Part 1, Iceland 4×4 rough roading tour…A geothermal hot bed…

We apologize for the poor quality of today’s and tomorrow photos of Iceland. It was pouring rain, the windows in the vehicle were fogged up on the inside and rainy on the outside. 

The highlight of the day was when the driver took us through the river traversing back and forth, water splashing up the sides and even the truck. It was a rough ride but fun, none the less. I couldn’t take a photo of the water splashing, which wasn’t visible with the windows closed. I quickly took this shot out the window when he stopped for a moment. We were deep in the river at points. Bouncy!
This was the 4×4 vehicle we used on the off-road tour of Iceland. Excuse the black lines on the edges. It was raining so hard the automatic lens cover got wet and wouldn’t fully open.
As we drove away from the port we spotted this KFC sign which read, “Svoogott.” Could that translate to “so good?

It was hard to believe that nine seniors, some older than us, decided to partake in the 4×4 off-road rough riding excursion up the high volcanic hills of Iceland.

Few trees grow in Iceland, most of which were destroyed during volcanic activity millennium ago.
Iceland felt barren in parts.  We could only imagine what winter would be like.  No thanks.

The vehicle, a souped-up combination of a Ford F350 with the back portion welded together with a Ford Excursion. The tires were huge with a “lift kit” making the vehicle so high, it was challenging for some passengers to get up and into.  

The view of Reykjavik from atop a high hill that we reached off-road. Lots of bouncing!
Another view of Reykjavik in the rain, fog, and clouds.
Final view of Reykjavik from our high vantage point.

Of course, after all of our various physical challenges these past few years it was a breeze for us. The idea of bouncing in the vehicle for three and a half hours didn’t intimate us after the roads in Africa including off-road riding on safari. 

It was raining hard when we took this photo of three fat or fluffy sheep.
Had it been a sunny day, a rarity in Iceland. It is clear or mostly clear only 14% of the days year-round. For the weather in Iceland, please click here.
Geothermal activity in Iceland is unbelievable. See this link for more information. The country/island of Iceland uses this energy to heat their homes and as a source of power in many other aspects.

It was pouring rain when we took off, the nine of us and guide/driver, a tall, fit 20-something, good looking Icelandic man with good English and thick accent. He shared many stories about Iceland with us including the fact that the island is a geothermal hot spot, considering the world’s most active volcano lies therein.

In many areas, the steam rose from the ground due to the activity of the tectonic plates. Overall, Iceland is an island where earthquakes and volcano eruptions are expected.
Evidence of volcanic activity is everywhere in the terrain.
Many of the hills are covered in green vegetation in summer and snow in the winters.

I’d had some preposterous notion that we’d see the volcano but it was too far away and the government wasn’t allowing anyone near it. It could erupt at any moment decimating miles of life in its path.

I asked the driver/guide to stop the vehicle for photos of Icelandic horses. They have short legs and a gentle disposition. No other types of horses are allowed on the island to avoid disrupting the purity of the species. Once an Icelandic horse leaves Iceland, it can never return.
Please click here for more information on Icelandic horses.

Had it not been pouring rain and so cold, we’d have more enjoyed this experience. The windows were fogged so badly it was nearly impossible to see the sites he pointed out as we drove off-road to various points of interest.  

After the first few hours on the tour, we stopped at a local shop for a break. These light fixtures are certainly appropriate for Iceland.
I caught Tom off guard at the shop. He was actually very cheerful.
Us girls are picky about the photos we share. Had Tom not badgered me, I wouldn’t have posted this one.

I was frustrated when I couldn’t take good photos while hindered by the fogged up windows on the inside and rain on the outside. On a few occasions, in desperation, I opened the window for less than 30 seconds to take a shot, aware that the people behind us were annoyed by the draft. 

While we were in the river. This reminded us of crossing over rivers and creeks when to rode from the Masai Mara in Kenya to Tanzania to see the tail end of the Great Migration a year ago October.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with photos of downtown Reykjavik and interesting landmarks that surprised us.

While we were moving fast on the river after Tom wiped off the window for me.
For a minute we were on land only to return to the river a moment later.
After we left the river, we headed back to the highway to return to Reykjavik. Tomorrow, we’ll share better photos of the city.

Photo from one year ago today, September 9, 2013:

Dining out at Sails Restaurant in Diani Beach, Kenya. This platter was for Tom only. For details of the date, please click here.

Logistics of the final days…

Our estate sale will occur from Thursday, October 25th through Sunday, October 28th. Our estate sale guy, Jim Anderson of Caring Estate Sales explained that we must be gone for those four days.  

He’ll start pricing items a week before the sale officially begins.  At that point, we must have all of our personal effects and items we want to keep, out of the cabinets, drawers, cabinets and off of the walls and a week later, out of the house.

In regard to most estate sales the homeowner is dead, obviously not around, pestering with comments such as, “Oh, that’s not enough money for that!”  We must be out of the house the entire four days of the sale.  

Dilemma #1:  Where will I go for those four days with no car (mine will have been sold)?  Tom will be at work during the hours of the sale.

When the sale is complete on Sunday, October 28th,  Tom has to go to work three more days, planning to be done by 9 am on Wednesday, the 31st where he’ll go to work only to receive his “retirement cake” a tradition at the railroad for all retirees.  (I guess he’ll eat gluten that day.  Oh, well. After 42 years he deserves to eat cake).  

End result, we need to stop using our house as we’ve known it around October 18th.  We’ll be able to use the built in appliances to cook and a few old pans, plates and flatware that we don’t plan to sell, tossing them when we’re done.  

Dilemma #2: Do we stay in the house (after I find somewhere to go for the four days) until the 31st when Tom’s work ends, at which point we sign the papers on the house and begin the drive in Tom’s car to Scottsdale? Do we live in the house after everything is gone, TVs, our two comfy chairs, sofas, bar stools at the huge island in the kitchen?  How will it feel to watch everything we’ve loved and enjoyed dwindle down to a bed in which we’ll fitfully sleep until we leave?

Our dear neighbor Jamie kindly suggested I hang out at her house for those four days. (Our three adult kids have cats to which I am allergic. I can’t spend more than an hour in their homes  plus I won’t have transportation). How will I feel watching the cars driving down our narrow road toward our home, later driving away with our belongings in their cars, trucks, and SUVs?  Yikes!

Yesterday morning, thinking aloud to one another, we considered the following realities:

  1. I won’t have transportation
  2. The four days of the estate sale, we’ll have to be out of the house by 7 am each morning, most difficult on the weekend when we are both here. What will we do all weekend from 7 am to 5 pm?
  3. How will we live in our house, stripped of all its accouterments, with only a bed for several days, no chair, no sofa, no table?
After multiple possible scenarios we narrowed it down to this:  We must entirely move out of the house beginning Wednesday, October 24th, coming back to inspect the status, make decisions on remaining items and collect our money.

The estate sale guy will remove all refuse, haul items to be donated to various organizations and our dear long term house cleaner, Teresa, will do the final cleaning.  We’ll pay fees for this additional support, but have determined it will be well worth the cost, reducing our stress at such a crucial time.

Sure, we could stay in a hotel for a week. Used to the reasonable cost of vacation rentals, I cringed at the price of a decent hotel, a car rental (or I’d be trapped in a hotel room for a week) and meals for a week at a total cost of around $1500, a cost for which I hadn’t budgeted.  

One of my closest friends has offered that we stay at her beautiful and spacious home, a mere 15 minutes away, an offer made with the utmost of sincerity.  Tom and I adore her and her two sons and have been to their home many times, as they have ours.  It will feel comfortable.  They eat the same healthful diet as we do.  I can prepare dinner for all of us each day.

Alone at her home during the days, I will work out when Tom returns when we go to see the house in the evenings during the sale. My laptop on hand, I’ll continue to write here, do additional research for our travels and fine tune our spreadsheets. It will be fine. Thank you, dear friend.

On Saturday afternoon the 27th, we’ll head out for the hour’s drive to Tom’s retirement party for his co-workers and family members, close to his work at a large hall. Youngest of 11 children, his family alone will account for over 100 guests. Add 42 years of co-worker/friends, we could be looking at 100’s. Oh.

Busy planning the food, the invitations, the cake and other necessities of party planning, need I say, life is busy. It’s no doubt, that we’ll need a multi-year vacation!

First aid in the world…

Soon it will be too late to order any further supplies for our journey.  Many items (always new, unopened and unused) come from all over the world often requiring four to six weeks delivery time.  

As of this coming upcoming Wednesday, we’ll leave Minnesota on Halloween, in exactly six weeks. We won’t be able to conveniently receive packages after we leave. (More on receiving mail next month).

As a result of these time constraints, my thoughts went into full gear, reviewing every item we are packing in addition to our completed wardrobes, to analyze if there are any items we may need.

A month ago while cleaning cupboards and drawers, I started gathering first aid items, creating a homemade “kit” placing everything in a sturdy plastic bag: Band-aids, sterile pads and gauze, antibiotic cream, hydrogen peroxide, liquid bandage, ace bandage, knee supporter, shoulder sling, temporary ice packs and a heating pad.  

Let’s face it, those of us folks over 60 may have aches and pains from time to time. Adding some Aleve, Tylenol, and Motrin to our kit made it feel complete.  

The first aid kit securely packed in an orange Antler bag, (we paid $111 each a few months ago. Note price increase), I felt confident that any additional items we may need most likely could be purchased at any nearby grocery store or pharmacy.  

Why bring all of these items when we could purchase them in any country? Simply for economic reasons. While living in the 17th century renovated farmhouse in Tuscany all next summer we’ll be renting a car from time to time.  
Daily, we’ll walk to the open market for items for dinner, a bouquet of flowers or a bottle of wine. Perhaps once a week, we’ll rent a car for a day or two to drive the five miles to a grocery store, take a drive to explore the area and dine at a recommended restaurant.  

Upon returning the rental car, we’ll travel on foot until the next week, perhaps going on a local daily four mile walking tour of historical homes and buildings.

Cooking dinner with the farm fresh ingredients, let’s say I cut my finger, not requiring stitches, a common occurrence in our kitchen. The first aid kit prevents the cost of a cab, the inflated price at the pharmacy for supplies and, peace of mind.  

The achy knee, the pinched shoulder, so familiar in our day-to-day lives, are easily treated at home with our own supplies and over-the-counter products.  

With one third of our time on cruises during the first five months, these items may come in handy.  Have you ever seen a final bill on a cruise after a trip to the medical clinic for a minor injury?  A cut finger, antibiotic cream and a bandage  from a visit with the nurse or doctor, may result in a $300 bill. That’s one expensive Band-aid!

Over the past month additional thoughts for preparedness of the kit kept popping into my mind eventually driving me back to  

Here are the items we added to the kit. (Amazon prevents easy “copy and paste” features of their items.  Please excuse the formatting).

Recapit No Mix Cement, Maximum Strength, 1 g.
Imagine the benefit of having this product hand when hesitant to see a dentist in a remote area!

Dental Tarter Scraper and Remover Set, SS

by Osung

Price: $43.95
Sale: $31.95
You Save: $12.00 (27%)
Dental Tarter Scraper and Remover Set, SS
With the help of an online training program
we’ll learn how to perform basis teeth cleaning procedures until our next dental appointment.


Recapit No Mix Cement, Maximum Strength, 1 g.

Price: $4.65 ($2.91 / oz)
3M Steri Strip Skin Closures 1/4'' X 3'' - 10 Packages of 3
Imagine the benefit of having this product on hand
when cut is deep but not requiring stitches.

3M Steri Strip Skin Closures 1/4” X 3” – 10 Packages of 3 By STERI
4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (33 customer reviews) | Like

Price: $6.75


Certainly, most doctors or dentists would cringe at our planned self-treatment.  We understand the risks.  Our goal will always be to put safety first, never taking outrageous risks with our lives of limbs.

Part of the magic of our adventure is to go where we want to go, that is safe for travelers; when we want to go, within the confines of our rental agreements and transportation schedules; continue on as long as we mutually desire, and for as long as our health allows.

Freedom…with certain reasonable constraints.  Nonetheless…freedom. 

Life is never risk free..

What were our motives for starting a blog about “leaving” seven months before we are actually “leaving?”  In my mind the intent has been simple, document the process as a means of lessening the emotional blow.

Almost to the day, a year prior to starting this blog, I wrote my first blog, an accounting of the last days of the life of our precious little dog, WorldWideWillie, written from his perspective, followed by me, after he passed. 

Much to my surprise, we had over 500 followers with no marketing, no advertising, no promotion, other than by my own comment to a few friends and a few references in own poorly maintained meager Facebook account.  

Somehow, people were reading it across the seas.  Perhaps, key words. Perhaps, one person in the US, sent the link across the world to a grieving relative having recently lost their own beloved pet.

What did this accomplish for us?  Lots of tears each day as I read aloud to Tom, “what Willie wrote” as he sat at our side, nose touching my leg, tilting his little head each time he heard familiar words of which he knew so many.  

But, most of all, it was a vital part of the healing process. I love dogs. I love dogs too much, too deep, the same as with people. In time, through the words, the healing entered our hearts as we began to talk about him without crying (still do sometimes). And, I stopped counting on my fingers how many days, weeks and months had passed since he left us.

And now, this time, this blog, 1000’s, not 100’s of readers, all over the world are sharing this experience with us.  Thank you, readers.  Thank you so much for coming on this journey with us, even now at this early date, three months away.  

Most of you silently observe, some with disdain, some vicariously, some with curiosity and some, like me when reading other’s blogs, hoping to glean a tiny morsel that will somehow change our lives.

This is not just a blog about two crazy retirees traveling the world for what may prove to be many years. It is also about leaving everyone we love, everything we have loved, the familiarity of a comfortable life and all of our worldly possessions, not contained in four over-stuffed suitcases and two carry on bags.   

Writing this blog has the same powerful healing effect that we encountered when writing about Willie.  Plus, it serves as a powerful reminder of that which we have learned along the way, to reference the multitude of tasks to do now and into the future.

We “heard” through the grapevine that some people think we have no idea of what we are doing and that “we are in for some big surprises.”  Yes, we surely are!

Did the senior know what he was doing when he jumped out of an airplane for the first time on his 90th birthday? No. He took the risk for the adventure.

After 100’s of hours of research we both feel we know the risks: death due to injury; crime or illness; illness or injury requiring an expensive (although insured) trip back to US; being a victim of a crime; theft of our belongings (which will also be insured); theft of our deposit or the property not being as expected or represented; unable to obtain a visa or gain entrance into a country; being stuck in airport or on the tarmac for days; cancellation of a cruise at the last minute due to maintenance issues of bomb threat; a cruise ship tipping over; false imprisonment (we won’t knowingly commit a crime!) and more.

What if a warthog cuts us with his sharp tusks?  Or we step on a snake resulting in a life threatening bite? Or a creepy worm makes its way into the bottom of our foot to travel to our brain? Yuck!

When we read the newspaper or watch the news each day, all of these risks occur throughout the world and also, here in the US.  Seniors fall down a flight of stairs in their own homes, resulting in horrible injury or death. Food poisoning occurs in our local restaurants.  Pins are found in a sandwich on a domestic flight. Citizens are shot and killed in their own homes, as an unintended victim of violence.

Good grief!  We could spend our lives immobilized by fears, a slave to our own environment.  Or, we can venture out performing everyday tasks, enjoying our families, our friends, Mother Nature, our work and our hobbies, all of which are laden with a certain degree of risk.

Life is not without risk.  Do we “prepare for the worst and expect the best?”  

No. We choose to be as educated as we possibly can about the risks, proceed with caution along the way, avoid risk and pray for a little good luck.  And, as life has its ups and downs along the way, as it surely will, we will holster our usual optimism hopefully discovering a logical solution together.

We’ve never done this before. This is not the same as traveling for a month or two, returning “home” to repack, paying the bills, reading the mail and visiting with our family and friends.  There will be no “home” to return to.

The message is clear in the old adage, “home is where the heart is”. This will become our motto. After all, we are taking our “home” with us not only in our hearts and minds, but also in each other.

Luggage carts…practical or foolish?…

We deliberated over buying luggage carts. Would they simply add additional weight to haul around the world?  Would we be charged extra baggage fees to store them on the plane?  Would they serve as a invaluable resource to make the transportation from location to location more manageable?

After spending several hours researching baggage restriction on flights and after analyzing and weighing our load, thus far, we came to the conclusion that we must take the risk and buy the carts.  Restrictions on cruises are only a “per bag” limit weight of 70 pounds to avoid injuries to their handlers. There are no restrictions on the number of bags on cruises.

What if we could place each of our two 50 pound suitcases, our 40 pound carry on bags, our computer gear and my handbag on each of our carts? (No money, passports or important papers will be in my handbag. The allowed space for handbags will be utilized for clothing, shoes, etc.)  Important items will be tucked away in our carry on bags with an exterior zippered pouch for our easy access to our travel documents.  Our wallets will be secured under our clothing. 

We purchased two of these luggage carts each with a
250 pound capacity at Global Industries

The potential total weight for each of our luggage carts is anticipated to be approximately 180 pounds, an amount impossible to wheel and carry at one time without a cart.  Buying a cart with a capacity of 250 pounds would ensure a more stable structure, enabling each of us to be able to wheel our own carts.

Our cart, folded for easy placement under the seat on an airplane

Researching airline baggage restriction, we found that most airlines will allow any wheeling or carrying devices aboard as long as it will fit under the seat. After investigating the folded up size of the carts we chose and the size of the space under the seats on most aircraft, we determined that the carts will fit.

The thought of easily wheeling our bags to cruise ships, through airports, on trains, ferries and in and out of our vacation homes, provides a great sense of relief. Recently, some family, friends and followers of this blog have asked why we don’t just throw some stuff in a suitcase and take off without all this planning.

In our minds, the answer is clear. Most people, when traveling for a few weeks or months have a home to which they return to at the end of their travels. We won’t.  We will continue on. Since we aren’t considering this a “vacation” but rather “living” (as Tom describes it), we need to bring things with us that we need, want and use.

Under no circumstances, do we want the burden of finding a mall, a drugstore, or a post office. Neither of us enjoys going to stores, although I enjoy grocery shopping which we will obviously need to do wherever we go. Whether an outdoor farmer’s market or a tiny little shop on a corner, we will enjoy shopping for local meats and produce.

Neither Tom nor I would enjoy wearing the same items day after day. We tend to wear an item once and then wash it, sloppy that we both are when dining (mostly me)! We make a point of trying to look nice for each other.  It’s a part of the attraction we both fell for each other so many years later; fresh smelling, clean, attractive clothes, well groomed, and for me; some makeup, earrings, manicured nails and polished toes (I have always done these myself). 

Currently, through instructions online for how to cut a man’s hair, I will strive to cut Tom’s hair to his liking. We don’t want to have to spend time looking for a barber or Tom feeling frustrated with a peculiar cut. A few nights ago, I suggested that he grow a beard and a wear a ponytail. Here again, he wants to be “himself” and wasn’t interested. We’ll figure this out together.
None of our quirky traits will change when we’re traveling the world or when and if we ever settle down. It is part of who we are individually and, as a couple. For us, it is a part of the magic. (We accept that we are giving up so much to gain this experience together; seeing our loved ones, drinking coffee, enjoying familiar foods, my kitchen gadgets, watching US TV, reading the newspaper, our home, our friends and neighbors, the 4th of July, having a dog, access to a health club, and on and on.

Thus, this reality adds greatly to the packing. There’s “stuff” associated with feeling “put together.” We are willing to bear the consequences of our picky choices, by wheeling our carts, paying extra for baggage on the fewer flights we’ll experience and for packing and unpacking the “stuff” each time we reach a destination.

This weekend we’ll load up the carts with the two already pack bags, adding several more items to get the feel of wheeling around 180 pounds. If it doesn’t feel great, I will up the weights at my workouts and build more muscle.

After all, we still have three months and six days until we walk out the door!

Bite sized pieces….

My feet hitting the floor at 5:40 am, a surge of energy running through me, I rushed around the house performing the morning’s usual tasks.  

The bath water ran while I turned on the teapot, emptied the dishwasher, threw the sheets in the wash, folded a load of laundry, checked my email and looked in refrigerator contemplating tonight’s dinner.  

The tub was full. Time to get ready for the day. Having worked for 45 years, I can put myself together in 20 minutes, providing I don’t get distracted stopping to watch the news story of the day on the TV in our room.
By the time I got the sheets into the dryer for the 70 minute cycle, I found myself walking in circles around the house, my eyes scanning the cupboards, the drawers, the closets, filled with the “things” of our lives, yet to be tackled.  I felt my heart race; a little bit of fear, a little bit of angst, a tinge of sorrow. 

Letting go? Letting go. Day by day. “Bite sized pieces” keeps running through my mind, the words I used daily to remind my precious sister Julie to hang on as she went through lengthy and agonizing breast cancer treatment about 4 years ago. She survived, thank God, with  a level of grace that I so admired and with a hope for the future, that has proven to serve her well.
Of course, there is no comparison with these life events, but the simplicity of thinking in terms of “bite sized pieces” has a magical way of putting our apprehension and fear in perspective, allowing us each day to bite off a little piece of the challenge while continuing to deal with it, day after day. 

I keep reminding myself of the upcoming sense of freedom and adventure facing us.  But now, with 3 months and 23 days to go, the reality of the looming tasks, many of which are too soon to complete now, I could easily  throw myself into a tailspin.  
Taking a deep breath, I don’t choose the tailspin, thinking, “What can I bite off today to lighten the load?”

We have found as we age, our ability to handle challenges changes. Somewhere along the way, both Tom and I have accepted that emotional upheaval is pointless, “drama” is used to elicit a response from others, stress is damaging to one’s health, and loud vocalization (yelling) to those you love (or not) doesn’t solve problems but creates them. Again, simple, again magical with the ultimate goal of contentment, entirely attainable, not at all elusive.

At 8:30 am, I packed up our six year old grandson Vincent, driving him to Gale Woods Farm for his second of five days in “farm camp” a short jaunt from our home. Three hours later, having completed multiple errands, I returned home, feeling a sense of accomplishment for having taken several “bite sized pieces” out of the daunting tasks that are looming. Walking into the familiar smells in our home; remnants of last night’s dinner along with the orange organic cleaner I used this morning to clean the kitchen, a wave of accomplishment washed over me.In only a few short months this life as we’ve known it, will be over with a new life to begin its place. We’ll continue to take “bite sized pieces” with contentment, joy and wonder as our ultimate goal.

Looking around the house at the cupboards, the drawers, the closets and the “things” I knew it will all get done and, it will all be OK.

The continuing prescriptions saga…

On May 17, 2012, I posted concerns about our prescription refills when we are out of the US. As is the case with most insurance plans, the servicing mail-order pharmacy will not send more than three month’s of medications at any time.

Writing that post prompted me to contact the mail order pharmacy to request an exception, due to our unusual circumstances of our being out of the country for years as opposed to months.

Here was the conversation with them: 

“We’d like to request that we receive 12 months of prescriptions in October 2012 before we depart for our journey. A year later, we will ensure we are at a location with an address and have you mail them to us for another year. Our doctor has approved this.”

“Oh, we don’t send the prescriptions outside of the US,” he said with authority in his voice.

Hum…I mused to myself. My choice was either to alienate him by complaining about their policy which was surely futile or, give him a proposal. Here’s what I proposed:

“Sir, we will be getting a new address in the US when we establish residency in another state in December 2012.  Also, we will be obtaining the services of mail handling company in the same state.  Could you send the prescriptions, 12 months at a time, directly to that address?”

“Gee, I don’t know,” he quips, question marks flying around his head.

“Can you find out?”  I asked.  This was like pulling teeth!

“Uh, yea. Can you hold?”  The authority was gone from his voice.

On hold for 15 minutes, he returns with his answers. “Thank you for holding. We’ll be sending you forms in the (snail) mail with instructions.” 

“Oh, I have poor handwriting (true).  Can you email them to me or are they available online?”  I asked with the utmost of sincerity.

“No, they have to be snail mailed and completed by hand,” he says, sounding annoyed with me.

Good grief! Where’s my old typewriter?

Within days of my inquiry, we received a packet of complicated forms, stating not only our standard identification information (OK, I get this) including every word on our ID cards (they have this). We were asked to list one prescription per page, reasons for the prescriptions, how long we’d had the illness, the diagnosis and the prescribing physician’s information.  

With our regular daily prescriptions plus an additional prescriptions for preventive and emergency travel conditions, this would result in completing 20 pages!  It would take days.  

Yes, I could manually enter the repeated information, for example; ID information, addresses and prescribing physician information, etc. and then proceed to copy and print the 20 pages, subsequently, manually entering the requested lengthy medical information.  This still would take days!

Yesterday, I called asking to speak to a supervisor, asking that our conversation be recorded (it was) and documented (hopefully, it was) and here was my proposal:
1. Complete one page with the pertinent basic information.
2. Print all of our prescriptions directly out of their system. (They could have done this!)
3. Write a letter, signed by both Tom and I, explaining our circumstances, reasons for the request, including our itinerary for the next 949 days thus far.
4.  Staple this together.
5.  Snail mail.

The supervisor agreed to my proposal.  I reminded him to post it in the system as to his agreement with my proposal.  Otherwise, they will receive the packet, send it back to me, complaining I didn’t fill it out correctly and this entire process would begin again.  Of course, I made copies of everything.

Does this scenario sound familiar?   I’ll keep you posted on the end result.