In Pursuit of Unique Places and Fine Art Photographs

Woody's Travel and Pictures

January 18, 2019 – The First Week of Retirement

So…Retirement has finally arrived. How was my first week? Was it all I had hoped it would be? Let’s see. Once Annette and I left work on Friday afternoon, we went to the RV dealership where we had left the RV for some minor repairs (Frozen pipes, if...

So…Retirement has finally arrived. How was my first week? Was it all I had hoped it would be? Let’s see.

Once Annette and I left work on Friday afternoon, we went to the RV dealership where we had left the RV for some minor repairs (Frozen pipes, if you must know! Don’t hook up the water and leave without turning on some heat in the RV!).

We took care of business with the dealership and asked where we could get propane. They sold propane! (Duh! That was embarrassing!) So we topped off the propane tank. (Propane is a $1/gallon more expensive in Pennsylvania compared to Maryland!)

The dealership has a couple of electrical hookups for people who are dropping off RVs for service, so we took advantage of that for Friday night. What a great first night of retirement! We were parked on a dealership lot, amidst a ton of other RVs and no other people around! Oh, well! It worked. And it was free!

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Annette had made reservations at an RV park within 30 minutes drive of our Grandkids, so we moved the RV there on Saturday. We took the turnpike to avoid the curves and hills of the roads through the Pennsylvania mountains, but it was painful when we paid the toll. Over $32!!!

We got to spend the weekend and Monday with our son, “daughter-in-law” and grandkids. We had to store up some love and affection for the upcoming months that we are going to be away!

It snowed a couple of inches over the weekend, but that was not a problem for us going back and forth in the Forester. However, the snow did prove to be a problem when it was time to move the RV.

We had left the slides out on the RV and the snow accumulated on the slide toppers (canvas awnings over the slides designed to keep debris off the top of the slides). The next day was above freezing, but not enough to melt everything. The morning we wanted to leave was well below freezing and the snow and ice froze the canvas solid!

For the first slide, we poured 6 or 8 gallons of hot water on the slide topper and melted the ice and snow. We were able to get the slide to come in! Hip hip hooray!

But it took us and hour and several trips up the ladder and onto the roof of the RV. I’m not comfortable with heights, like the roof of an RV. The snow and ice made the roof slippery, so I was even less comfortable.

Also, we had a 6 hour drive ahead of us. It was getting later and later and if we didn’t leave soon, we wouldn’t make our next campground by dark. (You don’t want to try to set up an RV in the dark! And cold!)

The weather forecast for the day showed that the temperature would get well above freezing. So we decided to wait for the slide toppers to thaw naturally. To use the time effectively, we went to the storage unit to get the bikes. What could go wrong?

Well, when we went to put the bike rack onto the car, we realized that we forgot the key for the locking pin for the receiver. Rats!!!

OK. Let’s try and fit one bike inside the Forester and one bike on top. It was a struggle but we got Annette’s bike into the car and the bike rack fit inside, too!

We wanted to protect the car roof, so we put down a piece of cardboard and wrapped the second bike in a motorcycle cover. We used bungee cords to keep the cover tight to the bike and the bike tight to the roof rack. A good plan, right?

Wrong!

As we picked up speed, the cover became a sail and lifted the front of the bike. I slammed on the brakes and pulled over as fast as I could! The bike came crashing back down on the roof of the car with a resounding BANG! We’re lucky the sun roof is still intact!

So we removed the cover, re-secured the bike and went to a hardware store for some rope. Annette also sacrificed a scarf, which we wrapped around the front tire, fed into the car through the sunroof and closed the sun roof on it. We finally made it back to the RV with the bikes and the car intact!

Our financial advisor, having worked with us to get here, was excited for our retirement, so we stopped by his office and showed off the RV. Harold and Jen seemed genuinely happy for us and were very curious about the RV.

By then it was getting too late to travel very far before dark, so where did we stay? Yep! You’re right! We stayed for our first time a Walmart parking lot! All went well and we were on our way by 7:00 a.m.

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Once we got to the Durham, N.C. RV Park where we had reservations, we promptly went in the exit! (in my defense, it isn’t well marked!). I had to drive the RV the rest of the way through the park, around the block and back into the park. This time I went in the entrance!

Thursday, Annette went to the opening show that featured a friend’s photography. The show had sculpture, photography and dance all centered around a poem. We enjoyed catching up with our friends.

On Friday evening, we attended an opening for a Photography Exhibit focused on New Orleans that was put on by our friends and workshop instructors. We enjoyed catching up with them and perusing their art work.

Friday evening was also the Art Walk in Durham. We enjoyed walking around downtown and thought it was great that there were so many people out to see the art.

So although it has been busy, problematic, embarrassing and expensive, it was also grandkids, exhibits and friends. All in all it was a good first week of retirement.

January 12, 2019 – Last week of work

The last week of work was great. So many friends, people and coworkers wishing me well and asking about our plans! Some of the Highlights: On Tuesday, the company, through my manager and the Administrative Assistant, had a wonderful retirement lunche...

The last week of work was great. So many friends, people and coworkers wishing me well and asking about our plans!

Some of the Highlights:

On Tuesday, the company, through my manager and the Administrative Assistant, had a wonderful retirement luncheon for me at a very nice local restaurant.

I invited as many people as I could (you can’t invite the entire company for every person that retires!), but still feel that I left out people who were important to me during my 22 years at the company. I tried to invite people who I enjoyed working with and whose professional knowledge I respected.

The food was great. The company was great. I took a little ribbing by my manager!

I was really surprise by the thoughtful, personalized gifts!

From where I stand, it was a great event!

The company has a neat little thing they do for people who are amiably leaving the department. They schedule a 2 hour meeting in one of the conference rooms, they buy a large cake and then they allow anyone and everyone to come in and say their goodbyes.

Thursday was my cake day! I was amazed at all of the people who showed up! The cake was gone in an hour. (I hope they came to see me and not just for a piece of cake!)

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There was a little presentation going on the screen that showed our RV and our plans. I think some people just had a concept in their heads about what we are doing. It is one thing to think, “Woody’s going to travel the country in an RV.” and another thing to actually see pictures of the RV and a rough itinerary for the next few months.

It was another great event!

After the exit meeting with HR on Friday morning, I didn’t want to drag it out, so Annette came for me and we left around noon.  We were driving, looking for a place to go to lunch when my manager called. Whoops! So we changed our plans and went back in to work at 1:00. We got to say goodbye and he even gave me a hug. I’m glad I went back!

A great last week at work!

I hope nobody notices that I didn’t mention a whole lot about the work that I did during this week!

 

January 11, 2019 – Retirement is Finally Here!

We have thought about retirement and planned for it for years. In the last several months, I watched the countdown on my cell phone go from well over a hundred days to zero! And now it is here! One thing I have heard and read several times is that yo...

We have thought about retirement and planned for it for years.

In the last several months, I watched the countdown on my cell phone go from well over a hundred days to zero!

And now it is here!

One thing I have heard and read several times is that you should not go into retirement without a plan: Not just a financial plan but a plan for activities that will keep you interested in Life.

Annette and I have a plan. It is a fuzzy plan with room for discretion and multiple changes in direction, but it is a plan.

Here’s the Plan:

Sell everything, buy an RV and crisscross the US visiting National Parks and other points of interest with our cameras, making images that hopefully are artful.

And now, at the dawn of retirement, how do we stand relative to the plan? Well…

  • The house is sold.
  • We have sold, given away or trashed most of our possessions.
  • Remaining possessions are in storage.
  • We are currently living in a Newmar Ventana LE 3709 RV.

But we are still in the area. We need to get moving!

Let’s see what happens!

Let’s try this thing out!

Well, we can’t just let the RV sit in the driveway, we have to try it out.  So, we reserved a space in a local state park early in May.  The reservation was hardly necessary.  only 20-25% of the sites were occupied. At this point we do not have a toa...

Well, we can’t just let the RV sit in the driveway, we have to try it out.  So, we reserved a space in a local state park early in May.  The reservation was hardly necessary.  only 20-25% of the sites were occupied.

At this point we do not have a toad set up for towing, so Annette drove the car over and I drove the RV.

This was really an inauspicious beginning to our RV’ing career.  It rained all weekend.  Then Annette got sick and we had to drive home, drop off the dog and then drive Annette to the urgent care center.

But that did not deter Annette.  She wanted to go back to the RV and finish out the weekend!

We learned a lesson about managing the water tanks.  We have a 100 gallon fresh water tank and 65 gallon black and gray tanks.

We were using the water like we do at home.  We washed dishes.  We took regular length showers both days.  At one point the kitchen sink drain gurgled.  Annette had read that if that happens, we should check the tanks.  We didn’t run out of fresh water, but we did fill up the grey water tank.  We now know better!

As we were leaving, we got our first opportunity to empty the tanks.  YouTube is a wonderful thing!  We knew what to expect and didn’t have any problems.

Another weekend later in May (not memorial Day weekend), we camped a the same park again.  We got a great site, but it rained the whole weekend again.  At least we didn’t have to go to urgent care!  And we didn’t overfill any tanks!

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Do you need a special license for an RV?

One day I was talking with my brother, who has a CDL (commercial truck driver’s license) and he asked if I had the right license to drive that RV.  I was pretty sure that I didn’t need anything more than my regular driver’s license that I have had si...

One day I was talking with my brother, who has a CDL (commercial truck driver’s license) and he asked if I had the right license to drive that RV.  I was pretty sure that I didn’t need anything more than my regular driver’s license that I have had since I was 16.

But he said to check the back of my license.  So I looked and it said that I was licensed to drive vehicles up to 26,000 pounds.  That sound like a lot.  I should be OK.

The truth is I didn’t have any idea how much the RV weighed.  I had to wait until I got home to check on the weight.  When I did I found that the GVWR was 28,000 pounds!  Oh, oh!

I had driven the RV home from the seller in Virginia, 3 states away!  I had driven it to get fuel!  I had driven it to put it in storage and to get it back out, which is about an hour away!  Oh, oh!  My current license didn’t cover that driving!

So now I had to research what type of license Annette and I needed and what it would take to get one.  Fortunately, we do not need a CDL.  That would have involved a yearly physical exam and a very tough driving test.

What we need was a Class B, Non-commercial Driver’s license.  OK, but how do you get one?

I have to tell you that the Pennsylvania DMV website was not very clear (actually, not clear at all!) on the process to get this license.  So, Annette went to the place where you take your driver’s license test.

She found out that it wasn’t so bad.  Just give them $5, take an eye test and they gave you a permit.

This permit is just like the permit you had when you were first learning to drive.  You can NOT drive all by yourself.  You need to have a licensed driver with you.  And I had done all of that driving!

Rather than going into the driving test cold, Annette and I found Allen Gingrich of RV Safe T to give us a lesson or two about our RV and driving it.  He was very flexible.  We split the 8 hour lesson into two days so that he could go with me to the driving test (remember you have to have a licensed driver with you at all times when driving on your permit.).  He was very knowledgeable and very patient with us.

Allen took us to a large parking lot, setup some traffic cones and had us practice backing up straight and parking.  Allen also taught us how to do a truck inspection.  He included everything you would have to do as a pre-trip inspection of an 18 wheeler.  This included things like checking the lights, tires, brakes, suspension, filters, etc.

So after the practice, Allen went with me to the driving test appointment.

It was kind of funny when the examiner came in from a previous test and asked who’s next?  I raised my hand and he thought I was joking.  He was used to 16 year old kids and was shocked to see someone in his 50’s!

The examiner was a good guy, but he was only 1 month on the job!  He had to ask some of the others how to give the Class B test.

I like to be over-prepared and Allen did that for me in spades!  When the examiner said to do the pre-test inspection, I started to tell him about the suspension and brakes and he said, “No, no.  Let’s just check the lights.  Get in and turn on the headlights.”  So that is all we did.

So then we got in, tested the air brakes and then embarrassed myself!  He said to pull out and go out to the traffic light.  So I put it in gear and started to drive and we went over a bump.  What was that???  Oh, oh.  I had chocked the wheels and forgot all about them!  Embarrassing!

But the good news is that I have my class B, Non-Commercial driver’s license and i am now driving legally!

 

Getting the RV out of Storage

April rolled around and Annette just couldn’t wait to get the RV out of storage.  So, mid-April we headed over to the barn to retrieve it. We got to the RV and there was that crazy huge and difficult cover that we now had to remove.  Since space was...

April rolled around and Annette just couldn’t wait to get the RV out of storage.  So, mid-April we headed over to the barn to retrieve it.

We got to the RV and there was that crazy huge and difficult cover that we now had to remove.  Since space was limited, we just pulled the cover off and stuffed it into its bag.  It was filthy.  Animals kick up a lot of dust and dirt.  And birds love the rafters of a barn!

The RV surprised me and started with no issue.

Driving the RV forward out of the barn was way easier than backing it in!

So, I drove it home and backed it into the driveway and now Annette has that monster sitting there to remind her that retirement and her dream of endless, constant travel is not that far away!