Busy Week in Q

Whew, what a busy week in Quartzsite!  I have to say for such a small town there is a lot to do here, and showing it to Kelly and Bill we saw lots of things we never got to in the first month we were here.  Also there has been tons of social activity.  Most of the folks here are leaving the 28th or 29th so lots of people are getting together to spend time or see last minute things.  The only negative time this week was our trip to Phoenix to Aspen Dental.   Previously I had blogged about our trying to use Aspen’s Dental’s network to solve our dental needs and I had some mixed success.  This time though we were driving 2 hours to Phoenix to get Lee setup in their system.  I tried to make an appointment for an extended cleaning with them and explained we were coming a long distance but they absolutely refused.  So long story short when we got there they refused to clean Lee’s teeth because of lack of time and then after my initial exam refused to clean mine as well.  I immediately called their 1-800 number for patient concerns and was told I would get a call back in 48 hours.  No phone call.  So I will never be going there again.  The only positive to using them was that your patient files were on their national network and you didn’t have to go through the new patient rigmarole every time.  This office hygienist, Sunshine, refused to accept the patient records on file because “80% of the time the other offices misdiagnosed people.”  Ok so that’s enough for me, and on the drive back we said screw it, and decided to get it done in Mexico. 

We had plans to go with Ellen, Mario, Kelly, and Bill to Mexico the next day anyway and I reached out to Ellen and explained the problem.  Not only did she make it a priority for us to see a dentist, she sat in with Lee during his cleaning the entire time.  The dentist (who was smoking hot, per Lee) spoke great English, but Ellen sat there with him anyway, just in case.  Such a wonderful friend, and we had a terrific experience.  It was $25 for the cleanings and we learned they fill cavities for $40 and offer teeth whitening for $150.  The prices were great, the office was clean, and she was incredibly professional.  Can’t ask for more than that.  We are already starting to reach out to our bosses in Alaska to see if there is an office close by so we can make cleaning appointments now for the summer and hopefully get some minor work done.  By no means am I satisfied with any dental solution I have found, but at least Mexico opens up more options.   We also had a fabulous lunch and I got another $6 haircut.  Kelly also got an eye exam and ordered some glasses saving around $400 in the process since she has a complicated prescription.  Very productive day, and Ellen and Mario were kind enough to shephard the newbies through the process. 

Getting my haircut at Marilyn's

Getting my haircut at Marilyn’s

Mexico days are long days, but more excitement was to come. Jo and Ben drove 7 hours each way from San Bernadino where they are on a contract just to spend the weekend with us.  They made it there by 8pm and we all had some drinks, sat around the fire, and caught up.  It’s so amazing to me what people will do to see each other in this lifestyle and we were all super grateful they came.  In the morning we had lunch at a fantastic breakfast place, Bad Boys Cafe Ben had heard about.  I had probably passed it 10 times and never even seen it and was I missing out.  This is my kind of diner and had wonderful prices, great service, and was clean as a pin…no small feat in this dusty environment.  Lee and I had huge breakfasts, coffee, and bottled water for $13 total.  Loved, loved, loved it and give it my highest recommendation. 



Me, Jo, Kelly, Bill, Ben, and Lee

Afterwards we came back and chatted for a bit then in the afternoon we went out to Beer Belly’s Adult Day Care.  This is a popular bar right in the middle of the vendor tents downtown and I had never been there.  It was nice and cool in the shade and the music was really good, plus the place had a good vibe.  Best of all this fantastic home made ice cream stand is right next door and I had a terrific creamy vanilla cone.





Cori(not pictured), Pam, Red, Greg, Bill, Kelly, Ben, and Jo (not pictured)

Then we  all went back and prepared for our big Margarita/Dance Party night. I set up a little dance area and prepared my music and Bill set up his bar.  Cori organized a taco dinner and everyone chipped in on either something either to eat or a mix for the drinks.   It was a great time, the only bummer being I had sprained my ankle on the Palm hike and really couldn’t dance on it. (I did get some excellent free medical care from Jo and Ben). We switched over to 70’s music (which made Jim VERY happy) and hung out by the fire until late in the evening.  Jim and Barb actually stayed awake until 9:30pm so I guess it was a good party 🙂


Steve, Dianne, Dino, Lisa, Jo, Ben, Bill, Red, Greg, Cori, and Pam


Jo and Ben talking to Jim and Barb about the trip they made to Alaska in their truck camper. Jim and Barb are doing something similar this summer


Bill outdid himself…he really is an excellent bartender. Not one drink ran empty all night, plus he gave great advice on how to avoid a hangover to the crowd (tall glass of water, two advil, repeat as necessary)


The taco buffet!!


Beautiful sunset and a picture of jo and Ben’s “shuttle craft” that they take weekend trips with


Pam was dancing away. both Cori and I on bum ankles could only hop a little …bummer


Hanging around the campfire

It was a great night and then in the morning the Class of 2014 gathered for a brunch.  Kelly organized it and the spread was amazing then Cori and Lee worked together to get a group picture of us all.  It’s been such a good time this week and so glad we got to experience Q with Kelly/Bill and Jo/Ben.  Also Looking forward to heading back to Tuscon and doing some exploring and then New Mexico!!!


Bill,  bartender by night and bacon chef during the day!!


From left:  Mario, Ellen, Greg, Bill, Red, Lee (first in line shocking :P) and Pam


Ben and Jo


So this is how you do a communal breakfast.  Eggs by Kelly, Hash Browns by Greg, French Toast by me using Mama Jo’s recipe, Pancakes by Pam using Kelly’s blueberries, Jo bought bacon which Bill cooked,  and excellent coffee by Mario!!

Bill/Kelly, Ben/Jo, Red/Pam, Mario/Ellen, Greg/Cori, and Lee/Tracy

Bill/Kelly, Ben/Jo, Red/Pam, Mario/Ellen, Greg/Cori, and Lee/Tracy



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First Work Trip from the “Middle of Nowhere”

Generally I don’t blog about my work trips, but because this one was a bit unique, and many people are trying to figure out how to work from the road, I thought I would share this one.  Up to this point we have been within an hour and a half of an airport, not including smaller regional airports. Plus, I had the company car so if I needed to travel for work, I would drive to the airport, leave the car in parking, and pick it back up when I returned. We knew when we turned in the car this would get more complicated, but I spoke to my boss and since he was open to me renting a car in those situations it seemed like it would work out OK.

So, when the work trip came up while we were in the remote location of Lake Kabetogama I thought it would work out. I always judge how remote we are by the distance to the nearest McDonald’s because sadly, in my mind, that is a sign of “civilization.”  In this case we are 30 minutes from the nearest McDonald’s and 2-1/2 hours from the closest large airport in Duluth, MN.  There is a small airport 30 minutes away in International Falls, but only Delta flies into there and the minimally offered flights run around $1100.  Yikes!  Since Lee didn’t want to drive the 5 hours round trip to the airport, twice, I decided to rent a car one way to get there, and do it again to get back. The first problem was finding one.  The only agency anywhere close was Avis and they were at the International Falls airport.  Still, a 1-hour round trip is better than 5 hours round trip and I booked it. My company books all travel through AmEx though and Avis is not on the approved list so I had to make the arrangements myself.  A one-way rental is pricey ($131 plus gas each way), but there really weren’t any other choices.  I picked the car up Sunday and then drove the 2-1/2 hours Monday morning.  The drive was very pleasant, two lane highway with minimal traffic and I found a delightful local talk radio station to listen to along the way.  The whole program sounded like an over the fence backyard conversation and I enjoyed it immensely as local radio is a great way to get to know the people in a place.

When I reached the airport I was surprised by how small it was.  It only had four gates, and was shared by two airlines; United and Delta.  Unfortunately, it only had one little snack bar/restaurant in it though, and they were packed.  One of the planes got pulled for mechanical issues and one of the downsides to flying out of a small airport became apparent.  There are no other planes to catch if something happens to yours.  So it’s wait until the next one comes in or come back the next day.  Luckily mine was OK and I made it to O’Hare with minimal issues. Normally I carry on my luggage but I was headed to Louisville (Howard and Linda’s hometown) and she had jokingly talked about these nuts she loved that were only in a store in Louisville.  Since I was going to be 15 minutes from GFS  (a restaurant supplier that regular people can also shop at) I was happy to go.  Well, I was glad I did because the store was very cool, and if I would have left it at the nuts I would have been fine, but they had some other stuff I couldn’t pass up including a 10# bag of restaurant rice for $4.99 that I just had to have.  That damn bag of rice led to a serious of unfortunate events as they say, but here I am jumping ahead again, so let me walk through the week.  

Linda's special mixed nuts

Linda’s special mixed nuts

Would have loved to take advantage of this deal not that I have the freezer space for it

Would have loved to take advantage of this deal not that I have the freezer space for it

This is what I bought for me and Lee

This is what I bought for Lee and I








I was in Louisville to attend a 2-1/2 day meeting but I had two full travel days on either end. Unless you’re going to a hub city like Atlanta or Charlotte,  flying out of small airports practically guarantees a full day of travel.  But that’s OK, I generally don’t mind and if you take an early flight you have some time the first evening to see the city or whatever.  When I was on my way it occurred to me that I should take advantage of civilization and try to get some errands done.  First, they have Super Cuts  which is my haircut place of choice when I can find them, and I decided to get my hair cut and the highlights in my hair redone.  I carry a color card from my Super Cuts back in Keene so it’s easy to use them when I want the stripe in the front of my hair done.  I made the appointment online Tuesday and after the meeting headed over.  Unfortunately the entire ATT network was down for data for several hours that day.  Not sure if you heard about that but it was down for several hours in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky.  So I had to go old school and use Map Quest and print out directions.  Our company doesn’t get GPS in the rental cars so I am used to using my phone, but no phone and wow gotta say are we all in trouble if these data systems ever go down for long periods of time.  I followed the directions and about two minutes from the destination got stuck waiting for a train at a crossing. Not any old train, but the longest one I have ever seen, and it was stopped on the tracks for a while.  I couldn’t go around because I had no idea where I was or how to get there so I sat in that line for 30 minutes (not an exaggeration ) until the train finally moved off the tracks. Once I moved over the tracks I could not find Super Cuts anywhere.  Finally I stopped in an auto parts store (I am not too proud to ask for directions) and saw that I had put in Old LaGrange Rd instead of LaGrange Rd and the Super Cuts was across the street and I would not have had to wait. ARRRGGGGG.  No way! Thankfully I had used their online check in system (which I am a big fan of) and even though I was a half hour late they brought me right to the front of the line.  On the way back, same problem, the freeway was closed down to one lane and again could not reroute myself.  I ended up getting back to the hotel at 8pm but on the plus side a major check mark against the task list. 

I also made an appointment at Aspen Dental.  As I have talked about before, getting dental care on the road has been a major issue for us, and while in Florida I tried out Aspen Dental since they have a network of over 400 locations and I don’t have to go through the new patient rigmarole every time since they can look my records up on their system.  On the plus side, at Aspen Dental the care itself is fine and no new patient nonsense, on the downside they do the full court press on services and you really have to be able to say no to go into one of them.  Not everyone can say no to a medical professional, but having grown up with medical people I certainly can.  So when I walked into their office Thursday evening for my appointment and was told, “We need $40 for a fluoride treatment today,” my response was “Excuse me?”   She repeated the statement a little less certain and I said, “I just want a cleaning.”  To her credit she let the issue drop.  Let me be perfectly clear, if I needed work done I probably would not do it here, but they are fine for cleanings, just don’t be fooled into out-of-pocket up charges that are unnecessary.  It’s turned into a decent option for me on the road though, but I still won’t send Lee there because he is one of those people who says yes to everything medical people say.  I would rather in his case keep finding local dentists to send him to, but that’s stressful as well.  Thankfully it’s only something that needs to be done every 6 months.

After the dentist appointment I stopped at GFS to get the nuts and really got excited about the other things they had.  Suddenly I am thinking “How much can I fit in my bag?” and chose a 10# bag of rice (Lee loves rice), a big bag of powdered cheese, gravy, and fruit punch mix.  I know, odd combination, but those were items we use commonly, and the prices were great.  When I got back to the hotel room it took some careful packing but I got everything into the bag.  It did feel heavier than usual, but I didn’t think too much of it.  The next morning I was up at 4am and headed to the airport.  I turned in the rental car and then checked in with my bag.  When they weighed it, it was 13 pounds overweight…YIKES.  So I moved to the side and started rearranging.  Well, the rice and powders I bought were roughly 13#, so there you go.  I could have thrown the rice away…thought of it,  but I got stubborn..  and so the saga begins.  OK, saga is a bit of an exaggeration but it definitely had a cascading effect.  First, I ended up putting my work laptop in the checked bag, which I never do, because I didn’t want to carry all that through O’Hare.  Second, when I went through security (not once but twice) the rice threw off all kinds of warning flags and I got pulled out of line for a second scan.  When in O’Hare (my fault went outside to smoke) they actually did a full body pat down because it scored a warning.  To be clear I don’t mind the security (I flew two weeks after 9/11 and never want to go through that again) and the TSA was extremely polite and professional.  Still, I kept thinking “Is this damn bag of rice worth all of this?”.

I got on the plane to fly to Duluth and we made it all the way down the runway when we were forced to turn back for a mechanical issue.  Thankfully they let us deplane (opportunity to go the bathroom, get a snack etc) and then finally decided to bring a new plane up.  Again there are a limited number of flights so I was thinking I might be stuck overnight and the two-hour delay to change planes was better than the alternative.  Actually, when we landed the airport was clouded in until 100 yards above the ground and the pilot said if we would have been on the original flight plan we might have had to reroute.  So these things happen for a reason and as a seasoned traveler in general I try to be philosophical about them, but my forbearance was about to be tested in a big way.

Small airports have the huge advantage of being easy to pick up your luggage, so I was surprised when halfway through the luggage process the baggage carousel  stopped working.  It took at least 15 minutes for them to fix it, so I used the time to get my rental car back, and then I watched as person after person got their bag.  Well guess whose bag didn’t come off??  Mine. And when I asked who to talk to this is when small airports are a major disadvantage. I stood in line for the one person at the counter and he said he couldn’t help me because he was a Delta employee not a United employee.  He asked that I move aside and wait and I stood there for another 15 minutes watching him help other people.  During this time a young woman in her 30’s came up and asked if she could book a flight to International Falls.  Turns out Stephanie had booked a one way car from Alamo online but when she came to this airport they had no such reservation.  Probably because they have no Alamo in International Falls.  Avis wouldn’t help her because they said they had no cars and she talked to the cab driver who said it would cost $350 to take her there.  She was bearing up well, but I recognized the look on her face because I was feeling the same way and I said, “I’m going to International Falls, why don’t you ride with me.”  I meant it.  The day was turning to complete crap, the airline was totally not helpful, so why not be people and just do the right thing.  Plus it cost me nothing to have her come along and she looked like a normal person in trouble.  She got an off look on her face though, don’t blame her it was a weird offer, and she went to talk to her boyfriend.  Simultaneously I asked the young man at the counter if he was going to call someone or not, and he got on the walkie to get someone to come down and talk to me.  So Stephanie comes back and asks very tentatively if she could send a picture of my driver’s license to her boyfriend (sure why not) and I am going through the painful process of having another kids take my baggage information which instilled absolutely zero confidence in me.  Yes they would deliver the luggage 2-1/2 hours away but no he had no idea where it was.

Stephanie by this time (along with her boyfriend who was on the phone and rightfully concerned) had decided I was the best of their bad options so we walked across and got the rental car.  Turns out Stephanie was a very nice person, mother of a 14-year-old and this was the first time she had ever flown alone.  I appreciated the company because by this time I was very tired and having someone to talk to really helped me to focus on driving and not get super upset about the bag.  We finally made it to the very small airport in International Falls and Mark her boyfriend tried to give me some money.  I said, “Absolutely not” and told Stephanie that in some time in her life she would have a chance to pay it forward with someone else and to please just do that. Actually the whole experience really salvaged the day for me and I am grateful to her in a way for letting me do something nice for her. I gave her my card with blog info so Steph if you’re reading this it was a true pleasure meeting you and good luck getting through those teen years with your daughter lol.  She sounds like a great kid though so hopefully you will have an easy time of it.

So it’s Saturday morning and they still haven’t found my bag but I am feeling better just writing this all down.  Is travel from a small airport easy.  No.  Can it cause issues that wouldn’t happen necessarily in a larger airport, absolutely.  Was the experience enough for us to restrict our travel to always be close to an airport…nope, but it was not a fun 14 hour travel day and I can absolutely see having similar issues in the future (the rice aside I am NEVER doing that again).  It’s a price that, in my case, must be paid for the lifestyle and I am willing to pay it for the great views and isolated settings.

Update:  I made a mistake on the July budget missing the $400 payment for our RV.  This takes us to $3800 for the month which is still our lowest month but not the significant difference I thought it was.  Very sorry for the mistake and I have updated that page for future reference.  Thanks so much to Bill for pointing the mistake out to me.  It was caused by rushing to get the post done prior to the work trip, but I will absolutely be more careful int the future. 

Luggage Update:  After 24 hours of watching the website and feeling like nothing was happening I sat on hold with the Indian call center until I got an actual person on the phone.  I was polite but firm and finally the agent got Gail from O’Hare on the phone with me and she had actually opened my bag very recently trying to find a black bag for another person.  Thank heavens!!  She was wonderful and promised to put it on the noon flight to Duluth.  So thanks Gail…I owe you!!

Lessons Learned

  • When printing out directions from the web make sure you have the correct address
  • Never ever check your laptop (or anything else you can’t lose) in your luggage
  • Count on long travel days from small airports
  • Count on fewer services in small airports
  • One way rental cars are expensive; think about the cost in both dollars and time when you make that decision
  • If you can help someone…do it.  It really is a great feeling.


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First Full-Timing Budget

One of the first questions people have who are interested in the Full Timing lifestyle is: “Can I afford it?”. (Yes, you can, but nothing else. – Lee) Most people know they would love it, but whether they can make it work financially is a major roadblock.  What made me really believe this was possible was reading RV-Dreams and seeing Howard’s budgets, so I promised myself that if we were able able to do this I would carry his generosity forward as best as I could and post my own budget as well.  Last month I had every intention of posting it but it was such a disaster I gave myself a break and decided to start in January.  Between trailing costs from moving, Christmas gifts, and too many meals eaten out with family, we were pretty far off the rails.  (I ate nothing but Ramen Noodles and bought nothing. I have no idea what she spent all our money on. Probably hookers and blow. – Lee) So we hunkered down in January and for better or worse, I’ll show you how we did, below.  By the way, I am using a spreadsheet created by Howard from RV-Dreams that is pretty terrific.  I highly recommend it as a starting point for those of you who are interested in tracking your costs. (You’ll think you can just make your own, but you can’t. Just buy Howard’s. It’s worth every penny, and you’ve got enough to worry about without making spreadsheets. Trust me. – Lee)

So how did we start?  We looked at budgets online, talked to our friends who went on the road before us, and made some not-so-educated guesses.  Consequently, we knew that we would need to adjust the budget after some time passed when we had more data.  Some folks pick a dollar amount and then shoehorn their expenses into that amount, but I wasn’t comfortable with that approach.  (I prefer the “spend everything and assign blame to others later” philosophy. It has worked really well so far. I have, or used to have, lots of cool stuff. Then Tracy made me get rid of all of it and live in a little box with no high speed internet. This is awesome! – Lee) Instead we did a bottom up approach, looking at our costs for each particular item, seeing what the total was, and then adjusting down, as needed, to make it doable.  The big questions was: “Could we live with it?”.  This is also the fifth version of the budget we have done.  As we got more information things changed. (My original budget included new towels and socks every day, and free pie that magically fell from the sky. I got more information, and it changed. – Lee)

When you ask the questions on forums about how much it costs to live on the road people generally say “as much as you have”.  There is an element of truth in that but ultimately I feel it is a cop-out because few people are willing to live at a subsistence level even if they have the most beautiful view in the world.  Most people who decide to full-time have lived pretty comfortably for some time and are used to spending money, so a complete adjustment to never spending anything isn’t quite practical for most. I say all this to preface my budget.  (Isn’t the suspense killing you? You could just scroll down, but then you would miss everything I had to say. Perish the thought. – Lee) Could you live on less? Sure. Could we live on less? (Nope. Meeting adjourned. Let’s go get Chinese food! – Lee) Yes if we had to, and some day maybe we will.  Are there categories and expenses that you will spend far less on because you simply don’t care about them? Absolutely.  I will say that a human being can only deal with so much change at once and some of these items are in place to allow us time to get used to our new life.  It will change over time I am sure, but for right now this is where we are:

January Budget

January Budget


Let me review some of the bigger ticket items.

Campground Fees – $750 was based on what several other people we know used.  We definitely feel we can get this down over time as we do more boondocking and feel more comfortable with places other than private campgrounds, but for now with full hookups this is a realistic.

Groceries – This is what we were spending in our sticks and bricks.  We have tried to reduce this some by not stocking items but those savings have been offset by spending more on natural, fresh foods.  Again, over time I expect we will do better with this but for right now it’s not an area we are looking at too hard.  For us this is definitely an item we didn’t want to mess with too much with so much other change.  Plus we are eating out less so spending more in this category. (Also, pie ain’t cheap, baby. And two pies costs twice as much as one pie. Bam. Math. – Lee)

Dining Out / Entertainment – We have $350 dollars all told in these two categories and there was some intense discussion around this.  We thought we had padded the number and we would never spend this much and then completely blew both these budgets in December.  This month we did much better but we really had to work at it.  Part of the cool thing about traveling is there is so much to see.  Part of the difficulty is seeing things without spending tons of money.  We had to say “No, we won’t spend $72 on the Big Cat Rescue  (which was #1 on my things to do in Tampa list) and instead spend $8 on the Sunken Gardens.  ” Lee also came up with this great plan for looking at food as fuel versus an experience.  If it was just fuel we should pack a lunch (which we still are lousy at) or drive home to eat or get McDonald’s.  If it was an experience then we would eat lunches versus dinners and make sure we made the most of it.  (The most effective way to get the most out of eating out is to make the other person need to go the bathroom by making waterfall noises, and taking food off their plate while they’re gone. Also, stealing food from other patrons, but you have to be fast. People are all weird about that, but I say it’s all part of the experience. – Lee) Souvenirs are a hard trap to avoid as well.  Not having much space for things helps, plus I try to get magnets at places, which are relatively cheap. My big weakness is T-Shirts which can be super expensive but do serve two purposes (souvenir and clothing).  So sometimes I get a shirt but most of the time I don’t and I try to only get them when they are sale.

Truck Fuel – This was one of the hardest items to calculate.  We have $150 for running around wherever we are staying, and $250 if we are moving from place to place.  Have no idea if those numbers will hold up because I still have a company car and those costs are coming directly from my paycheck.  It’s awesome that gas prices are so low, but going places still costs gas even if they are free so I expect these expenses to go up as we leave the Tampa area and start traveling around some more. (I have argued that if we always camp near pie outlets, we can keep the fuel costs waaaay down. We’re still discussing it. – Lee) 

Cell Phones/TV/Internet – Originally we had cell phone, internet, and TV broken into multiple categories, but when we decided to get rid of dish and just stream television we upped our usage to 80GB a month and are paying $361.  I know this seems like a ridiculous amount of money, but I also know we use every bit of that 80GB in a month.  Will this change over time? I hope so as we get to more wide open spaces, but for right now this is where we are at. (You want to see her freak out? Tell her she can’t watch “Scandal” because we’ve used up all our internets. – Lee)

RV Loan Payment – We wanted to come on the road debt free, but at the end of the day we were not willing to delay another year to pay off the camper.  It was our choice to go on the road with this $400 payment and we felt and still feel it’s manageable. (My theory is that if we just keep moving, and Bank of America doesn’t read this blog, they’ll never find us. We’re still discussing it. – Lee)

So how did we do??  Well, certainly not as bad as last month, but not as good as I would have liked.

January Actual vs Budget


We had a budget of $3465 and we spent $4167 or roughly 20% over budget.  So where did it go?  Well, let’s talk about the red.   (See how reasonable she sounds? Then BAM. No pie. You have to watch her. She’s good at business. – Lee)  The biggest overage was Home Improvement.  We only have $50 in the budget (which is probably too low) and I bought a $200 grill and Lee spent the rest at the Tampa RV show and on various other miscellaneous house items.  (Every single one of them absolutely necessary and mission critical. – Lee) This is similar to having a new house…it’s hard not to buy stuff for it, but we definitely need to get this category under control.  (See? Everyone agrees. Meeting adjourned. – Lee) The next largest overage was cigarettes.  We used to spend $600 a month on cigarettes, but before we came on the road we started rolling our own which took the budget down to $200.  Yes, smoking is bad, and we would like to quit, but in the interim it’s a part of our budget. We were thrown a major curveball though, when we got to Florida and we couldn’t find cigarette tobacco anywhere.  Apparently they changed the taxes on cigarette tobacco, so everyone is smoking pipe tobacco which doesn’t roll well.  Long story short, after an exhaustive search, Lee found a place an hour away that sells it so he bought 7 pounds of tobacco.  This overage will even out during the next couple of months and if you’re not a smoker you won’t have to worry about this in your budget anyway, which is a good thing for multiple reasons.  Membership fees were high (joined Escapees and Passport America), laundry went over because our washing machine was broken, and personal care was high because we both got haircuts.  We may need to make that budget item higher. (I vote for no more haircuts. I want to look like Sean Cassidy. If Sean Cassidy was almost 50, and about 50 pounds over his ideal weight. If he was 7 feet tall.-Lee)

So what was the good news?  We were $4 under budget in dining out…hooray..and thanks Eileen and Gene for buying me dinner that one night! (So sorry about your budget, Eileen and Gene, but it’s dog eat dog out there. – Lee) Entertainment we were under by $104,   Fantastic!!  And since we didn’t relocate this month we got $250 back on fuel.  So there were some positives and I can definitely see that the things we focused on, we did well on.  Overall I don’t feel that horrible about it.  I think the big takeaway here is that you can set a budget in advance and then try to make that budget work, but until you get out there and live the life you really don’t know what it is going to cost.  After talking to Lee about the results, we are going to start meeting every week to see how we are doing.  (More meetings! Yay! – Lee) I don’t think he would have been willing to do that a month ago.  We are evolving, and in this as in all other aspects of this life we need to be flexible and patient with each other. (Qpwsoedfsglkjldfgjlgkjdg. Sorry, I can’t type, I’m laughing because she said I’m “evolving” and “patient”-Lee)

On another note (although a large medical expense would definitely impact the budget) I had promised I would provide some followup on my Aspen Dental experience and since I had my appointment this Friday I thought I would share it here.  I have been concerned about finding dental care on the road since the very beginning.  As I have mentioned before I have always taken good care of my teeth and absolutely believe that clean and healthy teeth are necessary to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle.  I thought there was no “Urgent Care” type company with a national network of dental offices and then my friend Cori mentioned Aspen Dental.   Although they are not everywhere, they are growing and I loved the idea of being able to have my records on file in their national network. The office I went to just opened on Thursday and was absolutely beautiful.  Every dental chair has a television attached to it (super nice feature) and everything was spotless.  I knew I would have to get a full set of x-rays (despite having pictures of the x-rays from my June), but  I was resigned to that since they stated they would not charge me if the insurance company didn’t pay for them.  They did the full set which took awhile and then I was put into an exam room.  Someone then came in and measured my gums and that’s when things got unpleasant.   She recommended a two step cleaning process with an irrigation.  I was taken aback since my teeth are in really good shape.  When I pushed back she got very defensive and brought in the dentist.  He proceeded to tell me that I had two potential cavities and a third cavity and they could take care of it the same day.   He tried to show me with the mirror but I saw nothing and then he pressed hard on the tooth but I felt nothing.   I may very well have the beginnings of a cavity, but at that point they had totally lost credibility with me so I stated I just wanted my cleaning.  Then it got really bad. I went with the office manager into a room where we could talk about treatment course.  This is standard procedure in this office and I was picturing my husband or someone else who always takes doctor recommendations being taken for a ride.  I said I just wanted a cleaning and eventually she typed it up and handed me a paper that had the cleaning and the irrigation which my out of pocket would be $64.  I have nothing against paying for a service I need but I was very clear.  At this point I was livid.  I told her I wanted only what my insurance would cover and nothing more and I was about two seconds away from asking to speak to their area manager.  She finally backed down and printed out the service I requested AFTER I signed a release form stating I understood what they recommended and was refusing it.

They did have an immediate opening so I took a deep breath and went back with the hygienist who seemed very nice.  We were about to start when the supervisor pulled her from the room and when she came back in her attitude was completely different.  As my teeth were cleaned I got a nice lecture on gum problems.  She then proceeded to use the pick to clean my teeth acting as if this was an unusual procedure.  She even said that she felt she had to do it because it was the right thing to do for the patient.  At this point I looked at her and said, “My hygienist always does this.  It’s part of the standard cleaning .”  She hemmed and hawed a bit and then changed the subject.  So my teeth are clean which is the important thing but it was a thoroughly unpleasant experience. Here’s the thing.  A medical person has implied authority by virtue of their training that makes it more likely you will say yes to whatever they recommend.  So I believe strongly that anyone in that position has a higher level of responsibility to provide the patient with their options.  Does this always happen?  Of course not, but when you’re in a sticks and bricks you hopefully have time to shop around and develop a level of trust and relationship with your provider.  Losing these established relationships with my doctor and dentist is a major downside to the nomad life and forces me into a position of being extra vigilant in any medical situation.   So will I go back?  I’m not sure what other choice I have.  It’s either fly back to New Hampshire twice a year for cleanings, find a new dentist every six months wherever we go, or use this chain and at least avoid the new patient experience.  They did say that they do x-rays every year (instead of the standard 2) so honestly I am not sure if it will be worth it.  I will give them one more shot in 6 months and see how much of a hassle that is. (After reading this, I have opted to stop going to the dentist. I have always hated it anyway. Plus, I want to look like Sean Cassidy, if he were almost 50, a little chunky, and toothless. – Lee) 

So that’s the week, budgets and dentists.  It wasn’t that bad…at least there was no snow and we had several absolutly beautiful days unlike our friends in the northern states.   Tomorrow we are going to vist our friends in Ft. Meyers and next week Cori and Greg get into town.  Really really looking forward to popping in at the boondocking rally and seeing everyone!

Lessons Learned 

  • Being a new patient at a dentist involves two visits and most will not do the cleaning the same day as the initial consultation
  • You have to be your own advocate when you do not have an established relationship with the medical provider.
  • You can set a budget in advance and then try to make that budget work, but until you get out there and live the life you really don’t know what it is going to cost



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First Time in Clearwater

I have been to Florida many times in my life including several summers spent on Singer Island, but I have never lived in Florida before.  I have to say, I finally get why people are snowbirds.  The weather is absolutely wonderful.  It’s been in the low 80’s almost every day and although it does rain frequently, it is usually those quick showers that are over in no time.  It’s also very breezy and I am enjoying very much the sun on my face especially when I see that New Hampshire is experiencing ice storms and weather in the teens.  I know, I am sorry, I certainly don’t mean to rub it in, but part of me is wondering why I didn’t do this a long time ago.  Yes, I am sure I would find the summers miserable, but I won’t be here in the summer, and for right now this weather is absolutely amazing. (I have no such qualms. New England weather sucks in the winter, even people who have lived there their entire lives think so. – Lee)

It’s been a busy week…as you know my grandmother passed away, and I spent Monday, Tuesday, and part of Wednesday with my mother, grandfather, and aunts and uncle in North Palm.  I’d like to talk about what I did on the other days though.  When we pulled into the site, we were a little taken aback that our site number had been changed at the last minute.  I made these reservations months ago, but I have to say I am glad our site changed.  We are staying for 10 weeks (while Lee goes to RV Tech school) at the Rainbow Village Largo 55+ RV community. Yes, I know we are not 55+, but they are allowed a certain amount of guests who are under that age and we got an exemption which cracks me up.  (Trace is so close to 55 as to make no difference, but we’re calling it an “exception.” I’m considerably younger, but since we’re married they had to let me in as well. – Lee) We had pretty low expectations coming in.  Just a reasonable place to stay close to the school, but I really like it.  Our new site was pretty tough to get into, but once there, we are in a nice spot.  So far no one is in the site we face so it’s like being on a double lot.  We are also surrounded by a group of French Canadians and it’s nice hearing them speak in French all the time.  Adds to the atmosphere.  (In addition, there’s something really nice about not being able to understand conversations that you can’t help but overhear. It just turns into background noise. At our previous seasonal site in Swanzey, people were so loud, it was almost impossible not to just start participating. Sometimes I did, quietly enough so they couldn’t hear me, which is a shame, in retrospect. I often had compelling things to add. Also, everyone here thinks I’m Canadian, and they keep speaking to me in French. I keep apologizing for not being Canadian, but that seems to just reinforce their idea that I’m Canadian. It’s a vicious circle, with no end in sight. C’est une honte. – Lee)

So far people are friendly but have largely left us alone which is nice and if we do want to get to know folks there are plenty of opportunities with a daily calendar that has 3-5 free activities a day.  It’s clean, neat, and I feel completely safe as we are gated in and surrounded by our own security force of older people who are paying attention to what’s going on!!  Plus 65% of the structures are permanent so it feels like a little community more than a trailer park which was a concern of mine.

Right outside our camper in Rainbow Village, Largo Fl

Right outside our camper in Rainbow Village, Largo Fl









Even though we aren’t on the water or really near anything cool there are many things to see and do within a half hour drive.  The beach is 15-20 minutes away (depending on traffic) and Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and Tarpon Springs are all within easy driving distance.  It’s quite a bit cooler here than even two hours south, and since we are still getting acclimated to the weather appreciate that.  Lee really wanted to see the sun set on the ocean since he hadn’t had the opportunity since the mid-90’s, so on New Years Day we went to Clearwater Beach which is considered one of the best beaches in the US.  The beach is beautiful with tons of white sand, but it was a bit crowded for my taste and after checking out Pier 60 (which has vendors and restaurants) we moved down to Sand Key Park which I liked much better.  It was $5 for an all day parking pass at Sand Key (versus $3 an hour at the Hilton on the Clearwater beach) and much less crowded.  We stayed for quite awhile looking for shells, watching birds, and eventually seeing the sunset and it was a very nice experience.

PIer 60 in Clearwater

PIer 60 in Clearwater

Clearwater beach

Clearwater beach

Sand Key State Park

Sand Key State Park (Totally different ocean than Pier 60. It’s not even on the same side. This one is on the right, and the other one is on the left, as the pictures show. – Lee)

Message I wrote to Lee on the beach

Message I wrote to Lee on the beach (Never trust anyone who writes an I.O.U. in something as temporary as sand.- Lee)


Thursday and Friday we spent the time getting acclimated to the area.  I was nervous about my first haircut here, since I had heard horror stories from people about changing hairdressers and had the same person cutting my hair for over 10 years, but we found a Super Cuts and Lindsey did a great job.  We also tried out one of the three local grocery stores. We’re going to try them all and see which one we like best. I am finding those types of things to be unsettling..not knowing which grocery store to go to, or where to get my hair cut, but as I knock each one off my list I am finding it’s much easier than I thought it would be.  I am overdue on a teeth cleaning as well, so calling Aspen Dental soon which Cori recommended to me because they are a national chain, so I will tell you how that went after the appointment. I also started cooking again, something I have kind of gotten away from with all the traveling and actually menu planned and shopped for all next week.  My first couple of attempts; Individual Beef Wellington and Chicken Parmesan were not that great (meat overcooked and undercooked respectively), but Lee appreciated the effort and since he only has 1/2 hour for lunch at the school every day it’s important I get back into the habit.  Plus we are absolutely committed to living within our budget this month.  Originally my intention was to start posting budget numbers last month, but things were so crazy with the moves and unexpected startup costs, I decided to start fresh this month.  I’ll be completely honest, we did not do as well as I would have hoped but we also didn’t completely blow the bank either.  My advice is expect to plan to spend extra that first month, just like you would if you bought a new home or moved into a new apartment.

Saturday we drove down to Fort Meyers to see Jo and Ben.  One of the best things about being here is so many of our friends are close by.  We saw Kelly and Bill and the night we came in (they made us a terrific dinner) and we hadn’t seen Jo and Ben since they left Maine.  Ben took a six month contract with the Fort Meyers hospital which he likes very much and Jo is working on call for 3 different hospice companies.  Plus they really really like their site which sits right on a canal and they have their own little private boat dock which goes to a river which has tons of manatees in it.  (That is utter nonsense. There is tons of water, tons of birds, tons of mangrove trees. There are not tons of manatees. Not even a few pounds of manatees. We saw no manatees. We were there, we were in the river, we looked. No manatees. I think it’s all a big marketing ploy. Just like in New Hampshire with their alleged “moose”. I lived there over 13 years, never saw any “moose”. Don’t believe the lies about the moose, and the manatees. – Lee) After tons of hugs, talking a bit, and eating a quick lunch we set out on their boat.  Ben took us up to the power plant which dumps hot water into the river and is a favorite hanging out spot of the manatees.  (Suuuuure. – Lee) It was a glorious day and although we didn’t see any manatees we did see lots of birds and some very cool mangroves.  We had a terrific time and I am so glad we are close to our good friends again.

Ben and Lee on the boat

Ben and Lee on the boat (You see how Jo and Ben are almost gleeful in their laughter about how we feel for the “manatee” story? – Lee)

Lee and Jo

Lee and Jo

Loved the pelicans just hanging out.

Loved the pelicans just hanging out. (Those aren’t real. They’re sophisticated animatronic pelican statues. – Lee)


Lessons Learned

  • Budget extra money for the first month or so…you’ll need it
  • Getting a hair cut in a new place doesn’t have to be traumatic…BUT be prepared to describe exactly how you want it.  Your former hairdresser can write down important information like color, type of cut, length etc for you before you go on the road.


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