Monday, September 28, 2015

The Bathroom(s) Demolition is Nearing the End.

DSCN0135After two weeks of effort, I have removed all the cabinets, the shower enclosure, and one toilet. That leaves just chipping tile from the floor which I will have done by Floors Direct.  I learned from doing the kitchen that I don't want to do it again.

The very kind folks at Palm Beach Countertops agreed to help me out with this project and salvage the existing sink tops. This was an uncommon request for them and considering the size of the 98" master bath top of 30+ year old cultured marble, I can see why. I am happy to report both tops were successfully extracted. That's not to say they will survive reinstallation but I am aware of the risks. 

This would be a very good time to go over the planning and decisions I made on this bathroom renovation. I have now owned this project home three full years. The most I did on the bathrooms was to fix the plumbing so the toilets worked and the showers stopped leaking water into the walls. I had my hands full with the rest of the place which has come out beautifully.


If you arrived late to my blog, [click here] for the rest of the house and [click here] for the burst water pipe disaster. I had more or less moved in January of this year. That means I moved up a set of bedroom furniture and for the first time was not sleeping on a camping cot. Up till then all this work was done weekends and all the time I could spare. In July I retired and moved up the rest of my belongings. This made the bathrooms more of a priority.


I debated for a long time on what to keep and what to do away with. At minimum, replace the facets and patch the wall tile. A middle step may have been to reface the cabinets. I debated that for a very long time. At maximum (and by that I mean budget) take it to the walls and start over.

Paying for this entire renovation out of pocket required me to cut corners or wait to save the money. Right now my corner cutting is saving the two counter tops. If I don't like them later - they are the only thing I can change. But I can change them. I was debating on just refacing the cabinets. As one began to pull away from the wall, that thought went out the window. Leaking water turned the bottoms into oatmeal. Plus they smelled bad and the hardware was rusted. The facets are so pitted there was never any question they were going. The master toilet was a possibility but it chose this very day to leak onto the floor making that decision easy.


So after much contemplation, there was really only one right answer. Remove everything, start over. I still have 4 weeks before the shower and tub is replaced which will kick off the construction part of this project. I have a mirror to pull off the wall, fix, sand and paint the walls, new lighting, and remove a soffit over the shower. I'm holding that for last. I did the ones in the kitchen and it was not easy.


You may ask why I am so far ahead of the construction portion of this project. I may live here now but that does not mean I stay here all the time. I have plenty of other things on my retirement to do list. You know - all the stuff you want to do but a job gets in the way. If you don't know what I'm talking about.... you may want to keep working.

My first Thanksgiving in this house was stripping popcorn off the ceiling while roofers put on a new roof. This Thanksgiving will be a turkey in the oven and giving a tour of my new bathrooms.

For the photos on this project to date [click here]. I'll keep adding as I go.

Supermoon Lunar Eclipse 2015

Hours of standing in the hot, muggy, South Florida mosquito infested swamp of a place I call home just so you didn't have to.  But if you did watch the whole thing as I did, wasn't it amazing? 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Lakeridge Winery - Clermont FL

It's been a while since I have visited the Lakeridge Winery. When my sister lived in Clermont we liberated quite a few cases from the place. It is not often the stars align and I'm able to pick up a few bottles and drive straight home these days.


I should make note that I am not often a wine drinker or a drinker at all. That said, I have enjoyed many a Southern White, Southern Red, and Sunblush over the years. They tend to be a bit sweeter and go down very easy.


Better than trying the wine is visiting the winery. The tours are lively and informative. For an enhanced experience, plan a trip for one of the many festival days. I took my daughter many years ago and all she wanted to do was stomp grapes. Happens only once a year so plan accordingly.


What I enjoy the most is this is not some large corporation but a family run business based on one man's dreams. I think we pretty much all have dreams. Very few of us have a winery to show for them.

For a few more photos [click here]

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Silver Springs - Not what I remembered.

My first visit to Silver Springs  near Ocala FL was in 1976 when I was about 16 years old. I remember a vibrant attraction with a long wait to venture out on the glass bottom boat. I remember with perfect clarity the perfect clarity of the water. Looking 30 feet below the glass bottom boat was more vivid and clear than if you were looking through air. Our boat captain mentioned the glass has a slight magnifying effect bringing the springs into better view.


My last visit was with my daughter when she was an early teen. Not two steps inside the park and she was handed a baby alligator to hold and pose for photos with. I was surprised that day to find an entire zoo I did not remember. Indeed it was new then. We spent the full day exploring. In fact I practically had to pry her away. I'm sure she remembers the crazed goose running after a small child who was pretending to throw food. Yeah - never do that. A goose does not have a sense of humor about such things.


On my visit this week..... it was a ghost town. The water park was closed which made it even more eerie. There was maybe 30 cars in the parking lot. I was not planning a long stop this time as I was passing through but as the zoo is now gone (along with all the people) there was not a lot to fill the day.


To be fair - this was a Monday, it was early, the water park just closed for the season, and we had a lot of personal attention. As we were heading out after our short visit, a lot more were heading in and we were told by the staff they were packed on the weekend. So this was a very lucky, offseason moment.


But even my point and shoot camera in the bright Florida sun could cut through the reflection enough to show fish seemingly floating in air in ten feet of crystal clear water. The zoo apparently was adding a bit of unnatural additions in its runoff and the State of Florida took over the park in 2015. They removed the zoo and several buildings. There is an additional entrance down the road a bit which is much more state park like and where you can rent canoes and kayaks. I remember the electric boats making the run that is now only seen in a more personal way.

My next visit will include much more time, a bathing suit, and a long paddle in this pristine (again) wonder of nature.  

If you are interested in more photos of this now abbreviated adventure - [click here]

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tallahassee, FL - A Quick Tour

Way back around 15 years ago I had to make a choice. Fight for a promotion at my current place of employment or accept a job at the Tallahassee State House. I remember sitting in my office trying to decide when word came down that I was promoted. I called the State and declined the offer - Never having actually been to Tallahassee was not even a consideration.


These are the little things that make life interesting. It is no secret I had a job I onced loved only later to love not so much. I had a very love/hate relationship with South Florida as well. But money ruled the day and once the path was set I stuck to it and never looked back.



This past weekend I was fortunate to get a whirlwind quick tour of Tallahassee. My impression was a college town with a State House slap dab in the middle of it. Great food, lots of bars, very little for the adventurer in me to occupy his time. Oh - did I mention hot? Like burn your feet on the pavement hot. Like nobody walking around outside hot. I hear in the winter it is freezing rain cold. Not quite snow but not quite pick a grapefruit off the tree in December in shorts and a long sleeve shirt South Florida cold. After eating and drinking and with no concert downtown, the tour was pretty much at an end.

Over the many passing years I have on occasion wondered if I had made the right decision so long ago. Well - here's the thing.....

The person I once was would have been happy to have moved here, settled into a mundane little life, spent the rest of his days here, and lived with the broken heart that being so far from my daughter would have given me.

The person I became looks around, smiles, says sure I could do about three days here to see it all, and blows out of town to go zip lining somewhere.

Being on the path I chose I can clearly see how my life would have turned out if I made the other choice. But had I made the leap, it would have been impossible to even dream of the wonders I have experienced. I still don't even know what's coming tomorrow but I am certain it won't be a string of yesterdays.

I have a few more photos. If you have a minute [click here]

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Bathroom(s) renovation begins

I was only planning to tackle one bathroom at a time but I managed to save a bit of money doing them both at the same time. For those of you following along at home, I purchased this house three years ago this month. During that time I've done two major rehabs.

For photos of the first renovation [click here]


Kitchen by CL Kitchens, Appliances by Kenmore

These are just two sample photos. The entire house was in this condition and now only the bathrooms remain to update.

The second situation was more of a tragedy. The main water line under the house burst forcing me to rerun all the water lines through the ceiling and destroy a lot of the work I had already done.

I have started an album with the current state of the bathrooms. This will be the most expensive upgrade I've done and it took a long time to save the money. The bathrooms for the most part were functional unlike the roof, ceilings, appliances, flooring, and tons of sheet rock. To see what they look like currently, [click here]

This entire project including the original purchase of the house has been out of pocket. I started with a roof then worked only weekends and time available until after a year I could put in a kitchen and flush a toilet. It took another year of finishing touches and finally in January this year bring up a bed instead of sleeping on a camping cot. Now that I finally moved in 10 weeks it seems way past time to finish this project.


I need to run out and make the final arrangements with the cabinet company. I used CL Kitchens  for my kitchen and I am not hesitating to have them do the bathrooms. Bath Crest did a great job on my bathroom in the condo so I've invited them to my house for a much larger effort. Floors Direct will be handling the tile work.

The time frame is two months for this job so my blog will be a little sparse for a bit. As always I'm doing as much of the work as possible. Unfortunately for this project I'm taking on more of a general contractor role as I need to sub out nearly everything.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Retired at 55 - 10 weeks in - Never been happier

Contrary to all predictions by half my friends and all my family, I am not bored. I still get up at 6:00 am every day, I blink my eyes and it's noon or dinner time or past my bedtime. Happens every day. Every morning is now like a Saturday of a three day weekend.

I will admit I am starting to slow down a bit. I've been a little under the weather the past week or so. By that I mean I live in the sub tropics and there is a thunderstorm rolling in every day at about 2:00 pm. Today I headed out around 9:00 and it was already threatening.

The big question I get is how am I able to afford to be retired when most of my friends are swimming in debt. Right there is the big secret to my success.

I started working at 15. My Dad set me up working summers in a huge bank from the day school let out till it started back up. Minimum wage - $1.76 an hour. I had a SS# and even filed tax forms. I spent 4 years in college. With the money I saved (no I was not allowed to spend a dime of my summer earnings) and the job I worked, I paid for my entire education as I went. No Loans. The night job I was working was in a computer room which turned into a 35 year career in Programming, Network Administration, and Management. I went to school full time. I worked up to 50 hour weeks. I graduated college a semester early after changing my major without a counselor so I missed the big graduation walk. Didn't matter. I already had a career path and I was many steps ahead on it.

I managed to acquire my first credit card in 1982, the year I graduated college, and have yet to this very day pay dime of interest on it. I've never paid more than two years on a car loan and currently I own two homes free and clear.

Does that make me rich? Hardly. I was at the bottom of middle class earnings and my pension is 42% of my pay. Yes I have a pension but until my other house sells money will be a bit tight. So why does anyone care?

My goal from my early 20's was always to retire early and enjoy the best years of my life. The road to this goal was pretty rocky with some real show stopper moments but in the end I succeeded. Not the way I envisioned and at the destruction of my career path but hey - whatever works right?

I was talking to young waiter/college student while on my Disney trip. He was fascinated to find out I was retired. I was given a few tips when I was his age so I thought it would be paying forward to pass them along. Here is pretty much what I told him with a bit more detail.

1) Never pay interest - If you can't afford it, you don't need it. I calculated I saved $72,000 in interest on my 30 year condo loan. I paid it off in 10 years. A lot of financial sacrifice but dude - I saved $72K. Same with cars and credit cards - Interest is poison. Why let other people spend your money.

2) Pick a career you like early. Life is a building process. If you are just working a job, hopping jobs, taking breaks, you will never get ahead. I chose computers as they change every day. It keeps you motivated to not only keep up but to get ahead.

3) The money is in management. It's the one hard truth I learned from my first boss. Do your best, be the best at what you do. Then work your way up to making other people do it so you can collect a bigger paycheck. I fought the jump a long time but in the end it was the best decision to move up.

4) Stay Married...... I sucked at this one. It cost me a fortune more than once. 99% of millionaires managed to somehow not get divorced. Had I not made some very poor personal decisions I would have quite easily exited the work world with 2-5 million bucks in the bank. At 40 years old I found myself homeless with one paycheck in the account and owing my lawyer.  Hence the career ending local government job and meager pension. There is something to be said for having a clearly defined and traumatic worst day of your life but I could dedicate a whole book to that subject.

5) Never give up. Every day is a new day. Find a way to do better, improve yourself, save money, earn more money. Hyper activity is not something to be medicated away - Its a gift.

6) Set clearly defined goals.... My first wife used to scoff at my documented "Five Year Plan". I found her lack of faith disturbing. I made a 30 year plan at 25 to retire at 55. All the ever evolving smaller plans were just to keep me on track. Not everything works out. Sometimes in the most catastrophic ways. Sometimes you paint yourself so far into a corner there is no way out. Well I got news. Paint dries quick enough and if you are in a bigger hurry - just make a mess and move on.

It does not really matter what your goal is. Mine was pretty simple in the end for me. Did not seem simple along the way but I persisted. Many of my friends have goals that I think are crazy, unrealistic, impossible to achieve. For me at least. I am watching them every day take a step closer to achievements I could never hope to.  My last piece of advice - do what you love. You get one life. You will struggle most of the way through it so make it count when you reach your goal.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Disney's Animal Kingdom - Kali River Rapids

I just got back from a two day trip to Disney and all I have time to post is this one video. I have 580 other photos and videos to sort through but this one came out great. I gave this lovely couple my card so hopefully they kept it dry enough to find my blog. I shot this handheld with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5. Not too worried about getting it wet. It's waterproof up to 43 feet. If you think it was easy holding it this steady - it was not.

Hope you enjoyed it. I'm going to bed. I'll relive the last two days for the next week while I edit no doubt.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

National Navy UDT-Seal Museum - Fort Pierce

Even though I recently retired, it's not like me to hang out inside and watch TV. Unless we are having a week of tropical weather of course. Just by chance I was watching a show about museums and wondering how many I would be able to visit across the country. I found one while watching that was pretty much right in my backyard. On the first clear day, I headed up the road to Fort Pierce to visit the National Navy UDT-Seal Museum.


Outside and surrounding the museum there is an amazing collection of equipment illustrating what the Navy Seals do, from attack boats, to mini subs, to space capsules. No they don't go to space (yet) but they are the ones who dove in from helicopters to secure the capsules at splash down.


Before my trip I knew the Seals as primarily a dive team and Underwater Demolition Team (UDT). I was not really aware of their many other roles.


The variety of weapons on display at the museum is mind boggling. Pretty much every combat weapon I've ever seen, more knives than I knew existed, and ship boarding equipment that is ingenious.


The museum also houses artifacts from their most publicized missions. For every mission detailed in this museum, I know there have to be thousands that will never be known but that made this world a safer place.


Just holding this one weapon for the very short time to take a photo was enough for me to know I would not last 10 minutes doing this job. I am thankful everyday for the thousands upon thousands who are willing and able to defend this country.


For the rest of my photos from this visit [click here]. Better yet, find a military museum in your own part of the world and honor those who deserve your respect with a visit.