Monthly Archives: June 2018

Show me the money

finances-copieIn a prior post, I addressed some of your questions about how we manage business affairs while living this nomadic lifestyle. However, there’s one question that people don’t ask because it is so personal: How in the world can we afford to do this? After all, we retired in our late 50’s, bought this fancy bus and are traveling the US full time.  How did we get here, financially, to enable us to live the dream?

We saved early and often. We were blessed to be able to obtain college degrees and good jobs which provided a good income. But, we never spent all of that income. Neither of us came from moneyed background, so our needs and wants have always been modest. Beginning in our 20’s, we saved a significant percentage of our paycheck and increased that percentage with every salary raise. We worked very hard to achieve success in our professions which helped the income side of the equation, but we always chose to spend significantly less than what we made. That difference went to our savings.

We invested for the long term. Jeff became a student of investing and placed our savings in a range of investment vehicles that would perform well over the long term. We took full advantage of any benefits offered by employers such as tax deferred 401K plans and, over time, worked up to the maximum allowed annual contribution.  We didn’t touch our savings for short-term gratification items such as vacations or new cars. We also made it a priority to eliminate debt, never carrying credit card balances and always paying off any loans (car / home) earlier than scheduled. Jeff ran annual net worth statements so we could monitor our progress and keep us on track. By our early 50’s we were completely debt-free. Jeff also took the opportunity to invest in a business partnership, which proved to be an excellent decision.

We set a goal. As we evaluated retirement options in our 40’s, we solidified around the concept of fulltime RV travel. It was a vision that really excited us and we knew it was achievable. So we began a 15 year (on and off) process of research to learn all we could about what we would need, and what it would take to accomplish this goal. We went to RV shows, read books, and surfed the web to study all of our options.

We crunched the numbers. As we hit our 50’s, we started getting serious about  retirement timing. I am fortunate to have a pension coming from Motorola, but we won’t draw it until we hit 65 and our full Social Security retirement age is almost 67. For a successful early retirement, we had to have sufficient savings (or income) to pay the bills until those pension income streams kick in. So, we calculated our estimated annual budget for life on the road. We made key decisions, such as not keeping a home base or storage unit, which would help reduce our spend. We figured the savings we would need to fund an early retirement and started driving toward that number.

We received an unfortunate windfall. We received a sizeable insurance settlement as a result of our son’s accidental death. Frankly, I didn’t want it at first. It felt wrong somehow, like blood money. I wanted Nathan back. I’d still give it all back in a heartbeat if I could have him instead, but I can’t. Over time, I’ve come to see it as his parting gift – a mechanism to give us the freedom to move forward into the life we had dreamed about. The windfall allowed us to buy a nicer bus and go sooner than we’d originally thought possible. I figure we owe it to Nathan to live this life with all the gusto we can muster.

We executed the plan. We sold the house. We gave away all of our stuff. Jeff quit his job. We bought the bus, left our place of security, and moved forward. It’s all good to plan and save, but actually doing something this drastic takes quite an effort. It’s worth it, though!

So now, 7 months in, how are the finances working out?  Pretty darned well. Our actual spend is fairly close to our previously estimated budget. We have a modest income stream from my part-time consulting work and our two rental properties. And Jeff’s business stock sale is paying out over 10 years, so it’s like getting a monthly paycheck. Essentially, our income is covering our current expenses, so our savings can continue to grow against future needs. Sweet! We’re doing just fine.

Check out my sweet ride

IMG_3599Check out my new bicycle – ain’t she purdy? I had been riding a 15+ year old mountain bike handed down from the kids. It just wasn’t set up properly for me. My hands quickly went numb, I was constantly slipping forward off the seat, and it was awkward to mount and dismount. It wasn’t a comfortable or fun ride and I found myself simply not riding it. Fixing the geometry would require a fairly complex retrofit (it couldn’t be adjusted far enough without parts changes), and frankly I was over it. I wanted a new bike. The last time I got a new bike, fitted specifically to my needs and size was, well, never. I think it’s about time, don’t you?

IMG_3600So, I researched and selected a Trek Verve 2 hybrid bicycle. I’ve had really good experiences riding Trek hybrids on bike trips and it’s a highly reputable brand. This model has upright riding geometry and a step-through frame, making it much more comfortable to mount and ride. The hybrid tires work great for the kind of casual biking I do on roads, bike paths, gravel roads, and non-technical trails. I added ergonomic hand grips, a rear rack and a tinkle bell. This is the SUV of bikes – versatile for sightseeing, fitness rides, and transportation both on and off road. [Other tech specs:  XS  lightweight aluminum frame, 24 Shimano gears, suspension seatpost, and adjustable stem]

IMG_3601To test it out, we took it to Minto-Brown Island Park in Salem. Larger than Central Park in New York, this park has miles of multi-use paved and unpaved paths. Oh. My. Gosh. What a difference!!  We rode both on paved paths and gravel / dirt paths, and the bike handled just awesomely. The ergonomic hand grips are fantastically comfortable. No more numb hands! It was just so easy to ride. The weather was pleasantly cool, the park scenery was lovely and I felt like a kid again, just out ridin’ my bike! 9 miles went by like it was nothing – I could have gone around the loop again. I don’t know why I didn’t get a new bicycle years ago.

I think I’m going to be riding a lot more from now on.


Taking care of business

taking-care-of-businessWhen I talk to folks about our life on the road, I often get questions about logistical issues. Questions like: How do you get your mail? What about doctor’s appointments? How do you handle banking and other business items? Here are our solutions!

Mail handling:  When we sold our South Florida home, we converted our Orlando house (where our son lives) from a rental property into our primary residence, at least on paper. That’s the address we use for everything – banks, credit cards, driver’s license, auto registration, etc, so all of our mail goes here too. I find that most campgrounds accept mail and packages for campers, so when we are going to be at a place for a couple of weeks, I’ll request that Sean forward our mail to us. He uses pre-paid Priority Mail envelopes (which I buy online from and ships to the address I provide. Since Priority Mail envelopes have tracking numbers, I can track the package to its destination and haven’t lost any (yet). I also signed up for informed delivery, a free USPS service that provides a daily email of scanned images showing the envelopes to be delivered at your address that day. It allows me to screen for anything urgent, which Sean can open and text a photo, if needed. To reduce the mail load, he tosses obvious junk mail and we’ve converted to digital communications as much as possible. Most of the time, forwarding our mail once or twice per month has been sufficient.

Banking / Bills: As mentioned above, we’ve converted to digital communications wherever possible, including digital billing and bank statements. We do still have a few invoices that can only come on paper (mostly relating to our rental property in Gatlinburg), and we watch for those in our mail and then use online payment to either pay directly or pay by check. We almost never physically write a check any more. All of our banks and brokerage firms have apps now, so we can monitor and manage most accounts on our iPhone. We can even deposit checks by phone. Also, before we left Florida, we withdrew a sizeable cash reserve and stashed it in our onboard safe to supply our daily cash needs and avoid foreign ATM fees. Unfortunately Jeff’s company stock payout is currently coming to us by way of monthly hard copy checks, which is a bit of a hassle and causes a delay due to the circuitous mail handling required. They are investigating direct deposit options, so hopefully that will be resolved one day.

Family business: We planned for the scenarios described above, so all that has gone smoothly. What we didn’t plan for was the need for Jeff to assume control of  his dad’s finances. Just before our planned Launch Day last year, Jeff’s dad’s health unexpectedly deteriorated, forcing a flurry of last minute decisions and actions for his care. One of those actions was to make Jeff his dad’s financial power of attorney. Even though Jeff visited every bank branch personally and provided the POA evidence, time has proved that the banks did not fully process the POA during his lengthy in-person sessions. Working to restructure his dad’s assets for long term management has proven to be an exercise in extreme frustration as he has had to deal with each bank’s idiosyncratic bureaucracy. We’ve made multiple treks to FedEx, UPS, and local bank offices to notarize and fax or mail hard copy documents, since they typically won’t accept scanned and emailed documents. Anything CAN be done remotely, but it is far more difficult than simply walking into the local bank where the account originated.

Medical and Dental care: Our route takes us back to Florida at the end of the year for several months, so we can take care of any annual appointment needs during that time. Non-routine care can be a bit more complicated. Jeff set up a teeth cleaning appointment in Paso Robles California, and learned there that he had a (silent) infection in a root-canal tooth. After researching options and conferring with his South Florida long-time dentist, he elected to have the tooth extracted and prepared for an implant. We had to plan the procedures around our itinerary. Jeff set up his extraction and bone graft appointment with a periodontist in Lodi, and the Paso Robles dentist forwarded his records there. His stitches were taken out by another periodontist here in Salem, Oregon. The rest of the implant process will be completed in Florida, since it needs several months of healing anyway. These things do get complicated when you’re a moving target. Fortunately, we are typically very healthy and these scenarios don’t arise often. I can see why medical problems can force RV-ers into an extended stay somewhere or off the road entirely, due to the need for medical care continuity.

Any other questions, just ask me!

Oregon Coast Highway

Yesterday we mounted the motorcycle and headed west toward the Oregon coast, a beautiful curvy ride over the forested mountains to the sea. It always amazes to me how effectively the mountains block the cool sea breezes.  While temperatures reached 90 degrees in the valley, the immediate coastal region remained in the chilly, sweater-worthy 60’s.

Reaching the small beach town of Lincoln City, our first stop was the Chinook Winds Casino Resort, owned by the same Siletz Indian Tribe as our Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort. Although the purpose of our visit was to break some large bills from our cash stash, we couldn’t resist checking our their blackjack tables. Not expecting much, I was pleasantly surprised to find standard 3:2 blackjack rules at a $3 minimum table! While Jeff took care of business, I promptly plopped down at the table to play a few hands. When Jeff re-joined me, we both played for a few minutes, cashing out at $7.50 up.

As it was nearing lunch time and we already liked this place, we decided to join their players club and score a few dollars off their lunch buffet. It turned out that it was a “Boomer Tuesday”, and members over 55 get a special buffet discount. We had a delightful buffet lunch for a grand total of $11.90! As new members, we also got $5 free promotional slot play, so stopped to use that up before we continued on. Jeff promptly lost his promotional dollars, but I hit an uncharacteristic slot machine winning streak and walked away with $26 cash. We strolled away from the casino stuffed, smiling, and with $20 more in our pocket than we walked in with. This casino is great – clean, relaxed and super friendly. It even has a “help yourself” soda and coffee bar, which I’ve NEVER seen at any other casino. We’ll probably go back next Boomer Tuesday.

We continued on south down the coastline, which is strewn with small parks and beaches. The vibe is laid-back and uncrowded. The view is spectacular, displaying ancient lava flows meeting boiling seas. The tidal swing is much larger than we are accustomed to, with 8-9 feet difference between high and low tides. We were there around low tide, exposing tidal pools and expansive beaches.

Farther down the coast we happened upon Yaquina Head outstanding natural area and lighthouse, the second-oldest (and tallest) lighthouse on the Oregon Coast. Run by the Bureau of Land Management, entrance to the park would have been free to us, had we remembered to bring our Park pass. (darn!) We paid the modest $3 motorcycle entrance fee out of our winnings. We were too late to participate in one of the lighthouse tours, but browsed the informative visitor’s center, walked around the lighthouse and watched the seals at play in the cove before heading back.

Just another day in the life of full time adventurers!

Campground Review: Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort, Salem OR

IMG_3588Campground Review Summary

  • Name: Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort
  • Dates of stay: June 13 – 26, 2018
  • Location: 4751 Astoria Street NE, Salem OR 97305
  • Type of campground: Private / Independent
  • Cost: $37.87/night (weekly rate)
  • Additional fees: none
  • Stay limit: none
  • Accepts mail / packages: yes
  • Cell reception: ATT reception good
  • Website:
  • Pros: Great amenities, reasonable price, nice site
  • Cons: none

Full Review

You got to love the name – Hee Hee Illahee. It makes me want to giggle. This park is owned by the Siletz Indian tribe, and the name literally means “a fun place to be” in the native language. That’s the only indication that the park is tribal-owned, otherwise it is managed just like any other RV resort we’ve stayed at.

Oregon continues to surprise me with their reasonably-priced RV resorts. This park has all the amenities – seasonal outdoor pool, hot tub, playground, clubhouse with pool table and kitchen, coin laundry, playground, gazebo with BBQ grill – for a moderate price of under $40/night at the weekly rate. Daily rates are higher ($47 plus tax), but they do accept Good Sam discount.  The restrooms are a bit unusual in that they have individual bath rooms with toilet, sink and shower. They are clean, modern, and spacious. This relatively new campground has 139 spaces, most pull through and all full hook up. The roads and sites are big-rig friendly, with plenty of maneuvering room and no overhead hazards.

Our concrete pull through pad is fully long enough for all of our gear with grass and a picnic table between sites. We have the usual full hookup amenities (50 amp electric) plus cable TV is available. We have no trouble picking up a number of over the air TV stations as well as our satellite dish stations. The park wifi is excellent, much better than our ATT hotspot bandwidth. I can even stream you-tube video, and the wifi is absolutely free!!

The campground is in a great location to explore the Willamette valley area with its parks, outdoor activities, and wineries. Shopping is nearby and Portland is less than an hour away. The office staff are friendly and helpful, and accept packages with no problem.

Bottom Line: Great luxury RV resort amenities at a moderate price.

Waterfalls and Portland

We’re really diggin’ Oregon. It’s beautiful and cool, people are great, roads are nice, and  prices on just about everything are significantly less than California. Did you know that Oregon is one of two states in the US where it is literally illegal for you to pump your own gas? (New Jersey is the other). I thought full service gas stations were a thing of the past, but here you go. An attendant promptly pumps your gas, runs your credit card, and even offers to clean your windshield. And the gas prices are STILL much cheaper than California. Go figure.

We’re currently staying near Salem. Silver Falls State Park is located only about a half hour drive east of here. It is the largest (and one of the most popular) State parks in Oregon and for good reason. It contains the Trail of Ten Falls, a scenic hike in, around, and even behind ten spectacular waterfalls. The 8.5 mile hike is considered moderate – there are some ups and downs, but never too steep or too terribly long. The steepest sections have stairs instead of slippery steep trails, which I always appreciate. It was a fabulous trail to hike, and if I have time while we’re here – I’d do it again!

We also spent a little time exploring the city of Portland. It has an interesting, quirky vibe and vibrant downtown. The Saturday farmer’s market in the heart of the Portland State University campus is a true farmer’s market offering gorgeous produce, flowers, artisan cheese and meats and cottage industry products. When we visited it was also graduation day at the University, and cap & gowned students with proud parents in tow were evident everywhere.

Portland is a little confusing to navigate because of its hilliness and parks. Fortunately GPS works! The city is known for being bike friendly, and you can see numerous bike paths / trails and people taking advantage of them. The city is also the founding location of the World Naked Bike Ride.  Apparently, in Oregon public nakedness is viewed as an expression of freedom of speech, protected by the Constitution. (Nudity is protected, lewd behavior is not!) Every year in June, thousands of bicyclists meet on a Saturday evening to go as “bare as they dare” and partake in a mass ride on the city’s streets. Many dare to go quite bare. The event is next Saturday, so we could go and participate if we wanted. Er….. probably not.

While touring the city (fully clothed), we also visited the Pittock mansion museum, a lovely home built high on a Portland hill by one of Portland’s most influential residents and newspaper magnate, Henry Pittock. Although nowhere near the scale and scope of the Hearst castle, this beautifully designed historic home was built as a family home, not a showpiece. It also was finished  in 2.5 years! It boasted many innovations for the early 1900’s – residential elevator, intercom system, central vacuum, central heat, and a fabulous 360 degree shower in the master bath.  The mansion tour gave us a feel for the history of Portland as well as the story of the family who built it.

More Oregon exploration to come!

Campground Review: Crater Lake RV Park, Prospect, OR

047Campground Review Summary

  • Name: Crater Lake RV Park
  • Dates of stay: June 6-12, 2018
  • Location: 46001 Hwy 62, Prospect, OR
  • Type of campground: Private / Independent
  • Cost: $31.76/night (weekly rate)
  • Additional fees: none
  • Stay limit: none
  • Accepts mail / packages: yes
  • Cell reception: ATT poor / none
  • Website:
  • Pros: Beautiful, inexpensive, close to national park
  • Cons: basic amenities, no TV/phone coverage

Full Review

We selected this resort due to its proximity to Crater Lake National Park. We are always a little nervous coming into an older park (especially in a wooded area), as they are often not set up to accommodate large RVs. However, this park not only proved that truism false, it was one of the most beautiful natural settings we’ve had in our travels.

046Our back-in asphalt site was over 80 feet long, more than ample for our parking needs. That site had sufficient maneuvering room so that backing in wasn’t a problem. We had a shaded patio area with a picnic table and plenty of space around us. The full hookup site included 50/30 amp electrical service, water and sewer. Since we were under the trees, our satellite dish couldn’t connect and we were far enough out to have exactly zero over the air TV channels. There was a Direct TV connection provided by the campground which was free since we had our own Direct TV box, but we would have had to awkwardly run the cable through our slide seal and connect it directly to our box. We decided just to do without TV for the week. The campground has an extensive free DVD lending library, and we took full advantage of that! Our ATT signal was essentially unusable, but the campground internet wifi was surprisingly robust. Not enough for streaming or anything heavy duty, but it was adequate for checking email and casual gaming.

I should note that not all of the sites are this long and some have a fairly significant slope. Ours was reasonably level, but we saw other rigs that had to really jack up their front end to get level. Not every site can accommodate our size bus, and they gave us the best location for our needs.

044Amenities are basic. If you are looking for a pool and mini golf, this isn’t the place. The bathhouses are converted trailers with one commode and two showers in each of the men’s and women’s facilities. They were dated, but clean and serviceable. The managers and camp hosts were friendly and incredibly helpful. At check in, we were given a packet of information and maps to local sights. The aforementioned DVD library was a nice resource.  The campground even is connected to hiking trails – you can stroll out your door and onto the trails. Awesome!

The nearby town of Prospect has a small general store, a gas station, and sufficient AT&T signal to make phone calls. For a supermarket, you have to go farther afield to Shady Cove (20 minutes) or near Medford (45 minutes). Make sure you gas up, because there are limited gas stations in and around Crater Lake National Park.

Coming out of California and averaging $50/night, this campground at just over $30/night seemed downright cheap. That price included a $2.75/night surcharge for 50 amp service, so a smaller rig would cost even less.


043If you are into nature, this is a fantastic location. Crater Lake National Park is about a half hour away, and nearby are great motorcycle roads, hiking/biking trails, and ATV trails.

Bottom Line: Beautiful wooded campground, in a great location, at a great price. One of our favorite campgrounds so far.

Crater Lake and Waterfalls

It’s been a while since I blogged because we were basically off the grid for the last week. At our very nice RV park (review to follow), we were far enough out to be virtually unplugged – no over the air TV stations, no satellite TV due to trees, and our AT&T signal was nil. We had to drive a couple of miles over to the nearest town and park next to the general store to make a phone call! An occasional text could get through, but that was about it. We managed to survive.

Crater Lake was formed about 7700 years ago when volcano Mount Mazama blew its top, spewed lava and collapsed – leaving a perfectly formed basin. Centuries of precipitation (snow and rain) created the deepest lake in the US, almost 2000 feet deep. Since the lake is filled only by precipitation (no streams flow in or out of the lake), it is uncommonly pristine and contains the bluest blue water you’ve ever seen. Part of the rim drive was still closed for the winter (due to snow) during our visit, but there were a number of accessible overlooks. We only had to hike through a little snow! During the summer, it is possible to hike down from the rim to the lake and take a boat ride. Truly a unique and beautiful National Park.

Crater Lake is in the southern Cascade Mountains. When I think “cascade”, I think of water, and there was water aplenty in and around this area. We saw deep water-carved gorges, waterfalls of all heights and shapes, even a spot where two rivers collide head on. At one point on the Rogue River, the river plunges through an ancient lava tube, re-emerging 200 feet downstream, which is a pretty neat trick! The area is surrounded by forest-lined scenic byways, just begging for a motorcycle ride. The weather was cool and pleasant – perfect for exploration.

As our introduction to Oregon, this place was pretty darned awesome.

Campground Review: Mountain Gate RV Park, Redding, CA


  • Name: Mountain Gate RV Park
  • Dates of stay: June 1-6, 2018
  • Location: 14161 Holiday Rd, Redding, CA  96003
  • Type of campground: Private / Independent
  • Cost: $42.57/night (Good Sam discount)
  • Additional fees: none
  • Stay limit: none
  • Accepts mail / packages: yes
  • Cell reception: ATT mediocre / variable
  • Website:
  • Pros: Beautifully natural park with all of the amenities
  • Cons: spotty cell phone coverage, hot in summer

Full Review

We selected this park because it had great reviews, and I can see why it has a good reputation. Many of the higher rated big-rig-friendly resorts that we’ve stayed in are nicely groomed, but new and a little sterile. This park’s wooded hills provides more of a natural environment, while still offering many desirable amenities.

Our site was equipped with a level concrete pad and full hookups including 30/50 amp electric, water and sewer. It was a back in site, but with plenty of maneuvering room for our big rig. Cable TV was offered, but our over the air digital antenna and satellite TV met our needs. The site wasn’t long enough to park our truck too, but ample parking was available directly across the street. Spacing on either side was reasonable, and our site had a shady flat gravel area with a picnic table. It was so nice, we put out our chairs for the first time in a while and just enjoyed sitting outside on the evenings that weren’t too warm.

The campground has several bath houses that are modern, clean and conveniently located. The coin laundry facility is located near the club house, pool and hot tub area. The friendly management team even offers free pastries and coffee every morning!

The park is near Lake Shasta recreation options including the Caverns and Dam. The town of Lake Shasta is nearby, and has limited restaurants and shopping , but for a mall or Walmart you’ll need to head into Redding about 20 minutes away.

The only possible negative was that our ATT cell coverage was a bit spotty, especially for internet use. One day it was completely unusable, while another day, it was slow but OK. Otherwise, we really liked this park and would stay again. The cost (including Good Sam discount) was a reasonable $42 / night. Had we stayed longer, the cost per night would have been less. The other factor is the seasonal weather – it got to 100 degrees during our stay. I really liked the area, but would prefer cooler weather!


Bottom Line: Beautiful park, friendly management, and nice sites! We would definitely come back during spring or fall weather.

Fire and Ice

240Have you ever heard of Lassen Volcanic National Park? I hadn’t either, until we planned our itinerary here! This underappreciated park has examples of all four volcano types: shield, cinder cone, plug dome and composite. If you don’t want to Google that, I’ve posted the definitions below. The main feature is Lassen peak, which blew its top only about 100 years ago.  The park landscape was shaped by the upward push of volcanos, and carved into deep valleys by glaciers. Fire and Ice.

IMG_4028The park isn’t huge by Western national park standards – we drove the main road through the park in only a couple of hours. But there was a lot to see in that relatively short space. Due to Lassen peak’s height (10,500 feet) and profuse winter snowfall, the main road had opened only a few days before our arrival, although giant snow drifts were and alpine lakes were still in the process of gently melting.


Because the Lassen eruption was so recent, it’s aftermath was quite evident in ejected boulders, rocky jumbles, and areas devastated by mud and lava flow. The area is in the re-forestation process, slowed somewhat by the relative lack of area rainfall. By contrast, Mount St. Helens has reforested much more quickly.

239In the valley, wildlife is abundant. During our 2 mile stroll around one of the lakes, we saw squirrels, ducks, geese families, and the occasional saucy chipmunk. We walked under tall fir trees that shed very large pine cones! It was one of those beautiful, cool spring days – the air was so clear it was difficult to take a bad photo.



The Lassen volcano is classified as non-dormant, which I guess is less threatening than 277saying “active”? Hot spots are scattered through the park with steam geysers, sulfur vents, and bubbling mud pots. Although it can’t compare with Yellowstone’s scale and scope, this little brother park to Yellowstone is a beautiful place to visit.

Volcano types (from Park brochure):

  • A shield volcano is a broad, rounded volcano built up by successive outpourings of very fluid lava that can spread over great distances.
  • A cinder cone volcano is made up of loose volcanic rock, cinders, and ash that accumulate around a single vent.
  • A plug dome volcano forms when lava is too thick to flow great distances. A steam blast shattered Lassen’s plug, creating an avalanche of melted snow and rock down the east side.
  • A composite volcano has layers of volcanic rock, lava, cinders, and ash that erupted from a central vent or group of vents.