Trip Report – Houses & Rentals & Cars, Oh My!

The Cars

After seeing the boat and giving the “OK With Me!”, we went to where I’d left a car on a small acreage outside of town. The intent was that I’d be back in a month or at most two, looking for a house. Then “stuff happened” and I didn’t make it. Some of this was other family making “plans” that blocked chunks of time. Another month of it (maybe a bit more) was the constantly “just 2 weeks away” roof schedule. In the end, the car sat for 6 months.

During that time, Florida Friend flew out for his “trip around the disbursed friends” and drove another of my cars back. It had sat for about 2 months.

The Baby Benz

When we got to the cars, they looked fine on the exterior. The little one (named “Angus” as he is a black Baby Benz and very zippy rather like a Black Angus Calf) however had started an ecology…

Some kind of Red Bug was swarming over the rear tire and had a small group that had found a way into the trunk, scattered among the things left there. I’d left a windbreaker, travel / camping kitchen (plastic bag with some cooking gear in it) and a few other bits. There was also a sort of a grasshopper like thing clutching the trunk edge. At first I didn’t notice the frog. A small frog had found that the rounded depression under the driver side rear door handle was Just His Size. Poking gently resulted in a Hunker Down. It took a fairly forceful poke to get him to jump (and piss) to the ground. All this was happy living under the car cover I’d had on the car.

Opening the driver’s door, some kind of red/black two tone ant or termite (hard to tell when you don’t know the local bugs as they are related) was swarming a bit on the door sill bottom. Some ducking under the plastic rise that separates the inside from the outside. OK… A few taps and kicks and most of them ran for the ground or just fell off. Inside there was an odd “Brown powdery stuff” on some surfaces. At first it looked a LOT worse than it was. In the end, I figure out it was only on “touch surfaces” and likely was eating skin oils or other “food” left on them. The shifter knob, steering wheel,a bit of the seats and few other spots. Wiped with a paper towel most of it came off. Enough to drive at least. The little carpeted bit between the seats in the console area was a fright. Yellow and brown stuff having formed. More on that later… Oddly (and thankfully) no real “mold smell”.

The car barely turned over, but after a few, and with it almost stopping the turn once or twice, it finally “caught” and sputtered to life. I suspect the gasoline in the engine bay had evaporated and a bit more needed to be pumped up from the tank. I’d filled the car with Ethanol Free gas when I’d arrived with it in Florida and so did not have ethanol / water separation (that I know of…). Off I went around a few “blocks” of country. On re-parking, the grasshopper thing was still hanging on. A vigorous poke and he was willing to leave. I suspect things in Florida have developed a pattern of just grip really hard in any strong wind… The wheel bugs were gone, as were most of the “whatever” under the drivers door. I then drove it about 40 miles to Florida Friend’s place and we cleaned it some more.

On the way we stopped at Walmart and I got a bag of stuff. Hydrogen Peroxide, Rubbing Alcohol. 2 Spray Bottles (at all of 99¢ each). Some disinfecting wipes. When doing the actual cleaning, it became clear that most of the car had Nothing. That was a big win. The windbreaker was faintly smelling odd and had some “dusty look”. It went to the washer as a test case, and came out fine. OK: cleaners remove the “whatever” and restore function and feel. In the end, I only used alcohol spray and paper towels inside the car.

I found that a simple alcohol wipe down of surfaces (seats, steering wheel, shifter knob, door seals) removed the “whatever”. I’d left a (hated) travel pillow in the car and it was infiltrated. It went to the dumpster simply because I had others and this one was a pain. Fill had migrated to each end years ago and it was only useful all bunched up. Washed the pillow case and it was OK, but stained. (I think the stains were there before, maybe…). Things like the Travel Kitchen, surprisingly, had zero involvement. The (poly) sleeping bag had a very faint odor, so went in the wash. Came out fine. Floor mats came out. I discovered they were 2 deep in the rear. Black over the native tan. I just tossed the black ones and shook out the tan (that I liked).

Whenever a bug would show, I’d squirt it with the alcohol and it would just die. There were random “Red Bugs” showing in the trunk, and a few straggler red/black things from the door sill. Other than that, nothing to see inside. Note that there is a Red Bug Lake at about this latitude on the other side of Orlando… I think this was the same bug. Maybe. Took maybe an hour to do the whole car and it was almost all fine.

About that console piece…

I sprayed some alcohol on it and whatever was there likely died. Then I tried prying up a little around the edges. Mostly to see if the carpet came up. Turns out it is folded over a snap in plastic bit. The whole thing came out. Off to the sink! Upon washing with running hot water and laundry soap, I noticed a brown coffee smelling liquid forming… I do not remember ever spilling coffee in the car, so suspect it was a prior owner’s bit of slop. After a fair amount of scrubbing, the carpet was nicely clean (and a lighter color too :-) Hung to dry, then re-installed later.

In the end, the car recovered very nicely and I drove it around for a couple of days. In my estimation, you want to either park any stored car over cement (and preferably inside a storage unit) or leave it no more than about 2 months over dirt. Even covered. Perhaps especially covered as otherwise the sun would persuade some things to not hang about. Things left inside the car will be subject to “stuff” looking for a bit of edibles on fabrics. But clean plastics and even some paper bags were fine.

In the end, I basically took everything out of the car, tossed a couple of bits, and the rest cleaned up or were not involved and went to the other car. This included a box (sealed) of pots & pans and a Slow Cooker in a box, along with an air filter appliance. All the boxed stuff (for the Florida House… someday) were FINE. Seems packed boxes are uninteresting to ‘whatever’ the brown dust was that seemed to love sweat / skin oil surfaces and really loved dried coffee.

I was very surprised that there was no “mold smell” and no white or black fuzzy stuff. My best guess is that moisture was a key thing missing. Hot days driving moisture (what there was of it) out of the car, and cold nights not being cold enough for the car to act as a condensing surface inside the next day. Basically the car was waterproof “enough” to prevent that and only allow things that didn’t need water to live. This may vary by car…

The Wagon

The Mercedes wagon was Just Fine. Everything in it was fine too. It would seem that it takes more than 2 months for “whatever it was” to start slow growing. No clean-up needed and started first time.

It had also brought a load of surplus kitchen gear to Florida “for the house”. I’ll get to the deliberations below, but just note that we put all that stuff from the wagon into Florida Friend’s storage unit. I kept the sleeping bag in the car along with the Spousal Scooter (that was for her to use on her trip to Disney World a month or two ago). Also the travel / camping kitchen stayed with the car and a couple of other minor bits.

The car was filled with ethanol free gas in preparation for the trip home. Basically set up where I could just sleep in the back in the sleeping bag.

Houses, Rentals, & Decisions

I looked at a bunch of listings for house rentals and houses for sale. Also storage units.

Prices are up A LOT!

Houses that had rented for $1500 to $2000 / month now going for $2500 to $3500. Homes for sale that had been about $200,000 were now $300,000. A bit of sticker shock. Yes, I ought to have done that research prior to flying out. But I knew I needed to deal with the cars and wanted to see the boat anyway…

The prior plan had been to just rent a cheap place for a few months of “Bi-Coastal”, put the car in the garage, set up the kitchen and maybe buy a bed and recliner. Figured about $4500 for the duration of medical recovery and a nice “landing pad” ready for me to deliver loads, or either of us to fly in as desired. BUT, at $8000 to $11,000 total for that duration: that was rather an extravagance beyond reason. Scratch the bi-coastal house-as-storage-unit…

Regular storage units were available and I was seriously looking for one big enough to hold the car + some stuff. At $285 to $350 a month, and figuring 3 to 4 months until ready to take some stuff out, that’s about $1k+ for a car I bought for $400 and that I already know will be fine for another couple of months (and can be cleaned up easily if longer). OK, doable and likely a good idea, but not yet necessary. Arrival with a trailer load can just have a unit rented then. I did take the phone number of the place where Florida Friend has his unit.

In the end, I just “borrowed” a bit of his unit for the stuff already in Florida, figured another month or two over grass was OK for Angus, and drove the wagon back to California. I’m NOT buying a cargo trailer right now as I’m not taking a load across country yet. That will come later as needed. I will be using a storage unit here as my staging space. $180 / month being a modest price for a trailer load or two of space. Essentially, I’ll proceed with the sort, toss, pack, and box here, putting the stuff in a storage unit ready to load a trailer (or have a service move it all…).

Basically I’m proceeding with the process, but not with the destination-as-storage-unit. This is subject to change if Government Idiots do Stupid Rules changes. But for the next 1.5 months, I’m going to be Medical Assistant to spouse anyway so can’t move a load anyway. (Problems of schedule compression from months ago… it all stacks up and blocks start to drop on paths pruning the PERT Map of options…)

Between now and then, depending on how the spouse does, I can fly in at any time and Try Again. Also I’ve got a “landing pad” on The Boat where I can catch a berth. I also get to do a bit more work on What Trailer. Prices range from $10k at a local new dealer to about $3k used a ways away. As always “we’ll see”.

But at least now I’m ready with a tow vehicle for “at any time needed” and I’ve got the car in Florida cleaned up and recharged. With any luck rental prices will drop as the Snowbirds head home…

As a $3,000 / month price tag is a bit steep for a “temporary rental while house hunting”, the basic “plan” is going to drop back to “buy a travel trailer in Florida” or rent a “Vacation Cottage” (really a mobile home without wheels in a park…) when the time comes. I’m not buying one now as IF NEEDED to escape California, I’d want to buy one on this end, put stuff and spouse in it, and hit the road pronto (stuff to follow later).

I’d really rather have a bit more clarity on just what Idiots In Charge are going to do with Stupid Rules. But that is not to be. So I have to stay flexible and with as many “options” as possible kept open to the last minute. Sigh. I’d rather have one PERT chart, on Critical Path to crash, and one set of problems to work, but “Other People” keep tossing change orders at me ;-)

But “It is what it is”.

So “I do what I do”.

Conclusion

And lessons learned:

1) Car as storage unit doesn’t work so well in high humidity environments.

2) Bugs are creative. Nature loves a new habitat.

3) A few million people want to move to the Free State of Florida, and prices go up $1000 / month for rentals, $100,000 for a tract home.

4) Construction going on all over the place, so eventually equilibrium will return. But not for a while.

5) Government Idiots In Charge just screw everything up. Repeatedly.

6) I really like Jupiter Island ;-)

7) I really liked being on a boat again ;-)

8) More flying and less driving in my future for a few months. Then a big bolus of driving will happen.

9) The best laid plans of mice and men are often gang agley. But being good at rapid prototyping and quick adjustments with flexibility can still get ‘er done. One increment at a time.

10) “Never give up! Never surrender!”… and don’t apologize for it either.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Economics - Trading - and Money, Human Interest. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Trip Report – Houses & Rentals & Cars, Oh My!

  1. philjourdan says:

    Car as storage unit doesn’t work so well in high humidity environments.

    Only in a year round high humidity environment. Fortunately, this far north, the cold kills them critters. But then we only get high humidity 7-8 months of the year.

    And I would not count on the price stabilizing anytime soon. Stupid idiots are still going to be around, and telecommuting is now a thing. So more people are going to get tired of stupid idiots, and keep the pressure on prices for a few years yet. Until the stupid idiots do not have the budget to be stupid idiots.

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