After we dropped off the car Monday we had one more surprise before leaving Minneapolis. Sean, a young man who had worked for Lee at Cheshire TV years ago when it was brand new, reached out to us out of the blue and asked where we were in our travels. Sean left Keene and joined the Army six years ago, doing two tours in Afghanistan. His goal in joining the military was to make money to pay for farrier school, which was a lifelong dream of his. After his overseas tours he did a stint in Alaska and finally left the service to pursue his dream by attending a school in Nebraska. Through sheer coincidence (or no coincidence at all as I believe more in God/The universe than I do coincidence) he was heading back to Keene when we were in Minneapolis. So he rerouted himself and came to see us on Monday, which was the best of all possible days. Nick was still in town until Monday night and since he and Sean had worked together for a while he came over as well, and Lee had a great time with the guys until late in the evening. It was really wonderful seeing that Sean was doing so well and it was VERY nice of him to go out of his way to stop and see us.
Tuesday morning we got up very early and made the drive up to Voyager National Park. Part of Lee’s compensation package for the video work is a campsite for the month and although we said we would make do with almost anything, Howard was very generous and put us in a high-end resort about four miles from where they are work kamping. The Pines at Kabetogama is right on beautiful Lake Kabetogama and a very popular spot for fishermen and boaters. We don’t fish and don’t own a boat, apart from our Sea Eagle kayak, but the views are absolutely spectacular. We had the choice of a few different sites upon arrival and ended up choosing Site #1 which generally goes for $60 a night. It’s a two level campground and our site is up on the cliff, which we really enjoy because the sites are larger and we have a bit of a view of the lake from our RV. Not to mention that of the fifteen or so sites on the cliff, when we got here there were only three other rigs, and they were all together. They were gone by Friday morning, so we’ve got the whole cliff top to ourselves, for now. The campground is in the process of being renovated though and the sites are set up a bit oddly. We ended up reversing our direction so that we were facing the woods and running the power and sewer under the rig. The sites up here are not quite level yet which has been a bit of a challenge, but we are working on re-positioning to fix that. So far the thing that impresses me most is the level of service you get here. Every employee is extremely nice and they have obviously gone out of their way to differentiate their offering from that of their neighbors. As usual, when we stay in a place for a while I like to wait until the end before completing my review, but I have to say that we are really pleased to be here.
Before going on with the story though I should probably take a few minutes and explain how this all happened. I was first introduced to Howard’s blog RV-Dreams back when Lee was trying to convince me that the full timing lifestyle was actually possible for people our age who still needed to work. When he talked about living full-time in our rig I was fascinated by the concept but thought it was something only retired people could afford to do. So although I was intrigued and definitely open to the possibility of trying it someday, since our money over the years had largely gone into raising our children, I just didn’t believe it was possible for us. Lee persevered though and he found Howard’s journal and more importantly (at least initially) Howard’s budgets. He knew immediately that this was a person I could relate to and was smart enough to connect me with the blog and step back. I think it’s important to note, that to this point I had never read a blog in my life. I thought they were largely self-indulgent (funny now when I am so into writing my own) and never I felt I had the time or interest to follow anyone’s life that closely. Well, in no time at all, I was hooked. I devoured the blog, reading a month a day until I finished the preceding eight years and was caught up. At first I approached it as a research project, but as I read and learned I felt I got to know Howard as a person and frankly I found him interesting in his own right. I mean, here was a highly successful business man who had the guts to walk away from his professional life and start a new one in uncharted territory. I thought (and still do) that he and Linda were pioneers and I found that type of courage compelling aside from what I was learning about the lifestyle. At some point during the reading I discovered that they held educational seminars (or rally’s as they are called) and I knew I had to go. Again, highly unusual for me. I love Star Trek, for example, but have never felt compelled to go to a convention, but I knew I had to be at that rally.
Fast forward to the first rally in Tennessee and aside from meeting people I had touched base with in Howard’s RV-Dreams forum (another first for me), I was incredibly excited about meeting Howard in person and very interested to meet Linda. I was very pleased to learn that Linda is a full partner in RV-Dreams and I was incredibly relieved to see an example where the lifestyle was working for a strong, vibrant woman. Somewhere along the line in my research I was becoming concerned that I was going to need to turn into a 50’s house wife (no offense to anyone that was one as it was an incredibly hard job), to make this work, and that is simply not who I am. Seeing Linda thrive in a full-timers environment was one of the things that convinced me that I personally could do this. From that moment on I always wondered if we could be friends, she’s my kind of chick and we are of similar ages and all, but aside from one dinner we had while I was on a work trip during our whole process of getting ready we didn’t come into contact with each other.
Fast forward again to one year later and Lee and I were at the reunion rally. You may remember that at the reunion rally, Lee volunteered to shoot some video of the various activities at the rally. It was our way of paying back a little of what we felt Howard and Linda had given to us, plus Lee loves shooting video and he thought it would be fun. He made two “happy faces” videos for them and Howard and Linda really liked his work. It turned out that Howard was seriously considering having some video website content made and was looking into possible vendors. When he discovered what Lee could do he started thinking about some alternatives. Over the last few years Howard’s demographic is definitely shifting. Certainly there are still many retired folks becoming full timers but they are now joined by the 40 and 50 somethings who want to work on the road and be full-time. When Howard saw what Lee could do, they started meeting about the possibility of Lee doing some video work for his website. We always talked about video work being one of our revenue streams, but we’ve been so focused on getting the RV Tech business up and running that the video business was secondary. Howard truly saw the possibilities though and he also really likes to help working full-timers get started.
The day before we left, Linda called us and let us know she was making dinner for us. One of the etiquette rules I learned from them was when one person travels to another it’s nice to make dinner for the travelers. Travel days can be stressful and it’s nice to not have to worry about cooking a meal after setup. We went out to the farm where they are work kamping for the summer around 6pm and Linda made a great meal of baked spaghetti. Then we shared a campfire with them and talked for several hours. It was really fun and relaxed and exactly what I needed after a long wedding week. The next night Howard and Lee setup a business meeting at our place and I decided to cook. I will say this was more stressful in the beginning because like an idiot I decided to try two new recipes. The Minnesota Wild Rice Soup turned out beautifully (recipe below) but the Shrimp Stir Fry not so much. They were nice about it though (I am my harshest critic) but really I should have stuck with a previous winner for the main course. Afterwards we wandered down to the main campground where they have three large fire pits and a free fire every night. The sun setting was beautiful on the lake and again we had a really good time. I will say though that the pace of the last week finally caught up with me and I called it an early night.
Thursday, Howard and Linda caught up on work hours at the farm (both do 20 hours a week) and I caught up on some much-needed sleep. I took a really long nap and then went to bed at regular time and finally felt like myself again. Weddings are not for sissies! Friday though I sent Linda a text and invited her over for some time just her and I. Lee had gone earlier in the day and had a quick business meeting with them, but he stayed and talked to Howard and Linda came over and saw me. What a fantastic conversation. I was worried about whether it would take her a while to warm up to me, but Linda is a very honest and transparent person, which I love. Our several hour conversation ran the gamut from childhood to now and she cheerfully ate the night before’s leftovers when we ran into the dinner hour. What surprised both of us more is that Lee and Howard talked over at their place for the same amount of time. Finally at 8pm we drove over to “rescue” Howard and found him and Lee in a really deep conversation as well. We all stayed together until about 9:30 but then we finally went home. We left with plans to take a hike with them on Sunday (where I will get to hang out and Lee will start shooting video) and I am really looking forward to it. I am really looking forward to deepening these friendships over the next month and I know Lee is going to make some awesome videos. If this is what our future looks like, working and full timing, I am very excited about it!
Minnesota Wild Rice Soup
- 1/2 cup uncooked Minnesota wild rice
- 1 large onion diced
- 8oz package chopped Portabello mushrooms
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup flour
- 8 cups chicken broth
- 1 pint light cream or half-and-half
- Add rice to two cups of water in a saucepan and simmer for 45 minutes. Put aside
- Saute onions and mushrooms in butter in a large pan about 3 minutes or until vegetables soften
- Stir in flour, cooking and stirring over medium heat until flour is fully mixed but NOT browned; set aside
- Heat up 8 cups of chicken broth
- Slowly add HOT chicken broth into vegetable-flour mixture until well blended
- Stir in cooked rice
- Season generously with salt and pepper; heat thoroughly NOTE: Soup can be prepared to this point, set aside then reheated before adding the half-and-half
- Add 1 pint of half-and-half slowly stirring well and heating but do not boil
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