Saturday, January 10, 2009

A fire full of Irons.

Busy, Busy, Busy.. is the only way I can describe the past few days. Between refilling propane tanks, heavily discussing future RVing issues (insurance, $$$$$, education, Post-Disney World plans), wrapping up once a year records and money movements, medical transition to medicare issues and cocka-poo coddling, a couple of days have just slipped away somewhere.

I am very glad that I bought 2 extra 40lb propane tanks a couple of months ago for about $75@. Taking 3 empty tanks in at one time got me a per gallon price of $61.20 for the 27.2 gallons it took to fill them. That's about $2.26/gal. The price would have been $22 per tank at the same place for less than 3 tanks. I periodically check LP prices around town and the next cheapest place was $2.99/gal so I figure I saved more than enough ($20 appx) to cover the cost of the gasoline to get there and back here. With that kind of savings I will have the 2 new tanks reimbursed in less than a year and I don't have to make the trip nearly as often, either.

BTW, a 40lb tank's capacity is 10 gallons (appx) but the OPD (Overfill Protection Device) only lets it fill to about 9.1 gallons when empty. In 2007 I had the 2 original (1999 vintage) tanks refurbished and recertified by having the complete OPD valve assembly replaced. The original valve stems were leaking and that was a lot worse than just a nuisance. It only cost me $18 per tank so it was cheap insurance against a more lethal nusiance.

Katie is back to her old self and doing well. We go back for a blood check next wednesday to see if she is ready for the surgery to fix her liver shunt. It sure is a relief to see her feeling better.

We are definitely heading down to SW florida after we leave Disney World in November. In searching for some satisfactory spots to stay it is turning out to be a lot more difficult than we originally expected. There are a lot more RV areas down there but a very large percentage of them are mobile home parks that accept RVs, too. This makes the pricing really skewed in most of them for the winter months (not that I expected anything different) and the RV sites are very often small with overgrown trees, low clearances and tight turns. Finding the right needle in that sewing box is going to take a lot more deep research than I was planning to spend right now to be sure we can get in during the "high season".

I was hoping to find a lot of personal references from fellow Escapees and the like but that is going to just take a lot of time reading individual posts in the appropriate forums.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Katie - the cocka-poo has a good prognosis!

Katie had her battery of tests yesterday and its now proven that she has a single liver shunt external to her liver so it will be easy to fix. The blood tests they did confirm that she was deteriorating rapidly from the same tests done in October. Many of her key factors were now seriously out of the normal range due to the failure of her liver and kidneys to function properly.

We have been assured that one the shunt is fixed she will stop having seizures because they are being caused by the abnormal buildup of ammonia in her bloodstream.

They gave us (well, we actually had to pay for them) 3 meds to start her on to prepare her for the surgery in two weeks. If all goes properly, she should have no more seizures nor have bladder control problems which has plagued us off and on.

My daughter, Carol, came over today to help me finish up translating my life to the 65 and older crowd. So much to do to get social security setup correctly and make the transition to a retirement pension from my company. Lots of T's and I's to be done correctly and still, they got my name wrong on the medicare card. Guess where they have been trying to save money has been on training of SS processors.

.. But I won't go there! Just suffice it to say that after 4 months of working on all of this, we are 2/3 of the way to completion.

I will say that one thing that caught me by surprise was when I found out that my $83,000 life insurance coverage from my company gets reduced to just $5,000 when I turn 65. That blindsided me, completely. Sure, they have a rollover program so I can pick the difference back up without having to take a medical exam but it will cost me $384 per month just to keep my life insurance. I have to explore other options... maybe AARP. I have heard that they have a fairly good program.

Merrily is out with the girls tonight to see a chick flick at the $1.50 theater over by the NCSU campus. I am very glad to go with her anytime she really wants to see something but our tastes in certain areas don't line up perfectly and its great that she is ok with not inviting me to certain events but goes with friends.

I, on the other hand, get leftover chinese sweet and sour shrimp (or something) for dinner. Yummo!

Monday, January 5, 2009

The initial Florida plans

Dates have been picked for our launch into full timing. Our intent is to be in Disney World for Merrily's birthday and get that free entrance ticket for the day. It's worth $75 in today's money. Of course, it means that actually being in the park for our anniversary and her birthday will not work..(well, it would work if we were willing to spend the money for an additional 6 days stay in Fort Wilderness Campground.)

Save a buck no matter how much it costs!!!????

Getting down there from Raleigh is what we are working on, now. We will probably swing through Jacksonville and St Augustine and see her brother and his family for a few days before getting to Disney. But there is some possibility that they might actually come down there and spend a few days in which case we may just go straight there from Raleigh. Meeting family is always more complicated for some reason but the payoffs are usually the best.We always have such a good time when we get together and laugh so much that our sides ache by the time we part company.

Next, is nailing down where we would like to go after Disney. Independently, we preferred to go down near Ft Myers area for awhile so we were in perfect accord when it was first mentioned (have I mentioned that I LOVE this woman?). How long? Who knows... who cares....? It's just that we have heard that going there in the December - February time frame usually needs some solid reservations if we are going to be particular about where we stay.

For quite a long time I have suspected that this planning process is a lot easier for those with some experience in full timing, at least it sounds like that from the many forum posts I have read. I can only surmise that it must be due to how much the lack of personal experience on our part causes a lot of "over-think" in the planning stages.

Merrily is still thinking about getting her Commercial Driver License so we will have the option of making a little money on the road if the circumstances permit. The classes here are a very tough 8 weeks at the NC Truck Driver Training Class but one leaves it with a confidence and capability only matched by a few of the best schools in the country.

Katie the "poo" had another seizure this afternoon. It's a good thing we are taking her in to be evaluated tomorrow at the NCSU Vet School. I sure hope they can quickly find exactly what is wrong and fix it permanently. She is so pathetic when struggling just to breathe and I am sure that the intense muscle spasms must hurt, too.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

2008 is all over but the cleanup

Friday was a wet, cold, day with too much time between things of interest. Katie the cocka-poo has been having a bit of a renal problem during sleep so we took her in to the vet. Since she also has seizures that seem to be due to a liver shunt problem, we scheduled an appt with the NCSU Vet school to have her evaluated for treatment.

A liver shunt is a growth problem in some animals. Before birth, the waste byproducts that are carried in the bloodstream of the unborn, are passed back to the mother's blood system via the umbilical cord. To facilitate this, much of the blood bypasses the liver by way of one or more arteries that allow the blood to go directly to the placenta.

About the time of birth, these shunts normally close down and force the blood to be processed by the now, well developed liver. Occasionally, these shunts do not close up completely and keep allowing waste carrying blood to bypass the liver and continue circulating in the new born.

The fix is to find where these are, usually with an ultrasound scan and possibly a radiographic CT scan, and then surgically close them off so the liver can do a complete job.

This was probably more than you really wanted to know about Shunts and seizures but we are living it daily so its in here. Seizures are only the tip of the iceberg and if nothing is done, liver and kidney failure will eventually result along with a host of other very unpleasant side effects and discomforts to the animal. We are now pretty sure that this is why we found Katie in a rescue program.

The post Christmas take-down/put away effort happened, also. Normally, our Christmas decorations stay up a long time. Its not unusual to see twinkle lights on in February but this year, DakotR is so kind to us that it takes very few decorations to make it festive looking. I realized after it was over that maybe the reason that we have always left the decorations up is because it has always been such a chore to get started on in the stix and brix house. Here, 15 minutes and the whole job is done and out of sight without any stepladders, extension cords or angst... one more plus for the Full time lifestyle!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!!!! Wahoo!!!!!!

What else can one say, today? Its a tradition just like over eating on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New years day and if one does not do it I am certain that the bad luck fairies will make me pay the rest of the year.

Last night was very nice, though Merrily was a little uncomfortable with some bug she is fighting. We were invited to celebrate with 3 different families but chose to stay tucked into DakotR rather than go out and test Murphy's law on the roads on New Year's eve.

The night did start with a nice but early dinner at Lonestar, except for the choking tobacco smoke from someone over in the smoking section or the bar. Never could tell exactly where it was originating.

We split a good Margarita and had very good and lean San Antonio 8oz steaks with a lettuce wedge covered in blue cheese crumbles and Italian and blue cheese dressings on the side. It jumpstarted the evening nicely.

Back at home, we caught up on a few TiVOd shows and then caught the last 5 minutes of Carson Daly's New Years celebration... that was enough of that. Bedtime then followed immediately.

I guess this is what happens when one chooses to have New Year's at home, alone. To be honest, Merrily makes each day a new experience for me so the common New Year's eve just pales by comparison and holds only slight interest for me.

Still, tradition dictates that I sincerely wish all that read this a very Happy New Year. I know it will be so for us.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tues - Just idling today

Still recuperating from the sofa exorcism on Sunday. I should have gotten DakotR cleaned up by now but still doing light work... like opening and sorting paperwork and bills. Lots of backlogged stuff there.

I made up a couple of bank deposits from checks I found in unopened mail and dropped them into the night depository. I really hate to have to go into a bank (or credit union) and deal with tellers if I can avoid it. Maybe it's something about the fact that I always seem to be taking money in and not bringing anything out but a receipt. Just rubs me the wrong way. The night depository gets it in there, fairly invisibly, so I don't really see it leave my hands.

But, I LOVE ATMs. There, I stick in a piece of plastic, which I get back (most of the time), and I not only get a receipt but I get real money to walk away with in my hand.... Now that is a real joy!

But I digress.. I did finish opening all of the unopened mail (whoopee!) and the kitchen table is now out of service until I get it all put away... somewhere. This is one thing about living in 400 sq feet... there is no "tuck" room. If I have something in my hand it has to have a place to go or go out... no other choices are available. I know that over the years a have seen a lot of RVers with a small enclosed trailer behind and the fun side of me always believed it was their "toys".

Now, I am not so sure. I suspect it was "the annex" for all the stuff that had no place to go inside the RV. So far, I have no annex but I am becoming more creative at creating virtual space inside, slowly soaking up the spaces right below shelves but above what is on the shelf below and finding unused narrow spaces between things that I never really noticed before. I am sure glad I have about 5,000 lbs of carrying capacity in DakotR. As of my last weigh-in, I am still about 1500 lbs shy of that GVWR so I am cautious but not concerned... yet.

On New years Eve (tomorrow) #2 son, Emery, has offered to help me trench in a 220 Volt underground line to the Garage so I can get a more permanent RV hookup installed. Also we will be burying a frost proof garden valve and a 3/4" waterline will be run from the house. The sewer has been in for several years so getting these two items underground will make it a lot easier when we are "docked" here at the house for visits until we sell it. Right now, it is still being rented.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Getting Ducks in a row is not easy

The most important item today is that it is #2 son's 27th birthday!

Happy Birthday, Emery!!!!

Today is also the first day back to work for Merrily after Christmas break.. Who would have thought that just 4 days away (two, actually) would make such a big impression? Now that we are committed to the road this year, a 4 day weekend is a really big deal. It gives us 4 days together to plan, think, procrastinate then think again and in general, focus on how much our life is now changing.

As for me, I am just tired and sore. Yesterday, #1 son came over and we took the sofa bed out of DakotR and put it in his house. Putting it into his house was the easy part. Getting it out of DakotR was the challenge.

We first tried the doorway but no amount of pushing, twisting or holding my tongue just right would quite get it through the doorway. The next approach (which someone mentioned on the escapees forums ) was to try the big emergency window in the living room.

The measurements said it would work easily but the 10' drop to the ground outside the window made it too dicey to try.... so back to the main door.

Only 2500 screws later, the frame was out of the opening and the sofa squeaked through with molecules to spare.... but it went through.... Oh, did I mention that we took the whole steel mechanism out of it to lighten it up... a lot? Worth the trouble for sure.

Today, I had a followup appointment with my endocrinologist to see if we could find a better approach (read that as: effective approach) to better manage my glucose and Blood Pressure. I am not a stroke waiting to happen but I am 65 in a couple of weeks and I don't believe in baiting the bear.

This about wraps up my medical preparations and baselines for future reference. Merrily just finished hers this morning with flying colors so that is one more item of concern off of our "but what if" list.

Tomorrow is all trash day around here so I need to offload our weekly collection of trash and newpapers into the street cans for the morning pickup. TTFN

Sunday, December 28, 2008

After the Aftermath

The end of this year is also marking the end of some others, too. It is good that we had such a wonderful and fulfilled Christmas because we are now in need of some fond memories to deal with reality.

The first to go was my daughter's Mother-in-Law. Around midnight (depending on time zones) she crossed over after being non-responsive for several days. She has been seriously impaired for quite a few months so the event was not unexpected.

On 12/19 My wife's sister had a stroke and has been declining ever since. At present, she has lost the use of her right hand and general tone of her whole right side is slipping. We are still waiting on test results to see what are the next steps.

We are just peddling along right now waiting to see how far this goes and what the outcomes are.

As for Merrily and Me, this is a downer but not an "out-er" for our plans... at least not yet. We certainly have our work cut out for our patience rock....

Friday, December 26, 2008

The day after-Math

The day after Christmas has always been so hectic. So much to do... so little time left in the year to get it done. Boy! Now I kinda wish it was only September....

But not this year. For some reason we cruised into Christmas well prepared and on time. It was surprisingly nice not to be hosting Christmas day for the first time in our 30 years of marriage... We left that up to the "kids".

Between invites by 2 of our kids and an inlaw invitation for Christmas evening with their family (and its a lot of them), we only had to be sure we didn't overlap too much. Boy was it a surprise and a delight to have had the benefit of family for a day and not have to do all the prep and cleanup.

Not that its ever been a resented chore to hold Christmas court at our house.. its just nice to still have the day without the chores.

Ok, so now what's next?.... Its time for the Charge of the Lite Brigade. January begins our assault on our abundance.... actually, more like superabundance but this time, the weight is coming off and the rest of our lives will be slim and trim. That's a fact.

We have decided for this phase to focus on Atkins and not get confused by all of the spinoffs of the basic principals. We have both had successes on this system and know it will work for each of us so we can engage together and helpfully support each other. High goals, I know, but this time the rest of our life together is riding on it working and its hard to find much better motivation than that.

My Christmas gift to Merrily (besides the new kitchen sink and faucet) is starting sessions at Fred Astaire. We have played with the idea of taking dance lessons (old fogey style, of course) for years but have never gotten started. So, now its a commitment. Did Dancing with the Stars have much to do with it? Sure, but the time has come. Now that we are hitting the road in 2009, we need better social skills and an opportunities and couple's dancing has been on the back burner for a lot of years so Here we go!!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

And the Children were nestled all snug in their bunks?

Its Christmas eve and getting later by the minute. The last Christmas gifts have been dropped off in discrete places at the children's houses (in automobile trunks, coat closets,etc).. for their children's delight tomorrow morning.

Ma is putting the finishing touches on tomorrow's contribution to the newest inlaws Christmas family dinner and me, well, I am just glad that I was able to do my part this year. Wasn't always that way for a long time.

So, to indelibly mark this evening as the first (ever?) with no single children of our own in house I thought I would recite my parody of "The Night before Christmas", gleefully written when I was in the 7th or 8th grade. In a way, its something of a time capsule because it was penned at the very beginning of the space age, around 1957. Sputnik was up and rocket science was the new standard of intelligence.

Twas the night before Christmas and all through our hut
nothing was stirring not even the mutt.

The longjohns were carelessly hung in despair
for the dog on the floor wouldn't let Santa in there.

Ma in her kerchief and I in my robe
had just settled our ears for a long winter's lobe

The children were nestled all snug in their bunks
and the guy on the bottom had the hiccups.

Then suddenly outside a loud noise made no sense
But I knew in a moment Santa had run through our fence.

Away to the window I flew like a flash
Tripped on a shoe and sailed through the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow
gave a luster of midday to my body below.

Then just as I dragged myself up from the snow
what in the world do you think would show?

but a miniature Vangard to Santa had been sold
(For his reindeer, poor things, had a cold)

Away to the roof top he blasted away
and tore through my gutter in his own reckless way.

Then up on the rooftop I heard Santa yell and down the chimney he fell
(The chimney was dirty and needed a cleaning so I left the broom there with no harmful meaning)

Up in the chimney there came such a rumbling
and out on the floor Santa came tumbling.

He was so round and so quick
I thought for a moment it must be Sputnik.

He spoke not a word but went straight to his work,
filled all the longjohns then turned with a jerk.

At last over in the fireplace Santa Clause knelt
and turned the knob on his gravity belt.

Again on the roof top I heard Santa yell
(The broom tripped him again and down he fell).

But I heard him shout as he shot out of sight
Merry Christmas to all on this dangerous night.


...and so it begins.......

Its Christmas Eve and this marks our second Christmas in Dakotr (more on Dakotr, later ). Suffice it to say that it does not seem like 12 months have passed and yet, such a lot has happened so I guess it has.

I think this marks the first time we (Merrily and I) have actually set both a date and a plan of action to get on the road. Up until now, we have set several dates ... and missed them royally and had a few plans that were "interesting" but not really worked on or worked out.

Now, we have both. The magic date is October 30th, 2009. That marks the day that we will get the "other foot" off of the dock and into the boat and officially be "on the road". Up until now, we have been playing at various parts of this transition such as living in a smaller space in the stix and brix, living in DakotR but not LIVING in it (still depending on a lot of stuff and spaces in the HOUSE) and often pretending we were not still parked in our driveway.

So what makes October 30 so special and so, .. so.... Right!? Well, it marks our 30th wedding anniversary and just like the original, it is only fitting that it also marks a new beginning in a different lifestyle and environments.

I want to say up front that were it not for Merrily, I would not be here right now to be writing about this... I would be Bantha fodder somewhere making flowers happy. She has been more than I ever imagined a companion, wife and best friend could ever be. She has the patience of marble, the conviction of Ghandi and the promise of heaven... and I have been so unbelievably fortunate to be able to spend these fleeting 30 years in her presence and care. It just cannot get better than this. Thank you my love.

So much for the dedication phase of this blog (gosh, I still hate that word!) and now for the inspirational parts...