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                            Retirement Talk for Boomers, Seniors, and Retirees

Episode 130 Road Trip Part 18: Reflections: Lessons Learned

Our road trip ended six weeks ago. We travelled ten thousand six hundred miles over seventy two days. While not keeping very good track of our money, we found ourselves at our journey’s end and not having had to dip into our savings for one penny. We had managed to travel all of that way and do all of those things and live off exactly the same amount of money that we spend each month in our day to day lives. We were lucky. We certainly weren’t frugal.

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

When we started this road trip we indicated that we would try to follow the suggestion of the Epicureans in developing the Cult of Happiness: anticipation, actualization and reflection. We have held true to that goal throughout the trip. It is now time for the reflection.

Brenda and I agree that the trip was every bit as good as we imagined.. The dream of climbing into a car and ambling off across the country became a reality. The planning and the days on the road brought change and novelty into our lives.

We were very pleased with our decision about what type of vehicle to take on our trip. You may recall that we purchased a nine year old Lexus SUV for this trip. It was as comfortable as promised and was totally care free: gas and one change of oil were the only car expense. The comfort was such that we ended each day ready to ride our bikes or seek out a health club. We averaged just over 20 mpg. The smoothness and quietness were a bonus.  We had room for all of our gear including my guitar and our two bicycles, and yet we were compact enough to cruise right into the middle of any city with ease.

Our decision to arrange home exchanges before we ever left home turned out to be excellent. We very much enjoyed our four to seven days of staying in one spot with all the comforts of home. The owners always left notes and hints of places to go and things to see. They shared their favorite pizza places, coffee shops, and knowledge of local bike trails. We spend forty-four night staying in home exchange places or with relatives or friends. That leaves twenty-eight nights when we had to purchase hotel, or motel rooms. Our friends and relatives always seemed happy to see us and did their best to treat us very well. We stayed one week with our daughter and family. The over visits were usually two or three nights.

Before we left we laid out our route south and east. We considered climate, things to see or do, and folks to see along the way. We always scheduled a few free days between destination points and always made that distance relatively short. We were thus free to indulge our impulsive fantasies on a regular basis.  When we turned west to return home we had a completely free agenda. We did return west faster than we traveled east. We stopped when we wanted, but we were also free to head home which we found ourselves ready to do. We had traveled enough. Not that we hurried home – we never hurried during the entire trip.

We did stay healthy, but getting daily exercise and eating well were not without challenges. Travelling has a way of sucking up your time and ruining good eating habits. Exercise requires time and eating healthy requires care in choosing your selection of food and the way it is prepared. We ate in some great restaurants where it was always challenging to hold back on the consumption. Our friends and relatives always present us with delicious food in wide abundance. We tried to bike most days or spend some time on fitness machines. We did okay, but we found our weight did increased during the trip.

A couple of things went wrong. We lost over ten weeks of mail. Explanation: our mailing address is a post office box. Before leaving I went to the post office and explained our intended trip and wanted to make sure our mail was saved for our return. We were told to fill out this yellow card and our mail would all be held at the main post office until our return. It wasn’t kept. It was returned to the senders. Why? They told me that our post office box rental fee had come due while we were gone. They put a card to notify us of this in our mailbox. Of course, we didn’t get it since they were keeping it until our return. Since the fee was not paid by the due date, they closed our box and returned all of the mail. Lesson learned; before leaving think carefully about your mail. Make extended inquires as to what might be extenuating circumstances that might ruin your plan.

Second problem: the gas company turned off the natural gas to our house. They turned it off when the weather was below freezing and thus threatened to freeze the water pipes and make quiet a mess of things. A neighbor who was keeping an eye on the place noticed the yellow tag on the door and called us. We contacted a good friend who also lives in the neighborhood and he pursued getting it turned back on the following day. Our pipes did not freeze but it was too close for comfort. He had to have the entire account transferred into his name and it cost him over two hundred dollars to get the job done.

What happened? Before we left we had arranged for automatic payment of our gas bill. The payment was to be automatically taken from our checking account each month. The gas company did not get their payment for three months and thus disconnected. Why didn’t they get their money? Because they had entered the wrong account number on the submission slip to the credit union for payment. They had typed in two threes instead of two twos at the start of our account number. The gas company eventually admitted that it was, “their mistake” and returned our friends money and all penalties they had accessed our account. All was well. However, it was a concern. It took a lot of our time, and our friends time to correct the mess and we were close to having our house freeze up. We could have had broken water pipes and a flooded house. Lesson learned; next time we will check our accounts from the road and make sure all payments have been made on a monthly basis.

Brenda is already talking about a second trip. We would take the northern route. A good road trip is hard to beat.

This is Retirement Talk.