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Friday, September 30, 2011

Surviving The Cut

Water boarding.  Thumbscrews.  Chinese Water Torture.  Richard Simmons exercise videos. 

We put four realtor candidates through the wringer to pick one that we felt confident that can actually sell our house.

Two of the realtors contacted us after they saw our MLS listing had been removed by the people who were masquerading as our (former) realtors, the other two we contacted, one from a random ad in the local paper and the other on a recommendation of a friend.

We interviewed them at our kitchen table and informed them from the start that they were competing for our listing.

After hearing interesting views and programs, one young guy stood out head and shoulders from the rest.  He actually had a plan to bring clients in to view our home.  That was a refreshing, and it made all kinds of sense.  On top of his plan, even before he arrived for his interview and met us, he had researched all the similar for sale homes within a two mile radius of our home and visited each one to see with his own eyes what we are competing against.  I never heard of that before.  That put him over the top in our eyes, plus he'd get photographs of the house done tomorrow and have us re-listed on the MLS by Saturday afternoon.  Talk about a go-getter!

I called him late this afternoon and he was at our house just under an hour later to do the listing agreement.  He agreed with the price we set and thinks it is a very reasonable amount for our market area.  When all the "Ts" were crossed and the "Is" dotted, he told us he has been studying real estate sales under a nationally known realtor who has taught the top 25 realtors in the United States.

He survived the cut and we think he's a keeper.  He certainly is an "out-of-the-box" thinker.  I won't tell you what national real estate company he works for, but they do have a pretty neat hot air balloon.  ;c)

Maybe now we'll be on the road faster than we thought possible.  Fingers, toes and eyes are all crossed.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Coming Out of the Woodwork

Holy Termites, Batman!  Realtors are coming out of the woodwork faster than insects running from Raid Bug Spray.

The realtors we fired didn't give us any flack, for which we're thankful.  They immediately removed our listing from the MLS and sometime this morning removed their sign from the yard and the key lock, plus they left a card apologizing for being unable to sell our home.  That was a surprise, but we're glad that's behind us.

I've been getting phone calls all morning from realtors that saw our listing removed and want to be given the chance to sell our home.

 So I've now booked three appointments with two more that I'm waiting for conformation emails from.  We're going to ask some tough questions, ala Bill and Nancy Mills style.

We're entering into the slow time of the year for home sales, so we're being optimistic that we'll move forward...finally, and quickly.

Stay tuned, more adventure to come!  :c)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fired the Realtors

We're fed up.  The realtors we listed with has done little to nothing to push the sale of our house.  In fact, the promises they made to keep us advised of current market trends and feedback from other realtors who actually had clients to show our house to have dropped off.  They have not brought a single client to view our house.

Enough is enough.  I contacted a highly regarded, local realtor who spent an half hour on the phone with me giving advice without any pressure to list with him.  He works for a large, national real estate company and has much greater resources available to sell our home.

I sent an email to the first realtors stating we are immediately terminating our listing agreement with them.  I can't wait to see what their response will be and what kind of reaction they will have.  After all, it's all about customer service, we're the customer and we're not getting anything but excuses.

It's going to get interesting.  The second realtor has told me that if we list with him and the house doesn't sell by the end of October, it would be a good idea to pull it from the market and re-list it the last week of February next year.  It would then appear as a new listing instead of one that's been on the market (by that time) for eight months, causing prospective buyers to pass on looking at the house thinking there is something  wrong with it.

This opens up a new can of worms, I have to really lock into a part or full time job for the winter.  I have applied to over a dozen different job listings in my field (Investigator), including two more today that just popped up.  So far, nothing has panned out.  I can't even be a french fry cook at McDonald's because they just tore down the local one as part of a road widening project. :c(

So that's the puzzle of what we're looking at, it may be another long winter here in Northern Virginia.  Yep, I'll have to winterize the Journey, hopefully for the very last time.

Thanks for sticking with us on our slow progress towards our fulltime life.  We appreciate all your comments that have been very encouraging.  I guess it all boils down to "Rome wasn't built in a day".

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Making God Laugh

And our plans will have him splitting his sides.  Man plans, God laughs.

Back when we were getting ready to put the house on the market and I was wearing out paintbrushes, we were sure the house would have been long gone by this time and we'd be free as a breeze.  Of course as you know, that hasn't worked out the way we wanted.  However, we're pressing on in case a miracle should occur.

To start, I've already had to declare South Dakota as my intended new home state with the Coast Guard for my retirement purposes.  I may at some point either have to make a flight out there and set up things like getting an address, drivers license, register my vehicles and open a bank account, or I have to completely trash that and change everything over to Virginia where the house is until such time as it sells.  Dragging the house sale means I will have to get a job and, lucky me, start paying Virginia income taxes. 

Many have asked why don't we rent out the house, a good option, but not one that would work for us because the rental market here would not cover the mortgage and we'd have to supplement house payments from our pension, which would crimp our full time travel plans.

If the miracle of selling the house does happen, then we can kick things into high gear.  Our plans would be as soon as we get a contract and closing date on the house, the estate sale would go forward.  We'd have to rent a U-Haul for a trip to New Jersey for items our son Corey is getting and another truck to take the items our daughter Heather is receiving as well as the few things we're going to store at her house  in South Carolina.  Then the biggie, upon closing, Marti will give her notice at work and retire.  We will live locally in the Journey until she works out her 30 day notice.

We have plans to be with Heather's family for Thanksgiving,

 then head West to Oregon to spend Christmas with our son Ryan's family.  Along the way, we'd get our South Dakota residency requirements taken care of.

New Years will have us heading down the West Coast to visit my two cousins that live near San Diego.  After that, we want to head to Quartzsite for the RV show and the follow on craft show for Marti.  While there, we want to make a run for the boarder and check out the dentists in Mexico.  If it looks good, we'll go ahead and get some checkups there.

We have some down time to play around (maybe even a Disney World visit with our grandsons Andrew and Owie)  until March, when we have to be up in New Jersey.  Our daughter-in-law Amanda, Corey's wife, is due with their first child and our fifth grandchild.  They're excited and we are, too.

By May we will need up to be back in Oregon, the reason?  New news here, Ryan's wife Amber, is also expecting, our grandchild number six.  We want to be there to help out, be able to babysit our granddaughters, Taylor and Kierra and come June help them pack up and move to Ryan's new Coast Guard assignment, which at this time is unknown where that will be.

After the move and getting Ryan all set up, we hope to take Andrew and Owie out West for a couple of weeks to see some of the great things like the Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns and Hoover Dam, to name a few.  We have to have them back by mid August so they can get ready for school, so we'll be heading North to see Corey and Amanda and my Dad and family in New Jersey and then to Rhode Island to see Marti's sister Gail and brother Bob.

That is our "Semper Gumby" (Always Flexible) plan for our first year.  We're hoping the heavenly guffaws will stop and our home buyer will come along so we can put our tentative plans into reality.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Marti's Musings: I've learned a few things

Our house has been on the market for just over 3 months now. However, this decision and the whole process started well before this.  Over a year, in fact...   and along the way, I have learned a few things:

1.  Patience is not my strong suit
2.  Family is the most important thing in this life
3.  God is faithful, when my faith is lacking
4. You can't always trust your realtor
5.  Work is just that = w.o.r.k.
6.  There is no amount of money worth risking your health
7.  Life is so much more fun when shared with those you love
8.  Eating out is nice, but eating at 'home', with someone you love, is unmatchable
9.  We can do without so many 'things'; and we barely miss most of it
10. Patience is not my strong suit (yea, that is worth repeating)
11.  Living in a 'show ready' house is more than a little pain-in-the-neck
12.  Planning trips is definitely good for mental health
13.  I hate crunching numbers!
14.  Being with those you love is enough
15.  Giving is waaay better than getting - and more so if done anonymously
16.   Worry does little more than rob you of your current joy potential
17.   It really IS the little things in life that matter, and more than that -  "things" mean even less than people
18.  Detaching from this house has been easier than I thought, so far at least
19.  All the sacrifices during military life have a pay back in retirement
20.  Living a double life - unable to talk about retirement plans at work - is a bummer

Yeah, just a few things.  Some sound so corny, like out of a Hallmark card, even.  But apparently, the Hallmark card writer types have learned a few things along the way...  just like I have... 

It's been a year, we are hoping  that a year from now, we will be 'somewhere out there' - and have another whole year of things learned.

'Nuff said.  ~Marti

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Scoring Branson

Before I launch today's blog, let me take care of a few loose ends.  For all of you that asked me to wash your RV, it will be my distinct pleasure to do it for you, for FREE!  All you have to do is bring it to my house here in Northern VA and in no time I'll have it gleaming.  Just send me an email (address at bottom of blog page) and let me know when you're coming.  Being retired, I do have a wee bit of time on my hands.

Now about my procedure yesterday, yes Marti already had her's done about a year or so ago so she'll have to find some other way to gas, er I mean get even with me...

Now on with the shows we did.

Ride the Ducks:  These are converted World War II amphibious trucks converted to modern standards of better brakes, engines, transmissions and seats.  They take you on a 70 minute tour of some of Branson's streets, countryside and yes, even a big splash into nearby Table Rock Lake for a swim.  Lots of fun for kids, adults and adults that still act like kids (Who?  Me?).  Recommended.

Red, Hot and Blue:  A Rock and Roll variety show, highlighting music from the 50s through the 80s.  Lots of fun, comedy, dancing and music.  A good show if you have the time, but pass in favor of other shows if you don't have the time.

Noah, the Musical:  An amazing show, puts you right in Noah's Ark with many real animals.  Expensive, but worth it.  Show is ending later this year to be replaced by a new show.

Pierce Arrow:  A musical show along with the funniest comedian around.  Recommended to see every visit to Branson.

Showboat Branson Belle:  A dinner cruise on Table Rock Lake with several different show choices.  We saw "Encore", which had a six man singing troupe, a fantastic comedian/magician and an incredible violinist that not only plays a great fiddle, but can play it while hanging 30 feet in the air from two silk drapes.  The meal was okay, but the show was terrific.  Recommended.

Six:  Six brothers that put on an amazing musical variety show without a single instrument.  All the music, including sounds of instruments are done with just their voices alone.  Great music and comedy.  Recommended.

The Brett Family:  A family of musicians that put on a fantastic variety show filled with great singing, dancing and comedy.  This was my favorite show, highly recommended.

Yakov Smirnoff:  A comedian from Russia that has a truly fantastic comedy show with a message that will leave you inspired and proud to be an American.  Highly recommended.

The Presleys' Country Jubilee:  A country themed variety show, amazing singing, dancing, instrumentals and comedy.  Highly recommended.

The Hughes Brothers:  Another great variety show with a twist.  Not only are the brothers performing excellent music and instrumentals, their wives, kids and grandkids all perform on stage.  Highly recommended and not to be missed.

Dixie Stampede:  A dinner show in an arena where a fun show with horses, trick riders, buffalo, pigs and comedy.  Lots of fun for all ages, see it if you love animals and a great chicken dinner that you have to eat with your hands.  Just like the Old West, they don't supply silverware.

Lastly, we stayed at Turkey Creek RV Village in Hollister, MO, right next door to Branson.  It is an Escapees Club RV park, nice sites, FHU with clean showers and restrooms.  Best part is it is $17/night for Escapee members.  We'll be using this park every time we visit Branson.

Branson has about 120 shows performing during the year.  We've now seen ten, so only 110 left to go.  I think this might require another trip...or two.  ;c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Studying Pays Off

Good news, Bad news.  All the tips I received from y'all that have "Been There, Done That" really helped me out.  Despite the antifreeze taste of the prep medicine, I was able to keep it all in the right place this time.  :c)

And it worked.  And worked.  And worked.  And worked.  You get the picture.  But for some strange reason, I didn't sleep too well.  After another dose at 4:30 am, any more sleep was out of the question.

I never thought I live to see the day, but I was so tired, I wasn't even hungry.  That's a first for me.

Marti drove me to the hospital where I had the procedure.  I spent almost an hour filling out paperwork that I've already filled out twice before, not to mention the additional two times I gave all the same information over the phone.  I love thoroughness.

After about a half hour, I was called into a little room to get outfitted for the procedure, in one of those drafty, missing the back half gowns.  It was a struggle and it really didn't fit very well.  The nurse came back in and saw how little the gown covered my dignity and realized she had given me a small gown.  With apologies, she went and got me a man sized gown which, after donning, still was a bit drafty back there.

Then, two more people came in and asked me all the questions all over again.

Once the additional Inquisitions were done, I was wheeled away to the procedure room.  There were five people in there.  Just what I needed, an audience checking out my derriere.  Don't remember much more after that until I woke up in my little room again, with Marti sitting in a chair next to my bed.  I felt like I had an elephant standing on my stomach.

A nurse came in and she said the pressure I felt was from the air used during the procedure to inflate the pipes and it was all normal.  She said don't be afraid to let it out, after all, this was a hospital (huh?).  Funny, after she slipped out of the room and closed the curtain, I gave it the old college try and...nothing.  Tried again, same result.  Rolled around in the bed, tried a couple of different positions and a little squeak.  Then another squeak.  Then the flood gates opened and opened and opened.  I'm talking Niagara Falls here.  I passed so much gas the curtain started swaying in the breeze.  People in adjacent rooms stopped talking.  And it wouldn't stop.  I'm sure the people thought it was an earthquake happening.

So much gas passed, I could have filled the Goodyear Blimp.

Finally, I was done.  Wiping my brow, I looked over at Marti and she started to breath again.  She had held her breath so long she was starting to turn blue.

The doctor came in to talk to me, showed me some pictures which resembled some kind of sea monster and gave me a clean bill of health.  Phew!  I'm not fond of drinking antifreeze.

Now, for the bad news.  The house still is not selling.  We've had about 19 tours now and not a single offer.  We've dropped the price twice already and the realtors are saying to drop it more.  If this keeps up, we'll be paying someone to take the house off our hands.

We're going to crunch numbers again.  We're nearing a serious fork in the road and very shortly, we'll have to go one way or the other.  Drop the price more and hope that the house moves and get on the road with less proceeds for the future or pull the house off the market, put the full time plans on hold and wait for a more seller friendly home sales market. That's a big "If".  I'll have to go back to work somewhere for the time being.  So far, all my feelers have not uncovered any decent jobs. 

 So we're feeling stuck in neutral.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Studying Hard

Yep, it's that time again.  Tomorrow is the day I have been anxiously awaiting for (not).

This time, I procured a different prescription for the pipe flushing.  It (so far) has been pretty easy to get down...and keep down.  I got some great advice from some of my blog readers on how to make the preparation part a bit more pleasant.  So I've stocked up.

Since I have to fast all day today, green Jello and the chicken broth are all I'm allowed to eat. The Gatorade is to help wash down the prep liquid.  Nothing better than sitting in front of the TV and seeing food commercial after food commercial when you're hungry.

In between the juicy looking burgers and french fry commercials on TV, I ran out and did a couple of errands.

Yesterday, I spent several hours giving the Journey a well deserved washing.  I think I've removed most of the bugs from several of the states we passed through on our Branson trip.  I like to wash the Journey, it gives me great satisfaction to see it gleaming when it's done.

Afterwards, it was off to the storage lot.  When I got to the lot, I went to unhook the Element so I could back the Journey into its parking space.  As I pulled the tow bar pins, I noticed a steady drip coming from the back of the Journey's radiator area.  My first thought was that it was some leftover water dripping from the washing.  Just to be sure, I stuck my hand under the drip, collected a drop on my finger and tasted it.  It was not water, it was antifreeze, which tastes very much like my prep medicine.

Now it was an "All Stop Bell" (Nautical term meaning stop engines).  I crawled underneath the Journey to look for the antifreeze leak.  It didn't take long to find that the hose clamp on the lower radiator hose was loose and it was the source of the drip.  I took some tools from my tool box and tightened the clamp to stop the drip.  Of course, I did not have my camera with me. :c(

The clamp was an original factory clamp and it looked pretty cheesy, not unusual from vehicle manufacturers, it is common that they use lower quality clamps to save money.  I also could see why it was loose.  A couple of weeks back I had the engine antifreeze drained, the cooling system flushed and new antifreeze installed.  I'm sure the Freightliner mechanic that did the job loosened the clamp and pulled the hose away from the radiator to drain the system twice rather than use the tiny radiator drain plug.  The old "Time is Money" syndrome.

The cheesy clamp being loosened, tightened, loosened, tightened, then loosened and tightened again was more than it could take and it failed to hold tight.  I'm just glad it held tight enough to get me through the 2000 plus miles we drove on out Branson trip. 

I checked the coolant level in the radiator tank and saw it was down quite a bit.  So today, I headed over to the Freightliner service center and talked to the service manager.  As I had already figured, he did not own up to the issue, so I just went over to the parts department and bought two gallons of antifreeze.  I had checked to see which antifreeze they had installed, there are two types and you can't mix them. Then it was off to Lowe's and spent a whopping $1.38 and bought a new, heavy duty hose clamp which I'm going to replace the original clamp with.  Yes, you know I bought a couple more clamps as spares.

I know that you can overheat a diesel engine by lugging it when going up steep hills, instead of downshifting to lower gears to keep the engine spinning faster and blowing more air through the radiator to keep the engine cool.  I was watching my temperature gauge religiously and it remained normal, so I don't think I lost too much coolant.

I'm glad I caught the leak, I'd hate to think of sitting on the side of the road with an overheated engine.

Now if I can just keep myself from overheating as I study for my procedure tomorrow, all will be well.  :c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Branson Finale

We wrapped up our Branson visit with a few more shows.  Once again, all the pretty girls were falling all over my Dad.

Watching Dad, I had another of my rare, brilliant thoughts.  Recalling the old saying, "The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree", I asked the young lady in the second picture if she would be so kind and let me have my picture taken with her.

Smiling sweetly, she said, "Sir, I don't do Beauty and the Beast poses".

With all the dignity I could muster, I held my head up high and slowly backed into a nearby crowd, my tail between my legs.

In one of the shows, there was incredible talent.  A family show, with all the kids.  These kids had more talent in their little fingers that I have in my whole body.

Just amazing talent. 

We enjoyed all of the ten shows and the Duck ride we did, in just five days.  When you're not full time, you have to cram as much fun into the limited time you have.

One of the interesting things I saw was this RV.  It is a Vixen .

We left Branson Saturday morning and tried a different route home, up to St. Louis and then East on Rt 64 through Illinois, Indiana and spent the night in my old Kentucky Home, also known as Flying J.  I guess you could call it "Flocking", a derivative of boondocking.  For inquiring minds, don't buy fuel in Indiana, it was 25-30 cents more per gallon than any other state.  Fortunately, I was just topping off the tank with a few gallons of diesel.

Another early start and we drove the rest of the way home, a nice day, sunny and warm.  Beautiful countryside and views of mountains through Kentucky and West Virgina.

The ride home was uneventful except for one almost mishap.  NASCAR drivers may be quite talented but their transport drivers, or at least one, was not.  The transport driver passed me and before he was half clear moved over into my lane, forcing me completely off the road and on to the shoulder.  I won't mention any names but...

All tolled, we drove 1100 miles from Branson to our home in Northern Virginia, splitting the trip again into two days.  The Journey ran really well, it is approaching the 40,000 mile mark and the CAT diesel engine is getting broken in.  I saw miles per gallon rise a bit from a 7.5 mpg to 8.3 mpg.  That is towing the Element and running around 65 mph.  I'm liking that.

We've decided the next time we go to Branson, hopefully we'll be fulltimers.  Then the drive out should take us a week...or two.  Right now I'm trying to let my butt re-inflate from the 500 plus miles per day legs.

I'll do a post of the shows we saw and our recommendations in an upcoming post. 

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sea of Gray

It's been a tough time here in Branson.  Shows, eating, shows, more shows, more eating.  Oh yeah, we have been able to slip in a couple hours of shut eye...between shows.

One show we really enjoyed was the Russian comedian, Yakov Smirnoff.  Not only is he a scream, he is a super patriot, since he became a U.S. citizen in 1986.  It was refreshing to hear his views on life and how lucky we all are to be Americans.  After his show, Marti and her sister Gail tried to talk him into coming home with us.

At another show, there was a young lady who was having trouble with her skirt blowing up.  Being the gentleman I am, I rushed to help her preserve her modesty.

Of course, the curse of being the boss always follows Marti no matter where we go.  It wouldn't be a normal vacation for us without one of these pictures.

I'm seeing my Dad becoming a chick magnet.  The women singers in the shows and the restaurants are flocking to him.

The last show of the three we saw today was the Presleys' (no relation to Elvis). 

 Before the show started, there was a preshow in an upstairs location where a piano player entertained the early arrivals.  I was touched to watch my Dad help an elderly man who was unsteady on his feet, down the stairs.  Dad will be 90 in December.

As we took our seats in the theater, I looked over the crowd in front of me.  It was a sea of gray.  After Labor Day, all the families are involved in school and fall activities so that leaves Branson to the older crowd.  I realized I was probably the youngest guy there, and my Dad was probably the second youngest!  ;c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Flood Tide

Yes, I do know that the Branson Ducks go in the water.  My deepest apologies for forgetting to mention that.  To prove they go in the water, here is a picture of Marti and her sister Gail looking worried that if the Duck sinks while on Table Rock Lake, their hair is going to be all messed up.

One show we wanted to see was the musical Noah.  We figured we'd better get there quickly before the Ark got sent to help out the flooded communities in NJ, PA and VT.

The show takes place at this cute little theater.

Inside were some animals standing by to be loaded into the Ark.

The theater has 2085 seats.  They really can pack people in there.

When you get there, you'd better have your ticket ready or you have to answer to this guy.

After the show, we went out to grab a bite to eat.  We discovered my Dad owns a diner in Branson.

Yep, my Dad's name is Mel.  The diner's staff, besides their regular job of waiting tables or cooking, take turns singing.  I guess it's where performers go to earn a living after they've failed to land a job in one of Branson's shows.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Just Ducky

With apologies to our RV Dreams buddy Sherry, who has a cute little rubber duck that rides on the dashboard of her motorhome, we went "Ducking" in Branson.

They have a fleet of converted World War II  amphibious "Ducks", (officially known as DUKWs in Army speak), that were used to transport supplies from ships to shore.  The conversion consists of stretching them, putting new engines and transmissions in, adding a roof and a bunch of seats from old school buses.

Those seats did nothing to assist my butt re-inflation.  The Duck ride goes around downtown Branson, then out into the woods and up on a mountain where the view of Table Rock Lake is incredible.  My Dad enjoyed looking out over the lake.

Of course, once we got underway, Marti and her sister Gail had to do their best duck imitation with these little plastic duckbill quacking devices everyone is issued when boarding.  The driver instructed all the passengers to quack at any other passing Duck, or golfer or police officers (oops, sorry Syl!).  Fortunately, no police personnel were harmed in the making of our Duck ride.

After the Duck ride, we went to see a show on the Branson Belle, an old fashioned paddle wheeler that cruises you around on Table Rock lake, while offering a dinner and a great show.


Inside is a huge dining area with a stage where the show is put on.

Along with great great singers, a fabulous band and a really talented magician, the star of the show was a young lady,  Janice Martin, that played the violin.  Not only was she the best violinist I've ever heard, she played Stairway to Heaven while hanging upside down in two silk drapes thirty feet in the air.

No pictures because that was not allowed, but I wouldn't have any because my dropped jaw would have gotten in the way. 

So in answer to last post's question, what do you get when you put a male duck and a female duck together?

You get a baby duck!

On display at the Branson Ducks pavillion is a "baby" Duck, a World War II amphibious Jeep.  This is a pretty rare vehicle and was very interesting to look at, at least for Dad and me.  Marti and Gail much more enjoyed looking at the gift shop...go figure!

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.