Trials and Tribulations

Our first big step in the retirement transition was turning our current pickup camper over to an RV dealer, in mid-July, to be sold on commission. We spent an exhausting weekend unpacking it and cleaning the interior and exterior of the camper and the truck as they had never been cleaned before. Pickup campers can sell as a unit but often people already have a truck and just want a camper, or just need a truck, so the dealer offered it both ways. The truck sold within a month, but the camper has been problematical. There currently is an interested buyer, but when the dealer mounted it on jacks, so it could easily be taken on and off a pickup truck, some structural issues were found with the flooring. We hope this does not prove to be a deal breaker.

When we bought our house ten years ago, homes in the mountains were typically offered more or less as was, with the buyer arranging for most of the inspections, and lots of remedial work often being required. In contrast, in Silicon Valley, where we also looked, inspections were complete and issues addressed before the house was put on sale. Our friend and realtor MC (MaryCatherine) Dwyer said that the local market had since shifted somewhat towards the latter approach, but that a wide range of strategies were possible. We chose to be very proactive in hopes of selling more quickly, with fewer risks. This turned into quite an ordeal because contractors were unusually busy over the summer, and so many were booked far ahead, were unresponsive, and/or broke their commitments.

We ultimately had most of the work done by a pair of handymen rather than licensed contractors. Major efforts included power-washing and staining the extensive decking; painting; new lighting and mirrors in the bathrooms; and addressing about twenty minor issues identified in the inspections. For over two months the process of preparing the house for sale seemed like it dominated my life, but the handymen did a good job, and the final result was quite satisfying. Including staging the house (having it professionally furnished and decorated for the selling period – see photo), we spent about $9K to ready the house for sale.

Our loft, with its panoramic views. Staging by Lenore Steitz. Photo by Emily Dore.
View of Ben Lomond Mtn from back deck
View from our back deck, showing the western crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The master schedule for our retirement transition might actually have worked except that this was the year Ford decided to upgrade their heavier trucks to aluminum bodies (from steel). This saves weight and prevents rust, but requires a complete overhaul of the manufacturing line. We were aware of this, but Ford’s original schedule had about two months to spare, so we thought it would be OK. After some creative crafting of URLs (internet addresses), I uncovered the location of Ford’s 2017 software for vehicle specification, before it was publicly announced. I used this to generate a purchase specification (there are about 25 significant choices to be made for such a custom vehicle), and in late June placed an order with a dealer in El Paso (so it would be properly registered and taxed in Texas). We hoped this put us near the front of the queue!

It turns out that Ford was running behind schedule in general, and in particular, an improperly placed brake line in the chassis cab design added months of additional delay. This threw our carefully crafted schedule into disarray, canceling a planned two-month “shakedown cruise”. (In fact, we still do not have a production date as of this writing, though the truck finally has been assigned a VIN.) So we were faced with the choice of chilling out in our house in California, awaiting the truck; or taking temporary housing in Texas, so we could clear the house and put it on the market. Although more hassle, we chose the latter, to take advantage of the current seller’s market, and to avoid the yearly real estate slump in winter.

My last day of work was Sept. 9, and after a celebratory pelagic trip well offshore the next day (with nice views of Sabine’s Gulls, Long-tailed Jaegers, and Buller’s Shearwaters), we got to work. We spent a very intense week clearing the house of the bulk of our possessions, either packing them for transport, collecting them for donation, or simply throwing them away. We had a 12-foot long trailer delivered by our trash service, which we filled to the brim with garbage. Our local thrift store sent a large box truck, and took nearly all of our furniture, as well as our accumulated smaller donations. This left us sleeping on our camping mattress on the floor for our last four nights. We had two separate professional teams of cleaners visit, one doing general cleaning, and one carpets and the roughly 25 windows, some of which required an extension ladder to reach.

After a lovely going-away luncheon for Eileen at the U. C. Santa Cruz Arboretum, we picked up a 15-foot U-Haul truck, and began packing, which in total took about a day. Our volume of goods was perhaps doubled by having to move all the items destined for the new camper. We had sold my Toyota Prius to the dealer who serviced it, and now mounted our canoe onto Eileen’s Toyota Yaris, as there was no way to transport the canoe on or in the U-Haul.

We left mid-day on Sept. 23 with the two vehicles, in contact via radio, and arrived in El Paso late on the 25th, checking into our extended stay housing. On the next day, we finished bringing boxes up to the apartment, arranged for renter’s insurance, contracted for a storage compartment, unloaded the rest of the U-Haul into it, and, finally, turned in the U-Haul, finishing a 16-day marathon of activity. Our house had been staged over the weekend, and MC listed it on Sept. 27. Our next chapter had begun …

One thought on “Trials and Tribulations

  1. Sounds as if things are moving forward with the usual two steps forward one step backwards that is an inevitable part of life. You’ve made tremendous progress! Best wishes in the weeks and months ahead. You’ll eventually be on the road for sure!


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