Breakdowns, break-ins and new beginnings
Frequent readers of the not so frequent posts on this blog will have noticed that I haven’t published an article in quite a while. I even skipped my 4 year FIRE anniversary post in 2020, the beginnings of which are still buried somewhere in my ever growing draft folder. And yes, my 5 year anniversary rolled around almost a year ago, again without a post! At the time of this writing I am actually less than a month away from my 6 year FIRE anniversary. YIKES! But yes, I’m still out there, living my nomad FIRE life.
I have a hard time publishing content, because I always feel there’s some current event or topic I should address from a humanist point of view or financial point of view or some such thing, before getting caught up with my mundane daily life stories. And there certainly has been no shortage of rage worthy events in the last few years!
But then I don’t find the words to eloquently write about these things and more articles die their slow death in the draft folder, as these topics are perceived as “less burning” while the next big thing that really should be discussed is popping up already.
This means I never get caught up and anything I write continues to feel inadequate.
You know what? F- that!
I have decided to give myself permission to just start again and see where it goes!
Gotta start somewhere
And in this post I’ll start by processing what has happened to us in 2021 so I’ll hopefully have the energy to write a 6 year anniversary post in a a few weeks as well. Who knows, I may eventually even find the motivation to dig out some other older things from the draft folder. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet…One step at a time!
Here we go:
TDA and I were fortunate to get fully vaccinated with the Moderna Vaccine by early April 2021, which allowed us to plan for a visit to Germany in May 2021. Our 2020 trip had gotten cancelled due to COVID19, so we hadn’t seen my mum for close to two years. She celebrated her 80th birthday in May 2021 and we definitely wanted to be in Germany for that. As my mum had also gotten fully vaccinated at the beginning of April, we figured it was an ok risk to take and good enough reason to travel at the time.
So we booked a flight from Denver and arranged for RV storage as well as pet sitting with a good friend in Denver, who kindly had offered to look after the stinkers while we were gone.
On the way to Denver, just past La Junta, CO we broke down with the RV, AGAIN and had to get it towed. Thankfully, this time, we had Roadside Assistance, so that wasn’t an issue. But as it was late in the afternoon, it was difficult to find a place to get towed to. At the end we accepted the towing companies’ suggestion to tow us to a commercial truck repair shop about 70 miles further west.
By the time we got there, it was really late in the day. We briefly spoke to the manager on duty, letting him know that we needed to head to Denver asap as we had a flight booked. He promised us they’d look at the rig first thing in the morning, so we settled in for the night and decided to head to Denver the next morning. It took them all day to send someone to diagnose the issue, by the time they finally got around to us it was late in the afternoon on the following day. By the time we finally made it to Denver it was late at night.
The shop people assured us, we could leave the RV there in their care and it was going to be safe. They charged us $300 for just the diagnosis and the labor to take things apart, without having done much yet really. All not a good sign of things to come.
We were under time pressure, so we quickly grabbed the cats, their stuff and a few things we needed for the trip and headed to Denver, leaving the RV in the care of the shop, hoping for the best.
The entire time we were in Germany the shop’s communication was abysmal and they were not trying hard to get things done or find the parts. From past experience, I knew it’s difficult to source parts for a rig as old as ours, so I tried to find used parts myself, by calling around salvage places in the US, all while in Germany. TDA followed up with the repair shop several times, but most times, they never got back to him and he had the hardest time getting a hold of the guy, who was supposed to be our contact.
At some point we realized that we may have to cut our losses and perhaps get another rig once we get back to the US.
The market for RVs was crazy at the time and we had no idea how long this was going to take. We also knew that we couldn’t move the old RV off the lot safely. We figured we would stay in the RV on the lot for a while. We knew, we only had a couple weeks on the tanks until we’d have to find another place to stay or find someone to come pump us out, so I asked our friend in Denver, if we could rent their guest suite for a while if worse came to worse. Our friends kindly agreed to help us out, by letting us stay in their guest suite if we needed to, which was a huge relief!
After our return to the US, we went back to the shop to talk about how to proceed and were shocked to find out that the RV had been broken into.
There were more valuables in there than should have been, as we were in a hurry to leave and only grabbed some of the most obvious things, like computers, cell phones and passports.
Although we did the best we could, given the timing, situation etc, we were of course kicking ourselves. Hindsight is always 20/20.
That feeling of being violated after a break-in, is really really really hard to describe.
Someone went through the whole rig with a fine toothed comb and found stuff in the most hidden spots, including some family heirlooms etc.
They also took the oddest things, like boxes of toiletries (unused, new in packaging) and other stockpile items, I had stocked up on in April while waiting for our shots. They took chocolates and cereal bars and the most random things like a used pedicure set along with used nail polishes plus tons of other odd things, some of which I only realized like weeks later, like, oh yes, this is missing too, they must have taken it….
There was a little cash hidden here and there, some in hard to access spots, which they all found and took as well as some foreign currency and a few gift cards I had kept in a hidden wallet.
The biggest loss is my jewelry. The value is one thing, but the sentimental value is a whole other story. Some things were given to me by my grandma, aunt, dad, a family friend all of whom have passed away, a gift from my friend who has been missing without a trace since 2008, gifts from my mom etc.
There was no damage to the door, so they either had the key, or the mechanics carelessly left the door open after moving the RV from a repair bay to another area of the parking lot.
They did break all the locks on the basement compartments and took the most random things from there as well.
The loss quantified in the police report was about $12 000. But at some point I didn’t’ even bother anymore to add items to the list. As I said, I still discovered something new missing every few days. It’s really disheartening. Many of the tools they took have European plugs (we had put in a European wall plug and a converter in the RV so we could continue to use them), so I am sure these things are completely worthless to whomever stole them and probably ended up somewhere in the trash. But they were useful to us, so this is doubly frustrating.
At least they left some valuable tools and our compressor behind.
We had no insurance for the contents of the RV, because we usually don’t leave the rig unattended this long and we usually camp out at the repair shop, while waiting for them to complete the work.
The repair shop manager just shrug and said it was none of their business. The fact that the RV had been left unlocked by whomever moved it didn’t even concern them.
We did file a police report, but the officer who came out pretty much told us to not expect much from that.
The thieves obviously knew they had all the time in the world. They did not make a mess, as you’d expect from a burglary. They carefully looked through everything, grabbed what they deemed valuable or useful and put the other stuff back in place, neatly, like they found it.
I realize that we should have not been so naïve and taken more of our valuables, but there’s only so much you can take on a flight and we did not want to burden our cat sitting friend with a ton of our stuff either.
Needless to say, moving back into the RV was completely off the table at that point. So we packed as many of our things as possible and moved into our friends guest suite, right then.
It took several trips to the RV to completely empty it out, despite the many things that had been taken. I had completely underestimated how much stuff fit in our RV. We had things sitting in our friends garage and closets and all over the guest room. In hindsight we should have just gotten a storage unit until we had everything sorted, but as I said, hindsight is always 20/20.
When people asked us about potential burglaries, I always used to say, if someone breaks in, they can take what they want, as long as my cats are safe. So I am counting my blessings in that respect. My cats WERE safe, they were with my friend, at the best possible place, at the time the RV was broken into.
Also, I finally got to see my mom, who is doing reasonably well. So that is way more important than “just stuff” I lost, while we were away. But I still feel violated and I am livid and heartbroken.
To add insult to injury we still had no repair solution for the RV and needed to find a new home quickly. In Colorado, in the summer season, during the craziest time in RV sales ever. Since COVID started the RV market has been crazy, just like the housing market. No inventory, ridiculous prices. This was not a good time.
To say we had a few very stressful weeks after discovering the break in, is an understatement. But we also knew, we needed to move on. We got the word out to our friends and network that we were in the market for a new to us RV and we started scanning ads, visiting dealers and trying to narrow down what we wanted without limiting our options to much.
TDA really wanted a newer vehicle and was adamant about not getting another older Class A or C, as these are usually on Ford or Chevy Chassis. So we started looking at trucks, Toyota trucks in particular, which with the current chip shortage was another case of really bad timing. Car shopping is never fun, but in the current market situation it’s even worse. Still, we managed to find one of the very few available Toyota Tundras relatively quickly and bought it from a dealer with a bunch of extra warranties. Not a deal, but you do what you gotta do.
The day after we had gotten the new vehicle, the repair shop called us with a suggestion of how to repair the RV. The manager must have had a twinge of bad conscience and taken things into his own hands, as his parts guy apparently had not done a thing in over a month.
The break in already didn’t want to make us go back to the RV, but having the new truck now, kinda sealed the fate of the old RV. Plus the whole experience with that repair shop so far had been subpar so we didn’t really feel we could trust them anymore.
I had already called around salvage places offering the RV and had gotten an offer to sell the RV for parts at a huge loss. But now with a repair solution on the table we decided to try and sell the RV in as is where is condition with the option to repair. We still had to sell at a big loss, due to the broken compartments and time constraints etc. but at least we got a little bit more than from the salvage place. The people who ended up buying Harry, the RV, ended up having it repaired at the shop and seem to be happy with their choice. They did a bunch of updates and renovations and keep sending us pictures of all their completed projects.
I hope they’ll enjoy their time in their new RV.
With the Harry chapter behind us, I have been looking into the numbers of it all and despite the repairs, the tows, the times spent camped out at repair shops, I still think the numbers kinda work out for the five years we have owned Harry. Besides the break-in of course, which was of course devastating.
Finding an RV for ourselves in this kind of market was a challenge of course. After buying a truck, it was clear that we were now limited to travel trailers that were small enough for the Tundra to tow. We looked at a couple of trailers from private parties and went to pretty much every dealer in the greater Denver area. Plus we checked all the online sources as well. When you drive around, you see lots of RVs on the dealer lots, but they are either 1) already sold or 2) HUGE and way to heavy for us 3) teensy tiny and way too small for full time living 4) bunk bed models for families 5) obviously crappy quality put together in a hurry to keep up with current demand….In short, it was almost impossible to find any used inventory and dealers were trying to push us to put deposits on RVs that they’d be getting in a couple of months, sight unseen. None of that was working for us. To make things worse, financed RVs were cheaper than paying cash. WHAAAAT? That just doesn’t’ work for us. We even started to extend our search beyond Colorado.
At the end of one particular frustrating day, which included visits to 6-7 dealerships that literally had ZERO RVs that worked for us, I had set up an appointment with a private seller of a 1998 airstream. I had always wanted an airstream, but they are expensive to start with and in this kind of market they were even crazy expensive. This one was no exception, but at least it appeared to be in good shape and it was small enough for our Tundra.
We looked at it, quickly assessed a few things that it needed (awning, tires, water heater repair and a few odds and ends) and made the buyer an offer on the spot, asking for credit for the broken items plus a contingency on a thorough inspection. We knew, we needed to act on this if we ever wanted to get back on the road within a reasonable time frame.
After we paid the seller the deposit and agreed to come back the next day for a full inspection, TDA must have read my mind, because he said out loud exactly what I was thinking at that moment “YAY, we have an Airstream! Shit, it’s another OLD rig!”
The Airstream needed some work to be camp ready, but most of it we could do ourselves and luckily the seller allowed us to work on it while still parked on his property. We worked non-stop, long days for several weeks and managed to move out of our friend’s guest suite a little over month after returning from Germany. We will be forever grateful that they allowed us to rent the space. I am sure they were happy to have their place to themselves again after putting up with us and all our stuff and our kitties for much longer than they had initially planned.
It was a crazy time and stressful. Many nights we went to bed without dinner because it was late and we just wanted to sleep so we didn’t want to stop to grab take out and by the time we got “home” it was too late to cook. Many days we subsisted on cereal bars, crackers, hummus, peanut butter, apples and bananas.
We dealt with downsizing further, despite having lost so many things in the break-in. Giving away stuff under time constraints and trying to sell a few items was no fun at all. The flakes, the no shows, the feeling of loosing everything. The worry of being a burden to my friend despite renting the space. It was challenging and honestly sometimes overwhelming, I cried myself to sleep more than once and I was super sensitive to anything and everything. I don’t do well, when I have to accept help from friends, I much rather prefer to be the one helping others.
The other side
But eventually we got to the other side. We got Sara, the Airstream, ready to travel, pulled it to our friends house and loaded it up, with still way too much stuff. Then we headed to the mountains of Colorado to meet up with a small group of nomad friends, while still getting used to our new digs.
We still had a ton of things to do, that needed to wait until we had the mental bandwidth to deal with them, like selling my old car, which we used to tow behind the previous RV, getting a new awning installed on the Airstream, doing a few more upgrades, paperwork that got pushed aside and a bunch of other things etc.
All these subjects were being addressed little by little over the last few months…..
The kitties are happy and relaxed, they have settled right in and we have also found our new normal…
….and now I finally feel like writing again.