T minus one month: Retirement Day

On Monday, I turned off the lights in my office and left the building to begin my retirement and to start our Excellent Adventure.  The last month has been filled with daily conversation with my colleagues about retirement.  Are you counting the days?  I’m so jealous!  What will we do without you?  Who’s replacing you? Where am I going to get that schedule you always do for me?  Would you like a piece of cake?

So I said goodbye to UCSF.  And to many good friends I met along the way.

I’ll be riding for a cause! Actually, two.

I hope that my blog will be interesting for all of my friends.  Maybe it will be an incentive for you to start an adventure of your own!  One thing I will be mentioning from time to time will be a couple of causes that I want to encourage you to support.

First, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.   I’ve been supporting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for several years, through Team in Training.   With fellow bicyclists, some of whom are cancer survivors, we raise money to help fund research to find cures and treatments for blood cancers.   I have close family members and friends who are living with these diseases now.  Luckily the treatments are making huge progress toward cures.  Please help me  by  donating here.

Second, I’ll be mounting a campaign for UCSF.  More on that later!

The Bicycle Adventure Adds a Camper

I hadn’t really expected that Stephanie would want to come with me on this trip.  She had said from time to time that she could drive the minivan and support me or the group I was riding with, but I never counted on that.  I couldn’t expect her to plan such an effort around my dream.  When you’re driving, a trip across the country in 50 to 100 mile increments could be tortuously slow.  And being available to rescue me if I crash or honk or just run out of water on a hot day seems like an imposition on what could be a nice vacation.  And she’d have to take time off from work, or retire or find a new job, too.  No, I’d just have to expect to find a group to ride with, or go it alone with a credit card and hotels and campgrounds.

But I’ll be damned.  She’s as excited as I am.  And what was going to be a lonely, long bike ride is now going to be a family adventure.  It turns out that Stephanie loves road trips, with fond memories of her childhood, when her family would pull a pop-up tent trailer or cram into an Itasca RV, camping in National Parks.  She was ready to do this again, with the dogs along for the adventure.  So now we can have a bike trip for me, and a camping trip for all of us.  We’ll see some National Parks, small town America, and family and friends along the way.

So one day Stephanie says we should go to the RV show in Pleasanton to look at campers.  OK, we’ll look at the pop-up trailers and plan to pull it behind the car.  But it turns out we found other much more appealing (though more expensive) options.  As we looked at the pop-up and small trailers, they started looking small and cramped for a 90-day trip.  And the RV show presented a wealth of options.   We learned about class B RVs (converted van chassis sleeping 2 or 3 people that could get about 18 miles to the gallon), Class C RVs (heavy duty pickup chassis with room for a bed over the cab), and class A motor homes (buses that could be fantastically appointed the be a home away from home, or a rock band tour bus, with multiple bedrooms and electronics).  We asked about renting an RV for the trip, and realized that rental plans for that long are very expensive.   We still needed something small and maneuverable, because we could be driving every day to new locations.  And as we started looking at the  class B RVs, we began to appreciate the potential of just driving into a campground and parking without any setup time, with a shower if we needed it, heat and air conditioning for intemperate days and nights, and even TV and WiFi at times.  Some people tow cars behind their RVs so they can park the behemoth in the campground and use the car to go into town or tour nearby destinations, but the class B vehicles were small enough to drive around and park in town.  We wouldn’t need to bring a car.

Among the Class B  vehicles, a couple of manufacturers stood out as having well-built and attractive products.  We didn’t like the boxes on wheels— some of them looked like they should have big “Rent Me” signs plastered on them, or they looked like corrugated sheet-metal boxes on wheels.  We were quickly impressed, though, with the Unity RV made by Leisure Travel Vans up in Manitoba, Canada.  It had an stylish exterior design—not a box, and the interior was well-conceived with quality materials.  It was on a Mercedes Sprinter chassis, which is bigger than a standard van and provided us with a sense of quality.  So it’s a little bigger than a typical Class B vehicle, but not as big as a class C.  See the salesman calls it a “class b+”.  So here is what it’s going to look like:


So we will be part of the #vanlife movement!

Route Update

I’ve decided to devote about 90 days to the Excellent Adventure.  The end of the ride drives the entire schedule.  The end of the ride will be the Downs Family Vacation in Virginia Beach in August, 2019.  So allowing for rest days and days to enjoy ourselves across the country, we’ll allow for about 60 days of riding over a period of 90 days.  So the start date is now about May 1, and we’ll cut the southern loop in favor of a trip through Pittsburgh, PA through the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal towpath to Washington DC before heading down to the Virginia coast.  Here’s the route from RidewithGPS:

Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 8.17.26 PM

It’s time for an adventure!

Beginning life’s next chapter

Welcome to my blog! For years, I’ve been hearing about how I need to build my brand, get my name out there, become a sought-after expert in my field. You gotta be a blogger! they say. Why look at the woman in Julie and Julia who cooked through that cookbook and wrote a blog that became a big movie, or those kids who review tech gear and get a ton of free stuff, or who write about their clothes and end up guest-judging Project Runway! You need to be up on social media, link your blog to twitter and instagram posts!

Nah, I’m good. I’m happy being an accountant.


Well, OK, I’m not really an accountant, I’m an accounting manager. (OK I have you now. It’s awesome.) It’s been my life now for about 40 years. Financial statements, internal controls, general ledger systems, management reports. I’ve helped a few organizations get their act together, and some of it has been very rewarding, especially when your customers understand your value and appreciate how smart you have to be to do this stuff.

So I’m a finance guy, but what else am I? Ever since I went to business school, I’ve seen life happening after I leave the office. That’s when I spend time with my wife and the dogs, teach myself guitar, act in community theater, work at a potter’s wheel, ride my bike, enjoy my kids, plant the garden. OK, I’m not an extrovert, but I enjoy music and the arts, and I’m looking forward to having time someday to spend more time with friends who like these things too. I’m looking forward to playing with grandkids, getting better at music, seeing the world.

When is that time going to come? Soon, I’ll be closing my office door for good and allow that time after work to become my full-time life. I can retire! Hey, maybe I can also join AARP, write cranky letters to the editor, tell the kids next door how everything’s gone to hell because of Facebook.

But then there’s the thing with the bucket list. At my age, I’m beginning to see some of my old friends kick that bucket, and I’m more aware of how mortality can happen fast. Already, my parts are getting rusty. So I’ve got to get through that bucket list soon. Luckily, my bucket list is short:

A coast to coast bike ride.
Oh, and a blog about it.

Stephanie says she’ll go with me in an RV with the dogs. It’s going to be so cool. I’m looking forward to all the small towns and national parks, meeting new people in coffee shops and bike stores, stopping to see old friends along the way. I’m looking forward to sharing the experience, too. We’ll see if I get more that 5 people to read this thing by the time I’m done.

Retirement in thirteen months. That’s enough time to get it together, don’t you think?