Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Making A List, Checking It Twice

Recently several people have approached me about my plan to travel extensively in an RV when I retire. It seems they'd like to do it too. Some want to live full time in an RV, while others dream of traveling big chunks of time throughout the year. All want to pick my brain about my plans and preparation. So I decided to put this post together and share what I've learned so far.

Being prepared is not just a scouting motto. It's sound advice for anyone planning a journey, but even more so if that journey is travelling extensively in an RV. While I am still bound to my day job and my apartment, I have not been idle on this matter. Since making that decision, I have set off to learn as much about it BEFORE the actual journey. If there was one message I've heard over and over from other RVers it has been BE PREPARED. It seems many folks who fail at full-time RVing are those less prepared for the lifestyle.

Don't count the days until you leave on your trip,
make those days count.

Whether you already own your RV or not, use your time before your journey begins wisely. Techomadia has a great video on the Sucky Sides of RVing. I highly recommend it. But that's just the beginning. There are tons of videos on You Tube about RV life.

Join Facebook groups dedicated to RVing, especially groups focused on the model rig you have or want to buy. If you're not sure which rig you'd like, join several groups dedicated to the few you're interested in. This is a great way to learn the pros and cons of a particular brand and model. Once I narrowed my RV choice down to a Winnebago Travato, I joined a group dedicated to that particular RV. Honestly, I have learned more in that group than anywhere else. I've learned about the electrical and plumbing systems of the Travato, along with how to make minor repairs. I've learned about modifications I could make to the coach that would make my life easier and more convenient, and what equipment and everyday items would be helpful. I've even picked up tips on how to negotiate for and buy an RV. And I've met a lot of new wonderful friends. Basically, I am a sponge, soaking up all the information they dish out.

Make a checklist of everything you will need to buy or do before your trip, along with columns for Action Items, Comments, and Status. Once you start that checklist, you will be shocked at how much you need to do BEFORE the trip begins. I'm not talking about equipment you need to buy, although that's on the list too, but steps you need to make in all areas of your life to be prepared. Then I divided my checklist into subheadings such as Social Media, Domicile, Personal, Techy and RV Equipment, and RV Household Items.

Social Media - Since I'll be operating my writing career from the road, I decided to give myself a new brand that tied in with travel. Thus, the Novel RV was born. This included things like buy the domain name, set up a web site, have a logo made, set up blog, a You Tube channel, etc. All of which are currently in progress, although I do have my new logo already!

Domicile - If you are going to full time in your RV, are you going to change your domicile state? There are some very good advantages to doing this, especially if you currently reside in a very high tax state, as I do. In this category I listed reminders to research state residency requirements and mailing services that will let you use their address for your new address, While you can research the best residency choices before you leave, much of the foot work for this is done after you are on the road as it requires a trip to your new state. This includes setting up a new address, registering your vehicle, getting a new drivers license, and registering to vote. If you are not getting rid of your brick and mortar residence when you hit the road, this step isn't necessary.

Personal - Some of these items tie in with Domicile, such as vehicle insurance, health insurance, and possibly making a new will. Make sure you check out health insurance options in your new state for flexible options that fit your new lifestyle. Also included in this category are items you might not think about prior to the trip, but which are important. Is your passport up-to-date? Is your dental work current? One of the things I did recently was have a lot of dental work done that was not urgent but would be needed eventually. Better to get it done while I have dental insurance through my job. How about your eyeglasses? Is your exam and prescription up-to-date? And make sure you have an extra pair to take with you. Also make sure you have a good supply of any medications you need and research where to get refills while on the road before you actually hit the road. And if you have a pet, don't forget to research vet services/insurance.

Techy Equipment - do you need a new computer before your trip? A WiFi booster? Cell phone charger? How will you handle getting online in remote areas? Should you change your cell phone carrier? Will you need an invertor for charging your laptop and for using appliances? Technomadia has a lot of videos and articles on this. Also check out Technomadia's RV Mobile Internet Resource Center.

RV Equipment - On this list should be your water hoses, one for drinking water and one for general use. A surge protector, water filter, and water regulator. Should you get portable solar panels? A sewer hose attachment to make dumping easier? Leveling blocks? And don't forget to add a tool kit, including a box of rubber gloves for dumping and black tank additives/tablets. (See, necessary details that could be easy to overlook.)

RV Household Items - Some of your home stuff can go with you, but most of it cannot. I'll be needing new lightweight dishes, unbreakable glassware, and easy-to-store cookware, some of which I have already collected or been given as gifts. Are you taking sheets to fit your RV's beds or a sleeping bag? Your existing towels or quick dry microfiber towels? Trading out your mixing bowls for collapsible ones? FYI - This should be your longest list. Go through your current kitchen and bathroom and take a good long look at your stuff and decide what can go and what should be replaced with smaller, more compact items. You have a lot less storage on an RV.

Personal Items - Are you completely dismantling your current home, or keeping it while you travel? This is important. If you are keeping your brick and mortar home, then you many have a place to store belongings not in use in the RV. If not, you will need to decide if you will put your extra stuff in a storage unit or par it down until all you own is the stuff in your RV. I've met several people who put their belongings in storage and leased out their home during their travels. I also came across people who gave up their home and stored their extra stuff, then regretted it since they seldom returned to it. Remember, it's just STUFF.

There is also preparation for personal items. I'm scanning all photos I want to keep and storing them on my computer and offline storage. I'm also scanning all my personal papers, contracts, will, etc. The only hard copies I intend to have with me are RV related papers and my passport. Also, put together a packet of your most important original documents, such as your will, RV sales documents, etc. and give them to a trusted family member or friend to hold for you. You could also put them in a safe deposit box, but again, that's more storage.

The RV - this is the final category on my checklist. If you have not decided on exactly what model you want, here is a good place to list the pros and cons of the models you are considering. If you already know what you want, this is the place to list the dealers you've contacted and your honest opinion of your treatment and their knowledge. And be honest. After all, you are spending a lot of money and this is the most important item on this list. Did the dealer seem knowledgeable about the unit you want? Were they customer oriented? Were they willing to negotiate? Check out their reviews online. Ask other RVers who have the same model where they bought theirs and if they were satisfied with the transaction and subsequent service.

At first glance, a checklist might seem like overkill, but trust me, once you start checking things off and the closer you get to your journey, the happier you will be that you made a list. Also, several items on the list can take several months to complete, so it's nice to monitor your progress.

You wouldn't start a hike without proper shoes, safety aids, and water. And isn't this much bigger than that?

I may not be on the open road full time for a while yet, but I've got stuff to do in the meantime!

Friday, February 24, 2017

It's A Good Thing You're Cute!

I woke up with murder on my mind. That's not unusual since I write murder mysteries and do most of my writing in the morning. But this morning B, my 18 year old Norwegian Forest Cat, was in my sights. 

Several times in the night B woke me up wanting cuddles. Or maybe it was food. Either way, the first time was around 11 pm, not long after I shut the book I was reading and called it a night. From there it was almost every couple of hours with her most insistent demands occurring around 3:30 am.

This is not the first time this had happened, but it was definitely her most demanding. It started with nudging against my arm, then against my hand, with her nose. Then the nudging became more insistent with her wedging her entire head under my hand and tossing it upward. Of course, I was semi-awake at this point. Sometimes I accommodate her demands with a few head scratches and pats, then roll over and go back to sleep. I did this twice last night, but at 3:30 am I waited to see how far she'd go if I didn't respond. She finally resorted to a series of head butts against my shoulder. Really annoyed at this, I rolled over and went back to sleep without petting her. She's even been known to gently nibble my elbow or fingers when I ignore her.

I managed another hour's sleep, but around 4:30 am the meowing began, soft and gentle at first, then it swelled to deep guttural pleas. B's normal meow is a soft, almost inaudible squeak, common in the breed. But she now has feline dementia. Yes, that's a thing and the vet confirmed it. I first noticed it early last year when as soon as the lights were out for the night she'd start that guttural meowing somewhere in the apartment. I'd get out of bed and investigate, sure she was hurt. Instead I'd find her in the middle of the living room. Sometimes she'd be playing with some of her toys, sometimes she'd be wide-eyed with fear and confusion, just like a person with dementia.

Some nights when I'm super tired, I'm proactive. Instead of going to bed and waiting to see if she'll begin her nocturnal cries, I'll pick B up and carry her into the bedroom when I go to bed. Most nights though, she's fine. Other nights when she begins crying, I just call her name and she follows my voice into the bedroom and all is good. Sometimes, for no reason at all, she'll start that deep demonic meowing when I'm still up. It never lasts long and I can usually diffuse it with a few words of comfort.

In other respects, B is pretty healthy for an old gal. She'd be about 90 if she were human. She's missing teeth and I have to watch her blood pressure, but that's about it. I also have to keep an eye on her eating patterns, as the kitty dementia can sometimes cause her to lose her appetite or forget to eat.

As most of you know, I'm planning on travelling in an RV when I retire in a few years. At her age, B probably won't be around when that happens, but if she is alive, she's definitely becoming a van cat. Annoying or not, there will be no cat left behind. I've had her for 15 years now and she's going nowhere without me. And vice versa. 

We'll be a couple of fluffy old ladies wandering aimlessly in our golden years

I just hope one of us remembers where we're going.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Camping? Don't Look At Me!

I have a confession. I am not a camper. My idea of camping is a hotel without room service. And I'm about as outdoorsy as chintz curtains.

When I said this recently to my friend Barbara over lunch, she looked at me with surprise, and more than just a bit of curiosity. You see, Barbara and I bonded over our mutual love and admiration of an RV, specifically the Winnebago Travato.  Barbara bought hers just a few months ago and I hope to purchase mine within the year. She bought hers so that she and her dogs could camp in more comfort than a tent. I want mine to travel the country when I retire.  Different uses for the same vehicle.

I guess it does seem odd that I'm not a camper, yet want to travel extensively in an RV, especially to our country's beautiful national parks. But you see, the Travato is small and self-contained with a kitchen, bedroom, toilet and shower. All the comforts of home, but on wheels.

The last time I went camping, real camping as in sleeping on the ground in a tent, I was in college. I did it twice and swore never again. It wasn't the discomfort that turned me away, or the cooking on an open fire. Honestly, it was the bathroom issue. Squatting in the dirt, using a smelly port-a-potty, or standing in line at a crowded campground restroom, just isn't my thing. Never has been, never will be. And then there's the bugs. I'm sure I'll get bugs in my rig, but hopefully not crawling into my bedding while I sleep, or try to sleep.

It doesn't help either that I just finished reading Lost Canyon by Nina Revoyr. It's the story of four urban backpackers who go on the camping trip from hell.  Great read and I highly recommend it, but pretty scary stuff.

But I do love nature and being out in it. Fresh air. Big trees. Peace and quiet, except for the nattering of squirrels, chirps of birds, and the babbling of brooks. Sign me up! Over the years, I have often rented a cabin or stayed at a lodge in the mountains or at a place by the beach. I'm not much for vacationing in big cities. And I've taken enough cruises to be bored with them. Nor do I want to spend my time holed up in crowded RV parks and resorts. I'm sure I'll spend some of my time in those places when I'm on the road, but not the majority of my time.

Dumping my first black tank.
I guess that makes me more of a glamper than a camper. Although I hardly think dumping RV sewer tanks is glamorous. It's not difficult, and I had to do it when I rented an RV last year, but glamorous, no. And there's no room service in a national park or out in the middle of nowhere. Or Uber Eats. Or even local pizza or Thai delivery.

It is fun though, planning and getting ready for my next big adventure. I realize I'll have to be more of a handyman than just calling the apartment manager and hoping he'll fix the leaking faucet. I'll have to do those things myself and, like dumping my first black tank, it will be something new to learn and know I can learn it.

I have this long list of things I will need when I hit the road. On it are the usual RV things like a drinking water hose, sewer hose attachments, water regulators and filters, lanterns, and a propane grill and stove for outdoor cooking. (Yes, I do intend to cook outside a good part of the time, even though my rig will have a nice galley.) I've already started collecting some of these items, and friends and family provided quite a few on my last birthday and Christmas. There's even bear spray on my list.

Yes, bear spray...

Thursday, February 16, 2017

This Senior Moment is Sponsored By ... FitBit

Last night I had a moment of panic. I couldn't find my car in the parking garage at work.

I usually park on the 6th floor of the 7 level garage, but when I left work around 7:15 pm last night I could not find my car!

It can't be stolen, I thought.

1) We have a security garage and you need a monthly parking card or ticket to get a car out. True, there was a murder in the garage several years back, but car theft, no.

2) I work in a fancy pants area spitting distance from Beverly Hills. There are WAY BETTER cars to steal in that garage than my 10 year old Ford Focus. Daily my old, dependable, and paid off car keeps company with Porches, Benzes, Jags, and Lexuses. I've even spotted the odd Rolls Royce. Unless a thief was looking for spare parts, I doubt my compact car, with its side-by-side Bernie and Hillary bumper stickers, would catch their eye.

I walked the entire floor area of the 6th floor, not just the area where I usually park, telling myself not to panic. It had to be somewhere. I even took the elevator down to the 4th floor to look. For years I parked on the 4th floor. I only changed to the 6th because since I come in later than most people, it was easier to find open spots there after the recent reconfiguration of all the spaces on all floors. 

4th Floor - no car. I even aimed my fob at another white Focus, but it didn't flash hello back.

The thing is, I always park on the same floor just to AVOID forgetting where I parked. And after 7:00 at night there aren't that many cars left in the huge garage.

Panic started to well. I really can't afford the hassle of a stolen car right now. Been there, done that. Not to mention all the junk in the car that I really didn't want to lose and/or replace.

I took the elevator back to the 6th floor and started walking around again. Still no car. Then I started walking down the circular ramp to the 5th floor and started canvassing that floor. Still no car.

Anxiety was growing in my chest like a runaway weed. I might just have to go to the parking garage office and confess that I was a dumb ass old woman who'd lost my car. Then they would put me on a golf cart and drive me around each floor looking for my misplaced vehicle. While the ride sounded nice, I wasn't ready to face that humiliation.  Trust me, I've seen them do it before for people in my situation.

Taking a deep breath, I started down the last row of the 5th floor heading for the 4th, determined not to end up in a golf cart. I'd walk every damn floor first.

WAIT! Is that it?

Geez, I'd passed right by my own car at least once already. It was parked between two dark SUVs on the far side of the 5th floor. Its compact presence hidden by the two larger vehicles like a white egg tucked protectively between the feet of a papa penguin. In spite of the bumper stickers, just to be sure, I aimed my fob at it. Yep. The lights flashed a cheery hello. It was my baby!

The 5th floor?! I never park on the 5th floor. Why did I park on the 5th floor? Obviously I'd lost my mind that morning and it hadn't improved throughout the day.

But my FitBit was happy. According to it, I'd walked nearly a full mile in the garage.

A dotty senior citizen wandering in a concrete desert. 

But at least I didn't have to ride the golf cart.