In our FreeWheeler Community , as we sit around at outings talking, I find that we have women at many life stages surrounding retirement. Some are years away or long time “veterans”of retiring.  Others have only recently taken the plunge either voluntarily or because life situations have made it “necessary” and still others have finally set a “date certain”and parties have been planned!   We women are often younger and healthier at time of retirement than ever before so we need to plan on how to use all those potentially active  years ahead and understand how to handle this NEXT phase of life that AARP now likes to call “extended middle age” otherwise known as retirement.  This series of posts is going to be about how one FreeWheeler, ME,  approached retirement, walked through that door and how, about 9 months later, how it’s going and what I have discovered.  They say in blogs that you write about what you know so this is just my experience but it probably will hit some common chords in the lives of my dear FreeWheeler sisters. Hopefully this multi-part  blog will generate some feedback that will help and even entertain us all.

Part I – How Did I Get Here?

So, my retirement came last October 2015 when I was the ripe age of 65 and 4 months. It was one of those “unplanned” transitions.  I had worked for my company for 35 years and had planned to work happily in a job I loved until “whenever” , probably waiting until closer to 70 so I could get full Social Security and rack up more dollars in my 401K.  I was healthy and reasonably fit, had a wonderful family, friends, a great team and excellent leaders and very satisfying work. That was a nice plan until about May 2013  when in an instant ( literally) my job changed dramatically and painfully and I began the slow descent from “I’m happy to get up in morning and enjoy my work!” into ” How am I ever going to survive this?”  As my partner will attest to,  I am stubborn and slow to change the big things in my life. Additionally I come from a background of finishing what you started so after investing 33 years in my company, I figured I could/should keep going and figure out how to turn the new job ( aka: “lemons”) into something good ( aka: “lemonade”)  as I had always been able to in the past.

Well, perhaps it was my age causing a lack of flexibility or perhaps the job really did suck but I could not adapt nor rid myself of the infantile anger at what “they did to me“.
I became more and more depressed and defeated trying to do an impossible job for impossible people in spite of what I NOW see as gdepressedood advice from friends and family to quit or change jobs  (see “stubborn and slow to change..” above) !



I was also caught in the web of ” I can’t afford to retire…we’ll be living under a bridge in no time or at least can’t buy “stuff” anymore!” I was becoming a “not- very-nice” person, losing all energy and motivation and was now so miserable that I was not functioning well and finally sought out some good therapy!   This is the somewhat terrifying bottom point where I was last October when I finally made the decision to stop being miserable and take the leap.  My partner and I were camping at Santa Cruz at Costanoa KOA in the Itsy Bitsy Casita( Good things always seem to happen in our RV’s!!!)trailer


During that beautiful weekend,  we talked a LOT and she did the bookkeeping “math” to show me how we could manage it and talked about options to fill in any financial gaps ( take a part-time job, promote your DJ business,  sell all that stuff on eBay you’ve been threatening to sell, etc.) . We got home that Saturday and went through it all again on a spreadsheet ( once again, see “…stubborn and slow to change… ” above) and I literally started to cry as I realized that there was a “path forward”!   Sunday, I signed up for Social Security and Monday ,  I gave my 2 week notice after 35 years at my company and it felt like a huge weight had been lifted. Two weeks later I walked away from my company and into the next stage of my life and I was SMILING!

What did I learn? 

  • Don’t wait until you are nearly immobile with unhappiness to make a change.waiting 1

If you hate what you are doing, do something else, anything else to get moving again. Once you get to the truly “stuck-in-quicksand” spot, you’re likely to make dubious decisions out of panic or pain. Make choices while you are objective and powerful! I chose to retire as opposed to change jobs for a number of reasons. I was lucky that I could make a fast course correction and had both financial and emotional resources to allow me to make that “sudden” change.

  • It’s good to listen to your people.

people talking

Your friends and family are like gold. They have ideas that may help you and even if the ideas don’t all work for you, you find out who gives a darn about you which brings your power back!  Even better, they will listen to you ramble on until you cannot babble any longer which is very important. You cannot and should not try to do this alone…big and brave does not always get you what you need. Let your “peeps” take the journey with you!

  • You can live on a lot less than you think you canbudget

I was overly fixated on having enough money to live on and that OMG I could not retire because we’d starve. We aren’t wealthy so this change would mean some things would need to change to be able to afford this move. What I soon realized ( see above… “It’s good to listen to your people”)  is that a lot of what we think we need to survive is nothing but stuff you can easily do without. We consulted some dear friends in our FW family who learned how to minimize almost everything and they are not suffering for it. They shared their tips and tricks that I’m still using today.

So, this is some of what I learned as I  fell into retirement. It was neither a graceful nor an elegant beginning …more like a Hippo diving into a tea cup but I think I’m going to be OK and I have no regrets.

How did you do it and what did you learn?  Were you one of those who planned every “NANO-DETAIL” before you said goodbye or like me did you wait until it got so bad, you felt you had no choice?  Did you crash into retirement like a wrecking ball or sail calmly into that next big stage?  Those of you who are thinking about retirement, how do you think it’s going to happen…what ‘s the plan, Stan?  Do you have a plan?  Do you even need/want a plan? ( excluding finances of course…lol) Do you even want to retire because these days many folks don’t for many good reasons and some not so good ones.  Maybe you just need to get paid for doing something ELSE that will feel like retirement and remind you of who that astounding woman IS in there….! . Let’s share some thoughts, some wisdom and even perhaps some chuckles.

Next Time:   Part 2 – I’m Freeeeeeeee….  OMG, Now What?”

What Can a New Member Expect?

So you’re thinking of joining FreeWheelers and your wondering what to expect? Back about seven years ago when I and my partner joined this club , I had the same thoughts. We were not one of those “joiners” but realized we needed to network more and build a more extended “family” if possible. What better environment than an RVing group where we could enjoy a favorite pastime with other women? But we still hesitated because of that little ” Am- I -actually- joining- a -cult?” voice in  my head. Besides, I guess we could always just hide in the rig or if it really was awful… we could just drive away in the night?  Yes, drama runs deep in my family and as I said, we are NOT joiners.  However, we decided to give it a try.  We got a warm welcome from the Chapter Leader at the time and the first FreeWheeler event we attended was what we now know is the Annual Meeting held at Sugar Barge RV Resort on Bethel Island.  That was one of the best and friendliest weekends we have spent in an RV and we never looked back after that.

When you join FreeWheelers, the first thing you’ll experience is a “force of nature” named Casper Nordahl,  our Membership Coordinator. She has held this post for several years and we are thrilled because she does it with such passion and energy! You’ll get a call and/or an email from her welcoming you and letting you know whatever you need to know including upcoming events you can sign up for and how to do that! You will get a copy of our most recent newsletter , a member directory,  a window card for your rig with your name(s) on it,  name badge(s) and even some beads!  Now you’re set to go to an outing!

welcome bear

At this point, you’ll start looking through the newsletter you got or this website on the Events tab , review the schedule of outings and  register for one.  You’ll start getting emails about the upcoming outing from the outings host(s) talking about agendas and potential activities planned to interesting attractions in the area.  Each outing varies somewhat depending on what the host(s) want to do ..sometimes there are lots of plans and other times, we’re just  “chillaxin'”.  So, now you have arrived…. check in at the office,  get your site and go set up so you are free to enjoy the weekend. And remember, if you need any help, just speak up and don’t be shy. FreeWheelers are really great at supporting women new to RVing.

Once you are all hooked up, feel free to do whatever you normally do when you arrive a new campground.  FreeWheelers are generally very social but we try not to overwhelm you the minute you get parked. On the other hand, if you are feeling gregarious , go ahead and introduce yourself to your neighbors if you like.  We’re not a shy group and you don’t need to be either. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to socialize this weekend.


Rig Warming

One of the very best places to “dip your toe in the water” is our Friday Night “Meet & Greet” appetizer potluck.  This event was created many years ago to give the gang the chance to all get together for the first time that outing,  to hear the schedule for the weekend, to introduce new members and give everyone a chance to get to know you.  You’ll be introduced, given nice shiny beads to wear for the weekend so we know you are new and asked to share three things about yourself. We then eat a lot of great appetizers, talk a lot, sip beverages of many kinds, laugh a lot  and just enjoy each other.

Once that event is done, you are on your own to enjoy whatever special activities have been planned ( or not), play games in the club house, sit around in groups and talk and weather permitting, enjoy campfires.  For the remainder of the weekend there will be breakfast potlucks each morning, a big dinner potluck Saturday night and possibly some educational classes or activities like washer toss but it’s important to remember that all of these activities are your choice.  We have folks who don’t attend any potlucks because they love to cook at the rig, others hate games so they just chat with their neighbors, other are really great at naps or reading.  We have one lady who sets up her sewing machine and makes the loveliest stuff while listening and chatting to whoever is nearby and another who knits socks and visits. Others take day trips on their own or all carpool and go somewhere together.


The important thing to remember if you are new  to FreeWheelers and attending your first outing is that we are happy to meet you, we’re glad you have joined and don’t want you to feel obligated to do anything. We all love to share stories, recipes, repair tips, tools, Band Aids, Aspirin, even urgent trips to the vet with you but most of all we share support for women enjoying RVing often for the fist time in their lives.  We firmly believe in the power of play and the joy of laughter.


And at the end of every FreeWheeler day, we want our members to have the best time ever with your RV in a safe, happy and supportive environment.

We look forward to seeing you at an outing soon!

Registration is now open for Casa de Fruta!

Plan now for a fabulous outing in January – our annual visit to Casa de Fruta!  Our hosts Arleen and Marlene have updated the information about their plans for this outing (it looks fabulous!), and are ready to receive casa de frutayour registration!  Go to the page for this outing where you will see a link to the very easy online registration form as well as a link to download a paper form if you prefer.  You can also go to these pages from the “Future Outings” sidebar menu that shows up on most of the pages of this site!  If you have questions about the outing, there is a handy contact form on the outing page!

December Donation Drive!

Penny Walker has just sent these details about the December outing donation drive!

We are collecting new items for The Sleep Train Foster Kids this December 3-7 at 49er Village RV in Plymouth.   For anyone wishing to participate there will be a table in the clubhouse to place your donations. The foster kids need:

  • New clothes – the children range in age from infants to teenagers. They need jeans, shirts, underwear, sweaters, and socks.
  • New shoes
  • New pajamas
  • School supplies – for children kindergarten to high school. New Crayons, calculators, notebooks, pencils, dictionaries, paper, pens.
  • Secret Santa Toys – New, unwrapped, toys or games

The donations will be taken to The Sleep Train Foster Kids to be distributed where needed.

This information is also posted on the December outing page!

Registration now open for Woodson Bridge Outing!

Just added – registration for the June 4-7 outing at Woodson Bridge in Corning!  You can find the details on here!  The registration deadline is May 24th, so make your plans soon!

There are currently 3 outings that you can register for now!  Here they are!

April 30 – May 3, 2015

Host: Jana Kattenhorn
Location: Lake Pardee
Registration is now open!

June 4-7 2015

Hosts: Sheila Grothe and Jeanne Stevenson
Location: Woodson Bridge RV Park Corning,CA.
Registration is now open!

July 9-12, 2015

Host: Polly Jones
Location: Olema RV Resort
Registration is now open!