working. These things aren't going to pack themselves!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Life's Lessons

My last post elicited a lot of comments so I feel like I need to post a follow up.

I believe that every experience in life offers the opportunity to learn and to grow. This experience is no different. A day or two after I posted my rant, I decided to contact the blogger directly. I wasn't sure what kind of response I would get, nor did I know if it would make me feel any better, but I figure I had to try. Although I had hoped simply ranting would allow me to move past it, I just couldn't seem to let it go. Maybe because I was receiving so many comments. :)

In my gut, I believed that the offending blogger didn't intend harm. And I didn't want to continue holding ill feelings toward this person. This community is pretty small and if we were ever to cross paths, I didn't want this standing between us. So I gathered up my courage and pressed the Send button.

I received a response fairly quickly, which was full of apology and explanation. While the explanation is not important, I will let you know that it was unintentional. We shared a couple of correspondences back and forth and have put this issue behind us. In addition, the blogger immediately edited their blog.

So what did I learn from this? As part of our transformation full-timing, I am also trying to change my life in many other ways. I am working on being more open minded and less judgmental. I hope to be quicker to give the benefit of the doubt and not take things so personally. I continue to try and focus on the positives and allow the negatives to move on past. I try to spend my energy on those things that I can control and don't get hung up on those that I can't. But this is all a work in progress. In hindsight, I wish that I hadn't let this get to me as much as it had. And maybe next time I'm faced with a similar situation, it won't.

So for all of you that took the time to leave comments, I thank you. I'm sure this type of thing happens more often than we're aware. I just happened to encounter it. Blogging, both writing and reading, is still a very positive experience for me and I won't stop anytime soon! And I wanted all of you to know that there is a happy ending to this story.