With just on three days to go before Air New Zealand will whisk us both to North America, we had better have most of the details required for leaving home sorted by now. The house-sitters are so keen to move in once we are gone, much of their stuff is already stacked in our garage. There is space for that because several vehicles have gone to new owners – the Morris Eight Sports, the Essex Coupe, Jillian’s Ducati Monster, Bob’s Honda Hornet and the Micra have all departed, still leaving us with more than enough to play with when we eventually return home.
Insurance cover for us and the property have been re-arranged, an American address arranged, the rentals management taken care of, wills re-organised and all regular payments converted to direct debit. That last one alone makes going away for an extended period a lot easier to manage. We looked at renting out the house, selling up or leaving it empty, as well as the final decision to allow a young couple of trusted work colleagues to take care of things while we are away, in return for them just meeting consumables costs. With Jillian’s donkeys having gone to their holiday home, this wouldn’t mean too much work so they were keen to take it on and help save for a home of their own. Seems to be the best arrangement from our point of view, as empty homes attract problems, whilst renting to a family would mean so much had to go into expensive storage that we wouldn’t be any better off and with a consequent risk of damage or loss. And not the least, there is a familiar base to return to which we know will be available when we need it.
Contrary to widespread belief, you can continue to receive NZ Super when you go overseas for more than six months, but you must tell WINZ before you go. They will calculate how much you are entitled to, based on your time of residence from 20 years of age and deduct any periods of off-shore living they consider might reduce your eligibility. If you go without informing them of your intentions, they will claim back all the money paid when you return, even for the first six months, and there may be some consequences for future payments.
Our first major task on arrival will be to obtain a suitable vehicle, so many hours have been spent researching via the internet for what might be available. Using previous experience as a guide, the huge motor-homes that are available in US at very modest prices would be unsuitable for the type of back-road journeying that we largely have in mind, whilst the archetypal Chevvy Van would be manageable, but too small to provide all the facilities you need for a long sojourn. American vans are quite wide at 8 ft or so (2.5 m) unless you go for the Class B van at 6.5 ft and put up with the lack of space inside. We settled on 22 to 25 ft (6.5 to 7.5m) in length as being the best compromise and set about finding what was available on the market.
Of course you first need to update on the foreign language – did we want Class A, B or C, a travel trailer, an RV, a mobile home, a 5th wheel, a toy carrier, lance, diesel pusher or gas motor-home? Having cracked all of that it was time to decide whether an awning or generator was necessary, low mileage, an oven, a one or two-door fridge, a jack-knife or permanent bed, slide-outs, central control panel, air conditioning, a furnace or a regular army of other strangely named features which might make or break the travel experience.
These smaller vans (called mini motor-homes)are not so readily available and seem to hold their price a little more than the bigger ones (up to 40 ft or 12.5m). But by using CraigsList on the internet (better source for these things than Ebay) and looking at RVTrader as well as many of the RV Sales sites for California, Arizona and Texas, it eventuially became clear that it was best to settle on one place and find the most suitable vehicle in that area to avoid excessive travelling. Ex-rentals from Cruise America are available across the country and a good back-stop if all else fails, which despite their fairly high mileage are normally no older than five years, are clean, refurbished and reasonably priced. They also often come with a one year 12,000 mile warranty on the drive train, which you can extend to five years and 100,000 miles for an extra payment. Of course they have a more basic layout than some of the privately owned vans.
We have studied the North American weather patterns which dictate staying well south for the first couple of months. The afternoon temperature in Pheonix AZ today was 23°C with an overnight low of 7°C, about the same as Hamilton right now. In future we will need to keep an eye out on the forecast for typhoons, tornadoes, blizzards, killer storms and scorching heat, but all that lies ahead.
It’s about time now to bid temporary farewells to many of out friends and colleagues, so when Colin and Donna arranged to come around for a farewell glass of wine recently, we were quite innocently unaware of what was about to invade our peaceful retreat. One by one a large group of Vintage Car Club couples turned up carrying bbq supplies and refreshments. Even additional chairs and a barbecue arrived, which was just as well really as our old one had gone to the rubbish tip that morning! It was a quite delightful afternoon and we are still a bit stunned by the generosity of our friends who took part. Colin and Donna were no doubt the chief architects of the plot and will probably be forgiven one day.