Sunday, August 30, 2009

Packing Part Deux

By Claire
Well, we have actually done it. Packed our bags! We managed to cram every last item into each bag and we are finally, really, ready to go!

The Davis Airporter will be picking us up at 4:25 am; that's in about 6 hours. We're hoping to get a few hours of sleep, but who cares? We're almost there!

Today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.
~Dr. Seuss

Saturday, August 29, 2009


By Claire
With two days to go before lift off, We decided to face the task of packing. I knew it was going to be tricky fitting everything we want to take into our 8 bags. That's right; 4 large wheelie bags, 2 small carry-on duffels, and 2 backpacks. In spite of trying very hard to cull our Europe wardrobes, it's daunting to try to pack light for 4 seasons, many of them wet and probably cold. The down comforter we crammed into a stuff bag takes up most of one bag. I know we'll appreciate it when we need it from November through March, right? We'll be camping out one night in the desert in Egypt and were told to bring wool long underwear, (they'll provide the camel blankets) so what does that tell you? I found out it can get down to 32° at night in February when we plan to be there, without the camper. I hope that means the scorpions go into hiding.

Claire's bags--failing miserably at packing light.

Chuck thought he was doing great until he discovered a box of things in his closet needing to be packed. The orange stuff bag is holding the comforter.

You'd think we were traveling to a third world country. Among the items we are taking besides our clothes are:
Laptop cable locks
Some good knives
Can opener that we know works well
Pepto Bismol (do they sell it there?)
Multi-use screw driver
Bungee cords
Glue sticks (for our handwritten journals--great for pasting in postcards as we go along)
2 forks, 4 spoons, 2 knives (could we buy them in small quantities? We don't need place settings for 8)
Stick-on hooks for inside the camper ("holds 3 lbs"!)
Our favorite tea strainer
Trekking poles
Hiking boots and hip packs with water bottles
and much, much more.....

[edit]...I came to my senses and we pulled the comforter out of Chuck's bag. We can pick one up at IKEA in Amsterdam.

Thankfully we can store our luggage with BW Campers.

When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money. ~Susan Heller

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More About Money

By Claire
Several months ago we sent a €2500 deposit for our camper. Today we wired the rest of the money. It took 90 minutes at the bank (and they say you can do it on-line, ha!). Lots of back and forth about whether to use the "Swift" code or the "IBAN" account. Then they determined that we didn't have enough in our account to transfer the funds. What?!?! Turns out I thought the bank only charged a $35 fee. Nooooooo. Today's rate for the Euro is 1.43 to the dollar. The bank charged 1.47. That 4 Euro difference added up to a cool $914 that we hadn't counted on. Guess I forgot that banks are in the business to make money.

I know there are some things in life you just have to let go; but I can't help thinking of all the things we could do with that money. No, don't go there. It's already behind us.

So, the total for the camper at today's rate is $30,337.95 (€18,500 plus those nasty bank fees). Registration is €1398 and insurance is €1430. Both are included in the total camper cost. When we return, BW Campers will buy our camper back at 60%, minus the included 19% tax and the registration and insurance. At today's rate, we should be coming home with $10,430 in our pockets.

Running total so far:
Pre-trip costs, $5,115.08
Pre-trip Airport parking, $2
Camper, $30,337.95
Total, $35,455.03

I think I'll go lie down now.

Save a little money each month and at the end of the year you'll be surprised at how little you have. ~Ernest Haskins

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Breakfast at IKEA

By Claire
One of our favorite places for breakfast is at IKEA. Luckily for us, we have one within 15 minutes of home. We've been anticipating this event for several weeks with the idea that we will get thoroughly immersed in the IKEA restaurant here at home and then try breakfast at all the IKEAs throughout Europe and compare. Yes, they even have one in Istanbul.

Upon entering this delectable place, you immediately notice the big photo ad enticing you to get their $1.99 breakfast.

Next, as the anticipation grows, you make your way up the escalator to the cafeteria.

Now we're talking. This amazing breakfast of scrambled eggs, french toast, potatoes and bacon is only $1.99! Amazing and really good (we shun the $.99 breakfast--no french toast). The coffee is another $.99; but what a bargain!

After this satisfying meal we made our way to the Airport for a dry run to see if our carry-on luggage would really qualify. We couldn't have picked a better day. We were parked, on the shuttle, in the terminal and back to our car in less than 30 minutes. Apparently we can each really take a bulging backpack as well as a bulging, small duffel bag. Now we just have to figure out how to wrestle two giant rolling bags each with everything we need for a year along with the backpack and the duffel. We will be patient and take our time. I think that's the only way.

Stay tuned for another exciting update on packing.

There are only two kinds of luggage: carry-on and lost. ~Peter Greenberg

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Travel Planning

By Claire
I think all the travel planning has paid off. We seem to be prepared for anything and have all the membership cards to prove it. My goal was to do all the work in advance so that once we're there we can just go with the flow.

The accordion file holds all our important papers: itinerary, copies of e-tickets, shopping list for outfitting the camper, all those I.D. and membership cards, and a calendar for the entire year so we'll have some idea of where we're supposed to be and when. I'd hate to wake up in Bulgaria when we're supposed to be in Poland.

We watched Casablanca the other night and this conversation made me think about travel planning:

Captain Renault: What in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?
Rick : My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Captain Renault : The waters? What waters? We're in the desert.
Rick : I was misinformed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Exhaustion Setting In

By Claire
I've been feeling lots of emotions lately (just ask Chuck). They range from sadness about leaving everyone for a year, to moments of pure joy just imagining us over there and living our life, to lots of stress getting ready, and pure rage when my computer doesn't do what I want it to do.

We have lots of lists and we're really trying to stay organized but sometimes our brains are on autopilot and we can't remember if we did something, or if we did, what we did with it. I've somehow managed to pack essential items away so now I'm spending my time retrieving boxes and scrounging around in them trying to find these essential items.

The house is a mess, even with empty closets and drawers, and there are boxes everywhere with more essential items. Some to go with us, some to be stored, some to be packed at the last minute, some for our checked luggage and some for our carry on luggage. I've even done a practice packing exercise and decided not to completely unpack so now I have luggage in one of those empty closets, half packed--I mean, why take everything out just to do it all over again? It's all going to be wrinkled anyway.

I couldn't find my hat for my walk this morning and that's when it hit me...I am completely exhausted. We need to have all this done and behind us and be on that plane so we can catch up on some sleep :-)
...Oh, the hat was in the half-packed luggage.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gretchen turns 35

We had a good time today celebrating Gretchen's birthday. Sarah and Megan were so good and entertained themselves with the bean box (see photo, below, from last year) playing together and having fun. We had a great lunch and an amazing cake that Shannon made. It's hard to believe we won't see them for a whole year.

Claire, Shannon, Sarah, Mathew, Chuck, Gretchen, Megan and Wayne

As always, click on the photos to enlarge

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Garage

By Claire
So, the garage. Most of us have one. Ours isn't really that bad until you start pulling down all the boxed up unknown things and going through them to make room for new things to store while we're gone.

Of course, after all that work I wanted it to be as pristine as possible.

Then we had to put the newly boxed up things into the attic that Chuck worked so hard flooring in.

It certainly is paying off now.

And BTW, most of the photos we are posting are "clickable" to view in a larger size.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Crossing Things Off The List

By Claire
With 25 days to go, we received the good news that we will be able to get a year's supply of our prescription meds. This is really a relief. It never made any sense to us why we couldn't get a year; I mean what were we going to do? Sell them on street corners? OD on Cholesterol medication? This means one more thing on the our list can be marked DONE.

The house is getting closer to being ready for our renters and we have a "date" to clean out and organize the garage tomorrow. All the clothes I'm not taking are up in the attic and I know Chuck will get to his eventually....

The great thing about all this spring cleaning is that we'll be coming home to it. Hmmmm, maybe I'll leave most of our stuff up in the attic.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

What's This Trip Costing Us?

By Claire
Our plan is to keep track of what we spend so I thought I'd start with what we've spent so far in pre-trip costs. With 4 weeks to go, I'm hoping this is a final list.

Airfare to Amsterdam and back $2,371
TomTom Go 930 GPS $359
GPS dash mount $17
Amazon Kindle e-readers (2) $600
IGo Car Charger for Kindle $5
ASUS Eee PC 1005HA Netbook laptop $390
Additional 1 Gb memory $24
Wireless Mouse, $22
Computer security cables (2) $40
2 external hard drives, one full of movies the other holding all our planning documents $200
17 guide books $231
Shipping those 17 books plus a few more to Amsterdam (42 lbs.) $136
Calling cards $17
Camping Card International (1) $20
International Driver's License (2) $50
Money belts (2) $30
Backpack $30
Smartwool tops (2) $140
Smartwool bottoms (2) $140
Rain hat (Claire) $30
Waterproof Walking/hiking shoes (Claire) $130
National Trust membership $80 ("Enjoy FREE admission into the castles, country houses, gardens and landscape parks preserved and presented by the National Trust of England, Wales and Northern Ireland")
France Passion membership $39 ("free camping at over 1,100 wineries and farms in every region of France")
Paris Greeters €10 donation ($14.08)
Our total so far: $5,115.08

I listed the Smartwool tops and bottoms, the shoes and the rain hat because they were bought specifically for this trip. Clothing purchases not listed are things we will use at home as well.