Most of the time when we are traveling from point A to point B our biggest concerns are how many miles we will drive each day, what route will we take, and where we will stop at night. Despite being on the road for several years now, these decisions in and of themselves can be time consuming, mainly because there are lots of choices. Let’s take this trip for example. We knew we were headed to Texas to start gate guarding, but we also like to take some time off before we start, so we had to decide where to spend that time. Since we don’t have money coming in, and want to keep our costs down, where we stay does matter. For me the perfect month off would be a little bit of family time. a little bit of friend time, and a whole lot of nature. That’s not always possible of course, so it’s always a discussion of how we are going to spend our time.
Since we were so close to Joshua Tree and there are lots of places to boondock there, I really wanted to to head that way. Lee, on the other hand, really wanted to get to Texas, so we compromised and decided we would stop at Big Bend, another place we have never been where there is tons of boondocking. The other benefit of going to Big Bend was we could stay on the major highways most of the way there, which was important because Lee was sick. We have been really lucky in this lifestyle to rarely get colds or the flu, but Lee picked up a nasty bug in Vegas and he felt really lousy. Although I do drive a section every day we travel, Lee does most of the driving, so we had to talk about what he wanted to do. Do we want to find a place to hunker down until it passes or would Lee drive sick? Ultimately he decided that although he felt lousy he felt well enough to drive, and he didn’t want to waste our time off just sitting somewhere. So we drove shorter days than normal, stopped at 50% Passport America full hookup campgrounds along the way, and basically I tried to make it as pleasant as possible for him as we drove.
Although he felt terrible, we were making progress and every day I asked if he needed to stay an extra day. His answer was always no, partly because the $20 a night campgrounds we were staying in are fine for an overnight, but not really a place you would want to hang out for an extended period of time. Plus it started raining pretty much as soon as we left Vegas and the rain followed us. To be clear, it didn’t rain all day every day thankfully, but it was gloomy, overcast, and pretty cold, so again, we might as well keep going. Before we even got to Big Bend, we realized from the forecast that it was going to be rainy and overcast there for at least a week. We have certainly boondocked in the rain before, but it adds some extra layers of complexity. Not only do you have to worry about power generation because there is little sun, but also the ground on which you are staying. Most boondocking spots are on dirt or sand and a perfectly accessible spot when it’s dry could be problematic in the wet. Plus what’s the point if it’s too wet to go see anything (we aren’t big hikers in the rain) and I was worried about having spotty or no cell coverage. Put all those factors together along with the fact that Lee was still sick and ultimately we said screw it and changed our plans and went ahead and headed to the area we were going to wait for a gate in.
And if all that wasn’t enough to worry about I had a series of things I was peppered with along the way. Some people can drive a full day, stop, boot up their computer and take care of business and others can work on things on their phones while they are traveling, but I had my hands full driving, finding gas stations, and places to stay. I tried to stay on top of things but just wasn’t feeling it, so kept pushing stuff off until we reached our final destination, which of course added to the stress since I am person who likes to deal with stuff as it occurs. I am not a procrastinator by nature, but sometimes life pushes me in that direction and in this case I felt the need to focus on just getting from A to B. That would be fine, if I could just push those lingering details aside, but I am not really that good at that, so I was worrying about things along the way but not doing anything to clear them up.
So what was I worrying about? First off, we decided that we might try to file for unemployment. This is not something we have ever done before, but lots of people we know who work on the road do it, to bring a little bit of money in between jobs. Since filing is all online now, it’s much easier for those of us who live on the road and since several people I knew and trusted talked me through it I thought it was worth exploring. Turns out that like most things in life it was both easier and harder than I thought it would be. First we had to decide what state to file in, since we worked in Kentucky, Oregon, and Texas over the last 14 months, and ultimately I decided Oregon. While in Vegas I took the time to upload the information they needed (paystubs mainly and answering a ton of questions), and while we were driving I received a followup call from them. They walked me through what the benefits would be depending on which state I filed in (turned out we couldn’t file in Texas because our gate guarding jobs are 1099) and I decided to stick with Oregon. Then they told me that once the claim was setup I would need to sign up for the Texas unemployment database and then fax them a screenshot to prove I had done that. I would also need to provide proof of two jobs I had applied for every week, plus three job activities I had done per week (update resume, look for jobs etc) and every week I would have to file a claim. We were eligible for about $250 a week, which would be about $2K a month for both of us, which was a significant amount of money to make the effort worth it, if we were sitting still somewhere, but finding time to do all of that while we were traveling wasn’t that appealing. I could wait of course until we got where we were going, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t inadvertently screw it up somehow so I didn’t file the first claim and kicked that can down the road.
The day before we left Vegas I also got a certified letter in the mail at our mail service. Since we were dealing with a three hour time difference, we didn’t have a chance to have it scanned on Friday, so had no clue what was in the letter until we stopped Monday night. Turns out it was a jury summons and I had two weeks to respond. This was a first for me and again not something I wanted to screw with so I put a question out to some friends of mine on how they dealt with it. Turns out it is pretty common and most people just called the clerk, told them they were traveling, and were excused. Every county is different though, and I was particularly worried about the summons, because Clay County is in the middle of deciding whether or not we as full timers can vote without having a permanent address. Voter ID has become a big deal in many areas and those of us who only have mail services as our primary addresses are paying attention. I knew that it was probably a coincidence that I was summoned for jury duty the same time all of this was going on, but it made me extra cautious. While we were traveling, I saw that the Supreme Court had made a ruling in North Dakota that upheld the states requirement that voters have a permanent address. In that state about 30% of the voters don’t have a permanent address and many of them are native Americans. In Clay County, Florida where our address is there was a similar court challenge and many of us were waiting to see what happens. The right to vote is a big deal to me, but changing addresses and/or states is a huge pain in the ass and would ultimately impact what health insurance we have which is also a big deal. Not to mention it could require a trip back to Florida if we decided to make a change.
Anyways, even though I know the jury summons is probably pure coincidence, I wanted to be careful I wanted to make sure I had my ducks in a row when I called. Ultimately I called the clerk of courts and when I said I was traveling was asked if I could send a travel itinerary, hotel receipts etc. Well no, I travel in an RV and am visiting friends in which case I was told I needed to send a hard copy letter along with a hard copy of the summons and no I couldn’t take care of it over the phone. Ok well that means finding the time to write the letter, getting the printer out, printing everything and sending it certified mail. That’s all stuff I can do but definitely easier when you are staying in one place for awhile. We also needed a place to get our absentee ballots sent to and we needed to get those back in before November 5th, again not that hard to do when you are in a place for a few days, but not possible when you are staying in a new place every night. So again, kicked those cans down the road.
The last thing I was dealing with while we traveled was the outstanding $4K in medical bills for the biopsy I had this summer. Before we left our summer job I had sent (certified mail) a packet of information they needed for financial assistance. I wasn’t crazy about going the financial assistance route, would have much rather just negotiated down the bill to something reasonable and paid it, but their billing office kept pushing me in that direction. Well while we were traveling I finally got a letter on their patient portal which stated they had declined it and I had 30 days to provide additional information. They want 6 months worth of bank statements, all pay stubs for this year, and because I have a small business a year to date a year to date profit and loss summary. Ok definitely not going to get all that done while we are traveling so I called them. I talked to three different people (including a supervisor) and here’s where I am right now. Neither the billing office nor financial assistance office has the ability to negotiate the price. I don’t know who does, but it’s not them. We talked quite a bit about the fact that the doctor told me the procedure would only be $1400, but since the radiologist who told me that isn’t part of their network, there is nothing they can do about that. I was very polite and tried to hit it from every angle I could but they weren’t budging. The best I could get was they grudgingly shared the fact that I could email information to them rather than mail it all in, and again they really needed me to write a letter explaining my situation. They were pretty stumped by the fact that I didn’t have a mortgage or rent costs, and my situation was unusual enough that I really needed to write a letter explaining it. I am seeing a pattern here and definitely kicking that can down the road.
Oh and one last thing. I had spent some time updating my resume and putting some job searches together, looking for a job this winter. Yes, we are planning on gate guarding, but I was hoping I could find something temporary in the San Antonio area area to do this winter instead. The good news is I have had some interest from a couple of head hunters and there are lots of jobs out there. The bad news is trying to find time to read through all the postings, schedule phone interviews etc is (for me at least) incredibly difficult while traveling. The first few days I kept up the best I could but finally had to say screw it and let it go until we got where we were going. It will take me several hours to get caught up on the job search emails and more time to apply (and write cover letters) for anything that looks interesting. The good news is we finally made it to where we are staying until our gate guarding job starts so I will have some time to get caught up on all this stuff. Lee also has some rig maintenance that needs done so the next couple of weeks will be spent getting all this stuff taken care of before we start working.
And yes that stinks. We really look forward to the off time we can squeeze in between gigs and this time at least we are going to spend a chunk of that time on real life stuff. The good news is we are with friends and we are in a place where we can focus and knock this stuff out, so it definitely could be worse. The near constant rain isn’t great, but again could be worse and we are thankful we don’t have to try to deal with this stuff while we are working a 24/7 gig. Oh and really one last thing. Not everyone we know likes having their location reported real time. Actually lots of people we know either blog in arrears or don’t communicate their location at all, so when we are traveling with those folks we try to be respectful of that. I’ll just say we are in Texas, on full hookups, have a strong cell signal and access to a place we can have stuff shipped. All very important factors in both the things I need to get done and the maintenance Lee needs to perform. I’ll make sure I update you as things change and hopefully we can get out and explore the area a little, but if you don’t hear from me, it just means we are hunkered down and getting through our respective task lists. Like I started with…it’s real life.
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