Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A Year of Life on the Road and Home Again

It's been a year now since we moved into our motor home, Lida, to enjoy a life of freedom and choice. It's not all been roses and sunshine. Things like restricted storage space, cramped quarters and repairs have taken a toll on our patience and tolerance at times. The reality of 2 people and 2 dogs, one a very active pup, has also meant a lot of adjusting. Traveling this summer to Utah and living near Zion for 2 1/2 months was blissful, but we had to literally work for it as workampers so we didn't get the full Monty where that was concerned. It was such a nice change from Las Vegas summers and the scenery was lovely! We miss campfires and the brilliant stars in Utah along with the clear high desert air. But the trip home showed our beastie's age as it lurched down the highway, hitching and hiccuping. I think that may be the old girl's big trip. We are nicely settled in a comfy RV park SO much better than the first one we spent 6 months at ('nuff said about that) and the location is great. Mike got a good job and I am going back to work part time for the City after almost 5 months off and am grateful for that. I miss 'my' work kids and friends.

There are a few things we really miss, though, living in a tin can: I miss a real kitchen. It's not easy preparing meals on a 12'x16" surface. The sinks are fit for a dollhouse. We don't use the stove top even though it's a wonderful gas grill because let's face it, the cost of propane is phenomenal and we aren't willing to put out $75 every month or less for the convenience of using a stove. We would rather use the furnace. I miss a stove, full-size fridge and my little freezer. Those who know me know that I absolutely love cooking and baking. Mike says we are getting a good convection oven as soon as we can afford it. That will help but it's still not the same! I like my electric slow cooker, grill, sandwich press, electric fry pan and other appliances that we have crammed into our little storage cupboards but I miss a stove! I miss a real bathroom, with a tub and shower we can use. Ours leaks, so we use the lovely bath house here, which is one of our favorite features of this place. Cuts back on propane but also cuts back on convenience. I miss having a real kitchen/dining room table to decorate for the holidays and having room to put up a real tree in here. BUT we make the best of it with decorations inside and out and this year we can do even more.

We don't miss property management that won't work with you or who are disrespectful when you are tied in to a year long lease. We don't miss constant apartment inspections and intrusion. We don't miss relying on others for our accommodations. We like the freedom to travel if we like, even though now it won't be far, and the ability to pull up and go elsewhere if that's what we want to do. The build-in electricity and cable costs still leave us with a rent that is far less - almost half the cost - of the ridiculous rent of $1000-$1200 that is the average for 1-2 bedroom apts in the LV/Henderson area. One day we will end up in an apartment but unfortunately, it will probably not be in this area anymore. But we will have the freedom to make that choice when the time comes.

We are grateful for what we have and that includes the wonderful neighbors here. Full-timers are a breed unto themselves and we are happy to be part of that community. Having gotten rid of lots of our clutter - yes, a bunch is crammed into our storage unit but you wouldn't believe the down-sizing we have done! - will make any changes easier in future. So we are thankful for that as well.

Life is good and we forge ever onward, much like gypsies or pioneers who knew the general direction in which they wanted to head but had no clue the obstacles that lay in their way. May the roads be fair, the path be smooth toward our next destination. I wish that for all of you as well.

[Sorry the photos taken - present to past - don't align properly. A bit of a glitch with the system}
Waiting for dad
Our new home
Oh the places we saw
Stunning scenery in Utal
The evening at our campground

My marigolds

First pic of baby Mellie with Charlie

One of our favorite activities at camp

On the way to Utah
On the road

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Looking Back in August at Our Summer Adventures as Workampers


 A lot has happened this summer. We've learned new skills, gained a lot of tolerance and patience (and many gray hairs) and we added an addition to our little family - Mellie, a blue heeler/Australian Shepherd. This, in itself has been quite an adjustment.

Mellie was 10 weeks old when we adopted her from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, right here in Utah. She was and still is a "wild child" but as you can see, she and Charlie were siblings from other from the first time they laid eyes on each other. They roughhouse and play by the hour...literally and then, tired, Charlie usually retires to the bedroom while Mellie crashes on the floor in the living area of our RV. That's when we can breathe a sigh of relief...for a little while.

She bolts her food - probably the result of fighting her 4 sisters for kibble at the Sanctuary. Sometimes what goes down comes up, but that's life with a puppy. She has had her accidents and occasionally still does but was relatively quick to learn that you went outside, not inside and once the puppy pads were depleted, we just didn't buy anymore. She is doing well for an almost 4 month old but whoo boy! she and I are both really stubborn so sometimes when we lock horns, it's a battle of wills. Lots of love on all our sides and even though she is sometimes a real challenge, she is part of this dysfunctional  little family.

The summer of Workamping taught us a lot, too. Mike and I enjoyed working together as a team, using our individual strengths and weaknesses to balance each other. We made some good friends here, as temporary as they were, and also made some lasting friends who we don't intend to forget. Ah, the power of Social Media and messaging! We were the oldest Workampers here which was interesting as well - to be "first-timers" and the eldest was sometimes a strange mix.

It was satisfying to finally get the office side of things in hand. This was a complicated hotel registration system and took some getting used to but practice gives a person confidence, I suppose. The routine of office, cleaning, scrubbing bathrooms and dealing with guests was different but never dull, even on the quietest days. Mike got used to his friend, the weed-eater and his enemy, the standard-drive beater truck. He damaged his bowling hand some with the constant stress on it. Seems to be a tendon thing that hopefully will mend in time for him to rejoin his league.

We applied to numerous workamping jobs for fall, finding a wonderful fit in Tennessee that unfortunately won't work this year because it was essentially a volunteer position for free space/hook-up. Financially it wasn't feasible right now but we hope perhaps in fall we can take them up on the raincheck. We also discovered the Snowbirds are taking most of the jobs, happy to have a free place to stay in return for doing a short stint of work. IF we were both retired, it would be ideal but not with Mike being well below the age for collecting Social Security. So unless something drastically changes, we are probably headed back to Nevada after the middle of the month.

We have gotten used to living in our motorhome and despite its foibles and restricted space, it's home. Rather than take an apartment again, we will probably get a few repairs done and find a resting place for fall and winter. It will be nice to have a shower again!!

We also found that when your gut tells you it's time to move on, you move on. We put in our notice for the middle of August and are starting to prepare to hit the road again. It was an interesting 2 1/2 months but time is time. After 13 years in the Henderson area we miss some of our favorite shops and restaurants. Utah is gorgeous and we have some wonderful photos but it's not where we want to stay. We loved the little towns - Orderville and Kanab and Hurricane (civilization! a Walmart!) and will miss our favorite bakeries and shops (and Mike's favorite pizza/icecream place) but that's okay. We have the photos and memories to look back upon. Plus we can plan out what we intend to do in Spring and where we prefer to be situated.

We visited Zion Park a couple of times and drove through more it more than that, tunnel, switchbacks and more. I love may Senior Parks Pass! We also visited the Johnson Canyon area with the old set of Gunsmoke and Montezuma's Steps (the Escalante), Eagle's Gate and more. 

So with those thoughts, I'll share some of our favorite photos of the amazing Zion Park and the surrounding area to share with you in a mix of nostalgia and joy that we had the opportunity to visit and spend time in an area of the US that we probably otherwise may have never seen. That is the main joy in the freedom when you workamp. Safe travels!


Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Incredible Journey Begins with Retirement

So by now anyone following our personal journey knows of some of the obstacles we had to overcome to move into our motorhome. Whether you want to call us gypsies, vagabonds or First Timers (we concur with each of these) we are glad at the thought of getting into new surroundings.
Christmas was interesting and next year we will be much better prepared with decorating.

We did get to Disney World courtesy of Mike's mom last February. It was so much fun that she wants us to go with her in January, 2020 again! Here are a few shots from our trip.

6 months at one place is more than enough for us. We endured a lot here and we look forward to many more positive experiences elsewhere. Lida is locked and loaded, I am officially retired and Mike's last day of work is this weekend - until at least in fall when we plan to return to Henderson/Vegas once cooler weather hits.

We got a ding for another $450 when we had to have our waterlines - grey and black - repaired. There went more savings. Between that and previous repairs, we figure we've probably put $1200 or so into this little monster since  moving in but it's like that with any new home so you deal with it and - hopefully - roll on. Still some minor stuff to deal with before our travels begin for real at the end of the month. Finally.

Pluses with living in a motorhome as full-timers:

  • Generally less expensive than apartments, especially with increasing costs in Henderson
  • Less bills except for propane, power and personal costs (cell phone, satellite TV, loans, etc.)
  • You can pack up and leave as soon as you can afford it and not look back. There are no long-term commitments unless that's what you want. We are no longer tied into a lease which is a real relief.
  • You get to choose from a wider variety of places for your next site - especially after retirement. In my case that's now - Mike has a few years to go unfortunately. Now this does depend upon availability with all the snowbirds coming here every fall but we can beat them to it by returning from travels a bit earlier.
  • When you go camping you go "glamping" with everything contained in your little home.
  • We don't have to use public facilities. I like my own shower and toilet, TYVM and Mike does, too. 
  • You have to deal with your own repairs which can get costly. No maintenance guy to bail you out. You have to find your own contractors to help you.
  • Propane costs. We were lucky to find a good service that gave us premium prices. We will use them again upon our return.
  • Space can get tight when both of us are up and around. We want another pup but are seriously thinking about it because of the time and space continuum. 
  • We have had to get rid of lots of excess baggage and have to have a storage unit which adds somewhat into the monthly cost of the unit but still beats rental here in Henderson.
As you can see, as in any home there are things to consider. We are just excited at the prospect of getting out on the road and finally starting to see our favorite Nevada vantage points - or even new ones! If we can get the dang battery working and git 'er going, Amargosa, here we come!

Til then, take care, be well and the new post will hopefully be from our summer site!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Living the dream

Hi, there. Welcome back! It's been way too long...

We have been just a bit preoccupied lately with a big life change and it's about time I gave you an update.

First, a bit of background: Since moving here almost 13 years ago, we have lived in a variety of apartments in the beautiful city of Henderson, NV (after a brief nasty experience to begin with in Las Vegas - another story for another time). In fact, I have just completed a book entitled "Lost Restaurants of Henderson," about this town: it's defunct, beloved restaurants of days gone by, Henderson's  historic beginnings, current favorites and sites of interest - past and present (the survivors) and where the future may bring us now that the Raiders and Knights are here. Haven "eaten our way through Henderson" it seemed like a fit when History Press proposed the idea to me.

After an 8 day trip in Spring of 2017, we discovered just how much we enjoyed traveling with our pup Charlie, and we began talking about alternative lifestyles. I was ready to move into a cabin in the woods in Northern Nevada or California after visiting the area. This, unfortunately was not Mike's idea of living. The idea of living on the road began niggling us in the back of our minds. We didn't want to be tied down with a house or condo, we were tired of paying to live in places with nothing to show for it, and we decided to research motor homes, RV's and living on the road. We love nothing more than researching and Mike is a born statistics man while I am more of a dreamer, so we did our work.

In summer, we started looking at RV parks and such after receiving a bit of an inheritance from my Mom's passing last Spring (thanks, mom, for always encouraging me to follow my dreams!) We decided that with me retiring in spring/2019 and Mike being ready to leave town, this was the time - now or never. In September we made our great foray into the wonderful, previously  unknown world of motor homes and all they had to offer. We didn't want anything too huge - we wanted the ability to really be mobile and certainly didn't want a mobile home to drag behind us! We discovered the difference between class A and class C, about trailers you pull vs homes you drive (like a bus). We found a consignment place that looked pretty good and had a great variety and, taking a breath, we worked up a feasible budget and visited the place.

Oh mercy! Tiny and huge RV's called our name. The one we actually had considered turned out to be nothing like the photos and description. It was nestled in a nasty little section of the place and like the guy told us - "Yep, those are pretty old photos." Noooo....really? <sorry, Canadian skepticism and sarcasm aka sardonic wit emerged briefly> I remember thinking WTH have we gotten into?

By this point we were more-or-less committed. The cool thing was that in searching for this evasive toad of an RV, we saw a couple of really nice ones, including one that kept calling us back as we browsed to our content - and I am sure the salesman's annoyance as he finally left us to our own devices. Trouble was, once I had walked away from the one that felt right, I couldn't find it again. That's how big this place was and how many units were actually kept there! Mike went down one row, knowing the one I meant, while I wandered the other way, keeping my eyes peeled (and peering into others, wondering if there was even something better). Finally, by coincidence, I kid you not, we both ended up in the same row in front of this same motorhome. The sun shone down, a great light illuminated it and we could almost hear the angelic chorus when we walked inside. Okay, that's a tad dramatic but we did feel a lifting of our spirits and a surge of excitement coupled with a sense of satisfaction and "rightness" when we walked into it.

It was lovely, a 'deluxe' version of a 1998 National Sea Breeze. Blue and cream on the outside, blue and silver and cream inside with loved wood cabinets with blue and silver and cream 'etched' panels, a really sweet large microwave (the guy called it a "convection oven" when he walked through with us but who was he kidding? I am a Little Cook, not a Little Fool!). The little kitchenette area was sweet with a requisite fold-up work table. A considerable amount of storage space inside and out, which we desperately needed but which,  of course, is never actually enough. It even (ta da!) already had a Dish Traveler unit on top so it was pretty much TV ready! (turns out it also has the capability of surround sound throughout the trailer but we have to go to Camping World to see about that because we have no clue!) It was in lovely condition for its age or any age. The bathroom was bigger than the others we had peered into and the fridge was a decent size. There was a 'walk around' bed area with a fair bit of storage in there, too (bonus!) and all-in-all, it looked dang good to us.

We walked into the office after about 2 hours of poking, peering, looking at various units and such and said "That's the one." The price was better than we had  hoped, the year was better than we had feared, the condition was quite literally wonderful and it had most everything we needed, including a really good Magic Chef gas grille on top. I love cooking with gas!

We discussed specifics and looked at the VIN sheet and description of the motorhome. It had just arrived there a couple of days previous before prepping for sale. This was its first day for sale and we were the first to look at it. One owner, lightly used, only 40000 miles, excellent condition with everything working (we will get to that later). He turned on the a/c for us and it was instantly cool. All the windows opened, all the lights worked (more about that later), the electrical system was good, newer battery, really comfortable seating and such, etc etc etc. The asking price was low for the age and condition and non-negotiable - which was understandable - and we would have a down-payment. Then came financing. The manager of the sales place recommended a nearby credit union (which made me happy - I always wanted an account at a credit union and so did Mike!) We asked him to put a hold on it, and he did, promising to hold it for us until we got back to him. In preparation, just in case, I had brought all our financials and stubs, etc with us. Good thing! 2 1/2 hours later, we walked out with a loan for the balance.

The first thing I did was call the sales guy and tell him to put a Sold sign on it - that we had gotten our financing and would be there on the Thursday (we had gotten the loan on Tuesday and Mike had to bowl Wednesday evening so with me working that day and him bowling that evening, Thursday was the earliest we could get in to do the deed. He said he was really glad because he did have another offer from another lady but had told her it was already sold. And so it was done.

We moved in to Lida (named after my mom's middle name) at the end of October and haven't looked back since. We are living in an RV park until the end of May when our traveling will begin. And we are discovering the joys of home ownership: flooding the place by leaving the water pump on 2 days after moving in (oops), replacing the furnace and water pump taking the rest of our savings and the joy of address changes and such. But we are "living our dream" which is all it's all about.

So, next installment will feature non-oven recipes because, joy of joys, we discovered after purchase that it didn't have an oven. Thank goodness for electrical appliances and a great gas range top! Then again it will probably be an installment of the continuation of our personal "incredible journey."

hugs and love for now