Thursday, May 5, 2016

Different experiences...

Interesting, and somtimes frustrating, the way different companies do business.

We have been busy the last couple days.  I contacted the nice folks at Emerald Guitars in Ireland about ordering another carbon fiber guitar.  A week or two ago, I saw a post from Emerald on Facebook about an absolutely gorgeous carbon fiber guitar with a cocobolo wood veneer.  Generally, my tastes with carbon fiber are to let that cool carbon fiber show, not cover it up with paint or a wood veneer.  This was a very special custom.

Yes, Emerald can make me the smaller size guitar I want, with a cocobolo veneer... it will take approximately 4 months.  That would be sometime in September, and we plan to be land cruising at the time.  I couldn't imagine waiting that long, then not having an address for where to ship the guitar.  I mentioned to Sean at Emerald that the cool black version is what originally attracted me to the guitar... He said, "I have one of those in stock - I can have it on its way to you tomorrow."

"How long will it take to get from Ireland to the very southern Tip of Texas?"  He estimated 7 to 10 days.


Yes, I know things could get held up going through Customs, but this is a guy who listened to what a customer wanted, understood my time frame, and made the purchase easy.  He also added, "When you have more time to wait, we can do another guitar for you with that custom cocobolo; maybe in a different size?"


Contrast that with some shopping we have been doing yesterday and today... we are looking for another vehicle.  Big Red has been a champ, but with nothing heavy to tow - and it being too heavy to tow behind the motorhome -  well, it is time for something else.

I contacted a dealer up north.  That was on Wednesday, I am still waiting for an estimated trade price.  To be fair, the salesman did say that Thursday is his day off.  He asked if we had any photos of our truck - I had them on the way to him less than an hour later.

Today, we went to two different dealers in the Valley.  The first one was very friendly, listened to what we were interested in, had us do a test drive, then had a manager take our truck for a drive to determine how they'd trade.  The manager came back and said, "We have to make some calls - that is more vehicle than we generally handle here (they are not a truck dealer).  I should have an answer for you shortly."

He did.  It was a workable number.  Then, he hedged his offer.  He left, came back, and said, "The place we'd be selling it to said I misunderstood him, and the offer would be ... a couple thousand $$ less."

We thanked them and said, "When you get back to a realistic number, give us a call.  If we haven't already bought something, maybe we can do business."

I wasn't particularly happy about how it ended, but it wasn't far from what I expected here.  You tell them you don't want to play "the game," and they still want to play "the game."

We went to the second dealership.  Looked, then drove a car.  The salesman was nice enough, but didn't speak great English.  That happens a lot here, too.  When it came time to talk numbers, they were WAY low.  I had pointed out that there is a very small door ding on one side and a small dent in the rear bumper.  The manager said we had "withheld damage information," and seriously low balled us.  I resented the low ball, and REALLY resented the insinuation that I wasn't being forthright.

"Give me my keys, and we'll be on our way," I said.

"Just a minute, let's talk about this," the manager said.

"Keys!  NOW!"

"What are you upset about?"

"Get my keys now, or this is going to get really ugly!"

The salesman handed me the keys.  The manager said, "We can come up a thousand dollars on your truck!  Let's talk about this."

We left.  When we got home, I called that dealership and spoke to the manager.  "First off, I apologize for losing my temper with you, but I don't like having my integrity questioned.  Second, I told your salesman I wasn't interested in playing the 'you make and offer, I'll make an offer game'.  Knowing that, you still did it.  If that is how you chose to do business, I don't want to do business with you.  And this is important: I came into your dealership with a chip on my shoulder.  I tried to do business with your truck dealership when they first opened.  They quoted me a price that was 50% higher than the book rate for an oil and filters change... then laughed when I said, 'No thanks.'  I thought I would try again, but this is apparently company-wide how you do business."

"We would like to earn your business."  Then, knocked off another $2500 dollars.  "Tell me what number it will take." 

I said, "I guess I will explain it once more, then wish you a nice life: don't jerk me around - give me a price that is your best.  If I like it, I will buy it, if I don't, we would have parted company amicably.  When you go to the grocery store, do you dicker for every item in your basket?  That would be exhausting.  I get that you are able to take advantage of people by getting them to say 'a number'.  I thought we could have an intelligent discussion, and I can see I was wrong.  I feel like I need to take a shower after dealing with people like you.  Have a nice life."

Yeah, I think I need a shower.

I gave him a ridiculously low number... "Don't like being insulted like that, do you?"

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hollywood Racks...

Yeah, the bike rack saga continues.  Besides, I just like saying, "Hollywood Racks."  It would be a good name for a strip club... but, I digress.

It was a gray start to the day; not cold, but it looks like it should be.  I put on jeans in anticipation of having to crawl around on the driveway to assemble the rack.  Trying to avoid that, I brought a small rolling stool to sit on while I put it together.

Seems to me that it would be best to assemble the rack in the receiver hitch on the truck - a good way to go.  Reviews I read said it would take 30 to 60 minutes to assemble the rack.  I had it ready to test fit in less than 30 minutes...

I enlisted Joan's help to get the bikes on the rack.  Then realized that there are infinite adjustments with this rack - has to be in order for it to work with the wide variety of bikes.  So, make that 30 minutes to assemble, 15 minutes to remove the tire holders, then put them back on in a way that will best fit our bikes.  Another 15 minutes to fine tune the adjustments.  Then, tightening all the bits to try it with the bikes in place...

This rack was way more expensive than the first one we tried, and easy to see why: it is built to handle the weight and size of fat bikes.  It looks like it will do the job.

Before hauling the bikes anywhere, I thought it best to make a run with just the rack.  Besides, it was time for lunch... and I have been craving some chicken fried chicken.  Not to mention, the gray skies look like it could rain at any time.  We took the bikes off, put them away, and put the rack into its most compact position (extends about a foot behind the truck).  Off to lunch.

Blackbeard's on the island.  Joan had something healthy, I got my chicken fried chicken.  With gravy.  Mashed potatoes and green beans.  Yep, comfort food.

Coming back across the causeway, you can see how gray it is...

We each have projects to do this afternoon.  The rack rode behind the truck just fine... tomorrow, I'm hoping we'll get the chance to put the bikes up on the rack and give it a test run... and get in some riding.  The weather is supposed to gorgeous: dry and sunny, with temps below normal.

Monday, May 2, 2016

NRD - not as much fun as NGD...

New Rack Day.  No, it isn't as much fun as New Guitar Day.  But, I have been excitedly waiting for its arrival.

UPS doesn't get here until after 5:00 most days.  It was after 6:00 this evening.  Pretty sure I look old to the UPS driver, since he said, "Be careful, it's heavy," when he set the box on our front porch.

Whippersnapper.  For full disclosure, I did have Joan help me get it to the deck, where I'd have room to open it up and check to make sure all the parts are there...

That is a really big box.  Oh, and like the UPS driver said, heavy.  It was put together with about a hundred staples... I hope the rack is put together as well as this box.  Oh, this is a rack to carry the e-bikes on the back of the truck or the motorhome.  The online dealer is etrailer.  The manufacturer is Hollywood Racks.  I'm kinda glad it doesn't say Hollywood Racks on the outer box - might make the neighbors talk.  ;-)

When I finally got the big box open, the fat tire adapters were packed on top of the actual box for the rack...

We tried to buy a rack locally.  Well, in Brownsville and Harlingen.  No one had anything this substantial in stock.  A bike dealer said he'd get back to us.  He didn't.  So, we ordered it online.

This model had a lot of good reviews.  It is adaptable for fat tire bikes (for extra $$, of course).  A lot of the reviews said it is complicated to put together.  Well, there are two more boxes full of parts that were inside the box that was inside the box...

The instructions don't look too complicated.  I watched an assembly video online... looks less intimidating than your average IKEA entertainment center.  ;-)

I'll find out tomorrow.  Getting too late today.

While I was out on the deck opening boxes and checking parts against the list, I was in shorts and a t-shirt.  The "slightly cool front" I mentioned in the previous post has dropped the temperature to 74º, but the north wind feels pretty cool.  Two ladies walked by while I was on the deck... wearing down jackets.  ;-)

Enough, already...

The day started out warm.  And still.  I needed to put a card in the mail - a good reason to get out on the e-bike.  Less than 5 miles, but I was a sweat-ball by the time I got home.  A shower felt great.

The weather weasels were calling for a front to move in, with wind from the north and slightly dropping temps.  Yep.  It went from still to wind out of the north at 25+ mph in just a few minutes.  That "temperature drop" took it from 79º all the way down to 75.  ;-)

The discussion turned to lunch.  Joan proposed some options, then we voted: another trip to Russo's (New York Pizzaria).  As we pulled up to the place, there were about 15 people standing outside... a line waiting to get in??

Nope, it was a group that was just leaving, but having a visit before going their separate ways.  When we went inside, there were two or three other parties at tables.  No, I don't think we'll have a problem getting seated.

We have had friends ask, "How can you two spend all that time together?"  Even when we are home together, Joan has her projects, and I try to stay out from under foot.  Lunch is a great time for us to sit across from each other and have real conversations.  Today, we were talking about plans for the summer.

There is one draw-back about being in a restaurant that has recently opened and not packed with customers: the staff outnumbers the patrons.  I understand, they need to train; they need to be prepared so service is good when they are busy.

Our waited came back to check on us every couple of minutes.  The manager came by to see that we were getting good service.  The operations manager came by - more of the same.  No, I don't know what the difference is between the manager and the operations manager.  Another waiter came by.  Twice.

Take a bite.  Tell someone, "Yes, everything is fine."  Take a bite.  Tell the next person, "No, our soda is good for now."  Take a bite... you get the idea.

Not a complaint, an observation.  It actually was kinda funny.  And, the food was good.


The humidity is down, below "Muggy" (one of the categories on the local weather).  It is gray and windy, but quite pleasant outside if you are out of the wind.  I think I'll pass on an afternoon ride, though.  The weasels are calling for a good chance of rain, but the feel of the air is saying otherwise.  The palm trees are swaying.  Well, more like leaning.  No worry about being a sweat-ball.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Here comes another one...

Another off-shore oil rig coming in the Brownsville Ship Channel...

It looks like it is sitting on land, but that is a huge workboat out in front of it, hauling it up the channel.  Too early to tell if this will join the other three that are in the turning basin near our home, or if it will continue up the ship channel to Brownsville.


Nothing to do with a bunny trail.

It has been a while since I participated in the scooter tag game.  The latest tag was a bit of a gimme for me: your scoot with a boat ramp or something boat related - I wouldn't even have to leave our little island for that.

I talked Joan into going for a scooter ride; I picked up the tag on our way off our island, there is a private boat ramp there for our village.  I suggested we head out towards Bayview, which doesn't actually have a view of the bay.  Joan suggested we ride across the causeway to South Padre Island.

"That sounds good, too - plenty of good tagging opportunities (my turn to come up with a new tag).  The speed limit on the causeway is 55, so no problem for the scoots.  About 2/3 of the way across, traffic had come to a stand-still.  Hmmm, didn't look that crowded when we first got on the causeway.

There was a bicycle race from Brownsville to South Padre this morning.  SPLASH (a gay, lesbian, and all those other initials) gathering is happening on the island this weekend.  And, the fact that it is warm and humid has brought a LOT of people from the Valley to the island - it is always cooler here.

So, we inched our way along in stop and go traffic for a mile or so.  Not a big deal - we had a nice view of the Laguna Madre and the high rises on the island; and a banner-towing plane pulling the "flying billboards" around.  Seems that most of the traffic was turning right, to get to the county beach park.  We turned left.

I was thinking about getting a shot of the scoot with one of the tourist shops, then... we drove by the South Padre Island water tower.  I like that premise - the new tag...

... your scoot by a water tower with a town name on it.

We rode around the island a bit.  Didn't feel like trying to mix it up with the crowds at the beach.  I was mostly looking for some two-wheel time.  The side streets on the island were blissfully traffic free.

I heard from my buddy Mike this morning - they are home in Colorado and got snowed on again.  Between the cold/snow and hot/humid, I'll take the warmth.

Oh, and Happy May Day!

Saturday, April 30, 2016


Talking about one of Izzy's places.

This afternoon, she was lounging on the short level of her tower.  Too cute to not capture...