What I realized about full-timing, retirement and being together

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Fall on Turnagain Arm, Alaska

My husband Dan and I have always been very independent. We always had our own vehicles and our own computer rooms and computers that we called ours.

We realized something today that I never thought about before. Full-timing in your RV and/or retirement from a career is a huge change for a couple. This is something I’ve talked to my counselor at the VA about because I am not sure exactly what to expect. It is starting to kind of sink in what it really means.

This weekend, we traded in two huge trucks for a small car that is going to be our “toad” (tow vehicle). See the previous post about dinghy towing. In the 12 years we’ve been married, we always had our own trucks or cars. We always used the expression of “My..this…or my that.”

I have noticed that when I see old married couples at RV parks how so in tune they seem to be. They are a quiet, comfortable pair of people who have merged their lives together and look in the same direction. You see them puttering around their campsite, taking care of little tasks. They just seem to know exactly what the other one is going to do.

This is HUGE step to take for a couple who has always been very independent and had their own careers. You suddenly (or gradually) put it all aside and merge as one person. How is this done? I have no earthly idea, but I am sure it is a process that develops as you go along.

If you’re considering full-timing, have you thought about how much time you’re really going to be spending together? What habits or idiosyncrasies are you willing to let go of in order to do that?

I’m still mulling this over a lot these days. I really look forward to finding out just how to do this. Though I’ve already been retired for 8 years because of an injury I got during my service in the military, I still have not completely retired with my spouse.

I am sure it is going to be interesting to find out what that will be like.

Happy Motoring!

Lynne

What we learned about towing, dinghies, and living simple

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As I mentioned before in a previous post, we are working on the 100 thing challenge. You can find that post here: https://rvfulltimers.wordpress.com/2010/08/12/what-are-your-100-things/

After doing a bunch of research, we learned so much about dinghy towing and living simply, we wanted to share with you. This was a true eye-opener.

We both owned very large trucks the 9 years we’ve lived here because of the challenges of driving on the snow here. We always felt safe. I originally had a Honda Accord when we first got here, but it rode too low to the ground and kept getting caught in snow drifts and snow berms (large hills of soft snow that make a car like that just go nowhere)

Now that we’re leaving, we both had to give up something huge. Two trucks we both really loved. We both realized it is just dumb to love a thing. Someday it will just be a pile of rust. People are more important.

This is when we started investigating what it means when you talk about dinghy towing. Everywhere you look in Alaska in the summer, you see these large 40 foot RVs pulling small cars behind them. They use a variety of methods.

You can do one of the following: (these are not all the choices, but they are the main ones)

Scissor-type towbars:

Use a scissor-type towbar that leaves all 4 wheels of the vehicle you are towing on the ground. You have to install some electronics in your tow vehicle (called a dinghy in the RV world) to connect the braking system of your RV with the braking system in your tow car.

Pros: Easy connect and disconnect

Cons: Fairly expensive, or so I thought. The towbars themselves tended to be around $1,000.00 for a good one, and the braking systems were fairly expensive, too – if you want one that is quality. You wear out your tires pretty good on the tow vehicle with this method. You cannot back up the RV and the tow vehicle with this method, if you get stuck somewhere. You have to get out, unhook it, and get your RV where you want it, then hook up the tow vehicle again.

Tow Dolly: You put the front wheels of your vehicle on a tow dolly, which looks like this:

Towdolly - put your car's front wheels on and strap in

You can read everything you ever wanted to know about a tow dolly and the laws governing them in Canada and the 50 states here:

http://towbartowdolly.com/blog/

This manufacturer provides customs documents for Canada as well, as he sells 40% of his tow dollies to our neighbors to the north.

Full Trailer:

Pros: You can back these up while backing your RV. They keep rocks and other road debris from damaging your tow vehicle. They also put no wear and tear on your tow vehicle (also called a toad). Some road damage can still occur, as these are open air type trailers. They can be just a frame or they can be a flat surface, like the ones you tow 4 wheelers and snow machines with.

Cons: Pricey, in the tens of thousands of dollars, at least here in Alaska. Tend to be heavy, which can really put a damper on your RV’s gas mileage.

Fully covered trailer: All the pros of the full trailer mentioned above, but no road damage would occur to your ‘toad.’ They would have the same cons of being very pricey and heavy, but for some people who are towing a classic car or pricey vehicle, it would be well worth it. You have probably seen these pulling Nascar race cars before.

I mainly wrote this article because we ran into a situation when we were looking at a Hyundai dealer to find a toad vehicle. We were looking at their crossovers and SUVs and had decided on one after reading the Official towing guide. We found out later that the Towing Guide was inaccurate on all accounts when it came to the Hyundai vehicle section. You can find the official towing guide here: (there’s also a really good article there about dinghy towing overall).

http://www.motorhomemagazine.com/dinghytowingguide/

I’m still not going to say which method is better for you. I am just outlining the different methods you could choose from. It is always best, if you are going to have a braking system and a scissor tow type of towbar installed, to have it done by an expert. Many RVers use Camping World or a dealer specializing in just towing. Just having your local mechanic install it all or doing it yourself might miss some very important steps. There are strict regulations for safety when it comes to towing a vehicle behind.

So, instead of using the towing guide to choose a toad, go to the dealership and look around. Ask questions in the service department. Read the owner’s manuals of cars you are interested in.

The Durango was one big machine we traded in

We chose a 2011 Hyundai Elantra Touring Coupe for our Toad

We are going to tow our Elantra using a tow dolly, as that is the recommended method in the owner’s manual because it is a front wheel drive.

So, by trading in two huge trucks, we’re saving $1,300.00 + a month on car payments, insurance, gas. We also don’t have to spend $3,000.00 + to ship them to Wyoming. Not to mention storage costs and not being able to tow either one. Talk about living simple!

Be safe and make the right choice for you!

A Lion’s Head, A Glacier, Dall Sheep, and No Rain!

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This past weekend, we took another dry run in the RV. As I have mentioned before, we have been going out as much as possible to test the systems in our rig and make sure all is well before we set out on our permanent journey.
It has rained for 4 months straight this summer, and we’ve just about had it. So, this past weekend we took off for high in the mountains north towards the Matanuska Glacier. This area we went to is one of my favorite places in Alaska. The Glenn Highway has been designated one of America’s scenic byways, and it never disappoints.

The park is set right in the middle of a reserve that protects Dall Sheep, and it gives you a 360 degree view of them all over the mountaintops.

If you’re ever in Alaska, visit them as you come off the Alaska Highway between Glenallen and Sutton.

When you walk along the trails behind the RV park at Grandview, you get a beautiful view from the bluff of the glacier, Mount Wickersham, and an ancient volcano called Lion’s Head.
Here’s some of what we saw. Thought you would enjoy it.

Lion's Head - the ancient volcano with Matanuska Glacier in background

Mount Wickersham

Fireweed was breathtaking along the trail and bees were busy

Sign for the bluff trail surrounded by fireweed

RVs parked at sunset at Grandview RV Park

RVs parked at sunset at Grandview

Grandview Cafe

Sissie, our doxie and my bear-bait dog (just kidding)

Views of Dall Sheep are 360 degrees all around you

The best part about staying there this weekend? Sun! Sun! Sun! No rain. Clear, dry air. It was a relief I cannot even begin to describe. I just wanted to stretch out on the ground outside and soak up as much as I could. We’ve been Vitamin D deficient lately, like you wouldn’t believe.

Low Bush Cranberry along the trail to the bluff

Matanuska Glacier

Here’s a tip from some fulltime RVers who no longer shampoo their hair. They use something called “NooPoo” and it is very effective and inexpensive:

http://www.technomadia.com/2009/07/two-years-shampoo-free/

http://babyslime.livejournal.com/174054.html

Here’s one of my all-time favorite videos…and one of my favorite actors on TV:

What are your 100 things?

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You may have heard about him from an article in Time magazine. Perhaps you have heard about the movement.

I consider this a really important point for full-timers in an RV. It is probably especially on your mind if you, like us, are just getting ready to drive off into the sunset.

And after reading the posts on the Facebook fan page of the guy I’m getting ready to tell you about, I think it is easier to do if you actually have a definite reason for doing it, such as moving or graduating from college or transitioning to a smaller living space like RVers.

I am very proud of the young people in this country who hear and see firsthand what living on credit can do to you. People homeless or going into foreclosure. Billions of dollars in real estate 2nd mortgages in default, with no hope of ever collecting. Then taxpayers foot the bill.

There are quite a few different branch-offs of this grassroots movement. Some are doing it slowly, such as getting rid of 5 pieces of stuff everyday until they own 100 items. Some are in a contest to see how low below 100 they can get. I keep thinking about Steve Martin in the movie “The Jerk” when he was just happy to have his thermos.

While reading a book on full-timing, the author talked about maintaining a small storage unit. When she buys something on the road, it goes into the storage unit. While that seems like a great choice, this woman has been full-timing it for over 12 years. Can you imagine how much stuff is in there? Then what do you when you decide to settle down somewhere? Put a bunch of old junk in your house?

Tell me, could you knock it down to 100 things (not counting your RV) ?

Here’s the guy who started it all: (yay for you, Dave!)

aguynameddave.com

Here is a fantastic article from the NY Times that explains it in detail and how the end result is to get people out of debt in a very short time. It seems that when you stop concentrating on things, it starts your life over.

http://nyti.ms/afw0ZE

Here’s another article about it:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1812048,00.html

You can also follow Dave on Facebook here:

http://touch.facebook.com/#100thingchallenge?w2m

You can see a great example of someone who is really committed to it here:

http://gypsytour.blogspot.com/2010_05_01_archive.html

Here’s a great post about wastefulness:
http://zenhabits.net/simple-wasteless/

I was feeling a little depressed today (we’ve had 4 months of constant overcast skies and rain, and it is driving me cuckoo). I have absolutely NOTHING TO WHINE ABOUT after watching this beautiful video:

A Pet story, Workamping and A New Review Website

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I was sitting in the veterinarian’s office today while getting my chihuahua pup checked before we leave. It reminded me of some other things you might want to think about before leaving.
Hope’s xray:

Hope's X-ray

In Alaska, you don’t have the usual annoying pests like fleas, ticks, worms, or heartworm, so when it comes to pets we have a few things to do once we cross back into the continental U.S. that will involve a visit to a vet’s office in Wyoming.(our home base) I hear there are some new vaccines for dogs such as Lyme disease. There are some new vaccines for cats as well, I am sure.
Because we don’t have the usual pests up here and I developed a severe allergy to cats in the past few years (and a recent distaste for the smell of a cat box while living in smaller living areas) I am not as up on cat vaccines as I used to be.
There have been recent studies that suggest dogs only need their parvovirus vaccines as puppies, and vets up here are leaving it up to the owners. We haven’t vaccinated our dogs after puppydom because they only hang around each other, but that is going to change. There will probably be many curious sniffs from unknown pups. Walks that cause my dogs to step into another dog’s poop at one point.
So, as I was sitting in the vet’s office I thought you might find this info something to think about for yourself.
We camp with 2 parakeets and a canary so they all had to downsize their cages to smaller ones with less toys. They are very spoiled and had these huge cages and tons of toys.

While you’re planning it all, you might want to ask your doctor and vet about records. How would you access your records from the road? We both get care at the VA, so our prescriptions and so on are online.

While you’re at it, you might have to get your pets a health certificate. If you’re driving through Canada or Mexico and back into the U.S., you have to have one. Check the canadian customs website to be sure. This ensures your pets are  healthy when they travel back into the U.S. Check here to be sure:

http://www.cdc.gov/ncpdcid/dgmq/index-new-sites.html

http://www.bajabound.com/before/pettravel/returningtous.php

Here is a fantastic resource I found, as well:

http://www.pettravelcenter.com/

Now onto a new review website I heard about recently. It is

RVparking.com

What makes it really great is that you can upload pictures of parks you’ve been to, and you can read all kinds of tips on RVing. You can also get paid for verifying the information there. Check it out!

for reviews you can share of over 18,000 parks.
Want to reserve a park – state or national – a great website is reserveusa.com or recreation.gov. A great way to reserve a spot of your beloved campground months in advance.
Are you interested in workamping? I love this website:
Workamper.net
You might also love reading jaimie’s blog at rvlifestyleexperts.com

Have you ever wondered what workamping is really like? Check out this article. It’s a really interesting story of what it is like firsthand:
http://www.technomadia.com/2010/02/workamping-at-amazon-com-was-it-worth-it/

Here are some recent pics from our trip into the mountains last week to escape the rain and dreary skies. It was so beautiful up there. So cool and dry and the Matanuska glacier was cool, as usual.

Lynne and Hope

Hope riding with Dan

We’ve been getting our puppy accustomed to riding in the car. The doxie and pug are already very used to it. We just want to make sure there aren’t any problems with motion sickness. It took us awhile to get our doxie used to it without barfing. You might want to test a few trips with your pets, if you haven’t already.

Matanuska Glacier

This is the area where we were hanging out this past weekend. We wanted to get away from the rain and go check out an RV park we’d like to try next weekend. Wanted to make sure it was worth the trip. This is the only way out of this part of Alaska to get to the Alaska Highway, and the roads up the mountains are pretty hairy at times.

What Do You Do While You’re Waiting to Leave?

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The housing market in Alaska is really strange right now, so we’re not having the same kind of luck in selling our home that we did previous homes. When we first moved here in 2003, you could not even get a house before it was gone. By the time you saw it online in the mls, it was no longer for sale.

After the tax credit that Obama and our government gave home buyers ended in April 2010, what was a seller’s market quickly became a buyer’s market. Buyers have had a great selection to choose from that are all being sold at really low prices. It makes it almost impossible to compete.

So, I decided to start doing what I love. Make lists!

Some of the things I’ve been working on since waiting for a contract on our home that might help you while you’re getting ready to fulltime.  These suggestions will make your transition from a landlocked home to one that travels much easier.

Think about your records. Your birth certificate. Your marriage license. Your passport. Your shot records. Those records you have in your safe deposit box. Or a special location to protect them. Carrying them in your RV could be a little risky, so a fireproof safe might work for you. If you’re a little too nervous about this, you could scan images of these documents and keep them in a bank safety deposit box. Or you could split some up to stay with you, while others stay in a vault. That is all totally up to you, but it is worth a thought while you’re waiting to leave.

Another good thing to think about is your stuff. Put it in piles. Maybe piles. No piles. RV pile. Storage pile. Friend pile. You could also get really generous. With your local woman’s shelter or the Salvation Army. Your neighbors and friends. Do you have to have a garage sale? Probably not, if you’re not too desperate for cash. Give instead. It just feels better. If you’re like us and have to pay movers to take your stuff to a storage unit (ours is 4,000 miles away so we really have to think hard about what to do with our “stuff”), you’re gonna have to make it hurt A LOT.

How much more simple would your life be if you had no stuff? What if you weren’t really very attached to anything except perhaps a couple of things. For me, it is my paints and my easel. And my cameras. For you, it could be some woodcarving tools or something else. The smaller the better. Unfortunately, I’m going to miss my sewing machine but I love to hand sew also. So I can live with that.

Just thinking about these things sent me to many different locations with many different items. We gave some of our bigger wordworking tools to friends who had been really kind to us. We gave televisions to the women’s shelter and the Salvation Army.

These are just a few things I’ve been thinking about while waiting. I’m not very good at waiting.

Hope you have a great day.

Lynne

The Mudflap Solution That Looks Cool And Won’t Break The Bank

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You might recall I said our mudflap was missing after our RV sat over the winter at the dealer. I called around, and it was $500.00 to replace that mudflap. You might have seen me talking about the signature “Sportscoach” mud flap. It was kind of a pain in the butt as a mudflup. If you went up a steep grade or something it would scrape pretty loudly in the back. It really was attached too low. Although it did look kinda cool.

I promised you back here:

https://rvfulltimers.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/chapter-3-still-getting-ready-to-go-and-battery-chargingconverters/

that I would talk about the mudflaps as soon as I found a solution.

Here is a not so good pic of the mudflap we had

This past week, we found an $11.00 solution. Our Freightliner dealer sold us some Freightliner signature mudflaps and even red and black at that. Eleven bucks each. Problem solved. I like them much better. Our RV is a Freightliner beast of a chassis.

So, if you know where there is a Peterbilt or Freightliner or other truck service department, they could give you much better mudflaps for a lot less. And you don’t have to get signature ones, either. You could get ones that are plain.

Cool Freightliner mudflap in back of rear left dualies.

Both Freightliner mudflaps

The skies, meanwhile, were doing something beautiful tonight

And summer is leaving Alaska very very quickly...

And so are all the RVs with their little dinghy tow vehicles…dashing down the road towards the Alaska Highway – running ahead of the cold weather coming back to the Arctic.

Sorry bees – one of us had to win that battle. I was getting stung WAY too much.

(cranberry, grapefruit juice, 2 TBsp sugar, some sardines or other stinky fish like tuna. Just a big TBSP of fish.

In one of those traps they cannot get out of

What we call “the barn.” I’ve cut so much wood out there. What a great garage. 4 car. About 1,000 sq feet. I’ll miss it while we’re full-timing, but we’ll have another one someday.

What would you miss most if you were a full-timer? Leave your answer as a comment, if you like. Would like to see what other people would miss…

Now you know my weakness (working with wood)

What’s yours?

And finally, I was grateful today that I could walk. Everyday I can walk is a miracle of modern science. I am very grateful for that.

Thank you Universe, for another day walking

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