It is June 12, 2011. We closed on the sale of our house on Friday and once Pat and I finish our individual road trips (me for work and Pat delivering furniture to our daughter in NC), we will take the RV out of storage and start our new adventure as full time RV’ers. How did we get here?
A couple of years ago we were talking about what we were going to do when the kids were all gone and I decided to retire. Somewhere in this conversation I jokingly said we should sell the house, but a big RV and travel the country. As the saying goes, “Be careful what you ask for.” That suggestion kept coming back up in conversation over the years and finally we “Googled” full time RV’ing we were surprised how much information there was available. Blogs of full time RV’ers, RV forums, etc – a wealth of knowledge and lessons learned!
One of the first things we discovered was there was a lot preparation to be done, often years in advance of going full time. We read blogs and forums, taking advantage of our soon to be fellow travelers’ experience. What kind of RV do we want – motor coach or fifth wheel? How much will this new lifestyle cost? How do you handle mail, bills, insurance and the list got longer.
Early on, we started shedding stuff. All of the things we thought were treasures had to be disbursed to other family members, sold, given to charity, or just put in the trash. At first it was relatively painless, but it became harder as we progressed to possessions that had real or emotional value. An example was my collection of books. I had a large collection of business, historical and fiction – some were signed copies! There wouldn’t be room for all of them. I started giving some to our children, set aside some for a future garage sale, and donated some of the best to our local library. Thankfully many of our treasures were really just junk and that was easy. Some of the metal items we were able to sell as scrap metal and even made a few bucks.
We visited RV shows to see what was available and what features we thought were important. We soon found ourselves drifting toward fifth wheel trailers as opposed to motor coaches, although we kept all options open. It did become clear to us you could get more living space for your money with a fifth wheel.
Could we afford it? As we looked at the numbers, using information from our online research and our own data, we determined it was feasible to do this. Because I own my own training and consulting business, I decided I could continue to operate the business from the road, but at a more relaxed pace. This would provide additional income as long as I desired to continue working.
We continued to go back and forth on whether to sell everything or put some furniture and special items in storage. It seemed that all the RV forums said to get rid of all of everything. In reality it would cost more to store the furniture if we were on the road for more than five years than to replace it with new furniture.
To make a long story short, our daughter, Elisabeth, said she would take all of our Christmas decorations. I think she had more of an emotional attachment to them than we did. She also said we could have a closet in her house and that solved the problem of what to do with all of the photographs we had. Pat’s family still owned the family farm and her brother told us we could store some things in one of the bedrooms of the farmhouse. So we stored some furniture items and our tax records there.
We had planned on taking the big step sometime in the spring of 2013. However, my father passed away in October, 2010 and there is something about having the last of your parents pass away that makes you ask yourself how long you want to wait before doing something like this. We re-evaluated our financial situation and decided to go for it. We purchased the trailer in late October, 2010 and the dealer agreed to store it until March, 2011 at no additional charge.
Now we needed a tow vehicle. We posted the question on the RV forums and got plenty of feedback. We checked out all makes and models and ended up purchasing a 2011 GMC Sierra 3500, dual rear wheel pickup. I promptly dubbed this the “Monster Truck.” I looked like a midget standing next to it.
At this point we realized we had passed the “Point of No Return,” and our preparation shifted into high gear. We started making lists of things to be done and determined the sequence and priority for these tasks (it helps having two project managers in the family!)
We made our first trip, our “shakedown cruise,” to see our daughter-in-law and our grand daughters in Mississippi. Our son, Scott, was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan and was at Camp Atterbury in Indiana. We picked up the trailer from Terrytown RV on March 18th and stopped on our way home at the local outlet mall to practice backing and parking. I had plenty of experience backing a trailer, but never anything this big! We went back to the house and starting loading and arranging. The next day we pulled it out again for more practice on backing and parking.
Sunday, I was on the road the next week in Ohio and got back on Thursday. We finished our final preparations and were on the road Friday afternoon. We spent Friday night in the RV park at Camp Atterbury and had Scott over for dinner. He is SO BUSY! He is the Operations Officer for a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Afghanistan and is responsible for much of the preparations of the team.
We got to Timberlake Campground, which is located on the Ross Barnett Reservoir, near Jackson, MS. Great place to camp. You feel like you are in the middle of the woods, but there is a small shopping center with a Kroger, literally right across the road.
We had Sandra and the kids out to see us most of the time. I traveled to Pittsburgh for my on-going project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers one week and spent another week in the Boston area teaching MS Project. I think this working from the road will work out.
In addition to spending time with Scott’s family (which is the primary reason for going there) Pat and I toured the Vicksburg National Military Park. What an opportunity to see a piece of history up close and personal.
On April 25th we headed back to Michigan. We drove the Natchez Trace Parkway from Jackson to Nashville. What a great drive. No commercial traffic and great scenery.
We spent the first night in a Wal-Mart parking lot north of Nashville and while we were there, got a call from our real estate agent that he had an offer on the house and would we fax some forms back to him. We reminded him we were in a Wal-Mart parking lot, but used our On-Star service to find a Kinko’s. He faxed the paperwork to us there and we sent it back right away. I guess we were really on a time schedule now!
We spent the next night at Camp Atterbury and saw Scott again. I got the feeling he is ready to deploy, but getting ready is such a hassle. His team goes to the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk in mid-May, then after a brief leave, he will lead the advance party to Afghanistan.
Back at home we shifted into high gear. We unpacked and repacked much of the trailer. I made some modifications (like a shelf for my tools) and we figured out where all the stuff will go when we do it for real. We located a place to store it about a half mile from the house where we can get at it 24 hours a day and after a few days pulled it over there.
The first week in May we investigated if we can do an estate sale, but discovered we didn’t have enough good stuff left (family and friends already laid claim on some major items), so we are left with having to do garage sales.
We posted a lot of items on Craig’s List and had some success with that. We scheduled sales for Friday and Saturday, May 13 & 14, 20 & 21. Wouldn’t you know it I was out of town doing training on May 10-12 and May 15-19.
The other wrinkle in that our youngest Dave has been living at home while he finishes his degree at Michigan State University and he needs to find a place to live. He had located an apartment where he can take over an apartment from a friend of his and not have a lease. So we moved Dave out on May 24th, and moved most of the things we want to hold on to the farm house in Bad Axe on May 25-26. Life is certainly not boring these days!
The sale looks like it is going to go through. The appraiser has been through the house, the financing seems to be good. We intend to close on June 10th. Of course, I am on the road in Ohio from May 31 – June 3rd and in Pittsburgh for the Corps of Engineers on June 7-9. This makes Pat responsible for most of the preparation for the home inspection and getting things ready for the trailer.