Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Sunday, January 31, 2016

So What Do You Do All Day?

At Llano Grande RV Resort, Mercedes, Texas...

We're often asked that question. The answer, of course, is "anything we want." That may seem a bit flippant, but it is still true. The marvelous gift retirement gives us is time--time to spend doing those things we enjoy and ignoring those things we don't particularly like to do. Take housekeeping chores, for example: I don't think most people realize just how much time they devote to maintaining their residence and grounds (unless, of course, you have staff to do it for you, which I would guess most of us don't). I'm not going to replay all the whining I did about this while leading up to the house sale, but the older I have gotten, the more I have resented its thievery of my time--precious time that inexorably grows shorter each day. 

Now that the house is gone, an enormous amount of time and money have been freed up to use for things we enjoy. That could be something as simple as watching a sunset or sunrise (we don't see many of the latter). Or reading a book. Or watching a movie. Or taking a walk. We certainly don't devote much time to housekeeping. Daily chores in Phannie take maybe 15 minutes; the rest of the day is ours.

When we arrive at a new destination, we may go out for a meal or eat something in Phannie.  Then we relax until the following day, when we may venture out in the car to see things that interest us or to find a good restaurant.  We've spent the last couple of afternoons showing Steve and Jackie around the Rio Grande Valley area. We stopped in at Retama Village and Bentsen Palms (upscale RV communities) for short visits with Mike and Marian, Ginger and Jesse and Bob and Janet. We've also tried out several local restaurants, among them Salazar's Hamburgers and Nana's Tacos, both of which are always good. We also stopped by the Don-Wes flea market to look around and picked up some fresh pineapple and, oh yes, the obligatory freshly popped kettle corn and mini-donuts, both of which disappeared in fairly short order. I'm not sure what happened to them. 

Javier scoops up a bag of kettle corn, freshly popped in the big cast iron cauldron to the left. Smells so good!
Jackie tried on a pair of sunglasses but didn't buy them. "A little too understated," she said.
Sandy found a plastic snake which I shamed her into touching. Since she is deathly afraid of snakes, it wasn't very gentlemanly of me, I admit. She doesn't look very happy, does she?

One of the cardinal rules for fulltimers seems to be that nothing should be rushed. For the purpose of this discussion, something is rushed when 1) more than one activity of any kind is planned or 2) the event planned contains no provision for a nap. If this rule is not followed for some reason, then it is essential that a day of rest is observed immediately after the transgression.

Don't roll your eyes at me; I don't make the rules!

Okay, maybe a day like this seems a little tame. But you should know that there is no shortage of laughter and no shortage of appreciation for our good fortune to help occupy our time.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

Friday, January 29, 2016

One Final Offload and We're On Our Way!

At Llano Grande Lake Park Resort, Mercedes, Texas...

We sheepishly disgorged Phannie and Mae onto our hapless kids in Houston, and yes, they're still speaking to us, but I think only because they are finding some pretty cool things among the stuff we unloaded on them. (Note to others who have this idea: If you're dumping stuff on your kids, include some nice things they can use.)

We also had a nice dinner at at Kobe Japanese Steak House with Mindy and Tyler and the grandsons, and we also had the extra pleasure of the presence of Sandy's sister, Brenda. The boys really enjoyed watching the antics of the chef cooking on the Teppanyaki grill.

The next day, we bade them goodbye, Phannie's interior looking much more inviting now with the absence of the piles of debris. We headed for Corpus Christi, a favorite area of ours, where we would spend the night while en route to the Rio Grande Valley. 

The weather was uncharacteristically cold and rainy during the trip to Corpus, our having followed a cold front southbound from the DFW area. As a result, Phannie and Mae took on a most unattractive layer of road spray.  There was nothing we could do about the grime except wait until we arrived in the RGV, where we can always get a good wash job for a bargain price. (No, unless I'm desperate, I don't wash it myself; it's too big and I'm too lazy.) 

While we were in Corpus, we felt compelled to have a fine seafood dinner at Snoopy's, one of our favorites, just across the bridge on the bay. 

With our seafood fix out of the way and a good night's sleep, we headed Phannie south again. In Kingsville, we met up with Steve and Jackie, another fulltiming couple we recently met during a trip through Austin. We found we had a lot in common--so much so that they ditched their fiver for a Phaeton like Phannie (except newer) a few weeks ago after seeing our coach and hearing us brag on it. We caravanned with them for the rest of the trip to the RGV, where we are excited to show them around and have them meet still more friends of ours. 

As soon as we arrived at Llano Grande Resort, I phoned up Jesse, our wash guy, who agreed to come out the very next morning and clean up both coaches.

Jesse scrubs the grime off a very dirty Phannie
Steve and Jackie's parking spot was close by, and we couldn't wait to walk over and take a look at their (new to them) Phaeton. To say we were impressed would be an understatement. It is a beautiful motorhome, appointed just as they wanted. We felt very happy for them and proud to have had a small part in their choosing this new home on the road. We know they won't be sorry.

Owners of the coach, held by Jackie and Steve
Jackie and Steve love Llano Grande, one of the nicest parks anywhere. And yes, for those of you in snowy climes, those are palm trees--no snow down here; just warmth and sunshine. Sorry!

Now that we've reached our first fulltiming destination, and the madness of the purging and sale of the house is quickly fading, we are finally beginning to get a sense of what this new lifestyle is going to be like. It is, in our view, the ultimate indulgence of a fantasy of freedom and travel. Imagine having the means of traveling in the comfort of a motorhome whenever and wherever you wish and staying as long as you want. Imagine going to where it's warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Imagine staying in a beautiful place until you're ready to move to another that is equally beautiful. Imagine meeting many new friends whose paths you often cross in your wanderings. Imagine not being tied down to the responsibilities and expense of a house somewhere. Imagine no work and all play. Well, that's us.

Not for you, you say? Well, that's fine; we don't have to understand.

Thank you, Lord for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Fulltiming: Finding a New Normal

At Northlake RV Resort, Houston, Texas...

Our escape from the DFW area didn't go as planned--on the same day as closing the house sale--there were just too many loose ends. For one thing, we agreed to stay another day to spend time with the new owners, teaching them the essentials of all the electronics in the house. This was a formidable job, as they were definitely not what you would call techie-type folks. At the end, I had gotten them to a point where they could get most everything to turn on and off. That was about all they could absorb for the day, I'm afraid. We did leave for them the instruction manuals for all these gadgets and for the appliances. Digesting all of them will require quite a lot of reading that is, well, boring at best.

Although we had planned to take a direct route to the Rio Grande Valley after closing, we decided to make a dogleg down to Houston, so we could take some more things we were giving to Mindy and her family--things that we hadn't identified and purged when they departed last week in the rental truck. Every little bit helps, as we will begin to reevaluate the storage unit the next time we return to the area. We can already think of things we kept that should have been discarded in the 21-day purging mayhem that we created for ourselves.

Finally on the road, we looked like the Clampetts of Beverly Hillbillies fame. Phannie and Mae were both loaded to the gills with some of our belongings that were being force-inherited by the kids. I didn't take a photo, because it would have been too embarrassing; we hope they'll still be speaking to us after this. It wasn't until all this stuff was unloaded in Houston that we began to take a deep breath, as we realized that Phannie's interior would return to normal, which it did in pretty short order once Sandy put her mind to it. In fact, it was quite astonishing to me how many extra things we loaded aboard the coach for fulltiming, yet these are not really obvious when looking around. Fortunately, Tiffin builds lots of storage space into their products, and Phannie certainly is no exception.

I had my own challenges in the belly compartments. I knew I wanted to carry an air compressor (more convenient than the air system on Phannie), but the one I had at the house was too big to carry in the coach. The solution was a new Craftsman Air Boss compressor that just happened to fit perfectly into the electronics bay near the front of the coach:

So, you might ask if we have had any 'aha' moments after this massive paradigm shift? Well, the answer would be yes, but not as profound as one might think. For one thing, we have just been too busy to give it much thought. I will tell you, however, that I had a happy moment when I erased from my iPhone the apps that I used to review and control all of the security cameras and alarm systems that we installed at the house after the break-in a few years ago. That single act--deleting the apps--gave me a good deal of instant relief, as now I know that no matter what happens to the house, it's someone else's problem. It's hard to quantify the sense of relief I got from this one thing but, I can assure you, it was huge.

It seems odd that we will not return to this house that we lovingly had custom built, but it finally became obvious that it didn't serve any function except to store our furniture and the other stuff that we have largely discarded now. It was in many ways an impediment to the travel goals for our senior years, and these goals do NOT involve sitting around a house.

So, we're moving toward a new normal that will become more obvious, I'm sure, when we've recovered from the trauma of this move. We're definitely looking forward to that.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough every day.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Exhausted But Free!

At Treetop RV Resort, Arlington, Texas...

It would be difficult to describe adequately the exhausting chaos of the last few days leading up to the real estate closing and the possession of the house by the new owners. If you have fulltiming on your mind and think you can rationally and reasonably purge all of your excess belongings in 21 days, then please--for the love of God--don't try it!

The first couple of weeks seemed to go pretty well, with what we thought was a system in place to deal with the various dispositions of the goods. It was about at the end of this time that it became evident that our system was not purging fast enough to reach the goal of cleaning out the house in time for the closing. So, we studied our options and decided we would do what any trained professional would do--panic! 

The most time consuming and frustrating part of purging is the fact that you actually have to look at every single thing you own, no matter how small, and make a decision as to what to do with it. And after nearly 40 years of marriage, we had a lot of things--thousands of them, in fact--to look at.

As closing date drew nearer, our evaluation of each item and the decision about its disposition was afforded less and less time. And within a couple of days of the closing, our looking and thinking turned into mere glances and no thinking. By the last day before closing, the stuff was being tossed into large boxes labeled "Last Minute Junk." Any semblance of the orderly process had flown out the window.

Almost all of the "last minute junk" went straight to the storage facility to be sorted out the next time we're in town. Unless, of course, a mysterious fire consumes the storage facility at a time when we have a good alibi. Where is Guido when we need him?

But, somehow we did it; the house was empty within a few hours after closing, but not without its exacting a toll on our rapidly aging bodies. I don't know when we've been so tired.

Our exhaustion was so great that we really didn't get to appreciate fully the huge change that just happened in our lives. We think it really won't hit us until we actually leave the Metroplex and get on the open road in a couple of days. But that's another post.

Here are a few observations that we can share with you now that that we're houseless:

In order to keep your sanity and your health, take a least a year to do your downsizing; more time is better. Doing it in 21 days is utterly ridiculous! (In our defense, weak as it may be, we thought the house would take much longer to sell.)

Be brutal about the things you discard; we are a ridiculously affluent society, and we actually need very few of the possessions we have accumulated.  (We weren't nearly brutal enough, but it did make us feel better that we gave all of our excess things to family or charity and sold nothing.)

Keeping a bunch of stuff in a storage facility is a loser. The rent charges will soon eclipse the value of the things you kept. (Yes, we're guilty, but we can correct this mistake; we're going to purge again when we get our senses back.)

Digitize the old paper photos and slides--especially ones of important family members, friends and events. You can start doing this years in advance, and you won't have thousands of photos hanging around in boxes, deteriorating. By the way, it's up to you to save this legacy for your descendants; your knowledge of the subjects in the photos is irreplaceable. (We have many photos digitized, but not nearly enough.)

I wish I could report that we have entered a realm of euphoria that is only achievable through this newly found freedom, but it is just too soon. Right now, we're still recovering from our self-induced exhaustion, but we do know that living in Phannie seems like being home, and it makes us happy; that can't be bad. We will keep you posted.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

One Week To Go!

At home near Fort Worth, Texas...(but not for long!)

I wonder if we'll make it? By the time the house sale closes next week, we will have been purging for 21 solid days, which may be some kind of record for the fewest days spent on such a project!

If we had had our right minds, it would have been 21 months! I've lost count of the number of trips we've made to donate stuff at the church thrift shop. Also uncountable have been the trips to the storage unit, where we drop off things that will also likely be jettisoned when we're able to think clearly again. And no one except the trash collectors know how many bags of trash they have picked up from the curb. It seems inconceivable that we have downsized twice before in years past. If we hadn't, I think I would just climb in a garbage bag and leave myself for pickup.

The kids will drive up from Conroe and join us this weekend for a visit. Once they're here, they will be presented with a rental truck onto which Tyler and Carlos--our handyman--will load an early inheritance. These items will consist of things Mindy has claimed and others that we think they might use. (We've cunningly boxed up the latter, so they can't tell what they are.) Then Tyler will drive the truck back to their place in Conroe where they will perform a triage of their own; and who knows what they will keep? I know we don't care; we're just glad it's going away. 

Adding to the chaos are the innumerable address changes to show our new mail drop as the Escapees facility in Livingston, the transfer of our utilities to the new owners, the servicing of Phannie and Mae, as well as doctor and dentist visits for both of us. We have also arranged a couple of sessions with the new owners to familiarize them with all the electronic gadgetry associated with the security, video surveillance and entertainment systems. I'm afraid this might be a bit of a challenge, as it would for anyone not accustomed to today's technology. I think I have most of the owner's manuals for these things, so maybe leaving these behind will help. We've also assured the new owners that we are only a phone call away. They are a very nice couple, about our age, who have a 36-foot Winnebago Tour. The house will be perfect for them, and they are excited.

With all that's going on, we have had little time to think about the radical change in our life that will take place in only a week. I'm sure it won't really hit us until we pull away from our neighborhood for the last time and head Phannie toward the warmth of south Texas. However bewildered we may be then, I'm pretty sure it won't last long. 

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Days Twelve and Thirteen

At home near Fort Worth, Texas...

Okay, the holidays are over, and we're back at the chore of purging, purging. We have had another bit of good luck, however. The new owners are purchasing most of our furnishings! That is a huge help, in that we can mostly just walk away, not having to arrange for a big furniture moving effort! That doesn't mean we won't be busy up until the last minute, however. We are still making daily trips hauling non-furniture stuff to the storage unit and to the church thrift store, to say nothing of the junk we're taking to the curb as trash.

It's getting more difficult and tiresome to make the dozens of decisions each day as to what to do with every single thing we pick up. And these things are getting smaller in size and almost seem to be growing in number! We question our judgment at times, unsure that we have correctly categorized an item, asking each other's opinion often as to whether it would likely have any use or value to anyone.

Bear in mind that we have gone through several downsizings, and we really haven't been doing any hoarding. In fact, some of the storage cabinets have remained empty after we built the house. It's just that we finally have to deal with the small stuff that just accumulates unintentionally; I call it the detritus of life. A junk drawer, for example, is a source of a lot of frustration, because there's good stuff in there along with the junk. And it's not easy to try to guess which is which.

The hardest thing is trying to keep the sentimentality out of it to the degree possible. We realize that we can't keep every single thing our children and grandchildren have touched, but Sandy certainly would like to, if she could.

We also realize that, once the decision is made about each item, it will almost certainly be okay. After all of our previous downsizings, including our parents' estate sales, we can't think of a single thing that we wish we had kept.

Something that has been particularly annoying for me is trying to decide which articles of clothing to keep. I think I'm like most guys in that I really don't have "favorites" like Sandy does. If it fits comfortably and is functional for the weather of the day, then it's good to go. I try to observe some kind of color matching, but this has largely deteriorated into two categories: Things that are red-orange-brown and things that are blue-green-yellow. There are certain colors that simply defy categorization; these include black, white, gray, beige and pink. Who knows what to do with those? (Fortunately, I don't think I have anything pink, except maybe a tie--which I certainly shouldn't have kept.)

Here's the kind of dilemma I face: I probably have three or four dozen mostly casual shirts remaining after having given most of the dress shirts away. These are all in good condition and fit well, and I don't dislike any of them; yet I can't keep dozens of shirts in Phannie. So which ones do I discard? 

To keep from getting a headache, I have decided to put the excess into storage and deal with this later. I'm sure that, before long, I will open up the storage unit and say to myself, "What was I thinking?"  

And so it goes, all through each day. And in the back of my mind is the nagging realization of something quite ominous: (I'm whispering now)...we haven't even started on the attic!

God help us.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Our New Home is...a Folder?

At Northlake RV Resort, Houston, Texas...

Talk about downsizing! 

First, it was the big home in the country on ten acres that we built before we realized it would consume all of our spare time to keep it up. 

Then, it was the big house in the city, but with a small yard. Fine for me, but Sandy spent all of her time keeping up five bedrooms and four bathrooms--for two people! 

Then, it was the much smaller RV-port house with an even smaller and xeriscaped yard. Fine, but we were retired and traveling and found that we didn't want ANY of the the kind of bondage caused by home ownership.

So, we thought we would show you our new home:

Yes, it's a file folder. We are now one of about 14,000 other folks who also live in file folders in the Escapees mail facility in Livingston, Texas:

Okay, okay, for you literalists, we don't actually live in a file folder; we will be living in Phannie, of course. But for those who don't know that, our address of record will be Rainbow Drive in Livingston, Texas. 

We drove up to Livingston to set up our Escapees mail handling account at their headquarters building, located about six miles southeast of town in a pretty wooded area:

We were met by Ashley, an irrepressibly cheerful young lady, who showed us around and helped with the process, and we were quite impressed with the facility. We didn't really anticipate how large the operation would be. The fact is that Escapees actually receives more mail for its customers than the entire population of Livingston! 

When we were driving away, I looked at Sandy and asked how she felt about living in a file folder. Characteristic of her good nature, she said, "Well, it sure won't take long to clean house!" 

Yes, even though it's stressful to have go through so many changes so quickly--especially a woman, for whom the nesting instinct is strong--Sandy has always been more than willing to give new things a try, even if they seem pretty harebrained. God bless her; it's easy to love someone like that.

After this, we drove to the local tax office to change our auto registration and to the DPS to change our drivers' licenses. Now begins the process of making address changes to everything else. We will inevitably forget something in this process, so we'll hang onto our UPS mailbox until we're sure everything is switched over. 

We've had a wonderful holiday break with the kids, but we'll be heading back to Fort Worth in a couple of days, where we will obviously be incredibly busy getting transitioned from stick and brick to bus. So stick around, and we'll see if we make it.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.