Saturday, March 29, 2014

Several friends and relatives have suggested that I begin a blog because my dear wife and I will soon be voluntarily homeless and they (the friends and relatives) want to keep track of us.

Joanie (also referenced as Dear Wife or DW) and I (Robert or Bob or "Hey You" or "just don't call me late for dinner") will soon be full time RVer's.  It is called in the RV community, "Full Timing".  It means you have no permanent fixed place that will be called "home".  We will be living "on the road".  Staying in one place for a while and then moving on to wherever we determine the Good Lord wants us.

I have been keeping a log of the transition process we have been going through and, for awhile this blog will feature that one big topic - How We Decided To Become Full Timers and How We Did It.

May 4, 2013, Saturday:

Since this is not a blog (yet), I will call it, for now, My Log. 

When my DW (Joanie) and I decided to downsize and divest ourselves of “stuff” and decided that full time RVing was the way to do that, I thought that a blog of our doings would be good and something to do.  That was about a year ago.  I set a target date for my retirement and put a small “count down” clock on my computer to remind me.

You might say I’m anxious.  But there is also a lot to do by then – a frightening lot to do.

If you calculated it, the day is January 10, 2014.  That’s the day after my 66th birthday which our ever growing government tells me I will be eligible for my maximum share of benefits.  Joanie being retired already is now drawing SS.  Based on my MS Excel calculated spreadsheet, we should have enough to do this after we sell the house and all our possessions as long as inflation remains moderate and we stay relatively healthy. 

Why divest ourselves of all our stuff?  At a certain age you reach a realization that having stuff is no longer important.  I mean, it should not have been from the beginning but our culture (and economy) is predicated on having "stuff'.  You are not successful unless you have "stuff".  "Stuff" defines you or so culture says.  But at this age you realize that God, eternity, people and love are now way more important than "stuff".  Of course the logical conclusion is that before you go over to eternity, you still need some "stuff".  So yes, we are just trading our stuff for other stuff, a smaller amount of stuff.  As we are finding, much smaller.

Why Full Time RVing?  To keep a long story short, we like to travel.  Both of us grew up traveling a lot.  RVing is a simple, inexpensive way to do this.  We like to think of it as the ultimate expression of freedom.  Something we have less and less of these days. RVing is having the biggest back yard you can look out onto, sit in a lawn chair, sip a drink, hold hands and marvel at one of God’s colorful sunsets. 

RVing will allow us to meet new people, visit with old friends, spend time with grandkids, help those less fortunate and be productive in the few years we have left in this life.  When retirement looked us in the face, we knew financially that we would have to downsize.  We concluded that we would have to move all our possessions to a central location that would be conducive to doing these things only smaller and more financially sensible but we did not want to have to move again to be near the kids if they happen to relocate.  So we discarded that idea and decided to do the opposite.  We will be totally mobile.  Totally free or at least as much as we can be under the circumstances.

It has always been in the DNA of humankind to wonder what was over the next hill and go and see it.

So now we are in the process of fixing up the house to get it ready to sell as quickly as possible.  We have, over the past few years, been adding equity and fixing it up just because that too is in our nature and culture.  We are today in the middle of taking up the old wall to wall carpet and putting down hardwood floors on the second floor.  (I had put down hardwood on the first floor about 5 years ago.)  We hope to finish this ourselves.  Just two more rooms to go. Then paint, do the bathrooms … I hope to have the house ready put up for sale by December. 

I am suffering from a bad head cold so instead of pounding nails, I have time to write this.

May 5, 2013, Sunday:
Pulled up carpet and did some fancy cuts for the flooring.  Joanie and I discussed more on how to get rid of more of our stuff.

May 8, 2013, Wednesday:
Joanie is donating our first batch of stuff we will not need to Charlotte Rescue Mission.  She has also consigned some stuff of value to a shop in Clover, SC.  Found out books don’t have much value to consignment shops.  We are probably the last generation that values physical books.  Just about all the knowledge you need today can be found on the internet, even books.  Schools give i-pads to kids instead of books.  The Kindle has done away with physical books.  Literature has been pushed to the digital world, to the ether. We don’t need book shelves anymore, we just need bigger hard drives.  Bill Gates has put wood workers out of jobs. 

Joanie thinks the library is still taking real books and will donate to them.  We are taking two empty bookshelves to our son Chris this weekend.

May 9, 2013, Thursday:

May 14, 2013, Tuesday:
I have not had time to update this log. Time is one of the most valuable things you can’t touch, can’t hold and can’t keep.  And yet we waste so much of it.  I know that I should be more productive and feel guilty for watching TV and playing computer games.  I wish I could have all that time back.  If God judges us on how we spent our time here in this life, I may be headed to hell on the express bus.  On the other hand, I can justify my lack of productivity by claiming need for “downtime”. We all need time to un-lax, de-stress and rest and perhaps I need a little more than the average guy.  That’s my story and I’m sticken’ to it (‘til a better one comes along!)

We took Freedom (the name we gave our RV) down to Wrightsville Beach last Friday to attend Chris’ graduation from UNCW.  Great weekend! And it was Mother’s Day, too.
Freedom is a 2005 21 foot Chinook Concourse RVtrecker on a Ford E350 Super Duty chassis with the Triton V-10.  Chinook made a top notch little motorhome.  Classified as an RV “trecker” because of its ground clearance, beefed up suspension and totally self-contained character, the Chinook has all the bells and whistles.  The company went out of business just a year before the Great Resession when so many other RV companies went under. 

Chinook made some risky marketing decisions at a time when they should have been paying attention to the economy.  Their price points were high because they put everything into their product.  The future is so hard to see into.  Smaller companies live closer to the edge than larger corporations.  That makes them more nimble but also more susceptible to falling over the side. 

Freedom is a great rig but for a couple of old folks like us, it is getting too small.  We are so looking forward to a big rig. 

During the weekend Freedom’s check engine light came on.  Joanie suggested I look for a cat under the hood since there are cats that patrol our storage lot (good for keeping down the rodent population).  I didn’t find any dead cats or any other critters for that matter but we were down on engine coolant which I topped off.  The check engine light stays on.  So I need to find time to take her in to the Ford dealer to run a diagnosis.  At 59,700 miles, it could be anything. [The problem was a bad fuel rail sensor; a notorious problem on the Ford V-10.-ed.]
May 18, Saturday:
This week I was researching RV financing and ran across an arcane website that noted in highlighted text that selling your house THEN purchasing an RV on a loan IS NOT A GOOD IDEA.  Lending institutions are reluctant to lend to someone who does not have a permanent residence.  A “full-timer”, while having a permanent mailing address, does not have a “permanent residence”.  It seems this is a big difference! I am reading into this that a “stick and brick” house is used as some form of collateral for the RV loan. 

I had not found anything to this effect anywhere in my extensive research so I began to look in detail at RV finance websites to find the “fine print” of which I could not find a thing in writing.  However, an internet messenger at BofA came right out and confirmed it.  Thinking a big commercial bank that does not specialize in RV financing, had this as their policy, I e-mailed several other RV lenders asking them the same thing.  I have not heard back from any of them yet – off for the weekend – but I did get a response from Tom Johnson RV Marion, NC’s sales office also confirming the fact that full-timers find it almost impossible to get financing even with great credit.  “Sell the house AFTER purchasing the RV”, he said.

Well, this is a change of plans for sure.  I will have to move my 401K into an IRA so I can use it to make the substantial down payment.  This is not a good tax move. 

July 17, 2013, Wednesday:
We have not figured out the RV loan issue. I have found ONLY TWO lending institutions that will lend to “full-timers”: Essex Credit Corp located in California and Alliant Credit Union, Chicago, Illinois. It seems that there are two things we need to do (a.) establish a permanent address (a residence) before we sell the house and (b.) become members of Alliant credit Union.  To become members you have to donate to their charity “Foster Care to Success” which provides college tuition help to kids in foster care. 
I still don’t fully understand the process of getting a loan after selling the house (especially establishing a “residence”) so I will continue to investigate.

We are finished with the hardwood floors in the house!  I have to paint the last room and then start on the guest upstairs bathroom. 

Last Friday after work I helped Joanie dig up two azaleas in the front yard that she wanted to give to our next door neighbor.  It was so hot and humid.  It was not easy and I think I over exerted myself.  I have not felt good since.  I feel a slight heaviness in my chest.  It is not debilitating at all and I am able to function but it had not gone away.  I have not told Joanie.  She saw that I had a rough time of it while digging.

Saturday we went to Mocksville, NC to Camper’s Inn, a Tiffin Dealer. We looked at an Allegro Red 34AA and a Phaeton 36GH (They did not have any other Tiffin diesel pushers).  This is the first time we had seen a Tiffin product since being in Boot’s and Joan’s Allegro Bus last year. We wanted to view the fit and finish.  What we saw was very good. We especially liked the Phaeton.  The big drawback was the damn hump in the bed room in both models.  We kept falling over it and found it difficult to maneuver around the bedroom because of it.  We remembered the Winnebago’s bedroom as being so much better designed.  This may not seem like a very big deal but if you are planning on “living” in the coach, not just “camping” a few times a year, this becomes a deal breaker.  The Tiffin’s you have to crawl into the bed.  The Winni is much more like a real bedroom.  Getting in and out of the bed and making it up is so much easier.

The salesman at Camper’s Inn was very patient and polite if not totally knowledgeable about the product.  He claimed not to know anything about Tiffin’s roof rail, wet bay floor and slide floor epidemics. Everybody in the industry knows about that.  I think he was just trying to avoid the negative discussion about his brand.  He needs to come up with a way to broach the subject when it is brought up.

So we have pretty much made up our minds that we want a Winnebago 36M.  But there are two other rigs I would like Joanie to see – the Fleetwood Discovery 36J and the Newmar Ventana 3634 (Ventana LE 3634). Neither have the gas oven option, though.

July 30, 2013, Tuesday
These photos from W8EB on the Tiffin RV Network Forum

They are in Alaska in 2010 Allegro Red 36QSA pulling a Jeep.  Neat photos.

October 4, 2013  My last entry was July 30th. You are probably thinking I am a lazy goof off.  But in reality we have been extremely busy preparing the house for sale.  We are doing all the work ourselves.  We have finished all the hardwood floors and remodeled the guest bathroom with new toilet, tile floor, bead board walls, lighting, paint  and vanity sink.  We are working on the master bath now, a much bigger job. It will be weeks before it is done because I work on it only on days off.

We have also started a new diet and I have lost 18 pounds already and Joanie has lost 9.  I had a small medical problem – an infected sweat gland for which I am still taking antibiotics.

The divesting continues.  The echo through the house is a little unnerving. So much is now gone mostly to relatives although tomorrow we are going to a church wide yard sale to unload a lot of stuff from the cabinets and in the closets.  What doesn’t sell will all go directly to Good Will.

October 28, 2013  Joanie has broken a bone in her foot and is in a boot.  6 weeks. 

November 8, 2013  This week was momentous.  Both Joanie and I are now signed up for Social Security benefits.  Joanie is already getting hers but I told The Social Security Administration that I want to start receiving mine on January 13, 2014.  I also sent in my letter of resignation to Belk, my employer, and I will start receiving my pension on February 1. 

There was a few moments of deep anxiety when I pushed the button to send the e-mail.  “Are you doing the right thing? After all this time planning and dreaming am I making the right decision?”,  I asked myself more than once.  And on top of that we will have to make or Medicare part B selection within just a few days.  We have been searching all the brochures we have received and all the websites trying to make sense out of all the crap the government has made of this.  And we consider ourselves educated and informed!  OMG, what other people, less educated and less informed, must go through! At least we don’t have to go through the absolute mess that is Obamacare.  We have a representative from United Healthcare coming next Friday who will answer some of our questions. 

63 days to my exit interview on January 10 and then retirement!

The master bathroom is almost done. I have to replace the shower door, the shower head and drains in the tub and shower.  Maybe a little touch-up paint.  I hope to have all that done by Thanksgiving.  Then I will call the realtor to her going.  Man! What a job it has been!  I hope it pays off.

I had narrowed my motorhome selection down to a Winnebago Journey 36 footer or a Tiffin Phaeton 36 footer.  We don’t want to buy new for obvious reasons but the late model used market is so bad right now.  Next to no 2009’s, 2010’s or 2011’s available anywhere.  We may have to settle on a 40 footer.  Just not enough 36 footers have been built and the demand for smaller coaches has really gone up.  Lots of big boys on the lots.  We like the floor plans of both the Tiffin and the Winnie with the edge going to the Winnie.  However, I have been reading more and more about Winnebago’s quality control problems of late.  Lot more than Tiffin.  It seems Winnebago has lost it in the last 2-3 years while Tiffin will stand behind their products.  We know that there will always be something going wrong with something as complex as a modern motorhome that experiences an earthquake every time you drive it but the list of problems buyers have to put up with right out of the factory is not inspiring any much confidence.  Quality control for motorhomes is still in the 1970’s American automobile era.   And Winnebago is leading the pack in problems.  At least Tiffin makes some semblance of making it right.  I’ve heard some good stories about Thor lately, too. Thor flies out a top notch technician to help people.  (I’m glad I am handy with tools.)  The quality control issues will only be remedied by the Japanese or Europeans getting into our market with quality rigs.  I doubt that even a huge class action lawsuit along the lines of what happened to the tobacco industry would cause the motorhome manufacturers to change the way they build them.

Really looking forward to seeing all the family at Thanksgiving! Should be a lot of fun! A lot more of our “stuff” will be leaving after that, too.

November 13, 2013  We are finally finished with the upgrades to the house!  Hurrah!  A year ago we set out to put hardwood floors throughout and update the bathrooms.  (We updated the kitchen appliances the year before). I did all the work myself and we still spent close to $9,000.  Looks pretty good, if I do say so myself.  DW wants to do a thorough cleaning before calling in the realtor and do that after Thanksgiving.  I want to call her now.  Is my anxiety showing?

November 29, 2013, Yesterday was Thanksgiving.  The day started early but bright and sunny and cold.  We decided to cook the turkey out on the grill.  I checked the propane tank for the grill and it was almost empty, would not be enough to cook a turkey.  So off to the 24 hour super market to get another bottle.  The house soon filled up.  Don and his family came in on Monday to miss the early winter storm.  Chris and his family came in Wednesday night.  Because the house is so devoid of furniture, art on the walls, no carpet and all hardwood floors, the sounds are amplified and echo through our big old house.  Deaglan and Emory came in roaring!  I thought they would create a tornado the way they were running and hollering all keyed up.  Good thing Chris brought air mattresses.  We used my shop-vac to inflate them so they had beds for the weekend.  By 11 AM on Thanksgiving everyone was there – nephews, nieces, ex-inlaws their families and friends – the house was full!  I “modified my diet” and had a few beers and tasted almost every thing.  Lots of fun was had by all for our last big Blow-Out Bash in that house.

November 30, 2013,  Don left today driving a U-Haul 16’ van with a lot of our stuff in it – coffee table, outdoor furniture, computer desk, the gas grill, artwork, old family photos and documents, my recliner (sniff, sniff) some other furniture and most importantly: Joanie’s grandfather clock that I gave my DW on Christmas, 1984.  It had a brass plaque on it commemorating the date and gift. I had a lump in my throat the time we loaded stuff in.  Chris took an antique Leatherman steamer trunk and old photos and artwork also.

Joanie broke down a couple of times especially when it came to viewing some of the old photos of her dad and mom for the last time.  We kept some, of course but this was the moment that symbolized the de-stuffing process for her.  It came, too, with the realization that all these people would probably never be doing this again.  For some people this realization happily never comes because they don’t make the decision to voluntarily do what we are doing.  But for those who deliberately make the decision, it is inevitable.  To continue the “Journey” you have to go through this.  In the long view, it will make us stronger and better equipped to focus on what God wants us to do and our inevitable joining with Him.

Our emotions swung wildly this weekend.

December 2, 2013, Pulled the trigger.  Called the realtor today.

December 3, 2013,  Realtor came out and we signed papers, completed state required affidavits, etc.  The amount of paper has increased 4 fold since we last sold a house.  The poor people who will buy it will need a wheelbarrow to carry out documents from closing.  

December 5, 2013,  House is on the market today.  Our realtor hired a professional photographer to take photos that will go on to the MLS website.  Our realtor does not like the pictures their staff photographer takes so she hires her own. 

Bad news: 30 year fixed mortgages have risen ten basis points in just a week.  15 year fixed not nearly as much.  Realtor says that the usual slowdown for this time of year has not occurred yet.  Can’t tell if the market is hot or not since the people in the industry won’t comment.  Are they worried about another bubble burst or are they just superstitious that they might jinx it? 

DW and I buried a statue of St. Joseph in the front yard near the “for sale” sign.  We held hands and said a little prayer that the house will sell.  I have been praying even before we made the decision to do this great deed that we will be doing God’s Will.  Seems I am praying even harder now.

We are hoping to walk away with enough from our sale of the house to pay for most of the new motorhome.

December 16, 2013,  Pulled another trigger today and called Charles Schwab to roll over our 401K to an IRA at the bank.  I had talked to our financial advisor and we will get together to exactly put the funds into safe accounts after the transaction takes place.  I thought the process of rolling it over was a bit casual for me.  I will feel better when I get the check in a few days and go put it in the bank.

December 18, 2013,  We have had 4 showings of the house already despite our real estate agent telling us that things would be “quiet” until after the holidays.  Last night was the most recent.  It was from 7 – 8 PM.  I grabbed my key to Joanie’s car, Joanie grabbed her purse and with the dogs on a leash headed out leaving all the lights blazing as instructed by the real estate agent (I could see the electric meter just spinning wildly).  We vacated the premises, went to Home Depot for salt for the water softener and air filters. At 8 PM we came back.  The showing agent had left all the lights on and locked and bolted every door.  Joanie reached for her keys and could not find them and realized she had left them in her other jacket which hung in the hall closet.  We could get into the garage because of the remote opener in the car but the inside door locked and bolted.  So I could do one of two things: get out my tools which were in the garage and cut up the frame around the door to get us in or call a locksmith.  I decided to call a locksmith thinking it would be cheaper than repairing damage. 

We never lock this door except at night just before we go to bed.  I don’t think we had ever put a key in the locks.    The locksmith had to work to get the locks to open since they were old and not used.  He said old locks are much harder to pick than new ones.   He was successful in getting the deadbolt to unlock but the lock on the knob would not budge and he had to insert a couple of pneumatic devices that when pumped up gave him enough room to insert a slim-jim and release the latch.  $175.00 and almost an hour later we were in.  I think I could have repaired the damage for $175.00 or less.  But I’ve got other stuff to do and what if we had another showing before I could get it repaired… I think we made the right decision. 

DW and DH looked at each other and said “won’t make that mistake again”. 

The adventure continues.

January 6, 2014, We have not shown the house but once more.  Christmas has been celebrated, probably for the last time here in this place, we have taken all the Christmas decorations down and we have made arrangements for donating the tree and a few other seasonal things to charity.  We saved out a few ornaments and d├ęcor items for Chris and Don that are meaningful and will send them.  We saved out a few small tree ornaments for our small tree that Joanie wants in the new home.  We have further divested ourselves of all the family photos that were framed throughout the house.  I cannot believe all the frames we are going to give away to charity.  Did we really have that many? We’ll keep the photos but it was another lump-in-your-throat moment.  January 3rd was also our 44th wedding anniversary.

We have rented a storage space and will take a small load of Joanie’s canning stuff over there today.  We are also looking into a smaller, all-in-one wireless printer copier scanner for the new home so we can get rid of the none-wireless printer and scanner.  I’ll soon be able to get rid of my old desktop PC after I have transferred all the information over to my new tablet computer.  (I have lived through the age of miniaturization where things just keep getting smaller and smaller.  A marvelous era of history to witness!)  This is a slow process because I don’t want to miss moving anything important like social security and Medicare website log-ins, etc.

We now have all of my 401K rolled over into a few annuities and IRA.  Another step taken. 

Joanie and I have been talking about how quickly we can purchase the new home once this one sells.  We have pretty much decided that we would like to get a 2010 Tiffin Phaeton 36QSH if we can find one.  36 footer are not very plentiful.  I believe that they are getting snatched up due to the demand for smaller more efficient vehicles.  We would settle for a Winnebago Journey 36M if we can afford it as that floor plan was built until 2012. Storage in both is very good and the CCC is better than 40 foot versions.  But we’ll see… We want finance a portion of the new home but there are not many financial institutions that will loan to full-timers who have no stick and brick house.  I only know of two.

Thursday is my 66th birthday.

January 10, 2014,  Today was my last day at work.  Tomorrow I will be a burden to the taxpayers, theoretically. 

Yesterday my boss and my team gave me a reception open to the company to come by and say “good luck, Bob”.  It was very nice and it stirred me.  Joanie was also invited and met many of the people I had been talking about for long.  She was superb and talked to everyone like they were old friends and had known them for so long for indeed she has through me.  It was great.

January 12, 2014  I am still so unsure of my feelings about this change in my life.  Suddenly retired.  Something I have been working toward and planning for such a long time and now it has happened.  I think I may need some additional time to think this through.  Maybe it just is and I need to accept it.  Several people I have mentioned my new situation to have given me advice like staying active, keeping busy, etc.  Joanie has always said that I needed to learn to relax.  Well, now I have the time to do that.  One thing is certain, I have to do that now. 

Tomorrow Joanie and I are supposed to go apply for our passports.

January17, 2014  OK, we did not get to apply for passports on the 13th , we had to make an appointment, even though the website said we could just walk in.  The level of obfuscation with the government is unbelievable! The office, in a USPS building was plastered with home-made signs instructing you on what to bring, type of documents to have, what is not acceptable, how to make our kids behave, what chairs to sit in, only those with appointments will be allowed in, etc. It was visually overwhelming.  The woman taking our appointment was so typical government employee, the kind we have all come in contact with at the USPS. “This is the way it is because I said so and I am god!”  I wonder if these people revert to being human when they clock out for the day and go home.  I would like to be a fly on the wall when they die and go before their last judgment.   I’d like to see the expression on their face when they find out who is really in charge.

Well, I did not have the correct type of birth certificate.  So we filled out all the forms and paid Obama’s salary for the month and after being instructed how to obtain the right type document, I came home to order the correct birth certificate from the State of Indiana.  I was able to do this on-line.  WOW! I was in for a BIG surprise as the website tapped into the NSA’s data they had on me to be sure I was who I said I was.  “When your son Donald lived with you in Wilmington, NC what was your street number on Camellia Dr.?”  it asked.  “When you were an alter boy at Our Lady of Perpetual Help church, which Mass did you like to serve?  5:30, 7:00, 9:00 or 11:00 ?”  “You still only wipe your ass with your right hand.  Yes or No”. 

I AM SOMEBODY !  I am not an obscure number.  They know who I am!

It seems that when I gave them my NC drivers license number, it tapped them into everything they knew about me.  All those years of paying taxes they were paying attention to me.  Cool!  They must know that I have forwarded those I-Hate-Obama e-mails.  I am on their list!  I am SOMBODY!

January 26, 2014 Sunday,  Strange and Exciting Day! Just for the heck of it Joanie and I went to the NCRVDA show in Charlotte today.  It was the last day of the event and the weather had been brutally cold all weekend so I don’t think their turn out was great.  Sunday was the warmest so we thought we’d go with a friend, Boots, who is a Tiffin motor home owner.  We knew that there would be a Tiffin dealer at the show and we went specifically to see that one dealer.  Joanie really liked going through the Tiffins and started up a conversation with a salesman.  She told him that we were interested in buying used, we were selling the house and would become full-timers as soon as it does. He showed us a 40 foot Tiffin Phaeton, one that had the bath and a half.  (We believe that is really a ridiculous waste of space, added weight to haul around, etc. but they are hot models right now.)  We mentioned that we were interested in a 36 QSH and did he have one?  Well it seemed that a 2010 one just came in and was in their service bay back at the dealership to be cleaned up. (Dealers never bring used models to these shows.  It’s part of the association’s agreement.)  It was just 12:30 PM and if we wanted we could go look at it as it was just an hour’s drive up the interstate and that they are now open on Sundays.  We looked at each other and said God must be acting in our lives at this moment.  You see, a 36 foot model of any “Class A” diesel pusher is rare and in the last few years this size Class A’s are gobbled up by RVers who are looking to down size and the industry just does not make enough.  Boots who was there just to look around and have some fun, was now our ex officio advisor and suddenly we were seriously serious.  The fun was gone and replaced by some meaningful excitement. 

We decided to jump in the car and go to Mocksville, NC and see this unit that was such a rare find.  (I had been following ads for the 36QSH and the closest one was in Kentucky.  Next closest was in Florida.)  I felt like we would never get there.  When we arrived we were taken out to the service bay and there it was.  A little dusty but in pristine condition, it had only 19,000 miles on it.  Looked almost as good as the new Phaeton all polished up at the show. 

Joanie felt right at home.  Indeed, a sense of peace came over her. This was our new home! The Winnebago Journey 36M was gone! Poof! The Tiffin floor hump was no longer a problem for her.  Me – I’m too excited to see everything.  The salesman, Paul, was very nice but after about 20 minutes wanted to show it to another couple. That’s how hot these units are.  This was not even prepped to put on the lot and folks want to see it. 

We knew this was meant to be so we decided to go into negotiations to purchase.  Because this was such a huge decision, we put a $1000 deposit on it and asked to have 24 hours to decide.  Jim, the general manager, said OK.  The trip home was just so full of excited questions for Boots.  He was very patient with us and gave us good advice and we made a list of questions we wanted answered by the dealer. 

I was so excited, I couldn’t sleep.  Joanie on the other hand, slept peacefully.

January 27, 2014 Monday, I called Jim by 10AM Monday telling him I was e-mailing the completed documents he needed to proceed with the purchase.  I also sent Paul my list of questions.  By 1 PM the business manager called and said our loan had been approved and she wanted us to take possession this week before the end of the month (she wanted to record the sale for the month of January).  Whoa.  Slow down, I can’t do that.  I’m working Thursday and Friday.  Oh, she wants us to come get it tomorrow.  It won’t be ready, I said, and I won’t be ready.  “Well, talk it over with you wife and call us back this afternoon and tell us when you can.”  I said I still need to hear from Paul on my list of questions.  I hung up.  An hour later Jim the general manger called back and said we can come next week.  We can take our time and not to be rushed, he said.  That’s better.  Office mangers are not customer service oriented and are only about the money. 

We still have to get “Freedom”, our trade-in Chinook, loaded or unloaded and take it up there.  We need to find a bigger storage area for the new rig as it will not fit in where we store “Freedom”. We have to go to the bank and move funds so we can write them the big check.  My anxiety mounts by the minute. 

I have added to the list of questions that have not been answered as Boots reminded me that we need service documentation on both diesel engines and the transmission and both cooling systems.  And if they are not recent, we need the service performed.  Thanks, Boots! The tires are starting to approach the end of their rubber life.  You have to remember that a 2010 began its life as 2009 chassis. (No DEF tank on this one and the old diesel government standards apply.) So the tires are now 5 years old.  The house part is only 4 years old but the chassis is 5.

Hope I can sleep tonight.     

January 28, 2014 Tuesday, Slept to 3:00 AM and that was it.  Still way too nervous and excited about this.  Joanie slept till 9:00 AM.  Weather is for some snow in the Charlotte area today.  Both Jim and Paul both had e-mails waiting for me this morning assuring me that all the service will be done and that they will go over all the maintenance records and service that they do and future maintenance needs with us.

We will go the bank today to move funds around and to the “storage place” to get a spot for the new rig.  Tomorrow I will go get our Chinook gassed and checked.


Dealing with my emotions:  Since I have the time this morning, I might as well discuss my feelings about all this.  It includes the big change in my lifestyle – retirement – and the selling of the house, deciding to go full-timing as well as the purchase of the new rig. 

I could not have approached any of this without the strength Joanie gives me.  Joanie has always been my rock emotionally and my font of good judgment when it comes to decisions about us and our life.  The saying “two heads are better than one” certainly applies to me.  I need an extra one.  I don’t have enough confidence in the one I have.  Joanie lends me her good sense and calms me down.  I have come to appreciate her many talents over the years.  Her ability to affect me is so obvious to me and has made my life so wonderful.

For the last few years retirement and full-timing has been our dream and I have been somewhat obsessed by it.  Any free time at work was absorbed by my search and research of the RVing lifestyle.  I have become very knowledgeable about it.  Book smarts but not experience.  I have frequented all the RV forums, many blogs and websites about RVing.  Hours and hours of “armchair experience”. I have lived vicariously through the internet.  Now it is time for real-life experience.  The adventure of the open road, new friends, new places, breakdowns and challenges await.  That is why I am so excited!  Now it’s time get out of the chair, stop reading, stop dreaming, and start “doing”.

The “change to a more casual lifestyle" part of retirement has been relatively easy and quick.  This getting up early, fighting rush hour traffic, answering “yes, sir” and “no, ma’am”, is certainly not missed and “learning to relax” is the project to accomplish for the day.  The changing of the gears has been noticeable to me and has become the touchstone that my life, if not drawing to a close, is progressing to the part where I will be united with my Lord on an entirely different plane.  There is a reason why people become more religious as they grow older.  It’s all part of the preparation.  The transitioning from this life to the next.  The awareness of it becomes more acute now. 

I don’t need to write about this stuff.  It has been written far better by others who have gone before me. 


In the movie City Slickers when Billy Crystal asked the leathered cowboy, Curly, “Killed anybody?” Curly’s reply was, “Day ain’t over yet”. 

Day ain’t over yet.  We went to the bank to transfer funds so we can write a check on Monday.  Went to do some shopping then to our storage facility to rent a space for the new motor home.  They did not have any and suggested they are hard to come by.  We went home to start calling around.  It began to snow so I was hurrying to find something.  I wanted to find a business with space and then go see if it was OK for a 36 foot motor home. Over the phone several had a space so we picked one close by and went to see it.  Nope.  Answering service gave me misinformation. They were nice and suggested we go to a competitor.  Nope again.  Snow is coming down harder now.  Went to another competitor and nope but they called a competitor for me and we hit beautiful pay dirt. This storage place specializes only in RV’s, boats and big trucks and almost all are PULL THROUGHs !  Price is even better than all the other self storage places. The Lord is blessing us again.  A pull through!  So we signed papers and wrote a check at the back of a tiny tool trailer that the owner had made into an office that only he could fit into,  complete with computer, scanner, copier, light and small stool, shivering in the cold,  I was happy and praised God again.

I can’t believe how all this is fitting into place.

Earlier in the day Boots and his wife Joan agreed to travel to the motorhome dealer on Monday to be with us and help us to do a PDI on the new rig.  I hope to have him next to me as I execute the test drive. Thanks, guys, I’m breathing easier.

Naming the new rig:  Joanie and I have decided to name the new rig “Faith” because we have indeed stepped out in faith to this new life.  We are asking the Lord to guide us and direct us in what He wants us to do.  Might be creative with the spelling – Phaeth.  Phaeth the Phaeton.  Get it?

January 30, 2014, Thursday, Got some disappointing news yesterday.  The RV dealer we were to purchase the new motor home from called and said that in the prep-work they were doing on the rig (which we were to pick up on Monday, February 3) they dragged up a “recall on the driver side front slide” - the big one.  They have to replace the floor of the slide.  On Phaeton and Allegro Bus models Tiffin has a chronic problem with the slide floors behind the driver and a couple other problems dating back to about 2008 to 2011.  The company stands behind their product (something very refreshing in this day and age) and will repair the manufacturing defects even though the warranty has run well out.   It will be weeks before the work will be done.  They have to lift the whole slide room out which is very heavy and too big of a job for the dealer's service department.  The work will be done at no cost to us nor the dealer although it will cost the dealer to drive the rig to the manufacturer in Red Bay, AL and back.

So we still have our little “Freedom” for now. 

We have not signed any papers nor handed over any money and our loan rate is locked in - so the dealer says.  So far Jim Weiss, the general manager at Camper Inn in Mocksville, NC, seems to be doing the right thing.  He seems to be very customer oriented going to great lengths to explain everything to us. He said he will keep us abreast of all developments. He also seems to be the antithesis of the business manager who wanted us out the door as quickly as possible.  I wonder how they get along.  So far I don’t have any complaints about this dealership. We’ll see.

Jim is trying to get “our” Phaeton back to Red Bay as quickly as possible.  He said he has a new Tiffin delivery arriving on Tuesday and will attempt to get that driver to return “our” Phaeton to RB. That would be the most expedient thing to do.  If he cannot get that driver to take it, he will have to hire someone and that may take more time. He said he is scheduled for a training class in RB near the middle of February and could drive the repaired rig back himself.

We have had no showings on the house all this past week but it has been brutally cold with snow so that is understandable.  I keep seeing optimistic articles in the local newspaper about the improving housing market – new building permits, growing inventory, improving house prices, etc.  At the same time interests rates are rising.  All this makes me very anxious and makes me wonder how long we will have to sit on our house before it sells.  I have to learn how to put things like this into God’s hands and to quit taking them back. 

If I have repeated some of these themes in this log, please forgive me.  I’m human.

I believe that our Lord is teaching me.  Throughout my life I have had a problem with anxiety.  I have little patience.  I have lacked patience with people, pets, time, machines and inanimate objects.  At the age of 5 I remember putting my fist through the glass of a storm door that would not open quickly enough for me. I have yelled at the kids when they dawdled, yanked on the leash when the dog didn’t move quickly enough for me. And one day when the car in front of me did not move on the green light, I even pounded on the steering wheel until blood came from the knuckles. That day I realized I had a problem and I have been consciously working on it ever since.  Some days it seems that I have not made much progress.

February 5, 2014, Wednesday We moved Freedom over to the new storage facility today after helping a lady from church with a kitchen cabinet door.  Yesterday I helped Boots repair his front door threshold.  Keeping busy in retirement.  Well, after a couple of phone calls and a couple of e-mails I am now back working for Belk, Inc.  The arrangement is to the 28th of February.  So I’m no longer retired.  They will pay me for 30 hours per week as a salary but I may not have to put in 30 hours at work.  I have only a report to do each week, conduct year end reviews for my people and train the “new guy”.

This has caused a delay to my pension but not social security benefit.

GOOD NEWS! Phaeth is now in Red Bay Alabama to have the driver side slide floor replaced.  The guys at Campers Inn are keeping us up-to-date on her.  We asked that roof rails be inspected for cracks and the wet bay floor also be inspected.  Tiffin has had manufacturing defects in all three since about 2008 to 2011 on Phaeton and Allegro Bus models.  The wet bay floor issue was taken care of first with a solution applied to the assembly line in May of 2010.  The slide floor and roof rail cracking had solutions applied in 2011.  Tiffin has extended the warranty on these issues until 2018.  Literally thousands of vehicles were manufactured from 2008 to 2011 with these potential problems.  But Tiffin is standing by their work.

Still no showings on the house.  After a conversation with our real-estate agent, she is suggesting that we be more patient or lower our price. We are praying on that.

February 13, 2014, Thursday  We are buried! For 3 days now we have had snow.  You’d think we lived in Alaska or Iowa or someplace that has “winter”!  The back door is frozen shut with snow and ice piled up against it.  We have 6 – 8 inches of the stuff on the ground now and it is coming down with a vengeance.  “We’ll show you Johnny Rebs!” that Yankee Mother Nature is saying right now.  “You don’t know how to handle real winter.  You’ll pay now for being so complacent and enjoying the sun when the North hunkers down for 9 months every year.”  “We’ll show you, Johnny Rebs!”

We will be snowed in at least through the weekend.  Oh well, we can really get involved in watching the winter Olympics now.  As long as we have power…

Hurrah!  We got an e-mail from Jim Weiss at Campers Inn in Mocksville.  The coach is fixed and ready to be picked up!  Jim is going middle of next week to get it.

February 18, 2014, Tuesday What an exciting day.  I asked Boots (Allegro Bus owner) if I could accompany him to have the annual service done on his coach.  He has it done at The Oasis Freightliner service center in Gaffney, SC, less than an hour away.  We got going early while it was still dark.  This was my first ride in a Class A diesel pusher.  I marveled at the smoothness of the ride.  I learned a lot! I paid attention to how he started her and aired her up, used the exhaust break, made left and right turns. Boots said to remember that your butt sits over the steer axel and that makes a difference how you make turns.  The 55 degree wheel cut sure helps a 40 foot motor home maneuver.

The service manager invited us out to the service area to look at an issue, something they rarely do.  I got to walk under a 36,000 pound motorhome a view the workings up close.
Cool! After the service on the engine and chassis was finished we went to a Flying J to fuel up and I got my first pump shock when Boots put in 72 gallons.  18 wheelers by the dozens were pulling in all around us. Cool!

While we were waiting in Gaffney I got a call from Paul at Campers Inn in Mocksville.  Phaeth will be back from Red Bay by the end of the week having had work done on the big slide floor and the roof rails.  We become Phaeth’s new owners on Tuesday of next week! 

Now I am getting excited again!

We have become FMCA members, Passport America members, Good Sam Club members (so we can get a Flying J fuel card).  I still want to join Coach Net and purchase a power monitor.

February 19, 2014, Wednesday,  We joined the Freightliner Chassis Owners Club (Chapter of FMCA) today so we can get discounts on parts and service.  We also became members of Tiffin Travelers (Chapter of FMCA).  We also called the business manager at Campers Inn to make sure all the paper preparations will be ready. 

We also started looking at toads.  We would like a Jeep Wrangler but if they are too expensive will settle for a Honda CRV.  We probably won’t purchase it and buy a tow package until the stick and brick house sells.

I also down loaded a pre-delivery check list so we will not miss anything when go to take delivery.  Paul said the RV-tech will take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours to do the walk-through.  I will read through the check list several times and Google anything I need to understand more.

February 24, 2014, Monday  We go to pick up Phaeth tomorrow!  I went to get our old Chinook we called Freedom out of storage.  She has served us well. I hope I can sleep.

February 25, 2014, Tuesday  Up early because I could not sleep.  We loaded up Freedom and were on the road to Mocksville by 9AM and arrived at Campers Inn before 10:30.  They were ready for us.  The PDI went well and Matt answered all our questions.  He has 15 years experience working on RVs.  There were a few answers to my questions that were not what I expected, like what lubrication to use on the jacks.  He answered WD40 where I heard that a silicon spray was better.

Climbed up on the roof.  I had read that the ladder was rated for 200 lbs. (I’m 230). Matt found the label on the ladder rating it for 300 lbs.  So up I went and the diet is on hold!  I saw a pristine roof with evidence of Tiffin fixing the roof rails.  Looked good.  Checked the driver side big slide repair and it looked very good. 

We tried out everything except the ice maker because of the time it would take to re-winterize it.  We found a burned out light bulb over the bed.  Fixed in a New York minute. I stuck my flash light everywhere I could.  I did not find a thing.  The passenger side read jack was slow to come up so I need to watch that one.  Everything worked.  Oil was clear, filters new.  I wish I could have crawled under more. 

We found it upgraded with an installed Surge Guard power monitor which was not expected and I now don’t have to buy.  It also has a Steer Safe steering control unit and 2 solar panels producing 200 watts, CB radio connection, blue tooth in the dash. 

We asked to stay over-night so we could try everything.  They hooked us up to 50 amps and filled the fresh water tank.  Joanie had dinner going and we toasted our good fortune at finding this new home.  We dined on fried chicken, fresh steamed broccoli and a fresh salad and washed it down with a nice bottle of wine.  The kitchen worked to my tummy’s satisfaction.  It was warm in the afternoon so we opened windows and tried the three fantastic fans.  When the sun went down the thermometer sank and we tried the furnaces and heat pumps.  We were very comfortable.  The bedroom was cozy and after a very exciting day we adjusted the Sleep Number Bed and were soon asleep. 

It had been Christmas Day and visions of sugar plums danced through my head!

February 26, 2014, Wednesday  Our friends and motor home veterans, Boots and Joan, came the next day to be sure we drove Phaeth home carefully.  It drove better than I had imagined. It was so much fun driving something that big so comfortably.  The air bag suspension smoothed out the winter blasted North Carolina roads.  The exhaust break and air service breaks made the diver through Charlotte at rush hour easy.  The Phaeton’s ISC 8.3 Cummins diesel had plenty of “go”.

Joanie and I took Boots and Joan to dinner with our thanks.

I was still so keyed up, I didn’t sleep the whole night.

February 27, 2014, Thursday  We are going to Perry, GA!  The FMCA Family Reunion, a really big rally with lots to see! We registered today!  It will be a good educational opportunity.  We are driving Phaeth to Wilmington, NC to see the kids next week and will stay at the KOA.  Wilmington needs a couple additional camp grounds.  KOA is booked over 90% most of the time and makes it hard to make reservations even during the off season.

March 4, 2014, Tuesday  The Shake Down Cruise.  Man it was cold this morning!  Another polar vortex slammed us yesterday with freezing rain and bitter temperatures last night. The deadbolt lock on Phaeth was frozen.  I warmed the key in my hands and asked Joanie to do the same to her key.  We warmed up the lock by inserting the key for 30 seconds or so then replacing it with another warmed up key.  After four or five cycles of that, it opened.  The cold that was inside Phaeth came with us all the way to Wilmington.  The dash heat was totally insufficient and the back of the coach never warmed.  I told Joanie that we could run the furnace, or run the generator and use the heat pump but she didn’t like the idea of running with more stuff working.  Next time will probably be different. It wasn’t until we were parked and got the furnaces running that I finally warmed up.   Of course I had to de-winterize the water system, put the sacrificial anode back in the water heater, do the dump that we didn’t do in Mocksville, filled the freshwater tank and let all the antifreeze out of the all the faucets.  My hands were freezing.

The spots here at the Wilmington KOA are all very level.  The jacks went down easily and the slides went out without a hitch although the big driver side slide does make some strange noises.

The @%&*!$ steps won’t work when I want them to and are up as we speak.  I will go out later to see if I can do anything about it.  And I don’t know what it is about the 5 - 10 minute delay for the batt disconnect switch either.  I am sorry I woke Boots up this morning trying to solve the problem.

Joanie has taken to the new home without missing a beat.  She has that passenger side recliner spun around and doin’ her crossword.  Made us a real nice chef salad for lunch.

The folks here at the KOA are very nice - this is nicest KOA we have ever stayed at.   

So other than being cold the trip was uneventful - had to stop 3 times along the way to pee and did some nice pieces of maneuvering to do that since there are no rest stops on US 74.

We showed off Phaeth to Chris, Katie and the kids.  I think they were a little in awe.  Shucks, I’m still in awe! 

I will sleep well tonight and happily.

March 5, 2014, Wednesday  After a grand day visiting with Chris, Katie and the kids which included a very good dinner at Sweet & Savory’s in Wilmington, I had a few minutes to browse the internet and do some research about the entry steps. I soon ran across which was written so well and included enough detail that I saw a part of the circuit that no one else had written about, namely, a magnetic switch which signals the entry step circuit that the door has opened.  There are, of course, two parts of this switch; one on the door and one in the wall or door jamb.  I had thought that this was part of security alarm (security alarm systems use the same type switch) because I had found a receipt from an alarm company that the previous owner had left in the coach. Or, the security alarm company wired the alarm into the entry step circuit to get power and trigger the alarm at the door.  The wall side part looks like it had taken a wack and when I touched a wire on the back side, the steps immediately jumped out.  EUREAKA!

(Insert my Happy Dance here.)

I think I can fix it.

March 6, 2014, Thursday  I danced prematurely last night.  I still have the problem.  The gray magnetic switch was not the culprit.  My evidence was coincidental.  Steps would not come in this morning when we were breaking camp.  Chris and I disassembled the security magnetic switch completely closed the circuit on it and opened it using the wires in it.  Nothing .  The step light was on so we know that the power is down there.  We waited and waited being patient. Nothing. We had to get going and I got tools out to disengage the motor arm.  When it went up.  Basically all we did was open and close the door and the switch on the console.  It stayed up and would not come back down.  Very hard to unload with no steps. 

Trip back was uneventful.  We got LP at the KOA just before we left and fuel at a truck stop on the way out of Wilmington.  It shut off at $75.00 and I had to put my card back in.  It stopped at $35.00.  So I had a 90% full tank to start back.  Still have over half a tank -  about 2/3rds.  Getting in and out without steps is not good.  I’m calling Matt at Camper Inn in the morning and pick his brain.

I believe that the problem is in the contact switch in the door - two spring loaded buttons that make contact with metallic pads in the hinge side door jamb.

The Chinook had entry step problems, too but when it did work the steps came down or up immediately.

March 7, 2014, Friday  I down loaded the manual for the Kwikee entry steps that I believe are on our Phaeton.  We did not receive any documentation of what is in or on Phaeth.  But having crawled under her and looked at the steps, I believe that I have the right manual.  I called the service department at Campers Inn in Mocksville and picked the service manager’s brain about it and he, too, thinks it is a faulty ground.  I made a tentative appointment for Tuesday at 11 AM but I will attempt to work on it myself on Sunday.  (It is still raining today and will need to give it a day to dry out before climbing under there.)

I found out that the two spring loaded contacts on the hinge side are for the remote entry door lock.

I will take my jack pads out and run up on them in the front so that I will have a little more room to work.  All I want to do is test the magnetic switch for ground by using my volt meter and seeing if I get any voltage or impedance.  Then check the motor assembly ground for a good connection.  If it still doesn’t work then it will need a more thorough diagnostic.

I want to start digging into the mechanical operations of our new house so I can do some of the maintenance and upkeep and not-so-major repairs.

March 14, 2014, Friday  Yesterday I received the part for the magnetic switch and fixed the steps.  Started loading up Phaeth for our trip to Perry, GA and the FMCA “Family Reunion”.  We will be boondocking for the first time.  I have a lot to learn. 

Phaeth is parked at a large storage area that is just for big rigs like RV’s trailers and trucks.  While loading up stuff into Phaeth and putting my tools away a gentleman drove up and said “Hi”.  He introduced himself as Lynwood and he travels about the country with his 4 show dogs.  He has a 2010 Thor Class A gasser parked in the same lot as ours and he had to show me the on-going argument he is having with Thor.  Just on his door the paint is bubbling.  Evidently a bad prime job on the door which was primed off the vehicle. 

He was also drive a very nice 2010 Jeep Wrangler Sport with the hard top with sun roof.  He did the tow addition work himself including the tail light wiring and base plate. The 4WD automatic is right up our ally for what we want as a toad.

RVer’s are a really friendly group of folks.

March 15, 2014, Saturday  What a great day!  We are in Milledgeville, GA, parked at Scenic Mountain RV Park.  Joanie has dinner on the stove, corned beef and cabbage, smells great!  The weather is just terrific – the beginning of spring with all of it’s promise.  The windows are open and a gentle breeze makes it perfect.  We are at the top of hill with a commanding view of this part of Georgia, in a level spot.  A lot of class A’s, new, old, big, and small, gassers and diesels have been rolling in all afternoon all headed to Perry, Georgia for the big convention. 

Boots and his wife Joan are parked right beside us.  We met them at the rest stop south of Rock Hill after we hustled to get loaded and get on the road, get some fuel and be there on time and then waited.  We followed them all day as Boots had the latest in navigation equipment and I have yet to turn mine on since it doesn’t work.  We have an old Garmin that works fine when you hold out toward then front windshield.  I have programmed the address for the FMCA convention in Perry that was mailed to us in our “Family Reunion” packet.  I hope it is correct.  Since Boots and Joan will be parking in a different location when we get there and because I need to stop for fuel before we get there, I have every reason to believe that we will get separated at some time during the day tomorrow. 

We had a wonderful meal this evening with Boots and Joan.  Enjoyed sitting out in the evening breeze sipping wine until well after dark.  We plan to get up at 7:00 AM tomorrow morning and drive the final 60 miles to Perry, GA.

March 16, 2014, Sunday  OUR FIRST RALLY  Taking a shower in Phaeth is not an unpleasant experience.  The 36 QSH has one of largest shower stalls in all moderate motor homes.  While Joanie would like a bath tub (which is an option in some Phaetons) she has learned to take the navy shower with confidence.  Compared to Freedom, our old Chinook motor home, Phaeth’s shower is luxurious.  We have a 10 gallon electric/gas water heater and we have yet to experience a lack of hot water for anything.  We are running it on the camp ground’s electricity saving propane for this week’s dry camping.

It has been raining since very early this morning and I don’t look forward to breaking camp in the pouring rain.  I have a rain suit if I think I need it.  I donned the rain jacket half this morning to walk the dogs. 

We broke camp and I never want to do a sanitary waste dump like that again!  The sewer connection was up hill from our coach.  What a dumb park plan.  I had to open the valves and let some effluent into the sewer hose and physically lift the hose foot by foot to get the effluent up to the sewer connection.  There was leakage where the hose connects to the coach but just liquid.  Yuck!  But it was just our yuck so a good hand washing with sanitizer soap was in order. 

We followed Boot’s and Joan to a Pilot/Flying J truck stop to top off our fuel supply and we left them there and headed to the FMCA convention on our own.  Joanie is a great navigator.  It really began to pour down.  We got to our entrance at the huge Georgia Agricultural Center ad Fair grounds and we were parked in the mud.  I donned my whole rain suit and waded out to put jack pads down.  I left Phaeth’s Cummins engine running to be sure we had sufficient electricity to put down the jacks and let out the slides.  Joanie made a big salad for lunch and I laid down to see if I could relax and maybe doze off.  But just when you thought it couldn’t rain any harder …  Well the sky darkened even more and lightning flashed and thunder boomed.  

The FMCA volunteers plowed ahead heads bent toward the wind and rain and directed the giant mud boats (formerly land-yachts) into their parking places.  A few had trouble in the Georgia quagmire and farm tractors were called in to pull the hapless out their stuck situation.  I am not sure I will be able to find my jack pads and retrieve them the bog we are on.  Well, they were the home made ones that didn’t cost very much.  I held the expensive ones in reserve. 

People here must have gotten cabin fever already and are driving up and down the earthen streets in their cars and golf carts now that the rain is beginning to let up.  Some folks are coming out of their vehicle beasts to walk their dogs through the puddles and the mud.

We have been here a couple of hours now and the roads we still packed with these giant beasts that migrate every year in the spring ritual we call the FMCA.  Even the forces of nature cannot delay the migration.  Literally thousands of vehicles are pouring in from all parts of the country and Canada. 

Joanie and I walked the dogs in a field near out parking lot.  It was considerably nicer than the “streets” in the parking lots.  The streets now resemble the rutted mud roads of the early towns of the old west.

The trams are now moving up and down the paved streets picking up people to go where?
I am not sure what is going on this Sunday afternoon.  Later I spoke to Boots who said I
needed to hustle my but up to the information center to get our information packet. I thumbed a ride from a nice volunteer in a golf cart who had been out in the horrible weather since early morning and she still had a smile for me and got me to the information center before it closed.

I missed meeting Boots under the clock tower.  By the time I finally got my info packet it was late and I guess he had gone.  I hope he’s not too pissed at me.

Negotiating the mud ruts caused by the toads has become a PIA.

March 17, 2014, Monday  Phaeth performed masterfully last night.  Quiet time required everyone in our neighborhood to shut down generators at 11 PM so I had hoped we had a good charge on the battery bank that would provide power to our CPAP machines during the night.  No problem!  The batteries even supplied power to run the furnaces and keep us warm.  And enough hot water for DW to take a shower. 

Went to seminars on the Rand McNally GPS system for RVers, battery fundamentals, the importance of tire monitoring that scared everyone, a supplemental breaking system roundtable that was even scarier when asked for a show of hands of attendees who did not have supplemental breaking for their toads and over one third said no.  The panel members then looked at one another and either saw dollar signs or shock at the lack of safety.

I met Joanie, Boots and Joan for 5:00 PM Mass.

I walked the dogs and fired up the genny.  DW had the microwave going with my dinner in it and we also fired up the heat pump and we heard a change in the noises as the heat pump shut down.  The Onan diesel generator dropped to a very low RPM and I looked at the battery voltage and it was reading 12.2 volts.  It was supposed to be up around 13.9 to 14.0.  I knew something was wrong.  What threw me was the micro wave kept working.  I checked the breaker/fuse box and found nothing wrong.  I went outside to look at the rest of the fuses and breakers and again found nothing.  I pulled the generator out to look at the main circuit breaker.  BINGO!  I reset it and came back in, wiping my feet again and, and came to the realization that the microwave was on the inverter!  That is different, I said.  It must be one hefty pure sine wave inverter to power 3 TVs, DVD players, microwave on 5 different circuits.  Any way the batteries are getting fed on 14.0 volts and I am proud of myself for learning so much today.

By the way the weather is getting worse.  It rained some more today, heavily as the thermometer dropped.  Everyone’s front windshields are steamed up.  People with a winch on their jeep are pulling beasts out of the mud while others get stuck.  They still have not found places for everyone and I’m sure some fuses are growing short.  The ruts are deeper, the ground is boggier and I swear we are sinking into the now saturated soft Georgia clay.

I hope tomorrow will be just as educational for me as today was.

March 18, 2014, Tuesday  Phaeth did well again last night and winter was back last night, too.  The gas furnaces ran several times during the night.  This morning was raw!  Wind, mist cold and the ever present mud.  I hope I will some day get my shoes to come clean.  The dogs and I have been tracking in mud that turns to dirt and the floor needs a good cleaning as well.

I learned a lot at the Cummins diesel seminar and the Cummins Onan Generator seminar immediately afterward.  The generator is fussier than I had suspected especially when starting and it can only provide about half of the service that the shore plug can.  The genny needs to be exercised, too.  It will last longer if it is used.

We had our major seminar today, the first half of the 6 hour RV Driving Safety Program.  We will get a certificate of completion on Wednesday and that may help us get a discount on our RV Insurance.

At 4:00 PM when we came out of our safe driving seminar we were welcomed by the sun and warmer temperatures.  What a welcome sight!  It boosted everyone’s spirits. 

We toured one of the two exhibition halls and went to Mass making the end of a hectic day so pleasant. 

When we got home we had to open the windows before walking the dogs.  We ran the genny but the exhaust fumes came in.  If that happens again, I may shell out for a Genturi device even though the Onan guy does not recommend it. 

Joanie out did herself once again for dinner with a chicken cacitore dish that has been her best culinary effort yet in our new home.

We shut the genny down early.  I hope we have enough juice to last the night.

March 19, 2014, Wednesday  Well we did. I was up early to walk the dogs, make coffee and get Joanie going so we would make our 8:00 AM Motorhome Safe Driver class, part 2.  The skys were gray and wind cold, again.  The TV weatherman was back peddling this morning after predicting 70 degrees for Wednesday.  It’s been about 24 hours without any substantial rain so I think the mud is beginning to firm up.

We received our certificates for taking the course.  I got a call from Tiffin service that they would be out to my coach by 1 PM.  So I wasted no time getting back home.  But the service guys got hung up and didn’t get out until 2:30 and they did not have the part they needed, so had to come back.  So the whole of the afternoon was waiting and I did not get the things accomplished that I wanted.  I did not waste the time, however, and I fixed the dash radio/GPS device.  I figured out that it was not getting juice so I hot-wired it to the battery.  I will twist wires together until I can get a toggle switch or a replacement radio installed.  For now we have a GPS and radio to listen to.

I was supposed to attend a social function with the Tiffin Travelers, an FMCA Chapter that we now belong to since we own a Tiffin.  We are headed to Alabama next month for a rally with the TT’s.  Joanie attended for us.

I really wanted to order a Rand McNally GPS unit that is programmable for RV’s and the Tire Tracker TPMS today but sat around waiting for service guys.

March 20, 2014 Thursday  Joanie and I went back to the exhibitors areas today to pay Darren Thomas Glass for fixing the chip that was in our windshield.  When we bought it we thought it was just a bug splat.  They came out on Wednesday afternoon to fix it but they did not have a way to take our charge card and Joanie was at a social function with the check book. Mrs. Thomas said, no problem, come pay us tomorrow.  They said it as if we were old friends or neighbors.  I wonder if that is the kind of trust we will find in the RV community.  Refreshing.

We saw old friends from when we lived in Jacksonville, Ruth and Morgan Kraan.  They have been motorhoming for 8 years and gave us lots of advice especially what memberships to have and places to go.  We hope to run into them again down the road.

I purchased my Tire Trackers and Rand McNally 7720 GPS and even had time to play with it a bit.  It will guide us home tomorrow.

I hope we can find the dump stations here before we go our find a place to dump on the way home.  I hate carrying all this extra waste weight.  It is the Scotts blood in me.  In some areas I am just cheap!

After Mass this evening we said goodbye to Father Al and Father John who said Mass for us this week.  They are brothers, retired priests and RVer’s.  They are getting to be very elderly now and both had come through cancer treatments.  They were the official Chaplins for FMCA for the last couple of years.  It was so very pleasant to hear Mass at the end of each day.  The Fathers are very loving and kind ministers.

We also said goodbye to Joan and Boots and wished them safe travels.  We will see them again In Foley, Alabama in April with the Tiffin Travelers rally.

March 21, 2014, Friday  The day began with a frosty chill but with the sun appeared on the second day of spring and improved the morning quickly.  We were ready to go early and followed a couple of other rigs out through short cuts that avoided the areas that were large quagmires just two days before. We found one of only two dump stations at the Georgia fairgrounds and no one was using it. We left the FMCA Perry Georgia convention in much better weather than when we arrived.  The mud was firm and the puddles were finally gone.  Many motor homes had already pulled out but most were still there and as we pulled around the huge Georgia Fairgrounds facility we saw the massed motor homes.  Well over 2,500 is number we heard.  It was extremely impressive to see.  If you estimate around $100,000 per unit, there was $250 million of motor homes in one space.  That was a lot of wealth gathered for a few days.  It is no wonder that so many vendors want to come and tap some it.

The drive home was pleasant and comfortable.  Joanie was a good copilot who took her job seriously.  We decided to name the Rand McNally unit “Randy” since it is a woman’s voice that we selected to tell us where to go.  While we are a little tired we impressed ourselves with making it back in one day’s time and with little effort.  It was the unloading of Phaeth that wore us out. We spent the evening in peaceful quiet catching up on mail, email and a week’s backlog of newspapers.  No doubt we will rest as much as we can over the next few days.  We have a lot to digest.

March 25, 2014, Tuesday  We have had a number of showings for the house.  It looks like the Spring is bringing some activity to the market.  We have had 3 since last Friday and another (a repeat client who wants to see it again) tomorrow and one more on Thursday.  Perhaps something good will come of this.

I am trying to locate some RV parks or places that might be a stopping point on out trip down I-85 to Foley, Alabama for the Tiffin Travelers rally next month.  There doesn’t seem to be a lot of choices that are near our route that would be an easy-off, easy-on.  It looks like we will have to go all the way to Opelika or Auburn before finding a place.  Since we are leaving on a Sunday, I am hoping the traffic around Atlanta will not be too bad and I will not be too tired after a long 6 hour haul. 

I have already heard stories about cities you want to avoid driving a big class A motorhome and Atlanta is one.  Washington DC, Philly, and the northeastern cities in general.  Stories include the “planned” accidents with flashy motorhomes that crooks see deep pockets and will cut you off just to have an “accident”.  Driving through congested areas requires total focus and concentration on what is going on around you.  Constantly checking mirrors and having your co-pilot alert is paramount.

March 27, 2014, Thursday  Everyday since March 21, the first day of Spring, I have said “I wish I could shoot that danged ground hog!”  That woodchuck’s prognostication that winter would be over on March 21 was WAY BOGUS!  We have had hard-freeze warnings for our latitude for the last two nights.  On Monday Joanie and I raced over to partially winterize Phaeth by dumping all the fresh water out of her before the cold could get to her.  I did not have equipment to pump antifreeze into her water system and I hope that whatever that was left over (probably in her water pump) did not freeze and damage parts.  We will find out in a few days.

The Knights of Columbus district representative came over today to take information and review with me the benefit of the organization since I became a Knight a month ago.  He reviewed our life insurance policies and showed us that our old Universal Life policy is ending and will soon have little to no death benefit in a year or so.  It is just the nature of the type of policy we bought which was to cover us until I retired.  We had forgotten all about it and now we are faced with what to do in our old age.  We need to decide if we want to buy insurance to cover our burial or use our savings.  This is just one of several things that happens when you shift gears from working and having company benefits to being cast adrift on your own. 

The financial companies like to advertise their services by instilling fear that you will not be able to make it to however long you will live unless you buy their services.  After watching one of these commercials, Joanie and I came to the conclusion that we were not going to be scared into old age and shrink from what we want to do.  We know people who, after a few years of retirement, are ready to go willingly to the old-folks home thinking that is the only safe place for them.  We don’t want to be “safe”.  We are not going to cower in a corner afraid to come out in the world.  We will be out and doing things.  We will take risks; risks that we evaluate that can be endured.

We both are in good health and want to live life to what we determine is “full”.

I am planning the route to Foley, Alabama and we will need to drive it over two days time.  I picked LaGrange, GA as the sort-of-halfway point.  Out of all the resources we have for locating camp grounds, both subscribe o and free, I have not located any goods ones close to the I-85 route.  Two were out of business.  I chose 3-Creeks RV Park.  Their website looks decent.  I would go to a COE (Core of Engineers) campground, of which there are several near LaGrange, but they are way too far off the beaten track.

I have spent a lot time digging and trying to evaluate a campground based on what I find on the internet or what’s listed in Randy which is probably based on the internet.  I hope that future journeys will not be as time consuming.

We have another showing this afternoon and after that we are off to the opera.  They will perform Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman. 

Remember: age is not measured by how many breathes we take but how many moments take our breath away.  Joanie loves the opera.  It thrills me to see her “little girl” anticipation and watching her face light up with excitement when the curtain goes up.  I don’t love opera but I do love Joanie.

March 28, 2014, Friday  Full Timing and the Internet  We have been looking into internet access while on the road.  Yes we need the internet.  We have not found a way to get rid of it along with all our other “stuff”.  We need it to tie us to our doctors, pay bills, and keep us in contact with family and friends.  The tin-can tourists were able to do it back way before there was an internet – somehow.  But we believe it is one of those essential things that will make our life better, easier and richer.  At least we do for now.

We have gone to AT&T and Verizon so far to see what they offer and they are identical.  Then we found out about Millenicom.  It offers something really different and after the initial set up, will be significantly cheaper than the mainstream companies.  For now we are leaning that way.

It was refreshing to meet the sales rep at AT&T who did not try to push products and plans at us but show us the cheaper way to go by turning my smartphone into a hot spot.  He was getting looks from his fellow sales person who kept interrupting him even while talking to her own customer.  We got a similar “hard sales pitch” from the Verizon rep. I like sales people who are genuine and are truly trying to help their customers.  Those are the sales people who buy my loyalty.  They are people who let their Christian values come through.  Some people call it discernment of Spirit. These are not the people who will make it to be CEO’s.  But they lay up greater rewards for themselves in the kingdom of God.  And the “Kingdom of God is at hand.”