First Time Watching A Tent Come Down

After our interview we spent quite a bit of time finishing up errands, writing/rewriting blog posts, and talking.  One positive thing that came out of all this was we had some long discussions about our role in everything that happened.  Dealing with these work issues as a work couple is complicated.  I have an approach that is honed over years and Lee has his own approach.  Because he always worked in a creative environment and I worked in conservative corporations it is not surprising those approaches are different. We are also different people, with different limits and different hot buttons.  What bothers me doesn’t always bother him and vice versa.  But when you are working as a team, every decision you make impacts the other person. This can be difficult to navigate, and unless you worked together prior to going on the road, it is unlikely you will have dealt with how to handle things prior to them happening.

And that’s a problem for us.  Because in the heat of the moment, when things aren’t going well, we don’t always band together.  Sometimes we flatly disagree or other times we know something needs to be done but don’t agree on the approach.  Based on our most recent work experiences though, we definitely knew this had to change.  Essentially we felt we had two basic choices.  We could either accept whatever happened once we arrived on the job site or we could address the issues as soon as they occurred.  Although it’s tempting to just say “as long as they pay us, whatever, we don’t care”  that tactic simply won’t work for us.  Neither of us is temperamentally suited for it for one thing (our friends are all laughing right now and nodding their heads) but more importantly it feels way too much like our old life.

Some people become full time RVers because they want to travel, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but we wanted to change our lives.  We wanted more freedom, less pressure/stress, and the ability to have more choices.  We can say we can tolerate anything for short periods of time and there is definitely an element of truth to that, but we have reached the point where we can see where too much compromise would make this the same as our old life, simply one on wheels. That’s not OK for either of us.

So that leaves us with addressing issues as they occur. That’s the “grownup” thing to do in any event, but it’s not always that simple.  I tend to be too Pollyanna, waiting until it is too late to recognize there is a problem, and Lee takes the opposite approach being very bothered when things aren’t as promised and generally assuming the worst. (I like to think of it more as expecting people to keep their promises and being prepared. – Lee) Basically we need to find a way to meet in the middle, and not only meet in the middle but also construct a joint strategy prior to having the conversation.  Let me give you a simple hypothetical example.  We accept a camp host position this summer and are told where our site will be.  This is an important benefit to us, so we google earth the spot and are pleased to see it is off the main road and in the back of the campground, and overall a pleasant place.  Awesome…looks perfect.  Once we arrive at the job, we are told the owners changed their minds.  They feel we need to be closer to the front for convenience sake and take us to a campsite right next to the road and the dumpsters and dump station. We have two choices in this scenario.  We can either accept the change and make the best of it, or we can talk to the owners and try to work something out.  We also of course always have the “nuclear” option of leaving, but no one wants to do that over something relatively minor.

So most people, ourselves included, just accept the change to the verbal or written contract and live with it. The problem though is it doesn’t generally end there.  More changes are made and before you know it, the job you are doing is not the job you signed up for.  That’s why I think it’s important that going forward we to try to talk it through right from the beginning.  It accomplishes two things.  First and foremost, you might get what you were initially promised, but even if you don’t you have made it clear that you have limits, and are willing to stand up for yourself.  You also get a really good feeling for how the job is going to go, by seeing how the owner/manager handles the conversation.  If they are vague/evasive, that is probably not a good sign.  If they are hostile and shut you down, that is really not a good sign.  But if you talk about it openly, even if you don’t get what you want as an end result, I think it’s a good sign for the future work relationship.   This approach may seem obvious, but for us it’s a stretch, especially as a couple.  We tend to gravitate towards a “give it a pass and wait and see” approach and that has not served us well. Both of us feel like this is an ongoing process, and as long as we’re making progress, that’s something.

In addition to solving all the problems of the world through talk therapy, we also took care of some business.  Lee found a way to replace the hose on the blue boy which was MUCH cheaper than replacing it, ($30 versus $250) and we took our truck in for its 60K mile maintenance service.  It wasn’t that surprising when they called and said the front tires needed to be replaced. The tires had less than 2/32 tread left of them, and are about a year and a half old. Our front end has been out of alignment pretty much since we hit the road, so Lee wasn’t surprised. (This has been incredibly frustrating, because I’ve had three alignments since we hit the road, and because of our travel schedule by the time I realized that the alignment was still off, we were hundreds of miles away from the dealer where the work was done. The last time was when we were getting ready to leave Alaska. They needed a kit to do it, and couldn’t get it fast enough, because Alaska, and we had to leave. Now we are going to be within an hour or so of the dealer for at least a month, so if it isn’t properly aligned I can go back and raise hell. – Lee) So it was $492 for tires and an alignment that we weren’t expecting, but everything else looks great, and we feel very confident in the alignment so far. We also watched the tent company and fence company completely empty our Christmas tree lot, which was actually pretty interesting.  I took lots of pictures, so why don’t I just show you how it happened. The tent came down in about an hour, and the fencing in about an hour as well.

First they took the sides down

First they took the side walls down. They clip onto a rope that runs along the tent, and each side panel is about 100′ long.

And wrapped them up in an amazingly tight bundle. Seriously that was amazing this stuff is hard to wrangle

And wrapped them up in an amazingly tight bundle. Seriously, that was amazing this stuff is hard to wrangle!

Then the unwrapped the ropes on the side poles

Then they unwrapped the ropes on the poles.

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And using a sledgehammer knocked the poles slightly in and loose from their metal holders

And using a sledgehammer knocked the tent stakes loose from the ground.

Next they brought in the forklift and put all the side metal poles (except the corners) on it

Next they brought in the forklift and put all the side metal poles (except the corners) on it

And then the CAT knocked loose the center poles

And then the CAT knocked loose the center poles

The tent started to come down

The tent started to come down

Next they brought buckets for the chains

Next they brought buckets for the chains

I was super impressed by how they used the CAT to minimize physical labor. Efficient and labor saving

I was super impressed by how they used the CAT to minimize physical labor. Efficient!!

Then back to front they started knocking down poles. I stayed outside the tent

Then back to front they started knocking down poles. I stayed outside the tent for this part

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Reminded me of those parachutes we played with in elementary school

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Once the tent was down I saw it was actually multiple pieces sewn together. Lee was suprised I didn't already know this

Once the tent was down I saw it was actually multiple pieces “sewn together”. Lee was surprised I didn’t already know this. (I might have been a roustabout in a previous life, but mostly I just can’t even imaging how heavy the vinyl tent top would be if it were a single piece. Not to mention transporting and storage. The system also allows them to build tents to pretty much any size in 10′ increments. – Lee)

They removed the rope from the seasm which took the longest of any step. Not much you can do to speed that process up, just good old fashioned untying

They removed the rope from the seams which took the longest of any step. Not much you can do to speed that process up, just good old fashioned untying

Then they folded the pieces up. This took some muscle

Then they folded the pieces up. This took some muscle

And rolled them into balls, once again using the CAT for transport

And rolled them into balls, once again using the CAT for transport

My favorite part was when they uses the forklift to lift the tent stakes out of the ground. Amazing control of the CAT was called for

My favorite part of the process was when they uses the forklift to lift the tent stakes out of the ground. Amazing control of the CAT was called for

The poles with no heads took a little longer (but not much) as they had to wrap a chain around them and pull up. That still went super quick

The poles with no heads took a little longer (but not much) as they had to wrap a chain around them and pull up. That still went super quick

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Finis!

Finis! (After two months of having the tent between us and the road, it was really weird to suddenly have a clear line of sight to the road. We felt really “exposed” and the traffic noise was much louder. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for the most of the other locations that were right next to the interstate. – Lee) 

 

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Removed the fencing on piece at a time

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Stacked nice and neat. This was much less dramatic than the tent but still impressively efficient

We only stayed one night on this empty lot and felt less exposed because the lights from the gas station next door kept it well lit, but I wouldn't want to stay for long periods. The tent not only gave us an illusion of privacy it also helped quite a bit as a wind break

We only stayed one night on this empty lot and felt pretty exposed.  The lights from the gas station next door helped as they kept the lot well lit, but I was glad we were leaving the next day. The tent not only gave us an illusion of privacy it also helped quite a bit as a wind and sound barrier. (Once the fence was gone, we REALLY felt exposed. Having an 8′ fence around you gives you a sense of security, and now at this point anyone who wanted to could walk or even drive their car right up to our front door. We were both really glad that was only one night. – Lee)

So next up is Camping World, and our first visit to a service center. We have been having a problem with extreme uneven wear  on one trailer tire and want to get that looked at before we figure out what’s next. (Oooohhh, foreshadowing! – Lee)


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First Time Crossing the Border into Mexico

Ellen and Mario were going to Mexico and asked me if I wanted to come along. Normally I would have been very tentative about doing this without Lee, but since Mario is a native Honduran, and Ellen lived in Honduras for a few years and speaks Spanish fluently, I thought who better could I experience my first border crossing with? I went to Cozumel once from a cruise ship, but I have never been into Mexico on my own and was curious to see it and learn about all the things folks talk about.  Lots of RVers cross into Mexico for prescription drugs, dental work, and eyeglasses, so there must be something to it.  Plus, I was missing Lee and this seemed like the perfect day trip to distract me. As soon as my fellow dreamers found out I was going they loaded me up with cash and a list of prescriptions to look out for.    Mario, Ellen and their RV park neighbors Roger and Brenda picked me up at 9am and off we went.  It’s an hour and a half drive down, which seemed long although there was some nice desert scenery along the way.  We went into Yuma, went west a little bit, arrived at the Los Algodones Border Crossing where we paid $6 (per car) to park on the US side and then walked over.

I snuck this picture even though you are not supposed to take pictures of the border crossings

I snuck this picture even though you are not supposed to take pictures of the border crossings

One thing I should mention here is no ID is required to enter Mexico, but you do need a passport to return to the US, so double and triple check that you have your passport before crossing that line.  When you turn the corner immediately you are hit by lots of stores and crowds.  There are numerous men waiting around to “help” direct you to dentists or eye doctors, but when they saw Mario they largely let us be.  There is no real pattern to things so we just started walking down the main street.  Another important note is do not stray off the main streets.  I felt perfectly safe in those areas, but even Mario wasn’t interested in straying too far.  There are numerous police officers and even some members of the military in plain view, but in this case it’s not wise to stray off the path.  Plus you really don’t need to, every building and square inch of sidewalk has stuff everywhere.  At first it was a feast for the eyes and pretty fun, but unfortunately the goods offered became very repetitive as the day wore on. My major piece of advice is to walk and look first and buy later.  The farther back you get from the entrance the more you can negotiate and truly you see the same items over and over.

Immediately inside the entrance

Immediately inside the entrance

The sidewalks had goods on both sides which made them narrow to walk through

The sidewalks had goods on both sides which made them narrow to walk through

The street vendors are interspersed among tons of dentists, optometrists, and pharmacies.  I expected a few of each but there were more than I could count.  We stopped in a pharmacy first and I was impressed by it’s cleanliness and the variety of medications they had.  You can take back anything except certain controlled substances (pain medicine, diet pills, etc) and they will tell you if you inadvertently try to buy something in that category that you cannot take it across the border.  They will sell it to you and even in one case quietly recommended you put it in your pocket and sneak it across, but they are required to tell you.  In our very first pharmacy a retired woman told us a story about how she tried that very thing and was detained for 4 hours and threatened with prison.  So not that I was really thinking along those lines, but that story completely solidified my decision.  Even taking those drugs out of the equation there was an astonishing amount available and no prescription required such as Prilosec, Synthroid, Prozac, Viagra etc.   I picked up Z pak  antibiotics for several people and they cost around $5 for the course of 6 pills.  The prices do vary though from place to place and even depending upon which generic you get, although name brand drugs are also available for a reduced price if you are more comfortable.  Some prescriptions were crazy cheap (Ellen got her medicine for $3 for $100) others not so much and getting them with a co-pay in the US was actually more cost effective.  Red and Pam had one medicine that fell into this category and I went to four places looking for a better deal than their co-pay ($15 for a 90 day supply), but couldn’t find anything close.  I did pick up a couple of other things for them at a significant discount and ended up getting 400 pills of my prescription along with 2 courses of antibiotics for $47.  That may seem like a lot but my prescription runs $34 for 30 pills without my insurance and $3 for 30 pills with insurance, but since the milligrams of the pills I got are double my normal dose I can cut them in half and get 800 days worth.  Ok, now let me be super clear here.  I have no idea of the quality of this medicine, I have no idea if this is a good idea or not.  I am not a medical person, but I do love a bargain and I know that our medicine is very highly priced because of the necessity for the drug companies to recoup their research investments (and earn high profits) so the lower price in a foreign country does not surprise me.   It’s ultimately your call whether or not to try this, but it is something that many people do every day and Ellen who was a pharmaceutical drug rep prior to retirement didn’t bat an eye.

A small portion of wahts was available

A small portion of what was available

After the pharmacy we explored some of the little shops and street vendors and I have to say they are very good at separating you from what’s in your wallet.  Almost everything is cash and whatever you bring you will spend so really think that through.  It was fun shopping though with Mario and Ellen because they bargained in Spanish which brought the prices down.  The best deal I got of the day though was when I simply walked away and the final price was half what I originally quoted.  Just keep thinking “I don’t have to have this” and physically start to walk away and you will be surprised by the results.  Mario got a silver ring from $50 down to $10 that way and even I speaking no Spanish found this effective.

Roger, Brenda, and Mario checking out some street vendor wares

Roger, Brenda, and Mario checking out some street vendors wares

Loved these footballs, but no room in the RV

Loved these footballs, but no room in the RV

Thought these were cute and somewhat unique

Thought these were cute and somewhat unique

One of the best stores had beautiful metal wall hangings. Brenda bought one for their house

One of the best stores had beautiful metal wall hangings. Brenda bought one for their house

I loved the lawn items, but I have no yard :)

I loved the lawn items, but I have no yard 🙂

The courtyards were packed with stuff

The courtyards were packed with stuff

I loved, loved these frogs, but no room in the RV

I was very tempted by these frogs but Lee would have killed me if he had to try to fit these into our limited storage!

Numerous opticians but the general consensus was you could get them cheaper online from China

Numerous opticians but the general consensus was you could get them cheaper online from China

Another main street

Another main street

Although the optical prices were not that impressive, the dental prices were very good.  Roger needs four implants and crowns and was being quoted 10K in the states.  He got a quote in Mexico and the price was $2400 for the same work and we have spoken to numerous people here in Quartzsite who have had work done and said it was fine. Cleanings were $30, although I am sure you could get that price down, and Mario said if you have dentist anxiety they will give you codeine for the cleaning.  I might be able to get Lee to try it after all!  After shopping a bit we stopped for lunch in a large central courtyard that was packed with people.  The servers were pretty overwhelmed and the food was mediocre, but the company was great and I bought a really cool blanket poncho for $20 there.

The lunch courtyard where the live music was very good

The lunch courtyard where the live music was very good

Ellen, Brenda, and Roger

Ellen, Brenda, and Roger before we moved to a bigger table

MArio, Ellen, Brenda, and Roger at a very cool table

Mario, Ellen, Brenda, and Roger

My favorite part of the whole day though was when Ellen spontaneously decided to get a haircut and I joined her.  The woman did a very nice job, knew all the hair related words in English (including cowlick) and the haircut only cost $6!!  That was super fun and I love that Ellen and Mario were nice enough to take me along.  Mario in particular was incredible, keeping an eye on me all day and even insisting on carrying my bags.  He’s definitely a keeper!!

Ellen getting a haircut

Ellen getting a haircut

Me and my buddy Mario

Me and my buddy Mario

It’s also  worth mentioning that we were able to use American dollars at every place we went to. It was a really fun day and the only downside was the 45 minute wait to get back through customs.  It’s hit and miss on how long the line is and we unfortunately caught it on a busy day.  The actual discussion with the customs agent was easy though.  He said what are you declaring and I said two ponchos and some medicine….he immediately passed me through.  Apparently I don’t look like a criminal.  Now that I have done it, I feel confident about going back and I am certain we will go again when Kelly and Bill get here.

Mexico changes a person :)

Mexico changes a person 🙂

 

Lessons Learned

  • Double and triple check to ensure you have your passport before crossing
  • Do not buy anything initially, but gather prices to use for bargaining when you get farther in
  • Prescription medicine can be much cheaper in Mexico, check multiple stores for the best price.
  • Under no circumstances try to smuggle restricted drugs back into the country.  You can face detainment and jail time.
  • When negotiating the price actually start to walk away to get the lowest price. Be prepared to say no and you will be surprised by the deals you can get.
  • If you need extensive dental work done, I would definitely check out the prices in Mexico first
  • Stay on the main street and do not wander to far off the path
  • You can get better Mexican food in the US ironically

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