2018: Moving On

“And they lived happily until the end of their days.” – JRR Tolkien

Thankfully, we had enough interest in the house that by mid-October we had a contract in the works. Initially, our next-door neighbor was interested, but after doing some research, and following up on the reports we provided, he decided it would be more work than he wanted – for such a “steal”.  Obviously, we’d had to set the asking price low – but the offer that we accepted was still significantly less than what we’d hoped for.  It left us “upside down”, having to raid our savings yet again and bring money to the table in order to dump the albatross of a house.

Enter the buyer: it felt awful to watch a young couple, full of hopes and dreams, and relative ignorance – stretching to make the purchase.  It seemed they had every intent of going on a rampage to put the house back together, mostly by themselves, before winter.  It was as if our story hadn’t sunk in, and they thought that they would triumph where we so obviously hadn’t.  People kept telling us that it wasn’t our business, or worry.  We’d had a lawyer approve of the full disclosure that was provided to all potential buyers.  There was nothing uncertain about the state of the property.  Any diligent research would have provided them with the scope of the hazards they were taking on.  There was nothing we could do, but move on – with a clear conscience, that we’d done the best we could under the circumstances.

Lissa: Sorting Through Part of Our Rock Collection

We spent the last few weeks while the house was under contract, attacking the last of our belongings and prepping for the estate sale.  David took another two weeks of vacation time to dig into all the tasks that had to be completed before we could leave.  Both of us spent hours upon hours – once again – in the freezing cold, sorting through things, cleaning things, packing things, and making multiple piles of “pitch”, “sell”, “keep/store” and “keep/take”.  Honestly, it was a horrible déjà vu of how this whole thing had started way back when.   

In the final days before the estate sale, we perused the stacks of items that the crew had set up on tables throughout the garage and house.  It was our last chance to grab any keepsakes or other things we had been looking for.  For the most part, we hadn’t seen any of this stuff since it had all been stowed away in April of 2017.  Since our goal was to continue the downsizing, not much made the cut.  Just a couple armfuls of precious memories were salvaged.

In hindsight, I’m still beside myself about the entirety of Christmas decorations that got left behind – a pure oversight, considering the pace and fatigue involved. And all the books, oh the glorious books! 100’s of volumes that were like an archaeology of my life – collected in layers of experiences and places over the years.  To this day, sometimes I wake up in the night – distraught with memories of random things that are gone.  (It’s similar to that sinking feeling when you realize you forgot something just after you get on the plane and there is no turning back.) 

People often toss platitudes: “They are only things…”, they say, as if it should be easy to “get over it”. Because, after all – it’s not a LIFE.  Yes – that is certainly true.  In no way, shape, or form, am I insinuating that they are at all comparable. However, one doesn’t lose virtually everything they’ve worked their entire life for – including career, house, home, and health, and said “things”, without going through a grieving process.  It is, just that – a process – and I continue to deal, as the emotions come and go in cycles.  Clearly, good things WILL come of this major life disruption.  It just takes time.

Cargo Trailer: Work in Progress – Before Insulation

Despite working late into the night, for multiple days, we weren’t able to finish doing everything we needed to before the estate sale. There was a pile of stuff in the lean-to next to the workshop, that we had to cover with a tarp and mark as off-limits, so that people wouldn’t think it was for sale.  Most of it still needed to be cleaned before we could stash it safely in the cargo trailer.  We were completely exhausted and running on fumes.

October 20th, the morning of the estate sale – after pushing our compromised bodies to the limit working until nearly midnight, we had to get up early and vacate the property. Owners are discouraged from being present, lest they get too involved and/or change their minds about items.  We’d been warned that these types of sales are popular, and that it was a regular thing to have cars lining the street, hours in advance.  By 4:00 am there were already vehicles idling in the dark, awaiting the opening. 

Vehicles Lined Up for the Estate Sale 

When we left at 7:00 am, both sides of the street were lined with cars, trucks, and trailers – people were ready to swoop in to look for deals.  As we drove past them all, it felt as if we were attending our own funeral.  We should have been excited that so many had turned out, but instead it felt gruesome – like watching vultures swoop in to pick over the remains of our former life. 

It didn’t help that we knew things were being priced for pennies on the dollar.  Our trusty tractor sold within minutes because it was “priced to go”… such a disappointment that it was the trade-off for a quick sale.  All in all, there wasn’t much profit in it for us, just more losses to witness, and a little more cash to put back in our pockets. The silver lining was a sense of gratefulness that at last we would be DONE with it all.  We never would have gotten there without the help of the team we’d hired to make it happen.

In Exile & Exhaustion: Waiting for the Estate Sale to End

The final push came in the last few days of October.  The house closing was set for November 1st, and we also had the closing on our new rig on the same day.  Since we couldn’t be in two places at once, we had power of attorney signed over to a lawyer.  We worked non-stop to get everything cleaned and packed; to get the cargo trailer loaded; and to stuff our travel trailer with whatever else we needed for life on the road.  The cats were anxious – clearly, we were about to embark into even more madness and chaos. 

We had a whirlwind exit – blasting out of there in the dark, at 9:30 pm on October 31st – Halloween of course.  It was pitch black, cold, drizzly, and miserable. It seemed almost poetic.  This haunted house was about to be ours no more, but we were too exhausted to be gleeful, or even sad.  We just felt dead inside, and beyond ready to be gone.

Bittersweet: Following David -Down the Driveway, One Last Time!

With trepidation, David eased the old trailer past the well head at the top of the driveway, and we were free.  The cats were cozy in their crates in the back seat of the truck, and my truck was stuffed to the gills with everything we couldn’t fit in elsewhere.  After quickly shooting one last picture, we slipped away in the darkness with zero fanfare.

The plan was for me to follow David for the first leg of our journey, until we could get to CT where our nephew had agreed to sell my vehicle for us.  Our first stop was the hotel in NY where we’d stay before switching trailers the next day.  This was the first significant stretch of driving I’d done since getting sick in 2010.  Without much choice, we made our way west, and successfully got to the hotel around midnight. We all (including the cats) were beyond pleased to sleep in a real bed for the first time in 6 months!

The next day, the dealer couldn’t get us in until 2:00 pm, which didn’t leave much time for transitioning our belongings from rig to rig.  After much ado (with virtually no supposed “training” – as the guy wanted to tell stories about himself instead), and after the official papers were signed, we were turned loose to start making the transfer.  At this point it was almost closing time, so they stuck us out in the end of a parking lot, outside their gates, with the two trailers parked side by side, so we could go back and forth with our stuff. 

Running With the Big Dogs: 1st Time Out

Because we had no time, and yet again it was cold and dark, we wound up just throwing things into the new 5th wheel.  Piles upon piles, with hardly any rhyme or reason.  We’d have to sort it all out later.  We left the dealership in yet another “trial by fire” situation – this was the first time David had ever pulled a 5th wheel – and it was in the dark, on the NY State Thruway.  Yeeeehawwww!

Suffice it to say the dealership was incredibly sucky overall — but wait, there was more!!  After all the jerking around with the bank conundrum previously described, they now claimed that they couldn’t register our vehicle or get license plates for us.  We’d have to go back to Vermont to take care of that ourselves.  So, the next day we had to drive to Bennington, VT for registration – which wound up easily costing us an extra 4 hours. There was a litany of errors in the paperwork we got from the dealer, sending us back into line at least 3 times.  As a final dig, at the DMV counter that finally put us through – we were told that they ALWAYS get a lot of state-to-state business from that dealership.  Their people come in frequently, and it’s never been a problem for them before!  AARRGHHH!!!

Following David – Winding Through the Mountains of Southern Vermont

We left there and wound our way further east, almost running out of diesel along the way.  Who knew it might be hard to come by?!  There were no gas stations offering diesel in the mountains along our route, until we got to Brattleboro. It was quite the learning curve to be worrying over that, as well as fitting a 35’ trailer into tight places!  By the time we got through Massachusetts, and down into the Hartford area it was dark once again.   I was thoroughly cooked and was having an incredibly hard time keeping up with the multiple lanes of traffic, constant headlights flashing about, and trying to stay behind David, as he piloted the new rig.  Our trusty RV-specific GPS led us down unfamiliar streets, avoiding any low bridges, tight turns, or narrow roads. We got to our first real campground in East Lyme, CT, just after they had closed.

Despite that, we found our site, landed successfully, and then had to spend the next few hours setting up camp – for the first time ever in the dark.  We may have had experience living in a trailer all summer, but we had never GONE anywhere yet!  There were the new automatic leveling jacks to figure out, and the sewer hose to hook up, not to mention – the extreme chaos lurking in the rig itself.  Everything was mayhem inside, and we had to undo enough of it so that we could get some sleep before attending a going away party that was being held for us the next day.

Our New Bedroom – Bikes on the Bed!

It was sheer insanity.  Our bikes were dismantled on the bed – because we never had time to build the new bike rack, there was nowhere else to store them safely.  The bed had yet to be made, the new mattress was still covered in plastic. Clothes, and bags, and tote boxes, and dishes, and misc. categories of food were everywhere.  You couldn’t walk from one end of the trailer to the other.  The cats, of course, thought it was great fun exploring their new home!  We didn’t get settled enough to get to bed until 1:00 in the morning. (Need anyone be reminded – this was all whilst having ME/CFS… It would have been difficult for the average healthy person — this was simply BEYOND!) Whew – the “fun” never stopped!

In the light of day, we discovered that somehow we had deployed the landing gear improperly.  The leveling jacks had lifted the trailer tires up into the air.  Whoops!  After a quick reset everything was fine, but we sure had a good laugh over that one.  We had bigger fish to fry… endless piles to sort and put away, and a bike rack to build and deploy, as well as an ever-growing shopping list of items to procure to make life easier on the road.

We spent the next week there at Aces High, a very large campground in southern CT, that was open year-round.  Our priority was to see family and friends, as well as trying to set up the new rig, before heading off to see my family in Michigan.  All of which needed to happen before the ever-threatening winter set in on us!  It was a wonderful, but far too brief visit, and we were truly thankful to all who could make it down to see us off.  Unfortunately, we were still in the midst of way too much chaos to attempt getting together with people along the way… apologies to those we missed!  With the generous help of family and friends we were able to launch Westward in earnest by November 7th.

A New Perspective
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