Saturday, January 31, 2009

Downsizing: What To Do With All the Photos, etc?

Getting ready to 'Full Time RV' requires getting rid of a lot of things. Some items our kids wanted. A lot of items we threw away. We sold some items on Craig's List. We also gave some things to friends or charities.

One of the most time consuming activies in this who process what been: scanning photos
We probably accumulated 25 photo albums over the last 30 years: What to do with all the photographs?

Then there were about 1700 35 mm slides. And maybe 15 VHS videos. ---All those will never fit into an RV!

Here's what we did:
Photos - we sucked it up and scanned thousands of pictures. That has taken months! We could find an online company and ship them off but it is fairly costly.
This is all I have left to scan. I bundled each album into a stack with a rubber band and put them in a storage boxes. I am down to the last one. Then I:
  • Take them one at a time,
  • Put them face down on my HP Photosmart C8180 All-in-One Printer/Scanner/Copier
  • Wait 45 seconds for the scanning
  • Get another photo
  • Do it again
  • And again
  • And

As you can imagine, I have been doing this for months. I got some great help from Michelle and Kayla when the visited. They watched some movies while they scanned several hundred of these bad boys.
35 mm slides - we have been storing boxes of slides. We looked through hundreds and hundreds, sorted through them and kept the ones that had people in them.
(We kept a few 'place shots'.)
That reduced it down to about 700 slides. Then we took them to Costco and had them copy them to CD's. That was a little costly too, but we got it done.Videos - Over the years we had taped the kids, some special occasions and 'documented' some of our trips (like an in flight air-refueling of a F-16 Thunderbirds from a the KC-10).

We bought a machine that take the VHS tape and allows you to convert it to a DVD. Ours looks like this and is a couple of years old.
If you want to buy a new one, they are about $300 at Best Buy:It took about a month to get them all copied over to DVDs. Pam took on that project. What a relief when that was done.

Other people may use a different strategy - but that has been our approach. If I had it to do over again I would have gotten a scanner that has a document feeder so I could do taxes and other papers more quickly.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Greater Washingon DC Golf Show

Pam and I used to play a lot of golf. My wedding present to her was a set of clubs 30 years ago. We love golf. And I love golf shows. Besides we needed smaller golf bags so they don't take up so much space in an RV.
I always look forward to the annual Golf Show. It was held nearby at the Dulles Expo Center and brought hundreds of vendors from up north who were emptying their golf proshops and warehouses.

Pam and I are downsizing everything including our golf bags so this was the place to find one. There were some real characters there this year and some interesting new items including 'Happy Feet'. They were selling an insert that makes you feel like you are walking on a baggy filled with water. Too weird for me. One company had their guys in orange jumpsuits.
I also met some interesting people. Karen Rhodes is from Canaan Valley Resort & Conference Center in West Virginia. They have all kinds of golf, camping, horseback riding, skiing and conference center packages available. I wanted to see if they RV campground host positions. No yet.
Some other folks I met were 'A pair of jeans' --- Jean and Gene Olivares from Saginaw, Michigan. They own Tour Fit, Inc.
They have a golf club business that deals with: custom fitted clubs; regripping, reshafting, repairs, accessories and golf club components. They travel around the country during the winter. Another thing they are involved with is a clothing ministry to the poor that is run by their Assembly of God Church back home. Nice people.
Another highlight of the event was seeing Hank Haney who is Tiger Woods' current golf instructor. Yep - no kidding, in person.
I always find something interesting at the golf show. And this year we picked up two golf bags so they will fit nicely into the RV we eventually will purchase.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What a GREAT dinner! Odyessy in person!

Over the weekend we 'followed' Sean and Louise on Twitter as they made their way to the Washington DC area for the inauguration. We read their blog and are fascinated by how they live in their converted bus. (what a bus!)When we first found them on the internet, we viewed their series of stops along the way in Mexico. They joined up with some other RVers on a trip through Mexico riding on the back of a flatbed railroad. (if the link burps-look for the one "Loading the Train.) What intrigue.

Last week we made contact and they invited us out to see them. They gave us a tour of their and we took a few pictures.We could not stop asking questions so me moved the converstation over to Romano's Italian Grill and enjoyed a nice dinner.
What a story. You meet the nicest, most interesting people 'out there in RV land'. They are a neat couple and we hope to hook up with them again!

Friday, January 23, 2009

New or Used RV?

It depends. Pam and I have talked at length about both options and could do either, given the right circumstances.

New:
  • We know the make model and floorplan of what we want: Tiffin Phaeton 40QTH
  • We could get a full warranty
  • The RV dealership will help us get underway (checked out so we know how everything operates)
  • Dealership reputation is on the line
  • We have a service department and a person we can call
  • The RV is going to depreciate significantly the first couple of years
  • New units always have bugs to work out
  • Some of last year's options are this year's 'standard' features (e.g. chrome outside mirrors)
  • Easier to finance (but we are not going that route)
Used
  • We probably can get a better deal; cost less
  • It is a great time to pick up someone who wants to unload a 'non-essential' item
  • May not have the exact floorplan or all the options we want
  • We will get more RV and space for your dollars
  • Will likely be 'broken in' and have fewer 'bugs' if it is a couple of years old
  • Might be able to have the unit before we move out of our house and avoid temporary quarters and storage
  • May end up with someone else's problems
  • Usually available 'As Is' and warranty must be purchased separately if not covered by factory
  • Able to ask about an older RV via online forums and get feedback from current owners
As you can see there are many considerations and advantages of either. At the moment, I would hope we could find a used RV primarily because of cost.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Meghan - she's a fighter

In the midst of exciting times like preparing for the adventure of the RV lifestyle, we encounter the uncertainties of life. The joys and struggles, twists and turns -- they are all part of us.

One of the recent joys has been getting to know Meghan. I told her I was going to write a post about her. These are some pictures of when she came to visit us for a few days last summer.
Meghan is 27 and went to Seoul, Korea where she met Adam. Adam is our 27 year old son. They both taught English as a Second Language (ESL). Last fall she found out she had breast cancer and returned to Canada where she is being treated. Adam returned to our home in Virginia. He is working full time and visiting her every 4-6 weeks in Canada.

Meghan is a brave, courageous, lovable and wonderful young woman. She had a mastectomy about 7 weeks ago and is getting ready for a series of chemo treatments. She had the first one today and is doing ok.

The prognosis is cautiously optimistic and hopefully will be better after six sessions of chemo. Today she heard good news that the cancer has not spread. But this is hard stuff. If you have had someone fighting through breast cancer you know what I mean.

Meghan's blog is located at: http://ms-mae.blogspot.com/2008/10/diagnosisnot-so-good.html Take a look and add a comment--she would appreciate it I'm sure.

The quandary for the rest of us is 'how to help and support her'. Some write blogs. Some send pink boxing gloves with signatures of people who are praying for her.
Others send encouraging notes on Facebook. Some send pictures. Others visit her and cut their hair off to join with her in what will become a short/no hair period of time during chemo.Others wear pink bracelets and dance their heart out in empty ballrooms.
If you are a praying person, please pray for her and her family. She is making great progress with a hard road to go. If you are an encouraging person, take a moment and write her a note on her blog.
Thanks

Friday, January 16, 2009

23rd Annual Washington DC Camping RV Show

We love to go to RV shows. This year's local one began on Friday afternoon and we attended the Washington DC area RV show that is actually a couple miles from where we live.

Some have asked, "How is the RV industry in your area?
  • Seems affected by the economic downturn.
  • There were about 20% - 25% (our guess) fewer vendors and dealers.
  • The crowds were much bigger with more congestion in previous years.
  • The cold (single digit) weather probably had an impact.
  • There seemed to be some bargains available (just not on our choice of rig)
We go to these events see what we can learn and specifically went to see if dealerships in this area could compete with dealers near the Tiffin factory in Alabama.
We sat down with Mike from Brooks Ramsey RVs which is just northeast of Baltimore.
We were also on a quest to get actual specs to find out how much storage space we can plan on. We have been downsizing and accumulating some plastic bins to fit into different spots on the coach. Tiffin motorhomes may have the best use of space in the coaches we have seen.
Another fun aspect of going to these events is seeing RVers that we have met in the past. We ran into Karen and Steve who drove in from Warrenton VA. I met Steve online in a forum and got to see them the first time in September at the Life on Wheels (LOW) Conference in Harrisburg PA.
Pam and I also saw Charles who is a salesman at McGeorge's RV near Richmond. We have visited their dealership a couple of times.
So it was a good day at the show. We wandered down aisles of RVs, checked out storage,
looked at $500,000 coaches, talked with some good sales folks and tried out some very comfortable easy chairs.Looking forward to the next one!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Overlay for Map Software

First of all, a big Welcome to the reader from Montana! Thanks for checking us out. (We now have readers from every state except Wyoming and South Dakota if my info is correct....)

I am always looking for good links and helpful information. Pam and I attended the Life on Wheels conference last fall (see my Sep 12 post). During one of the many conversations there with current full timers, I was introduced to a URL with a free map overlay. This download interfaces with a number of map applications with loads of info.
  • Delorme Draw Files
  • MicroSoft Streets and Trips
  • CoPilot Google Earth
I use MS Streets and Trips and find it very useful. I thought you might also so here is the link:

http://www.discoveryowners.com/cginfolinks.htm

Some of the overlay items you can find include:
  • Escapee Parks and Discount Parks
  • Cummins Service Centers
  • Freightliner RV Service
  • Bass Pro Shops
  • National Parks/Monuments/Rec Areas with developed RV campgrounds
  • Overnight Parking
  • InOut Burger Restaurants
  • Military FAMCAMPS
  • RV Unfriendly (NW, NE, MW, SE, SW)
  • State Parks
  • Thousand Trails Campgrounds
  • WalMart (that bar RV parking)
  • Big Rig Friendly RV Parks-Eastern US
The file has the caveat: use at your own risk. (I've never had an issue).

If you get a chance to test it out, let me know what you think. Also if you have other sites with some good info, please pass it along.

See you next time.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Scam Avoided! 17 Days and Then he Played His Cards

It pays off to be cautious. I share this so others may benefit when considering purchasing from a private seller.

We were cautiously optimistic that the 2007 42' QDH Phaeton offer was legitimate...but it was not.
It was a another scam. After about 2 1/2 weeks of intermittent dialogue - the 'seller' showed his true colors.
The tell tale sign was when he wrote, "...the last guy was a no show, so I need you to send me $3,000..."
RED FLAG RED FLAG RED FLAG RED FLAG RED FLAG RED FLAG RED FLAG
When I saw that, I knew ---this deal is over---.

Up to that point, there we saw a few 'curious' things and made mental note of them . Still, we hopeful and were willing to be convinced this was an honest deal---until the request for $3,000.

Some of the signs things were not right:
  • Low under market price: $60,000. (old adage is still true: If it is too good to be true, it usually is not true.)
  • In my first email to him I asked, "Why such a low price? Is anything wrong with the rig?"
  • Sellers email address: 'ex am' was the alias for the email address. (It was the first thing I noticed and just thought that was curious.)
  • Hard to get in touch with seller. (He never left me his cell phone number. Most sellers make it easy for you to contact them.)
  • He never wanted to talk--limited email only. (Also said he did not have frequent access to email so he could not get back to me often.)
  • He indicated was in the military and worked 80 hrs/week and stationed at Scott AFB, IL. (That would be 7 days a week and 11 plus hours per day. Not impossible---just unlikely.)
  • Seller also indicated: 'I am not allowed to leave the base except for good reason'. ? (Why? In jail? Under surveillance? - sounded fishy.)
  • I came across the same set of photos of the RV elsewhere on the an RV dealer site. (This was a pink flag...and the beginning of the end when I first thought this may be a fraud.)
  • His second email used the phrase, "...you have my word that I will try to make things work out between us..."
  • His last email to me 17 days after the first one was about where to send the $3,000. He again used the phase, "you have my word". (Why would he say 'you have my word'? It reminded me when someone says, 'it's not about the money' because if they say that it is usually about the money.)
  • I asked for the VIN number so I could get RV insurance. He said he did not have that but could get it to me the day he flew back to Old Bridge PA where the RV was supposed to be.
  • He indicated the tags were current on it and it was also insured, so he could leave the tags on it for me to drive it home, and title in my name, then mail him back the plates. (Most sounded ok except the insurance part; I would not trust that his insurance covered me...I would still get my own).
  • He indicated, 'If you are flying in, let me know the flight number and I can pick you up'. Three times he wrote that and three times I emailed back that we would be driving to Old Bridge.
  • The coup de grace. Three long, detailed instructions of how to send $3,000 to him. More details there than in the previous emails on the rig. (Huh--wow, I hope on one else has fallen for this...)
I wanted to write this as a 'heads up' and solicit anyone with similar experiences so the word gets out.
Since this is getting a little lengthy I will end it here. Next time maybe I will go through some of our thinking (in spite of these indicators) that allowed us to stay in this so long.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

40 or 42? Pros and Cons

A new Tiffin 42 foot Class A motorhome is financially out of our reach, but a used one (2007 or later) may be a possibility.
We thought a 40' length was right for us, but we saw some 42' models we may be able to afford.

So what's the difference? Why would we get a 42' instead of a 40'? What are the Pros and Cons?

42' Pros
  • Stability of the ride (especially in cross-winds and when tractor/trailers pass) is improved
  • Easier and a better drive than the 40'
  • Tag axle makes turns easier, almost impossible to overload
  • More interior living space and interior storage
  • Weight distribution on chassis is better
  • Hydra Hot (unlimited hot water) is standard equipment
  • 10,00 generator is standard equipment
  • Quite a few 40' owners who got a 42' wish they had started with a 42'
  • Even though the hitch is still limited to 10,000 pounds, (1,000 tongue weight), you can tow anything there without having to worry about overloading the axle.
  • Three ducted AC units have 33% more cooling capacity over the 40'
  • Three AC units help with redundancy in case one of the ACs go down
42' Cons
  • Price: could be $30,000 (or more) for the same 40' model
  • Heavier and larger than a 40'
  • Gas mileage not as good
  • Less access to RV spaces in older state parks and campgrounds
  • Higher maintenance costs with extra set of tires, maintanence, wiring, air pressure systems, etc
  • Possibly less storage space underneath
  • Because of the tag axle lever-effect, some weight is transferred to the front axle, therefore getting the front axle close to it weight limit.
  • May need to have larger tires
  • More expensive tolls, (may have to pay for the extra axle)
We have some time but it's something to think about.

Monday, January 5, 2009

RV Insurance - Initial Quotes

I have done a little bit of research on RV insurance. The first thing I did was read about it on the forum of RV-Dreams.com. Another one I checked out was the RV.net/forum.I got a list of some RV insurance companies, googled them to get a contact number and called a few for a quote.Some (but not all) of the parameters in the quote were:
I am not finished but I have a good start. I am not yet convinced that I asked for the same coverage in each quote, so I will go back and double check before I signup.

My guess is that I will go with AON.

I was told the industry leaders are: Gilbert RV, AON and Millers.

Some considerations I followed:
  • Some will only insure for the sales price, not the NADA value
  • I want to get 'Total Loss Replacement'
  • Some have a low price but are new to the RV insurance business
  • I want to stay away from car insurance companies that have recently added RV insurance
I wonder what other guidelines people use. If you have some thoughts, pls add a comment.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

This could be it...

Or maybe not...but we need to be ready to take advantage of this possibility.

After 17 months of talking, dreaming, praying, rethinking, planning, researching... we may be on the verge of getting our RV.
We are driving to NJ in a few days to check out a good looking 42' Phaeton with a very good price tag.
Things are moving fast. In order to make this happen, we have to:
  • Set up the money transaction
  • Get a good plan together
  • Get a good checklist
  • Drive it
  • Find a nearby RV storage facility
  • Get RV insurance
  • Be willing to walk away
  • Pray we don't do something we'll regret
Money. Three years ago we took out a home equity line of credit 'just in case' we found a home in Orlando or Virginia Beach. We never did and still have the loan. On this rig, we wont have to sell the house because we have enough in the line of credit to cover it.

Planning. We are going over how we are going to meet the seller, where we will see the rig and corresponding with him. We'll drive up late Friday night, get a motel, and be ready to see him early Saturday morning. I found a engine shop less than 12 miles away. Most service departments in the area are closed on the weekend.

Checklist. Now we are imaging ourselves inspecting the rig, seeing all the systems work, climbing on top of the roof to take a close look. I googled 'PDI checklist' and came up with a couple to examples use. PDI means 'pre-delivery inspection' and is what is used for new RVs when the dealer gets them ready for the new buyer.

Drive. We both need to be comfortable behind the wheel and need to see how different it is from the 40' motorhomes we have driven. It will also give us a chance to listen for rattles and see how solid things are.

Storage. I called about eight different places in the area to find one that will take a 42' RV. Most places cost around a $100 a month.

RV Insurance. I have contacted and obtained quotes from five agencies. I'd like a couple of more so I will scour the RV forums online to see what companies people use.

Walk away. This sounds like a great deal, but we have to be objective and be willing to walk away. We will be reasonable but we still need to negotiate a few things.

Pray. We have never been shy about that. We have a lot to learn and need all the help we can get. We don't want to do something foolish. I would like to get this and save quite a bit of our nest egg, but if it doesn't , I'd like to learn as much as I can through this process.



Friday, January 2, 2009

Finishing off the Year with a Bang!

We ended 2008 with a surprise!
High winds toppled a large tree right next to our house. Yikes! It uprooted itself and all 25 feet of it got gnarled into our main electricity line. Next thing we knew we had no power--No lights, No heat.
Thankfully, when it came down, it missed the side of the garage, the neighbor's house, the fence...man it could have been a real mess. We called it in, waited for the power company to come by and restore power but it didn't happen until the next morning. We had no idea how long it was going to take so friends let us stay at their place. They have a large finished basement with a bedroom so we moved over there for the night.
What a treat! We joined them and their four kids for dinner and a few sessions with Wii. MarioKart racing was a blast. We usually don't stay up on New Year's Eve but it was a lot of fun hanging out and waiting for the ball to drop.Good friends are a real blessing.
The power was restored New Years Day so we were only out of the house one night. I was able to borrow a chain saw so I will be cleaning up the tree and carting it off.

This has been a New Year's we won't forget for a long time.