Monday, August 10, 2015

Life Gets In The Way

For those of you who follow our blog, you know we had quite the road trip planned from southern Arizona up through California to see the national parks; over to Flaming Gorge in Utah to hang out with some friends; and then over to Colorado to hang out with another friend. All went as planned through March in Needles, CA., when life decided to get in the way of our pursuit of fun! 
It was in our plans to spend a month in Needles and take care of a doctor's appointment and an appointment to get my glasses updated. Ouch! That took a big bite out of our budget!
By the time we left Needles, CA on April 11th, it was getting scary hot living in a camper in the full sun of the Mojave Desert!  We relocated, as per our plan, to Kingman, AZ and up in elevation about 3,000 feet!  While definitely a better temperature, we had some weeks hovering around the 100 degree mark!    
We knew the rearend on the truck was threatening to fail and we decided it was in our best interest to repair it before climbing into higher elevations further west. It was big bucks no matter how we looked at it!  We decided to stay in Kingman for our planned month plus at least another month.   
Since we decided to extend our stay in Kingman, I decided to get in for my yearly dental exam. It wasn't supposed to be anymore than a routine exam, a good dental report, and finished for another year. Two crowns estimated at $1,500 each were not in the plan!!! That's when the nightmare began and I learned the benefit of researching our dental plan! Here's some things I learned that may be of benefit to you, before getting expensive dental procedures done:
1. Choose a dentist that is an in-network provider. In our case, that is Delta Dental. The insurance company caps how much an in-network dentist is allowed to charge for a procedure and the difference can be substantial. On a $1,250 dentist submitted fee, the insurance capped the fee at $74l.00. The dentist has to write the difference off and the percentage the insurance will pay is figured against the allowed amount. In this instance my insurance figured 75% of $74l.00, leaving me to pay only $185.25!!!  
2. Get a predetermination before a big procedure no matter how much the dental office discourages you from doing so and don't let them entice you into taking an appointment prior to getting it! I encountered both situations and to be honest just got lucky on how it turned out! Here is why you want to wait. The staff presented me with two options for the crowns on my two molars. I could choose porcelain or gold for the same dental fee. The dental office didn't advise me either way in regards to my insurance. The difference, I luckily discovered in time, was that the insurance will pay nothing on a porcelain crown when placed on a back tooth, but will pay 75% on what was referred to as "high noble metal." OMG!!! No difference in what the dentist was going to charge, but a huge difference for our out of pocket expense!
3. I also learned that our insurance has an allotment amount for the year. Each amount the insurance pays goes towards the build-up to this allotment. Once the allotment for the year is met, your insurance no longer will pay anything! You do, however, continue to get the reduced fees set for using an in-network dentist.
4. There isn't a time limit between getting a core build-up for a crown and getting the crown made and mounted, at least with our insurance plan. The core build-up in my case was replacing all the old filling on a molar, so that an existing cavity wouldn't progress into the root and create the need for a root canal later. The tooth wasn't shaped and a mold wasn't made for the future crown. I will return to a dentist when my insurance renews in January for the second crown. I had to negotiate this process with the dentist based on an understanding of my insurance.      
It seemed that life had a plan to teach us to live on faith, when large financial expenses kept coming our way! In the midst of the expensive truck repair and expensive dental procedures, my computer decided to crash! Roy and I probably could have scraped by sharing one, except for the extensive time I spend on the computer volunteering via the Internet for the Chippewa County Animal Shelter in Sault Sainte Marie, MI.  I volunteered hands-on for 5 years prior to our going on the road and have volunteered 5 years while traveling! I got a pleasant surprise when the shelter manager offered to purchase me a computer, as a show of appreciation for my years of service!
As if we didn't have enough financial trials, the refrigerator decided it might quit. It was understandable, but not the best timing! The camper, while purchased new in 1994, is now 21 years old! Roy scoured the internet for repair advice and found a friendly local repairman willing to give advice. We questioned how much the hot Summer sun baking down one side of the camper in the morning and the other side in the afternoon was playing in the refrigerator's struggle.  Our awning had decided it was done, too!  The intensity of the heat was such that the window blinds had to be supplemented with reflective insulation or layered heat deterring curtains! We later learned our neighbor was also having refrigerator issues. In Roy's search for repair information, he found that the cold in the refrigerator section comes down from the freezer compartment. He was able to keep the refrigeration temperature acceptable by putting dry ice in the freezer. As the outside temperatures dropped, the refrigerator began working without the support of dry ice. Roy found through his local and online research that if the refrigerator ends up needing replaced that it will be best to get it online. We'll get a better price and the exact model needed to slide into the existing built in location. Another high dollar item staved off, if only for awhile!   
Prior to the unplanned expenses I had hoped to do some inside fix-up by replacing our blinds throughout. That didn't come to pass, as the camper's electrical converter decided to quit and the battery, too. There went another $300 or more! Getting the converter online was the best price and also best for getting exactly what was needed for sliding into the existing built in compartment.  
Generally we vaccinate our cats against upper respiratory infections and our dogs against parvo quite cheaply by purchasing the vaccines at Tractor Supply and administering them ourselves. The dogs were needing their rabies vaccines updated and to be valid for legal purposes rabies vaccines have to be administered by a vet. We were pleased to find that Kingman's Tractor Supply has a once a month vaccine clinic operated by a vet and his assistants. We were able to get both our dogs rabies vaccines for a total cost of $36.00!  Other vaccines were available, too. We'll make a point of checking for low cost vaccine clinics through Tractor Supply in the future!
We financially survived our four months of taking care of life's not fun issues, but not without mentally being thoroughly exhausted!  I found planning our national park trip, which entails short term stays, high tourist area prices, crowds, and other logistics to be quite stressful with an already overworked brain!  We realized we were planning to go from four months of stress into a high energy and stress filled road trip!  We decided low-key is what we truly need!
We have decided for our August 11th departure to head for Prescott, AZ!  That will take us up in elevation another couple thousand feet and possibly some cooler weather. Prescott has four lakes, lots of pine trees, numerous bars on historic Whiskey Row, and a massage school clinic!  Now we're talkin'!  We'll kick back for a month and decide where to go from there.  That's the beauty of!