Thinking out of the box


I thought this would be fun to repost. And I’m too lazy to write a new one right now.


Originally posted on Dreamstreamr Odyssey:

I sit expectantly on the dining room table. Both the two-leggeds are pretending to be otherwise occupied. The story of a table-game’s life, eh? Everyone is just too busy anymore. Sit, sit, sit on the closet shelf and for what? Nothing, most of the time. Dark, quiet, still, pretty cramped. Used to have more room, before these wooly things started sitting all over the shelf. It’s not like I was cold before, either.

Sometimes a two-legged pulls me off the shelf and puts me in the great big room, like when bunches of two-leggeds are around. Then nothing. Nothing. Just sitting around. Oh, what’s this pirate ship looking thing? This wasn’t here last time, was it? I might as well sit in the closet on the shelf except it’s nice to get out and look around. Oh for the old days, when I sat on the table all day. …

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Camp in the Airstream in Indianapolis on Race Weekend?

Last year, after attending Alumapalooza, a great rally held in Jackson Center OH by R and B Events, we were on a serious quest for Apple Genius bar help on a portable drive/router we’d bought. Fortunately for us, the Apple Store in Indianapolis is easily accessible from the Interstate. Most times we get excellent assistance from the Apple store pros and we always look forward to correcting what we’ve goofed up on our devices and learning something. We fared less well that time, but whetted our appetite for a later visit to Indianapolis.

One year later we’re again heading west from Jackson Center, but this time to a very sweet little town a little north of Indianapolis, Noblesville IN. Our friends Carolyn and Mike invited us to stay with them and gave us a nice choice — park in Indianapolis or park in the countryside near Noblesville. Hmm, it’s Memorial Day weekend, the Indy 500 runs this weekend, there’ll be 1/2 million folks in and around Indianapolis. What would you do?

Nice place to stay

Nice place to stay

We parked in Carolyn’s meadow for the long holiday weekend. Good choice! It was quiet in her part of the countryside, we had lots of room, partial shade, 3amp electric, all much better than we usually bargain for. Little did we know, our hosts had even more in store for us.


Mike and Carolyn drove us into Indianapolis, gave us a nice tour, and we visited the Ansel Adams exhibit at the Eiteljorg Museum. We spent a wonderful afternoon slowly touring the exhibit, then had a bite to eat at the museum’s patio café, and returned to speed crawl the remaining exhibits. Not at all fair to Remington and CM Russell, but we just weren’t there for them this time.

Hmm, there's a start switch somewhere. . .

We took a day off enjoying life in the country. A little hiking, some great eating, and we were ready for some aviation. Rick, Carolyn’s neighbor, showed us one of his little project UFOs. Actually, they’re UAVs, unmanned aerial vehicles, I guess it means. He has tremendous electronics skills and plenty of energy, and has put a little of it into building some really neat UAVs.

It does much more than just fly

It does much more than just fly

Rick skillfully (he humbly admits, skill involves painful and sometimes expensive errors) piloted the six-motor battery-driven UAV up, then up some more and more. No matter how high he took it, we could still hear the carbon-fiber rotors spinning. And he was able to track where it was and also, with a GoPro camera, watch us or anything else he wanted to track.

Wow! This is so COOL!

Wow! This is so COOL!

Debbie watched the monitor briefly, fascinated by the amount of information and the video quality. It displayed both the GoPro camera live video and the UAV’s vital statistics including altitude, speed, and battery usage/life.

You're letting him fly it?

You’re letting him fly it?

We don’t know what Rick was thinking, but he let Jim pilot the UAV for a couple of minutes. Two joysticks moving back and forth, the UAV soared, dipped, and went left and right. Jim may never get one like Rick’s hand built from scratch model, but maybe a ready-to-fly would be fun. . .

Conner Prairie experience

Conner Prairie experience

The next day, having experienced all facets of country living (there’s not more to it, is there?) Mike and Carolyn drove us to Conner Prairie, an interesting living history park nearby. We spent the afternoon talking with the “actors”, enjoying how they respond to out of context questions or remarks. They are dressed for and reenacting life in 1836. When you ask one of them about any terms or concepts newer than 1836, like sanitation or sterility, they are most likely to give you a blank stare then ask, “What’s that word again?” Wonderfully done, and a great way to spend an afternoon with friends.

Image captured by spy guy

Image captured by spy guy

We did more, we ate more, we saw more — but without further elaboration suffice to say, we had a great visit with our fun friends and look forward to another visit sometime.

Other Views of the World’s Largest Ham Radio Convention

We left NC to attend the world’s largest ham radio convention, Hamvention, in Dayton OH. Weather was very very mixed — rain, cold, frozen rain, rain, sunny. Our wardrobes were well tested in the few days of this big show. This is our third year as volunteer shuttle drivers.

driving a shuttle cart at Hamvention 2014

Many hams have big and bigger antennas, and some organizations can afford even larger ones. This one is top of the line, shown here by the well-heeled local amateur radio society. I think this big antenna tower is attached to the top of the white van.

A typical sight at Hamvention -- BIG BEAM

Not everything in Dayton was about amateur radio, though. Our friends invited us to dinner at The Engineer’s Club, a 100 year old Dayton establishment. The tech men and women of Dayton were (and are) just incredibly talented and imaginative. What a great bunch of brains! Those engineering folks did a great job accommodating fine dining and friendships too.


Full-timers can’t pack just anything in their portable home. We shed a lot of furniture and possessions when we sold our house and moved into this 188 sf home. You have priorities, you know what is worth carrying, and when to bring it out. How big is the cellar in that rig?

Party? What party?

Work awhile, play awhile, it’s even better with friends. This fun group of friends gathered in John Bryan State Park a little NE of Dayton, for an early Memorial Day picnic. We enjoyed fantastic weather for several days in this gorgeous state park. Celebrating with our friends is best!

Memorial Day Picnic, a week early

After the partying, we seriously needed exercise. John Bryan State Park is cleverly situated adjacent to Clifton Gorge, a very nifty and sometimes stunning walk in the woods. We donned our backpacks, stuffed full of junk to create training weight for our August backpacking trip, and walked the length of the trail along Clifton Gorge and back. No pictures of how we look afterward!

Narrows at the Clifton Gorge

Next up? Let’s go to greater Indianapolis IN the same weekend another 1/2 million people do, and see how we can stay out of their way.

See you there!

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey™
visit our website
©2007-2014 Dreamstreamr

If You See Our Whip . . .

On our way from Fletcher NC, site of the great 2014 Region 3 Rally, two weeks ago we stopped to torque our wheel nuts. Torqued the trailer’s four wheels and happened to look up. And said, “Oh crap!”

The tall roof-top amateur radio antenna was no longer tall. In fact, over six feet of antenna was missing. Hmm, nine feet from ground to top of trailer, then almost four feet of antenna motorized base column, then 6′ of antenna whip, that’s almost twenty feet total height. So we ALWAYS lower it before towing the engine.

Except the last time. 421 times in the past seven years we lowered the antenna to horizontal position before towing days. This puts the antenna at lower height than the air conditioner, which is only 12.5 feet above ground level. But the last time, the antenna was waving around at over 20′ until the first bridge on I-26 southbound.

Somewhere out there is our 6′ whip, a very nicely machined quick-connect and solid brass mounting disc. This rendered the antenna, normally perfect for worldwide two-way radio communications, completely useless.

There’s a bright side to this though. The whip and hardware, when ripped out by some stupid bridge, cleared the trailer and didn’t strike the trailer or the solar panels. No collateral damage is good. I have a spare whip, the manufacturer (High Sierra, Heath Tech) shipped a spare brass disc to our friends house in Dayton OH, and I was able to reassemble the antenna in a couple of hours.

We're back in touch

We’re back in touch

Today the antenna is back on the roof (in travel position unless I’m using it). And we’ll not soon forget to look UP before hitching up the trailer to the truck on towing days.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey™
visit our website
©2007-2014 Dreamstreamr

Run Away From All Those Taxes!

We’re frequently asked, “Why haven’t you moved your residency to a state with no income tax, like South Dakota, Alaska, Nevada, Florida, or Texas?” The simple answer is, “We are North Carolinians!” We are willing to pay to enjoy North Carolina’s fabulous scenery, people, services, universities and community colleges, and interesting geography from mountains to seashore.

The rest of the story is, income tax should be only a small part of why someone might choose to change their residency. There are seemingly countless taxes to consider, and what affects me might be irrelevant to you and your economics. It can be complicated.

Zero or low sales tax sounds pretty great. We aren’t spendy, though. And the break on sales tax only accrues to you when you are buying in your wonderful state of, for example, Oregon, Alaska, Delaware, or New Hampshire. Mobile lifestyle folks like us would likely not benefit often enough to warrant moving to a state for their low or no sales tax.

State excise taxes impact mobile folks similarly to sales taxes. You are impacted only when you are locally purchasing the burdened service or goods, like gasoline, candy, beer, wine, liquor, or cigarettes.

Other tax considerations include property, estate and inheritance, and corporate income taxes. You can go through the items for the short list of states you might be considering. Using your income and habits you can work out the probable taxes you would face. It’s not rocket science to determine which states would be good or poor choices for you.

Fortunately, there are pamphlets available with most of the relevant tables you would need for comparing states. I was browsing the internet this evening and came upon one you can download. It provides a choice of PDF or Excel, you can go to this link to select. I thought you might enjoy looking at it. It has 40 tables regarding US states taxes. I enjoyed leafing through the PDF booklet, and you might also.

An employee once scoffed at all the local taxes I was paying to live near my job. He ran away from the taxes by living in the sticks. My taxes paid for the local roads he used, supported the public services we relied upon, and helped make our community what it was. We chose to live in the town not only for employment but because we liked that town. We were willing to pay to live there.

We aren’t very likely to run away from our home state to try to find a better deal on some category of taxes. Our taxes are low because our income, owned property, and spending are low. The pamphlet does not seem to address vehicle registration and inspection costs, nor does it include the very fluid and confusing costs for health care insurance and vehicle insurance. It’s complicated, isn’t it?

We might find another state with taxes lower overall for our particular set of circumstances. But we aren’t interested in running from our taxes. We are North Carolinians, proud of it, and willing to pay for it.

Late edit — I found this cool table after I had saved the above post. Instead of only having it in the comments, I thought it would be more helpful to show it here too.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey™
visit our website
©2007-2014 Dreamstreamr

Expenses, Taxes, Work, Worries

We haven’t had enough to worry about for a few years. Our property taxes are for two depreciating assets, so they go down each year. We are lucky to avoid unusual expenses overall. We’ve stayed on budget, year to year. No worries, no problems so far.

Two weeks ago we mentioned we were in the hunt for a place. Since before Thanksgiving, we’ve visited a pretty spot in Ashe County, high up in the northwest corner of NC. Week after week, we found ourselves hiking on it and sometimes sitting against a tree, listening and watching. The afternoon sun shines through the leafless branches and warms us a little. All is quiet but the trees talking to the wind.

The NW county of NC

The NW county of NC

Finally this week we bought that very pretty wooded acreage. It has road frontage along part of two sides. No buildings, no development, just a nice large wooded parcel. We learned at closing it has been part of their family farm for over 150 years. We’ve met two members of the family, both really nice guys. We apparently are the second family of outsiders to be allowed in the cove.


A value of full timing, we’ve always thought, is the freedom to search the continent for the best place to live. We’ve enjoyed exploring almost all of North America and have often asked each other, “Could this be the place?” Many places could, and we’ve met many of you in these places. A few come to mind immediately like Durango, Bozeman, Madison, Port Angeles, Bend.

Two things no other state has are the Appalachian Mountains and our families. Each time we return to NC we always feel at home. We love the beaches, pulled pork barbecue, the Great Smokey Mountains and our state’s history. North Carolina is where we’re from. We like being close to family. The NC mountains tick all the boxes for us.

A friend showed us around Ashe County last September and introduced us to a great group of local folks at a diner he frequents. One thing led to another and we found ourselves working with a wonderful realtor, Scott Cronk at Real Living Carolina Property. He was consistently helpful, patient, and responsive, never pushy.

Scott knows the area well and offered helpful insights on land he showed us. Several places ended up on our short list, and any would have been great. Scott said of this one, it is all usable, something definitely not true for any of the others. We enjoy working with him and would gladly recommend Scott to anyone interested in buying in this area.

Often we will post our thoughts about looking at house designs. We long perused the designs in the newspaper and in books, pointing out how we’d change this or remove that. It’s fun to dream about how our house could be, if ever we built another.

Almost four years ago we posted about picking the perfect house, but not knowing where to put it. Very sadly, we learned yesterday we won’t be ordering an iHouse — they’ve pulled it from the market. There are other great modular designs including Marmol-Radziner, BLU, Method and Green Pod. We weren’t ready yet anyhow, but we’ll miss the iHouse.

Shady Cove drive2

We aren’t looking to build yet. But we we have found the place we want someday to do it. We’ll determine where we would build a house. We hope to figure out an attractive and serviceable driveway and parking area this year. We’d love to pull our Airstream in and enjoy for a week sometimes the quiet solitude of the NC mountains on our own little piece of paradise.

We paid this year’s taxes at the closing already, the most property tax we’ve paid in over six years. Our annual taxes won’t be reducing anymore. We’ll have work to do every time we visit. Hopefully we haven’t added any worries to our bag, although our heads are spinning with all the possibilities for using this beautiful land.

Full timing appeals to us now as much as it did when we started over six years ago. The rumors are false. We have no plans to stop living on the road. Our plan originally was to full time RV for between three and twenty years. We’re still on that plan, seven years later. We love what we’re doing. So little time, so much still to see!

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey™
visit our website
©2007-2014 Dreamstreamr

Red Kidney Beans and Junk Phone Calls

How many hits did I get when I looked up robocall?  Over 20 million! (And incidentally, it took .55 seconds to get the results)  Did you know you can buy a robo call plan to call all your frenemies or potential customers or whomever for as little as two cents a call?  This could cost me over a dollar if I called all my friends daily for four days in a row.  Just kidding, it would be over two dollars.

The robocall companies apparently are doing just a little more than calling their ten best friends.  One article (WSJ, FTC: Judge Orders Halt To Robocalls Selling Deceptive Warranties, May 15, 2009) reported on a little telemarketing company making 1.8 million dials per day and that he had done more than $40 million worth of dialing for extended warranty companies, including one billion dials on behalf of his largest client.

We still get junk phone calls. Can you believe they know where to call us?!!! Often we detect it is a robo call.  This despite how smooth they are and darned quick on their “feet”.  You can just barely make out the very slightly mechanized pace or lack of real inflection.  It’s just too even to be human, so sometimes we’re onto them. (Great, now they’ll fix that and we won’t know anymore!)

They’re selling dental insurance, Medicare Gap, extended warranty for our 2006 truck, gutters, satellite TV receivers, you name it.

We’ve started asking the robo caller questions like “Do you have red kidney beans?”, or “What’s the market doing today?”. You can almost hear the gears whirring and clanking as they process the unexpected responses.  They double back, ask their question again as if they had not heard our irreverent query. Okay, we’ll try it again. They hang up. Need new algorithms.

It’s a lot more fun than acting angry or just hanging up.  Besides, as my mom chided me, everyone has to work for a living and those guys are just doing their job. And won’t this provide programmers even more work as they develop and implement algorithms to address these smart alecks?

There are probably more constructive solutions you may consider.  Two include getting and keeping track of details from the caller, if possible; and contacting the Do Not Call Registry.  The former is a nice article written by a former telemarketing person who has been on both sides now.  The latter is a good thing to check, although it seems just a little fruitless at this point.  Why fruitless?

The telemarketers are sort of like the bad guys who aren’t supposed to have guns.  You know what I mean.  In the USA convicted felons are prohibited by law from owning or carrying guns.  Let’s see, this proscription resulted from them breaking a law, right?  And they’re going to pay attention to this added bother?  Don’t think so — I remember the first time, decades ago, I saw the bumper sticker, “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”

Okay, this does apply to some telemarketers – not all by any means, but some who operate outside the law.  If they do things the law doesn’t allow, they might profit wildly unless and until they are “caught.”  How does $40 million of calls sound, against a calculated risk of being caught, prosecuted, sentenced, and going back at it with new smarts?

Sounds like we might switch to ham radio for all our calls.  I never get a call on the radio offering dental insurance, Medicare Gap, extended warranty for our 2006 truck, gutters, or satellite TV receivers. And if the phone call is from a telemarketer, I might spin it out a bit, take some of their precious time too. It slows them down (they might not get down the list to your number then) and I might find some reportable information to report to the regulators.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey™
visit our website
©2007-2014 Dreamstreamr