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August 16, 2014

Camper For Sale

Well, our camping lifestyle will be on hold temporarily. We’ve decided to sell our camper and live on solid foundations for a little while. We LOVE the camping lifestyle, but as they say, all good things must come to an end. In this case, I doubt it’s the end. More like a pause.

When our house was rented out, obviously someone else was paying our mortgage. Now that we don’t have tenants, and don’t really want to rent the house again, we’re back to paying our own mortgage. So, our fun money budget isn’t what it used to be. Our camper payment and lot rent combined equal our mortgage payment, it doesn’t really make sense to try and maintain both since we can only live in one at a time. We’ve thought about storage fees, and budgeted what we needed for this upcoming winter, then sat back and looked at the numbers again and just decided against continuing. Everyone knows we love our ‘family’ here in Kissimmee and since Charlie will continue to use the asthma and lung doctors here in Celebration, we’ll come down for a visit every few months and hang out.

We’ll keep the web site up to date as changes happen. I can say this. If/when we sell the house in Pigeon Forge in a couple of years, we’ll probably get back in the camping business again. 🙂

We’ll also continue to travel and go on adventures, we’ll just be staying in hotels. Hotel points, here we come.

June 12, 2014

Taking A Break

We’ve been in the camper for almost two years and it’s time for a break. We’ve not traveled to different areas for one reason or another, we just sort of got to Sherwood Forest in Kissimmee, FL and the folks there became instant family so we just stayed. It’s nice to have that flexibility.

As most know, we rented our house out in Pigeon Forge. Our tenants have bought and house and are no longer in need of ours. We got extremely lucky with our tenants as they took very good care of our home. Our fear is that the odds are stacked against us if we decided to continue to rent the house out and the next tenants would be crack heads. 🙂

So we’re back in Pigeon Forge and really love being back in our home. The same with Sylvania, when we stayed at “Green Acres”. It’s nice being in a home with space. As I’ve said before, our camper is 285 sq. ft. and it took some adjusting but once we settled in, we loved it. I very rarely took baths prior to moving into our camper since I’m a shower kind of guy. Once I couldn’t take a bath, I suddenly wanted to take baths. 🙂 Anytime I traveled for business I made sure the rooms I booked all had tubs. LOL!

Our camper is still at Sherwood and our family there is keeping an eye on it for us. We’ve already got our reservations set to stay with them again for the 2014/2015 winter season. And while we miss them very much, it’s great to reconnect and catch up with our friends here in Tennessee.

It’s amazing how much Pigeon Forge has changed in two years. It’s amazing how much life has changed in two years.

We’re working on what our next adventure is going to be and where…..but for now….it’s nice to soak in a tub and take a break.

August 27, 2013

One Year In Our Camper

WOW! It’s 8/28/13. We moved into our camper one year ago. I can’t believe it’s been a year.

How many different RV parks have we been to? Three.
How many miles have we covered? Roughly 1,000.

When we set out on this adventure our idea was to cover as much ground as possible in two years. As time went on, we both realized that this lifestyle change suits us and we have no plans on moving out of the camper any time soon. So we revisited our plan and have decided to slow down a bit. This gives us more time to enjoy where we are and to enjoy the people we meet. We’re not rushed, we’re not in a hurry. Our blood pressure is low, we’re not stressed, we love what we’re doing which makes us incredibly happy.

My brother and his family just relocated from England to the Florida panhandle. This means after the coming winter is over here in Kissimmee, we’ll probably head up there for a bit to spend time with them.

The beauty of this is if we don’t like the view from our window, we can move. If we don’t like the area, we can move. We’re not tied up in a lease, we’re not tied down period.

What do I miss the most about living in a house? Nothing really. Maybe better shelter for storms, but so far so good.

Do I miss any of the things we sold/got rid of? Yes, my DSLR camera. Our cell phones have nice cameras but they don’t allow the same creativity as a bigger camera.

Any changes coming up? We might trade our camper in for a fifth wheel. We’ll get a little more living space. Our camper doesn’t really have a place to kick back in a lazy boy. Our current camper is 285 sq. ft. The fifth wheel we’re looking at is 334 sq. ft. Same length as our current camper, the biggest difference is the slide outs. We’ve got one slide out now. The fifth wheel we want has three. Here’s what we’ve got now Zinger ZT32QB. Here’s the one we want Bighorn 3010RE.

Any immediate plans? We’re going to keep on keeping on.

Any regrets? The same regret that I had when we started. I regret that we didn’t do this sooner. On the flip side, most people don’t have this opportunity until they retire and are in their 60’s. So we’re 20 years ahead of our time. 🙂

June 16, 2013

Green Acres Is Not For Me

Remember the TV sitcom Green Acres? I’ve had a recent similar experience. We’ve even re-written the lyrics to suit our situation. But for the lyrics to make sense, I need to bring you up to date.

November 1st of 2012, we arrived at Sherwood Forest in Kissimmee, FL for our winter stay. If you’ve followed us on Facebook you’ve seen pics where we’ve volunteered during our time there. Needless to say the staff and other guests have become ‘family’. We knew going into Kissimmee that our stay was going to be limited as we had other places on our agenda to see. Our original check out date was suppose to be April 1st of 2013. That got extended to May 1st of 2013 which got extended to May 13th, 2013. On that Monday, we put the camper in storage and headed to Sylvania, GA population 2,956…saaaa-lute (from Hee Haw).

How did we end up in Sylvania?

This is where Charlie grew up. She was raised by her grandparents, Dr. Gerald and Linda Hogsette. Ms. Linda passed away in 1983 and Dr. Hogsette died in 2001. After he passed the family home was left to Charlie’s mom. Charlie’s mom has her own place with her husband up in Mechanicsville, MD and Charlie and I have had our own places in various cities. So there’s been no need for someone to come to this home in Sylvania except to clean, check up on things, etc. Dr. Hogsette’s will strictly states the home cannot be sold or rented. No biggie as it’s a very nice home. Built in 1958, it sits on about 4.5 acres in the city limits at the end of Cork Pond Rd. It’s a 3 bedroom home and each bedroom has its own full bath…..yes, each bedroom has its own full bath. There are 2 half baths in the home as well for guests. To have a home built in 1958 that had this many bathrooms was really forward thinking. The house is roughly 3,500 sq. ft. Our camper is 285 sq. ft. So when we got here, it really took my mind a couple of days to adjust to all of the space. Our plan was to stay here until August, then head north to see some friends.

I grew up in a small town called South Fulton, TN and its twin city, Fulton, KY. Population between the two while I was growing up was around 5,000. So I’m familiar with small town living. I left home in 1988 when I was 17 and went in the Air Force. Since then I’ve lived in populous places. McGuire AFB, NJ, Hickam AFB, HI, Memphis, Mobile, Gulf Breeze, FL, Pensacola, Pigeon Forge, and Kissimmee. For lack of a better term, because the places are populous, I call them ‘noisy’. You’re always surrounded by noise. People talking, traffic, dogs, sirens, etc….noise.

When we got to Sylvania, no noise. It’s dead quiet. At night it’s extremely dark so you can see a million stars. Very peaceful. I fell in love immediately. I didn’t realize how I had missed peace and quiet. Birds singing during the day, deer and other nocturnal creatures roaming the yard at night.

Gracie, our black lab, LOVES it here. We play ball daily. She can run without encroaching on others. She doesn’t have to be on a leash. No traffic to worry about. Dog freedom.

There are several great little restaurants in town. Wall’s Diner, Chilito’s, Pop’s Kitchen, and Subway. The closest Wal-mart is in Statesboro about 23 miles away. The closest liquor store is in Newington about 14 miles away. When going to Statesboro or Newington (opposite directions), there’s nothing really to see but pine trees. Kind of serene at first since it’s greenery and very easy on the eyes.

Two weeks into our twelve week adventure and I’m bored out of my mind! I hit a wall. I started feeling isolated. Everywhere we had to go outside of Sylvania was a drive with very little in between. There’s NO WAY I’m making it twelve weeks here. Don’t get me wrong, it was awesome for about a week to get away from it all….maybe two weeks….but that’s my limit. At least for now. As I get older, my mindset could change. But at this moment, I miss our 285 sq. ft. camper, I miss our friends, and I miss noise. I don’t like feeling isolated. I’m not a social butterfly. I’m not the guy that talks to everyone in the bar. But sitting down at a bar, seeing people talk, laugh, and enjoy each others company is something I sincerely miss.

I contacted our friends at Sherwood as they’re running a three month summer special. I asked if the summer special applied to July, August, and September. Yes! Great, we’ll be back on July 1st. We’ve got a few things to button up here with the house, but then we’re free again. We did manage to make it to Pigeon Forge to get the remainder of our stuff out the basement. Our tenants said they’ve just about decided that they want to stay in our house as long as we’ll let them. We couldn’t be happier. Everything we own that we don’t want to take with us is in about 10 Rubbermaid containers and will remain here in Sylvania (pictures, books, family heirlooms, childhood memorabilia…you know…stuff that only has sentimental value that you don’t really want to throw away). BTW, there is a monitored alarm system on the house so no squatters. LOL!

Now for the Green Acres re-write. The roles are completely reversed here. Charlie is Edward and I’m Lisa.
Charlie:
Sylvania is the place for me
Farm livin is the life for me
Land spreadin out so far and wide
Keep Kissimmee, just give me that country side.

Brian
Sherwood is where I’d rather stay
Playing golf with John and Ray
I just adore our clubhouse view
Dah-ling I love you but give me 192 (the main roadway in front of Sherwood Forest)

Charlie…The chores
Brian…The stores
Charlie…Fresh air
Brian…My hair

Charlie…You are my spouse
Brian…Goodbye Mickey Mouse
Charlie…Sylvania we are there

Charlie says she’s not bored, but I sense otherwise. I know she could make it here longer than I could. It’s sad to see what once was a thriving little town where she grew up is now a not so thriving little town that sort of dwindles away a bit more each day. Proof for those of us from small towns that we can always go home but we can never go back.

October 17, 2012

How It All Began, Pt. 1

Gatlinburg Trail – Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Brian and the RV

My first time with all the RV equipment

Back in 2006 I worked for the National Park Service and got transferred from Gulf Islands National Seashore to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We left a year round warm climate for a climate that has all four seasons. I’m not fond of winter, but could deal with it because the area was beautiful, I got a pay raise for the move, and loved my job.

Moving to east Tennessee was like coming home for me. Having grown up in west Tennessee I remember many vacations to the Great Smoky Mountains as a kid. Although the area had grown immensly since my last visit, we were ready to explore and call east Tennessee home.

Sugar Maple in full Fall Colors - Pigeon Forge Tennessee

Sugar Maple in full Fall Colors – Pigeon Forge Tennessee

We initially had trouble finding a long term place to rent. Most of the places in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are overnight cabin rentals. We finally found a home in a new neighborhood that was in our budget. We signed a 1 year lease and moved in. Issues with the owner happened almost immediately. Knocking on the door and trying to come in before we could get to the door, constant calling to see if the builder had completed the minor items on his punch list, etc. Looking at Tennessee law, we could get out of the lease if need be, so we started house hunting. We didn’t really have intentions of buying a house, but were sort of left with no other choice. We ended up buying a brand new house 2 doors down from where we were renting. We had already met the neighbors and felt comfortable in this neighborhood so we wanted to stay.

In June of 2006 we closed on our house and moved in, got out of the lease from the rental, and started our lives in Pigeon Forge, TN.

Our neighbors up the street were retired out of Cincinnati and had chosen Pigeon Forge to live because of the location. They had family in Ohio, North Carolina, and they wintered in Florida. Wintered in Florida? I was curious so inquired more. Turns out they had owned several RVs in the past, travel trailers, fifth wheels, and motorhomes. They had a fifth wheel stored in Florida and would go down in early December and come back in early April avoiding the coldest of weather snaps in the mountains.

Wintering in Florida sounded really nice, but with my job requiring me to be on site it was an idea we would have to put off until retirement, but could do some beginners research just to see if it’s something we should consider further.

In October of 2006, my boss from my part time job managing web sites, servers, email, etc. offered me a full time position. He knew I worked for the federal government full time and had to compete with their salary/benefits in order to bring me on board. He gave me a great offer, I accepted, and started working from home or whereever I had an internet connection. My wife was already working for him full time. So now, wintering in Florida would be possible and the idea of us having an RV was born.

Gatlinburg Trail - Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg Trail – Gatlinburg, Tennessee

We hadn’t really been in the mountains long enough to want to leave and after having spent our first winter there, it wasn’t really that bad. Only about 6 weeks of needing a heavy coat, less than 2 feet of snow, and no real tourists to speak of during this time made us feel like we had the whole city to ourselves. At this point we saw no reason to buy something we didn’t ‘need’ and would only use for a few months out of the year. The idea of having an RV was put on the back burner.

In 2008 we started traveling heavy for work going to conference after conference. We were very mobile during this time, but it was REALLY nice to get home to our animals and sleep in our own bed. In November of 2009 some friends we had made in our industry had a home in Los Angeles. They were going to be away for 1 year in Europe opening a European division for the company they worked. They told us if we wanted to head out to LA and stay in their house for the winter, to go for it…

Enjoyed a fantastic Diner with Hui Tam and her Husband David.  A must do when in Los Angeles!

Enjoyed a fantastic Dinner at Hae Jang Chon Korean BBQ with Hui Tam and her husband David. A must do when in Los Angeles!

all we would have to pay is utilities. On 12/12/2009, we headed to LA. We packed up 1 big suitcase, our laptops, 2 dogs and 1 cat and hit the road. We stayed in LA for just over 4 months and loved it. This made us realize that we could actually stay long term in a place as long as we had internet. The idea of having an RV was back on.

Read Part 2
October 16, 2012

How It All Began, Pt. 2

our belongings
Ford 6.4L Super Duty Truck

Our Ford 6.4L Super Duty Truck

I started researching trucks. Living in Tennessee, we’re not short on friends who have all kinds of truck advice. My idea was to buy a truck that would pull whatever RV we wanted to buy. I didn’t want the truck to be my limiting factor, even if we decided on something light that an F-150 would pull. I read forum after forum, post after post. I narrowed it down to an F-250 made between 2000 and the first half of 2003 to get the 7.3L Diesel. I did a ton of window shopping on eBay, autotrader.com, etc. At this point, we’re paying off other things and setting some money aside so a truck purchase wasn’t urgent. I could wait for the best deal.

About a year went by and I hadn’t bought a truck yet. Turns out Charlie wasn’t too keen on living in an RV. WHAT?! Our idea of living in an RV was fading. We talked, she was afraid of what people would think, she quickly got over that and the idea of having an RV was back on.

We both started window shopping online for RV’s. We initially set a budget of $15,000 for the RV and $15,000 for the truck. We looked at picture after picture online. Finally, we went to Camping World to put our hands on an RV. We really liked what we saw. We just had to find the right one for us. We weren’t tied to the idea of getting a fifth wheel or travel trailer so if we found one or the other that fit our budget and our needs, we would be fine. We did look at motorhomes, and a good used one starts around $40,000. My thoughts were that if we did this and didn’t like it, we’re stuck with a $40,000 vehicle. If we bought a truck and a trailer, and didn’t like it, we could still drive the truck and go camping on the weekends or something.

2011 Ice Storm... Too Cold for Us.. TIme to Move On

2011 Ice Storm… Too Cold for Us.. Time to Move On

Time passed another winter came. The temp outside was 8 degrees one day. 8 degrees?!?! It was all our heater could do to keep the house at 65. These cold snaps were enough for me and Charlie so we stepped up or game and decided that would be our last winter in Pigeon Forge.


Summer of 2012 came and we were RV shopping. We found the camper we wanted. Finally. One we both agreed on. It’s a Zinger ZT32QB. A 32′ travel trailer. A litle longer than I wanted, but because it’s got an office in the back, I’ll deal with it when towing/backing, etc. Guess what? We don’t have a truck yet so the dealership made it part of the deal to tow it to storage for us at no cost. We did go over budget on the camper by $5,000.

floorplan

It cost us $20k, but is brand new and has a 2 year warranty. In my opinion, it was worth going over budget to get a new camper that had exactly what we wanted/needed.

Guess what? It’s now time to start truck shopping. The 7.3L diesel that I wanted had gone up in price because of the reliability and demand. More truck research told me to stay away from any Ford with the 6.0L diesel. So, I filtered results to show 2008 F-250s with the 6.4L diesel. I found one after about a month at a Ford dealership in Knoxville. At the time a 2003 7.3L would’ve cost somewhere around $19k. I got my 2008 6.4L diesel, 2 wheel drive extended cab long wheel base for $22,800. Again, over budget, but conditions had changed and getting a truck that’s 5 years newer, lower mileage (60,000 and on a diesel, that’s nothing), and a 3 year warranty was worth it to me.

our belongings

All of our possessions at the time of our move into the RV..

What were we going to do with our house? Rent it out, let it sit empty, or furnish it to become an overnight rental. Long story short, a previous neighbor called me out of the blue wanting to move back to Pigeon Forge and asked if I knew of any places to rent. Wow….things are falling in place. She ended up signing a 2 year lease. It couldn’t have worked out better. She wanted stability and we knew she would take care of our place.

Prior to finding a truck we were making things happen with the household items we wanted to purge. We donated a TON of stuff to animal rescue places for them to sell to raise money to help their dogs. We sold other stuff, donated more stuff, etc. We went through our things more and more to find out what we really didn’t need.

It was SUPER LIBERATING to get rid of stuff we didn’t need or use. We’re down to bare bones right now and it’s nice. Very few extras. We have about 10 containers stored in our basement of family heirlooms/memorabilia that we choose to keep and then about  500 lbs of cargo in the camper including clothes, our computer equipment, food, and other necessary things.

That’s it.

That’s all we’ve got.

It’s awesome!