August 23… the ‘Rona and other stuff.

SUNDAY : August 23, 2020

I spent the last few days hanging out with my girlfriend and her kids, but I needed to mow my lawn and take care of some other chores at my house so I came home, mowed my lawn and then rode my Harley down to Ybor city for lunch. Ybor City is the oldest part of Tampa, with several restaurants and bars. Lotsa motorcycle folks hang out in Ybor, so you can always see cool bikes down there.

My Harley is a 2013 Vrod model, 1250cc engine, about 670 pounds. I’ve been riding it all over, but on the highway above 80 mph this motorcycle is too windy. The Harley is more fun on country roads, just cruising along at 60 mph and taking it easy. I bought it used this past Spring, and I don’t regret the purchase. My other bike is a 2014 Honda CB1000r.

Florida is a Covid19 hotspot, but I don’t know anyone here who got sick. I have friends and family up in New Jersey, some of them got symptoms… but I think most Floridians are not as worried about the pandemic as folks in the Northeast. I’m wearing a mask when I’m out and about anyway, until a safe vaccine hits the market.

A bee hit my neck and stung me, but I pulled the stinger out and the pain went away. One of the many hazards that come with going too fast on 2 wheels, I guess. This has never happened to me in 25 years of riding!

Today I was feeling grateful for a bunch of things; thankful that I have love in my life as a 46 year old (non-married) guy, thankful that my finances were not destroyed by the last few months, thankful that my weight is down to 180 lbs, thankful that I haven’t gotten Covid19 (that I know of).

I’m thankful to have a house, and a lawn to mow, even if I sweat my guts out when I’m out mowing it.

My youngest daughter (20 years old) is not living in Pittsburgh year round… and my oldest daughter (22) still lives with me. She’ll be finished her business degree the end of this year… so i might be alone in this 4 bedroom house by this time next year….

I really love my girlfriend, and I love her children… we’ve been dating on and off since the beginning of 2019. She’s not sure about me sometimes. She’s probably right.

I’m not afraid of commitment, I ask her to marry me all the time, but she keeps turning me down. Yesterday I was at her house and her daughter put her foot on my forehead.

I love having a 4 year old in my live, that kid is almost as wacky as me.

This is my life, in a pandemic, in August of 2020.

Ben Alexander

Evolution of my addiction.

2017 Kawasaki ZX-14 with a 1440cc engine.

This past Friday I traded my black and gold 2014 Honda CB1000r for the Green Machine pictured above. I took this pic to remember the moment….

I bought the black Honda CB about a week after my divorce went through two years ago. It was my first brand new bike, and in two years I put 8,000 miles (and 2 rear tires) on the Honda. It was BY FAR the fastest machine I’ve ever owned, electronically limited at 145mph.

I was also dealing with that internal emotional turmoil that anyone goes through at the end of a 20 year marriage. There were times when I went out and rode until my hands buzzed. There are some who say riding is like therapy, and I’m not going to argue different. Sometimes I would ride far out into the boonies with no destination in mind, just riding, listening to the wind and shifting through the corners.

With a 1,000cc engine the 2014 Honda was my first truly modern motorcycle…. before the 2014 I owned a 1978 Honda Hawk with a 400cc motor. It was a cool bike, I rescued it from a barn in the late 1990’s and cleaned it up. It had a kick starter!

I rode the Hawk from 1997 until 2015!

I had to adjust my brain and riding skills to go from the ancient 400cc Honda to the 2014 Honda CB with the 1,000cc motor. The 2014 bike had a close ratio six speed shifter, so there was power all over the place, but it revved too high above 120mph. On high speed runs I could burn half a tank of gas in just 20 miles…

Going from the 2014 Honda to the newer ZX-14 also requires a shift in skills, the Green Machine is even faster and the stakes are higher… but I’m taking my time getting used to the new bike.

Inexperienced riders get into trouble because they ignore physics, don’t wear safety gear, and they fail to respect the machine. I’m not doing at wheelies at 100mph waring flipflops cargo shirts and a tank top.

Yes, I’ve seen riders do this.

NO mandatory helmet law here in Gator land. ‘Murica !!!!!!

OK, this is the point when you are going to tell me I’m going to die, and you’re 100% correct, I’m going to die at some point in the future. When I do high speeds I tend to do it on an empty highway when traffic is light to non-existent. I never ride in the rain if I can help it. I’m wearing helmet, long pants, ballistic jacket, gloves, boots, etc.

There are some riders who will claim they rode from Tampa to Orlando going 150mph the entire time and I can tell you with normal traffic that’s damn near impossible. Most riders will go fast for a little bit, maybe a mile or so, then slow down as they catch up with traffic.

Going REALLY fast on 2 wheels is super loud, super windy and exhausting.

So why the hell did I buy an insanely fast ZX-14 ??????

#1. Because I got a high trade value on the CB1000r.

#2. Because the ‘Rona might kill me next week.

#3. Both the 1978 and the 2014 Hondas had very little wind protection. Getting blown around at 100mph is not fun, even worse on a gusty day with crosswinds. The full fairing on the Green Machine creates an aerodynamic bubble that wraps around the rider starting at 80mph. This makes a big difference, especially on a longer highway ride.

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I sold my ’78 Honda a long time ago, but it would be fun to ride the 2017 Kawasaki and then jump on the old Honda, just to see the change in technology from 1978 to 2017.

Most of the guys who buy a ZX-14 tend to be around my age, with a few decades of riding experience… I’ve been riding on and off for 25 years.

I respect the machine, and I’m a sober rider. I want to be one of those cool dudes who still rides a crotch rocket at 65 years old.

But sometimes you just want to take it easy…. and this is why my other bike is a 2013 Vrod:

Happy Riding !!!!!!!

Ben Alexander

October 10, 2020.

Best way to get a higher credit score, long term.

Your credit score is based on a formula that looks at your age, your amount of debt, and your record of paying bills since age 18. In many ways your credit score measures how much you can be trusted with money, so if your score is too low it will make your life difficult, unless you have oodles of cash in the bank and you can buy everything without a loan.

When I turned 40 my credit score was below average, in the low 600’s. I had too much debt as a ratio to my income and my debt was increasing over time. I bought some used Dave Ramsey paperback books on Amazon and read them from cover to cover.

If your credit is poor take a minute to go to Amazon and buy one of Dave’s books as a used paperback. Read the damn thing, and start changing your thinking about money. You’ll spent $6 to get a book that will help you save tens of thousands of dollars in future interest payments!

You can have low debt and great credit even if your income is low, it just takes discipline and time to get there.

I don’t have a credit card to my name, and that one factor alone insures that my debt is decreasing every single month. The only plastic I carry is a debit card, with a couple hundred bucks on it… and I’ve been using debit only for the last six years!

I’ve paid off over $300,000 in debt since I started reading Ramsey’s books. I now teach the class at my church…. my credit score went from low 600’s to 800 plus. I can now qualify for loans at 3% interest, but I don’t need any loans!

When you fix your THINKING your finances will improve. When your finances get better your credit score will get better and you’ll have MORE peace and less stress.

Hope that helps!

Ben Alexander

August 24, 2020

A Moral Imperative

Our team at Tampa Bay Solar comes from a variety of service backgrounds; every military service branch, retired police, and former and current firefighters.

We have put our own safety on the line for our brothers and sisters working with us, regardless of their race or religion. We responded to the call when someone needed help because they were a fellow human being and that was our moral imperative, honor and duty to do so.

Now that we are in the solar business together we are helping bring about clean and green energy across Tampa Bay, which also benefits all of us because the local electric company is now burning LESS coal into the air we all collectively breathe.

As of June 2020 we have installed over 750 solar applications on rooftops within a 150 mile radius of our headquarters in Tampa.

We watched with horror and disgust as George Floyd died underneath the knee of a racist and corrupt police officer. A police officer who was trusted to “serve and protect” all people, not serve as Judge, Jury and Executioner on the streets of Minneapolis.

We didn’t just watch George Floyd die that day, we saw the faces of the hardworking black men on our install crews, being pulled over by a racist cop and fearing for their lives.

We saw the face of our CEO, Steve Rutherford.

We saw our sons, our brothers, our fathers… having to live in a country that we served, but not having equal rights under the “unwritten law” of law enforcement prejudice.

This is a tragic chapter in American History, one in which 120,000 people have died from Covid19 while black men and women have to fear for their lives, even during a routine traffic stop that our white coworkers don’t have to worry about.

We don’t condone the property destruction, riots and arson that have resulted from this current crisis, but we DO support the peaceful protestors who are asking for changes in the law at the local, state, and federal levels.

If a police department has a history of racism and brutality that organization needs brand new leadership, from the top down. Racist cops need to retire, or go into another line of work in which they do not have authoritative discretion over other people.

Police Unions need to STOP making it difficult to fire racist or violent officers.

Derek Chauvin, the police officer who murdered George Floyd, had 17 complaints for excessive force.

Once a pattern was established officer Chauvin should have been forced out of law enforcement permanently.

Let us also state that many police officers are NOT violent nor are they racist. Most police officers go to work, serve with honor and integrity, and they don’t get any complaints because they are fair and evenhanded, even with suspects who are high on drugs, drunk, or suffer from mental illness.

Police officers have to deal with the most dangerous and violent 1% of our population, and they put themselves in existential danger every single time they do so.

It only takes about 9 months of training to become a police officer in the United States, perhaps that time in training needs to be extended to a 2 year program with additional educational requirements.

Here at Tampa Bay Solar we are proud to employ a diverse team and treat them with the fairness and the respect that all human beings deserve.

Our new headquarters is being built in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood in East Tampa, our goal is to reach out to that community and employ more of our black brothers and sisters.

We also support honorable law enforcement officers who work every day to eradicate racism within the ranks. It starts with good men and women in leadership positions, fighting the good fight.

We pray for our country in these times of hardship and crisis, in the hopes that hearts can be healed and that this current pain can result in positive and lasting change.

The KEY to health.

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Took this pic today, June 6th, 2020. 180 lbs.

Was 200 lbs just a MONTH ago, been using intermittent fasting, daily swimming, weights and rollerblading to slim down.

Goal is to get to 170 and stay there.

I don’t eat until 7PM. Every. Single. Day.

Drink water, tea or coffee during the day.

My low back was really problematic at 200 pounds, at 180 it feels 90% better.

I crashed my motorcycle back in 1995 in Taiwan a few times… so my low back will never be at 100%, but I’ll take 90% improved vs. fat and in pain.

7 days a week.

Don’t eat until 7PM.

Until I hit 170 lbs.

Intermittent fasting also decreases insulin levels and reduces inflammation. Anyone can do it. You just have to have an IRON will.

After I reach 170 I’m planning to experiment to see what it takes to maintain that weight for the rest of my life.

More later.

 

The Rickety Chair.

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This chair might be the oldest object I own.

When my Dad was growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s he sat in this chair to do his homework. When my Grandmother passed this chair wound up in my childhood bedroom, me and my brother George did OUR homework in this chair in the 1980’s!

I inherited the chair and took it from New Jersey to Maryland to Florida, where it sits today in the corner of my bedroom. Over the years the wooden supports had come unglued, and the wood stain was faded, so I used some gorilla glue to make it sturdy again then painted it with layers of white and blue paint. I was originally going for solid blue, but the white and the blue layers looked kinda cool so I kept it that way.

The old wooden chair is no longer rickety, and the blue adds some pop to the muted tans and browns in my bedroom.

Seeing the refurbished chair makes me happy every time I walk into my bedroom.

Sometimes there are things in our lives that sit in the corner, rickety and broken, yet we don’t take action to fix them.

When I was 40 years old I realized my finances were a total mess.

From 40 to 43 I read financial fitness books, chopped up ALL my credit cards, paid off a ton of debt and permanently changed my financial habits. Currently I teach the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace course at my local church.

I transitioned from operating a failing business to selling for a larger entity (Tampa Bay Solar) and succeeding. My income tripled.

I went through a divorce at 43, which delayed my plan to pay off my mortgage, but I was on the right track.

From 43 to age 46 I began to fix and update my home (see my previous blogs).

Today I have a home that is sale-ready… or I can live here and not worry about fixing stuff because everything is new, from the roof to the entire HVAC to the remodeled bathrooms and kitchen. If I sell this place in the next few years I’m in great shape to get top dollar. It feels great to live in a place that LOOKS great!

So finances were a rickety chair, then a house that needed work… what next?  

Recently I went through a break-up, with a woman that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with… she didn’t like my ego, and the fact that I was 25 pounds overweight.

She did me a favor, by pointing out my NEXT rickety chair.

Pain can be a catalyst for ACTION.

I cut alcohol out of my life, started fasting until 7PM every single day. Started swimming every morning… even dusted off my roller blades! Been lifting weights as well.

Just after a few weeks I’m already lighter, stronger, and on my way to better health!

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From 46 to 49 my goal is to slim down to 170 pounds and establish the lifetime habits that keep me there. I’m tired of being 25 pounds overweight with a bad back.

Once I get to 170 pounds I’m NEVER going back to fat and slow ever again.

I might get old and slow, but at least I’ll be trim.

Rollerblading actually reduced my back pain, who knew? Something about lateral muscles and developing the core? I don’t know.

Bought a Chirp wheel and use it to stretch a few times each day. Great product!

Spending some time every morning in meditation… my stupid ego has been a BAD thing in my life for far too long. We all need internal work.

In seeking awareness I hope to identify the issue and hopefully eradicate it.

The goal here is to lose 20 pounds of fat and 400 pounds of ugly ego!

Even though I’m single now I’m NOT focused on dating. If I get my health optimal and focus on the growth of Tampa Bay Solar the rest will fall into place.

Put yourself in God’s hands.

God knows about all the rickety chairs in your life, but He won’t fix them, you alone have to take action!

Ben Alexander

May 26th 2020

 

 

Never thought I’d go Harley…

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This past week I got a great trade price on my 650cc Kawasaki Vulcan and picked up a deal on a 2013 (1250cc) Harley-Davidson Nightrod. I know, that name sounds like a porno star who wears black leather… but it is what it is.

I NEVER thought I’d a get a Harley. In general Harley-Davidson cycles tend to be creaky, air cooled, unreliable pieces of junk…. but THIS bike was engineered by Porsche, in a joint venture with HD back in 2001.

Looks like a cruiser, accelerates like a crotch rocket.

I’ve test driven traditional Harley’s and they rode like John Deere tractors from the 1940’s; Slow off the line, no hydraulic clutch, wildly vibrating engine, all “show” but very little “go”.

The Nightrod is altogether different; Brembo brakes, hydraulic clutch, 124 HP engine… all wrapped in a 670 pound frame that feels as tight as anything German I’ve ever ridden or driven. Before I bought this bike I talked with my (German born) mechanic Reinhardt, he told me the Nightrod is popular in Europe because it can run all day on the autobahn!

Europeans love it, that’s a good sign.

When I test drove the Nightrod I was impressed in the first 2 miles, and sold by the end of the test drive. There was nothing wrong with my Vulcan at 650cc’s…. but a 1250cc engine is better, with ample torque all over the rev band, no matter what gear you’re in.

The Vulcan I traded is a great bike for a new rider, but I’ve been on 2 wheels since 1995, and I don’t mind riding a more powerful machine that requires a higher skill level.

BUT…. this bike is a sonic menace from hell. I have to wear earplugs when I take it out. Riding the Nightrod home from the dealership I experienced the same hearing loss as a drunk Motley Crue roadie.

This damn bike rumbles with power.

I feel bad firing it up in my quiet little neighborhood.

I still have my Honda CB1000r, pictured below on the right:

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The Harley is 670 pounds, my 1000cc Honda is only 485 pounds, fully fueled.

The extra 185 pounds on the Harley actually gives it ample road stability and tracking through a curve, it rides like a lead sled and pulls hard all the way up to about 130 mph, but at that point the aerodynamics start oscillating the front wheel in a manner that does NOT inspire confidence.

Cruisers are not designed for triple digit wind resistance.

Even with the long wheelbase and the high weight the Nightrod still corners nicely.

The Harley has a stated top end of 137 mph, but this bike is far more fun below 100 mph.

In contrast the Honda is electronically limited to 145 mph. The engine revs up to 12,000 rpm easily, so the Honda feels lighter but less powerful than the Harley across the gear range.

I could get the Honda reprogrammed to go faster than 145 mph… or I could trade it for a faster crotch rocket?

BTW, I would NEVER go that fast. I’m a law abiding citizen who stays below 55 mph at all times, even when I’m skydiving.

Both cycles have plenty of power, but they feel totally different. It’s always fun to hop from one to the other just to feel a back to back contrast!

Some motorcyclists are “cruiser” guys, some are “crotch rocket” guys… I like being both.

Keeps life fun, albeit a tad dangerous.

Ben Alexander

May 25th 2020

 

 

 

You are the sky.

You are the sky.

Endless, Boundless, Eternal.

There was a You before you were born, there will be a You after you die.

You were created in Love, you will die in Love, you will know Love through eternity.

Your entire life here is just a cloud, passing through on a sunny day.

Your greatest joy, your greatest sorrow… mere raindrops.

Everyone you meet in this lifetime, everyone you’re connected to?

They are a part of this eternity with you.

Nothing is Permanent.

You are the sky.

7 days, 7PM, 170 pounds.

My health has not been as good as it could be.

Every guy my age gains weight, and I lost a little bit by doing some intermittent fasting….

I gotta do something hard core, so for the last week or so I’m doing intermittent fasting until 7PM every night. NO food until 7PM.

Water, coffee only.

I’m 10 pounds down from my 200 a week ago.

I’m hitting this hard, 7 days a week, until I get down to 170.

Let’s see how long it takes.

Ben

May 17.

 

 

1900 square feet of metaphor.

I just had my house repainted last week. This pic was taken a day later:

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Looks snappy now. I had to cut down the rosebushes to make a path for the painters, but they’ll rebound fast with the summer rains. We have lotsa gardens in the back; citrus trees, bananas, veggies, flowers, etc… My youngest Grace has been (unexpectedly) home from college and she’s been busy in our backyard.

My home was built in 1999, I moved in with my wife and daughters in 2003. Girls grew up here, went through a divorce in 2017… and I kept it because I could easily afford the mortgage and I wanted my daughters to still have their childhood home.

After the divorce I remodeled all 3 bathrooms, bought new furniture, put up a new roof, then a 10kW solar array and a solar hot water heater… repainted 40% of the interior, cut down both of the 50 foot palm trees that were leaning towards my house, planted more gardens….

The solar on my roof powers my Chevy Volt, and we’ve got 4,000 watts on tap during a power outage… bring on the zombie apocalypse!

My 20 year old HVAC finally died at the end of 2019, and I knew it was due for replacement…. another 8 grand spent…

During this 3 year period that I’ve been fixing my house I’ve also been reading about relationships, and working on myself as well. I’ve come to peace with the end of my marriage, recognized my role in that, and I’m determined to do things differently in the future.

I have a really clear vision for the rest of my life. I’m determined to live my life as a man of integrity, character, responsibility and purpose. This is a high ideal to meet, but why not strive for high standards?  

I love working in the solar industry, and at 46 years old I have a great shot at doing this until I retire. Solar has become my mission and my passion, and this makes everything just… flow…. in the right direction.

I want to stay healthy and spend time with my friends and family. My parents are in their 70’s, and I love that they live near me in Wesley Chapel so that I can help them out as needed.

I’d like to be married again, but it takes time to find that special person. I might be single for another 10 years, who knows?

I’d like to buy some acreage and build a nicer home…. maybe with a garage big enough for more motorcycles….

I’m not going to settle for someone just to be married. I’m looking for someone who can love me and accept me 100%, just as I’ll do the same for her.

I’ll know her when I find her… but I know these things take time.

Happy Mother’s day y’all!

Ben Alexander

May 10th / 2020