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Lifestyle and Gear

Rev 13 Mar 2017

This page is about what we carry and how we live, rather than what occurred today. We've picked a few things we thought might help explain our lifestyle framework. Full-timing can apparently be pretty foreign to our friends and family, many of whom haven't spent a night in any RV.

We're always working on the
gear pages. The truck bed currently (Mar 2017) is the emptiest looking we've traveled it. This page started with a listing of what gear we carry, and our recommendation for minimum tools. You may skip straight to the gear pages if you want, or read on. You can flip back to this page from Gear Pages if you want too.

Our lifestyle continues to change. We'll update this page's content periodically to try and reflect our relevant experiences.




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What do we eat and how do we prepare it?
We only rarely eat out, and hardly ever just the two of us. The two of us enjoy Deb's cooking in our silver home. But eating out can be fun and relaxingt when we are with others, for example at a seafood restaurant with our Airstream Club friends during a rally, or with friends when we want to have a little more room.

We frequently grill fresh fish, pork chops, steak, or chicken on our great little Olympian gas grill. Breakfasts are most often fresh granola or packaged cereal with yogurt and some milk. Some days Deb fixes grits, eggs, and toast - something we just shouldn't get used to so it remains a real treat! On driving days we eschew a breakfast and instead enjoy a snack bar and a thermos of hot green tea. Sitting upright in the big red truck's comfy captain's chairs just doesn't burn many calories.

Rallies are often a whole different culinary story. We ate five provided meals at a recent rally. Two breakfasts and two suppers and one lunch were included at this unusually well-provisioned rally. Our first Wally Byam Airstream Club (WBCCI) rallies surprised us because of how little of our own food we needed. The fridge and larder were still full when we returned from the rallies. The rally cooks didn't necessarily provide all meals, but we would eat the big provided meal and snack at the socials and end up feeling overfed. Hence, little or no cooking required.

A long time ago we adopted green tea as our morning hot beverage. Hot, fresh coffee still appeals to us but we're afternoon drinkers. SMost mornings we'll brew green sencha tea from
Shaktea in Vancouver B.C. Canada. We sometimes have another cup or two or three throughout the day. Less caffeine, less acid, lighter flavor -- we enjoy green tea and have found Shaktea's to be consistently the best flavor for our dollar (Nathan offers great products and service and ships to the USA.) Afternoons we'll usually have a cup of café con leche and a cookie. We rarely pass up a Tim Horton's restaurants coffee on travel days in Canada and Ohio, and sometimes are lured into a Krispy Kreme or Dunkin Donuts for our afternoon caffeine and sweet roll.

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How do we manage clothes for the different seasons with such small closets?
Our closets are barely large enough for our most oft needed clothes but, unlike our walk-in closets back home, cannot store all manner of other stuff. We have no space for things we won't need. If we can successfully chase 75 degrees, we shouldn't need heavier clothes. However. . . we seem increasingly poor at finding 75 degrees. Hmmm, seems like a title for a new blog post. Briefly, we're spending more time with our family and on business for the Airstream Club, often regardless of the weather forecasts.

Backpacking taught us dressing in layers to make our clothes suit us well for varying weather conditions. We packed one storage tote to provide us much easier access to cold weather clothes. Now, the warm clothes we occasionally need are in a medium-sized tote in the big red truck. Happily, we can very easily grab what we need to layer up. We have very lightweight (12oz) primaloft-insulated jackets and rain shells for outer wear in coolest weather.

The camper has two wardrobes, each with a shelf above the rod and space below the hanging clothes. Jim's wardrobe holds thirty hangers and has two sixteen quart Sterilite boxes below. He has two pairs of jeans, two pairs of khakis, and a couple pairs of nice slacks. His blazer and bowties stay in a suitbag almost all the time. He has eight golf shirts, four flannel shirts, a pair of dress shirt, and a Hawaiian shirt. One box hold a dozen logo tee-shirts including cotton and fast-dry and a couple long-sleeved ones. Another box holds eight pairs of shorts. Two other boxes hang out in storage space under the bed. One holds boxers, the other holds socks. A cotton fleece sweatshirt stores in a large space above the bed.

Laundry every couple of weeks works well with our stock of clean clothes and our space for dirty clothes. We have a small laundry basket under the dinette bench seat. The basket's mesh bag holds 7-10 days of dirty clothes. Another nylon bag fits under another bench and holds as many dirty clothes. When both bags are full, we grab the sheets and towels and laundry bags and go to the laundromat.

Clothes we think we won't use we wash, fold, photograph (documentation for taxes) and donate. A few months ago we were prepared to donate a couple of pairs of khakis, tee shirts, and old sweatshirts. Then we realized we would occasionally need a few things for painting, working under the truck or trailer, or playing in the woods at our camp. We store them in a small tote in the big red truck until the next play tiem.

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What do we do for entertainment?
Deb's dad predicted we'd only last a year full-timing - he was sure we'd be bored to tears. Ten years in we've never lacked for interests. We think we are really easily entertained. We like to watch a nice sunrise or sunset. Okay, it lasts less than an hour? Sometimes we'll light a campfire and enjoy it a sunset for a couple hours. We love to walk in neighborhoods, cities, trails and campgrounds. And we read a lot. We're enjoying more time to read now although it still is challenging keeping up with Time and other periodicals while reading our novels. Once or twice a month we might watch a movie or two or an episode of Lucille Ball or MASH or Andy Griffith (all DVD, very rarely broadcast TV.)

We laughed at Hilary Clinton early in her 2008 primary campaign when she lamented how tough were the sacrifices of the campaign trail. She and Bill had only been out to the movies twice in the past year. Poor things! We might go to the movies once in one or two years. Granted, the big screen is special and more dramatic for movies. But we just don't care about going out to movies unless to take our grandchildren. A few years ago we started collecting DVD movies at discount stores, anywhere we could find prices under $5 or $6. Our criteria is simple: Do we think we would want to watch the movie more than once? It may be years before we finish these, and then we'll simply start over watching them because we won't remember most of them anyway.

Hobbies? We bought a mountain wooded camp a couple of years ago. When we're in the area we enjoy spending time walking, picking up sticks, culling a few trees. Jim enjoys practical pistol, especially through
IDPA, and sometimes finds time to practice in a small range at our camp. Jim likes listening to his ham radio, every now and then for hours at night and into the morning. Ham radio is a lot of listening and a little talking, so it suits our house and lifestyle well (fortunately for him and Deb, he has good headphones so we don't both need to listen all the time.) Debbie does puzzles, works on Christmas stockings for grandchildren, and reads (a lot) fully keeping up with her endless stream of Time magazines.

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How much time do we spend together vs apart for separate interests? We spend almost all every day together.
May 2008 we tried to arrange to meet each other somewhere thirty miles from our base. I used the cellphone to call Debbie at her parent's house and asked her to join me at DMV to help with a vehicle re-title issue. As soon as we hung up the DMV representative told me the title application was rejected. I tried to call and stop Debbie but couldn't get through. A friend with me said, "You could have paid for three months of service for an additional cell phone with the money she will waste driving here and back."

He's right, but we're apart so infrequently this is a pretty rare occurrence and not a concern. When we're apart we know where we are and when to expect the other. We like doing things together whether or not it's necessary. We're both licensed amateur radio operators and have two handheld 2 meter radios. Still we don't often use them to keep up with each other. For now, we'll keep sharing a cell phone. As a ham radio friend recently commented, "We used to have one phone - it was mounted on the wall in the hallway of our house. We got by just fine."

An addition to the above experience: June/July 2008 found us in Bozeman MT working separate jobs for the WBCCI Wally Byam Airstream Club International Rally on the Montana State University campus. We were working up to 1/2 mile apart at times, and realized quickly we could use our hand-held amateur radios to keep in touch. Our Airstream Club rallies usually name a frequency for camp use and we can talk "simplex" (without use of the local community's repeater towers,) to each other as needed. This worked great and would actually have been a great help in the above example because the truck, in which Deb drove to meet Jim in Charlotte, has a mobile amateur radio in it too. Amateur radio works, all the time.

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Is full-timing working out to be less expensive than we thought it would?
Yes, for those years when we don't participate in caravans or tennis camps, or somehow get into inordinately high mileage towing. On those leaner years we remain under budget in many categories including site rental, food, entertainment, utilities, recreation. Regardless, full-timing is less expensive than our life in a house in town was.

We are saving a lot by not supporting a house. The big saving is not having costs of home mortgage, insurance, utilities, maintenance, repairs, and upkeep. This swings the scales in our favor by reducing the fixed costs. So, we have a greater proportion of variable costs to fixed costs. This means scrimping when we need to has more impact on our expenses than when we were keeping a sticks and bricks house. Make sense? We estimate we're avoiding $20,000 annually in not supporting a sticks and bricks house with its insurance, taxes, utilities, and operational maintenance costs.

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What's our favorite part of full-timing life?
This is a tough call. Living The Dream in the Airstream. Being retired without a big house and yard and garage and cars to maintain. Sleeping or hanging out in the camper when it's raining outside. Sleeping with the windows open every night, even when it's raining. Having the ability and shared vision to travel North America together.

We enjoy seeing so many different areas of our tremendous continent while acknowledging there is so so much left still to see. Meeting and getting to know people from almost every corner of the continent is interesting. And we love hitching up the trailer and truck and feeling the wheels rolling under us -- every time we start on another driving day we both get a thrill. It's downright difficult sometimes to stop for more than a week. We still love rolling down the road so much.

What would your favorite aspect be?



How do we maintain the website?
We write our web pages in TacoEdit on our MAC. If it isn't available for any reason, we can use
CoffeeCup HTML Editor 2008. We highly recommend both programs as very easy to write and use, inexpensive, and wonderful file organizing html editors.

We edit and store our photos in Picasa from Google, and use Picasaweb to share the photos. We can't compare how other programs would work for this but have used Picasa and Picasaweb without any problems for many years and love it. (You can see ours at http://picasaweb.google.com/dreamstreamr/). Our friends and family use a number of other programs, too many to list here.

We transmit our pages to the website hosting company's servers using an FTP (file transfer protocol) program named Filezilla. It's incredibly easy to use, extremely fast, and has been very reliable since we started using it six months ago. We have Filezilla on both the HP and the MAC laptops.

What about the hosting site? We have, since July 2007, been using StartLogic to host our website. A good friend told us about this company and showed us his websites on the same company's servers. Our website has never even almost looked as good as Rodney's websites but he hasn't taught us everything he knows yet either. The monthly fee is reasonable and we have had no problems in years once we learned to use stand alone html editors and ftp programs instead of relying on the host site's utilities.

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What's not in the truck/trailer?

What's not in the truck could take a long time to explain. The long answer is
here . I also can describe it in less than 100 words: We planned this adventure for over two years. We are both dedicated list-makers. A lot of lists exist for traveling and full-timing and Airstreaming. We assiduously assembled and edited from the best we could find. Then we tried our gear 9.5 weeks (and 8,500 miles) Fall 2007 and it worked. We had everything we needed, had room for it all and nothing was really in our way.

When we sold the house early 2008 we rid ourselves of all the furniture and almost everything else we wouldn't need in this lifestyle. Still we loaded a couple of boxes of stuff to go through while living in our camper. We've eliminated those boxes and at least annually re-examine what gear, clothing, or books we have, what we're missing, what we can dump as unnecessary. We've created several lists you may want to view to gain a sense of what we're carrying and what we don't want.

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What do we most miss about a house?

Hard to say what we miss about the house. Our last home was a fabulous 3,000 sf traditional brick house in an historic district. Lots of beautiful rooms, lots of space, great porches. Once our children moved out we didn't really use most of the space. Significantly, to us, the 1930's traditional floor plan no longer reflects our idea of living in a house.

We quit our jobs Aug 2007 and left on our shakedown trip five days later in the big red truck pulling our new rolling home. When we returned from the shakedown trip we did some entertaining, starting sellng our stuff, and closed on the house on Feb 1 2008. We feel we never lived in the house as retirees. What would it have been like is somewhat unknown to us.

We've had some experience with playing house at family members' or friends' houses. Jim has enjoyed occasionally having garage or shop space for small projects. Watching Joanna and Chip on HGTV dish or cable tv is a nice little perk of visiting people in real houses. Yet we'd discontinued the cable in our house before we quit work and don't think we'd subscribe again. We continue enjoying our small space and don't yet relish maintaining a larger one.

If we build a house it's not likely to have a floorplan similar to those in which we've lived and raised our families. Our home design ideas are colored by living in a tiny home for almost ten years, visits with friends in their homes, and by our very frequent browsing of house design ideas over the years. Happily, the market place has changed. There are cool offerings from, among others, Blu, TimberCab by FabCab, GoLogic Homes, Cabin Series by Method Homes, LV Series Homes by Rocio Romero, and Stillwater Contemporary Dwellings.

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How are our music and movies organized?

Movies are more difficult for us to manage. We still occasionally receive or buy another movie DVD. We alphabetized the movies by title first word or key word. They're in a monster big dvd wallet plus a smaller one. We should have enough movies now.

Years later than our children, we discovered converting our music to digital format (we can do this for movies someday, maybe?). We saved all our CDs onto the computer then bought a used iPod and keep all the music on the iPod. We created a few play lists to suit our music listening moods. The iPod connects to the RV's Sony radio so we can play any album or group of songs we want throughout the camper.

April 2010 our Windows laptop suffered a deadly crash. Lost Operating System, all apps, almost all data. No problem, though, because we're trained ex-professionals and we have back-ups, right? Wellllll, sort of. We'd been busy. You know how it is, right? Okay the most recent back-up was two months old, that's not too big a problem. Lots of our stuff is web-based, like banking transactions, our web site, our blog, our email.

The problem was our failure to realize we weren't backing up what we thought we were. Fortunately we had a copy of all music and podcasts on our iPod and were able to restore the collection onto our rebuilt laptop. Now we back up both laptops every week or two onto two separate portable hard drives each.

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How do we handle print media?
Newspapers
In our former lifetime we enjoyed the morning paper, particularly on the weekends. It's a rare thing now for us to glance at one. Our daily news now is mostly on line from Reuters, Economist, Christian Science Monitor, PBS, or Flipboard.

Magazines
We read most every issue, cover to cover, of Time Magazine, AARP, Airstream Life, QST (Amateur Radio), Appalachian Trail Conference, Carolina Alumni Review, Blue Beret (Airstream Club), then leave them at campgrounds or recycle them.

Books
We pick up books at laundry rooms and campgrounds through swapping. Read a couple, carry them in and swap one for one. Keeps our library weight and bulk down, provides interesting diversity in title and subject. But sometimes we just can't find a book we've heard about or read a review on. These we put on our Amazon wish or birthday list and hope our families are noticing. Even better though is when they gift us something we can eat or drink.

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