Sunday, May 25, 2014

Surprise Gathering for a Best Friend and More

When everyone was making plans for the 40th high school reunion, Bill was so disappointed that one of his best friends was not able to make it. 

Tom lives in Spokane and already had plans to fly to California the month after the reunion for a family event. He couldn't do both trips.  Bummer.

To make the timing even worse, Bill's company was relocating with mandatory "all-hands-on-deck" for all weekends in May. We would not even be able to see Tom during his California visit. Double bummer.

Last week things started turning around when it looked like the move was going to wrap up early. Bill let Tom know we would be over for a visit on his last night in SoCal. He also let him know we had invited another couple from high school to join us for dinner that evening. Yay.

What he didn't tell Tom was that he had also contacted a dozen other mutual friends and that all of them were meeting us for dinner. This included Kevin (to complete the "Terrible Trio") coming from Kingman, AZ. Double Yay.

Our first surprise came when we learned that Donnie and Anna were making the trip from Tombstone, AZ as well. There would be a couple more before all was done :-).

We headed out Friday morning around 9:30 and stopped for lunch in Palm Desert before making the drive up the hill to Pinyon Pines. Figured a diner named after our youngest had to be "a sign" and we were right - the food was wonderful! Bill had a patty melt with onion rings (two large rings that he had to eat with a fork), and my Reuben had real sour sauerkraut. 

Corner of Monterey and Hwy 111 in Palm Desert

It was nearly 90 degrees when we left the valley floor and started up Highway 74. When we turned off the highway it was 70 degrees. Lovely weather for sitting outside and visiting with Tom and his brother Mike and the neighbors.

Gorgeous blue skies of the high desert

Desert Bird of Paradise

After a few hours we returned to Palm Desert and checked in to our hotel. Kevin and Bridgette were  there, then Eric and Stacey arrived. A quick visit at the hotel and we drove to the restaurant in Indio. This isn't just any restaurant for this group. Ciro's is where everyone from Eagle Mountain went when we were kids! Whether it was the monthly trip to "town" for groceries and appointments, or a stopping point after a club/sports event, Ciro's is a place of great memories and awesome pizza. 

We arrived earlier than our reservations and were able to move our group out to the patio. We had it all to ourselves where we could mingle, take photos, be loud - and watch Tom's face as he saw friends he hadn't seen in years (some had been over thirty years). It was the perfect venue for this wonderful evening with dear friends.


 Tom wasn't the only one surprised. The Palladine brothers showed up.  Bill and I drove with Mark and his date to prom in 1973 and I hadn't seen him or his brother in 40 years!  Harold Copeland was at the reunion last month and he stopped by for short visit as well.  Love it!

In 1976 Mike took the original Terrible Trio photo at the house in Pinyon Pines. It was re-created in 2004, with a copy of the original in Bill's hand. Naturally this "reunion" called for a re-re-creation, and Bill had the first two copies in hand to continue the tradition. You can't see the first two photos well in this one, but let's just say they all look "somewhat" different nearly 40 years later :-). It was great to see them together and Kevin's drive from Kingman to make it happen was really special.

Tom, Kevin, Bill - Terrible Trio 2014
Since Donnie and Anna made the trek from Tombstone they made plans to stay the weekend at Jim and Maggie's (we all like each other a lot). Still more high school friends who couldn't make it to Palm Desert were joining them in Lake Elsinore for a Saturday afternoon BBQ.  It was (close enough) on our way home so Saturday morning we headed that direction when we left the hotel.

Bill hadn't been to Idylwild in over forty years and I love the little forest-town, so we took the mountain route and stopped there for lunch. Highway 74 is one of those roads that take you from the hot, dry, brown, rocky desert basin to the cool green meadows and pine forests in just a few miles. It was like changing planets rather than elevations.

Oh yeah, Memorial Day weekend! Families, bikers, GMO-protesters, dogs of every make and model, live was a loud and colorful convergence on a sunny May afternoon. There are several good places to eat among all the little shops, and my favorite is the GastroGnome. 

Love the Gnome

Although the interior is beautiful with old wood and wood burning fire places and stained glass windows, the patio had the added bonus of all the holiday activity to keep us entertained. Our lunch was excellent (corned beef sandwich and a shrimp louie salad). 

A very busy little forest town

We stopped in a couple shops then ended our visit with some decadent sweet treats. I should have taken a picture of the frozen cheesecake dipped in chocolate and almonds........because we can never ever have another one. Ever.

The drive down the back of the mountain took us through Hemet to the Temecula Valley. Before moving in with Bill in 2009 I lived there for nine years so we drove past the old house. New owners are taking good care of it. Somehow that matters :-).

Jim and Maggie are great hosts and we enjoyed another fun gathering of friends and good food.

Story telling on the patio (pic by Anna)
Before leaving we had made plans to get together again in September. Already looking forward to that!


Friday, May 23, 2014

Poetry, Stow-Away Kitten, Afternoon Rain and Cake Pie - A Memorable Birthday Indeed

You just have to keep a husband who writes you poetry for your birthday - a delightful 4-page telling of "our story". What a perfect way to start my day. I'm blessed to have the love of this man whom I love so very much :-).

Well wishes from family and friends, including a fun "Happy Camper" hat from the BFF, came throughout the day. Enjoyed a couple leisurely cups of coffee. Tessa and I got our walk. Laundry was done. Blogs were read. A lovely day.

Bill came home from work early and had a "surprise". When he left the office his coworkers were searching the parking area looking for a stray kitten that had hitched a ride in one of their cars. Bill joked with them, "Let me know if you hear a yowl when I start the engine..." No yowl. 

He drove the 20 miles home. 70+ mph on Interstate 5. Parked the Jeep in the garage and got out. No yowl, but a meow! Under the hood. Surprise!

When he opened the hood he was able to see the tiny kitten jump down from the back of the engine compartment before he came to get me. We spent about 20 minutes trying to find it in the under carriage. Tessa gave a cursory sniff, but lacked commitment to the task. I looked in a lower shelf where Bill originally started to look (I deterred him to the car) and saw the little ear behind the paint cans. Freaked out, hungry, feral, not wanting anything to do with humans - the fluffy baby was all claws and hissing. With heavy work gloves I was able to get it in a small box without injury to either of us.

When we got home from a quick trip to the no-kill shelter we put our feet up to kick back for awhile. I thought the neighbor's sprinklers were louder than normal, and then they smelled like rain. Weird. The sun was shining.

It was raining! A pretty good cloud burst at that. It rained for about 20 minutes with the sun shining on both sides of the house. Hard enough to give the roof a good washing :-). The switch flipped off and it was gone. A nice quick gift of freshness - thanks Mother Nature!

Brian met us for dinner at Marie Callendar's. I wanted wine and pie with something in between. The service at our MC's is always slow but we weren't in any rush. The food was good, the company even better. Their special was lemon cake pie - it looked heavenly in the picture. I had to try it. We brought our dessert home for later (the guys opted for more traditional choices). The cake pie did not disappoint. 

It was literally the icing on the pie of a wonderful birthday.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

We Didn't Find the Answer

Downsizing is like a "rite-of-passage" for the full-time RV life 

Folks on the road for several years still occasionally refer back to their experience. Some with laughter, all with relief. Those of us preparing for launch in the next 1-18 months are deep into the process. Forums and Faceboook pages are filled with stories of purging and packing, garage/estate sales and Craigslist, Goodwill and dumpsters, tears and excitement. Alcohol consumption is a common theme.

You would think that after working on your own "stuff" you wouldn't want to read about other people's - nope. We all want to know that somewhere, someone has discovered the easy, painless, emotionless, dust-free answer to downsizing. At the very least we seek confirmation that others have lived through it, with limited therapy.

For me the hardest part will be final decisions about family/memory/irreplaceable items I would want to have if we ever return to a S&B home. For Bill I think he is torn between hoping it will all be done when he comes home one day - and dreading it will all be done when he comes home one day.


      Not the garage!   
We are keeping with "tradition" and moving through the process. In the last post, our list of Yes's was very satisfying, and encouraging, and reflects what we hoped to accomplish during that "first" 12 months. But there are still several things - small and large - we need to complete in the "second" 12 months. (Maybe you thought we had found that elusive answer.)

Selling the house and buying the coach are our two large hurdles. There are multiple scenarios that could make one overshadow the other, but clearly these are two steps that must be taken before we can launch!

The best scenario for selling the house is to our current potential buyer. I say potential because life happens while plans are made, and until ownership is turned over and money is in the bank, anything can happen. This scenario would not only negate the hassle and cost of listing and showing and negotiating, but it would guarantee us a few weeks to "rent back" the house while we move into the coach and dispose of/store the remaining items. I'm preparing a Plan B to implement in March, with no intention of needing it.

  Quick and easy!!

The best scenario for buying the coach (short of winning that lottery) is walking on to the lot with a pre-approved loan and deposit in hand, having the money from the house in the bank a short time later to finalize the down payment, and driving it to the S&B following a thorough and easy-to-remember review/walk-through by the dealer. Of course we find the coach (likely the Tiffin Allegro 33aa) at a greatly discounted price and secure a low-interest loan. It has our must-haves, and the great price includes added solar panels and a hitch for the Jeep.

       Just nod and smile, don't burst  my bubble!

The remaining smaller things all happen before the "big-two", and a year is plenty of time to get them done. They include:
  • reroute the sprinkler system in the front (a new addition to the list)
  • paint the fascia, accent wall and Richie's room
  • finish purging house and garage
  • make final decision on storage/get-rid-of for those few remaining items we're struggling with
  • change address, arrangements for mail, prescriptions, etc.
  • be debt-free by launch (less MH payment)

  • Really I'd be happy(er) if we had to get it all done in 12 weeks instead of 12 months.... Patience and flexibility is also a rite-of-passage for this lifestyle, and I don't have that answer either.


    Friday, May 16, 2014

    One Year of Blogging - Now 12 Months ('til Launch) Isn't Really That Long.....

    I am an admitted instant-gratification-gal, so when I wrote "27 months isn't really that just seems like it" on my first blog post, it truly felt like forever.


    Since then we moved our launch date from August to June (in case you thought I'm even worse at math than I am), and Bill's retirement date from June 1 to April 1. We played with earlier dates, but family and finances dictate our reality so I think those are final.

    A year has passed and, of course, in hindsight it flew by. Christmas seems mere weeks ago. It has been 12 months since we had our marriage celebration. Bill's new knees are six months old. The 40th Reunion is behind us. In just a couple weeks Richie will be a Senior.

    Are we where we hoped to be after a year? Yes and no.

    More yes than no
  • Bill's double knee replacement exceeded our expectations in both recovery and final results.
  • Together lost 150 pounds.
  • Bought the recumbent trikes.
  • Sold the Seadoos.
  • Sold the second vehicle.
  • Bought the Jeep.
  • Spent more time with family and friends.
  • Purged lots of stuff, made some money doing it.
  • Narrowed down our rig choice to three.
  • Painted the laundry room
  • Removed the ugly trees from the front.
  • Limited purchases (and gifts received) to only items that will go in the RV.
  • Paid off one credit card.
  • Made good investment choices.
  • Have a potential buyer for the house.
  • Educated ourselves on insurance(s), domicile, extended warranties, club memberships, solar, trip routing, coach specifications, and lots more.
  • Connected to the RV network (so huge).

  • No:
  • Improve overall fitness (other than the initial weight loss).
  • Be debt-free by the end of 2014 (huge tax bill, repairs to the boat trailer, un-scheduled travels, broken sprinkler pipes, non-winning lottery tickets).

  • I'm happy with our progress.

    Financial challenges happen no matter what your lifestyle. The lessons we learn over the next twelve months that get us to our final goal will be valuable ones to take with us.

    The fitness goals are easier. Just get off our asses. Something else valuable to take along!

    As this anniversary-of-sorts comes round next year we will only have weeks left. Now THAT really won't be that long.......

    We will be so close!

    Tuesday, May 6, 2014

    A Fun and Colorful Hometown

    We really do live in a wonderful area. Best known as the home of Six Flags Magic Mountain, the Santa Clarita Valley does not look or feel like part of Los Angeles County.
    Home of the best coasters in the West - and a very pretty town.

    Even as the population grows, the city planners do a pretty good job of maintaining a high percentage of green space -including the wonderful paseos that link several of our neighborhoods. Since retiring, I take daily walks with Tessa along these lovely paths through old-growth trees.

    Paths are laid to accommodate established trees

    There are miles of hiking/biking trails through and around the town. Public transportation is easy to access and Amtrak has two stations. Good schools, libraries, hospital, community programs - high marks all around.

    Our neighborhood is it's most colorful this time of year.  In just a few blocks we are greeted with every color on the wheel.

    So much variety.

    Although there were/are real ranches and cowboys here, the area is best known as the backdrop for early Westerns. Museums, city parks, annual events all honor those western roots.

    Now every genre of movie, television show, music video, etc., finds the perfect location for filming here. Just "up the hill" from Hollywood, we see film crews here weekly. Vazquez Rocks is one of our most filmed sites. 

    1951 film The Flames of Araby

    1967 Star Trek Episode "Arena"
    2009 "About a Girl" video by Sugarbabes
    Many of the "downtown" scenes in NCIS also use our Town Center area ("the mall").  Several weeks ago I followed a black Dodge attached to a filming dolly with Tony Dinozzo (Michael Weatherly) behind the wheel.  Very fun :-).

    Sherry 's post today reminded me how delightful the familiar can be even when embracing the nomadic life of the new and different.

    When our temps hit triple digits, and stay above 90 degrees for weeks at a time, I may be feeling less "local-love". I can look back at this post and remember that summer is not the time of year we will want to come back for a visit!

    Sunday, May 4, 2014

    Answering "Those" Questions

    How can you leave your home? Where will you live when you're done camping? Won't you miss your real bed/shower/washer/tv/home/everything you have in those old boxes????? What about family and friends? How will you celebrate the holidays? 


    We are fortunate to have a lot of support from our family and friends, but we've gotten all of these questions and more about our decision to RV full-time. Even some of the supporters have a hard time wrapping their head around not having a house to "come back to." Snowbirds have been around for a long time. My dad was a snowbird for years. My mom lived in Tucson and "dreaded" the increased traffic in the winter. Traveling for long stretches of time, and then "coming home" for at least a few months is not uncommon. It's normal, mainstream, acceptable retiree behaviour. That's not the only reason it's not for us.

    I don't do well with "sameness". Including childhood, the longest I lived in one place was eight years and that was just before I moved in with Bill a few years ago. Although I worked at the same organization for 26 years, I changed positions and locations at least every three years, and usually more often. My boys grew up expecting the furniture to be rearranged when they got home from school. Sometimes rooms changed purpose, with the dining and living rooms changing places, etc. I think they had an agreement with the neighbors to call them at school if a moving van showed up while they were gone. I would never......

    Bill lived in the same place from 5th through 12th grade, but after that his address changed every five years or less. Most of the places he remembers living (a whole separate story). He may not thrive on change the way I do, but he is comfortable with it. He loves new places and new experiences.

    Our sons don't have a single "family home" with their names in the patio floor or old forts they built. They had those things in different homes throughout their growing up, but they're not at the house we live in now. Wonderful memories of holidays and growing up include the house we lived in at the time, but the house is the container, not the memory.

    So when we leave this house, our memories of our time here will go with us. As they always have. We won't leave our home. We will take our home with us - literally. The sense of freedom I get every time I say that is exhilarating! Not being tied down to a stationary piece of land with a house and yard filled with maintenance and upgrades and taxes and utilities and - you get it. We have no desire to continue any of that, and we may never return to this lifestyle. We have no exit plan. Hell, we're still anxious to get through the entrance!

    We are leaving in our home. We will be living in our home. The "real" bed and washer/dryer and tv(s) and kitchen are in our real home. The real shower is still questionable, and it is on the short list of things we expect to miss. Consistent high-speed Internet is on there too. It's a short list. It's much shorter than the list of things we know we won't miss!

    With moving comes purging so we don't have a huge amount of accumulated "stuff". We do have stuff. In boxes. Important stuff that has survived all those multiple move/purges. It has passed the "should I/we?" test before. It needs to go now. The few family art and furniture pieces are more difficult.

    Originally there was a storage pod in our plans, and everyday I move further away from keeping it.  We have time. I can drive away happy whether there's a pod stored somewhere or not.

    We have lots of mutual friends. We have some individual friends. They don't live near us. Weird. True. Getting on the road will give us time with friends we seldom get to see now, and we are so looking forward to that. All but one of our sons live here in SoCal, but that can change at any time. For now we plan to return for some, but not all, holidays. With the exception of Thanksgiving (big dinner and football) and Christmas (tree, stockings, big dinner, football), we are not traditional holiday-celebrators. Last Easter morning (last month) we were at a casino breakfast buffet with a dozen friends from high school, and spent the day playing in the desert. Sounds about right for holidays in our new life.

    When I try to think of a better way to spend "the rest of our life" I can't come up with anything. In our travels through Napa and Lake Counties last month we saw beautiful mansion-sized homes sitting on acres of vineyards and oak trees, under clear blue skies. A man-made lake, deer, birds, no other people. Lovely and peaceful. We agreed that if we won the lottery tomorrow we wouldn't settle for that place. It was just one place.

    There was no red rock cavern, no wind-swept beach, no rugged snow covered mountains, no swamp, no prong horn antelope, no historic village, no largest ball of yarn (have to). All those things are in our new front yard. 

    That's why.