Saturday, January 31, 2015

Where are they now?

Key Largo in Florida. We lost two days to replace a fuel pump. On the way we stopped and visited friends in Venice. So far so good. Then the diesel fuel line plugged up. It took some doing but in the end we started up the van and ran on the veggie tank. That's all well and good, but the van can only run on veggie when the veggie tank is hot. Once the veggie tank ran low I filled it with diesel.

Then we headed down to Estero and Korashan State Park. After dinner my lovely wife encouraged me to take another look at the diesel lines. I had a little 12 volt compressor for filling up my bike tires. That provided enough pressure to clear the diesel line. After that I went over all the fuel line connections, tightening then all up. Slept better after fixing the problem.

We'd planned on boating on the Estero River, but since we only had one day we decided to tour the historic Korashan community site. The history of the place is pretty interesting and the grounds are beautiful.

Then on to Key Largo. Crossing the Everglades is always interesting. We like to use Rt. 41, the old Tamiami Trail. One time we lost a wheel bearing on the boat trailer crossing the Everglades so I always have that in the back of my mind. This time is was my recent fuel issues that were holding my attention. However, the van ran like a champ and the trip went smoothly.

We checked into a campground and once again I had Internet service. One of the first things I did was some Internet banking. The travel kitty needed feeding, among other things. With funds secured, we did our groceries and then chilled for the rest of the night.

The weather is beautiful and all is well.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

38 mile journey

Tuesday we never made to the campground. 38 miles down the road the fuel pump failed . . . again. I had been fine since July so I thought that problem was in the past.

We pulled off to the side of the highway. Fortunately, we were towing a boat and qualified for assistance from Boat US. I've always had great service from them. This time was no exception. The tow truck loaded up the van and hitched up the boat trailer. I had them bring us back to my dad's place.

Once back at my dad's I had the tow truck drop the van where there were fewer fire ants. I spread a tarp, crawled under the van and removed the fuel pump.

Wednesday morning I called a local Ford garage. They said they could have a replacement pump by 1:30 but it was going to be over $600. My garage back home confirmed that the pump was still on warranty and faxed the info to the Ford garage in FL. That worked out really well and I was able replace the pump before dark.

My lovely wife and I are heading down south once more. We couldn't get all our campground fees refunded, but my wife got a good chunk of it back. Even better, we are actually going camping again.

Something will have to be done about the van always blowing fuel pumps. I lay awake in bed thinking over our vehicle options. It ran for many many miles without destroying fuel pumps. The only thing that's different is that my main veggie supplier switched to a heavier hydrogenated oil. Maybe that's causing just enough stress to drastically reduce the life of the pumps.

Maybe it's time to drop my supplier and limit the van to vacation and tow vehicle duty instead of being a daily driver. My lovely wife's car died and that gives us the opportunity to replace it with something else -or maybe just get a bigger boat and spend our winters on that.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How the wealthy bug out

. . . and how it will do them no good whatsoever.

The wealthy are making bug out plans. They are buying private farms next to private air strips.

It has happened before. When the Roman Empire was falling, many of the elite and wealthy retreated to their fortified country villas. So how did that work for them? Picture this: hordes of barbarians and villas full of nice stuff. How do you think that turned out? Maybe they even had some private security. How much is bought loyalty worth when the barbarians are at the gate?

Let's just say that the territories of the former Roman Empire are not dotted with wealthy villas populated by the decedents of the original owners. Instead, the lands are covered with castles and fortifications built during the “dark” ages by folks who once were the barbarians.

Elite retreat locations have some value. If your countrymen are approaching your estate with pitchforks and torches, it might be a good idea to have a place and assets in another country. Dictators from around the world have followed this plan. It only works when the problem is localized. There has to be a nice stable place to go to. In a globalized world, those islands of stability look both small and temporary. The rich's success in bringing the world under one big umbrella will be their downfall.

Their best defense for long term survival is a fully functioning society that's fair and equitable. Of course, that might cut into short term profits, so I'm betting with the barbarians.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Down the coast

I'm not trying to rub it in. There's a blizzard going on back home in New England but I'll be heading further down the Florida coast. It's warmer further south. Right now I've got three nights booked in the Ft. Myer's area. Then we are booked into Key Largo for another three nights. After that we'll figure out what to do or where to go.

Hey, I couldn't go home if I wanted to right now. The airports and roads are closed. Besides, my house is frozen solid and soon to be buried in snow.

We know some folks who escaped New Hampshire about the time we did and went straight to Key West. As a veteran he can stay in the military campground -the best deal on the island. If you like to camp and are a vet there are some great campgrounds. I'm not a vet myself so those places are not open to me. Fair is fair. Veterans should get a few perks for their service.

Most campgrounds in the Keys are booked solid this time of year. Sometimes there are last minute cancellations. If a person is willing to be flexible sometimes it's possible get some sweet camping sites. Last year we booked a week in the Keys by stringing together last minute cancellations from three campgrounds. None of them are all that far apart so it's not a hardship.

Of course, I don't expect any sympathy about last minute bookings from the folks back home in the blizzard.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Electric boat

We tested the electric trolling motor on the Ooze Goose today. There are a number of things that should be avoided during the first test. Go up river instead of down. That way if there is a problem you are traveling with the current to get back. Don't run the test in an area you've never been before. Maybe it's not a good idea to run all afternoon at full speed before you know the range of the battery.

Yep, we did all those things: down river into unknown areas for a fair distance. I more than half expected to have to row at least some of the way back. Nope, we finished the day with plenty of reserve left in the battery.

It was a great trip.

My lovely wife ran the motor. Notice it's mounted off center. That allows the operator to sit centered in the boat. When I get around to building the sail rig the rudder will mount in the center of the transom.

Here I tried to get a shot of the bow of the boat including the solar panel mount. It's only a 30 watt panel, but it does extend the range. If the boat sits in the sun for a few days it will top off the battery.

One of the cool things about swamp boating in the south is seeing things that are rare up north. Air boats come to mind.

My lovely wife was tempted to follow him but I told her not to. He can travel over weeds that would foul our prop.

All in all, another great day on the water. Sure beats shoveling out from a New England blizzard.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Strange attractors

My little project boat attracts a lot of attention. People see me fiddling with my boat and they come running over to share stories. They've shared stories of the time their mast hit a power line, or how every time they the went sailing they ran aground. Some wonder what I'm going to do with such a little boat. A goodly number are people who've always wanted to build a boat but never did.

Actually, a lot of people talk about either never starting to build a boat or never finishing a boat. It makes me feel a lot better about my boat's rough finish. It's not a showboat, but it's been in the water.

Driving around in a converted ambulance also gathers a lot of attention. About half the folks figure out it was an ambulance and are curious to see what I did with it. The paint job that my lovely wife and grandkids did attracts people too. Some folks just figure the hippy days never ended for me.

When the strange little boat is being towed by the weird vehicle we get a lot of stares. A few will come over and talk, but many act like I'm way outside their comfort zone. That's a little sad. Their grip on reality is a bit sweaty.

Today we plan on taking the boat back on the river. There's a new motor mount on it for my trolling motor. While I was at it I mounted a solar panel on the cabin hatch. It's designed so I can remove the panel and move it to a sunnier place. The motor is the same 55lb thrust motor that moves my Oday 19 at 3 knots. Can't wait to see how it performs on the little boat.

In a few days we'll be heading further down state. There are some rivers and bays that are calling my name -attracting me, so to speak.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Scouting mission

The map is not the territory -even a really good satellite Google map.

That's why my lovely wife and I spent a day checking out parks and boat ramps. It wasn't a day for being on the water due to high winds and a thunderstorm moving in. We drove over 100 miles (mostly burning veggie instead of diesel).

We found three ramps that would work for us. One of them looked kinda sketchy from all on-line sources. Once we got there we were pleasantly surprised. The neighborhood was nice and the park appeared in excellent shape. The boat launch was unpaved, but checking it out in person revealed it was usable. The best part? No fees and overnight parking is allowed. There are very few boat ramps like that in Florida. It's only good for shallow draft boats, but that's what we have with us this year.

The other ramps were $5 and $6 a day. The $5 ramp is near an island were we could boat out to and camp for free.

We took our time. The two of us had a relaxed lunch at a restaurant. My lovely wife got lost in a consignment store for a while. Later the two of us lingered over coffee and discussed future plans. Every year we do something different. Sometimes it's a little different. Sometimes it's a lot different.

Of course, the amount of money we can spend on adventure will have some bearing on exactly what we do. Most winters it doesn't cost us anymore to travel than it would to stay home and heat the house. Northern winters are expensive.

Right now the thing to do is to see what adventures we can have this winter.


Friday, January 23, 2015

The wonderful world of car insurance

We left my wife's car with my niece back in New Hampshire. She only had it a couple of days before it basically fell apart. She was able to get it back to my driveway so there it sits. We felt kinda bad for her, but we are glad she didn't get hurt when the car died.

I called the insurance company and asked about taking the insurance off it. Here's the weird part. They told me that if I took the insurance off the car my bill would go up. Say what? I'd lose my multi-car discount and it's actually cheaper to insure two cars than one. I was able to reduce the bill from full coverage to just comprehensive. Then I bumped the deductible up from $50 to $500. I am curious to see how that will shake out.

My van only has liability insurance. I didn't even want them to try and figure out how to cover damage on a former ambulance converted to a camper van. Last year I rear ended a car with my van and the insurance company paid the claim. My insurance bill never went up, so that was good.

The van insurance is pretty cheap as it's classified as a motor home. Most folks don't use their motor home as a their daily driver, so rates are low. They figure on someone like me who runs their vehicle on waste veggie oil. The “motor home” is actually slightly shorter than my old Ford F250 extended cab was.

Eventually I'm going to have my wife's car hauled away for scrap. Unless we buy a second car, my insurance will go up. I wonder what would happen if I got rid of all my vehicles? No doubt my house insurance would go up as I currently get a good discount from having both vehicle and house insurance with the same company.

Apparently my insurance company polices are designed for normal people: folks with a house and two cars.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

River Ratz

My lovely wife and I finally made it out to the river. It's only about a 20 minute drive from my dad's place. It was calm, sunny and about 75 degrees. Not a bad January day.

Here's the old bear rowing the boat.

If you look at this photo upside down it won't matter all that much.

Zoom in on the photo until you can read the two signs. One says “Snake Farm” the other says “Skunk Ape Habitat” That's a sure sign I'm in rural backwoods Florida. All that was missing was banjo music.

We stopped for lunch at a funky little restaurant on the river. They have a nice little boat landing so it was a good and easy stop.

This is the sort of thing that makes it all worth the trip.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Rolling Blackouts

Brazil is experiencing rolling blackouts. The best thing that can be said of rolling blackouts is that they are better than unplanned catastrophic grid failure. At least it gives people a chance to prepare for the inconvenience.

Americans behave like that won't happen here, but the US is not immune. In fact, the US grid system is old and overburdened even during normal times. Brazil's problems are worsened by a heat wave. Water levels in their hydroelectric dams are low at the same time air conditioning demands are high. Extreme weather could affect the US too. Hot weather is a risk, but winter causes plenty of power outages.

The time to prepare for outages is before they happen. After a major ice storm I remember people driving hundreds of miles and paying top dollar for generators. Most people then forget they ever had a problem. Either the generators sit and rust or are sold for pennies on the dollar.

The smart thing is to prepare ahead of time. Personally I prefer small solar electric systems to generators, but the main thing is to have some sort of backup system. Take a good hard look at your needs. Does anyone in your family have special medical requirements? Medication need refrigeration? Medical devices need electric power? Does someone in your family require a climate controlled room to live in?

I suffer from sleep apnea and need a cpap for a good nights sleep. While going a few nights without it won't kill me, the lack of proper rest takes its toll. This winter we had power outages caused by wind storms so I was glad to have backup solar electric power. Dealing with the aftermath of a storm was much easier after getting a good night's sleep. Now that I'm on the road my van has a solar electric system that powers my cpap and other electric needs.

Don't expect the grid to get the investment it needs. Rolling blackouts could become normal, even in technologically advanced countries. Now's the time to prepare. Do you have medical needs? Can you cook without electricity? Store food without electricity? How about water? Is your house supplied by a well pump? Perhaps you rely on municipal water. Can they supply your water during an extended power outage?

It doesn't take a very big backup electrical system to maintain a good quality of life. Now the problem is happening in Brazil, but no country is immune from power disruption.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tax Returns

If you are getting a tax return this year, you've mess up. You've given the government an interest free loan. Then you have to do all the paperwork and hope to get it back.

In the interest of full disclosure, I don't even have to pay taxes anymore.

When I did, I tried to have it zero out or even owe the government a few dollars. They got paid at the very last minute.

Now plenty of people rely on their tax return. Businesses also have come to depend on people having a bit more disposable income that time of year. If you are one of those folks who've come to depend on having a big chunk of change once a year, start a savings plan. Of course, once you've actually done the work of saving money, you'll be less likely to blow it. You'll know it's not “free” money from the government.

Thanks to Obamacare there's another reason to not let the government have your money up front. The only way they can collect the non-insurance fine is by taking it out of your tax return. No return = no fine.

This year the IRS's budget was cut. They are operating with less people. I'm betting the average tax payer may have to wait a bit longer for his return to get processed. Heaven help you if you need to talk to them on the phone.

While I don't pay taxes I'm going to stress that it's a legal exemption. Legal according to the IRS itself, not some guy in a Youtube video on the Internet.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Road life and breakdowns

There's quite a few folks living on the road in everything from small vans to big RVs. It can be a pretty cheap way to live. There are more free camping places in the western part of the country, but even in the populous east there are free options. Even campgrounds can be pretty economical. They also have the advantage of having useful services: hot showers, laundry, pump out stations, electric power, and wifi.

One thing that can put a real damper on the lifestyle is vehicle repairs. I know of one family who's converted bus just suffered a blown engine, a $7000 repair. That certainly throws a monkey wrench into frugal living. Major problems with one's vehicle not only leaves you without transportation, you lose your house at the same time. Things can get very expensive very quickly.

Most long term road warriors know a fair amount of vehicle repair and maintenance. However, sometimes you need the service of a full time garage. I've a had a small taste of it myself. Some years back my lovely wife and I were traveling through Louisiana, and our vehicle suffered a major breakdown. We found a garage that could do the job near a cheap motel. It took days to get the right parts and the repairs done. While there were some restaurants and stores close by, nothing was set up for walking. Every time we went somewhere we risked being run over by high speed traffic.

It pays to have stayed in contact with friends and family. Right now I'm at my dad's in Florida. I'm going to check the wheel bearings on trailer and install better lights. If the van needed something my dad could drive me around to get parts. If I needed local services, my dad knows who does good work for a reasonable price. Another time we stayed with friends in Kentucky while my truck got broken springs replaced.

If you travel on the road long enough odds are a major repair will have to be dealt with. If you are lucky you'll have local contacts who'll help you. However, you'll still have to spend some money to fix your problems. Nothing beats having an emergency fund. Call it the price of freedom.

I'm not a big fan of credit card debt, but a credit card can save you. It's better than nothing. Last year I had to resort to that myself. It was at the end of our winter travel and funds were low. It allowed us to fix the problem and get home. A few months later the bills were all paid up and we were ready for the road again.

People who live in regular houses have unexpected expenses too: furnaces die, roofs leak, AC units fail, pipes leak, and so on. People's cars break down too, making life difficult. Every lifestyle has its challenges.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Time passages

Another year, another adventure. It's funny how the years slip by. I've friends of mine who say how they'd love to travel like my wife and I do. Yet year after year they do the same old things over and over again. They don't take any steps to actually make things happen. Instead, things happen to them.

A good friend was interested in what it would cost to live on a sailboat. We went over the numbers. We checked out places that had free anchorages near things that interested him. He and his wife could swing it on her small disability check. He has some portable skills where he could generate some extra income. They won't do it.

Instead he'll hold onto a dead end job. His wife will suffer through harsh winters instead of enjoying warmth and sun.

Now sometimes it's a situation where one spouse wants adventure and the other doesn't. Some folks work around it. Maybe one spouse will go on adventures a few weeks or even months every year. For many that's enough to quench the wanderlust.

People will put up with the “not too terrible” rather than take a risk and go for the “really good.” They've become comfortable with their discomfort. After all, it's possible that one could go from “not too terrible” to “really bad.” Yes, that can happen. However, then you make changes until you get to the place you want to be.

Some folks will put up with things they hate, like a bad job in a place they hate, but they have a goal they are working towards. Maybe they are saving every penny so they can escape to something better. That's fine, but there's a trap in that thinking too. I've seen people who are working towards a goal of freedom, but have so many conditions that must be meet first that they never escape. It's like the guy who wants to live on a boat, but convinces himself he needs a million dollar boat.

While he's working towards his “perfect” boat, another guy is sailing the world on a $10,000 used boat.

One of my High School friends has reached the point where he just wants to retire next to a good hospital. The years take their toll.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

The next bubble?

So what is it that causes a young healthy 20 something to sell all their things and go off-grid? He got rid of his nice car (with a loan) to pay cash for a clunker. Last I heard the guy was heading west with not much more than a good sleeping bag. He even got rid of his cell phone. When a young man gets rid of his smartphone he really means to disappear.

Why did that young guy decide to disappear? Student loans. He's overwhelmed by them. His education was very expensive, yet he's been unable to find anything but low paying seasonal work. It's not like he didn't try. Unpaid internships in a major city can't be swung by working class kids. The guy tried to do it by working a sales job, but there was no way to work enough hours and do the internship.

Now the young man has dropped out of the system and gone underground. When that's a person's good option, things are pretty grim.

I can't help but wonder how many young people are facing the same loan problems that young man is. If there's a lot of them it won't be long before the system chokes. My guess is that a huge percentage of those student loans will never be paid back. The economy is just not producing the high paying jobs needed to make it happen.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Taking it easy, and knots

I'm not doing to much except resting and getting better. I did make a trip to buy some racheting tie downs to replace the ones currently on the boat. Since one snapped, the others are probably due for replacement too. People lose stuff due to poor tie downs all the time.

In my travels I often see things like bungee cords lying in the road. It's tempting to stop and pick them up, but I don't. Think about it: it's lying in the road because it failed to do its job.

A self reliant independent person should have at least a basic knowledge of knots. Mastering even a half dozen knots will handle most of your tying and fastening needs. I first learned knots in the Boy Scouts. Do they even teach knots in the Boy Scouts anymore? Later, as a Firefighter, I learned more rope skills. Then I got into sailing and learned a few more useful knots.

It almost feels wrong to buy ratcheting straps than doing everything with rope. Still, those nylon straps are pretty strong, easy to use, and fast. Of course, when one did snap, it was replaced with a length of rope, which did the job for the next 1000 miles.

Learn a few knots, then treat yourself to a rigging knife with a marlin spike. They are pretty cheap, handy, and you'll feel like a real rope master. Nothing like having the right tools for the job.

I'm not even going to get into fids.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

River Pirate

Last year my lovely wife wanted to explore some of Florida's lakes and small rivers near my dad's place. We even went to the trouble of checking out some boat launches. It didn't take too much effort to see that those waters were not meant for our Oday 19 sailboat. Even with the keel raised, shallows and weeds would be a problem. Power lines and low fixed bridges were also of concern.

However, our little Ooze Goose scow should be perfect. Powered by oars and paddles we should be able to explore some interesting places.

When we left New Hampshire there was some ice in the cockpit and lazerette. It's much easier to drive south until the ice melts then pump it out with a manual bilge pump than to chip out the ice.

I should check the wheel bearings on the trailer. Actually, I probably should have jacked up the trailer and checked them hundreds of miles ago, but it was too darn cold. The trailer could also use a new set of submersible lights.

However, the main drawback right now is that I'm still trying to recover from my nasty cold. The warm weather and moist air has helped, but it'll be a few days before I'm feeling 100%.

Hope to feel better soon so I can play river pirate.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Burning Dinosaurs

It's a good thing the price of diesel is down. Conditions were too cold to run waste veggie in the van. In fact, it was almost too cold to burn diesel. Winter diesel used to be a blend of diesel and kerosene. They don't cut it with K1 anymore so it gels when it gets too cold. In case that happened while on the road I filled the veggie tank with diesel. With subzero temps and high winds, the diesel did cause problems. When the engine started to choke I'd switch to warmed diesel from the veggie tank for a while. It did the trick until temps got a bit warmer.

The veggie jugs were frozen solid when loaded into the van. They didn't thaw out enough to use until we got down to South Carolina. It cost me a few dollars on diesel up front, but now I've plenty of veggie for driving around Florida.

During out travels in Florida I noticed a local restaurant with an overflowing waste veggie tank. Their waste tank was full and there were about a dozen 4.5 gallon jugs piled up around the tank. Now that diesel has dropped so low there might not be as strong a market for biodiesel. Perhaps I'll be able to cut a deal with the restaurant. There were closed when I drove by, but I'll check them out later.

Is it worth it to handle WVO now that diesel is cheaper? I got into it when diesel got around $1/gallon. It was worth it for me back then. It's worth it for me now.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Front row at the collapse circus

What's really going on with the economy? The stock market is acting out. Gold is doing some interesting things of late. Crypto currencies like Bitcoin are volatile as heck. Commodities, most notably oil, appear to be in a depressive cycle. There's some who speculate that we are in a financial period similar to the Roaring 20s, the time leading up to the Great Depression.

From my perspective all I can say is darn if I know. It's not like I have a degree in economics or anything. Of course, plenty of people with high degrees and fancy titles said in 2008 there would never be a housing collapse. One can't but help wonder if a degree in economics is similar to a degree in alchemy, tarot reading or some other pseudoscience.

That's great fun and all, but at some point the little guy on the ground has to make his way in this crazy world. The simple minded just go: Yee ya! Gas is cheap again and I kin go mudding wit ma four by four. Never mind the last time gas was this price he might have had a decent factory job instead of a minimum wage service gig.

It's funny how at one time simple virtues could do the trick. All a man had to do was regularly show up to work on time and sober and he could make a living. He didn't have to be especially educated or clever. That's not to say he was dumb. No, he learned the ins and outs of his midget widget making machine and got the job done. He had work. Maybe he belonged to church that keep him from going too far astray. The schools were good enough that his kids went to school with the sons of doctors and judges.

Now the sons of the rich and the sons of the poor never meet. Gated communities and private schools keep the haves and have nots apart. Simple virtues don't put enough food on the table these days. The churches that once claimed moral leadership have lost their way. Their leaders revealed to be perverts and thieves.

Even being clever and educated does not guarantee any sort of financial success -or even basic sustenance.

So what's a person to do? Is this the calm before the storm? Capitalism's last gasp? Just a slightly significant statistical ripple on the sea of smooth financial sailing? Dang if I know.

What I do know is that most of us aren't have enough fun. Sure, prepare for hard times, but don't forget to live a little. Looking back on life, how many of us have usually worried about the wrong things? The stuff that gets us sneaks up from behind in the dark. Then all we can do is muddle though. That's not a bad lesson. Of course, it helps to have some muddling tools and skills.

So I fill up the fuel tank of my van with fuel a lot cheaper than it was 6 months ago and feel a bit uneasy wondering what big macro financial movements are in the works. Then I remember that it's not my responsibly, nor is there much I can do to influence the forces of History. What I can do is live within my personal code and yes, even have some fun. Life is to important to not have fun.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Made it!

My lovely wife and I pulled into my dad's driveway at 8 p.m. Sunday. Not a bad trip as far as these things go.

We had a near miss with a snow squall in Vermont. In Virgina there was a traffic delay as a tractor trailer burned up on the highway.

The van ran well. This was the test run of the little boat trailer. One of the straps holding the boat snapped as we went over some rough roads in Pennsylvania, but nothing else was damaged.

So now I'm in shorts and sandals. Things are looking up!


Friday, January 9, 2015

On the road, if barely

The day started early, about 5:30 a. m.. It was -27 and the diesel van showed no interest in starting. It was scheduled for a state inspection and oil change at 9:30 in town. By putting a small electric heater under the engine, and closing up the area with tarps, it warmed the engine enough for it to turn over.

It took about 12 hours to get the van loaded up and the house squared away. Finally, we hooked up the boat trailer and drove down the road -about 14 miles to my daughters house. We were too beat to put in any miles.

I also discovered the trailer had the wrong plug. I was so tired that I tried three times to make it fit before I noticed it was never going to happen. In the morning I'll cobble together an adapter.

My lovely wife and I took a good look at the weather forecast for our route to Texas. We decided Texas can wait. The current plan is to head directly to Florida. That way we do the Texas route in the spring when it's warmer. There should be more parks and sites open when we cut across the country back to home.

So we are all loaded up and the house is winterized. Once the plug is fixed we can head due south in search in warmer weather.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Shutting down the house

Thursday, take care of the last minute business: Load the van. Hook up the trailer. Shut down the house. Hit the road. It's a plan. Too freaking cold and almost out of fuel. The plumbing better get drained before everything freezes. Brrrrrrrrrr!

The tires on the boat trailer were a little low on air. I've a little 12 volt compressor that works pretty well so I thought it would be straight forward. Nope. The tire filled up just fine, but then the nozzle froze to the value stem. All the air came out while trying to get it off. The second time worked better.

At the 11th hour we decided to get the little boat registered. It's small enough that it doesn't need any paperwork if rowed or under sail. However, put even a tiny electric motor on and it has to be registered. That's all well and good, but unlike a manufactured boat, mine doesn't have a serial number. To get one a police office had to come to the house and fill out some paperwork. That went off in the mail, but we'll see how it goes.

The town clerk wasn't too sure what to do. The ladies at the DMV were thumbing through their manuals trying to figure it out. The cop didn't look too sure he knew what he was doing. How much you want to bet it'll go through the first time?

There's a funny thing with bureaucracies. Governments set up a whole series of rules and regulations. At some point someone way down the pecking order has to put these policies in effect. The best people know how to phony up the paperwork and get things down. The worse thing that can happen is to have someone who's unsure of themselves and require every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed. I'm guessing that worse come to worse I'll have to send off more paperwork or talk to someone on the phone.

Once I get the number I'm tempted to register the boat in Florida, just for grins and giggles. I haven't played with their bureaucrats yet.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Another fun day

After a very cold night in which my water froze, I lit the big woodstove in the basement hoping it'd thaw out the lines. Since it's such a fuel hog a trip into town for more pressed sawdust fuel blocks was in order.

On the way into town the van died. The diesel fuel filter decided to plug up. The fuel filter on a E350 diesel van is a bear to remove at the best of times. It took over an hour on the side of the road to change it -in sub zero temperatures. At least I had a spare filter, so it could have been worse.

It took three tries to find a place that had some fuel bocks in stock. Then I had to stop at the auto parts store to replace the backup filter. By the time I got home the basement was starting to cool off again. The water wasn't flowing until 9:30 at night.

My plan was to pack up the van for travel, but that obviously didn't happen. My lovely wife was able to make some headway on her own. Now she's working her way though a backlog of dirty dishes.

The temperature is supposed to drop back down to -20. This cold weather is slowing down my efforts to go somewhere warm.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

High winds

Yesterday's high winds and subzero cold took down the grid and Internet. Trees don't sway much when frozen solid. They snap and take down power and communication lines. My lovely wife and I huddled by the woodstove and played cards. Fortunately there was enough power in my solar electric system to keep the lights on.

This morning was a mixed blessing. The grid and Internet were back, but my water was frozen. I've been avoiding using the big woodstove in my basement as it's a fuel hog. However, it's time to feed the beast and thaw the water.

Right now there are two woodstoves going and an electric heater warming my feet. After putting the trash out I've kept my winter jacket on as it's still pretty cold in the house.

We are making progress towards heading south. Yesterday I was able to register my van and the utility trailer my new little boat is on. Registering the trailer took some doing. It hadn't been on the road since 2006 and the registration was no where to be found. Even with the plate and VIN numbers, it didn't show up in the system. Then the town clerk had the bright idea to check if it had been registered in my wife's name. Sure enough. We used to pull the trailer behind the car that was registered in my wife's name, so we probably just registered the trailer at the same time.

The garage was unable to schedule a state inspection and oil change until Thursday morning, so that''s when we'll head out -unless something else unexpected happens.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Cold and Cold Snap

My original get out of Dodge date was January 5. That was never set in stone. I certainly wasn't going to head out in a snowstorm. Currently we are getting rain on top of a half foot of new snow. Dealing with that gift from the heavens is taking time and energy I'd like to put elsewhere. Just to make it interesting I'm suffering from a lovely holiday cold. The current departure date is the 7th -subject to change without notice.

In the big scheme of things a few days one way or the other doesn't matter much. I can always make it up on the other end.

Our original plans were to head directly south. South is a nice direction in January, especially when leaving from Northern New Hampshire. It gets warmer by the mile. Plans change. Instead of Florida we'll be heading to Texas. That's a lot of westerly driving, right into a plunging Arctic air mass. Looks like we'll be dealing with cold for quite a few days.

On the bright side we'll get to visit with good friends in Kentucky. That will make for a nice stop, about halfway to Texas.

We'll be taking it easy and won't do any marathon driving days. This will be the first time the little boat and trailer will be hauled any distance, so taking it easy is just smart. We can sleep and do some light cooking in the van, so there's no need to be in a hurry.

After our Texas visit I hope the weather warms up a bit. There are a lot of interesting places along the Gulf coast I'd like visit. Eventually we'll end up in Florida and make our way down to the Keys. It's all good.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Life Online

One of the things that should make life on the road easier is the ability to do business online. There are bills to be paid and all that.

When my lovely wife and I first started traveling, Internet connection was still mostly dial up. As long as I could get at least one or two stable Internet connections a month I could do what needed to be done. Internet access was sketchy enough that some of my business was done over pay phones. Remember pay phones?

Now there are cell phones and wifi hotspots that allow connection to the 'net from most places. That part of the equation has definitely improved. Unfortunately, those we connect to on the other end often have terrible service.

My bank still hasn't straightened out my online accounts. Ideally I should be able to transfer funds between my accounts. The problem is that for some reason only one out of three accounts actually can be accessed. The others have just disappeared. I've got to physically go into the bank with a wad of cash money -like a barbarian. That won't help me on the road. No doubt the holidays might have caused a business backlog, but it is disconcerting. Nothing sends up red flags like a bank that won't allow depositors access to their money.

Then there's government web sites. Everyone remembers the web site fiasco. Well now the US Census sent me something called “American Community Survey.” They claim I must fill it out by law. (maybe, maybe not, but I'm going to pick my battles) They threatened me with penalties if I don't fill out the survey, but their web site does not work. I've been trying to log on repeatedly for days. Recently I got a card in the mail stating that if I don't fill out the survey on line they'll send a paper survey. Fine, but I'm hitting the road soon. Eventually, my mail will catch up to me -maybe.

The first year my lovely wife and I spent the winter traveling, we did very little business remotely. We simplified our finances. Some bills were paid up front. We had bundles of cash hidden in our car. Our daughter picked up our mail for us. When we called her she'd tell us of anything important that came in.

Ever since we got back home from last trip in March I've been trying to simplify our business for this winter's trip. It's different, but not simplified. Everything takes longer than it should. I'll have something cobbled together for when we are on the road but it won't be pretty.

Maybe some day I'll travel with a boat loaded with provisions and trade goods. The heck with this modern online world.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Money and Me

I have a hard time understanding how money motivates people. Now I know all too well about being motivated by not having enough. If the kids are missing meals something has to be done. If I have enough for my basic needs and bit extra for play money, I'm rich indeed. The actual numbers don't mean anything to me.

At a party the other night people were talking about what they'd be willing to do for a million dollars. I felt that if it was too degrading to do for $50, it was still too degrading for a million. No one else saw it that way.

Recently I was talking to some people who've moved into the area. They'd head about a guy with some unusual skills. As it turns out I was that guy. There are only a handful of people in the world with the same skill set. Once in a while I get to use my skills and that often saves people thousands of dollars. It doesn't take me all that long and I'm happy to accept donations. My new friend was appalled I would accept so little. It's possible that I could turn my skills into a business, but that's not how I want to operate.

So I'm a terrible businessman, big deal. I'd rather have friends that a big bank account. When a buddy is willing to come out on a cold snowy day to help me change trailer bearings, that's more valuable to me than money. I'm a big believer in the gift economy.

Now for some people wealth is just a game and money is the way they keep score. That I kinda get. When I play games I play to win. It just so happens that I'd rather play chess than stocks. To each their own.

One of the more compelling arguments for having a few bucks salted away is the concept of F*ck You money. The idea is that if your boss is giving you a hard time you can just say FU and walk away. One of the guys I used to work with had made some very successful investments. I think he went to work just because he liked it. The guy was very good at his job, but only because he wanted to be. Management was afraid of him. On the rare occasion when they told him to do something he thought was stupid he just didn't do it. His boss would then act like the order was never given.

I got along well with that guy and really liked his attitude. I realized I'd most likely never have a big cushion of money to land on. That doesn't mean I couldn't have the same attitude. All it took was a lack of fear and trust that maybe the universe would reward the bold. One of the weird side effects of that attitude is that some folks just assumed I must have a pile of money hidden away somewhere.

There are fictional examples of people who've put vast wealth to good use: Bruce Wayne became Batman and Tony Stark became Iron Man. Frankly, Bill Gates has been a huge disappointment.


Friday, January 2, 2015

Stupid Ice

On the morning of December 31 I slipped on some ice and fell off a wall onto my back. On the way down I had enough time to think: but my health insurance doesn't start until tomorrow!

Fortunately I did a perfect martial arts landing and didn't get hurt. It's nice to know that after all these years the training still kicks in when really needed.

Rain fell on top of snow, then everything went back into a deep freeze. There's ice everywhere. It's cold enough that even sand doesn't provide much traction as it just slides off. Every outside project takes longer. It's a bit of a Catch 22. I'm getting ready to head south to get away from the ice, but the ice is slowing my departure.

On the other hand, the lake is now one giant skating rink. That doesn't happen every winter. It makes me wish I still had my skates. It's pretty amazing to be able to strap on a pair of skates and just keep going and going. Once in a great while it's the perfect way to travel. I guess ice isn't all bad after all.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hello 2015

Goodbye 2014. Hope it wasn't too terrible for all of you.

It's traditional to do some predictions for the coming year. They are most often wrong, but few people remember them anyway. I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict there will be no Zombie Apocalypse this year. (now watch me be wrong)

Another tradition is New Year's Resolutions. Those rarely make it to February. This year I resolve to not make any. Setting and working towards goals is something that doesn't need to happen just on the first of the year. I'm going to keep working on the ones I've been working on. As those are completed I'll set new goals. One step at a time.

Hope you and yours have a good 2015!