Where did all this stuff come from?

First, let me say that retiring was like having a big load lifted off my shoulders. There are absolutely no pressures. When I had to get one of the cars serviced, it was the first time I can remember not having to worry about who would I call to pick me up and take me to work, and who would I get to take me back to the shop to pick up the car. This time it was so relaxed that I thought I was dreaming. I just kind of moseyed over to Goodyear about when they opened, gave them the work order and left the car. Then I walked over to the Publix market, got a cup of their free coffee, bought a USA Today, and parked myself at a table in a very empty cafeteria section to drink my coffee and read my paper. When I finished the paper, I read a magazine. I could see the Goodyear bays and my car. I saw them finish up the car and put it back out in the lot, but I decided I wanted another cup of coffee. Finally, I moseyed back over to Goodyear to pick up my car and go home. As I said, no pressures.

That same thing happened when I took the Honda in for an oil change. I had just gotten my second cup of coffee when they announced it was finished. Hec I said, I just got a cup of coffee. The lady at the front desk said to go drink my coffee and come up when I was ready. In the work world, I would have dumped that coffee, paid the bill, and rushed into work. This retirement thing is pretty good.

So where are we with our motorhome plans? Our first order of business was to make plans to go to Harlingen, TX, way in the south near the Mexican border. Last year there was a joke on the RVAMERICA bulletin board that it would be nice to have a Y2K Party sometime after the real thing was over. The joke grew and grew and grew, and before long, some folks actually organized what came to be known as the Rally in the Valley (Harlingen is in a valley, although there are no mountains around to create a valley, so I'm not sure about the name). A total of 65 RVs, with some 130 people, signed up for the party. Diane and I decided we wanted to go meet the people from the bulletin board, so we flew out for the week. It was great to put faces with names and everyone had a great time. I sign my posts on the BB as I do my email, with "Peace". When I met one guy, the first thing he said was "Oh, you're the 'peace' guy".  ;-)

One day included a trip to Progresso, Mexico. We parked on the US side and walked across the bridge over the Rio Grande into Mexico. As you might imagine, it was a town that consisted of stores and restaurants.  In addition to these, there were more dentists and pharmacies per capita than one would expect. It turns out many snowbirds who are in Texas for the winter go to Mexico for cheap dental care, as well as cheap prescriptions, including some medicines that can be bought over the counter. For example, there were signs in many pharmacy windows pushing Viagra over the counter ($7.50 for one small pill; $10.50 for one big pill). No, I didn't buy any. We spent the better part of the day there and had a grand time. The week didn't help me with my goal to lose weight and inches put on during the past couple of work years.

I even got to play golf one day with three other guys. That was a real treat because I have never played in wind as strong as it is down there. The awnings on RVs remained rolled up because the wind is sometimes so bad in Texas. On some nights, folks even brought their slideout walls in because it was so windy.

Diane and I took a ride to South Padre Island one day. We have never driven out onto a beach before. There must have been 30-40 RVs parked out on the beach. What a life.

It was a great week with some great folks. We were the only ones there without an RV. At the BBQ on the last evening, we even got a small gift for being willing to come to the party even though we weren't yet officially part of the RV community. RVers are great folks.

Before and after the week in Texas we have been working at downsizing the house. Actually, I have been doing it so far since Diane is still working so she can keep me in the life to which I was accustomed. I have been throwing away an incredible amount of stuff in large garbage bags. Bag after bag after bag. It is such catharsis to get rid of so much junk, although I can see why people would hire a junk removal service to help make quicker work of it all.  All I could think of was WHERE DID ALL THIS STUFF COME FROM??? It's amazing the junk we accumulate over the years. Everything we own will go into one of four categories: GIVE AWAY....THROW AWAY....SELL....STORE. The goal is to store VERY LITTLE. Of course, we will keep photos and all of our souvenirs from the places we have visited around the world. Our oldest daughter, Jill, will hold onto stuff we want to store. As I tell people, should Diane and I ever decide to grow up and buy a house again, we'll get them back from Jill.

It is a little tough, though, to part with some items. I came across some items from past work assignments, like the certificates for the four Systems Engineering Conferences I attended, and photos from my years in the Miami branch (one of my favorite times), and plaques, and notes, etc. I chucked the plaques and notes. Still have the photos.  They are a little harder to part with. So maybe they will go into the STORE category. Being a nostalgic, I figure I need something to look at when I'm 95 and thinking back on my life.

Now Diane is another case altogether and that may have to do with the fact she is female. She has closets full of clothes. So, I ask, what's the problem? Just take what you need and give the rest away. Well, I can see that's not so easy for her. It appears that clothes are not just clothes. Many of the items have sentimental value. I didn't ask why. I thought it best to let her deal with what she has to give up.

As for me, clothes are not an issue. Those of you who knew me from work know that I always hated wearing suits and ties and usually went without a tie. All I need for the RV lifestyle is cutoff jeans, regular jeans, lots of T-shirts, henleys for cool weather, a couple of flannel shirts.  Oh, and one suit, dress shirt, and tie that I'll save for funerals and weddings. And I may have to make a concession and take along a pair of nice slacks, nice shorts, and golf shirts for those times I may find myself wanting to go into the country club environment.

We knew we wanted to go to Nappanee, IN to tour the Newmar factory before placing an order. We also knew that we had some potential conflicts with just when we would get on the road because there were two events in July that were committed. First, we plan to go to some friends new house on Lake Oconee, which is east of Atlanta, over the July 4th weekend to visit and play golf for three days. Willis and Devin got married a few years ago. She was my manager for a while and Willis was a golfing buddy. Their dream was to retire to lakefront property and they found their dream property on Lake Oconee. We have only seen photos of the house, but it looks beautiful and we can't wait to visit them at Foxglove, which is what they have named their place. I have played golf out there, and I have been water skiing on the lake, and I can vouch that the area around Lake Oconee is quite beautiful.

The other commitment was for Diane to use our time share to visit with a friend who will also be in the Shenendoah Valley in Virginia. But we got a break in March. It looked liked the weather would be great in the mid-west for several days, so we made an impromptu decision to drive up on a Saturday and Sunday for a tour on Monday. We had a great 3-hour personal tour of the factory followed by lunch. Then we went back and spent another 1 1/2 hours reviewing the options available on the motorhome and picking our fabrics. Each day takes us closer to our dream.

The factory tour was great. It was me and Diane and another couple from Austin that I met from the bulletin board and are also planning to order a Dutch Star. He is a retired IBMer (Frank Caldarola) who is working as a contractor, but also plans to pack it in and full-time later this year. We had a 3-hour personal tour. After lunch, we spent another 1 1/2 hours picking out fabrics for the furniture. It's really amazing to watch these behemoths being put together. They all start with nothing but a chassis, and it is a hoot to watch them driving chassis around the lot with nothing but an engine and steering wheel, no body. Napannee is Amish country and many of the workers in the Newmar factory are Amish or Mennonite. They are known for their work ethic and quality products.

A highlight of this trip for me was a side trip to South Bend to the Notre Dame campus. That was a lifelong dream fulfilled. The weather over the weekend we were in Indiana was beautiful, 60s and 70s. What luck. The day we visited Notre Dame, the weather was sunny and warm. We went to see the basilica and then to the grotto. On the way back to the car we walked across more of the campus. Since it was a great day, there were lots of students out on the lawn area, infected with spring fever no doubt. I went to a small college and can only imagine what it must be like to attend a big school such as Notre Dame. I hope the kids that have the opportunity to attend such a school appreciate what they have.

It is now the end of March and two guys have finished their third week of working on the outside and inside of our house getting it ready to put on the market. It takes a long time to paint a big house and it's worth every penny I am paying them. There is no way I would be up on a 40' ladder, not even in my youth.

Well, the Dutch Star has been ordered. We ordered it last week and we should be picking it up at the factory sometime around May 15. It's probably possible to pick it up in April, but we have way too much going on in April with garage sales and downsizing this house, so we told them May 15 is a better date. We ordered the 38' model with a slide out living and dining area. It's called a diesel pusher because the engine is diesel and is in the rear of the rig. We opted for the Sahara Green graphics and Rainforest interior as a base. However, we did some mixing and matching with the Pale Amber interior (e.g., beige carpet instead of green) so the cherry cabinets wouldn't make the interior too dark.

We finally bought a digital camera this past week, so I am getting closer to thinking about creating a web site for our upcoming RV adventures. We already have a domain name reserved. It fits how we see the lifestyle on which we are about to embark: www.roamingamerica.com.  I'll let you know when it's up. It may be a while because there is a lot left to do before getting on the road. So just to show you that it works and I know how to use the thing, here are three photos of our yard with azaleas in full bloom.

By the time I send out another note (probably at the end of June), we should have taken delivery of the motorhome and driven it back to Atlanta. Until then, take care and wish us luck with the rest of our efforts to get rid of our stuff and sell the house.

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