Winter Cottage by the Sea

2018 Travels

Our 2018 Travels – From one end to the other.

We’re not done wandering yet.  Not by a long shot.  But, for a number of reasons (which I may get to eventually in another post), it’s time for us to select a winter quarters.   Having spent the past few years wintering in the desert southwest, this year we headed to Florida to see what that was all about.

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I was somewhat familiar with Florida, having spent several months in pilot training near Miami, flew multiple times in the big air show at Lakeland, and visited numerous times for spring break as a kid, not to mention many vacations at the beach as an adult.  One of my favorite areas is Destin, in the panhandle, with it’s amazing white sand beaches.

But much of Florida is overwhelmed by traffic and people in the winter.  Where could we find a quiet haven, near the ocean, that we could afford?  Oh, I know.  Let’s look in one of the wealthiest cities in the United States.  What?

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Is this Florida, or Italy?

Our exploration took us south along the west coast of Florida.  We considered Clearwater, Sarasota, Venice, Fort Myers, Estero ……  And when the road ended, we found ourselves in Naples.

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This city of 20,000 is a place you have to aim at to get to.  It’s not on the way to anywhere. This is the end of the road, unless you want to turn east on I-75 and spend a couple hours crossing Alligator Alley to Miami.  If you go any further west or south of Naples you’ll get your feet wet in the Gulf of Mexico.

Naples on map

Naples, because of it’s unique location, is a quiet place.  There is zero road noise at our little cottage.  It is abundant with nature, and we’re close enough to the ocean that we’ll get a sea breeze most days.

So how can two homeless paupers such as us afford to buy property in Naples, one of the wealthiest cities on the planet?  Well, first, let me be clear.  As with most things in our marriage, I come up with the strategic plan, the big picture.  But Wendy does the real work – all the tactical analysis and research.

Wendy is amazing and relentless.  She found this place.  Basically, I told her, “Yea, sure, if you can find a place that costs next to nothing and can decrease our living expenses, that is by the ocean — I’m in.  Just make sure it has palm trees.”

Don’t ever give Wendy an impossible challenge unless you’re ready to commit.  The greater the challenge, the happier she’ll be.  Here’s what she found:

NLYH Sign

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NLYH Pool View

NLYH Street View

(Here’s the website: Naples Land Yacht Harbor)

So let me skip to the important part, and then we can fill in the other non-essentials.  Here’s the amazing thing.  Because we live in (and are shareholders of) Naples Land Yacht Harbor, for $30/month we can have a boat slip a short walk from our cottage that gives us access to the intercostal waterway and the Gulf of Mexico.  Endless exploration!  $30/month?  Uh oh.  Looks like there’s going to be another boat in our future.

By the Water
You have to understand.  I don’t think like normal people.  I don’t see a home as an investment.  I see it as a necessary expense.  So long as it places me where I want to be, is safe, and doesn’t require much time or money in maintenance, that’s all I require.
Story time!  Thirty years ago, when Wendy and I moved to Indiana so she could attend medical school, I looked for a house near my new employer, USA Group.  I told the realtor to give me a printout of the home listings in the area (Noblesville, IN).  Then I started at the very bottom of the listing from the cheapest houses with the intention of working my way up the list.  And what did I find at the very bottom?  The listing said,
$59,000 Three bedroom one bathroom, blah, blah, blah …. next to a grass runway.  
Bingo!  Perfect.  The cheapest house … ON A GRASS RUNWAY!  I drove by and all I could see was that beautiful runway with airplanes parked here and there.  Shangri-La!  I also noticed that the roof looked okay on the little house.  Good enough.  
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Aerial View – 14810 Promise Road at Bottom Left next to green runway!

 

Living in that house was one of the happiest times of our life.  Wendy was able to pursue her goal, I got my pilots license and started building an airplane, and the kids had acres and acres of lawn to play in — just keep an eye out for airplanes landing.
That’s how I look for property.  Find the cheapest thing available that meets the need.  And pay with cash if you can.  Any extra money spent on the house is money that can’t be used to explore the world and have interesting experiences.
Okay, back to the here and now: our little cottage by the sea.  Nothing fancy.  It is a 50 year old mobile home, one of 352 located in Naples Land Yacht Harbor (NLYH).  It’s an antique.  Who buys this stuff?!?! We do!
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This particular unit has an updated kitchen and bathrooms, and new roof, plywood flooring covered in tile, A/C, and windows.
Although it is tiny at 820 square feet, consider that for the past 4 years of full-time travel in our RV we’ve been living happily in 400 square feet.  For us, this summer cottage is spacious with more than twice our usual living space.
113 Pier B Living Room
It comes fully furnished, including dishes, linens,  washer/dryer and a workshop loaded with tools.
So what do we plan to do if a hurricane wipes it out?  Actually, the eye of Hurricane Irma came right through Naples Land Yacht Harbor September 10, 2017.
Hurricane Irma Path
Of the 352 units in NLYH, 13 had to be condemned.  Many others needed one type of repair or another.  But these old mobile homes did amazingly well.  They’re all anchored to the ground with special straps.  Damage typically comes from flying debris.  But if another hurricane comes barreling through and you’re not so lucky, you just scrape off what’s left and put  a new, 1300 square foot Jacobsen manufactured home on the site.  As you drive through NLYH, you see a sprinkling of the 13 new homes that replaced those that did not survive Irma.
But why an old mobile home? Aren’t there better options? After all, Florida is loaded with retirement condos, apartments, houses and newer park model/manufactured home options.
We want a permanent place here in Southern Florida.  We’ve looked at and considered purchasing:
  • RV pads.  Each RV community we looked at had a great social atmosphere with pickle ball and all kinds of gatherings.  However, the cost would be twice as much for a bare cement pad as we paid for our 2 bedroon, 2 bath cottage (plus we would pay $1,000/yr property tax).  We don’t pay property tax on our mobile home because the property is permanently leased to us.
  • Condos.  These cost 3-4 times as much as our home with the same HOA fee/month that we are paying at the cottage, plus $1,500/yr property tax.  And although these have a community pool, they have no social gathering programs.  And you actually have less privacy with shared walls and the possibility of noisy, smoking neighbors.  No ambiance.
  • Other mobile home parks.  The typical park with 30-40 yr old mobile homes has smaller lots and less green space and costs twice what we paid.  If they have water access to the Gulf of Mexico with boat slips, they cost 3-4 times more.
Naples Land Yacht Harbor is a high quality 55+ community that we think we will greatly enjoy for six months each winter.  It feels like a throwback to old Florida, where 1 mile from the cottage, we can bike by the fancy Naples shops and restaurants on our way to a free day at the beach.
Check out the NLYH website to learn more.  We would love to have you as a neighbor!
You just can’t live any cheaper than this.  And did I mention that you can have a boat slip for $30/month?  Yea, I think I did.
NLYH Canal View
We have a whole new world to explore — this time in a boat.  Something to look forward to in the next several winters.
But first a summer mission this year and then 6 months in Europe next year.  But we’ll get to that later.  Isn’t life grand?
– Clay
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Doctors Don’t Know Everything

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[istockphoto.com]

I went to the doctor the other day. Even retired doctors have to go to other doctors sometimes.

Whenever they ask me what pharmacy I want a prescription sent to, I tell them I don’t have one because I shop around for the best prices, and that I need a paper script.

The doctor wrote a script, so I looked it up on www.GoodRX.com.

To use the website, there is no sign-in, no personal information, no membership and no fee.  Just type in the drug name, put in the form (pill, capsule, tablet, cream, solution, etc) and the dosage (mg, gm, mcg, ml, etc) and your zip code.

 

Immediately, it tells you the prices at a lot of the pharmacies in your local area (such as Walgreens, CVS, Rite-Aid, Safeway, Wal-Mart).

The lowest price for my prescription was $740.00!!

 

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[istockphoto.com]

I don’t have drug coverage with my insurance. No way was I going to pay that price!

So, I looked up alternative drugs in the same category, and found one that only cost $70.00. I marched back into the doctor’s office and spoke to the nurse (and the doctor who just happened to be passing by)– they were both shocked at the price and happily changed the script to the cheaper alternative.

Why are drug prices so different, even for the exact same item between different pharmacies?  Health insurance companies have departments that negotiate for drug pricing on their formularies (a list of medications they will cover for their members).  These ‘Discount Prescription’ cards and apps do the same thing, only you are not tied to the insurance company’s formulary, so you might have more options for medications.

Some electronic medical records your doctor uses have downloaded specific drug formularies covered by your insurance company.  But it’s not a perfect system.  As a surgeon, there was no way I could keep up with all the insurance formularies, but I always told my patients, “When you get to the pharmacy, if the price of the drug I prescribed is too much, have them call my office and we’ll discuss alternatives.”

Sometimes, there is only one drug in a category that will work for your specific condition.  Or serious drug allergies preclude other options. And that one drug may be expensive.

In that case, you might be able to get help directly from the drug manufacturer to cover all or part of the cost.  Most drug company websites have an option for financial assistance.  Look into it.

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Although there’s no such thing as a money tree, drug companies may be able to help with the cost. [clipartpanda.com]

But most often, there is probably a cheaper alternative.  If your overworked doctor won’t work with you on keeping prescription costs down or gets snippy when you ask for more economical choices (especially if you ask nicely and give them time to fix things), then consider changing providers.

 

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We’re all in this together.

Takeaways:

1.  Do NOT assume your favorite pharmacy is the best place to go with your scripts because it feels comfortable and they treat you well. There can be a huge difference in price between getting a drug at Safeway, Wal-Mart, CVS or some other place.  Wal-Mart offers a 90 day supply of some meds for only $10! Think about it;  would you be willing to pay $900 for a plain white shirt at Neiman-Marcus when the same one, or a close facsimile, can be found at a discount store for $25?  Just because you like the sales lady?  Remember: she doesn’t get one dime of the money you pay for the shirt.  Just her salary.  The same thing goes with pharmacists.

2.  Take a paper script with you from the office and look it up on http://www.GoodRx.com– it doesn’t cost you anything and there are no memberships or log-ins involved. Then, you print out or show the coupon code on your phone to the pharmacist and they accept it. Verify the price before they fill the script, though.

3.  Doctors don’t have the time to find out what drugs cost, and usually (but not always) there is more than one drug they could prescribe for you for the same medical condition.

4.  If it’s available for the particular drug, ask for the generic version (also known as ‘may allow substitution’ on the script), as it can sometimes save you a lot of money.  There is usually no difference in formulation between brand name and generic.  As an example, go to your local pharmacy and look on the allergy shelves at the price for brand name Claritin (an allergy med) and generic Loratadine.  Or brand Flonase (nasal steroid spray) and generic Fluticasone.  Or Prilosec (stomach acid med) and Omeprazole.  Same drugs, different prices.  Get used to looking at the ‘Active Ingredients’ on the label.  If it’s the same name, it’s the same drug. Only cheaper.  Store brands are usually cheapest.

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A drug by any other generic name… will act the same [clipart-library.com]

5.  It’s YOUR money! Even if you have health insurance, please don’t be a blind consumer– the global economy cannot support the rampant over-cost of drugs and healthcare.
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[vectorfreak.com]

6.  If you get to the pharmacy and ask about the drug price, and it is too expensive, have the pharmacy call the doctor’s office to prescribe something else.  Be kind to your pharmacist– they have absolutely no control over drug pricing.
7.  In a lot of instances, the cost of drugs in the United States far exceeds the cost paid by other people in distant countries for the exact same drug from the exact same manufacturer.  Hence people who medication shop in other countries across our borders (but be very careful if you are considering this:  have you ever seen high-end knock off purses, watches and shoes at hawker’s tables in big cities?  Imagine what some people will do to fake a drug tablet to look like the real thing– and you might have no way of knowing the difference).
We subsidize the world with the prices we pay at our local pharmacies.

 

8.  On a future post, I’ll give you some ‘doctor insider’ ways on how to research possible alternative prescription drugs to discuss with your provider.

9.  GoodRX:  I’m not a stock holder in the website, but it improves my personal portfolio when I don’t spend as much on medications!

Compare prescription drug prices and find coupons at more than 60,000 US pharmacies. Save up to 80% instantly!
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Be a wise consumer of healthcare [printablee.com}

– Wendy
Retired Otorhinolaryngologist, Head & Neck Surgeon

MMM-Muffaletta

For those of you lucky, lucky people who have been to Nawlins, Loozianna (New Orleans) or who just love the food, there is not much better than a hand and mouthful of Muffaletta sandwich.

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According to our food tour guide as we wandered the French Quarter, the Muffaletta had humble origins as a dock and field worker’s sandwich because it was on hard bread with savory oils, cured meats and firm cheeses to withstand the hot sun.

All I know is, it tastes goooooooodd.

So, here is my version of the sandwich, since you cannot get the special 3 foot long loaf of hard bread it is usually made on, unless you are in the bayou.

Ingredients:

Multigrain Ciabatta rolls (sliced like a hamburger bun). Make at least one extra sandwich than you want to eat right this minute, because a day later, after marinating in the fridge overnight– it is tres bien, mon frere!

Olive Oil– savory, full-bodied- generously sprinkle on the open sides of the bun

Season with salt and pepper

On the bottom half of the bun spoon out:

Olive sandwich spread (which contains the items listed below, but can be very hard to find), OR:

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Sliced green olives (Lindsay Spanish Olives Sliced: so’s you don’t slice your digits doin’ it yer ownself. Slippery little suckers.)

Mezzetta Italian Mix Giardiniera (marinated carrots, pearl onions, celery, pickles)- finely chopped– ok, so you gotta chop it:  just be careful

Then layer on:

Mortadella (Italian bologna) or regular Bologna

Mozzarella cheese slice

Hard Salami

Capicola or deli ham

Provolone cheese slice

Pop on the top of the bun, cut in half cross wise and

Stuff.  It.  In.  Your.  Face.

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Don’t even get me started on beignets.

— Wendy

 

Secrets, Miners and Gunfights! Part Three

Drop Your Weapons and Smell the Roses!

Twenty miles north of Bisbee, Arizona, as the buzzard flies, is the town of Tombstone, where Clay and I strolled the old boardwalks and watched the re-enacted gunfight at the OK corral.

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Clay, waiting his turn

 

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It seems that Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holliday were not necessarily the good guys in this altercation.  They just had badges at the time.

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OK Corral gunfight re-enactment

During the silver boom, the townsfolk wanted families to come settle so they downplayed the violence.  If there was a hanging or a lynching, the local coroner sometimes wrote under cause of death, “Emphysema of the lungs due to high altitude, which may or may not have been caused by strangulation from a rope.”

There was also a lot of lead poisoning (one slug at at time).

The Good Enough Silver Mine was one of the original wealthy strikes and on an underground tour of that mine we were shown the remnant of the silver vein left behind when it closed down in the early 1900s.  The mine shafts criss-crossed under the town itself, and miners would crawl up through air ducts into the basements of the saloons, saving an outside trip that went the long way around.

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Good Enough Mine (credit: http://www.tripadvisor.com)

Although Tombstone has burned to the ground several times, it was the flooding of the mines that ended the silver boom.  Tombstone has resurrected itself with tourism and become known as The Town Too Tough to Die.  

The local newspaper is the Tombstone Epitaph and the middle school mascot is a Gravedigger.

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A Rose in Bloom

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You need a platform to see even a small part of this massive rose tree!

Tombstone’s other claim to fame is the Rose Tree– a white Lady Banksia rosebush planted from a single cutting sent over from Scotland in 1885. When its canopy of roses was a quarter of its current size (8000 square feet) it was listed by Ripley’s Believe it or Not! as the world’s largest rosebush.  Luckily, it was in bloom while we visited.

 

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Massive gnarled trunk of the rose tree.

 

It was a fun-filled April 2018 — full of childhood memories, family history and old western towns, but also gettin’ a mite warm.  Time to mosey on up to higher elevations and laze around in the soothing, cool Ponderosa pine forests of Show Low, Arizona.

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Tombstone at sunset: showing off as usual

 

Thanks for riding along with us for a spell.

See you down the trail.

–Wendy

 

Secrets, Miners and Gunfights! Part Two

Bisbee, Arizona:  Attitude with Altitude

 

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Spending a year in Bisbee as a 5th grader was a neat experience.  When I wasn’t rabbit hunting in the hills with biggest brother Creed, or listening to the mountain lion eat brother Mark’s pet rabbit on the carport, I hung out with my best friend Gigi, an 11 year old raspberry snuff-chewing cowgirl whose father worked in the Copper Queen Mine, Lavender Pit.

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Lavender Pit, Copper Queen Mine (credit:www.galenfrysinger.com)

We had great adventures together on her family’s small cattle ranch or shopping at the Phelps Dodge Merchantile Company store, where Gigi was allowed to put the snuff purchase on her dad’s store credit.  It was a different time.

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Greenway Elementary School with mountains of mining tailings dumped behind it.

Crumbling Victorian homes still cling to the steep hillsides of the mining town with 1880’s buildings and the ghostly memories of tawdry red light districts and the dangerous saloon crowds of Brewery Gulch.

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Brewery Gulch: guns, muck, fights, loose morals and hard liquor

 

Come to find out, my mother’s family had history here.  Her father, Willard White, was born in Bisbee in 1910 when his father, uncle and maternal grandfather worked in the Copper Queen mines.

As a young girl, I knew Willard’s mother, Laura Edna Brizzee White Lee and loved her dearly.

Great Grandmother Laura and son Willard White, with impish grin.

White Laura Willard in surry

Laura and Willard- Bisbee Arizona hills in the background

 

This time, as I strolled through the quaint streets of Bisbee, I pictured Laura in a prim starched white blouse with long skirt and hat, looking in these same shop windows or reading a book in the old library that is still being used today.

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The library is on the second floor of the building on the left

 

There are tons of stairs throughout the town going from street to street at they climb the hills.

The mine shut down in 1975, just 3 years after we left Arizona.  That was tough on Bisbee and the town nearly died until the hippies, looking for cheap drugs from the nearby Mexican border towns, moved in with their VW vans, free love, guitars and dogs and resuscitated the economy.

Talented artists, shops and tourists soon followed and now the town is back with a new, funky vibrance.

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From what I have observed of the native inhabitants, this motto seems about right.

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I spent time at the mining museum library finding some relatives names in the payrolls and town directories, then we took the Copper Queen Mine underground train tour with Clay’s sister Teri and brother-in-law Doug Cole (who came down for the day from Phoenix).  It’s so nice to see relatives and friends!

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Doug and Teri Cole, looking dapper in Day-Glo vests and stylish hard hats

After taking the old-fashioned work train deep into the mine, I pictured my Great Grandpa Charles Thomas White and Great-Great Grandpa Henry Willard Brizzee, Jr. using faint candlelight to pinpoint the swinging of their sledge hammers against a heavy round iron tamping bar over and over to create a 2 foot deep hole in the granite.  When they had 20 such holes clustered close together in the rock face, they would load each with dynamite, light it up and scurry away.   Each blast created 30 tons of rubble which they would shovel out in choking dust before hammering holes again to repeat the process.  Dangerous, hard work, but it paid well.

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Hey, I work with my hands, too– just not hundreds of feet underground!

As I stood exactly where my ancestors had worked under such brutal conditions,  I felt some tender nostalgic roots find their way through the hard rock into fertile ground.

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Copper Queen Mine train entrance

 

Stay tuned for Part Three– Gunfights!

— Wendy

Secrets, Miners and Gunfights! Part One

Moving Targets

Caveat:  Our blog was originally conceived to be a way to connect with our sweet grandkids, Eric and Hazel, since we don’t get to spend much time with them.  And to keep our kids, Jesse (Terri) and Caroline apprized of where our wheeled home was currently residing, in case they wanted to visit.  We share pictures, stories, geography, geology, history, church missions, adventures and love. Hopefully, our extended family and friends enjoy it as well!  This particular blog series is about Wendy Walton’s family history, before she became a Smith.

I’m not often nostalgic, but Clay and I spent the month of April, 2018 around Bisbee, Arizona and it made my heart gooshy (that’s a Latin medical term for soft and squishy).  Nostalgia doesn’t often bubble to the surface because it seems like I’ve never been in the same place twice during my lifetime.

Thanks to my Dad’s career and our current nomadic lifestyle, it practically guarantees new scenery all the time with no backtracking.

In 1968, when I was 7 yrs old, my father was offered an active duty army assignment, which meant he could finally quit working 4 jobs at the same time to pay the bills (including high school French teacher, counselor at a juvenile detention center, grocery clerk and reserve army major).

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Denzil Ree Walton, at the start of his army career

Major Walton was asked to attend Command and General Staff College in Leavenworth, Kansas– a rare honor especially for a reservist, with the next orders after that being assigned to Intelligence headquarters in Saigon during the Vietnam War.

One of his C&GS classmates was Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. who later became a general and commander of United States Central Command, leading all coalition forces in the Gulf War.  It was a prestigious opportunity for Dad.  We met lifetime friends there, including Blaine and Clarice Jensen and Al and Laura Morris and all their wonderful children.

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Although Dad could never talk specifically about his top secret work in Vietnam, we knew he was the French speaking secret military advisor for the Cambodians fighting the Khmer Rouge when the US government was denying they had any personnel in that country.  He sent daily briefings to General Abrams and President Nixon during that time.

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We were living in Laie, Hawaii when Dad returned from Vietnam 13 months later- safe, tan and handsome. It was the first time I can remember crying tears of actual joy.  It still happens when I look at this picture.

 

We were then stationed at the Military Intelligence School in Fort Holabird, Maryland. From sunny Hawaiian beaches to December on the Chesapeake Bay, freezing our flower leis off!

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But that next summer of 1971,  the entire Intelligence Command operation was moved 2300 miles to the isolated outpost of Fort Huachuca, Arizona, near the Mexican border.

Like the old time land grabs, the Walton clan was one of 500 families set to race directly across the country to snatch up the limited housing options near the new headquarters.  But instead, my parents decided to take a month camping in our tent trailer on a leisurely drive west across Canada, then down through Washington, Oregon and California. Upon arrival, there was no more housing near the post, so we found a wonderful hacienda style home in the old mining town of Bisbee, 30 miles southeast of the fort.

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April of 2018 was the first time I had been back to the area in 46 years.  Clay and I spent a lovely day touring the museums at Fort Huachuca and seeing the history that unfolded when the Military Intelligence schools arrived.

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What did my Dad work on at Fort Huachuca?

[credit: classtools.net]

 Shhhhhh!  It’s probably still a secret.

Clay and I enjoyed the Military Intelligence Museum and while walking out the door into the warm Arizona sunshine, I felt the overwhelming presence of my Dad right there, smiling and happy, looking over my shoulder at his old stomping grounds.

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The Walton family spent 1968-1977 scurrying around the country while Dad was on active duty.  Because we usually moved in the middle of the school year, I had 13 notches on my school transcript belt (even though I skipped my junior year and graduated early).

While Dad was stationed at Fort Monroe, Virginia, he also served as the Bishop of our congregation, which was also a confidential job, where people came to him with their problems and concerns.

Mom: How was your day at work, Dear?

Dad:  Great!

Mom:  How was your evening at church, Dear?

Dad: Great!

I don’t think they had many substantive conversations over the years.

The last time I moved with my parents was to Southport, Indiana.  In the middle of my senior year of high school. During the Blizzard of 1978.  Welcome to the midwest.

But, the miracle is, I met Clay there in the few brief summer months when he was home from college before he left to serve his two year mission for our church. So I’m not complaining!  If you ever feel the Lord does not know where you are, just remember He has GPS: God’s Positioning System.

When the army ended his active duty assignments, Dad worked at whatever civilian jobs he could find (who needs a white-haired French speaking secrets keeper?) until he could finally retire from the reserves as a full Colonel with 32 years of service.

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Colonel Denzil Ree Walton in full medal regalia, with the Intelligence pin on the left lapel.

 

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Military Intelligence pin.  I have one on my charm bracelet to remember his service.

 

Walton family picture Spring 2000

The Waltons, Spring 2000. Back row: Mark, Kerry, Jean, Ree. Front row: Creed, Wendy

Dad died in Greenwood, Indiana at the age of 71 in April 2001, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, two months before I completed my Otolaryngology residency training.

When Heavenly Father suddenly called his son home, the Colonel saluted smartly and said, “Yes, Sir!

Never once questioning his newest orders.

I am so proud of my father– an honorable, gentle, intelligent, hard-working, funny guy who loved his Savior, his loyal wife, his four kids, his grandchildren and his country with the heart of a true patriot.

I’m beginning to think the spirit world is kind of like his secret military jobs, because he hasn’t told me what happens on that side of the veil, either!

Stay tuned for Part Two- Miners.

–Wendy

RESET

Farewell my Lovely

2018-04-25_14-54-22_371In April 2018, we rolled Zane (our motorhome) into an impossibly tight spot between evergreens at a beautiful little RV Park in Show Low, Arizona for what we thought would be a month’s stay.

If you’re in Casa Grande, Arizona in April, it starts to get hot, really hot in the desert.  But at 6,350 feet elevation, Show Low is perfect.  Ahhh.  Time to relax and explore the area.

But after a week of cool relaxation, there was something rattling around in my mind that needed resolution.  The “rattle” had to do with our finances.  When we bought our beautiful 2004 Newell motorhome in 2014 we were making significant income and our plan was to retire with $X in the bank at some future time.

Fast forward to 2018 and our plans had changed.  We were now officially retired, significantly earlier than we had originally planned and with ½ $X in the bank.

Hmm.

When Wendy indicated in June 2017 that she was done, done, DONE with her medical career (but would still finish out her 6 month Eureka California contract),  I quickly began to adjust our investment portfolio so that I could pluck every piece of fruit (dividends) out of it without chopping down the orchard (stocks).  Then I created a budget based on that annual dividend income and we began living on that projected amount while she finished her last 6-month assignment. And we kept to our new, leaner, meaner budget.

Freedom is a wonderful thing.  It feels great!  But financial freedom requires some sacrifices.  If we were going to be done working, we would have to stay within this new budget.

And the one thing that was rattling around in my brain was the fact that Zane had a habit of requiring costly repairs.  She’s an older coach.  She has a massive diesel engine.  No, make that TWO massive diesel engines; one to drive her and another in the PowerTech generator which produces 20 kilowatts of electricity (enough to power a motorcoach and a house at the same time).  Everything in her is high end, including a Sub Zero fridge that keeps requiring $800 repairs, would cost $12,000 to replace, is custom built into the cabinet walls, and no appliance repair guy wants to work on it.

In the four years we have lived in Zane, we’ve budgeted $12,000 per year in maintenance and upgrades. And every year we blow through that $12,000 budget.  Like the Roadrunner zooming past Wile E Coyote.  Beep! Beep!

coyote-and-road-runner-acme-rocket.jpg

[credit:Warner Brothers via twistedsifter.com]

How could we remain financially free (live within our budget) with this budget-busting motorhome?

Hmm.

But we love her so much!

One day, Wendy and I are sitting outside under the pine trees when in rolls a gold Ford F-350 pulling a 5th wheel into the spot next to us.  It looked very —nice! I turned to Wendy and said, “I could do that.”  (Meaning, I could imagine us trading down to a truck and 5th wheel.)  Next thing, Wendy and I are making new friends, taking a test-drive in their pickup (smooth ride, not clunky and mean-spirited like big trucks I had driven before) and walking through their spacious 5th wheel.

Hmm.

With a new pickup truck and 5th wheel we could cut our yearly maintenance budget to $2,000, or maybe even lower.  Especially since a new one would have a 1-2 year all-inclusive warranty! And by selling the motorhome, we could buy the truck and 5th wheel with a significant amount of equity left over to provide more cushion in our bank account.

Just for grins, let’s throw in the decrease in RV insurance:  $733 a year for a 5th wheel instead of $4700 for the Newell.  That’s a big, huge, whopping incentive to re-think this whole motorhome issue.

Hmm.

Do I love my freedom more than I love my motorhome?

The answer is a resounding “YES”!

Time to press the RESET button.

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credit:ThisTimeIMeanIt.com

Once the decision was made, Wendy went into action.  She is amazing!  She loves these types of challenges.  Ergo:

  • Where and how do we sell the motorhome? At what price?
  • Which 5th wheel should we buy?
  • New or used?
  • How do you determine which truck to buy? F250? F350? Single rear or dual rear wheel axle?
  • How do you manage the logistics of moving your stuff from a motorhome to a 5th wheel?
  • Should we wait to buy a truck & 5th wheel until the motorhome sells? Or should we cash out some investments to cover the cost and then reimburse the investment account after the motorhome sells? Or should we (No, don’t say it) borrow for the truck & 5th wheel until the motorhome sells?

At the time, these questions were almost overwhelming.  But we’ve dealt with much bigger challenges, so we could handle this one.  Here’s how we ordered our thinking:

  1. Research 5th wheels.  When we bought the Newell we had researched motorhomes using www.rvreviews.net, which is an independent reviewer for recreational vehicles, similar in nature to Consumer Reports. So we got their guide for 5th wheels and began to pour over the reports.  We were looking for a 4-season, high quality product for full-time living.  Answer: DRV, followed by Redwood and then Grand Design.  We’d have to look at them and see where the price point / quality met our comfort zone.
  2. Where can we find some 5th wheels to look at? We can go anywhere in the United States to look, but let’s start where we intend to sell the motorhome.  So we set off for the Dallas, Texas area and unloaded all of our earthly possessions into a 10’ x 10’ storage unit.
    2018-05-07_Storage Unit

    Our few earthly possessions.  Something of which to be proud.

    Then we put eyes on some 5th wheels and selected a brand new 2017 DRV that had been sitting on the lot for over a year (the 2019s were coming in and they were ready to deal!).  We negotiated a great price with the full 2-year warranty.  We gave them a couple weeks to clean up some issues we found before we would come back to pick up the 5th wheel (by which time we hoped to have a truck with which to pull it).

  3. Where to sell the motorhome? That was pretty easy for us.  Motorhomes of Texas (MOT) sells used high-end motorhomes like our Newell and they draw buyers from all over the continent into their little town of Nacogdoches, Texas. What an amazing experience.  It took less than an hour.  We signed consignment papers with them, they suggested a listing price we liked, and the coach went immediately into their shop for a thorough review.  Their technicians were highly skilled and their service was reasonably priced.  They polished, spiffed it up, took pictures, video and advertised it on their website as well as on RVTrader.  Our experience with Motorhomes of Texas has been excellent!
  4. Next up, lose the Jeep and buy a truck. It’s important to identify the 5th wheel before you pick the truck so you know what pulling capacity you need.  Or be extremely realistic about what your current truck can haul.  The DRV is well built (a.k.a. heavy).  So we did the research and  determined we needed an F-350 Duly.  And thank goodness Wendy’s sister Kerry is married to Jeff who retired from Ford and was kind enough to give us the magic code for family to purchase a Ford for a killer price (Thank you Jeff).  With all these moving parts it just was not practical to try to sell the Jeep on our own so we traded it in as part of the transaction.
  5. So now we’re driving this big Ford beast and it’s surprisingly comfortable and quiet. 2018-06-12 Ford F-350We headed back to Dallas, picked up our DRV, loaded it with our stuff from the storage unit, and off we go.  We also went to the Cat Scale at a truck stop and went through the rigamarole to weigh the truck and fifth wheel using the workbook page in our B&W Hitch instruction booklet to calculate the final weight.  We are not overweight! Those who do chose not to weigh, do so at their own safety and insurance risk should their rig and truck go turtle.  And, you really should know if that bridge tonnage limit will hold before you try to cross it.
  6. We chose to buy the truck and 5th wheel using credit as a temporary stopgap until the sale of the motorhome. We HATE being in debt and it pained us every month to make payments, most of which was interest.  Interest is just — poof — money down the hole.  But it provided us the convenience of staying on the road (and visiting lots of family that summer) while we waited for the right buyer for the motorhome.  And wait we did.  We put our Newell up for sale in May 2018 and she did not sell until January 2019.

So that was our RESET. And it feels like we made an excellent decision.  Yes we loved the Newell.  It was a sweet ride!  There is nothing like rolling down the road sitting way up high and watching the world roll by in a Newell, with the massive semi-tractor engine 45 feet behind you.  You just have to experience it to appreciate it.  We miss her.  But she was demanding.  Her complex systems required constant maintenance and money.

Meet Zane Too.  Our 39 foot, 2017 DRV Mobile Suites 38RSSA.

2018-06-07 Zane Too

Uuuhhh… which way do we tow this thing?? There’s gotta be a manual around here…

We chose to make Zane Too as simple as possible, with no washer/dryer or generator.  Just pull her to the next RV park and plug into the power pole. The truck’s alternator charges the house batteries as we go down the road to keep the residential fridge contents cool.

I find myself with much more free time because I don’t have anything to fix on her.  And our budget is much happier with Zane Too.  And we remain free.

Life is soooo goooood!

~ Clay