Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Time Has Arrived: Going Fully Nomadic!

As I write this, most of the items that once cluttered my house are now packed away in a storage unit. There is an echo in the house that reminds me of the days when we first moved into this place. It was just Jessica, me and the dog back then. We camped out on the hardwood floors, ate Chinese take-out and watched that Will Ferrell movie about basketball. I remember he played for the Flint Tropics but I can't remember the name of the damn movie. Anyhow, the metamorphosis has begun. There are still couches, tables, chairs and mattresses in the house to keep it inhabitable but we are moving into our camper TONIGHT!

Google Result: Semi-Pro. 

We have discussed where we want to go on our trip. We each have places that we consider to be important to us for various reasons. Jessica wants to head to Washington state immediately because she is pumped about the rainforest. I want to be able to hang out in Florida or Arizona for MLB Spring Training and the boys want Legoland. There is a Legoland in California and Florida so that should be easy to pull off. 

Keeping these non-negotiable destinations in mind, we created a mental picture of how we are going to see the country. Up until a few hours ago, this map of our intended route didn't exist in the physical world. It was a theoretical, counter-clockwise circle around the country that trailed off somewhere around Arizona. So I busted out MS Paint and and made this visual representation of where we are going to travel. 

The area in red is our soft launch. It is a trip that we had already planned and made reservations for before we decided to go full-time. It takes us to the Upper Peninsula and back in 14 days. We take a similar trip every August and it's what inspired us to travel for a year. We are pretty sure Michigan's Upper Peninsula is the most amazing place in America (during the summer) but we want to make sure. 

Once we return from that trip we will close on the house and head west. Sometime before September is over we will be in the Seattle, WA area. Once we get sick of the weather, we start driving south. 

From there we head east and the rest is subject to change whenever it decides to. The remainder of this map is stuff that I thought of as I went along. Some of the lines actually follow US Highways and Interstates but mostly not. I didn't want to start opening the atlas and worrying about fitting everything in. I didn't want to create a structure that represents the bricks and sticks we are leaving behind. I want to do something that we have all wanted to do at some point in our lives. Just get in the car and drive. 

As I write this final paragraph I am no longer in an empty house full of echoes. I am relaxing on a 32' travel trailer that is parked at Addison Oaks County Park. We made the leap. We live in an RV. In 2 weeks, the travels begin. Let the good times roll!

Monday, July 21, 2014

So, this is actually happening. No turning back now.

So, just like that, the house is sold. It feels weird to say that. I've had to tell myself several times that this is okay. Society says I need to have a house, car and grocery budget for my family yet, here I am, walking away from the safety net and heading out into the unknown. Going against the grain is mentally taxing but, hey, living your dreams isn't for the faint of heart.

We received a formal offer on the house the day after my last blog entry. We didn't get the price we wanted for the house but we weren't insulted by the offer. It gets us out from underneath a mortgage that didn't do so well during the recession. It feels good because we were stuck and now, we can go wherever we want and set up camp for as long as we want. What a huge contrast.

Everyone is wondering when we leave now. Unfortunately there isn't just one answer to this question. It breaks down like this:

- The buyer just sold their house and closed last week. The buyer is on the clock and needs to move ASAP. The buyer has been notified that we also would like to move ASAP so our agents are working with the lender right now to see if we can expedite closing.
- If they can expedite closing, we are leaving town on August 11th and heading to the Upper Peninsula for 12 days before heading west along US2 to start our year as nomads.
- If we cannot expedite closing, we are still taking our trip to the Upper Peninsula but we will return home afterwards and then close on 8/29 and then head west on Route 66 / I-80 immediately after closing.

So, to summarize, we are either leaving on 8/11 or 8/29 depending on when the bank can make the closing happen. Oh, and the city just marked our street with flags and paint because they are going to start tearing up our street ANY DAY now. Party!

We spent the week cleaning out the basement and I am pretty proud of the job we did. We had a lot of junk stored down there. As I cleaned I started to get all sentimental. The basement is where I first ran my business from. I was finding documents and folders from our early days in business. I found budgets and financial records and scribblings of ideas that never quite made it to the public. I remember sitting down there with Donny, my right hand man, trying to figure out what we should be doing with our time. We didn't have routines and standards. We only had things in front of us to look forward to and we were just winging it. Much like I will be doing when I hit the road with my family next month. Cheers to new adventures!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Rager Ready!

I woke up this morning and decided it was time. Time to start packing boxes and moving them to the storage unit. Time to empty the house out and ready the RV for full-time living. The whole reason we decided to take this trip in the first place was because we didn't want to wait until we were old to see the world. We wanted to seize the day and live our dream today. Meanwhile, we got caught in the preparations and let minor details hold us back. Waiting for the house to sell, waiting for the time to be right, and sitting on our asses waiting for things to happen has made us complacent. No time like the present. It's time for this family to hit the road.

My head was cleared by an experience that I shared with 11 other people this weekend. 11 people who would all agree that they gained a fresh outlook on their own lives. 11 people who will all smile and have fond memories whenever they hear the word "RAGER" for as long as they live.  

The Rager is a bicycle tour that was started three years ago when me and three of my friends decided to take a camping trip in Kent County, Michigan. We rode our bikes from Grand Rapids to Holland and stayed the weekend in a state park before biking back. It poured (and sleeted) on us the entire time and we were miserable. We were wet, cold, hungry, frustrated and we each cracked and went temporarily insane at different points. When we returned to our cars at the end of the weekend a strange thing happened. We felt empty. Looking back we realized that we had experienced something. There was absolutely NOTHING that happened over the weekend that we could appreciate, yet, here we were, driving home, feeling empty, wishing we were back on our bicycles and suffering in the rain together. 

We decided we would do the trip every year. We moved it from September to July in hopes that we could avoid cold and wet weather and we created a facebook page for the event. We named it The Rager because of the ENORMOUS campfire that we built to try and stay dry and a tradition was born. 

The 2nd year that we raged we went to the Leelanau Peninsula. The group had doubled in size and it was an amazing trip. Again, there were times when we struggled and we were not enjoying ourselves but when we got back to the car at the end of the trip, we knew we had done something special and we longed for a simpler life where everything we needed was strapped to the back of our bikes. 

This year, rager hype was at an all-time high. 12 people signed up for the event. A three day, 120 mile tour of northern Michigan. We dubbed it 'The Tip of the Mitten Tour' complete with some of the most scenic cycling this state has to offer. The gang arrived in separate vehicles, unpacked and rager 2014 was underway. 

We started the trip in Petoskey and headed north along the coast of Lake Michigan along a scenic route called 'The Tunnel of Trees'. Seeing this route on a bicycle is 100% the way to go. I cannot begin to describe how amazing of a ride it is. Some of the hills are brutal but you are rewarded with steep downhills and smooth roads. We stopped at a historic Polish restaurant called 'Legs Inn' for lunch and continued north to Wilderness State Park where we drank, laughed, played horseshoes and camped for the night. It was awesome to see all of these people that I knew getting to know each other for the first time. All good people, all realizing that they were surrounded by other good people. Biking brings out the best in people and being on an adventure creates a sense of community, a camaraderie, if you will.

The next day was spent riding mostly on a packed limestone surface known as 'The North Central Rail Trail'. Most of us agreed that the ride was miserable. Riding on a gravel surface for a few miles is fine but for 50 miles it is horrid. We took our time, had an extended lunch break in Cheboygan and arrived in Indian River around dinner time. The group got scattered over an area of 4-5 miles while riding the trail so we arrived, a few at a time, and started assembling our camp. 

In the evening a series of severe thunderstorms greeted us with several inches of rain. Some of us ordered pizza and ate it under the shelter of the bathrooms while others biked out in the middle of a downpour to eat and drink at a local bar. It poured well into the night but we woke up to clear skies. 

The final day was a short, 20 mile ride through Alanson and back to Petoskey. We took our time coming back. Our pace slowed down to a casual stroll and you could see in everyone's faces that they didn't want it to end. The beautiful scenery, the feelings of accomplishment, the relationships, and the disconnected feeling of being away from it all with nothing but a bicycle and some camping gear to keep you alive. You could tell we all wanted to go back and do it over and not take a single moment for granted. 

When my car came into sight, I down-shifted for the final time and my chain popped off and totally trashed my back tire. A disaster that, if it had happened at any other point on the trip, would have rendered my bike useless and taken me out of the mix. On the drive home I thought about how someone out there was looking out for me. Sometimes you have luck and other times you have angels. This was clearly the latter.

12 people all signed up for what they thought would be an awesome bike tour where they would challenge themselves physically and get to see some great scenery. What they got instead was a sense of living. We spend a lot of time and resources trying to make ourselves comfortable and we often forget about the things that really matter in life. When you break away from those distractions and take a bicycle tour you become better connected with the finer things in life like friendship, laughter, fresh pressed coffee, and standing in the pouring rain without an umbrella. So, we took a step back and smelled the roses. We gained a new perspective on things, which is something that doesn't come easy these days. 

I am using my fresh perspective to close the brick-and-mortar chapter of my life. The time has come. The Yum family is going fully nomadic. Thank you to everyone who raged with us this year. No matter what, we will be back to ride next summer and we will miss you all dearly.