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Retirement Tips and RV Stuff Newsletter
Issue 2008.12         Dec 2008
Publisher, Bob Hoffman -
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It's mid-December and I've decided to write one newsletter for the year. As you may recall, my December 2007 newsletter explained my plan for reducing the amount of time I spend writing/typing on newsletters, travel logs, etc. My most recent RV-Blog entry "Closing Out 2008 - How Time Do Fly!" details my plan, how well it worked, and how I'm spending the resulting free time.

So, what's the big news here in December 2008? Well, from my point-of-view it's the problems with the economy, the Iraq war, our new president Obama, and the whole country (and much of the world) watching to see how he's going to handle all these crises. About half the people (Republicans) think there's not a chance he'll succeed and that electing him will be the end of the country. The other half (Democrats) are over-joyed that the Bush years are finally over and have great faith in Obama's ability to straighten out the mess(es) we're in.

From the standpoint of RVers, one of today's major news items is the fact that gas is down to near $1 a gallon. In some areas, it's even below a dollar! And this only a few months after it was hovering around $4 a gallon. I'm amazed and I don't really understand why we are where we are. Some say that the high prices finally convinced many of us to cut back on our driving and consequently our gas purchases, and the gas producers were finally impacted. I'm not sure I believe that. I can't help thinking there are more sinister reasons for the sudden drop.

Whatever the reason, it's really great to be able to fill the RV tank for $50 instead of $200. Now, if we can just figure out a good excuse for another RV trip. I just did an analysis in my Travel Log chapter, "86. PART-TIME RVING IN 2008", where I calculated that I've spent 25%-30% of my time in the RV for the last 5 years. That's probably a little less than I'd like, but certainly better than some other part-time RVers that I know, so I shan't complain. Considering there are about 5 months out of the year that are really too cold (IMHO) to RV anywhere except in Florida, that's really pretty good!

I was just checking my notes on things-to-include-in-my-next-newsletter and .... Lo and Behold! ... I found several that actually pertain to RVing!  ... Do people still say lo and behold? Anyway, read on for some RV tips.

Digital TV (DTV) - Is anybody confused about what's going to happen in February 2009? I am. I've been reading and listening, but I hear conflicting stories. First, I heard if you have cable TV, you're covered because the cable box provides the translation between digital and analog. But, hey! What if I have cable but no cable box? Then, I hear if your TV is digital, you're ok. But, hey! On some digital TVs, they say you'll need a UHF antenna to pick up the UHF channels. Then, they broadcast this "test" on the news that says "if you can see this, you're ok." I know I'm okay on your channel, but what about all the others? Is VHF different from UHF? So, I decided to buy a couple of the converter boxes just in case, then wait to February to see how things really are. I think I'm okay on my home (cable) TVs, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE RV? I think I'll need a converter box (or 2) for them ... not really sure. I got the $40 coupons, bought a couple of converter boxes at $60 at Walmart, and stored them in the RV to wait for February. How about you? Are you ready? Do you care? There are dozens of websites trying to explain this upcoming earth-shaking event, but if you don't have one try Did you know that there are only a limited number of coupons? Did you know that when you get a coupon, it's got a 90-day expiration date? Coupons are free and you get the boxes for $20 instead of $60, so if you need one (or 2) for your RV, you'd better get on it!

Beware of Old New Tires - I read an interesting article recently (probably in Chuck Woodbury's newsletter), accompanied by an online video, that explained how to make sure that those new tires you're paying hundreds of dollars for are ACTUALLY NEW! As it turns out, they may have been sitting on the shelf for several years, which means they could be weathered and dangerous. There's a date on the tire that tells when it was produced. This RV video tells you how to check your tires before you buy them. I checked the tires on our cars and they were okay, but I don't think I've checked the RV yet. After you already have them, it's really too late to check. What are you going to do, go out and spend several hundred more because you don't like the date? I don't think I would. I had two tires last year blow out on my left rear at the same time and they had less than 5000 miles on them. I think they were new ... who knows? All of the tires currently on the RV have run well for about 5-10,000 miles, so I'll assume they're good. If they blow out, then I'll buy more. The thing to do is to watch that video above and write down somewhere how to check the date, then check it the next time you buy tires.

Bridge maintenance - Ever wonder about the condition of bridges along your planned travel route? Check out this website Bridge Tracker for gobs of info about when bridges were last inspected, what their condition is, etc. You put in start city and end city, then it will show you info on all the bridges you're about to cross. It's like the ultimate of not "crossing that bridge when you come to it." Of course, like all things, it's value may be questionable. Under the bridge analysis are links to related articles, including one titled "Ga. employee faked bridge inspections." Not real encouraging.

And, with that, I think I've closed out 2007. Read on for more of my standard newletter info.

Recent Travel: Our most recent RV adventure was a trip to Del Ray Beach for an art show. It's not often that we take a trip for Joyce's business instead of mine, so this was a little different. Stayed at a great park right on a lake, had some great meals on the beach, viewed bunches of great art. and got some fantastic deals on art supplies.

Upcoming Travel: As we did at the end of 2007, we're planning a trip to Ft. Lauderdale for a New Years Day meal of hog jowls, black-eyed peas, cornbread, and much other good stuff. Looking forward to the food and friends we've not seen for about a year.

Read on for notes on my latest site updates, some words about how I'd make some money if you guys would buy something off the website, IOTR News, Art News, and wrapping up with my RAMBLINGS with my usual comparison of where I think the world is at the end of 2008 relative to earlier years.

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- Chapter 86. PART-TIME RVING IN 2008, A quick-look at my year of RVing (and not RVing), plus a couple of road trips.

- Closing Out 2008 - How Time Do Fly!, an entry in my RV Blog, rambling along about what's happened in 2008 and plans for 2009.

- DECEMBER 1958 REVISITED, my reminiscences of 1958, my Junior year in High School, on our 1959 graduating class website.
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- : Travelogue of cousin Bruce's great cross-country Harley road trip.

Below, I've other new websites that I've created during 2008, some for fun, some for business, and even one that's no longer in use:

- : Website selling salvaged parts for old Chris Craft boats.

- : Website selling salvaged parts for Hanomag diesel engines (if you want to know what that means, check the website).

- : As explained in my March newsletter, I created this domain to sell products, then decided not to sell products. Name is currently unused - any ideas?

- : Website for a campground on the beach nearby.

- : Commercial website for a local framing shop.

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Here's a list of some interesting products, some of which will make me a few bucks if you need them and buy them here:

- Camp at Half of What Everyone Else is Paying!  No home park, no monthly maintenance fees, no long-term obligation, just pay the small annual fee and camp for half-price. Check it out here.

- 50+ ways to get to the internet when you're on the road! Read'm at Internet On The Road.

- Amazon Books : Buy from Amazon through this link and I get a couple of bucks  -- Click here to check them out.

- Earn Money While You Camp! Join WiFiRV as an affiliate, either a lead generator (tell us about campgrounds that need WiFi) or a sales representative (assist in the selling of WiFi systems). Go to my Internet On The Road (IOTR) / WiFiRV page to learn how you can earn up to $500 for a few hours work.

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The art business continues. One week, Joyce will be enthusiastic and enjoying the painting, happy with her results, eager to go to the classes and shows, etc. Another week, she'll be not liking any of her work, aggravated with the shows, and ready to quit. I guess these are the phases common to any creative undertaking.

We try to update whenever we can. If you see anything on the site that you'd be interested in buying, email Joyce for info on size, price, etc. Some have that info included and some don't. Also, if you have a topic, pet, or whatever that you'd like an original painting of, just let her know.

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The WiFi business goes on. Like Joyce, I find myself one week pleased with the way things are going and the next week totally discouraged and wondering if all the effort is worth it. I guess these are the phases common to any undertaking related to sales and dealing with the public :)

UPDATE: As of 12/19/2008, I'm no longer associated with WiFiRV. I had several disagreements with the WiFiRV CEO regarding his treatment of WiFi users, park managers, and even his own management team. These mistreatments got to be more than I could tolerate, so I resigned. I'm now looking for other types of money-making ideas related to RV parks and RV travel, if anyone has any suggestions.

I recently saw an article about a product called Wi-Fire that "enables you to access a wireless Internet connection from up to 1,000 feet away." I've never used one, but have seen them talked about positively in the WiFi forums. I still use the Hawkings HWU8DD (see when I find a weak WiFi signal at a campground, but might just buy a Wi-Fire one of these days to try it out. They're priced at $79 on the Wi-Fire website, with $15 refund if you give them your email address.

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In January 2006, I wrote a "reflection" on previous years, based upon what I wrote in my newsletter at the start of 2003, 2004, and 2005.  In January 2007, I again compared my situation to what I wrote about at the start of 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, This year, I'll do it in December, since I doubt there'll be a January newsletter. Maybe I'll make it an annual end-of-year tradition. Ain't that exciting? I find this interesting -- hope you do.

January 2003: I did the newsletter on the 20th .. must have been a busy month. Aaah ... it was my very first newsletter. I had just incorporated Robert Hoffman Consulting, Inc. -- that has turned out to be a great idea. I've managed to have both the company and myself in the zero tax bracket for the last couple of years, thanks to my accountant and favorable tax rules.

January 2004: Newsletter online the 16th ... I had just published Retire and Travel - 20 Years Later and put the ad on my website. I talked about a great discovery - WiFi! haha ... this is when that all started. In Ramblings, I was rejoicing about how the DOW finished above 10,000, the NASDAQ finished above 2000, and our 1994 Lincoln Town Car just turned over 120,000. In January 2006, DOW was still/again just over 10,000, NASDAQ just over 2,000, and the Lincoln was over 126,000. At least my odometer was moving! I commented that I wished the market would. In January 2007, DOW was at 12,463, the NASDAQ was at 2415, and the Town Car was somewhere around 130,000. Now, here we are in December 2008 and I got my wish. The market is really moving ... DOWN! As they say, be careful what you wish for. Today, December 17th, the DOW hovers around 8898 and NASDAQ at 1585. What a bummer! We're all losing our IRAs and 401Ks, with no idea what to do. I've decided to just sit on the little stock that I still own, in hopes that it will come back sometime soon.

I was also complaining in 2004 about how gas prices were expected to hit $3.00 in the summer. By January 2007, things hadn't changed much ... but maybe improving slightly. Regular Unleaded was still as $2.32 or so. In 2008, we saw gas hit $4.00 and higher in some areas, then suddenly drop during the last quarter of the year. Last time I checked, regular in Rockledge is around $1.59 and I've heard it's under a dollar in some areas. What a change!

January 2005: Big news was the devastating Tsunami that had just hit. And, it looks like that was my time for revamping "Revamping this newsletter, my Internet On The Road (IOTR) website, my Poker system, my exercise plan, and whatever else I find in my life that needs revamping." A year later, I no longer talked about my Poker system, since I hadn't ever found any consistent way to win for an extended period. My exercise plan was still a plan. But, I noted that most other things were nicely on track.

January 2006: My main topic was "Happy New Year!", so I guess nothing earth-shaking was on my mind. I was speculating on whether selling the RV or the house would simplify life - then decided on neither. Biggest news in my life was that Al Wulff and I were about to publish our novel "Aliens to Vegas", which we'd abbreviated A2V to be cool. It got published, we sold a few, Al had big plans, but then he had major health problems and passed away in July 2007. I still sell the book, but not nearly as enthusiastically as Al would have.

January 2007: Main topic was "Poker or Newsletter?", indicating an obvious uncertainty as to the value of spending large amounts of time on writing newsletters, etc. That uncertainly continued to bother me, until in December 2007 when I decided to stop writing online altogether unless my audience indicated an interest by buying a few books. I got a little indication of interest, so I'll still write now and then, but not nearly as often as in the past.

Also in January 2007, I note that both the art business and the WiFi business appeared to be gaining momentum. That continues more or less through the current time, with only occasional moments of uncertainty in both areas (as indicated in the Art News and IOTR News sections above).

So that's my exciting comparison of December 2008 to previous end/start of year newsletters. And so ends this year/newsletter.

I hope you find some of my ramblings entertaining, interesting, and/or even possibly of some value. Good luck to all in 2009!

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Permanent Mailing Address: R. Hoffman, 1033 Jacaranda Circle, Rockledge, Florida 32955.
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