Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Day Everything Changed - Part 3

We made it safely back to Florida last week. All five of us. Our little animals are such troopers. They didn't complain hardly at all at being hauled cross country in under two days. We're all settled in at Karin's parents and have handled the chore of getting our new car registered and plated in Florida. We drove down here with the plate off of the old car, since the temporary one we got when we bought it in Indiana had expired the week before.

We had packed our Saturn Vue up with as much of our stuff as we could fit. We borrowed a rooftop carrier which we put all of our clothes in. That helped. But we still have lots more back at my son's house. We had thought about renting a a U Haul to take everything in but decided against it because of the expense. We knew we wouldn't need all of our stuff for awhile anyway. We'll just drive back up (without the animals) at some point and get the rest. It may take two trips; we'll see. Frankly it gives us an excuse to see family again and is still cheaper in the long run than the U Haul would have been. Although to do it this way we had to give up on keeping our mattress which we went to great lengths to get out of the RV. And it was a very comfortable mattress. But my parents are going to take the mattress instead. So that makes me happy!

Sooooo.....what will we be doing while we camp out here at Karin's parents house? Aside from some Florida wandering anyway? Well, we thought long and hard about things while we were in Indiana all those weeks. And for now, we will not be getting another RV. We have a lot of reasons for coming to that decision. Not the least of which is the fact that right now we simply aren't up to driving one. The accident shook us to our cores. I cannot overstate this. We were already experiencing some stress surrounding driving that size of a rig and towing a car behind as well. Maybe with more time out on the road we would have gotten past that. But the fact is that at the time of the accident, we weren't there yet. And the accident took away whatever confidence we had built up. Seriously!

Add to that the fact that we had come to realize that in order to make things work financially (living only on Karin's police pension), we would need to travel at an extremely slow pace, much slower than was ever our intent. Moving means gas expenditures plus higher campground rates, staying put means no gas costs and lower camping rates. While we never planned to go zipping across the country, we did want to be able to both go to new places AND visit friends & family somewhat frequently (at least more frequently than we'd been able to while working). But it was becoming clear to us that trying to pull that off was going to push us to our limits constantly and we would always be stressed out over that. Friends, that is not how we want to live. Always struggling to make it and feeling that pit in the stomach stress all the time.

While sitting in Indy, Karin started looking around online and discovered that you can buy a place in Florida (at least ways in some areas) VERY cheaply (considerably less than renting an apartment). Like cheaper than I ever would have believed possible. And considering the fact that we don't need (or even want) much space we can look at some of the lowest priced options. Now I know what you're thinking......buying a place is soooooo not nomadic!!!! What are we thinking????

We're thinking realistically. For our needs RIGHT NOW. Right now, we want to be able to quickly get back to Indiana. We have ageing parents. We have kids, grandkids and grandkids-to-be up north. From here it's just a 14 hr car drive to Indy and we can do that for just the cost of gas. Which means we can make that trip many times a year. We would also have the advantage of already being here when Karin's family and my parents come during the winter. It pretty much covers the whole being connected to family issue.

Provided we can get a place for what we think we can (shouldn't be a problem), we can not only have a very inexpensive home base but also be able to travel a reasonable amount. We ought to be able to put enough money aside each month to build up a decent travel fund for taking us to all those places we crave visiting. Like I said, for right now our travel plans don't include an RV. But that's just how we want it NOW. If there's one thing I know, it's that change happens a lot.

We still love road tripping it. We still love traveling with our own bed and our own kitchen and all that good stuff. We still love the freedom of RVing. But when we decide the time is right for another rig, it will be very different from our original set up! We will likely go much smaller. And not bring a tow vehicle. We're thinking maybe a small class C or maybe a conversion van. Something that does not stress us out to drive. Something that does not eat up the amount of gas that a much larger rig does. Something that we can easily pull off the road for those impromptu travel experiences. Something that doesn't require a ridiculous amount of planning and maneuvering in order to enter and exit gas stations successfully (wow....this was the single most difficult task we faced with our RV! The location of our gas tank fill made it crazy difficult). We did learn a thing or two about what works and does not work for us in our short five months out there.   :)

Even though buying a place in Florida makes sense, it is not all sunshine and rainbows. Florida is not my dream location. My heart is in the desert back in Tucson. I have to keep telling myself this is just for NOW. We can always do something different down the road. I have seriously had some panic attacks over this. And tears. But I know from experience that you can almost always find a way to make wherever you are a very good place to be. And that is what I'll do. Because it's my nature to be happy. Hey, if nothing else, the air fares to Costa Rica are cheaper out of Tampa than they are out of AZ! I will get to Costa Rica if it's the last thing I do!!!!

All of these changes leave this blog in a strange place. Buying a place and living in a stationary home aren't exactly nomadic. I've followed many RV blogs where they quit living in their RV but nothing changed with the blog. And it feels weird. To me at least. I'm just OCD enough to fret about such things (oh stop laughing!!!.....even I have certain things that need to be just so, ask Karin). So you can expect that I'll change up the blog a bit to make it reflect our current lives better. But I'll wait until we actually are in one place. We still feel quite ungrounded at this point.

I still have some unfinished business to discuss that is RV related. That'll be coming shortly. Till then, happy trails to you, whatever kind of journey you're on!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Day Everything Changed - Part 2


So there we were...the two of us, two cats and a dog...with no car and no home. And no idea for how long we would be without a car or a home. The car and the RV were being handled as two separate insurance claims and as  such we were given a different claims adjuster for each. And they were towed to two different locations per the instructions of our insurance company. We were told to expect it to take approximately 48 hours to hear anything back. Until then our main concern was where we were going to stay. Insurance gave us a $100 a day stipend for food and lodging for up to five days. Our roadside assistance gave us a stipend of $150 a day for up to eight days. Sounded good to us and somehow I think we actually thought that would be all we needed. Oh little did we know!


We had trouble finding hotels that would both allow pets and be affordable. Out of desperation we spent the first night at a Motel 6. That was a rough night! The amount of noise there completely freaked the animals out. One of the cats found her way underneath the bed's box spring and stayed there the whole time. In the morning we had to take the mattress off the bed and lift up the box spring to fish her out of there. None of us slept. We were in a weird place both literally and figuratively. We knew we couldn't spend another night like that. We had offers from several places to stay with them. The issue was where we could go and it not be a problem (as much as possible) for all five of us to be. We knew  in some situations it just wasn't going to work. Our dog does not do well with other dogs or with little kids. And some people just don't really do well with cats. And we kind of needed a way to have a little space of our own after going through such a traumatic experience. We decided to give things a try with our good friend's, Mike & Amy. We've stayed with them in the past, though not with our animals. They also have a dog who has issues with other dogs. But they seemed to think we could make it work. And we had no better ideas so we gave it a go.

The Amazing Mike & Amy
It worked out amazingly well. Our hosts went way beyond anything we could have asked for. These are seriously good people! We love them to pieces. We have our own mini-apartment set up in their downstairs level (it's a split-level house). The two levels are gated off from each other to keep the dogs apart. The cats (our two and their four!) intermingle as they choose. Life has been as normal as possible under the circumstances. We've been here almost six weeks now. And what a six weeks it has been! So back to our banged up vehicles.....


Within a week and a half we knew that our car had indeed been totaled and we bought another car with the insurance money. But at a week and a half out we had heard absolutely nothing on the RV. Nada. Zip. We called. Repeatedly. At some point we were told that because the RV was so old they had to go to the manufacturer (Fleetwood) for estimates on having parts custom made for it and that's what they were waiting on (this from Camping World, where the RV had been taken for estimates). We were patient (to a fault I think). But we were increasingly frustrated. The whole not knowing of things. The inability to make any plans for the future. The desire to move forward that we could do nothing with. The helplessness we felt at not being able to fend for ourselves. All while also reliving the nightmare of the accident. It was hard. Yet still, we were being taken such good care of. It was overwhelming.


While waiting for word on the RV we attempted to do what we came to Indy to do. Spend time with friends and family. The first few weeks we saw some family and of course Mike & Amy. But honestly, we weren't up to a lot of socializing with other friends. Too hard to always be "up". Gradually we have come around and are doing better in that respect. I feel bad because we haven't seen everyone we intended to see. But we've been dealing with it all the only way we know how. I'm an introvert by nature so I always need quite a bit of alone time to balance out social time. And that has been even more intense in the aftermath of the accident. And Karin has one of those minds that is constantly racing which is a stresser in itself. So she also has needed a lot of down time. 

Geraniums? Hmmmm....forgot to ask

We were at the three and a half week mark when we reached our limit of patience with the insurance company. Early on our claims adjuster had kind of disappeared. We would call her and get a message that she was out of the office for a couple of days. Then it was that she was out of the office for a week. Then the message was that she had had an emergency and was out indefinitely. Not a problem....except that no one ever called us to tell us that and to assign us a replacement. We also called Camper's World frequently. We left messages that were never returned. Enough was enough. Karin called our insurance and was put through to the replacement adjuster. She in turn got the Camper's World service manager on the line for a three way call. At first all we heard was "we're sorry this is taking so long", "we're just really behind here at Camper's World....there is a two month wait just for getting an oil change", yes we know the RV is your home but HEY you've got that stipend to live with!!!", yada yada yada. Nope. That was NOT what we cared to hear anymore of. Karin countered with "who else do we need to talk to about this", "do we need to talk to an attorney" and then the big guns, "do we need to complain to the state insurance board???". Well. That seemed to do the trick. Insurance let the Camper's World Guy off the line and she and Karin had a nice chat in which it was determined that the Camper's World guy was full of BS and that the insurance companies RV specialist would be brought in to handle things. They then set up for an independent guy to come see the RV and get an estimate done pronto. Our case was expedited. About time.

Candy Corn Plant

Just a week later we had a check in hand for the RV. It totally got totaled. Totaled so bad that not only was the check enough to cover our original purchase price but also enough to cover for what we subsequently put into it! In other words it was seriously jacked up. Interesting thing though. The insurance guy told us that when he showed up to look over the RV, the service manager went through it with him. And told him he didn't even remember seeing it before. Yup. And he was the same guy who told them over the phone that he was talking with the RV maker about getting new parts made for it. Like I said. Full of BS. Not a place I would ever recommend doing business with! And from what we've now heard, this is business as usual for them. Disgusting.

Not sure what these are....pretty, that's what they are!

Our original intent was to spend about six weeks in Indiana, then head up to Michigan and wander around there for however long we felt like and beyond that we had no plans other than to make it back to Tucson by late October. Being that we no longer have an RV, our plans have changed. We'll be here in Indy till next Tuesday, pretty much as previously planned. But when we leave, we'll just be driving the car. And we'll be headed back down to Florida. Karin's parents house there is sitting empty till October, so we're going to hang out there until we are ready to take the next step. The next step will be the subject of my next post! 

The flower pictures on this post were taken at Karin's brother's house in northern IN. Along with taking comfort form family, friends and our animals, we've made every effort to enjoy nature's beauty whenever we can. It helps. A lot.    :)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Day Everything Changed, Part 1

You may have noticed it's been over a month since I've updated this blog. It's not because I got bored with it. Or because things have been boring in our world. Oh nothing could be further from the truth I assure you! When last I visited here, we had just wrapped up a stress reducing week in Mexico Beach FL and were poised to head north to Indianapolis to spend six weeks visiting friends and family. We did make our way through Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. And had some pretty terrific experiences along the way. Which eventually I will fill you all in on. Because they are worth noting. But first, there is a more important story to share. One that I've been putting off telling. Because it's emotionally draining. And because I was waiting for the story to come to a conclusion of sorts. The time has finally come. Gather around my friends.

On May 1, we started the day at a campground in southern Indiana. We only had an hour and a half drive to our final destination at a campground on the southwest side of Indianapolis. Weather was fantastic, we were in great spirits and it was an easy drive. After a week of daily drives we were really looking forward to staying in one place for awhile. As we drove up US 31 south of Indianapolis we were noting how nicely the RV was handling through the stop and go traffic (lots and lots of traffic lights). We headed west off of 31 towards the campground with only two miles left to go. As we got to under a mile to go, we slowed down as we kept an eye on the addresses. It was a two lane street in a residential area. At the bottom of a very small hill there was a light that was yellow. Karin applied the breaks right away (she always allows plenty of breaking time as RV's do not stop nearly as quickly as cars). Immediately she said "the brakes aren't working, I have NO brakes"! She pumped and pumped and pumped and nothing happened. We had a COMPLETE brake failure. By the time we hit the intersection the light had turned red. You can guess what happened next, can't you?

It was the most terrifying experience of my life. When we first realized we had no brakes, there were no other cars in sight. But as we reached the intersection we saw a car approaching from our left. The only proactive thing Karin could do was to speed up to try to get us on through the intersection before the car reached us. It did help some. But not enough. Another second or so and maybe. Timing is everything, isn't it?

We went flying through that intersection. I believe I was screaming like a banshee the whole way. Karin says I was. I believe her. What I remember most was feeling horrified that whoever was in the other car would be hurt. I couldn't bear the thought of that. When the collision occurred, the front end of the RV had made it through the intersection. But at 35 foot long, the back end had NOT cleared. We felt the impact, enough to know that it had happened,but not enough to throw us much. It took awhile to finally bring the RV to a stop.

Once it stopped, Karin raced out of the RV to see what the damage was and if anyone had been hurt (she goes into police mode during any crisis; it's handy to have a retired police officer around!). I started calling my parents and my son (not easy...I was shaking ridiculously hard). What Karin saw was that the very end side panel of the RV had taken a hit. The car was no longer hooked to the RV and had taken a solid hit to the front drivers side. The tow bar base plate had completely pulled off of the car. The tow bar itself, which you may remember was brand new, was still intact. The car that hit us was completely smashed up, up front as it was a head-on hit for them. The good news; the woman driving and her very small child were unharmed. My worst nightmare had not happened. And we were unharmed as well. Same for our animals. The cats hide at the back of the RV while on the road. So they were closest to where the collision was. But other than being frightened, they were fine.

From the back of the RV. Doesn't look all that terrible from the back. I guess.

A little bit more of the damage.

And now a lot more of the damage is visible. If you click to enlarge and look closely you can see the other car's headlight embedded in the RV. The compartment that was hit holds the RV's water holding tank. That is why there is water rushing out of the RV.

Our car.Which we had only had a little over three months.    :(


So much of what happened is a blur. While Karin was dealing with the police (she knew both officers on the scene....Indianapolis Police Department is where she retired from), and making calls to insurance, I was rounding up the animals and getting essentials out of the RV as it was going to be towed away. My son was able to come with his work van, so we loaded things up into his van. This all took quite awhile and I was shaking like a leaf the whole time.

The amazing thing about this story is that it happened where it did. Had this happened anywhere else along our journey we would have been up shit creek without a paddle. We lost not only our vehicle that day, we also lost our home! Anywhere else, who would have rescued us, our three animals and our stuff? I keep thinking about that....especially as the story unfolded to get even more complicated. As it was, my son was able to get us all out of there as needed and help get us situated.

Reliving that day is getting easier but still is unpleasant. So just getting this far with the story was a full evening of writing for me (had to keep taking breaks). So will wrap this section up and follow up very soon with Part 2. What came after the accident was no walk in the park either. Although we did in fact take a walk in the park.   :)     Stay tuned.