Browsing Articles Written by

TJ

Life

Vanguard Flew Me to PHX & Subsequently Rejected Me

by on April 21, 2017

My life just keeps getting crazier. You’ll recall that when my initiatives to land a Cruise Ship job failed, I applied to a financial institution out of frustration. That lead to a phone screen. I wasn’t sure why – I used the same exact resume I used when I applied to Vanguard four years ago, five years ago, six years, and seven years ago. There was literally nothing different about my resume except that I had worked more years at the family business. Oh, and one of my internet buddies who works for Vanguard wrote some good things about me to the recruiter. Maybe they put a lot of weight on her vouching for me.

I did not have a good feeling about the phone screen. I was living in a random AirBNB trailer in Albuquerque, borderline depressed because a woman flew out from Florida to hang out with me and was disappointed with my in person personality, also sad because I didn’t hear anything back from any of the cruise companies.

Imagine my surprise when Vanguard wants to fly me out to Phoenix at their expense, provide me with a comp’ed hotel, car service from and to the airport, and expense my meals. I felt like a VIP! Who reading this blog would turn down a paid-for visit to one of Vanguard’s campuses? My dad was shocked they would do this. My friend, who works at Vanguard on the east coast, was shocked that they would do this. “Vanguard is so cheap! I am floored!” They easily spent $500 on me for a position that would have paid, I think, around $35k.

These were some of the things that I heard: “If they don’t give you the job, whoever made the decision to fly you out probably has a lot of explaining to do”.

“Nobody flies people out anymore. I can’t imagine they’d fly you out for this job? Maybe they identified something in you and want to groom you for something else. Look at your friend Josh was doing night shifts for 1-800-Dentist, but is now a director there. it’s incredibly hard to find good people.”

I’ve always been a miserable failure at selling myself. I like to fly under the radar in life and in career. Queue the irony of having a self-titled blog. Unfortunately, being modest and flying under the radar is not how you convince companies to hire you.

Vanguard would be a dream company to work at for this Vanguard investor. But only in Arizona. No winter weather for this California kid. 37.5 hour work week, Starting out with 18 days PTO, dirt cheap health care…and what could be more fulfilling than contributing, in whatever small capacity it is, to the operations of your funds? When you work for Vanguard and you are a  Vanguard fundholder, you are indirectly working for yourself. The funds own Vanguard and you own the funds.  Except you get awesome perks and benefits, you get a structured work schedule, structured work responsibilities, and you don’t have the stress and uncertainty of actual self-employment, and they happen to have a campus 15 miles north of the dirt cheap co-op’s you’ve been eyeing. I totally would have bought one of those co-ops, too, if I was offered the job.

The interview went just about as expected. I stunk up the behavioral questions. But I’ve always stunk at behavioral questions. I thought I rocked the case study and I was hoping my passion for Vanguard and personal financial competence would overcome any behavioral incompetence. Since it didn’t, you can imagine it feels pretty demoralizing.

The team leader was even asking me extra customer service questions that weren’t relevant to that specific position. When my dad asked me how it went, I said that I wasn’t sure, but I also thought I bombed the phone screen, and they flew me out there after that, so I really didn’t know what to expect.

“If they offer you the job, will you take it?” “I guess so. I wasn’t planning to go back to work this soon, but it’s a great long term opportunity. I think I’d be a fool not to”

One of my friends @ Vanguard had mentioned: “I know a lot of the problem with the people on the phones has just been incompetence lately (or so it seems) Not necessarily lack of customer service skills, so hopefully that works in your favor.”

Unfortunately it didn’t, which makes me wonder if my attempts at answering behavioral questions are even worse than I perceive. I definitely got the vibe from the second team leader I talked to that I was more knowledgeable than most applicants who come through there.

I interviewed with the Institutional side, so it was funny when she mentioned that this side is dealing with employees of companies who use Vanguard for their 401(k), I chirped up “They are so lucky!” She said “Not all of our clients think so.” I guess I might enjoy the retail side of Vanguard more since at least those people are investing with Vanguard by choice, but isn’t that a crazy thought to readers of this blog?

It’s probably inconceivable to some readers with as many horrible 401(k)’s out there, that there are people in this country who would complain about having a dirt cheap 401(k) with Vanguard as custodian. And I would have been one of the people taking their phone calls.

While touring Vanguard, I did learn that they have an “Email team”. I would rock that job all day long and I would love doing it. I’m not a natural phone dude and I made that clear to both team leaders I spoke with, and that might be why I don’t have the job, but I also know I’m competent enough to be trained to become a competent phone dude, and I thought I expressed that, but maybe I didn’t. So it is a bit disappointing that working for Vanguard won’t be my reality. At least not this time.

The silver lining is that I saw enough of the co-op to know that I could totally live there and have a ridiculously low cost of living. The bad news is that without a job offer in hand, I’d have to be more transparent about my assets to the co-op and I’m not sure that I particularly want to do that.

Travel

1 Week Down In Utah

by on April 15, 2017

I can’t believe that tonight will mark my seventh night in Cedar City. The time has been flying by, though it hasn’t been so exciting to write about. I did go to Zion National Park – Zion Canyon on Monday and I went to Zion National Park – Kolob Canyon today.

Zion - Kolob

If I complained about the Chinese food options in Albuquerque, it’s infinitely worse in Cedar City…and that’s a bit understandably so, being a drastically smaller city with not a huge percentage of minorities. I complained about the Persian food options in Albuquerque, there isn’t a Persian food option in Cedar City. That’s okay. 😀 There is, however, Peruvian food, and it’s amazing. I’m sure Peruvian restaurants are in Calfiornia, but I never tried one.

My life is sort of the same as it was at home – minus the work.  And I don’t really read blogs anymore (sorry…it’s kind of depressing to read “saving for FI” blogs when you’ve sort of deviated from that lifepath) and I’ve replaced that blog activity with consuming movies, podcasts, live sports and the like.

I had an amazing massage on Friday – 90 minutes was only $60! I guess that’s LCOL small city living for you.  The massage therapist says I should probably get another one soon…maybe I will.

I’ve been cooking all of my breakfasts here, but I’m not really spending less $$ so far. The restaurants do generally seem to be more expensive here…I might have to start cooking some other meals.

I’m not sure what the long term direction of this blog will be, or if I will even keep it around. The theme of the blog was intended to be a long term long distance travel blog, but I’m finding myself less interested in pursuing that lifestyle.

I definitely would not want to live long term somewhere like Cedar City, but it’s a totally sufficient place to hang out for now. If anything, I’m learning that all I need is a wifi connection for my laptop for some free and inexpensive entertainment. Someone asked me if ABQ would be an ideal early retirement spot. I could adapt to it, but I could probably adapt to anywhere. In reality, an early retirement spot depends on if I have a partner or not. If I don’t, it probably boils down to whether a place has some of my preferred leisure activities, as well as proximity to friends and family.

I have to admit that I’d rather be building friendships somewhere than solo adventuring with a whole lot of free time to kill in between. I’ll probably be going back to work sooner than anticipated because I don’t really need all this time off during the day in order to create the life I want, so I might as well work and pad that nest egg some more until I feel burned out from a career rather than just bored from one.

I think a main difference I have with some of the soon-to-be early retired bloggers is that I have zero interest in working more than traditional full time hours for the benefit of greater cash. For me, an 80 hour work week would be a complete non-starter. But 40 hours? or 35 hours? That still allows plenty of time for a reasonable work life balance. The only thing my career was preventing me from doing was consecutive long term travel, but since it turns out that I don’t even want to do that, it makes more sense to be more productive now so that I can enjoy more leisure at some future date. One of these years I’ll do that Antarctica cruise that looks awesome, but I think I would go out of my mind sitting around for the next 8 months just waiting for that.

For the next few weeks, I guess I’ll get to enjoy this view right outside my front door:

Cedar City

Life

When Life’s Disappointing, Just Roll With It.

by on April 5, 2017

A couple weeks ago, I was brought back down to reality. It seems that I was overconfident in my abilities to drastically change industries.

Instead of an exciting happy blog post about how everything is working out smoothly, I am forced to pursue Plan B or Plan C or Plan D.

it’s not the plan I was expecting to enact, but if there’s anything I learned from my parents, it’s that you don’t always get what you want in life and you have to shake it off and roll with it. Just because something is your goal or dream, doesn’t mean that it gets to be your reality. Though I guess we, especially millennial Americans, are an entitled bunch.

Plan A…I was in love with the idea of pursuing a purser career on cruise ships. I actually decided this before I ever quit my last job. To me, it’s perfect. I like dealing with money. I like the idea of forced group companionship with a crew. I like the idea of my time off being able to be spent wherever I wish, potentially in different places. The only problem is I apparently don’t have the right job experience. To get the job that I want, I’d need to work at a hotel front desk for a year. Of course, I can afford to waste away a year of my life in a hotel, and that’s certainly a privilege, but I was wanting to just sail away and live the sea life for a while. Because it sounded incredible…even more fun than a nomadic road trip.

In addition….a  position at sea has absolutely zero lifestyle costs. Your lodging is paid for by your employer. Your food is paid for by your employer. Your medical is paid for by your employer. You have no car insurance or gas costs because you have no use for a car. You have to work hard, and you don’t get paid all that much, but because you have no costs, your income goes entirely towards your portfolio and/or funding fun times during your breaks from work. To do that for a decade or two with a preexisting nest egg that is left untouched, early retirement could totally be in reach without being a corporate office drone. Everything thinks that FIRE is all about boosting the income, but if you have a six figure portfolio and embark on a career with zero lifestyle costs, the income almost becomes irrelevant. Sure, you’re handcuffed to the job, but people who pursue massively paying careers are handcuffed to their jobs until they retire too.

I even had a post in my drafts, “the tax efficiency of working on a cruise ship”. Fun fact: Cruising Americans don’t pay FICA taxes, so if you’re bearish on social security in a low paying career, like perhaps a hotel front desk person….maybe a cruise ship is for you.

I don’t know if I want that cruise lifestyle bad enough to subject myself to a year of peanuts pay while being stationary and absorbing an entire year of lifestyle costs from my portfolio.  That’s not a financially prudent thing to do. Even though I funded a year off in the first place.

So….what do I do? Go back into the industry that I have loads of experience in to ensure that my portfolio will grow fast enough to support my age 40 early retirement goals?  Do I move somewhere super cheap and work a boring job in a hotel and try again next year? Do I move somewhere ridiculously cheap and just “retire” and make it work with various part time gigs?

Hell if I know. For now, I keep traveling and look forward to experiencing Southern Utah. Salt Lake City was one of my favorite “big cities”. The people were so friendly….

Travel

Time Flies!

by on April 4, 2017

I can’t believe it, but my time in Albuquerque is quickly coming to an end. I get to hit the road on Friday, heading northwest and eventually into Utah. It’s been very windy in recent days and while it was blazing hot when i first arrived in New Mexico, it’s 51 degrees today in the middle of the afternoon.

I’m definitely ready to be moving on. I had the benefit of all day March Madness for a couple of weekends here, but I’d say that a month is probably a bit long to stay in one place for general vacation purposes, though there’s still plenty more that I could have seen in New Mexico if I really wanted to.

I actually had a friend fly out to explore ABQ with me for the past week or so. I have definitely deviated from the “one planned activity per day” and put more of my tourist hat on, but still had plenty of down time. I knew this was coming though, so I was sure to have some pretty relaxing days leading up to that. We did an overnight to White Sands which was an awesome place to see. We also saw lots of cool stuff along the way. It was definitely more fun to have someone in the car to talk to during those longer car rides, and to share the driving duties.

I removed all my previous spending reports from this blog, but I figured people might be curious how much I ended up spending in March with this trip taking place on the majority of it.

I’ve been on the road since the 6th of March, but for the month in it’s entirety, I have spent roughly $1,280. In addition, I had a $75 dining gift card, which was a Christmas present, that I used up as well.

I spent $128 on the combination of gas and a car wash.

I spent $111 on a massage and a haircut.

I spent $27 on an electric tooth brush and some aloe vera.

I spent $115 on various museums, a couple of movies, and a Sci Fi orchestra concert.

I spent $130 on a Grand Canyon tour.

I spent $177 on the combination of disability insurance, Nolo willmaker software, and a few different times I needed to fax stuff at FedEx.

I spent $104 on the combination of getting new batteries in my car key remotes,  new shoes from Amazon (which did not fit and I returned and received Amazon credit), and new shoes at Payless.

The vast majority of my spending, as expected, was on food, including any other purchase at a grocery store. I spent $483 on the food category. Plus the $75 gift card. I definitely spent more on food than a normal month, which is surprising as I figured food would be less expensive outside of California, but i guess I’ve been eating out more.

Also of potential interest, I’ve already received at least $25 of value out of my $85 national parks pass. Not at national parks, but national monuments which are operated by the National Park Service. Travel can definitely be pretty cheap when the attractions are free or inexpensive….and if you’re more frugal about what you eat than I choose to be, you could drop those costs substantially.

TJ @ White Sands

White Sands National Monument.

TJ @ Tent Rock

Tent Rock National Monument.

Travel

That Time I Went on a Podcast!

by on March 23, 2017

Hey everybody! My recent podcast with Jessica Moorhouse went live. Because I’m my own worst self critic, I actually only listened to the intro and outro, so you’ll have to just give it a listen and let me know what you thought of it?

I had a lot of fun chatting with Jessica, despite the awkwardness of unfiltered speaking into a mic vs. many edits of writing on a page. I hope there’s something actionable or at least somewhat entertaining in the nearly 30 minutes of podcast.

Some of the recent blog posts that Jessica linked in the show notes are far more stream of consciousness than what I’ve written in the past. New readers might have more interest in the posts on my Real Estate Windfall and the convoluted history of my Roth IRA

 

Episode 99: Listener Series – How to Budget for a Road Trip Across America

Life Travel

Nomadic Leisure Doesn’t Work For Me.

by on March 21, 2017

Some comments on my recent post mentioned that maybe what I really needed was a career change rather than a mini retirement. I don’t necessarily disagree with this, but the lack of work is not really an issue in my day-to-day happiness. I would definitely prefer not to work….of course I don’t have enough $$$ to last the rest of my life, so at some point I will need to work. I definitely do, however, feel like I have a social duty to be productive and not be lazy.

I definitely do have some psychological barriers with an early retirement though. Personally knowing people who have medical issues that would never allow them to retire early makes me feel pretty crummy about my own early retirement prospects. Mostly because if I chose to retire early today, it would be entirely a decision for leisure and self indulgence rather than something more noble, such as spending more time with dependent children or taking care of an ailing parent, or curing cancer or whatever the hell most early retirees do with their time. Financial independence is a lifestyle choice that enables one to make the decision to be a dual stay at home household, and for that reason, I think everybody really should pursue it, because why not? How can you end up worse off by being financially secure?

Here’s the problem with the nomadic life for me. It’s sort of at odds with what an ideal permanent early retirement vision looks like. This is more of a gap year experience type of life choice, where I’ve specifically earmarked time for travel.

And I love that I have the opportunity to do it. But the time and $$ I spend on traveling diverts me from other long term life goals. Being fiscally conservative, if I spend $6,000 today to for the awesome experience of traveling the ocean for two months on a cargo freighter, it’d be great, but that’s $6k that I have to replace with some form of work in the future. The working more part doesn’t sound very fun. Even though I rationally know it’s inevitable.

I’m learning that feeling like I’m part of a community is something that I’d very much like to experience. So, I’ve targeted a career path that allows me to feel part of a work family and less of an office drone. We’ll have to see how that goes if I do get the privilege of being hired on that very different career path.

I haven’t really felt part of a community in the seven years since college. When I was working, I spent my most productive hours at work. And I spent many hours not at work thinking about work. I’ve “retired” from my previous career and company and I still think about work. Work can very easily consume you even when you’re not there.

It’s definitely interesting to learn that my ideal early retirement vision is not a nomadic life, but a more stationary life, perhaps with shorter bursts of travel contained within. I thought I was being so clever about doing travel during a time where I don’t have to simultaneously pay rent…but there’s a lot to be said about having a home to go back to and not the feelings of the mysterious unknown future.

My ideal early retirement might include the likes of going back to using my actual degree and playing percussion in a local volunteer orchestra or guitar in a local jazz orchestra. And perhaps being on the board of directors f0r an orchestra. I can’t commit to either of those things while I’m traveling and didn’t want to commit the time to such things while I was working. Of course, these aren’t life goals that need to happen in the next year or the next 5 years. I’m still on track to hit FI in roughly may 2025, right around my 40th birthday.

One of the things about travel, what I’ve enjoyed about travel in the past, was the people that I traveled with. Driving around by myself is missing that key component of getting to know other travelers and exploring with them. I’m very independent at home, I’m finding that being super independent as a traveler isn’t something that I particularly enjoy. But, there’s not really an easy solution to that.

Staying here in ABQ is a nice deviation from the perpetual nomadicism, but it’s still a very temporary feeling. Today, I got to watch the sunset over the mountains in the distance from the couch in my trailer, it was a pretty awesome moment. And not something I could have experienced if I was working in an office in Southern California. And, of course, it had no monetary cost.

Tomorrow, I plan to go to a UNM Lobos baseball game in the afternoon, I couldn’t do that if I was working in SoCal (or working in NM). It’s fantastic to be able to have those life experiences “off schedule”.  I love being able to do things during the hours when people are working because there are less crowds and less traffic. It doesn’t do much for the loneliness factor though.

Funnily enough, there’s a 25 year old woman from Houston doing an optometry externship also staying at this AirBNB, and she’d love to do some exploring with me…but she has to go to work during the week. And they aren’t even paying her to be a full time worker. It’s such a blessing that i can just do whatever and not limit my ABQ exploration time to the weekends like she is doing. That’s awesome for me.

I guess I have the age-old conundrum: My friends can’t afford to travel with me, so I can either go by myself, or I can just not go. For the longest time, the choice was to not go. I think that shifting the mindset to early retirement as a single person would be really challenging for me because I would have to make extra effort for that external human connection. If you have a spouse, at least there’s someone else around some of the time.

Eventually, I decided to stop waiting around for other people to travel with. Unfortunately, this travel experience might not be as much of a success as the other travel adventures on a social level, but the road trip is still very young!

I definitely think that psychologically, a permanent retirement would be a lot easier on me to adapt to. There would be less thought to the financial ramifications of the decision to retire and the associated spending decisions, because I would know that I have enough and wouldn’t be wondering when I might be going back to add to my stash.

2017 has pretty much been an epic fail in “not thinking about money”. Though my portfolio balance is coincidentally much higher than i anticipated. Knowing that I don’t have enough to never work again under reasonable circumstances, though, that’s going to be in the back of my mind and with some of my frugal tendencies, it’s become a bit of challenge to part with $$. And that’s unfortunate.

So, in summary, my problem with traveling isn’t necessarily that I’m not working and that somehow working would make me a happier person, and my problem with my previous job wasn’t necessarily that I hated working, and thought that not working would make me happier. I just didn’t particularly enjoy living in the location that my job was in. Though I am realizing that I definitely took a few things for granted. And, with traveling, this maybe just isn’t the perfectly optimized way for me to travel. But that’s okay, I’m making the best of it and still having more fun than working.

I’ll definitely need to figure out a way to explore different locales that doesn’t leave me exhausted from going too fast, but also doesn’t leave me feeling bored from going too slow. Unfortunately, you can’t choose your early retirement destination from reading web descriptions.

Also of note, The DAF that is invested in Fidelity’s Total Stock Market Fund is still crushing it. I put $17k in November and it’s still worth over $17,700 today. I decided to distribute another grant. Love free $$$ for charity.

Travel

3 Weeks Of No Work

by on March 20, 2017

I can’t believe it’s been three weeks since my final day of work. It feels like a while ago. I’ll confess to logging into my Web Mail out of curiosity during some periods of boredom. 😀

Here’s what I learned:

I can pretty much live the same routine anywhere. Now granted, my own place with my own kitchen, freezer and refrigerator makes it easier to be efficient with my meals, but as long as I have a wifi connection, I’m golden. I don’t have any air conditioning in this 1950’s Schult trailer, but I haven’t needed any either. The final few months of work, I would spend my down time at home goofing off in the internet, blogging, with some night hikes thrown in. Not much has changed except I’m doing my walking and wandering during the day. I was more or less a hermit, replacing social activities with blogging…which you think would be less expensive, but considering I paid for a logo and blog coaching, and a financial bloggers conference (Hotel For FinCon cost nearly as much as 4 weeks here!), probably not.

I’m learning something that I suspected before I ever left my previous residence: Nomadic solo travel is exhausting. It’s just not for me. Which makes me thrilled that I’ve been able to stay here in Albuquerque for 10 days now, and another 18 to go. Today, I explored Madrid. Not Madrid, Spain, but Madrid, New Mexico.

Madrid, NM

It’s an old western mining town smack in the middle of a New Mexican two-lane state highway # 14. The road is also called the turquoise trail, which connects Albuquerque to Santa Fe. I had lunch at a bar top at an outdoor restaurant called The Hollar, which has a menu self described as “southwest meets deep south”. It was delicious and probably my least healthy meal of the trip so far. It was interesting to hear the servers talk about “a normal day in Madrid”.  I wonder what it would be like to live in such a town. The population on Wikipedia is only 149. Fun fact: The ending of Wild Hogs was filmed in Madrid.

It’s probably less than an hour from both Albuquerque and Santa Fe, so it’s not like it’s totally in the boondocks, but there did not seem to be a whole lot to do in town. And I bet in winter it’s very isolating and frigid, at an elevation of 6,000 ft.  Other than the main road, all of the other streets said “private road, no parking” which made me think there wasn’t much else there besides what I saw, except for some residential houses..

The Hollar

The town even had an old school soda fountain. Of course, I had a root beer float, despite having just finished “Chicken Biscuits” which were two biscuits with fried chicken and prisciutto….with chips and salsa. Odd pairing, but none of the other “sides” sounded appetizing to me. 😀

 

Soda Fountain

 

I’ve never seen a “Don’t drink the water” sign in America before, maybe that is something we take for granted! And hey, if you’re ever in Madrid, NM, here’s the wifi password.

Don't Drink The Water

It’s ironic that before I left on this trip, I didn’t think I’d be planning any additional long term stays, and I thought for sure I wouldn’t actually spend “every night in Albuquerque” when I was here, but why not? Why spend more $$$ to travel around when there’s plenty to see here and already I have a paid for bed? Not opposed to an overnight elsewhere, but I feel like I’ve still barely scratched the surface on Albuquerque.

Tomorrow, I will be checking out the Balloon Museum, and coincidentally, another old school soda fountain. 😀

I’m stoked to spend extensive time in Southern Utah, as well, because there’s so much around there. After that? Hopefully I’ll have a better idea re: the timeline of beginning my next career. Knowing the answer to that question would allow me to plan an adventure (perhaps abroad) during a finite period of time, which I think I prefer vs. the open-ended nature of what this started as.

Before I embarked on that multi-day drive from CA to NM, my longest road trip by myself was a couple of hours. I’m glad I just went for it, instead of not doing it because I thought I don’t like driving, but I’m also glad that I hedged the possibility of not being a fan of solo long distance driving by booking a long term stay very early. It worked out so much better than I would have ever anticipated.

 

Til next time….

Life

Accomplish One Thing Per Day

by on March 17, 2017

Since embarking on what was once deemed a “pretend retirement”, I’ve had a goal of accomplishing one task per day. One thing I disliked about some of my travel adventures in the past was that I would feel incredibly rushed which quickly led to exhaustion. I believe it might have been the Groovies where I first read about the idea of accomplishing one major task per day in retirement?

Travel

Slow Travel – Overrated or Worth it?

by on March 13, 2017

I’ve been in Albuquerque for three days now. The slow pace is definitely different than any sort of travel I’ve done before. I’ve explored by foot within a mile or so in each direction from my accommodation and have located my various low cost food options….I’m definitely eating less healthy than I was at home. (Burger King, Subway, and New Mexico’s own Lotaburger…the latter definitely being my preference of the three. And of course, they are all in different directions.) And I found a yummy pizza place if i want to walk 30 blocks or so. Balancing those low cost choices with the fun new restaurants and the pendulum definitely has trended towards the more spendy places, but that’s okay, as I have no other major expenses.

The house I’m staying in is pretty cool. You have to use a match to light the stove. It’s a big property, there’s a couple hammocks. Breakfast is included but I’m not sure that I’ll be partaking in the Chocolate croissant every morning for the next 25-ish days. (It’s quite tasty though!) There’s an adorable dog and a few cats here. I’m meeting tons of travelers who are passing through. It’s a fun spot to be. I think there’s definitely enough in the greater Albuquerque region for me to stay occupied for the next 25 days, but I’ve also enjoyed not having to do much driving after 5 days on the road. Yesterday, I checked out the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History and the Natural History (Science) Museum. Today, I checked out the Nuclear History/Science Museum and the Pueblo Cultural Center. I’m sure I could duplicate the museum experience with internet research, but it’s fun seeing the displays and also nice to support the local area…and get out of the New Mexico sun. I had no idea that during WW2, the Navajos used their native language to encrypt military messages. That’s pretty cool.

I got a haircut and picked up some new shoes today. Believe it or not, Payless Shoes actually has inexpensive shoes, but they’re all made in China. Maybe all shoes are made in China now? My current shows are kind of falling apart, so I just picked a pair that sort of fit good enough. Don’t really have any great expectations for them to last forever. I usually buy my shoes on Amazon, but I ordered some right before I left, they didn’t fit, and I didn’t have time to find something else. I haven’t been writing because there’s not a whole lot to say.

So…slow travel. Yeah. I think that after Utah, I won’t be doing another long tourism stay like this in someone’s home. It’s a fun environment, but it’s obvious to me that I’m living in somebody else’s home. I feel like I don’t want to just sit around this person’s house all day, which is good for tourism, but not for relaxation. Which I guess shouldn’t be a shocker because I am in fact living in somebody else’s home. Would a month long stay in a motel be better? I’m not sure.

I did a 1 night AirBNB in Gallup, NM and I think I definitely prefer the motel experience for a short term stay where I’m just passing through.  With a motel in some town off the interstate, I can most likely check in to my room early. With AirBNB, I had to wait for the host to get home from work. In the New Mexico dessert, having already been sunburned, I had to blow $$$ on seeing a movie just to get out of the sun for a few hours.

Tomorrow, I have a dental cleaning, and the next day I have a skype appointment. I’m planning to go to a University of New Mexico baseball game next week. I might go to an Albuquerque Isotopes game, too, but their season starts right before I head over to Utah. There’s several free and inexpensive UNM music concerts that I might check out over the next few weeks. I definitely have no shortage of things that I could be seeing or doing, but it’s also possible that I could be spending Thurs-Sun of the next few weeks glued to watching March Madness on streaming.

I definitely plan on going up to Santa Fe via the scenic byway one of these days, and doing some more sightseeing here in Albuquerque. It’s definitely nice to be able to do 1 or 2 museums per day rather than cram all of them because I have to go back to work in a few days.

Its very possible that I will head back to SoCal after Southern Utah so that I can spend my birthday with my family. After that? Who knows.

I guess I didn’t really answer the subject question. Maybe next time…

Travel

Days 2 & 3 – Flagstaff, Grand Canyon

by on March 9, 2017

Coming into Flagstaff, I was reminded of one of the things that I hate in regards to driving even more than the aforementioned sunrise, sunset and darkness…driving in cities. You wouldn’t think that Flagstaff is this huge urban city, but my intended lunch spot was in the historic downtown with essentially nothing but street parking. I’d see some parking lots, but they would say “for ____ customer’s only”. I later learned that I could have parked at the train station for free for a couple hours. Oh well. I ended up abandoning those initial lunch plans and found a Whole Foods. I thought I was being “frugal” by picking up a couple chicken legs to have for dinner in addition to my slice of pizza lunch. While my first night at a Best Western had a mini fridge, Motel 6 did not….so I had a big lunch. Ha. Of course, I can’t complain too much, the Motel 6 was dirt cheap at $40/night. I’m told the Motel 6 can easily be double that in summer. Motel 6 also did not provide WiFi or, shockingly, shampoo. I’m glad I happened to pack a travel sized shampoo.

I ended up heading over to the Lowell Observatory on my first afternoon in Flagstaff. It was pretty quick to see everything they had going on during the day, it probably would have been better to go at night to look at the stars through their telescopes. I have no idea why WordPress rotated the below image.

Lowell Observatory

My second day in Flagstaff was entirely a Grand Canyon tour. I’m glad I booked a tour as I probably would not have been able to see all of what I saw on my own in the allotted time.

Grand Canyon

Unfortunately, I also got some sunburns, despite being dressed like I’m possibly in Alaskan summer? I also had the pleasure of going to the local Super Walmart for some aloe vera lotion. Based on the above photo, it’s probably not a shocker to learn that I’m sunburned on my nose and neck. Whoops.

That Grand Canyon tour wore me out. It might just be the three days straight of being on the road whether as a driver or a passenger. I’m very much looking forward to staying in one spot for a while after Friday. My Grand Canyon guide was awesome and he gave me lots of tips for the other parks that I plan on seeing in the next couple months. He mentioned that when it snows in Flagstaff, everything shuts down. It sounds like you can get by as a winter wimp in Flagstaff. I missed the snow by just one week apparently. Their summers are a lot more mild than Phoenix. I wouldn’t mind spending more time in Flagstaff. The bummer is that there aren’t too many hotels in the historic downtown area, but you can uber in for cheap, I would imagine. I should have done that myself, but after a long day of driving and/or exploring, I just want to chill out. What’s interesting about Flagstaff is that the sales tax is 11%, this is absolutely massive compared to the 7.75% i’m used to paying in California.

Did I mention that gasoline is dirt cheap once you get outside of California? Pretty sure I paid $3.09/gallon when I filled up before leaving…fun fact about gasoline, I saw this truck stop gas station from the interstate about 5 miles before Kingman, AZ. It was $2.39/gallon for 87 unleaded….as I kept driving along Route 66 to get back on the interstate, there was a “Canada Mart” which was at $2.19/gallon. The Chevron that was closest to the interstate at the next exit was $2.59/gallon. It’s shocking how much variance there is. Again, sorry for the rotated image, when I uploaded to WordPress, it rotated for some reason. I am currently connected through a Mobile Hotspot, but I don’t know why that would cause the photos to rotate.

Gasoline

Til next time….

1 2 3 5