Challenges and Blessings

She said…

We have been out on the road for over a week now. I feel like I have been so busy living that I haven’t had any time to write. This is not a bad thing, however I want to get some things down to help me remember.

In our first week we encountered several challenges. We left Aztec with a check engine light on the RV. Since it wasn’t deemed to be life-style threatening, we decided that this is our life now and you don’t go back home for a something silly like potential engine failure. Second challenge has been trying to find someone to fix said check engine light in the Denver area. Driving a gas engine motor home does not mean you can just pull into any Ford dealer for repairs.

The third challenge was a massive spring snow storm which caused us to change our plans spur-of-the-moment. So, instead of a planned stop in Buena Vista, we pushed through to Loveland, where we sat out the storm. We were really wishing we hadn’t left our space heaters at home!

In our first week out there have been many blessings. Because we wanted a day to work out any bugs (Shannon reset the check engine light and it stayed off all day) we decided to spend our first night mooch-docking in the driveway of our friends Ken and Kathy in Pagosa Springs, just a couple of hours away. We had a wonderful evening over home-made grilled pizza.

Tuesday was Wolf Creek Pass day, a source for some apprehension ever since we started planning our route. The check engine light came on when we started up, but we had been unable to connect with anybody who could help us in Pagosa, so we decided to push on. We did decide to drive the car separately so as to minimize strain on the engine. We made it up and over, but Shannon, driving the RV, said he was starting to get a little stressed.

Out second night out we spent in a parking lot, but not just any parking lot. Ten miles south of Saguache, CO is the Russell Lakes State Wildlife Area, with a parking lot bordering a many-laked bird sanctuary. Overnight parking in self-contained vehicles is allowed for multiple nights, and did I mention, it was free!

After we got set up with our viewing windows facing the lakes, we took a road trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. I have probably driven past this park a hundred times, just a line of sand in the distance. Probably not the last time my world view will shift with a little perspective.

Photo compliments of Nat’l Park Service. Seems I was too blown away to focus!

Wednesday morning Shannon woke me up with a grim weather report. There was a major spring storm coming in over the Rockies, with rain and snow and temps below freezing. We decided to skip our night at Harvest Host Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy outside of Buena Vista and drive all the way through to Boyd Lake State Park in Loveland, Colorado. This involved three more smaller mountain passes with 9 out of 10 cylinders firing in the RV (it has finally been determined that the engine is not going to heal itself). We made it safely into Loveland and hunkered down for the storm. So glad we made the choice to jump ahead, because the storm was a doozie.

We also took the opportunity, while near Denver, to find someone who could help us with our engine problem. When we bought the gas engine coach we thought one of the advantages would be that it would be easier to arrange repairs. We called the Fleetwood warranty center and started a claim. Fleetwood sent us to Ford, and an hour and a half later they called us back with a dealer in Denver, an hour and a half away, who could help us. When we got ahold of them, they couldn’t take us for almost two weeks, so Shannon started calling everybody in the Denver area. Most of the time the excuse for not helping us was that the RV is too heavy and they couldn’t get it up on a lift, which seemed strange to us since access to the engine is gained thru the doghouse between the two front seats.

We finally found a small shop just up the road in Fort Collins, with a very nice mechanic who would work on our problem the following Monday. Well it turns out that in spite of all our efforts at rodent-proofing our home, we had a hitch-hiker in our engine compartment who chewed through all the wiring to cylinder #7. Our new best friend Dave, from Dave’s Automotive in Fort Collins (highly recommended) had us all re-wired, running smoothly, and back on the road by lunch. And it only cost a quarter of what a dealer would have charged. Our perseverance was well rewarded!

We have almost two weeks to spend in Loveland-Fort Collins area with lots of family time and loads of things to see and do.

Bits and Pieces

She said…

We are almost there. Hopefully, we close on the house next Friday and we are on the road a week from Monday. For me there is a palpable buzz in the air, the mood has shifted yet again, and we are intent on doing things for (really) the last time. One set of things is the housekeeping chores, like doing the last load of free laundry and emptying the tanks so we can start out on empty. The other is emotional and relational things, like spending extra time with Shannon’s folks, a last meeting with my reunion group, one last trip to our favorite date spot in Durango (low on the priority list, as I know there are restaurants in the outside world. . .there will be more dates, but we have this coupon for free appetizer or desert). Today we had a farewell potluck at the church where we have attended and served for the last fifteen years, and experienced a tremendous outpouring of love and generosity. We will be able to buy the rest of the tools we need for our Nomads service with the gifts from our church family.

I had a bit of an epiphany last Sunday. Over the last two years of preparation, I have never felt like the guy who made all of these grand plans and then presented them to God for his approval with an invitation for God to join him, and God just laughed. It has felt from the beginning that God has been with us, behind us and before us on this journey and that we are looking forward to seeing what He has in store for us out there. If this is the case, then I also have to believe that when things happen that are not according to our hopes and dreams, that this is still God’s plan and there is a good reason for it. Looking at my life this way has allowed me to let go of a lot of the silly little stuff I was fretting about.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NRSV

So last week when we failed our septic inspection, and we both had visions of the whole house sale unraveling and having to stay here for another year and pour thousands of more dollars into this house, we were able to slow down and look at the big picture. Is there something besides hair and grease clogging our leach line going on here? Is there some reason beyond our knowing that we are supposed to stay here a little longer? Well, apparently not. Thanks to our friends Mr. Rooter and Dr. Pumper we found a creative way to solve the problem that is acceptable to the buyer and doesn’t require our presence. We are waiting for final approval of the plan by the buyer’s lender to see if we go ahead with the close on Friday.

I can feel Shannon and I testing our personal boundaries and settling into a different mode, too. Even though we do a lot of our lives as a couple, there are aspects of our day-to-day that we do separately.  As we embark on this journey together will we be ok doing everything together or will we each need to be more sensitive to the other’s need for “me time?” I know we wouldn’t have started off on this journey if we felt that we didn’t have the kind of relationship that could stand up under this kind of pressure.

A lot of my leavings in this life have been sort of skulking out under the cover of darkness, with no fanfare or tearful goodbyes. This one has been a matter for much open discussion and prayer as we have purged and sold and gifted our way into a simpler way of life. This time we are being sent out with a lot of love and the continued prayers of all of our friends and family here in Aztec.

The Septic System

He said…

Part of our journey to full timing it in an RV is selling the sticks & bricks house. And that isn’t a fun proposition…

Let’s recap.

  • Over two years ago Mariel and I decided to buy an RV and live on the road which was a total reversal of my plans (I had planned on dying in the house that we lived in).
  • A year and a half later, we bought our Class A motorhome and started moving into it the very next day (we actually have been living in our new Fleetwood since the day after we bought it back in July 2016).
  • That’s when we got serious about getting the house ready to sell (it took me a good six months to get the house ready enough so that I thought someone might be interested in it).
  • We put it on the market in January 2017 and had a few nibbles along the way but no real interest (we started thinking we might be full timing it while still paying the mortgage on that house).
  • In April 2017 – we got an offer. Bleh – now the pain starts (I made the house sellable; but I didn’t make it perfect – what was the potential buyer going to want changed?)
  • Home and septic inspections pointed out problems (thankfully the termite inspection passed).

And that’s where I’m at today…

All of the items on the home inspection we knew about which is why we dropped the price on the home so much; the septic inspection caught us by surprise. It turns out that they suggest having the septic tank (think 1000 gallon black water tank for those of you who don’t know what a septic tank is) pumped out every 1-2 years.  Around here that cost about $250 a shot – pricey but worth it in the long run.

Our septic tank?  It was pumped out in 2002. And then it was pumped out this week in 2017.  And there lies the problem… when inspected, the system didn’t perform as expected.

The tank had one pre-dug access; we had to dig out the other access.

The tank itself was still built well (it has about 4-6″ thick concrete walls); but it didn’t pass the test that makes sure it empties as fast as you fill it!  Something is blocking the flow to/through the leach field. This is not an insurmountable problem; it can be repaired. But our closing on the house is supposed to be in less than two weeks. Fixing it within that time – not going to happen!

Mariel and I had a bad day and didn’t sleep very well that night.

Thankfully, the buyer still wants to go through with the sale of the house as long as we have a plan to fix the issue.  And, the person that pumped out the tank is a certified plumber who is working with us to give the buyer that plan!  Yea Lord!

The plumber (who happens to have two businesses: the Rotor Rooter man and Dr. Pumper) believes that the problem is just 15 years worth of sludge that needs to be cleaned out with 2-3 months worth of enzyme/bacteria treatments – about $250 worth of product. If that doesn’t work, then he can add a second leach line for about $2000.

We’ve sent the plan to the buyer and we’re hoping that he goes along with this plan. It turns out that the buyer is good with the plan; however, his lender is concerned – so now we’re waiting to see what they want!

A little barricade put up until the septic system is finished!

More details to come.

The Satellite TV

He said…

Mariel and I haven’t had cable or satellite TV for quite a while now – we’ve survived solely on Netflix (and a few months ago we got a free subscription to Amazon).  But we knew these options weren’t going to work for us on the road. So, I’ve been researching the satellite TV options lately. Thankfully(?) our RV came with a Winegard Roadtrip Mission RTS-40B satellite antennae which works with either the Dish or DirectTV system.

Since Dish provides HD channels and we had experience with that system a few years back, I determined that we’d go with them. Once I figured that out, I started looking at the various receivers that we could use. A jump onto the roof of the RV and a quick disassembly of the satellite dish dome, I changed some dip switch settings so that the antennae would work with the Dish network (it comes from the factory set for DirecTV).

Since the receive will actually be stored behind the bedroom TV, I wanted a receiver that had a radio frequency remote vice the infrared remote.  The remote needs to be able to send the signal through the cabinetry and television while we’re watching the TV. This means that we’re locked into the Wally receiver.

Researching the prices – I found that you could get the receiver for anywhere from about $60-100. And then we’d be looking at getting the programming that starts at about $40 and sky rockets upwards based on the channels we wanted.

Then something popped up that I hadn’t really considered before.  It turns out that if you already have a Dish setup for your home, you can get an extra receiver for $7/month for your RV.  Amazingly enough, we are currently in a driveway of someone who happens to have a Dish setup in their house.  With their permission, we got the receiver. Since we wanted the Wally receiver, we paid an extra $65 to get it shipped to us. Now our monthly bill will only be $7.

It got to us in just two days! Very quick shipping.

Now to set it up…

Things seemed to start well enough. Until, that is, we the system setup screen got stuck on a page where it was “preparing to download software”. The page said it’d take less than 20 minutes – I waited over an hour. Time to do some internet research.

Apparently, you can’t set up the Wally using an RV satellite dish; at the least it’s a common problem trying to set it up in an RV. It needs to be set up using the home dish and then you can move it to the RV. No where in the documentation does it say this!

So into the house I went. Disconnected their setup and connected up the Wally. That didn’t work; it stayed stuck on the same screen.  So time to call up the customer support.

Both of them were very friendly. Yep – the basic tech support guy did what he could and it didn’t help. The advanced guy won the day however.

So what were the troubleshooting steps?  Reboot the machine and wait. Disconnect the receiver from “this” coaxial cable and attach it to “that” coaxial cable (both of which went to the same satellite dish). After 45 minutes on the phone (with about 10 minutes of that waiting on the reboots and 20 minutes waiting to see if the software would download) the receiver finally connected to the satellites!

Now… to see if I can unplug it from the house and then move it to the RV.  Fingers are crossed as I type this…  the satellite antennae on the roof is buzzing.  I’m feeling a little apprehensive – should I go look at the TV to see if it worked?

Bummer… spent longer than five minutes waiting for it to acquire the signal. Unplugged and then plugged in the receiver… see how that works…

Arghh! Five minutes has long gone…

Well now, what’s next?  There are two coaxial cables coming from the satellite dish – I chose to hook up the cable that said “1” on it.  I decided to see what happens when I plug the cable that said “2” on it… Finally the signal was acquired.

Now the system is supposed to take less than 10 minutes (so says the TV screen) to download the guide! Unfortunately… it’s been longer than that!  So time to pull the plug and reset the machine – AGAIN.

Arghh! Yet another wait!

Hmmm… now I’m wondering if the rain/clouds are causing the problems…  It’s not affecting the satellite in the house; but maybe the RV system is more delicate?

Alright.  I did a factory reset – maybe starting over will help.

Research on the internet tells most folks to reset a switch. Unfortunately every screenshot and manual I’ve seen does NOT match what I see with the Wally’s setting’s screens.  Eventually, I found it though. I needed to reset the switch via a “Test Installation” button.

First I did it with the satellite cable disconnected (to clear out all the old settings) and then with the cable hooked back up.  I even went back and hooked up cable “1” again to see if it would work.

Waiting on a check switch…

I finally got it working!  Man – what a major pain in the #$%!  An hour or so last night and about three hours this morning and I prevailed.

Nothing is plug-n-play anymore!

All of that pain – so, as Mariel so sarcastically indicated, we can watch commercials! I guess we’ve been spoiled the last few years with just Netflix!

Countdown Initiated

Photo by Nathan Anderson

She said…

All of my life I have done things on the spur of the moment, including most of the important decisions (jobs, travel, relationships). So for me to have agreed to a two year plan concerning a major life shift, and then to have followed it through to its conclusion, is really quite a novel experience. But here we are, two years minus three weeks away from our decision to sell everything we own and live small, buy an RV and travel the country full time.

Now, I know that all of you seasoned full-timers might think that this is a little silly, but think back to the final days before you launched, whether you had been planning the leap for 6 months or 6 years, the final days require yet another adjustment, a shift in thinking from “what can we do without until next week” to what do we need for the next six months? I know that we are not venturing into a world devoid of Walmarts, Sam’s Clubs, Safeways,  or Farmer’s Markets, but for some reason I feel the need to stock up on the day to day essentials. . .after all, we are not getting ready for a camping trip, we are getting ready for the rest of our lives, and I don’t want to be bothered with a trip to a shopping mecca for mouthwash, at least not while we are getting our sea legs.

So, for the next three weeks we are getting ready to close on the house, which means termite and septic inspections as well as a walk-thru with the buyer, last chance doctor and dentist appointments, haircuts, sorting through the little bit of stuff that stays with Shannon’s folks and the last of our stuff that gets delivered to my friends and family over the next six months. Re-packing the RV to get our weight evenly distributed, a farewell potluck at the church and final goodbyes to friends and family here, a last date night at Ken and Sue’s, our favorite restaurant in Durango, and last-minute shopping for things we sold in the estate sale but discovered that we still need, like a plunger and a flyswatter, and oh yes, a year’s worth of heartworm meds for the dog.

I know that I am forgetting stuff, and I need to remind myself that there will be nothing that we can’t get once we are on the road, or that we can’t continue to live without. It just seems so surreal that in three weeks we will wake up, pack up the RV and head off on day one of our full-time adventure!