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Weeks 1 -4 (January 1, 2005 - January 28, 2005)

Week 1

Saturday, January 1, 2005
The Adventure Begins!

Well, here we go! This is our first journal entry! Hopefully, you have read how we got to this point - kind of our pre-journal journal. If not and you want to (I'll warn you that it is a long read) click on the "Our Decision To Full-Time" button.

On New Year's Day, our thoughts are consumed by this full-timing decision. Are we going to do it? When should we put our house on the market? When should I give notice to my company? To my employees? Are we going to try before we buy? Should we take an RV caravan? Rent an RV?

OK. We have decided. We are going to take the leap. The timing is good. We are young enough and talented enough to make a living on the road doing something. The residual income we will have coming in from the sale of my company can cover us about three years if we absolutely have to use it, so we have a safety net. However, we do not want to touch it if we can avoid it.

Yes, we are going to sell the house. When the "For Sale" sign goes up depends on the reaction of my company when I tell them I am "retiring." Our goal is to be on the road by July 1, 2005. I will give plenty of notice so a replacement can be found and trained. However, if they tell me to leave immediately, we are prepared and we will just need to sell the house quicker.

While we are home, we do more reading and more internet research. Hey, there is an RV show in Cleveland, OH next weekend. Linda says "Let's go!" Are you nuts! That's a five hour drive! There is one a couple hours away the following weekend. Well of course we are going to Cleveland. How silly of me.

Sunday, January 2, 2005
Decisions Made and a Website Construction Program Selected Continued

Today, we made a couple of major decisions.

First, I am going to tell the company that I am retiring the week of January 17 at a week-long conference I have to attend. We decided this because we feel we need to get our house sold to meet our departure goals.

However, if we put a "For Sale" sign in our yard, all of my employees will know and may start to panic. You see, they will know immediately because my house is so close to the office, and I am in the real estate business, so all realtors will spread the word.

Second, we have made the decision that we are going to rent an RV for at least a week or take a caravan tour to make sure we have at least some idea of what we are getting into.

Today is also the time for me to intensify my research on building a website. I have determined that a website can be built for almost nothing up to $5,000, $10,000, or more. I think I need to build one that draws traffic, but I am not going to spend a fortune.

I have settled on a website/domain software called "Site Build It!" at sitesell.com. There is a lot of information and I am taking a chance for almost $400, but I am impressed with the detail and the variety of ideas and benefits. The program comes with a 10 Day Action Guide and it stresses following the Guide to the letter for best results. I guess I will find out over time if I have made a good decision.

Monday, January 3, 2005
Looking To Try Before We Buy

Well, the work week has started and I have only evenings to do more research.

Tonight, I am searching for caravan tours and RV rental options.

As far as caravan tours, I am looking for something that is one to two weeks long and is scheduled prior to July so we can use vacation before "retirement." Unfortunately, I can't find any that meet my criteria.

Turning to rental options, I look for fifth wheel rentals and Class A motorhome rentals. I can find travel trailer rentals but only a couple of fifth wheel options. The additional problem is that we do not have a tow vehicle and would have to rent that too. That pretty much closes the door on fifth wheel rentals.

There are many place to rent motorhomes. However, the ones close to us rent only Class C motorhomes. We would really, really like a Class A as we feel that would more closely resemble "living" in a fifth wheel. Oh well, we will keep looking.

Tuesday, January 4, 2005 through Friday, January 7, 2005
Website Construction Continues

These three evenings have been spent concentrating on establishing our website.

I know nothing about building a website, but I know that a solid website is important on two levels. First, I want it to be easy enough to be fun. Second, it needs to be functional enough to help create a revenue stream.

Therefore, I am following the instructions to the letter. I am not web savvy enough to make this work on my own.

I won't bore you with the details of the website set-up. I'll just say it is work to do it right and I am committed to doing it right.

Week 2

Saturday, January 8, 2005
Our First RV Show!

It's very early on Saturday morning and we are taking the five hour drive to Cleveland for an RV show. We have had to rent a car since I was rear-ended a couple of days ago and the mechanic said it could be dangerous to drive my car for a long distance.

We arrive at the RV show and buy a two day pass. Again, we try to look at some motorhomes, but we keep coming back to the fifth wheels.

Out of the hundreds of RVs, we select four fifth wheels that meet our criteria. That criteria being good living space, lot's of counter space in the galley (kitchen), lot's of cabinets, washer/dryer hook-up, shower and vanity separate from the toilet, and a computer desk.

Suprisingly, we met several other couples that were looking at RVs to start their full-timing life. Some were new just like us, some had been RVing for years, some had been researching for several years, and some were still researching for some time in the future. All of them were so nice and we shared many great conversations. If this is what the people we meet are going to be like, this is going to be fun!

We kept going back and forth among our four choices to see if there was anything that would eliminate any of them. Our choices as possibilities were the Landmark by Heartland RV ($63,000 - $75,000 internet prices for 2005 models), Montana by Keystone ($45,000 - $57,000), Escalade by KZ RV ($62,000 - $87,000; show price $80,000), and Cambridge (2006 model) by Keystone ($60,000 show price, but can only find two on the internet and both are $80,000). As I have done research, I anticipated that our fifth wheel would be in the $45,000 to $50,000 range. Our four choices had show prices ranging from $45,000 to $80,000.

The Escalade $80,000 fifth wheel was really nice and built solidly, but we kept coming back to the Cambridge at $60,000. We narrowed our choices down to these two based on the quality of construction. When really examining all the models, the quality differences really become quite clear. The Cambridge was a new prototype from Keystone. The actual designer of the unit was on site and Linda and I grilled him for hours. The number of cabinets and the quality of the cabinets and drawers were beyond compare. It had everything we wanted, was put together better than anything else we had seen, and was loaded with options including an electric fireplace and a central vacuum system (if you can believe that).

We had not seen anything that came close to the Cambridge. This new design had only been introduced a month prior at a manufacturer's show in Louisville. There were only fifteen on the road in the country.

Linda and I had just come to look at various options, but now we were considering actually ordering one of these at the "special show price." I know, I know - we are suckers, but based on all the research I had done, the Cambridge was a bargain considering comparable rigs, options, and amenities.

We asked the designer what other fifth wheels on the market he thought might compare with the Cambridge. He mentioned a couple manufactured by Nu-Wa and Teton. Unfortunately, neither had models at this show for comparison.

WE DID NOT COME TO BUY! We made sort of a pact that we would not buy! Let's sleep on it and come back to the show Sunday.

Sunday, January 9, 2005
So Much For Try Before We Buy! We Bought!

Well, we wrestled with our impulses, our logic, and our emotional sides and our practical sides. We painstakingly went through our usual "what is the worst that can happen?" scenario.

What happened to that deal we made that we were going to rent an RV and try out the lifestyle for a week or two before we made any major commitments of cash? It didn't take long for that deal to go away. I struggled with the question of what we are going to do with this RV if something happens and we do not go through with the full-timing plan. I also struggled with the guilt of making such a big decision without more research and thought. I would be doing exactly the opposite of what I would recommend to everyone else.

Ultimately, it came down to this. Even on impulse I have pretty good instincts about value. I was convinced that this Cambridge was priced very fairly even though we were looking at a "show price" which everyone will tell you should be a warning not to buy. We loved everything about this RV and I just knew we would be making a $20,000 mistake if we waited. I rationalized under our worst case scenario that we could sell it and make a profit if our plans changed.

We had made our decision to order the Cambridge. And we were at peace with the decision. This made our decision to go full-time very real. It created more of a sense of urgency to sell our house, which in turn created the need to tell my company and my employees. But we talked about all that and we were okay with it. The only thing that would stop us from buying this fifth wheel was if our salesman tried to oversell us and hacked me off.

We arrived at the show. We went straight to the RV and parked ourselves inside. We imagined living in it. We hung out for another couple of hours and went over the interior and exterior, features and functions one more time. We watched the reactions of others as they toured it. We struck up conversations with other wannabe full-timers that raved about this model. It became clear that we were not the only ones who thought the Cambridge was a great RV and a pretty darn good deal. That gave me a little more comfort.

Okay. Time to go with the salesman to the little corral of tables where high level negotiating takes place with the other giddy impulse buyers. We were an easy sale and there was not much to negotiate. It took me just a few minutes to get our salesman to understand how easy this was going to be. Once he got that, all went smoothly. The show model was so loaded with options and features, there was very little to discuss in the way of add-ons. We added a sofa table and made the big decision to add a generator for those times we would not be "camping" with electrical hook-ups. That jacked the price up about $5,000, but better to have the factory install it than have it done after-market later.

I have said many times how I hate debt, but we financed this purchase knowing we would pay it in full in a few months when our house sells. Our credit is fantastic, so the rest of the day, other than the five hour drive back home, was easy. And the best part was that we really were comfortable with what we had done. We will give it a few days or a few weeks to see if buyer's remorse sets in.

Monday, January 10, 2005 through Friday, January 14, 2005
Tunnel Vision & More Website Construction

I think I am obsessed with this website thing. I am a perfectionist and I just can't seem to get the look I want.

My "Site Build It" Program helps a ton. It stresses "look and feel" and content. I think I can get the content, but I want it to be enticing as well. "Site Build It" says keep it simple, but I just have to make it look better.

I found a website that has some basic HTML programming primers. For those who don't know like I didn't, HTML is HyperText Mark-up Language. These basics primers were very helpful in adding some enhancements to the look of the site. I will skip all the bells and whistles and flashy HTML programming. That's just more work and learning than I don't want to do on this.

I am trying to keep the site simple and appealing and a source of good information. I really want your feedback to tell me how I can improve RV-Dreams.

Week 3

Saturday, January 15, 2005
Getting In Shape and "Oh Yeah, We Need A Truck"

I forgot to tell you that we made our New Year's resolution to lose weight (just like every year). But this year our motivation is different.

This year we have to think about losing our health insurance through my employer. So we are going to need to be as healthy as possible to be underwritten for new insurance - got to keep our costs down! That's why I went to the gym this morning like I have almost every morning this month. I am trying to lose a 1/2 pound a day.

After my workout, we went to the local Ford dealership to check out pick-up trucks. The regional manager of the dealer in Cleveland where we bought our fifth wheel told us we needed at least a Ford F450, so we wanted to start checking out price information.

We went in and asked for the best truck expert in the dealership. We were hooked up with the commercial truck sales manager. Unfortunately, they did not have any F450s on site or even any F350s (same size) that we could drive. Actually, I searched the web and could not find anything within 200 hundred miles of home.

But our salesman, Barry, took good care of us. We found out that the F450 is built as a commercial truck and does not even come from the manufacturer with a bed on it. We went through all the towing upgrades we needed to tow our 14,000 pound newly ordered fifth wheel.

We then covered the touchy feely options that we wanted. This truck is going to be part of our home, so we wanted to be comfortable driving all over the country. We knew the price was going to be, well, YIKES! But we had done our research, and the price was within $1,000 of what we expected.

So guess what? We did not buy it! Yet. Stay tuned, though.

Sunday, January 16, 2005
Boring Day - Football, Website, & Getting Ready To Give Notice

Today, I am still working on the website, but taking some time just to watch the NFL playoffs. I needed a little down time to prepare myself to tell my boss on Monday that I am retiring. Off to Florida tomorrow for week-long meetings, and . . . . a little drama.

Monday, January 17, 2005
Over One Hurdle - The Company Knows!

Well, I announced to my boss that I am retiring this summer. He took it well once I explained that I was not quitting to start a competing company or going to a competitor. He was not sure what he wanted to do with my position, but at least he didn't tell me to hit the road immediately. I was prepared for that, but would like to leave my offices in the position to succeed without me. My employees are important to me, and there is some unfinished business to be done.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005 through Friday, January 21, 2005
Nothing Happening Except All My Peers Know Now!

I have been in meetings all week, so nothing is happening on the RV front. But my boss announced to several of my peers about my retirement on Thursday night. I got all kinds of reactions. Many people are trying to get me to stay, and that is a wonderful feeling. But, just as many others are so encouraging.

Now, I need to get home and tell all of my employees before it gets back to them. Not looking forward to that. It will be emotional.

Week 4

Saturday, January 22, 2005 through Sunday, January 23, 2005
Continuing the Research

Linda has been in California on business. She gets back Saturday night. That gave me the opportunity to catch up on the website work and research I missed out on last week.

I picked Linda up at the airport Saturday night. She says I already look younger.

I am still very self-conscious about this website. I have not included any links or anything yet. I know it will be a long way from perfect, but I do want people to enjoy it and stick around a while. I'll just keep tinkering with it.

Sunday we went to the RV and Boat Show here in town. Our main interest was in the various accessories that might be displayed for RVers. However, there were none to be found - just lots of RVs.

So we took the opportunity to check out all the large fifth wheels. We wanted to see if there was anything better than what we bought. Good news! No buyer's remorse. Only one model stood out. It was a Teton that the designer of our Cambridge had told us about back in Cleveland. He was right it was top notch. But, it was $90,000 - a full $30,000 dollars more than the Cambridge. The Teton was fabulous, but did not have any real differences that I could see and certainly not $30,000 dollars worth of differences.

Well, back home after the RV Show. Monday I start announcing our retirement to all the employees. Hope I sleep.

Monday, January 24, 2005 through Friday, January 28, 2005
It's a Bittersweet Week

On Monday morning I made the first announcement to my employees that I am retiring. These were the folks that have been with me the longest. There were looks of shock (even betrayal) and some tears. My assistant Stephanie, who is a good friend as well as an employee, couldn't even speak to me that day. Another employee told me I broke her heart. Ouch!

On Tuesday and Wednesday I traveled to my other five offices and told everyone personally that I was leaving. My Managers were all teary eyed, but they took it pretty well.

Whew! I am glad that is over. Along with selling our home, that was the toughest part of this decision.

On Thursday morning I went to the gym early. I noticed that my heart rate was ten points lower than it had been in all my workouts this month. Coincidence? Who knows?

Now that the company knows and my employees know, guess what I did next? I called our guy Barry at the Ford dealership, added a sunroof and an auxilary fuel tank, and told him to order the truck. The tally came to $46,000. We better sell this house fast!

Starting to see a pattern here with us? We do a lot of research, but we make decisions, right or wrong, very quickly. Does the saying "Do as I say, not as I do" come to mind?

On Friday, the last Friday of the month and a very busy time for us, I had one other person (related to business) to tell. For about five years now, I have had a very strong friendship and business relationship with one of the largest real estate brokers in the state. We have had a joint venture together, and we still help facilitate a lot of his business and supply legal advice. It turns out he took my retirement very well, also. Things are changing in our business every day, and my timing was good as our business relationship was going to change out of necessity.

Another busy and tough week is over. Now I just have to tell my parents on Saturday.

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 17 - 20 (April 23, 2005 - May 20, 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)