Monday, 13 February 2017

The Road Trip from Hell.

Or why on earth should it take 11 days to drive cross country.
     Remember back a page or so when we mentioned snow. Yes, it snowed. And then it snowed harder. And when we didn't think it could snow any harder, it did. And we are driving a F250, pulling a wildly overloaded 30" 5th wheel trailer. With two dogs, one a somewhat flatulent boxer, and an old cat who hates travel, in the back seat. He insists on expressing his displeasure in an amazingly piercing voice. The exact definition of Caterwauling.
The first day on the road lasted six hours and covered one hundred and eighty seven point 2 miles. Most of that time Bruce was white knuckling the steering wheel as I typed frantic goodbye notes to all of our friends and relatives. I just knew we were going to die. We ended in a vacant lot next to the glowing Golden Arches of a friendly neighborhood McDonald's just outside of Ogden, Ut. We were going to live to see another day! And we did! And that day dawned, wait, no it didn't. It was snowing so hard that it was really difficult to tell if it was dawn or not. The vacant lot was covered in 8 inches of new powder and I was thinking that it looked like a pretty good place to stay. Until spring.
    Not so my adventurous husband. A quick Micky D's breakfast and we hit the road. Yesterday was dark, snowy, semi flat driving. Not so today. Today its gray, snowy and the roads have turned to ice. Oh yeah! And we are facing our first big city. Salt Lake City, morning rush hour, on ice. Of course we are. We are really going to make some miles today.  And we did. Eighty one point two miles to Provo, Ut. Its amazing how slow time passes when you are terrified. Even more so when you have been terrified for days. And we get to do it again tomorrow.
Day three. Lets throw some good, steep, western hills into the mix. The things they call the Appalachians back in the east. Not to be compared with real western mountains.  Now lets cover them with rapidly accumulating snow, ice, and..........wind. Yeah, now we need some wind. As anyone who has ever pulled a great big slab sided trailer through the snow on icy roads through great big western hills will tell you, it just isn't a real challenge without the wind. And just to spice it up a bit, those great big hills swirl the wind around so that one minute its right in your face causing your fuel consumption to go through the roof, and then it kicks you in the side of the trailer again and tries to throw you off the highway.
Yup, Bruce, white knuckles. Me, typing our last will and testaments.
Going through the Fish Lake National Forrest the snow is coming down so hard that we are crawling along in single file behind a snow plow. God bless that plow driver.  The driver leaves the highway just after the pass south of Scipio, Ut. Soon after a car pulls up next to us. Honking the horn, flashing the headlights and the driver making all kinds of odd gestures. We lower our window as little as possible to hear what he is yelling. Something that sounds strangely similar to "your trailer is dragging!"  Now how could that possibly be. Our trailer is up on tires. It is not leaning precipitously to either side so the tires must still be inflated. But this poor man was so stressed we figured we would stop at the next exit and check it out. And we did. And the trailer was dragging. A very large portion of the underside of the trailer has let go at the front edge and was dragging merrily along the highway acting just like a mini snow plow. But pushing all of the snow up into the underside of the trailer instead of off the road. And adding completely unnecessary extra weight.  Besides looking very tacky. Break time. Lets hit a garage. Holden, Ut. A large and reputable looking tire shop. Sweet folk offer to use a bit of baling wire to tie up the bottom of the trailer until we can find an RV repair. That's open during a blizzard. In December. Three days before Christmas. And Oh, by the way. Did you know that your trailer tires are shot? Yup, four new tires, a free bottom wiring job and $600 later we are on the road again. Now we have spent half of our spending money. We are three days in on driving time on what should have been a four day trip. And we are bordering on complete nervous breakdowns. Cedar City, Ut. KOA campground. We have made it another 208.7 miles. Our first 10 hour day. A celebration is called for and we ask at the check in desk if there is a good restaurant in town where we can have a glass of wine and a good steak. The clerk looks slightly sad for us as he sends us off to the only place in town that will sell us an alcoholic beverage. Sigh. Still in Utah. And the decor is all done in dead animals. It is a taxidermist dream and I still have nightmares. I so wish that the cloud with these pictures hadn't evaporated. We ate, we drank and we slept the sleep of the dead. Or people who know that they may not make it through the next day.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

We went camping!

The house had been on the market for 9 months. We had gotten one really low ball offer early on and nothing else. Winter finally ended and the very short camping season was upon us. So we went camping with our very best friends in the world. Rich and Del. They continued to try to convince us that we didn't really want to move to a developing nation.  We continued to try to convince them that they should come with us.
 This was part of the weaning away from friends and family that we hadn't really thought about.

And the things that we would miss

 The Lido Deck

The worlds neatest wine shop.

Road Trips

And the stuff. Right after we got home from our first trip to Belize and before the housing market crashed we had gone through our house and picked out everything that we wanted to give to our son Tom. For Christmas we packed it all into a U-Haul truck and and drove to California. Fortunately he had just bought his first house.  Little did we know that we would have a lot more minimalist decor for years. It really made house cleaning a lot easier. Everything that we thought we would need in Belize we started packing away in the 5th wheel camper.
There was a whole new plan developing. Now, as soon as the house sold, we were going to start road tripping through Mexico in our big camper. I gave away all of our dishes and glassware. Did you know that every state in Mexico has its own traditional pattern of pottery? How cool would that be to buy one place setting from each state and all new hand blown glassware from our travels? This was going to be perfect!
And then we started seeing the occasional report from Mexico about gang warfare between cartels. And the reports became less occasional and more regular and the crimes more violent and we started thinking, Awww its just the press blowing things out of proportion. As they do. If they don't have enough to report they lose readers, viewers, whatever.
And then we started getting warnings from our new friends in Belize and their friends in Mexico. Don't even think about driving to Belize.  Curses, foiled again.  No problem, lets go to Florida!
Time goes by, so slowly. And time can do so much. Three and a half years have passed. Our finances are straight. Our heads are  straight. And then it happens. Hubby, Bruce turns the magic 65. And turns in his intent to retire. Being the good guy that he is he agrees to hang around and train his replacement before he leaves. Spring passes and no replacement is in sight. Summer comes on again,still no newbie in sight. So we go camping. Its getting a little crowded in the camper what with all of the little things the we are sure we cant live with out that are getting squirreled away in every nook and cranny. And then it happens. A replacement is hired. Training begins. And it hits me that this is really going to happen. And there is a whole lot to get done before the target retirement date of December 20th. So I quit my job.
Now the heavy work begins. As anyone who has ever emptied out a house can tell you, its like the biblical story of the loaves and the fishes. No matter how much you get rid of there is always more! Its like its breeding overnight. I'm getting more and more hard hearted by the day. Things that had sentimental value a few years ago are now getting in the way of my house emptying progress. And a 30' 5th wheel trailer can only hold so much and still have room for 2 adults, 2 dogs and a really old cat.
We have yard sales and cheap sales. Tag sales and fire sales. The local charities are on speed dial and friends start avoiding us after adopting as much of our junk as they can stand. But on the morning of departure, we are packed. Mostly.
Morning dawns. December 20, 2010. The truck and trailer spent the night at the truck stop on the edge of the interstate pointed south.  And it is snowing. Fairly heavily. By east coast standards we are in blizzard conditions. In Idaho its just another winter day. Besides, we are heading south. St Augustine, here we come!

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Of Course Not!

Of course we bought it! It was perfect! Sure it needed a bit of work. Well yeah, the kitchen cabinet was sitting in the middle of the living room. No, all the floor tile wasn't there, yet. Details I tell you. Just details. No, the fence isn't adequate to contain the dogs and the yard is bare dirt except where it is dead weeds. But it has a lot of Potential! And look at that view!

But that's not our yard.

This is our yard.
We aren't in Kansas anymore Toto!

Now, as difficult as it was, we headed back to Idaho to sell the house and move to the tropics. Whoohoo!! I would hate for anyone to think we had gone off half cocked and bought a house without much thought and planning.
Before we left on our house buying trip to Belize, er, mmm, I mean vacation! Yeah, vacation! That's what I meant to say. We had our house in Idaho appraised. We had an agent  from a very reputable real estate agency come in and evaluate our house with the mission of pricing our it Very conservatively for a quick sale. We had explained to her before the trip that if we did in fact buy a house in Belize we wanted our house sold immediately. 
Remember back an episode or so ago I mentioned that this was all taking place in 2007? Yup, that was us! Ours was the house that broke the back of the housing market for the entire USA and possibly destroyed the world wide economy. Not only did we not sell our and leave before winter set in. We also didn't leave the next winter. Or the next or the next. And the longer we were stuck in Idaho the more we realised we really wanted to be in Belize. We took vacations there twice, for a week at a time, and spent the time walking around what would someday be our new neighbourhood. We walked into town day after day and strolled from one shop to another. We came to realise just how different life was going to be. There was no Walmart or even a Kmart. There was a supermarket that was about the size of a standard 7-11. None of these were bad things, but they were different. There were butcher shops and bakery's and veggie stands and produce trucks. Shopping was an adventure. It was fun!
And other people were living in our house. We would stroll by on the way into town and on the way home. Not Fair!
We continued to go to work. In the snow. And the ice. And the freaking wind. And in the beautiful 2 weeks of summer.
But I would have LOVE FM on my computer at work playing the tunes and new of Belize. 
I had a picture of the new house on the bulletin board next to my desk.
I painted my cubicle bright tropical colors and hung a fake parrot over my desk. Briefly. That idea got shot down pretty fast.
In my mind I was already a Belize resident temporarily stranded in Idaho.
And all of this time I continued researching and plotting and planning and slowly realising that Dang! We aren't financially or emotionally ready to leave home yet! We really needed that time to get all of our ducky's in a row. 
First step? Buy a 30' 5th wheel and a F250 pick up truck.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

But did we listen? Part 2

Beautiful downtown Corozal.....

We have arrived in the booming metropolis of Corozal Town. Population in 2007, roughly 8500 souls. Most of them running around on bicycles and motor scooters. How quaint! Our host informs us that he and the other 9 gentleman in the truck have come to town for the express purpose of going to the lands office. We stare out of the window the entire time as we pass through the town. Built on the edge of the Corozal Bay which in August is the most amazing shades of green and blue. Minutes later we arrive at the lands office and discover that they have chosen not to open today. Maybe tomorrow. A moderate amount of grumbling ensues and we are informed that we are going back to the village. "Oh wait!" I cry. "I want to see the whole town!" I cry. And our ever helpful host proccedes to drive us around the block before telling us we have pretty much seen everything. This is my 2nd clue that the town may not be the urban center that I have been expecting. We politely explain to said host that we are not nearly ready to be heading back a bush quite yet. He politely leaves us on a street corner and informs us that all we need to do is take a taxi to the first hand cranked ferry and stick out our thumbs and someone is sure to pick us up and give us a ride.
By now I am becoming less than impressed with our host. So, much to my husbands chagrin I smile sweetly, thank him profusely and get out of the car. My sweet husband hops out right behind me as he has absolute trust in my decision making abilities and is kind enough not to let me see him rolling his eyes behind my back.
"Now what?" he says.
HaHa! I have not spent all those evenings on the couch, immersed n the world of Google to be suffering a set back this early in the game. Oh no! I turn the the open business right behind me and stepping gingerly over a wheel barrow, 3 rolls of vinyl flooring, a large bucket full of brooms and rakes, sliding behind the false wall of concrete sacks and ducking under various sundry products suspended at varying heights from the rafters I approach the young man who appears to belong there. "Hello" I say smiling brightly, "Do you happen to know Charolotte Lanore, of Charlottes Casa Belize?" I had written back and forth to her a couple of times over the past year and a half. She has another story that I will leave to her to tell. But it ends with her opening her own real estate business in Corozal. But I digress. Still smiling brightly at above mentioned young man, I get a wonderful bright smile back and he says, "Oh, Miss Charlotte! Of course, I know her well!" Ok, now Corozal is starting to feel a bit more like a small town. A really small town. Taking a real shot in the dark I ask, "would you happen to know how to get in touch with her?"  He pulls his cell phone out of his pocket, dials her number, hands me the phone and smiles again. Dang!
Miss Charlotte answers on the 3rd ring as all true professionals do and after a bit of introductory chit chat she invites us to join she and her partner for lunch at the Purple Toucan. She asks where we are and I subtly ask the young man since i have no clue where I am and he informs me we are at Cintys which is only a few short blocks from The Purple Toucan. So off we go, walking through town, peeking into windows, smiling at all the people we pass who smile back and wish us Good Afternoons. I am really starting to enjoy myself. For the first time since landing in the village.
Sadly the Purple Toucan no longer exists, but it was the place to see and be seen in 2007. Basically a roof over a vacant lot between two businesses on the main commercial street in town. Jose and Yolanda could put out the most amazing meals from the tiny kitchen tucked in at one end and nicer people you will never meet.
We sat down to lunch with Charlotte and Larry and spent the next two and a half hours sharing our adventures in village visiting, what we were truly looking for and being interrogated by Larry. I guess when you sell real estate in a tropical paradise you get tired of the dreamers who come in totally unprepared for life in a developing country. Larry did his absolute best to convince us we were bat shit crazy and ought to go home. I have never admitted it to him but he really pissed me off and if I had any doubts about our move I would have lied like a big dog to keep him from thinking he had won. Have I mentioned my competitive personality? It sort of went head to head with his competitive personality. He fired questions ant me and I fired answers back. Of course I knew the land mass of Belize and length of the primary rivers. As well as average temperatures and rainfall for both summer and winter in any given district.  Population density and make up and most common causes of early death. Also flora and fauna were covered fairly extensivley
y. When the smoke of battle cleared we were still standing and a small smile crossed Larrys face. He looked at Charlotte, She looked at him and in unison they said, "Georges Place."
And off we went.

A concrete house with a concrete roof. One mile back from the water and on a hill. Two bedrooms and one bath in a Belizian neighborhood. 
It wasn't exactly like this when we found if but it had great bones. It was being used as a rental and was between tenents. Everything needed paint, all the tile floors needed to be replaced. The outside needed paint and the old fence was getting pretty saggy.
I loved it.
Im pretty sure my hubby was rolling his eyes again.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

But did we listen? Part 1

Of course not.   We researched retirement destinations in warm sunny climes for 2.5 years before our son Tom said "Belize". We, being the world travellers that we are said Believe what?  He said (sigh) "Belize, you know, the old British Honduras." Ahhhh, we said. I remember hearing that name, once, a really long time ago.  Isnt that an island?  "Sigh" he said.
    Soooo, back to Google I want for another year and a half. All this time, as I am sweating and straining to get us retired sooner rather than later, in a warm and sunny clime, where we can afford to eat and still make occasional trips to see the grand babies. My beloved assumes I just have a new hobby. I Internet.  Back on track I start Googling Belize. Starts to sound interesting. I check average rainfall, average temps by the month. History of natural disasters. Are there Volcanoes? Earthquakes? Still sounds good. How about things to do and places to see? Yup.  Ahhh, what about crime. Amazing how many news sources are on line, even for a tiny country like Belize. I start reading the newspapers. And listening to the radio, on line. I am so full of facts and figure I just know this is going to work. I know I want to live in Belize. In the north. Where it rains a lot less and there are far fewer bugs. So I start trolling the real estate ads. Well, I would troll them if I could find them. This is 2006! Everything is on line! Where are all the houses?  Hmmm.
     Early on in my research I was fortunate enough to discover a site called The Belize Forum. An absolute encyclopedia of information on Belize in an interactive form. This is where I was taught to Never ask a common question. Ever. Read the files. Every one of them. Often. And then lurk for a month or more praying that some other newbie would be rash enough to ask your question.  I learnt a whole lot from those folk. And I appreciate them for sharing. But they were Harsh!
    The one thing that I didn't learn from them was Rent First. Sure they repeated it over and over and over. And I thought it was a really good idea for people with a lot of disposable income who could run around different areas of a foreign country for 6 months at a time.  We had to work for a living. So after much reading and studying I found a house in Corozal district For Sale By Owner and took a weeks vacation. The owner of the house invited us to stay in the house for the week and if we chose to buy it he would reimburse our air fare for the trip. How could this go wrong? Reasonably priced house, small town, Corozal district, just 10 minutes from the nearest large town with shopping and medical facility's, restaraunts and entertainment. Hah! Who needs to rent first?
     The house was, ummm, ahhhh, unique. The circular stair to the 2nd floor had no railing. Just a really thick rope dangling down the center. Did I mention we are getting old? Pictures of broken hips were dancing thru my imagination. And the house was HOT. Did I mention we took this trip in August? If you can survive August in Belize you are fine. After an evening stroll around the small town, which was actually a village, a very small village. A very small developing nation type of village. We started getting a vibe like maybe we were not going to fit in all that well. Just a feeling. And in the morning as I stepped into the shower I discovered that there was only one faucet. That's right. No hot water, no need for the other handle. Cold shower. At 7 in the morning.

    The homeowner dropped in with some fresh fruit just to laugh about the screams he heard a bit earlier and figure we has discovered the lack of hot water. I am not a morning person and I hate being cold. I wasn't ready to chuckle. I was ready to go shopping. I'm not a big shopper. I'm more of the ultimate window shopper. But I did want to see what the Big city of Corozal looked like and how prices compared to home and that sort of thing. It took 3 days to talk the man into taking us into town. 10 miles and 45 minutes later after crossing 2 hand crank ferrys in an Old Isuzu Rodeo, with everyone else in the village who needed to go to town, 9 men,we arrived in Corozal Town.