The Phantom Camaro

 

Early Spring here in Georgia feels much more like mid Summer with temperatures hovering near 80 degrees and the sun shining brightly. Such lovely weather has a way of making people feel like being outdoors to have some fun. Some folks like to walk, others ride bicycles. People put the top down on their convertibles. And me, I go for a ride on my scooter.

Riding always makes me feel free and alive, but this special day for some reason I felt powerful. I’ll admit, my scooter is no Harley Davidson. Not a Honda, Kawasaki, BMW, Triumph, Indian or any other big motorcycle. It’s a scooter. But bigger than those little bitty things you see zipping in and out of traffic in the French and Italian movie scenes.

Full throttle, on a flat stretch of road, I can hit 60 miles per hour. And at that speed this day I felt good. I waved at other riders, always glad to see fellow two wheel enthusiast out enjoying a ride.

I try to keep my eyes on the road ahead, but I do take time to look in the rear view mirrors as well. And that’s where I saw it. It was bright red and it was trying to catch me. Wide and low I could hear it’s engine roaring. You know, the sound that a five million cubic inch engine will make. And it was decked out with air scoops, and air dams, and bright lights. In my rearview mirror it looked like a sinuous wisp of red smoke charging toward me.

But I soon realized that it wasn’t blasting past me at a thousand miles and hour. It wasn’t even getting any closer to me. A red sports car that you can’t drive fast because the police are always looking for any excuse to pull over a red sports car that might drive fast. I was racing a Camaro, and winning!

Shortly thereafter I noticed that the Camaro was slowly inching it’s way toward me. He must had had his pedal to the metal. HaHa! And then, as we rolled along up a slight hill, he cruised very slowly past me. Checking me out. What beast was this that could keep up with his Camaro!

And as he rolled past me and I looked over, fully expecting to see Steve McQueen driving, I took a good look. Funny looking Camaro I thought. Because it turns out it wasn’t a Camaro. Chevrolet yes, Camaro no. It was a Chevrolet Spark! This thing was shorter than my scooter! I was greatly humbled. But went on to enjoy the rest of my ride.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

www.personalhistorywriter.com

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Where oh Where

Location, location, location. That is the classic real estate mantra. The other is buy the worst house in the best neighborhood you can afford. Of course, these things have different meanings for each buyer.

Location means a hot area, that is, popular. Or at least a good area. Obviously you don’t want to buy a house next to a landfill or sewage plant. Or nuclear reactor. And if you can, it’s a good idea to buy in an area with a low crime rate. And good schools. And good weather and nice people. You have to consider the resale potential of anything you buy.

For me, location meant outside of a subdivision. A place with a little bit of land. And a water feature. Lots of storage. Maybe even a separate building for storage. Of course, a run down shack on two acres with a drying up swamp and old shack of a barn qualifies for all of my wishes there. But that’s not what I would buy.

Then there is the geographic location aspect. How close to the city did I want to be. Very rural county? Bedroom community outskirts?

What I was looking for was a relatively updated house on several acres, not too far out in the boonies, with as small a yard as possible, and as much water as possible. Pond, lake, creek, river, oceanfront. Water.

As time went on and I continued to look, I became discouraged. What I was seeing was old shacks with overgrown yards and dried up creeks. The further away from the city I went, the more I could afford. More land, bigger house (though not necessarily a nice house!), more water. But I didn’t want to be too isolated. I’m a loner, but not a hermit.

I started to rethink everything. What about an urban loft? Or at least an in-town condo. There are a number of old cotton mills in this area that have been refurbished into lofts with a nice industrial feel. Old wooden floors, brick interior walls and iron bedecked ceilings. And there are plenty of condos.

Looking at several of those, I realized that living in one would be impossible for me. I needed some space between me and my neighbors. Lots of space. And some storage. So, back to the drawing board in the country.

I began to think about real fixer uppers. If it had four standing walls and an intact roof, I could remodel. Needs a little paint. Or landscaping. But maybe at my age I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life ripping out walls and painting the new ones.

Then it dawned on me. The housing market is like the job market. You can look all day and night at the want ads and job boards and company websites and apply for jobs until you are blue in the face, but it’s the hidden market that holds the gems. The jobs that never get advertised. Jobs that are created for friends of friends.

In the housing market, the best sales are word of mouth and unless you are in the right circle of mouths, all you can do is wake up one day, see that a transaction has occurred and say to yourself, “damn, I wish I had known about that!”

So, with the increased aid of my realtor, I developed a net that covered a wider area. And one day, bam, it was going to have that perfect house in it! And I would leave the whole community saying, “damn, I wish I’d known about that!”

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

www.personalhistorywriter.com

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A Moving Idea

Sometimes an idea will simmer in your mind for a long time before you get the details worked out. Or even begin to take it seriously. Then some sort of trigger gets pulled and you feel compelled to act. Even obsessed with bringing this idea to fruition.

When I was a child my father’s employer transferred his job to another city. Another state. He loved his job, so he was going. And so were we. He was moving from the sprawl of Northern New Jersey to a manufacturing town in Pennsylvania. Not far from the Amish Country. He wanted to live in a rural area.

He and my mother looked at houses to make their new home. One of them was a farmhouse on a large hunk of acreage. In the middle of nowhere as farmhouses with vast expanses of land tend to be. He liked it. My mom, not so much. She was afraid that she would be isolated from the rest of humanity. And that her two young children would be stranded far from friends. Eventually they built a house in an upcoming new subdivision. Close to town, and shopping. The best schools in the state. A one-quarter acre lot.

This particular area was still considered to be in the country, and there were vast cornfields behind the house. And across the street, in the still undeveloped portion of the neighborhood, there were open fields. Up the road was the farmhouse and red barn to which all of this land had once belonged. So my father got a little of what he wanted, and my mother got everything she wanted.

That’s where I grew up. From age five until I graduated from high school. The day after I graduated, my parents moved out. They had bought my father’s dream home. An old stone farmhouse on ten acres of land. With a barn. They lived there for the next thirty-eight years and although I had grown up in suburbia, I have ever since considered this second home, Shadowlawn Farm, to be my real home. Like my father, I too loved the country life.

Fast forward to twenty years ago. My life takes many turns similar to my fathers. My wife and I had started a family and were living in an urban subdivision. The schools were failing and we wanted more for our children. We started to look in the neighboring county. Which happened to have the best schools in the state.

We looked at existing subdivision homes. We looked in the country. Every Sunday we would drive out to the country and ride around looking. One neighborhood had particular appeal to my wife. Best one in the county. We had always heard that you should buy the worst house in the best neighborhood you could afford. That was her plan. I was still holding out for the farm.

Finally it was my father-in-law who caused me to take action. He shamed me into it. What he said to me one day was that my kids needed to move. They needed to be near other kids. And I should get off my wallet and do right by my family. Of course I was going to take care of my family, but I didn’t have to do it at the expense of my life. But I did.

Time was passing and a new school year was approaching. If we bought a new house, or piece of property in the next county we could enroll the girls in the best schools available. There was a vacant lot for sale in that best neighborhood. So I bought it. And my wife and I got together with a builder and proceeded to construct a new house. It was exciting, but a story for another time and blog post.

Fast forward once again. This time to 2016. For the past twenty years I have been poring over real estate books looking at houses. Moving has never been a consideration. The kids were still in school. Then college. My wife was content. I was antsy. Then my back failed. Two surgeries later and I was having real difficulty with the stairs in our three story house. And walking. Moving suddenly became a consideration. But where?

To be continued…

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

www.personalhistorywriter.com

 

 

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Stressless Moving Series

Certain events in life cause great levels of stress. Some of the biggest stressors include loss of a loved one, major health issues, becoming an empty nester, loss of a job, retirement and moving. There are many others, and by no means am I downplaying their importance. In the past year, I have experienced each of those I listed above. At least once.

Some of these I’ve talked about a little I think. And some I don’t care to talk about at all. But moving, now that’s a subject I will gladly talk about. So, just to give all my readers a heads up, I am going to be putting together a series of posts regarding my adventure in moving. From nineteen years in the suburbs to a mini farm in the county.

Stay tuned for chapter one soon!

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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The Dust Cloud

In old western movies if you saw a cloud of dust on the horizon you knew it was one of two things. Making all of that dust was either a troop of cavalry coming to rescue the settlers under attack by evil villains, or a pack of evil villains coming to attack. Either way, it was a bunch of people riding horses. And headed in your direction quickly.

That was old westerns. In my back yard a cloud of dust means my dog is playing fetch. She’s not like that kid Pigpen in the Charlie Brown cartoons who travels around inside his own personal dust cloud, created by his less than civilized personal hygiene habits. She stays pretty clean, although she does shed a lot of hair. All the time and everywhere she goes. No, the dust cloud is exactly that- a cloud of dust created by her rambunctious play.

Whether or not you believe in climate change, this year has been the hottest and driest on record where I live. It’s five days before Thanksgiving and for the first time since May the temperature has dropped below 80 degrees. And no, I don’t live in Hawaii, or California, or Florida. And with all that heat, we’ve also been the fortunate recipients of a fifteen inch rainfall deficit. The water level in the local lakes is down by several feet and the green green grass of home looks more like tumbleweed blowing across the desert.

Back to the dog. She likes to exercise, as any puppy would. Since she is a German Sheppard, she likes to play a lot, and strenuously. Fetch is good. I find a small log in the woods, something maybe eighteen inches long and three or four inches in diameter, and I throw it as hard as I can. As soon as she sees me starting to wind up she takes off at full sprint speed. I think she could take a cheetah in a hundred yard dash.

Since I broke my shoulder a couple of years ago my throwing arm isn’t like it was when I pitched for the sandlot sluggers. The dog is well past where the stick will land by the time it sails through the air. But she happily comes back for it, grabs it with her teeth and brings it back for another toss. I prefer a smaller tree branch to the tree trunks she likes so sometimes we compromise. She will bring a six foot long branch to me which is only two inches across. The damn things are so heavy and cumbersome I can barely throw them but she’s got the thing in her mouth running around with two inches on one side and the rest unbalanced, but firmly held.

Another game she likes to play is biting at my hands and feet. Sometimes it hurts so I’m glad she is just playing. She could probably bite either of my appendages off quite easily. But ten or fifteen tosses of the stick usually satisfies her.

And the dust cloud? As she thunders across the dry grass in the yard she will slam on her brakes when she knows it’s time to catch or pick up the falling stick. She slides across the yard and tears up the grass and stirs up the dust. There are now places in the yard where the loose and bare soil is about three inches deep. When she hits that patch of dirt at full speed and puts on the brakes, a huge cloud of dust erupts. I’m sure the neighbors see the cloud rising above the fence and think I’m using a bulldozer to dig a hole to the center of the Earth.

Oddly enough, having her chase the stick also allows me to give the arid lawn some water. She gets so excited chasing that stupid stick that starts to foam at the mouth. The slobber gets all over the stick, which then gets covered with dust that turns to mud. Globs of slob fly out of her mouth as she runs. Her fur gets covered with the stuff, as does the ground. And the stick. Sometimes that stick is so slobbery that when I throw it I loose my grip and it slips out of my hands. Bad throw daddy she barks. And brings it again.

The cloud of dust makes me laugh. She is silly. And loyal. And playful. But we really do need some rain.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

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Scooter Trucks

Vehicles are built differently to accommodate varying purposes.   Giant earth movers have construction capabilities while a Fiat 500 is designed to be an in town personal people mover. Tractor trailers, pickup trucks and vans each offer cargo transit on varying levels. There are luxury sedans, economy sedans, and sporty coupes and convertibles designed for getting from point A to point B while making a statement, or fitting a budget.

A scooter, that motorized creature somewhere between a motorcycle and a bicycle, is intended to be fun, and economical transportation for one person from here to there. Generally a short distance. You can put a bungee cord, or milk crate, or helmet box or even saddle bags on these mini-motos, but they weren’t really made to haul much of anything.

Sometimes however we have to make do with what we have at the moment and I have used my scooter as, yes, a truck. The helmet box carries lots of stuff besides a spare helmet. Matter of fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever put the spare helmet in the helmet box. It’s usually stuffed with clothes, or water bottles, or small antique knick-knacks for the store. And of course the anchor. That’s a separate story.

But lately I’ve begun to take the scooter to yard sales and antique shops when I go on shopping expeditions. I tell myself I’ll figure something out. I have carried coffee table books in the compartment under the seat. And more recently I had a suitcase, too large to be classified by the airlines as a carry-on, strapped to the back of the seat. And an ice cream parlor chair as well. The scooter is really pretty good at haulin!

When I was in Hawaii I saw lots of scooters. And many had a strange contraption on them that I just couldn’t figure out. It was a set of curved metal pipes attached to the side. Not exhaust pipes. I just couldn’t figure it out. Then I saw one with this gizmo in use and it made perfect sense. The folks here use their scooters to transport their surfboards! Drop the board sideways into the curved metal rack and viola! I’m not sure how easy that is to drive since the board can be longer than the scooter, but they seem to manage. As I said, I saw a lot of scooters with this contraption on them, but only the one with it in use.

So, all sorts of things can be adapted to other uses. I’ve seen delivery trucks turned into restaurants, and truck trailers turned into homes, and now scooters turned into trucks. I’m trying to figure out how to make my scooter into both a boat and a snowmobile. American ingenuity. What a great thing!

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

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The Vanishing Rainbow

Waiting was a poor option. Oh sure, it will still be there in a few minutes. In the mean time I can piddle around looking at unimportant emails on my phone. Then I can take the picture of the beautiful rainbow stretching over the harbor and the palm trees in this tropical paradise. No rush.

Well of course as I sat there fooling around I glanced over at the rainbow once or twice and soon realized that it was vanishing. Duh! It’s only there as long as the sun and the moisture in the air come together in a certain way. The sun moves constantly. And the moisture evaporates. The rainbow fades and then disappears. Forever. Until the next one comes along.

That’s the thing- rainbows don’t come along every day. At least not where I live. Maybe in this place, but I’m only visiting here. People always seem to get excited about rainbows. Rightly so, because they are pretty spectacular.

So I missed the opportunity to take a picture of the brilliant rainbow. I knew there would be another someday. But not here. At least not for me.   I was leaving this place today. And I was mad at myself for fooling with the email when I could have been looking at the rainbow.

My visit to this place was a vacation. A week in a tropical paradise. I had indeed checked my email everyday, but I had also taken great advantage of being here. I had eaten strange new foods, and seen people who looked very different from me. I had gone shopping and to the beach. There was a visit to a cultural center that showed me cultures and ways very unlike my own. And there was exploration of the sea while snorkeling, and the mountains while hiking. Things out of my comfort zone. Things I could sometimes barely accomplish. But things I did, and enjoyed.

And now it was coming to an end. Dumb me, instead of catching a final glimpse of the surf and beach from my balcony, instead of watching the surfers and beach bathers, and instead of watching the rainbow, I checked my email. The vacation was over, and I slipped back into the ways of my regular life. Like the rainbow, my rest and relaxation, my fun in the sun, my vacation, all vanished as the world moved on.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

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