01/06/2018: Winter at the Beach

A big old storm rolled up the coast and dumped about 10″ of snow on the Delaware Beaches. I made the drive to check on the house, and with a little luck, there were some guys plowing driveways in the neighborhood, so I got them to clear the driveway which saved me a lot of time and work. While it was very cold, I wanted to see the boardwalk and beaches with the snow.

9/27/2017: House Hunting Part II

After a couple trips to Delaware and about 10 house visits, we decided on a house in the Rehobeth Beach area. The house is west of Route 1 (main north\south road); however, it is still close to a lot. Being close meets one of our goals of being able to ride bikes to the beach, restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores and bars, so we are excited by how many places are nearby.

The house has one floor living, so we have no need to use stairs on a day-to-day basis which was another big goal for the house. The house is laid out very well with the master suite on one side and the other two guests bedrooms\baths are on the other side of the house, so there is a little separation. The whole house was redone and updated, so besides a little paint, we will not have any real work to take care of onc e we get the keys. The rear yard is fully fenced with a vinyl fence which will allow the dogs to roam and sniff safely. All in all, we feel this house meets our long term wants for a retirement house.

Assuming everything stays on track, we will close on 10/20, which is a Friday, so we will pack stuff, load up the dogs and stay the weekend. Since it is right around the corner, I got the bikes ready for the first weekend, and after a short ride around the neighborhood, I decided to get a “comfy” seat for my bike along with a headlight\taillight set to test. If these work well, I will get a set for Kelly’s bike.

As we experiment with our bike ventures, I am really considering an electric conversion to provide a little boost of “energy” when\i needed. This will come in handy once I get a trailer rigged up for trips to the store. More to follow…

9/14/2017: House Hunting: Delaware

This coming weekend, Kelly and I will be looking at houses in Delaware, and the two main locations are Selbyville and Lewes. Each have their pros and cons, so the recon should provide a lot more information for us to decide. We are basically looking for a smaller house with a little bit of land (1/2 acre or so) and a two car garage along with close proximity to the beaches, restaurants and daily shops such as grocery stores and gas stations. To my surprise, we have seen several houses that meet this criteria for sale, and hopefully, the visit will show that the houses are as nice as the online pictures show.

The Selbyville homes are between 3 to 5 miles away from the beaches which are at the Delaware\Maryland line, and the Lewes homes are similar distance from the beaches. Just like any house hunt, each house meets our criteria a little different, but I think we will be able to find something that suits our needs, and once found, Kelly and I will need to work through the “to buy” or “not to buy” decision.

Why Delaware… The big reason for a Delaware house is to lower our overall cost of living. Northern Virginia has high property tax rates, and in general, has many taxes which eat at your earnings, and when you spread these costs over 10, 20 and 30 years, they add up to a substantial amount. By eliminating many of these taxes, our earnings and savings will go farther into retirement. we will also be looking at the prices of different items this weekend to include gas, groceries and other cost of living items which will allow us to compare to Northern Virginia. At initial glance, we should be able to lower our cost of living substantially by moving to Delaware.

09/06/2017: Busy, Busy and Decisions, Decisions

Well, it has been a good little while since my last post, and while I was thinking about the lack of postings, I have been busy with a few different items that will\may impact some life decisions in the near term.

Kelly was on her yearly vacation with her family in Ocean City, MD; so, we decided to meet up during the middle weekend in Fenwick Island, DE. I got a decent room in a hotel that allowed dogs which means Buddy and Circe also enjoyed a weekend away with a lot of new items to smell and pee on. The weekend flew by, but between my weekend visit and her two weeks, I feel we turned the corner on lining up our exit plan from our current work situations.

Since we over analyze everything, working through the plan on getting out of our current work situation will take a few\many items to get aligned before we pull the ejection handle. The initial big item is what area we would like to retire to, and expenses are a big item on this decision. In general, we like the area we currently live in Northern Virginia, and due to the money in the area, it would benefit for a business plan I’ll mention later; however, the property values are relatively high, so the property taxes are a big chunk of money every year ($5000/year). Besides Northern Virginia, we are also interested in the Eastern Shore area that would include the greater Ocean City, MD area and the “lower and slower” Delaware area.

There are a lot of options in the OC MD area, and we particularly like the area just west of the Route 50 bridge. This area would provide easy access to OC MD attractions, but also provide us easy access to part time jobs to generate income, but like NoVA, Maryland has high taxes. The last area is in the southern Delaware area, and there are a few obvious options to include Rehobeth, Bethany, Dewey and Lewes, but there a other options that are West of the main north\south road that area attractive, and in general Delaware has much lower taxes to include to sales tax and no tax on Social Security. The trade off between Maryland and Delaware is that Maryland homes seems to be less expansive than Delaware homes, but the long term tax impacts are mush higher in MD.

Kelly has been really looking into the housing situation in the above mentioned areas, so time will tell what we decide to do. I feel that we area still a few years away before any type of move, but we do like to plan and try to eliminate any surprised in the long run.

Besides housing, the other item we are working through is income. We don’t want to get stuck at home because a lack of money, so we are working through ways to bring in money with stuff we enjoy versus going to “the daily grind” in a cube farm.

First way we are creating income is buy purchasing dividend paying stocks. I have been working on this for a few years, and I have been making good progress over the years. My goal is to cover our taxes and insurance from the dividends which allows us to control our discretionary expenses. I need a few more years to reach my initial dividend goal, but I’m getting there.

The next option, which we just recently tried out, is to build a business on refurbishing furniture, building metal sculptures\furniture and reselling antiques. Kelly rented a 10×10 space at a local antique fair, and in general we did pretty well. We learned a lot of things over the weekend, and I know it gave me confidence that we can do this type of business to create additional income. During the weekend, we did meet a great retired couple who does this type of business for exactly the reasons we are looking into it. They basically said that they create a little extra income, and since they shop for items\antiques while on vacation, they are written off as business trips. After the weekend, I really feel that we will be pursuing this in the coming months\years with hopes that it works out and turns into a real side business.

Well that is a long post for me, so I would expect a change in the type of posts you see on this sight and maybe even a little redesign to align with our new direction.

7/25/2017: Broken Stud Removal

After a nice long weekend at Fenwick Island, DE, I had a little time to start on the head work for the Ricer’s bent valve issue. The first item I wanted to get done was to remove all of the intake and exhaust studs from an old LS head I had sitting around. To remove the studs, I just double nutted the stud, put some heat to stud and a little PB Blaster, and they spun out with little issue.

Once that was done, I took a look at the head I got from eBay and noticed that it had an exhaust stud broken off. Not too happy, but it gave me a chance to try a procedure that I read about but never tried. I cleaned the broken stud the best I could with Acetone and found a nut that had an inside diameter roughly the size of the stud. I broke out the welder, and with the nut out of the way, I built up a little tack weld on the stud. I placed the nut over the tack weld; then, I used the welder to weld the tack to the nut and made sure it was a good weld. With my fingers crossed, I used a wrench and turned the nut welded to the stud, and with success, the broken stud spun out with no effort. I always read that the heat from welding also helps to loosen up the broken stud, and with this experience, I cannot disagree.

7/20/2017: Volvo C30 Front Brake Change

The front pads on the C30 were getting pretty thin, so I decided it was time to swap the pads. The car has been pretty maintenance free since October 2009, and I did complete a “pad slap” once before, so it was time for a little love. I decided to replace the rotors, pads, calipers and brake line. While this was more than what was needed, I hoping that these new parts will last for another 100,000 miles with little to no issue (with the exception on new pads at some point).

Once I got the car on the lift, the swapping of the parts was a lot easier than I expected. The caliper and caliper bracket was removed, on both sides, with no problem. Once the caliper was unbolted, I decided to remove the brake line from the hard line, left the line connected to the caliper, and the caliper\caliper bracket\brake line was removed as a unit. With the bracket removed, the rotor was pulled off with little effort. The removal effort was the same for both sides, and I was happy with the basic design.

The installation was reverse order. The rotor slide on no problem, and I used a lug nut to hold it in place as I bolted on the caliper bracket. I did connect the brake line to the caliper; then, connected the soft line to the hard line. Once that was connected, the pads went into the caliper, and the caliper was connected to the caliper bracket. Once again, I was pleased with the ease of installation.

Once everything was tighten down, I used my pressure bleeder and bled all four calipers. The fluid was due a change, so it made sense to do all four at this time. After the air was bled out of the front calipers, everything was doubled checked, and it seems to be good to go.

7/17/2017: My Dogs

I did not do too much this weekend, so I relaxed around the house with my dogs. Circe, the brown dog, is almost 14 years old. She is showing signs of old age, but she is still a crazy dog. When she is not napping, she on guard and patrols the back yard for any critter that is not part of her “pack”, and over the years, she has done a masterful job of keeping the yard clear of unwanted critters.

Buddy, the black dog, has been a member of the pack for almost three years. We got him after the passing of Circe’s brother, Rocco. When we got him, he was around 6 years old and had a pretty tough go of it. He was well taken care of at the Antietam Humane Society for 6 months when we meet him. It took him a long time to adjust and trust us, but in the last 18 months, he has really became a part of the family. The biggest change is his love for walks and truck rides. When we first got him, he was terrified of rides and walks, but now, he is so excited for them.

7/13/2017: Parts, Parts and More Parts

1. It still looks like I got bent valves on the Ricer. I have been troubleshooting the misfire, and so far, it is looking like bent valves. The last item I want to check in the distributor. I got a new one showing up today, and if that doesn’t fix it, a good used head is arriving on Friday. I’ll swap in the good used head for now, and over Fall\Winter, I’ll get the current head cleaned up and rebuilt with new cams.

2. I also got new plug wires and plug wire heat shield showing up tomorrow. I had the FFR out the other day, and I noticed a miss, so I check the plug wires, and I had two that got against the header and burnt through the outer layer. I’ll add the heat shield to the new plug wires in hopes that I won’t have this issue again

3. Last but not least, I got new front brake parts ordered for the Volvo C30. The car has 98,000 miles on it, and the front pads need to be replaced. Since the car has 98,000 miles on it, I decided that I will replace the front brake hoses, calipers, rotors and pads at the same time. I figured if these items are swapped now, I should be good to go for the next 98,000 miles (with the exception of new pads at some point).

7/10/17: Things I Learned Today

1. After my last track day, I thought I may have bent a couple valves due to a miss shift, so over the weekend, I did some diagnostics. First, I ran a compression test, and all four cylinders had similar and very good compression. The second test was a leak down test, so I borrowed a friends leak down test kit, and my results showed that all the cylinders are good. With the leak down results, I may not have bent valves, so I looked at the timing, and the intake cam has jumped a tooth on the timing belt. After a little research, a jumped tooth has symptoms that I’m experiencing, so this week, I will reset the timing belt and pulleys to see if my symptoms are fixed, and if so, I will replace the belt and put everything back together for the next track day.

2. It is difficult to go back to work after a few days off. I was very productive on my days off and enjoyed the weekend; however, reality kicked in this morning when I had to get ready for work. I much prefer on working around the house, but every paycheck generates savings which gets me closer to retirement.