Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Waiting is the Hardest Part.......

Well, here it is Wednesday evening already and I'm still trying to find time to do my weekly Sunday evening entry. I've been stressing about not being able to keep to somewhat of a schedule when I realized....Hey, I do this for the fun of it, it's not a paying job so schedules be damned.....I'll write when I can find the time to sit down for awhile and stay awake.
Ok, now that I got that off my chest......last weekend started off kinda rough. Due to the fact that I was too lazy to pull the battery out of the motorcycle last fall when I should've...I was in the market for a replacement battery Friday afternoon. I'd tried to revive the old battery several times over the last couple weeks, but it was dead within two days of a charge each time so I gave it up and headed for the Yamaha Dealer down by Holland. I figured a battery would be an easy enough purchase to make, but when I told the guy behind the counter what I wanted he was unable to produce the particular model I needed and then proceeded to tell me that there was a battery shortage and he might not have one before the end of May! Say What?!? I've got a $9,000 bike that won't go for lack of a 100 dollar part?? Sounds like one of those "For want of a nail the battle was lost" kinda deals......
So, we headed back up 31 for Grand Haven, somewhat disgusted and not really paying attention to our miles per hour reading when all of a sudden, sitting right there with the radar gun pointed in our direction was a big ole blue state police car. Damnit! I zoomed by him and knew I was screwed. It didn't take him long to catch up with us and flip on the lights. I pulled over and was busy pulling out the proof of insurance paperwork when he reached the window. He asked that age old question......"do you know how fast you were going?" to which I answered 60 / 65? which he replied...."try 69". Rats, just my luck to get one actually paying attention. So he took my info and headed back to his car to fill out the paperwork while we sat in silence and waited. My wife showed a great deal of wisdom and restraint by not saying " I told you so" during the interlude. He was back by the truck window in just a couple minutes and handed me a ticket and an envelope to put my money in so I could just send the check in at my convenience. Golly, they think of everything.......I said thanks and thought for a second about cracking a joke, but young, bald guys in uniform don't generally possess much in the way of a sense of humor so I thought better of saying anything and instead fired up the truck and headed on down the road, a couple minutes older, none the wiser and 95 bucks poorer. Money management has never been one of my strong suits.
Saturday morning started early this past weekend. At 5am I was being woken up by my lovely, not for that you pervert.....get your mind out of the gutter. She was waking me up so I could join her and Rianne out in the driveway to watch the Lyrid meteor shower. Ri is currently taking an Astronomy class and attending this celestial shower was an assignment. You can't say we're not supportive of her educational needs.....We all stood out there in the early morning darkness for about 20 minutes and counted 2 meteors before clouds rolled in and gave us an excuse to throw in the towel and head inside. Now normally I'd have headed back to bed for a couple more hours but we were due to head back up to Whiskey Creek to talk with Mark about financing our retirement property ( oh oh, more money mangement) so I just stayed up and did some website stuff until it was time to go.
We got to the Creek about 9 and Mark was there waiting for us. He wanted to go right out to the lots to show us exactly where the property lines were. We discussed where we wanted to put the trailer and out buildings and eventually the cabin and then with the rain coming down we headed back to his office to fill out paperwork for the next hour. After we'd signed and dated everything necessary we shook hands and headed out the door. By now it was almost 11 and the sun had come out so we went back out to "our" lots and talked about all the possibilities. I shot a series of pics in a 360° format that I'll eventually piece together and put online somewhere around here. After a period of pipe dreaming we decided to head in the general direction of home with a couple stops along the way for that elusive critter known as a motorcycle battery. Rather than continue with the great battery search story here, I've put the rest of that diatribe in my newest blog "Rants & Raves" which should be online soon.

Anyhow, we got back home about mid-afternoon and after running a couple errands around town I plopped down into the recliner and made up for the 2+ hours of sleep I'd lost earlier in the day. Eventually I regained conciousness and decided to pull the '56 out of the garage and go down to the beach to shoot some pics of the car and the sunset.
Sunday was a stay home and get something constructive done, after making breakfast for myself and my bride I got busy downstairs in the den and spent the entire day, yes, the entire, organizing and reclaiming my sanctuary from the effects of house renovation. By the time it was time to call it a day I'd gotten things back to a livable state and made it safe once again to walk from my desk to the steps upstairs, in the dark, without stumbling over a stack of boxes and debris. Now it's just a matter of maintenance. Aint that life.
P.S. Thanks to Tom Petty for the title for this article.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Staying Flexible & Planting Roots

Another week that's gone by like that Mazda commercial..."zoom, zoom, zoom"...... I had plans to write up my usual Sunday night blog entry, but by the time I'd prepared the pics for it my eyes had fallen closed and I napped until about 2am in my chair. So....Here we are, a day late and probably a dollar short to boot.

It was a busy weekend. Friday afternoon right after work we took a ride up towards Ravenna to check out a house for sale that sounded real good. It was a ways outside the range of practicality, but still worth a look, we thought......but as we pulled up to the address our faces fell and our hopes got taken down another notch. This $170,000 house, on 4 acres, was directly across the street from what could only be described as the neighborhood junkyard. Cars were scattered over the length and breadth of the property and the abode itself looked to have been put together with soggy pieces of plywood. As if that wasn't enough to stiffle our interest, directly behind this house was a gravel pit that looked to be owned by the folks who owned the house! Now I've got nothing against entrepreneurial enterprise, but I'll be damned if I'm gonna buy a house so I can dig up the backyard and sell it off by the truckload. Obviously the person who wrote up the listing for this house didn't subscribe to the "truth in advertising" tenet. For a moment I considered sending the schmuck a bill for the fuel it took to make the drive, but instead we headed for Spring Lake and Vic's for a steak dinner.

Saturday morning we were up early to head up to Whiskey Creek for our planned tour of the campground and the search for a site that appealed to us as a place we'd like to spend frequent weekends for years to come. We arrived there around 10:00am and after a stop at the lodge to see if Mr Todd might happen to be there (nope) we started at the West end of the campground and rolled slowly down the dirt roads, surveying available sites as we went, taking down lot numbers of those which we felt had potential. After several hours of effort we came upon a corner of the campground that immediately appealed to Wanda.

Lot 246, at the corner of Meadow View Trail & Outer Loop Drive had obvious potential that we both saw immediately. We parked the car and started hiking around the site on foot. Within a couple minutes we'd found the perfect spot to plunk down a camper until some day in the future when we'd be in a position to upgrade the living quarters and I'd finally get to build that log cabin that has been hanging out in the back of my mind for years. We went back to the car and got out the maps of the area and were discussing things when a big Dodge pickup came down the trail, driven by an older gentleman by the name of Clyde who stopped to say hi. After chatting for a couple minutes with Clyde and explaining that we were interested in lots 245 & 246 but weren't sure where one ended and the other began, he volunteered to go back to his place, grab his tape measure and by using the map coordinates, figure out just where the property lines were located. Turns out that Clyde was a county assessor before he retired and moved to Whisky Creek to live there year round, so tromping thru the woods with a tape measure was a natural thing for him to do.

Not long after Clyde came back with his tape, another older gentleman by the name of Corky stopped by to say howdy and find out who we were and what was going on. So, the 4 of us for the next hour or so hiked up and down the gradual grade of the two lots until we had surveyed it all and gotten a fairly good idea where the lines were drawn. At that point Corky said goodbye and headed back to his homestead. Clyde also headed for his vehicle. We decided then that it was time to go visit the gentleman I'd talked to earlier in the week about a camper he was selling. We found his campsite without much trouble, just down the road and around the corner from where we'd just been. We took the 25 cent tour of the trailer and then spent the next half hour trying to remove ourselves gracefully from someone who had the gift of gab.......The trailer was ok but we're going to continue to shop around for awhile.

From the trailer inspection we headed over to the Fett's lot and stopped in for a visit. We ended up getting a guided tour of the entire campground via a cruise on their golf cart. They showed us a number of places that were available by realtor (grrr) or owner that had campers and hookups already available. By the time we got back to their campsite it was late in the afternoon so we thanked them for the tour and headed for home.

Sunday was Easter so a trip to the folks place was in order. The weather wasn't good enough to risk taking the motorcycle so myself, Chris, Ri and Adam all piled in the van and headed for big Rapids. Between the time we arrived at 11:30am and 5:00pm when we headed for home I spent most of the time talking to my dad about campsites, jobs, kids and other stuff while Adam and Ri gave mom computer lessons. Before dinner Adam, Chris and me took a hike out behind the house and discovered a deer skeleton. Chris took the mostly intact jawbone and brought it home with the intention of giving it to the science teacher, Mr Whipkey. We had a good Easter dinner of ham, sweet potatos and fixin's and after dinner I took a short hike around the pond and shot some reflective pics.

We got back home about 7 and I wrapped up the day by giving both Bailey and Mercury baths. By the time I'd gotten them washed, dryed and brushed out Wanda was home from Bingo and the weekend was pretty much over.

I'd like to elaborate on the campsite venture but it's late and tomorrow is gonna be a big, busy day with a trip to South Bend In. so I'm heading for bed now and we'll talk more about Whiskey Creek and the master plan later on.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Real Estate, Course Corrections & Bang for the Buck

Well here we are again, at the end of one week and the start of another. I'd love to slow down the passage of the days right now, while I decide the best course of action for us, but I know time suppression isn't a viable option. At least not yet.......

After my initial visit to Whiskey Creek with Adam and Ri a couple weeks ago I have been thinking alot about the viability of purchasing a lot up there so we'd have a place to go camping, whenever we wanted to, without having to make a reservation 6 months or more in advance (the current state park system). So, during this past week I made a call to a Mr. Mark E. Todd, the owner and proprietor of Whiskey Creek. The purpose of the call was to set up a time to come up and have him give us the 25 cent tour around the grounds and explain the options available to us if we were to choose to become a member of Whiskey Creek. As luck would have it, he was available this morning at 9:30/10ish so with Adam and Ri leading the way, myself, Wanda and Chris left the house about 8:30 and pointed the van North for the hour drive.

After a stop at the McDonalds in Whitehall for a quick breakfast we arrived at the lodge about quarter to 10. Mr Todd (you can call me MarkE) was there and after introductions we headed into his office where he produced a variety of information, including maps and lot purchase prices. After a short talk the 3 of us jumped into Mr. Todd's vehicle for the tour of the campgrounds. Over the next hour and a half we looked at dozens of possibilities for a future basecamp. Some of them Mr Todd termed the "difficult" sites. Sites that required negotiating some degree of elevation to arrive at the future front door. Other sites were on relatively flat ground with mature Oak, Maple and Beech trees adorning the grounds. We circled a number of sites on the map that he'd given us over the course of our tour and at the conclusion of the ridearound we headed back to the lodge and did some more talking about the best way to finance things and get the utilities routed to the campsite. He also gave us a tour of the main lodge, which includes, among other things, an olympic size swimming pool and a laundrymat.

There is more to this place than just a campsite to be sure. Along with the 2 square miles of land that makes up Whiskey Creek, there is another 6 square miles of Manistee National Forest that completely surrounds the campground. So a person could concievably grab their camera gear and head off into the woods, be gone all day and hardly scratch the surface of what's out there to explore. To say that would be an ideal situation for me would be an understatement to be sure. Add into that equation a dirt bike for times when I would like to go further in an afternoon than my feet could take me, on trails that range thruout multiple counties and you're really making it an attractive situation. Toss in the fact that purchasing a camper to park there year around gives us the option of tossing some clothes in a bag after work on a Friday and making the hour drive there any time we feel like we need some fresh air and a campfire, without the pain in the butt of having to make reservations in advance.

What's not to like about all that?? Heck, I dunno.....I'm ready right now to go back up tomorrow and spend the day walking around, doing a closer inspection of each of the lots that appealed to us today, but the reality of the situation is that we'll have to wait to do that until next Saturday. For the moment that is the plan. barring any major issues we are going to make a return trip next weekend and try to find 3 or 4 sites that we'd seriously consider and can agree on. Right now the one I like the best is a "difficult" site with a beautiful view of one of the little lakes there, but the concern is that there is not enough useable space for a camper for now, or cabin in the future, plus parking and a dog run.......I'm going to draw up a schematic during the week so I can work that problem out along with an excel spreadsheet, set up by campsite number, to add up costs for each site that appeals to us.

To say this is a done deal would be overconfident until we talk to money people, but it's really a no brainer to me. We would get our money's worth out of the investment without a doubt and have a place to go to recharge batteries and sooth souls. It's not so far out, or far away that it'd get to be too much trouble to drive there, but it's far enough out that you'd know that the folks who come to visit you there really want to see you. :-)

At any rate I'm going to take the next 6 days or so to assemble some info, good and bad, and see how we feel by this time next week. The biggest problem of course is that this will have to change the direction we've been headed in since I made the proclamation last fall that we're selling the house and moving to the township. However since we started down that path the whole by-pass issue has reared it's ugly head again, this time as a done deal and has ruined a lot of potential sites right smack in the area I was looking to set down roots in.....along with that major problem is the fact (one I was already aware of but one that's started to really tick me off nonetheless), that the price of land south of the Grand River is considerably more expensive than the same house and 2 acres North of the river. I'm also being fussy about that 2+ acres and how it's laid out. Many of the places we've looked at have land, but it's virtually worthless. Either the frontage is way too short, so that you have neighbors plastered up against you on one or both sides or for some strange reason the original owner stuck the house on one side of the lot so you're once again right up against the folks next door. I hate to sound antisocial because it's not that I am, it's just that I want some cushion between my backyard and whoever lives next to me. I want some privacy and I don't want to be crowded. I'm not at all interested in selling the house in town to end up living out in the township with neighbors just as close to me there as what I have now.......

So, here I am, thinking it might be time for a major course correction so we can get the most bang out of our limited bucks over the next 20 years. I sure wouldn't blame my life partner if she was royally pissed at me for wanting to change the direction at this point, after 6 months of house renovations, but I'd like to think that I could convince her that what I'm wanting to do would be for the benefit of both of us, for a long time to come. There's no realistic way we could buy a new house and do Whiskey Creek too so there's bound to be some discussions ahead of us. I can sure see in my minds eye a small cabin perched on that hilltop with a deck out in front, overlooking the lake.....sounds like something I've dreamed about most of my life. We'll see how it goes. If it's suppose to happen, it will.

The title is a link to the Whiskey Creek site........

Time to give the brain a rest and get some sleep.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Ravages of Time Part 2

Last week I wrote about the forces of time on manmade structures, this week I think I'll talk about those same forces on man himself and those around him. As I mentioned last week myself, my daughter Rianna and her beau Adam were on our way up North to Whiskey Creek when we drove past Fern School and I experienced a flashback. I never mentioned though why we were headed to Whisky Creek in the first place.

Adam and Ri have been hanging out together most every day for the last 3 years or so. Like most couples they've had their moments, but they always seem to get things straightened out and go on. They met during a school trip to Tennessee, where as members of the "Interact" club they donated a week of their life to go down to the "volunteer" state to help clean up an area devastated by tornadoes. Upon Ri's arrival back home it didn't take too long to realize that some cosmic event had happened during the time she was gone and it wasn't long before we met Adam. Since that day there hasn't been too many days we haven't seen him and he's really become part of the extended family.

So, with high school graduation coming up in a couple months for Ri and college wrapping up soon for Adam it wasn't too big of a surprise when they told us that they had decided to get married. Whoa! said I, so soon?? and this I said before they changed the date from late summer 2007 to late summer 2006! Whoa! again said I, what's the hurry?? A question that any self-respecting dad would be compelled to ask...especially one that didn't get married until a couple months before his 30th birthday.......but I guess everyone is different and some mature quicker / sooner than others. So, with that in mind they'd ask me to come with them to Whiskey Creek to take some pictures of them to be used as engagement pics and also to see the place where they had decided to have the ceremony.

Now Ri isn't my first child to get married, my oldest daughter Jennette joined the Arny after high school and set off to see the world and get some money saved for college, but somewhere along the way, while she was stationed in Hanau Germany, she ran into Eric and one thing seemed to lead to another and before we knew it, or before we even had a chance to get used to the idea, heck, before we'd even had a chance to meet him, he'd married our oldest daughter. Not only that, but they then informed us that we would be grandparents before the end of 2005! Oh man, Here I was, just getting used to the idea of kids leaving home and now all of a sudden I was being informed that I was no longer just a parent...I was a Grand Parent! Ryan, my first grandchild, is now about 7 months old (Born 9/16/05) and although I've seen a ton of pictures of him I've yet to meet him, or his dad for that matter, in person. That should change soon I hope as they're suppose to be coming back to the states in May of this year and will be stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. A nice day and a half motorcycle ride from Michigan :-)

More about the oldest daughter at a later date. Right now I want to talk about being a grandfather. Like I've said before the last 20 or so years have kinda slipped by while we were busy with all that's involved in raising 3 kids. It's only been the last couple years that I've been able to catch my breath and look around to see what's changed since I was footloose and fancy free. This being a Grandfather is still kind of an abstract idea for me, not having seen the little critter yet, or done anything Grandfatherly with him, but even though we've yet to meet I'm pretty sure we'll get along when we do. As much as I hate to admit it, I've mellowed a bit since my 20's and for someone who was a confirmed bachelor back in those days it's pretty amazing to be sitting here now, at 53, and be a husband, father and a Grandfather. The funny thing is that I'm Ok with it. Do I feel like a grandfather? Hell no, I still do most everything I used to do in my 20's, only slower and less frequently. I still ride a motorcycle, still go to Rock and Roll concerts ( John Mellencamp in South Bend on the 18th of this month) and still dance around with the headphones on in the early morning hours. I don't see myself as the standard grandfather type that was around when I was a munchkin, but I do hope I'll be a good one and that any kids my kids bring into this world will like to come and visit from time to time. I'll do what I can to show 'em a good time and maybe that'll keep me a tad bit younger for a little bit longer.

To wrap this up and show those timelines I thought it'd be enlightening to put a pic of myself at 23 in here, alongside a pic of me at 52, along with a pic of Ri at 4 (that made it into the local visitors guide) and a pic of her and Adam taken at whisky Creek two weeks ago. Also, a shot of the grandchild that makes me smile. I guess we've all gotten older together and with any luck we'll continue to get older. I'd hate to stop now when it's just starting to get real interesting.