Acts of Kindness Amidst the Final Countdown

17 May

It’s been a month since my last post. Quite frankly, it’s been a tough one … a balancing act between finishing up all the prepwork for our impending departure (two weeks from today) and dealing with heightened anxiety / deepening blackness. I’ve thought about doing blog updates over that stretch of time, but just haven’t been able to work myself up to do them.

I’ve mentioned that one of my goals for the trip was to renew my faith in humanity, one that’s taken quite a few hits over recent years. I’m grateful to say that even though I’ve not yet left town, little (and big) “acts of kindness” have already begun as I’ve been winding things down here in Charleston. I’d like to share some of them with you, along with updates on the prep work that’s been going on.

Pretty much all of my supplies are in. I have about a dozen small items I still need to pick up, but I’ll get them locally instead of through Amazon, where most of my stuff has come from. At one point early last week, the UPS guy asked me, “So are you setting up a store, or what????” He’s made almost daily stops for the past two weeks! Oh yeah, I need to pick up my fishing gear, too. But all of that will take an afternoon, tops. With that exception, all of the major items are in. Last night, I started organizing my stuff into the various bins I’ll carry in my trunk.

The first act of kindness I’d like to share regards my car. I took it into the shop, Saturday a week ago with a laundry list of things I needed done. While some of them were run-of-the-mill maintenance items (oil change, tuneup, check the fluids, etc.), there were a few other things that needed to be addressed as well: my rear window shade was hung up; my headlights seemed to be off kilter a bit; and the “door is ajar” light wasn’t going off, which was causing an interior light to stay on. About a year ago, I had removed a fuse to “temporarily” get around the problem but as usual, I wasn’t able to unfreeze myself enough to get to it.

All those things got shoved to the side though pretty quickly. The mechanic’s inspection showed that I had a significant rust issue on the front underside of the car, which required a complete replacement of the front axle! Initial estimates for my laundry list plus the axle had me at over $2,500. The manager at the AAA car care center in Charleston was pretty cool though. He worked with me on the price and came up with some ideas as to how to address some of the other fixes. Final tally came in at a skosh under $1,800. I appreciate the lengths he took to help me out. Act of kindness #1. Thanks Beau!

My budget took a hit on the car repairs. I’ve offset it a bit by going back over my inventory list and cutting out some stuff that would have been nice to have but can do without.  Nevertheless, I’m going to overrun my initial “start-up” projection by about $750 as it turns out.  There were a few items I hadn’t considered early on that I’ve decided are necessities (a Garmin GPS and the Sirius XM box, for example).  Some of the items I’ve purchased actually went up in price instead of going down like I had hoped would happen (which was why I held off buying them earlier).  Here’s hoping I’ll be able to stay on my monthly budget – I don’t know what I’ll do if I run into too many cost overruns on the road.

Moving on – I was all set to order my Pelican cooler when I discovered they had come out with a new version in early May: a wheeled version that would definitely come in handy as time goes by. (The cooler itself weighed in at 35 lbs. due to the thickness of the insulation that provides up to 10 days of ice retention.)  There was a problem though – the cooler listed at around $350 … decidedly more than what i could pick the non-wheeled version up on Amazon.

I called around to some of the Pelican distributors, only to find that most of them hadn’t even begun to stock the new model. I did find it in stock at Quality Cases & Containers in Richardson, TX. In explaining my situation to Garrett, one of their salespeople, I asked if there was any type of discount program available for seniors. He wound up selling it to me at his dealer price, which meant I was only paying about $35 more for the wheels. Act of kindness #2. Thanks very much, Garrett. As an aside, if you’re looking for any Pelican products (they focused primarily on camera and firearm cases before branching out into coolers a whlie back), I highly recommend you speak to Garrett – tell him “Jeff the old camping guy who bought the wheeled Pelican cooler” sent you!

Acts of kindness #’s 3 through 10,000,000 came my way through the myriad birthday wishes … and ongoing support … I received from friends via emails Facebook posts and contacts through the blog. A number of them know of my ongoing anxiety and depression issues and have gone out of their way to continue sending notes of encouragement and well wishes over the past month. They’ve kept me going on days when I just wanted to retreat to my recliner with a blanket over my head … which is the last thing I can afford to do with time ticking down toward zero hour!  My buddy Larry has been especially supportive – but that’s Larry.  I’ve said this before:  “Everybody should have a ‘Larry’ in their life.” If you do, you know what I’m talking about!

So, with 14 days to go, here’s what still needs to be done:

  • Acquire those last items mentioned above
  • Finish cleaning the apartment. I want to shampoo the carpets after I get everything else cleaned up. Shouldn’t take me more than 2 days to accomplish.
  • Sell off the remainder of my meager possessions. I contacted a second-hand store and have talked to the owner. He’s coming by later this next week. He’s pretty much agreed to take everything lock, stock and barrel … it’s just a matter of finalizing price. I know we’ll be able to work something out.
  • I have to complete a bunch of paperwork. I have documents to provide the attorney relative to my decision to domicile in Texas; forms to complete for Escapees, the company that will handle my mail-forwarding and who will provide my Texas mailing address; and additional forms to complete in advance for registering my car and acquiring a Texas driver’s license. I also have to call the insurance company referred to me by Escapees – they have specific experience dealing with vagabonders (although most of them are going the RV route, unlike me.)
  • I will print out all my documentation for my campground reservations and call all of them to confirm my schedule. Another afternoon of work.
  • Frank needs some shots updated. I’m going to take him by the beaty parlor to get a bath and his toenails clipped as well.  (I might even get a haircut and beard trim before I go, too – I started this beard in early December and already I feel like I look like an honorary member of ZZ Topp!)
  • I need to do the typical “move” stuff – cancel accounts with Comcast, the electric company, etc.
  • Later this week, I’ll get the car washed and affix the cargo carrier to the roof of the Azera. I’ll start packing up the car next week with all of the non-perishable items that’ll go in the trunk.

All in all, there’s not a lot left to do. But it’s still going to be a challenge, given how the “blackness” is fighting me tooth and nail. It seems to get worse minute-by-minute. I’ve found that I have to play a little game with myself – I can get things accomplished in 20-30 minute spurts before it all becomes somewhat overwhelming and I have to retreat to my recliner. That’s where Frank comes in – he’s kept me going like nothing else. I still can’t get over how intuitive he is. The minute I begin to feel the anxiety is becoming unbearable, Frank comes from nowhere (which can probably be translated to, “Frank comes from the bedroom, where he’s bumped the door open so he can enjoy the plumpness of the Novaform mattress!”), jumping at my side, asking to be picked up so he can lick my face. He is a God-send … of that I have no doubt!

So that’s it. I don’t know if I’ll make one or two more blog posts before heading out the door the last time. At a minimum, I’ll do a “sign-off from Charleston” post the night before I leave. If I can manage to do another one before then, I will.

Wish me luck. We’re down to the final countdown here.


Edit:  I forgot to mention someone else that has gone out of her way to help me:  An old workmate, Maria, has been helping me get a copy of my car’s title up in New Jersey.  I am very appreciate of her help. Maria, my apologies for not including you in the original post!


Posted by on May 17, 2015 in Musings, Planning


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 responses to “Acts of Kindness Amidst the Final Countdown

  1. ekurie

    May 17, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    Wow, this is amazing! Will you take a wireless-enabled something –iPad, laptop, phone, droid– to keep us caught up? Actually, all public libraries almost have free Internet access… I imagine ZZ Top would be proud to count you among them, especially if you visit that “nice Texas town, La Grange”! Keeping up the prayers for Frank and Jeff.


    • ustabe

      May 17, 2015 at 4:11 pm

      All the campsites I’ve reserved do offer wi-fi, Ekurie, so I will definitely be updating the blog on a routine basis.

      Unfortunately, I’m going to be skirting the Austin area in this leg of my journey, but I’ll probably be heading up that way next spring. Plans after mid-March are still up in the air. We’ll see.

      Thanks for the continued prayers and support – they’re very much appreciated!


      • Donna Edwards Suhl

        May 17, 2015 at 9:50 pm

        Dear Jeff; My wish for you is JOY. My hope and prayer is that the open road will be the solace and inspiration you seek. I’m sure you and Frank are in for some great adventures!!! I can’t wait to read about them in your blog. Stay positive, stay focused and CHOOSE to be happy – at least grab onto small moments when you can, whether fly fishing, being amused by Frank or mesmerized by God’s handiwork in nature. Be well, my friend. xo Donna (and big woofs from Ben & Rowdy to Frank!).


      • ustabe

        May 17, 2015 at 10:42 pm

        Thank you my dear! I share those wishes, hopes and prayers. I’ll gladly trade any “adventure” that crossed our path for simple peace and respite from the wars that go on in my head on a continual basis. And by the way, I’m not sure if Frank shares that sentiment though. He loves his afternoon … AND mid-morning AND early evening siestas, but when he’s outside, he’s usually pulling more than lying back. And I’m not sure if it will subside over time or if the exposure to new smells and new marking spots will spur him to be pushing me to be more active (which will probably be a good thing). Plus, with all the new places for him to “leave his mark” so to speak, I think he plans on becoming the canine version of the old “Kilroy Was Here” signs! Given how many wide-spread places we’re going to be visiting, dogs in future generations will be telling tales of the great Frank the Wanderer … whose scent was found by all dogs, no matter where they visited! Frank sits and coolly smiles with those thoughts of conquest! ;o)

        Being able to sit for a day … hell, an afternoon … without being exhausted by fighting off the sadness or remorse or regret or inner pain that I deal with? That would be worth all the days of adventure I could imagine. (Which isn’t much – I sat here for a few minutes pondering adventure and I really couldn’t come up with anything I would consider “adventurous.” What does that say about me?)

        And I have to grab onto the small moments. That’s all I can manage right now. The trick will be to try to make those moments come closer and closer together until they start to blend into one long stretch of time! Knock on wood!

        Thanks again. I value your friendship, Donna

        P.S. Franks returns the woofs to Ben and Rowdy. Ben’s more Frank’s speed, I think. When he watches Rowdy videos, he sort of shakes his head and squints! :o)


  2. jeanie maginness

    May 18, 2015 at 5:37 am

    How exciting to read about your new adventure becoming a reality. I am very proud and impressed with your planning and “making it happen”
    Not having that chair in your apartment to surrender to will open up an entirely new way to deal with your feelings of despair. Change is good and your old ways weren’t really working.
    You should be so proud of yourself for making this happen…that in itself should make you happy 🙂
    Just like my brother John (aka the Vagabond King) told me years ago……the world is your oyster…..
    Take it all in until you have found your peace.
    Go forth and conquer your wishes.
    Fondly, Jeanie


    • ustabe

      May 18, 2015 at 8:48 am

      Thank you Jeanie. I really do appreciate all of the support you’ve shown me over these past many months. Your words of encouragment mean more to me than I can adequately express in words.



      • jeanie maginness

        May 18, 2015 at 3:57 pm

        Glad they are appreciated because I have no intentions of stopping :o)


      • jeanie maginness

        May 25, 2015 at 8:47 am

        Well…any thoughts as the day arrives where you start doing what you want to do and leave behind all of the stereotypical crap you have been used to ?


  3. Kristin

    May 18, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    I find that there is no better way to restore faith in humanity than by being on the road. I also find that ridding yourself of material possessions, financial obligations, and other various anchors is the most freeing feeling in the world. You have an amazing journey ahead of you, and I hope your travels help keep the “blackness” at bay. Be open to all the opportunities that life will present you and remember to say “yes” more. I wish you much luck with all your final preparations (I know how stressful it can be), and I hope that your first day on the road fills you with overwhelming reassurance that you have made the best decision of your life! Safe travels to you and Frank 🙂


    • ustabe

      May 18, 2015 at 8:17 pm

      Thank you so very much, Kristin. I have always enjoyed the first moments of a long car ride, so I’m with you on hoping for that feeling of reassurance.


      Liked by 1 person


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