First Week with a Regular Job

It is not my plan to blog much about my new job, but as it intersects with our life I will definitely make mention of it.  Before I get too far into it I wanted to take a moment and talk about the differences I am seeing from the work I have been doing for the last few years.  These thoughts are impressions only, and in no particular order, but I am sharing them in list form because that is where my head is now.

  • Benefits are awesome – I was truly grateful for the comprehensive lists of benefits I have access to and all at very affordable prices.  Many of these items I let go as a self-employed person but was happy to pick up again such as life insurance and dental insurance.  Although a limited number of my jobs over the last few years had some benefits, nothing to this level.
  • Contributing to Retirement is nice – Having access to 401K plans with matching is great, and being able to take funds directly out of my paychecks makes it all very easy.  I am happy to be regularly contributing to my retirement again, which is not something I was able to do much of the last several years. 
  • Comprehensive On boarding – Instead of minimal training and being thrown into the deep end of the pool immediately, I have been given the time to understand the structure and culture of the company.  Every person I have talked to has been super helpful, and genuinely seems glad that I am part of the team.  Certainly I have seen some of that over the last several years but I also ran into numerous situations where I was treated with suspicion if not outright hostility as a new person. 
  • Mentally challenging –  Right from the beginning I have had to stretch my brain, and thankfully I am finding that although it may be a little rusty I still have lots of good information in there.  The big trick for me is to not make assumptions and instead take things as they occur .  Returning to a company I worked for previously has definitely given me a leg up in this area as many things have stayed the same.  There are definitely some big changes as well and I am learning about them like any other new person. 
  • IT setup is still a pain – I started off well with a laptop shipped to me and access to lots of things I needed, but I have been “stuck” on several items and its been tough getting those things pushed through.  One by one I am checking them off the list and since its a common problem everyone has been super nice about any restrictions I might have with IT systems.
  • Working from home is great – Lee and I are still working out the specifics of sharing the space.  I have set up a desk area at the kitchen table so he can use the main desk area and he’s using earbuds to watch TV or listen to podcasts so the noise doesn’t distract me.  I have been on phone calls for 5 plus hours per day and he’s been great about that.  The biggest issue has probably been Jack.  He is used to being the boss when I am home, but now I am not able to play with him or go on walks on demand.  He’ll get used to it eventually and in the meantime Lee has been trying to keep him occupied.
  • Really loving connecting with people – It’s been wonderful reconnecting with people who I knew from a long time ago, but even the people who don’t know me are treating me with a level of respect that I truly appreciate.  I don’t have to prove anything to anyone, and my skill set is taken at face value.  This is a HUGE improvement over the jobs I have worked the last several years and more than anything else has made me very happy with my choice.

I understand it is early days yet and I am certainly still in the honeymoon period, but so far so good.  I am finding my changed perspective on many things from my experiences the last several years is serving me well.  Looking forward to being assigned some projects and really diving into the work in the next couple of weeks.

Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

What’s Your Fire Plan?

Most of us who have been traveling for awhile know of at least one person who has had an RV fire.  It may be a friend of a friend or a picture we saw posted on social media, but the results of a fire in an RV are almost always catastrophic and once you have seen them you can’t forget it.  Thankfully it is not that common of an occurrence, so I was really surprised when I received a text yesterday from a former work kamping coworker who said she had just lost everything.  They were staying in a name brand campground visiting family, when her husband went to take the dog for a walk.  He turned back because the dog was being stubborn and saw smoke pouring from the rear of their Class A.  He ran to the door and yelled for her to get out.  My friend had enough time to grab her purse (which thankfully was by the door and run out before there was a small explosion.  The coach was engulfed in flames in less than five minutes and they lost everything except for what they were wearing, and a few items that were in their safe.  It was fast, they had no warning, and they still don’t know exactly why it happened.

Peninsula Daily News

As I was talking to her, I started thinking about if we were prepared for a similar incident and then Lee and I had a conversation about it.  Here are a few of the items we talked about, and I wanted to pass them along in the hopes of starting more conversations.  Even if you have talked about it in the past, it’s probably a good time to review. We learned we have some work to do.


  1. Smoke Detector Batteries – Just like in a home these should be tested monthly, replaced twice a year, and they need to be in all of the rooms.  Another friend of ours put them in the basement of his coach and I think that is a great idea.  A few seconds notice could make the difference between life and death. (A great way to be reminded is to use your smart phone and set a recurring reminder to check the batteries. My phone and watch and Alexa are always telling me to do stuff that I would otherwise just forget. – Lee)
  2. Emergency exits – Know where your emergency exit windows are, and how to use them!!! If feasible, try them out. The first time you use one shouldn’t be in a panic when you’re half asleep in the middle of the night with a fire between you and your door.
  3. Fire Extinguishers – We have a very small one which has been with our RV for 5 years.  Since they should have an annual inspection I have no confidence it would work in an emergency.  Fire extinguishers aren’t cheap and even worse are hard to find a safe place to store.  They are little pressurized “bombs” themselves and must be attached to something when you travel.
  4. Insurance – We have a solid policy and we added additional coverage for personal items as well.  The biggest point here is are you insured for replacement value (we are) or actual value, and in the case of actual value what is your plan for where to live while deciding what to do next.  Even if your insurance company will cover a few days in a hotel that probably wont be enough.  A contingency fund to carry you over while you wait for your payout is probably a good call. (Also, the information you might need should be somewhere easily accessible that is NOT your rig. Give it to your kids to keep for you, or put it in a document in the cloud that you can access without any trouble. Assume anything in your rig will be gone. – Lee)
  5. Electronic backups –  We live in a wonderful age of electronic media, but maintaining it requires some work.  In our case our pictures have all been scanned and both the scans and our digital pictures have been uploaded, and our tax documents are also in electronic format, also uploaded. (If you are an Amazon Prime member, you have unlimited online storage of your photos. If you have a gmail account, you have online document storage. Scan everything, sort it into folders, and upload those folders. Even our home movies are uploaded to a private YouTube channel, and this Christmas I’m giving all of our daughters a portable hard drive with all of the home movies on it as well, so there are lots of copies of these irreplaceable things out there. – Lee) Medical records can all be accessed online now and our prescriptions are available online with Walgreen’s.  (They lost their prescriptions in the fire and that was one of the first things they needed to do.)  All that being said not everything is electronic.  Jack’s information needs scanned and some other documents like our warranty information are only in hard copy as well.  We need to spend some time going through our files and making sure we have electronic copies of everything relevant and then make sure that we have an offsite backup for those drives.  Having everything electronic is all well and good but if your drives all burn up that’s not helpful.  This is something we need to do more work on. (I’ll be taking care of all this this fall and winter. It’s a great winter project. – Lee) 
  6. Clothing –  My friends lost all of their clothing to either actually being burned or smoke smell that cannot be removed.  The Red Cross gave them $250 for immediate needs, which was great, but replacing an entire wardrobe is both time consuming and expensive.  Not much you can do to prepare for something like this happening, but think about a contingency fund for this as well.  
  7. Pets – Thankfully their dog was outside when it happened and she was saved.  If a pet is lost on top of everything else that can be absolutely heartbreaking.  Some people have signs on their doors that state a pet is inside so if the fire occurs while they are gone there is a chance the pet could be saved.  Jack sleeps in our bed, so if something happens in the middle of the night he will be close.  All that being said, and I am a huge pet lover, please don’t rush inside and try to save your pet.  RVs burn to the ground in just minutes, and they can explode at any moment and risking your life if just not worth it.

Los Angeles Daily News

I am sure there are more things I am not thinking of and please feel free to add additional thoughts in the comments.  I just wanted to take a moment and talk about this since it was fresh in my mind.  I am also adding pictures at the bottom to remind us all of how devastating one of these fires can be.

Thanks to


Thanks to


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

Removing the RV Stove and Creating a Cabinet

Disclaimer:  This modification requires dealing with your propane system and extreme caution should be used.  Before starting the repair turn all of your propane tanks off and bleed the remaining propane from the system.  If you are not comfortable for any reason, please don’t attempt this modification.

For years we have been talking about removing the propane oven and reclaiming the huge space that the oven was taking. Initially I was very resistant because I was intimidated by a convection oven, and I liked the idea of a propane stove for when we were boondocking.  My mind changed however as I saw how easy the convection ovens were, how unevenly the propane oven baked, and most importantly, how hot the RV got when we were using the propane oven.  If we were somewhere chilly it was no big deal, but in warmer temps I would often have to turn on the AC to counter the heat from the stove, which was pretty ridiculous.  When we were boondocking this wasn’t possible so I ended up not using the propane oven much anyway.

Still, it was what we had, and like many other things in an RV we learned to live with it, but things really came to a head when our friend Cori gave us an Air Fryer. Don’t get me wrong, we were thrilled to get it, but there was absolutely no place to make a permanent home for it.  We were already moving our Instant Pot back and forth between the counter top and under the desk and the air fryer was one more thing we were constantly moving.  When we realized that the space where the oven was would be the perfect space we were both sold!! One side note they came out with a combination Ninja pressure cooker/air fryer right after we got our air fryer.  I hear they work great from friends, but I am not replacing mine until one or both break which will hopefully be awhile.

In any event, I am glad it worked out this way, because now that the remodel is done I am absolutely thrilled.  I am using my convection oven (see previous post for how we replaced) to bake and cook and I still have a propane cooktop for when we boondock.  I also have enough storage space for the air fryer, the instant pot, their accessories, and a new shelf for baking pans.  Perfect! So here’s Lee’s step by step beginning with the all important step to burn off the propane in the lines before doing anything else! Oh and don’t judge me for how dirty it is.  We have been using it for five years 🙂

The first step was to turn off the propane from all of the tanks and then light the burners to clear all of the propane out of the lines.



Next was disconnecting the gas line. You just need two wrenches for this. One to hold and stabilize the nut on the stove, and another to turn the nut that connects the gas line to the stove.



Next is the removal of the mounting screws. On our oven/stove there were only 4 at the top. Two in front, and two towards the back. Removing them only took a few seconds each. From what I’ve read, this is all that holds most of them in place, because the lip rests on the counter edge, and that bears the weight. The screws are just there to keep it from sliding out when you turn corners, I guess.

After removing the screws I tipped it forward expecting it to just slide right out, but it didn’t. So I checked the bottom front, and sure enough, there was a screw on each side holding the bottom to the cabinet face.


Once all six of the screws were out, it was just a matter of pulling it out and off to the side.

What I was left with was a mess to clean up!


After I cleaned up the counter and walls, I removed the new cooktop from the packaging. It’s the same form factor so it just slid right in where the old one was. You can see along the edge the two concave areas where the mounting screws go. You can also see the blue plastic cap for the gas line. Everything is exactly the same as the other cooktop, except these are sealed burners.

Sliding the cooktop into position. The strip of metal on the right is a retaining strap. It uses spring tension to hold the cooktop cover in place.




It only took a few seconds to reattach the gas line and screw the new cooktop to the counter.


Another few seconds to drop on the cover and lock it into position and set the grate in place.


Once the new top was in place, I just need to do some more cleaning of the newly reclaimed space underneath. A LOT of gunk ended up under and behind the oven over the years.


I used some small pieces of wood to create cleats for the shelf. I know it looks like I used a LOT of screws on the right side, but that panel is only a thin veneer, and there’s really no way to get to the other side to put in a backing plate, so I just put in a bunch of screws. The weight is distributed pretty well, so it will be fine.


I used the piece of 1/2″ plywood from the under the bed storage project from last week to cut a shelf, and lopped of the corners and cut a little area out for the gas line. It’s bigger than it looks like it needs to be because the shelf had to go through the opening at a 45 degree angle and then slide down onto the cleats. I wanted a very snug fit.



Once the shelf was in position, I saw that I had a fair amount of space between the top of the appliances and the bottom of the cooktop, so I made another shelf to hold pizza sheets and wire racks and other small accessories. And not only did the air fryer and instant pot easily fit, so do all the all the accessories for them, and there’s room to spare.



Once I knew everything would fit I stained the shelf and screwed them down, and used a spare piece of wood from the inside of the cabinet that was no longer needed to act as a trim piece on the upper shelf which helped dress it up a bit from the raw plywood edge. I also did what I could to clean up the markings on the cabinetry.

With the lower shelf stained and screwed to the cleats. Jack hopped up in there to check out my work, so I have to clean his paw prints off the shelf.


With the upper shelf and trim piece added.


The recycled trim piece went a long way towards dressing up the finish.


Ready for some Old English to try to clean up the nicks and scratches.


Now that everything is done I don’t think I want to get a cabinet door like I originally planned. I think it will be very hard to find a perfect match, and even if we have a door or pair custom made and stained to match, there’s the question of finding a matching handle. I like the open shelf look a little more. We’re going to use it this for a while and if we change our minds, we can always get a door or pair of doors later.


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

Simple RV Mods We Wish We Would Have Done A Long Time Ago

When you are working and traveling, it isn’t often that you have the time or money to make modifications.  You think about them, but real life usually gets in the way and they just don’t get done. (No matter how interested I am in doing these things, I am always very wary of starting something and running out of time. Everything always takes longer than I think it will, sometimes by as much as 100%. And we usually aren’t 15 minutes from a hardware store or Home Depot or Lowe’s, so that’s also a factor. Running back and forth for pieces and parts is a much bigger deal when it’s an hour in each direction. – Lee)  Thankfully though we are in one place for an extended period of time, and for once have both the time and the money. (We’re also 15 minutes from a Home Depot! – Lee) It’s also been super hot (still hitting 100 degrees every day) and Lee would much rather be inside than out.  I just try to keep out of his way when he gets rolling and not do anything to slow him down.

The first modification was to add to the storage area under the bed.  Like most RV’s our bed has storage under it. The mattress sits on a box, and on top of the box is a “lid” with a hinge. There are gas lifts on the lid that assist in lifting it and the mattress to give us access to a nice little storage area. The part of the box that is at the head of the bed is in the slideout, and the rest of it sits on the floor. All of the box is one piece, but only the part that sits on the floor is storage. (That storage area is 4′ wide, 29″ long and 16″ deep, giving us a total volume of  12.8 cubic feet. – Lee) We didn’t know for sure what was in the other remaining space of the box, but Lee wanted to check it out and if possible reclaim the space. (You know I like to reclaim space. Here is a post from a while back where I found some wasted space inside the rig that significantly increased our pantry area, it’s the last mod on the page. And another where I increased the space in a small baggage compartment by almost 50%! That’s near the end of the post. – Lee)  In order to get to it he had to pull the mattress completely off and then look at the bed. He then removed that section of board and found a huge unused space underneath. (Reclaiming that space was pretty straightforward, but required a little bit of re-engineering of how the box was used. The original design has the lid attached to the non-opening box top with a few hinges. That anchors the hinges, and if I used the that top for a second lid, then the entire top wouldn’t be anchored and would just slide around. You can see in the picture below the section of the top that is not the lid, the lid is under the mattress. – Lee)

(There’s a lot of pressure on the hinges from the gas lifts, plus the wood is only 1/2″ thick, so you can see where the screws, which were not quite 1/2″ had worked themselves out of the wood over time. – Lee)

(So this is what I found under that second section of top. Just a nice big wasted space. – Lee)


(Because our slides are elevated 6″, this space is not quite as deep as the existing storage, but it’s nothing to sneeze at. This is an area 4′ wide, 29″ long and 10″ deep, for a total volume of 13920 cubic inches, or 8 cubic feet. It’s essentially the same as the “front” space, except that it’s 6″ shallower. So we ended up with 20.8 cubic feet instead of 12.8, a 38.5% increase!!! That’s a LOT of space in a rig to just magic out of thin air. Here’s a helpful idea of what you can do with 8 cubic feet, represented by a woman holding a box that’s 3 cubic feet. So imagine if she had absurdly long arms and could hold 2.66 of those boxes! – Lee)

(In order to create a new hinged lid for that “back” area, I needed to cut the plywood into three pieces. Two narrow strips to use as “anchors” for both hinges, and one large piece to serve as the lid for the back area. I didn’t want to cut it myself, because with hinges you really need perfectly straight cuts, so I went to Home Depot. They will do cuts on a panel saw for free, but of course I had to buy the wood, which is OK because I had another plan for the piece I took from under the mattress, which I will cover in another post. I also decided to replace the hinges that were already there, they were just not heavy enough. Once I had the wood cut I put one strip all the way against the wall and added the hinges and the other in the middle, to anchor the original lid. I also added a piece of lumber to “bridge” the gap between the lid and the hinge anchor so the thin plywood wouldn’t bow in the middle once there was weight on it. – Lee)

It was relatively simple to do and made us both wonder why we hadn’t done it before! It actually took longer to figure out what would go in there (seldom used items like winter coats, sleeping bags, etc) than to do the work. (The best part of this is that it allowed me to take 1/2 the stuff that was in the “front” storage under the bed and put it in the back, which is all stuff we will hardly ever need, freeing up the space in the easier to access front for things we will need more often. Here’s what I was able to put in that reclaimed space: Queen size air mattress, 2 adult sleeping bags, 20 XL T-shirts, 4 sets of long johns, a pair each of dress shoes, cowboy boots and steel toed work boots, 6 long sleeve dress shirts, a spare set of queen sheets, a full size memory foam pillow, 8 pairs of over the calf socks, two belts, 2 ties, a shoe shine kit, and 4 pairs of jeans. – Lee) 


Next up was replacing our television set in the bedroom with a smart TV.  (A smart TV allows you watch streaming channels like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc, by using your WiFi. You can also put video files on a USB stick or external USB drive and plug it in to the TV to watch those files. – Lee) I never watch the TV in there because it is too small for me to see and Lee never watches it because he can’t use a memory stick to play files we have.  Replacing the old 27″ Furrion with a 32″ ROKU TCL gave us both a larger screen and smart TV capability.  Best of all it was lighter than the old one and at $140 was a bargain!!  Again, big benefit for minimal cost and labor. (This was ridiculously simple, all I had to do was measure the space between the existing mount and the ceiling of the bedroom to make sure that whatever we bought would fit. I did NOT want to move that mount. Generally when those are installed at the factory, they use a large backing plate and if you remove the mount, there’s not necessarily anywhere solid enough to remount it. – Lee)

Lastly we finally replaced our microwave with a convection microwave. I remember vividly not wanting a convection oven as an upgrade when we ordered our rig, but as soon as I saw other people using theirs to bake I regretted it.  Baking in a propane oven is not fun.    I always said when the microwave died we would replace it with with a convection, but five years later it is still going strong.  Luckily Lee did some research and learned the company who made our microwave also made a convection version, in the exact same case!  This was important because it meant he wouldn’t need to do anything with the cabinetry or the wall mount.  It would just be a matter of taking the old one down, and putting the new one up. The convection oven was also only $370, much cheaper than I expected it to be.  So, Lee ordered the convection oven and voila!  Again, something I wish we had done a long time ago.

Original RV microwave


Space once it was removed. I was able to help with this. Lee held it up while I took out the screws in the top that hold it in place. Most of the weight is on the bracket on the back wall. Once the retaining screws were out the two of us tilted it forward and lifted it off the bracket together.


The one thing I will say about this change was having two strong people really helped when we put the new one up.  It’s possible Lee and I would have been able to do it, but having Greg who is both tall and strong was a definite benefit.  There is a metal hanger that the old one slid off and the new one had to slide on.  Once it was on the hanger one person had to hold it while the other screwed it in.  It’s a tight space and the convection oven is a bit bulky so Greg really helped.

The guys bringing in the new microwave


It was hard to slide it on the metal lip



None of these jobs was particularly difficult, but you have to know what you are doing.  So far I really like the convection oven.  I baked cookies and egg rolls and they both came out really good.  I was a little intimidated at first so I read the manual, and it is important that you use the right cooking containers depending on which setting you are using.  I even watched a couple of You Tube videos, which helped a little, but they both said to adjust the temperature down from the recipe.  I didn’t find that necessary, however, and used the same temperature and cook times that the recipe called for.

Next up we reclaim some extra space by removing our RV oven and cooktop. This is a much harder job, and as such will be getting it’s own post. Stay tuned!

Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

September 2019 Budget and Revenue

Our September budget was rough for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost if we hadn’t been let go early from our summer job this would all have been a non issue, but the loss of $7500 in revenue certainly had a major impact.  Instead we only had income of $1,616 for a net loss of  $3,954.  A big chunk of that was the $1,070 to replace our rear truck tires, and of course our travel costs to get south ($1,154 in diesel fuel alone).  It could have been a real mess, but thankfully we had enough money to get us down to our friend’s place in Texas where we could stay while we waited to get a gate guarding slot. Essentially what being cut loose early cost us was our month off traveling and seeing our kids.  We were going to make our way across the country and see each of our three children and our parents, but instead went south and immediately started looking for a gate guarding job.  Ultimately, it all worked out as I was able to find a professional job in my field in time, and once again we squeaked by without taking anything out of our savings account.  It did completely wipe out our checking account though and if we didn’t have money coming in soon we would definitely need to hit our savings.  For more details please see below:


Campgrounds – Lee’s not a big fan of boondocking when we travel so I try to use Passport America as much as possible.  The options on this trip were somewhat limited so we ended up staying in several more expensive parks.

Groceries – I would have guessed this would have been lower because we have been trying to eat what we have, but I am also trying to include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and those add up.

Dining Out – We went over by $81 and that was mainly due to the heat as we were traveling.  We often stop and heat something up in the RV on travel days, but the rig was super hot so we ended up eating out almost every lunch we were on the road.

Entertainment – Really happy with this category.  We did tons of things when we traveled south, but most were free or near free.  $103 for all of that is a huge bargain in my mind.

Truck Fuel – We really only look at this number as an annual amount; anything else will make you crazy.  Practically though it can have a significant cash flow impact if you need to get from point A to Point B and your savings are low.  

Truck Maintenance – I suppose this could have waited but they were in really bad shape and we would have been rolling the dice. (We really should have replaced them back in the late winter/early spring but put it off. – Lee)  I am shocked by how much we have spent on tires over the last five years.  I really need to talk about that in the five year budget review.  The good news is Lee has them staggered so they don’t all hit at once (front truck x2, rear truck x4, and trailer x4).  The bad news is it feels like every time we turn around we need to buy new tires.

Clothing – I desperately needed some new work clothes, in particular because I have put on weight, but I didn’t want to go completely crazy.  I started by visiting several local thrift stores, and then whatever I couldn’t find there I bought on clearance.  I don’t think I paid full price for anything I bought, although I did splurge a bit in October and bought a few Brooks Brothers shirts.  Those aren’t cheap even on sale but I love the way they look and they last forever.

Shipping – Twice we needed to overnight our mail to ourselves.  Once to get the last of the medical bills and another time to get our final paycheck which were mailed to us.  We also had a couple other items shipped as well.  Since everything was so up in the air and we weren’t sure when we would get a gate we paid the extra so we would have everything in hand.

Pets – I had to go back and see what we did here since this amount seemed so high.  Turns out Lee splurged on a bunch of brain toys for Jack and the treats that go inside.  I also took him to the vet for his three year rabies shot and a check up.  He’s the picture of health and continues to bring real joy to our lives, although we probably need to set a real budget for this next year.

Gifts – We bought some stuff for Oliver, our grandchild.  That’s another area that I probably need to set a budget for next year.  I continue to mostly spend the money I make from this website, which is awesome, but when we were visiting places we used our money.  Lee bought him a cool book from one of the museums and I bought him several rubber duckies.  It’s all about balance for sure, but it’s hard not to go a little crazy because he is so darn cute.

Home –  We went over by $74 in this category in September (much more to come in October), which actually isn’t that bad.  Lee did a real cool RV Mod (details in next post) which gave us lots of additional storage under the bed. (This is also a category I feel like should be looked at annually, because there are lots of times when we spend nothing at all on the rig. – Lee) 

In addition to the costs listed above we finally figured out the medical bills for Lee’s heart attack so I wanted to give a final accounting.  Almost all of this came from our HSA account thankfully.

  • $14.93 to radiologist –  Not covered under insurance.  Paid with HSA.
  • $144.85 to pathologist – Not covered under insurance.  Paid with HSA.
  • $220.35 to ER physician – Not covered under insurance.  Paid with HSA.
  • $612.22 to Methodist Hospital –  Originally this was $6,622.16 that went towards our deductible.  Because it is a charitable organization and we made so little last year I applied for assistance and they forgave 90% of it and we only had to pay 10%.  That was amazing, and went a long way towards this whole things not being a financial disaster.  Paid with HSA.
  • $1325.78 to Cardiologists – The cardiologists were out of network but since we didn’t have a choice in the doctors I appealed with Blue Cross/Blue Shield.  They denied the appeal so we ultimately ended up paying it. Paid with HSA.
  • $7500 for helicopter ride.  – The insurance paid around $10K of this bill and I appealed with Blue Cross/Blue Shield.  They denied the claim which left a bill of approximately $47K.  When we called the evac company they offered two different plans.  One was $100 a month until $10K was paid.  The other was a one time cash amount of $7500.  Although we still feel that this amount is too high, it’s more in the ballpark so we have agreed to pay that amount.  It will be paid with a combination of HSA and savings.

The moral of this story from my perspective is to make sure you have some sort of insurance coverage.  Yes, high deductible plans are next to useless for average health care, BUT if something bad happens it can save you.  The costs all in were well over $250K.  I also highly recommend that if you are planning on going on the road max out your HSA account.  We started five years ago with 12K in HSA and after paying for dental and other minimal costs for the last four years and they bills above we still have $3K left to apply to the evac copter.  That means we only need to take $4K out of savings to cover the heart attack and in the grand scheme of things I can live with that.  As a reminder we started this journey five years ago with $40K in savings.  Our deal was once we hit $10K we would need to take a break and make some money. After paying all these bills we still have $13K in savings.  The HSA account is the only thing that made that possible so again I highly recommend it if you are in the planning stages.

All that being said I am very happy to have found a job in my field so we can rebuild our savings.  It would have been next to impossible working the types of jobs we have been doing and this is a much needed infusion of cash.  Going forward we will still report our costs but I will no longer be reporting our revenue.  Suffice it to say we will have enough to live comfortably and really put away some money quickly.

Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

Tracy Gets A Job

First off I would like to thank everyone who had positive thoughts for me during this process.  When we were at our lowest after the incident at PGE, people asked if there was anything they could do, and I asked people to say a prayer, or think a good thought.  I also put the entire situation in God’s hands and pretty immediately things started happening.  I believe in the power of positive thinking and I believe in a higher plan, so it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge that power at the beginning of this story.

For those who haven’t been keeping track I starting looking for work in earnest in July.   One was from a company that I had no relationship with and it was important to know that my skill set would still be relevant enough to make me a solid candidate.  The other job came through my network and was not one that I actively pursued.  I can’t stress enough how important my network was in this process (both for leads and references) and the best thing I did was use Linked In.  Initially it was a little uncomfortable putting myself out there as searching for work, but people were very nice and everyone gets it.  All that hard work paid off and by the end of September I had two solid job offers in hand.

I have never been in a situation where I had two different offers to choose from, and I was really lucky that we were staying with my friend Cori when all this happened.  She has worked in HR for most of her adult life and was really great with reducing my anxiety and helping me navigate the situation.  It seems kind of crazy to be stressed when two job offers is a wonderful problem to have, but I didn’t want to make the wrong decision.  On many levels they were both excellent choices, but our lives would be very different depending on which job I chose.

One job would be more comfortable and allow more flexibility with our travel. The other job would be more intense and would require being in one location for several months at a time.  One was the known and the other was the unknown and for completely different reasons they were both extremely appealing.  This week I have gone back and forth in my head trying to decide and I talked to my Mom, and my friends Jo and Cori at length.   Lee weighed in as well, but as a friend, and he was very careful to not add his personal needs into the mix one way or the other.  He was willing to try either one and generally was happy for me either way.

The reality is we don’t live in a vacuum.  Our lives are more intertwined and the decisions I make have a significant impact on him.  I also thought quite a bit about my daughter and grandson which brought me back to why I had started this process to begin with.  I want to be able to spend more time with them and provide her with as much support as possible.  One of the two jobs was a clear winner in what was best for Lee and Kyrston and ultimately that is the one I chose.  The fact that neither one of them put any pressure on me doesn’t change the fact that they would be significantly impacted.   At the end of the day one of the two jobs was best for everyone on balance and that was the decision I made.

The reason it took me so long to get there was I wanted to be 100% sure I made that decision for the right reasons and not out of fear of the unknown.  I had gone to a considerable amount of trouble to change my life and I was in a position where I could take a big risk.  My mother was actually the person who helped me work through that.  She said don’t think this will be the only time in your life you will get an opportunity like this.  I realized when she said it that it was exactly what I was thinking and I was limiting my choices by believing that.  I may be a bit older now, but I have lots of good work years left in me and more importantly by being debt free we have put ourselves in a situation where we had options.  We have proven to ourselves we can live  simply and our priorities have definitely shifted.  That doesn’t mean they won’t change again as our lives change, but for right now this is the best decision for me.

All of that being said I am extremely happy with my choice.  I look forward to working in my field again and the money will allow us to replenish the coffers.   From a blog perspective it will also be interesting to see how this compares to the first year we lived on the road when I worked a corporate job.  I had all sorts of anxiety back then that will hopefully be a non issue this time around especially because I know I can find a way to feed myself on less money.  Our plan is to try and live as frugally as we have in the past and sock away as much in savings as possible at least for the first year.  This should put us back in the position we were when we started the lifestyle and keep our future options open.  Thanks again to everyone for the prayers and positive thoughts. Here’s an Oliver picture as a thank you 🙂

Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

Update on the Job Search

Anyone who has ever looked for a job knows that done properly, searching for a job is hard work! Several times in the past four years I have taken the time to look for work, but something else got in the way of me really doing it properly.  Either we were traveling and I didn’t want to mess with it, or the gap between seasonal positions wasn’t long enough for the search to come to fruition.  This time though I am committed to seeing it through.  And with that commitment and work I am seeing some results, so I wanted to walk you through what my process has been.

First, I am spending 1-2 hours a day (except Saturday which I take off) searching jobs and applying for positions. I have created a couple of Indeed custom searches for the Charleston area, but I have also subscribed to Flex Jobs and Virtual Vocations.  Neither of those are free, but they are wonderful websites if you are looking for remote jobs.  I highly recommend them and they are well worth the annual fee.

Thankfully there has been quite a bit in my field, and I am putting in 1-2 applications a day.  Each application generally takes 30-45 minutes, depending on the company’s process.  The ones where you have to create a user account and basically retype your resume on the company website are the worst from a time perspective, but I keep plugging away. I have also removed restrictions on myself when I apply.  If I seem qualified, even as a stretch, I am applying.

I am also taking the time to write a custom cover letter for each position.  Some people say this doesn’t matter, but  I have not found that to be the case.  When I take the time to include specifics from the job posting in the cover letter I have had better results.  That being said the “call back” numbers, or return on my time investment is pretty dismal.  I am hearing back from less than 10%, and most of those responses are to say “thanks but no thanks”.  This is the part that has been pretty discouraging, but thankfully my friend Cori gave me a great piece of advice.  She said it’s like fishing; you just have to keep casting and eventually you will get a nibble.  This has been a lifesaver as that image has helped depersonalize the mass rejection. I just keep throwing in my line and hoping someone will bite.

Once I get an interview I feel I have done well but that process is VERY slow.  It often takes a week between interviews and even when things are going well, I often need to follow up to nudge the process along.  Again, it’s important that I depersonalize.  I am anxious to find work, but they are taking their time and trying to find the right person.  One of the HR people told me it generally takes 30-45 days to hire at this level and that makes sense, although it can be frustrating.

Several times in the past jobs have disappeared during the interview process.   It’s more common than you would think, especially in the consulting world.  They start the job search and then poof! the job is “put on hold.”  Unfortunately in those cases they often keep the interview process going in the hopes the job will reopen again.  My point is, putting all your eggs in one basket is a bad thing.  It’s also not good to stop applying, which is why even though I am actively interviewing right now I still take at least an hour a day to look at new listings.

Speaking of job searches, creating these can be VERY challenging in a mobile world.  Almost all of them force you to pick a home base, so this time I picked Charleston, SC, where my daughter lives.  And unlike other searches I am not automatically eliminating jobs without a remote option.  I am pretty far down the path with a company located in Charleston with the hopes that if I proved myself I might be able to turn it into a remote job at a later date.  Many companies are still not comfortable with remote workers as a concept, but are more open to it once you have been there for awhile.  Depends on the nature of the job of course.  Site Managers are the least likely to be remote, but in my field of project management/business analyst work it is pretty common.

It takes time to set up those job searches and it’s important that you put some thought into it or run the risk of being completely overwhelmed.  I have a search in the Charleston area with Project Manager in the title and a second search with analyst.  Recently I added the same two searches in the Charlotte area, which is where my sister lives.  Looking in a larger city has it’s own challenges.  Yes, there is more opportunity, but generally there are less places for an RVer to stay.  Since I really don’t want to deal with an hour long commute, I check the locations of the offices before replying.  This adds an extra step, but not driving two hours a day in rush hour matters to me, and there are rarely RV parks near downtown locations.

In addition to checking job search results daily, I also took the step of going through my entire Linked In network.  This took me hours of work, but I eliminated people I didn’t really know (left about 500 people) and then cross referenced who they were currently working for with job openings.  Three times things lined up, and I actually reached out to the person I knew for a reference, which is not something I have ever done before.  In one case the job was filled internally, but in two other cases that reference got me a call back from an HR person.  Unfortunately those companies were so large that the division I was interested in was not the same as where my colleagues worked.  You would think it would be easy for HR to transfer my file from one segment to another but both times I got “lost” in the transfer.  I could have definitely spent more time on followup, but the lesson I learned was knowing someone was very helpful in opening the door, but the rest was up to you.

The one exception to that was when I received a call from a former colleague.  They had learned through the grapevine I was looking for work and as a hiring manager they were very interested in what I was doing.  This experience was totally different, with that person leading me through the process and advocating on my behalf.  It also short cut the time the process usually takes because the interviews were scheduled much closer together.

That has been the hardest part for me, the common week between interviews.  In my case, I am currently talking to five different companies and that delay can make it difficult to remember what stage you are at with which company.  I am using Google Calendar to keep track of the interview dates and times and really focusing on remembering the specifics of what I talked to people about.

In addition to that, while we were traveling I needed to make sure I was in a place with phone and internet for the interview.  I started scheduling all of my interviews between 8am and 10am so I could take them before we had to check out of a campground. I had one interview in the afternoon, that unfortunately I had scheduled before we left Timothy Lake, and that was very difficult.  There was no cell coverage very close to the time of the call (super stressful) and we pulled into the campground during the interview.  All of that was super distracting and going forward I only schedule them first thing in the morning.

Time zones were also an issue, because as we were traveling my time zone kept changing.  I was constantly worried about what time it was, which made it more intense as well.  All in all though it was possible (I even did a video interview while we were traveling) but given a choice I wouldn’t recommend it.  Things are much easier now that we are sitting in one place where I know I have consistent internet and phone coverage.  I am not a huge fan of video interviews but they are becoming much more common.  One of the interviews I did was even recorded so other people who work in the company can view it.

One other important thing about video conference is really looking at your surroundings and seeing what will be on camera.   I was warned about this by a recruiter and do everything I can to make the surroundings look as neutral as possible.  I take down pictures and position myself so the background is a door and a tiny bit of my kitchen counter.  I make sure nothing is on the counter and Lee knows that he needs to pick a place and stay in it during the interview.  He’s been really great about that.  At first he would take the dog outside or go somewhere, but as I have gotten more comfortable he can hang out as long as he doesn’t make a ton of noise.  Sharing such a small space is tough for these periods, but thankfully the calls are usually only 30-45 minutes.  Now that we are in one place I am scheduling 2-3 a day and the down times in between we can do whatever.

So what has all that work gotten me?  At the time of this writing I am doing the following and these are in the order I started the process:

  • Third interview with a company that makes robotic systems for warehouses.  This job involves cutting edge technology and I find it incredibly interesting.  The only downside is it requires travel to or relocation to one of the warehouse locations for several months which would reduce our travel for at least a year.  This company is really cool.  They are based in the UK and operate world-wide.  The on-boarding process would require overseas travel which is a long time dream of mine. Update: Things have gone very well and they are in the process of sending an offer letter.  
  • Second interview with a software company that is redesigning websites for the government.  They are a non profit, a very young company, and I really liked their philosophy.  They were the only company who didn’t care where I was located and  seemed completely comfortable with remote workers. They stated they had to open up to remote workers to get the best talent, which I found encouraging.  I also liked the fact that they were actively seeking older workers.  Their team skewed younger because of the technology they were working with, but they were trying to be more diverse. Update: The second interview went well and they sent me “homework.”  In this case it was a particular scenario and they wanted answers to several questions on how I would handle it.  Testing is becoming more common.  So far in my job search I have taken a timed and online proctored mini SAT, a personality quiz, and answered several questionnaires.  I am guessing this is because lots of people look good on paper but don’t have the practical experience, but it seems to be the way of the future especially with tech companies. Second Update:  After receiving my homework they told me they were going with a candidate who was a better fit.  I am guessing I didn’t use whatever buzz words they were looking for in my reply.  That’s OK though.  It seemed like a nice company but after the interview I did have some reservations about the type of assignment I would be given.  
  • Second interview with a company based in Charleston. They specialize in software products for non profits which was intriguing, but it is 100% onsite which is the least appealing to me. Update:  During the craziness of interviewing I mistakenly called back on an old voice mail from the hiring manager at this company.  I immediately realized my mistake and apologized but the damage was done.  The next day I received a form letter stating they were going in another direction.  Yes the unemployment rate is low but MANY people are underemployed.  Employers can choose to be picky when they get 150 resumes and they are.  Another reason why I think talking about our travel immediately is a bad idea. 
  • The weirdest one was I received a call from the company I worked for seasonally this summer.  I applied on the company website over a month ago but never heard back.  That really bothered me because I was qualified for several of the positions and after three years of working for them thought I at least deserved an interview.  Then they downsized us due to budget cuts and I get the call?  Update:  The two people I interviewed with had no idea I had worked for the parks department for the last three years.  That being said I think my skill set is a perfect fit for what they are looking for.  This job has no remote option though.  If we were still in the Portland area it might have made more sense.  They did talk about how other departments were going through headcount reduction initiatives, but they were adding people.  For a variety of reasons I am uneasy about joining a company under those circumstances. 
  • Lastly I received a call from a former colleague.  He had heard through the grapevine I was looking for a position and was very interested in hiring me.    This process is going very fast and so far everyone I have talked to has been great.  They seemed open to me working remotely which would give us a lot of flexibility in our travel.  This process has gone very well also and they are in the process of preparing an offer letter. 

This is the first time in my life when I have two offers on the table at the same time.  I have a been a “serial monogamist” when it comes to jobs. I am really pleased that my skill set is valuable enough that two companies want to hire me, and I am thinking long and hard about which offer to accept.  There are pros and cons to both, and yes a list was created! You guys should know me well enough by now to know that.  🙂   I will keep you informed as things progress, and would appreciate any good thoughts you can send my way.

Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.