Sunday, February 15, 2009

Closure…. a good thing to have around.

Saturday marked the end of all of the unexpected work necessary to get Merrily’s sister’s stuff “handled” since her last stroke. It has taken big chunks of the past 2 weeks to get the contents of the apartment catalogued, sorted, filtered and disposed of. Thanks to daughters Carol and Shawna helping out and Carol’s cosmic gift for organizing, it is done.

What is amazing is that the total contents that barely fit into a 3 bedroom 2 story apartment (with 2 of the bedrooms being totally dedicated to just storage) have been pared down to a single 5’x10’ storage unit, Wahoo! I have to say I had my doubts so its really exciting that it has actually been accomplished.

Carol offered to handle the marketing of the items that were earmarked to be sold. She has already collected more than $200 in just a couple of days of being listed on Craigslist. Other items are now staged for a yard sale that daughter #3, Christi, will be ramrodding in a few weeks. Gosh! Its really great to have family members that are willing to share the work to get unpleasant but necessary work accomplished.  I am so proud of every one of them in this untimely effort.

Saturday morning started with Merrily driving up in a 24’ rental box truck at 8:30am. She looked right at home behind that wheel so despite some of her qualms about driving Clifford, I have no doubt she will be excellent at it. She just needs to remember to put her red bandanna on her head Rambo-Style and zip up her lucky blue jeans and she will be golden. I intended to catch a picture or two of her in her “working clothes” but she got out of here too fast Saturday morning and as tired as she was at the end of the afternoon I just didn’t have the heart to call out “say cheese” to her.  Maybe another time.

It was very nice that the weather cooperated so well. It was a beautiful day with no rain, cool with slight breezes and a hint of spring in the air. It made it much easier to do the work but also made one more aware of how they would rather have been spending the day.

The Workamper University Webinar session #3 was Saturday evening at 8pm.  After rebooting the system (everybody has to do this once in awhile, don’t they?) I brought up the website, joined the session (now in progress) and dialed the WebEx phone number for the audio participation. The main topic was about creating resume’s that are tailored to a specific available workamping job. 

Pretty good session and among the things we learned about creating a resume for workamping jobs is that they are a bit different from the typically staid format and content of those targeting “regular” jobs.

For one thing, its ok to put in a picture of your RV and maybe yourself. Many workamping employers ask to see what you and your rig look like.

Another is supplying a URL to additional online content about yourself.  This gave me an idea for some more content to our website.  I am thinking of creating a specific page for each of us to showcase the lesser items of our skill sets, hobbies, preferences and such that would just not fit comfortably in a single page resume’.  Employers that are interested in that kind of information about us can go there to see it and the rest don’t have to be bothered with the information.

Well, I guess its time to pay some attention to my drooping eyelids and close for tonight.


Friday, February 13, 2009

The hurrier I go …. the behinder I get….

So here it is Friday the 13th and I just caught on.  First, notice the time (EST).  I have been to bed twice but not to sleep so I guess now is as good a time as any to catch up a bit.

In so doing I warn you up front that this will be a longer post as a lot has happened in the past 6 days since my last post.

This week has slipped past us in a blur of personal discomfort, appointments with doctors and dentists, Katie seizures and the organized dismantling of my sister-in-law’s apartment contents in preparation for their disposal on Saturday. Oh.. and also in a criminal run of unbelievably beautiful weather for here or most any place else. Highs in the 60s, lows in the 50s and mostly clear sunny days with full moon nights so brilliant and clear that I just know they must have been generated on a computer.  They just don’t come like that around here.

Any one of these nights I would have been happy to just throw a sleeping bag on the ground out in an open field to cuddle into until dawn.

In the workamping arena it appears to have been a very good thing that Jaime was busy at Nick Russell’s Gypsy Gathering rally last Saturday and could not teach the third webinar class session of Workamping 101 since we could not possibly have gotten the homework done in time.  Actually, we may not have it done in time for this coming Saturday’s class what with all of the mandatory stuff going on around here this week, too.

However, in case our instructor, Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak (look under Workampers.. then Workamper University), should stumble upon this blog (I still hate that word) I will promise to have it done in time for Saturday night’s class (even though right now I really don’t know how).

On the Katie the Poo front, she just had another seizure tonight. This one was about 12:04am, which is pretty early for these.  I am very sure that it was brought on by the shock of her falling out of the bed onto the hard floor while she was sleeping. It took her a few seconds to get up and then to get back in the bed and snuggle up close to me but she was trembling and I could tell she was starting to seize.

I just gathered her in a comforting bundle up close to me and held her through it. The main part lasted about 4 minutes with a 15 or 20 second period of rigor and the rest was just the shakes and hard breathing.

Once it was past, I got up to get her some “comfort food” (actually small pieces of apple which we keep for treats). She was still pretty wobbly  so I rocked her for a few minutes in my recliner and realized that she was still pretty hot. Since a part of the whole “kindling” aspect to growing seizures is elevated core temperatures I took her outside where it was a nice 55 degrees.

She quickly took care of some hygiene duties and then we took a walk up the street in the moonlight for a few blocks. By the time we returned she was fine and went straight to bed and to sleep.

To me, she is definitely getting better. The seizures are gradually becoming slighter and shorter in duration but we still can’t have any expectations of their permanent cessation for another 5 months or so.

Meanwhile, I am back up because I torqued my back when I nearly fell while carrying her down the steps to go outside. I normally let her walk but she was still wobbly and I didn’t want to risk her falling and triggering another seizure from the shock. Boy! If I had fallen carrying her down the steps, Merrily would have had a seizure. Now she is fine, though, and I am the one trying to settle my body enough to go back to bed.

On the issues of preparing for our departure it has occurred to me that with all of the mapping and trip planning software and tools there are around me, there just does not seem to be anything that helps us make the choice of where to go “next”.

I have to confess that this is not something that comes easy for either of us. There have been plenty of times we have gotten in the car to go to dinner, backed out to the end of the driveway and  then just sat there because we could not decide where to go. Flipping a coin won’t work if there are more than two choices and I refuse to start reading tea leaves, throwing small animal bones to read our destiny or consulting astrological charts to decide whether to turn right or left.

I just assume that for most people, they would not get into the car until they have decided where they are going. For some reason, for us, it takes the pressure of sitting there at the end of the driveway with the motor running and the neighbors looking out their windows and probably thinking “there go the two most indecisive people in the neighborhood….. if they actually GO this time”.

It has become very clear to both of us that we don’t want the certain embarrassment  to be all hooked up in full travel mode sitting at the end of the campground driveway trying to decide where we are going to go, next. To try to prevent this I have started working up an outline of a process to help us pull together the necessary information and perspective prior to starting any engines to make this part of our travels more of a cookbook process. We will see if I can come up with something useful or be stymied by my natural OCD and get lost somewhere in the project.

See, I told you it was going to be a long one.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Hark! The weekend approach-eth!

There is nothing quite so refreshing to me as a nice weekend looming large in the front view mirror of my week. By contrast, Mondays and Tuesdays are just big stumbling blocks to getting the week started.

By Wednesday I have realized that Monday’s stuff is still waiting to be done and that tomorrow is Thursday, already, so its time to get it in gear and just get it done before I have to waste glorious weekend time doing week day stuff.

But Friday morning is all about getting to Friday evening and the weekend. For some reason, what would have taken me hours to get done on Tuesday is a matter of minutes on Friday. Even the leftover Thursday trash work is dispatched with a wave of the magic weekend wand.  I guess that I don’t want anything hanging over our heads for our “together time” during the weekend (Merrily and Me, that is).

My oh my, why wasn’t I born filthy rich instead of so damn good looking?

I did get in a little more testing of the Roadrunner Turbo speed service on Friday.  Maybe its not quite as useless as I first thought. I may have had greater expectations than common sense but I really wanted to be blown away for $9.95 more per month and wasn’t.

I also discovered that my subscription to was not automatically renewed due to my not having updated my credit card info on their site.  I don’t use it much anymore and may just let it go as a $$ wash for the higher speed RR “turbo-ish” internet service.

We’ll see.  I had about 500 gigs of download credits there and can pick them back up if I renew in the next few months. I just don’t find that much useful stuff up there in the news groups anymore and they have become real mine fields of trojans, viruses and worms… oh my!

Katie (the poo) continues to do well. I have adjusted her evening meds to make it so that she gets the Kepra right before bedtime. Maybe that will last enough to get her through the AM hours before breakfast where she seems to have the most seizures since her surgery.  Her attitude has been wonderful and other than occasionally abusing her power of the leash (she goes over and taps the leash when she wants to go out side), she has been perfect in every way.

We are trying to work out plans for a trip about March something or other.  Merrily wants to take a whole week and the two weekends to do it.  We are considering the Charleston area right now.  Maybe her brother and his wife will come up for a few days while we are there.

No update on our Smart car. Still expecting it on 2/18 but we have realized that it will have to be named just like Clifford and DakotR.  It has to be something that will fit on a license plate and not tooooo cute but clever. So far we have $mart A$$, Smartipi and Bitsey.

I am planning to go down to see my Mom once we have it delivered and road tested a bit. I doubt I will be able to get the loader built and installed before we take the March trip but who knows… might happen.

#1 son, Smith is home from the road for a few days. You can see more of his life in his blog . Besides being an over the road professional driver he loves trains and model railroading. He covers both in his blogs and on the Wilson Area Railroad Modelers website. They even have a few channels of video feeds available to watch live operating sessions on the weekends. Its quite a hobby.

Everyone else is off into their lives and being happy.  A parent can’t ask for more than that.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ok, spin the wheel of seasons… and today we have…. Winter again…?

So, let’s see what season it is…. Hi=71, LO= 52, Hi=32, LO=16, HI=64, LO=32…..  any guesses?….. anyone?

Me either.  My dogs are so confused they are shedding profusely while growing both summer and winter coats at the same time.

Snow the past 2 nights. Tonight clear and 16 and Saturday and Sunday will be about 68. I feel like a popsicle in a worn out old freezer.

On a more stable note, Emery and Christi got their pantry emptied of a collection of the past 20+ years and have it spread out in one of the empty bedrooms for me to go though before it gets pitched out.

Every day makes the house more theirs than ours and that is great.  I feel the burdens of years of accumulation gradually melting away. It is wonderful!

Randy was telling me how great Roadrunner Turbo mode is supposed to be. Presently, I get about 6 megabit download data rates and 350kb upload data rates.  Turbo is supposed to get me from 10 to 20mbit down and up to 500kbps upload rates.  What didn’t become apparent in this is that these seemingly wonderful performance goals are targeted only for gamers and really high large file downloaders. The average run of the mill web surfer, emailer, IM user and such will not see any noticeable improvement in web performance.

I still decided I had to know if it would be worth another $10/month to me so I turned it on yesterday.  First glitch was that they could not turn it on until I went down to their store and picked up one of the cable modems that Time Warner uses.  So I went down town, got the new cable modem, returned home, installed it and proceeded to see pretty much what I have been seeing all along in performance.

That is when I found out from their tech support about the performance improvements were only going to be useful to the gamers and big downloaders. humpf!  Well, I have 30 days to try it and then if I don’t think its worth it I can drop it for free.

Today, I have been too busy with non-internet stuff so I have not been able to really wring it out like I wanted but maybe tomorrow….

Meanwhile, I am still fighting the increasing struggles with the whole userid and password jungle.  Now that more and more checking and restricting is being done to make passwords more secure and less vulnerable to hacking or cracking, it is getting harder to just login.. anywhere!

I have over 800 userids with passwords that I use. It is impossible to make them all unique and still be able to remember them.  Heck, its impossible for me to remember any of them.  Then you get the sites that require you to change your password every so many days to a new one that has not been used before and pretty soon one has no clue what a password might be.

I have complained before about getting over 500 emails a day of which maybe 1% or less is not spam. Now, I have to ask for a forgotten password every time I try to logon to a website I have not visited today and I am getting more and more frustrated.

Sure, I have password managers that keep them all very secure but again, the increasing security blocks these from working so to even use them I have to manually open each one in the PW manager and edit it to see what my password is right now and then manually type it into the security prompt for that site.  That is bad enough but on the back side I have to manually maintain these passwords in the PW manager every time one must be changed due to the logon restrictions on the site. It’s impossible to keep it all straight and as soon as a couple of mistakes creep into the database, they all become suspect. 

This difficulty factor is doubled when they block the password you type in so you can’t see what you typed. Sure, I make typos just like everyone else so when it rejects my password I don’t know if I mistyped it, miscopied it from the PW Manager or have changed it on the site and now the PW manager does not have the correct current PW in it. To straighten this out I have to go to the site, say I lost my Password, get it mailed to me (or a new one if they only offer a reset function) then login to the site with the new one and also make sure to up date the PW in the PW manager for this site and all other occurrences of it (yes, there may be multiple PW entries in the PW manager due to different entry points to the site. Each will have a PW manager entry with userid, password and URL.  All have to be found and changed manually.

By now, I have totally forgotten why I needed to get into that site.

The only defense against this is to make the logon on all your sites use the same userid and PW. This, of course, makes it so unsecure that the web sites have to add additional complexity in the form of questions that you have to answer AFTER you have entered your userid and password. The questions change and are different from site to site so there goes the one userid and password workaround!

I have run into some of these types of sites that do not have any questions that I could supply an answer to that I would be able to remember a consistent answer to in 3 months. Other questions have no answer possible for me. One such example is “what is your mother’s middle name?”  My mother was never given a middle name.

The only common questions everyone already knows, like “your mother’s maiden name”, “your date of birth”, your high school mascot”  (heck, that was 50 years ago.. I barely remember the name of the school).

So, there you have it… Clearly, the more secure they try to make the logon process the more complex it becomes and the more complex it becomes the more people try to simplify it to keep it usable and that undermines the very security that was being attempted by the process.  Really dumb approach to security.  Like putting more padlocks on a wooden locker. If I can pick one I can pick them all or I will just bust the hinges.

The only people that are being blocked from getting into their accounts are the people whose accounts they belong to.

Enough of the rant.

Obviously, I am not in the middle of my happy place tonight so I will say TTFN until tomorrow.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Surprising Weekend

Whether one is a super bowl fan or not is irrelevant this weekend because it is going to be rubbed in your face until its over… and then they will rub it some more just to be sure everyone gets the point…

We do watch it, usually on ReplayTV so we don’t have to sit through all the dead air jibber-jabber time. We just skip to the next play action and go ahead.  This year, #3 son, Randy and his wife had just moved into their new house the day before and really wanted to share it and their new HD TV with us so who was I to turn down a free meal and a great visual experience.

Interesting game. At one time I was something of a Steelers fan (during Terry Bradshaw’s days) but I just wanted to see an unusually good game and I did. I would just as soon have skipped the half-time show but Merrily is a Boss fan so we watched it.

Still on our minds, though, was that our beloved Katie was spending another weekend in the vet hospital. She had another unending seizure about 3am Friday and it took the resources of the Vet Hospital's emergency room staff to get it stopped.  They say she is fine and are switching her meds for now to get a bit better control.  They are also sending home with her an emergency seizure kit in case she has another one like this. It should save another trip to the ER (and the $800 – $1500 price tag each time). 

I sure hope it works and her shunt does stop these once it closes down in 3-6 months. Meanwhile, we just have to hang on and watch her closely to keep her blood as clean as possible.

So far, her seizures and treatments have eaten up our down payment on the Smart car which was about 1/3 of the total price so it looks like that will be higher per month payment than we wanted to carry, too.

On other fronts we attended the second class of the Workamper 101 webinar series on how to find and get the right workamping jobs for us on the road. It has some good content in it and I already see some real benefits from its cookbook approach to this issue.

I guess it’s time to get some specifics done to move our plans along now that the family moves and crises are over. better get back to my to-do lists and get busy on them.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Our Smart car is on the horizon

Wahoo!   We just got the notification that our new Smart Car is on a ship on the eastern horizon and headed to the port of Jacksonville, FL. for delivery on 2/18/2009. We have been holding our collective breath that our other two cars hold together until we get the Smart home.  Today, only a few people know what bailing wire is (basically, the predecessor to duct tape) but it is literally the ties that bind the 93 Ford Aerostar van together.

As a refresher on why a image ?

To begin with, the Smart is only about 8 feet long and 5’ wide it can easily fit crosswise between the cab and the front of a 5th wheel trailer being towed without having to have massive modifications to the tow vehicle. Most small cars are over 10’ long including the Mini Cooper (12’).   This helps to keep the overall length of our complete rig under 65 feet.

image It has an advanced computer controlled traction system to give much better traction with varying road conditions (wet, snow, gravel, etc.) so even though it is not a four wheel drive vehicle, it has better traction and control than most other 2wd cars.

Another plus (for me) is that it is quite comfortable and I am not cramped at the shoulders or legs despite my 6’ 2” x 300lb frame. They stagger the passenger seats slightly so that we don’t quite sit shoulder to shoulder and can comfortably fit within that 5’ width.

Also important is that it can be loaded and unloaded from the tow vehicle without having to first disconnect the trailer. This should make it much easier to dismount to do some scouting when coming into an unfamiliar area or just to do some sightseeing, grocery shopping or visiting without having to first setup in a nearby campground.

There is a forum dedicated to using HDTs (Heavy Duty Trucks) as great tow vehicles for large 5th wheel trailers. There is a lot more great information in that forum about the Smart cars and adapting a truck to piggy back one for full time rving.

It is not an overstatement to say it is the most nearly perfect way to travel and live the fulltime RVing lifestyle for many people.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Whoosh! ... and there went another weekend

So what makes one weekend go faster than another? 

I don't know, either, but I truly believe that it centers around the number of days one has left in their life.  More days, slower weekends. It's not proportional, though, so there must be some other factors that affect what should seem to be a linear relationship.

I have to really focus to get a square view of such fast times. 

Since I last posted (Friday, I think) several big items have happened:

  • 1. Katie has retuDSC00709rned home!  Wahoo! We picked her up and she was more than glad to see us, of course.  They thought she was picking at her wounds and bandages so the vet put an E collar on her before we left.  Poor thing could not get close enough to anything to lick it or even DSC00725sniff it.  She looked like one of those automatic reversing toy cars that when they bump into something they back up, turn a bit and take off in a random direction. Between all of the hair that was clipped off of her to put in IVs and do the surgery, she looks like she got groomed by a 5 year old with electric clippers. The swelling has gone down, the pain patch was removed on Tuesday and she seems to be back to her old self of early 2008. She still wants help getting down from things like chairs and the bed but otherwise, the odd grooming and 7” incision are the only reminders of her ordeal of the past 3 weeks. A $pecial diet and meds will take her through the next 4-6 months and then we will see if she has any problem with seizures after that.
  • The van got fixed. Turns out that an earlier repair of a coolant hose failed, blew the slick coolant all over the engine and belts and made the power steering pump slip. That is what gave me the moment of double panic when I was rushing Katie to the VET the morning of her unstoppable seizure.  Just a new hose splicer and its working again…. now I just need to do something about all the other marginal and sub par systems and components… like the dedicated vise-grip pliers holding the broken ground clamp onto the battery post, Manual windshield wipers, Open window air conditioning and shot bushings in the front end.
  • Merrily, Carol and Shawna managed to get a fair amount done about my sister-in-law’s apartment and the massive amount of stuff it holds in boxes and stacked furniture.  It is certain that since her stroke she will not be able to live alone and definitely will not be able to navigate a two story apartment even with assistance.  New housing is being sought but it appears that she also needs more physical therapy. Unfortunately, Medicaid will authorize and pay for either physical therapy or an assisted living facility but not both. Odd place to draw the financial line… help you get better or store you in a rest home but not do both.
  • The three of them also got most of Shawna and Randy’s stuff packed up and ready to move to their new home next weekend. I am going to miss them being so close but they will still be only  a few miles away. It not like I am losing a son and daughter-in-law….more like I am losing renters and a steady supply of leftovers-on-wheels.
  • The X-rays of my back did not show anything definitive so I am now waiting for a MRI referral to see why I am having so much pain in my spine. This is real neurological type pain that happens unpredictably when I move and sends involuntary spasms into my rib muscles or down the back of my legs and hips. Pain meds help a little but don’t stop it. Neither do anti-inflammatory or muscle relaxants so I am stumped right now and not too mobile.
  • We have been looking into the whole idea of Workamping (working while rving) when we retire. To help learn the ropes of connecting with satisfactory work the website has a Workamper University area that provides information and has even started an online course via a Webinar. The first session of Workamper 101 was interesting and a little bit fumbly but it was the first webinar they have done for this and had a few logistical and user issues to iron out with the attendees. There was even some impromptu entertainment when one of the male attendees failed to mute his phone before visiting his toilet. Good thing it was not on a video link. I am sure it is going to be worth the cost for the 6 sessions over the next 8 Saturdays to get us up to speed and help us to decide just what we might like to do and where.

Well, Merrily is up, now, and getting ready for work so I need to say TTFN.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


This has been a tough week. Katie’s surgery (she comes home in the morning), Sister in law’s new stroke, 6” of snow in Raleigh, NC, and some sort of back problem that has slowed me down so much that I am watching snails race past me. Not exactly a typical week but not that out of the ordinary, either.

After Merrily’s visit with Katie, yesterday, they told her that she was very sad after she left. They also said that Katie is getting very katiecockapoo1 rambunctious in her cage and that means that she is doing well enough to come home (lucky us… we get to deal with the bolt of energy but can’t let her run, jump, climb, chase, pull or tug for at least another week, maybe longer).  I will certainly be glad to have her here, again.  I have really missed her by my feet every day.

Maybe that is why my back has been hurting so much  this week… just not having to bend over to pick up after her, clean her feet when she has been outside, leash her up for walks and unleash her after we return has probably made me stiffen up.

I swapped out an empty 40lb propane tank this afternoon. It was the last full one I had in stock so when the next one goes empty its off to F & G Distributing (the gas house) to get 3 empties refilled but that should be at least another week, maybe more.

Just 1 more week before Randy and Shawna move out and into their own place a few miles away. Their preliminary walk-thru went fine with just minor stuff to be addressed by the contractor.

Still a bit of snow on the shadowed places but the rest is now clear DSC00703and daytime temps are in the 50s for a couple of days so I was able to hook the shore water supply back up and take a good shower this afternoon…. Now if the water heater just held more than 10 gallons… oh well, another project to be funded later on.

I am thinking about an Precisiontemp RV-500 demand water heater. I have heard no complaints from the folks that use them other than when one is boondocking it takes a little bit more water to run before the hot stuff starts coming out.  LP gas usage seems to be about the same as for a regular HWH, though, so I expect that because I can take longer showers… I probably will.

This snow has pointed out some drainage problems that I have ignored up until now but its clear that I should address them before we get on the road.  Just little annoyances like the runoff from the big awning cover drips right onto the DSC00685 tab that holds the front basement compartment door open. Makes a heck of a racket 24/7 and also, when freezing, builds a solid ice dam over the lock and release buttons for that door.

Same sort of issues a couple of other places so I will plan to fix those when I am next on the roof checking for places to be recaulked.


Quote of the Day:
If at first you don't succeed… make sure nobody finds out you tried!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Getting back to normal

Katie, the cocka-poo is alive and well!  Her surgery went as expected and the liver shunt (a very large one) was easily found and corrected.DSC00022 Other than a little inflammation in her eyes and a very long incision she is doing great according to her Veterinarian.

She can have visitors today so I expect that Merrily will go over to see her at lunch time.  I am still sans-automobile and she works just a matter of blocks from the NCSU vet hospital and I doubt you could keep her away.

The snow is melting like the wicked witch of the west.. but more quietly.  An occasional chunk falls off the roof with a clunk but I expect that by this evening things will be back to normal.


More cold is expected but  not as bad as the last few days so maybe I can get a few outside things done, like fill the water tanks and dump the blackwater.

I have been suspecting that there was some pressure loss in the water system but the big icicle hanging from the shore water connector confirms its the inlet check valve that has gone south, first, and left us here.

During this “cave time” I have been installing Windows 7 beta 2 on my laptop. I installed it on an older laptop drive so I would not place my Vista ultimate system at risk and so far, it has been perfect.

It certainly seems faster in my environment than Vista (which was way faster than XP ever was on this same hardware) and so far, all of my hardware has worked ok on it.

Just prior to installing Win7 I had installed Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 on Vista and that made a lot of difference in how my internet browsing worked.  I will say that I have been using Firefox 3 for quite some time, more for the cool add-ons than for the “better browser” aspects.  IE has a growing set of accelerators that are similar to Firefox add-ins but not exactly the same ones. As for speed, IE 8 is definitely on a par with FF and the Windows 7 version (a different build of IE8 from the Vista version) is not pushing me to go back to Firefox without feeling that I am losing something.

Enough techie stuff. The Workamper 101 class is still set to start on Saturday night at 8pm EST and we are getting really excited. 

One other item on our list of preparations is connected to my Christmas gift to Merrily of dancing lessons for the two of us. DSC00704

I figure that once on the road, there will be a lot of opportunities to go dancing and though I resemble a hippo in a tu-tu, I have been inspired by Warren Sapp’s performance on Dancing with the Stars this past season.   I think I can get it down well enough to not embarrass Merrily every time we go out.

The more different we can make our new lifestyle the easier it will be to not try to compare it to the past 60-odd years and to just enjoy it. We have never done dancing in our 30 years of marriage so it will be exciting and new to us.

We had intended to start classes a couple of weeks ago but things have gotten a little too busy for the moment. However, it will not be allowed to slip away into that vast vat of well intended but never implemented plans.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

To be… or not to be….. WARM!

So what is all this white stuff? I am told that, technically, it is called snow. However, if I learned anything in elementary school geography I learned that North Carolina is in the south and the only two white things that southerners have much of are cotton and dandruff.DSC00673

Surely this can’t be dandruff on Clifford, can it?!

DSC00663 Seriously, this has been a good test of DakotR’s weather resistance because even though the temperatures have made it into the mid teens outside, we have stayed cozy inside on two 1500 watt electric heaters    and an occasional burst from the two 40k btu LP gas furnaces. DSC00699I am sure that if I turned the electric heaters up just a bit more the furnaces DSC00700would not kick on at all but the furnaces are what keep the basement spaces heated so their use is more for caution than for comfort.

For reference, It’s 5:25am and I just checked and the outside temperature is 19.6 degrees right now with an expected high of 36 today.

Other than having to dump the accumulating snow off of the big awning before it could freeze into ice, we could be in Miami Beach.

On other fronts, Katie, the Poo, DSC00354 was dropped off Tuesday at the NC State Veterinary school hospital for her liver shunt surgery planned for Wednesday morning. She was excited to see these people, again. She gets so spoiled when she goes there that she turns her nose up at us once she returns home and it takes a few days before she stops pacing around looking for the copious handouts, treats and loving she gets from the student vets in training.

Another big step that was taken the past few days was in organizing Merrily’s sister’s apartment contents for disposal. She and Carol Ann spent the better part of two days over there along with Shawna (Randy’s wife). They got about 2/3rds of the contents catalogued and grouped for various destinations. Help from the church has already been engaged for the muscle and transportation when the time is right but we are still waiting to see what Geri’s stroke residuals will dictate in the way of accommodations, personal assistance and functionality after her rehabilitation is completed.

Shawna fixed baked Ziti for dinner in “the big house” for the 6 of us last evening. Merrily and I sure appreciated that as I am sure Christi and Emery did, also. I am going to miss that flow of leftovers when they move out and into their own place in a couple of weeks.

More on a full-timing note, we signed up for the Workamper 101 webinar class that starts 1/24/2009 (Wow! That’s Saturday!). I understand that Jaimie Hall Bruzenak is a real resource for those getting onboard with workamping. We are really looking forward to this class.

As a sidenote, a webinar is a class that one can attend remotely via the internet and a telephone line. Just prior to the start time, one just logs their computer onto the specified website (in this case, delivered by and dials the supplied phone number to give us an easy way to ask questions and make comments in real-time.

I’ll let you know how this first class goes. Even though we are not anticipating workamping this year, a lot of the longer term plans will certainly involve finding jobs here and there to help support our cashflow needs. Knowing how to find and successfully get a satisfactory job will be vital to how we plan our travels. I expect that we will use our initial travel destinations to investigate future job opportunities in areas we are interested in future workamping positions. It is also for this reason that we signed up for the Workamper News and hotline resources a few months back. So far, we have learned a great deal just by investigating the various jobs that are posted daily on their Hotline service.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bad Dog Day

Katie the cockapoo, woke up at 8am on Wednesday and proceeded to go into a seizure that did not stop. At the 10 minute point, I rushed her to the vet (fortunately, just a few blocks away) and they started working on her but it took another 3 hours before they had them stopped.

By this time, she was in la-la land from the meds. They watched her all day, called me with updates and arranged for her to go to the NCSU vet school emergency room for the coming night so that she would be under full observation.

We picked her up at 6pm, drove her to the school emergency room and finally left her there about 8pm. She was resting when we left but very drugged. We should know more sometime Thursday about whether she will go into surgery for the liver shunt.

The liver shunt problem is thought to be at the bottom of her seizures. Of course, no one can give us a 100% guarantee that fixing the shunt will fix the seizures, too, but all the doctors have been very confident that it will and that the seizures will stop once she has recovered from the surgery.

We are facing a very challenging set of problems, here. Our travel plans for at least the next few years include a lot of time "off the grid" and away from civilization. Vets are not going to be available in many of these places and should she still be having seizures, even occasionally, there is always the possibility that she will go into another unstoppable one that will kill her or leave her with permanent liver and even brain damage.

At the very least, if she is still having seizures she will have to be on meds the rest of her life and that will require regular monitoring by doctors to make sure she is not going into liver or kidney failure territory with the side effects that these meds cause. Again, this will be something that will not be possible with her traveling with us on the road. So I see some hard choices looming on the horizon and I don't like the list of actions we will have to choose from.

On a more (or less) positive note, on my rush to get Katie to the vet this morning, I blew some hose or fitting under the hood of the Aerostar and lost the power steering just as I had to make a sharp tight u turn into the doctor's parking lot. Boy! That is a really small steering wheel when the power is off. Unfortunately, traffic was coming and I thought the engine had died so I had to take it hard and sharp to coast out of the way of oncoming rush hour traffic and that tossed the still seizing Katie off the seat and onto the floor of the van.

She was not hurt but in her condition she could not right herself and it just added to the severity of her struggles.

The vet took Katie back right away and started working on her problem and eventually said she should stay there for the day so I left for home. The van ran but had no power steering. It turns out that it was losing fluid somewhere and the belts had all gotten coated and slick. Once back home I was not able to see where it was coming from but it did not smell like coolant. This may be the last straw for the 93 van. It has served us well but is so decrepit now, that running to the grocery store in it is a little scary.

The more positive side of this was that now, I had to get Clifford running in order to get around town on other errands of the day. I have been wanting to take him out for a nice drive for a few weeks now, but just never could get around to it because of more pressing business.

As soon as I got him started, I felt better. And once warmed up and checked over for problems before pulling out (I always do a pre trip inspection (PTI) before moving him, even if its only been sitting unattended for a short while in a public parking lot. It is surprising the pranks that some people think are funny.

I drove Clifford to have lunch with Merrily, Randy (#3 son) and a friend of his, Ryan. By the time I had gone 2 blocks from the house, I felt a lot better and a lot more in control. Folks can say what they want about driving a HDT for a tow vehicle and daily driver but it always makes me feel back in control no matter what else is going on in my life. It has a theraputic value to me that even Sigmund Freud could not connect to my mother or penis envy. It just feels RIGHT!

Merrily has known how much I have been wanting to get out in Clifford and she suggested that I go home "the long way" which was just what I needed to hear. I had planned to check out a place that had cheap diesel fuel on and it was kind of out of the way home, anyway. At current fuel prices, $2.21/gallon for diesel would save $10 per 100 gals over the next best price in the area and more than pay for a slight detour on the way back home.

The short story is that the price had jumped to $2.39/gallon so I did not buy any but it gave me a chance to take the really "long way" back home... and I did.

By the time I reached home, all was right with the world again and the day of Katie was just a small speed bump and not a show stopper. We will deal with whatever needs to be done next.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Details, Details, Details

Sunday Night's dinner was great and we both enjoyed the positive time putting it together and eating it. I postponed cleanup until the next day and Merrily's Christmas Present (big, new single bowl stainless steel sink) made that possible. Everything from cooking to eating was in there and still not in the way of using the sink. I'll have to tell you about this project sometime.

Katie goes in to the vet in the morning for her re-evaluation to see if she is ready for surgery to correct her liver shunt. I had my annual visit to my cardiologist this afternoon and that was good, too. He is quite pleased that I have been able to start walking again. A mile a day is not much but it is more than I have been able to do for 5 years or more. Thank you prestiq!

The auto insurance is squared away, now, and so is my medicare stuff. That was one that was worrying me just because there are so many choices that have to be made by specific dates. Thank you Carol Ann (daughter).

I spoke with Merrily's brother, RWJ, about helping with his other sister's stuff and he seems very positive and has already been a lot of help in guiding us through this unfamiliar territory. He has had to do similar things with several deteriorating family members so he helped us work up a todo list. Thank You, RWJ.

My birthday present this year is a copy of the 2009 Big Rigs Best Bets - RV parks info for us folks with the big dogs. Unfortunately, they are not planning to put out a CD version this year so I will have to settle for the paper version.

More to tell, tomorrow.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ah! Sunday.... a day of rest..????

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today... because you may end up having to get it done on Sunday. Some of the back burner stuff has suddenly appeared up front so we have to deal with them now.

The first list item was to get the current auto registrations renewed. This one has been simmering back there for several weeks but now must be finished. Same with the Auto insurance renewal which I spoke of earlier. At least it has now been decided that #2 son is moving to his own family policy tomorrow so its just Merrily and Me and I am hoping that will cut a little more off of the premiums.

Also, its time to start dealing with Merrily's Sister's two story apartment contents. It is not probable that she will be able to move back into it when she gets out of the rehabilitation facility for her right side stroke. It is also not likely that she will be able to even participate in the decision process of disposing of the present contents. We went over and spent about an hour surveying the task and talking about possible means of managing to empty the place without upsetting relatives or ourselves too much.

This is the sort of work that one usually has to perform after a relative has crossed over. While that is always very difficult it seems to be even harder when they are still here but unable to participate or guide the process a little. Much of this struggle is just identifying what will still be needed or wanted.

The rest is mostly a parallel to what Full Timers go through to pare down their life's collections to what will go on the road with them, what will be stored and what must be disposed of or distributed to friends, relatives or ebay. The sheer number of memories one encounters shaped into jewelry, kitchen, bath, bedroom or living room accessories and fixtures is quickly overwhelming. The strongest resolve to "just do it" and get out, quickly withers in the brilliant light of a fading past. It makes me think of Chevy Chase wrapped in old clothes and watching old home movies while trapped in the cold attic in Christmas Vacation.

I will say that there are benefits to being able to take time to do the job but it eats more of one's life than could ever be expected. Every little thing becomes bigger and bigger the longer one has to contemplate its history and dispensation.

We did come away with some ideas and rudimentary plans for our next attack on it and possibly even reduce our own angst by involving certain others in limited parts of the process. I may have more in this in a later post.

Another of those hard to start tasks involves food and weight and the reduction, thereof. Yeah, I know, I should just call it a broken New Year's resolution and ease back into the comfort food zone, again. But Merrily and I want to be able to fully enjoy these next years and experiences and I have to say that the plight of her sister has had a sombering affect on our commitments to better health. Her age is right between Merrily's and mine and that is definitly a wake up call to stop postponing and waiting for "the right time". "Just Do It!" really does apply to this one.

To this end, we decided to take baby steps by starting with one or two meals a week that we can gradually build into a better set of eating habits than we now have. Intellectually, this will let us develop some skills at planning meals instead of waiting until we are hungry to decide what and where to eat. The reality is that it is a very small step and to many would seem laughable but our 30 years together has clearly shown us to be chronic avoiders. Much of what we do together is out of long life habits and even when we may be aware of it at a moment we are not prone to disrupting the comfort and security of the habit at that time.

Tonight's dinner will be George Foreman grilled chicken breasts with brussel sprouts and green beans with a few raw carrots and a dip for an appetizer. George does a great job with chicken breasts and the cleanup is easy. Its the 1 ton crane you need to get the darn grill up on the counter and then later to put it away.

I will let you know how this all turns out, tomorrow. Meanwhile, I need to get cooking.

Chow, as they say.