Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Topic of Being Human

My blog-reading began with the expectation of many "Oh! I want to see that" and "We have to go there" and "Let's be sure to avoid that place". I was also hoping for some "That looks like the best extended warranty for us" and "We won't buy those tires" and "I'll follow those steps when dumping the black tank".

Certainly those expectations have been met, and continue to be so every week. "Seeing" so much of the country even before we launch has opened my eyes well beyond the original routing through national monuments (still want to see all of them) and tourist spots (still want to see some of them). I've confirmed that a rig larger than 35' will limit our ability to stay in the kind of places we prefer. I know the value in taking "alternate" routes. More than learning specific brands and service providers, I've learned what questions to ask and about the reliable resources and experts in our community - that the answer to any question we'll have is at our fingertips.

Then there's the un-expected takeaways. If you read more than one RV'ing blog, and have been doing so for more than five minutes, you likely know what I mean. Interspersed among the traveling and campground reviews, the rig repairs and addition of new gadgets, is what I think of as the "topic of being human." Some bloggers include them as part of a daily journal, while others add them as separate posts. Regardless of the delivery, these entries are generally thought-provoking and focus on the "life" in lifestyle.

For someone like myself who is obsessed with starting the full-time life (I gladly admit this as I know I am in good company), it is easy to focus on all the positive factors. It's human nature.

Ironically, it's human nature that often gets overlooked when planning a major lifestyle change.

Who do I think is going to be parked next to us? Who do I imagine will be in the dump station line with us? And just as critical - who do I think I will be "out there"? The answer is simply - humans. Me too - I'll be human. Specifically, the same human I am today. With all the same flaws.

Not surprising, it was another blogger's post that got me thinking about this. Maura at Bucket List or Bust raised the question of class distinction among Rv'ers. Not a reference to A, B or C, she talks about age and size and first impressions. Her delightful "being human" story about her own judgements reminded me of one of my own (very few) flaws. 

As a teenager I was sometimes embarrassed by my father. Once I became a parent I realized that embarrassing your kids is one of the bonuses of the job......but at 15 I didn't know that yet. Dad was a fan of duct tape and baling wire, and other "creative" modifications. They always worked. They always worked well. Sometimes they looked "funky".

Dad would drive on that bridge......

Before heading out on a camping trip, Dad "modified" the rear bumper on the pick-up with galvanized pipe. It gave us a large working surface for cleaning fish and preparing meals. It looked really funky. I was embarrassed by what I thought others would "think" of it. But, like the spool in Maura's story, the work surface was a big hit at the campground. Other campers drew pictures of it, and asked Dad questions about the construction.

I remember being proud of Dad's genius, although I'm sure I kept it to my 15-year-old self!

As a teenager I sometimes embarrassed my father. Less about job bonus and more about being a brat......but sometimes Dad learned something too. Same pick-up truck, different trip. Before we left I stuck bright colored daisies on the side of the camper shell. You know the kind - pink and purple, blue and green. Large, really good adhesive. I remember him saying "Oh great, now everyone will think I'm a damn hippy!" He was not happy. He definitely thought they looked funky.

My dream

Dad's nightmare

At the campground I was delighted with our new "decor". Dad was still miffed.

That first evening another camper was walking past while my dad was unloading something from the truck. I heard the man say "I see you have a daughter too." I would learn years later that it was the stickers that had caught Erik's eye. He and his daughter Carolyn would become good friends of ours, enjoying some camping trips together. Dad often told the story of the "damn hippy flowers" that brought together two single fathers of only-daughters. They were still on the camper when he sold it.

I need to remember that pipe table and those flower stickers. I need to remember what making advance judgement can take away from a new situation. Because I usually don't remember.

In spite of spending my career fighting for social justice - or perhaps because of it - I have high expectations of people. I'm occasionally disappointed - in them and myself.

And somehow I expect that other Rv'ers will be better, kinder, smarter, more "human" than people I encounter in "this life". Like we purge our flaws with all our other unnecessary stuff before going on the road?  Certainly, I'd like to leave mine behind :-).

I thank Maura for her post, and other bloggers who cover the "topic of being human". It gives me an opportunity to look at the reality of a lifestyle that includes real people, with real flaws, just like me. 

Maybe the next trip to Goodwill I can toss in a box of "snap-judgement" and avoid trying to find room for it in the motorhome.......

Throw in some human flaws

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Joy of Exploration - Neil Armstrong and Dad

Lunar surface, July 20, 1969: Talk about your isolated camping spot....and what a view :-). My dad and I were also camping that day. We were in a tent, not a space capsule.

We were at Rock Creek Campground, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California - not nearly as isolated as Neil's site and our view was limited by dense trees. Although we were in the mountains, it was hot at camp and we took the '56 Ford pickup for a drive. We stopped for lunch where folks were talking about the landing coming up later. Many were making plans for "witnessing history" in a few hours, and I remember getting caught up in the excitement. Dad? Not so much :-). He had his own exploring to do.

Decades before satellite television and Internet and all the technology that we currently enjoy in the most remote places, there was only the radio in the old truck. Dad drove, and I listened to the static-filled coverage of one of the most phenomenal events of our time - certainly of my youth.

I remember we were driving up a long, curved road, and I was lying down in the bench seat with my ear pinned to the speaker in the door. "One small step for a man........" We all know the statement made with that historic step, one that truly spoke for an entire planet. An incredible "first" for our whole world - to have set foot on another.

One step

Camping with my dad was fun, and every trip was different, even though we always camped at or near Rock Creek. He loved to fish in the morning and early evening, and fill the time in between exploring. We would set off after breakfast with a destination "in mind". Sometimes we actually made it there. But there were always side trips that just happened when a road appeared off the highway. Road was often an exaggeration, a track that had been made "some time" was enough to lure Dad to investigate. 

As a result, we visited many places that felt like no human had been there before. Sometimes the isolation and "discovery" of unique and strange places had an emotional reaction. We would speak in quiet voices, watch critters foraging for food or making nests, and skip rocks on glassy ponds. When I stepped into an unspoiled meadow I cried.

When Neil Armstrong stepped off that ladder I cried. I so related to his being where no one else had ever been. Putting myself in his boots, imagining what he was seeing, feeling - it was overwhelming.

45 years later it's still a pretty big deal.

And 45 years later I also remember the fun and delight and emotion of making new "discoveries" by following that narrow path with my dad. It gets me excited all over again to get out there and see, touch, and feel new places. To be moved to tears by something new.

Remembering that day also makes me want to revisit Rock Creek and the Sierra Nevadas. I know it has changed as so many places have. Still, I have history there.

With Neil Armstrong and Dad.

Rock Creek, CA

Friday, July 18, 2014

Domicile? Check!

Who even uses the term "domicile"? It's one of those words that most people know the meaning of (sort of), but rarely, if ever, use in a sentence.

Unless they are considering the full-time-rv lifestyle. Then it becomes not only a common term, but an issue around which much research and decision-making occurs.

All our lives we identify with our "residence". Simply - where we "reside". Meaning we live there. We are physically in that location. It's where we plant a garden, hang our clothes, arrange our furniture. It's where our family and friends, and the pizza delivery guy, find us.

It's the same place we get our mail, and our voting information, and our car registration/insurance. It's where we pay our taxes. It's where we're counted in the Census. But, what I've learned while planning our launch is that these things are not about our residence. They are about our domicile.

Fortunately several veteran full-timers have done the research on the differences between domicile and residence, and what that means for the rest of us. Thank you Howard/Linda and Nina/Paul and Cherie/Chris, and countless other vanguards out there. We can learn every fact that defines the differences between residence and domicile. But we don't have to (yay) because we can read a few well-documented summaries, and know what's important for choosing our own domicile.

Because while we aren't required to have a residence - we must have a domicile. Well, only if we want to have a driver's license, a bank account, credit, voting rights, a passport, health insurance, vehicle insurance - little stuff like that. Uncle Sam and our 50 cousins (known by their State names) are also very vested in us having a domicile - for tax payments. Since I'll be driving on and across those taxes, I'm more than okay with paying them, but domicile impacts the amount we contribute, and that's always a factor in retirement.

Not the same place when you're full-timing

Three things generally impact the domicile-decision: money, mail, healthcare providers. It is no different for us. Although we are pretty healthy and rarely visit a doctor, the third one was the final deciding factor. By "final" I mean "what-we'll-do-for-the-first-year". We expect to learn a lot about what's right for us after we get out there!

It is an important decision and we feel comfortable knowing that while our residence will be where-ever we are, for now our domicile will continue to be in California.

Being debt-free by February means we can live comfortably with our net-income pensions. Simply put, we can afford to continue paying California income tax. At least we think we can. We'll know for sure in a year.

This week we made arrangements for our new address with good friends in Orange County. This resolves the issue of mail, plus establishes location for insurances, etc. It means changing doctors and medical facilities, but keeps us in the Kaiser Permanente network.

Which was the main reason we maintained domicile in California. One factor that allows us to live on our pensions is that fully-paid medical, dental and vision are included. As long as we "live" in California. We have been extremely happy with Kaiser's quality of care and the on-line access will be invaluable for us on the road.

Prescriptions, physicians and records go with us

There is a healthcare stipend option for living elsewhere, but until we've experienced the life we see no need to consider that change yet.

All but one of our "kids" live in California so that makes this one destination for family visits as well as medical appointments. Bonus!

There are drawbacks to every domicile choice. There are former-Californians who couldn't wait to "get out from under" the higher taxes. Certainly hospital care and jury duty commitments are a challenge when your domicile is on either coast. Hell, there are places in this country where having California license plates could get us run out of town.......

But for us this is a good, possibly temporary, decision - AND it's one more thing off the rapidly shrinking list of must-get-done-things to complete before we can launch.

The list is getting shorter....

Domicile? Check! Residence?  Pending......

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sacrifice for the Cause?

If you read the last post you'll remember a funny looking ceramic cat wind chime. Something made by my kindergarten-sized fingers so many years ago.

Among a cadre of items with no other value than delightful memories, the cat made the cut through a life-time of purging. Still, how could I justify it as part of our new life on the road?

Friday morning I was surprised to see a short, empty cord hanging on the patio. On the bricks below I made the "grisly" discovery.

Bye-bye kitty........:-)

It seems that after all those years, all those moves, packed, unpacked, the cat took the decision away from me this time. The ultimate sacrifice? No desire for a vagabond life? A 50-year-old cord hanging in the sun??

In any case, one less item to consider. I don't see it as the beginning of a trend. No expectation of finding un-stuffed animals, or knitted hats returned to balls of yarn. There remain many decisions to be made.

Still, while my first reaction was sadness at the loss, that was quickly replaced by a sense of relief. Both at realizing I could certainly move forward without it, and that I had taken a photo of it.

All of we wise (old) adults know that there are lessons to be learned from all we encounter. Some are tough, some are scary, some have to be learned over and over. This one? Pretty simple. 


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A History of Purging - Or Why Do I Still Have THAT Stuff?

Purging all your belongings in preparation for moving to a RV full-time is so different than previous purging experiences. It very much feels like the last time I will ever do this. I think that's why lately I've thought a lot about all the other times in my life when I've "gone through everything I own" in an attempt to have less stuff. And it's made me look at a few things I still have and ask "why that?"

For me this is a stroll down memory lane. For you, more likely the antidote for insomnia you've been looking for - if you make it to the end.

When I returned home from boarding school, (probably not how you're picturing boarding school), I had my first experience at "purging my stuff". I was in elementary school and living with my mom when I left, and when I returned I was starting high school and moving to the desert to live with my dad.

Dad had a 3-bedroom house so downsizing was not a consideration. My belongings, acquired over 13 years, were transported in a large moving van. Maybe not Mayflower moving van, but definitely not U-Haul trailer. So purging was really more dividing stuff between "keep to wear and use and look at" and "keep in a box because it's mine and I love it". There were several of the latter. Like there-goes-the-third-bedroom several.


Going away to college I purged again. Kept my bedroom for coming home to visit, but Dad put his foot down about the untouched boxes with four years of dust. This time I really had to Get. Rid. Of. Stuff. What an ogre.

At 17 years old I was going through boxes of dolls and tea sets and frilly dresses and pictures of little kids who had been my friends and whose names I no longer remembered. It was delightful! What a wonderful childhood I had, what great feelings all that stuff brought back. I should put these treasures in a museum!

Or give most of it away to the little girls I had been babysitting for the past four years :-).

I pared it down to a handful of boxes which the ogre (the man was a friggin' saint) begrudgingly found room for in his garage. There was no "feeling lighter", but I do remember thinking I had taken a big step to being a grown up. Remember when we couldn't wait to do that? Suckers.

Not everything went to the girls or the garage, or even the trash. Quite a few things went with me to college. As is often the case, my roommates and I moved apartments every year which meant annual purging. As a result I have almost nothing from my college years but photos. However, many of the things I had taken with me from home found their way into new boxes, now stored with my mom (the other saint).

Graduated from college and over the next seven years: new man, new house, new baby, new job, new separation. Every new brought out the old to get rid of for moving to the next one. Mom and Dad both retired and the stored childhood boxes were whittled down to one or two (to show my son, to give to my grandkids, to remember my history). These were stored in my own garage, along with boxes of stuff from my short adulthood.

I moved north and over the next six years: new man, new ranch, new baby, new promotion, new terminal illness, new widowhood. My first experience at purging someone else's stuff. Less delightful. His older kids only wanted a couple items. There was only me to keep his things (to show my sons, to give to my grandkids, to remember his history). I had a ranch. With a barn. With out-buildings. I kept a lot.

12 months later Dad passed. He lived in Quartzsite, AZ. He passed in July. See? - Ogre. I miss him.

An acre of big stuff with a two-story garage (he thought I had issues with boxes??), multiple vehicles, a lifetime of documents, photos, and tools to rival Sears, gave a whole new meaning to purging. Did I mention it was July? In Quartzsite?  I learned to go through wooden crates with gloves and a pot holder.

I also learned the value of asking for help. Cousins and friends bought most of the big things and I gave away a lot of sentimental items to those who wanted them. When I sold the property to a family friend I left a lot of stuff. I still had a ranch. I took a lot home. He was my dad, I was his only child, there was only me to keep his things (to show to my sons, to show his grandkids, to remember his history).

A couple years later I left the ranch: new fiance', new suburban home, new hobbies, new job location. One of the draws of this large home was the storage - built-in cupboards, attic in the garage. Although I went through the boxes again, I got rid of very little. Moving from the ranch meant unloading "ranch-type" things, but everything else came along.

A couple more years and I moved south again: same fiance', new house, new friends, new schools. Making that move necessitated the second big purge. I learned I like doing yard sales and I had many. For the first time I assessed the "why" of some of the things I was still hauling around. The antique bedroom set with the dressing table was for my daughter. I had two sons. I was 40 years old. I sold the set. Somewhat painful, but the reason I had kept it didn't exist, so I had to let go. Still, the very, very large moving van was full when it pulled out.

Less than a year and I moved to the desert: newly single, new house, new schools. It was a quick move and by necessity I unloaded a lot of things. And yet when I had a garage built on the property I made sure there was plenty of storage room. The small storage building in the back was completely full.

The oldest graduated from high school and moved to a small apartment in the city. Too small for most of his stuff so it stayed with me (to use later, to show his children, to remember his history).

My job changed and not long after, I moved again: still single, one son, rented house, same boxes. The house was four bedrooms with a three-car garage. Yep, filled it up.

My god parents passed and left everything to me. They lived in the same place for 30 years (fortunately just an hour away) with two huge garages. Her wardrobe would have clothed a small country. They were collectors - one of the garages was wall-to-wall model train set-up including the lighted villages. It took me over a month to get everything out and most of the big things sold - including their modular home. I periodically apologized to my dad, the saint indeed. 

That experience changed my relationship with stuff. Going through boxes not opened in over 20 years (dates on newspaper), photo albums of un-identified people and places, years of pay stubs and greeting cards and contracts and receipts and other documents - it was such an eye-opener! Pantry items with expiration dates over five years old. Many things had been their parents' and stored so long they were disintegrating. Clothes and linens were discolored with age. No children, so no grandchildren. Why would anyone keep stuff for so long and never use it?


I spent the next three months going through everything I owned, doing a real purge. Every cupboard, every closet, every garage shelf, every box. The hardest part was that I not only had my own things but also stuff from four people who had passed. And two kids. That "responsibility" is a heavy one. There is a legacy in stuff.

I took two weeks vacation when I moved to the new house in Wildomar. When I went back to work everything had a place. Two cars were parked in the garage. There was no separate storage place.

There were still boxes of Christmas decorations. There were boxes with baby blankets and kindergarten drawings and handmade cards. There were boxes of favorite toys and books. There was one box each of "mementos" from those who left. I kept two collections, undecided on whether to sell or not.... Everything else was put to use or displayed.

Geez, this got really long, really fast. I won't blame you if you bail, but it's almost done. Really.
When my mom passed away she was living in a small apartment in Tucson. Over the years she had given me most of the things she wanted me to have, and they were already in use in my home. After cleaning out her space, my Subaru was full but there was no trailer towed behind. This new stuff mostly found a place in the house but a box or two was added to the shelf.
Moving in to Bill's house meant sharing space with another adult for the first time in ten years. And he had stuff too! Now he would tell you that I started getting rid of his stuff immediately. This is of course an exaggeration. Perhaps in the process of blending our things there wasn't room for it all and the items that fit the "best" just happened to be mine. It wasn't planned that way....... And I wasn't even there when he had the big yard sale followed by the filling of the large dumpster! Just saying.

We bought the house we're in now (told you it was almost done), and I got rid of the Wildomar house. Big yard sale, opening the house to friends to take what they wanted, two loads in the pick-up. Done. Two households combined into one. Car parked in the garage one week after moving in.

We have an attic and large closets and a good size 2-car garage with lots of shelves and cupboards. There are still boxes. There are still furniture and books and wonderful things used and displayed. It is not a large house but it holds a lot. And it's definitely bigger than an RV.

So after all those moves, all the memories I made, all the memories my children made, all the memories I was given to hold on to, all the history I felt responsible for keeping for others - and all the subsequent sorting and reducing and purging - what's left? And why is that stuff still with me?

Two reasons I think. One is: for my sons, for my grandchildren, for history.

Admittedly my sons have enjoyed their own strolls down memory lane when boxes have been opened over the years. They haven't wanted to take them, but their enjoyment was worth having kept them, and I don't regret it. I don't have grandchildren yet. My sons are adults now and it is up to them to decide if they want to keep anything for themselves and their children. It took a while, but I'm good with that part now. For history?

That ties to the second reason: that 17-year-old still lives inside me.

No longer dolls and such, but certain items still evoke that delight of decades ago. What a wonderful life I've lived, what great feelings that stuff brings back!
Kindergarten Masterpiece

One thing is from as far back as my own kindergarten. (How did it not break through all the moves?)

Delightful memories

Some things came from my parents and my kids over the years. Others are very recent that Bill gave me.

Worn by me, then Brian, then Jeff.....sweet

The stuff I've kept is of very little financial value. That hasn't even been a factor in keeping them (well maybe the kids' trading cards and the native american jewelry).

Instead, THAT stuff is memories and feelings and legacy.

I'm not taking it with me. I may keep a few things. I will photograph all of it and safely store those photos.

And I'll re-read this very long post that has somehow spun itself into a kind of purging of it's own. I enjoy sharing it with you. But this one's for me.




Saturday, July 5, 2014

Happy 4th of July!

There really is no excuse for not having pictures from our 4th of July celebration. All my photos are taken on my IPhone, and it was in my purse beside me all evening. I suppose having too much fun is an excuse......yep, let's go with that one!

We did have a lot of fun. Bill's boss, Rick, invited the three of us to their annual party for BBQ and fireworks.

Usually we are up at Clearlake with family, but after a couple unplanned trips north already this year, we really needed to stay closer to home and save some money. The nieces and their families, and one of our kids, did go to the lake to spend the weekend with Marilynn. From the Facebook pictures it looks like they're having a great time. We miss not being with them this year, but sometimes you just have to make those choices :-(.

Bill finished the project from hell, also known as fixing the sprinkler system, on Friday morning. Not a great way to spend a holiday, but he is so happy to have it done that it was worth the couple hours of work. I can now rest up from my duties as Moral Support Provider. Whew!

After a late lunch and a quick nap (refer to above) we got ready and headed out. Tessa was included in the invitation and she was excited for her first big social event (because of course she understood we were going to a party). She loves people but has had little opportunity to be around other dogs, especially several of them at once. This was a great opportunity to see how she would do.

Rick and Sue's home is in the foothills above Burbank with expansive views of the San Fernando Valley. We arrived a little before 6 PM and found what we thought was the last parking spot near their house (this becomes relevant when we leave). Along with a couple humans, six large dogs greeted us at the door. Like learning to swim by being thrown in the "deep end", Tessa gets full and immediate exposure to this new experience.

And after a little hesitation, handles it like a champ. What a good dog she is. Off the leash, tail up, no growls, sniffing, being sniffed, - she's got this! Following her lead, Bill and I meet lots of new people and also behave ourselves. Less sniffing. 

I only knew our hosts and one other person, but everyone was instantly engaging and we had a great time all evening. The food was delicious with grilled steak, chicken, lamb, shrimp, monk fish, shrimp and veggies, plus salads and fruit and a tasty cake. Lot of cold beer to wash it all down while enjoying perfect SoCal weather.

The fireworks started early in the valley below us at Universal Studios, but the big show was just over the hill above us and we had perfect seats. With music from the neighbors next door and the pop and bang overhead, it was an exciting celebration.

All but three of the dogs were "stashed" in a bedroom during all the noise. Bella barked off and on and moved through all our seats, confused about why we weren't reacting to the obvious attack from above. Another older lab paced a bit before his owner got him to lie down.

Tessa? She slept for awhile on the ottoman next to me, then moved over to the teenager for some belly rubs before going back to sleep at her feet. She barely acknowledged the noise. Did I mention what a good dog she is?

Everything wrapped up after the show and we headed for the car. Apparently the street and sidewalk on three sides of our car were also parking spaces. There was open space behind us but it was pretty tight. A couple back-and-forths and I got us out of there. We were back on the freeway in minutes - but the fireworks show was not over! For about 12 miles we watched them going off on both sides of us. Sometimes they looked like they were right next to the freeway. I've never seen that many fireworks (big, professional displays, not neighborhood sky rockets) over so many miles, and still going that late. It was very cool!

So no pictures, but great memories. It was a perfect celebration of our nation's birthday. For all three of us!