THE COUNTDOWN IS OVER!!!!!
Well, it has been three months since our last note and a lot has happened in that time as we have been actively implementing our plan to live the full-time RV lifestyle. First, we have "moved"! We started in earnest in April to downsize our possessions and get the house ready for sale. We had three garage sales and, sorry to say, not as much was sold as I had thought would sell. We have never had a garage sale and it was an interesting experience, to be sure. People seem to think that garage sale equates to charity and want stuff for nothing. It was interesting to watch how people react at these things. In one case, someone picked up a small basket of little soaps and asked the price. Diane said 50 cents. She asked if that was for each piece of soap and Diane told her, no, it was for the entire basket. The lady put it down and left. Huh? Excuse me? The basket alone was probably worth more than 50 cents. That seemed to be a theme, except for folks who saw something they liked and negotiated a price. Most of what hasn't sold is now in my daughter Jill's garage for her to put out in her garage sales. She'll get a portion of the proceeds for the storage and effort, so it's a win-win deal since we still have some big items for sale, like a 550-CD rack, hedge trimmer, 12-gallon power sprayer, waterbed, etc.
The other thing we learned about garage sales was to cringe when we saw large families coming down the driveway with lots of kids. That usually meant the kids will be touching everything in site as the parents roam around the stuff up for sale. We were warned to watch folks because it is not uncommon for items to walk off. From what we can tell, nothing was stolen. At least nothing that we cared about.
So where are we with our downsizing? The house is totally empty now and everything is either stored, sold, or given away, right? WRONG! As this is being written, there is still some stuff left in the house to be handled, but it's all out in the garage. Much of the furniture moved out as the kids moved out and took their stuff with them. The nicest piece of furniture we owned was the Bernhardt dining room set and we got real lucky with selling that one. I went to pick up some tables for a garage sale and found the store was closed because the lady who ran the place took a long lunch. While waiting, a lady came up to the store and I started chatting with her. What a surprise that I would start chatting with a stranger, huh? :-) Anyway, one thing led to another and she mentioned that she was new to the area, worked for Sony, and may be interested in the dining room set. So she came to look at it and said she'd think about it. The negotiations were all done via email and the net is that we got just about what we asked for the set. She did manage to negotiate a set of dishes and flatware into the deal, but it was worth it. On Friday, April 28, she had some movers come to get the set.
The other piece of furniture we needed to really sell, rather than give away, was the bedroom set. We had lots of lookers, but no buyers. Then a couple of ladies who were out garage sale hopping stopped by to look at it. One of them wanted a set for a lake house they owned. It sold, and was picked up, on Friday, May 5, one week after the dining room set went out. Two older, but really big guys, the husbands, came to move this solid, very heavy, triple dresser and armoire down the stairs (with an L-turn) and onto a truck. I was exhausted watching them, and I had sympathy back aches that night.
We started thinking that we sold two big items on two successive Fridays, so maybe the following week we'd sell the house. No such luck. Things have really slowed down in the Atlanta area. Our realtor told us that there is a lot of inventory right now and it is a buyer's market. Lucky us. Bummer. :-( I remember telling Diane that I REALLY did want to retire at the end of 1998, but we had sort of made a commitment to have one more big family Christmas in our house in 1999. So I bit my lip and worked another year. But I remember moaning something like "with my luck, interest rates will be horrible and the housing market will slow down, and we probably won't get everyone to travel to Atlanta for Christmas". So what happened? All of the above. Hec, even I didn't know that I was a prophet. In any case, that won't stop us from hitting the road on July 9. We will deal with the realtor remotely when an offer is made.
There are two collections that we own, some Precious Moments and Diane's Beanie Babies. We participated in a Precious Moments Swap and Sell at a local Hallmark store and did well. We sold many retired pieces for some good prices. However, we still have about 30 pieces left and Jill will try to sell those. The Beanie Babies are another story. I think lots of them will go to the grandkids.
Our Dutch Star was ordered in March with a delivery date set for May 16. We started our trip to Indiana on Saturday, May 13 and had planned to stop in Shepherdsville, KY to visit with Norm and Linda Payne. Norm and I had an email relationship that started on the RVAMERICA bulletin board (BB). They had purchased a 2000 Dutch Star in the fall of 1999. They were great about answering all of our questions about the Dutch Star, such as options, and chassis, and engine, etc. As we exchanged email, Norm noticed that my address had a "us.ibm.com" on it. It was usually much easier for me to just use my work email address since I was still working and traveling 100% with 22 weeks of it last year out of the country. Turns out Norm had just retired from IBM in Louisville and they were fulfilling their RV full-timing dream. Diane and I finally met Norm and Linda at the RVAMERICA Y2K Party in Harlingen, TX in February. We didn't own a motorhome then, but we really wanted to be part of that event and meet people known only from the BB. So we flew out for the week and stayed in a hotel near the campground. It was great to put faces to names, and it was a great week in Texas. As a matter of fact, the party was so much fun, that plans are already underway for the second annual Y2K party to be held in Apache Junction, AZ in April 2001.
So we had dinner with Norm and Linda in Shepherdsville and chatted about what we'd been up to since we last saw each other in February. On Sunday, we continued on our journey to Nappanee to pick up our new home. We arrived in Nappanee on Sunday afternoon and checked into the Inn at Amish Acres. We had stayed there in February when we drove up to tour the factory with Frank and Joanne Caldarola from Austin, TX. They were also interested in purchasing a Dutch Star (and have since done so and are preparing for their full-time adventure). It looked like there would be a break in the weather in Indiana one weekend in February, so we made a quick decision to drive up and take the factory tour. The trip was very productive. We had a personal 4+ hour tour by one of the sales managers, and we got to pick out fabric and discuss options, some of which are not widely advertised.
On Monday morning, Diane and I walked over to the factory to see if we could find our Dutch Star. The gate to the back lot was open, so we roamed around looking inside newly finished motorhomes. We saw one sitting near one of the garage doors and could tell it had the options we wanted (keying off of the outside vent for the washer/dryer combo unit). The door was open, so we looked inside and knew it was ours because of the fabric. I knew for sure when I saw the stereo cabinet I had asked them to build for me. It was a very exciting time for us to see what would become our new home for the next 'who knows how many' years. We walked around to the service entrance to see what time we should arrive on Tuesday morning to start the walkthrough. The receptionist, Dody, called back to the service area and then asked us if we'd like to start right then. YOU BET! So we spent a couple of hours with our assigned service tech, Todd Miller, going over the systems in the motorhome. We had to stop around 2PM because their work schedule is from 6AM to 2:30PM. We left for the day, went to eat, and couldn't wait to get back the next morning.
We returned to the factory on Wednesday morning at 7:30AM and continued the walkthrough. It was then that I got to test drive the motorhome. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit apprehensive getting behind the wheel of this monster. Todd gave me the option of taking it straight out or letting him drive it down the road a bit first. I opted to let him drive it first and I drove it back to the factory. It drove like a dream. Just seems to glide down the road. We finished the walkthrough by early afternoon and Todd scheduled us for a service day on Thursday to fix some minor items we found during the walkthrough (and subsequent to the walkthrough).
The service area at the Newmar factory is very interesting. There is a small campground that houses about 25-30 RVs. People come and go during the week based on when they are scheduled for service. At around 6AM every morning, the big bay doors open up and a bunch of service techs come out, knock on the RV doors and start writing up the service orders and driving the rigs into the service area. So you need to be up and ready to go at 6AM. Then at around 2PM, they start rolling the RVs out of the service area and back to the campsites. A couple of folks we met when we were there had to leave their rigs inside the service area for a couple of days. I was very impressed that Newmar picked up the tab to put them in a hotel during the time their rigs were tied up. One couple had two dogs with them and Dody helped find a bed and breakfast for them to stay at that allowed pets.
As for us, we started moving stuff into the motorhome from the Honda, as well as making multiple trips to the RVers favorite shopping place: WAL-MART, or Wally World as it's known in the RV community. We also had to have the Honda wired to be towed and have a tow bar installed on the Dutch Star. We had that done at Dan's Service Center in Elkhart, about 20 miles from Nappanee. They were very responsive to my calls requesting information about what/how/when to install the tow bar and felt comfortable they would do a good job. We were pleased with the installation, except for the wrong baseplate installed on the Honda. However, the service manager, Bob, said he would switch it out for the correct baseplate when we returned to the area in September.
Up to this point, we had been very pleased with both the buying experience and delivery experience. No major hassles and everything went rather smoothly. Now it was time to be on our own, driving a big rig down the highway and towing a vehicle behind it. Our first destination was back to Shepherdsville to visit for the weekend with Norm and Linda, but this time we had our home with us. We had a great time visiting with them on the way to and from the factory. Then it was back to the house in Atlanta to continue moving stuff. On the way home, we stopped at Camping World in Bowling Green to stock up on RV supplies and decided we would not finish the drive that day. We had seen a Wal-Mart Supercenter just off the interstate and decided we'd become full-fledged RVers and spend the night in a Wal-Mart parking lot. They are very RV friendly and, in almost all their stores, even encourage RVers to use their lots as an overnight stopping place. We got permission to park for the night and spent more money in their store, as well as ate dinner at a restaurant in the adjoining shopping center. When we went to bed, there were only a few cars in the lot. However, when we woke up, we were surrounded by 18-wheelers.
Diane and I took some time to drive our motorhome to Ocala for a visit with my mom before hitting the road full-time. However, my brother Charlie also retired from IBM this year (on May 31) and his wife, Shirley, and some neighbors planned a surprise party for him over Memorial Day Weekend. We had no plans to drive the motorhome down to South Florida (Boynton Beach), so we drove down in the CR-V for the party. It was well-planned and he ended up having no idea the party was for him. He and his wife are avid golfers and went to play golf that day. As far as he knew, he was going to the neighbor's house for a Memorial Day BBQ. He was very surprised, especially to see his mom, Diane and me. Charlie and I are only 16 months apart in age and we have been close all our lives. It's so great to be going into retirement at the same time.
We normally travel home from Ocala to Atlanta on a Sunday morning and drive straight through, which takes about six hours. Not this time. We allowed ourselves to take 4 1/2 DAYS to drive back to Atlanta. We stopped in Lake City, FL to visit with Diane's brother, Jerry, and his wife, Janet. We stayed at a campground just of I-75, Inn & Out RV Park that was perfect for us to visit with them.
Our next stop was Unadilla, GA where we stayed at the Southern Trails RV Resort. It's a Coast-to-Coast (C2C) park, so it only cost $6 per night. We stayed for two nights and spent one day finally going to see the Andersonville National Historic Site that houses the Andersonville Civil War Prison and the National Prisoner of War Museum. It was very interesting and moving to visit this place where some 45,000 Federal POWs suffered, and 13,000 died, during the Civil War. It was likewise moving to see the stories of POWs from past wars, including WW1, WW2, Korean War, Vietnam War.
Then it was back to the Atlanta area for the next three weeks, this time to park the motorhome in Jill's driveway in Douglasville. She has the perfect driveway to park a big motorhome, long and flat. Since it's only a short distance, I was able to go over to the Arrowhead Campground near Six Flags to use their dump station when the tanks were nearly full. We went back and forth to the house every day to continue emptying it out. You'd think we'd be done by now, right? Well, sort of. Here we are, two days from departure day, and we still don't have everything out of the garage. Thank goodness Jill is around and she will finish the job at her leisure, which includes bringing more stuff over to her place, and doing a couple of runs to the county dump.
What a job it has been to downsize. It is truly incredible what we collected over the years. It came down to some stuff where it wasn't so easy to decide whether to save or get rid of. We did move the den and eating area stuff to youngest son Henry's place one Saturday and that was like a catharsis because it really helped empty out some of the big items. Mostly it was all of the small stuff that was harder to decide what to do with, including what to do with the 40+ hours of videos we had from our six years traveling around the world when I was working. I decided to transfer all of the little tapes onto VHS tapes and take the copies with us on the road. The masters are packed up and will stay with Jill. But we managed to finally get everything done. I know that both of us will be very glad to be on the road and free of the house. Now if it would only sell quickly.
One of the last things we did before leaving Atlanta was to drive the motorhome over to where Diane and I used to work so some of our friends and ex-colleagues could visit with us one more time. So we parked it one lunchtime in a big empty parking lot near a Toys-R-Us that was convenient to both of our workplaces. It was nice to see some old friends stop by to see the motorhome and wish us well on our journeys, and we both appreciated that they took the time from their busy schedules to come over. Unfortunately, I did manage to lose and/or screw up a few photos, so I apologize here if you don't see a photo that you knew I took. I'm still practicing with the digital camera and the software to mess with the photos. Sigh.
Our plan was to have the house empty by July 1 and then spend the weekend with friends, and my brother and his wife, on Lake Oconee east of Atlanta. However, schedule conflicts resulted in those plans being canceled. Since it was too late to make other plans given the July 4th holiday weekend, we ended up relaxing our house-emptying schedule and finished over the long weekend. Actually, we ended up leaving some stuff in the garage destined for the dump and for Jill's house for sale or storage. She will move those out at her leisure. We had a great three weeks 'living' in Jill's driveway with much contact with the two older grandkids, April and Richard. We got to see the Chicken Run and Rocky and Bullwinkle movies with them, and we certainly went out to dinner a lot since no one wanted to cook after spending the days working at the house. The youngest of the five grandkids, Raven, also lives in Atlanta, and we (well, mostly Diane) got to babysit her a couple of times.
It seems like it has been a long time in coming since we decided in 1995 that summer of 2000 would be the target for full-timing. THE COUNTDOWN IS OVER!!!!! We have now officially started our RV full-time lifestyle. The first stop is Myrtle Beach to visit Diane's Aunt Gladys and Uncle Karl. We will be back in the Atlanta area in mid-October. Our plans between now and then include stops in VA (Shenandoah Valley); Wilkes-Barre, PA (high school friends); Endicott, NY (my uncle); the Hudson Valley (son, grandchild, Diane's sister, several friends); Pepperell, MA (high school friend); Boothbay, ME (ex-colleague); a weekend at the Brunswick NAS for the FMCA convention; Montreal; Toronto; Goshen, IN (Escapees Fall Escapade); Springfield, IL (high school friend); Dover, TN (ex-manager of mine); Gravette, AR (high school baseball coach); Livingston, TX (to look into becoming Texans); back to Atlanta. As you can see, most of the rest of the year will be spent visiting family and friends. After Diane gets back from Salt Lake City we will go to Ocala for Thanksgiving and then spend the winter in Florida. Then it will be out west in 2001.
You are welcome to follow along with us on our travels as I will update this site from time to time with a travelogue and photos. We are now on the road and hope to run into many of our email and bulletin board friends along the way. Until next time, take care.
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