Friday, August 18, 2017

Where Dreams Are Made

It's funny sometimes how we lose appreciation for things. Years ago when riding Ragbrai (Registers Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), we were in a theater in some little town along the route cooling off and taking in a movie. It just so happened that Field of Dreams was playing and when they got to the line, "Is this heaven? No it's Iowa." the roof of that theater almost lifted off from the volume of the cheers. It was a moment that has stuck with me all these years.

Now nearly thirty years later, on our trip to Dyersville, my wife wanted to stop by the movie site for that movie and see the ball field. I admit I was reluctant since it really had no value to me other than being in the movie but we made the trip over there and I guess I wasn't disappointed. It was a beautiful day and even though it was in the middle of the week, there were still a couple dozen people poking around the site and even a few that were playing catch with their sons just like in the movie. Thirty years later and the movie still has a lot of power over others.

We walked around the ball diamond, took the obligatory photos of all of us coming out of the cornfield in the outfield as in the movie and ate a picnic snack of sorts underneath some shade trees near the house and also in the movie. I read about the storied and somewhat checkered past of the field and the owners of the land. Even as recent as two years ago there has been attempts to change the surrounding area to cash in on the power of that movie.

At the end of the day, there isn't a lot to do at the site other than reminence scenes of the movie. There is a defunct gift shop just off left field (leftover from owner feuds of yesteryear)  and another in the driveway of the house from the movie. It wasn't a walk in shop and there was a long line standing there in the blazing sun waiting so I never went over to check it out.

A couple evenings later when we were home again, I rented the movie online and we watched it again, me for the umpteenth time and others for the first time. I must say, it was a masterfully done movie and still holds up all these years later.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


One of many many rows and displays of farm toys
I saw my blogger post feed that I usually keep stocked was running low of future posts so I started looking through my camera roll on my phone and found these pictures that I forgot to post. These were from another mini-vacation we did this summer. This time we drove to Dyersville, home of the National Farm Toy Museum. I have known about it all my life but just never stopped and finally I did. There are tens of thousands of farm toys on display and if I were younger and could crawl around for hours on my hands and knees again, I would have been in heaven with all these toys to play with. They had displays from many many other brands but growing up John Deere, I just had to take a picture of one of the many display cases holding some of their farm toys.

In another room, there were lots of scale models of farms all the way from the late 1800's to modern times. This one is one of my favorites because it reminded me of my childhood. I helped build a dollhouse from scratch for my oldest daughter years ago and really enjoyed that project even if she preferred her prefab plastic dollhouse she got from Grandma instead. So I could really see myself doing something like this someday just because I enjoy it. The detail amazes me.

Another hobby that I could see myself doing that combines my love of wood working with toys, making scale model wooden toys. I don't know how many hours are involved in these models but it was more than I have at the moment.

We spent a couple hours at the museum checking out all the displays and one of the better features was a kid's room tucked into a room upstairs. It had lots of farm toys for kids to play with and keep them entertained while us adults looked at the other "toys"!

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Reveal and the Art of the Deal

There it is in all's glory, a 2017 Toyota Sienna. We've swung the pendulum from three Honda's in our household to two Toyotas and one Honda. I still like Honda but the nearest dealer is an hour and a half drive away and the nearest Toyota dealer is about 2 miles as the crow flies. I also don't like the little swoop Honda put in their rear window design a few years back.

When buying a new vehicle these days, the rage is to send out dozens of emails to make dealers "compete" with each other. I have a good friend who sales cars for a living and another that owns a car dealership. I'll give anyone reading a hint. The "best" price quoted via email is about $500 to $1000 more than the "best" price quoted to a person sitting in the dealership. Their reasoning is simple. It is much easier to negotiate with someone sitting in front of you than trying to attract one of the thousand email quote requests that get sent to you into the dealership. As the old saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush... or in this case probably a thousand.

Still I like to do my homework so I not only looked at the price ranges of the model and options I wanted but the same model without options. I also looked online at dealers within 150 miles and see what they were advertising those models and options for. With that information written down on a piece of paper, I called up my friend the car salesman and set up an appointment. I also previously discussed our max price with my wife so she wouldn't be surprised later.

When I sat down in his office and casually laid my piece of paper on the desk with all my writing so that it was sideways to both of us. As I had hoped, I could see him eyeing it while we were chit chatting about various options. He now new what I was expecting for a price range. Since they didn't have any of that model on the lot at this time as they were making room for the 2018 models to be released later this year, he had to search his computer to find the one I wanted. When he found one without any options, he gave me a price which coincidentally was right at the median point of the previously research price range they were selling for in my area according to several websites.

I said I would pay the low range value which turned out to be about $700 less than his first quote but that I also wanted a couple options valued in their pricing guide at about $1000, plus rust, paint and upholstery protection which was another $700 all included in that value for $700 less than he quoted. This is why I always price out the model without options and then add them later for no added dollars to give me leverage rather than starting out with all the options included. So all told, my offer was valued at $2400 less than the one he initially quoted but the actual dollar figure only went down $700. He did the old "go-and-see-the-manager" routine and came back asking for another $200 which I agreed to and shook his hand. According to the websites, the price I paid was in the "excellent deal" column though purchasing it at the end of a model year and having a $2500 cashback incentive going on really helped out.

I normally shy away from their rust, paint and upholstery protection stuff but he told me that it came with a five year guarantee. If anything stains, rusts or peels in the next five years, they will make it like new again. With two kids and another totaled out van with very stained floor and seats, I thought it was probably worth the $700 gamble. The only problem is that the fumes are horribly noxious and overpowers the new car scent that I always enjoyed but knew in the back of my mind that they were noxious as well. As of writing this, we've only had the vehicle for 24 hours so I'm hoping that the odor goes away fast.

To celebrate blowing a big wad of cash, we went out to eat and blew another much much smaller wad of cash. It just made sense!  Since it has been ten years since I purchased a new vehicle (that I mainly drive), I'm having to learn a lot on how to work all the controls. I'm also excited for winter now since we have two vehicles now with AWD for when the roads get bad, assuming we get some precipitation again.

Friday, August 11, 2017

What the Heck... Answered

So as I mentioned in my previous post, our minivan got hammered by 2" diameter hail two weeks after I cancelled comprehensive insurance on it only to learn a couple months later that it never had been cancelled. I called the insurance company to start a claim to help me make up my mind if it is worth it to fix up the damage so that it looks nice for the next five years or so before we trade it in, especially since I would only have to pay my $750 deductible to do so.

The insurance company told me to go ahead and get an estimate on the damage and so I did and it came out to $3200! Holy smokes! So I forwarded on the estimate to the insurance company and they caught their breath as well and set up an appointment for their estimator to take a look at things. He showed up this morning and after a thorough inspection said that the estimate I got was low and should be nearly $4000! The van is only worth $5000 in the condition it was before the hail storm.

So long story short, they consider it totaled. Fixing up the hail damage is a moot point because I won't get enough money back to fix the thing. They will give me $5000 but I would have to buy it back for $3000, what they think it is worth in an auction setting meaning I can keep the van and a cool $2000 in my pockets. Or, I can pocket $5000 but then someone in a tow truck will come and pick up my van never to be seen again and of course, I would have to replace it. What to do, what to do?

We really love the minivan and it is our main family vehicle but at ten years old already, it won't last the other 14 years we need it too until our kids have flown the nest. So on one hand, it might make sense to get another one for those remaining 14 years. On the other hand, we could drive it as is though I still need to put another $1500 in repairs scheduled in a couple weeks and probably get another five years out of it or more. I would end up with an extra $500 ($2000 they gave me minus the $1500 in repairs) in my pocket but a van that I really can't easily sell due to it being totaled.

After much discussion, I think we finally settled on taking the $5000+ settlement and saying goodbye to it which means we have to buy another one. In my younger days when I drove a lot of junked out cars for pennies, I wouldn't go this route but we've been fortunate and I have two kids now who depend on me so I think it makes sense. We went out and test drove a vehicle which is the only one in the category with All Wheel Drive which I consider a must these days and really liked it. Today as I write this I'm doing research on what I should pay for it. Tomorrow if all goes well, I will go negotiate a final price for one.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

I'm Not Going to Miss You

One of the greats... and one that I'll miss.