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Well, this isn't good. It's 3:47 a.m. and I can't sleep. I'm four days away from leaving this comfortable home of mine forever, and there's still WAY too much to do. Gertie needs to pass state inspection, get a tuneup and new tires, I have to see my lawyer and my doctor and my veterinarian, there are thirty boxes here in the living room waiting to be moved to storage (and I'm praying they will fit!)...and Gertie's interior is so piled up with stuff that she's completely unlivable. Even after I get completely moved out of this apartment, I have a major job of organizing and putting away to do. Oh, and I still don't know what my Escapees mailbox will be, so I haven't sent out change-of-address cards yet. Groan.

Andy and Paul SooHoo

So I just made myself an omelet, and I'm sitting here thinking about what I'll miss in the coming years. A wistful email last night from my old friend Paul SooHoo started this train of thought: "How about lunch tomorrow? I'm trying to not think about the fact that I probably won't see you again for a long time." Yes, that's true. I'm leaving friends like Paul behind. Oh, I'll be in touch with them by email, of course, and through this website—but the casual dinners and gab sessions we've enjoyed so much in the past won't be possible.

What I'll miss

So I thought I'd try to list here some of the things I expect to miss most after I get on the road in four days. (Perhaps a year or so from now I can revisit this list and see how good my predictions were.) My friends, of course, are the most important. But besides them...

People I didn't get to know

It's an interesting phenomenon: as I've said goodbye, first to my coworkers and now to my neighbors, I've realized that there were many interesting people whom I didn't get to know...I guess because I just didn't take the trouble. At work, my fellow designer Janet Stumper was someone I knew casually for a decade or more, but we were never really close until the last couple of months...when I realized what a great person she was and began to regret that I hadn't known her better sooner. Same with Robin Matlack and others I'd known casually for years. I kept to myself too much, it seems...and thereby missed knowing people who could have been good friends long ago if only I'd made the effort.

Gertie Schuder

The same could be said about my neighbors. In my eighteen years in this development I had surprisingly little contact with most of them (despite spending two terms on the board of my homeowners' association), and in most cases never got past casual hellos. Case in point: Gertrude Schuder, a delightful little woman in her early eighties who lived in the next building over. I knew she was German, and often greeted her with a cheery "Guten Tag!" when I saw her in the parking lot, but that was about as far as it went.

In my final weeks, when I was carrying stuff out to the dumpster many times a day, I ran into Gertie more often, and talked with her at length. She told me stories about her life in Germany and here; about how she and her husband had traveled around the US when they were younger...and I learned that she was responsible for the gorgeous flowerbeds that surround her apartment and the adjoining ones. I gave Gertie a flowerpot full of impatiens that I'd put out on my balcony as a prop when I was selling the condo, and I told her about my travel plans. She said she'd have her children read this website to her from their computers. Weeks later I got separate emails from her son and daughter, who turned out to be really interesting people themselves. I wish I'd known the whole family years ago. Another missed opportunity due to my shyness.

Toy shelves

My toys

I don't mean that kind of stuff most men my age have in mind when they talk about their toys—computers, audio gear, motorcycles, that red Miata in the garage. I mean toys: balloons, kites, Frisbees, Pez dispensers, windups, Legos, bubble wands, glow-in-the-dark Silly Putty, Yo-Yos, bags of squishy rubber eyeballs, Slinkies, squirt guns, rubber ducks, gyroscopes, Crackerjack prizes... 99% of my toys had to be packed away. I'm only bringing along a kite, an Aerobie, a bubble pistol and a few other small items. There just wasn't room for more.

Knowing where things are in the supermarket

At home I usually shop at the same store, and know exactly where everything is. My shopping list is organized by aisle, and I can quickly get what I need. But I know from experience that when you're on the road, every store is different. Even Wal-Marts don't all use the same there's a lot of shopping time spent trying to find the canned vegetables aisle, or locate my favorite brand of toothpaste (Tom's of Maine). And some products can be hard to locate in some regions. I remember that in one Ohio town, I was unable to find bread with a hard crust! Well, I'll have my breadmaker along from now on, so at least bread won't be a problem.

Long hot showers

That's a luxury I won't have in Gertie, since I expect to be boondocking without hookups most of the time. And oh! it is such a luxury! In cold weather I know I'll miss that. But of course, I'm hoping to mostly avoid cold weather. That's what you do in an RV! You follow the sun.

My car

Accord wagon

I sold my beloved Honda Accord wagon last week to a family who wanted it for their daughter, whose late-model Isuzu just died. (Isuzus do that a lot.) It's been the best car I've ever owned: comfortable, practical, beautiful and above all, reliable. It's even towable "four down"—with all four wheels on the ground—so it's an ideal RVer's car. If only Gertie had more power... But she doesn't. Her old V8 can barely get her over the hills, and towing a 3,000-pound car is out of the question. So after 122,000 miles together, I regretfully bid the faithful Accord farewell.

My books

95% of the thousands of books that lined my shelves are packed away in cartons, and in all likelihood they won't see the light of day for many years. Already I miss them terribly...the two hundred science fiction books, the scores of children's books, including my nearly complete collections of Daniel M. Pinkwater and Beverly Cleary, the "how-to" books, the dictionaries—thirty or forty of them—the cookbooks... Gertie's shelves will only hold a few of each category. Oh, I've loaded my computers with as many e-books as I can, but reading "Huckleberry Finn" on even a great LCD screen like my iMac's is not the same as reading it on paper—preferably nicely yellowed paper, with that enticing, slightly musty smell that books acquire only with age and love.

And I miss being able to buy books—that's another luxury I no longer have, since Gertie's bookshelf space is packed absolutely full. If I buy a new book, I'll have to get rid of an old one. Hard choices lie ahead!

My workroom

The cluttered workroom that was such a nightmare to clear out was the heart of my life, because that's where all my tools were, and where most of my non-computer projects took place: electronics work, stained glass, sewing, carpentry, small repairs of all kinds...I had all my tools at my fingertips and room (just barely!) in which to use them. In Gertie I carry a pretty good assortment of hand tools, but should I need a belt sander, table saw, saber saw or router, I'm plumb out of luck: those things are packed away. I'll just have to be resourceful and make the best of the tools that I do have room for in Gertie.

My washer and dryer

Having a washer and dryer in a closet just outside my bedroom and bathroom was the single best thing about this condo. I loved being able to throw in a load and go work on the computer, just a few steps away when it was time to transfer clothes to the drier, and then to take them out and hang them up. And I hate laundromats. Ah, is full of sacrifices!

Art Deco mirror

My hobbies

There are lots of things I can and will do on the road—photography, writing, quilting...but then there are things that I can't: carpentry, stained glass, and other creative pursuits I've indulged in from time to time. Oh, I could have brought the tools and materials to do stained glass, but then I'd have had to leave the sewing machine in storage. Gertie just isn't large enough to hold all my interests, so I had to pick and choose. Probably over the years I'll move from one artistic medium to another, swapping out one set of tools and materials for another...but as long as I travel, I won't be able to have access to everything at once.

$75,000 a year

There's no question that the loss of income from my job will make a difference in my lifestyle. No more buying anything I take a fancy to, including the latest computer hardware every couple of years! No more packages of goodies arriving at my door two or three times a week. (I was a serious mail-order junkie.) I'll have to think about everything I buy—and I hate thinking about money.

But eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, and vigilance over my spending habits is the price I'll pay for the freedom not to go to work every day. It will be worth it! I hope the unaccustomed constraints won't chafe too much, but I'll learn to live with them.

On the other hand...

...I didn't list any of the wonderful things I'm gaining, like new friends, new things to see and photograph, the ability to follow good weather...and of course the ability to live cheaply enough that I don't have to go on working for for another ten years! The sacrifices I'll be making are small compared to the HUGE benefits I'm gaining—I have no doubts on that score.

Down to bare essentials

On a more cheerful note, the condo is almost empty now, thanks to help from my friends the Zinses yesterday. Other than an old sleeping bag on my bedroom floor (and of course the boxes waiting to be taken to storage), all that's left in my apartment is this makeshift computer table where I'm typing and eating breakfast. Except for what's in the backpack I'm living out of, my clothes are all packed—but it's warm enough that I don't even need those most of the time.

Cheap tape

I still have a high-speed internet connection for three days...after that I'm down to my cell phone, which is a very slow way to connect, except when I'm parked where I can set up the DirecWay satellite dish—which I have not even had a chance to try out yet! The emptiness of my home confirms what the calendar tells me: the end is in sight.

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