Home Sweet Home

In Our Absence . . .

Bob is busily writing about our latest RV Hunting which will be posted today and hopefully tomorrow. It’s in two parts.

One problem with writing a blog that is centered mostly on our wanderings is that we’re not yet doing any big, or small, wandering quite yet.

Bob and I just retired – in October 2013. We took the three week trip in January, starting on the first, and have now been back about a month and a half (as of today). In that time, besides doing some decompressing from the trip and thinking about it and our next steps, we’ve:

  • Had family issues with Bob’s aunt and father, and my mother (some of these are minor, some, though, are pretty major);
  • Had our granddaughter’s second birthday celebration which we wouldn’t ever want to miss;
  • Gotten our wood floors ordered, had the lovely task of packing up rooms full of books and moving furniture and then had the new wood floors installed (yay!) – they are be-yoo-ti-ful;
  • Gotten our taxes done and learned what we can afford to make (basically nothing beyond what we get from retirement) to keep our taxes in line, which includes receiving distributions from any IRA’s or other accounts (because mostly our IRA’s will trigger tax payments – we only have one Roth IRA); and
  • Continued to hunt the wild RV, which Bob will write more about.

So we’ve actually been fairly busy.  In addition to what I’ve listed, Bob is continuing his novel writing and I’ve gone down the rabbit hole on a few things, along with donating platelets to the Red Cross, going to the gym and dog walking, and enjoying finishing up American Horror Story, the return of The Walking Dead, and the Showtime three-month free pass we got from our cable company.  Episodes, anyone?

Categories: Home Sweet Home, The Hunt for the Wild RV | Leave a comment

The Big Lesson Learned

Travelbyvwbus

I think we learned some things from this January trip:

The biggest one – this would have been a very different trip, perhaps a longer one, were we in a motorhome.

A Bit of Background

Last November we rented a motorhome, a 34 footer, for a short trip.  We took it to an RV park right by Joshua Tree National Park and probably would have taken it into the park had we the confidence to boondock.  But as it was our first time, we felt it was important to have full hookups and a dump station.  Partly to see how it was just being in a motorhome and partly to test out our abilities to drive the beast, do the hookups and dump our tanks.

It was a great learning trip – we cooked, we cleaned; we relaxed, read books (well, I did) and watched movies; took long walks around and watched the sunsets over the desert, and generally had a lovely time.  I did a lot of writing while there and we had time to be both together and companionably apart.  Privacy is important to me, probably a holdover from being an only child.

But renting was not cheap – we knew that going in and would not have chosen to rent for a much longer trip.  We also had one mechanical issue with the coach – the levelers never worked properly even with the rental guys trying to fix this before we left.  Their last minute fixing held us up in leaving the area and we ended up arriving at the RV park at night.  We never were able to lower the levelers properly and, although it didn’t ruin anything, it was a bit odd to be listing to one side for a few days.

So before we took our road trip in January we had the experience of a trip in a motorhome with which to compare, albeit a short trip.

A Matter of Cost

In the past, I have teased Bob a bit by saying, “every time we go on vacation, no matter where we go or how we go, we spend about a grand a week”.  Yes, that’s a lot of money, although maybe not outrageous to some.  I mean, some people can easily spend a grand a DAY and others, just a grand a month.  But over the ten years we’ve been together and vacationed, we have regressed to the mean of a grand a week.  Which, to remind you, is over and above our normal expenses of mortgage, utilities, etc.  (Note:  When we went overseas early in our time together it was more, but I wasn’t keeping track of the money as well in those days.)

Most of the costs are obvious – we need to get where we’re going and when we get there, we have to pay for some sort of lodging.  Then there are costs for tickets, souvenirs, and so on.

On this trip, with the exception of the time at my dad’s house in central Florida, we paid for a relatively modest motel each night, and we ate out at least one meal a day, opting to utilize the free breakfast at the motels we stayed at.  For our lunches, we ate Clif Bars, packets of nuts, and apples or bananas.

We had expenses for the dog, too – most of the Best Westerns charged an additional fee for her (very understandable), although the La Quinta Inns did not (I’m voting for a La Quinta Inn in most cases for this reason alone).

But food costs are a bit tricky.  When we’re home, we eat rather simply and we tend to eat the same stuff over and over.  I remember reading something about how people actually eat and that’s pretty typical.  But when we’re on vacation, we spend more because we’re eating out, and we eat more because restaurant food has that novelty factor and that deliciousness factor and that “what the hell, I’m on vacation” factor working for it. (See my comments below on the “on vacation” mode of being.)

And then there’s liquor.

We keep a fairly well-stocked liquor cabinet at home because we do like our cocktails.  We also keep a fair amount of good beer around as Bob likes his IPAs.

When I buy a bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin (yes, for martinis), I buy a big 1.75 liter bottle from Total Wine or Costco, so I get a bargain.  But when I buy a drink at a bar or restaurant when we’re on vacation, I pay a huge premium.  Now, we didn’t drink everyday when we were gone (nor do we drink every day when we’re home, either . . . just sayin), but when we did it was expensive.

So it’s obvious that in terms of cost, the cost of motorhome park fees would be less than even modest motels (and way less than the nice hotels that we have occasionally been to), fuel would be necessarily more, though, and eating in the motorhome most days would lower the food and liquor cost quite a bit and still allow for nights out on occasion.

But, I hear you saying . . . but there’s the COST of the motorhome to begin with.  That’s true.  They aren’t cheap and they don’t generally appreciate in value.

So why even consider one?

What Price Lifestyle?

I’ve been pondering this for awhile now.  And I think there are a couple of aspects to the lifestyle issue.

First, there’s the pace of life as both a journeyer and a sojourner (a sojourner is one who rests in one spot for awhile) that appeals to both of us.  We have always had that wanderlust and we found ourselves always curious about both the places and people as we traveled through an area.

In the car, the pace felt rushed, even on the trip back home which took about twice as long as the eastward trip.  It was mostly about moving through, or journeying.  In a motorhome, there is this, but often you stop for a few nights or more in one place  before moving on.   So there is that sense of the sojourn as well as the journey.

But there is another issue though that seems a bit, I don’t know . . . strange or unexpected to even me.  And that is the cozy factor of living in a motorhome.  None of them are huge, no matter how large the camera angles make them seem – certainly not as large as the home we currently live in which is about 1900 square feet.  Living sanely and with enough personal privacy in a space of 300-400 square feet (or less) seems counter intuitive, but when we did it, it quickly felt warm, cozy and homey to both Bob and I.  I was surprised and didn’t expect that experience, but it was true.

Lastly, To Be a Journeyer and Sojourner

I mentioned above that the “on vacation” mode was probably one factor in our eating out both more food and not as good food due to the novelty, the deliciousness and the “what the hell, I’m on vacation” mode of being.  I’m not sure that’s how it would be in a motorhome, though.

I posed this on an RV forum and got responses which mostly were in the vein of, “Well, we quickly realized that no matter where we are, we’re home” which I realized I felt when we were renting, too.  Even though we didn’t own that motorhome, I was making dinner in it, and washed dishes and then settled in to read a book or went outside to just enjoy the place we were in.  Yes, I was on vacation but I felt, intensely, like I was also at home.

I don’t know yet how it will be to be in our own motorhome, moving about the country for months at a time.   I think that having our own bed to sleep in nightly, not having to pack up our bags and unpack them over and over, and not having to worry much about check in and check out times will all contribute to this feeling of being home, rather than on vacation.  And having normal routines and rituals will help as well.

Ultimately, what we learned is that this new life in retirement is full of things we have yet to experience and we won’t be able to do all that we want to do or go to all the places we want to go to.  Being together and finding spaces to be apart is important, and finding meaning in our lives will be a challenge always.

I think, for us, life will be in the journeying and the sojourning wherever we are.  And in this, we will always be at home.

Categories: Home Sweet Home, Life on the Road, The Hunt for the Wild RV, Travel Plans | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Back Home! And Izzy is Happy, Happy, Happy

homesweethome

Home Sweet Home.

After 20 days gone, we really mean it!

Our last stop was Tombstone (which Bob will more adequately post about our time there) and we were staying at one of our nicer places, the Landmark Lookout Lodge, a very cool pet-friendly place on the outskirts of town.  We had a view of the expansive desert, it was peaceful and they even had a cooked-to-order breakfast which was actually the best free breakfast we had on the trip.

We had the option of staying an additional night, and it was very nice, and we could have done more or driven down to Bisbee and hung out with desert hippies, but we just couldn’t do it.  Literally, we both knew we had to get home . . . no matter what.

(Parenthetical note:  I knew we had to leave as I counted our underwear and realized it was either we leave now, or we head to a laundromat.)

So the “Bataan death march” began as we got up early, watched the sunrise over the desert (wowza), ate that great breakfast and got the hell out of Dodge . . . er, Tombstone.

It’s a long drive through Tucson and Phoenix and then into the sprawl that is Los Angeles, which starts at Riverside.  Luckily, it was Martin Luther King, Jr. day which meant that some people were not working.  Had it been any typical Monday, it might have taken even longer to get home.

As it was, we made it home in good time.  As Bob disgorged the car, I made a grocery trip, and then we just stared at the TV set all night.  We stared at the TV because: (1) we were exhausted; and (2) we came home to a dead router, so no internet access – hey, welcome home!

It’s been a long trip and I think it helped us clarify some things which we’ll write about more here.

We also have a few trip reports to do which we’ll get to over the next few days.

Today, I took Izzy for her morning walk and she pulled me along to “her” gopher zone.  She gleefully pounced on several possible spots looking for the varmints.  No luck today, but as she bounced about, tail wagging excitedly, I thought I could hear her whisper, “Happy, happy, happy!”

Yes, it’s good to be home.

Categories: Home Sweet Home, Life on the Road | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Oh the early days – on carpet, the ‘rents, and the honey-do list

We’ve been busy!

Early retirement is a series of doing and planning projects that you never got to while you were working. In Bob’s case, this included working on his 2001 Pontiac Grand Prix. I will let him describe what needed to be done, but suffice it to say – he did the work himself within a few weeks of being retired over the course of many days. Well, not that many. It’s just when you usually have access to your car and then don’t, it feels like a long time. That’s a California thing.

We have another big project that’s been a back burner one for a long time. When we bought our townhouse it had hardwood floors in the formal dining room and kitchen, but the living room, landing and stairs were carpeted (along with the bedrooms). Frankly, we’d wanted these areas to be hardwood, but the builder had made their selections and it was a done deal.

Fast forward eight years – eight years of multiple teenage and young adult men, cats and now a dog and just living (including one tumble by yours truly down the stairs with a full cup of coffee – !!!) – and builder-grade carpet doesn’t look so great.

Plus, although a great thing – we got a Roomba for our birthdays from the kids. The one that picks up the pet hair. Amazing! It does a great job and has begun to pull up the old stuff buried within the carpet, including old dander and other noxious stuff. We’re sneezing more. Ugh.

All of this is to say – it’s long past time to get that darn carpet up and out and put down hardwood. Not an inexpensive proposition, of course. We were going to do it ourselves, and may still to save money, but we’ve got a decent bid from Lowe’s. It’s still a pretty big job, like all home projects often are.

And the other ongoing “project” we have is our elderly parents. Both of us are lucky enough to have parents who are alive. People in our age group often do not. There’s longevity there, too, especially in Bob’s family. His mother comes from a long line of long-lived Estonians; he has both an aunt and uncle in their 90’s. Bob’s parents are in their mid-80’s.

My dad is 83 (more about him) and lives in Florida. My mom is 79 and lives down the street from us. My parents are not in the greatest of shape, due to long-term smoking on both of their parts. Ironically (I guess) neither has gotten lung cancer, but smoking affects more than just that – it affects the entire cardiovascular system, too. Yet, even with their medical issues, they are still alive.

And they all need us more, not less. Three out of four relatives are local to us which helps, but I am an only child and Bob only has one sister, who does look out for their parents quite a bit (thanks, Karen Sue!). But now that Bob is retired, we expect more involvement.

So with parents, projects, grown up kids who need help now and again (some more than others), and a grandchild, and trying to fit traveling and writing and all the other fun stuff into a life that still includes laundry, and groceries and keeping our cholesterol and blood sugar down to reasonable numbers, there’s honestly no dull days.

Whoever has time to work?

Categories: Home Sweet Home | Tags: , ,

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