Sunday, December 28, 2008

Changing decisions

We learn and change our minds based on new information. The last 15 months have been full of inquiry, analysis, decisions and sometimes changing our mind again. I think that is normal and to be expected.

But each part of the process has been based on research, thought and a willingness to make a better decision. We avoid the idea: We decided and we are sticking with it no matter what.

For example here are some things we 'decided'...and then changed: (last item in bullet is our current decision)
  • Gas vs Diesel
  • Model: Damon Tuscany - Holiday Rambler Ambassador -Tiffin Phaeton
  • Finance vs Buy
  • RV: Class A - Fifth Wheel - Class A
  • Interior: Front refrigerator - refrigerator in galley
  • Bed: Queen size - King size
  • Washer/dryer: no - maybe
  • New/used RV: yes - no - maybe
  • Retire - Rehire (working on the road)
  • State of Residency: Texas - South Dakota - Texas
Gas vs Diesel: The first model we drove was a Winnebago Adventurer. We love the floor plan and how it handled but think the diesel model makes more sense as a full timer.

Motorhome Model: I really liked a Damon Tuscany floorplan. Then we found the Monaco/Holiday Rambler series and drove an Ambassador a number of times. More research helped us decide on a Tiffin because its reputation and company stability.

Finance vs Buy: We checked into financing an RV and thought about renting our home. We though it best to free ourselves from the burden of making a mortgage payment.

Class A vs Fifth Wheel: We didn't know much about Fifth Wheels. They are more 'homey' (comfortable) and less costly so we looked into those for three-four months. We liked the Carri-Lite Carriage model with a F-350 truck. However, the older we get (or if I hit health issues down the line), it would be more easy for us in a motorhome.

Interior: We like the more current up-front refrigerator models. Also I did not like the TV in the front window. They were big and bulky hung out. But they are much small now and don't protrude as much. Pam is fine with the refrigerator in the galley.

Bed: Most of the models we saw were queen size beds. We even got rid of our current king size bed in order to get used to it again. But now the king size option is very common, so we we can do either.

Washer/dryer: They seem so small we could wash at the campground or a laundromat. They also take up valuable space. The combo washer/dryer does not seem to be too effective. But if we find a deal with a stackable washer dryer, that may be ok.

New vs used: When we first saw the MSRP of the RV we thought they were out of reach. We automatically decided on getting a used RV. We went to 31 dealerships and decided on a Tiffin. We also obtained four good price quotes. We know we can afford a new one but are now sifting through some possibilities for a model two or three years old.

Retire vs Rehire: Hanging out on an extended vacation seems ok for a while but seems kind of empty after that. We prefer engaging with people and trying to make a difference. We will always be working, but probably at ones that pay far less. We are also looking into volunteering / building / home repair opportunities which we enjoy.

State of Residency: We like Texas and were comfortable with that choice. Then we decided on South Dakota because the taxes are lower and very favorable to RVers. If we buy new, we'll probably go for South Dakota.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

We'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!
Thanks very much for checking in with us over the last few months.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Cheer!

We had a holiday gathering at church, work and in our neighborhood.
At church, we had a wonderful evening of friendly conversation and good food. Pam and I are helping with the military ministry social activities committee. We helped with the set up and had a few minutes to admire our work before everyone arrived. We had plenty of food and an excellent program that included some first class singing provided by the BASICs.
The highlight of the evening for me was meeting other military families and getting to know them a little bit.
Tom and his family are still in the Air Force, have two children--one of which goes to Baylor. And they spent significant time in Albuquerque. So we had a lot to talk about.
Scott is in the Army and has a brother in law who is involved with relief work and owns an RV. I am going to follow up on that one to see if his organization is a possibility for us some time down the road.

We also had a potluck at work. This year they decided to cater the potluck and have different foods on each floor of the building. Last year it was a traffic jam in our little cafeteria but this year it worked pretty well. The food was so good, that I spent the whole time in lines and eating and forgot to take more pictures.
Then to top off the last few days of get-togethers, our good friends and neighbors for some 'Christmas Pasta'. It was great! John and Gill have been the focal point of our neighborhood and they have had a number of social events which are always fun.
Some of us were downstairs watching golf and football, while others were around the dining room table engaging in animated conversation.
So that is another reason why I like the holiday season--events around food and friends spark a lot of Christmas Cheer!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

One thing Pam and I have thought about when we RV full-time is volunteering fixing up or building homes.
We have wanted to check out for Habitat for Humanity for quite some time and it was pretty easy. We found a local Habitat for Humanity chapter and went through the information on their web site.
We took the online orientation training, contacted the coordinator and showed up at the work site where they were doing home repairs.
It was about 35 miles from where we live and bitterly cold. So we bundled up, had our coffee, and showed up at 8:00.

Dan was the on site coordinator and we got some instructions at the back of the materials truck and then looked inside they house. We had two crews working: one inside, one outside.
Inside, the ceiling in the kitchen and in the bedrooms need to be closed off after the insulation is put down.
Outside, our task was to finish the soffet on the front and back of the house.
Like most projects, it took a while to figure out a routine and set up a work flow. Gary and Brad were on the scaffold doing most of the nailing work. Meanwhile Pam and I used the table saw and skill saw to cut up 2x4's and vinyl soffet sheets into the right lengths.Once we got rolling it went pretty fast. We finished up by about 1:30 and declared victory. (Had to have a group shot with Gary and Brad). They were a couple of good guys and it was fun to work with them.

There is a lot more to do on the house, so we intend to help out again.

Friday, December 12, 2008

You have 90 seconds---

A potential buyer will decide if they are interested in your house during the first 90 seconds they walk in the front door. After that, they are either being polite or they are interested and will proceed down their mental checklist.

We have lived in this house for 13 years. This is the longest that Pam or I have lived in a house. Our idea of what makes things appealing to a prospective buyer is quite different than what an objective person would say.

We want to sell this house. We also want all we can get for it. It's a tough market. We don't know enough. ---So we contacted the professionals, those that are currently successful at selling houses and those that are helping owners like us get ready.

We had our Realtor Jeff Royce come by with a professional stager -Patricia.
She walked through the house and took note of every room. She made some basic suggestions and will follow up with a complete list of recommendations.
We are prepared to put some real money into getting it sold. At first we thought we may consider purchasing the right picture, or a new appliance etc. She took us to the next level in our thinking.

My guess is that she will want to exchange all our pictures, photos, and other memories 'things' that cause a person to focus on the house only --and on open space. 'Space sells'
From the way she sounded, she could bring in smaller furniture, the right painting, window dressings etc. Also I am guessing all she will recommend repainting almost every room.
So it was quite a couple of hours! Are we willing to change? Are we willing to spend some $ in order to sell? Are we willing to let go....?

Commitment time again. How committed are we REALLY? Do we REALLY want to do this?....
It's one thing to get rid of 75% of our 'stuff' so we can fit move into an RV---
Every day it's more of a commitment...
So the answer is Yes! This is what we wanted to do. 18 months ago we could not foresee all of the 'uh oh' moments along the way. But I am sure there are many more to come.
We have been feeling pretty good about where we are in getting the house ready. We thought we were almost ready to put our house on the market. Now-- I don't think so. We have a lot of decisions to make and work to do.

It makes sense to us to spend a couple thousand $ in order to get it sold. Houses are selling, just not like they were. Some are selling because they are really lowball prices/foreclosures/short sales etc. A few homes for sale are getting a reasonable price in today's economic environment. So why shouldn't ours? I believe we can...we just need to find the mix of upgrades vs selling price.

We are still planning to put it on the market April 1. Jeff says the best chance a seller usually has is in the first two weeks after it goes on the market. Working with Jeff and Patricia will help us do that. We're waiting on her list of recommendations (with associated price tag). There is more to it and we'll keep you posted.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Add a comment - they are a big deal to us

For a blog writer - it is very exciting to see someone write a comment. But I think many readers would be surprise to know that. But it is true.
I would if more would but just don't know how. It is very simple and I will try to explain in steps.
Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
That's it! Hopefully you will now know how to do it.
If not, or if you have suggestions, please email me at:

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tennessee Thanksgiving

We drove down to Maynardville TN on Thanksgiving morning. Adam wasn't able to go because he had to work on Friday and Saturday. Kelly was home from VCU. We arrived in the early afternoon and sat down to a very nice turkey dinner with Joan & Mike and Michelle and her two (Kayla and Noah).


IMG_3426The next morning Mike and I made a run into town to McDonalds for some coffee and stopped at Hammer's. Later in the day we we went to see Pam's folks who both live in Clinton.

IMG_3423IMG_3410 We were also able to stop by the Big Ridge State Park and the Norris Dam State Park to check out the facilities and see what it might be like if we stayed there in our yet-to-be-purchased RV. We also went to an RV Campground in Clinton that has advertised for workampers. Friday night we went over to Michelle and Jeremy's for a game of Monopoly and some 'Guitar Hero' moves. As usual, Jeremy cleaned up and beat Mike and I. Kelly and Michelle also got the tree up.

IMG_3441 IMG_3450 IMG_3448 We got up early on Saturday and made the 500 mile return trip to Fairfax VA in about 8 hours, arriving about 1:00. Nice trip but too short.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

I love this time of year for many reasons.  Mostly because it is the start of the holiday season and most folks are in an good mood.  Anticipation, good vibes and friendly folks are common.

Also -- every Thanksgiving I sit back and think about the things I am most thankful for.  First I have to say I am thankful for Jesus.  In 1971 when I understood some of what He did for me--it changed my perspective and values and direction in life. 

When it comes to families:  I have the best. 


I feel like Lou Gehrig, "...the luckiest man in the world."

Next is my one and only - Pam -  She is an amazing woman.   In February we will have been married 30 years.  That was the happiest day in my life. Then Adam and Kelly.  What a couple of great, squared-away kids.  I learn a lot from them and have been immeasurably blessed to be their dad.   We have a lot of fun.  Always have.

Then the other things that make life good:  a great job with a non-profit company that places high value on quality of life; great neighbors and friends; a good church to attend; and the good prospect of a future and a hope.

I hope you and yours are equally blessed this Thanksgiving and wish you a happy and blessed one!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Turkey Dinner Boxes

It's that time of the year again!
Thanksgiving, Christmas and the holiday season. They put out a call at church to help with the Thanksgiving Day turkey effort. Volunteers were needed to unload trucks, box up turkeys and trimmings and reload trucks. So we decided to help.
We arrived for the 6:00 AM shift. It was still pitch dark and about 29 degrees. Brrrr
The seven 18-wheelers were pulled up along the parking garage of the church. Pallets of food in the trucks had to be moved to where the boxes were being loaded. They had three long lines of tables to fill boxes of food. The food was piled into parking places that were marked on the garage floor.One new skill we learned was using the big tape dispenser. It only took a couple hundred boxes to tape up to get the hang of it.

The sun finally showed up. It warmed up and we had about 300 more volunteers show up to pack the boxes. It was a fun time and we felt as if we may have helped someone have a good Thanksgiving. So it was a great day.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Into Biking

Biking with is great! Over the years we have had a couple of different types of bikes. When we were in Albuquerque 15 years ago, Pam and I decided to get mountain bikes. About five years ago I got a road bike which I ride the most now.
This past summer Kelly and I took a ride on the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) trail which I read is one of the most used in the U.S. We had a nice Saturday morning ride making our way through Vienna and down into Mclean. I have had quite a few outings on the W&OD.

A couple of months ago my neighbor Gil and I did a 33 miler (which is modest by real bikers standards but a lot for me). It was a spectacular day starting out in Nokesville, VA and winding through the country roads. A big bonus that morning was a country store in the middle of nowhere. We enjoyed some coffee on the front porch.
A couple few days ago, Adam and I rode into Wash D.C (acutally Georgetown). He needed to go to work and I wanted to see that part of the WO&D. It was easy going into town since it was down hill. The 13 miles took about an hour.
Since the kids are relatively closeby, I look forward to riding more with them. I thought once they moved out and moved on we wouldn't be riding very much. But every time we get to ride, its a bonus.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Back Door for the Garage

We are just about done with the garage. We ordered a new backdoor a couple of weeks ago and the guys came to install it. The old one has a dog door for Ed. Since winter is approaching, we will just let him out the back door.
The guys did a good job. I lov,e watching the professionals do their thing. Besides having the right tools to make quick work of it, they have done it so many times it is almost second nature. For me sometimes these things are a major project. They make it look easy.
The tricky piece of it can be hanging the door 'square' since it opens and closes without any hitches. This one took about an hour and it was done. Works like a champ.
We are going to have them do some siding work, and we will paint the door and it should be all done shortly.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

RV Industry taking a hit

It is November 1 which puts us five months away from putting our house on the market. Our target date is still April 1, 2009.

We have been on our RV journey since August 2007. That has been 15 months. So what has changed? Do we still feel the same about things? Are we sure we want to go through with this? What about the gas prices? The economy?

Speaking of the economy, RV News is reporting the RV industry has taken some major hits: Look at Fleetwood, Winnebago and Monaco.

You may recall we were looking at getting a Holiday Rambler which is made by Monaco. They have closed three plants and moved most of their operations to Oregon. Both Fleetwood and Winnebago have made major moves as well.

We are looking at things a little differently although we are still committed to doing this.

Our choice is the Tiffin diesel Phaeton model. They are family owned and Bob Tiffin has indicated he is going to ride out the current crisis. He has slowed down also, but still putting out four coaches a week. He will not build one unless it is sold. Hopefully things will work out and he will still be in good shape in the spring.

Another thing we are thinking about is our shrinking 401k and 403k plans. Although our high income producing years will end next year, we are still 'in it for the long haul'. We won't be drawing on them for another 12-15 years probably.

Gas prices will continue to fluctuate so the higher they go up, the less likely we would to be traveling.

We are probably going to be workamping and staying at a National Park or Bureau of Land Management site for two - three months. We also are interested in building projects like Habitat for Humanity and NOMADS. More on that another time.

Until then, take care and drop us a note or comment sometime.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Another step to fulltiming -- fixing up the garage before we sell the house

We still intend to put our house on the market next April. In order to get ready, we are systematically taking on different projects. The garage has needed a lot of work and something we wanted to turn into an asset instead of an eyesore.

Our efforts began by painting the walls and ceiling and then we concentrated on the floor.

Mike (my brother-in-law) and Jeremy(Mike's son-in-law) were a huge help this last week. They drove up from Tennessee with their wives and kids/grand kids.

You can tell it is break time: Mike and Joan taking a breather and Noah is inspecting things.
Ed (our dog) is doing what he does best... and is at his full speed :)

Surprisingly, the work went pretty quickly after we got into a rhythm. Jeremy is working on the wall near the front door.

We started on the walls in one corner, got the ceiling painted and then worked on the floor. After Jeremy finished the walls, he put two coats of epoxy on the floor.

It turned out well and we are that much closer to getting our house ready to sell in the Spring (2009).
We have more work to do and will keep you posted!
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Exercise and Fitness

I met Gil about three weeks ago. He was with some neighbors who were on an evening walk in the neighborhood. I was intrigued by his cross country bike trip from Los Angeles to Boston last year.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


We (Pam, Kelly, Megan and I) went for a quick sightseeing trip to the US Naval Academy. Megan flew into DC on business so we were able to join up for the hour drive to Annapolis. We met up with Kelly's former roommate Mary. We hadn't eaten lunch and went to a great pub (Middleton Tavern) on the waterfront in Annapolis. While we waited for the food I snapped a photo a photo of Kelly, Megan and Mary.

Mary and her husband Cameron live at the US Naval Academy where he is an instructor. Cam was on duty so he wasn't able to join us. Mary did a great job of showing us around a few of the sights on campus. We went to the academic building (known as Bancroft Hall) where plebes attend class.
Not far away is the 21 foot Herndon monument. Plebes try to climb to the top of it and replace the dixie cup resting there with an upperclassmen's hat. One obstacle is 200 pounds of lard that it has been coated with by the upperclassmen. It usually takes 2-3 hours to get the job done!

We also went to the tomb of John Paul Jones which is below the chapel on the academy grounds. He was the father of the American Navy.

The USNA grounds are very impressive, to say the least. It was a beautiful day and a fun afternoon.
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Friday, September 12, 2008

Conference Highlights

The primary reason we wanted to go to the Life on Wheels (LOW) Conference is to learn about the technical aspects of the motor home. We had to pick and chose from over 60 classes. Here are some of the highlights:
We feel like we need to have a basic understanding of how things work. Al Cohoe (pictured here) teaches RV classes at a technical college in Canada. Some of his classes we attended were
  • Maintenance & Repair: Propane
  • Operation & Maintenance: Furnaces/Water Heaters
  • Electrical Systems
  • Generators
  • Refrigerators
  • RV Delivery Inspection
Russ Maxwell gave an excellent presentation on: Awnings - Proper use and maintenance. Key item: NO WD-40 use CRC dry silicone instead

A real helpful class was: Driving Your RV. Dennis Hill provided some great tips on making sharp right hand turns, going up hill, backing up and a whole list of other items.

Part of our research effort over the past year has been to go and talk to people at dealers, campgrounds and now RV conferences.
Attending this was very beneficial and I highly recommend it. It filled in some of our questions on: how does this work?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Gettysburg and Life on Wheels

This is the day we have long been waiting for: The Life on Wheels Conference.

After church, we headed out for Harrisburg PA. It is about 120 miles away. Rt 15 took us right by Gettysburg which is one of our favorite National Parks so we stopped and spent a few minutes there. We have been to Gettysburg five or six times in the last 15 years. We heard they had changed some things and they have.
The biggest change is that they moved the Visitor Center a few miles out of town. It is brand new and opened earlier this year. We didn't stay long enough and will have to go back again.

Harrisburg Area Community College is the site for this year's fall LOW conference.

The Wildwood Conference Center is a new facility and seems like it will accommodate the conference well. Tonight was check in and an overview of the next four days. Tomorrow we begin the series of workshops.
Gaylord Maxwell was the opening speaker. He is the founder of the conferences which began 15 years ago. He has been RVing for over 50 years. He is the author of several books and is a writer for Motorhome Magazine. (Sadly, Gaylord Maxwell passed away two weeks after this conference at his home in Coeur d' alene, Idaho after a brief illness. The he will be sorely missed.)
We left for dinner at Crackerbarrel, then went back to the HACC where a number of folks with RV's had parked their rigs. During the opening, they mentioned a number of people hang out in the evening.

We decided to see if we could talk to a few folks and quickly got engaged in long conversation with two of the conference speakers: Dennis and Carol Hill, and Susie and Denny and Susie Orr.Pam has the gold sweatshirt in her hand. She is standing next to Steve and Karen - whom we met online talking about Tiffins.

The day was a full one and the conference is off to a great start. These RV people are really friendly!