To store or not to store is a pretty big question when you are starting out in the full time lifestyle. Many purists believe you should get rid of everything that you can’t fit in your RV, and others believe it is a waste of money to pay for a storage unit for things that you ultimately won’t care that much about anyway. There is some truth to both of those tactics, but for us the process of getting rid of 25 years worth of stuff was traumatic enough that having a storage unit made the process bearable.
That was three years ago, and although we have been paying for the unit this whole time and haven’t been back to Keene once, I don’t regret the decision. In all fairness our piece of the 10×10 unit is only $20 a month (two of our kids cover the other portion for using it to store their stuff) and it is true that I had a hard time remembering many of the items we put in there. There were a few things I absolutely remembered. Our photo albums, the bed we used for most of our marriage, and several smaller items that were family heirlooms. Most importantly I remembered my small ceramic Christmas tree. The tree was going to be what I put out every Christmas and it wasn’t until our first Christmas that we discovered somehow it had ended up in the storage unit rather than the RV. At least we hoped that is where it was, but Lee wasn’t 100% sure where it had ended up.
So it was for that tree, and piece of mind, that we finally decided it was time to clean out our piece of the unit. It’s worth noting that from a pure financial aspect it really didn’t make much sense. Yes, we would save $20 a month because Lee’s parents were willing to take the items into their basement, but it was going to cost around $400 in gas, food, hotel, and tolls for Lee to go up and get it. It would take months to recoup that investment, but we both decided it was worth it to close down that chapter of our lives.
Part of the problem is we selected a storage unit in Keene, NH and once Kyrston moved to Charleston we had no reason to go back there. Yes, we have some wonderful friends and memories in that area, but it’s pretty far from everywhere else and there was no reason to go back on a regular basis. That’s one piece of advice I would offer regarding a storage unit. If you decide to get one, make sure you pick a place that you are likely to return to on a semi-regular basis. That way you can access the items in it and more importantly check the status of your stuff. We didn’t choose a climate controlled environment because of the cost and always had a low-level concern about how are things were holding up.
Turns up this was not unfounded because when Lee arrived at the storage unit he had a really difficult time opening the door. Several of the tubs had gotten soft in the summer heat, and the bottom ones had sort of collapsed under the weight of the others stacked on top. A tower of them was leaning against the door. When he finally was able to open it, a tub hit him right in the head and I imagine it was similar to those images you see on Storage Wars. (On the plus side, it was 30 degrees that morning, and the first thing that fell out of the tub was a leather jacket. I couldn’t get it to zip, it might have shrunk from the heat or something, but at least I wasn’t as cold. – Lee)
On the plus side, at first glance, it does not appear anything was ruined and although Lee found many spider webs the unit was mouse free. He started the process of going through the tubs and sending me pictures of items to see if I still wanted them. Of course all of this happened right when Mom and I headed out to Myrtle Beach, but she drove the first leg so I could focus on replying to Lee quickly. It’s cold in New Hampshire in October, and I wanted to make the process as easy as possible, especially since I wasn’t there with him.
Turns out there weren’t that many items he had to ask me about and it was interesting how quickly I was able to decide. I had a visceral gut reaction to every picture I received and the Keep or Leave decision came pretty easily. I was also pleasantly surprised to rediscover a couple of items I forgot I kept and in a couple of instances was really happy I still had them. Just because you can’t remember an item doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. I can’t remember stuff all the time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care.
It didn’t take Lee that long to go through the items, and then he repacked the boxes and put them in the truck. He thought through in advance how he was going to transport everything and since the RV was (by design) still being worked on he had all of the truck bed to work with, minus the toolbox.
After Lee got the storage unit done his plan was to see how his successor at the television station he ran was getting along, and visit some other friends. He had a wonderful time and even went to the high school and gave an impromptu lecture to the advanced public speaking class on The First Amendment in Mass Media. Lee is a big First Amendment advocate and since he used to help out teaching television production at the high school he has always really enjoyed speaking to the kids. He also got to see friends and I think in a weird way get some closure on our time in Keene. We had lots of time to prepare since it took our house so long to sell, but at the end things still felt very rushed. I think we left bits and pieces of ourselves behind and going back and cleaning out the storage area helped with that.
While Lee was taking care of the storage unit, Mom and I were driving to my sister Wendy’s. I hadn’t seen her or her kids since last April and I was anxious to visit. I couldn’t believe how big Abram was and how much he was talking, but thankfully he seemed to remember me. He also loved the RV and trailer I bought him and spent many happy hours playing with it which was great. My niece Bailey was in college and unfortunately we didn’t get to see her, but we did get to see my nephews Bryce and Alec. Alec had gotten much taller as well and as an eighth grader has a totally different attitude. It goes with the age though and he still gave me a big hug when he saw me which I will take as a victory. The boys are really curious about the lifestyle and Bryce in particular asked lots of questions about the places we had seen. It’s fun to talk to them about it, and hopefully they can see from my example that it is a great big world out there and fun to explore.
The next morning we stopped by and saw Wendy again in the morning and then headed off to Myrtle Beach. The purpose of the trip was to help Mom look at condos because she wants to relocate to the area. As soon as her house sells she plans on buying a place right on the ocean, which is a life long dream of hers. Since my sister and daughter are both in South Carolina she is looking in that area and Myrtle Beach is really the only place with condos in her price range. The problem is that it is very touristy and the crime in certain areas is significant. Since she will be on her own, we all want to make sure she is in a safe place and my sister, who is more familiar with the area, took a weekend and looked at different places. Mom wanted a return visit, and I wanted to gain a level of comfort with the area as well, so I carved out a few days to go and spend time with her down there.
It’s tough to buy in an area you don’t know unless you at least rent a place, so Mom rented a larger three bedroom in one of the high rises on the north side of Myrtle Beach. I am really glad she did, because although the ocean and beach are beautiful, the complex is full of renters and I totally understand Wendy’s concerns. Plus it was pretty loud, with lots of activity even in off-season, which I think would be wearing on a person if they were living there. And most importantly although we liked the layout, the condo had obviously seen better days. Heavy rental usage can take a toll on any condo and that point was driven home when Mom went to open the sliding glass door and the handle broke off in her hand. It was funny, but sort of drove home the point that this may not be the best choice, and either way we probably wouldn’t have learned those things without seeing it firsthand.
The next morning we woke up to a beautiful sunrise and then were off to look at the area and condos. We intentionally didn’t schedule actual walk through but mainly wanted to see the buildings and the surrounding areas. Yes, the actual layout is very important, but you aren’t going to just stay in your place and walk the ocean all the time. I wanted to see grocery stores, hair cut places, nearest urgent care/ER etc. If there is one thing I have learned in our travels are those things are important because regular life does intercede on a fairly regular basis and if you are far away from basic services that can be an issue long term.
First though we needed sustenance, and since Mom’s seventieth birthday is coming in November, I treated her to Paula Deen’s. I am a big fan of her cooking (bring on the butter) and was excited to try a restaurant. The place is huge but also a destination place and the wait times for dinner even out of season can be 1-2 hours so we decided to try breakfast and we got right in.
The menu is kind of interesting. Everything is served family style and for $14.99 per person (drinks not included) we got 3 entrees, 1 meat, and 2 bread items. That’s a ton of food for two people, but we decided to go ahead and splurge for the experience and just eat a little bit of each item. We actually saw 4 women come in and then leave when they saw this was the arrangement because it was “too much food” and I appreciated the sentiment. To Go boxes are not allowed because you get unlimited “refills” of every food item, so you really do have to leave food sitting on the table, especially with just two people.
We really enjoyed it, but I think I would have preferred having lunch which they don’t serve until later. Whenever you go, definitely bring your appetite and maybe a couple of hearty eaters with you. Also don’t forget the gift shop which was fantastic. Yes the prices were high, but the selection and quality was really good. I bought Mom and I matching coffee cups so we could remember the experience and she really enjoyed her birthday present.
After we were fortified we headed out to look at different areas. We toured neighborhoods from Murrel’s Inlet all the way to Cherry Grove. I was doing the driving and I found it very challenging. The Ocean Blvd starts and stops in numerous places and we had to back out to the bypass and back in several times. When we tried to find particular buildings by address we also had some confusion because there is a South Ocean Blvd and a North Ocean Blvd and the real estate listings weren’t always clear about that. Plus I wanted to see each area not only from the ocean perspective but also the small neighborhoods behind them and then what services were on 17, which is a road that runs parallel to Ocean Blvd.
I won’t bore you with all the details but it was a lot to take in. Each little area had it’s own distinct feel and many areas were obviously in transition. Crime is definitely a concern here, along with the fact that many areas are mostly rental properties. We spent the entire day talking through the various factors, but I didn’t really feel like we made a lot of progress. I tend to be very systematic when it comes to these types of decisions and my Mom is more intuitive. Don’t get me wrong, she does her research, but she is more willing to take a risk than I have and that has served her very well in her life. In this case, since she is making a 10 year decision it’s not just about what we see today but what the area she selects will become in the future, so a certain amount of speculation is involved.
I found the whole huge list of possibilities a little overwhelming, but she seemed to take it in stride. The trip was a success though in that I learned the area and now when she sends me listings I will have a much better idea of where the condos are located. Things don’t stay on the market long around here though, so much of her choice will be directed by what is available at the time she sells her home. She has people she can stay with temporarily or she could rent for awhile until something good comes up, but knowing Mom I think she will make a decision very quickly when the time comes. She really doesn’t mess around when it comes to major life decisions and I have always admired that about her. Plus at the end of the day we ate at one of the many seafood buffets down here, and although it was pretty expensive, it was her treat and the endless crab legs were really good.
Tomorrow we are going to spend some time enjoying the beach and then Kyrston, my oldest daughter, will be picking me up to take me to Charleston. I’ll meet Lee there and we will spend a few days with Kyrston and her new husband Jeremy, and then head up to Amazon. I’m amazed by how much activity we are packing in on our time off, but surprisingly I am not getting really tired. That’s probably because I know we will be heading back west and won’t see everyone for a while and I want to take advantage of this time while I have it. Unlike previous years on the road when we knew exactly when our family visits would be, things are much more open ended because our work situation is not locked in yet.
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