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Up And Running At Last

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gailandcor@yahoo.com

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We survived YEAR ONE and learned a lot in the process, including some "Don'ts" and plenty of "Dos."

This blog is directed toward people who have said to us, "I wish we had the courage to do that." To do what? To realize that time plods on and if you have any unfulfilled desires, you'd better act on them. For better or worse, we did just that.

Our timing was classic. We bought a used 36-foot National RV Dolphin LX. Within weeks, National went belly-up. We planned to drive to Denver to check out my daughter's new digs. Gas topped $4 a gallon. But, back to the start.

Cor is my husband. We have been married 11 years. Between us, we have seven children, 23 grandchildren and five greats. We spent the first five years together plying the Intracoastal Waterway between Venice, Fla., and Colchester, Vt., on first, a 40-foot Irwin cutter, and then a 36-foot Albin trawler -- so we KNEW how to live in small spaces. This was useful in selecting the right size motorhome.

In 2003 we realized the spring necessary for jumping from dock to boat was leaving our legs and the dexterity needed for quick line-handling was waning. We had also seen enough days of meandering through the southern marshes and swatting green flies. Time to come ashore.

We settled on a senior living community in northern Vermont. It was lovely; nice view of Lake Champlain, great food, wonderful people. But we were used to moving around, meeting new people, seeing new sights. We escaped to a downtown apartment in Burlington, right on the bike path and next to the waterfront park. Lots of people, lots of dogs, lots of fairs, boat and bike races, fireworks, action! And don't forget Church Street, the five-block-long brick walkway filled with boutiques, restaurants, strollers, galleries, musicians, skipping children, peppy dogs and benches for whiling away the afternoon.

It was heaven ... for three-plus years. Then the nagging gypsy blood started to work its way through our veins. Cor was 88 and I was 9+ years behind. Would we still be sitting here five, six, seven years from now, wishing we had ventured some more, but unable?

And that's where our life in a motorhome began. I write this blog for those who are thinking, Should we take this leap of faith? Should we really cut the strings and free-wheel it for a while, for a couple of years, forever?

I can't say what our timing will be. Right now, it's great, but the specter of diminishing health, eyesight and money is everpresent. When do we drag everything from the storage locker and settle down to watch the sunsets?

So, to those who see yourselves here, let me say what worked for us (so far.)

We were stuck with a leased car for two more years; no towing allowed. Buying it out and/or buyng a truck were out of the question. That eliminated fifth-wheels and trailers, so we concentrated on motorhomes. But what model? The first one we saw was a neat new Class B Lexington with three slides. (Slides were new to us -- boy, were we newbies.) Not only was it out of our price range, but when we got down to reality, it would not do for full-timing, our only choice.

Enter the 36-foot National RV Dolphin LX, a used 2004 model on the lot at Pete's RV in Burlington. I didn't like the dark Victorian decor or the pungent smell of cigarette smoke, but I was won over by the four-door fridge, the turn-around captains' seats, one-piece washer/dryer, the amount of storage space and the seat in the large, glassed-in shower.

We hedged a lot; I could handle the upholstery (covered it with a blanket we bought in Santa Fe), but the smell was BAD. Pete's got to work washing, spraying, etc. It still smelled. Finally, after we had installed a dozen open boxes of baking soda, they tried one last measure -- fogging! It worked! An aside here: during this process, I had taken two cushions home to work on. I used Clorax. I buried them in snow, then left them to dry in the sun. I sprayed with Fabreze (which to me, by the way, smells as bad as the smoke). When we were done, the motorhome and furnishings were fine, but the cushions that I had taken home still smelled. A year on the road has cured that now, to our relief.

We were pleasantly surprised by some of the Dolphin's features: solar battery charger for one. Cor commented there are so many exceptional quality items, it's no wonder National went broke.

Ahead: What to store, what to take? Simple itinerary planning. "What does that sign say?" for less than optimal eyesight. Driving in tandem using Bluetooth. Updates on our search for the perfect cinnamon doughnut. Quick and easy overnight stops. Medical help en route. How to get cash without being hit by fees. And then we added a dog! Are we nuts?

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