Saturday, January 21, 2018
Ready or not . . . and I'm not

I'm 2½ weeks away from my departure date of February 15th and little is going according to my plans.  Go figure.

Winding things up  

We had the estate sale for my mom's stuff last Saturday - sold a lot but I'd hoped to sell much more.  That has left me figuring the best ways of disposing of what's left.  I'd expected that and made plans for it, but right after the sale we got a firm and very decent offer on Momma's house.  Going into house sale mode has meant many conferences and emails for the realtor, my brother, sister-in-law and me to discuss options and make decisions, and appointments to get the house cleaned and measured and appraised.  The buyers want a fast turn-around, as do we, which means I can't take my time over parceling out what leftovers to give to which charities.

Instead, everything's happening at once, aiming for a quick vacancy, which means I'll be living in the RV 2 weeks before I intended.  And I'm not ready in any way.

RV stumbling block  

Beyond the simple problems of what I'll need and where to store stuff for all 5 of us - especially without the benefit of a 2nd dry run as I'd intended - I've ended up with a small hole in the RV's back roof.  Getting that dealt with has meant finding someone that can do reliable work without a 6 month waiting period, as well as insurance company procedures, which don't allow speedy resolution.  The guy that came out to inspect the damage said he'd ask to expedite but said even with that it'd likely take at least a week to get their verdict.  

So I won't just be living in the RV with the dogs and cats but also figuring out housing while it's under repair.  All of this requiring more balls to throw in the air.  I guess I'll be asking for the repair place to let us live in it most of the time and, fortunately, La Quinta Hotels accept pets for the other times.

I've seen several posts on other people's blogs about getting RV repairs on the road, and they've given me moral support - if you're reading this, Thank You!

Et cetera  

There's always more, it seems.

My cat Jasper has developed some kind of problem with his eye that our regular vet says needs an ophthalmologist, so we have an appointment Monday.  As if I didn't already have enough appointments with house inspectors and so forth.  But I'm glad we're still in town, since it needs to be done.

My brother and sister-in-law, going way above the call of family ties, devoted several days to helping (i.e. doing most of the work) move the things I want to hang on to out of Momma's house, into the U-Haul, and out again into a storage unit near Dallas.  I'm writing this on the train back down to Austin. 

Two people at the estate sale said they want to buy my mom's car, and we want to sell it to them, but I want to hang onto it while I'm still in limbo with the RV repairs and so forth.  That's meant more phone calls, test drives and lengthy discussions about how they can buy it from me, or even put down a deposit, while not taking possession of the car and still having assurance that I won't skip town with their money.  All I can figure now is to let them know of the possible delay and tell them I'll call when I can give them a firm date and see if they're still interested.  If not, we've got a CarMax offer.  It's a good little car - a 2006 Honda Civic with less than 80,000 miles on it - so someone will want to buy it when I'm ready.  But it's just one more thing to deal with.

I had hoped this would be a leisurely time when I could gradually move into the RV and gradually sort out stuff for various charities.  The prospective house sale has shoved everything into high gear, and I'm finding it hard to adjust.  

Fortunately, I know for certain that this is just a phase and the next 4-5 years of my travels won't be like this.  At this point, I'm just aiming to meet all the deadlines people are throwing at me and doing the best I can.  It's just for a few more weeks.  And it's all a learning experience.

December 7, 2017
Dry Run #1

I've known for a couple of months my last time leaving home with the critters and the RV would be in mid-February, and I'd been planning on taking a couple of short trips before that to give the 5 of us a chance to get used to our new home.  It was a surprise to look up and discover I had less than 3 months before Departure, which didn't leave a lot of time to fit in test trips around all the sorting and packing and sale-prepping I've been doing.

I picked Lockhart State Park for the first, that park being close enough to home to give me security in case disaster struck.

The dogs and cats and I went down last Tuesday with temps in the 50°s, and that was the best weather we had during the 3 days we were there.  Almost immediately it started to drizzle, and then to rain, and it rarely let up the whole trip.  Temps went down close to the 30°s at night, and the rain never let the air get warm.  So we were cold.

It only took 6 tries to back into this space the first time.
Now I can say with certainty that both the heater and the smoke alarm work well: the smoke alarm went off 3 times before I could turn on the RV's heater without a loud accompaniment.  But I was afraid to turn the heater up very high because I wasn't familiar with how it worked and too cold to want to learn right then, so I kept the thermostat in the low 70°s the whole time.

The biggest surprise to me was how my dogs reacted.  Dexter is always the more outgoing, confident one, while Gracie suffers badly from PTSD and seems afraid of almost everything.  But apparently, the Great Outdoors is Gracie's milieu - she loved everything that didn't involve being in the RV.  Dexter was much more cautious in some ways - though that may have been because he isn't a fan of rain or cold.  

I also expected Gracie to be the problem child while I was driving, because she gets carsick easily and hates being in the car; Dexter is the opposite.  Not in the RV.  Gracie was fine the whole way and Dexter was nervous and unsure where his space was supposed to be.   But I'm relieved that my worry about how they would react to living in the RV may have been a waste of energy.  Although when we got back home again, they both made their relief obvious - a sort of "we were sure you weren't going to make us stay there" kind of thing.  Big surprise in store.

The cats were surprisingly quiet most of the time and seemed to have little trouble adapting.  I got the smallest dog crate I could find and put them both in it while I was driving.  They seemed to go to sleep after only a few minutes adjustment, thank goodness.  Jasper has a yowl that would wake the dead so I worried about how he'd take the trip.  Another batch of worry wasted.

My adjustment had more parts to it.  I got a clearer idea of what I need in the way of things and places to store them.  It also became clear how much I need to learn quickly to make things comfortable and safe for all of us.

And I just want to say that, in spite of the rain, we enjoyed Lockhart State Park very much.  It was quiet and pretty, well laid-out, and Dexter and I saw deer 2 different times.  A First for him.

Campground scenery
All in all, the trip went well.  I'm very glad we went and am certain we need another before we finally cut our ties to the house.

I've planned this project for more than 5 years, but taking steps to make it reality had me terrified.

September 30, 2017
The Beginning

In August and September, I made 3 trips to Alvarado, Texas, just south of Fort Worth.  From extensive time I'd spent shopping for RVs on the internet, I'd decided I could get good service and the best price from a place called Motor Home Specialists, or  I read reviews on many websites specific to RV owners, not just those posted on their own website, and I couldn't help but notice the prices they were offering were hands-down the best.  It turns out they do that by going for volume over mark-up.

Every person I met there was friendly and helpful - every one of them, in every contact I had with them - which is remarkable, when you think about it.  (Surely someone has a bad day, now and then?)  The salesman that helped me was Brian Kelley, and I had the impression throughout that he was far more interested in helping me and answering my many and varied questions than in trying to sell me any particular product.  Which is the right way to go about getting my business, actually.

My trip in August was for shopping only.  I'd taken my 2 dogs with me and, though they weren't allowed in the RVs, they were welcomed by everybody in the offices.  In fact, there were signs all over warning people not to risk the health of their dogs by leaving them in their vehicles.  Brian answered my questions, showed me around the lot and the various models they had that fit my preferences, and then urged me to take all the time I wanted going around on my own.  "Everything's open," he said.  I guess he figured I'd buy when I was ready to and, surprisingly, it turned out I was ready to then.

Two weeks later, I'd arranged financing and went back to sign papers.  People who are more tech-savvy than I am could have done it all long distance, but I still like paper and face-to-face contacts.  Because I wasn't about to try to tow a car behind my new RV, which I wasn't remotely used to driving, MHSRV agreed to keep it another week for me while I made transportation arrangements, which was the 3rd trip.

My new little guy
A very helpful person named Roy went over everything in the RV with me, showing me where all the systems were and giving me a basic rundown on how they worked.  They gave me a carrying case full of owner's manuals for the refrigerator and AC and TV and so forth.  They'd encouraged me previously to plan to stay overnight if I wanted, so I could ask more questions the next day if I wanted to, and so I could practice driving it before I hit the highway.

The only mistake I made was forgetting that they're closed on Sundays.  I came to take possession on a Saturday, intending to stay the night.  Not surprisingly, Brian wasn't willing to come back on Sunday, but he gave me a key to operate the security gate for when I left.  But on Sunday, when I was unplugging and getting ready to leave, I discovered the lid covering the storage area for the power cord had a defect that didn't allow it to close all the way.  Since I was buying a brand new RV, I didn't see why I should accept that I'd have to live with that, so I stayed over another night.  Good thing Brian gave me that key, so I could go down the road to get gasoline and groceries for my extra night's stay.  And I could see that little lid flapping as I drove down the access road at about 40 mph, and decided I was absolutely right to get that fixed.

Roy was surprised to see me Monday morning but quickly fixed the lid and then answered some of the many questions I'd come up with during the previous 2 nights.  Nice guy, very competent, as was everybody I dealt with.

So eventually I got on the highway and headed home, never going over 60 mph for the 2½ hour trip.  Probably irritating untold numbers of motorists, but I was counting on them seeing my temporary license plates and assuming I didn't know what I was doing.  Actually, I passed 2 other vehicles.

All in all, it was a fascinating experience.  I learned a lot, mostly about how vast my ignorance is.  I remind myself often that everything new feels awkward, uncomfortable.  But it doesn't take long before the new becomes routine, and soon after that it's second nature.  I've noticed that with new jobs, new homes, new towns.  Now, a new vehicle and soon, a new way of life.


When my mother no longer needs me to help her, I intend to buy a small RV.  I'll take whatever pets I have at the time and go from state to state, spending a month in each.

I plan to visit the 49 continental states, and end in Washington, D.C.  Hawaii will just have to wait until I can figure out an economical way to transport an RV + pets from island to island.

I've mapped out a route based on several goals: (1) be in the north in the summer months and in the south in the winter months (because although every state can get snow, there's no point in looking for drifts with an RV); (2) go directly from one state to the next as far as possible, without skipping around (to minimize gas usage and maximize sightseeing time); and (3) be in Alaska in September (that being my idea of the best time to take an RV there).  Following those criteria had my route beginning in Florida in a December and ending in California in the December 4 years later.  I'm getting started later than I'd hoped, though, so I'll be starting in New York in April and picking up the southeast coast states after California.

I've realized I know very little about most of the states so, to prepare for my trip, I've been studying them, a state at a time.  I'm primarily using books in the children's section of the public library to learn about a state's history, government, geography, economy, culture and cultural mix, wildlife and so forth.  I have a 3-ring notebook for each state, with this information and maps and other information, and the ability to add during my travels. 

Included in each state's notebook are some facts that make that state unusual or unique.  To remind myself, and for anyone else who is interested, I'm including some of them on separate pages for each state under the 49 States + 1 label.  I'm looking forward to adding to my knowledge each month.

1 comment:

  1. Kate ... I just found your blog and I'm loving reading about your experiences ... laughing at some of them ... your septic drain problem was hilarious ... though I'm sure there was no laughing when it happened! Keep up the writing ... I feel like you are here talking to me! ��