Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fin del Mundo... the end of the world...

As I get closer to becoming FIREd (Financially Independent Retired Early) I have noticed something I never thought would occur in me.  I am starting to slack off some at w$rk! I have always been a very loyal employee putting the business first and my needs a close second.  I have always had a a very strong w$rk ethic. I am a "tell it like I see kind of guy" which isn't great for advancement but at least I ended up in jobs I liked since I have never been a suck up of any sort. This has likely cost me money in terms of advancement or merit raises over the years. All that aside I always put in my hours and the managment always got both quality and quantity form me in the work place.

But things have really changed since I reached the financially independent part of my life - the time when I realized that I could quit soon and I would very likely be just fine financially. There is nothing more liberating in working than achieving the state of 'mental empowerment" - that time when you know what "the FIRE date" is and thus know when you plan on not working any longer. Knowing this date mentally empowered me at w$rk to be even more a "tell it like it is" guy and it also allowed me to further explain to my superiors that my actions were done so with no agenda in mind now that I was retiring soon.  It really is amazing how this little bit of knowledge in the w$rkplace changes so many co-w$rker and management attitudes towards you. Now there is a downside to being mentally empowered.  It has resulted in a negative behavioral trait that I now have knowing that my w$rk time is waning.  My sliding w$rk ethic due to my reduced motivation at w$rk has resulted in more slacking in my w$rkday. This has been an awkward challenge for me since I have always had a very strong w$rk ethic.  It is out of character for me to let my w$rk ethic slide but it equally satisfying knowing that my day is coming soon, and the end of this world as I know it...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Florida park review...

As I mentioned this past week we were at Gainesville, Florida to see my daughter play softball against the University of Florida.  We flew into Daytona Beach and rented a car with the intent of having time on our last day to exlore RV parks along the road back from Gainesville to Daytona. On the way over to Gainesville we saw numerous parks alongside the road but it was night so we didn't stop at any of them.  No problem, since we really had planned to stop at some along the way back since we had the whole day to catch out 5:00 PM flight.

So while in Gainsville we enjoyed watching some fast pitch softball for a few days and when the tournament was over we said goodbye to our daughter and then we planned a different route back to Daytona.  This route was a little further north than the one we came over on and went though an area of Florida with a lot of water features.  So we were sure to see many RV parks, right?  Wrong!  We did see a lot of RV's on the road but did not see any RV parks until we reached the coast where we found a small state recreation area that had several RV's in it.  So we parked the car and got out to take a stroll through the park.

The park, Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area, extends across a barrier island just a ways north of Daytona. It is on the Atlantic Ocean and to the west is the Intracoastal Waterway. The park is small but has a  total area of 145 acres.  We strolled around the park and took in the sights.  The park was about half full of RV's and we were hoping to see one of the ones we are hoping to buy.  But there were no Tiffins at all in the park.  We did stop and chat with the camp host only to find out that this park is usually booked some 10-11 months in advanced...WOW!  Also you can only stay for two weeks and must leave for 24 hours but can return if you have reservations.

The local ranger said that this time of year that the wright whales were passing through although we didn't see any. It is also said to be a prime nesting beach for 3 species of sea turtles from May through September. The area also offers excellent surf fishing and sunbathing and has easy access to the beach. While we were scanning the horizon with my binoculars we saw lots of gannets diving for fish just off shore.  Now I may not have mentioned before but I used to work as a wildlife biologist and as a result I am an avid naturalist and of course a bird watcher as a result. So yes, I keep a bird list of all the species I have seen in my life.  We birders refer to it as a "lifelist" and guess what?  The gannet was a new "lifer" for me to add to my list!  Since I didn't have my camera I borrowed a picture of one like those we saw.  Pretty cool, can't wait to get to do this full time...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Well it is SOFTBALL season...

What does this have to do with RV's and my future retirement?  Nothing? Everything? ...

Well when my DW and I started to discuss retirement a little over a year ago we sat around for a long time trying to determine where would live at first.  This slowly morphed to a discussion centered on RV'ing full time to assist us in finding the perfect "settle down" spot.  Then as we discussed it further we started to realize that we may RV for an extended time to see a lot of the the US, Canada, and Mexico... and maybe even further south if we become more adventurous.

The next point of discussion became WHEN? When to retire was a little more complicated.  So I had to build a massive spreadsheet and work up all our financial numbers to see WHEN we could retire and quit w$rking.  That is when it started to become fun.  Why?  Because after I had worked up the numbers it was apparent that we were closer to this reality than we thought.  So we focused on our retirement date at first on late spring - early summer of 2011.  Then it hit us... our DD would be in her last year of college in 2011 and would be playing her last full year of division 1 softball that spring.  Thus, the retirement date became clearer since we decided that we wanted to watch as many of her games as possible her senior year.  You see we live in Texas and she goes to school in North Carolina so we have not gotten to see nearly as many games as we would like to have over the years.  So next year when we retire we will drive out RV over to North Carolina where we will watch most of her final games and then watch her graduate.

So today it is off to Florida to watch her play in a tournament.  We will rent a car and take a half day to drive over to the gulf coast and look for future sites to park our rig... see it does have to do with RV'ing and our future retirement after all...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Attending Our First RV Show...

WOW!  Over 600 RV's to look at and some brands present from our list to focus on - that is what we found a the Houston RV Show this weekend. So what did we learn? Well for one thing my gut feel for what we like held true as we still have Tiffin as our most preferred brand right now.

Now we read the forums and heeded all of the advise of those who had attended RV shows in the past as to how to best approach a show and how to best maximize your time spent at the show.  So I will share what worked for us?
 - first do your homework and make a list of those you think you like the most and want to see
- go to the show with a goal(s) in mind (for us it was 1- narrow down brands, 2- determine minimum length,
            3- study features and quality)
- start from the back of the show and work forward - row by row
- mentally separate off the show floor in quadrants 1-4
- take a pad along to make notes as to which ones you initially like so you can revisit them (list by quadrant)
- as you view an RV note the the features you like
- take a lengthy break after viewing half the RV's (we went to a seminar on RV technology at the mid point)

After seeing everything once:
- revisit those that impressed you
- now make a list of those features that you see as "must haves"
- photograph those must have features
- then revisit a third or fourth time to meet your goals (get a real feel for length, space, floor plans, etc.)

So what did we end up with?  Well we now have an order of preference in brands:
1- Tiffin
2- Winnebago
3- Newmar
4- Monarch
... and we decided that our target of 32 feet on the minimum side was not too small so we will focus on 32-35 foot motorhomes.

Coaches we saw at the show that we liked were:
Newmar BayStar 3202
Monaco Monarch 33 SFS
Tiffin Allegro 35 TSA

Coaches we still hope to see are:
Tiffin Allegro Bay 32BA
Tiffin Allegro 34TGA
Tiffin Allegro 34WA
Monaco Windsor 32 PDB
Monaco Monarch 32 PBD
Monaco Lapalma 32 PDB
Monaco cayman 32 PBD
Monaco knight 34 PDD
Monaco Riptide 33
National Sea Breeze
Winnebago Sightseer 34M
Triple E Comander
Itasca suncruiser 33V
Winnebago Sightseer 33C - a new model but we really like it (may be out of my price range)

Features we decided we really liked and want to have as many as possible in our rig are:
-as large as a Fridge as we can get without sacrificing the pantry
- a pedestal dining table instead of a booth
- only one couch in the coach (not two)
- no carpet in the living area
- lighter colored cabinets
- spill guards on the counter in kitchen
- a dining/living slide
- a bedroom slide
- one piece shower units

So what is next? More research and of course we still need to see more coaches.  But for now it is time to start researching the non-living quarters... workhouse vs ford vs chevy etc... we have been focusing on where we will live now we need to focus on how our house will move...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

More about stuff...

We have been ridding ourselves of stuff for some three months now and it is finally starting to look like it.  For the last three months we have been throwing stuff away every Thursday.  You see on Thursdays is our trash day and before I put the trash out to the curb I look around the house for something to fill up the remaining space.  This has worked really well because it has allowed us to prioritize what is trash and what isn't. 

Now understand the stuff I am throwing away is truly trash and not something useful or recyclable.   But by ridding ourselves of this trash piecemeal like this there is this slow ridding of items such as papers, magazines, rags, wood scraps etc. that have collected over the last 15 years we have lived in this house.  By tossing all of the true garbage it started to reveal items that were not garbage but that we really hadn't used in years and were just taking up space.  This is where Craigslist came in handy.  So every now and then I identify several items to photograph and place an ad on Craigslist. I have sold many items and still have many for sale.  The trick to selling on Craigslist I have learned is to search for similar items on Craiglist and price below anything comparable.  Then when someone searches for that particular item yours will be the first one they call about.  Granted I won't make as much money but my goal isn't to make money it is to get rid of stuff (well more money would be nice but...).  The money we do make will be used later to buy neat stuff for our RV.  After all we will need some new stuff to replace all of our old stuff ;-).

I have also set up an Ebay account but have noticed there are a lot of fees associated with selling one Ebay.  However, I will take the items I can't sell on Craigslist and see if they are being sold on Ebay and if so I will place ads there as well.  Then the last part of selling my stuff will take place at local garage sales and consignment stores.  We aren't there yet but then that will be another story...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Mrs-Part 2...

As I read the blogs of full time RVers, many of them warn that full timing isn't for everyone. It caused me to wonder why in the world a life of freedom and travel could ever be negative.  I guess there are things that can go wrong.  Breakdowns in equipment or mixups in reservations.  Smaller accommodations might feel "confining" to some.  I guess it all depends on how well you and your partner handle adversity.  In life's twists and turns my DH and I have had several trials which could have broken our relationship. Living through the teenage years of both our children was a challenge, my breast cancer was a big one.  Moving and garage sales have set off some fireworks.  However, our SURVIVAL of these challenges actually brought us closer together.  Living with someone you love and respect for 35 years forges you into a team. My DH has strength in being logical, performing careful analysis of situations; I am an organizer but I never want to analyze (just do it!).  I also don't mind making the phone calls he dislikes. We are very different but yet an interesting mix. At the heart of it, we have the same core values and I guess that's what makes it work.

Now at this stage of life it is interesting to note we spent most of our working lives trying to achieve....acquisition of STUFF and achievements,promotions and accolades at work.  Well our priorities have changed drastically.  What we value now is quiet time with each other, appreciation of nature, savoring our conversations, our morning coffee, a glass of wine, sunsets.  None of the "stuff" matters much anymore.  Yes, i want to keep a few cherished things, but I find it funny that it is easier than I thought it would be just to let it all go.  Maybe fulltiming isn't for someone that has a lot of expectations. I feel we don't have expectations so much as an excitement and a commitment and A PLAN that it WILL work.  We'll see in less than 12 months and counting!