Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Music & Morgans

So it's been a while, things have been a little stalled out around here due to work - always gets in the way of plans to sail away, but it won't for long! But there's always stuff to report when you're hunting for your future floating home and restoring a 1975 VW. 

This past weekend the bus took center stage in Downtown Portsmouth on a GLORIOUS Saturday afternoon as we celebrated our good friends Liz and Dale who are moving from Portsmouth to Houston. We arrived in the bus with a cooler fulla jello shots, a corn hole/bean bag toss set and sleeping bags (just in case we imbibed a bit too much). We were able to get the bus a primo parking spot right in front of Liz & Dale's house. 

Of course we had to pop the top! 
Now a while ago there was a "snafu" with the bus' stereo deck, as in, Tim pilfered it while she was dead to put into his Corolla and then sold the Corolla with the deck still in it! So we got another system from a friend and for whatever reason (i.e. Tim's installation) it NEVER worked right. We would get the mysteriously frustrating message "Mecha Error" every time we put any CD in and forget the radio reception - never worked. Thing is the bus is pimped out with a pretty sweet speaker set-up. We actually got a few extra dollars in the loan we got to buy her so we could pimp her out with a sub-woofer (SHH! Don't tell our bank!). When she's working right, she BUMPS! But she hasn't been at her full capacity for a few years now, we rely on each other's riveting conversations, Timbo's singing, his "snare drum" playing and once in a while a $20 boombox we bought from Walmart. However, there is this strange and in certain circumstances (almost all) tremendous thing about the dysfunctional stereo - it only plays the CD "Pass the Peas" by the JB's. 

I mean SUPER funky stuff from James Brown's backing band from the 1960's?  YES PLEASE! Especially for bean bag toss, beer drinking and hanging on the sidewalk of Downtown Portsmouth on a sunny Saturday afternoon. 

More than we'll miss Liz & Dale, we'll miss these wings! :) 
Dale is a MASTER griller, no, not that sissy gas crap, Dale uses charcoal and yes, the man from Baton Rouge grilled YEAR ROUND in New Hampshire. You could smell Dale's famous wings from blocks away in February. The bus' awesome little side cocktail table made a perfect spot for us to put the wings while we played corn hole. We had numerous passer-by's who wanted to see the bus, toss a bean bag, have a wing and one dude even took a tour of the bus because he was looking for "alternative housing". The bus was in her glory, bumping funk music, being admired and serving as the scene for a really, really good time. More camping plans were hatched for a couple of weeks from now and music festival season is back! 

After that fantastic afternoon we decided it was time to buy the bus a new stereo. So Sunday afternoon we ventured to Best Buy to get the girl a new stereo deck. It has all the bells the whistles - USB connection, AUX input, Pandora, lights up 4 different crazy shades but best of all it plays the JB's CD plus the Willie Nelson and the Toots and even The Band.   This weekend we're taking her to Cape Cod for Memorial Weekend and Toby and I really looking forward to not having Timbo sing the entire way down Route 3! 

And...the boat search continues! 
We are planning to check out a 1982 41' Morgan Out-Island 416 while on the Cape. We are VERY, VERY, VERY excited about this boat and have been waiting since mid-March when we found it on Yacht World to see it. The marina where she's moored wasn't operational until Memorial Day and we need to get the launch to shuttle us out to her. From the listing (we have to take that with a grain a salt) she has a lot of what we're looking for - center cockpit, substantial rigging, solid craftsmen ship, wide beam. She also "looks" like she's been very well maintained. 

We have another story about our first Morgan Out-Island experience that we'll share next week when we have this boat's debrief. 
(did I mention we were excited?!) 
How pretty are her lines?!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

VW Buses = Happiness for All Ages & Critters

This weekend was OJ's first big trip of the Summer 2012 season and she was a rockstar!  We headed south to our home turf, about 30 miles south of Boston for some family time. 
Toby LOVES riding in the bus & his mohawk is rocking! See that smile?

Tim's family was Saturday and Uncle Tim and Aunty Jill's bus has taken on quite the reputation with two of our older nieces. This past summer I told one that when she saves up $4,000 she could buy it from us, she was 7 at the time but I am worried because she's WAY into this bus and she's the daughter of a CPA! Never make a promise to a kid smarter and more motivated than you are! 

About 20 minutes after we got there in the bus the, "Can we go in the bus?!?" pestering began. We held it off till after dessert - chocolate fountain and cake. Perhaps not the best idea to let a gaggle of sugar crazed children take over your 37 year old bus. But it was AWESOME! The kids just love the thing! They climb up in the 'upstairs bed' in the pop top, they dance on the main floor, they play make believe house for hours, they get their stuffed animals to show them the bus. We took them for a ride and it was better than Disney - the screams every time Tim took a corner, the giggles, the laughs...I'm not sure there is much that could make us smile bigger. 

The bus ride! 
"Upstairs" in the Pop Top 
The littler ones even got into it
Look at those smiles!  There's something about VW buses & Happiness 
Uncle Andrew, Tim's Brother commented while taking a cruise, "I love this car, I love its smell, I love it's sound, I love everything about this car." 

Sunday we went for an early Mother's Day brunch with Jill's side of the family. Jill's Mom Peggy and Dad Larry are the reason the bus is still rolling today. Back in September 2009 the bus broke down upon arrival at the Willie Nelson Concert in Mansfield, Mass. We like to think she had arrived "home" and gave up life. We were told her engine had seized and that she'd need a whole new engine - think $$$$ that with Jill starting grad school we didn't have. We towed the dead bus around the Seacoast every time we moved including one exceptionally illegal move down Route 33 in Greenland with friends and a "Car in Tow" sign hanging on her. We talked numerous times of selling her, we wrote Craigslist listings but chickened out on posting them, we cursed her and had basically lost all hope. THEN Peggy & Larry gave us the best wedding gift EVER -- they brought the bus back to life. They said, "Get her fixed, get her rolling and then do what you will with her but at east get her running and we'll foot the bill". So we brought her to European Auto in Rye and Kevin, the bus's guardian angel, saved her. She didn't need a new engine at all. Kevin filled her cylinders with oil, put her in 3rd gear and every day for a month he put his shoulder into her and gave her a good shove. By leaving it in gear he used the weight of the car, combined with the oil penetrating into the cylinder to free up the engine. He also did some extensive exhaust work that she desperately needed replacing both heater boxes and she's run like a dream ever since. Someday when our own little ones are screaming with excitement in the bus we'll tell them that their Gramma & Grampa saved this bus for them to have adventures in. 

Peggy is a phenomenal human being. She's 75, looks 45 and acts 35. She's kicking breast cancer's ass and is a daily reminder to all of us to live life to the fullest. Peggy LOVES to ride in the bus so on the way to Mother's Day Brunch Peggy took shotgun. As we're wandering around Jerusalem Road in Cohasset Peggy said, "The world looks different, better when you're riding in the bus." We decided it had to do with the big bay window windshield and the fact that you're sitting on top of the front tires with no hood (bus engines are in the back) so the road and the scenery is all around you. A spring Sunday rambling along the coast in the bus, doesn't get much better.

Riding in the bus is a treat and an experience, you feel like you're always in a 4th of July parade with the waves and honks and peace signs flashed. You don't get anywhere fast, you have to accept that right lane travel (or "the hippie lane" as Tim likes to call it) is the only mode of travel you will ever be doing on the highways, but you wouldn't believe how much more you see on the sides of the highways when you're going 50 mph. And when there's alternatives to the highway you take those, the scenery is better and the old girl's 4 gear engine likes it more. The bus is a change in lifestyle, it's a shift from the typical day to day of modern society. It's not about being fast to get to your destination it's about the journey. Right now the bus has no radio so we just talked for the whole 3 hour ride south from NH. When do you get a chance to chat for 3 straight hours with your partner? There's no A/C so windows down with the air and the smells of the landscape are your cooling mechanism.  You arrive places late, smelling a bit like gasoline with your hair blown back and a 3 mile smile.

Ned, Shoally, Tim, Toby & Jill - all smiles! 

Kyle, Catta & our old best bud Jack heading camping!
The bus reminds us all, young, old and canine that there's nothing better than getting out of the ordinary rush of life, computers, Cancer, school, parents, highways and schedules and slowing down, taking in the sights, smelling the air and rambling along surrounded by groovy orange plaid. 

"Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy.
Hello lamppost,
What cha knowing?
I've come to watch your flowers growing.
Ain't cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in' doo-doo,
Feelin' groovy.

Got no deeds to do,
No promises to keep.
I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep.
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me.
Meggie D, Seth & Jill headed north to Dolly Copp for some camping!
Life, I love you,
All is groovy." 

- Paul Simon's "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy)" From Simon & Garfunkel's 1966 Parsley Sage Rosemary & Thyme

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Reasons Why Wednesday: "Rising Rents"

Reason #2 - We want to invest in our own dreams.

Since December 2009 we have happily called The Great Island of New Castle home. We have loved it, mostly all the time. There's not a lot not to love about living within view of the Piscataqua River and 5 minutes from a sandy beach. The island location is the envy of many in Portsmouth and we do feel lucky to have lived here for a short time. 

But location isn't everything - The house we call home was nicknamed "The Dupe" when we first moved in because, well, it's a Duplex but the word is also closely related to the word "The Dump" because in all seriousness  - The Dupe is just that. Don't get me wrong, it's a lovely house and it has major perks - fireplace, nice little back yard for chilling and grilling, antique 'feel', good compact size.

This is ice on the INSIDE of the windows in winter
BUT the house has not been maintained at all and on an island where the average house value is $1.5 million the Dupe really stands out. Our landlords are very hands-off and though that is always welcome as tenants it's not so great for a house that was built in the late 1700's in a salty climate. She's an old lady who shows her age. Her floors all need replacing, her windows might as well be screens, her wood trim is rotted away to nothing, her paint is peeling, ceiling is cracking, foundation is sinking...she needs some SERIOUS love, patience and MONEY. The bat in our bedroom and squirrels in our walls last year - just the icing on the Dupe Cake.

We have the work ethic in us but we're not about to invest time, money and sweat into something that we don't own. Just last week the landlords informed us that they are increasing the rent on The Dupe for the second time in a year. Bottom line - We are not willing to pay any more for a house that needs so much. 

We are tired of lining other people's pockets with rent money with which they use none of it on improving the property but rather go travel to Africa and Indonesia. We want to travel to Africa and Indo, we want to spend our hard earned money on fixing up an antique boat and bringing her back to her glory, giving her the love and patience that any senior stateswoman deserves and setting sail in her to places unknown. We don't want to invest any more money in someone else's dream, we want to start paying into our own dream. 

We know that this boat plan isn't what some would call a "sound investment" (let's remember that I'm the daughter of a CFP) but we've all watched the economy take the downward spiral it has in the last few years and the idea of "investment" has taken on new meaning. We've watched retirements disappear, we've watched friends and family get hired, laid off, hired and laid off again, we've watched friends and family stuck in houses that won't sell losing money by the minute, we've watched the Wall Street vs. Main Street war play out and the 99% questioning. 

So we ask, truly, what is an "investment"? To us an investment is something that brings you happiness but maybe no wealth. Something that teaches you something new or reinforces something you already know. Something that provides for laughs and swears, failures and successes, challenges and triumphs. To us an investment needs to result in an increase in the quality of your life not just the balance in your bank account. So we're choosing not to invest anymore rent but rather invest in the stories we can tell. 

As Jimmy Buffett sings...

Talkin' to myself again
wonderin' if this traveling is good
Is they're something else a doin'
We'd be doin' if we could
All the stories we could tell
If it all blows up and goes to hell
I wish that we could sit upon the bed in some hotel
And listen to the stories we could tell

Stared at that guitar in that museum in Tennessee
Name plate on the glass brought back twenty melodies
Scars upon the face told about all the times he fell
Singin' all the stories he could tell

All the stories he could tell
And I bet you it still rings like a bell
I wish that we could sit upon the bed in some hotel
And listen to all the stories we could tell

If your on the road trackin' down your every night
Playin' for a livin' beneath the brightly colored lights
If you ever wonder why you ride the carousel
You do it for the stories you can tell

All the stories we could tell
And if it all blows up and goes to hell
I wish that we could sit upon the bed in some hotel
Just listen to the stories we could tell

- John B. Sebastian on Jimmy Buffett's A-1-A