Friday, February 28, 2014

Some responses to your comments, and thoughts about Solar

First off, it is really fun and easy to make plans and reservations for the future when you are an armchair RVer, parked at your own house with 20 amp power and reliable water.  

This is not boondocking, but no reservations are required.

When traveling on business, when someone else was paying the bill, I would stay at "better" hotels. When traveling on my own dime, or just sleeping somewhere while on a ski trip, I stayed at some of the less expensive motels. Clean, relatively safe, but not fancy. Older places, but no "by the hour" rooms if you know what I mean.

Once the house sells and the proceeds are in decent income-yielding investments, our financial situation looks pretty good. We have our Social Security income, medicare and a supplemental health care plans, no debts, no storage, no mortgage, and no dependents. But I am a frugal person and want to live within a budget. If RV plans are made in JELLO, budgets must be the powdered mix they start with. 

To balance the cost of staying at some posh RV resorts with their heated pools and other amenities, I am looking forward to exploring public lands and other legal boondocking opportunities.  I have heard of Harvest Hosts in the past, but I don't see it as a way to keep expenses down.  If we stayed overnight at a winery, we would probably go in for a wine tasting which is not free, and would probably buy a bottle or three of their wine.

Wineries don't sell the cheep stuff we are used to, so the whole experience would cost more than a local RV park. For on the road stops, I don't mind an occasional Walmart.  Craig is not very enthusiastic about them. I guess some are OK, but the ones we have stopped at have been bright and noisy. We have eaten at Cracker Barrel, but not stayed at one.  They seem to be far and few between in California.  It is always a possibility, but again I would stop there for the convenience not for the economy   I'm sure we would eat there, and the meals could add up to nearly as much as a park space.

I'm sure we will investigate "Boondockers Welcome" and keep our eyes and ears open for other low cost options.

We have used our Passport America discounts and stayed at a couple of Escapee parks. You can dry camp at many of them for less than $10 a night. Full hook up spots run in the low $20's. We really like their homey feel.

We have looked at a few National Park campgrounds, and because the Alfa is only 35' long, we could stay at some, but most don't have power. The privately run concessioners parks in or near the National parks do, and that is where we have stayed so far. Except for our few days at Yosemite where we ran the generator. I really felt bad about that with our noise and smell polluting the campground.

We have been talking about getting a solar system on the Alfa. We think it would be best to go ahead and get it as soon as possible.

We have not yet looked into what we need or want, nor what it will cost.  But I have run some numbers on how long it would take for dollars spent on a solar system to balance  paying private RV park space rents.

Considering that some places we might use the solar because there are no power hook ups, the saving on space rent might be about $30 per night.  For every $1000 spent on solar we could boondock or stay at a no-hookup park for 33 nights.

I have no idea how much a good solar system will cost but running an extension on the above numbers, $5000 spent would be recovered in about 150 nights.

Spread out over two years, that would be 6 to 7 nights a month. 

Of course at the end of the two years we would still have a  solar system, slightly depreciated. Maintenance cost is always an unknown.

Doing a solar system is certainly cost effective if you plan on dry camping part of the time.  The freedom to do so is priceless!

We have talked about going to see Solar Mike over at the Slabs after the Alfa Owners Rally in April.  

We would appreciate any input you may give us. 

  • Useful URL's, what to watch out for.
  • How not to be ripped off as newbies.
  • How much it should cost.  

But, as always, the house sale has to close first!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Reservations, Reservations, Reservations

Although we are still parked at Camp Driveway in California, I am confident we will soon be on our way.

I have been working on our plans for NEXT winter.  We want to go to Florida, and from what I have read on the blogs if you want to stay at State Parks, you really must get your reservations far far in advance.  For some of the parks reservations can be made eleven months in advance, and if you want to get a spot at one in the southern part of the state in late December or January you had better not wait.  They really fill up fast! Some fill in the first seconds they open reservations on the first day!

Picture from the Web.  Doesn't hurt to dream!

I did manage to get two weeks at Long Key State Park.  Not Key West as I had hoped, but the Keys none the less. 
Not us, this picture is from the park Web Site

I also got two weeks in a park  south of Maimi called the John Pennekamp Coral Reef.  We are not divers, but the beach looks pretty good, and maybe we can find some commercial boat tours to take in the area.

For our non-RV friends, the big differences between state parks and commercial RV parks in the Keys are cost and amenities.  In December - January, a spot in a commercial park can cost close to or more than $100 per night.  I checked on the January 2015 monthly rate for one park I was interested in and it was over $2600 plus electricity. 

The state parks cost a little more than $40 per night.  There is a 11% or 12% tax. At the commercial parks you have a sewer hook up.  At the Floriday State Parks you don't.  This simply means you have to drive  to another location in the park about once a week to empty your holding tanks.  We don't mind doing that. 

I have also made one or two week reservations at three other Florida State parks for January 2015:  Johnathan Dickinson, Kissimmee Prairie, and Wekiwa Springs.  I also have all but one week of November covered. 

From what I understand there is no boondocking in Florida in winter. Unless you have friends with an open driveway, or are traveling in a van type class D that can be discreetly parked.  I'm sure we will learn more when we are there, but for next winter I figure it is best to know where we will be staying.

I sometimes get the impression that true boondockers just pull up and park, but the truth is there is a lot of planning that is done there as well. As I read their blogs I catch statements about "checking out" this place or that for future use. Camping on the public lands in the Southwest also seem to take some planning, or at least the willingness to move if the spot they first park in is not right for one reason or another.

I hope that in our future we will explore many different options. Some high end resorts, some Walmart overnights, some Bureau of Land Management or Corps of Engineering campgrounds, and of course state, national and regional parks.  

As they say "Home is where you park it" and I am sooo ready.

The number of days until March 25th!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Pismo No, Big Basin Yes

The bad news is the weather in Pismo Beach is predicted to be cold and rainy this week.

The good news is we did not make reservations, and have decided to wait until next week to go down.

The better news is that I was able to get a "pay for three days, get one free" deal when I made reservations for next week. We wouldn't have been able to get that if we had gone on Tuesday as planned.

I'm so glad we are getting used to the JELLO concept. But I also wanted to make a reservation so that I would have something to look forward to this week.  Hope the weather improves!

Speaking of weather, it was absolutely beautiful here today.  A bit cool but sunny. I'm really getting restless, and I know there are so many wonderful places near by that we haven't been to for a long time. One of which is Big Basin Redwoods State Park. As the crow flies, it's about 14 miles from here, but by road it is at least thirty. To get there from here you have to either go south towards the ocean, then west, then north, then west again, or go north to Los Gatos, west, then south for quite a way along winding mountain roads.  Theres just no easy way to get there, but it is well worth the drive!

There are about eighty miles of trails in the park.

We choose a four plus mile loop that was rated as moderate.  

Most of the trail was quite level and well maintained.

I thought of Gypsy as we passed by these spacious tent sites that were all near a parking lot.

There were no campers there on this sunny Monday in February  We did see some tent campers checking in at the ranger station, and one family eating their lunch at one of the picnic tables, but I didn't see any camping gear around them.

In fact, although there were people around the ranger station area, we only met two couples on the trail itself. It's probably much busier on weekends or in summer. We try to visit places like this in off season, and mid-week. One of the benefits of being old I guess.

There was some elevation changes along the way, but most were either gradual or had easy switch backs in the trail. The sun was out, and we heard lots of birds chirping in the canopy.  Spring must be almost here!

We never tire of looking up at these giant trees.

And marveling at how they have recovered from long-ago fires. We read on one of the information boards that after one fire it was noted that the heartwood of some of the trees smoldered for eighteen months after a fire!

We are both tired this evening, and I'm feeling particularly happy and relaxed because I feel we have broken a "slothful" spell and will be out for many more hikes in the near future. It's going to be a great year.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


The days are dragging by.  Craig has been glued to the computer most afternoons watching the Olympic games.  I'm not big on sports, even if they are world-class.  I did watch the first few days, but after several days I am quite bored with curling, skiing, and even the figure skating programs.

I had hoped to be on a trip this week, but because we were waiting for a package delivery we ended up putting it off for a week.  I'm pretty sure we will be heading down to Pismo Beach next week. It is about 200 miles from here.  We have passed by Pismo several times on our way to San Diego, but this will be our first stop there.

I always remember Margie and Roger.

I exchanged emails with a relative in Wisconsin,  and mentioned we might be off to Pismo Beach next week.  She wrote back "Right now any beach would be nice to be at. We would do more winter get-a-ways, but we don't have anyone to guard our house. I worry about break-ins."

I guess that is one reason I am looking forward to the full time life.  We will be taking our house and every tangible thing we own with us. No storage! Nothing to come back to, take care of, fix, or clean. That which didn't fit in the Alfa is gone.

I have felt a bit uneasy about not having a hoard of possessions to surround myself with a few times in the last month, but mostly I look around and think we still have too much stuff in the RV. There are a few additional things I will be getting rid of!

I wrote the following couple of paragraphs in bed this morning. I usually read  the news, blogs, and the funnies in bed while drinking my first cup of coffee each day. I do so on the iPad, and sometimes start a rough draft of a blog post.

"I know I should be out walking and enjoying my home territory, but I just have not been in the mood to do so.

Unfortunately, our main pastime for the last several months has been eating.  I am very distressed to report that I have regained much of the weight I worked so hard to lose.  I keep using the delay in the close of escrow as an excuse.  Food can be an addictive substance.

Some days I resent Craig because he can eat and drink all he wants and never get fat.  We have just such different metabolisms. I'm good at making excuses, and have to once again kick myself in the butt and get back to eating right.  Fat is so depressing." 

When I did get up, I saw it was quite sunny and well over 60F.  So instead of eating breakfast, I put on my walking shoes (and some clothes) and drove to one of my favorite walking spots. 

Across from our local school there is a public park that includes a lovely redwood grove, 
with a very peaceful amphitheater.  Teachers will sometimes bring their classes over for an outdoor lesson.  It is so beautiful there, what lucky kids!

In among the trees there is also a play area.

I don't think this merry-go-round will turn anymore, but I imagine the little ones still love climbing on it.

The path through the redwoods only goes a little way before reaching a fenced-off gully.

I turned back and went across the highway to the Summit Tree Farm.

It is fenced and has a sturdy locked gate, but it is well known to the locals that anyone is welcome to walk there and off leash dogs are more than welcome if their people remember to pick up after them.  

There is a unfenced pass thru next to the gate.  I haven't walked there for a long time.  Years ago, when I had my dogs, I bought them to the tree farm several times a week for a good run.  Since it is fenced all around they were safe from running onto the adjacent highway, and were able to explore while I walked the dirt road thru the trees.  For every mile I walked, I think they ran two or three! I have had two yellow labs and a sweet black shepherd.   As much as I loved them, I have decided not to have dogs in the RV.

As I hiked along I passed and greeted several other walkers and a few joggers, I couldn't help remembering my doggie friends. 

At one point on the very dry trail I came to a  muddy puddle. I'm not sure where this water comes from, but I had encountered similar puddles in this same area in the past.

I remember one time when Picabo, one of my yellow labs, trotted up to a  muddy spot in the trail, laid down and did a doggie roll! 

What a mess she was.  Of course we were almost to the end of our walk that day and because of her soggy state we had to do another circuit so she would be dry enough to get into the van.  (I put her on a leash before we got to that place again.)

As I walked this morning, lost in my memories, this fellow seemed to just appear out of the shadows.

Wagging his tail he greeted me like an old friend.  For a moment I felt like I was seeing a ghost dog, but then his person came down the path as well.

Walking along the road, on my way back to where I had parked, I noticed a few other interesting things.

A road gator.

A totem pole dedicated to the many games played on this old field.  

And a flock of matching bikers.

I'm really going to try to get out and walk more.  It's good for me!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Plug for my Son's Blog

Some of you have been checking in on my Son, Gil (AKA Joko) over the last year. He has been teaching English as a second language in Thailand.

I'd like to recommend his latest post about a place called Muang Buran. I think he did a remarkable job on the video. If you go to see it, please tell him Mom sent you!

For those of you who do not generally have the ability to view videos, but are interested in a summary of the experiences of a first year TESL teacher, check out the post just before that one: Reflections on One Year of Teaching. Some of you who are retired  teachers will remember those thoughts from your early years! He stuck it out, learned, and wants to continue.

On the Camp Driveway home-front, nothing much is happening. I started looking into planning an RV trip for early this week. We usually go down to dump the tanks on Tuesdays and I thought it would be a good time to just keep going! But then I realized it was President's Day week, and the Olympics are still on. We have been watching them on the computer during the day.  Craig got a VPN  thru which we can watch the BBC coverage in the UK. It's interesting to watch the coverage from the English point of view instead of the American. We get to hear about athletes who are not from the USA! We are also enjoying listening to the accents and the slang.  "Huge! Brilliant! Monstrous! Massive!" Each sport has a different set of superlatives, and all of then are different from ours.

A quick note: Thanks for all the interest and comments on the house sale situation. One commenter reminded us that if we got the payment from the buyer as "rent" it would be taxable as ordinary income. Another mentioned how difficult it can be to collect deposit money if the deal doesn't close. We hope neither of these bit of advice will be needed. The payment mentioned has been contracted as rent to put it outside of the deposit already in escrow.  This would be so that if the transaction doesn't close by March 25, this payment could be collected without the hassle of going through escrow.  We would still be able to extend his escrow time, or go after the other deposit money if his house closes and he does not complete our deal.  

We hope, and are confident, that neither of these situations will occur. We would much rather see our house sale close by March 25 so we can be on our way.  If it doesn't and we have to pay taxes on the money, so be it.

All will be well in the long run. We have both settled down into a less stressed waiting mode. 

So, visit Gil's blog and leave a comment.  He would love to hear from you. (And to members of my family, you do not have to be a blogger to leave a comment, just use the anonymous feature.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I named the tree lady, Trying to get a spot in the Florida Keys, and house sale news

Although fern is a good name for a forest person,  it was not quite right for our moss head lady.  When I woke up yesterday, I knew her name. Her name is Treesha.  When Craig sees or hears some of the creative names the sports figures have, he often says: "Another example of a mother that could not spell when she filled out the birth certificate".

Tuesday was "dump the tanks" day again. We always breathe a sign of relief when we are back home safely.  This time, Craig almost forgot to unhook the electric cord.  Fortunately we caught the omission before pulling out. 

When I read about the bad weather in the East, I am so glad we are here in California.  I hope we won't regret leaving.  Naah! We will deal with the weather as we come to it.  

I have been trying to make reservations at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida keys for over a month now.  Reservations are thru Reserve America, and can be made up to eleven months in advance.  They open the reservation window at 8:00 AM EST. every day, for eleven months in the future.  That is 5:00 AM here.  I have my clock set to go off at 4:55 AM.  I get up, go to the Reserve America site and select the appropriate information.  If you click on a reservation before 5:00 AM PST, it will tell you to come back at 8:00 am EST.   At 4:59 AM there will be several sites open.  I sit with my finger over the "book these dates" and hit it as the computer clock hits 5:00 AM.  All of the open sites disappear  and the message "inventory not available" comes up. 

We do have a reservation at Long Key State Park for November 29 - Dec 13, and at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park for Dec 14 - Dec 28, but I really want to get a few weeks at Bahia Honda.

Right now I'm not worried about where we will be between Dec. 28 and whenever we get into Bahia Honda.  I'll work that out!

Perhaps tomorrow morning at 4:55 AM I'll try calling.  Can't be any less successful than I have been so far!

I've been thinking about trying to get a reservation at the Everglades National Park, but their reservation window doesn't open until June.  I wonder if I will be any more successful trying to get a spot there!

The process of selling our house has taken an interesting turn. First off, the buyer's buyer has a signed offer from his back-up buyer for the commercial property at the other end of the chain.  This is good.  But it also means a big delay in the entire closing schedule since it is like starting all over.

It appears that the buyer's buyer's first buyer that pulled out of the deal paid a substantial penalty fee. 

We only her about this as "scuttlebutt" and not in any official format. We do know that our buyer's buyer paid our buyer and his soon-to-be ex-wife a penalty fee of $26,000.

Our buyer first offered to "release" $10,000 from his escrowed deposit to us if we extended his closing deadline to March 25. 

We read this as giving us our own money early, and the title company said it was not legal to do it that way because his deposit was tied to a damages clause and we would have to prove damages to get the money. Possibly in court.

I'm thinking he needs the $13,000 (his half) to cover his current mortgage  expenses, and an extension fee for the lock on his loan.

Craig and I decided we did not need access to the $10,000 at this point, but if we lost the closure of our property we would want to claim it, plus a bit more to cover putting the house back on the market. We might need to rent furniture to stage it!

Our realtor and our realtor's legal department came up with a very clever, legal solution. We extended the escrow, but if it does not close on or before March 25, our buyer has agreed to pay us $13,000 as RENT for the storage space in the garage and house. 
He cannot move in himself, this is just for his stuff.

This gives us a big leverage to encourage closure by that date, which is what we want more than the money. 

So either the deal on the house will be closed, or we will have $13,000. 

The ball is in his court now. Or possibly in his buyer's. But at least we are not stressing out about it. 

Another couple was here this afternoon looking at the outside of the house.  They had seen the sign.  

Spring is almost here and I'm sure if this all goes away, we will still be OK.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Life at Camp Driveway

It has been raining for the last few days here at Camp Driveway.  For some around the country, rain is not a desirable thing.  Here in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, it's a reason to celebrate.  We have been in a very serious drought cycle.  The few inches of rain we will get out of this storm system won't fix that, but it will green up a few brown hillsides and perhaps water a few trees.

In the past I have always been aware of the rain when it happens, but not quite as much as I do now that I am living in a big fiberglass box.  The back of our coach is parked beneath a large pine tree, and it continues to drip water for hours after rain has stopped. 

 Sometimes it drips when it's not raining, because the pine "harvests" blowing fog.  In the back bedroom section of the coach it seems much louder than in the front living area.  Last night I tried ear plugs. They came out in my sleep, but I slept well anyway.

I have spent a lot of time doing canvas needlepoint. My chair is quite comfortable and the window light is good.  I use a small spot light in the evenings to supplement the overhead. 

I love to wear happy socks!

Yesterday I defrosted the freezer.   I needed a step stool to reach the back. These are my "Good Sam" socks that I got at Camping World. They are quite thick and have a non-skid bottom.  Almost like slippers.

This is only the second time I have defrosted, and it probably didn't need to be done in the side without the icemaker.  But defrosting gave me the opportunity to restack things and remind myself of what's in there.

When I look out my kitchen window I see this tree.

When I look out the bathroom window I get a slightly different view of the same tree.

We don't close the mini blinds on one side of the bedroom at night.  Only the squirrels can see in, and we enjoy the morning light. 

 I see the same tree from yet another angle thru the bedroom windows.  

Can you see the face?

It's funny, because I swear her expression changes with the light. 

Sometimes she is smiling, sometimes not.

The rain has made her hair grow longer every day.

She doesn't have a name, but if we stay here much longer I may give her one, and perhaps start to talk to her!

Progress is being made on the house sale.  I will write more about it in a few days when I'm sure about what is happening. But for now things do seem to be moving forward.

Is it a bad sign to think about talking to trees?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A better day

Yes, the Monterey Aquarium was a good idea. Watching the fishies was very relaxing. More about that later.

Posting about the house was also a stress reliever. I no longer feel like I have to keep it all to myself.

SallyB's comment about how her buyer had a heart attack at the closing, and died a few days later, sure tops anything we have gone through.

Thanks for the advice. We have suggested our buyer get a bridge loan, and he is looking into doing that.

The long delay caused by the buyer's buyer, came as a surprise to him as much as to us. Before accepting his contingent offer we drove by his present house, which is very nice and in great condition. We checked him out on LinkedIn. His credentials are all good. Our agent knows his agent very well and they have been in close communication throughout.

We let him move some of his stuff into the back garage four days before his closing was scheduled. It didn't seem like a big deal at the time: one weekend. Then we told him he could use the front garage and one bedroom as well. It seemed quite reasonable at the time. He was emptying his house so it could get cleaned for his buyers to move into following their closing. It was no imposition on us, and otherwise he would have had to get storage for just a week and move everything twice, and his stuff is not in the way of our showing the house if it comes to that.

We are quite confident we will close with this buyer. It is just a mater of getting the other property closed, and that is beyond our control and out of our buyer's control too.  He is as stressed as we are.

Last night we got an email from our realtor saying the extension paperwork was in progress, and a very nice note from our buyer thanking us for our patience and willingness to work through this. A few nice words go a long way to reassure me.

Now on to my "fish tale."

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the best in the country. We have visited it many times over the years, and it's one of our favorite places to take out of town visitors. Monterey is about 45 miles south of here.

This week to celebrate their 50th anniversary, residents of the counties surrounding Monterey Bay were invited to visit the aquarium for free.  Free is always a good excuse for me!

Although we did have a light breakfast befor leaving home, Craig was hungry when we got there.  There are many restaraunts near by, and we choose Bubba Gump's, a seafood restaraunt based on the Forrest Gump movie.  We have walked past it many times, but it was always so busy we didn't stop in.

This time, being early for lunch on a non-holiday Tuesday, there was no wait.

The decor was fun and the food was great.

I tried my very first Shrimp Po'Boy.  It was wonderful, but I would have like a bit more lettuce.  I'm not sure where they would have put it!  Craig had a yummy shrimp taco plate.

On past visits to the Aquarium we have had to wait in long lines and jostle with crowds of people to look at the exhibits. That is the price one pays for going during a holiday week.  But this time we were able to walk right in and enjoy the tanks without the crowds.  

I always find the large kelp forest tank peaceful as the fish seem to float weightlessly and cruise by in their own time. 
No rush!

This is a three story tank that is located at the center of the Aquarium so you can walk all the way around it and see different views of the vast space.

The occupants of this tank are all from the Monterey Bay.

Big and small.

Pretty and not so pretty.

This guy was huge! He came up to the glass and seemed to be looking at us, while we looked at him.

His relative was not as curious.

There are many interesting exhibits: sea birds, penguins, octopus, and invertebrates. My personal favorite was the cuttlefish.

This still image can't show the graceful movements of this creature.  He looked like he was from another world, and I guess he is: from the world of the deep.

And then there are the Jellies: the most spectacular of the exhibits.

Once again, much is lost in these still images.

Whenever I go to a zoo or a wild animal park, I feel torn between being able to see the animals, and wondering if they wouldn't be better off in the wild.

Whenever I go to this aquarium, these questions don't arise. The animals are healthier and in no danger of being eaten by others. They live longer than they might in the open ocean.

So ... This was a better day.  Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The House, or Why Merikay is stressed

Warning:  This is a long wordy post that covers the events of more than two months. I had planned on not writing about the house sale, but things have really been stressing me to the max and I have now decided to share this journey with my blog world friends.

We had a real roller-coaster December and January. Lots of good times with our daughter and grandsons, but also some exciting then disappointing days, during which we dealt with the realtors about the sale of our house.  We received an offer on the day before Thanksgiving.  It was a low offer, but the potential buyers were very well qualified, and did not have to sell another property to close on ours.  It took several days of counter offers to reach an acceptable price. Some people like to haggle.  I don't.

I was very worried about getting everything out by their requested closing date of Jan. 10, since we planned on staying in San Diego through Christmas. That tension spoiled much of my holiday spirit.

I know no real estate sale is final until the money is in the bank, but we trusted it would go through.  Unfortunately, more than three weeks into the escrow time, the sale fell apart.  I'm not at liberty to say why exactly, but their inspectors and engineers had made some ridiculous recommendations, and they wanted an additional $110,000 price reduction to cover earthquake retrofitting and landscape terracing. We hired an engineer and he said very little of it was necessary, but perhaps $11,000 might be a reasonable retrofit proposal, and even that might be a bit high. 

On December 23 we released them from the contract, and the house went back on the market. 

It was messy and painful. 

Needless to say, we were upset.

The day after Christmas, we said our good-byes and headed back to Los Gatos.  We were home by midday on December 27.

Our realtors were also away for the holidays. When we talked to them the morning of the 28th, they told us there had been some new interest in the house.  By the end of the day they called and told us they had a new offer in hand and expected another the next day.

Wow! Multiple offers!

It turned out that the first offer was poorly written with an inadequate deposit and a low offered price.  But the information on the second offer was very encouraging. We did work out a counter for the first, but held high hopes for the second.

I had been a bit sick for several days with a bad cold, and that night I think I overdosed with cough medicine, because I had some really bizarre dreams about meeting the new buyer, liking him a lot and feeling very good about the deal. Instead of being on edge all of the next day, I was quite relaxed about it.

The new buyer really wanted our house. Needed our house. He has kids in the Los Gatos school district and his current home was in escrow and scheduled to close at the end of the month. He previously lost a bidding war on another mountain home, and although the other offer price is not disclosed, a buyer is told when there is a multiple offer situation.

He made an offer $1000 over our asking price.  We had reduced our price considerably from our original asking price by that point.

We were delighted and accepted.  

This all gave us further motivation to get things cleaned out, which we did.  In a way, I was glad the first offer had fallen apart, because there would have been no way we could have done all that was needed before their requested closing date of January 10.

Craig dismantled and sold his beloved high end audio system. I packed and donated my beloved china to a charity. We made a deal with the estate liquidator, A.K.A. the junk man, and he took almost everything else away. Our buyer did buy several things and gave us a certified check right away. I sold my van for a pittance after our last dump run.

But, as I said in the beginning of this post, no real estate deal is done until the money is in the bank and the deed is recorded. We were pretty sure that if this new deal fell apart, another buyer would come along by spring.  So it was a good idea to clear out our stuff. We knew we were not going to move back in, but I do think it's harder to sell an empty house than one with furniture.

I have been posting about that process!  I'm sure glad that "getting rid of stuff" is done.

The new buyer had until the  January 17 to remove all contingencies except for the one about his closing the sale on his home.  We breathed a big sigh of relief when they were removed. We were also pleased he didn't ask for a single dollar for fixes. 

His closing was another matter. Although it was in contract, the sale of his house was contingent on a sale of a third property. The realtors all told us not to worry, but it did weigh heavily on our minds, particularly when we heard it was a commercial property.  We didn't know that until well into the escrow process, but I'm pretty sure knowing it would not have made any difference in our accepting his offer.

On Jan. 20 we allowed him to bring quite a bit of his stuff to the house and put it in our garages. He couldn't move in, but this helped him out. What a day that was!  Our junk man finished in the morning, and just as he pulled out, two large trucks and our buyer and his father pulled in.  We watched them unload, and I took him and his youngest son for a walk in our forest. 

They left, but were going to come back with a second load.

While they were gone, Craig and I took the last van load of trash to the dump, came back and got the Alfa down to the front drive to fill the freshwater tank, and were ready for a trip to town to dump the black and grey tanks. We tried to get out before the buyer came back,  but didn't quite make it. It was a bit of a circus juggling two large trucks, the Alfa, the buyer's SUV, and the Accent all on a very narrow windy road, but we did it and all went well.  We hoped it would be our last time to the RV dump and back.  

But it was not.

On the offer paperwork, the closing for both his and our properties were scheduled for January 24.  A week before that, we were told ours could not be until the 28th because of the way banks worked and because of the weekend.  We were fine with that. 

But his property did not close on the 24th. It seemed there was some sort of problem with the commercial property sale.  Instead our buyer's agent presented a request for him to move in as a renter. 

Forty years ago that may have been a good idea, but with the litigious society we live in now, we knew it was not a good plan. So we said no, citing the fact that our homeowners insurance was for an owner-occupied residence, not a rental.  

On the 26th we received another request stating that he would pay our homeowners insurance, and create a liability release.  He is a lawyer.  We were not hostile, but did not feel this was to our benefit either, so we again said no, citing the fact that we were still using the house for personal reasons, showers, telephone etc. and did not want a renter.

Of course this was all disturbing.  We kept thinking that perhaps we would lose the buyer and have to start over again.  I wouldn't mind having an empty house, but the garages and one room were full of his things.  No to mention the hot tub in our front driveway!

January 28 came.  No closing.  Another in and out with the Alfa for tank dumping. Every time we do this we breathe a sigh of relief when she is safely parked at Camp Driveway once again.  Every time we hope it will be the last!

On January 28, our Realtor sent us an email saying there was still one issue holding up the closings, but they all hoped to "see some movement" on it by the end of the week!  

We were so ready to be out of here! But we went to a movie instead, and I reauthorized the February house payment and Alfa insurance on my bill-pay-plan from my bank. We paid our home owners and earthquake insurance due on Feb 7. 

Several people have suggested we should just take off and leave it to the realtor.  But we didn't want to do that. We didn't want to have to come back.
I kept hearing that we might get a better price in a few months.  But I just wanted to be free of it all.

The stress of these months has done some interesting things to our marriage. We have had more fights in two months than we had in many years. But the stress was also like putting a heavy quilt over someone with a high fever. One wonders if the patient will die or the fever will break.

For us, the "crisis" came one night when we both had a lot of wine. We sat eye to eye and opened some old and some newer marital wounds. We looked at ways we had both been destructive to the relationship, and promised each other we would each try to put things in the past and try to be better toward each other in the future.  Instead of just putting up with our differences, we are starting to be more understanding of each other.  

We are not enemies. We continue to be stressed, but we are ever so much more together. The fever has broken. The marriage will survive, and on the 31st of January we celebrated our 48th wedding anniversary. 

The sale of the house?

Not going well.  Our buyer's buyer's buyer has failed to perform and dropped out of the deal.  Our buyer's buyer claims to have a backup offer, but as of February 1, we hear that the back-up offer people are in Japan for the New Year and won't be back to sign papers until this week.  


We are told that "if all goes well" the new closing "could" be March 18.  More than a month away!

So, now you all know why Merikay has not been happy camper these last few months.  This is our fifth house, and we have never been through anything as difficult as this before.  

I keep telling myself it could be worse.  We could have no buyers at all. Our buyer does want the house, and is qualified to buy it.  

I am determined to let the house sit empty for as long as it takes. 

Tomorrow we are going on a day trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Watching fish is very soothing.  I hope we can go on at least one day trip a week in the upcoming month. Maybe a couple of short RV trips too. 

I'm sure the whole country will hear the corks pop when this is over and we close.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Land of Medicine Buddha

Our hike on Friday was thru a beautiful place called the Land of Medicine Buddha Retreat Center.

I looked up information on the web for hiking trails in the Forest of Nisene Marks, a state park near us, when I came upon some descriptions of hikes in the Medicine Buddha Retreat Center. It borders on the state park, and there was a nice six mile loop trail described, that started in the Center and wound through part of the Nisene Marks park.

The day was cool but the sun was shining, and by the time I made our lunch and we drove there, it was about eleven in the morning.  

By following some directions we got from the Web, we found a parking area near the trail head, and found the trail with no problems.

The well-groomed path crossed a little creek and climbed steadly up into the forest.

It felt so good to be hiking, but we both agreed we were terribly out of shape from sitting around for so long!  I have gained some of my weight back and feel terrible about it.  But perhaps a renewed hiking regime will help with that.

This forest was logged, possibly clear cut, many years ago.  One of the fascinating things to me is the way the redwoods grow back.  Where each large tree was cut, a circle of new trees grows around it.  They call the cut tree the "mother" and the ring around it the "sisters".

In time, the stump of the mother totally decays, and the sisters grow thicker and taller.  In the picture above you can see several groups growing.  

Some people are distressed by the logging of old-growth trees.  Seeing how the new growth develops gives me a peaceful feeling that although we may not see the giants in our lifetime, they can and will regrow in their own time if left to do so. 

So very tall!

We hiked for a little over three miles, and when we came to what we decided was near the halfway point of the loop trail, we stopped for a little lunch.

Sandwiches, cheese sticks, cut asian pears, and water on a fallen log taste better than any fancy gourmet dinner.

Not all of the hike was through redwood forest.  This section was dominated by live oak and tan oak trees.  We were glad to see so many small tan oaks, because there has been an epidemic of disease that has killed many of them just a few miles away.  We are hopeful that these new-growth trees will survive.

Part of our hike took us past several meditation points that had Buddhist quotations and explanations of them.  I (Merikay) was quite taken by what some of them said.  Perhaps it is because I am in such a stressed state, but I found a new comfort and a curiosity about Buddhism.  It may be what I need right now.

The hike felt so good.  We did get to go out for an early dinner, and 
were happily tucked back in at Camp Driveway by nine.