SWB's path to financial independence

Where are you and where are you going?
SavingWithBabies
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies »

The RV (trailer) deal went through and it's now parked in our driveway. It needs a good cleaning and some maintenance. Towing it home through construction was interesting but went fine. It definitely is noticeable pulling something around 3,500 pounds versus the ~1,500 pounds our small sailboat and trailer weigh. Now to learn all the systems, repair a few things and clean it.

Now that it we have it, I also ordered one of the portable washers off of Amazon. The type that can wash a small amount of clothes without a lot of water and then have a spin chamber (for 1/2 of the load). We'll keep that in the shower area when we're setup and hopefully it'll work well to wash the clothes (particularly, all the kids clothes).

I also ordered a roll of white PETG 3d printer filament so I can print some replacement parts. Someone has already modeled the awning caps which is great as the ones on the trailer appear to be chewed up by UV/exposure. I'm excited though as our phone holder in the car keeps braking so I'm looking forward to making a more solid one in PETG.

SavingWithBabies
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies »

Trailer

It has rained a bunch here so the trailer is getting a good leak test. So far, so good. Cleaning has been helpful in evaluating the caulking and the surfaces. The condition is overall good (as far as I can tell) but it does need some fresh caulk in some spots and some screws tightened and/or rebedded (fix issue with screws not gripping anymore in some places). And I found one spot where a bracket got loose and wore some grooves into a panel. Figuring out what might be causing that before fixing just in case it's a bigger problem.

We've also slept in it in the driveway for the past couple of nights. The RV king-sized bed is great as it fully fills out that end of the trailer so you can sleep up to the edge without having to worry about falling off (or a kid falling off). So all four of us are sleeping in one bed leaving the queen at the other end empty. We did however pick up a "bed edge guard rail" ($15 for 2 on Craigslist, probably only need 1) to put on the queen end that slides under the mattress and would let the kids sleep on that end without us having to worry about them rolling off the edge and falling a good distance (but it leaves the sides open and the dinette is right there so they can crawl up and down still or at least get a cushioned fall if somehow they roll out the side).

First maintenance, besides cleaning, was getting the range put back in position (loose/missing screws). Then on to checking the water heater anode and finding it completely gone. So ordered a new anode and a new 120v heating element. The gas side of it works well and I think the electric side works but it's easy to fry the 120v heating element (if turned on before heater is full of water) plus they get gunked up with hard water so for $14.xx, good to start fresh (and save old as backup if it does turn out to be good).

Maintenance list:
* replace anode and 120v element in heater
* test toilet
* test dumping gray water and toilet
* test shower
* check for play in wheel bearings, likely grease them (has quick grease but apparently often leaks into electrical brakes so need to be careful)
* decide if should replace tires (including spare)
* finish cleaning bag (kind of a seal) that goes between two roof parts -- looks like can get one more year out of it but is wearing out
* reattach some trim that is coming off
* replace rubber bump stops that the tops rest on for each end when collapsed
* reattach some rubber bumper material that is starting to come off
* 3d print some replacement covers and attach them (2 missing)

Job

I'm at the tail end of two full time employee (FTE) interviews. It looks like they will both have roughly the same in compensation. While seeking references, a prior employer who does consulting also offered some contract opportunities (or FTE if desired). And there is still the other big buck contract place if a suitable project comes through. So I have what appears to be 4 choices:

1) FTE, ~$165-180k salary + benefits + options
2) basically same as #1, just different industry
3) contract position at around $120/hour
4) contract position at around $165/hour

The difference between #3 & #4 besides money is that #4 is going to be more rapid pace, maybe higher contract turnover (shorter projects, more turmoil). The potential opportunity at the moment through #4 is a 3 month project with overseas team. For #3, the organizations are in the USA and closer to midwest (not much onsite, if any, required though). And there is a much bigger list of projects to pick from and I've really enjoyed working for #3 in the past. They projects also seem to skew to the longer side (6+ months).

I'm thinking through which way to go. It seems like #3 is not a huge win over #1 or #2 except if I want the flexibility of being a contractor. And I already setup a Solo 401k so I can at least put some of that 1099 income away pre-tax which to me slightly offsets the lack of benefits. If I was doing a contract position, I would use COBRA for health insurance which would be about $1,100/month for current family policy.

I guess I lean towards #3 at the moment but still mulling it over (and waiting for more details from #1 and #2).

classical_Liberal
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by classical_Liberal »

I'm really exited to read about your camping adventures! One of the things holding me back from purchasing a used, small RV or trailer is all the maintenance needed. Like the stuff you are writing about above. Are you learning as you go,or did you have some knowledge of these systems beforehand? How much time is all of this taking?

Have you read Luxagraf's blog? He contributes here from time to time, currently living in Mexico. However, he and his wife had been traveling the US for about 18 months in an RV with 3 kids prior to Mexico. It reads like they will likely do it again upon return to the states.

SavingWithBabies
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies »

@c_L I did a bunch of research in the past (mostly reading forums) and I have worked on cars/motorcycles in the past and also grew up taking things apart and sometimes getting them back together (dad is an engineer). So I have some handy skills but I'm mostly learning as I go by reading the forum specific to this trailer (and some non-specific -- like the water heater is a really common heater widely used in the RV industry). Oh, and I have that small sailboat and I did some maintenance on the trailer that will cross over (replaced wheel bearings).

It is taking some time -- cleaning the exterior walls probably took almost a full day but I was taking my time and looking for other problems. I still need to clean the roof and examine it for issues. I probably should have spent more time inspecting it but after looking it over again, I'm really happy with it in terms of the shape it's in given the age. RV depreciation is a sight to behold but if you look for something in good shape and buy that, even if it's a little more, I think it works out better than going for the cheapest one that might be the most worn out. Due to the depreciation curve, they are usually pretty cheap too so it's not like you're paying much more. I think some places will do inspections too so you could have someone look it over and list all the issues.

The one thing I noticed reading online is that the overall quality, workmanship and customer service in the RV industry skews to the poor side. So it's important to go in with low expectations (which seems crazy when buying a high end brand new trailer but...). My attitude is there is always going to be something that needs to be fixed and the goal is to get ahead of the maintenance and then keep on it (and ideally not let it disrupt your use of the RV if possible -- an example there might be replacing tires that look fine but are old years-wise in order to avoid a blow out while driving).

I haven't read Luxagraf's blog! Thanks for linking it. I will now though as I'm curious about their travels in general but particularly with kids.

SavingWithBabies
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies »

Progress:

* We gave 30 days notice on our rental so we're out by the end of June.
* I'm resigning my current job this afternoon with two weeks notice.
* On the next job front, still waiting for offers to come in.
* We contacted local storage place in more rural area and it looks like we should be able to store the household/hobby things we're keeping + boat + car for about $110/month.
* I ordered $500+ of parts (and one special tool) to do a lot of maintenance on the SUV and I still need to order roughly another $100 in parts for the brake job plus another $50 for some tools I don't have here. We'll end up with a new radiator, replaced timing belt (and all the components on the belt path like rollers & tensioner), water pump, radiator hoses, spark plugs, thermostat and accessory belt. Then new brake pads (rotors look good).
* Found a range + oven for our trailer -- ours came with a range or 3 burners up top and a separate microwave/toaster. We'll probably cook outside but we wanted a stove instead of a microwave so I'm going to go buy it for $100 and install it (after watching a few Youtube videos to confirm it's fairly straight forward and how to test the propane connection to ensure no leaks -- soapy water like a bicycle inner tube basically).

SavingWithBabies
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies »

On a separate note, I think it's funny I restarted my journal to focus more on the numbers but I've started to go off of them again. The underlying sentiment here is often that the numbers are pretty boring and it's the things around the numbers that are more important. And I'm seeing that more now. Being too focused on the numbers has definitely caused me stress and the reality is the numbers will come or they won't mostly on their own schedule. I can do things to influence that like having income (working) but even if I make 40% more or less, it won't that dramatically influence the outcome. And really spending is so much more important than income (although I feel it's glib to say that if your income is above average). That's not to say I won't try to maximize income and minimize spending and so forth but it isn't worth getting too stressing out about. I'd rather it take a little more time than have to deal with the stress.

The other sentiment here and over on Reddit is around living in the present and making the life you want to live now instead of delaying it for the somewhat arbitrary point that you hit the numbers. That I see more and more now. I do want the theoretical freedom that comes with hitting the numbers. But what I actually do at that point in my daily life might not change at all. I dislike a lot of aspects of working in software but I like it more than I don't and I think it's best to take advantage of what feels like the gift of high income as long as I'm enjoying it. The things I think about on top of being FI for daily life is putting away money for our children's college expenses (if they chose to go, I think I would basically do some kind of thing where they all get an equal sum of money at some point but it's up to them if it was spent on school or invested or ...). There is also potentially taking on the expenses of caring for parents. And no doubt there are other uses we can think of for the money. That said, I do want to stop working for others at some point. I need to focus on my health as I want to be around and fit and active while my kids grow up.

SavingWithBabies
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies »

Progress: 52.5% ($630,250/$1,200,000)

Mostly stock market decline but also spent $7,000 on a RV (trailer).

Seppia
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by Seppia »

SavingWithBabies wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 12:31 pm
* I'm resigning my current job this afternoon with two weeks notice.
* On the next job front, still waiting for offers to come in.
I understand you're still waiting for offers, but what are you leaning towards picking?
Do you have the family flexibility to try the overseas contracts?
I'm thinking it could be a fun way to slow travel with the fam, but it's definitely not for everybody

SavingWithBabies
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies »

@Seppia Right now, I'm leaning towards contracting and probably the faster paced/higher pay option. Partly because more money is nice but more so because I think the projects will be shorter so I'll have more downtime between. And hopefully, the money should make up for that. So I might make the same as the lower paying one per year but work maybe 2/3 of the time. Of course, it might turn out that I end up on project that keeps on going long term but I think even then most wouldn't go past a year or so. And if that were to happen, at least I'd be making a higher rate to make up for working full time? If it is too much, the lower paying contract opportunity isn't going anywhere (as a former coworker/friend of mine pointed out), so I would have that as a fallback. And I would try to be as nice as possible in declining the full time employee positions just in case that made more sense later on.

SavingWithBabies
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies »

After some thinking, I'm now leaning towards a full time employee role. A big part of that is the move to an RV is going to be quite a change and there are good odds a contracting gig is going to be more than 40 hours a week. Almost certainly paid (unless feeling should have had something and end up working some hours for free) but all the same, more than 40 hours. That is for the big buck contracting gig. The other one is likely less stressful but the pay isn't that much better and the projects are longer so it ends up similar to being an employee in a way.

Yet another reason is career growth. I've had a taste of architect/team lead in my current job and it was interesting to some degree. As a contractor, I won't get to do any of that career growth. I'm still on the fence to the value of that however I did enjoy it and it wouldn't be a bad way to go out (climbing the career ladder even though I'm going for the ERE "side ledge" instead of the top).

I also see that at 50% of the goal to FI, I have probably another 5-7 years to go. It seems very likely there will be an economic pullback in that timeframe (if not sooner of course -- it could have just started for all I know). If that happens, I suspect the big buck contracting gigs will go first, then the lower paying one will have another internal people to handle their clients (and won't need contractors like me) and the direct employers may or may not lay people off but seems like odds are it's safer going the employee route.

I still want to try the contracting gig at some point but I'm just not sure now is when I want to do so.

classical_Liberal
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by classical_Liberal »

Moving into the RV is a big, bold lifestyle experiment. I applaud you for it! It's not easy to do such things. How to arrange the job/income sources is just as tough and will likely take some experimental of it's own.

I'm in a very similar situation as you, as far as having to make a decision about my current primary career soon. There are plenty of options for me, or I could just take a break from it for awhile and try something totally new. One thing that's been helpful for me, from a financial security perspective, is to separate an amount of capital as "debt to future me". IOW determine the minimum amount of present value capital you need to all but guarantee a successful traditional retirement. If you feel confident you can somehow make ends meet until 60 (or whatever), then anything above the retirement funds minimum is your experimentation money from now until then. Use this buffer to try and design your best life. Don't be afraid to try different things and to adjust those things as life circumstances change, this is the freedom of FU without FI. This attitude is certainly easier said than done.

SavingWithBabies
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies »

@c_L That is an interesting way of thinking about the financial security side of things. I'd kind of made it that far but not quite as I wasn't thinking about the minimum amount needed. I kind of have that knocking around my head along with the (unknown) cost of the future house I want to buy (or build). I'll have to think about this some more.

After mulling the employment options over, I accepted a full time employee position with the opportunity I was most excited about (NYC one). I think this will be less stressful than consulting (although when I informed the big buck consulting place, they said they have some part time work too -- something to file away but that doesn't work right now). I was able to push the start date out ~1.5 months so I just need to finish up this week and the next at the current job and then I'm free for more than a month! Just in time to focus on moving out, finishing up the maintenance on the tow vehicle and trailer and get on the road :).

SavingWithBabies
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies »

Spent the day doing brakes (pads and rotors which includes adjusting the parking brake) on the SUV. My automotive repair skills are a little rusty and SUV wheels are big and heavy (who would have thought!) but it went well. It's been making a weird noise (sounds like a belt roller going bad but could be water pump) for a while so I'm looking forward to digging into the timing belt + water pump + radiator + ... maintenance which is up next. I expect that to take 2-3 full days or longer spread out.

Spending a lot of money this month with materials to repair the trailer and parts and tools to do maintenance on the SUV. But hopefully, it will all be worth it with less hassle while we're on the road. And some of the maintenance is critical (timing belt on an interference engine) and needs to be done now.

On the trailer, I found one vent leaking and then another. There are 3 vents (one has a fan) plus a roof AC plus a roof-mounted TV antenna (which we really don't need) so lots of places for water to come in. After the second leaking vent, I decided they are all getting redone. On this trailer, there is also a seam along the middle of the top that is known to leak so I'm going to redo the caulk on that (along with all the other caulk on the roof panels/joins/awning) and then probably put some expensive but very resilient and effective sealing tape (kind of a sticky gooey material with a finished top side) over that seam as it's known to pull apart over time.

The trailer maintenance might sound like a lot and it definitely has some deferred maintenance however in most other ways, it's in good shape so I'm still optimistic that it will work out well for us. Plus with taking apart the vents, we can fully clean the dirty screens.

SavingWithBabies
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies »

Last day of work for the current (now prior) employer. I'm a bit sad to move on honestly but I am not regretting my decision. Now 2 weeks of maintenance (SUV, trailer) and moving out.

I finished the big complicated maintenance on the SUV. That was the timing belt, water pump, radiator, etc. It was surprisingly pleasant to work on compared to all the cramped cars I've worked on in the past. It probably helped that it has only been in the midwest for a couple of winters so it isn't too rusty yet either. Next I'm changing the fluids in the driveline (transmission, transfer case, two differentials).

Then back to the travel trailer. I need to finish removing the vents, then make replacement parts (they used PVC board to make risers to mount the vents/fan on -- I'm replacing those PVC boards as they were assembled with staples that have rusted and cracked the PVC). So basically, these are 3 holes in the roof that are standard RV 14"x14" so I'll redo those. Then have to do some caulking and potentially redo some other seals but still investigating if I'm going to dig into more of it (besides one big long seal) or if I'll leave some of it alone. I really don't want to deal with leaks on the road so I lean towards doing as much as possible in the time allotted.

I also swapped our 3 burner propane range + microwave combo (it was below the range) for unit with the same range but with an oven attached to it too. It turns out this stove (range + oven) is a little older and didn't come with electrodes to light the burners but as it was made by the same manufacturer, I was able to swap the parts over from the other range (along with a nice stainless folding top/cover -- kind of a backsplash when you open it to use the range).

SavingWithBabies
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies »

I've been enjoying myself time off however I've been busy fixing up and preparing the RV. Hopefully, the fruits of the labor now will be enjoyed over the month of August. Next is finishing packing up and moving out of the house -- we have our storage arranged and paid for just have to pack and then rent a cargo trailer and move things to it (and drop some other things off elsewhere).

I also realized that I wish I'd taken off 6-12 months instead of jumping into the next thing right away. I think next time around, I'll do so. I also have some slight regrets about not trying the contracting so maybe next time around...

We spent more money this month preparing for RV life. We bought a portable washing machine (the $100-140 type with a smaller 1/2 load spinner dryer, new off of Amazon) and a Coleman portable propane grill that has inserts for grill/griddle/stove burner (ie boiling pot of water). We got that used off of Craigslist and bought one of the optional stove burner inserts (it came with grills and griddles). It has a non-battery-powered click to start just like the RV range so now we should be good for cooking outside or inside. Then some other things that of course add up like water filters, another water hose, sewer hose, adapter to hook big tank up to propane stove and lower flow shower head. All the major purchases should be done except debating RV insurance (not that expensive and can do month to month so could cancel? debate as while towing, the tow vehicle insurance covers the trailer too as far as I understand but when not towing...) and replacing the tires (they should be okay for another year).

I don't regret spending money at all towards our goals. We're still being careful to buy smartly and not buy too optimistically (for example, I'd love to put some solar on the trailer and start tinkering with that but it gets expensive quick, the weight causes problems with this type of trailer and it inevitable leads to upgrades in other areas of the trailer like the power converter, the batteries, etc). However, if after a month we are still wanting to go down the RV path and solar would help, I wouldn't hesitate to spend the money to make it easier to live in the RV off grid (the other area I'd spend on there is some way of getting waste and gray water to the dump site without moving the trailer). Right now, it's best to get some time using what we now have and worry about optimizing it further later on.

SavingWithBabies
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies »

Almost done moving out of the rental house. We used a U-Haul trailer to make a couple of runs to the storage unit. It looks like will have a little more than one more run and then some trips to the thrift store for donations, getting rid of some hazardous waste, moving the boat, storing the car and we can hit the road.

SavingWithBabies
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies »

Progress: 55.4% ($665,500/$1,200,000)

We're a couple days into RVing. We took off for the Upper Peninsula and made sure we had reservations over the 4th. Staying at a kind of interesting campground that has a lot of families from the nearby town take a spot for a month or the whole season. But it'll be the whole extended family each with a spot and an RV. This year, we ended up in what was supposed to be the 5th spot for a big family so we ended up splitting them down the middle which is slightly awkward but everyone is nice enough (and after all, one of their family cancelled). Rate is $21/night with just electric (15 or 20 amp) but we're right on the water. We drove through another place on the same lake that is $28-30/night with full hookups (price differs with 30 amp versus 50 amp electric and it comes with sewer and water). We'll be here through Sunday then off to another place on Lake Superior (so northern UP).

I forgot about the 1st of the month financials. Everything looks good. We spend a bunch of money fixing up the SUV (all the parts I bought, no bling bling all necessary stuff except maybe $15 on headlight polisher to remove haze). I went up and edited in progress just now.

Moving out was a big hassle -- our monthly storage fee is $85/month for 10x20 space (really, bit smaller) and then $50/month to store the boat and the sedan (so $25/month each with 3 month minimum -- storage locker is no minimum besides month chunks). Moving with little kids is hard as someone has to spend most of their time dealing with the kids while the other moves. But we got it done. So much stuff. We really pared down but yeah, I'm ready to get rid of more of my stuff because it's not worth holding on to (ie 5.1 speaker setup, some coral reef aquarium stuff, some film photography stuff, probably one of the 3d printers, etc).

Some annoyances dealing with HR at the new place around what is standard for lodging expenses. I'm realizing I'm frustrated with that kind of bullshit and should just not ask anymore and do my thing and if their expectations don't align with mine, push the fuck back because who works for who? Yeah, they don't work for me but it's all a two way street. Still thinking maybe I should have gone the contracting route (and really it's not too late).

After not drinking in forever, I'm one beer in on the 4th. Going to stay up and watch the fireworks over the lake from town (and the state campground and of course the ones from the campground we're staying at including our hand fireworks -- ie sparklers and that kind of thing suitable for little kids). Someone just left off a really loud firecracker. Louder than the loudest firearm I've ever heard so pretty damn loud to me. This should be interesting...

classical_Liberal
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by classical_Liberal »

SavingWithBabies wrote:
Thu Jul 04, 2019 4:23 pm
5.1 speaker setup
I'm a bit of a sound snob. For white noise when I have to sleep during the day, for movies, and music. After I started moving every 3-9 months for work I very quickly became annoyed with my system. It was a total time sink to move and set up. I ended up selling it and bought a ZVOX sound base with the proceeds. Now, it's not a real system, but it's pretty F'en good and these things are built to last. I actually prefer it to my old system for movies, thanks to the accuvoice feature, but it's not as good as the real thing with music. Still, it can shake my walls with bass if I want it to. Set up it a breeze, bluetooth or one digital audio cable and the AC. The box is so heavy duty I can stand on it, so it's strong enough to stack almost anything on top of it in a small space. I'm sure you could even fit it in the RV and use it when you have electric. I'm over three years in with heavy use, with frequent moving/banging it around, and no speaker problems. It gets a highly recommend from c_L.

SavingWithBabies
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies »

@c_L I hadn't hard of that device/company but it looks great. I ended up using an inexpensive soundbar which was okay. It boosted voices well which was the main concern while avoiding being too loud for apartment living. Before we moved into the RV, we actually didn't have a TV setup but I'm still hoping we'll have a house at some point and I can have either a big TV or a projector (guessing big TV will fully win by the time I get around to it). However, we don't want to expose our kids to any movies/TV so that complicates things. I did have a 40" TV in my office I used as a monitor but also had a couch aimed at it so could use it for movies.

But I'll keep the ZVOX in mind. Sounds like a good solution.

SavingWithBabies
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies »

So far, RV living is going well. We had a family meetup with my brother and parents in Baraga. We're on night 3 of 4 in Marquette (then there is a music festival in the city campground so we can't stay longer -- it's hard to get spots on the weekends too as it books up fast). I think we're going back to Baraga next as it's a bit off the beaten path and easier to get sites. Fast internet there too so could spend a month there at very low rates ($100/week for 30 amp electric and they have a dump station with fresh water, flush toilets and showers too but those are up in the forest part of the campground so have to walk/drive from the water part of the campground). This is at the Ojibwa campground there -- it's really nice, reasonably priced, on the water, has beaches, little marina, etc.

We've had a couple of heavy rain storms and no leaks so far so my work appears to be good. I have found some of the parts of the RV where the pop-up shells connect have openings so it's perhaps out of alignment for some parts or the foam in the canvas "bags" is wearing out. I think it's an alignment thing mostly but not sure. But we can put some things in the three problem areas (one area, just a small napkin, another some foam from a foam noodle -- cut into 4 smaller long slices, another a small washcloth). Thankfully, those areas are indirect from rain so no issue with water coming in. But when camping in the mosquito-thick woods, they definitely were coming in and biting us. I'm still surprised it took us so long to figure out the problem but now I think the only mosquitos coming in are those that get in the door (when entering/exiting).

Career-wise, I'm on the fence regarding resigning from the full time offer I accepted before I start. I'm still mulling it over. I would prefer to take more time off and then do contracting work and I'm trying to think it through to make sure I'm not making a rash decision. I think if I turn down the offer, that there is a really good chance they would never hire me again but it would just be that one company so not too big of a deal. And they might not take it too personally. I don't know...

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