trucks, lights, and nasty emails

I guess it’s my turn to write.  Mary’s been doing most of it lately, but a lot of that is because I’ve been working so much lately.  I really can’t even remember the last post I wrote.  I’m sure I could scroll back thru and find it, but, with internet what it is here, that could take longer than it’s going to take to write this post.  I’ve done two (or three?) hitches in Alaska, and a couple of repeat performances in the Gulf of Mexico.  Alaska was nice… nice and cold.  -60F on average while I was there.  I do remember coming home in Memphis, and sitting outside in shorts and a tshirt and flip flops in 60 degree weather, just sweating and trying to cool off.  After the Alaska hitches, I got called out to a rig in the GoM to fill in for a guy that had gotten sick.  And just because I want to keep this blog about our personal lives, I won’t mention which rig, or which company, but I have to say that the rig I went to has a crew that I’d worked with before, and really enjoyed working with again.  The food was lousy, but that’s pretty standard in the Gulf… but the people on the rig were (once again) awesome.  And, when I got relieved out there, and then had to come back again to relieve another sick guy, they were great again.

We had some health insurance issues while I was on the rig, and I wound up blowing my top a bit in an email that incuded my boss in the address list.  Just to include every passing stranger that may find this on StumbleUpon (ha!), I lost my temper because my insurance lapsed after changing insurance companies.  Not really my insurance… the company I work for covers me 100%; but my family is covered just like any other employer’s insurance plan: I pay way too much, for way too little, it’s documented in Russian, by Tibetan street beggars, and it’s all coordinated by some computer mainframe that won’t forward my calls to a human operator.  But, just like the rest of America, I pay into it anyway, because I’ve been brainwashed to believe that without insurance, the Earth will split down the middle, and we’ll all tumble into the chasm.  The only thing stopping this inevitable cataclysm is some hard to read legal document that says I have 3 days to enroll in a health plan that 1) may or may not be able to be modified for the term of my employment 2) offers indistinguishable differences in coverage of the other 3 plans being offered and 3) makes a reasonable person lose their sense of reasoning, and agree that not only should I choose the plan with the highest possible premiums, but that somehow these high premiums mean I also have the highest possible deductable and co-pays – and leave me convinced that I’ve made a good choice.

So, after those 3 days lapsed, they sent a letter to our drop box, half way across the country, to inform me, in writing and all legal-like, that my whole reason for working, for sacrificing, for doing what I do – my family – was removed from their insurance plan and in peril of having the Earth split open and swallow them whole.

I lost my mind.  I wrote one of “those” emails.  And instead of just sending it to the person I was raging at, I started adding names in the ‘To’ field.  And when that was done, I sent it on it’s way.

There’s a reason I like my boss.  He never responded to me.  And whether he got involved behind the scenes or not, including him in the email made things get better.  Like, immediately.  So, my family can once again breathe a calm breath of assured safety in being comfortably pillaged by our insurance company…  better to be pillaged by the villain you know, I guess.

And, oddly enough… I’m actually getting some days off (which is how I have the time to write this post!).  I’m pretty sure that’s my boss being able to smell what I was stepping in.  When you mention in one of “those” emails (alternating between bold font, underlined font, and sentences completely in uppercase letters) how many holidays and birthdays you’ve missed since you came to the company, a good boss will pay attention.  So, I’ve got a couple of weeks off before I have to go back to work.

So in the meantime, we’ve made it “home”… Rainbow’s End RV Park in Livingston TX, home of the Escapee’s RV club.  Before we started out, we spent some time researching how we were going to take care of the legal stuff that we have to do in our day to day lives.  We wanted to know how we were going to get packages through the mail, and more importantly, how we were going to keep Big Brother from coming after us saying that we were lying on the census forms (and the tax forms).  We found out that RV’ers that “full time” get a little bit of freedom in choosing where they “live” – legally, that is.

To make a long story short, Escapee’s was able to give us a physical address that we can use for all our legal purposes; Power of Attorney, taxes, residency… things like that.  There are a couple of clubs out there (I’m sure there are more than what we found, too) that offer this sort of thing, but we chose Escapee’s because they are in Texas.  That gives us a few perks that I thought were necassary.  First of all, there are no state income taxes in Texas.  Normally, Texas will get their revenue through property taxes, but, since we don’t own real estate in Texas, we don’t get hit with that.  There are clubs in other states that have a similar break like that on income tax, but Texas has reciprocity with more states for their CCWP.  Even though we’ve been claiming Texas for residency since we started, we weren’t officially Texans until recently.  Apparently, until you actually get a state issued ID, you’re not officially a resident, so, I’ve been carrying on my NC permit.  We just got our Texas ID’s, so now I need to apply for the permit from Texas.  No problem getting it, but I’ve been making some purchases that have really depleted our nest egg recently, so we’ll have to adjust how we handle that situation until I can get it.

Which brings me to the news of what we spent a big chunk of our nest egg on!  We traded our old rig (a 2011 Ram 2500 Megacab) for a new rig.  We drove from Livingston to Vernon TX to buy a 2012 Ram 3500 Megacab dually.  We finally got our diesel!  I have to say, I really love this truck.  Getting the Megacab was pretty much non-negotiable for us.  With all of the things that we tote around with us, we definitely need the room in the cab.  Between the first aid kits, the rain jackets, computer equipment (cameras, laptops, phones and all their chargers), plus all of the kids’ school supplies, and our maps, and then snacks and drinks… there’s no way we could store all of that in a regular cab truck, and still fit the five of us in it.  I like that it’s a dually, too, because if we do decide to move up to a fifth wheel, we won’t ever have to wonder if our truck will handle it.  The only thing I don’t like about it, is the same problem I would have no matter which Megacab we bought: it only comes with a short bed.  But, I have plans already to get our truck stretched so that we can get a long bed put on it.  That’s not going to happen for a little while, but, it will happen.  And it’ll give me a reason to write another post when it does.

Besides the truck, there have been a lot of little changes that we’ve made too.  I built shelves for the “closets” that Mary and I have on either side of our bed.  I built them the same way I built the shelf over the printer, and I’m very proud of my work.  Now we both have two extra shelves in our closet.  The part that I’m most proud of, is that I didn’t use a single nail, screw, or a drop of glue to build them.  Both shelf units are completely custom fit, free standing, and completely removeable if we decide to.  And, at the same time, they are sturdy enough to hold quite a bit of weight!

I’ve also started gearing up for what I’m most excited about during our travels, and that’s getting away from the RV resorts, and back to some smaller campgrounds.  I’ve been doing a lot of research about BLM land, and other free places to camp.  The thing about camping for free, is that you get what you pay for, which means that we won’t be getting “hotel services” like we get at the resorts – no electricity, no water, no sewer.  And that all means that we need to become a little more green in how we do things.  I’ve started replacing lights around the trailer with LED’s.  I tried some that Camping World stocks, but, the lights are way too bright.  It’s just an ugly looking light.  I’m glad I only bought two.  We have one for our entry light, and one is our porch light.  The one we’re using for our porch light works great, since it shines through a colored lense.

I’ve learned a lot about LED’s.  There are ranges of light, that for LED’s is described as “warmth”.  (I’m sure that all light colors are described that way, but LED’s are all I’m concerned about right now)  Apparently the really bright white lights have a higher rating than what we’re used to.  What we need are warm white LED’s (around 3000 degrees color temperature).  What most places sell are cool white (around 5000 degrees color temperature).  So, we’ll need to mail order some, and I think after our experience with the first LED’s we bought, we’ll just be ordering one or two at first.

Besides that, I’ve also picked up a complete change of lights for the exterior, so we’re replacing the incandescants with LED’s there, too.

We need to get our battery bank upgraded so that we can boondock more effectively, and I want to get a pure sine wave inverter for the trailer, too.  After I get that handled, I want to start putting in solar panels on the roof.  But, now we’re starting to discuss the future, instead of the past, or just the present.  And since this is a log of our journey, and not a list of things we want to do in the future, I’ll stop typing, and get back to changing lights, and building shelves!

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