What a Year it Was! (2016)

Life on the road means moving from place to place when the mood suits, the weather changes or job opportunities arise.

Auburn/Lewiston Maine (Jan-April)

We started out 2016 by flying from Tucson, Arizona to live in Auburn, Maine for 4 months and work in Lewiston, right across the river.  The weather in January through April was just as you would expect; cold, icy, snowy and wintery. Twenty-foot piles of snow in every parking lot.  But you can stand on your head for 18 weeks. It was a fun adventure.IMG_3988

Valentine’s Day was memorable, as we drove to our favorite seaside town (Camden, Maine) for a weekend trip.  It just so happened that a storm dumped 14 inches of snow centered just on Camden that weekend.  Snow piled up on the dormer window sills of our lovely boutique hotel. We ate a magnificent lobster tasting menu with a decadent dessert and sat by the fireplace and read books.  Ahhh.

 

I worked at Central Maine Medical Center in the ENT department with some fine people, who made getting to know the system (including multiple electronic medical record programs) much more enjoyable. 1ym8h0zetbemtapfcohasipgzkjwkphnknjgjw01brkpx92ib They were gracious enough to want me to stay. How nice is that?

Clay worked on investments and did day trips with the young full-time missionaries.

And he was my driver in the bitter weather for midnight on-calls to the emergency room. That meant the world to me.

Tucson, Arizona to Provo, Utah (April)

Clay left Maine 3 weeks ahead of me to pick up Zane (the motorhome) from her indoor RV daycare center. (The report is she got along well with others and learned to color inside the lines.)  He checked out her systems (after a 4 month rest, sometimes RVs get persnickety) as he drove through Arizona and Utah, meandering around Sedona, Zion’s and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

Wendy finally arrived in Utah the last Saturday in April. We had lovely visits with our nieces Morgan Webb (with Dennis and little sweet Parker Eliza) and Kirsten Walton.  opflrt-z-hhy9xx2gnpw-8abkf2pljiga-rgib-7fp0px92ib

After one day’s rest for Wendy, it was time to get busy again.

Missionary Training Center, Provo, Utah (May)

We entered the peaceful, busy, happy place called the MTC  (Missionary Training Center) on Monday, May 2– ready to start our mission.

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Here we are all polished up for the MTC.

After 10 days of training, and some fine visits by church authorities from Salt Lake City, we headed back on the road to our mission.

Wyoming Mormon Trail Mission, Devil’s Gate, Wyoming (May-October)

Knowing that your mission is in the middle of nowhere and actually experiencing it are two different things.  h_1cd9mfeuoylldatlxfsejdriiczx5kgza4wg8-yfmpx92ib

Even Verizon cell phones and data don’t work on the high desert surrounded by mountains on all sides.  Trying to convince Verizon of such a fact is another story.  So, we got a local cell phone with data and went with that.

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Our spot at Missionary Village

You know you are on a Wyoming Mormon Trail Mission when….

  1. Morning report includes, “We found the mama cow and calf up by Devil’s Gate, but we also saw mountain lion sign. So, if you are sending visitors up into the canyon, just tell them to …. be careful.”
  2. There are TWO dead rattlesnakes in the mission kitchen refrigerator.
  3. Your husband tells you he is going out for fast food drive through (Yay!!), and comes home with roadkill (Ewww).
  4. A gallon of milk costs $13.50 because the nearest grocery store is 60 miles away in Casper and it takes 5 gallons of gas to get there and back.
  5. A hot date is a trip to the Muddy Gap gas station 4 miles away for a fountain drink, bag of chips and a hot dog off the roller grill.
  6. You are not able to donate blood, because it contains 25% DEET.
  7. The mission ‘car ‘ is a 4×4 half ton pickup truck, or a dozer, backhoe, asphalt roller, rover or honey wagon (to pump out the pit toilets at the end of trekking season).
  8. Duties as assigned on the mission include driving up into the Green Mountains (elevation 8800 feet) to cut 90 pine trees to make fence poles.  Or asphalting the roads. Or bottle-feeding orphan calves.
  9. You feel the spirits of those pioneers who died there and more often than not tears choke your throat as you share their journal entries. And it is almost impossible to sing “Hallowed Ground” or “The Fire of the Covenant” all the way through for the same reasons.
  10. When being nearly the youngest in the group of 120 missionaries means nothing, as these Canadian, Utah, Arizona and Idaho farmers in their late 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s run circles around you each and every day.  And then it’s time to square dance.
  11. When high school age kids come in 1856 pioneer dress to trek over hot, dusty trails to re-enact pioneer experiences.  And they enjoy it as their hearts and lives are changed.
  12. Your nearest non-missionary neighbors are the herd of pronghorn antelope with their new babies that graze on your little patch of green lawn. The jackrabbit that greets you from under your RV. The lonely call of the coyotes in the pre-dawn                           hours. The tiny red foxes that skitter across the road. The mule deer herds. We won’t say any more about the gopher snakes or rattlesnakes. Or the mice invasions.

We lived in a lovely bubble of service, taking care of 17,500 trekkers and 26,000 others in the visitor’s centers, museums and 1872 era buildings and served with some of the finest missionaries on the planet.  If you want an amazing working mission for 6 months in your RV, this is for you!

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On the historic Mormon Trail with our teenaged trekkers.

Sequim, Washington (Nov – Dec)

From Wyoming we headed northwest, hoping to get through the mountain passes before it snowed.  Why would we go to the top left corner of the U.S. of A. for the winter?  What are we thinking?

When you spend your summer and fall in the hot, bone dry, constantly windy (I did say WINDY didn’t I?), always sunny high elevations of central Wyoming, the cool, wet, cloudy days of the Northwest are welcome relief.  Ahhhh.

We spend our days biking, walking on the Olympic Discovery Trail, beach-combing along the Juan de Fuca Straits, watching container ships come in from Asia, reading in the library, writing and studying all kinds of things.

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Look at the root system of this giant that washed up on the beach!

Wendy attends plays, musicals and ballet while Clay doesn’t have to.  Happy me, happy him.

Taking the ferry over to Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada is a treat, as is exploring Seattle (2 hrs away) and Vancouver, BC (the major Canadian city on the mainland).

The US Power Squadron has also become a focus, as we made friends with people with boats (this place is an amazing boating area) and we will explore the world of trawlers and other types of power boats as we take courses in Marine Electronics and Marine Weather as members of the Power Squadron this winter.

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Uh oh.  They’re looking at boats.  That could be expensive.

The large boat shows in Seattle and Tacoma are on the calendar.  Don’t know if we will ever get a boat to use up here or around the Great Loop back East, but knowledge is never wasted and we are always up for new adventures.

Still need to catch some Dungeness crab.

After Sequim

Around April 2017 we will probably start moseying down the coasts of Washington and Oregon on our way to Eureka, California, where Wendy has her next ENT surgeon’s assignment from June-December.

Life is never dull, as we look out our motorhome window at the snow-capped Olympic Mountains and majestic fir trees.  It is wonderful.

2016 was a year full of adventure.

  • Wendy

 

 

 

 

 

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Things are Starting to Work!

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Winter sunrise over Camden Harbor, Maine

 

I can run again!  I’ve been hobbling around for a long time frustrated by hip and ankle issues.  But here in Maine I’ve had nothing better to do than to show up every day at Planet Fitness.  I start each workout with the back exercises I learned in physical therapy last summer to strengthen my core to support my spine.  Then I wander around and push, pull, lift and squat.  I’m an old guy, so nothing too serious.  The main thing is to show up.

Amazingly, the hip issues gradually have disappeared.  And as I’ve walked on the treadmill the ankle issues have dissipated as well.  Until one day last week I thought, hmmm, what would happen if I ran?  By the end of the week I had a pretty decent pace going on the treadmill.  What a victory!  I’m living pain-free through exercise.

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maple syrup on the rise

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Belted Galloways, Aldermere Farm, Camden

The Work Thing is Working Too.

One of the things we hoped for when we set out on our travel adventures was that Wendy would be able to pick up contracts to work a few months each year to pay our expenses for the remainder of the year.  We are pleased to say that our first foray in part-year work has been a great success — and sooooo much less stressful than owning our own medical practice. Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston has been a delightful place to work.

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Yes, there are moments when the “howler” (pager) goes off in the middle of the night.  This thing has a sound designed to split your brain.  And with it comes the stress of knowing that someone’s life may depend on Wendy’s decisions in the next few hours.  (That’s one aspect of being a doctor that Wendy will not miss when she retires.)  But we no longer have any worries about our employees, payroll or profits.  Physicians contract work is so much less stressful.  This work thing is working!

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A satisfied patient

We Have Been So Welcomed.

Can you believe we have had dinner with three different families in the few weeks we’ve been here in Maine?  At one dinner invite, a hardy woman told us stories about living in Eskimo villages at the Arctic Circle when her dad worked for the Canadian government. So, frigid winters in Maine are just mildly entertaining for her. Another night, we gathered with two other couples over a meal, and then had dessert from an authentic Italian bakery sampling decadent limoncello bars, chocolate truffle cake and eclairs while playing chicken foot dominos.  One of the wonderful things about being a Mormon is that wherever you go, you are welcomed as if you were family. And, as a part of that family, we’ve been given the opportunity to share in the work such as teaching classes, serving with the young missionaries and speaking in our church meetings.  We have been made to feel very comfortable here, greatly needed and wanted.  Gifts of homemade oatmeal bread, farm fresh chicken eggs and tasty pickled relishes have filled our stomachs and warmed our hearts.

-Clay

 

Just Slap Me!

Wendy and I love to take big leaps into new adventures.  One of our favorite movie scenes is when Indiana Jones must overcome the third of three trials of faith to reach the Holy Grail (cup of the Nazarene) by leaping from the mouth of the lion. Do you remember that scene?

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Well, Wendy and I have pictured that moment in our minds as we have held hands and taken that first step into the unknown together.  Marriage, first baby, Air Force, graduate school, second baby, medical school, building airplane, first flight, formation flying, selling house, closing medical practice, buying motorhome, going on the road.

Tomorrow, January 2, 2016, Wendy and I will hold hands and once again take a step into another new adventure.  We will board an airplane from beautiful sunny Tucson, AZ and at the end of the day we will arrive at our new digs for a 4-month stay in Lewiston, ME.  “ME” as in Maine (you know, that state that half-belongs to Canada).  We’re in shorts and sandals today.  Tomorrow, we’ll be in long underwear.  It will be a major shock to our bodily systems.

This transition reminds me of one of the brilliant stunts my high school buddy, Joe Young, pulled our junior year.  Four of us would get up every morning and play racquetball and lift weights at a club before school.  On this fine morning as we were all soaking in the hot tub after a hard workout, Joe said “Hey, let’s all get really hot in this hot tub and then run over there to the showers and take a super cold shower”.  We all looked at each other and said, “OK Joe.  You first”.  So Joe jumps out of the hot tub, turns on the cold water and we watched as he immediately keeled over like an ironing board.  Splat!  Out cold.  We thought he was dead.  It took a lot of face slaps before Joe came around — and he was messed up the entire rest of the day.

So Wendy and I are going to leave the Tucson hot tub and jump right into the Maine cold shower in the dead of winter.  Somebody get ready to slap me in the face!

 

 

You’re Going Where?!!

Let’s talk money for just a moment.

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Masteryourmoney.com

Our retirement fund has not yet caught up with our retirement ambitions.  And a significant portion of those funds are in IRAs, which we cannot use until we are 59 1/2 years old without paying a 10% penalty.  (We are in our mid-50’s, so we have several years before we plan to access the IRAs.)

Although our nomadic lifestyle is cheap, it still requires funding, and there is still RV maintenance (tires, batteries, engine), diesel fuel, food, cellular data, satellite and insurance (RV, car and health) to pay for.

Our plan has been to fund our adventures by working a few months each year and leave our retirement portfolio alone so it can continue to grow (my job).  

Work 4 months, play 8 months. We’re liking that scenario.

OK, so when I say “we” will continue to work, I’m using the royal form of “we”.  Wendy can make a ridiculous amount of money per hour as a surgeon, so our focus is on finding her work and I will tag along and try to be useful too (such as camp hosting, online-based jobs and working magic with the investments).

As with many professions, physicians have their own form of temp agencies.  And of course, because they are doctors, they felt compelled to come up with a highfalutin name for it, in latin of course.  They call it locum tenens (to hold the place of).

Wendy has been working with several of these agencies who have presented assignment options for 2016.

After very little discussion actually, we quickly chose our 2016 work assignment, which will start on January 4th in  (drum roll please……….) Lewiston, Maine.

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Lewiston, Maine (www.bates.edu)

Say what?!!!

So here’s how the conversation went.

I thought we might just hold off on working for 6 to 12 months to give Wendy a chance to rebound from the physical and emotional weight of being a surgeon after closing our practice in September.  She was so psychologically ready to be done.

But these last few months she was getting lots of calls from recruiters and she was starting to bounce around with excitement about the possibilities.  (I don’t understand Wendy, but it’s just how she is built.  She rebounds very, very quickly and she seems to have an unquenchable need for challenges.)

The single most important thing in choosing a work assignment is to select one that meets Wendy’s strengths.  Just like any other profession, there are specialties within specialties.  Wendy’s experience and strengths are a result of being a rural ENT doctor. She is an excellent clinician, meaning she is an expert detective.  She can figure out what’s wrong with you in a 15-minute appointment.  And, she can explain it to you so you understand, order the correct tests and then get you packed and shipped to the right sub-specialist to treat your problem. That is a rare gift.

Her skill set is different from most ENT’s located in urban areas.  They must typically sub-specialize into one or two areas.  So as we consider assignments, we will be looking for rural settings that need a clinician.

So what type of inZanity would cause us to apply for a job in Maine in January?

  1. It’s a perfect fit for her strengths as an ENT surgeon/clinician.
  2. She is ready for a new challenge.
  3. If you’re going to work, it really doesn’t matter where you are because there’s little or no time for play.
  4. They will pay us well to work in Maine in January.

So we said yes and they said yes and the recruiting agency is arranging for our paid housing, rental car, flights to and fro, etc. So, in January, Zane and Squirrel will go to an indoor motorhome daycare center in Tucson for the winter, anxiously awaiting our return in April.

 

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RV daycare center (National RV Central)

Wendy and I love being in a position to be so flexible.  One day we’re planning on living in the desert on BLM land for free from January through April, tromping around in sandals, to the next day where instead, we’re thinking snow shoes in Maine.  How cool is that?!

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Ft. Kent, Maine snow- winter 2007-8 (Kathy Berry)

Or rather, how Brrrrrrrr is that!

Clay