Friday, January 9, 2015

Cloudy and cool ...

The last couple of days here in Tucson haven't been really conducive to going out and doing much.  Nice to have a warm comfortable place. Which leads me to think about RV travel.  A few months back, I spent a long weekend with a couple of friends up in the White Mountains of northern Arizona.  They were in a tent.  I was in the RV.  It rained.  It was then I realized that the RV is pretty comfortable even in less-than-ideal situations: warm, dry, and with all the windows, fairly light even on a cloudy day.  I don't deal well with dark and gloomy.  In a way, it helped validate the decision I made not to get a van-style RV, in spite of the inconveniences of parking and navigating in traffic.

I've been watching a really first-rate documentary on the "RV lifestyle" on YouTube.  It's a fully professional product, technically and creatively.  It runs about an hour, but I recommend it highly:

"Without Bound"

There's a couple of themes here which don't describe the way I feel.  Many of these people seem to subscribe to beliefs which border on conspiracy theories.  "They" don't want "Us" to live free.  "They" want us to keep buying stuff so "They" can control us.   I do think that income inequality, or resource inequality, is one of the major issues of our day.  But I've never felt the need to stick it to the Man, possibly because I've always been The Man ... a middle-class white American male. And I'm well aware of the tension between neat new toys and simplifying life.   Thing is,  I'm not sure I need to simplify my life.  I'm retired, with  steady income. I don't need to buy economy brand dog food, although I do grumble at the cost of Eukanuba.  I've never really lived some of what the full time RV'ers are fleeing: the rat race of bigger houses and newer cars and classy clothes.  The height of my sartorial splendor for much of my life has come from LL Bean or (more recently) Carhartt.  I chose an academic career because it gave me some flexibility in my daily life and in its overall arc.  I drove a small pickup truck more or less into the ground, and I now drive the smallest hatchback Hyundai makes.   Oh yeah, and now I have the Beast ...

I've crunched the numbers six ways from Sunday.  My fixed housing expenses are something like 20% of my after-tax income.  I have no long-term debt other than the mortgage which is included in that figure.  I have good health insurance (Medicare plus supplement) which isn't tied to any one location or provider. I can afford to go on the road and maintain my "sticks and bricks" home in Tucson.  Moreover, if I need to, I can afford to spend the occasional night in a motel and eat out if I need a fix of conventional living.

If this sounds like I'm trying to talk myself into something, I am.

A lot of my hesitation about just taking off and hitting the road comes from fear.  More fear of some kind of vehicle problem than medical emergencies or getting mugged.  I seem to be drawn to staying in places which are less "civilized" than the basic RV parks which are everywhere.  So what do I do if I have a flat tire driving into some relatively remote campsite on BLM land?  Maybe with no cell service?  Or if the RV has some kind of conniption fit and just won't go?   Well, I make sure I have the tools to change a tire if I need to.  And practice changing a tire in the comfort of the parking lot.  And I get a Verizon hot spot which will maximize my cell coverage.  And I maybe get an RV-centered road emergency policy which will tow the big guy to service.  And be prepared for some hellacious service costs.   And I make sure that people at home know where I'm headed, and check in on schedule. And I stop fretting and Just Do It.

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