Merry Christmas! We made it safely to the end of Pretirement!
We are back home for the holidays and busy processing through our 10 months of travel. We still have some posts to add to the blog and we are working on a couple new videos.
We wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for their support this year (we especially loved reading your comments on the blog). It was a very special time for us and we enjoyed sharing our joyful experiences with everyone. Have a very merry Christmas!
The official date of the National Park Service (NPS) centennial is August 25, 2016. On pretirement we have been celebrating this milestone by visiting one NPS site in each of the 50 United States. Check out our new video to see some of the parks we’ve visited:
We thought it would be fun to take a time-lapse series of photos of us loading S.N. the camper van then turn them into a video. If only we could have done all of that packing in the 30 seconds it takes to watch this video. We are off to Yellowstone, the first of 100+ National Parks we will visit this year.
P.S. Believe it or not, we had a raven fly over the house and call to us on Thursday morning minutes before we departed home.
Tiffany’s last day of work was on Friday, which means Pretirement is about to kick off. Before we head out later this week, I wanted to take a moment to thank Tiff for all of the hard work she has put in as a Registered Dietitian at the hospital for the past 4 years. She was dedicated to doing her job to the best of her abilities and devoted to her patients and coworkers. Nobody deserves a break more than she does. I am proud of all that she accomplished, but I look forward to getting to spend much more time with her in the next year. I know I speak for both of us when I say we are very excited about all of the fun times and challenges ahead of us.
Our intent is not to belittle retirement or retirees. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then our pretirement shows that we really admire retirees. We are so jealous that we are not willing to wait another 30 or more years to emulate you all. And who knows if we will have the money or physical health to do everything we want to in the future. While you may be able to fully enjoy your retirement, I’m sure you know others who were not that lucky. We look forward to our own active retirement someday, but we don’t want to gamble that roadtrips and national parks will be quite the same in the late-2040s. We hope you take full advantage of your retirement and we will see you on the road in 2016.
A recent Frank and Ernest comic strip showed a baby 2016 running away from old 2015, who rebukes the youngster saying “You can’t just decide to take a gap year.” A gap year is a time period missing on a résumé, typically taken by people in their 20s for partying (I’m joking). 2016 will be a gap year for us, but I think doing something big like pretirement is as justifiable as taking time off to start a family. I have previously discussed why the timing is right for us to do this now and how we are paying for our adventures. I haven’t mentioned before that we plan to spend much of the month of June traveling in Europe as a sort of vacation away from our goal to visit 100 National Park Service sites across all 50 states. We’re using frequent flier miles to pay for the airfare and staying with friends in Scotland to help reduce the cost. The website will be on hiatus during that month as we travel light and responsibility free. We’ll be sure to “Mind the gap” when boarding the London Underground.
One of the ways we intend to save money during pretirement is camping for free on public lands. Dispersed camping is permitted in almost all areas managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. A good topographic map helps locate the borders of these sometimes poorly marked districts. Oftentimes they are adjacent to big national parks like Grand Canyon and Mount Rainier, which charge to stay in their busy campgrounds. In November, we even found a free primitive campground within Capitol Reef National Park run by the National Park Service. We were the only ones there that night, probably because it snowed. When looking for a spot, pay attention to private property signs as there are sometimes inholdings not marked on maps. Public land is harder to find on the east coast, which is one of the reasons we purchased S.N. the van for overnights at roadside rest areas. Just one more way we are trying to stay within budget on our grand adventure. -Scott
When I explained why we chose our logo, I told you ravens were everywhere in the national parks. Our trip in December only served to corroborate that fact. We saw ravens in the Sonoran Desert, Painted Desert, and high on the Colorado Plateau. They were especially friendly at Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico and Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. We also spotted them at Mesa Verde, Canyons of the Ancients, Hovenweep, Sabino Canyon, Saguaro, Sunset Crater, Walnut Canyon, El Morro, El Malpais, and Aztec Ruins. These intelligent birds know that national parks make great places for picnics and humans are messy eaters always leaving a few leftovers behind. Do your part to keep these animals wild by always cleaning up and never feeding them.
When we purchased S.N. it came with one transponder key and one remote, both of which worked great but there was no backup. I called the dealer and it was going to cost $375 to have one additional key and remote made—a price I felt was way too high. Lowe’s was going to charge $75 just for one transponder key. I was able to get a key cut that didn’t have the chip, which allows the car doors to be opened, but doesn’t start the engine.
After some research I discovered that for many models of cars a blank transponder key can be purchased and easily programmed, same with a remote. After a quick internet search for the directions I turned to Amazon and found blank transponder keys for around $6.50 —a price I thought would be worth the gamble to see if I could do it myself. Unprogrammed remotes can also be found on Amazon at about $25 for two.
A quick google search for “Programming a transponder key for Toyota Sienna 2006” led me to both forums and Youtube videos with the instructions. The instructions involved a series of opening doors, inserting in keys, and then waiting, but after the first try the new key was programmed and it only cost $6.50. The backup key is still not cut, but you can take it to a locksmith to cut it or use it in combination with the other cut key to start the car. Please note that a car has to have at least one working transponder key to be programmed this way.
As for the remotes, they worked the same way. A series of door openings, key turnings, and button holdings entered the car into the programming mode where we were able to program both remotes at the same time. While this isn’t an option for all vehicle models, it does open up a cheaper alternative than going to the dealership to get backups made.
In purchasing a used car you are purchasing everything that the previous owner did to the car, and their smells that happened while in the car. S.N. came with a distinctive lived-in smell, along with some stains that come along with having kids: chocolate milk on the ceiling, Sharpie on the doors, dirt embedded into the carpet. Cleaning S.N. was a top priority for me, so I took to it with vacuums, carpet cleaners, and lots of windex.
Vacuuming did the trick for a lot of the dirt, the carpet cleaner really pulled out the deeply buried dirt, but to get the sharpie marks off I employed a trick that I discovered in undergrad to get sharpies off of dry-erase boards. Because like solubilizes like, you just write on top of the sharpie mark with a dry erase marker, and then wipe it off right away. This can take sharpie off of hard surfaces in one or two cover-and-wipes. At that point S.N. was dirt and stain free.
Even after the vacuum and the carpet cleaner the car seemed to retain a closed-up smell, especially when the heater was running. The culprit—the cabin air filter needed to be cleaned. The cabin air filter collects all the gunk floating around inside the car and keeps the fan running clean. In most cars the cabin air filter is located behind the glove box and is easy to remove and then you can clean or replace it. I opted for giving it a good vacuuming and then soaking it with some Victoria’s Secret body splash. While the scent won’t last for too long, for now whenever we go down the road S.N. will feel like our “Secret Escape.”