Thursday, May 30, 2019

Our First day in Florida Was a Test of Our Resolve

I am writing this from beautiful Miami Beach, Florida. We are enjoying the hospitality of our friend Doyle, who has allowed us to stay in his condo while we look at boats and try to decide if we will buy a sailboat or not.

The amazing view from the condo in Miami Beach
We were concerned when we arrived at the Springfield Airport. There were thunderstorms in the area and other flights were delayed or cancelled. The good news is that our flight on Allegiant Airlines left on schedule. We arrived at the Orlando Sanford airport a little late, but it was a good flight. I hate to fly, so I can't say I enjoyed the flight, but it was not an unpleasant experience thanks to having Kim by my side.

After getting our checked bag, it was after 6:00. That turned out to be a big problem.  We had looked at Car Rental Rates on the airport and they were over $500 for two weeks. I could go off the airport to Enterprise for about $200 less. I guess I am cheap, so that is where our reservation was. We took a cab the 6 miles to the Enterprise office, but when we arrived they were closed. I called and no one could help us. The company directed us back to the airport and we would pay the higher rate. I decided to take an Uber to the Miami International Airport. The rates at the rental car agencies were much less. The Uber cost about $50, but I found a number of rental car companies that were advertising very low rates. I arrived at a place called NU Car Rental. I thought, How bad could it be? Well, after standing in a non-moving line for almost an hour and listening to customers complaining over and over, my question was answered. When I finally got to talk to someone at the counter, they told me they would not honor the on-line rates and they wanted over $500 for the rental. I said, no way and walked out. Just as I did, their shuttle driver was headed to the airport. Kim and I hopped aboard. I did not have a plan, but I knew I did not want to rent with them.

We tipped the driver and headed to the long line of rental car counters. I looked up and down the line and saw an available agent at National. In the many years that I traveled almost weekly, I always used National. I can honestly say that I almost never had a bad experience with National. I asked the guy if he could help me and he took GREAT care of us. He gave us a full size car for $342 for two weeks and we are set up to return the car to the Orlando Sanford airport. SCORE!

It was now after 9:00 PM and we had still had a 2 hour drive to Sarasota. I was a bit tired when we arrived at our hotel, but we got it done and were ready to put that day behind us.

We got up this morning with a new enthusiasm. We had an appointment with a broker in Palmetto to look at Island Packet Yachts. I really like this broker and wanted to give him a shot to show me something that fit our wants. As it turned out, we did not see anything that fit our needs in our price range, but the time with Mike was excellent and he listened to our plan and told us that we had a good one. That felt very good coming from a guy with his experience.

So, now it is on to tomorrow. We will go take an in-depth look at the boat that is first on our list and then comes the time to decide what we are going to do next. Come back to see how it goes and what we decide to do.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

We Now Have to Make a Decision

I am writing this entry from the ranch in Missouri. We arrived here yesterday after a 6 day trip to Texas to see family. The last month has been a whirlwind.

The month of May began with arriving back in Missouri after the family reunion in New Braunfels,Texas. We had a few days to relax before we took the trailer down to the Buffalo River for the Mothers Day weekend. Brian and Shannon planned the weekend and we joined them after a friend cancelled. It rained much of the weekend, but we still had an awesome time. The Buffalo National River in Northern Arkansas is an amazing place that we have not explored as much as we should. It is a short 2 hour drive from the ranch and certainly is a national treasure. In between rain storms we went for hikes and enjoyed family time in our camp above the swollen river.

Our campsite at Buffalo Point in the Buffalo National River area
Here is the crew on a hike to Indian Rockhouse. 3 mile strenuous hike.
Kim and I behind a waterfall
At Indian Rockhouse. It is an amazing cave that is difficult to capture in an image.
It was a very fun weekend. It felt like a typical weekend camping trip that most people do, but very different for us. The good news for us is that we didn't have to pack and unpack.

In the week before we went to the Buffalo National River, we got a phone call from our real estate agent. It seems the buyer was very eager to get closed on the land and wanted to move up the date. With our very busy travel schedule we were able to agree on May 14. So, the day before Kim left for NYC, we went and signed a few papers and collected a large check and we no longer own the land in Ozark and now have the money to buy a boat. It was sad and exciting all at the same time. This was the one part of the plan that I could not control. It felt great to get this part behind us. Now it all gets real.

The following week, Kim, Shannon, Phyllis (Kim's Mom), Kim's sister and daughter and Sister in Law and daughter all went to New York City. This trip was to celebrate Kim's mom's 80th birthday. I will include a couple of shots here, but because I did not go, I have no stories to tell. They all claimed to have a good time.

The crew ready for a night on the town in NYC
I liked this shot because it was taken from a boat
After Kim got back from NYC, we had a few days to relax and then we drove back down to Texas. My parents were down there to see their new Great Grand daughter, and my brother Alan, who was going to be home for two weeks from his 15 month contract job in the UAE. We had a great time with Mom and Dad and it was great to see my brother, Alan and Brian and families. A special thanks to Phyllis and Richie for letting us stay at their place and hello to my friend Annie.

Mom and Dad with little Bennett

Brother Alan with second Grandson 
We have been living out of a suitcase most of the last month and that continues today. We depart in about 1/2 hour to drive to the airport in Springfield to do something I swore I would never do again.(Flying in a commercial airliner) We are flying to Florida to get serious about buying a sailboat. We have a favorite, but once we get down there we may change our minds.

I am going to try to keep this blog fairly current over the next few weeks as we struggle over this decision. So, check back often to see if we have made a decision or have gotten cold feet. I have been praying for a sign, so hopefully the decision will be made easy for us.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Things Are Moving Forward!

In my last post I talked about listing our property with an agent. We had listed our property with an agent 10 years ago and it did not sell for the 4 1/2 years that we had it on the market. The house and 5 acres finally sold and we were able to retire and get on the road, but we decided to hold on to the other 50 acres. It was a very frustrating experience. It was the one thing in my plan that I could not control. As it turned out, we believe there was a reason the land did not sell, and it all turned out for the better.

I saw this situation setting up for the same type of frustration. We don't want to move forward on the boat until the land sells. Once again the one thing I can not control.

While the land was listed on Facebook Marketplace, I was contacted by a local real estate agent that was interested in the land for himself and his young family. I looked up his profile and liked what I saw. He decided that the land was too far out of town for his wife to travel to her job in Springfield. When I decided to list the land with an agent, I gave him a call at 6:00 on a Thursday evening. That was a test, he passed. He responded within 15 minutes and was willing to talk as soon as he got out of the meeting he was in. We decided to meet at the property on the following Monday to take pictures and fly his drone to get a sky's eye view of the property. Dustin is young, by my standards, but he is aggressive and successful. We signed the papers and took a walk around to see what this beautiful land has to offer. We also decided to lower the asking price about 10% to take advantage of the initial excitement of the new listing. He told me then it would sell quickly. I thought,"I have heard that before."

One other thing that needed to happen was to haul off an old van that had been sitting on the property. I had made a deal to sell it and have it hauled off, but was waiting for a call to set up a time. The buyer called while we were at the property that day and came right out. He loaded up the old van, that has quite a history, and I had the feeling that things were coming together. One more thing off of the to-do list.

After all of that was taken care of, Kim and I decided to take our picnic lunch down to the creek and enjoy some time on this beautiful spring day.

Kim enjoying the cool water of the creek

As we sat there, we talked about the possibility that this would be the last time we would do this. I told Kim that I could not think like that, it would only lead to disappointment. We love this land. We have been the custodian for the last 26 years. There were many before us, and there will be many after. Our hope was that we could find a young family that would love this place as much as we do. It would be great to see another family raise their family on this special place.

We went back to the ranch and prepared to head to Texas. We had a family reunion to attend on Kim's side of the family. Her Aunt La and husband were putting the whole thing together and we were really looking forward to it.

Kim's Uncle Bill and Aunt LaLa
Just before we arrived in New Braunfels, Texas my phone rang. It was my real estate agent. He told me that he had shown the property a number of times and he thought that we would receive an offer that evening. I was in a state of shock. I made a quick call to my CPA to be sure of a few things and then went to the party. While we were there the offer came in, just a bit below our asking price with a reduction in commission resulting in a close to full price offer. Needless to say, we accepted it. We hardly slept the rest of the weekend. It was a crazy time. We were able to enjoy the family reunion, but our minds we awash with many things. The closing was scheduled for May 28. Here are a few shots from the reunion that was held and Kim's cousin's Ash and Renee's house and ranch. Both were amazingly beautiful.

Ash and Renee's House
Pool and back part of the house overlooking New Braunfels
Ash Feeding his pet deer - Amazing!
You can't go to Texas this time of year without taking a picture of the bluebonnets.

Kim's Mom, Phyllis having fun with LaLa and the younger generations.
Uncle Kenny and Mason and Bryce, who had come from Ohio.
The reunion was a great success and we really loved catching up with everyone and spending some quality time with the ones we rarely get to see.

The trip back to Missouri was full of discussion. We started to run through all of the possible scenarios. Would the boat that we liked so much still be available? What about all of our other plans? Do we really want to do this? In my next entry, I will begin to answer these questions and more.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

We Have A Plan!

As I wrote in my last entry, we have a major life change happening that I would like to write about. During our trip this past winter, we talked a great deal about our hopes and dreams. Those dreams revolve around the desire to travel and live in a sailboat the way we travel and live in an RV now. We are both about 60, and know if we are ever going to do this we need to make it happen sooner than later. The best advice I have ever received was provided by my grandfather. When I asked him for the one piece of advice he would give a younger person (I was about 30 at the time), he told me, " Live your life with no regrets." He went on to say, "Take advantage of your youth and see as much of this amazing planet as you can, there will be plenty of time to sit on the couch and watch the world go by." I keep thinking about that advice. The decision to buy a sailboat, large enough to live on, may be the biggest mistake I have ever made and I may regret that decision, but if I don't do it, I think I would regret that more. So, we have decided that we will try to make living at least part time on a sailboat a reality. Now, how are we going to make this happen?

Step one, is to sell some property that we own in Ozark, Missouri. We used to live in a house that sat on 55 acres of beautiful Ozarks land. We sold the house and 5 acres, 6 and a half years ago to move forward on the plan to retire early, live in an RV and travel. And travel we have done. We have had an amazing time. That is what the over 400 entries in the blog are all about. We decided that the best way to move forward on this plan was to sell that land and use the proceeds to buy the boat. We knew that we had tried to sell that land back when we sold the house, but could not find a buyer. Would it be any different now? All we could do was try.

We arrived back to Missouri on March 20. We got set up at the ranch and knew it was the right time of the year to show the property. We spent a number of days over the next few weeks breaking down our "camp" that we used as a home base for a while. We had to move the van that was used for storage off of the land. That turned out to be more difficult than I thought. It had been dug in and leveled. We had to jack it up and drag it out with tow straps and come-a-longs. The good news is we got it to the edge of the road and then set about trying to find a place to haul it away.

During the first few weeks we were back in Missouri, we spent as much time as we could with the grandkids. We went to soccer games for Amelia and volleyball games for Eve and Isabella. Watching a 3 year old play soccer is crazy, but we are so glad we could be there.

We had a Motorcycle race at the ranch on April 14. I got very busy setting up the course the two weeks prior, so that took my focus off of the land for a bit. We had a good event despite a heavy rain the night before.

We had a beautiful spring with the usual bloom of the red buds and then the dogwoods.

Red Buds in bloom at the ranch
Dogwoods in bloom

Kim loves to go for rides to see the blooms.
 It is also the time of year for Morel mushrooms. I love to eat morels. They can sell for as much as $50 per pound, but I am not willing to share. It is so beautiful out in the woods, I just love it. I spent two weeks looking and only finding a few. Then we got a nice rain and warmer temps and this is what I found:

Our bounty of mushrooms found on one day in late April.
To get back to the story, we had put a "For Sale by Owner" sign on the property before we left last fall. I did get a few calls, but nothing developed. I talked to a good friend that had sold two different parcels of land through Facebook Marketplace. I decided to give that a try. I was amazed at the flurry of activity I got the next day. I ended up with one good showing and three people that stopped by to look at the property, but that activity quickly dried up and we knew it was time to list it with an agent. That is when the story got good. I will write about what happened in my next entry.

Friday, May 3, 2019

We End Where We Started

It has been well over a month since I have written in this blog. We got back to Missouri on March 20, and it has been crazy since we arrived. I would like to write about all that has happened to be able to remember back to this time later in my life. We are about to make a major change and I would like to remember what it was like before that happened. Stay tuned to hear all about our new direction in life. Before I can write about the new stuff, I need to finish the trip back to Missouri, so that is what this entry is all about.

We left Crystal Springs Campground on March 8. We decided to take the interstate through Little Rock to avoid all of the mountains that are between Hot Springs and Russellville, Arkansas. We reserved a great site overlooking the Arkansas River and the Dardanelle Lock and Dam. This is the same park we stayed in when we started this trip back in November. We come here to see our oldest son, Micheal, amazing wife Audrey and our two awesome grandsons, Connor (age 8) and Cameron (age 5).

Connor and Cameron at the lock. A barge was just going through.
This shot is taken from our site of a barge passing by heading up river. 
This shot was taken at the locks. There was a large flock of White Pelicans feeding below the dam while we were there.
The first activity was a Cub Scout Pine Wood Derby for Connor. Connor's car design was very simple and proved that aerodynamics have little effect in the races. Connor did very well and won the Wolf division and was in the top 4.

We took a trip to a small lake in the National Forest where Micheal and his family enjoy riding their dirt bikes. We decided to go fishing in the lake and Connor even decided to go swimming. The look on his face was priceless when he jumped in. It was much colder than he expected.

Michael, Cameron and Connor looking away.
I kept up the exercise routine while we stayed at Old Post Park. I walked an average of 3 miles each day. I never walk the same route twice, so while I was exploring, I fond the quarry where I suspect they excavated the fill for the dam. It is beautiful with high rock walls and beautiful clear water. There is a large flock of geese that seem to live in there. It is not far from the park.

I talked Kim and the grandchildren to take a walk to see the quarry.

We were planning to leave Old Post on March 18, but we received a message that changed that. Our good friends Melanie and Cameron were going to be in the area and decided to stop and stay for a few days. They just went full time last year and the last time we saw then was the day before they left for their first big adventure in September. It was awesome to catch up with them and find out how things were working out for them. The good news is they are loving the lifestyle and have amazing plans for the future. I keep up with them on Instagram and love to see their updates. While they were with us, we decided to take a drive up to Mount Nebo and take a hike on the bench trail. It was a beautiful day on the mountain. 

We took turns taking pictures. It is some time hard to get pictures of the two of us when we are hiking in cool places.

We left Old Post Park on March 20 and headed back to Missouri. The next day our Grandson Will had a special presentation for being named student of the month in his grade. He did not know we were going to be there and he was quite surprised when I stuck my hand out for a high five and he was running to the stage when they called his name. Later I got a big hug. We missed each other a great amount. 

Here we are with Will and his little sister Amelia. 

This next shot is our site at the ranch at the end of the trip. Our winter trip of 2018/2019 was awesome. We loved our time in the Everglades and were very impressed with south Florida. We had a great time at Disney World, but the highlight of the trip for me was our day sailing in Gulfport. It was truly a life changing experience.