Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 In Review

Current Location: Fife, WA in an extended stay hotel

It's hard to believe that there are only a couple of hours left in 2010. Over the last few days, I've been trying to find one word that would sum up the year, but I can't seem to find just one. So much happened this year that it almost blows my mind.

2010 started off with us putting our stix n brix on the market. We had high hopes, but realistic expectations. We were wishing for an offer by March, but knew that we may not see an acceptable one until summer.

Before January ended, we also found our dream home on wheels. We hadn't planned on buying anything so soon, but we were offered a deal we couldn't refuse.

If the first 30 days were any indication, we were in for quite a ride in 2010.

The pace picked up ten-fold in February when we accepted an offer on our house. We had 30 days to get really serious about downsizing and packing up our few remaining belongings. The excitement and anticipation kept our adrenaline flowing and somehow we managed to get it all done.

March arrived before we knew it and the real changes were about to begin. We both left our jobs and turned over our house to the new owners in mid-March. We were officially unemployed and homeless. There was no turning back now! We took possession of our new home the last week of March. It still amazes me that all of the pieces fell into place so perfectly.

We spent the first part of April settling into our new home. Even though we downsized a lot, we quickly found out that we still had a ways to go. At the time, it was a bit frustrating and disheartening, but I don't think we've missed one thing that we chose to leave behind. Quite the opposite actually. We continue to find things that we have yet to use and wonder if we still have too much stuff.

April included yet another milestone in this year of transitions. We changed our state of residency and became "paper" Texans. We refer to ourselves as paper Texans because after years of being Colorado residents, neither of us can quite swallow the idea of being a Texan. And since we've spent less than 2 weeks in the state, I'm not sure we really count as real Texans anyway.

From Texas, we headed to California and our first stint as workampers. Once again, our expectations were widly exceeded. We spent the summer loving living in the mountains and working at the campground. It was a nice departure from our years of sitting behind desks.

We hated to see the summer come to an end, not only because we were having so much fun but also because we were undecided about our winter plans. Although we had accepted an offer to spend the early part of the winter in Washington with Tracy's aunt and uncle, we had our concerns about adjusting to the wet climate the Northwest is known for.

The last few months of 2010 have been filled with mixed emotions. We've spent a lot of time reuniting with family and friends. We haven't hit the job hunt as hard as we probably should have, but that will come in January. And then our year ended with a bang, literally!

Wow, what a year it has been! It has been a year of huge changes and tons of personal growth. We've learned so much that that can only be gained through experiences. We've had lots of ups and a few downs, but we wouldn't change a thing. Well, almost nothing (we could have done without the tree through the roof!).

We are quietly ringing in 2011 here in our hotel room, but are really looking forward to the new year and all that is awaiting us. I have no doubt that it will be another year full of education and adventures. Hopefully most will be good, but a few low points are probably to be expected too (but that's what makes the high points so high, right?). We're ready for whatever comes our way!

We wish you all a very happy, healthy, peaceful and fun 2011!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Homeless Again

Current location: Fife, WA at an extended stay hotel

Yesterday morning, we packed up the RV and towed it into the dealer. Although we weren't looking forward to being without our home, it was kind of a relief to drop it off. At least we don't have to worry about any more tree limbs falling! Over the last few days, we cringed everytime there was a breeze. I guess we're a bit paranoid now.

After making all the arrangements with the dealership, we left in search of a hotel. I had scoped several online, but we wanted to check them out in person before reserving anything. We weren't looking for anything fancy, and basic is pretty much what we got. But it is clean, located in a decent part of town and convenient. It is your typical studio efficiency. It has a little kitchen with a full size refrigerator, a stove top, a toaster and a microwave. We won't be cooking any gourmet meals, but it will allow us to eat at "home". The supplies are sparse. They give you just enough for one meal - 2 plates, 2 bowls, 2 glasses, 2 sets of cutlery. I guess we'll be washing dishes a lot.

But the one thing we did comment on was how spacious it feels. It's funny how your perspective changes when you're used to living in less than 400 square feet. There is plenty of room for Hunter and his bed. We have more than enough cupboard and closet space. And there is a bathtub. You can bet we'll be taking advantage of that while we're here!

The repairs on the RV should begin today and will take about 2 weeks. That is, of course, based on the preliminary estimate. If they find structural damage once they remove the roof then our stay here will be extended, but we're crossing our fingers that it will all go as expected.

They will be fully replacing the main roof, as well as the slide roof. They offered us the option of replacing only half of the main roof, which would require a seam in the middle. This would be a cheaper and quicker alternative. They were confident that this would be just as good as replacing the full roof, but admitted that anywhere there is a seam there is always a chance for leakage. They also admitted that the "right" way to fix it would be to replace the full roof. Since the insurance company also estimated for a full roof replacement, that is what we agreed to. Now is not the time to take shortcuts, even if it would mean getting back into our home sooner.

So here we sit, homeless again. It dawned on me the other day, that in the approximately 12 weeks since we left our workamping gig, between our trip to Colorado, our trip to Alaska, and now this, we'll have lived outside our home almost as much as we have lived in it. This is definitely not what we expected when we dreamed of fulltiming. I thought the whole point of having a house on wheels was so that you can take it with you! I didn't think we'd ever have to pack a suitcase again.

But life is full of unexpected adventures and I think we've learned pretty well to just go with the flow. In many respects, the timing is as good as it could be. We don't have any firm commitments right now, so we haven't had to rearrange any plans. It's a relatively quiet time at the dealership, so they are able to get the work done quickly. And being in a hotel with unlimited heat is not so bad when the weather forecast is for freezing temperatures and snow! As I've said before, it could be so much worse.

I sure hope 2011 brings us a few less adventures, though. Or at least less of these types of adventures. The way I figure it, we're getting all this stuff out of the way during our first year of fulltiming so that we have nothing but smooth roads ahead!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all
And Happy New Year too
As we all say farewell
To this year almost through

I wish you good health
Happiness and cheer
And all the best things
In the coming new year

I wish peace for the world
And true freedom for all
For the Devil and hate
A final downfall...

I hope those filled with greed
Will find they have enough
That love and friendship
Will replace all that "stuff"

I hope the homeless and hungry
Find relief from their plight
(And we know they would
if we'd all do what's right)

I wish a life for the Children
That will be worth living
Each with loving parents
Who know the art of giving

Colorblind would be fine
And respect for our Brother
An end to those Religions
That believe there is no other

I wish Mankind united
In one common cause
To root out all evil
To make it what was

I hope all who have passed
Find peace in their New World
And that the Stars & Stripes
Will fly proudly, unfurled

I hope we'll care for our Earth
Quit polluting this place
Before it's too late
For the Human Race

So Merry Christmas to all
And to all a good night
And during this Season
Let's vow to do right.

~ Del "Abe" Jones

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Well, We Hadn't Planned On A Christmas Tree INSIDE The RV...

Current Location: Auburn, WA

...but apparently some greater power felt that we needed one!

We've been having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit. I think it's safe to say that we've never been real big on the holidays to begin with and this year, our hearts just aren't in it. But we were trying and on Friday we woke up to blue sky and bright sunshine. What is this? An early Christmas present? We spent the day exploring and elevating our moods. By the time we returned home, we were even talking about doing some decorating. Boy were we fooled. It turns out that it wasn't an early present at was simply the calm before the storm.

Friday evening the winds starting picking up and there were some significant gusts. We found out after the fact that gusts were reported as high as the mid-60's in the region. We're fairly tucked in where we are so while we could hear the wind, we weren't really feeling it. So we weren't overly concerned. I guess we should have been.

We headed to bed around 11pm and were first woken up around midnight with small pine cones pelting the roof. For all you RVers, you know how loud that can be. These are fairly small cones so we didn't think they would be damaging, but boy was it loud. We slept fitfully for the next couple of hours, until we heard a BANG. We both thought, uh oh, and sprang from the bed. Of course, it was 2 am so you couldn't see much outside. I thought that maybe a plastic vent cover or light cover might have been broken, but knew there wasn't much we could do about it in the middle of the night, so we climbed back in bed.

Neither of us really slept and about a half an hour later, we heard a much bigger BANG and we both knew that it wasn't good. Again, we jumped out of bed, while both the animals were running for safety toward the bedroom. I can't publish what came out of our mouths, but I can share a picture of what we saw:

Yep, what you're seeing is a tree branch in our living room!

There was no going back to bed this time. We threw on some clothes and went outside to find a huge tree branch leaning against the side and on top of the RV. Although we knew what we'd find, we climbed up on the roof and sure enough, one of the limbs had broken off and punctured through the roof.
The sound was so loud that it woke Tracy's aunt and uncle up. Once we saw the lights come on, we went over and shared what happened. They graciously agreed to take in two very freaked out animals until we could get a handle on the damage and figure out what we needed to do.

Thankfully, Uncle Jack had some tarps in his garage which we used to patch up the hole. It wasn't raining, but who knew how long that would last and the last thing we needed was to have water damage on top of everything else. Even more thankfully, the wind had died down some, allowing us to be up on the roof without fear for our lives.

Once we finished the patch job, we thought we would lay back down and catch a couple of more hours of sleep. Yeah, right! Not only were we unnerved, but when we entered the RV again, we noticed some additional damage on the living room slide. I guess all of our focus was on the ceiling fan and neither of us had noticed the hole in the slide.

Yep, another limb had come down on the far slide (opposite side from where the other branch fell) and punctured through the roof there. We did remove a large limb from that slide, but neither of us had noticed the hole in the roof!

More expletives. Then it was back up on the roof to survey the additional damage. Sure enough, there's a big hole in the center of the slide roof. By this time, I'm sure you can image that our moods were quite foul. Instead of trying to tarp this one, we decided just to pull in the slide for the night and would deal with it in the daylight.

I'm sure we both felt like just laying down and crying but neither of us did. After getting over the initial shock, I actually think we kept our emotions in check pretty well.

While we were laying in bed waiting for daylight to arrive, I found myself counting my blessings. What could we be thankful for after a night like this? First of all, no one got hurt. It could have been so much worse. Second, our home is still livable, at least for the short-term. We are warm and dry and all of the systems are functioning normally. Third, we have insurance. Although this is our home and one that we love, it ultimately is just a thing and it can be fixed. And lastly (but not least), if this had to happen, we couldn't have hoped for a better place. Although we questioned whether we were at fault for parking under trees and not pulling in our slides during a windstorm, we realize that this could have happened anywhere. And at least here we have a lot of help, moral support and love.

The several days that have passed have been busy with phone calls and sharing of information. So far the insurance company has been very easy to work with and very expedient. For those of you looking for an insurance agent, we used Miller Insurance and received a policy through a subsidiary of Nationwide. Although Miller isn't involved in the claim process, I would hope that they would step up to the plate if we ran into problems with the adjuster. After an initial hiccup in getting assigned to the wrong adjuster, Nationwide has been very responsive and seem to move quickly. Even though we are in the midst of the holiday season, we already have an estimate from the adjuster and an appointment on Monday with the RV dealership. It is the same dealership we used back in October to have some warranty work done, so they are familiar with the rig. They understand that we will be homeless during this time and have promised to expedite the repairs as best they can. So far, it all seems way too easy and I'm a bit leary. But I hope to be able to report back in a couple of weeks that all went smoothly.

So while this disaster did nothing to improve our Christmas spirits, we are extremely thankful for all that we have. And although we gave up on the idea of decorating, I guess we did end up with a Christmas tree in the house after all!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rain Is A Good Thing

Current Location: Auburn, WA

Or so I'm trying to tell myself!

Yep, this is winter in the Northwest. Here's a glimpse of the 5-day forecast. It's not a whole lot different than the past week and the 5 days after this look frighteningly similar.

So instead of feeling glum and frustrated, I'm trying to embrace it. I'm constantly working on being more positive (yeah, I still need a lot of practice!). So in looking at the glass half full, here are a handful of reasons why I love this weather:

1. Rain is necessary...without it there would be no life
2. You can't have a rainbow without the rain
3. Nothing smells fresher than the earth after a rainstorm
4. It provides a good excuse for an afternoon nap
5. It is forcing us to use the gym on a daily basis
6. Comfort food - what better time to enjoy comfort food than when it's cold and wet (another reason the daily gym visits are a must!)
7. It certainly makes the surroundings green and lush
8. We're saving lots of money on sunscreen!
9. I (still) love the sound of raindrops pattering on the roof of the RV
10. We have lots of time to do all of those indoor projects (now we just have to find the motivation!)
11. All of this rain will make us really appreciate the California sunshine this summer
12. If the precipitation is in the form of rain, then it means that it's above freezing.
13. Sooner or later, it has to stop!

Got others to add to the list? Pass them on!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Staying Active

Current Location: Auburn, WA

First off, a big thank you for all of the support and understanding. We are working on figuring things out and already have a couple of prospects. Your response is the main reason that I feel comfortable sharing my thoughts. It helps immensely just to write them out, but it's never easy opening up to the world. So again, thanks for the wonderful responses!

We've actually had a few reasonably nice days. Not bright sunshine, mind you, but we've seen patches of sunshine and blue sky, in between the clouds and drizzle. But hey, I'll take it. Unfortunately, the forecast for the next several days is not so promising. Oh well, gotta enjoy it while we can.

One of our priorities this winter, besides finding jobs, has been staying active. We so enjoyed our summer where we were outside and moving every day. The weather here has made that difficult. We get out for hikes whenever possible, but we know that won't be enough. Hunter still makes us get out, rain or shine, but those walks tend to be rather short. We are really adamant that we aren't going to gain back the weight that we lost this summer. Nor do we want to lose our fitness.

So we decided a gym membership would be a worthwhile investment. It's not in the budget and while we can't really afford to stray from the budget much, we both decided this was a necessity. Not only for our physical well-being, but for our mental state as well. One of the best remedies for depression is activity. And if that means that we need to cut back somewhere else, then that's what we'll do.

We decided that a national chain would be the best choice since we aren't sure where we'll ultimately end up. We really debated on whether we should wait until we get settled, but who knows when, or if, that will be. So we decided we should just bite bullet. I found that 24-hour fitness offered a free 7-day pass, so we started out with that during the week between returning from Colorado and going to Alaska. We went 6 of the 7 days. A good start. And we found that we kind of missed the routine when we were in Alaska.

So upon returning from Alaska, we took the plunge and joined. We've been pretty good about going almost every day. Right now, it's easy since we're not working. It feels really good to move about and get a good sweat rolling down your back (I know, that's not very girl-like). We're not doing any strenuous weight-lifting or body-building, mostly just cardio and some circuit training.

It's nice to have at least one purpose for getting out of bed in the morning. With not having any place to be by any certain time, it's really easy to become lazy. We're trying to force ourselves to get up and be out of the house by 9, but we've not been very successful at that yet. We'll continue to work on that one.

One added advantage to the gym - a hot shower every day that we can stand in as long as we want! Yes, we can take hot showers in our rig, but since we're not hooked up to water, have limited power, and are trying to conserve our propane, we try to be mindful of our water usage, especially hot water. And there have been some days where the promise of a hot shower is our only motivator for going to the gym. Hey whatever it takes, right?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Blogging Hiatus

Current Location: Auburn, WA

Wow! I can't believe it's been over a month since I last posted. I took a break from the blogging world, both reading and writing. I didn't really intend to, it just kind of happened. I apologize to all of those who were loyal followers and those that I follow. I can really appreciate those who find things to write on a daily basis. I don't think I'll ever be there. I don't even always boot up the computer every day! In this techno-centric world, I find it nice to be off-line occassionally.

We've been busy traveling, but not RVing. First was our extended visit to Colorado, where we spent over 3 weeks. We returned to Washington for about a week and then were off to Alaska for the Thanksgiving week. That was an unexpected trip which solidified when we were in Colorado. Both trips were joyous, but we really missed our own home and our own routine.

I've been trying to figure out why I haven't been inspired to write. In part, I'm sure, was probably because we weren't living in our RV and we weren't in our own routine. I suspect there's more, but I'm not sure what. The one thing I promised myself when I start blogging was that I wouldn't let it become a chore or an obligation. I would write when I felt like writing. That's easier said than done. I started this blog for myself as a way to capture the feelings I was struggling with. I decided to make it public so that I could share it with close friends and family. I never expected to have so many followers and I certainly never expected to find such a tight-knit blogging community. Now I find myself feeling that I owe it to all of you to keep writing. And I feel a little guilty for not following all of your adventures and tribulations over the past several weeks.

One of my other primary purposes of starting this blog was for a historical reference of our new lifestyle. I don't want to write about what we had for dinner or how much laundry we did. I prefer to write about more introspective stuff, like feelings and emotions. I also tend not to write when I'm down. And although I can't say that I've necessarily been depressed, the last couple of months have been a little unsettling. I guess I'm feeling a little lost with my life at the moment.

I think I've come to realize that planning is essential in my life. I've always been a planner. I like to-do lists. I like to have a road map and to have at least some idea of what's around the next corner. I've found that I prefer to know that we have reservations rather than just roll in someplace and wing it. I'm sure we miss out on some great adventures by not being as spontaneous as we could be, but planning provides a certain comfort for me.

So with that said, I think that's part of where my struggle is coming from. We have a very loose plan for this winter. We knew that when our gig in California ended we would head to the Northwest and spend some time at Tracy's aunt and uncle's in the Seattle-Tacoma area. We also knew that we would have to find work and figured that a large metropolitan area would increase our chances of landing something.

So what's the problem, you may be wondering? Well, I'm not exactly sure. We've been so busy with our recent travels that we haven't had a chance to start our job search. And now that it's time to hunker down and start that exercise in earnest, we're questioning whether we want to stay in the area. The Seattle-Tacoma area is definitely a metropolitan area in all senses - sprawling, tons of people and lots of traffic. Didn't we leave Denver because we wanted out of the city? What are we doing in another large city? Although we haven't done too much exploring, it just doesn't have the "it" factor. I would much prefer a smaller community.

The Northwest climate is also a huge challenge, especially for someone who is used to sun and semi-arid climates. I like to think that we're adaptable and able to handle most anything, but I'm not sure this is the place for me, especially since this is a La Nina year which means that it will be wetter and colder than usual. To make it even more difficult, we're parked in a fairly dense grove of trees so even if there is sun, we won't have any streaming in our windows. In addition, we have limited power and water resources. Our limited power means that we can't run many of our electrical appliances simultaneously without tripping the breaker, which requires us to turn off one to run another. We're adjusting, but it's a pain. We're also unable to stay hooked up to water, which I guess is not that big of a deal since we'd have to unhook when temperatures go below freezing anyway, but it's kind of a hassle to unwind and rewind the hoses every week.

Tracy's aunt and uncle have been very generous and we are extremely grateful for all they have done for us and feel fortunate to be able to spend so much time with them, but I'm just not sure this is what I envisioned when I dreamed of this life. Part of me says to suck it up and just deal with it. It's only for a few months. And without a current income stream, the smart financial decision would be to stay put. But another part of me feels like we should move on and find a better fit. After all, isn't that the beauty of having a house on wheels? We have a few potential areas we'd like to explore more and hopefully the income will follow.

There's another part of me that's struggling with the feeling that we're not taking full advantage of this lifestyle. So many of the blogs I follow talk about all of the travels so many are doing and frankly I'm jealous. It was one thing to be jealous when we were still in a stix n brix, but it's another to actually be living in an RV and still not taking advantage of it. We were stationary all summer and here we are staying put this winter and we'll be stationary again next summer. When does the traveling part come in? I know our traveling will be limited because of work, but if we're not working, why are we sitting still?

So the question is, do we hunker down and try to find jobs here and make the best of it? Or do we postpone looking for jobs until we find somewhere else to live? Or do we look for jobs elsewhere and hope to find a place to live nearby? There are still some workamper opportunities available for the winter, most just working for site. Should we take one of those and hope we can struggle through without an income?

This is what I mean by not having a good plan. Too many decisions and no clue of which way to go!

I'm sure there are some of you wondering if we are having second thoughts about this lifestyle. Wasn't life easier when we had a steady income? In some respects, yes it was, but we have no desire to go back. I believe that this is all part of the learning experience. We know now that we need to have a more difinitive plan and we definitely will in future years. And as far as this year, we'll continue to work on defining and revising our current plan.

No life is without its speed bumps and this is just one of many in ours. We continue pushing through and figure it out somehow, someway. And in the meantime, I'll work on blogging more often.