Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Break from Building and a Little About Tearing Down...

This post has little to do with converting a cargo trailer to a camper, at least as far as how to do it. What it does relate to is the fact that everybody has a reason for doing what they do, along with a right to do it however they see fit.

This was brought to light by two things...a troll who tried to comment anonymously (which I have since corrected by forcing anyone who wants to comment to register before they do), along with another comment that was left on the YouTube video page regarding real estate. Some people just love to argue, and I am not going to argue back with them on a public forum!

About real estate...

As was stated many times before, if owning real estate is your thing, and you think you are making more money from it than you really are...good for you. Most people won't. You may be one of those lucky ones who are in a fast growth area where the appreciation on property is way above average, like Bend, Oregon before the bust, with a 36% appreciation rate...and if you are that's great. It didn't last, though, did it?

According to the national average appreciation rate on real estate over a longer term, you would have to buy the property "extremely" cheap (or inherit it) in order to make any real money on it. And whether you do a quick flip on it, or hang onto it for awhile, you still have to spend time and money on it to maintain it, otherwise it could turn into a liability very quickly.

Fact: I made far more money on buying cheap single family dwelling units, fixing them up, and quickly reselling them than I have EVER made from hanging onto property for a longer term. On ANY of the houses I have owned and lived in, I could have put that money into good mutual funds and came out far better in the end, and with a WHOLE LOT less work involved!

The person trying to make his argument is obviously more in need of money than we are, because hanging onto that real estate in the belief that it will make money seems to be his main argument. Other people look at it as security. How secure were all those people who suddenly found themselves upside down on their mortgages, and lost their home AND the money they had already put into it?

Maybe some people actually prefer mowing the lawn, gardening, making repairs badly (as opposed to someone who knows what they are doing), and working their behinds off at jobs they don't like, just to pay for it, so they can have more space to put all the rest of the stuff they don't need, just so they can fill all that useless space. If that's what they want from life, then that's their choice. It's not mine!

People argue that RV's are like any other vehicle, that they depreciate rather than appreciate like real estate does, and that's true. But then I'm not paying new prices of $100K+ for a house OR an RV with way more space in it than I ever could need or use. Nor am I spending that much for a new RV that is going to lose at least 20% of its value every year. My cargo trailer is not only paid for, and will be worth MORE when I get rid of it because of the quality work I am putting into it, but because of the type of vehicle it is, what maintenance can there be? Maybe tires and wheel bearings, both under $200. And a wash and wax now and then. Big deal.

I can go to any NADA book and look up the price for any new or used RV or vehicle and KNOW how much I am going to lose in depreciation before I ever get involved in the deal. That loss can be budgeted for. Explain that difference to those who were caught with mortgages that were higher than what the value of their home was! Explain that to the person who needs a new roof, new siding, new windows, a new septic system, or countless other repairs or remodeling, which on a house, any one of them could cost several thousands of dollars.

Sure, there is maintenance on an RV or any other vehicle, but there is no way that the routine maintenance on a RV compares to the time and expenses of maintaining real estate! THAT is a proven fact! And the less factory systems you have on an RV, the less the maintenance is. Also, the smaller the RV is in general, the less it is going to cost in maintenance!

Add that to the fact that you have no yard to maintain, no utilities to pay, the insurance on it costs a WHOLE lot less than on a house, and there is no competition! Not only that, but why pay extra for lake property or exclusive neighborhoods? Living mobile, I can park on a lake any time I want to...many times for free. And if I don't like the neighbors, I can always leave!

If you have school age kids, why worry about what school district you are buying into? With more leisure time and less work time, you can home school your kids as many parents are already doing, and a life of travel will give them a far better education, away from drug infested public schools, than they will ever get elsewhere!

Just this last year, we discovered when we bought this house that it did NOT have a new septic tank. They only put a concrete lid over the old steel tank that was in the ground! We thought we could get by with just dropping a new tank in the ground, but due to other problems caused by previous residents, the lines were no longer usable, so we had to get four different inspectors and an engineer involved to design us a new complete septic a cost of over $9000, and it "could" and should have been much more!

I didn't pay that much for my conversion van and trailer together, even if all the repairs and improvements that we have done to them were included! And as far as depreciation, even if they did depreciate at 20% per year (which they won't)...20% of $10K is a lot less than 20% of $100K, so we'll still be laughing all the way to the bank, while everyone else is losing far more than we will!

There is a ton of other things that "could" and "should" be done to this house we currently own, but if we continued to work on it, it would suck every bit of time (I'm talking years) and money we have available to get it to where we would feel satisfied with it (although we would NEVER be satisfied with the neighborhood), and then we would have more into it than what we would ever get out of it in this neighborhood! We would also be too old and worn out by that time to do any traveling and we would die here without ever living our dreams.

Think about it. Are you so money hungry that you feel that your house is worth more to you than your dreams?

Granted, some of that was our own fault in how and why we bought this place, but many others have made mistakes just as bad or worse! Everyone has a long story as to why things happen, but the bottom line is that they do happen!

We could have bought a house that was better suited to us, and required less maintenance...but we would have paid out the difference in payments. A person doesn't have to mow their own lawn (we haven't for the past five years...we hire a lawn crew). You can always pay someone to do that. So one way or the other, real estate costs money and/or time. Just because we don't "labor" to mow our own yard, we still would "labor" at jobs to earn the money to pay for that service. You don't get something for nothing!

Please know, that as much as I am passionate about getting rid of real estate "in our case", the same reasons behind our thinking doesn't apply to everyone out there. We all have our reasons, and we all have to be happy with our decisions, and if real estate is working for you, then by all means, go for it. There doesn't need to be any big discussion about it, either way. Just do your thing, and let me do mine, and we'll both be happy. I know what has and hasn't worked for us, and I probably have more experience with real estate than many of you. I've already heard all the pros and cons, and don't need to argue about it any longer!

Why we have this blog...

This blog is an outlet to me to vent my feelings, whether they be good or bad. I'm not asking for anyone's approval on what I say or do. Few, if any, family will ever follow it, so it isn't for them, either. Nor am I worrying about how big my reader base gets just so I can get more clicks on links and make more money. That's the least of my worries.

Anything I make from referring products is great, but I don't depend on it. In fact, I would rather you buy online products from younger people who are out there traveling and TRYING to make a living. The retirees already have their Social Security and pensions. If that isn't enough, they have no one to blame but themselves. I'd rather help the younger people, who are just getting started and have a bigger need and more time to grow their businesses.

We have very few family members who are interested in following our exploits. Some people who ask us in person what is happening, never bother to read the blog even after I have given them a link to it in email or on Facebook, or a card with the site address on it! If people aren't interested in reading, then I feel no obligation to answer their questions in person! If they really wanted to know about us and full-time travel, they would read about it and get involved in what we are doing. If not, they obviously aren't really interested, and are wasting our time!

Do you really have an interest in this topic?

I know from watching other YouTube videos about this lifestyle that there are people out there who actually hate the lifestyle, they hate RV's and RVers, and God forbid that the traveler would live in anything less than a full-blown Class A as big as a house, and payments to match! Some of them are actually going out of their way to make sure that they make life miserable for all of us, including themselves.

And that, despite the fact that many people RV in rigs costing more than most people's stick-built houses! We followed one back from Poplar Bluff yesterday...a brand new Newell motorhome, that anyone in the know can tell you are close to a million dollars (or more)! So if they hate the topic so much, then why are they following it and commenting on it? Are they jealous, or just plain stupid?

After all, how can anyone be truly happy with themselves while making life miserable for people they don't even know? They must be so miserable themselves that they try to inflict their own misery on others, just so they won't feel alone. So be it. It takes all kinds in this world. But I don't want to associate with them nor deal with them, and neither does anyone else! The world would be better off if everyone would just live and let live! I'm not forcing anyone into our lifestyle, and I don't want them trying to force me into theirs! They should mind their own business, and I'll mind mine!

Videos in our future?

People have asked me about doing a YouTube channel with our own videos on it of the trailer build, and later on, our travels. I know how to use video editors, and have already put together YouTube videos for promotion of the tool boards I use to sell, as well as the tool organizers for which I was the world's largest full-line stocking distributor. Both have since been taken offline because I no longer sell those products. Those videos were done all on the computer, with no face time, no microphone, and no video footage provided by me. They were all done with the vendors stock footage and a combination of their still photos and mine, coupled with my own Power Point slides for explanations, and canned music available for free from the internet.  No video camera was used by me.

But for the kind of videos I would have to do for this topic, I need proper video equipment, including a camera with a microphone jack on it. Trying to capture someone's narrative from 20 feet away or with the wind blowing across a microphone is a joke, but yet we've all seen videos where someone has tried to do it. Besides not yet having equipment worthy of doing it properly, I have mixed emotions about doing it at all, and here's why.

First reason...the videos that I see out there that relate to van dwelling and RVing in general are geared toward people who are already limited (in most cases) by the mobile bandwidth they can use, or are otherwise restricted in speed by whatever free WI-FI they can use. I don't need to satisfy my own ego by putting out my own bandwidth-wasting videos that are redundant to what thousands of other people are putting out... and if I must say, many of them are doing it quite badly at that.

I take pride in being reasonably well spoken and self-taught in typing, such that I can put together a document of any kind with proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Sometimes I have to proofread a half-dozen times to get all the typos out, but I like to turn out a quality product. At least I DO go back and correct my typos when I find them, which is more than I can say for a lot of the blogs I read!

There's a spell checker included on the control panel of every blog, and people need to learn how to use it!

I like to think about what I am saying and have the opportunity to go back and correct it if necessary. I am NOT a video kind of guy (as far as face time), nor do I like to have a phone in my ear all day. I do my communication in writing better than 90% of the time, and I didn't even take typing in school! I learned it on my own because it was necessary to bettering my life!

People who do videos should be well-spoken and know what they are going to say, and have something actually useful to say in a concise amount of time. All the "uh's" that I hear in other people's videos are a turn-off for me. They need to step back and listen to what they sound like. If it doesn't sound professional, then maybe video isn't their thing. When I see people stumbling on their words and talking about totally stupid stuff, I will shut them off in a heartbeat. Even if their time isn't valuable to them, mine is to me, especially if I am paying for all that wasted bandwidth!

That also goes for podcasts and other audio or video files. I see some of these things last an hour or more, and when they are all done, I haven't learned anything that I didn't already know! I would rather read at my own speed of about 1500 words per minute and skip over stuff that doesn't interest me, and I can do it in 1/10th of the time that some of these other files take!

Videos for other travelers need to be concise, deliver good information on the topic, and be less than ten minutes in length. If not, they become boring, and a total waste of bandwidth that people on mobile plans are paying for! Don't waste my time with crap that doesn't serve a purpose!

Another thing that is aggravating is overly long intros. I see some of these fancy intros going way over 15 seconds! That's MY bandwidth they are wasting, just to show me the same thing over and over with each video!

A good intro should last three to five seconds...just long enough to confirm to me what I'm watching. A couple bars of music is fine. You don't have to play the whole tune on my dime! Get on with the important part, and let your credits at the back end do your promoting. If I have an interest, I'll watch. If not, I can click out at the end of the important stuff!

Audio files are different. You can pop one of those onto your iPod or car radio and listen while you do other things. But videos are a time sucker and there's no way to get around that fact! Unless you have a technique or product to demonstrate, or real talent to show off, the rest are mostly garbage!

The sad part is, that many of these people are making money off ads that show on their videos...while at the same time, costing YOU money (in bandwidth) to watch them! Most of the ads that I see being played at the beginning of those YouTube videos are totally irrelevant to the topic of the video! I don't need to make money that way.

All of my money-making sites are properly optimized for the search engines so that interested buyers can find ME! I don't need to ambush random viewers with ads of which they have no interest. I know that even on well-optimized ads directed at real buyers, the conversion rate is only about 2% on the average. So guess where it's at when the ads are NOT optimized for interested people! It's so minuscule that it's not worth my time or my good name to mess with that kind of advertising!

The second reason...directly relates to all these haters and trolls being allowed to comment on YouTube, even after they are banned from a page. They can still reply to comments that other people make on that same page! Just because they can't initiate a comment thread doesn't mean they can't come back and reply on other people's threads! That can destroy your credibility!

"If"...and that's a very BIG "IF"...I ever do any YouTube videos, the comments will be shut off. There will be other ways to reach me, with which I have far more control over what is said, and the jerks out there won't even have a say in what goes on! If they don't like it or don't agree with it, they can move on to something else!

And the third reason... is that editing videos to really make them look professional takes a lot of time. I guess that's OK if you are really intending them to make money for you. Otherwise, it's just an ego thing, and I don't need that. I see many videos dumped onto YouTube straight off the camera, complete with all the wasted time, bloopers, poor lighting and poor sound, that the maker expects all of us to be patient with and wade through it. Sometimes they can get by with it. Mostly, it comes off looking like crap, and with no useful content to it.

I don't know about you, but I have better things to do with my time!

Troll story...

A few days ago, I was made aware of the fact that anyone could post on this blog anonymously (my fault for not paying attention to the settings), and sure enough, one of the trolls posted anonymously. The cowards always do. They don't have enough guts to leave their name.  That has since been corrected. Now, any commenters have to register, and as always, I see everything and have to approve it before it's published anyway.

That's why I don't have a contact form on any of my blogs. Anyone who wants to send a private message can do it in the comments, and I will see it. That doesn't mean I will allow it to publish to the blog, or that I will even reply to it. Snide or unkind remarks are not worth replying to!

Part of social advertising involves getting inbound links to your site or blog, to give it more importance and relevance in the eyes of the search engines. I have no problem with people adding their name and site/blog name when they register to comment. I do it all the time. That's the way social media works. For every time you post your URL on another blog, that's an extra inbound link to your site, making it that much more important in the eyes of the search engines, which raises your ranking in the results pages.

Unfortunately, with Blogger, when you eliminate anonymous commenters, it also eliminates the ability to use your name and URL in the form. Why? I have no idea! One should be exclusive of the other. Instead, they force you to revert to a Google ID, or some other social platform on which you are registered, and away from the site/blog you would rather promote!

The comment in question was in regard to the fact that I should quit "waffling" about cabinet building for musical instruments that will never be used, and then said it was "ridiculous". I have my guesses as to who this commenter was, as their remarks are very similar to ones I have seen before. I don't care who it is.

Just who does this jerk think he is talking to? He obviously doesn't know us or what our pasts have been nor what our future plans might be! Nor does he have any musical training or ability, or he would understand the passion for music that real players have.

Granted, the cabinet building might be a little boring for those without an interest in using tools or working with their hands. I would much rather be posting about our travels. Those will come soon enough...but we have to get to that point first. I am just showing that it doesn't take having to go in debt for an overpriced RV to be able to get out there and enjoy life! People who have a passion for travel AND music will understand the need to have instruments around, and do whatever they have to. We aren't the only ones who carry a full piano in our RV!

Our musical history...

As far as the musical instruments, here's some wife and I both had musical training, hers for far longer and more in-depth than mine. She has been playing piano since grade school, and later was given instructions on a full-pedal organ with all its controls, and also received training on an accordion.

My instruction was on two different accordions at two different times while I was in grade school. Mine were cheap used ones. Hers is a long shot! Later on, in high school, I studied guitar. One of my buddies also played drums, and I learned a lot from him, and even sat in for him on drums with a country band.

But I am no means a good musician. I think I could be with the proper training, but never had it. I play (at it) for my own enjoyment, and occasionally with others of equal talent, and hope to pick up a few pointers along the way.

My wife IS a good musician. She has been playing as a paid musician for several different denominations of churches for over 50 years, along with playing concerts, playing accompaniment for singers and other musicians, and other special music. She has also written several pieces for the piano, and has taught piano to students.

When we were in a resort in Mesa, she also served as the choir director for the community chorus of over 60 members, as well as playing accompaniment for other entertainers for talent shows. She was also the first one requested for celebration of life gatherings. "Gigs" were nearly always for pay. She seldom gives her work away, except to contribute to a good cause, or just to jam with other musicians in a party atmosphere.

The spinet piano was purchased for her by her (now deceased) parents, and has sentimental value, as well as serving a purpose. We don't plan to drag it in and out of the trailer, but any musician can tell you that there is nothing like practicing on the real thing. An electronic keyboard just isn't the same. And besides, I love to hear a "real" piano being played well (which she does VERY well) all by itself, just as I love to hear good acoustical guitar music. Sometimes having a lot of other instruments thrown in takes away from the listening rather than adding to it.

This troll obviously has no idea what resort living is like, either. We have experienced the finest in resorts, where the resort actually pays for talent to come in and entertain. We have seen everyone from John Davidson and Alice Tatum, to lesser known groups, of which some members had been former members of groups like The New Christy Minstrels. There is always entertainment of some kind going on in a true resort, whether it be outside entertainment or "in park" entertainment such as a guest musician or a talent show.

My wife has played many times for such things, and will undoubtedly play again, and it is important to have instruments handy to practice on "at home"...wherever "home" is. Many resorts will have their own pianos, but rarely an accordion. Sometimes people get tired of hearing the same old thing all the time, and will request that she bring her accordion.

Besides resorts, there are campgrounds all over the country that cater to musical groups, whether it be country music, bluegrass, jazz, or whatever music genre they prefer. We plan to visit as many of those types of campgrounds and resorts as will fit into our schedule.

Besides camping and resort living, there are also special places like the Acorn Feed Store, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, which was featured on a PBS special a few years ago. On Saturdays, they host a whole group of musicians, and each one takes a turn at the microphone with their own choice of songs, while the others play along.

Just in our own current area here in Northern Arkansas, we have many musical groups and shows going on nearly all year, where guest musicians can pick up their favorite instrument and join in. Mountain View is also home to the world famous Ozark Folk Center, which is the ONLY state park in the country dedicated to the preservation of not only mountain music, but the cultural heritage behind it.

On Saturdays the entire city is filled with groups of musicians all over the courthouse lawn, the city park, and other areas where anyone who is a player can join in and learn while gaining experience entertaining a crowd at the same time. People like the aforementioned troll obviously have no clue as to what is out there, or how we may choose to interact with it!

Granted, not all of our traveling will be at resorts that hire paid entertainers, and that's fine. We don't need to make extra money nor run a business from playing music. But we can and will play just as often for ourselves, even if it's boondocking in the middle of the Nevada desert! In fact, we will have much more time to do so, once we leave all this work related to our existing real estate behind, and we will again learn to enjoy other things besides work! The last thing we want is any kind of schedule to have to be somewhere for a gig! We're going where WE want to go...for the first time in our lives! If there happens to be some form of music that we can provide or interact with, then so much the better.

As an added touch, if we "wanted" to put our own act together (which we don't), and tour like so many others are already doing, as a means of making a living on the road (even if it IS in addition to other income) it allows much of our traveling expense and lifestyle to be a tax deduction, which "could" put additional money in our pockets. The troll obviously doesn't have a clue about such things, or how to manage a business, or have enough brains to even think about it.

As always, I don't intend to belittle anyone who has good intentions, but I am also a former construction worker, company owner, and commercial rental property manager. I have hired and fired people, and even collected rent and had to evict people that are far better people, and probably bigger, too, than this troll could ever hope to be! I get along fine with decent people of a like mind!

As always, we know our blog isn't going to be for everyone, and if you don't like what you see or agree with it, then back out and go somewhere else. This is my property and like-minded guests are always welcome. But come with malicious intent, and I will boot you out before you ever get your first word seen by a viewer!

We know there are a lot of good readers and loyal followers out there, but there are also a few trolls who have nothing better to do than find a contrary opinion of what someone is doing, and a way to disagree with it...disagreeably. All I can do is to stop them in their tracks, before they ever get a chance. And that even includes those who ARE willing to register.

I have been in the marketing game for over 15 years, and have learned tricks from some of the best in the business. I'm just doing what serves me best. If it isn't serving you, then please do us both a favor and let us each go our own way. No hard feelings. It serves no purpose to do otherwise.

This is the last I will say about it.

In another four months we will be done with most of the main building of the trailer, and be concentrating more on travel experiences. That will certainly be more enjoyable to us, too.

Going forward...

I picked up the solar panels for the trailer on the 13th of April, but before I do any posting about those, I want to read through the information and formulate a plan for the installation. I also have to apply the rust-eating paint to the trailer roof, and then apply a couple coats of Kool Seal to it before I put anything else up there.

One commenter on the YouTube video questioned whether 200 watts would be enough. Questions are good. I don't mind questions. As I told him, although calculations are good as a starting point, there are so many variables with solar, that the only real test is in using them. These are name-brand panels from AM Solar in Oregon, and if we find that they aren't enough, we'll simply buy another and add to them.

The same goes for the batteries. Are two 6-volt batteries in series at 225 amp-hours total going to be better than two 12-volt 225 amp hour batteries in parallel totalling 450 amp-hours? Will the internal plate sizes make up for the difference? We shall see from real life experiences, and make changes as needed. It's all very flexible.

I will continue to show the kitchen cabinet build, along with the couch build, only because of the complexity of such units, but after that, I will cut back considerably on the details of other cabinet building. I've already shown the detail that goes into the construction of such things, so the techniques are only going to be repeated on the rest of them. I know...boring stuff. Maybe I'll just show the finished cabinets after they are installed.

When I get ready to do the roof rack and solar panels, I will show more detail again, as I know many people have an interest in this new-found technology. Even as a master electrician and robotics technician, my expertise is in automation controls for industry. Show me what you want a machine to do and I'll design both the machine and the controls for it, including any pneumatic and hydraulic systems. But solar is new to me, also, and I am constantly watching the blogs and manufacturer's sites for good information.

The water pump and plumbing are no big deal, but I will post about the concept for solar hot water when the time comes.

By that time, we will be ready for the piddly things like trim, cabinet handles, where to put mirrors, towel bars, coat hooks and other things (more boring stuff), and then we should be leaving here shortly after that. So if you are looking for travel stories, hang in there. They will be coming soon enough.

Sorry about the rant about trolls and argumentative types, but I have said my piece and it won't happen again...maybe. (:>)

Thanks for reading.


Brad said...

Sorry to hear about the troll. I had one person who didn't like the moderation feature ob my blog and after him trying to post four times, the language was all four letter words. Moderation is a good thing!

John Abert said...

Absolutely, Brad. I have seen many blogs and forums that have been left unmoderated, and the content becomes 90% trash, which makes it useless. Thanks for agreeing, and maybe we'll see you later this summer.