Other VanOrden Posts

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Surviving and Thriving in Our Current Economy

Half way through my 34 year career as an educator I realized that boredom was setting in.  I really loved what I was doing but had become tired of administrative mumbo jumbo that comes with being part of a large corporation.  Whatever you do for a career eventually becomes tedious.  You tend to look for ways to hold on since jumping ship mid-career could be financially disastrous. 

I eventually determined I would do the “logical” thing and keep on pressing forward with my chosen career path.  I was 40 years old and decided I could make it to 55 years old with the same employer.  Then I would use the first window for early retirement to make a change. 

Here’s the rest of the story.  I made it to 55 years old.  That year my wife got cancer.  That knocked me up alongside the head because I realized I needed to protect our health benefits by not leaving full time employment.  At the time I was at the pinnacle of my career and engaged in large projects building new facilities and expanding programs. It wasn’t hard to decide to go another 5 years to age 60, which was the next good window for retirement.  So a few short years later I turned 60 and I retired. 

Here are a few of the downsides:  Health benefits costs go up.  Life insurance all but disappears.  Income becomes static.  Corporate contributions to your savings nest-egg stop abruptly.  You lose track of which day of the week it is since you have so little to do as a regular routine.  Retirement freedom is definitely an adjustment. While fun and challenging, golfing just can’t provide the fulfillment you have been used to.      

The urgency to look at our future in retirement has skyrocketed due to political considerations.  I will admit I am concerned now that Barrack Obama has been re-elected for another 4 year term.  Our insurance costs will increase dramatically as 40,000,000 uninsured join those of us who continue to pay for our own insurance and health care.  We have already started to feel the pinch as we scheduled several doctors’ appointments six months out due to overcrowding: too many patients for too few doctors in our much needed specialties; ObamaCare already discouraging new doctors from the health field. 

Now the retirement upside of how you can provide security in retirement by maximizing your income capabilities so you manage to support yourself during the changing financial climate brought on by the current cultural climate in our country. 

Here are the choices we have made or are considering:
1)       I used every possible perk offered to encourage “early” retirement which adds several additional income streams (employer purchased annuity and otherwise) over the next 3-10 years.  Most retirement programs offer these inducements since they can hire 2 or more younger workers for the cost of paying you during the latter part of your career.  “New young blood” with increased enthusiasm is good for corporations.  Quite frankly, I agree with that axiom. 
2)      We can put off taking our social security benefits till we are at least 66 or maybe even 70 so it maximizes that income stream.  Some of my friends are worried about this one since they think Social Security may go bankrupt, but I really doubt that will happen.     
3)      We have saved vigorously for our retirement and will continue to do so for as long as possible.  The nest-egg will eventually be drawn upon at the inflation proof rate of 4-5% per year in order to preserve the principle.  We have chosen to use the services of a professional investment advisor to grow our savings as aggressively as we dare risk.
4)       Adding additional income can be accomplished by starting a new career.  I checked for job openings in our area to get some idea of what I could earn from a position I qualify for due to my education and experience.  In the Boise Idaho area there are multiple openings for my particular expertise with potential income from $50,000 - $72,000.  I could take on a new challenge for the next 5-10 years and save most of what I earn.  Not necessary but certainly possible if I get bored with too much golf in retirement.
5)      Starting my own business by using the power of cyber-resources has built residual income.  I favor development of a private business plan with a product developed personally in order to have control and protect earnings. I am fortunate to have sons who own businesses doing this successfully.  My own personal “brand” or product is taking root and starting to provide what I refer to as passive income, as it grows exponentially and perpetually.
6)      Controlling expenses by moving to an area with a lower cost of living and good quality of life provides for continued aggressive savings.  For instance, we manage with one car now rather than the tradition everyone has to have their own transportation.  Our insurance is only $25 per month and gas cost between $150-200. It could be less if we didn’t live so far out in the country. 
7)      We buy organic food products from local farmers and have our own garden. 
8)      Once a week we review our finances by using a tracking program which simplifies the process.  We have used Mint.com for the past 3 years and trust its security and privacy, but there are other programs out there.  It tracks our budget and expenses, as well as our investments. Weekly we review each of our budget categories and ask ourselves if there is any way to reduce that expense. It gives us peace of mind to know our net-worth is still increasing on a weekly basis.  One of our goals is to keep it doing so for the rest of our lives. 
9)   We invest in real estate by purchasing our primary residence with the intent of increasing equity.  We were fortunate to do well on the sale of our home in Alaska right before the market soften a bit.  Then we managed to time our purchase in Idaho right before the market firmed up and took a major growth spike to the tune of 21%.  In addition we bought our new home at a discounted short-sale price. We feel very blessed by this part of our financial planning.
10)   I am looking at buying a “distressed” home on a golf course when it comes up for auction in January 2013.  Every time we play that course I see that beautiful home sitting vacant and think it may be a very good investment. I am in process of doing due diligence research to make sure we can either “flip” the house after some remodeling or move into it while selling our current country home.  There is potential of making $50,000-100,000 if done wisely.  Real estate is a tricky business but can bring huge returns.  
11)   And my final rule for avoiding economic disaster---“Don’t do anything stupid”.  Do your homework, consult trusted experts who don’t have a financial incentive motivating their response, and move forward with confidence in yourself and the future.       

Care in managing all these elements of financial security provides a much needed sense of well-being as we navigate through the longest recession in recent history.  Thriving during the current national fiscal climate is not as difficult as it might seem.  Everything will work out if you are cautious and wise with your resources.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Progess on the Farmstead in Idaho

I have to say that Alaskans are dang tough.  I have tried not to make a big deal out of how nice the weather has been here in Idaho since we arrived 4 months ago.  Today it's 46 degrees and partly sunny so we are going to get out of the house and go golfing for a few hours.  

People here in Idaho act like this is cold wintery weather but we think of it as like early summer or fall weather since we are still Alaskans from 19 years in the great frontier north.  Here in Idaho I still have green grass growing in the yard  and will need to mow it again soon.  I can't tell you how pleasant it is to get out in the yard, feeling sun warm my face.  Hang in there my good Alaskan friends, summer will come for you again as it always does.  

Here is more about our effort in Idaho to secure a decent living situation that is maintainable as a "retired" couple on a "fixed" income.  We are only 60 years old and may still have 20-30 years of life.  Basically we have another whole career to enjoy while inflation chips away at our resources. 

We have a multi-pronged plan to bring security and protect our resources while we press forward through the next several decades.  1)continue to increase our nest-egg savings, 2)develop a production lifestyle that provides nutritious inexpensive food, and 3)diversify our income streams.   

I have been plotting our garden space on our acreage.  I moved the stakes and string around several times but think I have the right space identified and will start building the raised garden-beds soon.  We decided to go with 4x8 boxes because the soil on this mountainside is rocky and not suitable for a healthy productive garden.  By so doing we can build our own "soil" with delivered dirt and1-year old manure carefully churned to perfection.  

We researched how to build a seven foot fence around the garden plot to keep the dear and other critters away from our succulent plants. We could make it pretty and spend $1000 or pratical with posts and dear fabric.  The jury is still out on that one.  

The challenges of getting our little farmstead started are coming into focus and being overcome one at a time.  We already have our green house simply by putting tables with plants by the picture-windows in the southwest facing walkout basement.  By Spring (early March) 2013 we should be ready to plant for the first time.      

We will also plant fruit trees, grape vines, strawberries and raspberries.  Since our neighborhood covenants say we can't have chickens (bummer), we found a local farmer who will sell us farm fresh eggs for $1.50 a dozen.  Local goat milk may be in our future too.  We may start a small beehive operation to provide honey.  I bought the beekeeping for dummies book to help with research.  We will video each of these projects to provide some hands-on how-to visuals and I suspect some how-not-to's so our friends can avoid our mistakes.

Much of the material will be copyrighted to protect our privacy and "creative" property.  For links to my UStream TV channel, as well as the videos and podcast I invite you to become part of my secure email group by signing up in the box next to this post. I hope our experience might be useful to you.                     

Saturday, October 27, 2012

How to Safely Grow Net-Worth Now and for the Future

I’ve been distracted with too many “retirement” activities so my writing and online brand-building has suffered. I used to have seven months of Alaskan winter to write and develop my online presence. As many of you know, the two major emphases of my research for the past several years have been health and enhancing retirement income.

 Today I checked my online stats and was surprised to see that even with my absence from blogging and website development “hits” continue to increase. My son tells me that as your online activities grow you eventually come to a fulcrum point and the teeter-tauter tips and it takes on a life of its own. It appears that has happened, so now I need to honor my audience by providing new content that is accurate and useful.

 Most of our income-streams are established now that we are "retired". We are holding off on taking our Social Security since it is substantially higher if we wait for six years until our federally mandated full retirement age of 66, or we may even wait till we are 70 to maximize the benefit.

 Our investments are working aggressively with the help of our financial adviser. Our net-worth continues to grow with the catalyst being good investments and the growth of my own “business” through internet marketing and advertising income.

 All of our products are of our own making whether they are tangible or intellectual property.  People have expertise they can turn into useable products which can be marketed online.  

 Jeannie enjoys photography and uses her prints to make beautiful hand-made greeting cards. She has used them as gifts but now we are thinking about a website to sell them.

You can use your hobbies by turning them into money makers. We may need to outsource some of the technical work and things like shipping so we are free to write, create and produce our podcasts.

 If you are interested in more detail about how we have developed multiple income streams by owning our own online business you can sign up for my exclusive email group by going to the box to the left of this post. I send links for my podcasts to this secure group to protect my copyrighted material.

This winter Jeannie and I are hoping to take three classes to help us with our farmstead production lifestyle; beekeeping, organic gardening in Treasure Valley Idaho and alternative energy sources for mountainside homes.  In addition we are looking into producing our own eggs by building a small chicken coop for three birds.

 The best thing I have done in many years for my body is too lose significant weight. I am going to finish my book on weight loss as I battle my way toward 199 lbs. I am still progressing toward getting my health back to the degree possible for a 60 year old man.

We are enjoying our productive lifestyle and freedom to travel, be with family, and golf when we choose. Thanks for following along.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Using Your Own Creative Power to Double your Income

I wanted to retire so I would have more time to travel while being free to serve family and others. A few years ago I decided to learn the skills needed to build my own e-commerce business without relying on others to do the thinking for me.

I wanted control of my time, creativity, commitment, and cash flow. I was 58 years old and winding down my career as an educational administrator. The summer of 2012 I turned 60 and “retired” after 33 years with the same educational institution.

I watched friends go through this dramatic transition, and listened to their dreams, worries, and complaints. It’s tough to know exactly what your income will be, no matter how much you consult with accountants, tax advisors, and investment professionals.

Most people I know simply decide to stay with their current career rather than “risk” losing benefits and late career income. We worry about Social Security, Medicare, and health care costs. It takes real courage to make the jump and retire before reaching federal mandated full retirement age, 66 years old.

So I invested in a good computer, and started learning the ins-and-outs of the cyber world. I enrolled in several online e-commerce training courses. There are hundreds of courses available online.  I was fortunate to have my oldest son Jason as my consultant to help me choose the most useful training programs. He owns a very successful online business training company, and has a six figure income, all from his home office.

All together I have invested about $5000 in my post retirement business career, including the cost of my fancy high capacity computer. I enrolled in two training courses. I started a blog, my own website, and began creating my own “brand” by writing about my retirement experiences.

I enjoy the creative process as well as sharing my ups and downs along the way.  My online presence began to grow. My son told me this would happen. At first it was a bit ucomfortable to open up to such a diverse audience.

My Facebook friends grew to over 2800.  My blog has nearly 12,000 hits. My fear grew into fun as I learned how to be careful with my opinions and concentrate on sharing what I am learning.

I do the best I can to just be myself but you can’t control perceptions when some of your online community knows you only as a cyber personality. As time passes, more and more of your group have not even met you in person. They learn to trust you because your information has proven to be honest and useful. It’s important to never break that trust.

So the trick is figuring out how to make money from your online “brand”.  I am beginning to share how I am supplementing my retirement income by developing my very own online business.
Here are some of the computer programs I use to manage my online brand: Blogger, Aweber, Libsyn, Wordpress, Facebook, and Gmail. There are other programs out there that do the similar things, but these have proven to be comprehensive and understandable for my 60 year old brain.

I will have upcoming podcasts focused on the way I use and synthesize these programs to make money. I thought it would be too complex, but I discovered it actually helps my mental agility.

I copyright my podcasts to protect my “intellectual”/creative material. In order to gain access I invite those interested to become part of my secure email group by signing up in the box to the left of my blog posts.

I hope you will join my group. By doing so you will get direct access to my podcast, soon to be updated bi-weekly. I guarantee this will be one of the best things you do to supplement income.

I avoid online MLM (multi-level-marketing) businesses for several reasons: 1) on average 1 of 1,000 downliners make good money, 2) you don't own the "brand", and finally 3) MLM fill social needs rather than making serious money.  If you are building a social network it’s great but if you want to build personal wealth you may have missed the mark.

Learning how to find your very own personal cyber-niche is not really difficult. It's not hard to turn your own brand into ongoing income that increases exponentially. You can own and control your own destiny. The likelihood of success improves dramatically from 1 out of 1000 in MLM to 1 out of 10 if you are the creator of the business and hang in there, or in other words, your odds definately improve.          

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Most Rewarding Time can be the first 10 Years of Retirement

Senior perks are one of the upsides to “retirement”.  Last evening we were at a first-run new style theater with high backed cushy seats that rock. As we were getting tickets for Bourne Legacy, I just per chance asked if there was a senior discount.   The ticket lady was about to charge us full price, then looked at us and said, “Yes, at age 55”.  I was hopeful she didn’t think we were old enough.  But I told her we made it by multiple years, and she adjusted the charges to $15 total which as about what I paid per ticket in Alaska.  Senior status certainly has its advantages.

The same thing happened at the golf course recently.  The attendant had already rung us up but was kind enough to give us tokens for hitting golf balls on the driving range so he wouldn’t have to cancel us out and re-ring the new senior discount total.  I have to start accepting my new status and cashing in on all the “you poor old person” opportunities.

Speaking of opportunities, today we get to play grandparents for two of our favorite kiddo’s because both mom and dad are scheduled for work or otherwise. So flag football for our 7 year old grandson Liam, 2 games none-the–less, and golf driving-range for our 9 year old granddaughter Brynne. We are trying to break her into the lady golf craze as the next Paula Creamer.  She has a pretty sweet swing for a newbie.

So even with its aches and pains, I am getting used to my new found life.  I have to admit it is weird to wake up each morning and not have an iron-clad set of work commitments that make me get up and moving through the day.  I am not sure Jeannie likes me hovering around the house so much.  So beside working on getting used to a “fixed” income, and losing some more weight, and growing a new $1,000,000 nest egg with aggressive savings (see previous post and podcast), I am contemplating other goals.

A few days ago I almost threw my hat into the ring for the city manager’s job up in McCall Idaho for which I qualify due to my MEd Master’s degree in leadership and my experience managing personnel and large budgets for most of my first career.  We would have sold our home and moved to McCall within 12 months.  It’s a beautiful town up in the mountains covered with trees by a large picturesque lake with loads of snow every winter.  But we didn’t leave our beloved Alaska to live in snow country. “Golf, Grandkids, and Gardening” would have been impacted as well so I came to my senses and backed away.

My personality loves projects and challenges.  They always come with a cost in anxiety, health, and relationships.  I need something to do but it shouldn’t be high profile any longer.  I could do some part time adjunct professorial teaching at one of the local colleges.  I could continue to build my online brand by expanding my “Retirement Freedom” website and share with BabyBoomers how to double retirement income.  I could try my hand at authoring several books, the first being about my weight loss saga.

I am 60 years of age and figure I have 10 more good years of productivity in me before I go solely to the service and volunteering lifestyle.  The need for flexibility has become apparent.  A regular job would defeat the purpose of retirement from my first career and our move from Alaska.  So the contemplation continues and even increases as we settle into our new life.  Time is on my side as I press forward.

Monday, September 17, 2012

One of the nice things about living in a Warmer Climate is my Cravings for Carbohydrates have Decreased Substantially.

We are settled into a regular routine in our new home in Idaho, so I am going to restart my weight-loss efforts. We bought a brand new Schwinn elliptical machine for 50% off at Sports Authority. It is set up downstairs facing the TV.

Today I spent 40 minutes stretching, lifting weights, and on the Schwinn. I will increase my workout time to at least an hour over the next few weeks.  For today the endorphins are flowing and my body is feeling good, so I was able to launch into my day with renewed vigor.

In September of last year I began losing weight by going on a diet provided by my nephew Dr. Cliffton Brady. He is a weight-loss expert and chiropractor whose focus is on helping people get to maximum productivity by achieving optimal weight and health.  He has done a superb job as my weight loss coach.  

 In 6 months I lost 50 pounds. I felt healthier and stronger than I had in almost 20 years. I encourage anyone who has more than 40 lbs to lose to get a good coach.  Here is Dr. Brady's website: http://www.drbradycoach.com/gallery, or find a local Take Shape for Life coach.

I started at 280 pounds and in 6 months made it to 230 before I lost momentum due to an extended stay in the hospital by my wife.  When I am stressed I definitely eat more.  Immediately after Jeannie came home we were faced with the daunting task of packing and preparing our home for sale. We are so grateful to our friends in Eagle River Alaska who helped us get ready to move. They even helped loading our shipping container.

Selling a home disrupts all normal routines. Fortunately we had a great real estate team, the Les Bailey Group, which kept us informed so we knew when to stage our home and vacate, so potential buyers could tour.

Then came selling things on Craigslist, garage sales, painting, chipping driveway ice, cleaning, etc., which kept us busy and stressed. Finally, the actual move, a month of non-stop effort to load, drive, drive, drive, and unload.

Alas we are settled in and enjoying sunny 80 degree days and gorgeous sunsets. The stress is letting up and I am ready to diet, exercise, and lose weight.

So here is the good news---after losing 50 pounds in 6 months and taking a six month hiatus from exercise and diet, I can report that 30 of those pounds were permanent weight loss. I have established a new set point at 250 pounds rather than going back up to the 280 pound level where I originally started even with not worrying at all about what I've been eating.

On my previous nutritional plan I used a prepackaged food program to make preparation simple while I was still under time constraints since I was not yet retired. I recommend that approach to anyone who has struggled to lose weight and keep it off.

Now I have more time and we live where fresh fruit and vegetables are readily available. I will provide my own eating plan and use my well established habit of having 5-6 small meals per day and regular exercise to help improve my metabolism. One of the nice things about living in a warmer climate is my craving for carbohydrates have decreased substantially.

So on September 17, 2012, I start again at 250 lbs with 51 more pounds to lose to get to my original goal of 199. I originally hoped thought it would take one year, but now it looks like it will take two to get to 199 pounds. I have several friends who joining me in the weight loss quest that are doing as well or better than me. I appreciate how their commitment helps my desire to stay the course. Thanks to my friends for all the encouragement. Keep tuned for more lessons learned and updates.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New house brings New Experiences as we Learn to Live in our “Mountain” Home

A  beautiful brilliantly multi-colored Pheasant sauntered down our sloped driveway yesterday morning while I was working on my computer looking out two large side-by-side windows toward the peak of our mountainside.  We can’t hunt in our hillside subdivision so I called for Jeannie to get her camera to get a picture of this magnificent bird.  We see Quail all the time on our property, but this was our first Pheasant sighting. 

Jeannie rushed outside as the bird moved alongside our home to the north. But it had gone down into a ravine to the thick mountain brush out of view.  We didn’t get a picture this time but we’ll keep trying.  The sheer size of the bird was impressive.  I haven’t hunted Pheasant since I was a teenager in Illinois.  I am dreaming of Pheasant on the table for Thanksgiving this year.

Here is a stock photo of what the bird looked like: 

Idaho is a different kind of beautiful from our previous home in Alaska.  Much dryer and definitely not as green as Alaska.  There are tradeoffs when you relocate. 

We enjoy hot days and blue sky most of the time.  The Payette River and numerous irrigation canals are filled to the brim with flowing water bringing life to this arid valley. 

Every sunset over the distant hills has been mezmorizing.  Once the sun is gone we open the windows to cool off the house and give the air-conditioner a break, with refreshing evening mountain breezes.

We have three acres to tame.  I want more grass around the house as a snake barrier, as well as large grow boxes for our garden.  Jeannie is already deciding what fruit trees she wants palnted.  Every day is filled with plenty of activity.  I'm not out to be a gentleman farmer but rather a productive organic food producer so we can save money and eat healthy.                                  

Saturday, September 1, 2012

3000 Miles to a New Life

We are  one month into retirement and busy as can be.  We love our new home here in Idaho.  We live on an arid mountainside looking southwesterly across a beautiful river valley about 45 minutes from downtown Boise.  Being from Alaska we are going crazy shopping at stores we have not seen for years.  Prices are superb in comparison to Alaskan products that are barged or flown north. 

Our property is over 3 acres of rock hard soil shared with wildlife we can watch from our deck.  The only trees on our land were planted recently by a landscaper.  They are picturesque but have to be watered by our extensive in-ground irrigation sprinkler system.  Yesterday I spent several hours checking each station making sure the oscillating sprinkler heads were operating properly.  I removed weeds that love our land and grow with gusto. 

With mountainside living we must deal with all the critters that have been at home here for many years before the house was placed on “their” property in 2006.  We are becoming familiar with quail, ground-hogs, wasps, snakes, hawks, humming birds, several species of poisonous spiders, and mice.  No bears or moose like our former home in Alaska.  Perhaps if I successfully establish a large garden
I will lure deer and elk onto our new homestead, and we hear coyotes in the distance at night. 

A few days ago the direct TV installer gave me some tips on dealing with rattlesnakes.  Not long after he showed me his footwear, I bought myself some steel-toed tough looking snake boots for working in the yard.  I spent some time moving rocks away from our house foundation to discourage snakes from cozying up to close for comfort.

Mountainside living brings not only new challenges but opportunities as well.  Every sunrise and sunset has been picture worthy.  There has been no such thing as pervasive low-lying grey sky.  The few clouds we see have been large cumulous formations mixed with brilliant blue patches of sky. Watching those clouds move across the valley brings a sense of peace and tranquility. 

Most days have been filled with brilliant blue expanses of sky without a cloud in site and temperatures between 85 and 105 degrees. There has been some smoke in the air from a wild fire northeast of here near Sun Valley Idaho.  But all told, we love living in our new home.  It is different than our last place in Alaska and brings us new sights and sounds.      

Monday, August 27, 2012

I Wonder if any Trip on the Alaska Highway Goes Smoothly (pun intended).

The best thing to remember when making a major move is “be flexible”.  It may be good to have contingency plans just in case things don’t go as planned.  We did have some backup scenarios in mind but never thought of the possibility of our motorhome developing problems within 200 miles of our departure from Eagle River Alaska on our 3000 mile journey to our new home in Idaho. 

Fortunately we had both Good-Sam RV Club and AAA backup and were able to get help when our motorhome overheated just 4 short miles outside of Glennallen Alaska.  I am pretty sure they saved us almost $2000.  Thank you to all who have been part of Good-Sam RV Club and never needed their services. We had been stranded outside Glennallen before and knew how pricey towing and repairs can be in this little place literally in the middle of nowhere. 

The nice lady I talked with at Good-Sam was very kind and comforting but didn’t quite understand the distances associated with Alaskan travel.  She also struggled with the reality that not many towing companies in Alaska can deal with a 39’ Class A motorhome.  She finally found Webb Towing from Anchorage who could come out to our location and tow us back to the few repairs shops that can handle large Workhorse truck frames.  It’s like working on a bus. 

After Jeannie (woman in distress) made a few calls to see if we could get someone close to come out to haul our tow dolly to a safe location off the highway for 50 bucks, a nice fellow, owner of the Caribou Inn in Glennallen came out with his pickup truck and backed up to the front of our motorhome and started hooking up a large tow strap like he thought he could haul our entire 60 foot convoy (motorhome, tow dolly, and Camry) to safety off the highway. 

I rushed out to tell him a tow was on the way and all we needed was to get our dolly to safety since the tow company wouldn’t be able to take it back to Anchorage with the motorhome.  He looked things over and then said his truck could get us the quarter mile to the closest off road parking at a roadhouse and sure enough it did.  Next time I buy a pickup it will be one of those big Fords since I know they are as tough as the advertizing says.

He didn’t want to take my $50 but I insisted.  He told us to enjoy the sunset over Mount Drum and went on his way.  Alaskans prove themselves again as the nicest people when an emergency arises. 

We settled into the motorhome to wait for the tow truck while contemplating our strategies for adjusting our travel plans.  Three hours later at 1AM the largest tow truck I had ever seen pulled up behind our RV.  The driver turned on his flood lights and hooked up his winch and slowly pulled us onto his tilted flatbed while I stirred the RV backwards without power since the engine wouldn’t start.  It just barely fit and took us about 45 minutes to get set and chained down before the driver takes off toward the Wasilla Chevy dealership. 

We are tired but have to get to Wasilla to talk with the dealership repair shop about the motorhome problems, and we really would rather stay at one of the nicer motels in the Valley rather than in Glennallen so we hit the road south. 

I am driving the Camry while Jeannie and our daughter Amara follow along in a new Mazda 3.  About 20 miles outside Palmer I am driving along the serpentine forested road and see a huge momma moose and her young baby come out of the brush to my left only a few yards in front of me.  Since they are on my left, instinctively I steer right and pound down on the brake. 

Earlier I reminded Jeannie to be very careful watching for moose as we drive the winding road back to the Palmer/Wasilla area.  Hundreds of moose are killed every year by vehicles on Alaskan highways. The enormous size of an adult moose makes it extremely dangerous for those driving cars since it is like hitting a horse.  An impact takes out their legs while the bulky body catapults right over the hood and peals back the wind-shield and roof of the vehicle.  It can and occasionally does kill front seat occupants.    

In 19 years of driving all over Alaska I have never come close to hitting a moose.  I consider myself very fortunate since I often drive during late dark hours on icy roads due to late evening meetings.    But then Alaska had one more trick up its sleeve.  So here is the rest of the story; when I swerved right the momma moose picked up speed rushing forward across the road.  The next thing I knew I was laying against the left hand front window of my car.  I had stopped abruptly. 

The Camry rolled ¼ turn onto its side by going off the road up onto a small uphill embankment.  No airbags deployed.  I seemed to be OK, so I stood up on the driver side-window and opened the passenger side door so I could escape onto the top of the car which was now the passenger’s side.  The only injury I seemed to recognize was a tweaked right ankle, probably from the impact while still jamming down on the brake pedal. I jumped down and carefully surveyed the situation.  Seeing no dead moose, I guessed momma and baby made it safely into the woods. 

By now a group of good Alaskan helpers stopped to give assistance.  A group of six good sized men rolled the car back onto it wheels.  I got back in and they push while I drove it back onto the road surface, and again we were underway. I lost the driver’s side mirror and sustained a few dents but the car still ran well. 

Here is my wife Jeannie’s account from her perspective as she came upon the rolled car:     

The RV breakdown and the drive back to Wasilla 7/29/2012 by Jeannie Snow VanOrden

It had been a harrowing day, an exhausting evening, not to mention a grueling week.  Once the motorhome was in the hands of the very competent tow truck driver I breathed a small sigh of relief and looked forward to getting to the hotel in Wasilla and getting a good long rest.  Ralph went ahead of us, my daughter Amara and I, in her new Mazda. 

Before we got on the road, Ralph repeatedly warned us to be alert and watch out for moose.   “That’s all we need.”  I thought.  And given the odds so far I figured we were past our full measure of bad luck for the day.  The road from Glenallen is long and full of frost heaves and in the twilit darkness, boring.  Amara and I conversed and listened to lively music from her mp3 player to stay awake. 

We flew past all the little lodges, campgrounds, gas stations, and deserted roadhouses and reached the descending and winding home stretch outside of Palmer: a steep descent on the left side, muddy embankment on the right shoulder, and dense dark woods all around.    As we came around a bend in the road I saw a strange configuration of red lights on the right shoulder: red lights in a vertical line. Then out of the gloom I realized it was the rear end of a car sitting on its side brake lights aglow.  Cars in front of us were slowing and stopping.  The clear outline of a spikey bicycle rack on the vehicle’s roof materialized out of the gloom and the terrible realization hit me.  I cried out loud;

“Oh no, that’s Ralph!” #!@#**#@$#$$$$$.  No profanity just utter desolation rang through my aching head: visions of a dead Ralph and car.  Thank goodness we had Amara’s car as a spare.

A moment of denial washed over me, “No, it can’t be.  It just can’t be!”  But it most certainly was Ralph in our Camry. 

Amara pulled over and stopped.  We jumped out of the car and made our way toward the Camry in time to see Ralph poke his head up and out of the passenger side door.  People around us murmured their dismay, how worried they had been about moose, and how it could easily have been them in that predicament. 

The men in the group were galvanized into action.  Once they realized that Ralph was not hurt, they scrambled all around the car to evaluate the situation, and more quickly than I could have imagined possible had the Camry back on four wheels and pushed out of the muddy shallow ditch that ran along the embankment.

No bloody moose in the road, no bloodied Ralph, no air-bags deployed no disabled engine.  The driver’s side door was difficult to open and had a few new scrapes and a dent but miraculously the car started up and we were able to continue on our way into Wasilla where the kind people at the Grand View Inn in Wasilla let us check in at 8 a.m. to finally get a good day’s sleep.

Back to Ralph's Account:

At 6AM we arrived in Wasilla about as pooped as we could be.  The Chevy dealership was locked-up with chained gates at all entrances.  The driver and I look for a way to get in so we can offload the RV.  No luck, so he calls Good Sam to tell them our dilemma and his hourly price for standing-by until someone comes to open the gates. 

The nice woman on the phone asks if he can just leave it in an adjacent parking lot (Wal-Mart) for a few hours until the dealership opens.  He kindly explains why that would be more difficult since the dealership doesn’t have a truck large enough to haul the motorhome into one of their bays for diagnosis.

Just then a lady shows-up to work early and opens one the gates, but quickly locks it again.  I hustle over to speak to her and find out she has come early so she can wash her own personal truck.  I ask if she would be so kind as to allow us to offload the RV.  After a little persuasion, she agrees and before long our task is complete. 

We rested up for a day and waited for the prognosis on our motorhome.  We are told it is probably just a water-pump and the sophisticated computer systems in our modern land yacht shut down the engine so damage would be kept to a “minimum”.  It will take two weeks to get the parts and complete the repair.

Since we had a family trip to Lake Powell booked for August 14-20th, we have to get on the road south.  We decided to rent a U-Haul to carry all our stuff from the motorhome and tow the Camry and two days after originally planned we are heading down the Alaska Highway once again toward the lower 48.  

Seven days later we arrived at our new home in the country outside Boise Idaho.  But one last challenge confronts us.  Our household goods are in a 20 foot long barge container arriving in Seattle soon.  So I flew to Seattle and caught a taxi over to a local Penske truck rental to get a 26 foot diesel truck so I can transfer the boxes and furniture for the 500 mile trip to Idaho. 

This approach saved us thousands of dollars over direct shipment to Idaho, though logistically difficult and very hard on my old body.  I hired two friendly Hispanic guys at the local Home Depot parking lot for the morning and we made our way to Northland Services at Pier #115.  I paid just over $2200 for the container shipment from Eagle River to the dock.  I paid my moving helpers very well while returning them to the Home Depot and was on the road toward Snoqualmie Pass by 11AM.  Try to avoid driving a truck on Seattle Highways during the day if at all possible. 

Ten hours later I pulled the Penske truck into our new home’s driveway and was so pleased to be home with Jeannie and Amara.  Mission accomplished, flexibility stretched to the max. 
A few days later our new life celebration began with a trip to Lake Powell for a week with our immediate family.  We watched our six grandkids saying things like “this is the best day ever” as they jumped off the slide into the warm lake waters. 

I wonder if any trip on the Alaska Highway goes smoothly.  Now Jeannie and I have to figure out what to do with the rest of our lives, besides the basic retirement regulars; Grandkids, Golf, and Gardening.  Keep posted.     

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Update and Plans for our Future

The 8’ x 8’ x 20’ shipping container is full to the brim.  It took help from our son, his friend, and others from Church about 3 hours to empty our house into the container.  I don’t know what we would have done without them.  I hate to admit it but I am getting to the age where it would have taken us weeks to do what they did efficiently in just a few hours.  They were a husky group with the strength to get it done quickly.  We are so appreciative for the help.

We now live in our RV parked next to our house as we wait for closing the home sale.  As soon as it is done we can hit the road south.  On our leisurely trip down the Alaska Highway, we will enjoy stops at Destruction Bay, Laird Hot Springs, and Edmonton Mall indoor water park. 

Our trip will be a good way to make the transition to our retirement lifestyle which will include gardening, golfing, grandkids, exercise, service, and an aggressive savings program for the next five years, since I am only 60 years “young” and want to continue making money until I just can’t do it anymore. 

Our two oldest sons, who own cyber-businesses, are teaching us the ins-and-outs of making money on the Internet with legitimate self-made products and website advertizing.  It is a fascinating world which Baby-boomers are just beginning to embrace.  One of my goals is to help people retire a little bit early by learning how to do honest business online. 

My Retirement Freedom Blog is approaching 11,000 reads.  My online friends are over 2800 with many in exclusive and secure email group.  The great news is I can do my online business in 2-3 hours a day according to whatever best fits my schedule thus the list of other interest mentioned previously. 

Though not necessary, I plan on doubling my retirement income with my own part-time business adventures.  It will provide for extra travel and a nice nest egg for our children when we depart mortality.  The magic really does happen with 15-20 dedicated hours per week; online business can continue working when you are off doing other things.  If you can write, speak (podcast), and research, you can do this.  All the online tools are available and not terribly difficult to learn even for us Baby-boomers.  I will keep you posted. 

If you want more details on how to create and monetize you own online “brand” please sign up for my secure email group to the left of this post.  I give the particulars there in order to protect my copyrighted material.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Now that we are in Moving Week, it is Non-stop Crazy Around Here

Now that we are in moving week, it’s non-stop crazy around here.  The least expensive way to move out of Alaska for us is by shipping container from Northland Services (see my previous post for details on who to contact etc).  The 20’ x 8’ x 8’ container is on wheels which puts it 4 ½ feet off the ground without an included pull out ramp.  The following picture is pretty accurate except for the fact that ours is on tractor trailer wheels off the ground about chest high. 

I was contemplating building my own ramp with excess lumber we have from projects over the past 14 years, but just on a lark I stopped buy Baileys Rent All on Old Seward Highway in Anchorage and sheepishly asked if they rented ramps and was surprised to find out they had one and it was available. 

I gave them my credit ward to hold it until the next day so I could figure out how to get a 14 foot ramp transported to Eagle River.  Today, I rented the largest pickup truck U-Haul had available and strapped the ramp down for the trip out the Glenn Highway to our home.  I worried all the way that the wind would somehow loosen the straps and the ramp would go flying into the busy traffic on the road.  At 55 mph and about a half hour later I was successfully pulling into our driveway. 

The next concern was how to attach the ramp to the opened container but with the help of my son and his good friend and to my great to my relief, it fit perfectly.  Safety chains hold it in place so no one will have come loose while wheeling boxes up into the hold. 

The pickup truck will come in handy as we need to take several loads to the landfill on Hiland Rd.  Currently, they even take old tires as part of the normal waste stream.   In addition, we have taken several loads of “hazardous waste” to the special handling facility.  They will accept 40 pound of hazardous waste per day without cost.  Our old wood left from years of projects is going to a local contractor, so we have found a place for all of our 14 years of accumulated stuff.

Most of our goods are already in boxes from weeks of preparation for moving day.  Tomorrow evening and the next morning our friends will gather to help us load and then clean.  If all goes perfectly, the container will be picked up on Thursday morning and we will sign for closing on the house on Friday morning, and then move into the RV for a few days until we hit the Alaska Highway on our way south. 

We are making serious progress toward our huge project finally being over, of course until we start unloading boxes in our new home near Boise sometime in Mid-August.    

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Buying Our Retirement Home in the Country near Boise Idaho

We bought our new home in the country outside of Boise Idaho a few months ago. We are excited to have room for family gatherings and 3 acres for the grandkids to run around and have fun. Jeannie and I can live on the main level, kitchen, master, office and all needs met. No stairs to negotiate when we get "old". There is plenty of property for our organic garden and orchard.

Views to die for; farms and orchards in the Payette River Valley. Blue sky, sunshine, and very little snow. The appraisal came back hirer than what we are paying, with $21,000 of new landscaping just installed.

We learned huge lessons that may help others who are contemplating retirement. If you buy your retirement home early enough you can qualify at current salary. Most retirement income is not substantiated for a year or two after leaving employment. Your options are limited if a mortgage is involved until you can prove your retirement income. That's why many retiring couples buy smaller condos for which they qualify or they must live mortgage free.

If you would like to know more, join my secure email group by signing in to the left of this post. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Getting Firearms Through Canada---Ouch!

Getting firearms through Canada can be a major pain in the proverbial backside.  They are paranoid about guns, especially hand guns.  There is absolutely no “right to bear arms” in Canada.  It is best to just not even attempt to carry hand-guns through the border. 

Now rifles are a different beast all together, but paperwork and dealing with ammunition can be complicated. Here is a link to a website that explains the Canadian laws: 


It's probably best to ship hand-guns to a dealer or gunsmith near your destination or sell them for the best price you can and start from scratch when you get relocated.  But going to a local gun dealer to sell your firearms will get you ripped off.  Good websites to sell guns yourself for a decent price are:


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Americas Best Days are Ahead

The six months before a major national election are usually filled with all kinds of stressful banter between parties and candidates.  It is too bad we accept this as “politics-as-usual”.  The faint hearted could become, well, more faint hearted.  My strategy has always been to listen little and respond less. 

No need to raise anxieties by becoming manic about the future. Because of distortion and bias I watch the news less from May through October during election years.  I find a few publications and commentators whom I trust as honest and partake occasionally but not as a regular diet. 

I prefer conservative thinking since it has proven to help our nation prosper as a whole.  Since 9/11, after a few months of a turn toward spirituality, our trend has been to divisiveness.  What should have united us brought out opportunists who have exploited the fears of people in America.  It is exactly what the terrorists wanted. 

When we look broadly we can see how we have been duped into class-warfare.  Since Barack Obama was elected, the one hope I had was that he would unite, but instead he has divided our nation.  Congress has not helped by retreating to their respective corners and pummeling each other. 

One important purpose of our Constitution was to provide that divisiveness could not happen.  I am confident it will not last.  As always, elections bring us back to reality and toward the middle where progress can happen.  Our nation and economy will survive.  It always has and always will.

Though a bit messy at times, the balance of power and constitutionally mandated processes will work.  We can disagree on policy and procedure while we enjoy the debate, but we don’t need to think we are on the brink of disaster.  I believe in American’s continuing greatness.  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Dealing With Home Inspection Upgrade Requests

We are busy each day working on the list of upgrades requested due to the Home Inspection report.  Nothing major but lots of little petty things, and rather than fight (negotiate) about it we just decided to take care of them; most we can do ourselves and a few will take a contractor, plumber, or an electrician. 

There have been code upgrades since we bought our home many years ago, like sheet rock lining the closet under the stairs in the basement.  We chip away at the list while packing boxes for our move. Our advise is to start early on the selling, inpsection, and moving process.  Give yourself at least 6 months or even a full year to get ready. 

It is amazing how much stuff you accumulate when you stay in one home for so many years.  We held 3 garage sales and sold some large items on Craigslist and/or Facebook.  Most of our moving costs will be covered by the income from those efforts. 

Moving boxes are making their way into the garage to facilitate the truck loading day.  Even with all the things we have sold, we will still look like a wagon train going slowly down the Alaska Highway 3000 miles to Idaho.  When we pull out of Eagle River we will have a 17 foot U-Haul truck towing a car and our Itasca RV towing a car.  If you have an automatic transmission front wheel drive vehicles, you will need a tow dolly or trailer to get the wheels off the ground. 

We will drive 10-12 hours per day and stop at plug-in camping sites along the way.   Our planned stops are at Destruction Bay, Teslin, Laird Hot Springs (ahhhhhh!), Edmonton Mall at the indoor water park, Northern Idaho, and our new home.  If all goes well we are thinking 6 total days of travel…but we have left a few extra days for flat tires and tired bodies.  Somewhere between 6 – 8 days max.  This is our 7th and probably last trip on the Alaska Highway (sad face). 

If we return to Alaska for a visit it will be on the Alaska State Ferry.  Flying has become too much of an ordeal because I have flown for over 200,000 miles during my career and Jeannie’s  compromised immune system can’t take being confined on an airplane any more. 

We are making progress toward the “wagons hoe” departure date while we try to soak in as much of Alaska and our friends as possible.  I know 20 years just barely qualifies us to be considered true Alaskans and we will forever think of Alaska as our home, with grand memories.  

THE 2012 MAIDEN VOYAGE OF THE ROADSHIP “ENTERPRISE”: it takes a highly trained crew --- by Jeannie Snow VanOrden

I can’t help it.  I’m a Star Trek geek through and through.  From the first season of Star Trek when I was a kid lounging on the carpet of my parent’s living room to the latest incarnation of the franchise, I love them all good, bad, indifferent, it’s my entertainment comfort food.

So what better name to give my own mega-ship, an Itasca Latitude home on wheels, than the roadship “Enterprise”.  We’ve used our motorhome for three summers and finally I’ve come up with a name grand and complex enough to describe our homey (not homely) behemoth. The moment we step inside it after its long winter’s sleep we feel a comfy sigh escape our lips, and a breathless pulse of anticipation course through our veins and as we look forward to another season of adventures.

Like its starship name sake, our “Enterprise” requires a knowledgeable and well trained crew.  From the beginning of our motorhome ownership it was clear that a class on each of the vehicle’s systems would have been very helpful but we managed to learn on the go, on our feet, from study and experience how our home on wheels functions.  The running of our “Enterprise” requires an engineer (Ralph), a communications officer (me), a navigator (me), a pilot (Ralph), a ship’s psychologist (me), a mechanic (Ralph), a cook  (me),  an assistant cook (Ralph), a ship’s plumber (Ralph), quick thinking trouble shooters all.  You get the idea.  This RVing is a major undertaking and the more you know about your vehicle the more you save in repairs and anxious moments. 

Every season the first camping trip is the shake-down cruise when we learn how much we don’t know and don’t remember about this complex, high-tech vehicle. The first two season’s maiden voyages we camped just across the river from our neighborhood at the Eagle River Campground within easy access of home and stores where supplies and tools could be fetched quickly. This proved a bright move since we were all thumbs and remembering to pack everything we needed was not yet second nature.  Our first big venture the first summer was a trip to Denali.  Since then we’ve gone to Denali two more times; Homer, Alaska; Hope, Alaska and places in between.  Each time we become more confident in our roles as crew members and each time we find new things we don’t know.

Our first RV summer,  we lived without the hot water because no matter what we studied or did, we could not figure out how to get the hot water heater working.  The second summer we discovered the services of an RV supply and storage business whose owner cheerfully shared helpful information, for example: the shut-off valve to the hot water heater.  This resource is probably number one on the list of essential tools for the RVer: a generous expert willing to share knowledge. Next would be other RV owners whose difficult experiences we don’t have to repeat because they post their stories on the internet, or they happen to be chatty camping neighbors. 

The first major issue we had with our motorhome was with one of the sliding rooms on the side.  The kitchen/bedroom slide-out began to slide cockeyed, the rear end of it lagging behind the forward end.  Through our own study we learned that there are manual functions to help remedy the situation when the motorized slide is out of sync.  Through serendipitous investigation we found that the pedestal under the king-size bed had pulled loose from the wood floor and was hanging up the sliding process. We were able to repair it ourselves and felt quite proud of ourselves for figuring it out.  However, the pedestal pulled loose several more times and finally we took it to a repair shop.  The solution: build a whole new pedestal. The expert at Alaska Performance RV was willing to figure out a much better and much cheaper sliding pedestal for the bed.  He was baffled as to why Itasca had installed the original pedestal which was so clumsy, prone to break, and expensive to replace. We now have another important tool for our RV, a kindly and informative repair service.

Our maiden voyage this year was to Seward.  We thought we would surely have a smooth beginning to the camping season with two summers of RVing under our belt.   This is a particularly important year because we are selling our home and moving out of Alaska by driving our roadship “Enterprise” down the Alaska Highway.  There is a spacious bridge with two captain’s chairs and a mind blowing collection of gages, buttons, and a closed circuit television for observing the rear of the vehicle while driving. 

There is also a large control panel in the wall mid-ship filled with switches and red, yellow, and green lights that indicate important information about all the systems of the ship.  All systems must be in tip-top shape and the crew fully conversant in the functions and failings of each.  What are those systems? Here are the ones I can think of right now.

First of all there is the engine, a gas pusher, meaning it’s in the rear of the vehicle. This is the least of our worries.  The engine has very few miles on it.  Change the oil and check the fluids and she should run great. 

Second:  The chassis. This is a large class A motorhome with a solid Workhorse truck foundation on a long wheel base.  No worries here.  This is the most rock-solid kind of chassis for a motorhome.  It keeps the RV moving smoothly if we drive gently and slowly over bumps and frost heaves.
Third is the electrical system.  This is where things get crazy.  There is a battery for starting the engine, which is separate from the other electrical systems but sometimes it mysteriously goes dead. 

We have “shore power” when we plug the motorhome into our house electrical or an RV hook-up at a campground.  It gives us power without concern of running out of juice for heat, hot water, refrigerator, outlets, television, dvd player, stereo, microwave oven, etc..   But you have to watch the system’s console and make sure you don’t use over 30 amps at any one time or you’ll throw a breaker on the electrical source.  

A word about the outlets:  Some can be used only on full hook-up power, some can be used on battery power, some on generator power.  In case you don’t have a plug in RV site, the roadship has 12 volts auxiliary battery power.  We have installed two golf-cart batteries to give us plenty of reliable power when we are “dry camping,” meaning camping where there are no hook-ups.  These batteries, when running low, can be recharged by the gas generator which is upfront on the chassis of the motorhome. The microwave oven will not work unless the RV is on an electric hook-up or the generator is running. Keeping all this straight is a challenge.  And sometimes complications ensue that just seem plain contrary to logic. 

Fourth: the propane system. The kitchen stove works on propane only.  The refrigerator, and hot water heater, can be run on either propane or electric power.  There is a gas leak detector that will chirp if propane is leaking into the motorhome and/or if the power gets so low that the detector senses the batteries running low so it will be unable to detect.  Got that? 

The detector seems to be a poor substitute for your nose because our bed pedestal problem nicked the gas line at one point and we experienced a strong odor of propane even though the gas alarm didn’t go off.  This made us think we were having a sewer problem.  Well, the bed is fixed, the leak is fixed, and we didn’t die.  But if you are going RVing make sure you know the difference between the smell of propane and the smell of the black-water holding tank.

That brings us to a fifth system: the water system.  We have hot and cold running water in the kitchen and bathroom.  The motorhome is equipped with a cozy little shower that feels down-right luxurious on a lengthy camping trip.  We have a holding tank beneath the floor for fresh water and a gage to tell us when it is running low.  When dry camping, it is necessary to keep an eye on the water level because you just might run out.  If your RV site has water supply, a hose stored in the belly of the ship can be hooked up, thus sparing the crew worries about sufficient water.

Next we have the sewer system.  There are two gray-water holding tanks: one for the bathroom sink and shower, and one for the kitchen sink.  The kitchen tank always fills-up first. Then we use the bathroom sink drain as a back-up for the last few hours of camping, or we fold up the ship and drive over to a dump station to empty our tanks and to fill up with potable water.  There is a black-water tank for the toilet.  A blue treatment chemical is flushed down the toilet to keep it fresh and unnoticed by happy campers.  It is important to always empty the holding tanks before traveling.  Thus unpleasant experiences with sewage odor in the cabin are avoided. 

There is also the fun and comfort system.  This is the whole point of the above systems.  We have very much enjoyed our family and couple campouts in the motorhome.  Clearly we have to stay sharp and educated about its complexities.  But the point is to be comfortable while having a lot of fun. Games, bikes, movies, hikes, photography, naps, and just being still and looking at the view are the fun.  Comfortable beds, comfort food, hearty breakfasts, a warm place to sleep are some of the comforts.

On our trip to Seward, the first of this summer camping season, we took lots of notes on things that we needed to fix and supplies we needed to remember to load next time.  But we had a great time.  We found ourselves relearning things we later remembered from last year, and becoming acquainted with things we hadn’t yet tackled: like setting the clocks on the complex stereo systems in the dashboard and the bedroom.   Oh, yeah, that reminds me – there is a surround sound system!

Seward gave us lots of opportunities for fun.  We road our bikes on the coastal trail, picnicked by the Iditarod monument, rode to the marina to eat fish and chips, bike-toured the old downtown.  Best of all we sat by the fire by the beach stuffing ourselves with smores and watching the otters and loons play in Resurrection Bay. 

Our “Enterprise” keeps us sharp as we try to keep up with it. We look forward to our trip down the Alaska Highway, grateful for other RVers in Seward who shared their recent travels from Washington and California.   Our roadship takes some extra preparation and work but overall it has given us countless stories to tell and great journey’s to remember and beautiful views of life.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Seward Alaska and No Rain---How Could it Be?

Leaving Alaska is harder than I thought it would be.  As we RV to some of our favorite places I find myself saying, “If we hadn’t already bought a nice home in the Boise area, I could just stay right here forever.”  Then I remember why we bought the home and realize we really did the right thing. 
We spent three days in Seward and it did not rain once…that has to be a record.  We even had blue sky for long stretches each day.  We figured out how to secure a nice RV site by riding our bikes around in the morning to “reserve” a recently vacated spot near the beach. 
We planted two camp chairs by one of the empty rock fire-rings by the beach and had a bit of heaven for a few days.  I did ignore my diet and enjoyed camp food but I am back to my effort to continue from 280 lbs last September 2011, down to 199 at some unknown point in the future.  We cancelled our gym membership which hasn’t helped, but we are out walking and biking as much as possible.
July 4th week in Seward is insane. 

Everyone in Alaska tries to get a camping site to be close to the action, including the Mount Marathon race straight up a local mountain.  I think the race is harder than a regular marathon and if you are not in shape forget it. We noticed some RV site were reserved days before we arrived but not used for severasl days prior to the arrival of a nice RV.  You have to send a car down early to prowl the parks.  One camp chair with a simple sign saying "RESERVED" is sufficent to assure your peace of paradise.  People know it is the only way to get the best sites.
We enjoyed the quaint marina shopping and eatery area with some gelato, homemade fudge, and seafood galore.  We rode our bikes for miles and walked the grand promenade along the beach on Resurrection Bay.  We picnicked on the edge of the bay, watching fishermen, sea kayakers, otters, loons, and over abundant gulls. 
We talked with other Class-A RVers who had recently made their way up the Alaska Highway.  We took note of several hundred miles of frost-heaves and good places to “camp”.  Though we have 3000 miles to cover on our way to Boise, it sounds like the road is in relatively decent shape with good services for the North Country.  Not much like our first trip up the road in 1976 when we encountered 1100 miles of gravel, long stretches of impassable mud, complete washouts, and spotty services. 
Farwell camping expeditions will be a nice way for us to say goodbye to this beautiful state that will always be fondly remembered.  Alaska truly is the last frontier and every bit as awesome as the travel brochures pontificate. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

How to get Ready for a Home Inspection

Our home inspection has passed without major problems.  Oh, what a relief that is.  Everything noted can be fixed to the satisfaction of both parties.  A few plugs need rewiring, some sheet rock needs to be installed under the stairs in the basement, a couple of roof shingles need to be replaced due to a wind storm a few years ago, and a slowly-leaking pipe in the storage room downstairs needs a plumbers attention.  A few tips: 

Stage the house like a prospective buyer is coming to visit.

Unseal the attic access. 

Replace any burned-out light bulbs.

Make sure the gas fireplace lights on demand.

Service the furnace. 

Don’t try to anticipate every possible repair prior to the inspection or you may spend some money you don’t need to.
Leave some obvious cookies and milk; just kidding. 
After making the requested corrections, the final two selling steps are the Appraisal and the Closing. 

The appraisal shouldn’t be a problem since similar homes in our area are selling for similar prices.  We have a 90% letter from the buyers bank which means he probably will qualify for the loan.  So it looks good from here, but the fat lady hasn’t quite sung her tune yet, or in this case I should probably say the fat "guy" since I still need to lose some more weight. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Moving on, to the Future---A Very Good Thing

We spoke with our financial planner yesterday.  We are about 45 days away from being “retired” and the application process is feverishly going forward.  Everything looks good for take-off into retirement. 

It’s a bit scary but the cash flow looks “sufficient” for years to come.  We are glad to have a good financial planner who protects our investments. 

My career position in Alaska has been taken over by a young energetic educator who has new ideas and enthusiasm.  It has already proven to be right that I am getting out of the way to let things go forward with new eyes. 

Church Education has come a long way since I first came to Fairbanks Alaska in 1983.  Back then I think there were 2 stakes in Alaska and now there are seven.  Release-time seminary is established and progressing toward reality in two more locations in the state. 

My Master’s Thesis at the University of Alaska in 1987 was about the development of Release Time Religious Education in the state.  The program has proven to be an essential cog in the protection of our youth in Alaska, where most of the social wandering by young people is due to substance abuse and premature sexual exploitation.     

Two LDS Institute facilities have been built for young single adult members of the Church, one in Fairbanks, and the other in Anchorage.  Young Single Adult Wards have grown from zero to five. I was instrumental in establishing two of those YSA Wards.   I had the privilege of dedicating two new chapels.  Priesthood leaders have seen the wisdom in allowing Seminary & Institute programs to go forward.  A key person in all of this was a pioneer Church Educator Dennis Kendall, who spent his entire CES career in Alaska.   

An LDS Temple has been built in Alaska and expanded.  The Mormon Church is a bulwark of strength and safety for Church members and their Alaskan communities.  It has been a privilege for us to be a small part of these accomplishments.  But all good things must eventually come to an end so we are moving closer to our family and out of the long dark winters.  OK---there you have it, I have admitted this last winter finally did me in. 

Above all good things have been the people we met and served with.  They are true Alaskans, friends, and pioneers.  They will always be a source of happiness and strength as we remember mutual experiences.  Hopefully we can visit with you when you travel through the Boise Idaho area where our retirement home is being established, or perhaps when we sneak back up to Alaska for a visit.  You have had eternal impact on our lives. 

I am referring literally to 100’s of people.  We have been so blessed to meet and become closely affiliated with so many of you.  We extend a heartfelt thank for your friendship, kindness, dedication, and prayers.  We wish we could do this personally with each and every one of you.  You will be in our thoughts and prayers for evermore.