Friday, February 29, 2008

Lifestyle of the rich and famous

Port Charlotte, 70 degrees

I'm kicking back at the home office today, recovering from a brief but busy 3 day road trip. I have two days here and then I'm off and running to the Atlantic coastline next week. I'll depart Sunday afternoon, drive about 3.5 hours to Fort Pierce and then start 4 branches, in four cities, out of 4 hotels in four days. I will return to Port Charlotte for two days rest and then it's off to Washington DC to start 6 cities in 5 days. I'm tired just thinking of it. Here's some good news: I booked a flight to PHX on March 21 for a weekend with my bride. Billy II has a birthday on the 25th too, so it will be nice to see him.

Yesterday was spent in Key Largo at a high dollar community called Ocean Reef. I was told it was an HOA that became a city. Reportedly, the community membership fees are 250k a year. Looking around, I believe it. Most of the homes are hidden from street view by a tropical wonderland of landscape. The marina shows you the type of money that must live here. Check out the above mega yacht docked on the canal.

The 3rd picture shows what must be a full time crew man up top. Click on the pictures to enlarge them. I had to Google this ship to find out more. It turns out to be a 161' Trinity Yacht with a 28' beam. It has 4 king staterooms and a twin, plus crew quarters for 9. It burns 130 gallons per hour at cruising speed. I don't think I can afford it.

Here's a web site link to Lady Michelle.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Big Chill

Homestead/Miami Beach; 63 degrees and dropping

I awoke to 72 and it dropped from there. By 1:00 PM it was 63 and windy. Work today took me to the area known as South Beach. It is filled with posh highrise resorts and residential condos. The beach is gorgeous and there are skyscrapers and cranes everywhere you look. I bet when Trump built his towers right on the beach here, it angered those who lost their views.

We had to visit a customer inside of a 1931 hotel called the Essex House. It was old but it is sure nice now. The Operations Manager was a very nice man named Bob. He was just the kind of guy you would expect running a hotel for the rich and famous: smartly dressed, very polite and shall I say . . . . . . happy? I waiting for him to offer me an espresso, with a twist.

I saw some kind of Air Force plane with a large radar mounted on it. I'm not sure what it does, but it made for a cool picture.

The pictures below were taken at Trumps International Beach Resort and another hotel called Aqualina. Check out the nice turf in front of the beach and Atlantic. The landscape crews at these properties are very happy to work with these views. The take great pride in their work and it shows.

Tonight's temperature will drop into the upper 40's but it should warm up to 70 on Thursday and back to the 80's by Friday.

You can click on these pictures to blow them up.

Photos on Miami Beach

More Photos on Miami Beach

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hemmingway's 1933 ship: Pillar

Photos on Islamorada

Has anyone seen my keys?

Miami/Homestead/Florida Keys; 80 degrees, threats of showers and tornados but not from where I sit.

I am on the road working. What a day this turned out to be. There was a power outtage that ranged from Miami to Daytona and they still don't know what caused it. There was a tornado warning in Broward County. I wasn't affected by either of these headlines because I made my first ever trip to the Florida Keys. This is the southern most tip of the continental US. It is also known as paradise found. In case you haven't heard, the keys are a series of long, narrow islands, connected by bridges, traversing about 135 miles, ending in Key West. Key West can also be called themostunfreakingbelievablethingIhaveeverseeninallmydays. Crystal Blue Persuasion. The highway through the keys, US 1, is narrow with wonderful views of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. Water . . . amazing, peaceful, tranquil, water as far as you can see. This is why I'm here.

The labor crews I had to check on were installing tropical palms and coconut trees at a new condo complex, where a 1400 square foot unit costs $4 million. Haven't these people heard there's a real estate slump?

After a grueling day on the safety trail, it was time for a late lunch. My guide, branch safety officer Joe, chose Islamorada Fish Company. We started with an appetizer of smoked grouper dip and the main course was terriaki dolphin with grilled vegis. It was great but after we ate I smelled the wonderful garlic sauce and wished I would have opted for that. Oh well, there will definately be a next time.

Next door you find World Wide Sportsman, a fancy name for Bass Pro Shop. (People around the US travel for days to find a bass pro shop. I passed 3 today, counting this one.) Inside the shop is a restored 1933 fishing vessel once owned by Ernest Hemmingway.

The restaurant and shop are situated on the Gulf side of the Islamorada Key, near Marathon, FL. The view speaks for itself. There is a little inlet of water at the restaurant which is full of Tarpon fish and Nurse Sharks. Pics aren't the best because of the glare of bright sunshine.

Along the road, my guide/driver/coworker showed me the old bridge for US Hwy 1 and where a portion was blown up in the movie True Lies. I guess I'll have to watch for it on cable now to see that scene.

My hotel room in Miami smells way too perfumey. I have the window open, the AC on full and a ceiling fan on high. It's getting better as I speak. Weather Channel forecasts an arctic cold front for tomorrow with highs 15 degrees lower than today. That would put us in the upper 60's. Brrrrrrrr, good thing I have a coat with me. NOT! Actually I do, I'm just saying NOT brrrrrrrr. This is the kind of winter I could grow old with. I know . . . . . . . "just wait till summer".

I'm staying in this area for 2 nights, so I should have plenty of blog time.

I'm going to post a bunch of pictures from today, so enjoy.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Time traveller

Home in Port Charlotte; high of 83 today

Since my last posting, I have been to Arizona, California, back to AZ and back here to SOFLO.

The house has shown 30 times with no offers. The current asking price is 349k.

After work today, Buffalo Pete and I went fishing for the last time this year. He and his wife are heading home to Buffalo, NY. Between the two of us, we caught 7 sting rays. That's not what we were after but that's what we got. Pete also caught a nice size lady fish. We went to a different spot on a back water canal but all we got was eaten by bugs. Our final stop on the night was a pier beneath the El Jobean bridge. We each caught channel catfish and threw them back.

While I was gone to the West Coast, Pete caught the Pompano pictured here. He filleted it and I just ate it for dinner tonight. Tasty.

I'm waking up at 3AM to head for Homestead for 3 days of road work. I am going to be on the Atlantic coast all of next week and in VA/MD the following week. I will blog while I'm gone. Try to sell the house before I get back, will ya?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine Savings Time

Port Charlotte, FL; 51 degrees going to a high of 80

In my world, today is Valentines Day. I get to travel across the time zones to AZ to spend the weekend with my bride, so instead of a belated V-day, think of it as Valentines Savings Time. Since my last post, there hasn't been much to say. I've been working, mostly on the Gulf side. We've had more showings at the Phoenix house and still no offers. We are up to 22 showings in 115 days of the listing. That's an average of one showing every five days, over four months, and zero offers. We bought that house on 2/1/04 for 349k. We have no dropped the asking price to 365k and we have still to pay the realtors too. There's not much room left for negotiating before we hit negative equity. The listing with my realtor expires at the end of February. I could sell it myself then, knocking 20k off the price of the realty commission but what's the chance of finding a buyer without a broker of their own?

I emailed with John, the owner of Golliwobbler, and learned that he hasn't had any offers on her either. He's still asking 249k. I've been looking at waterfront real estate in Charlotte County Florida. You can get an 1800 sqft house, with a boat dock, screened in pool and jacuzzi, with direct access to the Gulf for $200k here. Boat prices seem to be falling too. I saw a beautiful '99 46' Maxum cruiser that was absolutely loaded with options for $197k. I wonder what that boat would actually sell for?

I'm flying out to Phoenix this afternoon. I'll have 4 days in Phoenix, 3 days in CA on business, followed by 3 more days in Phoenix. It will be nice to see my kids too!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Groundhog Day

Home in Port Charlotte, high of 83 today

The sale of the Phoenix house is like groundhog day. We continue to be told we are in someone's top 2, only to never hear from that prospect again. All thoughts of boats are officially on hold now. One step at a time dictates we focus all thoughts and prayers on being reunited as a family, my bride and I, and that can only happen with the sale of that house.

My week in SOFLO will be a busy one. Tuesday in Longboat Key, Wednesday teaching in Venice, departing that night for a 3 hour drive to Miami. Up early Thursday for 11 hours working/teaching in Miami, followed by 3 hours driving home and ending the week attending a seminar on Friday on Florida's chemical applicator laws and best managment practices. That will be in Fort Myers.

Next week will be a little slower, with every night in my condo and I'll get to go see my bride on the 15th. We both really need that.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Caught, cleaned, cooked, consumed

Port Charlotte; on the water, 60 at sunrise, 74 on the beach, high of 80.

Buffalo Pete took me to a new fishing spot and it paid off. We went to the small island called Manasota Key. At the end of the island is a state park with clean restrooms and parking close to the water. We fished the Gulf side and hit paydirt immediately. We caught so many whiting, I lost count. I caught two pompano, which was fun landing. The best was about 15" long and weighed 2-3 pounds. We kept him and the 3 best whiting. We cleaned them and took them back to the condo for frying. That was dinner tonight, see photos above.

While there, we were able to fish the Gulf side, with 2-3 foot breakers crashing in the beach. We then walked 45 seconds across the island and fished lemon bay, on the intracoastal waterway. I got skunked on that side, but Pete used his home field advantage to land 2 sheepshead, a couple whiting, and a nice lady fish. He explained the lady fish is known as a "poor man's tarpon," because of the leaping fight they put up. All I got on the ICWW side, was snagged on the grasses. I did enjoy some huge dolphin which came by.

This was a really good day of fishing fun.