Saturday, October 8, 2016

Idle thoughts

Now that I have cleared up a lot of web space by condensing my photos on Google I will be able to post on this blog a lot more.

So here are some idle thoughts for Oct 8, 2016

1. Is anyone still following the US election smut campaign - how any woman can still support Donald after the video from yesterday is beyond me. Enough said.

2. Vancouver Canucks - Jim and I have purchased a half season pack - both think it will be a very interesting and hopefully not a long frustrating season - if they stay healthy we feel they have a shot at the playoffs - if they suffer key injuries to the key core it will be a long season because while the youth movement has started they aren't for the most part seasoned enough to step in and provide the needed leadership.

3. My volunteering - I continue to volunteer for many events - this weekend - Sunday and Monday I am helping with the Turkey Trot race on Granville Island but for the most part until I return from my fall cruise and holiday in mid-November don't have a lot planned.

That's all for now.

Boston to New Orleans Oct 28, 2016 to Nov 11, 2016 -

                         My home for two weeks - the Norwegian Dawn

In less than two weeks I will heading out of Vancouver with my ultimate destination being Boston where I will board the Norwegian Dawn and set sail for a 14 day Caribbean cruise and end up in New Orleans - at least that is the plan but it's hurricane season so some of the ports etc could change depending on where the active storms are.

I have been lucky over the years on these repo cruises - while there has been storm activity in the region we have not missed a scheduled port or being rerouted.

Stops on this cruise are San Juan, Puerto Rico, Bonaire, Aruba, Curacao, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico - all except Bonaire I have visited before.

As this will likely be my last long distance east coast cruise - this old body can't take the 4 - 5 day train trip both ways and since I don't fly there aren't a lot of ways to get to the east coast ports - I am taking a somewhat circuitous route to get there.

Amtrak train will be my main form of transportation to Boston and home from New Orleans.

Here's a brief outline of how the train trip will unfold - Vancouver to Seattle to Chicago to Buffalo where I will transfer to the Maple Leaf Service and head for Toronto - two night - one day stay there then it's off to Montreal for an overnight stay and then the train to NYC - overnight there and then the Northeast Regional to Boston - only coming in the night before the cruise - for some reason and partly because of the low Canadian $$$ the hotel rooms in Boston were around $250 - $300 US so I couldn't justify more than one night.

New Orleans streetcars are always fun to ride.

After the 14 days at sea I will stay overnight in New Orleans as I want to take the Sunset Limited from NOLA to LA and it doesn't leave every day. 

Hotels rooms were also very expensive here - partly because it's the Nov 11th holiday weekend and also because there is a large convention in town. I was able to get the Drury Inn - a very desirable hotel for cruisers using my RBC Rewards points.

After arriving in LA I will take the Coast Starlighter up the coast to Seattle and then transfer to a bus to get me back to Vancouver early in the morning.

How am I coming with my preparation? Well it's a slow process for me - for some reason I haven't started to pack and I am less than two weeks from leaving.

One of the major challenges in packing for this cruise is the need for taking some colder weather clothes - Chicago, Toronto, etc can be cool in late October early November - as much as possible I want to check my main luggage  but will still need the colder clothes on the train and at some of the stops along the way.

Don't know if I can fit the heavier clothes into my day pack and still have enough room for my toys - two cameras, one laptop, two cell phones - one for the US only - and there various chargers etc. + at least one change of clothes and a second pair of footwear.

One thing that helps is that I am leaving Vancouver in late October so can likely wear some of the bulkier items.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The condo is sold and I am now renting

I had been entertaining the idea of selling my downtown condo for some time and almost put it up for sale before Christmas but choose to hold off.

I know some people question why you would want to get rid of one of your biggest assets in retirement but there were a couple of factors at play.

While my pensions were providing me with enough to live on each month they weren't providing enough for the longer holidays etc - also when I started down the retirement road some 10 years ago the markets were providing a much larger return on their investments than they are now - so I have been using some of the equity in my condo to finance the cruises etc.

My condo building is coming up to 40 years old and will need to be upgraded and renewed over the next three to five years - there were likely to be several significant assessments over that period of time - all of which I would need to use the equity to pay for.

That in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing - if the market continues to grow etc - but that is a big if - some were predicting a market correction here in Vancouver. etc.

Also while my health is okay now - okay I have the usual aging problems - hearing loss, cataracts etc I don't have any major life threatening or altering issues BUT you never know when that could happen.

I didn't want to be stuck in a situation where a health issue arises, there is a bad real estate market etc., etc., etc.,

So in early February I called an old real estate friend that I knew from my working days at the Y - we discussed the situation on Wednesday, agreed on a price and he arranged an open house for the Sunday - over 100 people viewed it - three offers were tendered on Monday - I accepted the middle one - only $1000.00 less than the highest but there were no subject clauses and it was still $6000.00 over asking.

It also was a month end closing so I needed to get a place to rent - while I could have rented in a condo building I choose to go with an all rental building - still in the downtown core - about 6 blocks from my old place - it's closer to the shopping core - I am 17 stories up in the sky - in a roomy 580 sq. ft one bedroom apartment with views to the south east and around to the northwest as it is a corner unit.

The move in when fine - I will be able to pay for about 80% of my rent from the proceeds of the sale and with a saving on condo fees and a friend repaying a private loan it takes very little from my monthly budget and will still have monies available for trips etc for many years to come.

So for the first time really in my adult life - except for one year in the 70's - I am not a home owner but a renter - my new place is managed by a large rental management firm and if first impressions mean anything I am very impressed on how they manage the building.

Since moving in I am heard almost no noise from either the suite above or below me.

I also have a built in washer and dryer, a large balcony - can't barbecue but there is a barbecue area on a lower floor - I have a good parking spot - a large storage locker and a good secure bike storage.

So the next chapter in my life is unfolding and it's time to say Cheers!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Just some dribble on a rainy day in the City.

January has had it share of rainy days and with little in the way of volunteering I have been busy planning my fall 14 day Boston to New Orleans repositioning cruise.

With the Canadian dollar in the tank - although it has rebounded a little bit the last couple of days - it is still adding to my costs significantly.

As most of you know nowadays most credit cards etc have rewards etc so I started to explore what I might be able to use for this trip - without getting into all the details I was able to book a hotel room in New Orleans with bank rewards - still enough for one more night in either Toronto or Montreal - also have some Air Miles that can get me a night in either of those two cities - only thing I don't like about Air Miles is that you have to pay the taxes and a booking fee so it isn't totally free,

Next I turned my attention to my Amtrak Guest Rewards - this is where I achieved a good saving - was able to book the Los Angeles to Vancouver part of the return trip entirely using points - includes a sleeper on the LA to Seattle part - that saved me over $300.00 US.

So the only things remaining to do is the hotel room in Toronto for 2 nights and one night in Montreal.

Still waiting for the cruise line to list the excursions for the cruise this fall - particularly interested in what they are offering for Bonaire which is the one port that I haven't been too before.

More later.