HOW I SOLD MY RV

When you need to get rid of your RV, what is the best way to do it? If you are also thinking of getting another RV the issue is a little different than if you are just selling. We have done both.  We traded in an RV when buying a different one and we have sold an RV on our own.

A few months ago, we sold our thirty-eight-foot Laredo. Here’s how we did it:

We wanted to present the RV in the best possible light. So, we made any necessary repairs to the unit. There were a few minor issues, mostly cosmetic that needed to be tended to. We saw to it that all was in good order.

We thoroughly cleaned the RV inside and out. We washed the outside. We cleaned the inside. All the windows were washed. Appliances were cleaned. We removed all the personal decorations we had put up inside. We also removed any items that were not going to be included in the sale. We put new tires on the RV because the others had some wear. It’s kind of like selling a car. We did all of the spit and shine so it would look good on first sight.

I did some research to determine the estimated worth of our RV. Primarily I did this by using the online service through NADA. But I also looked at other listings in our area to see what comparable RVs were selling for. Finally, I decided on a price based on comparable values and any upgrades I had made.

Before we listed it, I wrote the description of the Laredo. I had looked at many listings and knew what others were saying and not saying in their listings. And I thought about what I would want to know about an RV I would consider buying. Most internet sites will ask for basic information about your RV when listing it. But I think it is insufficient for any serious buyer. They need much more information. Without it becoming I gave all the information I would want to know. I listed the length, net weight, total weight, tank capacities, all the technical data about the RV. I talked about all the features of the RV from the hitch to the bumper. I described every feature in every room trying not to overlook anything that might be attractive to a buyer. The solar system we had added to the RV was a major factor so I gave a pretty thorough description of it. And I briefly told a story about the adventures we had and those that lay ahead for the new owner.

We took pictures, lots of pictures. We took several angles of every room so people could really see what it looked like. I also picked out a few photos of the RV from beautiful locations where we had parked. My goal in all of this was to give someone the feeling that they just had to have the RV.

I chose three places to list the RV. Two free, and one paid. We listed it on Facebook Market Place and Craigslist. These are both free but have huge audiences. However, they weren’t very fruitful. Soon after listing we began getting what I would consider scam inquiries. This usually would be someone hundreds of miles away offering full price and they would have it shipped. I was certain these were scams and would not even respond. The other thing that began to happen was I began to hear from brokers. These people guaranteed that they could get full price and their brokerage fees guaranteed. Their service would cost me nothing. One of these services was nationally known. At least it seemed to be based upon my internet search. One of the others only showed up in one or two places.  We actually considered one of these services. It had mostly positive reviews. I actually talked with one of their representatives and she was very nice. But at the end of the day, we decided not to go with a broker. It just seemed too good to be true.

The paid service we used was RV Trader. We had found our first RV on RV Trader and had a great experience purchasing it hundreds of miles away. So, we knew a bit about them. Plus, I had spent hours, and hours looking at RVs on their site. We chose to use their best option which costs $199.95. I consider this a small investment if it worked. This level of listing includes making your listing more visible on their site, in online searches and in their featured listings and you have a full year for your listing if you need it. You can post up to fifty photos and even create a YouTube video. This is a well-known service with great traffic on their site. I was very easy to set up. Most importantly it produced a buyer!

I was contacted by someone about a hundred miles away. We made an appointment for them to come see the RV. We gave them the tour and spent quite a bit of time talking with them. They returned to their home and a few days later called with an offer for the full asking price! They transferred a sizable deposit to us and within a matter of a few weeks the RV was gone.

The decision to sell was precipitated by the health issues which I discussed in the previous posts. We doubted we would ever be able to RV again. But God is amazing! He worked a miracle in my life and now we are looking at travel once again. Next time I will write about buying an RV!

The Next Chapter

When I became critically ill, while we were in the Rio Grande Valley, we had a decision to make. We were full time RVers. There was no way that I could do the tasks necessary to just manage the day to day routine of living and traveling in a fifth wheel. What were we to do?

The details of my medical journey and the journey from Texas to Michigan are in the previous five posts. We decided that we would not be able to live and travel in an RV any longer. We decided we needed to be where we had the kind of support to manage our situation. With my needing a double transplant we knew that it would likely be years of just trying to survive if I survived at all. So we decided to sell our rig. I couldn’t even get in our RAM 3500 and living in a fifth wheel in Michigan in February just didn’t seem desirable.

Most pressing was the truck. Soon after returning back to Michigan we contacted our friends at Terry Henricks Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Archibald, Ohio. We knew and trusted these folks and were certain they would give us the best deal possible. We traded the RAM for a Pacifica which has been perfect for our needs.

We began the process of selling the fifth wheel. We had a few minor repairs which needed to be made. I am grateful to friends here in Michigan who were willing to do these for us. We wanted to get as good  a price as possible so these repairs were essential. We decided on the price we wanted and listed it a little higher to give us some room to negotiate. We listed the RV in three places. We listed it on FB Marketplace, Craig’s List, and RV Trader. Within a few weeks we had a buyer from the RV Trader listing.

When we had started this process we could not have anticipated how dramatically or quickly our circumstances would change. We just knew we would never be full time RVers again, if RVers at all. How could we have anticipated receiving  my liver and kidney only two days after getting on the transplant list! That just doesn’t happen! Ever! But it did!

Even while I was in the hospital, after I was feeling better, I had begun looking online at RVs. We were thinking about what RVing might look like in our future. We began to believe we could have RVing in our future. But not full time. So what  kind of RV might work for us now?

A large fifth wheel and large truck would not be in our future. It was a handful when I was well, there was no way I wanted to try that again. After considering our options we finally concluded that a Class C or smaller Class A might work for us. We would look for an older model C or A. The search continued.

And then there it was. A 1999 Fleetwood Southwind Storm 30H. It was in great shape for a 22 year old motorhome. It had about 26,000 miles on it. The owner had done a number of updates on it. We took a test ride and decided we would move forward. Everything looked good but I wanted to be sure. I had a friend who knows RVs and is especially familiar with automobiles go over it with me. He gave it the thumbs up and we decided to make an offer.

CHANCE

Meet Chance. Like Mary and I, he’s old and has a few signs of old age, but all in all he’s in amazing condition for an old man. We’ve had a few little issues with him as we expected. We knew going in that the old guy wasn’t perfect. But he’s been well loved and we will continue to love him well.

We’ve taken two trips together for a total of eleven nights. We’re getting along with Chance just fine. The biggest challenge has been learning how all the systems work. We have all his paperwork, but RV manuals are so poorly written they are practically useless. But little by little we are learning how he works. One thing for sure is he’s a keeper. We are proud to have him.

So why did we name him Chance? We were Prowling with Pete-N-Pen. The explanation for that in an earlier post. But now that things have changed we are the Second Chance Vagabonds. We have been given a second chance. We are going to continue to travel. We don’t anticipate ever being full time again. But we do hope to someday be ⅔ to ¾ time travelers. For the next few months we’ll stay close. Maybe next summer we’ll take a long journey. I am hopeful that we’ll be able to spend the winter of 22-23 somewhere warm.

There are journeys in our future. So we will be vagabonds. I’ll continue to write about our journeys and experiences. I’m hopeful that you will enjoy our journey and join us online if not on the road.

THE UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Part 5

Thanks to Raychel Erdmanczyk for this installment of the Unexpected Journey.

Well it is my turn to tell you about this crazy journey we’ve been on. Dad saved the best for last! I’m to tell you about some of the funny things that happened during this time. There were lots and lots of laughs had. 

I think the sayings go, “Laughter is the best medicine” or “If I’m not laughing I’m crying”. Both of those are very accurate! Maybe not the first saying for my dad, he needed a bit more than just some laughing. But for mom, Mel and I that was completely the case! The first trip Melissa and I took to Texas to check up on the whole situation was the first time in YEARS it had been just the four of us spending time together. And boy was it nice. We really did a ton of laughing with our time together. It’s hard to recall on that trip what we found so humorous, but it was good for our souls to be together and crack jokes. 

The second trip to Texas, you know the one that came a week after we had returned from the first trip, was a little more serious. But once again still filled with lots of laughs. There were times at night we (Mom, Mel & I) would be sitting in the camper listening to music, one of us might start crying, then all of us would be crying, one of us would say a smart-aleck comment and we would all be laughing. We know that due to the stress we were under, laughing was a way we were coping with it. And sometimes it was the silliest things that would make us crack up. Like Mom and Melissa not knowing about the Minnesota State Dish?! It’s tater-tot hotdish, by the way. Or it was dad’s reaction to the food we delivered him to the hospital. One night he asked for some Orange Chicken from Panda Express. “That chicken was so good! SO GOOD!” He raved about it for days! I’ve had Panda Express, I’ve enjoyed it but never that much.

While I was back home in Minnesota, I would wait impatiently for my daily updates from Mom or Mel. While most of those messages were hard, I always got a kick out of the crazy things dad was doing. He ALWAYS let the nurses and doctors know he was a comedian and to look him up on YouTube. Dad’s thought processing became really slow! We would joke that he was just like the sloth from the movie Zootopia. Shortly after his surgery dad was demonstrating to mom and I how he had to take deep breaths and count backwards to fall asleep for his surgery. He was so dramatic with his actions and tried to convince us that the anesthesiologist was trying to kill him. We clearly knew better. Then there was the time that he was convinced that he needed to ”call those people”, the people he was referring to was a picture of all his grandbabies taped at the foot of his bed. When I would ask why he wanted to call his grandbabies he would get so annoyed with me and tell me, “not them, I know who they are. I need to call those people” while continuing to point to the same picture. I would go sit down and a few minutes later we would be having the same conversation. Mom and I would just giggle. Another time after the surgery I called him and he was telling me about how beautiful his nurse was. He was trying to get me to know who she looked like. None of us could figure out whom he was referring to. We all just ended up agreeing with him. Have you tried to follow a conversation with a drugged up sloth?! It’s hard! 

We knew dad was slightly delusional during this time. It was hard watching him in the state that he was in. And if we didn’t continue to find the funny moments in all this we would have cried a ton more. If that was even possible…. There are so many funny moments that we had during this whole process. I truly believe that God gave us these moments to ease some of our worries and stresses. 

Next week we will begin the next chapter.

THE UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Part 4

Team Q at the Kidney Walk – Detroit Zoo

Having arrived back in Michigan I was transported by ambulance from the airport to a rehabilitation facility with the goal of gaining enough strength to go home. Home had been our fifth wheel RV for the last eighteen months. We had sold our sticks and bricks house and our furnishings three years earlier. Mary and our daughter Melissa were working to secure an apartment, obtain all the stuff needed to make it a home and get moved in. Thanks to some incredibly generous friends Mary soon had the necessary items to furnish the apartment. All the while I am getting physical therapy at the rehab facility. 

This is all happening in the midst of the Covid Pandemic. I was not allowed any visitors. My family members would come to the window of my first floor room. I was not allowed to leave my room. The therapists would come to me.

My fifth day in rehab my doctor became concerned with the results of my morning blood work. They took blood again that evening. About three the next morning I was told that my white blood cells had fallen to a critical level. I was in danger of possibly falling prey to a deadly infection. I was transferred to Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan.

In the emergency I received a Covid test, a routine procedure now. I was positive. The Covid virus was attacking my bone marrow and causing the white blood cells to drop to dangerous levels. After eight days of aggressive treatment I was dismissed and for the first time in forty days allowed to go home. A home I had never seen.

Even though we have a first floor apartment there are five steps to get in. Because of my weakened condition this was no small feat to get into the apartment. But I was home. Mary, with the help of our daughter and many friends, had made our apartment a cozy place and it was so good to be home. But my health continued to decline.

About three weeks later I had an appointment with the liver doctor. After examining me he declared that I could not go home but should go directly to the hospital. I had no appetite, no energy, and was swollen like the Michilan Man. I was admitted to the hospital where I would stay for the next ninety-eight days.

Honestly there are chunks of time during this journey that I just don’t remember. There are some memories that I’m not certain are accurate. I’m telling the story as accurately as I can.

I had a group of doctors. They were the Transplant team. There are numerous doctors on this team along with nurses and every other kind of professional needed to help a person through this journey. In addition to the Transplant Team there were dozens of other doctors involved in my care. It was as if there was a Carnival barker out in the hall beckoning doctors to come in and see me. “Come see the Michilan Man.” It was as if I were a carnival sideshow. Such a novelty that everyone wanted a glympse.

They began to do all the tests necessary to see if I could qualify for the transplant list. They also started me on dialysis.

About two weeks into my hospital stay I was passing blood in my stool. I was moved into the ICU where I would stay sixty-one days. I had had a colonoscopy in Texas so I didn’t have to do another one. They did an upper GI exam. They put a scope down into my stomach and into my duodenal. They discovered bleeding ulcers in the duodenal and made the necessary repairs. This was the first time I was intubated.

The next morning I was dying. I was certain of it. And I was resolved to it. I said goodbye to Mary and the girls. I told the Lord I was ready. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to die. I knew because I had faith in Jesus that when I died he would actually come to me and take me to heaven. But could I face death without fear? I was not afraid! I was relieved. But I did not die (obviously). My friend Tim says I didn’t die because God doesn’t want me! He is a comedian as well as a pastor. Don’t tell him I said so, but he really is funny.

The next day, March 3, I was placed on the Liver Transplant List. The following morning I was placed on the Kidney Transplant list. Later that evening the Head of the transplant team, Doctor Krishna Putchakayala, Dr. P, came in to see me and told me they had found my organs! About 26 hours later they were taking me in for surgery! WHAT! Whoever heard of such a thing. It just doesn’t happen. I go weekly for bloodwork. I have had the opportunity to talk with numerous transplant patients. Most of them waited years to get their organs. Here I am two days after getting on the liver list and one day after getting on the kidney list, going into surgery to get a liver and kidney. Surely God had intervened on my behalf! The surgery went well. This was the second time I was intubated.

Five days after surgery I began showing signs of infection. The infection was persistent and offered the doctors a puzzle. They continued trying to figure out what was going on. 

One morning the news was on channel 4. To my surprise they did a story on my case. A group of Russian students somewhere in the Metro Detroit area had heard of my case. In Russia they had learned in cases like mine the problem was cleared up when patients ate donuts. I just couldn’t believe it. They were talking about me on TV and something as simple as a donut could make me well. (This did not really happen. But it was very real to me.) I immediately called Mary to give her the good news. She let me know that donuts would not make me well. I told my daughters, the nurses, doctors, anybody and everybody that would listen. I was convinced that the doctors were formulating a plan of treatment with the folks at Krispy Cream. I was absolutely certain!

Ten days after the transplant surgery I went back into surgery yet again. My lungs had somehow attached to my chest wall in three places and had to be detached. They also removed infection from around my lungs. Several tubes were put in place to drain infection. This was the third time I was intubated.

For a number of days after the transplant I was only occasionally lucid. Right after the transplant everything was in neon color. I told Mary I thought they were giving me LSD. I saw swarms of gnats in my room and bugs on the walls. I became convinced the examination light over my bed was broken and I needed to repair it. I became quite agitated when the nurse refused to let me work on it. I felt totally disrespected. I am told that at times I had to be restrained because I wanted to remove the tubes.

In mid April I took a turn for the worse. Somehow I had contracted the Covid Virus while in the ICU. At this point I was moved to the Covid Ward for the specialized treatment. Eventually I turned the corner and began to make steady but slow improvement.

If you have never been through this kind of illness it is hard to understand how weak it can leave you. The nurses began having me sit on the side of the bed. The bed which I had not left under my own power for weeks.

Finally it was time to leave the bed. Two women, a Physical Therapist and a Nurse, moved the chair two of three inches from the bed. All I had to do was stand up, turn and sit. Nothing could be easier. One of them was on each side of me to help me up. “On the count of three…” The next thing I know the three of us were flailing about in the bed like the three stooges! I was mortified wondering where my hands might have been during the fiasco. The next time they tried to get me in the chair they brought a crain.

After having been intubated three times my left vocal cord had sustained damage and was paralized and my voice just wouldn’t work. I was taken into surgery yet again and given an injection in the vocal cord. This was a temporary fix which helped for a few weeks. Two weeks before the writing of this post I had another surgery and received an implant in the vocal cord and my voice is improving.

Finally after a lot of help from my nurses and therapists I gradually gained strength and learned strategies to get into the chair on my own and walk around the room. After months I was discharged from the hospital and transferred to Physical Therapy. I never actually left the building. PT was in the same building, just a different area. I guess for billing purposes I was discharged from the hospital and admitted to PT. After three weeks in PT I was finally well enough to come home.

I am continuing to improve. I am back to driving. I am walking  well enough that I am weaning myself off the cane. I can ride my bicycle a few miles at a time. I believe I’m about ready to begin preaching again and begin telling others this amazing story.

I am so thankful for Mary. This journey has been in many ways harder on her than me. But she has been a fighter and negotiated this journey like a champ. She has been my helpmate extraordinaire! When I think of how she has traveled this road with me I am overcome with emotion. My daughters have been incredible through this  whole thing. Traveling many miles, being away from their families for weeks to help me and Mary with this journey. And what can I say about those son-in-laws? These two men have supported their wives and taken care of the children for weeks. I love them more than ever.

A family lost a loved one and gave me life. I can’t even express what this means to me. Every day I thank God for them. I ask Him to bless them. And I ask God to help them to negotiate their journey through grief. Finally I ask God to help me be a good steward of the gift they have given me. Are you a registered organ donor?

I am blessed with hundreds of friends. They have and continue to pray for us. They have called, sent cards, contacted me through social media and been a wonderful encouragement through this entire journey.

Most of all I thank God for seeing me through this journey. I thank Him for the journey. Because the journey has made me better. He has been with me every step of the way. How else am I to explain the astonishing circumstance surrounding my transplants other than God’s intervention? There have been a lot of people along the journey that ushered me down the road, but behind them all has been God’s guiding hand. I certainly did not do anything to earn His favor. And I don’t understand why he chose to bless me so. But I will always praise him and tell others of His great love.

There will be one last post in this series. Next week my baby girl will be writing about the funny things that have happened along this journey. There is nothing funny about liver and kidney disease. But a lot of funny things have happened along the way.

THE UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Part 3

This post has been written by a guest author. Melissa Kiger, our eldest daughter has been so kind to write it. I asked her to write this because she was the one who actual worked with FMCA Assist through this leg of the journey.

This is the third installment in the Unexpected Journey series. If you haven’t read the first two posts of the series you can find them down below.

Having a sick parent is difficult!  Having a sick parent who is critically ill and lives in an RV and is over 1500 miles away feels a bit like a nightmare.  When my dad called on November 27, 2020 to tell us that he was in the hospital and had been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, I was shocked.  My Baptist preacher father had never been a drinker and I just couldn’t understand how this was happening.  He spent about 2 weeks in the hospital but when he was discharged he was still so weak and swollen from all the fluid his body was retaining.  My sister and I flew to Harlingen, TX to spend a few days with my parents, to see for ourselves what was going on.  When we arrived, we knew our dad was not better but during our time there, I was able to go to doctors appointments with dad and felt like they had a plan to get him on the mend.  Raychel, my sister, and I returned home on December 19th knowing that Dad wasn’t improved but trusting his medical team to care for him and praying for his healing.  

Less than a week after we left, Dad went back into the hospital.  He had very little strength and on December 23rd, Mom texted us and asked for a family video chat.  The medical team at the hospital had told them that not only was Dad’s liver not functioning but his kidneys were failing too.  Things were critical! 

My family drove to Minnesota on Christmas Eve to be with Raychel’s family and on Christmas morning Raychel and I flew back to Texas.  Due to COVID protocols, only 1 person was supposed to be able to visit dad per day.   A friend of our parents picked us up at the airport and took us straight to the hospital and thanks to one of the Christian Resort Ministries chaplains Dad was working with, Raychel and I were able to go in and see Dad.  We were able to meet his medical team and hear the prognosis ourselves. 

Mom and Dad decided that they would need to return to Michigan since they already had a support network here.  The problem was that dad was way too sick to travel.  Dad mentioned to me that they had joined the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) and that part of the membership provided assistance in emergency medical situations.  A couple of days after Christmas, Dad asked me to reach out to FMCA to see what would need to happen to get their help to return to Michigan.  He knew that the information said they would fly them home and get their RV and truck back as well.  

I made the first phone call to FMCA Assist on December 27th.  From the beginning, I found the FMCA representatives to be so helpful.  I gave them all of the information about Dad’s condition and our desire to get them back to Michigan.  Once his case was open, they assigned Dad to one of their teams and I communicated regularly with a representative.  He checked in with me every couple of days and their nursing team kept in communication with the medical team at the hospital. Within a few days, they had a plan for how to get Pete and Pen (truck and fifth wheel) back to Michigan and assured me that as soon as dad was cleared by his medical team they would get him and mom back to Michigan.  

Finally, Dad’s medical team felt he was well enough to fly.  FMCA Assist provided Mom and Dad a flight home and were able to help me get booked on the same flight home.  Since Dad still required medical care, the company also planned for a nurse to fly with him.  Dad and his nurse flew in business class and mom and I were in coach.  We flew home on January 13th.  Pete and Pen were also picked up the same day and started their journey to Michigan.  A representative from FMCA stayed in contact with me until the truck and RV were parked in front of my house a few days later.  

I highly recommend FMCA if you (or your parents) are thinking about becoming full time RVers.  They made a very stressful time a whole lot easier and I am thankful for their support and care for my parents.  As you know, that is not the end of Dad’s medical journey but it is the beginning of a great blessing for our family.  

THE UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Part 2

It was the last week of June, 2017. We were on our bi-annual camping trip. Along with both our daughters and their families we were at the Platte River Campground in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We had been planning for months for this week. We all had arrived on Saturday. The plan for Sunday was to go to church that morning (Yes we go to church when on vacation.) and explore Mission Point in the afternoon. We went about our day and everyone seemed to be having a great time. But I just didn’t feel well. Something just wasn’t right. I had worn jeans since we were going to church. I’m just not ready to wear shorts to Sunday morning worship. Once we got back to the campground I changed out of my jeans into shorts. While doing so I noticed my leg was swollen more than usual. It was feverish and red and was hurting. I asked Mary to check it out. She thought I ought to check with my doctor. Based on the symptoms my doctor thought I either had a blood clot or cellulitis and that I should go to the hospital. We did go to the hospital in Traverse City where I was admitted and spent the remainder of our vacation. Doctors were unable to find the cause of the cellulitis. There would be several more bouts of cellulitis over the next few years.

In November, 2020 I began to lose my energy and appetite. The swelling in my legs was getting worse. It appeared that the cellulitis was back. By the day after Thanksgiving I was so bad I wasn’t getting out of bed. I finally decided I should see someone. We went to a standalone emergency room. 

Any time your legs are swelling they suspect a deep vein blood clot. They did a doppler sonogram of both legs. They also did some x-rays and then a CT Scan. The doctor decided I had cirrhosis of the liver. I needed to be hospitalized. I was whisked away by ambulance to the Valley Baptist Medical Center. They began to treat the cellulitis with antibiotics and diuretics. An internist began seeing me for the liver. He ordered several tests. I was given an upper GI where they discovered a number of esophageal varices. Varices are abnormal, enlarged veins in the tube that connects the throat and stomach (esophagus). The doctor banded a number of varices. Essentially they put a plastic band around these veins cutting off the blood supply to prevent bleeding. They also gave me a colonoscopy, which is always fun, especially when you can’t get to and from the bathroom on your own. December 5, they finally sent me home on antibiotics and diuretics.

Over the next several days the redness and swelling in the legs got a little better. But overall I was slowly getting worse. Finally on December 23, I returned to the hospital where I would remain for the next 31 days. Soon after arriving at Valley Baptist Medical Center for the second time they discovered that not only was my liver failing, my kidneys were also failing. My condition was critical. The Nephrologist said that he did not recommend dialysis because it was too risky. Apparently during dialysis your blood pressure could drop critically low when your liver and kidneys were compromised at the same time. He said he had been doing this for over thirty years and had never seen a patient with my issues have a favorable outcome from dialysis. So the options were die a slow death as the kidney and liver failures began affecting other organs in my body or do dialysis and die suddenly. I needed more information.

I had changed internists. The one I had in the first visit was underwhelming. So my Primary Care Physician recommended a different one. He was a younger guy and when he came in to see me he was all decked out in his Texas Longhorn gear. I liked him right away. After talking with him we agreed that doing dialysis was worth a try. I would rather go down fighting if I had to go down. The goal was to get my kidneys well enough that I might be ready to travel. Mary and I had decided we needed to get back to Michigan where one of our daughters lives and where we have many friends. After a number of sessions of dialysis and some physical therapy I was finally strong enough that the doctors thought it would be safe for me to travel.

The Texas leg of this journey was challenging but we figured it out. When you are so sick and you are outside your established community there are a lot of unknowns. The kind of emergency we were facing would be a challenge anywhere but honestly I think being on the road elevated it a bit. But there were several things that helped.

Being “Winter Texans” was a help. We were among a community at Park Place Estates RV Resort where people, many people were willing to lend a hand and did. Being part of the Christian Resorts Ministry was a huge help. They gave us spiritual and emotional support. Some of our team members in CRM had been through similar situations and provided wise counsel.

It would be impossible to measure the importance of the help our daughters were to us while we were in Texas. They both came for a week to help out after my first hospital stay. Just having them with us made us better. But they did a ton of things to make the experience better for us. They came back  to Texas during my second hospital stay, on Christmas day, and stayed weeks. They did not leave Texas until we did.

The medical institutions and professionals who worked on me were awesome. The emergency center was thorough and right on with the initial diagnosis. The Valley Baptists Medical Center was excellent with only one exception. 

The food was terrible. There are a few reasons for this I think. I had no appetite. I was very sick and food just didn’t taste the same. I was on a renal diet which operates on the philosophy that if you enjoy it, you can’t have it! But the real problem was that during my entire stay I never once had a hot meal. Not even once! A few times my meal was tepid. But never hot. One day a team of doctors came in and among other things told me I was malnourished. Even now that is astonishing. Anyone who has known me any length of time could ever believe I would be malnourished. But I was. So these doctors told me that someone from nutrition would be in to see me. I said “great! Because they are the reason I’m malnourished!” That’s how bad the food was. 

The hospital staff were fantastic. There wasn’t a dud in the bunch. My kidney doctor was great. Even though he was skeptical about giving me dialysis he was all in when I said I wanted to try it. Almost every day he came to see me. Now this guy was the medical director of the entire hospital so he had plenty to do. But he was very diligent with his visitation. Now don’t blink while he’s in the room or you might miss him. Unless you had questions he was usually in the room no more than a minute if that long. If I had questions he was more than willing to spend more time. Otherwise he was gone in a flash. In fact I began to refer to him as Flash to my nurses and the Green Team.

The Green Team is a group of medical students who do rounds in the hospital each day. Valley Baptist is a teaching hospital. This team varied in size and in level of education and training. As far as staff goes these folks were among my favorites. Early every morning, sometimes before 6:00 AM, one member of the team would stop by my room to gather information about me and how my night had been. Then three or four hours later they would be back with additional members of the team. There would be anywhere between three and six people come during these visits, I really enjoyed these visits. They were young and curious and were genuinely  interested in my welfare. It was my goal each day to get a laugh out of them. I was pretty successful. I told them of my YouTube videos doing standup and many of them actually watched my act.(Search Larry Q Allen on YouTube) One in particular began to urge me to develop some hospital humor. It was the Green Team who ultimately gave me the clearance to travel back to Michigan.

I have always thought highly of nurses. One of my dad’s sisters was a nurse and I always loved her. Having spent so much time in the hospital I value them  exponentially more. Every nurse, without exception, was fantastic. The nursing assistants, phlebotomists, housekeeping, the entire hospital staff were all top notch and I am thankful for them. Under terrible circumstances they made my life better.

Being hundreds of miles from family and friends made this journey more difficult. But folks in Texas rallied around us and gave great support and help. These folks had only known us a couple of months but they acted like lifelong friends. Again I can’t overstate how important the help our daughters were to us when they traveled to Texas. Being full time RVers made the situation more challenging but not impossible.

In my next blog post I’ll talk about our journey to Michigan.

THE UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

When we retired in October of 2019, we began a journey that we knew would be filled with adventure and surprises. On our very first RV journey, back in the 90’s, we had learned this lesson. We were driving from Yellowstone National Park to Stanley, Idaho. While driving across southern Idaho, all of a sudden there was a dramatic change in the landscape. We found ourselves in the middle of this barran rugged place that felt like it should be on some other planet. It turns out we had discovered Craters of the Moon National Monument. We had never heard of this park. It was an unexpected delight we had found on our journey. The day after Thanksgiving 2020 we embarked upon a journey we had not anticipated. It was totally unexpected.

We were enjoying our time at Park Place Estates RV Resort. But gradually I began to realize that I was not feeling right. I lost my appetite, became weaker every day, and was experiencing quite a bit of swelling in my legs. The day after Thanksgiving I decided it was time to do something.

But what do you do when you are hundreds of miles away from your primary care physician? A quick Google search revealed that there was a stand alone emergency room only about a mile away. So off we went thinking the doctor would take a look, write out a prescription and we would be on our way back home (home being our RV).

After a few tests, an x-ray, and a CT scan, the doctor discovered there was a problem with my liver. It was serious. I was transferred to the Valley Baptist Medical Center by ambulance. I figured that a Baptist Hospital could fix up a retired Baptist pastor in no time. They decided that I had cirrhosis of the liver. An odd diagnosis for a Baptist pastor who was definitely not a drinker. After a week they felt like I could go home. I was to keep an eye on things and follow up with the Hepatologist. 

I was no better. I continued to gradually get worse. Finally, on December 23, we returned to the Baptist Medical Center where I was admitted once again. I would remain there for the next thirty-one days. Fairly quickly they determined that not only was my liver failing, but my kidneys were also failing. My condition was critical. My Nephrologist was also the Medical Director of the hospital. He was no slouch. He told us that in his experience he had not found dialysis to be effective when both the liver and kidneys were failing. Which meant that life would be short.

I spoke with my Hepatologist about it. I told him I would rather try something than do nothing. He agreed and the nephrologist agreed to do dialysis as long as I understood the risks. The main risk was that my blood pressure could go so low that I might not survive it. Obviously I did survive. But we had some really big decisions to make.

We were hundreds of miles away from our daughters. Even though I had made improvements I was nowhere close to well. I couldn’t even get in our RV. So there was no way I could hitch it up and tow it hundreds of miles. I was so sick that Mary would need help with my care. We concluded that living and traveling full time in an RV just wasn’t possible for us. We needed to move near one of our daughters for the support they could give us. Ultimately we decided to return to Warren, Michigan where we had lived before becoming full time RVers. But how could we get there? 

Before we started our full time journey the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) opened their membership to RVers with towables. The membership was reasonable and we decided to join. At the time we had no idea how important that decision would be.

We not only had to figure out how to get me, who was just barely well enough to travel, to Michigan, but we also had to get our home and possessions to Michigan as well. FMCA membership comes with a variety of benefits. We didn’t even know what they all were. One of the benefits is FMCA Assist. FMCA Assist is basically an insurance that will get you and your rig to where they need to be if you become critically ill or worse. They would fly Mary and me to Michigan accompanied by a nurse and have a professional driver transport or rig to Michigan. I had learned about this benefit, only after joining FMCA, while reading an article in Family Rving, the FMCA magazine.

Because my condition was so critical both of our daughters had traveled to Texas to be with us. What a blessing they are to us! I am so thankful for their help and for our sons-in-law for making such a sacrifice. Our oldest daughter became our contact with FMCA on our behalf. Once our case was opened FMCA kept track of my health and were in continuous contact so that when I would be released for travel everything would be in place for our journey.

Finally my doctors decided I could travel. I was transferred by ambulance from the hospital to the airport. FMCA Assist had arranged for a nurse to meet us at the airport and he met us at the ambulance and helped me to the plane. The nurse and I would fly first class from Texas to Michigan. Mary and our daughters were in coach. We were met at the airport in Michigan by another ambulance which would transport me to a rehab facility which was about fifty miles away. The next day the driver began the journey bringing our RV from Texas to Michigan.

I couldn’t possibly overstate how important FMCA Assist was to us. We would have somehow gotten back to Michigan. But it wouldn’t have been easy. For example several people offered to come to Texas to drive our rig home for us. But there were things yet to come in this journey which made FMCA Assist’s role even more important.

If you are planning on becoming an RVer or already are RVing I highly recommend a FMCA membership. There are several benefits to a membership with them. But FMCA Assist is the only reason you need to join. You can purchase insurance to cover the kinds of things that FMCA Assist provides. But they cost hundreds of dollars. The current membership fee for FMCA is $85 a year. You will never find a better value!

When we made the decision to come off the road and return to Michigan there was a lot involved. In my next few blog posts I will explore some of the other issues we faced. I hope you will continue to follow along.

WORK CAMPING

According to Workamper News, work campers are adventurous individuals, couples, and families who have chosen a wonderful lifestyle that combines any kind of part-time or full-time work or volunteering with RV camping. 

We had gone to Texas because I had taken a position with Christian Resort Ministries (CRM). I would be serving as chaplain for CRM in an RV Resort. I would receive a portion of offerings given at the worship services which would cover the cost of our stay.

I discovered CRM through a web search. After reading about the organization I completed a form which on the web site said it would result in my receiving more information. The form was more like a job application and incudded my listing a few individuals as potential references. After a few weeks I received an email from a regional director who wanted to set up a time for us to have a conversation. We had a lengthy phone conversation and I learned that he had already contacted my references. During that first conversation he invited me to join his team of chaplains who were serving in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. He wanted me to begin the winter of 2019-20. That would be immediately after our retirement. I told him we needed to wait until the next winter. We wanted to get a little time on the road before we did this. After about six months Mary and I decided if they were still interested we would give it a try our second winter on the road.

CRM International’s mission is to bring Christ to those who know Him and those who don’t know him. They have chaplains and ministries in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Oklahoma, and Texas. In addition to chaplains they have helping ministries that serve disadvantaged persons. 

We began with a week of training in Brownsville, Texas. This training gave us the opportunity to understand what our responsibilities would be and practical strategies to fulfill those responsibilities. More importantly it gave us a chance to get to know other couples who would be serving as chaplains in RV Resorts in the Rio Grande Valley. We were, for all practical purposes, pastors in each of the resorts we served. I would be the pastor for Park Place Estates RV Resort. The arrangement was basically a partnership between the small congregation at the resort and CRM.

Park Place is a very large park. There are over eight-hundred sites. Many of those sites have permanent residences on them either park models or RVs which have been converted for full time living. Most of the residents were seasonal “Snow Birds” or in the Valley known as “Winter Texans.” There are some who are full time residents.

`We found the park to be a great place to spend the winter. At Harlingen we were about thirty minutes from the Gulf of Mexico and the Mexican border. The weather was quite pleasant. All of the staff were outstanding. The grounds were well kept and very pretty. I would have liked to have had more trees. Parts of the park had plenty of trees, but a large portion of the park had very few. There are a lot of mature palm trees which are fun to look at but aren’t very good for shade. Park Place has a lot of amenities. There is a security gate at the park entrance. Sites were full hook up with thirty and fifty amps. There is a pool, dog park, exercise room, ball room, post office, woodshop, craft room, RC race track and much more. The staff member we were closest with was the activity director. She is a wonderful woman with a great heart. She did everything she could to help us with our stay and work. She plans a wide variety of activities which are always well done.

But, we were there during the height of the Covid pandemic. The population in the park was greatly reduced because of Covid. Everything was different. Activities were severely limited. Gatherings were restricted if not forbidden. For a while we did not have services at all. I did make some visits in the park and made a hospital visit. When we did begin to have Sunday services we would meet in the clubhouse which was a large space and we could easily practice social distancing. We had three weeks of services when I became ill and was unable to continue.

For us, work camping is ideal. We were able to be in a nice park in a warm place during the winter doing the things we love to do. We would love to do it again during a time of  no Covid restrictions. I’m convinced it would be a great experience, Honestly we only got a taste of work camping. So I certainly am no expert. But here is my two cents worth: If you are living on a budget, looking for a warm nice place to spend the winter, then look for an opportunity doing something you enjoy, and go for it.

Next time we’ll talk about what happens when you become critically ill on the road.

FINDING COMMUNITY

* My previous post confused some who have been familiar with our current circumstances. We are not currently traveling. We are nowhere close to Texas. But we were there six months ago. I got way behind on posting, not that I was ever that timely, because of our current situation. More about that later. So, I’m just trying to get caught up, sort of.

I could just complete this post with one sentence. But what’s the fun in that? But let me go ahead and say it and then we’ll see where this goes. When RVing you don’t need to find community, community will find you.

We had traveled to Texas to spend the winter in the Rio Grande Valley. I would be serving as a Chaplain in a RV Resort in Harlingen, TX with Christian Resort Ministries (CRM). 

Our next stop, after leaving the Hill Country, was Brownsville, TX. CRM provided a week of training for their Chaplains before the winter season began. When we pulled into the Breeze Lake Campground in Brownsville and began parking the RV we were immediately greeted by three men offering to help us park. I’ve been told that it is a breach of etiquette to make such an offer uninvited. However I welcome such offers because parking the RV is my least favorite part of this lifestyle.  Within minutes, community had found us. These men proceded to literally park level and hook up the RV for us, even providing some of the leveling blocks, and introducing us to the neighbors.

Granted we had other things in common in addition to RVing. They too were there for the Chaplaincy training. We also shared Christian Faith which naturally results in community. But it was RVing which brought us together. We have stayed in contact with several of the couples who we spent the week together with.

Our very first trip with a RV resulted in our meeting a couple which almost immediately resulted in a bond that continues to grow to this day. We traveled together on a four state trip and had a wonderful time. Last summer we would have traveled together to Alaska had it not been for Covid. We are still hoping to make that trip together in the future. We continue to stay in contact and visit and camp together. This couple is very special to us and ours is a clear illustration of the community that finds us on the road. 

In the winter of 2019-2020 while attending an RV Rally in Florida a couple next door to us began to visit with each other. By the time we pulled out of the park we had made a plan to meet and travel the Natchez Trace Parkway together in the spring. Again Covid knocked that in the head but we have stayed in contact through social media.

Back to Texas. After our training we made our way to Harlingen,TX to the Park Place Estates RV Resort where CRM had assigned me for the winter. We arrived there the last week of October, 2020. When you go to a park as a snow bird or for an extended period of time there is almost immediate community if you want it. My parents wintered for several consecutive years in a park in Frost Proof, Florida. Some of their closest relationships grew out of that experience and RVing in general.

We immediately began enjoying community with folks at Park Place. Meals were shared, activities enjoyed together, common interests drew people together, and just visiting with people as you moved about around the park, all this and more built community. We grew very close with one particular couple while we were there. A friendship grew which I am certain will last life long. We simply enjoy a community which is rich and endearing. Like the couple mentioned earlier we feel very close with this couple. We hope our friendship enriches them as much as theirs has us.

RV life doesn’t need to be lonely. Sure you are going to leave behind family and friends. You will miss them. But social media and the many tools that come with it has made that a lot easier. But if you want community you really don’t have to look for you. It will find you.

TEXAS HILL COUNTRY

Upon leaving Louisiana we made our journey into Texas. We were heading to Bandera, TX where we would stay for a week. On our way we boondocked overnight at a Home Depot in Waco. There was all kinds of road construction going on all over Waco. We had hoped to visit Magnolia Farms but by the time we made it through town, and thanks to Covid, they were closed. But we dropped the RV at Home Depot and drove downtown anyway just so we could see Magnolia Farms. While we were downtown we had dinner at Ninfa’s, a great Mexican restaurant. I can easily recommend it.

At Bandera we stayed at the Holiday Villages RV Resort.  Located in the “Hill Country” of Texas this RV park is sort of remote. The roads are not great. But the park is nice. It was not crowded at all partly because of the time of year and partly because of Covid. They had all the amenities you would need and the staff were very friendly. We had a Roadrunner who would come by once in a while but there was no sign of Wiley Coyote. Deer were also regular visitors. The real game was to be found just outside the park. Right next door to the park is a game preserve which has animals from around the world. Occasionally as you drove along the road you could see some of these animals.

We went to Holiday Villages because it is a Coast to Coast park and its proximity to San Antonio. It’s about forty-five minutes away. We had been to San Antonio before and knew we would enjoy another visit. Our favorite thing to do there is to visit the River Walk. It is what it claims to be. Through the city the San Antonio river is lined by gardened walkways, lovely shops and fine restaurants. The boat ride along the river is worth doing. It’s not only beautiful the boat Captain gives you the history and stories of the River Walk. We had a great dinner along the River Walk and really enjoyed our afternoon there.

Another day we returned to San Antonio to take Gray Line’s Mission Trail tour. We have done Gray Line tours in many cities and have never been disappointed. This tour is along the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. The park highlights five missions built along the San Antonio River. Beginning with the Alamo they move south of the city and include guided tours of Mission San Jose, Mission Concepcion, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada. This was very enjoyable! As we traveled along the trail a recording would play telling stories related to sites along the route and what to expect at the next mission. Once arriving at the mission our driver would provide a guided tour of the mission. We learned that these missions were so much more than churches. They were fortresses, communities, centers for economic development, education and culture. The missions were beautiful and essential in their day. A few still have weekly services. The tour was interesting and enjoyable. It is well worth the cost.

We enjoyed our stay  nestled among the ranches of Texas’ Hill Country. There is much more to do than what we enjoyed so a return visit would be in order.