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.