Wednesday 28 May 2014

I Face an Old Decision, Again

Even as my pen caressed that piece of paper, I knew. Somehow I knew that old choice would return, yet still I pressed on. I suppose I keep subconsciously nudging myself towards doing something crazy, something that I may not be ready for, yet may have to do. 

Outfitting Wanda took more than I anticipated (which was nothing) so that took a bite out of my credit card budget this month. Add to that the fact that the payments have started, or will start tomorrow and the reality is setting in. 

I may have to move into Wanda, full time. Oddly enough, this thought does not scare me. It is something that I have been moving towards, you must have seen it. Even if I just Boondock it for the warmer months that will get me back on track. 

When it gets cold there is a place indoors where I could park and live in Wanda, still. I expect that that time frame would be 4 - 5 months max. This is doable and I like the sense of freedom that comes with it.

The amenities within Wanda are greater and nicer than my room and did I mention that wherever I park, I’m home? I don’t have a wife and kids to support, and until I get through this debt relief process, that aspect of my life will not likely change. 

I have some thinking to do these next few days, and on into the weekend. I go back to Banff to finish the sorting out and outfitting Wanda . . . and enjoy the scenery.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

I Took Wanda Out to Her First Campsite Last Weekend

Okay, no, Wanda is not my new girlfriend; Wanda is the name of my trailer. No, I am not too lonely, my family has a long tradition of naming vehicles, so I have finally named both my truck and my trailer . . . both are women (of course).

Meet Treabilla . . . Full Name: “Treabilla Westlock”

I have named her thus because, well like character she is named after (Treabilla Teroncia), she has black hair. (You see vehicles don’t have hair, they have paint which is kinda like fur, thus black paint means black hair . . . . yep, thems the rules . . . :-P ).

Also, because, like Treabilla, my truck is:

1) Elegant
2) Graceful
3) Quietly Supportive
4) Always there for me
5) Has nice lines 

Meet Wanda . . . Full name: “Wanda Westlock, The Wandering Wagon of Wonder” 

I have named her thus because: 

1) You “Wander” about in a trailer (Thus “Wanda”) 
2) She is Family (Thus “Westlock”)
3) I expect to have fun and see new and interesting places in her (thus the “Wandering Wagon of Wonder”)

Okay, now on to the short weekend excursion. I didn’t get going till mid-morning on Saturday. In all honestly there was a small issue with Wanda’s fridge door which had to be fixed. Anyways that meant that I didn’t get to Banff until the afternoon. 

I had all sorts of things planned: 

1) To check out the 120V AC/water/sewer hook-ups
2) To put away clothes (I bought a second set of clothes to store in Wanda)
3) To put dry foods away in containers and label them.
4)  To check out the town of Banff (I have seen it before, but this would be on bike)

What did I do? I lay in the bed and dozed the evening away. Sunday morning I got up and worked a bit, I got the food taken care of. 

Sunday afternoon I went to the storage place where I have arranged to store my trailer, only to find that someone had parked in my assigned spot. 

One call to the storage place (yes they answered) and I was told to store Wanda in an overflow (yet still secured) lot. 

I plan to go back to Banff next weekend so I can actually get the stuff done around Wanda that I want to get done. The goal is to get Wanda prepped and ready, so that all I need to take with me is a cooler of foods which must be refrigerated and the clothes on my back and go. 

If possible I do hope to get out to at least walk around the town of Banff, but I have a lot of work to do. 

Tuesday 20 May 2014

I Slept in a Parking Lot Last Night!

Okay, I slept in my trailer in a parking lot last night, and it took a bit to get used to but it was a good sleep. 

Last night was the first night that I have slept in this trailer as I did not get to go to Banff, as I had hoped. I was sidetracked and delayed with an unavoidable situation. It is over and dealt with now and this weekend I will go out to the county as I had planned to go last weekend. 

As promised here are some pictures (though not the lovely majestic rocky mountains in the background as I had hoped).

I wasn’t quite brave to camp out in a Walmart or Home Depot parking lot. I decided to try out a parking lot for a casino which actually allowed you to camp overnight. Online the reviews said that you could park for free, just register with the front desk. 

When I did that I found out that they charge $20.00 for the privilege. By this point I was too frazzled to argue that I said F*it, and paid.  As I was checking out my trailer and shortly after taking those pictures that you just saw, I was approached by a couple who were also parked in the same lot. 

We spent some time sitting and chatting about “Boondocking” which is apparently what I am considering doing. (You know, not staying in a house or campsite most of the time). 

It was a nice visit and it was good listening to their stories and tips on what to do and what not to do. Some tips were ingenuous and a bit ballsy.

Such as to buy the special wrench used to lift the lid off of man hole covers so as to be able to dump your black and grey water tanks whenever you want. (Only into the appropriate “sanitary sewer,” access points of course. As for me I will stick to paying about five bucks to use a proper sani-dump station or hook stay at full hookup campsite at least one night.  

Eventually I had to get to work putting things away in the trailer and finding homes for everything. While I made the bed up enough to sleep, I made the bed up properly this morning. This is what the bed looks like now. 

Well off to work to show off this trailer to my co-workers. 

Wednesday 14 May 2014

My Big News

I’ve been holding out on you, but then again, you kinda knew that. I’ll just come out and say it . . . I bought the damn trailer. Be honest, you saw that coming, didn’t you? I must admit, even I did. 

What trailer did I buy? I bought a “2015 Forest River, Surveyor, SC-201RBS. It’s a nice one, with all of the features I wanted (with a number of niceties) at a price I could afford. In essence (in terms of cash flow) at the cost of another maxed out credit card’s minimum payment, I have a nice new trailer.

The dealership was having a big sale, and the price was right. With the money I saved, I was able to get the extras which will help ensure the longevity of the trailer. You know the paint protection package, the undercoating, the 6 year extended bumper to bumper warranty, Roadside assistance, etc. All that and still saved money. 

I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. In truth . . . logically, rationally, I shouldn’t have done it.  Logic dictates that I hunker down and simply work and go home spending nothing as I pay off my credit cards and have a very boring life as I watch every penny.  That’s what I should do. That’s what I set out to do. 

After three months of that life, I’m getting cooped up and want to get out and enjoy things. Setting aside a bit of “Mad Money” won’t cut it. The other option is to simply go camping in my tent.

Camping in a tent is a vexing vortex . . . it sucks, trust me. Setting up the tent, sucks. Trying to bash tent pegs into stony ground, sucks. No heat, sucks. No privacy, sucks. No bathroom sucks . . . need I go on? IT SUCKS! (Unless you’re backpacking through the mountains, then it’s a challenge and kinda cool, but in the midst of it . . . . it still sucks.)  

I considered buying a used trailer, some old thing I could get for say 1 – 2k. Where I’m living there is no room (nor desire) for me to store anything outside of my room. That means that I would have to pay for storage somewhere else, somewhere other than where I’m living. 

The thought of paying for storage for some old piece of crap, just didn’t make sense. If I was going to pay for storage, I decided to pay for storage for something nice, something I wanted. I was able to arrange storage just outside the city for $30.00 a month and I can come and go as I please, yet it is a secured yard.

My mother would say (and probably will) that this is my “midlife crisis.” As anyone who has been in their forties knows, when you do something “out of the ordinary” people say that it’s your midlife crisis. I’m not in the midst of a crisis, I’m just in a place where I’m willing to do what’s right for me, and not care what others think. 

Am I trying to recapture my youth? No. I decided that I can’t stop my life while I pay off bills. You have to understand that I’ve wanted a trailer for a number of years. I’ve been checking them out online and thinking about this for at least the past two years. I went to last year’s RV Show (I couldn’t make this year’s) and seriously considered getting one. Heck I bought my truck in January of 2013 so that I could get a trailer. This is not an impulse; this is something that I’ve wanted to do for some time now.

I like the fact that (for the most part) the trailer is self-contained. I can pick up and go where I like and enjoy the country. I don’t even need a proper campsite; that is a luxury. I intend to make this trailer my “weekend home,” and spend most (if not all) of my weekends out somewhere in the country, out of the city.

I suppose I’m edging towards “living out the mandate of this blog” but I’m not ready for that yet. Winter is still an issue but even that I could make do with. I like the fact that the payments on this trailer is about half of my rent now. I could save some serious cash if I lived in it even just during the warmer months. When winter comes I could still find a room, and if not, I would still be okay. 

The trailer is winter rated and can run on propane and 12VDC Batteries. The winter rating means it has thicker insulation and the heat is ducted down to the storage tanks so as they won’t freeze. This will extend the usable range for this trailer out here on the prairies.  

There comes a point when you’re burning through too much propane to keep the lines and storage tanks from freezing. Out on the coast it would be fine to live in year round as the coast does not get real winter and the risk of pipes freezing is very low. 

At worst case, I could still live in the trailer in winter, but just drain the tanks so as to not freeze the lines. Use water out of a portable jug, use another jug for grey-water, and use a portable chemical toilet (or public toilets). This is not a desirable lifestyle, but it is still possible, technically possible. 

I will see how things go when I pick up the trailer tomorrow at noon. I’ve arranged to take this Thursday and Friday off, so as to add to the already long weekend. This will give me five days (okay four and a half) to check out and get to know my new trailer.

I’m going to Banff (yes I have already reserved a full-services campsite). I plan to not only enjoy the scenery and relax but also read the owner’s manual and check out what switches and knobs do what. 

I’m comfortable with this decision and know that this is something I want and need to do. I know what I am doing and can make the payments. What I’m respectfully saying is please keep the “Have you lost your freaking mind?” comments to yourself.  

I plan to enjoy this summer, as much as possible . . . now to figure out a bike rack for the back of the trailer . . . . maybe a kayak rack for the roof . . . definitely need a portable firepit . . . maybe a . . . I know don’t get carried away, I have bills to pay off . . . but I have my “Plan Z.”

I will next update tomorrow evening with pictures of my new trailer and let you know how picking it up and getting to the campsite and setting everything up went. . . wish me luck. 

Monday 12 May 2014

Fighting off Cabin Fever

This week has been quiet and rather uneventful as I try to spend as little as possible. That said, my life has been work and home and little else. 

I’m going a bit spare but the nice weather means that I will be able to go for more bike rides in the park. 

I had a nice visit from a friend this week and it is always good to see her. 

I will end this short blog on this note . . . I have a special plans for the long weekend.

Monday 5 May 2014

The “Insured” Credit Card “Scam”

I have always wondered why one of my credit cards was much more expensive (monthly minimum payment) than the others. I always attributed this to the fact that this one had the highest credit limit (not quite maxed out).

I examined my credit card statement (for this card) closely and noticed one line “Credit protection insurance). . . . this  made me wonder.

It looked like it was just something attributed to the card (IE: part of the minimum payment) but it was listed in the “new charges” portion of the statement.

I called the card company to find out that this was a piece of “insurance” that I was talked into shortly after getting the card. This was okay but the charge was over seventy bucks a month!

The person told me that it was not a fixed charge but simply one percent . . . of the outstanding balance . . . per month. To put it mildly . . . I was pissed. They told me that there was nothing they could do because it was from a separate company.

I then enquired how new charges could appear on a closed account? (Yes, this card is closed but I still have a balance on it). They told me that this was different as it was not a retail purchase and still “protecting me.”

I especially loved the logic that it was my responsibility to cancel this insurance, and so it was all my fault that I asked for. I still wonder how any new charges can appear on a closed card.

If I tried to use that thing to buy a candy bar, that would be declined (and fraud), but they can let their buddy charge my dead card 1% of the outstanding balance each and every month . . . to a dead card? Does this seem fair to anyone?

If all of the money that I had paid for this “insurance” had been put towards the balance, I would be $2100.00 ahead by now.

I called the company in question and demanded a refund from the time that the card had been closed until now (30 months). All she did was refund the charge that had just happened and the one for the previous month. That was it.

Any further demands to either “customer service” departments simply got them explaining the same thing in different ways, ignoring why I was upset and just restating policy.

For a laugh, I decided to complain up the ladder and see what I could get. I called a credit counselling agency and was told that they would help me figure out how to pay my bills and not help with this. (I wanted an outside opinion).

I phoned the federal regulator for credit cards and got it confirmed that this was the policy but he pointed me in the direction of the proper procedure and way to complain with regards to this specific credit card company.

Each person I talked to told me the same thing and made it feel like it was a bother to talk to me. The added insult was that they talked to me like I was just stupid or slow on the uptake for needed this many times to be told their policy.

The “customer ombudsmen’ never bothered to call me back and I never bothered to call them again. I just realized that I got screwed and as the little guy and the customer, I will always get screwed. We live in a Caveat Emptor” world, my friends.