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

 

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The Mighty Mississippi

The Long Way to Wisconsin

When you start out from Crestview, Florida and intend to wind up in Wisconsin, the shortest route is through Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois.  But nay, nay, my friend. Been there, done that.

It was one of Clay’s dreams to watch the barges slowly make their way up and down the Mississippi River and not be in a hurry.  Just sit on the bank and contemplate one’s navel.

So, we left Crestview and drove due east, making it to Vidalia, Louisiana on the first day.  The AllStays app is amazing- showing us both real time location on a map, then you can flip to a satellite view to make sure the beast will fit (65 feet with toad attached). This works well for rest areas and truck stops as well. Since we boondock (stay overnight without hookups and live off our generator, batteries, water and dump tanks) on the way to longer stays, we need to know if truck stops have pull-through parking, as we cannot back up in the RV with the toad (towed vehicle) attached.  Not all truck stops are created equal, but you need to know this ahead of time.

Riverview RV Park, Vidalia, Louisiana

 

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We stayed at the Riverview RV Park on the Mississippi River.  The GPS voice pronounced it “Muh SISS a pee”. Being a word nerd, I giggled at that and kept repeating the mispronunciation. Clay has to put up with a lot.

The RV park is smack dab next to the river. You have to cross the levee to get to it, and sometimes it is closed due to river flooding.

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Sideways tug blocking part of the Mississippi River– I wonder if they ever got it turned around?

We got situated and then walked along the river.  I also floated in the pool on my super duper Swimways Spring Float ($15 from Target online). A delightful floaty thingy with a small blow up rim and pillow and a mesh bed. Folds up into a small circle. Small is good in an RV basement (the bay doors you see under a rig).

Natchez, MS

The next day, we crossed back over the river and toured Natchez, MS- the start of the Natchez Trace, an overland route which ran from the river through Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. Flatboatmen would sell their goods and boats (as lumber) in New Orleans or Natchez then make their way back by cart or on foot over the Trace. Plantations shipped their cotton south to New Orleans or upriver to St. Louis or Cincinnati.

Industrial progress sometimes has unintended consequences. The cotton gin (a simple machine used to separate the fluffy cotton from the prickly seed) allowed an increase in speed of processing cotton which then caused the planting of more cotton to keep up with the mill’s need for product. But this meant buying more slaves to do the unmechanized planting and picking.

Before the civil war, Natchez had more millionaires than any other city in the U.S and most of the antebellum mansions were spared during the war.

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Stanton Hall

Longwood was an interesting octagonal mansion that was started right when the Civil War began and never completed inside. The succeeding generations of owners lived in the basement level and the rest of the top four floors were left open and unfinished.

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Longwood

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Four stories of unfinished faded glory- looking up through the central gallery

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Longwood – bare bones

Vicksburg, MS

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Vicksburg National Military Park

After a few days, it was time to head upriver to Vicksburg, the site of one of the most crucial battles of the Civil War- where the Union Army staged a brutal siege of the town and finally captured control of the Mississippi River, dividing the Confederacy in two parts: east and west eliminating their ability to re-provision over the river.

But, we didn’t want to spend the night in Vicksburg, and didn’t want to leave Zane unattended in a WalMart or rest area, so we got a satellite view of the Vicksburg National Military Park and saw there was bus parking. We’re as big as a bus, right? No problema.  I was driving and, as you enter the parking area, there is a sharp right turn, then a guard shack on the driver’s side and a stop sign planted in the center of the two lane road on the left. About 10 feet apart.  Eight foot wide Zane towered over the guard shack as I crept past it, trying not to bump my mirrors on the shack’s roof, and trying to keep that pesky stop sign in mind. It was a tight squeeze. Then an immediate sharp left turn into the parking lot, where we slid into the first spot we could find.

Whew.  Yay for satellite views and nerves of steel (or at least really tough nylon cord).

A guy walked up to Clay later and said, “How in the world did you get that huge RV in here?”  Clay replied, “I didn’t. My wife did.”

We took a quiet drive in Squirrel (our toad) through the battlefield. The signs of where each regiment was stationed along the battle lines (blue for the Union, Red for the Confederacy) as well as marble monuments at each state regiment’s position illustrated the tragic story of the long and dreadful battle.  One child born in the caves the residents of Vicksburg lived in during the bombings was named Siege.

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Union cannons

We also saw the ironclad boat, USS Cairo, which had sunk during another part of the war, and was dredged up in the 1960’s and reconstructed. It was a feat of engineering and its ironclad sister ships were responsible for securing the river for the Union.

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USS Cairo Ironclad

Heading North to West Memphis, Arkansas

Then it was back on the road, part of the way driving on the Natchez Trace, a lovely two lane road through quiet woods and cotton fields.


Across the river from Memphis, Tennessee, we found another cool riverside camping spot called Tom Sawyer RV Park. Watched mighty tug boats with huge engines, smoke billowing out the exhaust pipes, fighting the current and sandbars going upstream, pushing 24 barges lashed together. At one point, they were probably only moving 2 miles per hour. Awesome to watch.

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Tug boat barge

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Tug boat barge struggling up river

I quickly got groceries and rushed back to Zane to get ready to attend the Friday night session at the Memphis LDS temple. We drove about 40 minutes and noticed: no cars in the temple parking lot. What?? I checked the schedule on line and everything. What??

Oops. It was Saturday, not Friday. Temple closed at 1pm.

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So, I guess I am officially retired. Cannot keep track of the days.  My phone gets misplaced too now.  For over 20 years, it has been constantly at my side, no matter where I was (and yes, it was near the shower, too) because I was on call for the hospital and my patients.

No longer. My phone is now just a great way to talk to family and text friends and check the internet. How wonderful is that?

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Peace on the river

Wendy

Moving to Florida- for an entire week

Retirement

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Retirement?!?  Are you Bats??

After planning for three years and spending the past year trying unsuccessfully to sell my solo ENT medical practice in Blairsville, Georgia, and while still negotiating the sale of the hearing practice, we decided to walk away.  We had felt an overwhelming urgency to leave, strongly prompted to go now. Not in 2-3 months. Now.

I quit my practice on September 3- stunning our loyal staff. Losing a job is never easy and they had no warning.  But, I’m a surgeon and I like to cut cleanly and get the healing started up as soon as possible.

I had seen 16,400 people over the past 14 years from the surrounding 9 counties and 3 states.  It was a well-run and professionally adminstered practice (thanks to Clay) and I was treated very kindly by the local hospital and my 200 referring providers.

But it was time to go. To be done living and working in Blairsville. Sold the house, the airplane, the hangar and the extra car.

Not quite done working, though. If we had sold the practice, we would have been able to live off the dividends of the investments that Clay has so carefully cultivated over the years. That didn’t happen, so I will do locum tenens (temporay doctor) assignments around the country for 3 months of the next few years until dividends equal yearly expenditures.

So, now what?

Clay and I both made quick Labor Day Weekend trips to see our Moms (Clay to Greenwood, Indiana and me to Plymouth, Michigan).  So grateful for our brothers and sisters who watch out for them.

Then, on Tuesday, September 8th, we released parking brake and took off for Crestview, Florida to establish our new state residency.  We had already changed our mailing address to the Good Sam Mailing Service in Crestview, as well as arranging health and auto and RV insurance from that location.

Establishing Florida Residency

The first full day in Florida, after paying for a week at the Eagles Landing RV Park in Holt, Florida, we showed up at the Tax Collector’s Office in Crestview.  Three hours later, we had Florida Driver’s Licenses, Voter Registration Cards, an official Declaration of Domicile (for taxation and residency), library cards and picked up our accumulated mail at Good Sam Mail Service (also called My RV Mail) and were back in the RV having lunch.  Pre-planning is the key.  There are plenty of websites about how to establish residency.

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Good Sam Mail Service — can you see our mailbox?

Why Florida?

Yes, we were residents of Georgia for 14 years- but there are three states that work very well for residency when you live on the road full time and don’t plan to spend very much time in any one state: South Dakota, Texas and Florida.  Health insurance for full time travellers is becoming hard to find in South Dakota. Texas requires a special driver’s license to operate a motorhome (including a driving test expecting you to parallel park the RV. Seriously???  Forty five feet of motorhome— at no point, I promise you, will I be parallel parking her. No offense, Zane dear, but you’ve got a generously endowed rear).  And they want it inspected every year.  Too many hassles.

Florida has no state income tax, good health insurance for people like us and they understand snowbirds when it comes to jury duty.  And you don’t have to renew your driver’s license in person for 16 more years.  I’ll be 70 by then.

So, legal Florida residents, a week later we were back on the road, heading up the Mississippi River to Wisconsin to see our children and grandkids.  Stay tuned.

Wendy

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Clay fulfilling the dream: watching barges on the Mississippi River