Sunday, June 30, 2024

06.30.24 New life plan, maybe, T-minus 48 months...

     A great week down in Hilton Head. Hot. Relaxing. Exciting. Confusing. Scary. Did you ever have a moment in your life where it seems you're at an intersection and you have to make a decision on which way to turn? And that turn could decide the rest of your life? Well this week could have been, for us, one of those times. Today, Sunday, we're back in New Jersey speechless, and left shaking our heads.

      We really like South Carolina, a lot. Liked it last year and liked it this year. Savannah. Beaufort, Bluffton, Hilton Head. It's just different. Yes, it's a vacation. Yes, the grass is always greener. But we were left thinking to ourselves, at 56 and 58 years old, well I guess young, "What are we doing?". 

     We've been together now 10 years. Lived in Red Bank in what we thought was going to be our last home. Small. Simple. Affordable. Manageable. After Ryan took his life in that house a chance circumstance brought us to an open house in Titusville, and the rest is our history. She's a big old house

that we have a love-hate relationship with. Big house means big work, big maintenance, and big money. We have become slaves to the house. While it has given us the opportunity to experience more rural living it has also trapped us, and all of our stuff, within it's big four floors and walls. We can't blame the house for our behaviors which can border on a hoarding disorder and mental illness, one that I think most of us have. Nature, nurture, or a combination of both have us all holding onto, and adding to, a plethora of "stuff" that really no one wants, and doesn't have the value we think it does. 

     This morning we walked around, and around, and just shook our heads and questioned why. Why do we have this stuff? Why do we feel responsible to be the possessor of other peoples stuff and the memories they hold. I can only speak and own my own stuff. Things that don't fit, are broken, were from past lives, and are really just a weight that keeps me, and us, weighed down. And if we believe that the kids want it, well that's just comical. 

     And with all of that comes the calculation of money spent and money wasted. How much money does it take to continue this insanity and daily living. Yes, bill are bills no matter where you go, but how much of this life prevents us from living our best life? While bills like taxes, electric, heat, water, garbage, cable, phones and insurance would be anywhere why do we accept the ridiculous amounts to maintain daily living. For the kids to visit? For the holidays? For the grandkids? And don't get me started on my new pet peeve of food, and dining out, just a total waste. 

     We have dear neighbors who are in their late 70's and early 80's. Living in a big old, well very old, house. They have their kids stuff, their stuff, her parents stuff, and his parents stuff. The older you get the more you accumulate and it makes it harder to get rid of it to make another life move. And as far as health? Health only eventually gets bad, and then we all die. As Morgan Freeman said in the movie Shawshank Redemption, "Get busy living or get busy dying". And the pets, well I'm not going to speak bad of cats and dogs, but they can be an anchor and get in the way of living, especially any kind of spontaneous outings, weekends, or vacations. 

     During the week I thought often of my parents. In their mid to late 70's. My Mom, how brave she was and is, to pick up from New Jersey and move to Florida, alone and not knowing a soul down there. She had to go through and purge 70 years of her life to start a new. Sold her house, downsized, and drove down to start a new chapter. My other parents have recently retired and are in the process of selling their dream house while they build a more functional and practical house which will let them live more. It's a huge, huge move that so many people can't or won't make. I really tip my hat to them. 

     I have watched on social media as classmates of mine, going back to grammar school, are retiring and relocating. We're just above 55 so we fit into that 55+ age restriction for planned communities. Most are heading south, even though heading south seems to be late these days. But I see them take the plunge and do the hard work it takes to break free from New Jersey and start a new beginning. The people I talked to have the same worries and concerns, moving away from home, missing the seasons, and of course the grandkids and kids. But let's be honest, kids have their own lives, which includes moving far from the nest. If you have kids in their twenties and thirties, how many times do you really see them each month? For some a lot, but for most it's special occasions, vacations and milestones. 

    So by chance I glanced over on Route 278 heading into Hilton Head and saw Latitude Margaritaville. When I think of the M-word I think of Jimmy Buffet. Nice, but not my guy nor scene. But one day we went back. We did did the tour. We spoke to people, a lot of people. We ate their eats and drank their drinks. It messed us up, like messed our brains up. Hilton Head is an 11 hour drive and a two and half hour  

flight but it feels like a world away. No, we didn't didn't drink the juice, but boy what we tasted went down good. The models, well, what can you say, models always look great. They look like more of a vacation destination then a day in and day out home. But the people we talked to say that's the way their places look. They did the purge. It all went south, not south to Hilton Head, but sold, given away, or donated. Stuff weighs you down, and this place is far from that. Now some still have off-site storage units, but want to rid themselves of them ASAP. 

     Amenities. Just forget it. Pools, Clubhouses. Gyms. A bar and restaurant. Concerts. Activities. Clubs. We spoke with some people from New Jersey, some closing that day, who said they did it and never looked back. "Don't wait". Wow. Maybe some people can get up and go. You have to be in the right space, mentally, physically, and financially to do it, but for others it takes some time and planning. 

     We spent a few days at Latitude and then some more time off neighborhood looking at brochures and talking things through. "Is this what our next move should be?". "How would we pull this off?". And, "When would we be really ready to do it?". Tough questions, and even tougher answers to come up with. 

     So what could it mean? Well, we'd have to move there full time. The real estate taxes for full-time residents are 1% of the purchase price. HOA fees are $350 per month, which includes covering the siding and the roofs. A $500,000 home, with taxes and HOA's, would run you about $8,800. In New Jersey our taxes are $18,000. It would mean trading in striped bass for redfish. That would mean, if four years is our timeline, three more Delaware River spring runs and three more falls on the beach. We'd have to go down with nothing because nothing from up here would work down there. Work? Well those nursing licenses are good anywhere. Teaching? The University of South Carolina at Bluffton is less than five miles away and they have a nursing program. And Theresa has her reiki and reflexology and the area is chock full of tourists and retirees that love that stuff. And my Captain's license is good down there as well. I would hope to get my Jones Brother's refurbished and maybe even entertain guiding again if I call nursing quits. 

    To add to our insanity we stopped and opened up a bank account at the local bank. If felt good to do it. It was like we were taking a small step in the direction of doing what we need to do to make the

move. So now, if 48 months were the magic number, we have a lot to do. We have to purge. We have to get the house ready. That means that every single day I, well we, have to keep our eye on the prize and take steps to make that possibility a reality. A lot can happen in four years and that time goes by quickly. Covid was four years ago and here we are today. If you told me in 2020 that by 2024 I'd be living in South Carolina I would have laughed it off. My life has been a long, strange trip, so this wouldn't be a stretch if this were to become a reality for us. 

Thursday, June 27, 2024

06.27.24 Okay, it was my day to fish....

     Theresa snapped the above "Happy-to-be-going-fishing-have-fun-at-the-spa" picture before I went out on my search for tailing redfish. You see it was perfect. Theresa had met some Southern belles who gifted her a facial at a local spa. She had a 1130 appointment. High tide was at one o'clock. Perfect. 

     But I started my day at 6 am out for coffee while Theresa slept. I found a fly shop, Southern Drawl Outfitters, and stopped in to see the place. I purchased a fly to support the local shop and asked if he any 

recommendations for a DIY'er walk and wade fly fishermen. He suggested I go to Pickney Island. Theresa and I had scouted that place out a few days ago so I knew a little bit about it, or so I thought. On the way back to base I stopped to chat with a guy fishing a salt pond. He was throwing a topwater 

frog and no matter where he went or where he would cast a four foot alligator would follow it. One thing I've never seen is an alligator with the turbo jets on, these things are fast. 

     The Pickney Island National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is a 4,000 acre island that is surrounded by Mackay and Skull Creeks that come off the Chechessee River which opens up to the Atlantic Ocean. Inside that river leads to places like Parris Island, the training grounds for the U.S. Marines, and the 

City of Beaufort, but by smaller tributaries. The entire area is a series of rivers, bays, and flats that are exposed and then covered by the up to eight foot, moon phase dependent, tides. My hope was to catch the incoming to top of the seven foot tide and find some kind of fish looking to eat. 

     So Theresa dropped me off at 1030. I was lathered up with sun block, had bug spray in my sling pack, and a cooler with some water, Gatorade, a sandwich and some snacks.  You'd think I was going way for the weekend. All I needed was a bottle of water, right? 

     When I finally got to the water I was already sweating. It was 93 degrees and the sun was high and hot. The SW wind didn't help bringing warm air through, but the breeze helped a it. I remember Mark telling me about wading and the grasses, tall grass means a soft muddy bottom, while short grass means a more solid footing. So I looked for the short grass, and found it, but the water wasn't there yet.

     After an hour my eyes were burning from the sun block that was dripping down into my corneas. If I wiped them they burned more. My cheap polarized glasses wouldn't clear from the steam and my eyesight was blurry from the Neutrogena and the constant rubbing. 

     Maybe the Mackay side of the island was better so I went and looked at the map and the round-trip distances if I dare to huff around the island. Thoughtfully, the US FWS installed a defibrillator station

at the start of the tail and I didn't know if I should just take it with me or roll the dice. One thing I can't understand is how anyone in the south is overweight with all this summer heat. The road to the other

parts of the island was long and hot. There's nothing more annoying than being on your last leg and bikers, joggers, and walkers say "Hello", or "Good morning", or "Catch anything?" as you struggle with each step to places unknown. And these Christmas Island booties?, they are great, but not made for walking on the road, and stepping on a rock is like finding a Lego on the floor with your bare foot. 

     After a six mile, two hour hike, okay more like a half a mile and 20 minutes, I found a spot that looked fishy. The grass was sparse enough for me to see them when they arrived in the shallow water. 

     I stood there for another hour and new the tide was still coming in because I felt the water go over my knees and eventually cool my genitals. I walked around and found the below spot where deeper 

channels led off the river to shallower waters. I even saw and stared at some mud for a bit watching and waiting. Then I thought maybe I should return to where I started. It would be good for two reasons, the water would be higher, and if I dropped dead I had a better chance of being found. It was that hot. I 

had drank my Gatorade, most of the water, and ate the sandwich like I just got off the TV show Survivor. Around 130 Theresa texted me that she was done. I replied looking for a quick rescue. 

     Theresa was there in twenty minutes and snapped the below picture of me as I waiting for her. It was a long three hours without seeing a fish or making a cast. For those that don't know sight fishing is 

really more like hunting than fishing. Blind casting is like going hunting and just shooting into the woods hoping to pick something off walking around. Theresa asked that I put a shout out to Moor Spa,

HERE, and her estectician Alise for three hours of serenity while I tested the limits of my left ventricle. If there was ever a cardiac test walking around Pickney Island in late June is a good test. I'll put the fly rods away now and enjoy the last few days of out trip. It wasn't a fishing trip anyway. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

06.26.24 Brought down some pool side reading....

     Every couple of years a new book about fly fishing and fly tying comes out that is a must have. The last book I got was Seasons of the Striper by William Sisson. While a nice book for the coffee table, for me, it lacked the lessons and teaching that I like in a book. Before that was Bob's Fleye Design. And historically there have been books by Tabory, Mitchell, Cowen, Caolo, Karas, DiBennetto, Abrames, Cole, and others which have taught and entertained us for decades. The best of them all, again to me, is Rich Murphy's Fly Fishing for Striped Bass. That's a must have for anyone fly fishing for striped bass.

    Last week John Field's new book, Fly Fishing for Trophy Striped Bass, hit the delivery trucks and I received my copy before heading down to Hilton Head. It's a nice hardcover book that has over 250 pages of great tips and techniques as well as a nice synopsis of how and where to catch striped bass along the East and West Coasts as well as Canada. One thing that is impressive are the maps that come with each location talked about. 

     There's a solid chapter with fly recipes and photos from well known tiers, some that I know well like Stryker, Nelson, King and Whalley. When John was building his book he reached out to me for to submit some photos for consideration. I sent a bunch of pics of friends and clients iwi big bass from both boat and shore. I thought for sure Leif, Joe, or Andrew would be gracing the pages but the lone image picked was of me taken during Blitz-O-Week, October 31, 2014. 

     While I'll never forget that day, HERE, I'm kinda over that picture and realize I need to catch some better fish and get some more recent images. Fishing alone, and wanting to limi time out of the water, makes it hard to get some good and current images. No one has called for an image of a bass in The Tank, but if they do I'll have them covered. 

     Field's book is available from Amazon, HERE. It's $45.15 and with Prime there's free shipping. If you order it today most likely it'll be to you the next day or by the weekend. 


Tuesday, June 25, 2024

06.25.24 On on the fourth day God told Mother Nature.... relax with the winds and the torturous hot weather. Finally after two weeks of southerly winds it finally went north something. Things down in Hilton Head haven't been bad, temps in the low 90's, but it has a different feel than the low 90's in New Jersey. We've had a slow do-nothing, which means very

relaxing start to the week. After the 11 hour drive which wasn't all that bad we caught up on some rest. But, of course, open the first day I had to break out my new Orvis Christmas Island wading booties and 

give things a lot out in from of the place. It was a full moon so at high tide the water is up in the grass where the redfish and sheepshead come to search for fiddler crabs. By today I had only seen a few fish 

tailing in or near the thick grass on the top of the tide. I did get to to tour a couple of spots that looked promising but had the tides all wrong. Below is Fish Haul Beach and there's grass and oyster beds that

could easily slice open someone walking without foot protection. Below are some good shots of the tide on Mackay Creek. Those mounds are oyster beds which is a great place for fish to patrol. The problem 

is getting out there without a boat. Last year we took a trip with LoCo Fly Charters guide Mark Nutting but this year it's a walk and wade only thing. It's not easy to just plop down into a place and try and find the best places to sight fish. I talked to a local guide last night on a sunset booze cruise and he said the

winds have been brutal for two weeks and most of the trips consist of soaking bait for bonnethead, black tip, and hammerhead sharks. I will say the incoming tides does bring much cooler water up on the flats way different then the 90 degree bathwater we had the end of last July. Hopefully over the next few days I'll find a tail or two to cast to, although the waning gibbous moon phase brings less water up onto the flats. 


Friday, June 21, 2024

06.21.24 Off to the Low Country....

 ....but it's not a fishing trip. Theresa and I leave late tonight driving down for a week in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Lots of stuff packed, including some stuff for fishing. Last year we went the last week of July where it was about 150 degrees each day. Luckily this year we're heading down a month early to beat the heat....yeah right. When is this heat going to break? 

06.21.24 Yes, it's fishing related....

     I can't even count how many vehicles I have had during the 15 years of doing this blog. I looked back and found the first mention was back in November 2009. I was out on North Beach and had 

brought "Bertha" out for the trip. Bertha was I think a 1992 conversion van that had served my family well for many years on trips from Lake Placid down to Disney World. It was also part of my fishing world making trips to the Upper Delaware as well as stops along the Jersey Shore. 

     Currently my rides consist of a 2003 Chevy Silverado with 265,000 miles and a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee with 220,000 miles. Both serve me well and have held up well for their age. Even with the repairs needed on both over the last two years I can't complain. However, I have been noticing the rust 

situation a little more on both. Lauren had thrown the Jeep on the lift and I did some poking around and said I needed to pay some attention before it gets too late. I love a new truck. My last "new", not new to me, was a 1986 Dodge Ram 50, shown below up near Saranac Lake, New York in 1987. Since then it's

 been a plethora of vehicles bought and sold, sunk and sold, and donated to the car cruncher. My 03' Silverado is sweet, at least to me. Since I purchased it in 2022 I have done a few things to it which have greatly increased its functionality and value. None better than a new front seat from The Seat Shop. If your arse sinks in or your seat is all beat up and ripped this is a place to get an exact fit replacement. 

     I had picked up a truck cap for the Silverado off of Facebook Marketplace. Bought it for $75, used it for a bit, and then sold it for $100. I just wasn't getting the use I needed for having a pickup truck. The bed of the truck, while not bad, never looked as good as the cab. There was rust over the wheel wells,

a couple of deep scratches on either side, and a bumper that had seen better days. I had seen a few pickups that had removed the bed and went with a homemade wooden bed, so why not me. What could 

happen? With my father closing down the Archer Steel shop there's plenty of material down there to pick through and come up with what this project needs. They use OSHA planks when building bridges so I can use them for the sides and platform for the new bed. But first I had to get the old bed off. 

     There are 8 bolts that hold the bed on. I went to Harbor Freight and bought a breaker bar and some 1/2" socket extensions to be able to get to the bolts. Seven came off in 20 minutes, the one with the easiest access took me an hour and had to be Sawzalled off. Then it was off to the scrap yard where the 

worker there suggested we just tip it off, rather then use the magnetic jaws of the crane sitting a few feet away. It finally came off and I was $30 richer for the effort. I taped up the taillights so I can 

drive it around if needed. I'm planning on just working on it down at the Archer Steel shop in Wall where my brother can give me a hand. After some cleaning up of the frame, and maybe a new plate welded on here and there, I'll coat it all with POR 15 or something else to extend its life. Historically they same GM frames don't last that long especially living in the rust belt where road salt 

just eats through any metal or steel in a few years. When they used to plow and spread salt crystals they would bounce off your car, but the new brine creates a mix of water and salt which finds every nook and cranny of your under carriage and just wreaks havoc as far as rust is concerned. Since the SS Archer is a

keeper I was thinking the new bed could accommodate it a little better then the above set up. Another goal I have is to buy one of those street legal gold carts to tool around Wildwood and Cape May. While our complex doesn't allow carts I was thinking of keeping it on the truck and then bringing it into town

and backing it off the truck and go. Hey, what could go wrong? I, of course, have been looking for a used battery operated street legal one and it's the worst time of year to be looking. It's like buying a boat, best to do that at the end of the season or during the winter. New, I just don't do new. A new to

me, well used, 2021 2500 HD with 44,000 miles would set me back $38,555. Well I guess that's not too bad.....WHAT? A three year old truck that has been here in New Jersey driving on salt brined roads for just say.....$750 a month? That's with $1,000 down and a credit score between 700-749 @ 10.14 %. 

Um, no thanks. I'll weld up my current girl and piece her back together and drive her until she stops. I will say I have some buds that do the lease or new ride thing consistently and always seem to have a beauty they're tooling around in. Either they got it like that, their parents have it like that, or they can expense it out through a business. That's probably what the above 21' Silverado is, a lease turn in. 

      And speaking of turning it in. After the bed bolts, and the recycling place visit, is was off to Orvis Princeton to "turn it" Andrew's borrowed Helios D 9 ft. 10 wt. I got to use it one of the days in the 

Vineyard and really like what I felt. I didn't need all that "Most Accurate" stuff as the wind was all over the place so my H2 9 ft. 10 wt. served me just fine. I will be buying this rod just in time for the fall. In fact, I took my $30 I got from the bed sale and added a twenty and got a $50 gift card to use when I make the rod purchase. Right now I'm $100 towards my goal. 

     $38,000 used trucks with 44,000 miles, $1,100 fly rods. $9 Guinness's at an Irish bar in Cape May. $25 pizzas. And dinners for four easily going $200 for nothing special at all. $4.69 for a gallon of gas on the Vineyard. A guy in front of me bought two packs of smokes in Cumberland Farms....$34 dollars in Mass. Towing a boat with a single axle trailer over the George Washington Bridge....$62.55. And it just goes on and on. I think with this new cashless world we're going to to money just doesn't have the same value it used to have. Can we go back to working hard, getting paid on Friday, and then waiting in line at the bank to have money for the weekend? We'd appreciate it that much more. Internet purchases, grabbing things at the checkout counter, all with a quick swipe and the monies gone, like it wasn't even there. Sad...and I won't even go into who has access and can track every single purchase and where every single dollar you have goes. From direct deposits, to automatic bill payments, to Ez Pass, to every single withdrawal or swipe. 

     For me I'll stick to a 03' Silverado, a 04' Jeep, a 98' Jones Brothers, and a 99' Lowe jet boat. I just don't know how people survive these days. How much do you have to make these days to own a house, a few cars, and a boat or two? And then we having even talked about the cost of kids and even pets? 

So more more to come. What could happen?