Monday, January 28, 2019

Kickin' Back in the Keys

The call of the Florida Keys has been strong since our first visit in 2008. That year we stayed near Marathon for five days. Tom and Georgie came down for a visit and we went with them to Key West for all the usual tourist things. We have returned several times and now stay at the Florida Keys Elks in Tavernier. This year we got to stay for six weeks giving us extra time to get into island time and doing almost nothing except enjoying friends, the weather and the daily sunsets. There is something to be said about being able to have the windows open and wearing shorts in January after so many years of Pennsylvania winters. On the first visit eleven years ago we heard someone say, "I'd rather here drinking a beer than freezing my a$$ off up north". We could not agree more. 
Here at the Elks it is only a very short walk to watch great sunsets.
I have never fished down here but after seeing this nurse shark caught off the the Elks dock I may have to give it a try sometime. 
We get to see a lot of birds here. This osprey is a regular visitor who often has a fish in its claws.
Not the greatest sunset but the clouds were neat.
Of course any time you are near the ocean you are going to see many pelicans. If someone is cleaning fish they go into attack mode.
Love those sunsets that leave a reflection glowing on the water.
Sam the heron flying to the dock. He is not bothered by all the people.
A morning shot with four egrets looking for food.
One foggy morning Sam let me get real close before preparing to depart.
Fellow Pennsylvanians Sue and Dennis are out on the water almost every day. 
WOW, another great sunset. 
The tiki hut and palm trees make a great foreground for the sunsets.
We did stay up for the lunar eclipse. Most of my pictures were not very good, including those of the blood moon, but you can see the curve of the Earth's shadow on the moon. 
Early the next morning the full moon was setting over Florida Bay.
While we will never be Pats fans, we do love the game day gatherings with these crazy New Englanders George, Linda, Patty and Patty's sister Denny. Win or loose it is always a fun time.
They can be mean though. Patty made a voodoo ref doll that inflicts severe pain on any ref who makes a call against the Pats.
While the Elks is a great place for sunsets, one afternoon we went to the Lorelei where they have a band during the sunsets.
The whole group from the Elks went to our favorite local Mexican restaurant, Puerto Vallarta, for lunch. Here are Jim, Nanc, Linda, George, Dennis, Sue, Ray, Laurie, Judy and John. It was a fun time with great food.

We will be leaving the Keys on February 1, going to Stuart to spend a month in our new stix and brix home. While we love our time in the Keys, we are looking forward to spending time getting used to the next phase of Running Down Our Dream, 

Monday, January 21, 2019

Buying a Stix and Brix in Florida

Two or three years ago it hit us that while we had planned for years for our full-time RVing lifestyle, we did not have an exit strategy. After much thought, we decided that a condo would be ideal for us  because we wanted a place that we could easily lockup and know it was secure as we still planned on spending part of the year traveling. The next decision was where. We have spent winters in Florida, Arizona, Texas and California. While we know people stay in all these places and love them, the one time we stayed in Texas was enough to cross it off our list. California was way too expensive and every time we stayed in Arizona we realized after a few weeks that we missed the water, the green and the trees of the East Coast. So we decided on Florida, but exactly where?  We had dealt with Pennsylvania winters for all our lives so a place with mild winters was a must. Our friend Jack always said that if you want mild weather all winter you have to be south of the line that is the northern end of Lake Okeechobee. Another thing we wanted was a place with good restaurants and a strong, local music scene. Last winter we spent a month in the Naples/Bonita Springs area on the West coast and six weeks in Jensen Beach and Hobe Sound on the East coast. We had been in the latter area many times, spending the holidays with Jack and Mary Lou, and knew it had everything we were looking for. We did a lot of Internet realty surfing and narrowed the desired location to the Stuart area. A place that was built after new post Hurricane Andrew building regulations was also a plus. Those regulations would require concrete block and steel (CBS) construction, wind mitigation roofs so they withstand hurricanes and some form of hurricane shutters. We contacted a realtor, Rich Giglia, and looked at several places. We quickly narrowed down the possible places to two. One was on the water, which we thought would be really cool, but lacked many things we wanted; laundry, storage, covered parking and reasonable Home Owners Association (HOA) fees. It was also way overpriced. We revisited the other place and after the second visit decided it had what we were looking for and the seller was willing to sell it furnished, a BIG plus as we have NO FURNITURE.
On December 1 we made an offer on this place at Lexington Lakes in the afternoon and then went to a movie as we had planned. While in the movie we got a text from Rich that our offer was accepted with the contingency that we could withdraw if the appraisal was lower and the seller did not want to sell at the appraised price. Well, they accepted the appraised price saving us almost enough money to pay for the furnishings. Our unit is on the first floor behind the garages.
This set in motion five weeks of action getting the place inspected, getting a mortgage and being personally interview by the condo association manager. We were happy that the the condo passed the home inspection with only minor maintenance issues needing attention. We were approved for a 30 year mortgage so make sure you keep February 1, 2049 open for the mortgage burning party. I was glad we passed the association interview without me having to get a haircut. Our main door is on the side of the building.
On December 19 we took Opus to the Keys Elks for our six-week stay. With the ability to e-sign all the documents we could do all the needed paperwork on line. On January 8 we drove the CRV to Stuart for one last walk through before the closing. Here are Matt, from the mortgage company, the happy new owners, Jim and Nanc, and our realtor, Rich. If you are in the market for a great realtor in the area give Rich from Berkshire Hathaway a call, 772-871-7411. He was great at helping us, as we have not been through this home buying thing for over forty years and he gave us some great tips.  
After signing our names a countless number of times we went back to OUR new home. We stopped on the way to make sure we had the needed supplies in the fridge. We met with the manager to get our entry pass, yes Lexington Lakes is gated, and set up our monthly HOA payments. This is something we have never had. It covers all outside landscaping and maintenance, they were power washing the roof while we were there, and it also includes water, cable, security, trash and, of course, snow removal:-)
When we agreed to buy all the furnishings we expected that would mean the big stuff. We were pleasantly surprised to find not only that, but also a vast amount of cleaning and laundry supplies. There were buckets, brooms and a vacuum cleaner.
More cleaning stuff under the sink. They also left all the dishes, flatware, pots, skillets, sheets and towels. When we got there for the walk through they had left us a note saying they left a "few" things they thought we could use. We stayed four days and put all that stuff to good use as the unit had not been lived in for a while. The washer, dryer and dish washer (an automatic one not me) were all working overtime. We talked to the former owner and learned they bought the place in 2006 because his parents, who have since passed away, lived in the area. They only used the place for visits and from the time they purchased it the total amount of time they spent there didn't even add up to a year.
More things that were included, a blender, crock pot, electric grill, mixer, electric orange juice maker, coffee maker and toaster. When I looked in the storage shed by our patio there was patio furniture, a step ladder, an air compressor and a generator. There is very little we will need to buy.
Wow, here is something we never did living in a house on wheels. We can now buy the huge size bargain packs of stuff. It sure will be different having so much storage space.
It even came with the standard sliding glass door lock, a broom handle. The unit was originally wired for a security system and we are considering continuing the service since we will still be traveling for extended periods.
Anyone who knows her knows Nanc was in her glory with all the cleaning. We pretty much scrubbed down everything in the kitchen and bathrooms. Things were a little more dusty than expected because they had not used it for a long time. They even left all the appliance and maintenance manuals. Very helpful for knowing what has been done and what we need to do. 
This is our living room. The floors are tiled throughout the living areas and bathrooms. As you can see they left everything; sofa, coffee table, chairs, end tables and lamps. The wonderful picture was also part of the deal.
Looking the other way in the living room is an armoire that has one of the four TVs they included. Also the dining table and chairs, the stools at the bar and the mirror on the wall that tells whose the fairest of them all.  
The kitchen is small but still much bigger than what we have had the last twelve years. There are granite counter tops and all the appliances including a dish washer. The beautiful wood cabinets are filled with enough dishes and glasses that we could have a nice size party. 
All of the bedroom floors are carpeted. The furnishings in the master bedroom include the bed, nightstands, lamps and the picture. There is a matching dresser and a huge desk that we will probably move to one of the other bedrooms. Between the the bedroom and master bath are two large closets, meaning I will no longer have to sacrifice any of MY space. 
The master bath has a walk in tiled shower, big enough for two:-) and tiled floor. There is a small linen closet and, as you can see, they left some art work here also. 
There are two small, extra bedrooms that have daybeds so we will be able to accommodate guests. All the windows, we have three since we are in an end unit, have plantation shutters. We learned that those are a big deal. Who knew? 
The other extra bedroom has a futon that I was afraid to sit on as it looks like it could swallow you.  Our long range plan is to turn one of these rooms into a den/office/sewing room. Yes, they left a sewing machine.
The second bath is across the hall from the extra bedrooms so our guests will have some privacy. It has a tub/shower combination and tiled floor.
Something I had not even considered until we started looking at condos was parking and storage. We figured out quickly that a garage was a big plus. It is VERY narrow but in just the four days we stayed we realized how much cleaner the CRV stayed being inside. There is room for storage but it will have to be up high. This is a before picture and they did not leave the coolers, but they did leave beach chairs, pads and an umbrella, as well as, pool floats.
The common areas are all very nice. There is a small clubhouse with gym equipment. I think this was a deal sealer for Nanc. 
And this was a deal sealer for me. The pool is heated an just across the street form our unit. Overall we are very impressed with Lexington Lakes. We already met several neighbors, some who are snowbirds and some full time residents. We learned who the go to people are if you want to know what is happening here or you need something done.
The happy homeowner. Many people have asked if we are still going to RV. Yes, and we are already back in the Keys until the first of February and are now thinking of Opus as our beautiful second home. We look forward to welcoming friends to our new home in Stuart. The only down side for our RV friends is we cannot offer you a place to park in Lexington Lakes. We made reservation for a place to store Opus just down the street and we will be moving a lot of things into the condo next month. 

Others have asked what I plan to do with the blog. The name says Running Down Our Dream and we are still doing that so, yes, I will continue writing it.  While I won't be writing as much when we are in Stuart for extended stays, I do plan to keep the blog active as our diary of our lives. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Welcoming in the New Year in the Keys

For the first time in our twelve years on the road we celebrated the New Year in the Keys. There was a party at the Elks with an age appropriate celebration of the new year at 9 PM. I guess that was okay because by that time in most of the world, it was already 2019.
Gotta love this view of a Keys sunsets.
There is a transition here between Christmas and the New Year. Several people moved on and a few new people arrived. We had a little happy hour at our place to welcome some of the new people.
One of the better sunsets so far this year. One reason they have not been as good as in the past is that it has been windy so the ripples on the water don't reflect the glow. You can see here how the reflection near shore is bright orange, while where the water has ripples it is not very bright.
Another picture of the white heron. It jumped into the water from the dock and walked ashore. Very neat.
We can't get enough of these sunsets.
The local fisherman told us they call the heron Sam. Why fly when you can strut your stuff on the Elks pier.
Friday night karaoke at the Elks. Here are Pat, Diana, Nanc and Christine belting out the Beatles, Eight Days a Week. I will spare you the audio.
The only down side to staying at the Elks, is that we don't have a sewer hookup, so gray water must be dumped using the Blue Boy (aka Turd Trolley.) There is a pump out service for the black water. This is a small price to pay for the great location and view. 
It was New Years Eve so I did my traditional Polar Bear dip in the Florida waters. Really, I'm a coward and only go in when it is at least 80 degrees. That has been no problem this year. 
We have been carrying these beads since Mardi Gras last March. There were enough that Nanc gave everyone at the party beads.
Gene, Diana, Dick, Christine, Jim, Mary and Beth getting ready to ring in the new year.
Linda, Sue, Dennis, George and Linda at the party. The party was a big potluck dinner so there was a great variety of food for all.
Patty, Tim, Nanc and me enjoying the fun time.
Linda and Dave who used to be camp hosts here at the Elks. Dave was the DJ for the party and had the place Rockin. It was a fun party with fun friends ringing in 2019 together.
January 1 is a big day of change. Six rigs either left or had to shuffle to a new spot. By the end of the day the place was full with most of those folks staying until February.


As I write we are no longer fulltimers. This past Tuesday we went to Stuart and closed on our new condo. More on the adventure in the next post.