Friday, May 18, 2012

Preparing for “Fulltiming” - the Early Days

Park Hosts at Fort Stevens State Park
To the best of my memory, the idea appeared in February. I know I was the one who first voiced it aloud: "Maybe we should just sell the house and become full-timers.", or something close to that. I remember looking at Steve - his mouth open - perhaps literally. I believe he said he couldn't believe I'd be willing to do something like that. I could see he liked the idea though - His face kind of lit up.

I know I spoke those words, initially, out of a need to escape the pressures of life. Whenever life gets particularly difficult, I feel an urge to “run away”. Naturally, there is no place to go where life does not follow you. But from time to time I dream of it. This was one of those times.
Even though recent difficulties of life brought the idea to mind, the moment it was said aloud something else happened. It was a solution to many things, and just felt like the idea and timing were so right for us!
When we bought this home in May of 2006, as our last real home before “downsizing”, we projected, God willing, we’d be able to live here 10 or so years. With a ¼ acre lot, we knew it would eventually be too much to keep up. We speculated that at some point we’d just hire someone to keep the yard up so we could remain here longer – no problem. Then retirement happened, and the economy dropped and we had to live more frugally than we’d expected. We adjusted.
Three and a half years after Steve retired, I was particularly in need of something fun to do to get me out of the “funk” I’d been in since losing our cat, Rosemary, in a very sad and traumatic way. We decided it was time to try out park hosting in Oregon. We applied, were accepted, and decided to spend our first hosting job on the North Oregon coast, at Fort Stevens State Park. We loved the experience even more than we expected and ended up staying on an additional month and then an extra week to help out over the New Year’s holiday.
There were so many great things we enjoyed about our park hosting experience. We got to try new things, we got to explore and enjoy the park with a whole new perspective. We learned to pick wild mushrooms! We got to drive “gators” around the park. We met many new people. We enjoyed being a part of the small community of park hosts and rangers who spent the Winter at Fort Stevens. We got to be helpful to people. We got to greet people as representatives of the park. We got to be of assistance and we were appreciated. We felt we were making a difference.
In addition, we thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity of life. We worked 5 days a week, 4 hours each day. Yet we never had a job which required our being somewhere before 1pm. We could stay in our pj’s until noon if we wanted. Yet it was a joy to have a reason to get up and out each day. We went for lots of walks. We ate well, yet simply. I generally cooked once, from which we ate twice. For the first time ever, we celebrated Thanksgiving alone. We had a simple Thanksgiving meal, and then went out and sold wood to fellow campers. Our new park host friends, Rich & Suzanne, joined us later for turkey sandwiches. It was a great day. We celebrated Christmas alone too. It was a wonderful, mostly laid back holiday season.
We had a few small trials – a small leak appeared in our 5th wheel, the park lost power several times during storms, and I came down with a nasty cold and some other physical issues in December. But, in general, we had such a great time living in our Cardinal 28RKB 5th wheel trailer for November and December of 2011.

While feeling pretty poorly, I was so anxious to get home in January. I remember saying clearly that I could never be a full-time RVer! I’m learning never to say “never”. In hindsight the areas that were lacking were related to our trailer and it’s creature comforts – or the lack of some of them. While being well made, it is not a “residential RV”. It has single paned windows, and it gets chilly in the slides during the cold weather. Since we rarely use the propane furnace due to the noise, the floor is generally cold. It’s really just fine for the amount of time we normally spend in the trailer during the winter months – but our desires have changed.
On that first day when the idea of full timing came to us, I realized what I was really talking about when I said I could never be a full timer, was that I couldn’t do it in our current trailer. We bought this 5th wheel in the Spring of 2000 specifically to last us through retirement. We chose carefully. We sacrificed our ideal floor plan for a trailer that was built well and should last us many years. We still think we made a good choice. While we love going to RV shows, looking at the new trailers with their cool creature comforts, we always said that if going to an RV show made us dissatisfied with what we have, then we’d quit going. That’s never happened. This trailer has been everything we’ve needed for many years. Steve likes to say it has one feature that none of the newer RVs has – it’s paid for!
So, coincidentally, perhaps, an RV Show was scheduled at the Portland Expo Center during the first week of March and we decided to go and check out something completely new – motorhomes! We wondered if that would even be something we could manage. How big of one would it take for us to feel we could life full time in it? How much would it costs? Would it feel right for us? We got an incredible education, but honestly never got out of the first large room of the show. At some point we were so overwhelmed, trying to digest the information. It seemed I couldn’t remember what I’d already seen. Yet certain models had just felt right. We decided to go out to the car and enjoy the lunch I’d packed and try to think things through.
After lunch, which turned out to be later in the day than we’d realized, we decided to just go back and try to find the 1-2 motorhomes that had really stood out to us. It turned out that it was only one – the Itasca Meridian 40U, manufactured by Winnebago.

We also talked to, probably, our 5th or 6th saleman. This time it was Steven Swenwold, from Camping World (west), which used to be Olinger Motorhomes, in Hillsboro. We felt he was a gift from God. He was willing to just sit and answer question after question for us. We were so thankful for his wealth of knowledge! When we later went to look him up at Camping World, we learned he is a fellow believer and even attends our church – same service. It amazes me that there could still be people at my church that I don’t even recognize by face! We think he’ll be the one who helps us find the right home for us in our future. The adventure continues!

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