Saturday, December 13, 2014

Our New (to us) Home!

We had to make the trip back to Memphis to pick up our used motorhome.  Normally that would mean that we would have two vehicles to drive on the return trip to Oklahoma.  But the timing was perfect to hitch a ride to Memphis with our son.  Luke was heading down I-40 towards a residency interview in North Carolina.  He was excited to have some company (and someone to drive the first 8 hours of his journey) and it didn't hurt that we were lending him our new car and would be paying his entire gas bill.  So he dropped us off at Davis Motorhome in south Memphis in late afternoon.  We didn't know how we were going to get home if this purchase fell through.

At our request, the motorhome was already set up at Yogi Bear Campground.  Isn't she beautiful?  (I call her "she" but Mark thinks that beastly proportions deserve a more manly pronoun!)

We spent the first evening opening every drawer, checking all the windows, and really exploring! 

We soon found out that there were at least two other families waiting to trade in their current motorhomes in order to pick up their brand new Tiffins at Davis.  True to everything we heard about RVers, they instantly welcomed us into the fold.  Ken and Barbara were our first ever guests in our new home.  They gave us great advice from their years of RVing, and even invited us to camp near their home in Oregon!

The next morning another couple shared their latest copy of Escapee magazine and invited us to the Escapade next spring.  Then our salesman, Brian, appeared with a gallon of milk the next morning, and helped us with our preparation to break camp for the first time.  Mark took the wheel, and followed Brian back to the dealership for our morning filled with signing paperwork and getting instructions on how to operate everything.  I videoed 3 hours of private motorhome tutorial, and the crew fixed and cleaned a few things at our request.

We were a lot smarter, but pretty overwhelmed as we pulled out of the parking lot for our maiden voyage toward Oklahoma.  We didn't have far to drive, as we had made reservations at Tom Sawyer's RV Park just west of Memphis.  We were camped a couple rows off the Mississippi River, and enjoyed watching the boats and barges on the water. 

 We were treated to a beautiful sunset over Ol' Man River.  Our dream of Wandering His Wonders feels like it is beginning to become a reality! 

Fall-Break-Motorhome-Shopping Trip

We decided that our university fall break would be a great time to make a road trip to shop for a motorhome.  So we headed towards Alabama, where they manufacture Tiffin motorhomes.  We had targeted several well-respected dealers, and three different privately owned motorhomes that we wanted to see in person on this trip.  We were also hoping to see some pretty fall foliage, but most of the trees were still green.

We scheduled our trip around being in Red Bay, Alabama, for a Tiffin factory tour.  It was really interesting to watch the cabinet shop, the bare chassis, the finished slide outs before they were attached to the frames, and the unpainted gray motorhomes.

After reading a request for pictures on the Tiffin Forum from a couple who had ordered a 2015 37AP Allegro Bus, we searched it out.  The motorhome was at station 18, almost completed, and we took over 20 pictures to email to them.

 The good news is the road trip was ultimately successful!  After days of very serious shopping, we decided to buy a used 2013 Tiffin Allegro Red 33AA at Davis Motorhomes in Memphis, Tennessee.  We can recommend them as a very fair and easy to work with dealership.  Mark drove like a seasoned pro on the test drive.  We actually made the deal over the phone between Red Bay and Memphis.  The bad news is that they couldn't get it ready for us this weekend, so we will have to come back to Memphis to drive it home. There will be more details later, but here's a sneak peek of our new home.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Wedding Day!

  In the middle of all the moving and retirement plans, we were blessed to add a new member into our family.  Our oldest son, Luke, and his beautiful fiance Jordan were married September 27. 
After hanging out with guys all the time, Denisa was so glad to welcome a female into our family. 


The wedding was at Frontline Church in Oklahoma City--the same place they met around 3 years ago.  It was a beautiful fall day, and everything was planned so well that there are no funny stories about mishaps or miscues that day.  

 The ring bearer (our nephew Weston) broke his arm the week before.  We tried to suggest a purple cast to match the color scheme, but he preferred lime green instead. 

If there were any medical emergencies or if anything broke the day of the wedding, we should have had it covered.  Amongst the wedding party, we had 5 doctors, 3 physician associates, and 3 engineers.

 The wedding day was a blessing for us, and we include a few more pictures that illustrate what a wonderful day it was!

Moving into the Apartment

Mark pointed out that we have come full circle--we moved into the dorms when we arrived in Weatherford 35 years ago as students, and now we are back in the dorm apartment as we prepare to leave Weatherford as retirees.  When the house sold so quickly, we scrambled for a place to live until we retired.  We found the perfect place--a one-bedroom apartment that is just a three minute walk from work!  The "commute" to our offices on campus is great!

After all the down-sizing, it should have been a fast and easy move to the apartment.  But we were amazed at how much stuff we still owned that would fit in that little apartment!  Thanks to our son Blake for coming to help us!  He decided that he owed us a move since we have moved him ten times in the last five years.  He even brought his new girl friend, Claire (who we had never met before) to help.  What a trooper!  She came and carried load after load and got to know us very quickly.

After giving away most of our furniture, we saved the very oldest couch for the move.  Our apartment is decorated in a vogue retro style we call "using what no one else wanted."  We have the first sectional we bought over 30 years ago, that had been relegated to the basement years ago.  But it is the most comfortable "guest bed" now.  

The recliner was a gift from my parents 30 years ago and matches Frazier's father's cherished chair on the famous sitcom.  Both the recliner and sectional will be disposed of easily when we retire.  The placement of wall hangings was determined by the myriad of holes that were already in the walls.  Home decorating at its best!

The kitchen has about a quarter of the storage I had at the house, so it was a true lesson in down-sizing (that will prepare us for the next move into the motorhome where the kitchen is even smaller).

That moving day was one of the longest days of our lives.  We were up early carrying boxes and furniture as fast as we could until there was only a narrow path to walk through the apartment.  After Blake and Claire left, we returned to the house for a final cleaning before we turned over the keys the next day.  That also included purging the last of the treasures in the garage shop well after midnight.  By the time we got to bed that night (or should I say the next morning), we had been up and working for almost 22 hours!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Selling our Home Sweet Home!

In 1998 we decided that our family had outgrown our starter home, so we decided to build our larger dream house while the boys were still at home to help us enjoy it.  After studying countless floor plans, we finally took the best ideas from our favorite plans and drew up our perfect home ourselves.  Designing every detail was fascinating.  But it was made more difficult by the "help" you get from taking two little boys (ages 9 and 7) to pick out lighting fixtures, door knobs, brick, windows, etc. etc.  I distinctly remember the boys using a length of PVC pipe and a crumpled up receipt to play ball in the aisles at Lowe's because they were so bored with the process.

Our new custom house turned into a great home to raise two active boys, and we loved living in it.  So we had to be really excited about full-time RVing to make the decision to sell it.  We also recognized that it was a bigger house than two people needed since the boys were now graduated.  And the wonderful yard that we designed 15 years ago was becoming a lot of work to maintain now that the lawn mowers had gone off to college.

We didn't want to wait until the last minute and be delayed from our travel because we still owned a home.  So we decided to put a "for sale" sign in the front yard in June.  We had no realtor, and took out no ads, but we quickly started getting calls to see the house.  We were the best salespeople for the house that we designed, because we knew all of its best features intimately.  It didn't hurt that we have a great neighborhood in a booming town too.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau figures,Weatherford, Oklahoma has been named one of the ten fastest growing small towns in the United States.  We were blessed with a fast sale that went smoothly.  We found ourselves homeless on July 12, 2014--exactly 27 years after we moved into our first starter home, and exactly 26  years after our first son was born!

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Last of the Treasures

By the time we sold the house, I would say that we only owned about 10% of the things we did a year before.  We were down to the things we needed to survive in a one bedroom apartment, and a few treasures that we couldn't stand to give away.

 Bless our families for helping us out with this dilemma!  Some of our siblings and our parents found spots in their homes for some antiques, and we hope they "enjoy" them for many years while we continue to travel.  We appreciate that a lot!  It will be fun seeing our furniture scattered in many households when we come to visit.  My Mom and sister are storing all those photo albums, journals, and scrapbooks that I put together to chronicle every detail of our sons' lives.  We especially appreciate that!

We also still had some more really good junk, but we couldn't seem to muster up the courage for another garage sale with all the work of pricing and setting up tables, etc.  So I invented a new concept--a free garage sale.  We invited friends over for warm brownies and lemonade, and asked them to take anything they wanted.  They took almost everything home with them, and saved us the trouble of boxing it up for the local thrift store. (By this time we had already taken so many loads to the thrift store that they were considering adding on a wing and naming it after us.)

The Search for the Perfect RV (for us)

We can't exactly remember when we decided that getting rid of everything and traveling full-time in a RV was our dream for retirement.  We also can't decide if it was Mark or Denisa that first came up with the idea.  But we have both been sold on the plan for a long time, even though Mark always adds "Good Lord Willing" when he describes our retirement plans to others.

Making the decision to live in an RV is a big one, but it leads to many more decisions about the retirement vehicle.  We waded through travel blogs and personal recommendations, went to RV shows, and attended the RV Dreams rally to get information on the best fit for us.  Here are some of the decisions we considered and our thoughts about each:

1) Fifth wheel vs. Motorhome?
We never really considered a 5th wheel as we really like the idea of having a small fuel-efficient vehicle to go exploring in when we are parked.  So the motorhome idea won because we didn't like the idea of driving a big diesel dually pickup everywhere.

2) Motorhome alphabet soup--A, B, or C?
We chuckle now when we think about the Class B and class C vehicles we first considered.  They are great for vacationing, but we soon figured out they had too little storage to be our only home.  We decided our home would have to be a Class A.

3) Gas vs. Diesel Motorhome?
This debate was a long one, and we changed sides many times.  But the diesel engine brake and torque would provide us safe travel in the mountains, and that was important to us.  We also recognized that we needed the cargo carrying capacity of the heavier diesel frame.  As we see gasoline prices that are now $1 cheaper per gallon than diesel, we hope that was the right decision.

4) Length?
Because our priority is to stay in state and federal campgrounds as much as possible, we limited our search for 35 foot or smaller Class A diesels.  I guess we will find out soon if that was as important as we thought it was.

5) Manufacturer?
We had a short list of manufacturers that we felt built a good quality coach that could hold up to full-timing.  The good news was that many of the most expensive companies only make very long motorhomes.  So our 35 foot limit whittled down the list even more.

6) New vs. Used?
We would love to buy a brand new diesel pusher motorhome, but we knew we couldn't afford it.  But we also got tired of dealers and owners that priced their used motorhomes higher than a new price.  Beware of sellers that think their coach is "better than new" and don't understand the steep decline in value of this depreciating asset.

7) Floor plan?
A roomy interior design with plenty of comfortable seating was a priority for us, and there are lots of choices in floor plans.  Some other interior choices are:  residential refrigerator vs. a smaller gas/electric; placement of the television to the sitting area; carpet vs. tile; table and chairs vs. booth dinette; washer and dryer vs. visiting laundromats; gas stove vs. convection oven, etc.  We tried not to be sold on any of these options because buying used we wouldn't get to design all of our preferences.  But some of those options could be deal breakers.

So we started looking for a used 32-35 foot class A diesel motorhome that had tile floors, a convection oven, and a large refrigerator.  We shopped all the national motorhome sales web sites, forum classifieds, Craigslist, and any local sources we could find--for two years!  We called owners all over the country as we narrowed down our list and got a great education in RV purchasing 101.  Buying the perfect RV is a lot of work, but it was certainly fun work!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Getting rid of all the "Stuff"

In the course of 33 years, a couple of people can accumulate a lot of stuff junk treasures.  I remember when we moved into that new and bigger house 15 years ago and we were sure we would never fill it all up.  But we were living the American dream, and we managed to fill it to the maximum!  Our master bedroom suite was bigger than the entire apartment we lived in when we were first married.  One day I realized that I had 26 drawers in the master bedroom suite--and every one of them was full!  When you have 3 other bedrooms, 3 living rooms, and an oversized garage, you have to do some serious down-sizing to get down to the space constraints of a 35-foot motorhome.

But we have been planning for this exodus from home ownership to motorhoming for some time.  So we have purposefully not replaced any furniture or household decor for several years.  To show how committed I was to this dream, I even stopped buying dishes and kitchen gadgets!  Knowing the size of RV closets I even slowed down on buying shoes!  I then started a strategy of cleaning out every drawer, cabinet and closet in the house.  One year ago, I whittled down to only the things I knew we would use in the next year.  We had a huge garage sale.  To avoid having to price things individually, we sold every item for 50 cents.  There were some real bargains that day!

Large furniture items are harder to part with.  Our sons are still mobile and not interested in much furniture.  But they did finally agree to take a few things off our hands.  

After contemplating Craigslist and classified ads, we decided to just give things away.  So we took pictures of everything and asked our brothers and sisters if they wanted anything.  A few more treasures found new homes.


Our nieces and nephews were just starting their households.  So one nephew and his wife picked up the loveseat with recliners; 
another nephew and his wife were expecting another child and needed bedroom furniture for their son; another nephew and his wife had twin babies and got the trundle bed; another niece needed barstools. . . 

We noticed that the house started to echo as it grew emptier and emptier.  I mentioned that I was really disappointed in our neighbors.  They continually saw people pulling up to our house, loading furniture and then leaving.  And not one neighbor reported it to the police!

Wandering His Wonders--Why the blog name?

All of our married life we have enjoyed traveling together.  Denisa has been in all 50 states and a number of foreign countries as well.  But all of those trips were done on a tight schedule with a very precise itinerary.  The thought of not having to be back to work on Monday sounds delicious!  We are really looking forward to the luxury of wandering between sites.  We have lived in Western Oklahoma all of our lives, and we're really looking forward to living all over this grand country--staying in places long enough to get a feel for the culture and way of life of our neighbors around the USA!
We have been blessed in so many ways, so we struggled to find a travel blog name that could glorify God for these blessings.  We have always wanted God as the center of our home, even if it was a home on wheels.  So the "His" in our blog name is our way of honoring God for the many things He has done.
We can't wait to see and experience all those postcard-beautiful landscapes we have seen on calendars and screen shots!  God has created so many wonders and we are looking forward to wandering through as many as possible!  But we hope to find wonder in not only majestic landscapes, but also the people and towns we encounter as well.
This travel blog is designed as our own travel journal that we can look back over and reminisce.  If you honor us with reading it, we hope you come along and Wander His Wonders with us!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Our Story

In anticipation of traveling when we retired, I have been reading travel blogs for years.  My favorite thing is to go to the very first entry in hopes of getting some background on the travelers to better understand their journey.  So this is "our story."

We have been married for 33 years.  If using that to determine our ages, Mark is fast to quip that we were both ten years old when we got married.  Actually, that isn't far from the truth.  We were high school friends, college sweethearts, and I was 19 when we got married.  (I'm afraid I have just divulged my age--never a good idea for a female!)

Our marriage has been blessed with two amazing sons, and we are proud that they are now on their own.  Our oldest son, Luke, is married to our beautiful daughter-in-law Jordan, and is now in his last year of medical school.  Our youngest son, Blake, graduated from college and started his new job as an engineer.  So our financial parenting commitments are finally over.  We did the math and discovered that two can live pretty inexpensively.  We have been saving our pennies for a long time, and if we continue to live conservatively, we think we can make this thing happen.

We have also been blessed by good jobs at Southwestern Oklahoma State University.  We have a pension plan that allows for some nice retirement benefits.  So we counted our blessings and began a plan that would allow us to retire in January 2015.  I wrote a daily journal for 25 years about the wonderful things that our sons said and did, so now I am looking forward to blogging about our travels.