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Monthly Archives: January 2015

Poetry

I’m empty today.  Except for anxiety – lots of anxiety. Not a “good” day.  I’m grateful this feeling hasn’t hit me for couple of weeks, but I could sense it coming on since Wednesday.  I know what’s causing it. I’m sort of in between things right now … I’ve finished up all of the planning for the first nine months of my impending venture out “on the road”, even going so far as to lay out the groundwork for the following three. But I’m four months away from leaving.  I’ve made a withdrawal from the IRA that won’t hit my account until Tuesday. With those funds, I’ll be able to start actually doing something, like getting my car worked on. But today, I can’t do any of that.

I used to listen to a CD I bought from a place called HealthJourneys.  Guided imagery for therapy. They had one specifically for dealing with PTSD.  It would help a bit when I was going through particularly bad episodes.  But I lost it during my latest move to South Carolina.

So, I figured I’d start a new section of the blog and add some poetry … something I’ve been writing for over 30 years.  Had a lot of it, stored on an old disk drive that I carried with me on the move from California to New Jersey. But I lost them all back in 2002 … someone I was living with at the time tossed the drive in the trash without me knowing about it (this was before such things as “online data backup”).  Almost 200 pieces.  Lost.

I haven’t written much since then.  Maybe I’ll try to do that today, try to touch the inner part of me that still feels so raw when I go near it. In the meantime, I thought I’d share two old pieces. I wrote the first one in the late 90’s, around the time of divorce #2.  The second came around 2005 (one of the only pieces I’ve written since losing all my old stuff). I wrote it during a  period of “nightmare sleep” (something a lot of PTSD sufferers experience).

Both represent an integral part of who I am.

Awareness

I remember sitting in the clouds  (it seems so long ago)
and my teacher was beside me. I was asking him to show
me, give me guidance, to help me plainly see
the lesson I must tackle on my next lifetime journey.

He said, “My friend, you needn’t ask. The answer’s in your heart.
I sense you’d rather tarry though. Are you afraid to start
your next adventure? Is there something that you dread?”
(He always sees right through me, even when things go unsaid.)

“I guess I am afraid old man. This one’s not like the rest.
I sense that in the life to come, the things I’ll have to test
won’t be my strength or character. I’ve done that all before.
No, I’m afraid that in the life to come, I’ll have to face much more.

You see, I know I’m at the point in my eternal quest
where the lesson I must learn is how to cope with loneliness.
I wish I didn’t have to, but I know that it must be
or I’ll never hear that still, small voice that speaks inside of me.

But then, you know that! In other lives, I’ve never taken time
to pore through books. To sing a song. To sit and pen a rhyme.
To feel. To want. To ache. To love. To be torn by inner pain.
To be touched by children’s laughter. To dance out in the rain.”

The terse reply? “You’ll do just fine. We’ve had this talk before.”
So we hugged, and then said our goodbyes. And I went off to be born.
But now that I’ve been on this plane for lo, these many years.
I’ve come to understand why I had all those pre-birth fears.

For loneliness and heartache truly are quite hard to face.
But if I want ascension, I know I must embrace
the pain and angst that keeps me searching for a sense of “home” …
or I’d have never heard that still, small voice which helped me write this poem.


Night

Here it is, it’s late at night.
That’s when the visions always come.
That pain, the deep sense of fright
and hopeless loss of faith numbs
the senses. All my regrets,
all the things i’ve left undone …
they’ll fade … yeah right, when it gets
lighter, usually when the sun
breaks. God! Chase these ghouls away!
But they’re back again to haunt
me when night swallows the day,
and with their mouths full of taunt!
Hamlet said,  “to sleep perchance
to dream”? Bullshit! If i  say
what I want, well, fat chance
i’d wish for dreams. No way!
i just want
to sleep…
to find peace …

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Posted by on January 31, 2015 in Poetry

 

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How Would You Know to Look?

As you can see from the website address, I’m using WordPress to host my blog. It’s a relatively nice venue for people like me, who feel like sharing a story. It’s not as intuitive a platform as I’d like to have, but I’ve always been a “what you see is what you get” kind of guy. Someone who’s not interested in a lot of bells and whistles. It’s a place to tell my story and that was pretty much all I was looking for. (I’m sure if I were smarter, or more patient, I’d be able to do a lot more in the way of presentation, but that’s a subject for another time!) ;o)

But that’s really not what this post is about. It’s to let you know a little about some of the other interesting bloggers that I’ve run across over the short time I’ve been posting. And therein lies the one big issue I have with WordPress. There’s no easy way for the general public to browse through the site! Unless you’re registered (presumably to create one of your own), the only two ways you’d know about a blog are: 1) if someone invited you to it; or 2) you happened to find it on a search engine when you were researching a certain topic. Oh yeah, there’s a third option: at the bottom of the main WordPress page, there’s a “Freshly Pressed” link that’ll give you a glimpse at some of the most recent blog posts. But that’s all it is – a glimpse!

Once you’re behind the curtain … once you’ve registered with WordPress (presumably to create your own blog) … your browsing options are significantly expanded. Beyond the “Freshly Pressed” feature I mentioned, we bloggers can do a subject search through all the other thousands of blogs being hosted on the WordPress site. I am presuming here, but I think that option’s available to create a sense of “community” amongst all of us bloggers. We can find others who are telling a similar story, follow them, and post on each other’s sites. It’s certainly helped me realize that I’m not alone in wanting to ditch my current life for a different one!

So I thought I’d take a few minutes and talk about some of the other people and sites I’ve run across behind the WordPress curtain. They’re telling some wonderful stories, offering up great information and providing some thought-provoking (and quite humorous) insight on everyday life.

By the way, I’ve realized two things about the lifestyle I’ve chosen to follow in a few months. First, I’m not alone – I said that before. There are a number of people who’ve decided to go out on the road and share their story.  None of them are doing it for the reason I’ve decided to, but I guess that’s not really important, is it? Second – most of them are a helluva lot younger than I am!  Not that I’m having second thoughts – I just think I have to do a bit more planning throughout the experience than these other folks have to do.

(A word before I write further – I’m not certain, but the links I’m sharing below might have to be approved by the people included in the following list. Hopefully they allow that to happen.)

Man.Earth.Machine is written by a young guy named Jon, who set out from North Carolina last April and has made it across country while living in the back of his converted Toyota Tacoma. He’s on an adventure and the photos he’s shared are proof of how much he’s enjoying himself. His girlfriend Erin has joined him for his latest trek down the Pacific Coast. I am envious of his passion for life (and his youth)! Few words, lots of great pics.

Ellen shares her travel adventure at “Traveling the World Solo“. She’s a 21-year-old Australian who is a registered midwife and has been to ten countries so far.  She has plans to see “Greenland, Iceland, Eastern Europe and the Middle East” … all in 2015! She’s just returned home from South Africa and has offered up some great stories.

The couple who share their story on a blog named “Corporate Vagabonds:The Adventures of Riley and Misha” have ditched their jobs to engage in a “prolonged adventure across the United States of America”. Riley is a former accountant … hey, who says us number-crunchers aren’t capable of non-conformity? So far, they’ve been up and down the west coast and have shared some great stories.

The Traveling Rabbit is where Tamara posts her travel stories. She ditched her job and went on the road back in April and has traveled all over the Pacific Northwest. I especially liked her post “Funny things happen when you don’t have a full length mirror“!

BNomadic is written by a gentleman from India who says he is “a devoted bird-watcher, adventurer and travel enthusiast” who manages “the affairs of a society dedicated to conserve wildlife.” If you’re interested in birding, visit his blog – there are some amazing photos!

If I hadn’t found Kristin’s blog, I might not have discovered a book she included on her summmer reading list – “Vagabonding” by Ralph Potts. Okay, I might have found it, but certainly not this soon! (Potts’ website is now saved in my favorites thanks to her.) Kristin has been out on her journey for three years now and shares her thoughts at “Leave and Explore“. I look forward to reading more of posts.

I really like Lisa’s blog, “Scratching the Itch” … she is a “British 20-something” who travels extensively as a geologist. One thing’s unique about her blog – she engages her visitors by asking a question at the end of each post (and gets some wonderful comments as a result). Amazing photos from across the globe, too.

These are just a few of the folks I’ve found. Please, check them out. I’ve also found some thought-provoking blogs about PTSD, authored by a range of people from therapists to sufferers like me. Frank’s post from yesterday introduced me to some other people who let their pets onto the computer … unless they sneak on like Frank did … to tell stories about their lives (and the humans they put up with). I’m now “following” a number of blogs – I get notified when new posts arrive – and some of those people are now following me! I can only hope to offer up as wonderful a story as they’re sharing!

Now, how would you have been able to find these people if you weren’t registered at WordPress? You probably wouldn’t! You’d be hardpressed to find them on Google … they certainly didn’t come up when I searched “vagabonding”, “ditching corporate life”, “adventure travel,” and the like. I think that’s a shame. And that’s not just vagabonding or travel – there are blogs about everything from coin collecting to moustaches to fashion to astronomy!  If you’ve got an interest, there’s someone else who’s writing a blog about it!

In my opinion, WordPress would be well served if they viewed their services a bit more expansively. Yes, they’re a platform that enables people to tell a story. But they’d do themselves … and their bloggers … a lot more justice if they opened themselves up to become an online library where non-bloggers can be be entertained, amused, educated, amazed and inspired by everyday people sharing their lives. It’d be nice if they opened up the curtain and let other non-bloggers in to find other people who share their interests.  Again, my opinion.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2015 in Musings

 

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Pssst. Frank here …

Hi! This is Frank and I’m doing today’s post. I know my human wrote I don’t “say much” in the byline, but every now and then I have something to say. Today’s one of those days …

Frank after our walk

That’s me, doing what I do best!

My human is a bit ticked off because he woke up this morning and his laptop wasn’t working. And he blames me! Hey, I didn’t even touch it. I usually don’t get up on chairs until he’s sitting down on them because I prefer warmth … and he’s got a really warm lap. Of course, the bed’s another story.  Woof (when I talk to my buddies about my human, I call him “Woof”) tries to keep me out of the bedroom, but he’s not always careful to make sure the door is completely shut, so I’ll nose it open and head on in to catch a few zzzz’s. I mean, if you had a choice between some thin mat with a blanket on it and a nice, warm, soft bed with a comforter, which would you choose? Woof’s busted me a few times but all he does is act tough, shake his head and laugh. Every now and then he makes me get up and come back out by him, but most times he’ll turn around and walk out, leaving me to get back to doing what I do best … sleep!

Anyhow, back to the dead laptop. Like I said, I don’t go near it (except for now – I figured he’d write something about me being a “bad dog”, so I wanted to get to you first and tell you my side of the story). I don’t touch anything unless it’s in my space – and my space is anything that’s head high and lower. Oh, every now and then I might sneak my nose up to see what’s on top of a table. Sometimes I get lucky and find something that tastes good. But I didn’t do that this time.  This time, all I did was chew on a black, snake-looking thing that was coming out of the wall, winding around on the ground close to my bed and then running up to the side of his laptop. I’ve seen it for a while now (actually, it’s been on the ground laying there ever since I came to live with Woof about 5-6 months ago). But last night, when he was busy watching his picture box … some guys were using sticks to push some black thing around a big pond of ice … this thought just, uhhh, just came to me. “I wonder what that would taste like?” Sooooo, I did what any other dog would do. I tasted it! Not much flavor, but it startled the hell out of me when it bit back on my tongue and some sparky things came out of it! So I left it alone after that.

I’ve tasted a few other things while I’ve been here. Things that Woof’s yelled at me about. One time, there was another big snake that I tasted. That one was blue. It stuck out of his laptop and ran across the floor to a box … he called it an “eat her net” cable. Well, it didn’t look like a net, but hey. If someone says “eat” I’m there! Then there was the writing thing, with a black, gooey liquid in it. That tasted horrible and it made a mess all over my face. I had to endure a bath!  Yuuucckkk!  You know what I think? If Woof doesn’t want me eating things, then he should make damned sure that they’re not lying in my space!

Sad Frank

Can you believe what they cut off of me???

Like I said, I’ve been here about 5-6 months. I don’t have much recollection of where I was before then. All I know is that I was out jogging one day and this guy in a truck picked me up and brought me to a big place where there were lots of other dogs. Man, too much noise! Everyone was talking at the same time. A few days later, two women came by, pulled me and a couple of other guys out of our cages (I hate cages, by the way), put us in a truck and brought us to another place with cages. It was okay, except for the one time when they took me out to see a guy in a white coat. I didn’t like him very much. He looked me over, made me open my mouth, stuck this thing in my butt (I told him, “HEY, I don’t swing that way, pal!”), and then put a sharp thing in my neck. But that wasn’t the worst of it.  I took a nap and when I woke up, I felt really sore “down there”. I went to lick myself .. by the way, I know a joke – “Question: Why do dogs lick themselves? Answer: Because they CAN!” Anyhow, I licked myself and … and … THEY HAD CUT MY NUTS OFF! I mean, come on! Seriously? What did I ever do to them??? What am I supposed to do now … audition for the Vienna Dog’s Choir????

After a while, they put me in a bigger cage, with a little house for me. I had a lot of room and they fed me once a day, which was nice because for a few days there I was having to scrounge for food. What was nicer though was that there were quite a few people there, walking by and visiting, looking at me and my friends. I’d go over and check them out, but they’d walk on. Every now and then, they’d pull out another guy from a cage and take him with them. But not me. Hey, I get it … I’m older … no cute “puppy breath”, but geesh!

I was there for a while. But then one day, Woof came by. He stopped and spent a lot of time there on the other side of the fence. I came over, stood up on it and smiled at him because he was the first one that really showed me any attention. He stayed for a while, then left. So, like usual, I just went back over to my house, figuring he was going to take one of my friends with him. But a little while later, he came back over! Then he called me to come back to the fence and asked me a question: “Do you wanna come home with me, buddy?” So I stood up again, wagged my tail (humans like that) and smiled at him again. Like Woof said, I don’t say much – and when I do, I usually let my tail do most of my talking. He stood up, called one of the ladies over and they took me out of the cage. And I went for a ride with him!

We got in the car … it seemed like we were in it for quite a while … and he kept calling me different, weird names. “Jim. Otto. Dewey.” Quite frankly, I thought he was a bit crazy and was talking to some imaginary friends, so I just kept my head down and stared at nothing in particular. But then I realized he was talking to me! He then said, “Frank!” and I thought, “Frank? Hmmm, that’s not bad. Frank … a real hot dog!” I looked up at him and wagged my tail again. “You like that name? Frank?,” he said. I was thinking, “Hey, call me anything but late for dinner,” but he wouldn’t have understood me if I told him that in “dog,” so I just wagged my tail. Again. He started back in with the name game. “George. Ringo. Woody.” After a while, he said, “Frank?” again, so I looked at him once more and wagged my tail. Again (Sometimes I think he’s a little slow on the up-take.)  “Okay,” Woof said, “Frank it is!” And he’s been calling me that ever since!

IMG_20140724_170648_139

Woof’s been sad lately … and that makes me sad!

I like it here. Woof’s been pretty good to me. He feeds me (I especially like something he call’s a “Kid’s Meal” that he gets from some lady in a window every now and then. I don’t get those as much as I like, but what are you gonna do, right?) He lets me sleep in bed with him. He knows I’m afraid of loud noises, like when it rains. He bought me this ridiculous looking “thing” that he makes me wear when it looks like rain. But then again, it does make me feel more safe and secure when the noise happens.

Woof takes me for walks too … but not as much as I like. He’s also stopped playing around with me, tossing my duck and my woolly bone (which I’m not really fond of because it makes a noise when I bite into it. Scared the shit out me the first time I tried it! But I digress …) He’s been kind of sad lately, something that is easy for me to tell because it gives off this “aura” that I can sense. He’ll sit in a chair, not doing anything. So I try to cheer him up. I’ll jump up in his lap and lick him to try and get him to snap out of it …  and it does for a while.  But then he just seems to go back into being sad. And I hate that! It makes me sad to see him like that. I try real hard to make him feel better, but lately it just hasn’t seemed to be enough.

I remember that he used to take me to a big open field with a lake. We went there quite a bit when it was warmer. He used to laugh when I’d lay down in that lake. As an aside, do you know how hot it is in the summer where we live??? If you had a built-in fur coat … in THAT heat … trust me! You’d be laying in a lake, too! We don’t go there anymore, though. He hasn’t gone anywhere for quite a while.

Frank in the water

I LOVE going to the park with the lake!

But Woof says that’s gonna change.  A couple of week’s ago, he seemed like he was starting to be less sad. He’s been doing something he calls “planning”. And he’s told me we’re going on a big trip pretty soon. I think I’m up for that, especially since he seems a little happier these days. He’s told me that we’re gonna be “on the road”. I just tell him, “that’s great, but watch out for cars, will ya?”

So that’s it for now – I hear Woof coming back and I don’t want to let on that I’ve been typing. He sees that?  He may think that if I can type, then I can wash dishes or something. He keeps saying, “If you only had opposable thumbs, you might be able to help out around here and earn your keep!” Between you and me, though, I’d much rather sleep!  What’s a thumb, anyhow???

This has been fun … I might do it again some time, but I’ll have to wait until he’s not around. Take care.

 

(Oh yeah… Woof, if you read this after it’s posted?  TAKE ME TO THE DAMN PARK!!!!)

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2015 in Frank Speaks

 

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Budget (Making Something Out of Nothing …)

Okay, so here’s the deal with the budget …

On my “About” page, I wrote that I wanted to to cover monthly living expenses using only my social security. At the time, I hadn’t firmed up plans for the first year on the road and quite frankly, I didn’t know if that was doable. Well, as of yesterday, I’ve completed my planning through mid-March. Let’s see how realistic a goal that was:

I broke the budget down into the following areas:

  • Campsite / motel fees
  • Auto expenses (gas and basic maintenance i.e. oil changes, wiper replacement, filters, washer fluid, etc)
  • Fuel and energy costs (heating, cooking, etc)
  • Connectivity (cell phone, Skype, Hulu, Office 365, etc)
  • Groceries
  • Subscriptions (motor club, Escapees, Costco, Amazon Prime, etc.)
  • Entertainment and miscellaneous

Here are how things are shaping up for the first 9 months of vagabonding:

Campsite / motel fees

Camping fees

Campsite fees are pretty good for 2015. 2016? Not so much.

I’ve got a good handle on these expenses through the middle of March 2016 since I’ve picked out all my spots and have made most of the reservations. The only things I haven’t booked yet are two campsites (which will be taken care of the beginning of next week) and a few motels where the trip between campsites is longer than I wanted to drive in one day. For the first nine months, the average cost per night will be about $16.50 or around $500 a month. That’s pretty good. I’ll have paid about $1,200 up front for deposits on the 2015 campsite visits, but will have to continue laying down deposits on future campsites as I go along. My budget assumes that after June, I’ll have to pay about $150 every month for deposits on future campsite visits. So from a cash standpoint, those two will wash out this year. (Next year? I’ll get to that.)

Auto expenses

I’ve calculated mileage from campsite to campsite and it comes to about 4,600 miles. I’ve added an average of 500 miles/month for other driving (weekly grocery shopping, the occasional “touristy” visit, etc) for a total of about 9,200 miles. I’m estimating the Azera’s gas mileage at 18 MPG in the flatlands and 16 MPG in mountainous areas and have used $2.75/gallon for pricing. That works out to about $160 / month. Add $100 for car insurance and $40 for basic maintenance – that’s $300 month for my car.

Fuel and energy costs

A mini-propane tank

This little tank stands 13 inches high and holds 2.5 gallons of propane

For the first nine months, I won’t have to use my generator. I’m still going to bring it along just in case there’s a problem somewhere down the road. The budget is based on using propane heat this winter even though the campsites provide electricity. I’m buying two small propane tanks (capacity 11 lbs – about 2.5 gallons of propane per tank). One tank is the equivalent of about 10 of the small camping canisters typically used on a Coleman stove and provides approximately 250,000 BTU’s.  That’ll be enough to cook two meals a day for two weeks. The propane heater will operate for about 60 hours per canister, too. I’ll use one tank for meals – the other tank will only be used during winter to power the heater.

Based on the above, I’m budgeting two fill-ups per month during the summer (for cooking) and an additional 2-4 fill-ups during the winter (for heat) at $12.50 per fillup.

Electric is included in the campsite costs except for two locations where I’ll be for a total of 2+ months and I’ve added $35/month average to cover that cost. It’ll be used to power the Foreman grill, the laptop and other miscellaneous gear … it’ll also be used for backup heat.

The other big cost is firewood. And that could get expensive. A $5 bundle of firewood might light a campfire for a couple of hours a night. I’m not going to be Grizzly Adams here, so I’ve budgeted 3 campfires / week, which is probably on the high side.

Based on all of the above, I’ve estimated that my fuel costs are going to run about $100/month during the summer, $150/month in the fall and $200/month during winter. Since I”ll have the electric heater, I think these are really conservative numbers. (Let me know if you’d like more info on how I ran the calculations … I’ll be glad to give them to you.)

Connectivity

I’m upping my cell phone plan to provide 3GB of data once I’m on the road. Most of the camps have Wifi, but I don’t know how good it’s going to be, so I might have to upload photos to the blog via phone. I’ll also keep my Skype number as well as my subscription to Office 365. Oh yeah, then there’s my low-tech connectivity … it’ll cost about $8/month for my mail forwarding service. That all adds up to $145/month.

Data usage is one area I’m going to have to look at once I get on the road. I’ve realized that I’m not going to be able to watch Red Sox games on the road (unless the camp I’m in is going to offer cable hookups and they happen to be on). So in order to get my Red Sox fix, I’ve decided to buy a SiriusXM boom box along with an annual “All Access” package that will let me listen to any MLB, NHL, NBA or NFL game. (See “Subscriptions” below).

Groceries

The Grizzly 40

The Grizzly 40 is even designed to withstand bear attacks!

This is where I’ve not been very scientific in the budget. I’m going with $400/month to cover food, miscellaneous paper products, ice and other sundry items. Oh yeah, chew sticks. Frank reminded me not to forget the chew sticks!

I’m investing in a high-end cooler- the Grizzly 40, which should help quite a bit. It’ll keep ice for over 6 days. (I think I said in another post that it would keep 9-10 days but that’s not right. I’ve looked at a number of coolers and got mixed up on which one was chosen.) Its inside dimensions are 18″x11″x12″. Get out your tape measure – that’s a big cooler! Even with ice, it should hold 4-5 chicken breasts, 4-5 pounds of meat, a carton of eggs, some milk and butter … certainly enough space to cool a week’s worth of food.. I wanted something like this so that I only had to go shopping once a week and avoid paying “convenience store prices”.

Can I take care of Frank and my needs on $100/week? I’m pretty sure we can. It’ll take some planning (and me doing a better job with my diet), but that’s what I’m going to go with right now.

Annual Subscriptions

These include memberships to Costco, Amazon Prime, AARP, and AAA auto club. It also includes a membership in Escapees RV club, the company that’s allowing me to use their address to set up domicile in Texas. I’m going to buy a subscription to SiriusXM Radio, too.  This will provide entertainment *cough* (Red Sox radio) *cough* without using up bandwidth. The Amazon Prime membership will enable me to stream any of their “Prime” videos at no additional charge. I don’t know how well that’s going to work, but I’ll figure that out within the first month or so. The total for all of these is $575 / year.

Miscellaneous

I’ve thrown in a baseline of $100/month for miscellaneous stuff. It’s not a lot, but then, I’m not planning on spending a lot. A new box of AA batteries from Costco here and there. Bait. Frank may find a collie and want to treat her to a bowl of Alpo or something. He’s going to need his rabies shots, too. Oh yeah, I’ve upped that monthly allotment by $200/month for the summer as well. Maybe Frank and I will visit a place with an entrance fee, or I might see a package of fishing flies I’d like to try out. And since I’ll be in Colorado, I plan on buying a few “edibles” here and there (you know what they say … “When in Colorado, do as the Coloradans do!”).

Total

$ 4,775 – campsite / motel fees
$ 2,725 – auto expenses
$ 1,375 – fuel and energy costs
$ 1,300 – connectivity
$ 3,600 – groceries
$    575 – subscriptions
$ 1,450 – entertainment and miscellaneous

$15,800 – grand total … which compares to ….

$15,800 – Monthly social security benefits at $1,760/month.  That wasn’t a plug.  Just a REALLY good guess!

So, that does it. Assuming I keep to this budget, I’ve reached my goal … except …

Medical

Healthcare!

Healthcare costs – Yuck!

I’ve not included anything in here for insurance or medical expenses. Right now, monthly health insurance is running $175, but it’s a South Carolina plan. I’ll have to convert it to a Texas plan once I set up domicile there. And even so, most of the plans available through the healthcare.gov website are HMO’s and PPO’s which won’t give me much benefit when I’m on the road. So I’ve decided that I won’t buy health insurance for the last half of 2015 and instead pay the $800 tax penalty I’ll incur as a result. However, that will change for 2016.

In 2016, my only income will be from Social Security and whatever I take out of my IRA. Based on that, I’ll qualify for a hefty premium reduction.

I did some research and discovered that Blue Cross … the company providing insurance through the Texas Healthcare exchange … offers a multi-state plan which includes $40 copays across the country (so long as I go to a doctor that is part of the national Blue Cross network). It has a $4,750 deductible but after that’s used up, the plan would pay 100% of my medical expenses.

The cost? $4,200 / year, which would have to come out of my nest egg. Unless I come up with some other income, that alone will exhaust my savings in about 12 years. In all honesty, I don’t plan on living that long, but who knows? So, I’m going to have to figure out how to make some money on the road.

I have some fantasy scenarios. They include being able to somehow make money off this blog at some point, whether it’s commissions from camping equipment sales via links to Amazon, discounts for campsite reviews, or figuring out some premium content I could offer for a small subscription price. I’ve even fantasized about being able to sell some of my photography, whether it’s at flea markets I go to or some other means. But I’ll have to figure out something for the long haul.

After February 2016 …

It gets even bleaker … at least for 2016. If I go through with my plans to head back through the northeast and back down south to Florida for the winter, I’m going to see my campground fees go up, probably by as much as $350/month! Those costs won’t be offset by penny-pinching in other areas of the budget, and my Social Security COLA adjustment will only cover about 10% of the increase! So that just puts added pressure on figuring out some way to make money on the road.

It’s not going to stop me from moving forward, but it means I’m going to have to start thinking about what I can do to bring in about $700/month beginning next year. Either that, or I’ll have to curtail my travel plans and/or confine them to a smaller region of the country. I’m not ready to do that just yet.

I guess that’s progress, though. A month ago, I was planning on spending my nest egg and then walking into the ocean when I ran out of money. Now I’m talking about living for a while. Who knows … maybe I’ll get out on the road, start feeling better and then decide to take on some small consulting gigs here and there again. But first things first.

I don’t know what I’m going to write about tomorrow. I’m about done with the planning and I’ve made pretty much all my reservations. But I’ll figure something out!

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2015 in Planning

 

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Planning Update

So I filed for Social Security yesterday. It’s a pretty simple process when you use the on-line application. They verify your identity by asking you to confirm certain information on your credit report via a multiple choice questionnaire (i.e., “which of the following streets did you live on at one time in your life?”, or “with which of these lenders did you have an auto loan in the past?”). I’m supposed to get a call from a Social Security Administration staff member within the next two weeks to finalize the process. Of course the down-side is that I have to go ahead and figure out my income taxes for 2014. I’m a procrastinator, which means I’m going to have to do this about six months earlier than what’s normal for me. Don’t do anything today that you can put off until tomorrow, right?

I got my 401(k) money transferred over to a self-managed IRA account, too. Once the funds clear, which will be later this week, I’ll be able to draw down some money to begin the prep work for the road. First, the car – I’ll need some new tires and replace a spare that was lost somewhere along the way. My buddy Larry suggested I get the timing belt replaced, so I looked into that and got some good news.  The Azera doesn’t have one!  It uses timing chains that never need replacing, so that’s going to help stretch the budget I had for car prep.

I’ll then see if there’s someone in the area that can install the rack mounting on the roof and show me how to mount the carrier rack I’ve chosen – the Kuat Vagabond X. Actually, it wasn’t like I had a lot of options – it was the only one I could find that: first, was long enough to carry the tent; and second, was “approved” for my Hyundai Azera. I’m sort of curious to see what impact it’s going to have on my gas mileage. The Rack Attack contact (say that out loud … it sounds really funny!) said it’d probably be around a 20-25% reduction. I get 25MPG on the highway … I did my budget based on 18 MPG in flatland areas and 16 MPG for mountain regions, so I should be okay, even if the hit is on the high side. I wish that I could find a cargo bag to fit it (they don’t make one) instead of just going out and getting a tarp, but even that should be okay – just a matter of doing a good “tucking” job. And rather than use bungee cords, I’m going to use rope to tie everything down along with these carabiners I found.  I figure that, along with a double half-hitch knot will do the trick. (I’m using another version of these carbiners as tent-rope tighteners, too.) The stuff I’m planning on putting up on the roof will weight about 140 lbs … the rack can handle up to 160 … so again, I should be okay (knock on wood).

I had budgeted $1,200 for car maintenance and repair (I need a door adjusted so a light doesn’t keep coming on), another $800 for the spare wheel and 5 tires; and $1,000 for the roof system … I hope the money I’m saving on the timing belt won’t be eaten up on other repairs I’ve not counted on.

I priced out my supplies list and put it into two different categories: things I really need and things I want to take. Of course the “really need” is probably a bit of an overstatement. Do I really “need” a 10×14 tent? Probably not, but if I’m going to be living in it for a few years, I want to be comfortable. Okay, so maybe the first category should be named “things I really need to live comfortably”. The “want” list includes some extra fishing rods, reels and tackle; a camera that’s a little beyond the typical beginner’s one; a higher end cooler that’ll keep ice for up to a week … those type of things. The “need” list came to about $2,500. The “want” list was $1,600.  Add that to the car-related stuff, and the total up-front cost comes to $7,100. Before I started, I made a $7,500 guesstimate, so I “guess” that was pretty good! :o)

I got an email from an old … strike that … long time friend from high school up in New Jersey the other day. As an aside, I was blessed with two sets of school friends. The school I attended in New Jersey was really small and the classmates tight-knit. In 2001, I was able to rekindle a lot of friendships when I moved back to New Jersey, too. My other set of friends are from Dallas, where I graduated after moving there in 1968. Facebook has served me well in keeping all those friendships alive. (I just hate the freaking ads, and the fact that they link to spyware that knows where you’ve been so they can show you what “they” think are pertinent ads … but then they don’t know that you’ve already bought what you were searching for and then … oops. I’ll stop now!)   :o)

No recliners allowed

My campsites will be “Recliner Free Zones”!

Anyhow, Donna’s been very supportive over the past few months since moving to Charleston. She’s checked in from time to time, knowing that I’ve been living through the “blackness”. (Other friends … Jeanie, Eric and  Mike are a few that come to mind … have also done the check-in thing and I am very grateful for all of them.)  Anyhow, in Donna’s email, she expressed hope that I was doing better, coming out of the holiday season when I was near-suicidal. I think I am. I’ve at least been able to get out of the recliner and get my mind active relative to all the research and planning efforts. But then I started to ponder … “What do I hope to accomplish by making this radical change in lifestyle?” So I made a list of changes that I hoped would happen just by the nature of what I was going to do, and included it in my response:

  • I won’t be in a messy house that I can’t bring myself to clean – I’ll have to keep my tent uncluttered because I’ll have to pick it up every few weeks to move on.
  • I won’t be sitting here behind four walls, unable to get out. I’ll have to be out because I’ll have nowhere else to go. No place to hole up in.
  • I won’t be on the computer as much. Won’t be watching TV, so I won’t get enraged by politics. Hopefully some of the people I meet will re-instill a fragment of faith  in humanity that I’ve lost. For the most part, I’ve dealt with some very nice people in doing my planning efforts.
  • I won’t be eating like I have been. Won’t be much “take out” in what I’m planning to do. I’ll be cooking either on my electric George Foreman grill or a propane stove. Won’t have a freezer, so no ice cream, frozen French fries, etc. I’ll be somewhat forced to eat better.
  • I won’t have a recliner. Won’t be sitting there all day with Frank on my lap. I’ll be forced to be outside, taking walks, doing some fishing (Frank’s been reading up on some of the dog parks in areas we’ll be visiting and has his list prepared as well). Then there’s the photography, too.
  • I won’t be staying up late. Won’t have TV to watch. Most of the places I’ve chosen have Wi-Fi, but they limit what you can video-stream, so I won’t be watching much in the way of movies or Hulu on the laptop, either. I’ll be going to sleep.

So I guess there is some method to my madness – if I’m not able to make certain changes based on “will”, they’ll certainly happen just because of the change in circumstance! Can’t get out of the recliner? Then remove it from your life!  Eat too much? Okay, get rid of the fridge! Can’t get out of the apartment? Okay, get rid of the apartment!?! I wish I had whatever it was that’s “missing” … that “it” which would enable me to just make the change where I’m at and not have to resort to drastic measures. But I don’t, and I’m just too tired of going through another round of therapy that only seems to be a series of forward and backward steps.

But enough of that. Tomorrow, Perhaps I might share my budget for the journey. I think Ive got that pretty well set, too. Again, knock on wood! Again!

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2015 in Planning

 

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A Nomad’s Past … The Second-to-Last Chapter

Continuing on with the story …

So I had just gotten my first consulting gig. It turned out pretty well – I stayed there for the six months and more, finishing the initial project in less time than I had projected and was taking on a few more with the same firm. In the middle of it, I got a call out of the blue from another guy in the industry … someone I knew in passing as we had only met a couple of times at trade shows. “Jeff, I heard what about what you’re doing for Abe,” and then dead silence. I hadn’t realized anyone else knew. I’ve never been one to “schmooze”, or let people know a lot about my business (even though yes, I’ve started a blog). I hesitated a bit and acknowledged that Abe had asked me to look at what was going on in his business. Almost apologetically, I tried to minimize the whole thing. Quite unexpectedly to me, Sandy then said, “Well, would you be interested in coming over here to Menlo and doing the same thing for me?” And that was my second client!

I had a few more clients here and there for the next year or so. It was tough getting them beyond word of mouth because, like I said, I’m not a schmoozer. I’ve never been comfortable selling myself. But the word of mouth approach was working. I was working full-time and had a six-figure income. This meant I could afford more vacations. More road trips, but they never happened, because my anxiety level wouldn’t let me take them. Since my work was client-based, I was afraid that if I took time off, I’d lose clients … and I couldn’t afford that. Talk about a vicious circle!

Then I picked up a client that was entirely out of the norm for me … a sound production studio. Not the type that records bands – they produced commercials along with scoring corporate video and audio presentations. I wrote a business plan for him, but then decided to get more involved because I saw it as an opportunity to feed my creative side. I had done a lot of writing in the past, but not a lot of it was very creative. Well, it turned out I was pretty good at it! I started writing scripts for promotional videos. Even directed a few. We got involved in developing sound for educational CD-ROMs. I even wrote a rap piece that taught kids the geometry of triangles – I think that was one of my favorites!

I’m a cool little triangle. Hey, take a look at me!
I got three sides, three angles and three vertices.

If I’m right, I’ve got an angle that’s 90 degrees,
and my longest sides a “hypotenuse”. You can find my length with ease.
(say it loud)
A-squared plus B-squared equals C-squared!

If I have two angles that have the same degrees
and two sides that are the same length, I’m called “Isosceles”
(say it again)
Two sides .. the same … ISOSCELES

If I’m equilateral, then all sides are the same
You can find me just ’bout anywhere, but I go by different names
(can you find me?)
Street signs. Airplane Wings. Christ-mas TREES!

I’m a cool little triangle. Cooooool.

There was one problem. We were getting a lot of recognition for our work, but weren’t being monetarily rewarded to the same degree. It was feeding my creative side, but not much else. My income dropped by about 80% and after two years of that, I had to give it up. I went back to working in the accounting stuff and once again was hating what I was doing. Not only that, but I felt like a failure for not being able to make the production studio do better than it did. I finally went to work for one of my new clients, a software development company. Great money, but my anxiety and depression increased by about the same amount as the paycheck. I went back into therapy, but wasn’t getting much benefit from it. I finally had what was essentially a breakdown.

All of this took a tremendous toll on me, my health (I gained about 150 lbs in a very short time) and my marriage to Kacy, which suffered immensely while this was all going on. We divorced, sold the house, and I gave most of the proceeds to my ex, keeping about $20k for myself to live on while I figured out what I was going to do. I knew I couldn’t go back to numbers. Needless to say, I wasn’t taking many road trips. It had been 10 years since that last vacation tour of the western United States.

I moved to a little town on the Pacific coast, Aptos, about an hour’s drive from San Jose. I holed myself up in a little condo. That was my first experience with cutting myself off from everything, something I’ve since discovered is a classic symptom of complex PTSD. I loved the ocean, and despite being only two blocks away, I couldn’t bring myself to open the door and walk down to it! I let things go … didn’t clean the place, only washed dishes when I needed a clean plate, left garbage all over the place and numbed myself out on either TV or the Internet. I have to say that if it weren’t for my buddy Larry (who I’ve mentioned elsewhere in the blog), I don’t know that I would have made it. He had been calling me on the phone and I wasn’t answering, so he took it upon himself to drive down from the San Jose area and knock on the door. I opened it, saw him, and just broke down crying. He took one look at the place, looked at me, and simply said, “Let’s clean up and then let’s go play some cribbage down at the beach.”

Everyone needs a “Larry”. If you have one, you’re lucky. I know I was … and still am!

Larry helped me break the inertia. I wound up going back into therapy … again. It helped me figure out that if I was going to make it, I had to feed the creative side of me. So I went back to school to learn Web programming and was able to get a job with WebMD. My background was ideal  because they were looking for someone with programming, creative AND business skills. The job was to sit between the hard-core coders and the design group … someone who would be able to integrate design with programming.

I loved it! For the first time in my life, I enjoyed what I was doing and I was making great money at the same time! It was feeding my creative side. And I learned that you can be good with figures and do something besides accounting. After all, math and programming are both based on logic and one skill complemented the other. I bought my first “me” car … a 1999 Mustang convertible. And rather than sit in traffic for the 90 minute “rush” hour commute from Aptos to San Jose (why they call it “rush hour” when everyone is just sitting there is something I’ve never understood), I took an old, winding 2-lane mountain road to work. It took about the same amount of time, but it was clear sailing the whole way. My anxiety was dropping and it had been almost  two years since Larry had found me a wreck in my condo.

Then came August 28, 2001. It was a Tuesday. Got to work and found I had a calendar item in Outlook that said there was a company-wide meeting at 10:00am. Tried to get in touch with someone in the Atlanta office about a project I was working on, but there was no answer at her phone. When I got to the meeting I discovered why. WebMD had decided to signficantly cut back their Web application work. Along with about 1,200 other people in Santa Clara and Atlanta, I had been laid off! It was the last thing I was thinking would happen.

Earlier in the year, I had started up a long distance relationship with an old high-school friend back in New Jersey. The job market in Silicon Valley wasn’t all that great, so I decided to move back across country. I sold everything off, packed up what little I had left in my Mustang and headed down Interstate 80 for the nearly 3,000 mile drive. It was the first time I had gone back on the road in a long time and the trip was great!

Once in New Jersey, I discovered the job market wasn’t any better than the one I had left in San Jose. It took about 6 months, but I finally found a job with a small network management company that was interested in expanding its web development services. I took almost a $40k cut in salary, but at least I was working. The relationship didn’t however, and I was back to focusing everything on the job. Because of my background, the owner started involving me more in the “business” side of things. It got to the point where I was taken completely out of the web work. Throughout all of it, I was dealing with massive anxiety and a deepening depression.

But at least I was driving! One of my passions is baseball. I started taking long weekends and going to baseball games all around the eastern part of the country. Montreal (before the Expos became the Washington Nationals), Toronto, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Baltimore and of course my beloved Fenway Park in Boston. One of my weekend trips involved three cities – I drove to Detroit on Thursday and caught a Tigers game the next night. On Saturday, I saw the Pirates play the Astros in Pittsburgh and then caught a Sunday afternoon game in Philadelphia. It was a great diversion, but it wasn’t much relief from the depression I was suffering from.  As an aside, that Mustang had 205,000 miles on it when I sold it to a co-worker.  I bought a Hyundai Azera … it’s really comfortable for a big guy like me, but in the eight years I’ve had it, I’ve put less than 80,000 miles on it.  That’ll give you an idea as to how far away I’ve been from the road!

I met a woman trough Match.com and we started a relationship, but after the newness of the relationship wore off, my mood was back to where it was. My performance at work was deteriorating and I started experiencing blackouts at my desk. I’d spend days where I would work, but at the end of the day I didn’t know what I had done. It was at this point that I met the therapist who first diagnosed me with complex-PTSD. We worked together for almost two years and while I was making progress, it wasn’t fast enough to save my job or my relationship. When both ended, I left. I couldn’t afford to stay in New Jersey with its high rents, so on a whim, I moved to Charleston, SC. Low rents, plus it was next to the ocean. I started up my consulting again. I was able to get work through a couple of online freelance sites, but each job has been more difficult to complete. I found Frank, at the Hilton Head Humane Society. Frank has been an incredible friend, but he hasn’t been able to lift me out of the pit I find myself back in as I finish this 3-part biography.

I’ve not worked in the last two months except to complete a few projects I’ve had on my plate. I’ve not left the apartment for almost half that time, except for two trips to the grocery store (and to let Frank do his business). I’ve ended a relationship with one of my two regular clients and will be ending the other one shortly. I’ve decided the only way to get myself out of the pit … the “blackness” … is to do something drastic. That’s why I’m going on the road. I have felt my mood lift considerably as I’ve undertaken my planning efforts – funny, I’m not able to work, and yet one of the friends I’ve shared this blog with equated all the planning I’ve been doing to “work”. I don’t see it that way. I see it as a potential for release and my last chance to find peace.  I labeled this post “The Second-to-Last Chapter”. The last chapter is going to be my life back on the road with Frank. And I intend to document our travels. Hopefully you’ll get to see a little bit more of the country … maybe some places you wouldn’t have otherwise seen … with my help.

And there you have it. I know the bio’s taken a bit of a dark turn from where it started two days ago (I noticed as I was about to post it that there are no pictures – what kind of pictures could I put on a page like this, right?).  But that’s where I am. Once this page is posted, I’m going to refrain from any other ones that are filled with darkness. I have to leave this all behind!

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Musings

 

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A Nomad’s Past … Page 2

Picking up from where I left off yesterday …

I had been recruited to move to Denver and join the staff of Adventure Unlimited as their Business Manager. A/U is an international youth group with chapters around the globe. They also had a ranch nestled at the base of the Collegiate range of the Rocky Mountains. The name of the range was derived from the three main mountains that looked down over the ranch – Mount Harvard, Mount Princeton and Mount Yale (whoever named them wasn’t much into football I suppose … otherwise one of them might have been named “Mount LSU!”) We offered a variety of camping, riding and mountaineering programs during the summer which brought in kids from elementary school through high school. And for a couple of weeks in December, they’d host families who were coming in to ski.

I left for Denver. Wendy stayed behind in Dallas. It was March and she still had a couple of months to go before the semester ended. (In retrospect, our short marriage would have been even shorter if we hadn’t spent a lot of time apart. When we were together, things weren’t so great. But I digress …). I found an apartment, moved our stuff in and immediately went on the road. Actually I hit the airports, flying in to different chapters to help them set up their books and the like. For a while, I was traveling a couple of weeks a month and I hated it. Going from airport to hotel to restaurant to conference room to airport wasn’t anywhere near as much fun as flying along the highway seeing the sights!

mount princeton

Mount Princeton, as viewed from Highway 285

What I did like was the drive from Denver to the ranches. During the summer months, I’d usually drive down 3 times a month to check in on how things were going in the office. It’s probably the best commute I’ve ever had – three hours of solitude, driving on Highway 285 through the forest that, at a bend in the road, would suddenly break out into a high altitude plain that stretched as far as the eye could see. It was magnificent! I got into a habit of listening to Bach on the Subaru’s cassette player. My favorite piece was his Toccata and Fugue in D Minor because it seemed to match the majesty of the scenery. I used to imagine him gaining inspiration as he walked through the German forests, then returning to write this particular piece. That was an easy mental image to conjure as I drove through the Rockies!

I worked at A/U for just under two years. First off, I’ve never liked “routine”. I had spent most of the first year working on project-related things, and that kept me going. I secured their first sales and property tax exemptions as a not-for-profit organization. I set up a relatively detailed budget format for them to use in the annual plan. I created a system for forecasting the camp enrollment (which, considering it was “pre-PC”, was pretty damned accurate!). But after that stuff was done, I realized I really wasn’t cut out to simply sit in an office and manage the accounting. The second thing was money. To this day, not-for-profits are notorious for their inability to offer salaries that are competitive with the private sector I simply couldn’t afford to continue going on the salary I was making.

By this time, Wendy had finished school and did not want to stay in Denver. Her mother had moved to San Francisco. After visiting her for a week, we decided to move there. Once again, we separated – in May 1979, she went to stay with her mom and look for a job while I stayed behind in Denver to give notice and wait for her to let me know she had found a job. I didn’t join her until October.

We wound up in San Jose, about an hour south of San Francisco. I took a job as a staff accountant at Western Microwave. Western was a small, publicly-held defense electronics company. Wendy was working nearby, in the public relations department of National Semiconductor By this time, I had discarded my “hippie”-ness. Actually, I had just discarded the first two letters. I had switched from “hippie” to “yuppie”!

silicon valley

Silicon Valley – to borrow from Shawn Mullins, “Seems like everyone’s got a (business) plan, kind of like Nashville, with a tan”

Wendy and I divorced soon after. In retrospect, we were young and stupid, and only one of us was “in love”. But I know I presented a lot of difficulty for her. I had a public persona of this outgoing, jovial, all-American guy. But in private, I was very withdrawn, moody and brooding. My “black” periods began before she and I had met. I would go through long periods of deep depression, questioning where I / we were going, and simply not adding a lot of happiness to our lives. And here’s where I break the promise I mentioned yesterday about not delving too far into the reason for my “complex PTSD” diagnosis years later: I had suffered tremendous physical abuse growing up. For about 10-11 years, I was the stereotypical “abused kid”. For six or seven of those years, I was beaten three or four times a week. With fists, belts, broomhandles, hoses … whatever was handy. Was stabbed once. Cigarette and scalding water torture. I wish I could say that I’ve overcome its impact on my psyche, but I’d be lying. It’s become an underlying theme of my life and the reason I’ve gone through multiple periods of therapy that each lasted years. Anyhow, enough of that!

I wasn’t out on the road that much during these years. During and after the divorce, I put all my energy into work. My driving was limited to day trips to Santa Cruz and San Francisco. Almost immediately after the divorce, I started dating a gal that worked for me, Kacy. We kept it quiet for a few months until we decided to get married. I just didn’t like the idea of being alone, I guess.

Kacy stopped working about a year after we got married. I stayed on at Western for about eight years … got promoted and eventually became CFO.  But the routine was driving me crazy. I realized … too late … that I hated my chosen field of work. I was able to move out of the accounting responsibilities for a while, taking over operations for about 8 months. But they wound up firing the guy who replaced me and put me back in as CFO. (I wonder how many people work their entire lives in jobs they don’t really like.) It was during this time that I had my first experience “in therapy”. I was diagnosed as a “Type A” personality, driven by an innate belief that everything I did had to be perfect. My particular brand of “crazy” had taken me to the point of being unable to make decisions. I’d second-guess myself to the point where I was nearly frozen! Therapy helped enough for me to keep working, but the unhappiness never fully went away.  OCD stuff had developed … I’d shut off the light in my office, lock the door, and then have to unlock it to make sure I had turned off the lights.  And there were days I’d have to repeat that 2 or 3 times! Pretty crazy, right?  That insanity was offset by periods of brilliance.  My co-workers thought I was some sort of genius, coming to me with all sorts of problems expecting an answer. On the other side of the desk, I’d be praying they didn’t find out I was a fraud … at least that’s how I felt.  But I’d come up with an answer and it’d work.  They’d walk off thinking I could solve any problem and I’d wall myself up behind my office door, heaving a big sigh of relief that my true self hadn’t been discovered.

The biggest benefit to going through all of this was that I got three weeks of vacation. Kacy and I took a lot of road trips and these trips were about my only joy. In 1986, we toured the Pacific Northwest and visited Vancouver for Expo. It was a great trip, with one exception. While in Washington, I discovered Ranier cherries. After tasting them, I decided to bring about 20 pounds of them back home to San Jose to share with friends and family. It was a great idea … until they were confiscated when we went through an inspection station at the California border! I never hated a fruit fly until that moment!

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe, south shore … a beautiful place in the summer

We also took frequent trips up to Lake Tahoe, where the family had a little cabin about 10 miles from the Nevada border. We’d celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas up there, but I enjoyed the summer months a lot more. The lake is simply gorgeous! Kacy would drive up with her parents during the day and I’d drive up by myself after work. I never told her, but I much preferred the trip by myself. There was just something about doing it alone that I liked. No conversations. No “how was your day?” Complete solitude! About the only time I had for “me” was in the car and I didn’t want to give that up. (That’s one of the reasons why I’ve rebelled at having a cell phone. I don’t want to be reached in the car. Just leave me alone! I know I’ll have to have one once I set out on my new lifestyle, but I have to tell you that it’s going to off while I’m in the car!)

In late 1986, I was recruited by another firm in the same industry. I still had the executive perks though – long vacations accompanied by high levels of anxiety, stress and the ensuing depression! The next summer, we did a trip to the Grand Canyon and toured southern Utah. And in 1988, I had one of the best road trips of my adult life – three weeks, doing a circuit from San Jose; to Dallas (to visit my parents); back up to Denver; through Utah and Nevada; a stop at the cabin in Tahoe; and then finally back to San Jose. Kacy was in charge of the camera. We did this little thing where we’d stop and take a photo of one of us in front of the “Welcome to [fill in name of state here]” signs as we’d go from state to state. She’d then put that photo in the album, followed by whatever photos had been taken while in that state. We made a pretty funny discovery after we got home and developed the pictures. The photo of the “Welcome to Oklahoma” sign was immediately followed by the “Welcome to Kansas” photo! I guess there just wasn’t anything all that interesting in Oklahoma! ;o)

The worst part of all these trips was coming home. Back to routine. Back to a job that I hated. Back to periods where I was unable to express any creativity (you’ll see more of that in the next episode). I know that a number of people experience a letdown after coming back from vacations. But my post-vacation blues were more like falling back into a crevasse!

By this time, the defense industry was going through major changes and the company I worked for, Time Microwave, wasn’t doing too well. And it had an even bigger impact on my stress levels and mood. I couldn’t sleep, had incredible anxiety and felt the weight of the world. I felt responsible for the lack of success we were facing (as if I could have stopped the Berlin wall from coming down, right?) The industry was consolidating and we began looking for a buyer. Along with two other guys, I tried to engineer a leveraged buyout of the company, thinking that the three of us would have a better chance of making the company work without the guy who was President and his Board of Directors. Simply put, we were unsuccessful, and I found myself without a job. That didn’t last long though – I had made a number of contacts while attempting the LBO and one of them asked me to look at his company and make some recommendations for improvement. I did just that and came back a couple of weeks later with my suggestions. He then asked me how long I felt it would take to implement them … and gave me a contract to do just that. I didn’t realize it, but this was the beginning of a relatively successful consulting career. In retrospect, I wish the success equated to happiness. But it didn’t.

I’ll stop here and continue tomorrow. I don’t know that this part of my story tracks back to a love of the road as clearly as yesterday’s journal. I think it has more to do with how I’ve been impacted by the “down” episodes that overtake me for long stretches. The anxiety. The depression. What I call “the blackness”.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in Musings

 

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