It’s been a crazy couple of weeks but we made it, and as of today we are officially full timers!!! We are sitting in the beautiful Brandywine Creek Campground in Pennsylvania with our friends Cori and Greg, with our new lives stretched out in front of us. It’s an amazing feeling and very difficult to describe. This whole journey started with our best friend Mike dying two years ago and coincidentally (or not so much) today would have been Mike’s 47th birthday. We have always felt he has been watching over us and I have no doubt he is smiling right now seeing us make our dream come true. We love you Mike.
Let me back up a bit and tell you about the last couple of weeks and how we got here. By the way, if you are interested in the full year-long journey I have added a new page on the website called “Becoming Full Timers – Step by Step“ which chronicles the year-long journey, but on this post I am just going to talk about the last couple of weeks.
Selling the house was an absolute must for us to make this work, but until the actual paperwork was signed there was still a small piece of me that was holding back. Closings fall through or get delayed, so everything I did was knowing that it wasn’t real until the ink was dry. One of the nicest and most difficult parts of the transition was all the many goodbyes. I am a “rip the band-aid off” kind of person, and as my kids will tell you, long goodbyes are definitely not my thing, but because it was over the course of 14 days there were so many goodbyes and it was all stretched out. Don’t get me wrong, both Lee and I are incredibly grateful that folks cared enough about us to want to say goodbye, but it was sad. We had goodbye meals with our friends Mark and Cricket, Nick and Georgia, and Lee’s Board of Directors. Rick and his mom Sandra came over to wish us off and our neighbor across the street stopped by to say goodbye and thank us for being such good neighbors. Lee has been such a huge part of our little community that they actually wrote an article about his leaving in our paper and everywhere he went people talked to him about it. I even got questioned when I went to vote by the lady who looked my name up. What can I say, it’s a small town, and the idea of going on the road really seems to appeals to people. Several people sent us gifts, which was so sweet, and my favorite was a wonderful card from a retired woman who is on Lee’s board. She wrote some very nice things to him and added a note to me. It said, “My mother always said: ‘Retirement is twice as much husband, and half as much money.’ It’s true, but it’s absolutely wonderful.” It was such a sweet sentiment and although we aren’t exactly retired it certainly applies to our new life on the road.
Along with the goodbyes we also had a lot of “lasts”. Last time going to our favorite restaurant, Luca’s. Very sad but the meal was fantastic! Last time getting a haircut (my stylist Maria wrote down all my color and cut information for me and I was very touched), etc. (Last time eating at the Chinese buffet. Remember, kids, it’s not the BEST Chinese food, but it is the MOST Chinese food.-Lee) Plus, just driving through town, last time seeing this place or that place. We have no particular sentimental attachment to our house but it was where we raised our kids and Keene, NH has been a huge part of our life for the last 13 years.
So, while we were dealing with the emotions of leaving, we also had A LOT of work left to do. We had been preparing for months but wow the last few days were chaotic. I can’t believe how much little stuff was left to go through and in the end we ended up filling the camper and both the car and truck with “incidentals.” Will we throw most of that away? …sure ..but the combination of time pressure and sentimentality had us keeping a few things we probably don’t need. Lee made multiple last-minute trips to the dump and the storage building and even so we were still doing a last-minute clean/fire drill the morning of the walk-through and closing. Luckily we got it all done with about 20 minutes to spare and I finally got to meet the couple who is buying our house. They are a great young couple who have been renting a duplex, with her parents in the other half. Needless to say they were super excited and because they don’t have much to start with, were willing to take anything we left over. This was a HUGE benefit for us because not only could we pay it forward a bit with this nice young couple, we didn’t need to worry about Craig’s List or garage sales in the middle of all the other things going on.
They were truly grateful for everything we left behind and I felt so good when they told us they had looked at many houses but ours felt like “home” to them. It was a very nice house to raise kids in and I am so glad it will be in such good hands. The closing went extremely well although it did take a while as they were first time home buyers. Finally we were done at 11:20 am and Lee handed them the keys. By the way you should have seen the look on their face when Lee gave them 8 (yes eight) keys to the back door. My husband is a crazy person 🙂 (For those of you who understand, that is the officially sanctioned correct number of keys. Anything less is not enough, anything more is just silly.-Lee)
My original mental picture of leaving was after the closing we would jump in the car and go. Of course that didn’t happen, we had to go to the bank to deposit the check, drop off cable boxes, and eat some McDonald’s, so it was 1:00 pm by the time we got to the camper. I started to get a little nervous, because I knew we had a 9 hour drive in front of us, but Lee felt adamant that we needed to take our time and make sure everything was right before we left. I probably would have been a nervous wreck but Kyrston (our oldest daughter) came and stayed with us for the last hour. She has been absolutely wonderful through this whole process. Although I am sure it was very difficult for her losing her childhood home and watching her parents leave town, she was incredibly positive, generous, and supportive as we worked through the transition. Our child has an amazing heart and we absolutely adore her. (She’s alright, that kid.-Lee)
Finally it was time to go, and Kyrston, knowing how I feel about goodbyes kept it short but sweet. At 2pm we were on the road…hooray!!! Unfortunately from a traffic standpoint we could not have picked a worse time. (Not so much hooray.) This had us hitting Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York on a Friday with rush hour traffic. It was also the first time we had driven in two cars and frankly we did a lousy job of working out our route up front. Lee’s GPS is designed for campers and allows you to put in the height of the vehicle to avoid low bridge, as well as the width for narrow construction zones, and other details. My GPS reroutes based on traffic, but doesn’t have the RV specific features. I knew we would have some differences but I had no idea how very different the routes would be. (For example, hers took her more or less to where we were going, mine took me to Newark, presumably just as a punishment for something.- Lee)
We recognized the problem and thanks to my friend Cori (who navigated over the phone) we managed to get on a route that would NOT take us through NYC. Things were going much better but we started to get low on gas and there wasn’t a truck stop for more miles than we had in remaining fuel. Now at this point folks, we should have stopped. We know better, but we were excited and anxious to get to our friends so we just kept plowing along. When we only had around 120 miles of gas left, I decided to go ahead and try to scout out a gas station Lee could get in and out of. Many miles went by and nothing. Finally I called him and discovered his GPS had rerouted him and he was on a totally different highway. (Newark, baby. What an interesting odor. – Lee) Now we are screwed…no way I can go back and catch up and I can’t help him find diesel. It was a tense conversation, but I will say we both kept it together and weren’t too terribly mean to each other. My ETA was 9:31 and his was 9:50 so we just told each other we would meet at the campground. By this time I was down to 50 miles left and the gas light had come on. It was also 7:30 and I was starving so the first exit with gas and food I got off. Let me say this about New Jersey exits…the stuff is not close to the exit at all. I did find gas and finally 3 miles down the road a Wendy’s and thankfully Lee texted me he had found gas as well. Throughout the Odyssey, Cori was ground control and I am sure we were making her very nervous with the craziness!!
While at the Wendy’s I looked at my GPS and it now said arrival time 9:52. What???? Apparently I got off at an exit where you couldn’t get back on and I added 20 minutes to my drive. At this point I just followed the GPS and went on some crazy back roads in the middle of absolutely no where. Seriously, I came VERY close to hitting a deer which was casually walking in the middle of one of these country roads I was on. (Even the deer in New Jersey have attitudes.- Lee) Finally after 20 minutes of this kind of driving I hit a 2 lane highway and felt more comfortable. I called Lee and he was doing fine (the GPS took him by the Newark Airport) and I was near Trenton, but seemed to be heading in the right direction.
When we were about an hour away, I called Lee again and said Cori and Greg wanted to meet him when he got off the freeway and guide him in. He said he was at mile marker 350 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I looked down at my GPS and I was getting on the same turnpike in 5 miles. When I got on the turnpike the first mile marker I saw was 351. What?? Lee slowed down, I sped up and after about 15 minutes we were back together in our own little adorable convoy. So here’s the thing about this story…it is a perfect allegory for our life together. Yes, there is stress and we often go in totally different directions, but we also end up back together at the end. When I was behind Lee I called he said, “Even the universe cannot keep us apart,” and yes that is why I love this man. (Can’t really blame her, I’m awesome.-Lee)
The rest of the trip was a piece of cake. Our friends met us and brought us to their campground, we hugged, talked, had a drink, and went to bed. Today starts the first day of our new lives. I know it won’t always be easy and we will certainly go in opposite directions again, but as long as we always end up back on the same path it will be a beautiful life.
- It will take you longer than you think to finish last-minute items on departure day
- Route your trip in advance including gas stops especially if you are in two different cars
- Different GPS’s will take you different routes so be careful
- Have your walkie talkies when driving in two separate vehicles
- If you get separated, don’t panic. Remember your going to the same place
- It doesn’t matter how much purging you did, you WILL have a pile of stuff just dumped in the camper at the end. Make your peace with it 🙂
Brandywine Creek Campground 1091 Creek Road Downington, PA Rating: 3 out of 5 pine cones (2014)
Small family owned campground with a fishing pond and nice creek running along the perimeter. Large pull through sites and numerous seasonal campers. Wifi is included and campground is wooded without being dense. My only complaint was while we were there the water was a little discolored, but this may have been because they purged the water lines in the back right before we got there. Quiet and well-managed.
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