Ramblings of a Motorhoming Melancholic?
We are now fulltimers...no stickhouse to worry about...
Here is something worth posting again from my blog here, now moved to my own blog page
This subject pops up every now and then in the Internet forums, rv.net, IRV2.com, FMCA.com, where I hang about on a regular basis. It may be a post titled "Is your Class A a Money pit?" or "A motor home costs a whole lot more than you think it does!" The people who post these kinds of entries may or may not really have a problem with what a coach or any other large RV may cost. They might just be bored. It's Sunday night and the DW is watching "Real Housewives of xxx", so there is nothing better for them to do than post some sad story about how broke owning a coach is making them.
The last time I saw one of these threads, I responded to it. I said that owning a motor coach is like having kids. You make a huge financial investment, with no return, but they make lots of good memories, are good for the soul, and will greatly improve one's life if you let them.
I believe the RV lifestyle is under-appreciated by most people who are not part of it and also by some who are. Becoming a Motor Coacher has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me and my wife. Has owning one depleted my bank account? I suppose it has, but then, maybe not.
I might have put away the money that I spend each month paying for my coach. I might have put away the money I spend on trips, including gas and food and camping fees, but I doubt it. I would have spent all of my trip and fuel money on airplane tickets, hotel rooms and cruise ships, or something else. The chances are that even if I did save it, a lot of the money could still have disappeared without me spending a dime of it.
The present economic situation has poked a whole lot of holes in a lot of financial balloons. I just try to take advantage of what our coach can do for us. I may have to spend money on gas, a new water pump to replace a squirting frozen one, new wiper blades to replace frozen ones, a new water filter to replace a cracked and frozen one, but considering what our coach does for us it is worth it.
I can tell you this that minus the monthly payment, the time I have spent in Florida, which included eight nights at Disney World, didn't cost us much at all. Not when compared to what two weeks would have cost staying in fancy hotels and eating out. I wish I could have stayed there a lot longer. Responsibilities called me home.
Home is a very subjective word when you own a motor coach. Home is where my coach is. I felt quite at home in Fort Wilderness. As a matter of fact, the guard who checked us in said, "Welcome home, Mr. Parker."
It was home. A few years ago we spent New Year's Eve in Saint Augustine and the next day climbed a lighthouse. My daughter was there and my son-in-law and my grandson. My wife was there and so was Teddy Bear. I had my favorite DVDs, my favorite beer, my favorite books, some of them anyway, and the things I like to eat the most. I also had great cable TV.
At night we listened to music coming from the Disney Parks. We also heard the fireworks and, if we walked a little ways from our site, could see them, just over the tops of the trees. If we wanted to ride the monorail, we did. If we wanted to take a boat ride, we did that, too. We went to one park, and saw Cirque Du Soleil, followed by sushi at Wolfgang Pucks. We pin traded, we took Teddy to the Waggin Tails Dog Park. We basked in the 70-degree sunshine. We even had the pleasure of spending time with our friends Gary and Janis. What could be better than that?
It was wonderful. It was wonderful until we had to say good-bye. We had to say good-bye to the warmth of our surroundings, our friends and our family. We said good-bye and then made our way back north. We came back to the cold, to work and to our son, daughter and grandsons, whom we missed a lot.
It won't be long before we take our motorhome back out on the road and enjoy another great trip. We will make new friends and see new places.
So, I don't worry about "depreciation" I try to appreciate the emotional and spiritual return I get from my poor financial investment. I hope that all my fellow Coachers and RVers do the same.
Why have Diane and I kept motorcoaching the last ten years and moving full time next month?
Here is the answer to that question:
A Real Hero.....
I love puns and one liners. I love blurting them out...regardless of those in hearing range around me want to hear them or not.
My Grand Daughter Brooklyn and some cupcakes!
Today I would liked to have posted a blog about how much fun it has been since Diane and I retired. I wanted to tell you about our adventures in the coach, describe all the new sites we have seen etc..
Over the last ten years, Diane and I have learned, discovered, or otherwise stumbled upon a few things that have helped us during our adventures on the road.
More hopefully not useless, truisms!
An opinion of the motorhoming lifestyle from an unlikely source.
Well folks, I have decided that the time has come for me to have my own photography and personal observation site. I will post randomly what I see and think about numerous subjects including motorhoming, faith, kids, who knows. I hope you will take a look. http://www.myrandomviews.com/
I have enjoyed my time blogging here at FMCA.com.
It has been a good learning experience. If and when Diane and I retire and go full time, then you can expect to see more random entries here as well.
The French Broad River is a very beautiful, naturally flowing river, meaning that it is not dam controlled by the TVA like so many others are in western North Carolina. It flows north easterly through the mountains which includes Asheville and there it connects with the Swannanoa River. From there it continues through the county seat of Marshall, our destination. Eventually the French Broad flows into the Holston River in Tennessee and on into the Tennessee River near Knoxville. It is called the French Broad because it was one of two broad rivers in the area and it was the one that flowed through land claimed over two centuries ago by France. The other river was called the English Broad River, which later became known simply as “The Broad River”. The Cherokee had their own names for the river depending on what area it was in.
The French Broad River is 213 miles long. We would be getting a very close view of about six of those miles.
The Blue Heron Whitewater center is located about twenty-two miles from downtown Asheville, and about forty five miles from the Agricultural Center. The Ag center is right across the street so to speak from the Asheville Airport. We crossed the river three times on our way to Marshall. I saw it as a preview of what was to come. Being that it was not Diane’s and my first trip down the river, we had some idea of what to expect.
I didn’t expect us to get fogged in on our way there, but it almost happened. It was pretty thick in places along I-26 just about where we passed under that great black ribbon of road known as the Blue Ridge Parkway.
I must have called the Blue Heron office three or four times along the way to make sure we knew where we were going and to assure them we would be there ASAP. Sandy, who would become our guide, and Wags told us not to hurry, stay safe, they would wait, and if we drove past Grandma’s General Store we had gone too far and to turn around.
We didn’t go too far. We made it just in time for the start of training for our half day trip down the river with lunch included.
There was a couple from London along with one other rafter who would be in Wag’s large raft. Diane, Gary and Janis were assigned to Sandy’s raft. Jerry and I choose to go it alone in a Ducky. A Ducky is an inflatable one person Kayak with a double paddle. They are a bit more challenging and a heck of a lot of fun.
We received some very precise training instructions both from Wags live and Wags on video. Basically the instructions were what to do if you fell out of the raft or off your duck, which could happen whether you wanted it to or not, and believe me, you don’t want it happen.
We were issued spray jackets to keep us warm, helmets to keep our brains in place, and paddles that we were instructed not to lose.
We boarded a used to be school bus, rafts and ducks lashed on top, for the trip up the mountain to the launch point.
Once there we and our rafts were off loaded and we carried them down to the river.
Sandy gave Jerry and myself a bit more instructions on how to paddle a duck. She also explained how to get off a rock if you become a pinned duck.
If you don’t like getting wet, don’t white water in a duck. Like rafts they are self-bailing, water that comes in goes out, but the opposite is true and so you find yourself basically sitting in a rubber bowl of water. It wasn't all that bad even at fifty four degree water and just about the same air temperature.
After about twenty minutes of paddling hard in order to miss a lot of rocks, one starts to warm up.
The trip was a blast. Time flew really fast, lots of laughs and screams when the river threw cold stuff on everybody.
It wasn't long at all before we arrived at a large rock on the left bank reserved for dare devils. If you were brave enough to take a jump you were invited to do so. Some did, including the couple from London and Gary. I declined, the duck provided plenty of excitement and water for me.
We stopped for a good lunch of ham sandwiches, chips, pickles, cookies and soft drinks.Lunch provided a great place and time to take group photos.
After lunch we had about another half hours trip down river. Jerry and Gary switched positions, which put Gary in the duck. He took to it…well, like a duck to water.
This leg of our six hour trip was really short and over much too quick. We reached our take out spot.
We washed the sand off the ducks and rafts and hauled them up to our bus. Once they were loaded we took off our vests and helmets, picked a seat and the bus took us back up the mountain to the center.
Once there we changed, looked at our photos, which Jerry purchased for us, Janis, Gary and I bought a t-shirt, we loaded up and drove home with great big smiles on our faces.
We all agreed that this Tuesday had been a great big blast!
What do we do tomorrow and the day after?
Take a Hike? Visit the farmer’s market? Take the Asheville Trolley Tour?
How about all the above !
Part 1 "That Day"
Recently Diane and I were given two large gifts. These gifts allowed us to escape from work, from our day to day routines, to recover from disappointment and hurt, to be refreshed. These gifts allowed us to spend time with many friends, including our closest ones, to learn new things, and to have a whole lot of fun in the process.
These two gifts were tied together by time, distance, and a long black ribbon.
Sometimes a black ribbon is a sign of mourning.
On December thirty first of this last year, Diane and I signed an agreement to provide an exclusive option to sell my business. We set a cash price for the purchase and a date for that option to be exercised.
We agreed that I would spend the next six months training the buyer’s personnel to look after my customers and their equipment.
So for the next six months we took very few trips in our coach. We had a couple of weekend campouts with our FMCA chapter and in May we took a weeklong trip to the Blue Ridge for a Parker Family Reunion. By this time all looked well for me to retire and the new company to take over. Diane and I promised to travel to Florida to see our daughter and to pick up the grand boys for a few days so she and her husband could take a cruise together. We also made other travel plans as well.
I guess you could say that with only a couple of weeks to go before the closing that we could now start to count our chickens….we could look forward to retiring after twenty three years of being self-employed.
We planned to sell the house and live full time in our coach. We started downsizing, making plans to sell some things, and give lots of things away.
The day before the closing, actually about eleven hours before, the other company killed the deal. They did not want to spend the cash, they would only purchase if I loaned them the money at terms totally acceptable to them.
I refused to do that. I had no other choice. I could not loan them my financial future.
Just like that our dream for retirement vanished.
Diane said it felt like she was a bride left standing at the altar.
That analogy seemed to sum it up pretty well.
We mourned for the life that we thought was about to start.
I was not devastated, not completely anyway, because being the pessimist that I am, I told myself right from the beginning that something could happen that might stop this deal and I should have a backup plan. I needed a way to keep going even though I was tired and worn out from the long term responsibility of running my own business.
The first thing I did after the air came out of the balloon, was to contact my customers and inform them I was not retiring, which they had no problem with. One of the ladies I work with when hearing the news said "Thank God! I was praying you wouldn't leave us."
I suppose I could have responded with "well, at least God answered someone's prayer." But I didn't.
Actually contacting my customers was the second thing I did.
The first was I prayed to God to give me the wisdom and the courage to keep going for as long as I needed to.
God answered two prayers.
I wisely rebuilt my company website. I also created a company Facebook, Pinterest and Google Plus Page. I updated my oldest field test and office equipment. I attended out of town training classes in order to be certified to sell and service Vertical's new telephone equipment. I did things that the other company should have done in order to become successful at their new venture.
In essence I sold my company to myself.
I rebooted and it worked. I received plenty of work. I did not take a day off, except for a couple of Sundays, for the next two months.
Just after Labor Day, things began to slow down. That was a good thing because that gave Diane and I time to plan to take the one trip that we refused to cancel after “that day”, as she and I refer to it, happened.
We were not going to miss the GEAR rally in Asheville, North Carolina. We had not attended a GEAR rally in three or four years. This one looked so good that six months earlier we had paid for the trip. We planned on arriving early as volunteers and extending our visit to Asheville by a few days simply because we love the area so much.
The trip to Asheville became present number one.
On a sunny, pretty Friday in late September, Diane and I loaded up the coach for what we hoped would be a quiet two week trip to the gentle Blue Ridge Mountains. It was one of those unseasonably warm days that can fool you into thinking short sleeves is all you need, but we knew better so we carried clothes out to the coach that covered three seasons. I find that golfing shirts work well for all occasions.
We left the next morning around ten thirty with the intent to drive to a point mid-way between Portsmouth and Asheville. Our target was the appropriately named Mid-Way campground and RV Park located just off I-40 near Statesville, NC. We planned to stay there for two nights and do absolutely nothing for the only full day we were there.
Our trip down was uneventful other than the fact that I could not get our generator to start when parked for lunch. Diane wanted to use the microwave and I flooded the genny when I held the starter down for too long. Diane settled for a cold tuna fish sandwich instead of the hot chicken patty she had hoped to eat.
We arrived at Mid-Way just after three. The office parked us parallel between a hill and a, what you could call a small lake or large duck pond. There was a fountain in the middle to keep the water moving and a lot of baby ducks were floating along like one of those carnival duck games. It was very peaceful and quiet. The phone never rang once the whole time we were on the road, well if it did it was family calling, not customers.
It was easy to park the coach on our spot. It was not so easy to level it. I used about twenty of my many Lynx blocks under the wheels and the jacks to get it level, but in the end I prevailed.
I tested the generator and it started without a hitch. That was a relief.
Saturday I washed the coach roof after climbing up there to see if a limb that fell off the oak tree we were parked under had done any damage. It had not, but my new slide out toppers were filthy from pine needles and road dirt. We were not supposed to use a large amount of water but I could not let it go, so I carried a few five gallon buckets of water, one at a time of course, to the roof to wash it.
Just as I was about to finish, Diane said “how are you going to rinse all the soap off?”
Just then it started to rain.
“I think God is taking care of that for me!” was my response.
Sunday morning I climbed up on the roof again to remove the many acorns that were laying on the toppers. I didn’t want them jamming up the works when I retracted the slide outs back in. We soon pulled out and had some excitement when making a very tight turn uphill between trees on the left and a drainage ditch on the right. It can be fun taking a forty foot coach around a thirty foot curve.
Diane kept saying I was getting too close to the edge and I told her hang on because I had to get the tailpipe past a tree, which I did successfully.
In just a few minutes we were back on I-40 heading west. It was only a couple of hours later that the mountains started getting larger and larger in the front window. We stopped for gas and filled the tank. We added the weight of a full gas tank to the weight of a full water tank. The hardest climb was still ahead of us…so much for getting good gas mileage. I was confident that our UFO coach would make it up the mountain regardless of all our liquid cargo.
About noon we arrived at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center. Now this is the only time when things went a bit array. We took the wrong turn at a fork in the road so to speak. We turned left when we should have gone straight. We ended up on a very twisty one and a half lane road with no place to make a u turn. Diane is on the phone with Andy our chapter president, who was already at the venue, and he is telling us to turn around, Diane is relaying this message and I am saying, none too kindly, that I cannot do it…..yet. My fear was that I might not be able to do it at all. I hate being lost, especially when driving the coach. I wasn't actually lost but you know what I mean.
We finally came out of the woods to a major intersection and I found a place to reverse our route. We made it to gate seven and with a little guidance from Andy and a couple of other chapter members we parked our coach. I needed to use quite a few Lynx blocks again but I had no trouble with that considering the rehearsal I had a couple of days earlier.
Our good friends Gary and Janis, who should have arrived after us, were already parked due to the fact that Gary did not make the same wrong turn that I did. I was not the only one who made that mistake however.
The next day there were volunteers directing traffic. Good thing too.
It was absolutely beautiful in Asheville. Being parked on a large parking lot was not bad at all. We had full hookups which included fifty amp service. Gary and I shared a sewer connection but that presented no problem at all. The only question was what to do with all the water I was hauling and no longer needed. I figured at some point during the coming week I would just use the water pump and dump it down the sewer.
That first afternoon we registered our coach, one of some four hundred that would attend the rally, plus vendors, and we made some plans for later that day.
Gary, Janis, Diane and our good friend Jerry, decided to make, what for us is a pilgrimage, to the Moose Café. This great eatery is located next to the Asheville farmer’s market just around the corner from the Biltmore Estate. We left around four thirty for what should have been a half hour drive. Due to an accident, which was flashing on my Verizon GPS, it took an hour and a half. I told our three companions, who had never eaten at the Moose Café that it was worth the longer drive. It was.
Most of us had the smoked pork chops, which came with the largest buttermilk biscuits you have ever seen. They have great country side dishes, all freshly made from ingredients that come from the farmer’s market next door. The meal was really good. I finished mine off with fresh blackberry cobbler with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of that warm sticky berry stuff.
We covered a lot of subjects during dinner. We talked about the upcoming rally, the vendors and seminars we hoped to see and what we would do during our down time. We also talked about our non- retirement and I told them more details about what happened back in July.
Most of our friends and family already knew about it falling apart and many gave us their initial response of “It must be for the best”, or “It will work out for good”, or “it just isn't the right time.”
All of those responses are absolutely true, but I didn't always want to hear any of them. It just seemed like too simple a thing to say.
Our friend Jerry lost his wife almost the same day we lost our dream and that really put things into perspective for me. I watched him stay upbeat and cheerful with his friends even though he had lost Charlotte, his best friend in life. I figured that going into some dark place just because I couldn't retire and travel “right now” really wasn't the thing to do.
I still had a good life to live with my wife and best friend so I best get on living it.
We decided to do just that and while In Asheville we were going to have some fun.
Diane told everyone we planned on taking a white water trip while there. Gary and Janis had never done that before. Jerry had done it quite a few times. We asked ourselves, why not book a trip for the very next morning?
We found some flyers in the information stand in front of the café and later that night, after a stop at Wal-Mart for tooth paste and other things I needed, I hopped online and started looking to book five people for a trip down the French Broad River early in the morning.
I didn't have much luck. The season was over for most of the rafting companies and some sites would not take a booking our size. I would have to wait until morning and make some calls.
The next morning at eight ten am, I contacted the Blue Heron Rafting Company. I asked them if they could squeeze in five people and they say sure, if we could be there around nine fifteen. Wow, that did not give us a lot of time to make our way forty-five miles the other side of the Blue Ridge Parkway, but we said we would get there. They said they would wait for us as long as they could.
We quickly packed changes of clothes, water, snacks and people in Gary’s car and took off like a bat out of you know where.