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Weeks 17 - 20 (April 23, 2005 - May 20, 2005)
Saturday, April 23, 2005
On The Road For The First Time
Things went well for our second night's stay on the dealer lot. We were up before anyone arrived, so we started preparing the fifth wheel for moving. We managed to get the slides in and everything in stowed position. Except Linda left a few loose items out because she wanted to see where they ended up once we parked. Sheesh.
Sirpilla guys finally arrived and we unhooked the electric and we hitched up. We got the rig out of the dealership and quickly pulled into an empty movie theater parking lot for practice. We drove around a couple of times just getting used to the feel and practicing some tight turns around some of the little curbed grass islands. The left turns were fine, but the right turns were a little tougher. Man this trailer is long!
Then we went to another area of the parking lot where we had noticed maybe a dumpster pad or the like that was long and looked just like a back-in campsite. We got out our walkie-talkies (I've heard them called "marriage savers"). Linda first got behind and tried to guide me into the space. If only someone had been filming - I'm sure it was hilarious to anyone watching.
I wanted to do it just right, so I pulled past the site as if I was on a campground road and had little room to maneuver. One, two, three tries and no luck. After several tries and starting from every point in the parking lot, I finally got it in the space. Now as long as we have a road the size of a football field, there are no trees or landscaping, and no one that wants to get to their campsite past ours for say a half hour or so, I think we can back into a space.
Actually, I had more trouble backing it straight than coming at it from an angle. That may be good since I doubt we will find anywhere with the room to back straight in. Or maybe it's bad that I am that incompetent. Whatever.
Then it was Linda's turn. She drove around the parking lot to get the feel and make some turns. Then it was back to our backing up practice. She did not fare much better than I did. The one thing we learned is that it is as hard, for a newbie anyway, to give good directions as it is to actually drive in reverse. I'm sure we will get it eventually, but we had to get on the road before it got dark. So, after a couple of hours we just decided to go for it.
We were going to camp at a recommended state park campground since many of the private campgrounds in northern Ohio are not open yet. But with snow coming, and the campground not having much in the way of hook-ups and sounding very unsure about the size of our rig, we decided to look at other options.
We searched the Big Rig Resorts campground website and located a KOA that was open year round and was about 30 minutes south (maybe they would not get the snow being south). The Bear Creek KOA south of Canton was also one we had looked at in our campground guides before we started our trip, so we agreed it would be the one taking a chance on us destroying their world. I called the KOA and told them we were brand new, had a humongous fifth wheel and needed a large, easy to get to pull-through space with full hook-ups. Unfazed, they said to bring it on.
We slowly, and I mean very slowly, inched our way out of the movie theater parking lot, onto a side road, onto a main two lane road, and then onto Interstate 77 heading south. Oh my God, we are on the road with other people! After that first mile to get to the interstate (which took about ten minutes), we slowly got up to about 50 mph. We stayed at that pace a while and then got the courage to go 55 and then 60. Then the construction started and the lanes narrowed. I tried to stay as far right as possible and slowed down just enough to keep a line of traffic from forming behind me. Still, I could see the cars in the left lane being very hesitant to pass, and when they did they floored it like you do when you are next to a weaving truck driver or construction vehicle throwing rocks at you as you pass. And for those folks merging onto the interstate, we were not moving so they either sped up to get in front of us or got stuck. But we did pretty good and even managed a couple of tough hills and turns getting to the campground.
Once at the Bear Creek KOA, the young lady in the office that I had talked to on the phone was laughing. We blocked out all sunlight to the office and she said we were not kidding when we said it was big. But she was very sweet and we had easy access to a nice pull-through site with full-hook-ups and 50 amp service.
Then it was our turn to un-hitch all by ourselves for the first time. I had a little trouble getting the hitch to release, but we seemed to do well on that part. Then we did our hook-ups. Linda did the electric and the water and I prepared the sewer hose. The little "ten foot" sewer hose the dealer gave us could not have been more than six feet. After struggling to get the adapter that hooks to the trailer on, we stretched the hose to the sewer cap and the hose popped off the adapter. Then we were wishing we had purchased the longer hose the dealer recommended.
Linda got the slides out and we decided we needed a longer sewer hose. Thank goodness I brought my laptop with a wireless card. I got on the internet to find RV supplies nearby. After checking their hours and their general location I set out for the little drive.
Note that I checked their general location. After not being able to find the place, I called information, got connected, and got directions. The gentleman on the line asked what I needed and then proceeded to tell me that the parts department closes earlier than the web posted hours on Saturdays. But the parts guy was still there and agreed to wait for me. Once there, Bob helped me select a 20 foot heavy duty sewer hose. I had taken our adapter and hose clamp with me and convinced Bob to help we get the hose on the adapter and get the clamp in place correctly. He struggled like I did, which made me feel a little better. He then grabbed a little gizmo off a store rack and proceeded to use this "sewer hose stretcher" to help. Eventually, he got the hose on the adapter and the clamp in place - and I bought the sewer hose stretcher, too. Then I remembered a suggestion to keep latex gloves handy for handling sewer related tasks. Bob was out of those, but went in the back and found three pairs that he gave me. Another testimony to the wonderful people around the RV life.
Back at the campground, the sewer hook-up was easy. But the weather was nasty and we were stuck inside awaiting the snow. I quickly went outside and took a few pictures of our rig and the greenery - kind of a "before" shot in case the place was white the next day. I browsed the internet and Linda read. But she was bored and I was thinking "Great, I have announced my retirement, we have sold our house and one car, we are going to live in an RV maybe the rest of our lives and she is bored out of her mind on our first ever day in an RV in a campground." She keeps telling me it's just the weather. Boy, I hope that is all it is.
Linda cooked dinner as we listened to music and watched other RVers pull in. Man, do they have this down or what? We wanted so bad to meet some folks, but the cold rain kept everyone inside. Eventually, little snow flakes started to fall, we got sleepy and went to bed.
Can you tell I've had some time on my hands with these last few days of long journal entries?
Sunday, April 24, 2005
A Lazy Snowy Sunday
We got up pretty early this morning to discover snow had fallen overnight. It's about 4:00 now and the snow has not stopped. Unfortunately, we did not expect this so we did not bring the necessary attire to get outside. The good news is we get to test all of our systems, especially the furnace, in less than ideal conditions.
We have played some cards and listened to music. I have caught up on more emails and have enjoyed not having the TV on. I know I can do without it, but Linda thinks that is hogwash. We will see.
Our only bummer today is we discovered we still have a leak in our shower. We found leaks around the shell frame and fixed them on Friday and we thought that would be it. But apparently we still have the main leak that seems to be coming from the drain and seeping out from under the shower shell. Hopefully, the dealer can fix it when we take the RV back in on Tuesday to get our slideout awnings installed.
I have thought some cold weather camping would be fun and the snow would be beautiful. The snow is beautiful, but this warm weather guy is having second thoughts about the cold climate camping. I know, it's not like we are in a tent. Yes, we will manage to tough it out. I'm just saying I would rather be outdoors in shorts with the sun shining much more often than outdoors in long johns with gray, snowy skies. If only we had brought the long johns. Sigh.
Monday, April 25, 2005
We See Real People!!
The sun came out this morning and we got pretty excited. Then after watching some morning news and seeing areas of Cleveland that got from 9 to 18 inches of snow, we were feeling pretty lucky.
The snow melted around us and we ventured outside after checking and returning emails from work and the website. By the way, our website vistors are such wonderful people. Thanks to all that have taken the time to drop us a line.
One person gave us not so pleasant news, however. There already seems to be a wiring recall notice out there on the Cambridge. It sounds like it only affects some units although all need to be tested. It seems to be a pretty easy fix regardless and since we are going back to the dealer tomorrow, everything should be okay.
So we took a little walk down to the lake at the campground. Linda did a little bird watching and I basically just shivered. The clouds cleared but it was still very cold and windy. Our walk didn't last long, but at least we got out and the sun was shining.
After lunch we played some cards and a couple pulled into the site behind ours with a Ford F350 and a fifth wheel. They didn't seem as bothered by the cold as the others that had already come and gone. They stayed outside a little too long and we pounced on them.
Jimmy and Delisa (not sure about the spelling) are full-timers due to Jimmy's work. They are from Tennessee, but Jimmy travels the country building water towers and tanks. They travel with three labs, which we noted were very well behaved.
Linda was really excited for the human contact and could not resist inviting them in to see HER new fiver. Some things never change.
They did have great things to say about our new home. And, apparently, we did not scare them too much as they were not afraid to hang around outside. Our first campground buddies.
After the "encounter" we calmed down and played some more cards. I am supposed to tell you that Linda kicked my - well, you know - every game. Then dinner, a little TV, some mental preparation to get ready to unhook, hitch up, and drive tomorrow, then bed. Good night.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Linda Drives The Big Rig
This morning Linda woke up at 4:00 am. She has a small sound machine to block out most noises so she can sleep, but this morning the RV furnace was overriding "Yosemite Falls."
Although the dealer told us we did not have to be in until around 10:00 am to have our slide awnings installed, we were up and we thought it might be a good idea to get there early so they could work on the shower leak and check out the recall notice.
We got things together rather quickly. We are actually very organized and work very well together, so even though it was the first time we had ever "broken camp", we were pretty efficient. We then hitched up the fifth wheel completely by ourselves for the first time, tested the hook-up like we were taught, and tested all the lights. Then Linda took the wheel for the 30 minute drive back to the dealer.
I was very proud of her. She decided a couple of days earlier that she wanted to drive today. Except for narrowly missing a tree at the campground in her first 50 feet, she did great. But it is wonderful to know that we both can drive if necessary. Now she wants to hitch and unhitch completely by herself to gain the confidence to do it all. She's superwoman!
Once back at the dealer, we knew we were going to be in for a long day. I had a feeling when we left that they were going to try to pull off something for us they wouldn't ordinarily try in such a short time. I was right. The service department was overloaded and the awnings didn't arrive until after we were there awhile. A few minor issues got resolved and we did determine that the Cambridge recall only affected the first 88 units off the line. We were number 120, so that was good. But the shower leak did not get fixed and the awnings did not get installed.
So for the third night we are camping on the lot. But Sirpilla has promised to get us in at 7:30 am and out by 11:00. That should give us plenty of time to make the long drive home before dark. I'm looking forward to the journal entry for tomorrow myself. Hope it's a good one!
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Well we were up and ready at 7:30 am just like we were supposed to be. But we had to wait 20 minutes for anyone to show their face and get our rig into a bay for the work. We knew the slide awnings had to be installed and that would take a while. But we were also assured that someone could work on the shower leak at the same time.
Linda gave strict instructions that the service team and manager were supposed to come and get us so we could explain and demonstrate exactly where the leak was coming from. Hours went by and no one came. We heard through conversation that the slide awnings were complete by the anticipated 11:00 am time frame. But now it was 12:15 and still no word on the shower.
The Sirpilla guys are very nice and we had been very patient with them, but our patience was wearing thin, Linda had a headache, and she was hungry (which makes her very, very cranky). We held off going to lunch because we did not want them to come talk to us and be gone. So I went to check on things, and of course the service folks had all gone to lunch 45 minutes earlier and nobody told us.
We got some food and calmed down a little. But when we got back, we made it very clear that we were going to the unit and were going to show everyone exactly what was happening with the leaky shower. Before we had returned from lunch, a tech had looked over things and once again spotted some unsealed areas around the frame. He sealed them, but we were convinced it was not a frame issue. He ran water in the shower for about a half hour and claimed no more leak. But Linda ran her fingers along the base of the shower where we always noticed water and "voila!!" more water and a still undiscovered leak.
Now anger was setting in. The unit had been at the dealer for a day and a half and no one had really looked at shower - by far our biggest concern. When they did check it out, they did not listen to us and three times guessed at the problem. Now we had two witnesses seeing exactly what we had been telling them. They knew it was a bigger problem.
So it took the rest of the day to figure out whether Sirpilla could fix it and when, whether the unit should go back to the manufacturer, or whether we should take it home and have an authorized dealer closer to us fix the problem. We had already taken an extra day off work and we were told it was a day and a half job to completely take things apart, identify the problem, fix it, and put it all back together. But now the RVing season had started and there would be scheduling problems for the service department.
Finally, Sirpilla decided they could dedicate a couple of folks to fix our shower but it would still take a couple of days. We couldn't stay any longer, so we decided to leave the rig and drive home without it. Big disappointment. But we were promised that it would be fixed and we could pick it up next Monday morning at 8:30 am.
So our plan is to drive the five hours back to Akron on Sunday afternoon and pick up the Cambridge first thing Monday morning and tow it back to Louisville. Again, I like the folks at Sirpilla, but they have been warned that if it is not ready, I will be throwing the "You do know I'm a lawyer" phrase around a bit.
Now, even with our frustration, I will say it again. I do like Sirpilla's employees and I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. I understand that their service department is booked solid and they do not anticipate having to squeeze in time consuming repairs and add-ons for newly delivered RVs. I have owned businesses and I know that striving to go above and beyond for customer service is the goal. However, sometimes the best of intentions are just not good enough. Sirpilla has a major communication issue between the guys dealing with customers on the front line and the guys in the back doing the work. Still, they were trying to accomodate us when they probably should have said "we will make an appointment for your repairs, come back in two weeks."
So we unpacked our personal belongings from the RV back into the truck and drove south. We got home about 11:00 pm and, needless to say I was too drained to get this entry into the journal. My hope for a good entry was just not to be.
However, here is the good news in all of this (ever the optimist). We got to stay in the unit six nights, got to try all the systems, got to practice towing the rig, got to actually tow it on public roads, got to set up at a campsite and break camp, and we got a feel for the entire experience. And you know what? We are more juiced up than ever.
Driving home without the Cambridge (which we still love by the way even with the issues) was a little sad. But we had tested ourselves living in a 400 square foot area as opposed to over 3,700 square feet. I had told Linda "You know at home we spend 90% of our time in the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom, the living area, and the office. Our new home has all five of those areas. So we will still occupy the same areas only now we will use 100% of our space instead of 30%."
We believed we would be okay living in an RV, but that belief was completely blind faith. At least now we have actually had a little taste and we didn't spit it out and burst into tears over destroying a pretty good life. We are eager for a bigger bite and the opportunity to start our several course meal. Okay, sorry about the euphemisms. The bottom line is it was a long day filled with several different emotions and we are more encouraged than discouraged.
Whew! The next couple of days you can rest your eyes a bit. I promise the entries will be much shorter.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
A Weird Day
Okay, I can't believe I'm telling you this, but here goes. After six nights in the Cambridge - wait, short aside for a moment. I think it is proper RV protocol to name our rig. So we would like for you to offer us some suggestions or nominations. We would probably lean toward something that included "Dream" in it to kind of keep a consistent theme, but let's hear what you creative types can come up with.
Okay. Where was I? Oh yeah, after spending six nights in the Cambridge, being back at the house was kind of strange. I felt like I had sort of "bonded" with our new home and our current house was now just a place to sleep for a few more days. Linda said she missed the RV. How weird is that? Maybe we are just nuts or maybe the full-timers out there have experienced a similar phenomenon. Like I said, I can't believe I just told you that.
Anyway, it was another typical work day getting a lot done between stomping out fires. Then Linda came into my office to go to our weekly Weight Watchers weigh-in. Blindly, I followed her to the car and we drove to the meeting place. Neither one of us bothered to look at the digital clock in the car or inquire as to why more people were not at the meeting where it is usually hard to find a parking space and we have to wait in line. We bought some food products, weighed in, and sat down in the empty meeting room. Still nothing clicked until one of the instructors asked if we were going to hang out for an hour. Linda had looked at her watch wrong and I followed her like a puppy. We were an hour early and had no idea!
Let's just end this day with the good news from our weigh-ins. Linda has now lost a little over four pounds in four weeks and I have lost a little over twelve pounds in four weeks. We were quite happy with those results, especially coming off a weekend in which we didn't get much exercise because of the weather and ate restaurant food more than usual.
Plus we are encouraged that our new lifestyle will help us keep our weight down - because we will have less money for food, we will avoid stress eating, and we will get plenty of exercise being outside. Let's just leave today's entry right there. I don't want to say anything else that makes you think "I can't believe I have invested this much time in these whackos."
Friday, April 29, 2005
Today was the last Friday of the month and the last business day of the month. For us real estate title people, that means a hectic day. In my seven offices, we probably did 90 real estate closings today. That doesn't leave much time for RV thoughts.
However, we did make some phone calls and sent some emails here and there. We made sure everything was in order with the closing on the sale of our house on May 9. We did a little more in getting new life insurance policies in place and narrowed down the health insurance choices. Linda cancelled the newspaper, did address changes on some of our accounts, and did some research on transferring various house related contracts to our buyers.
Once we got home, Linda continued packing and creating larger and larger yard sale and trash piles. I worked on coordinating a schedule for our internet satellite installer for next week and on preparing to do a couple of significant additions to the website. All in all, not too exciting.
One interesting thing that happened was that I received an email through the website from the Sirpilla (our RV dealer) Sales Manager. We had given business cards for the website to a couple of the more helpful folks there. Apparently, they had been checking out the journal and the finance department had the Sales Manager check it out. He liked the website and wanted to get our input on helping to improve service. After a couple of emails, we are now going to start our day Monday by asking to see him. That's encouraging.
Tommorrow I am going to back-track a little and provide a little more detail about getting quotes on RV and health insurance. I will also discuss a little computer problem we had a couple of weeks ago and some of the upcoming website improvements. Hopefully, I will get a couple more photos up in the journal as well. Until next time.
Saturday, April 30, 2005
Don't Predict What Tomorrow Will Hold
In my post yesterday, told you I was going to back-track and discuss a couple of topics today. Well that is not going to happen. We have enough other stuff to post, so we will save those topics for another day.
We have not discussed much on this website about our personal lives prior to summer of last year, but some of you may have picked up that I am an adoptee. I was adopted in California at three days old, but grew up in Kentucky. In 1996 I found my birthmother and a full blood brother in Oklahoma and we had a very nice reunion that Thanksgiving. There is way more to that story than we have time to discuss here. It's very interesting, but maybe another time.
Well today I phoned my birthmother. We all care very much for each other, but it seems we each have some uncertainty as how much to be involved in each others' lives. So we go for long periods of time without talking. I knew she was having surgery a couple of months back, but it sounded like everything was in order. Today she informed me that the surgery went okay, but the doctors found that she had breast cancer. So since that first surgery she has had a breast and several lymph nodes removed and will be undergoing chemotherapy for at least the next six months. She is a very strong woman and seems to be taking things in stride, but that news knocked me off stride a little today.
We talked about our upcoming change in lifestyle and I gave her the website so she could write it down. I also told her that our plans were to be in Oklahoma around November for a visit. I hope that brightens her spirits a little more. It's hard to describe the feelings one has when such terrible news is delivered about a blood relative that you have only known in passing for a few years. Not only do we have concern for her health, but now we have that dreaded cancer word in a family medical history that I had been completely in the dark about until recently. Sobering.
But after that punch to the chest this morning, the RV Dream continued forward. Linda packed more stuff and hauled it to her mother's place where they spent the day pricing yard sale items.
I took the Ford F450 to a truck scale to have it weighed while it had both tanks full of gas. Got to keep up with our weights for safety. Of course this was the first time I had ever weighed a vehicle. I'm sure the folks were laughing as I stalked the scale and drove around the truckstop a couple of times. No one on the scale, so I can't see how it is done. I can't see the intercom - there is supposed to be an intercom to let the people inside know you are on the scale. There were no semis waiting for the scale, so I finally drove onto it and got each axle on the two platforms like I was supposed to. Oh there is the intercom - about four feet above my head. Now what? I don't think this is how it is supposed to work, but I got out of the truck, turned off the ignition, and walked inside with a "slumped, yes I am the dumb*** look." Fortunately, no one really noticed and the young lady inside was very nice and helpful. She gave me my certified weight ticket for 8400 pounds, and I got out of there before a line of angry truckers assembled to run over me.
My plan was to play golf afterward, but the weather was just not cooperating. So I came back home and worked for hours trying to figure out how to place a few ads on the website to help generate a little money to fund it and us. Actually, the figuring out part was not too bad, but I am just anal about how they look. I am torn between keeping the site clean and the need to earn a little income. I think my compromise looks okay. I may be sacrificing some monetary opportunity, but I want our visitors to be comfortable and not bombarded with commercials. Let me know what you think.
Also, today I went back through some of the pages and made some spelling corrections, re-worded a couple of things, and clarified and updated some information that was slightly off the first time. I doubt anyone will notice, but I feel better.
Finally, I called Sirpilla and they told me that they isolated the shower leak, fixed it, and had tested it fully. So we are headed back to Ohio tomorrow and will be back with our new home on Monday if all goes well. Keep your fingers crossed.
Sunday, May 1, 2005
Drive To Akron
I really just wanted to play golf in the morning before the drive to Akron to try once again to bring home our Cambridge fifth wheel. But it was still pretty cold early. So Linda decided we should get everything that remained in the garage ready. Some stuff would go in the RV, some would go in the yard sale pile, and some would be given away.
I procrastinated a little by going to the YMCA to workout. Now this is strange. When I came out to the truck from my workout, someone had thrown a slice of American cheese right in the middle of my hood. It took some doing to pry it off since it had started to melt. What was that all about? I didn't know if an unsupervised kid did that, or someone that thought the truck took up too much room in its parking space, or it was some type of environmental protest against my gas-guzzling vehicle.
It really got under my skin and I couldn't let it go, so I wrote a brief letter addressed to the idiot and emailed it to the "Y". I'm sure nothing will come from it, but often writing helps me get things off my chest even if I don't actually send my rants to anyone. But this time I did send it. I'll be happy to forward a copy to anyone that wants a template for the next time you discover you have been vandalized with a dairy product.
Back at home in the garage, we finished our chore pretty quickly, and I was actually starting to feel pretty good that we could get all the stuff we wanted to take into the "basement" and outside storage areas of the RV. I had been very concerned about that. But now, as long as Linda does not have to put a lot of inside stuff in my outside storage, we should be fine.
One other thing before we got on the road was that a couple of visitors to the website have been having trouble downloading the journal for viewing. Again, I am new at this, but I think I can break it up and archive a set number of days or weeks into separate pages. That way the most recent entries can be pulled up easily, and anyone that wants to go back will also be able to do that easily. It may take a few days to figure it out, but in a week or so, I think you will see that change. I hope it will be helpful to all.
Finally, we made the drive to Akron. It takes about five and a half hours driving straight through and about six and a half with a couple of breaks and a meal. The trip was pretty uneventful, but I have determined for sure that the F450 without the trailer does about 15 miles to the gallon. Not terribly bad. I have been guessing all along that we would get about 10 miles to the gallon with the trailer.
Well, we have a long day tomorrow, so that's it for today - keep you eye out for cheese slingers.
Monday, May 2, 2005
Get Out The Cigars - A Sixteen Thousand Pound Baby Has Been Delivered
We got to the Sirpilla dealership right on time - we are a very punctual couple. Not surprisingly, the Sales Manager we were supposed to see first thing was in a meeting. However, a regional guy did come out to talk to us and the big dogs in the service department were ready for us.
Linda inspected the shower for a good half hour and I grilled the service team on my small checklist of questions. It looks like the leak in the shower has been fixed completely and the Sirpilla guys came through with flying colors today. I'm not revising what I have already written, but the was quite a bit of redemption - way to go fellas!
So we were off on our 320 mile return trip. The first thing I wanted to do was weigh the rig. So we stopped at the first truck stop we saw with scales. We spotted the many lanes of diesel pumps with high awnings for the truckers, and I knew those were for me.
So I pulled in beside a pump, and being quite intimidated by all the big rigs and their skilled drivers, I attempted to use my debit card to pump some diesel. Okay, the machine is asking me if I have a special card. I push "No." Then it asks me for my zip code. No problem. Then is asks me for my truck number. Huh? I tried to bypass it, but no luck. So I cancelled my transaction and decided I would just go inside to pay. I flipped on the pump. Still nothing. So again (just like at the scales the other day), with my tail between my legs, I sheepishly let the lady behind the counter know I was having trouble.
Now I have learned a thing or two in my day. When I was a bank auditor right out of college, I found quickly that no one wanted me in their department. So I turned the tables and let the department folks know that they were the experts and I was just a lowly, inexperienced, flunky that knew nothing and needed their help. I have been playing that "please help the poor stupid guy" deal ever since. And it works!
The nice lady at the truck stop said that I just needed to come inside when I wanted to fill up. They would get my drivers license info and turn on the pump. Plus, she told me that there is a little surcharge/processing fee added to the trucker gas bills when they pay at the pump. I could come inside and pay with the same card and not get the extra fee. She said to fill up and then pull around to the scales and come back inside to settle up on everything at once. I am telling you, the "I'm an idiot" thing works.
So I got my fuel and the trucker next to me pulled forward making sure I would have to go through a little eighteen wheeler obstacle course to get to the scales. Linda was inside getting food for the road because she didn't want us to have to be embarrassed any further. I did good getting through the trucks and got on the scale just fine. Then, not caring who was watching, I got out of the truck and did my best vertical jump to hit the intercom button. The nice lady answered and told me to come on in. Once inside, she gave some kind of frequent fill-up card and my weight certificate showing my total weight to be 25,000 pounds. Being pretty good with math, I subtracted the 8,400 pounds for the truck to get the trailer at 16,600 pounds. And that was with a loaded water tank, but without Linda loading anything yet. I'm so glad we got the larger pick-up and towing package - I think were gonna need every bit of it.
Back on the road we got through the construction areas much easier than I had expected. Only one time did I catch a lady in the passenger side of big truck trying to tell us something. Not knowing trucker sign language (well yeah, I do know that one sign), we kept going.
Eventually, we did stop at a rest area. Of course it was not one with pull-through spaces for vehicles with trailers, but rather one with a big rig version of parallel parking. Luckily the very last spot before the ramp to get back on the interstate was empty. I did actually pull to the front of the space and backed up a tiny bit, but did it perfectly.
I then walked around the rig to see if I could see any reason why that truck was signaling us. There it was. Our low hanging exhaust pipe for our generated had come unbolted and I am sure was bouncing off the ground with each pothole. Though I now have tools for almost every job, I had no bolts to attempt to fix this problem. We got out the bungee cords, which I happen to know along with duct tape can fix anything. We wrapped a bungee around the pipe, up through our water connection area and hooked onto our hose. Fortunately, the pipe was not heavy and this temporary arrangement would at least get us home.
We got through the dreaded larger cities of Columbus and Cincinnati and made it into our development just before rush hour. We did much better backing the rig into our driveway than we did backing it up in the empty movie theater parking lot. I only had to stop and pull forward a dozen times and only had to go into a neighbors yard about four feet. All in all, a successful trip.
Once home and parked we had an employee from the office, a neighbor, and my in-laws pop in to check out our monster. While Linda was loading her mom up with stuff we had to get rid of, I loaded my areas of the RV and got everything in easily. After all the company left, Linda started loading and I was getting tired. Getting a little grumpy, I finally got her to stop for the night.
So here I am putting the finishing touches on another very long day. Until tomorrow.
Tuesday, May 3, 2005
Back To Work & Loading The RV
We had to get back to the office today. There are still a lot of people whose careers are riding on the decisions I make over the next few weeks. I don't take those responsibilities lightly.
But after work, we continued to transfer our belongings from house to new home. Tonight we found a place for our games - we are avid game players - and we worked on emptying the kitchen cabinets and two closets of clothes.
You should have seen the look on Linda's face as I carried load after load of clothes into the bedroom. Those clothes that have been hanging around for a few years waiting for another chance to be worn got snuffed out tonight. We know we have enough room for what we need to take on the road. But the problem is we still have to dress for office work until the end of July. So we had to squeeze in more for now than we will need later.
As for the kitchen, we have pretty good storage space. But if you haven't cleaned out your pantry in a while, it is an amusing little project. Linda had things in the pantry like four boxes of different kinds of tea, Jell-O boxes, pudding mixes, etc. I haven't drank tea in ten years, and I can count on one hand how many times she has made Jell-O or pudding from a mix. Fortunately, the charade ended and the food we awakened from the dark recesses of the pantry met its demise as there is no room for wannabe staples in an RV.
That's about it for today. Later.
Wednesday, May 4, 2005
More Packing & More Emotions
Well we started the morning with a visit from a nurse contracted by our new life insurance company. She came to do some lab work for the underwriters. It's always fun to start the day having to provide bodily fluid samples.
Then it was off to work. But Linda had to return to the house for the plumber to fix the minor clog in the shower drain. What is it with us and showers? We want everything to be in great shape for our buyers before they take possession after the closing on Monday.
Then we discovered that the batteries on the remote controls for our ADT security system had died. I know washing machines and DVD players and showers and security systems are all inanimate objects, but apparently they develop some sort of little union when their home is being sold and they start to protest.
The evening was exhausting with all the moving of items from the house to the RV and the agonizing over what to take and what to leave for storage or a yard sale. We have to make decisions about all those sentimental things that we kept because, well because they are sentimental. Even though we have not looked at them in years, and we have taken for granted that we could just haul them from house to house, we now need to decide their levels of importance. Do they fall in the category of "Must be with us no matter what," or the "Can't part with them, but they can sit out our adventures in storage," or the "Would like to keep them, but they just don't rise to the level of taking up space." Sentiment vs. RV space vs. storage hassles vs. yard sale. Why is this so difficult?
I have to tell you this story about one of those items. It's a little long, so I apologize. One of our items is a small birdhouse. You know Linda is a bird fanatic, but this birdhouse is particularly special.
You see, Linda grew up with a very special step-dad who helped raise her. His name was Bill Vandiver and we all called him Van. Though he had four kids of his own plus his three step-children, he had a special bond with Linda. He and his buddies always looked out for her, teased her, and took it when she learned to give it right back.
Well Van registered his car in Florida when he and Linda's mother Zoa bought a winter condo there. He went to the DMV and asked for a license plate that was easy to remember. They jokingly held up a personalized plate that had never been picked up. It read "PAM ORR." Well Van decided that was very easy, so he took it! You can imagine this silver haired gentleman that had worked his way up through the tough Louisville neighborhoods to become a foreman at the Louisville Ford Truck Plant driving around with his PAM ORR license plate. His Ford buddies teased him, his country club buddies teased him, we all teased him.
Well Van died in 1998 after complications from lung surgery. I have to say it again here. Please, please, please do not smoke, get help quitting if you do, and continue to try to get everyone you love to quit. Van had gone in for surgery just days before Linda and I were taking our first trip to Hawaii. He came through surgery okay, but we worried about him and checked in on him while we were gone. The day we got home, we were met at the airport with news that Van had died that morning while we were in the air. It was gut-wrenching and we will always believe that he hung on so as not to "ruin" our first big travel adventure.
Van's death was a crossroads for us. Linda was overwhelmed at her executive position and I was considering quitting my corporate job to start our own company. With his death, we had one of our many "life is to short" discussions. Linda "retired" and I did quit and started my own company with a few partners in June 1998. Linda kept the PAM ORR license plate as a memento. Van will never ever be a "step"-dad in Linda's mind.
Now to the birdhouse. My dad built a small wooden birdhouse and bent the license plate into a roof for it. Linda's niece then hand painted a golf scene on it that Van would have loved. Well Linda had a spot all picked out in the RV in a curio cabinet as the birdhouse fell into that "Must have with us" category. But it didn't fit. All the emotions of thinking it would have to stay behind hit Linda all at once. We will make some adjustments and she knew that, but it just hit her hard at that moment on top of everything else.
As we were calling it an evening, Linda got a call from our friends that our now the step-parents of Buddy the cockatiel. They told her how great he was doing and how much attention he was getting. He was actually starting to become sweet again. Well as happy as Linda is that he is doing wonderfully, she was torn up that he was capable of being loving once again with enough attention.
It was a very tough, emotional night. But there is still much to do before Monday and we have to rest up.
Thursday, May 5, 2005
The Datastorm Satellite Installation
Roger Odom with Global Satellite Solutions from Dallas called to say he would be in to do our installation today instead of Friday. I will discuss the Datastorm a little more in a "technology on the road" page I am building. But from what I could find in my research so far, the Datastorm is the best option I could find for internet access. The same satellite can also be used for satellite TV, so even though the up front costs are in the $5,000 - $6,000 range, it still seemed like the most viable long-term solution (as long-term as technology can be anyway).
I found Roger through the Datastorm Users Group web page and forum. No offense to Roger, but there is a gentleman by the name of Bill Adams with Internet Anywhere that is the guru of this technology. Unfortunately, Bill and I could not get our schedules together for an installation. Roger could get to us on our schedule and I checked out three references and decided he was our guy.
Roger got to our house around 11:00 am. Roger left our house around 11:00 pm. The most difficult part of the installation is getting the satellite wired to the TVs. And if a TV is in a slideout, like our main one is, it can be a nightmare. Fortunately for us, our Cambridge is pre-wired for satellite so all we had to do was connect to that cabling. Still no easy task, but much easier than trying to wire the slideout.
Once the wiring was pretty much completed, we could not get the dish to locate the satellite. We had a clear view of the southern sky (which is necessary), but there were a some power lines that we thought might be causing a problem. We had to move the RV to calibrate (don't ask me), so we closed it all up and I pulled it around our little subdivision so we could calibrate from opposite angles. Then I had to back the thing into our driveway once again. Hey, by going very slowly with Linda not giving any verbal directions other than "stop" and "go," I did pretty good. Maybe this backing up thing won't be so bad after all.
Still Roger was having no luck once we were back in the driveway. So he wanted to move again. We hauled the big fiver to my office parking lot where we had lots of room and an even clearer view to the south. We calibrated and returned to the driveway. I did even better backing it in this time! Having struggled so much the first day we practiced in reverse, I am glad for the little jolt of confidence.
Back in the driveway again, still no luck. Roger made a few phone calls and eventually he decided that it just might be the controller. He happened to have another one with him, and immediately we got a better signal and it locked on to our satellite. Hooray! Poor Roger - his confidence in that first controller cost him four or five hours. But he did a great job and was very conscientious about our home and how the wiring looked, and he made sure he vacuumed and cleaned up.
He continued to assist us with getting Direct TV up and running on both satellites until he just had to get on the road. We had offered him a spare bedroom, but he wanted to head toward his next customer.
But before Roger left, Buddy's (you know, the cockatiel) new step-parent dropped in for a tour of the rig and to pay us and do the title transfer for Linda's car. It was good timing and we just handed the money for the car over to Roger. We had earmarked the money from the car to go toward the satellite and it all worked out beautifully.
So after disconnecting from my cable company internet service, I finally had a connection through the satellite through Direcway. It was just too late to update the journal and there were too many other things to worry about to get us out of the house by Monday.
Friday, May 6, 2005
We Are Full-Timers!
After working in the office for a while (we close the office a half day on the day before the Kentucky Derby since no one else in town is working), I got home to help Linda with the rest of the packing. I think we did more head-shaking than any other form of exercise. But we were able to get things sorted out into trash, Goodwill, yard sale, storage, and RV piles. We pretty much got everything in the RV that we wanted by late afternoon.
Then it was time to go. We had already had the RV in the driveway four days and it was only supposed to be two according to our homeowners association bylaws. So we left some thing behind to finish up on Sunday, and we headed to my parents' farm where we will stay until they kick us out or we get tired of each other.
On the way, we were dreading the narrow roads and how in the world we were going to get this big monster into their drive. Though I have seen some pretty large vehicles get in there, nothing like this. There are large rocks on either side of the entrance, a woven wire fence, and deep ditches. We considered pulling into the drive across the street and backing in, but at the last minute, I decided that was no easier.
So my 73 year old mother got in her car and went to the top of the hill just before their drive to stop traffic. This doesn't look good. I swung out wide to miss and just missed the rocks on the left with the truck. But the trailer was going to hit the rocks on the right if it didn't catch the ditch first. I backed it up a couple of times as a few cars started to line up that couldn't get around. I made another wider swing and ran over the rocks with the truck and went up onto the left back of the driveway missing the fence by less than an inch. Good thing we got as big a truck as we did. We made it!
Then the dilemma was where to park. It was clear that both of our original thoughts would not work. The rig is just too big. So we settled on putting it in the largest part of the driveway right in front of the house where cars could still get in and out. We would figure out all of our hook-ups later. After some trial and error and dealing with trees that I never thought would be in the way, we finally got it in a very nice spot, got it leveled (not as easy as it sounds), and unhitched.
Then we breathed a big sigh of relief and had some pizza to take care of any remaining tension. We then got electric and water hooked up, and decided to call it a night.
But we are now FULL-TIMERS! We have spent our last night in a stationary house we own. Now we just have to get away from that job thing.
Saturday, May 7, 2005
We had already decided that Derby Day was going to be a time for fun. But we knew at the end of the day we had to go back to the house and unload our refrigerators.
So we went to a Derby Party and bet all the days' races and got in all the usual jackpot drawings. The only thing that was not typical was that we were very good with our diets and stayed away from the alcohol and wonderful food - at least the fattening stuff (which didn't leave much else come to think of it). Between us we won one race, but the people were fun, it was a beautiful day to be outside, and the actual Derby race was exciting with two long-shots coming in first and second.
Then we headed to the house. We had packed our empty coolers into the truck, so Linda filled those while I loaded yard sale boxes into the truck around the hitch. I also loaded an old computer and printer that we are giving to my mom so she can keep up with us on the web.
Once back at the farm, we unloaded the coolers and the yard sale items. My dad had rigged up a sewer hose (he's a retired plumber), and he had actually crawled under the rig (he's 83) and bolted our generator exhaust pipe back to the frame and added another bracket to make it more secure than it came from the manufacturer. He's got all the skills I don't have.
The night ended with me setting up the old computer for my mom. They have never had a computer, so I had to show her the most basic of functions. I taught her how to turn in it off and on, how to open and close programs, and got her started playing solitaire so she could get used to using the mouse. I think she will love it once she get the hang of it. Time for bed now - another lesson tomorrow.
Sunday, May 8, 2005
Happy Mothers Day and Finishing Up At The House
Happy Mothers Day to all!!
Well I have taken a lot of time this morning making changes to the Journal and getting it updated. I got on a bit of a roll and couldn't stop. But now it is getting close to noon, and I have got to get to the house. Linda and my mom have already headed that way, and Linda will kill me if I don't get there soon. It would not make for a good Mothers Day for my mom or birthmother if their son were murdered today.
More to come.
Finally, we have everything out of the house and we are ready to close on Monday. What a relief. It's been a long few days.
Monday, May 9, 2005
We Are Houseless, But Not Homeless!
The sale of the house and all the furnishings was completed today. With the proceeds we paid off what was left of the mortgage and both the RV and F450. For the first time in our married life, WE ARE COMPLETELY DEBT FREE! What a feeling!
For those that have read a lot of this website, you know we are big Dave Ramsey (author of the Financial Peace series of books) fans. Every Friday on his radio show is Debt Free Friday where his listeners call in and claim they are debt free (usually except for the house). He constantly plays the clip from the movie Braveheart where Mel Gibson is shouting FREEEEEDOMMMMM! I'm no Mel Gibson (as Linda is very quick to point out), but I have been doing some shouting today myself.
We won't lie to you. You know some tears have been shed over the past few days and we had one last episode this morning as we left our wonderful patio home behind. One last brief wave of the "what are we doings" washed over us and then disappeared. The Cambridge is now our home and we are ready to only look forward.
By the way, thanks to several folks for submitting name suggestions for the RV. Here are most of them - I apologize if I inadvertently left any out.
DreamWeaver (multiple nominations)
Wheeling our Dream
DreamCatcher (multiple nominations)
Ster-Lin’s Dreams (Combo of Sterling - my first name - and Linda)
Dreams 2 Go
Wheeled of Dreams (my play on Field of Dreams)
So what do you think? Any of these sound like they fit from what you know about us or this website? Email us your votes or any new ideas. We have a top five list that changes slightly from time to time, but we will keep that to ourselves for a little while longer.
Well I will close with that for tonight. I have so much more to do updating our email addresses and mailing addresses, it may take me until the wee hours. Good night.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005 through Thursday, May 12, 2005
RV Organization And Howard's Golf Trip
There is not a lot to report on the RV living front these three days. Tuesday morning we were up early and getting ready for work. Our routine now includes listening to the soothing sounds of the James Taylor Greatest Hits CD. It just kind of fits our no longer manic moods.
Tuesday afternoon, Linda had a organizational/space planner visit - I think her name is Sunnie. Linda needs all the storage space she can get in the most organized, most efficient way possible. Our storage spaces are large, but without some tweaking, there is wasted space and she wants to get some ideas of the space planning options and products out there that could be adapted to the RV. We should have a report back in a week or two.
Sunnie thinks Linda, with her interior design degree, should start her own RV space planning business when we go on the road. We are not sure that there is a large enough market that would pay for such a service, but we are going to check into it.
Tuesday evening I packed for my golf trip to Myrtle Beach. I had to be at the airport Wednesday morning by 5:30 am and, now that we live a little further away, that meant we needed to be on the road by 4:45 am. Linda was not pleased, but did agree to drop me off.
The first day of the trip was fairly uneventful other than we got off the plane, dropped, the luggage, and had to tee off with no warm up whatsoever. By this time last year, I had played over twenty rounds. But this year I have only gotten in six. I played about as bad as I can play - I don't want to talk about it.
Thursday was a little better. We have sixteen guys with handicaps ranging from 5 to 38 and we play for quite a bit of cash in both individual and team games. My partner and I, who are two of the better golfers, started out horribly Thursday morning. Being a little competitive, I was getting more frustrated than usual, and in one of my rare (no, really) fits of anger, I wanted to throw my driver or slam it into the ground.
Now I am not a proponent of throwing clubs. In fact, I hate to see it. But there comes a point when almost everyone is struck with overwhelming desire and it just happens. However, most of us golfers know that if you are going to actually release a club, you send it flying like a helicopter several feet away from yourself and everyone else around. But not me on this occasion. I let go of the club right at my feet and it promptly bounced up and crashed into my left shin creating a gash and a steady stream of blood. I probably needed stitches, but we were in the middle of a game and I was not about to be driven back to the clubhouse where I would have to explain how stupid I am. So I cleaned it up with a wet towel, got out my supply of band-aids, and got the bleeding stopped. I played better after that - for you baseball enthusiasts, kind of like Curt Schilling in the World Series with a bloody sock.
In our second round on Thursday, the highlight of the afternoon was a big momma black bear that sauntered out into the fairway we were playing with two very large cubs. We were within thirty yards of them and they just ignored us playing and wrestling and taking their time moving across the fairway into the woods. Awesome!
Unfortunately, none of us had a camera. Linda says she hates all of my pictures of golf courses, so to avoid the temptation, I left the camera at home. That's right Honey, it's your fault I do not have beautiful bear pictures to post here for our visitors. Just kidding of course. I do have to get back home on Sunday.
Experiences like the black bear sighting are the reason we cannot wait to get on the road. Travel and getting outdoors for such opportunities is one of the big factors in our decision to full-time. We just miss so much spending too much of our lives in office buildings and in our houses just waiting to go back to the office buildings.
Friday, May 13, 2005
Linda's Enjoying The Birds & She's Sleeping
Linda informed me that I failed to include her birdwatching report in the Tuesday through Thursday post, so I am updating you here.
Our site on my folks' mini-farm is a very nice temporary setting with trees all around. We can only hope that most of our future campsites are as close to nature.
Anyway, using suction cup holders Linda has placed two hummingbird feeders on the two largest windows. She had actually done that on Tuesday and by Tuesday evening we had our first little ruby-throated visitor. Considering it has sometimes taken weeks for us to witness a hummingbird feeding at the prior houses, she was very excited. By today she had watched hummers at both feeders.
On Thursday she watched a flock of Cedar Waxwings devour all the berries in a holly tree right outside our rig. Though she has seen waxwings before, never this close and never in such numbers. This sighting inspired her to get out her bird journal which had set without an entry since December 28.
I don't know how many birders we have out there, but in the near future we will have a separate bird journal page on this website. Linda is very passionate about her birds and likes to share her experiences, so as soon as she decides on a format and learns to make entries, we will add that page.
For those of you that may remember, Linda was having lot's of trouble sleeping. But since we have been sort of "full-timing," she is sleeping like a baby. It seems to be a combination of the wonderful new king-size bed, the relaxing atmosphere, the lack of a sense of urgency in our lives right now, and the white noise of the two "fantastic fans" that keep air circulating and drown out all small annoying noises that she tends to hear. Good news for both of us.
As for me, it was another bad day of golf in Myrtle Beach, although my back nine finally resembled the way I am capable of playing. But we did not have any injuries and we are still having a lot of fun.
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Last Day Of Howard's Golf Trip & Linda Does Yard Sale Pricing
While I am having loads of fun with a bunch of great guys, Linda was back home enlisting the assistance of both our moms to get our yard sale items priced. That is one of the biggest pains of having a yard sale. But it is done and ready for the event scheduled for the first week in June. The purging of "stuff" continues.
By the way, thirteen different species of birds, including three types of woodpeckers, were spotted by our resident expert today.
I did play much better golf today. I shot by far my best round at an 81 and was second only to the one guy with a lower handicap than mine. Unfortunately, it was way too late to place in the money in our individual or team events. But it was nice to finish on a positive note.
Saturday evening we had our post golf party in one of the larger condos with more food than even sixteen guys could eat, cocktails, the handing out of cash awards for the winners, and a little poker to end the evening. At least I won a little money at poker before going to bed around midnight. The Sunday morning flight home would come way too early.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
At the airport in Myrtle Beach, I am starting to realize that this may have been my last guys' golf trip for quite awhile. It would be tough to plan to be available when they roll around each year, and the expense is probably not one that will fall within our limited budget. Who knows what will happen down the road, but this is another of the small sacrifices of our new life that I am having to come to grips with.
Arriving at the airport in Louisville, I was surprised to see Linda waiting in the terminal. We have done this routine many, many times and we always pick each other up curbside. So it was a nice welcome to get a hug freshly off the plane.
Then my golf clubs came out on the carousel, but not my other bag. I had to file a claim and found that my bag had gone to New York. Maybe it knew that we would be watching the finale of Survivor from New York and wanted to be in the live audience.
After leaving the airport, we made a quick stop and Linda got to visit Buddy and her old car for a few minutes. Then we hit the grocery and made our way back home.
After a nap (my golf trip roommate snored loud and I was pretty tired), Linda made dinner and we finished out the evening relaxing. I am dreading the thought of getting back into the office and having to do it 2 1/2 more months. Oh how I hope something really good happens and we can get away sooner than our August 1 target date!
Monday, May 16, 2005 and Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Hanging Stuff On Walls and Satellite TV
One of Linda's big dilemmas has been whether to bring some artwork and prints on our journey. She has a beautiful painting of a pair of cardinals, some framed hummingbird photos, and a personalized print of a pair of chickadees with an accompanying poem. First of all, we don't have much wall space to hang anything. Second, I really don't want to penetrate the walls of the unit.
So having been out on a couple of forums, we have found that several full-timers use various types of adhesives to hang things with varying degrees of success. We had just assumed if we hung anything, we would have to take it down to travel. However, many folks say they use 3M strips or industrial strength velcro and never have had their pictures fall.
So Linda bought some industrial strength velcro and we have hung a keyholder and her chickadee print as a test. So far so good and she is happy that she can have these very personal touches. I am happy that we didn't punch any holes anywhere. I guess time and travel will tell exactly how secure this solution will be.
Our satellite TV is working great. But again checking out the various forums, it was clear that a lot of full-timers swear by the TIVO feature that allows them to digitally record shows on their receivers. They say they never watch live TV anymore because they can pursue other activities when their shows are on and then watch the shows in shorter time periods fast-forwarding through the commercials at their convenience. Sounds good to me.
However, there are a couple of caveats with DirecTV which we settled on instead of Dish Network (I can't articulate a good reason since it seems the full-timers are split down the middle on which is better). DirecTV's policy is that you must have a phone line hooked up to the receiver to be able to get the TIVO feature and to get pay-per-view events and other messages from DirecTV.
In my research, I have found that your service is not affected if you do not have this phone line hooked up (unless you do want pay-per-view options). But you do have to hook up a phone line to the receivers and dial in initially to activate the TIVO service. So I bought two fifty foot phone lines (each receiver came with a twenty-five foot line) and a couple of connectors to do this initial dial-in and to have for future needs. After the hassle of making the connections and running the phone line into my parents' house, we got the dial-in and activation completed. So we can now record shows on satellite without a VCR and watch them anytime.
Of course we can only record non-local channels since we do not have the local channel option and cannot get the big four network shows through satellite. We have to send in an RV waiver form which will give us feeds of the big four networks from New York or Los Angeles. We still will not have "local" channels via satellite and will have to rely on our antenna for those, but at least we will be able to watch our favorite network shows.
With the RV waiver form (there are about three different versions and I have been given four different addresses to send it to) we also have to send in a copy of our RV registration to prove that we will be mobile and eligible for the Distant Network Service. Since we were originally registered in Ohio, we are waiting until we get our Kentucky registration to send it in. Then it is supposed to take a couple of weeks to get the Distant Network Service activated. It shouldn't be this difficult and DirecTV personnel and salespeople don't seem to know much about mobile users so it is hard to get straight answers that you can count on. We will let you know how it goes from here.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Website & Email Issues
It was a slow day for RV related happenings. But I did have some website and email issues that may be relevant to some out there.
My website construction software notified me that a new and improved Spam and Virus Blaster was being rolled out. They are adamant about removing all email addresses from the website to deter inevitable spamming and the possible infiltration of my computer which could harm the website. They want to see the email links replaced with contact forms.
I believe they are right about this, but I like the ease of a visitor being able to make a click and start typing. But I am going to follow their advice and change from email links to contact forms. I hope it does not deter our visitors from sending us comments. I have seen forms on other journal-type sites and I think I can make them simple enough so that they are not much different than the email link. For those of you that have the email address, feel free to continue to use it directly if you wish.
While making the necessary email updates before I implement the contact forms, I was having trouble getting email from the website into my Outlook. I have the capability to view and respond to the email directly on the web, but I like the convenience of having it directed into my Outlook. I spent hours on this problem with no luck, chalked it up to the server updates for the new Spam & Virus software and proceeded to other email issues.
Since I know longer have a cable modem and my internet connection is via satellite, my internet service provider (ISP) is now Direcway. I have set up email accounts with Direcway for non-website related emails and I have to use their server for any outgoing emails. However, I am having much more problem with spam through Direcway. My McAfee Spamkiller is catching most of it, but the amount of spam is too much even though it seems to have lessened from the first few days. Also, I have read concerns about Direcway emails being blocked because of the amount of spam going through Direcway. I hope my email responses to you are are getting through. You may have to add us to a "friends" list or to what is known as a "whitelist" of email addresses that are allowed.
With the Direcway issues, I have been looking at other alternatives for email. Many have recommended Google's new "gmail." You have to receive an invitation to try it out. Fortunately, my satellite installer, Roger Odom with Global Satellite Solutions, just sent me such an invitation. So I set up a gmail account. It is a web-based email solution with a lot of storage space and some neat options in finding and sorting emails. I'm just so entrenched in how email is handled by Outlook, that I am not sure how much I will like gmail.
So, I am still trying to figure out what email address I want to use as a default with the various companies that need contact information. I could use a website domain address, a Direcway address, a gmail address, or the dreaded combination in which I will have to keep documentation of which one I used each time. Technology . . . Sigh.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Our First Night Riding Out Severe Thunderstorms
I awoke this morning to find an email from my website software. Apparently the trouble I was having Wednesday evening was because they neglected to inform us of one little tweak that needed to be made in our Outlook email account set-up. Once I made that adjustment, things worked fine, but I didn't recover the couple of hours of frustration.
Anyway, I arrived home in the evening with lightning strikes and heavy rain all around. The first thing I checked was the computer and found that the satellite connection had been lost. With more storms coming and reports of golf ball sized hail in the area, I decided to make the appropriate keystrokes to stow the satellite. We had some hail, not the golf ball size variety, and I was glad I had stowed the dish.
From the time we got home until we it got completely dark, Linda and I were treated to a never-ending parade of male and female ruby-throated hummingbirds at both of our window feeders. These little marvels were not deterred by the storms at all, and it was a lot of fun watching them. Unfortunately, the storm clouds made it much too dark to get any good photos.
We had some anxious moments with close-by lightning, severe thunderstorm warnings, flash flood warnings, and tornado warnings just north of us. Having referred to mobile homes as "tornado bait" for years, I was feeling a little uneasy. But the Cambridge stood its ground and wavered very little in the winds. When the hail came, we were glad we had the rubber roof regardless of what we had heard about the rubber roof being a downside.
As the storms subsided, I headed for the computer to test my skills in re-setting the satellite. "Skills" is probably an overstatement. I just had to get to the proper screen and hit the proper key for the dish to raise from the stow position and search for the satellite. With more storms coming, it was probably not wise to put it up, but I wanted to see how it fared. It took about 30 minutes all together, but it did find the satellite and locked in. So I did have internet access and satellite TV.
But before I booted up the computer, we noticed a large pool of water on the computer desk. With some quick investigation, we found that the small window in the desk area slideout was leaking under the pressure of the heavy rain. Great. Not knowing exactly what to do, we sopped up the water with towels and left a towel next to the window to absorb any more water.
The storms finally ended about 3:00 am. We managed to get some sleep, never lost power, and we never lost internet or TV reception. Except for the leaky window, we had another pretty successful first.
Friday, May 20, 2005
Boring Day - Insurance
We had nothing exciting today. Linda and I met with our life insurance agent. Our policies had come in, so we needed to pay the first year's premium and accept delivery. If you recall we each got a $250,000, 30 year term policy with level premiums (they cannot change at all for thirty years), and with an option to convert to permanent insurance in any of the thirty years. The policies are with Met Life.
Apparently our diet and exercise paid off. Our underwriting came in at a preferred level and the annual premium for both policies came in around $900 which was about $200 less than our quote. Now that was some good news.
Oh yeah, more good news was that we had another weigh-in at Weight Watchers on Thursday. I have now lost 15.6 pounds and Linda has lost 8.4 pounds. I am especially happy that I lost considering my golf trip last weekend. It is very tough being with 15 other guys and ordering salad for dinner at the steakhouse. As a matter of fact, it was too much peer pressure. So I ordered things like shrimp cocktail and bacon wrapped scallop appetizers as a meal, went easy on the bread, and managaged to fake my way through the evenings of drinking with very little alcohol.
I digress. Now back to the more exciting subject of insurance. Our life insurance agent has also been helping us with health insurance options. We have finally decided on an Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Blue Access Plan PPO. The national in-network physician and hospital coverage is excellent. It is a high deductible ($4,800) plan with a maximum out of pocket of $6,050 each year, and coinsurance of 20%, and includes a Health Savings Account (HSA)option.
HSAs are a means to help keep monthly costs of individual health insurance down. We basically pay ourselves up to $4,800 a year and set that money aside in some type of growth account. The amount we pay into the HSA is deductible for income tax purposes whether we use it or not. If we do have medical expenses, we pull the money out of the HSA to cover the deductible and then are responsible for 20% of all other costs up to $6,050. So our maximum out of pocket after our tax deductible amount "invested" of $4,800 is $1,250 each year. The stated premium on this plan is $190 per month. Of course we still have to go through underwriting to finalize the premium, but this plan looks like the best option for us - especially if can get that $190 rate or close to it.
I am working on an insurance page for this website, but it is tough with the variations in plans by state and the differences in individual circumstances. Hopefully, I can figure out a way to make the page informative and reasonably brief.
Got to Weeks 1 - 4 (January 1, 2005 - January 28, 2005)
Go to Weeks 5 - 8 (January 29, 2005 - February 25, 2005)
Go to Weeks 9 - 12 (February 26, 2005 - March 25, 2005)
Go to Weeks 13 - 16 (March 26, 2005 - April 22, 2005)
Go to Weeks 21 - 24 (May 21, 2005 - June 17, 2005)
Go to Weeks 25 - 28 (June 18, 2005 - July 15, 2005)
Go to Weeks 29 - 30.5 (July 16, 2005 - August 2, 2005)