Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Some Pictures Of Our House

So here are some pictures I took of our house yesterday. They are mostly from outside, I want to wait until we get rid of more boxes and clean up more to take more pictures from the inside. The paint lines and flags in the yard are utility markings (call before you dig). I also need to get close up pictures of mt flowers, you can't see the detail of the petals in the pictures. Natalie will tell you, I'm a picky person about my flowers. It's not just the color, I'm picky about the way the petals look. These flowers have some cool looking petals which is why I selected them.

Our house from the front. The Jasmine Sambac is to the left of the door and the purple/blue flowers I planted are to the right of the door next to the bench. As you can see our house is all brick with barrel tile room so the wolf can huff and puff but this house isn't going to blow in. It stood up to a direct hit from Wilma (Cat3 hurricane).

Palm Tree & Orchids. This palm tree has 8 orchids in it, only one is in bloom right now.

Palm trees and butterfly garden

Backyard view from my pool deck. I'm considering removing the child fence until the baby is big enough to get out. Doesn't make much sense having it now.

From the patio to the northeast

My papaya tree

Southeast side of my yard. This is where my baby naval tree, lemon tree, coconut palm, and banana trees are.

My veggie garden on the north side of the house.

South side of the house. I am going to tear out the grass against the house and do a veggie garden here like I have on the north side.

My house viewed from the yard. You can't really see it here but we have five sliding doors and 6 windows that open to the pool. This is the reason we insisted on a one story house. We like the way the house kind of wraps around the pool. I can cut through the pool area to get to both fars ends of the house quicker. Our patio is behind the columns but you can't really see it because it's dark but it's a nice place to eat by the pool. We also have a bar to the far right of the patio that has three windows that open to the kitchen. The shutters close the whole patio so we dont have to shutter those windows and doors individually. The palm tree has six pineapple plants in a circle around it. I planted those last week. I also put a couple in my butterfly garden and a couple on the property line with the neighbors.

Like I said in previous post. The aquarium and the safe were a perfect fit. A hair bigger and they wouldnt fit. The closet door actually closes, barely, so I can close it and no one knows it's there.

And that concludes my tour, for today. I still have to take pictures of the living room, kitching, dining room, and whatever the other living room is called. Maybe I'll post those tomorrow.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Busy Week

Well it's been another busy week.

Thursday I had a half day at work so I got home early and started working around the house. The cable guy had dug a trench the day before and he tried to cover up his destruction. So when I turned on my sprinklers for the front lawn and nothing happened I walked to the side of the house where I had a geyser shooting up. The idiot had cut my sprinkler line and instead of fixing it he tried to just cover it with dirt like I wouldn't notice. So I called the cable company and they said someone would call me back on Christmas. Right.... I called them again yesterday and I was expecting a call back today that never came so I had to call and leave a voicemail with threats of disconnecting service and legal action if they don't fix my damaged property immediately. I could fix it, but I won't. I already fixed the line I cut myself last week and I'm not going to fix something that some moron broke and tried to cover up. That is just bad business.

Anyways other than that the week was good. Our neighbor brought us cookies Thursday :)

Thursday I was also able to get over to the pool store and get some chemicals and get an education on pools. When I got home I figured out why my barracuda wasn't working. This guy didn't ever do anything himself on his house. He paid a pool guy 50bucks a month to do his pool. Normal is about 90 so people have been telling me that he's probably not doing a good job. So I went to the filter and pulled out the cartridge and there was two inches of sand in the bottom. I washed out the filter cartridge and all this milky white and orange stuff was coming out. After cleaning that up my barracuda is running fine my pool is looking a lot better.

Thursday night we went to Natalie's Aunt's house for Christmas. The Dominican way of doing things is to open presents at midnight. Well all us younger people wanted to go home so I tried to convince the older adults that we should do it at 11 because 11here is midnight in Santo Domingo. They tried to lie to me and tell me that they don't celebrate Christmas in Dominican Republic. How can all the Dominicans have the midnight tradition if they don't celebrate it in the DR? On top of that at midnight they all started singing Jingle Bells in Spanish. I told them how can they have Jingle Bells in Spanish if they don't celebrate Christmas. Suegrita tried to tell me it's because Jingle Bells is there song and we stole it. But Jingle Bells is a Christmas song so that argument made no sense. So basically they all got caught with their hands in the cookie jar!

So we finally got home around 2am and Natalie wanted to open her present. I got her a PS3. While Jahiri and I were setting it up Natalie fell asleep on the couch (two minutes to setup). So Jahiri and I played PS3 until 4:30. I got up around 9ish and decided it was time for some yard work. Suegrita got me a Sambac Jasmine for Christmas and I have a bunch of flowers coming in the mail that Natalie got me as well. So I ripped out the bush by the front door and put my Jasmine there. Then I planted a bunch of flowers that we had purchased the day before. I put in a bunch of flowers in the front in my butterfly garden and realized that we have hundreds of caterpillars on one of our bushes, they look like Monarch butterfly caterpillars. Then I took out all the white rocks by our bench in the front and put in purple and blue flowers there. The previous owner had someone do all his yard work and it shows. It's simple and it needed a makeover. There just wasn't enough color. I also did some work on my veggie garden. So far my red bell peppers, yellow bell peppers, cucumbers, roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, watermelon, and summer squash have sprouted. I'm still waiting on my green bell peppers, jalepenos, cantelope, and kiwis.

So I spent until 2:30 Christmas afternoon working on the yard. After that we went to a neighbor's Christmas party for a bit. We found out that the neighbor is a delivery nurse at the hospital Natalie wants to have the baby at. These people had an atrium in between their dining room and their living room with big palm trees in it, I thought that was pretty cool.

Saturday.... Another trip to the pool store and Home Depot. Did more flowers, cleaned my garage, cut back some over grown plants, fixed the kitchen sink, and started a vine to cover my bathroom window. The bathroom window in the master bathroom can be seen from the side of the house. It's blurry but you can still see through. So I got a bunch of bamboo stakes and bought two jasmine plants to run up it. In a couple weeks that should cover my window. I also bought a lychee tree which I planted in the back yard next to the navel orange tree I bought last week. The kitchen sink was a lot of fun. This guy knew the sink was leaking at least since inspection but he didn't fix it. Of course since he doesn't do anything himself, he would have had to hire someone. I tried to just change the gaskets and the nut but it was still leaking. Then I cut my hand pretty bad when I slipped working on it. So I got some more supplies and changed the strainer. Another check off the to do list. I also cleaned up my pool/patio area and pulled all the weeds out of the cracks and siliconed them so more weeds won't grow. Weeds = pushed up dirt and dirty pool.

Natalie and Jahiri managed to unpack nearly the whole house. Now I just gotta get everything out to the curb tonight so they can pick it up tomorrow. Still a lot to do never enough time to do it all. I still haven't connected my home pc! I have more flowers coming this week and a house full of people for New Years Eve so it's gonna be a busy week. Still haven't uploaded pictures, coming soon...

So yeah, I had a busy week.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Not In The Hood Anymore

Well yesterday, after just living in this house a few days, two more of our neighbors came over to introduce themselves and invite us over on Christmas for their party. Wow, we aren't in the hood anymore. In three years in Miramar I talked to one neighbor, only because I was giving him a jump. It feels good to live in such a great neighborhood.

Yesterday I took the day off. I finally got everything out of the apartment, finished the cleaning, and turned in the keys. I'm now officially done with that place. The funny thing is I noticed that after three years of me complaining about the trash situation there they finally put up signs that say "please put your trash in the compactor and help keep your neighborhood clean." Not like those people can read or would even care if they could, but I found that pretty funny that they have to put a sign up to tell people to put their trash inside the compactor instead of throwing it in the parking lot. Anyways, back on topic, I got rid of most of the trash and boxes from moving and had a huge list of things to do but only accomplished close to half of them.

When I got home I had the Dominican crew over setting up Christmas decorations. Dominican crew = Natalie's aunts, sisters, & mom. I wasn't expecting to have Christmas decorations this year but they showed up with lights and other decorations and got to work. Most of the boxes inside the house got unpacked too. All we have left is the master suite, the garage, and setting up my gym room.

I was also able to plant 9 of my pineapples yesterday. I put three in the front yard around my mound where the 5 palm trees grow and I put the other six around my palm tree behind the pool. I planted my plumeria, cut the dead leaves of my banana trees with my machete, and put some bromeliads and airplants in my palm tree and my gumbo limbo tree. Climbing the gumbo limbo tree was a lot of fun. It's a big tree and there are already lots of airplants growing in it so I decided to add to that. I planted my prayer plants by my pond because they create a nice wet environment that is frog friendly and I already have a lot of frogs by my pond and would like to keep it that way. I found out that I have 8 orchids in the palm next to the pond as well, only one is in bloom right now.

I also got people out to mark all the utilities and sewage and stuff so I can do landscaping. I got the cable internet hooked up and at the end of the day managed to take a really quick swim.

Even though I didn't get everything done I wanted to I think it was a pretty productive day. I was pretty burned out last night and needless to say I've been sleeping like a champ.

Today I'm going to go to Home Depot and get more supplies. I'm hoping to get started on my veggie/fruit garden tonight, starting with my tomatoes first. Then I also have a variety of bell peppers, jalapenos, some other pepper I don't know the name of, summer squash, water melon, cucumbers, cantaloupe, and kiwi.

I have more fruit trees and plants that I'm going to add later, maybe closer to summertime like jakfruit, lychee, miracle fruit, another mango tree, black berries, raspberries, strawberries, etc...

As of now I have several banana trees, a papaya tree, mango tree, coconut tree, and my pineapples. And my banana trees aren't just any bananas. They are the best kind, Manzanas. Manzana, also known as lady finger, or apple banana, are the little bananas from Colombia and they are the best ones. Another cool thing I just learned about bananas is that before the flower turns into a banana you can eat it like an artichoke and it's suppose to taste similar. Interesting, I think I'll try it.

Well, that's all for now. Still haven't had a chance to take pictures, I'll get to that this weekend once everything is cleaned up.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The New House

So this weekend we finally moved! I'm so exhausted right now. I haven't posted pictures yet, I'll try to do that on my next post later this week. The house is amazing, so is the neighborhood. We've already met a few of the neighbors that came over to say hi.It's a complete 180 change from Miramar.

We started the move on Friday. It wasn't the best day for a move. I took a half day and got out of work early and it was pouring down rain. We got three times the normal December rainfall between Wednesday night and Friday afternoon. Normally it's dry and sunny this time of year but not last week. Anyways we loaded up my truck and Suegrita's suv and headed up to the new house.

I had a couple of projects I needed to work on. First off I reprogrammed my garage door. Then I needed to change the locks on the side garage door and the front door. This required two trips to Home Depot with monkey (Jahiri). The first trip we got me a nice Honda lawn mower, a Ryobi weedwacker that takes attachments for other products including the hedger I bought for it and the leaf blower I'll probably get later, and the locks. We ran into some problems though. First off we tried to remove the thumb handle on the front door and put a normal door knob. This didn't work because the hole it left below was so big so I had to get a new thumb handle. On top of that problem I encountered another problem with my side garage door which still hasn't been fixed. It appears whoever put the door there didn't do it right. The hole that the dead bolt is suppose to fit in is too small for a standard size deadbolt, or any door handle. So while we were back at Home Depot monkey found a deadbolt drill clamp set. Basically you clamp on this set that has the holes on both sides and it comes with the proper drill. So I tried to drill my own hole but the clamp wouldn't hold tight. I finally figured out why once I got some better light set up. It appears there is a think layer of metal on both sides of the door. So I think I'm going to just install a whole new door and frame. Ugh. The good news is that I did get the front door finished and I got the deadbolt where I can program a bunch of codes for everyone for keyless entry. That is a really cool feature. Once removing the locks I could see that they were old and rusty and it's definitely a good thing I replaced them.

I got so busy on Friday night that I completely forgot to pick up the u-haul until it was too late. Once I remembered they were already closed. So Saturday I got up really early and loaded up my truck for round two. I dropped off a load of stuff at the new house, set up the lawn mower, and finished up some other projects. Then I was going to go to u-haul but I found out they cancelled my reservation. So I decided to pick up a truck in Pembroke Pines instead. So I made a reservation while driving down to Pines and when I do get there, well I went to the wrong one. I finally got the truck and got back to the house at just before 11. I got the 26 footer even though Tio Jose tried to tell me I don't need one that big. My decision to go overkill was a good one though. First off I had all my plants that can't be stacked, and second, I didn't want to waste time trying to make stuff fit. So I went with what is easy and I'm glad I did.

I was able to back the truck up so close that I got the ramp all the way to my front door. It doesn't get easier than that. I had one friend show up, Kevin, and Natalie had four of her uncles, her sisters, and two of her aunts. I was nervous about moving the 550 pound safe but after taking the 150 pound door off we were able to get it done. Then the other hard part. The aquariums. We managed to get those as well though. When all was said and done it was a good thing I got the 26 footer because I still ended up leaving enough stuff to fill up my Ranger twice. I did go back for one of those loads yesterday and tomorrow I'll get what's left when I go to clean up the apartment.

Driving up to the new house in the truck I almost killed some moron. I have a rule and it's a good one. If someone cuts me off I am not going to flip the vehicle I'm in trying to dodge them, nor will I end up hitting some other incident person trying to avoid them. Well I'm in the middle lane of I-75 and some moron missed their exit. Instead of taking the next exit they did the stupidest thing they could have possibly done. They stopped right in the middle lane of I-75 with their blinker on and tried to push their way over into a stopped line of traffic exiting the freeway. Now I was in a truck probably weight a good 20,000-25,000 pounds fully loaded. They don't stop quick. Needless to say I stopped just inches from this idiot's back bumper. I was pretty pissed off about that. Anyways, everyone knows I can't write a blog without mentioning South Florida stupidity.

So we got to the house and unloaded the truck. We got really lucky with my guest bedroom. There are two closets on one wall with a cubby hole in between by the window. I wanted to put my aquarium by the window so it's easy to clean. Hose in and hose out. Well my aquarium is a perfect fit in the cubby hole. So perfect and tight I cannot open the top without rubbing the walls and really pushing hard. So my solution is to access the aquarium from outside through the window. Then the safe. The safe happens to be the exact size of the closets. So my safe was a really tight fit. No space at all to move it around so it was a challenge getting it put back in and getting the door in but we got it done. I'll take some pictures later and put on my next blog but that room is just too perfect. Now I can close the closet and no one will know my safe is there.

After unpacking we lit up the bbq so we could get everyone fed. Yes, I make the world's most awesome bbq chicken. No joke either, everyone loved it. I had to eat it cold though because I set up an appointment for ADT to come out so we can get an alarm on the house. I didn't know it would take 2 hours for us to do the walk through. The guy kept making jokes about the size of our house. He said "what is this, room 16?" He was really honest about what we should purchase. I told him the alarm is more for when we are away then when we are there. I want to come home at night and not have to check the entire house before going to bed. I want to know it's protected when I'm on vacation. As far as noise for opening doors and stuff he told me a lot of that I can do myself cheaper by going to Home Depot. I already knew this though because I looked into it online and I had a lot of that stuff at my apartment. But anyways, I can always upgrade my alarm as time goes by.

So we purchased an alarm and will have that setup next week. All wireless motion detectors that use cell technology since I don't have a landline. So if someone tries to cut my phone line it's not going to do them any good. I got extra protection for the guest room and the baby's future room. I didn't tell the guy why I wanted the guest room extra protected I just told him to make sure we got that one locked down. Of course when I mentioned to him "let someone try to cut the phone line" Natalie assumed that I was talking about shooting people and didn't realize that I was just referring to the cell technology. I don't let strangers know about my arsenal though so he had no clue what she was talking about and she said "o, you didn't tell him". Fortunately I was able to change the subject.

After we finished that deal I finally got around to eating my dinner. Everyone was enjoying themselves outside. We have a great view and the weather was good. I even decided to take a swim. I had to be the first one in my pool and all the brown people thought I'm crazy but that's just because they don't understand that South Florida is not cold. After everyone else left my cuñadas and I spent until midnight unpacking. Jasmine got the kitchen all setup and monkey and I did the guest room, and other stuff. Natalie was down for the count with a sore back.

Sunday I made another trip to the apartment and got some cleaning done. I have one more trip to do tomorrow and then I'm turning in the keys. We have a lot of trash so I think I'm going to dump it all at the apartment since I'm still paying for trash and everything else until January.

Yesterday I stained one of my many shelves in the garage. I also got two of my Jasmines planted. I took out the vine that the previous owner had growing above my frog pond and put my pink Jasmine there. I put my Confederate Jasmine on the North West side of the house and I hit a pipe doing it. Not only did I hit a pipe, but I hit it in a space that had a t-connection and a coupling where it had already been patched. So that required a trip to Home Depot, actually two trips, good thing it's less than a mile away, and set me a good 90 minutes behind. Finally after I got that done I retired from the night. I am so burned out. I haven't been this tired in years.

I am taking tomorrow off. After I get out of the apartment I am going to try to finish up my garage, plant my pineapples in the back yard under the palm tree, and do some cleanup inside. We'll see how far I get. The garage is the one room that really needs some work. The walls need painting, the shelves all need to be painted, and the floor needs to be refinished. I'm going to go with epoxy shield on my floor and make that garage look majorly awesome. Also on that list for the garage is my side door of course and we are having alarms installed in there as I already mentioned. After that I'm done. The ADT guy showed me that when I go on vacation I can bolt my garage door shut but said that with these hurricane coded garage doors people don't break in that way anyways. I'll have to take pictures to show all my West Coasters what a hurricane code garage door is, but basically my house is built like a fort.

I still haven't setup my office yet. I'll try to do that today. That is going to probably be our first in house project is getting rid of the wood walls and painting the office and redoing the ceiling and lighting. My other projects are landscaping, putting three ceiling fans on the patio, screens on windows, a salt system on my pool instead of chlorine, and a firepit. The landscaping looks good but I want more fragrant flowers, more trees, more fruit trees, and a vegetable garden. I get free water from the canal so this should save me a lot of money.

So that's it. I'll try to keep updating as I go, and like I said I should have some pictures up this week.

Also a big thank you to my parents, the Dominican family, and Kevin for all their help. Natalie and I would have had our move delayed until spring if not for my parent's loaning us some money that we'll be repaying with the stimulus. So we got an earlier move than expected and got out of that hell hole without having to sign another lease. And the move wouldn't have been possible without all the help from the Dominican family.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Finding A House Is A Full Time Job. But We Finally Did It

I'll add more pictures of the house once I move. I have a couple from google down below but none of my own. I'll post those in a separate blog around Dec 20th.

Well I've been in South Florida for almost three years now and this year Natalie and I decided to buy a house. After living in the hood "East Miramar" for almost three years I decided I was going to be really picky about where I'll buy a house. I absolutely hate moving and decided when I do move I'm going to stay there for at least a good 15 years so I knew that I needed to get a good house the first round instead of getting a "starter house". Plus I think a starter home isn't really the best investment since most of the mortgage in the beginning goes towards interest so if I was to sell in 5 years I wouldn't have much of the principal paid off. So needless to say I did a lot of research before deciding where I want to buy. I spent a lot of time looking up crime statistics, demographics, house prices, schools, zoning restrictions, etc... I wanted to make sure there are no mistakes.

Part of our deal is we decided that we are not going to be one of those people that lose our home. So we decided anything we get we are going to get off my income only. So when applying for the mortgage we kept Natalie out of it completely. Yes she is on the title. But we wanted to make sure that we keep her income as extra so we can travel and see family, live comfortably, and not have to worry about losing the home if something happens. Just thought I'd throw that in there because some people are worried that we got in over our head. Trust me, we have a whole second income that wasn't even involved in the approval and we will be fine. I'm a pretty smart guy and we thought this through first.

Natalie decided that she hates my neighborhood, obviously, I do too. She wanted out right away and wanted to rent somewhere else but I told her we're just going to have to deal with it because I'm not moving twice and it's gonna set us further back. So we stayed in our apartment, renewed the lease, and started saving up to get out. We were going to be moving out in Spring of 2010 but then something happened. My dad had loaned my sister money to buy a house and she got the money back from this first time home owner tax credit. So my dad called me up one day and said that he's gonna give us some money for the down payment and we can just give it back when we get it back on our taxes. So this pushed our move up quite a few months.

So finally I decided on Coral Springs, the best city in South Florida.
According to wiki:
Coral Springs was ranked as the 27th best city in the United States in which to live by Money Magazine in 2006; was named the 10th safest city in the US by Morgan Quitno in 2007; and was identified as one of the 100 best communities for kids by America's Promise, also in 2007. In 2007, Coral Springs became the first state or local government in the nation to receive the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

The schools in Coral Springs are the best in the country. They are almost all A+ schools. The elementary school by our house is an A+ school with several national awards and the high school is ranked in the top 1% in the country. The median house price is about $100,000 higher than the rest of Broward County and the prices are holding value much better than the rest of the county right now because of the tough city ordinances. The city of Coral Springs is like a big home owners association. They have laws on everything from what percentage of shrubs and trees in your yard must be native species, to what colors you can make your house, and what cars you can park at your house. They have an approved "street tree list" and a list of nuisance trees and plants (those ugly Melaleuca and Australian Pine I don't like are on that list). RV's and boats are not allowed to be parked in front of houses. If you don't mow your lawn and clean your roof you get a ticket and have to appear in court. A couple years ago I thought I would never want to live in a HOA neighborhood because I don't like the way they control things. After living in the hood where people bring down the neighborhood I changed my mind.

Coral Springs Crime Statistics. Much lower than the national average. On top of that almost all the crime happens in one area far away from me. Even the hood is clean in Coral Springs though. And Coral Springs is now rated the safest city in South Florida according to this news article.

So this last summer the search began. My annoying coworker that drives me crazy all day tried to get me to use his wife as a realtor. I didn't want any part in that. But then she came down here one day when she got her citizenship and she gave me her card and started sending me mls searches of houses and stuff so I caved and used her as a realtor. I should have held my ground and told them no, it was a bad choice. We looked at over 50 houses with her and got nowhere as far as a purchase.

The only thing we gained is that we got to see what we do and don't like, mostly what we don't like. But she obviously hasn't be doing this for too long and didn't explain the process to us. For instance I thought when you got a loan they just approved you for a price flat out. I didn't know that they approve for a different amount on each house because they factor in insurance, HOA fees, taxes, etc. She didn't tell us any of this! So we would put in a bid, without her doing research on the house and finding out what is a fair market value, and then we would find out all this other stuff that should have been lined up before we even placed a bid. Not the right way to do things. On top of that she couldn't even give us an opinion on a fair bid. She would say "I don't know, that's up for you to decide. You can offer a dollar, you can offer a million. It's for them to accept or not." The dumbest crap I have heard. Well this is when we had another surprise put on us. We would bid on a house and then find out later that the house has to appraise at a certain value because that is all we could get for the loan.

She should have done her research on the homes first because she kept showing us homes that we wouldn't even consider. Homes that looked good on the website, and some that looked great when we got there, but then there was something wrong she should have known about before even wasting our time taking us out there. Like I said, we were being picky and we told her:
No houses with busy streets behind them. We don't want to hear traffic.
No houses with apartments close by. Apartments attract the ghetto.
No houses with large parks directly behind. We don't want to hear people playing basketball at 7am on Sunday morning.
If possible avoid HOA. Coral Springs has so many codes as it is we don't want to waste another $2,000 a year on HOA fees, especially since they decrease my buying power. She kept finding only HOA houses for some reason.
No houses where they are asking for an insane amount of money over the fair purchase price. If they aren't willing to negotiate to a fair price I don't want to deal with them. I'm looking for a good investment for myself, not looking to pick up the tab for someone else's bad investment.

She kept showing us houses over and over that had something wrong with them that should have been caught before we went out there. Houses for $400,000 that needed 60K dropped into them because they weren't kept up inside. These homes weren't worth 280K and she should have caught this before wasting our time. A lot of these people were crazy and asking for 150K more than their house was worth. People that are delusional and think we are going to pay for their bad investments and offer up what their house was worth 2 years ago. Or people that though that they can add 150K to their house because they put on a 20K roof. Lucky for me a friend at work showed me a website where I can see the fair market value of the home. Because of this I knew more about the home before I walked into it then our realtor did! I was organized and had print outs of everything, she wasn't too organized and only had the mls print out and not the records on appraisals and sales. Why even look at a home if it won't appraise? Then I'm out $375 on an appraisal and I don't have a house. These people are insane for even wasting our time listing their house if they aren't going to get into a realistic price range. And time and time again she kept showing us houses where the owner wouldn't go for a realistic offer so we walked away.

The worst was one that a company called TNT bought for 292K. They said they did all these upgrades and they did none. The house was really nice but needed 45-60K put into it. So this company buys up the house for 292K and tries to turn around and sell it for 419K! And this is why people can't find a house. It's insanity. It would be one thing if they did something to the house but they didn't drop a dime into it. We offered up 330K and they wasted our time making us put that price in a formal bid just to reject it and say they won't move on the price. Why waste my time with all that paperwork just to reject it? This was getting ridiculous and people were wasting our time. Our realtor should have been on top of the listing agent and should have figured out ahead of time that they were wasting our time. We had another one where they wanted 384K for the house yet it was the only house we have ever looked at that didn't have hurricane shutters. We told them to take off 20K for the shutters and they wouldn't budge. Instead they gave us the stupid excuse that they've made it through a storm without shutters before. Stupid answer. Plus shutters save around $1,000 a year on insurance. Then we had the divorce sale. O fun stuff. We offered up 16K over fair market value and they wouldn't take it. Instead they thought they would sit on it for 2 months and they finally said if we give them 5K more, their listing price, they'll take it. Haha. Yeah right. No one pays listing price here. Every single house that sells here sells for 40-60K below listing price and these people aren't going to sell until they get realistic. They finally came back with this offer just last week, after we already got a house for a fair price.

So finally Natalie had enough. About a month ago we decided to meet up for lunch one day at Crab House on the bay and have lunch and this is when Natalie told me she's had enough of the BravoSierra (BS). Natalie fired the realtor and we found a realtor that knows what she is doing. One that grew up in Coral Springs, only deals in Coral Springs, knows the area, knows fair prices in the area, etc. A Coral Springs expert. I actually wanted to use this realtor before my annoying coworker kept insisting we use his wife. So our new realtor setup for us to see something like 9 houses one Saturday and none of them were in an HOA, funny how that happens. There was one house that we really liked and we decided we wanted to put a bid on it. Natalie wasn't too optimistic I don't think because of past failures but I was confident that our new realtor would get the job done. This is when we got to see how an experienced realtor works.

This house was bought 3 years ago for $554,000. They had it on the market for $369,000 and that was after reducing the price already (that's why Natalie didn't think they would go lower). But like I said, no one sells for the listing price. They only sell once they wake up and get into reality. Our last realtor would have been afraid to attack and go for fair market value. The listing agents kept telling her that these homes had all these other offers and stuff which I know isn't true because they are still on the market months later. They were playing games with her trying to scare us into a bid and she wasn't smart enough to catch it. Well I looked up the fair market value for this house on the website and it said $335,000. So we asked our realtor where is a good price to start, should we start out at bidding for 330K? She said wait, before even bidding she is going to do some research on the sales in the area and some other stuff first. At the same time she was doing that she was having her broker get his appraiser to see how high he thinks the home could appraise since she didn't know if it would appraise high enough to cover all our closing cost. He didn't go out there and do an official appraisal but he did a pre-appraisal and said he thinks we can get it to appraise for 350K. She was already two steps ahead of the game. So after she had that done she said lets go for 330K. Well they didn't take 330K, they said they have to get at least 334K out of the house. So we settled with 350K and we get 16K back at closing to cover closing cost and buy down our interest rate. On top of that she was smart enough to manage some other stuff in the deal. This first time home buyer credit was set to expire on Nov 30th but she heard it got extended but was awaiting approval from congress. So she was smart enough to put in the deal that we will close Dec 15th but if the first time buyer credit doesn't get extended then we will close Nov 30th and the people living there will rent from us until Dec15th. Well it did finally pass and get signed so we don't have to worry about that but it's good to know she was smart enough to work that part out.

So finally some progress. One week with this realtor and we already had someone accept our offer. Next she got the appraiser out there and sure enough it appraised just as high as he said it would. So next on the list was inspection. The inspector went out and everything looked good. They replaced the roof just before hurricane Wilma gave Coral Springs it's only recorded direct hit in history as a Category 3 hurricane, so they are one of the few that didn't lose a roof. The inspector said these are some of the best built homes in the country. All exterior walls are made of cinder block and rebar. We have accordion shutters on all windows. Our garage door is not your average garage door. It's a hurricane code garage door. Instead of using 2X4s in the interior they used all 2X6. So our house not only passed inspection, but the inspector told me we are getting ourselves a great home. During inspection they also did what's called a wind mitigation report. Basically I'm saving probably $800-$1000 annually on my insurance because of the shutters and the new roof. So now that the inspection is done we are just waiting for them to finish up the loan. My broker has been doing this over 20 years and said we should have no problem with the loan and we are looking to close December 15th. He actually told me yesterday "I'll make you a deal. You keep yourself employed and I'll get you financed."

So here are the details of the house.

The house is a 5 bedroom 3 bathroom, 2,616 sq ft., triple split floor plan on 10,800 sq ft lot. Our lot actually only goes half way to the canal and the rest is city owned but that's just more land for me that I don't have to pay for. It's just a buffer zone between my land and the canal so I can put fruit trees there and I'm the one that has to mow the grass there. The only thing is I don't have to pay taxes on it! The water has four zones and our sprinklers are on the zone that pumps from the canal so we get to water our lawn for free. The faucets of course are on city water so we don't have to fill our pool or wash our vehicles with canal water. We have a large solar panel on the roof to heat our water for free. Everything on the left side of the house, left of where it says foyer, that is the master suite. This includes the master bathroom, two closets, master bedroom, and attached to the master bedroom with two french doors is the office which has a window view of the pool and a sliding door that opens to the pool on the next wall. The master suite is on it's own 2 ton ac unit and there is a door that closes there. So basically we can just shut the door to that part of the house and save a lot of money on our electric bill. The rest of the house is on a 4 ton ac unit. The four other bedrooms and other two bathrooms are actually in separate hallways so that is why it's a triple split floor plan. All together we have 5 sliding doors that open up to the pool and a couple window views. The whole back of the house opens up to the pool and you can see the pool from everywhere, even in the hallway. In the kitchen the window opens up to a bar in the pool area. I am going to install 3 ceiling fans on the patio so we can eat outside. In the front yard there is a, I don't know what to call it. It's not really a pond because it's above ground. I guess it's a fountain?

Here's the floor plan
South Florida. We are way close to the Everglades and not too far from the beach. Our house is where the A is.

Our neighbors across the canal. They have a nice canopy on that street.
And last of all,,, our house. More pictures to come once we move in.

So the only thing I had left to do was get myself out of my apartment lease. I wanted to talk to the apartment manager but I could only talk to her assitant. They want a 60 day notice. I gave them notice on November 9th so 60 days would be January 9th. That's a couple weeks after I move out that I would be paying for but I said that's fine. But on top of that they wanted $1,000 for breaking the lease, three weeks early! So I had her talk to the manager and she came back to me and said since I have good payment history on my rent she'll drop that to $500. At first I took it but then I thought about it and got all pissed off. I thought about it and they were trying to play me for a fool. So I called up the manager and told her how it is. I told her that even if she wanted to she could not charge me $1,000 to break the least because that would exceed the cost of me staying to the end of the lease. I told her on top of that it's only 21 days and they haven't cut me any slack. I have been there for 3 years. I moved in January 7th, 2007. The lease ends for me 3 weeks after my 3 year mark and they gave me two options each year. 1. Sign for a year or 2. move out. I told her they are being completely unreasonable. I told her I already agreed to pay for a couple weeks that I won't be there and I will be exceeding my three year mark. I have never given them trouble, I'm quite, I'm a good tenant, and I think they need to figure something out. I told her I'll even pay the remainder of my rent until January 9th today. She told me "OK, I'm dropping the charge for breaking the lease". Of course she wouldn't put it in writing because she's not actually suppose to do this and it says in the lease that leasing agents don't negoiate. So hopefully she will keep to her word. She's always been nice to me so I don't anticipate a problem. I went to pay the rest of my lease off and she told the assitant manager what is going on and said they are going to work with me.

So I am offically rent/mortgage free until January or February. I need to find out. But part of the closing cost covers the first month or so and my apartment rent is taken care of so I don't have to worry about paying for whichever of the two roofs is over my head at the time until next year.

Also things got really ghetto right after I walked out of that office. I have never seen this happen but something like 50 kids were hanging out on the property after school and none of them lived there. So the manager walked out and had to kick them all out. I don't envy her job having to deal with all these morons all the time. Well a couple hours later I hear this girl yelling all ghetto and I think she was yelling at the manager. Then she comes over by my window and starts yelling out what's on my signs in my window. One sign says "Forget about the dog, beware of owner". It's got a picture of a S&W revolver. The other says "This house is protected by a shotgun three nights a week. You guess which three". So this girl is yelling in my window what the signs say. I was cooking and had my back to her so I turned around and gave her the look of death. I was about to tell her "congrats you can read now get the hell away from my window", but before I could even open my mouth she took off and two of the apartement staff were chasing her out.

I am so ready to move out of this place. The apartments are nice. They are taken care of and they keep up the landscaping really good. I have a lake view and I'm only 50 feet from the water. But the people are ghetto to the max and I'm sick of dealing with the staff and the idiots that close my work orders without fixing my stuff. I went a week without ac last summer because they sent some idiot from corperate who said he ordered the pump and he didn't. The maintanence manager who is a really nice guy said that the idiot from corperate told everyone the same thing, closed work orders, and everyone was pissed off the next week. Well I had to tell them they are banned from sending help from corperate in my apartment and only the manager himself can work in there because everytime I open a work order it's the same thing over and over. They always send someone from corperate who effs it up and it takes me five complaints and a month of nagging to get something fixed. Just one of the headaches along with ghetto people that are too stupid to put their trash in the compactor, instead throwing it in the parking lot. On the weekends it builds up until Monday when apartment staff have to put it in the compactor for these morons. So this is what I'll be leaving. Let me tell you, I won't miss it.

Then today I get home and I get a thing saying if I do want to renew, which I don't and I already gave them notice, my rent will go up 200 bucks a month! This is insane. This place already started going to hell when they started giving first month free and no deposit, I had to pay both. Now they keep raising the rent on the old tenants to make them flip the bill to bring in new ones (Obama style). They are renting out two bedroom apartments for $1,005 with no deposit and first month free and then they want me to pay $1,255 for a freaking one room. These people are out of their effin minds. And this is why the neighborhood is going down the toilet!

Me hanging out behind my apartment

The weekend trash mess. We let people this stupid drive in this country. Scary!

The 305

So the last couple days I have had a reminder why you couldn't pay me to live in Miami.

Today at work we had a fire drill and everyone was instructed to move to the back of the parking lot, all the way back by the canal where I park my truck. They were told there is no getting in their cars and running the ac (it's a nice cool day anyways), and they had to stay in that area.

So by the time I get out there I see one person sitting on my back bumper, one person leaning on the side of my truck, and one person standing their with their arms resting on my top deck. WTF? Seriously! These idiots have no respect for others property. And they knew it was unacceptable because I opened up the back of my truck to get a fold up beach chair and they realize it's my truck and they all get off it real quick. So I pull out my chair and while everyone else is forced to stand out there I unfold my beach chair and I sit there next to my truck drinking a Mr Pibb. As a former boyscout I'm always prepared and everyone thought it was pretty funny. But back to my rage. Seriously what the hell is wrong with people. If they weren't my coworkers they would have received quite a tongue lashing but since I'm forced to work with this idiots I had to bite my tongue. Would they think it's ok if they came out and I was sitting on the hood of their car? Certain people down here have no respect whatsoever and I'm getting really sick of it.

Then there is yesterday. I'm not sure which one gets the idiot of the week. The coworkers from today or the moron that backed up traffic yesterday. I was in line to getting on I-95. They put in one of those traffic control lights on the on ramp about six months ago. Basically you pull up and it turns green right away. It's pretty pointless since you never fully stop before it turns green. Well yesterday some moron didn't go at the right time and it turned red. They were sitting still there waiting for, no exaggeration, five whole minutes for this thing to turn green. Obviously the motion detector did not catch the person but do they have the brains to figure this out? No. So for five minutes the on ramp is backing up. It's a complete cluster **** and everyone starts honking their horns pissed off and hoping this idiot would get a clue. But they were probably stoned off their ass, eating a bowl of rice, talking on the phone, and bumping their music, so they were in no condition to figure it out. All the cars behind him were too close together so no one could get out to go around. It was to the point where I was about to call the state troopers. Finally someone all the way back on 95th street decides to ride the shoulder and as he passed the moron he set off the sensor. After that everyone was free to go....You would think this ass clown would have figured it out on his own but no, someone else had to turn the light green for him.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Anole War Rages On, But Victory Is Mine!

Well the war on the anoles in my apartment are taking a turn. Victory is in my sight. As I have already stated, I have killed several off these pesky anoles by shooting them with a blow gun then using a magnet capable of lifting 200 pounds to catch them since they would run off impaled. Not only would I catch them, but I would leave them there like fish on a stringer while I go for more. Their eventual demise was when I took them off the dart and fed them to Killa who was so very grateful.

Well to all of you who offered no additional advice on how to wage my war, you suck. Ok, jk, but seriously... I got advise from one person only, Auntie Ellen, who told me to use mouse glue traps. I had tried the mouse snap traps but the anoles never set them off. So I tried the mouse glue trap and the one anole that was eluding capture, the one pesky little guy I couldn't seem to catch, the one I shot and he got away, well today I found him glued to his death. Auntie Ellen, Muchas Gracias!

I have a new weapon and I will win this war. I can now shoot anoles when I see them and also battle them while I'm not even home by placing glue traps. The days of having anoles in my boots are over! The days of anole poo on my floor are over! And most important, victory is mine!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

324 days

Well it's been 324 days since I was in Dominican Republic and my foot started to itch. I already wrote a blog about all the money wasted trying to get rid of what everyone thought was athlete's foot. Well, while treating this the doctor was doing a biopsy as well. My friend in med school thought the doctor was doing unnecessary work but I wasn't convinced since you cannot tell for sure what it is without a biopsy and it would be irresponsible not to. Well the doctor (who is suppose to be the best around), proved to be right. After spending so much money on anti fungal stuff I got a call while I was in California saying they didn't find any fungus at all and it's just dermatitis. What caused it? Who knows.... Maybe I had some strange Caribbean fungus and all the anti fungal stuff killed it but inflamed the skin in the process.

Whatever caused it is a mystery. It's finally going away though because they got me off the anti fungals and gave me one of the strongest prescription steroids out there to combat it. Only took a day to see progress after getting off the anti fungals and using cortisone and steroids. Almost a year of hellish itching is finally gone.

They Just Keep Coming

Well as I've already mentioned in a previous blog, I have an anole problem in my apartment. And lately things are getting worse. I have baby anoles everywhere outside. A bunch of them hatched and you can see these things about half the size of my pinky jumping from one plant to another on my screened in patio. The speed they breed at is insane!

The weather here has been great lately so yesterday I open my doors and I was in the kitchen making some salsa. Then I see something running across the floor. This is the anole that has been evading arrest for quite some time and just flat out taunting me.

So as I'm going to grab the blow gun to take care of business I see another one jump off my bean bag. I shot that one right through the neck, picture below....I got him right under the kill zone though, right in his dewlap. He was playing dead in the picture and did a really good job at it. So I left him there on the floor and went to the patio and took out two others. It seems everytime I shoot one I would find 5 more! They are everywhere! Then when I came back inside the one that was already impaled took off under my kitchen table where the elusive anole came out to greet him and wrestle (seriously I wish I had video of this because it was pretty funny). So I thought cool, he lured out the one that is taunting me, now is my chance... But for some reason I just can't seem to ever get a clear shot on that one and he got away. As for the one that was impaled, I put him and another one I shot in the foot in my pacman frog "Killa's" aquarium. To catch them, since they were running impaled, I got my magnet that is capable of lifting 200lbs and stuck em to that. Kinda like when people put fish on a stringer, I was putting impaled anoles on a huge magnet. I'll have to take pictures next time. Anyways, I fed these things to Killa. Pacman frogs can safely eat anything half their size and have been known to try to eat things that are even bigger than them so he had no problem eating the anoles.

The impaled anole

Killa, when he was a baby. He's 4 times as big now and eats adult mice, lizards, gold fish, crickets, pretty much anything anything he can get in his mouth.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Complete Change Overnight

So I'm going on my fourth dry season here in South Florida. I say dry season because we don't have summer and winter. Here in South Florida we have the wet season and the dry season. And something I have learned about these seasons is that they change overnight. In California and the rest of the country the weather/seasons change gradually, well not here.

I knew the dry season was starting last night so I decided to take a bike ride to Shark Valley this morning. This was the most miserable ride I have ever had there. I have never had a trip to Shark Valley without seeing an alligator or hundreds, even a thousand in one day. Today I saw just one, a big one, about 11 feet long and quite a chubbo. I think this is because even the alligators knew it's too cold this morning. It's a little cooler in the Everglades then here in Miramar so it might have been as cool as 55 this morning. That's not bad, but the wind made it miserable. Luckily I grabbed a long sleeve shirt that has been stashed behind my seat for months because if I wouldn't have taken it I would probably be pretty sick right now. I was storming towards the tower this morning averaging 14.8 mph. That's pretty fast. But the way back killed me and brought my trip average down to 9.3 mph. It only took me half an hour to get to the tower but it took me 1 hour and 36 minutes to make the whole loop. The wind was so strong coming back I was having a hard time keeping the bike moving at all!

So while I was biking I just keep thinking about how effing weird it is how five months of weather changes overnight....

The first year I was here during the onset of the dry season it came with a tropical storm, Tropical Storm Noel, which skirted the coast offshore, around the Bahamas. I surfed that storm, a lot of fun. That day it went from super muggy to dry and warm. So I was wondering if the seasons changed the same every year. The answer is kind of. The always go from muggy to dry overnight, but not always hot to cooler.

The begining of May is usually the driest time of the year here until mid-late May when the rain just comes in one day and keeps coming back every day for a month. Then we usually get a break from mid July-mid August, only getting rain a couple times a week if that, then the rain season picks up and goes out with a bang...

Well yesterday was a muggy day. It was 86 and the dew point was 75. For those who don't know, the dew point is total moisture in the air, relative humidity is just saturation and hotter air holds a lot more moisture therefore relative humidly doesn't represent saturation. All throughout the wet season the dew point hardly changes, ranging from 70-75. Yesterday was no exception we have had near record breaking heat this week getting up to 93 right ahead of the low front. Then the low front came and bam, what a change. The dew point in Riverside, California right now is 57 degrees. Any guess what it is here, just 24 hours after being at 75 for five months straight? The dew point is 42 degrees! We hit an all time low for October 18th this morning. The record was 59, we hit 58. The lowest high temperature on record for this day was 77 degrees in Miami, today shattered that record when it only got up to 70. They were forcasting 80, I guess they didn't see a new record coming. And that's how it is here, one extreme to the other in just a day.

So for those of you that think Florida is muggy, it's only muggy in the wet season. The dry season is actually quite pleasant, just a couple degrees warmer than a San Diego summer and mostly sunny. After getting home from my miserable bike ride this morning and getting a hot shower and a nap I can say that the weather is very nice today. I opened my windows for the first time in months, enjoyed the breeze while I cleaned the house, and I don't have to run the ac tonight...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Visit To SoCal

Well I just got back late Monday night from California. I'm still really burned out. So here's the highlights of my trip.... Somehow I didn't get any pictures of Dominic in here... I don't know how that happened.

Flying out of Fort Liquordale Friday evening. Damn it's flat!

Saturday I went to Jeremy's baseball game in the morning. In the evening the family got together and went to the Spegetti factory. Then we went to bass pro shops and checked out guns and stuff. They had a shooting game and yes I was the best in our group. No surprise since shooting rifles is a talent of mine.

Sunday the family got together for a birthday party for Cassandra, Jeff, Natalie, and I. Natalie's birthday isn't until November but we'll be here in Florida so we just did it all together.

Monday Natalie's sister Jasmine and Jasmine's boyfriend Daniel came down from Vegas. We were going to go to San Jacinto but they got there to late so we went to Forest Falls for a while. Daniel was really impressed, which is laughable when you see the pictures from our trip the next day. Forest Falls is alright but not that impressive. However he was quite impressed. We couldn't find any good trails so we just hiked to the waterfall and then down the creek until it got dark.

I had to walk down this waterfall years ago with crazy scout leaders. There are no trails and we had a couple guys nearly kill themselves falling. People do die here, it's on the news every once in a while. Yes, I had bright leaders.

Natalie swinging on a rope she found in the creek.

Tuesday of course we went to San Jacinto. See that blog below...

Wednesday was Cassandra's birthday. Jasmine and Daniel left in the afternoon back to Vegas. After they left we took Cassandra's kids + Jeremy to the park to play around. Natalie took pictures but most of them are of the kids really far away. So I only posted a few of them. I of course, gave Jeremy a mohawk. Here is my work. After the park we went back to Cassandra's and made our famous steak nachos and had my parents over for dinner.

Thursday,,Thursday... Thursday I think we just vegged out..It's weird, I have no memory of what we did Thursday....Hmmmmm...Did I miss Thursday?

Friday we went and bought birthday presents for all the kids that we missed their birthdays...After that Natalie and I went to El Torito. I love their salsa.. It's actually the first salsa I ever ate, the one that got me hooked! Then I picked up Jeremy from school where I saw my third grade teacher who immediately recognized me. Funny because I'm not not 8 years old anymore and I haven't seen her in 20 years. Then before walking Jeremy to my parents house I decided to stop by 711 and get the kid a slurpee and see if his mom would get pissed off at me. After that Cassandra picked us up at my parent's house and we went with the her kids and Jeremy to Mt Rubidoux. After that we all got together at Chris's house for Ice Cream Sundeas.

Saturday was my ten year high school reunion at the Mission Inn. I traveled the furthest to get there so I got a pin that says "I traveled the farthest". Shouldn't it say furthest? I also got a $25 gift credit card, the best prize of the night, others just got a free coke. It was a lot of fun. We only had around 20 students show up though plus their dates. One guy there just got out of prison 3 weeks ago. He had been in there for 7 or the last 9 years and was all proud of it. Apparently his job is working for skinny magazine and "blowing glass" dildos. We were all laughing so hard when he told us his job and of course he won for most unique career.

Sorry, I couldn't smile and suck in my gut at the same time.

Sunday I went to church with my parents. Chris and her family were sitting in the back and I heard Raelynn yelling "mommy, I see Uncle Joe. There he is mommy, it's Uncle Joe." It was pretty funny. We had bbq chicken at my parents house that night and that pretty much sums up our trip.....We left Monday at 12:20 and got back home around midnight. Went from 60 degrees midday in California to 86 degrees and muggy at midnight in Florida. It acutually feels good to be back in this weather. I hate the cold!

All in all I had a good time. I think next time I go out though I'm going to either just go for a long weekend or go when the rest of the family is on vacation and probably meet them up somewhere else. Going when everyone is working and I don't have a car means I get stuck at one place and the family just didn't get together enough. If we do it next time at a vacation spot like Grand Canyon or Yellowstone the family will be together the whole time instead of everyone at their own houses....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Taking On San Jacinto Peak

Well I just got back from Southern California last night. I was there for my birthday, 10 year high school reunion, and just to see family. A blog to come later on the rest of my trip but this one will focus on our trip up Mount San Jacinto last Tuesday.

Natalie's sister Jasmine recently moved to Las Vegas. Last week her and her boyfriend Daniel came down to Southern California to hang out with us and we all went up the mountain together. I have been up a couple times before but always with a full backpack and doing overnighters. This would be my first day trip to the peak and the first time I've been up the tram since I was hardly out of diapers.

So where to start? We were trying to get an early start up the mountain but I had a doctor appointment early in the morning so we got a later start then we hoped for. We got on the tram valley station around 11:30 or so and it was a nice 80 degrees there. It was so warm that Daniel wanted to change into shorts and I told him don't bother because in ten minutes it would all change since we went through 6 botanical zones between the valley station and the mountain station and it's 30 degrees cooler at the mountain station.

The tram ride was pretty cool. It's the largest rotating tram in the world, the floor rotates to give a 360 view of the area. As wiki explains "The eight-and-a-half-minute ride begins at the Valley Station at 2,643 ft (806 m) and passes up North America's sheerest mountain face through several life zones on its way to the Mountain Station at 8,516 ft (2,596 m) above mean sea level. The trip has been likened in terms of geologic and climatic change to a motor trip from Sonora to the Canadian tundra."

Anyways we got up to the valley station and had lunch then got a later than expected start on the trail. You can see in the pictures that we didn't just go up from the valley station to the peak. No, why would anyone make a trail so simple? Instead we had to go down a couple thousand feet into the valley, cross to the other side, then regain elevation plus a couple thousand feet to get to the peak.

So before I get into the details of the hike let me just say I'm an experience hiker, back packer, mountaineer, boy scout, survivalist, outdoors man, & all around redneck. Some of the hardest hikes I have done in the past.

Mt. Whitney 14,505' (highest peak in the lower 48 states, 75 miles west of Badwater, Death Valley -266 ft, lowest in Western Hemisphere)
Kearsarge Pass Elev 11,760' (King's Canyon National Park)
Forester Pass Elev 13,200' (Seqouia National Park)
Fuller Ridge, Marion Mountain, and Devil's Slide all up to San Jacinto Peak Elev 10,834'
Vivian Creek Trail to San Gorgonio Peak Elev.11,499'

I'd have to say of all these trails San Jacinto is the hardest in Southern California even though it's only the second highest peak, and it ranks right below some of passes and peaks I have done in the Sierras. It's very steep and all of the trails are up and down, up and down. None of them just go up. They are all two steps forward and four steps back. Of course this time I didn't have a full pack, just a day pack, but I did do it in one day, not two. That's a long hike for one day, over 13 miles, plus elevation gain, and it's harder to breathe the thin air at that elevation.

Well for being such an experienced hiker I started off our day with a really stupid amateur mistake. I put too much trust in technology and didn't pick up a good ol paper map at the rangers station. I have gps on my phone and I have an application for wilderness trails but I didn't count on losing reception to download the data once we went down into the valley. I had good reception at both the mountain tram station and the peak but in the valley it went kaput. So it took about 20 minutes before I felt like a complete dumbass for not picking up the paper map. The signs there don't say San Jacinto Peak, or Tramway. Instead the point to the next location, and then at that location it points to the next, and so on. So you have to know which stops to take to get to your final destination. Well there was a sign on the trail that said Round Valley, I have a picture of it in the dark below. Well why have a sign if there isn't a trail split? And on top of that some moron made a trail that goes 1/4 mile off the trail and straight up the hill next to it where it disappears. So I figured we weren't going to round valley lets take the other trail (I have never gone to the peak from the tram, only from the other trails). Wrong! The trail soon disappeared and we had to go back. Of course we were having a hard time finding the trail we had been on so I used my gps to get us back. I had recorded our path, it didn't show a map since I had no radio signal but it showed a red line where we had walked so I used that to get back. So after wasting 30 minutes we got back on track and headed to round valley. It had been at least a good 12 years since the last time I went to the peak but I was pretty sure this was the right way to go and I ended up being right.

Well just a couple of minutes after getting back on the trail Natalie is already getting winded and tired. I know from experience that the hardest part of the hike is the first 15-20 minutes. Once your heart starts pumping all that blood and oxygen to the brain it gets easy. So I knew I just had to push her and I don't know that she was too convinced at the time that I knew what I was talking about. Actually I think she was hating me the whole way up the mountain because I kept telling them not to stop and to hurry up. They wanted to take a lot of breaks and I know from experience it's not good to do that. You have to keep moving or you get more tired. Plus every time they stopped I would get cold since it was almost freezing and I was in a t-shirt.

We stopped at a really nice lookout point at 9,400 feet and Natalie did not want to go any further. She was convinced the peak didn't have a better view. Well my motto is "all or nothing" so I kept pushing and pushing everyone, especially my wife who was growing more angry at me by the minute. Not only did I have an angry wife but her sister was my biggest fan at the time either. They were both tired and didn't want to go on but Daniel and I refused to stop, it just didn't make much sense after already going so far. So needless to say because it was there first hike it took us a long time to get to the peak. Around 4.5 hours actually.

It's funny that 12 years later there are a couple spots on the trail that I remember. For some reason they stick out to me. So anyways I forgot that the trail doesn't go all the way to the peak. It stops right around the emergency shelter, about 300 yards from the peak. So when we got to the emergency shelter I left Natalie there and I went to the peak. Jasmine and Daniel were behind and not responding to our yelling so I decided I was going to see the peak. There was no way in hell I was going down this mountain without seeing the peak. So I ran up to the peak which the hardest part of the trail since it's all climbing over rocks. I got up there and took a couple ghetto shots of myself with my iPhone and then took some scenery shots with my Canon Camera. Then I went down to the emergency shelter where I found 3 people angry at me. They thought I was lost and had been yelling for me. As if... I don't get lost! So I'm down there trying to convince everyone to go to the peak for a 360 of the entire area. On a good day from the peak you can see all the way to Mexico and Catalina Island. This day I couldn't see Catalina or the Pacific but I could see Mexico. I had a hard time convincing them of the view though. They were worried about getting back before dark and thought it would be a waste and the view wouldn't be any better than the last lookout spot.

Well after a lot of bickering and fighting and dealing with people that thought I was insane I convinced them to go to the peak. I quickly turned from the evil fascist dictator that pushed them up the mountain to the hero of the day when they saw the view. Everyone's attitude changed really quick. My wife was no longer mad at me, funny because I told her a couple hours earlier she wouldn't be mad once we got to the top. We could see Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Imperial, and San Diego Counties. Both the Mojave and Sonoran desert. We could see the San Gabriel, San Bernardino, Little San Bernardino, Santa Rosa, and of course San Jacinto Mountains. We could even see to Mexico! Get the point? So we took a bunch of pictures and enjoyed the view for a good half hour then decided that it's time to get down the mountain as fast as we could before it gets dark. By this time it's already after five and it's below freezing. I know, I'm in a t-shirt and it's below freezing. I usually don't have tolerance to cold but when hiking I can deal with it. My body was warm, only my face and hands were cold. I had a cold for the previous two weeks as well so the cold air was making me cough like crazy going down the mountain. Natalie was cold with two sweaters on and kept telling me to layer up but I already had a sweaty t-shirt and didn't want to get my long sleeve shirt sweaty, then I wouldn't have anything warm for later. I had a spare sweater and she even took that! I don't know how she didn't sweat like crazy. I just wished I had brought some gloves, my hands were a bit cold.

So sometime after five we decided to start back down the mountain. We were going fast too. Then out of nowhere I hear Natalie yell "what the hell is that"? I look over and there are three large bucks running through the woods. I got a low quality video of it, nothing impressive on video but I was surprised to see three of them together. We saw another one by the meadow 15 minutes later. It was a really large buck, probably as tall as me. This is when we approached bear territory. We didn't notice on the way up but on the way down there were bear markings all over the place. Of course the girls didn't like this and they wanted out quick. I've had bears raid our camp before, had to chase them out with rocks and banging pots and pans, and I'm not scared of them.

Well things got better when we got lost again. We hit one of the trail splits after the meadow and picked the wrong way out. Luckily it didn't take long for us to figure out we were on the wrong trail. So we went back to an agreed location and tried to figure out which of the three or four trails to choose. Natalie started to panic but once we got her to calm down she picked the trail to take and it ended up being the right one. So about an hour from the tram and it's already getting dark. I had two flashlights in my backpack but wanted to wait until the last minute to use them. So we were pretty much hiking in the dark for a good 45 minutes or so. Finally once we couldn't see our feet anymore I pulled out the frozen flashlights and started warming them up. We got to the ranger's station in the dark and turned in our wilderness permit.

Then we saw the best sight of the day, the paved ramp up to the tram. It's a steep hike but it's pavement and there are rails. So about the pavement......The day before we were having an argument about what are the proper shoes to wear on these trails. I don't have my hiking boots anymore but I suggested that Natalie get some. I used to have some really nice Merrell hiking boots, the best ones. It's a mystery what happened to them. Natalie wanted tennis shoes and a certain someone who knows absolutely nothing about backwoods hiking jumped in and started showing me how much she doesn't know about real trails and hiking boots, comparing these trails to the paved trails we walked in Sequoia. Haha. Not even close. These trails have sharp rocks, sticks, and all kinds of stuff. I nearly blew out my ankle twice going down the mountain because I didn't have boots and my feet are quite blistered. Well needless to say if that argument happens again Natalie has learned from our hike and I'm sure she'll be on my side about wearing proper foot ware.
So here is the difference of hiking boots just to clarify since some people who don't know better try to argue with me about stuff they know nothing about then accuse me of being a know it all. I'm just an experienced hiker and I know what I'm talking about.

Upper - The upper part of a hiking boot is intended to protect and support the foot with an all-over snug fit. Uppers should be water repellent/proof, but allow the feet to breathe to prevent excess moisture from causing blisters and other discomfort.
Soles - Hiking boots have deep-lugged soles of tough rubber to provide friction and avoid slipping on any surfaces. Soles absorb and redirect shocks, and provides cushion for your feet. Some soles, such as Air bob out soles, have hollow lugs to improve self cleaning
Laces - Laces for hiking boots are almost always braided nylon cords. These keep the boots fitted properly and snugly around the feet. There are different lacing systems for hiking boots such as eyelet, D-rings, hooks, webbing, or a combination of two of these systems.
Linings and Paddings - Foam is often used for padding. This protects the feet from cold and pressure.
Insoles that are perfectly shaped to the hiker's feet will ensure maximum support and balance.
Shanks - The stiff plastic or metal plates built into the sole. Boots are made with full, three-quarter, or half-length shanks. Longer shanks make for stiffer boots.
Scree Collars - Protects the Achilles tendon and ankle from chafing.
Crampon Connections - Crampons are made from spikes and are worn on boots to provide traction on snow and ice.
Welts - On older boots, these are the major seams connecting the upper to the sole. There were several different styles of welts. Most modern boots have glued welts rather than traditional sewn welts

Anyways, a five minute hike and we were back to the tram. Total time down the mountain,,, just over two hours. The website claims it takes 3-4 hours to get down the mountain so we did really good. We could have done it even faster but they had to make a couple stops, we got lost, and we had a hard time with the dark. I think I did a pretty good job at pushing them down the mountain though and I didn't get any resistance on the way back. So back to our return to the tram, this is when the cold hit me. Ten minutes after being back at the tram, indoors even, and the chills hit me bad. I was so cold I had to put on Natalie's fuzzy scarf not caring how I looked. I had bright red chapped lips and my face was on fire from being in the cold. The ride down to the car was miserable and now that we had stopped it really hit us. We were beat.

We got back to Riverside and even though it was nearly fifty degrees I was still shaking from the cold. It felt good to get a hot shower that night.

Everyone had a great time, got excellent pictures, and learned they can accomplish more than they thought they could. Hiking is 90% mental and lucky for me I had leaders that taught me that years ago and pushed me up mountains when I thought I had nothing left in me. My wife got to see my outdoor skills in action and learn that I'm not all talk, I really do know about this stuff. I'm glad I could share that with my wife and I can't wait to do it again.

My Pictures
The ones with the date stamp were taking with Daniel's camera, the rest are mine. For the rest of the pictures from the trip, check out my webshots.

East Station

Look at the excitment on Natalie's face.

Natalie and Me. You can see the Salton Sea behind us
 Natalie and Me at Mountain Station with the peak behind us.
Palm Springs Wind Farm

This is when we lost the trail. I'm playing with my phone's gps in this picture so I can find our way back to the trail.

This is why they got so tired... Too much talking.

Still a long way from the peak and I found ice. This is at Round Valley, you can see pictures from the peak and see how much lower it is.

Round Valley

To the right of the picture, that green patch is a large meadow. We hiked down from the tram to the meadow, got on the east side of the meadow then came back up the mountain from the other side. It's actually a pretty long meadow when you're down there.

Out of nowhere there is a section of the hike with huge boulders.

Two pictures from my first trip to the peak alone

Taken from San Jacinto Peak looking West towards Lake Elsinore.

Looking from San Jacinto Peak to San Gorgonio Peak, the only peak higher in Southern California.

The Puerto Rican Booty Pic

The Aventura Pose?

Cuanada y Cuanado

To the South

Second highest peak around

The Little San Gorgonio Mountains and windfarms.

We made it to the very highest spot

The USGS marker

All of us, including Flex, the pitbull, with the San Gorgonio mountains as a background

Coming down the mountain. We are on the dark side of the mountain and it's getting cold

It wasn't until the way down that we noticed all the bear markings

Natalie took this picture of San Gorgonio on our flight back