Never thought I’d go Harley…

20200522_152136

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:

20200522_164316_resized20200522_175540

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:

20200508_151055_resized

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

 

 

 

 

Easter Sunday, 2020. Oy.

Got up at 4AM this morning. In normal times I’d be going to church, probably hosting dinner tonight… but these are NOT normal times.

Last time I kissed my Mom on the cheek was over a month ago.

I had a solo in the church cantata scheduled for today. Hopefully we’ll get to sing it for the congregation at some point in the future. There are lotsa retired folks at my little church, including my parents… and I’m happy to report that there have been NO Covid19 victims thus far.

My daughters have been home with me the last few weeks, Grace came back from England March 17th, coughing and sick. She got better, I got a very mild dry cough for a few days… and then tested for Covid19 and got back a negative.

My other daughter stayed at her Mother’s house for 2 weeks.

Did me and Grace have it? Did we recover?

No way to tell until the antibody test becomes available.

There seems to be a positive correlation with Covid19 resistance and having O type blood, so I’m glad I have that in my favor. I rarely get colds, flu, etc.

I think one of the reasons NYC and North Jersey have been hit so hard is the prevalence of shared transportation; bus lines, trains, even elevators. One person coughing in an elevator in a 20 story apartment building puts everyone at risk.

Many of the North Jersey infections probably came from the NYC area.

It looks like Philadelphia is going to get hit hard, especially the poverty stricken  neighborhoods like Germantown / North Philly. In the late 1990’s I ran door to door sales crews in some of these rough zip codes… these folks are already struggling with poverty, drug addiction and violent crime, now they have to worry about Covid19 as well.

I’m a numbers guy, and looking at the numbers in Italy, Spain and New York state I’ve concluded that most of the world outside of Europe and North America is engaging in a cover up when it comes to this pandemic.

Nigeria is reporting 30 deaths per day and they have 206 million people….

273 million people in Indonesia, and they only have 400 deaths so far?

Less than 100 deaths in Pakistan with 220 million people in that country?

Mexico did not even shutdown until last week and they only have 233 Covid19 deaths?

I don’t buy it.

All these numbers from authoritarian regimes are bullshit.

In countries like Mexico where they can’t even control their drug cartels how the hell are they going to holdback an invisible virus?

Don’t even get me started on China, their numbers are so wrong we need to go after them for war crimes.

In Spain and Italy they’ve seen about 250 deaths per million people of population. This means that we can predict death rates for other countries; 1.43 billion people in China times 250 = 400,000 deaths.

Even if China totally contained Covid19 they would see 100,000 deaths, at the minimum, not UNDER 4,000, as they’ve reported.

Because the Chinese government was NOT reporting factual data back in January the rest of the planet continued to go about business as usual, probably 3 weeks too long…. a global lockdown on February 1rst would have prevented thousands of needless deaths.

And them there was the Orange Idiot, telling Americans Covid19 was a “democratic hoax” as recently as February.

So what now? We have to work with what we got. Lotsa restaurants won’t weather this. Savings will be destroyed. Marriages will crumble under the stress, homeowners will face foreclosure.

Some folks will be unemployed for a few months or longer.

If you make it through this alive you’ll find a way to pay your bills again.

I just hope and pray that when things get back to normal we don’t see a huge resurgence of deaths.

That’s all I guess.

Ben Alexander

Easter Sunday…………… 2020

 

Live on $3K a month.

 

AAAAA ST!!

(on the set of Shark Tank: Los Angeles, September 2013)

When I went on Shark Tank back in 2013 my finances were a mess; too many business loans, too much overhead, and our gross revenues were actually going down!

I started reading all the financial fitness books written by Dave Ramsey and Orrin Woodward, and I simplified my life. In a few short years I paid off over $300K in debt, put $30,000 in a college fund for my daughters, and I sold Balloon Distractions for a modest profit.

I joined Tampa Bay Solar while I still had an income from Balloon Distractions, and it was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. Instead of running an entire business (which I suck at) I could just focus on selling solar deals and developing a team.

When I finally sold BD it was with a sense of relief, I was closing the door on a chapter in my life that had great memories, but was also financially stressful.

In the last few years I’ve been teaching a Debt Free / Financial Management class at my church, and the most recent course was interrupted by the current Covid19 crisis.

Since my income is from sales commissions (on electric solar as well as solar pool heaters) I was worried about how I would weather the next few months. I’m a single Dad, no spouse to help me out here… and when I looked at my expenses I realized that I could cover all my costs until JUNE, even if I sold nothing until then!

I live on $3,000 per month. As my income from solar increased I kept my EXPENSES level and continued to pay down my debt. 

I still live in the same 1900 square foot home that I bought back in 2003. I drive a used Chevy Volt…. charged by the solar on my roof. I spend very little on energy, and I paid off my solar array last year.

When my HVAC needed replacement a few months ago I paid the $7,700 cost with cash.

As Covid19 hit and we went into quarantine Tampa Bay Solar started advertising for pool heaters, since everyone is home.

I’ve been closing pool heater deals consistently over the last few weeks. Covid19 decreased my income a little bit, but my expenses are still below my income, even during this current lockdown.

I hope Covid19 is a wake-up call for all the folks living “high on the hog” at the limits of their income. Live modest; no one is impressed by a leased luxury car or a home with a mortgage that you can barely cover.

Perhaps this crisis is also a wake up call for people who are working in low skill / low wage / non-essential jobs. Maybe this is the time to go to trade school, learn sales, learn some type of skill that will increase your income!

I’ll be looking to hire in a few months… if you have a talent for sales maybe that is a way to increase your income.

When this crisis is over and solar sales pick up again my main focus is paying off my home, and getting to a place where I can live on LESS than $1,500 a month.

Stay safe out there!

Ben Alexander

April 8, 2020

 

 

Bringing Sunday dinner back….

Pictured: my dining room, with new dishes and silverware my parents gave me for my 46th birthday…..

20200308_180448_resized

In the last few weeks I’ve been hosting a regular Sunday night dinner at my place.

Last night we had Eggplant parm with salad and garlic bread, it was great!

My Sunday started with singing in the church choir, teaching the Debt Free class, then shopping for groceries and cooking most of the afternoon. I’m not a great cook, so I try new things and they tend to work out 99% of the time.

My parents are automatically invited every Sunday, they’ve cooked me about a gazillion meals in my lifetime, so now I get to return the favor. This also allows me to invite over friends who have lotsa kids, we have plenty of room and its always fun when multiple generations are at my table!

My daughters are always automatically invited, when they are in town, not working, etc.

My table can seat up to 12 people, if we get add chairs!

I’ve been reaching out to friends I haven’t seen for awhile and inviting them over as well.

Why not, right?

These are not stuffy dinners; wine will be opened, music will be played, things might get loud, you can never predict what might happen.

It takes work to straighten up my house, plan and cook a meal, and clean up after…. but the memories are more than worth it.

At the end of the day all we really have are memories anyway.

The great thing about this is that I’m becoming a better cook, and Claire and I have leftovers for days!

Not everyone is an extrovert, many people never host anything… but I’m having fun doing this, especially that moment when everyone is around my table and we all start to eat. This makes me happy at some profound level; providing for people I care about, seeing them enjoy each other’s company…. perhaps in many ways I’m a deeply traditional guy!

Let me know if you wanna join us next week!

Ben

March 2020

 

 

 

The Brevard Solar SCAM.

For the last three years I’ve sold over 350 residential and commercial solar deals for Tampa Bay Solar. Tampa Bay Solar is run by a retired Navy SEAL named Steve Rutherford, and all the systems I sold were installed within a few weeks of contract.

For example, this past week I sold a residential deal on Wednesday, that system will be installed by February 17th, finished by February 19th and turned on soon after.

Tampa Bay Solar did the solar array on my house, pictured below:

house with solar

Tampa Bay Solar also did an install on my parents’ home in Wesley Chapel, and my Dad (retired engineer) was very happy with the quality of their work.

We compete with many other installers, and two years ago I started seeing competing bids from a company called Brevard Solar. I was suspicious about these bids because they were several thousands dollars LESS, with the same exact equipment we were installing.

It would be like if you were buying a used Honda, and everyone priced it at $22,000, but one competitor was selling it at $15,000. Where were they cutting corners?

I showed some of Brevard’s quotes to our owner Steve Rutherford and he immediately said “They’ll go out of business selling systems at this price point”.

Looks like Steve was right. Brevard Solar went out of business last week, holding $10,000 to $15,000 deposits on over 280 jobs!!! Before they shut their doors they were taking 8 to 10 months to install… and Brevard Solar only did cash deals, so all the Brevard clients who got ripped off will never see their $10 to $15K ever again…..

For the last 12 months Brevard has gotten a bunch of complaints lodged with the Better Business Bureau, but their clients only looked at price….

The Florida Attorney General is now on the case, and I hope Brevard’s owner, JAMES SPANN, gets thrown in a jail cell for a long time.

Some of the potential clients that I sat down with over the last 5 months went with Brevard and lost their deposit… and I warned them about Brevard, but they went with CHEAP instead. Ironically they will now spend MORE than if they had just listened to me and gone with Tampa Bay Solar 3 months ago.

I get it, they just thought I was a salesperson blowing smoke, but they should have listened, or at least looked at Brevard’s complaints online.

Tampa Bay Solar has ALWAYS completed their installs, and if a client changed their mind before install we refunded their deposit the next business day.

I’m 45 at this writing, and I’ve found that “cheap” might look good in the short term, but it always cost more in the long run. I’d rather pay more and get quality, when I was shopping for dining room furniture I went into a “discount” furniture place and the quality was not there, but the cost was lower. Instead I bought dining room furniture at Haverty’s, and it cost more, but the quality is there:

NEW dining room_resized

When one is making a long term purchase, like a solar array that lasts 30 or 40 YEARS, it makes sense to hire a quality installer who will get the job done RIGHT, and on schedule.

If you want solar on your home, at a fair price, with a great warranty…. reach out to us.

Ben Alexander

February 1, 2020

TampaBaySolar.com

Suit up, stay alive, have fun.

Old guy on a fast bike…..

20200126_103545_resized

If you’re a motorcycle enthusiast one of the best things about living in Florida is being able to ride year round.

The pic above was taken this morning, on my Honda CB1000r. Rode it to church!

I’ve been riding on and off since 1995, when I rode a much slower bike through the streets of Taipei on my way to teaching gigs! I crashed frequently while living in Taiwan,  low speed crashes that left me bruised up and a little bit wiser.

They say there are 2 types of bikers: “Those who’ve crashed, and those who are going to crash….” I’d like to think that I’ve gotten all my mishaps behind me!

There is no way to totally eliminate the danger that goes with motorcycles, but it makes sense to suit up and mitigate some of that risk:

20200118_104810_resized

My helmet and gloves are not pictured, what you see above is a leather jacket that weighs 12 pounds, canvas riding pants (with a Kevlar lining) and leather boots. If I go off my bike at high speed my protective gear will get torn up before my skin does.

Heavy duty gear and a full face helmet blocks wind, sand from the road, and huge flying insects! These three factors make riding unpleasant at speeds over 50 mph. Ever had a bug fly up your nose at highway speeds? Not fun, possibly dangerous.

Another factor that will keep you alive is keeping your bike maintained; not riding on old tires, making sure the brakes work…. that type of thing. This is the main reason why I don’t believe in riding old vintage bikes. Old bikes have crappy drum brakes, modern bikes have amazing disc brakes, normally with hydraulic assist and ABS!

I have 2 motorcycles, and they both stay in my garage out of the rain. I only ride on sunny / dry days.  Rain makes the roads slippery, rusts machinery, and is NOT fun to ride in.  I had to ride a motorcycle everyday when I lived in Asia. Not fun. Cars do better in the rain.

If you’re thinking about learning how to ride I’d recommend that you start with a slow, inexpensive, lightweight bike (maybe 300cc engine?) and ride the wheels off it. If you buy something that goes 150 mph and you don’t know what you’re doing you’ll die. A slow bike allows you to make mistakes at low speed, without cracking up a more expensive machine, or yourself.

My girlfriend is learning to ride on a little 250cc Yamaha that I bought used for $2,000. She’s dropped it twice, I’ve dropped the damn thing once… (bonehead mistake)…. but the bike is cheap to fix, especially those dang turn signals…..

If you’re new to motorcycling get a full face helmet, wear a leather jacket, heavy jeans, decent gloves, and leather boots that cover the ankle. Don’t ride down the road in shorts, a tank top and flip flops, that’s just silly.

Ben Alexander

January 2020

 

GREEN tech saved me $22,000

front of roof

I might be ahead of the times here……

There seems to be a MYTH that it costs more to have solar and drive electric vehicles. I went solar in 2017, so I looked at my costs before and after, and realized that green tech is FAR CHEAPER than the old fashioned alternatives when you look at long term costs over the next decade.

BTW, I’m a single Dad with a middle class income, living in a 1900 square foot home. I’m not a rich guy buying a $80,000 Tesla.  ANYONE could do what I did.

Before I had solar on my home  I drove an old Toyota Avalon with a V-6 engine that costs me $120 per MONTH at the gas pump. I now drive a (used) 2017 Chevy Volt that costs me $20 per MONTH to fill up! $100 per month over the next decade = $12,000 in my favor.

My Chevy Volt had 30,000 miles on it when I bought it for just under $20,000, which is very close to the purchase price of a used Toyota Avalon. Actually, if you picked up a late model Avalon for under $20,000 you got yourself a nice deal! The Volt will burn gas once the 55 mile electric charge is depleted, but many days I drive less than 55 miles.

The dead cost on my rooftop solar was $14,000 back in 2017. That system generates $200 per month in electricity at current prices. That’s $24,000 over the next ten years, minus the $14K paid for the system…. net of $10,000.

Tampa Bay Solar did the array on my roof, see the picture above. My system has pulled down over 24 megawatts since the day it was switched on.

That’s 24 MILLION watts folks!

Zillow did an in-depth study of home sales that shows solar will increase the market value of my home by 4%… but I won’t get that $$ until I sell my home.

https://www.zillow.com/research/solar-panels-house-sell-more-23798/

With $12,000 in gas costs saved and the $10,000 net on my rooftop solar I’ll save $22,000 in energy costs over the next decade, even if I never move.

That’s just smart money management. It also means far less coal and gasoline burned to move my car, light up my home and keep my air conditioning going.

Anyone could do what I did. In the next few years there will be hundreds of different types of plug-in electric cars on the market, and rooftop solar is a total no brainer, as long as you live in a single family home with lotsa sun exposure on the roof.

There’s a 26% federal tax credit for all solar that is installed in 2020. It goes down to 22% in 2021, then 10% in 2022. Now is a good time to generate power off your roof.

Ben Alexander

January 2020