Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A little post-Flagler Beach followup

On Saturday afternoon we were driving southbound on A1A on the way to the Jim Morris concert in Ormond Beach and were lucky enough to see the space shuttle Discovery launch. Sorry that my photos aren't better but, to be honest, we were in awe as we watched a bright orange flame quickly lift the shuttle into the sky.

Quite a show, especially considering that the launch site was almost 100 miles away.

I read somewhere that Flagler Beach leads the state of Florida, if not the nation, in shark attacks.

While I was surf fishin' on Saturday it was getting fairly late in the day, I was in knee-deep water, and was lighting up my last cigar and thinking about calling it quits. About then I realized that there was a 2-3 foot long shark chasing something about halfway between me and my bait, and I can assure you that my cast hadn't hurled my bait nearly as far away as I would have liked.


Needless to say, that was plenty of incentive for me to get out of the water.

We went down to the Flagler fishing pier twice during our trip, and saw folks catching one mackerel, a couple of small fish suitable for bait, and maybe seven small sharks. None of those sharks was 'zactly a man eater, but they sure could have taken a nip out of someone.

I might add that the pier has a sign up prohibiting shark fishin' but obviously the sharks aren't reading the sign.

It's certainly not my intention to scare anyone away from the beach, or for that matter from Flagler Beach with I consider to be one of the best laid-back areas left, but a little healthy respect for where we are in the food chain comes in handy every now and then.


Ah, the joys of full-time RV'ing. We have having "issues" with our air conditioning.

First of all, motorhome air conditioning is often a suggestion to begin with. I look at some of the smaller rigs that have a single rooftop unit and sometimes wonder how they get by with that in our Florida climate. On one of the Internet RV discussion groups last year there was some mention that, for most folks, if they could get the inside temps down 20 degrees that was about the best that they could expect. Needless to say, if you are in the middle of Arizona and it's 120 degrees outside that is of little comfort.

We aren't that bad off, but we have three "basement" Cruisair units that are of a design that you don't see on buses or RV's anymore (although they are still popular with yachts) and one isn't working.

On top of that the first owner installed an overhead A/C unit for extra cooling but in the 20 plus years that the second owners had our Bluebird that unit never worked. Yours Truly (we are the third owners of the venerable Bluebird) got it to work briefly, but after a near-fire experience last year we decided to leave it the hell alone.

Frankly, when we had our house and only used the Bluebird every so often the A/C wasn't an issue. But now that we are using the 'bird as an office, have two warm adult bodies and two heat-adverse fur-bearing cats inside, and plenty of computers and LCD televisions we are struggling a bit to keep things cool.

None of the local RV places want to mess with our Cruisair units. The local Prevost bus garage actually mentions that they do Cruisair work on their web site but, judging by the discussions that I have had with the folks over there, they know less about these units than I do. Not only is that scary, but they would practically want me to leave my wallet at the counter for any work they do.

I did have a household A/C guy come over and look at these things and he charged the working units with freon. He's interested in working with me this Fall if I remove the center unit (which weighs about 300 lbs. and will involve jacking up the bus and lowering the unit downwards) but right now it's his busy season (read: "expensive season") so we'll have to struggle through as best we can.

So at the moment Deb and I have budgeted a replacement overhead unit to our somewhat lengthy list of upgrades for the 'bird.

As I am writing this we aren't suffering too badly. The thermometer between the kitchen and the couch is showing 73 degrees and holding at Noon, so that's not bad at all. It must be 90 degrees outside right now. But our big crisis occurred when we returned from Flagler on a superheated day. After driving for a couple of hours with the basement air off (it only runs on 50 amp household-type power) we didn't have enough excess cooling to get the inside temperature down quickly so we had to set up some fans to keep the cats comfy as Deb and I abandoned ship for a few hours and went to an air conditioned bar while the bus interior cooled.

One just has to laugh at this stuff, although a friend last night did comment that his cooler at his bar was also acting kinda screwy. It may not be out of the question that we are having some exceptional weather that is putting a strain on many of these systems.


Our local newspapers are full of tales of woe with the local economy even though a pair of Chinese companies are doing a genuinely massive expansion of the local ports. If they continue with all of their planned expansions my understanding is that JAXPort will become the largest container port on the East Coast.

Local pubs and restaurants, however, are, in most cases, obviously really hurting.

Many of you have no doubt heard about Floriduh's real estate crisis. Property values dropped suddenly and dramatically, with many folks discovering that they owed more on their mortgages than their houses were worth.

Throw in a drop in income (big article on that subject in yesterday's USA Today incidentally as more and more companies turn to wage plans that pay minimal salaries but pay bonuses and commissions which are rapidly drying up lately) and it's no wonder that the residential foreclosure rate in Florida is at an all-time high.

It's a screwy game, but one of the dirty little secrets of the local real estate market is that in many cases the mortgage companies are willing to forgive quite a bit of a home owners' debt in order to avoid the costs of a foreclosure if the home owner agrees to sell the property. We are seeing quite a few properties that were in the $250,000 range a year ago drop to perhaps $185,000 in value today. But in the case of a property with little or no equity in the house the mortgage company will write off $50-$80,000 in order to let the sale occur.

Deb has been doing a really bang-up business arranging sales of this type to a number of investors, and it's been a win/win situation for everyone. The homeowner gets out of debt gracefully (nothing looks worse on a credit report than a foreclosure, and this isn't a foreclosure), investors are able to buy properties at a price that makes them attractive, and the investors are, in many cases, arranging rent-to-own deals for many of the same homeowners.

As I said, a win/win situation.

If anyone has any Florida real estate questions, or if you are a potential home purchaser or home seller in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine areas, I encourage you to email Deb directly at Deb@RinconRTO.com

And yes, this is an unabashed commercial plug. I've gotta pay for my beer, smokes, and diesel somehow ;)


Anonymous said...

Well, how de do? You could say that the a/c's lately have been running none stop. The meter has been almost flying off the post. It's not even the hottest time of the year. Just wanted to say thnaks for stopping by the Broken Spoke and saying hi!!! I know I will be seeing you and Deb soon.

PyrateJohn said...

Howdy Kathryn!

Kathryn is one of my favorite barkeeps and you can catch her over at the Broken Spoke in Jacksonville. Or read about the 'spoke here: http://www.brokenspokejax.com/