Posts Tagged With: RV

It’s later than you think

It happened again. Somebody in my life dropped dead yesterday. Unexpectedly. At 59 years of age.

Gayle was a hair stylist, and he had my wife, my mother in law, and me as clients. Stereotypes are often based in truth, and yes, this man was gay. He was actually one of the handful of gay men that I’ve had lengthy conversations with. That I knew well. I really liked this man, and the shock of his sudden passing has me really upset.

I found out about this on Facebook. All of a sudden I started seeing condolence messages popping up on my wall. I didn’t get it at first. I thought that one of Gayle’s friends had passed, and it was his friends sending condolence messages for his loss. I was interested to find out who this was, so I went to his wall. The reality of what happened smacked me. Hard. I told my wife, and she thought I was misunderstanding something. No. It was true. Our friend was gone.

Gayle was not married, and there is nobody out there to remove his Facebook page, so of course it has turned into pages and pages of condolence messages and tributes and shock and hurt. And pictures. So many pictures, with his smiling face, surrounded by his friends. This is good. Another friend (Anne) passed a few years ago, and I also saw it on Facebook. In this case, Anne was survived by a spouse, and he shut down the Facebook page almost immediately. That left a hole. It was harder than this.

Gayle had asked my wife to remind me to bring my iPAD to my last appointment, so he could see pictures of our new RV. I did that, and before he got started working on my hair, we looked at the pictures. He was so excited for us. After that, we had conversation about all kinds of things, for the whole time I was there. We talked of volunteer work he was doing at the YWCA, the upcoming Long Beach Grand Prix, movies, a musical I was playing in, and many other things.

So what does this have to do with the RV lifestyle, and Retirement? Why am I putting this on The Two Who Wander?

Gayle is the latest in a growing number of people I know who have passed much earlier than expected. It serves as a reminder that life is fragile, and none of us know how much more time we have.

Laura and I are looking forward to adventures in our RV. If we are lucky, we will be healthy enough to enjoy this lifestyle for 10 to 15 years. A lot of people aren’t that lucky. A lot of people don’t make it to retirement. This gave Laura and I a feeling of urgency. We knew that the clock was running, and if we were going to do this lifestyle, we had to jump in. Now.

Both of us had reservations about doing this. Getting into the RV lifestyle is a big outlay of resources – both time and money resources. We’ve had negative feedback. I’ve been on forum threads where people ridiculed others for borrowing money to buy an RV, saying that smart people will save their money until they can afford to pay cash. We’ve had people poke at our good fortune of having a sound retirement that provides enough resources to get into the RV lifestyle. It’s just not fair, they tell us, because everybody isn’t that lucky. Maybe not, but there was a lot of hard work involved to earn this….with many 60-70 hour weeks worked over the years. We even have a family member calling us “selfish” because we don’t use our resources and time purely for elder and offspring support.

I’ve worked through all of this in my mind. I’ve rejected the negative feedback. All of it.

We have responsibilities to our family, and we will fulfill those as needed, no matter what. We won’t take away the very real value to our children of making their own way in life - we won’t use our remaining resources to make it overly easy. If my parents would have done that, I would not have tried as hard, and I would not have achieved as much. I would not have what I have now. If and when any of our children get into real trouble, we will be there. I mean real trouble. We have done that before.

I’m not worried about borrowing money to buy an RV. With money as cheap as it is now, and the tax advantage available on the interest, it doesn’t make sense to avoid a loan. And of course there is always the possibility that you’re gone before you have saved enough to avoid a loan. Is that a good thing?

Laura and I made choices during our working lives that resulted in us having good pensions and savings. This involved a lot of hard work, some smarts, and some luck. Going back to school to get additional education while working full time is something that both of us did. We both worked a lot of overtime, either for pay or just for career advancement. Do I feel guilty about what we have achieved? Not one bit, but I do feel blessed and humbled and fortunate and thankful. A lot of people helped. Parents, family, friends, co-workers.

I feel just terrible that Gayle died before he got to take a rest and enjoy retirement. I feel the same way for Beth, who died at just 55, and our friend Monica, and our friend Anne, and my cousin Roger, and my brother Lew, who died at only 25.

These are wake up calls for those who live on.

Wake up and live life while you can. Don’t take what you have for granted. Do what makes you happy. Use your time and resources for what you want. Cherish the time you have left.

It’s later than you think.

 

Categories: Retirement | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Fridays are still good

Dining room or workspace? Or BOTH!

Dining room or workspace? Or BOTH!

Fridays.

Man, how I used to love Fridays when I was working. Light work days, with many of the more demanding people off. A day to catch up and actually get something done. Less meetings. Less fighting. More relaxed atmosphere. The excitement of a couple of days off in front of me. The relief. The anticipation of late nights watching movies, not worried about getting up the next day. Lazy Saturdays and Sundays. Fishing on the beach. Beers on the balcony, with the stereo going. Parties with family and friends.

I’ve been retired for around 7 months now. More than half a year, but sometimes it seems like I just walked out of work a couple of weeks ago.

My first post on this blog was about stepping into retirement. I felt like I was in the starting gate, and I didn’t have a good idea of what would follow or how I would like it. I was concerned with big household jobs I had coming up, and how to live my life without the structure of work. I yearned to live more in the now. Take time to smell the flowers, enjoy the quiet times, and just relax.

Am I still drifting around, wondering what to do?

Most of the jobs I was so worried about early in my retirement are out of the way now. There is always more to do, but life goes on and I’ll get to it. No, I’m not really living in the now much more than I did before. I still make lists in my head of things that are stacking up on my to-do list, and find myself feeling pressure. I’m OK with that. It’s my personality, and I really wouldn’t be happy if I changed. I watch my dog living in the now. I don’t think I could take the rapid ups and downs that I watch her go through. To me, thinking about the broad future – planned and unplanned – is more of a comfort than a worry most of the time. I can visualize a future that I want, and then do things to make it so. This won’t always work out, but at least I have a fighting chance. My dog can’t do that. She is always at the mercy of everything around her, being lifted and dropped by the rolling waves of a life she can’t control.

I’m going to be somebody who will always need his work, and I need some structure to stay on track. I’ve found that structure, and it’s working fairly well so far. It’s keeping me from sitting on the couch watching TV all day, which I think would be the death of me.

What am I doing?

I have a routine to start my day, and that keeps me from sitting around trying to decide what I want to do for hours on end. I have interests to fit into that starting routine, and once I’m running, it’s easy to transition to another interest from there after a while. I still sit around some and watch TV, but more often than not, it’s off until late afternoon or early evening.

There are two main interests that are part of my day to day life, and the structure of my day is built around them. I’m continuing on with the main interest that I kept up with while I was working, and I’ve gone back to an old interest that life as a working stiff and dad prevented me from enjoying to the fullest.

The ongoing interest is music. I’ve been playing ‘cello for most of my life, mainly in symphony orchestras, and in the orchestra pits for stage musicals. My pursuit of this interest hasn’t really changed very much since I retired. I practice more now, but that’s about it. I’ve always thought that I would pursue more playing opportunities when I retired, but I haven’t done that so far. Adding another orchestra is a possibility, and there is a local one that would like me to play, but two things are holding me back….freedom to travel at the drop of a hat, and aging hands that limit the number of hours I can practice in a given week. I plan to continue to play as long as my hands and mind hold up, but don’t plan to ramp that up too much.

The old interest that I’ve gone back to is writing. Fiction writing. In my earlier days, I did quite a bit of that. Short stories, partially completed novels, scraps of good and bad stuff. The time that I was most prolific was during the mid 1980s, after I had finished my BS in Business. I was working full time while attending college, and when I was done, I had to have something to help me slow the flywheel that was driving me. I would go out to the little room inside the garage that I did homework in, and hammer away on my Commodore 64.

I slowed down and stopped the writing after a year or so. There were some good reasons for this. The most important one was my family…..my first two sons were growing up rapidly, and I needed to spend more and more time with them. My wife, who was losing patience with my alone time, needed more from me as well. And finally, I ended up with two more kids on the way (twins)…..so my focus had to change quickly. This was in no way a bad thing. Many of the happiest memories of my life were from this time. Watching the boys grow and explore life. Indian Guides, Little League, AYSO Soccer, Roller Hockey, family camp outs, boating, trips to Bullhead City, and more. I miss all of that, and wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.

The structure I’ve set up for myself is pretty simple. I get up in the morning, feed the dog and cats, and then come down to the room I’m sitting in now. I start writing. Sometimes it takes me a little while to get going, but generally I’m into it after 15-20 minutes of checking various sites on the internet and looking at e-mail. I usually write from about 9:00 am to about noon, unless I’m really rolling, in which case I can go until 1:00 or 2:00. Laura is generally writing at the same time as well, so it’s pretty quiet in the house at this time. I’m really enjoying this right now…..in fact it’s usually the highlight of my day.

After the writing session is done, I’ll have some lunch, take the dog for a walk, and then practice ‘cello for a little while. After that, the day is pretty open….Laura and I figure out what we want to do. Several days a week we go to the gym. Other days we run errands. Sometimes we just kick back and talk, and every once in a while we watch TV.

It doesn’t make too much difference to me if we are at home or in the RV….this structure basically works. I enjoy writing time in the RV, and I think Laura does too.

The fiction project I’m working on right now is a novel. It’s about serial killers and those that hunt them, and yes, there are RV’s involved (of course). Is it any good? I don’t know. It might be crap. Either way, I’m enjoying the experience of writing it, so I’ll keep going, and we’ll see what happens.

I take a break from the fiction every so often to write articles like this for The Two Who Wander. I enjoy that too, but I don’t lose myself in the writing like I do with fiction. When I’m writing the fiction, I’m in the story. Some days it’s really hard to drag myself out of that world.

So I’m no longer in the starting gate. I’m off and running. I’ve found what I want to do, for now, and I’m enjoying it. Before I got going, I used to think about work. I still think about friends from work, but the old project and it’s environs are never on my mind. That tells me that I’ve made the transition. I’m retired.

Fridays? Yes, surprisingly, they are still just about my favorite day. There is still the anticipation and excitement. Maybe I’ll stay up later tonight, and watch some movies. Oh yeah, and there’s a party to go to this weekend!

 

 

 

Categories: Retirement | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dockweiler State Beach…..RV Trip #2

 

Dockweiler from the sand.

Dockweiler from the sand.

Our second trip is over, and I’m sitting here in my condo only about 7 miles away from the Dockweiler RV Park, wishing it was still going.

To get back into it, I would have to drive 66 miles inland to pick up our coach from the storage yard, and then drive about 70 miles in the coach to get back to Dockweiler. Compared to a 300 mile driving day, it’s not too bad, but it’s still more than a hop, skip, and jump. Guess I’ll just have to stay home for now.

Dockweiler has some features that are hard to love.

It’s very close to LAX, and depending on wind patterns and the time of day, you might have noisy jets taking off right over your heads every few minutes. It can get loud enough to stop conversation.

You can just see the jet taking off from LAX in the upper left hand corner of the picture

You can just see the jet taking off from LAX – middle left.

 

Across the road, and visible from the RV Park, is Hyperion – LA’s oldest and largest sewage treatment plant.

Hyperion Sewage Treatment Plant

Hyperion Sewage Treatment Plant

 

Off shore, oil tankers tie up and connect to pipes that take crude oil into the Standard Oil Refinery, which is a mile or so south.

Tanker sitting offshore, off loading crude to the Standard Oil Refinery

Tanker sitting offshore, off loading crude to the Standard Oil Refinery

Cost is high – $65 per night for the row closest to the sand, $60 per night for the middle row, and $55 per night for the back row.

The park isn’t lushly landscaped and attractive, either. At first glance, the park just looks like a parking lot with hookups. It is long and skinny, with three rows of spaces. It’s not a tiny park….there are 118 spaces.

 

You can see the three rows of spaces here. It goes pretty far back....118 spaces.

You can see the three rows of spaces here. It goes pretty far back….118 spaces.

This is a very popular park, especially in the summer. It fills up fast. Reservations are required. Why is that, with all of the problems?

Most of the bad features don’t actually impact you much. There is a breeze that normally blows from the ocean onto the shore. This usually insures that the smells from Hyperion, LAX, and Standard Oil don’t hang around in the RV park. The smells generally blow inland. You get nice clean ocean air.

The airplane noise can be bad, but it comes and goes, and after a while I don’t notice it very much. Laura doesn’t agree with me on this…..she thinks the noise is a really big problem.

The best part about this location is the bike path. Its about five steps from the first row of spaces at the park, separated by a low fence with openings about every 15 feet or so. This bike path is the famous “Strand”, which runs through Torrance Beach, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, El Porto, Playa Del Rey, Venice Beach, and Santa Monica Beach. The food, drink, and entertainment selection along the Strand is ENORMOUS. World class. Almost everybody I saw at this campground had bikes in order to take advantage of this.

The Strand. You can just see a bike entering the frame on the right.

The Strand. You can just see a bike entering the frame on the right.

The beach next to the RV Park is very nice also. If you like to body surf, it’s a very nice location. It’s also a good place to fish. There never seems to be many local surfers there. The location of the RV Park helps with that. Dockweiler is a very large beach. To the north of the guard shack is day parking ($6), and the “day use” part of the beach. That is where day visitors and surfers are. To the south of the guard shack is the RV park, but there is quite a bit of open ground between the day area and the RV area. Too far to lug surfboards and other beach equipment. The beach by the RV park isn’t legally restricted to RV’ers, but the topography keeps day users on the north side of the beach.

A nearly empty beach in SoCal...rare even in April.

A nearly empty beach in SoCal…rare even in April.

The first trip that we took in the new Georgetown 328 was a shakedown, at an RV Park that was only about 4 miles from the dealership and the storage yard. It was a great trip, but there was very little driving involved. This time we had more of a drive…about 70 miles one way. The driving was almost all freeway driving….you go about a mile from the storage yard to get to I-10. Then it’s over to the 605 freeway, and finally the 105 freeway. The 105 turns into Imperial Hwy. That road literally ends at the guard shack for Dockweiler State Beach, about a mile or two after the 105 ends.

Guard shack up on the hill, on the left side of photo. Note Strand cruiser.

Guard shack up on the hill, on the left side of photo. Note Strand cruiser – if this were mid May or later, you would probably see at least 5 bikes in this shot

Our adventure started on a Thursday. Before we left the storage lot, I wanted to check and adjust the tire pressure. The sticker in the coach says that the tires should be set at 92 PSI. I checked the front tires and the rear inside tires. They were all set at 80 PSI. The rear wheels have wheel covers on them; those make it impossible to check the pressure on the outside rear tires. You have to remove the wheel covers to do that, but the little tool provided to undo the nuts that hold the wheel covers on didn’t provide enough leverage. Crap. I used my air compressor to set the front wheels to 92 PSI, and left the rears alone, not wanting to have the dual wheels set at different PSI levels.

The drive down to the beach was easy. The new rig handled great!  I-10 is an older freeway with a lot of big rig traffic, so it was the roughest ride. Even with that, I was able to drive the rig with one hand on the wheel most of the time, although due to the PSI issue on the rear wheels, I tried to keep my speed under about 60 MPH. The 605 freeway is a lot smoother than I-10, and was a breeze to drive on. The best was the 105 freeway, though. That one was built in the 1980s, and it is as smooth as silk.

Dockweiler has a lot of little rules, and one of them is that you have to pay an extra $17 bucks to go in before the 1:00pm check in time. We were in no danger of getting there early, though. I had spent more time than expected trying to deal with the tire pressure issue. There was also more traffic on the roads than expected in a couple of spots. We pulled into the park a little after 3:00 pm.  There were three rigs in line ahead of me when I pulled into the check-in processing area.

Our spot was about halfway down the first block, in the middle isle. The spaces are angled but not pull through. They are generous in size, and easy to pull in to. I was able to pull our 34 foot rig in far enough to allow our car to be parked behind it.

Already pulled into our spot.

Already pulled into our spot.

The spaces are full hookup, with 50 amp and 30 amp service, fresh water, and sewer inputs. There is a picnic table for each space, and a simple BBQ. A strip of grass about 8 feet wide separates the middle spaces from the back spaces….this is a perfect place to walk your dog, but there are also special areas for dogs with waste bag dispensers, and two dog runs, which are in the sand and only big enough for one dog at a time. There is no cable TV, and no WiFi. Cellular reception and 3G/4G/LTE worked well on AT&T.

Here's a shot of the other end of the space, with the BBQ and table.

Here’s a shot of the other end of the space, with the BBQ, table, and grass strip.

There are two bathroom/shower facilities for the RV Park, on either end, plus a public rest room to service travelers on the Strand. The RV Park facilities have a keypad entry. You get the code as part of the check-in process. The public restroom is always open, and not nearly as clean as the RV park restrooms.

Planting is pretty simple…..a few palm trees and shrubs, along with the grass. No shade trees.

Palm Trees on the grass between the middle and back rows.

Palm Trees on the grass between the middle and back rows.

After getting set up at the park, Laura and I were both pretty beat. Time to have a drink and relax. Then I spent a little time in the late afternoon trying my hand at surf fishing, but it was a tad too windy to get my bait out far enough. There was a family trying their hand at the time I was out there. Nobody was having much luck, but I’ve fished around here quite a bit over the years, and have had good luck many times in the past. The fish are there more often than not.

 

Fishing in the surf

Fishing in the surf

After a while, it was time to get back to the coach. I picked up my tackle and headed back in. The water is about 100 yards from the park at high tide.

Getting ready to head in for the evening.

Getting ready to head in for the evening.

Laura made some of her famous Melange for dinner….eggs, peppers, onions, potatoes, cheese, and sour cream, topped with a little hot sauce. Then we turned on the TV. There is good HD reception over the antenna for Channels 2 and 7, and also PBS and a few other stations. Thursday night is an ABC night for us, so using the antenna was perfect.

The next day (Friday) was busy. We came to a close RV Park for a couple of reasons. One reason was stocking…..being close to home and the stores that we frequent is helpful. We also wanted to have a small get together at the coach, to show it to the family. They all live within about ten miles of Dockweiler. The party was planned for Saturday. Friday was stocking day. We did some shopping at Walmart in Torrance, and also brought some items to the coach from home.

The weather was nice on Friday. I did some more fishing in the morning, and had better luck getting my bait out to where the fish should be. I got one good strike, but that was it. Skunked again.

Laura and I did have fun walking the dog around, and exploring the park. Here are a few pictures from our walks. You can see the clouds rolling in on some of these shots.

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Later in the day, Aaron, Jennie, and Elliot (my son, his wife, and daughter) paid us a visit, and we had a really nice time. While they were there, the wind started to pick up. About twenty minutes after they left, we got hit with a fairly heavy rainstorm that lasted the rest of the evening. The wind was strong enough to rock the coach all night, even through we had our leveling jacks down. This storm was a good test of our new rig….no leaks that we could find.

Come Saturday morning, the rain was gone, but the wind was not. It was blowing really hard…..way too hard to do any fishing, or even much walking. That was OK, because we needed to prepare for our party. The big job was getting the chili going in the crock pot.

Cutting the green peppers.

Cutting the green peppers.

Chili in the crock pot, cooking.

Chili in the crock pot, cooking.

The party was a success, even though it was too cold and windy to be outside of the coach. The family seemed to enjoy it quite a lot, and Elliot was a joy, giving plenty of attention to everybody there. We had four generations of the family all in the coach at the same time…..Great Grandparents, Grandparents, Parents, and child. Three of my four sons were there…..it was so nice to see everybody. Our dog was nervous, but she was well behaved most of the time. Laura’s friend Lani showed up too, and brought some Chocolate Wine.

After the party, Laura drove her mom and my parents home, and then we cleaned up the coach. We had a nice quiet night after that, except for some raucous partying going on here and there around the park. It was still windy and cold outside, but since there was no rain this night, people seemed to be making up for the rained-out parties of the prior night.

Sunday morning was beautiful. The wind was gone, and we had sunshine and clean air. Checkout time is noon, and we had a lot of work to get done, so it was a busy time.

Back to the wheel covers and tire pressure. I put some questions about my problem onto the Forest River Forum, Georgetown section. I got a lot of great responses. I wasn’t the only person who couldn’t get the retaining nuts loose with the special tool provided by Forest River. The suggestion was to use a breaker bar and socket with extension. I had those at home, and picked them up during one of our supply runs. That did the trick….I got the wheel covers off, and was able to check and adjust the PSI on the rear tires. Now all tires are set at 92 PSI.

We had the coach ready to go at about 11:58, and left for the long drive back to the Storage Yard. I was able to keep the speed up at 65-70 MPH during most of the trip, now that the tire pressure was correct. The increased PSI made for a harder ride, but handling was more positive. The drive went well, and it was easy to get the coach pulled back into our storage spot and buttoned up.

I think our second RV trip was a great success. The coach worked flawlessly. I keep wondering when all of the defects are going to show up. I haven’t run into anything yet that would require a trip back to the dealer for warranty service. There are a few small issues. The door is a little hard to close. Some screws on the handle were loose. I tightened those, which helped, but I think I need to adjust the door jamb to align better. I think the grey water tank valve leaks a little bit, too. When I removed the cap over the dump pipe, some grey water came out. Good thing I was wearing my rubber gloves! But that was it…..no other problems.

Can’t wait to get back out there. We are probably looking at mid-May for the next trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Life on the Road | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pre-Trip Jitters and Excitement

We are getting ready to embark on our second trip in the Georgetown……or Curious George as Laura has named it.

We are going to Dockweiler State Beach for a few days. This will be the first significant drive we will take….it’s about 60 miles one way from the storage facility. It’s only about 5 miles from our “sticks and bricks” house, so we can spend some time stocking, and also have the family over for a small get together. It’s close enough that we don’t have to ask one of the kids to feed the cats….we’ll just drop by home and do it ourselves.

All the jitters are there. Will the batteries be dead after the coach sat for almost a month? Will I run into problems checking tire pressure, oil, and other things before leaving? How will the drive be? Will anything go wrong? How will hosting a party out of the coach work?

Reading forums about the Georgetown line also gives me the jitters. I have read about problems with the awning, problems with the bedroom doors, problems with the steps in front of the door, and other issues. Is our coach going to fall victim to any of those problems? It seemed really solid on our first trip, but we didn’t create much wear and tear in such a short time.

There is also the excitement. Our first trip was only a couple of nights, and it was mainly a shakedown trip, although we had a good time talking to the nice folks there.This destination is more interesting than the first trip. We will be right on the beach, not in an industrial area next to a landfill in the Inland Empire. This trip will be three nights….not much longer than the first trip, but enough time to enjoy the beach, do a little surf fishing, do a little writing, and just exist in our new home away from home. I’m really excited about that. There will still be some shakedown involved, but that won’t be the main focus of the trip this time.

I’m a “check lists” person, and have already been working through items. This afternoon will be busy for both Laura and me. Packing, loading the car, grocery shopping, loading the ice chest, charging up electronics, precooking meat for chili. We’ll be tired by the end of the day, which will hopefully help us to get a good night’s sleep.

So Curious George gets its first outing with the new name. Wish us luck!

 

Categories: Life on the Road | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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