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01 February 2015 @ 12:20 pm
a new urge to write  
It's been almost two years since I wrote here, and well over two years since I wrote regularly or wrote on my blog. I used Facebook just a little in the past two years, not enough to describe most of the events during that time. As for Facebook, I dislike the structure centered around the newsfeed and "friends" more than ever, for many reasons. I also hate the fact that Facebook can and does change anything they want about your information and it's presentation whenever they want. The timeline is a good feature, though, but I doubt if I will use it much because I have so much more control over this journal and my blog. For those that use Facebook, I like checking their timelines. But I hate the newsfeed and don't use it.

I sense that I will probably be writing here and on my blog regularly again. I think I feel the urge again because my life is good and simple and stress-free now. So writing is a pleasant exercise that is good for my mental health now rather than some kind of task that makes me tired.

Journal-type writing for me, I've recently decided, is like my other mental pleasures -maps and exploring. Time is like a road that I am mapping as I record events along it. I've discovered that I love reading memoirs and autobiographies. It makes sense that if I love reading the maps of others' roads through time, I would enjoy extending my own.

So let's extend it now into this new year 2015...

I must begin with Dad. -He was central to my life during the time this journal was dormant. Then, six months ago, on July 28th, he died, at age 85.

Obviously there is a lot of emotion I could express about this, but that would be for my blog instead of this journal.

Here I will just say that we noticed a decline in late Summer 2012, then in Spring, 2013 he asked my brother Ed to come back from Florida to take care of him. Ed did this until the end. Dad's final decline began last March (2014), when he fell and broke his foot, and he got pneumonia. The operations and treatments for these combined with his contempt for the therapies required to recover caused him to worsen each week until the end.

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In the Spring of 2013, a small, affordable, non-hybrid car was on the market in the US for the first time since Chevy stopped selling (Geo) Metros in 1998. (Smart cars don't count -they are over-priced jokes.) The timing was good, because the engine failed in my Metro on Easter. I bought the new 2013 Chevy Spark as a replacement.




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When I got back to Dayton from Florida in Spring, 2013, I realized the finances were again in a dangerous state at my condo. (I had become treasurer the first time this happened in early 2009 and turned things around by 2010 then left the treasury to others.) This time in 2013 things were even worse. I took back control of the treasury because it was a dire emergency. I told the other owners I thought this time it was too late and that I expected we would have no money very soon because eight of the fifteen units had not been paying condo fees. I warned that all our utilitities and insurance were about to go unpaid and that as a result the city would probably declare the building unsafe and evict everyone.



The only reason all this did not come to pass was because Jim, who lives next door to our building, and who is president of our historic district, was interested in buying delinquent units. Also FINALLY all the owners were paying attention to the warnings this time and the deadbeats knew they'd better sell to Jim at bottom dollar or lose everything.

I sold my unit to Jim in July, 2013 because I wanted out of the nightmare no matter what even though I had paid all my condo fees since I moved there in 2007. I still love that place as much as ever though, so I now am a renter to Jim.

Jim got lots of control over the fate of the building when he bought two more units just after he bought mine. This gave him the voting rights to steer things from the brink, because we had three other owners working with him toward common goals. And I stayed as treasurer even though I am not an owner now. I am still the treasurer.

The now active board doubled the condo fee for 2014. Over the year, we succeeded in getting two more units into new ownership of persons who will not be deadbeats. And, by the end of 2014 we had two more units headed toward ownership change. The treasury is now sound, and I enjoy working on it because I have the free time and I am now working with cooperative people. We have been and will continue to be busy with some major repairs though. I think we will accomplish them over the next few years.

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When I was here in Florida a year ago, I was enjoying the improved Sunbarge II, but I began feeling interested again in exploring some more. It was my fourth winter down here staying on the boat. I had begun to limit my range to the mile or so of river adjacent to my waterfront acre and North Shell marina around the bend.



I began planning some adventures further out on the Saint Johns River, but then I thought, "What about the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway just 25 miles away? Isn't it about time I learn more about what's over there?"

I knew all the marinas over there were three times as expensive as those on the Saint Johns River and tributaries. But then I found Marker 57 marina, along scenic Riverside Drive in Edgewater just south of New Smyrna. -I could rent a boat slip there for just $50 per month!



I quickly realized this was cheap because Marker 57 has no breakwater between it and the heavy Intracoastal boat traffic. Even when all the big yachts going by obey the speed limits, which is rarely, they still create a brutal wake. But in February, 2014, I began renting a slip anyway, because when I went out in my Porta-bote, I became captivated by the New Smyrna waterfront, the Canaveral National Seashore, and all the little islands of Mosquito Lagoon.



I found a 17' vintage all-aluminum runabout which was just a bare hull so it only cost a few hundred dollars. I put some plywood in as a floor and managed to hook my little Honda outboard to the linkage so I could use the steering wheel in the front. I thought this boat was tough enough to keep in the slip exposed to the Intracoastal traffic. After a few wonderful trips out in March, I reluctantly covered and tied and secured the boat as much as possible and left it there when I returned to Ohio in April, 2014.

I worried about it all Spring and Summer, but I was pre-occupied with Dad as I said. Then, just a few days before he died in late July, an F-1 tornado passed the marina.



I flew down in August. The tarps were shredded and the hull was filled with rainwater as a result but I was able to bail it out. But the things in the boat were exposed and my new expensive trolling motor was stolen.

But big changes had happened by then (August) compared to late February when I first put my boat at Marker 57...

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Since I sold my condo to Jim in July, 2013 and was now renting it, I was evaluating new ideas related to real estate. Now was the time to be interested. -Dayton was ranked the city with the most affordable house prices in America. And in both Dayton and Florida, house prices had reached the bottom after the long descent from about 2006 at the height of the bubble. In Dayton, downtown residential was hot even though the metro area economy is still declining. I decided that two tiny areas downtown especially interested me as attractive, underpriced, and ready to appreciate. I began watching the internet in early 2014 for homes for sale in these two spots. In late March, when I flew from Florida to Dayton for a week to see Dad after his injury and to handle some other urgent business, I found that my favorite house in the one area was for sale by owner on Craigslist. I signed a contract before I returned to Florida. When I came back to Ohio for the whole summer in April, I completed the sale. I bought the house at 611 Gruner for $20,000.



I could always live there if I wanted because I loved the location across from the bike trails and river and as close to the center of downtown as my condo about 3 blocks away. But there was a reliable family living there as tenants paying rent double what I am paying for my studio condo. So I have been continuing to rent the house for profit and hoping the tenants do well and stay. In June I built a privacy fence so they would have a nice backyard. So far this house continues to look like a good investment.

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After I bought that house in Dayton in April, 2014, I didn't lose my interest in possible bargains appearing on the market in Florida. As in Dayton, I knew exactly which small areas I was interested in. (I had just spent my fourth winter in Deland and knew it was my favorite town in Florida and I knew where and at what price a house could be found that would make me give up living on the water down here.)

To make a long story short, I will say that I found such a house in May, at 313 Albany Avenue in Deland, for $24,900.



In June I was the owner. I bought this foreclosure from Freddie Mac. The owner who had bought it in 2005 in the housing bubble had paid $90,000!

I worried somewhat throughout the summer though, because I bought the cute little bungalow on a half acre without actually flying back down here to Florida to see it! I depended on realtor photos, Google Streetview, and my knowledge of the neighborhood to convince me it was a good deal. Then, when I flew down in August as I said to deal with the tornado damage to my boat over at New Smyrna/Edgewater, I was delighted to see that the house is nicer than I ever expected! I returned to Dayton relaxed, and prepared to come down here for the winter about October 1st. I actually arrived October 3rd, almost four months ago, and right now I love this little house more than ever.

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Before I go on, I want to talk about another thing that made all of this work out...I mentioned flying between Florida and Dayton twice last year -in March and then in August. This was so easy because of an amazing new airline called Allegiant. They have a niche market that they focus on in high volume, so the fares are remarkably cheap, and the flights are all non-stop. They focus strictly on linking smaller airports throughout the north to smaller airports in Florida. This is ideal for me. The airports I use are Sanford here in Florida and Rickenbacker in Columbus in Ohio. The flights are only an hour and twenty minutes and as cheap as $123 round trip! Parking at Rickenbacker is only $5 per night. Sanford is only about 23 miles from this house in Deland, and I can get there by walking to downtown Deland, then taking the bus to the Sunrail train (Orlando's new light rail system that began in May). If it weren't for Allegiant, flights between here and Ohio would be via the gigantic Orlando International Airport, about 60 miles away, the other side of Orlando, which has some of the worst traffic congestion in the US.

...The good news was this house, and thank god, because my boats had a lot of bad fortune in 2014, and the tornado at Edgewater was just one of the misfortunes...

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When I got here October 3rd, I discovered that my houseboat Sunbarge 2, tied up at my riverfront acre, suffered the fate I always feared, sometime over the summer. -It was pilfered aggressively by thieves. Fortunately the boat itself was not damaged except the deck...The scumbags actually sawed it up trying to steal the electric motor bolted firmly to it. Thank god so much of the stuff on the boat was old and wearing out after four years although the boat itself was just renovated. My solar panels and batteries were near the end of their life anyway.

And the tornado in July that ravaged my runabout over at Edgewater on the coast was outdone by a storm November 10th. -This one actually SANK the boat!

I was shocked when I got the call the next morning from the marina, because I had made the stupid mistake again of thinking they got the same weather we got here in Deland about twenty miles inland. No! They did not get just the 1/2 inch or so we got, they got about 5 inches! I had emptied the boat in October and left an automatic bilge pump to deal with rainwater because it was uncovered. But all that water remained because the pump failed and then the wind picked up about midnight churning up waves. Finally, another huge yacht passing at illegal speed produced the wave that sunk the boat.

Only two of the five ropes had not broken. On the sunny morning of the 11th after I rushed to the marina after the phone call I knew I had to raise the shipwreck before I could do anything. Fortunately the boat was completely empty and weighed only a few hundred pounds because it was all aluminum. The tide was dropping so the depth would be only about two feet deep soon. All I needed to do was get the top lip all around above the surface so that bailing would be effective.

I was in luck! -The anchor winch with 50 feet of rope was the key. -I was able to thread the rope through the big eyelets in the marina piers and then through the handles on the boat. When I began cranking the winch the boat began to lift. I reached the magic level where the whole upper lip was above the surface and then I began bailing with a huge bucket. It took about an hour of this and my body was so tired when I finally had a dry boat again that I probably could not have continued much longer otherwise.

I knew this was the end, after almost nine months, of this boat being kept in a slip at Marker 57 Marina. I got on Craigslist and began searching for a trailer for sale within about fifteen miles. I found one I could buy immediately about 12 miles south, in Oak Hill. But I had nothing to pull the trailer with so I had to find a rental truck with a hitch. I had to go north to Daytona Beach to get this. But by sundown on November 11th, 2014, the boat just raised from the bottom a few hours before was on the trailer in the Marker 57 lot, and the truck was returned to U-Haul in Daytona just before they closed.

A nice trailer business is just down the street from Marker 57. They helped me get the rusty trailer which was almost unsalvageable rebuilt so that it would be roadworthy between the marina and my house here in Deland. They also installed a hitch on my little Chevy Spark. It's got a removable drawbar. Nothing sticks out from my bumper when the drawbar is off.

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So, here is the situation now...

The 17' aluminum runabout is now at the top of my driveway here at 313 Albany in Deland, elevated so I keep my 10' Porta-bote under it. The little trailer fits between these and my little Chevy Spark in the carport.



Over at the river on the other side of Deland my Sunbarge 2 houseboat is completely empty with the electric motor safely here in my storage room at the house. It is tied to my land and for the time being it is like a patio or gazebo I will visit on nice days because I put a little wicker chair and wicker table I found at the thrift store in the screened porch.



I will visit Sunbarge 2 by tossing my Porta-bote on the little trailer and driving across town to the little ramp at North Shell about 1/3 mile upstream from my land. It's too wet this year to cross my wetland acre on foot to get to Sunbarge 2. I am paying no marina fees anywhere now. I will get the wanderlust again soon enough with urges to explore by water on the river and over on the coast. But for the moment, the house is my new toy.

...One of the wonderful things about it is the big parklike yard with ten huge Live Oaks and one big Palm Tree. Unfortunately though, these trees make too much shade for me to use solar panels. The splotches of sun in the yard appear, move, and then disappear. That's not a problem for sunbathing on the lawnchair though. It just means I need to keep moving the chair. Ghost loves sunbathing as much as me and he always lays next to me when I'm in the lawnchair.



Because I no longer pay any marina fees, the biggest regular expense now is heat, even though I am in Florida. I got the electric turned on when I did the math and realized running a little $15 electric heater in the bedroom is cheaper than getting the same heat from kerosene. And I can leave the power turned on and maybe a couple ultra low watt LED lights on for security for less than $5 per month when I'm back up in Ohio. This is due to a plan I signed up for with Florida Power. It is popular because there are so many "snowbirds" like me who are only down here part of the year.

Like I said, this house was a pleasant surprise when I first saw it in person. I haven't completely refrained from making improvements, though. I built a little party patio in the back by fencing in the little back corner of the house. There is not much direct sun there because of my 11 big trees but on warm cloudy days it is much brighter there than inside the house and the 6' fence assures there is never any wind. Ghost loves the fence too, because he gets on top and then jumps on the house roof.



He has his own little kingdom up there and spends a lot of time there.

So, things are pretty peaceful and quiet now...In fact, this house is the quietest place I've ever lived. But this is fine because every day I need to remember that the main reason I'm here is because I'd be experiencing my former annual winter depression if I were not here. During the rare stretches where it stays cloudy and cool for more than a couple days, I feel the slight melancholy creep back in like a bad old memory. But the sun and warmth come back just in time every time before I notice anything that I might call "depression".

Because I've made mood maintainence the focus of my winters here, this place, the warm spring at Deleon Springs State Park on the north side of town, has now become the center of my life in Deland:



Of course, it's been central from the beginning, because Tedders Marina where I began my life here in 2010 is just around the bend at the top of the picture.

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Now my normal pattern is this...

If I awake and it's already sunny by 8 AM, I either wait until about 9:30 when I can find patches of warm sun in my yard to sit in, or else I drive through my neighborhood to this tiny beach and ramp at our local lake called Blue Lake:



The bench there faces straight east across the lake so I can start getting sunshine there as early as 7:30. I also can take my Porta-bote out there and explore Blue Lake and the other two lakes connected to it by short canals.

But regardless of how I begin my mornings, if it's a nice day I go to DeLeon Springs by about 1 or 2 o'clock, and stay until about 4. There are about 15 of us that go there every day we can. We call ourselves "the regulars". The swimming exercise in the 72 degree water does me almost as much good as the sunshine.

Then when I leave about 4 I stop downtown:



I usually have a beer at The Grotto and then have supper at one of the dozen or so restaurants I like. If I need to get some books I stop at the library on the way back home to 313 Albany.

...You can see why it makes sense that now is when I've started writing again. -Now is when my life has really gotten peaceful, That must be why I enjoy the writing.