In December 2008 Tom turned 62, the minimum age for retirement. Following numerous conversations weighing the pros and cons of retirement (usually predicated by our desire to be somewhere warm during the winter months), we came to the conclusion that retirement was doable. Our conclusion also called for the need to resize our current household footprint and sell our home.
After several weeks of preparation (mainly Carol - Tom was recovering from minor surgery), which included a lot of help from family and friends (thank you but we’re not done yet!), we put our house on the market Monday April 27. On Monday May 11 Tom submitted his letter of intent to retire from Lawrence University. His last scheduled day of work is June 12, which coincides with Lawrence’s Commencement Ceremony, a fitting time to leave following 25 years of service to Lawrence.
Now, about resizing our household footprint: We have chosen to try full-time RV’ing for the next 2 to 5 years. To that end we purchased a 32’ travel trailer, a K-Z Spree 323RLS LX from Kings Campers, Wausau, Wisconsin. It is being built in Shipshewana, Indiana and will be ready for pickup in Wausau by mid-June. The trailer will dovetail nicely with our desire to be someplace warm in the winter months (outside of our regular birding trips to Spanish speaking countries) yet not confine us to any one geographic location.
Alas, our faithful Nissan Frontier was not up to the task of pulling the added weight. It was fine when we had a pop-up camper but the Spree is substantially heavier. We traded our Frontier for a 2008 Toyota Tundra Crewmax at Kolosso Toyota, Appleton, Wisconsin. It will not only be up to the task but it will be comfortable to drive. While we are not thrilled with any vehicle that will not get great gas mileage, we have no choice. Unless trailer and vehicle manufactures are somehow able to overcome a few laws of physics, this is the way it has to be.
To start things off we reserved a spot at the Bentsen Palm Village RV Park near Mission, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley from November 1 through mid-January 2010 (we hope to extend our stay through the end of March). One of many benefits the RV park has to offer is that our site will be about a 5-minute walk from the World Birding Center and the entrance to Bentsen State Park (with free access to both).
We have a commitment to lead a birding tour to Ecuador in February (no – we’re not driving there!). But beyond March, all we have planned is to pursue our one hard and fast rule: avoid snow. That’s any snow that falls beyond our control and is associated with freezing cold temperatures (snow-capped mountains are fine from afar).
Our transition from a two-story house to full-time RV-mode is not without its challenges. We’re presently going through the process of sorting out all the nuances that mobile life on the road will present. Insurance (health, household, vehicle), banking, mail delivery, Internet, and paring our possessions down to that of comfort and need. We are considering taking up residence in another state like South Dakota with more favorable income tax rates (no personal income tax). Then there is a myriad of trailer maintenance yet to be learned. Our trailer does not have an attic, or a basement, nor does it have a garage for “stuff”. We will miss our prairie plants but we will be free to visit others. Real ones found in real prairies. We surely won’t miss mowing grass, shoveling snow or property taxes. Sadly, we need to find a home for our orange kitty, Hamish, who does not wish to be joining us. No basement, no mice, no deal.
When our transition into full-time RV-mode will finally occur hinges upon when our house sells, a somewhat iffy prospect in this time of economic uncertainty. However, we will keep all of you apprised of our progress as we deeply value your friendship as we hope you value ours.
Quoting Deepak Chopra, “The possibility of stepping into a higher plane is quite real for everyone. It requires no force or effort or sacrifice. It involves little more than changing our ideas about what is normal.” Our decision to become full-time RVers may resonate with many as not a “normal” style of retirement. But to us, “normal” is the merely name of a cycle on a washing machine.