Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The beginning of the next chapter in our life

On March 19, 1994, Fred and I started our life together as man and wife.  He had 3 kids, 2 girls - Barbie and Vanessa and one son, Andy; I had two boys, Bernie and Brian; all from our prior marriages.  Life was interesting to say the least starting off with a mix family of 5 kids and all close in ages.  We had our good times and bad times but we made it through all the teenage years, broken hearts, teenage crisis and other rough times of our kids' life.  One main reason I believe things worked is because Fred and I both were to determined not to let the kids see us disagree about things that were happening in which they were involved.  Like any step-family we had the kids try to use us against each other but we were determine to stand fast together and we did.  We always backed each other up in front of the kids but behind closed doors we each took our turn in having our say.  I think in all the years that we have been together the only true arguments we ever had were about the kids, but the kids never knew - or let me say we don't think the kids ever knew.  We believed in the old saying united you stand - divided you fall, so we stood united in front of them.

Over the years, Fred worked as a Postal Police Office with the US Postal Inspection Services and I am a paralegal.  We both enjoyed our jobs even though at times they were trying.

In 2004 we purchased 4 acres of land in Stagecoach, Texas and decided to build the home we would retire in.  So from November 2005 until July 2005 we spend all of our free time building our home.  It was hard to say the least as my elder father came and lived with us for a year during this and he had some emergency medical problems.  All the things with building a house (we were the builder - we did not hire a builder)  could and did happened; we were continually rethinking things, doubting ourselves and starting over.  Finally in July 2005 with the help of our
children and grandchildren we were able to move in.  We spent the 4th of July weekend that year with all the kids and grand kids helping us get the flooring completed and everything clean for final inspection the next week.  It was a good time and there was lots that we could not have done if it had not been for the help of our kids, their spouses, and our grand kids.  It was the home of our dreams and something that we looked forward to living out our lives.

In July 2010 Fred retired from the US Postal Inspection Service but he was not completely ready to retire yet.  He went back to work at the Tomball Police Department as a Certified Jailer.  He truly loved this job and was no longer carrying a gun so I was happy. 

In June 2011, I made the decision to finally semi-retire from my work as a paralegal traveling to downtown Houston every day.  The long drive (80 miles) to and from work everyday was taking it's toll on me and I was just simply tired.  After 30 years the work was not as much fun anymore either.  I continued to work as a contract paralegal working from home for a number of attorneys and began to enjoy my work again.  I love the computer age with email, faxes, PDF files, scanning, and truly wonder what we did before.  Working at home in my PJ was great and relaxing.  I found I was able to get much more work completed in a day than I ever did at the office. 

Our country life was enjoyable.  We had bonfires during the winter months and had friends, kids and grand kids over for hotdogs and marshmallows.
  We had BBQ and crawfish boils during the summer months with family and friends.  We also started raising goats and chickens.  Life was fun and treating us right.  It was a lot of work and kept us busy but we enjoyed it; there was always something to that needed to be done on the farm.
In November 2011 Fred suffered an injury on the job at the Tomball Police Department.  It started out as a simple fracture of his right little finger, but before it was over he ended up losing 80% use of his hand.  He spent over 18 months with doctors trying to figure out what was wrong, but all they  ended up saying was that they really did not know why his hand reacted the way it did after the injury.  Due to the injury he retired for a second time in August 2012. 
With is hand in the shape it was all the work on the farm fell upon me, and I am not that young anymore either so the work was just to much for me to handled alone.  We sold the goats and started to downsize the farm, but soon realize that we were now left just sitting looking at each other. 

It was at this time that I started researching and approaching Fred with the idea of becoming a fulltime RVer.  Fred was not keen on the idea, but we loved to travel, we loved to camp, loved to explore new things and loved the outdoors so I persisted.  Again I love the computer age, as I started looking up things about fulltime RVing.  I gathered information, printed it out and left it laying around so Fred would find it and read it.  Then I started looking up things on Facebook to see if there were anyone on there or pages with RVers that he could get real stories from.  Boy was I surprise, there were so many pages on Facebook about RVing that I spent days reading myself. 

I finally convinced Fred to go look at some RV - at this time I was thinking travel trailer or what I knew only then as goose neck trailers (fifth wheelers).  We spent at least 3 days looking and decided we would be the most comfortable in a 5th wheeler.  I fell in love with 5th wheelers and the space they provided as well as the feel of different rooms; they were like a small apartment or home.  We looked at travel trailers and never got the same feel so we decided to continue our search with 5th Wheelers and see what we could fine.  We spent time looking at all the places we could in and around the Houston area and decided upon a Montana units.   I was jumping the gun though as we were not ready to purchase and Fred was still not sure he wanted to do this or not; so back to square one.
I now turned to my Facebook connections and pages.  I started talking to a lot of full timers out there gathering information and obtaining website again.  This time I had Fred join some of the groups on Facebook  so he could start asking question himself on the things that he was unsure about.  In talking with Janice Evans she mention they were going to be in the Houston area and I asked if Fred and I could come out and visit with her and her husband ask questions and get first hand knowledge of what it was like being out full timing in a RV.  She was more than open to the idea and invited us out to visit with them at Thousand Oak.  What a great opportunity Janice and Dave provided to us and they introduced us to Debi and Ed Hurlburt who have become very good friends.

We have spent many hours with Debi and Ed talking about the types of RV's, traveling, pit-falls, concerns and just "doing it."
Debi and Ed were a step ahead of us in getting ready to hit the road as they have already purchased a Class A coach, but Debi needed to retire.  In talking with them, going out to RV shows and visiting RV dealers with Debi and Ed, we changed our minds and decided that we wanted a Class A coach.  In making this decision we looked at a lot of issues; gas vs, diesel cost, maintenance cost, towing small car for running around versus using the tow vehicle of a 5ver, setup and take down time and process, storage space, and just simply comfort. 

Our decision to go with Class A was made because of lots of reasons and I will try to outline some for you: 1)Everything in one vehicle; 2) If we stop for just overnight getting from point A to point B then it is a much simpler process; can just stop, level, put out slides without getting out of the vehicle; 3) Should we be somewhere just overnight and a problem arises, same simple process and we can leave, so for security reasons in overnight stops; and 4)  Sightseeing/running around with a tow that gets good gas mileage versus using the truck needed for a 5ver makes better economic sense.  There are other reasons why many go with a Class A but this was our main reasons.  It will vary from person to person as to what is best for you, so you just need to do your research and figure out what you feel fits with your lifestyle.

So now we started our search.  We have spent month looking at coaches and making a decision on floor plans.  Don't be fooled, there is numerous floor plans out there as there are with homes, so take your time and find out what you like - don't settle.  We thought we had an idea and the more we looked the more we found things we liked that the last one did not have.  We kept a list of what we liked about each coach we saw and then we narrowed our search.  You have all the seating area to one side in some with the kitchen on the other side and then there are those that have seating area and kitchen  on one side and then the dinning area on the opposite.  There are front kitchens, middle kitchens; there are full baths in middle and some that have half baths in the middle with a full bath in the very back; there are those that have no TVs, those that only have front TV located in the front, those that have complete entertainment centers with a fireplace, those that only have a TV in the bedroom and even those that have 3 or 4 big screens TVs in the front area.  Take your time and shop and find what feels right for you and fits your lifestyle.

In early April all of our plans started coming together. We meet with some people that would hold an estate sale for us and started working for an estate sale for May.  We held our first garage sale for those items that they thought would not be good in the estate sale and did really well.  Our son's subdivision had a neighborhood garage sale the next weekend so those items that did not sale with ours were taken there.  Those items that were left over from were was donated to Salvation Army and/or Purple Heart.

Now our attention turns to the estate sale and the planning and organizing for that.  Having an estate sale company come in and do it for you is really great.  I did not realize what kind of work there was to doing this until I watched them.  Each item in the house - down to every nail - is itemized and tagged.  It took them about 3 full days to get everything tagged and then we meet to agree upon pricing.  Once research was completed for some items to ensure that we had the best pricing we could get, a complete spread sheet was created with teach tagged item, it's itemized number and it's price.  The Estate Sale was ready to open then and it was scheduled, advertised in varies places and on line and all we had to do was sit back and watch or so we thought!!!  The sale went fair but not as well as we had hoped for so we now had to go to Plan B - completing the sale of everything in the house ourselves.

Oh yea, I have forgotten one thing, in between all of this we have been searching, shopping, looking, and more searching for the right RV.  Twice we thought we found one and started all the paperwork to purchase it only to find out that it was not right.
In one instance the dealer was just hard to deal with and refused to return our phone calls or answer questions, so we just rescinded the purchase.  There was not way I wanted to have to deal with someone like that if we needed warranty work. 
In the second place they kept trying to tell me that I had a repo on my credit report when I was driving the vehicle that they were saying was repo and it had been paid off seven years ago.  I could not get them to understand that there was a mistake somewhere and to give me time to get things straight - they said no as they will not even consider us because of the repo.  I could not believe when I drove up there in the car and showed them it was not repo they still continued to believe the credit report was right.  Well needless to say we moved on from there and got the mistake corrected on our credit report.

Well we finally found one and with the help of Debi and Ed, checked it out completely and purchased it.  There were some items that needed to be fixed, which really is not out of the ordinary, and it stayed in the shop a week longer than we planned.  Oh well stuff happens and you have to be ready to go with the flow in this lifestyle.  We purchased used as we felt that was best for us and one that we felt would be good for us for about 3 years and then we could upgrade.  We got a 1998 Winnebago Chieftain 34" with 2 slides.  It only had 49,000 miles on it and was very well maintained, everything inside still looked new.  We picked it up on April 30, 2013.  As you see our three dogs, Boots, Scootn' and Boogie are all okay with the coach and are ready to hit the road with us.

We are now loading and organizing our coach with the treasure and necessities of life for the beginning of the chapter.  It has become somewhat of a chore trying to figure out what I needed versus what I want; putting things in the coach so we will fill like we are at home and getting use to smaller spaces.  I have sorted out things and resorted and then resorted again and have been told by many I will do it again and again over the next few months.  We seem to be getting there so we will see.

I hope to keep everyone update as to what is next in this chapter via this blog.  If you are interested you are more than welcome to subscribe and watch as we travel over the next years of our life.  Not sure where things are going to take us right now or what is in store for us.  The Good Lord has provided thus far and I am sure he will continue.  Hope to meet and see some of you on the road and if you are ever in the same area as us come over and see Fred and I - home is our "Oasis" and where ever we are!!

Well our first trip did not go as we planned as we had wanted to go with Ed and Debi to Wolfe Creek on Lake Livingston but the delay in getting the coach did not allow for that.  As things had it we needed to take some furniture that we were selling to family in Mississippi and the family crawfish boil was planned for the weekend of May 11th so we decided to make that our first trip.  We worked all week getting the coach loaded (at least everything we would need to make this trip) and this morning, Thursday, May 9, 2013 we headed out.  Made the beginner mistake and forgot to put the TV antenna down but did remember it before we got 200 yards away for the house.  Then we headed for gas and propane and at 9:30 am we started out for our first adventure.  The dogs are all confused but have settled down.  Boots is one the couch and Scootin and Boogie want to stand between Fred and I so they could see out the front window.  We must look a site to those that notice. 
As we headed out I-10 we ran into rain around Baytown and the wiper in front of the driver started acting up.  So we pulled off the interstate and got out the wrenches and pliers and tighten up the screws on the wiper arm.  That seemed to work but about another 10 miles down the road it started again and this time worse.  I got on the internet and found a RV repair shop in Orange and they were willing to see us right away.  I would highly recommend them if you ever have a problem in the Beaumont/Orange area - they are Lloyd's RV and Repair.  Even in the rain the owner came out and looked at our problem and fixed it right there on the spot.  He did tell us that he has only temporary fixed it as we need a new wiper arm, but he did not hold us up and did not even charge us for what work he did do. 
Back on the road and in Lake Charles we had a car that kept waving at us and yelling.  I finally looked at what they were pointing at and saw that our stairs were out - now what is this.  We were not in a place where we could stop so Fred pulled over to the far right lane until we could find some place to stop.  The next thing he saw was flashing lights in his and we both just starting laughing.  He pulled over and the officer waived for him to come back to his car.  As I said in my first post Fred is a retired federal police officer so when he asked for his ID Fred made sure that his retired badge was visible.  The officer told him that he pulled him over because he was not driving straight.  Fred explained to him that we just got the coach and with the wind that was blowing with the rain storm he was just getting used to handling the coach plus we had a problem with our stairs.  The officer was nice and only asked that he show him our insurance and bill of sale on the coach.  He then help us get the stair in and let us go down the road.  We both were wondering what was going to happen next.  The stair kept giving us a problem but I figured out what to do and how to get the stairs back in each time they came out.  It appears we have loose connection and each time Fred hit a bump the stair would go out.  Well with that problem solved for the moment we continued our trip on to Mississippi.
We had no more problems we made it to Mississippi only 3 hour later than we originally planned.  My cousin lives in the backwoods of Mississippi in a small town called Caseyville and she has about 400 acres of land, so I was not sure where she wanted us to setup.  We pulled in front of the house and she said for us to just stay there as she has a large front yard with a circle drive.  Now the fun began again - we started to set up for the first time ever.  The generator was not working right and was running off the batteries and not gas and Fred or I nether one knew why.  Needless to say the batteries went down to nothing and we just looked at each other wondering what to do.  We finally decided just to plug into my cousin's house and just give her some money for electric.  Guess we still have a lo of things to learn!!