Good Coffee, DIY , Wedding Planning, WWE, and other musings

Since I feel like writing a blog post, this one will be filled with random thoughts and observations.

Wedding Planning

Planning a wedding is a lot of work. I’m lucky that my fiancee is really taking the lead on a lot of this stuff; her mom has been a big help in keeping us on track and task. We’ve got a date, photographer, location, DJ, Caterer, bridal party, almost flowers, and a bride and groom.

So much goes into a wedding. When I started getting asked about table centerpieces I was like “Wait, that’s a thing I have to decide?” Or whether or not to give away custom chocolate bars at the reception. How about: where to have the rehearsal dinner? How about planning for out of town relatives? I suppose I should get to work on an itinerary; being that almost everyone is coming from out of town.

But, I am looking forward to spending the rest of my life with the woman I’m about to marry, and I’ve heard the wedding is one of the best days of your life and I can’t wait!

Good Coffee

I largely quit drinking coffee (except on weekends) because it gave me terrible acid reflux and stomach pains. I will have the occasional cup of Cafe Bustelo at work, but for the most part I don’t drink it during the week. The coffee that I have at home is basically store-brand coffee. It’s serviceable, I suppose.

So, my friend Greg and his girlfriend came to visit Melanie and I a couple of week ago. They both work at Starbucks and brought us a couple bags of Starbucks coffee: an Ethiopian blend and a Guatemala coffee. We ran out of coffee in the office, so I got one of the bags ground, put it in the Mr Coffee and tasted it and just as I had feared:

It was awesome…. and my taste buds have been forever spoiled by the smooth, rich tastiness of good coffee and I won’t be able to experience the savings of drinking Kroger brand coffee at home ever again.


Since we purchased the Duplex, and it was not renovated with great precision back whenever it was renovated (2009, I believe) there are some quirky things which I have been doing around there. One is masking the water heater in the kitchen corner with a closet which was the subject of my last post. The other project was an 11″ x 7′, 2.5 foot deep recess in the bathroom wall. We lacked cabinet space, so we purchased a thin cabinet from the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store and put that in.

It’s pretty satisfying building something, even if it isn’t perfect ( and lord knows it isn’t), but by trying to do things on this future rental property, I can learn and be much more well equipped to do things on our settle-down house.

The rough part about all this is that we keep having to buy new tools. Many of these are pretty basic, so we need to have them anywa: circular saw, plumb bob, drill/screw driver bits, framing square, speed square, saw horses, pry-bar, paint supplies, nails, screws, stud-detector, coping saw, clamps, etc. Then there’s the yard work stuff, lawnmower, weed wacker, rake, etc. We have spent more money at Lowes in the past 2 months or so than I have in my previous 29 years. We’ve still got a few more basics to acquire, but the bleed of money toward tools and equipment has slowly clotted.

But what about these nails, screws, etc.? You can’t buy them by the pound anymore, you have to spend $6-9 on a box of fasteners when you only need like 6 of them. So now, we have to figure out where to store this stuff in our small apartment.

My upcoming projects (after the wall) will be cleaning up the yard and trimming back the growth, cleaning out the shed (which was full of old building materials, spider-webs, and spiders) and putting a floor down (simple, 4×4’s and plywood), and building a handrail for the front porch.

Thoughts on WWE

Seth Rollins is out for 6-9 months and one of the best parts of WWE TV is gone. Shaemus is the champion and it really couldn’t be more lame. Roman Reigns is a very mediocre flag bearer. Randy Orton is out having shoulder surgery. John Cena is out to host a reality show.

It’s pretty bad.

And the lowest raw-ratings since 1996 illustrates this.

Kevin Owens is great on the mic and in the ring, but he’s not established enough to carry the company.

Dean Ambrose is awesome, over, and way, way, way under-used. How is this guy not the main guy for WWE? He always gets the biggest reactions.

NXT is almost always awesome. The women’ division is lacking a bit at the top since Charlotte, Lynch, and Banks left, but otherwise has a good crop of wrestlers coming up.

I like Finn Balor as a champion. He acts and carries himself like a Champion should… a true professional. It’s like he brings that Japanese “we take this sport seriously” aspect. And he has great matches. Main roster material? I’m not so sure…

Samoa Joe is not very over with the NXT crowd.

Currently Reading

The Book on Real Estate Investing With No and Low Money Down by Brandon Turner  It sounds like some cheesey sales pitch, but he’s pretty realistic in what to expect from these efforts. this is the guy who co-hosts the Bigger Pockets Podcast.


Mis-Adventures in D.I.Y.: Building a Water Heater Closet

Melanie are doing what many investors would call “house hacking.” We bought a duplex (that use to be a single-family home), rent out the lower unit, and live in the upper unit. One of the things about property ownership is that you get to try your hand at being handy.

(You also get to know the layout of your local hardware store very well.)

I have never been particularly handy, but one thing that my Uncle taught me (when I was 23 and helping me get my condo rent ready) was that you just have to try, because even the handiest of people don’t always know exactly what they’re doing.

So I try.

And I thought it would be amusing to present my attempts at home improvement as an almost complete novice in a segment titled “Mis-Adventures in DIY Home Improvement.”

Often, home improvement blogs are done by experts.

Not this one. And I will tell you all of the problems that I ran into that were either my fault, or something I didn’t ever know could occur. I work for a construction company (never having worked in the field) and so I had a lot of people to lean on and ask for advice; but a lot of my learning came from Youtube.

I should also note that my work is not an indicator of the construction company I work for. I’ve never been trained as a Carpenter and have never done field work.

Now, one of the things about doing this in a rental property is that the remodels haven’t always been done to super high standards by past Owners.

One detail a landlord wouldn’t care about is this water heater in the corner of the kitchen… out in the open.

We decided this was ugly and if we were going to live here for a year or two, we should do something about it. So I built a closet. And in the process greatly built up my meager tool collection.

1st: I spent about 3 weeks with a stud detector, plumb bob, chalk line, framing square, tape measure, level, pencil, and step ladder trying to get all of the future walls plumb and square.

My first issue is that the house is 100 years old, balloon framed, and crooked! Being that I’m not skilled enough to compensate, I decided to just go ahead and do it by the book, plumb, square and level. I messed up the chalk line a bunch of times. I marked up our walls with pencil that was nigh impossible to erase. I even used permanent marker to mark the floor that I thought would be covered by a bottom plate that ended up not being the right spot.

Never the less, I lined it up the best I could and started framing.

2nd: First, I nailed the bottom and top plates. The shorter side has no bottom plate, because a pre-hung door was going to be put there and pretty much take up that whole side.

Because of the location of the ceiling joist, my top plate positions were pretty limited in options. The longer side in the picture was parallel to the ceiling joist and the shorter top plate is screwed (with 3″ square-drive screws) to the other ceiling joist that is above the existing wall.

I had to use the same joist for each top plate, which is why the top plate on the longer part of the closet isn’t the same length the bottom plate.

The bottom plate was screwed in directly through the linoleum to the sub-floor with 2-1/2″ square drive screws (so as not to poke through our tenant’s ceiling!).

IMG_20151008_194450 IMG_20151008_194508

3rd: Next was placing the two main studs on the walls. You’ll notice that on one wall the base trim is gone and on the other, the stud fits much more neatly. That’s because I ripped off the trim and shoe mould of the one wall before a carpenter friend of mine recommended that it would be easier to just use a Multi-Master tool to slice a spot in the trim for the stud and drywall. He let me borrow his.

He was very correct as it took me 20 minutes of painstakingly and awkwardly cutting and nailing trim behind that stationary table that the water heater is setting on. When I finished, it still didn’t look good. The multi-master took about 2 minutes and looked great.

The studs (somewhat bowed and arched because Lowes sells crappy lumber and I didn’t know any better) were screwed into the top and bottom plates. Since there was no stud behind the wall where these were placed, no supporting screws were put between the top and bottom plates. This might be a problem if this was a load bearing wall, but it’s just cosmetic.


4th: Next was putting in the corner. I did this by putting two studs together in an “L” shape and screwed them to the top and bottom plates. One regret I have is that I sort of jammed and tapped these stud into place since I cut them about 1/8″ too long, so they were kind of bowed. This is sort of a no-no, but I needed to make progress.

Then I put in a jack stud for the door to fill in that inside corner of the “L.”

Generally, you’re suppose to put  studs 16″ on center, but I just opted to put one stud in the wall since it wasn’t structural.

It ended up being way off because I didn’t measure 16″ correctly. I honestly don’t know how that happened.



I toe screwed the studs to the plates. Toe screwing is putting screws/nails/fasteners in at an angle.IMG_20151013_190514 IMG_20151013_190520 IMG_20151013_190528

5th: Next was the door. It was a cheap, 6 panel, pre-hung door Lowes…and my studs were a little tight. With a bit of finess, I jammed the door (and the jamb) into its’ spot. The door doesn’t shut flush because the jambs aren’t even, but with the bottom and top plated being slightly off (due to my slight mis-chalk-lining), it’s what we were stuck with. I had to carve a sliver of wood to get it to close right. It’s definitely not the best installed door.

But it opens and it closes!
6th: I put cross studs (obscured by the drywall) and the jack stud over the door. Traditionally, there would have been a jack stud on either side of the door for that door header to rest on, but the wall left no space, so I just had to toe screw it right into the king stud. This would be a deifnite no go if this were a load-bearing wall.

7th: Time for drywall! I basically screwed a 4×8 sheet to the cross-studs which I didn’t get a picture of and then just cut along the wall.

One of the problems that I had was that I didn’t saw off enough of the trim with the multi–master to fit drywall, so I had to carve out a notch in the drywall to make it sit right.
I pretty much just cut along the corner stud to make the piece of drywall fit. Then used that for the thin parts next to the door.


8th: Drywall tape and mud: after I finished cutting and fatsening drywall to the rest of the frame, I needed to tape an mud the joints. I had done this once before on my bathroom cabinet project and I used the pre-stuck mesh tape rather than using mud to afix traditional drywall tape to it. Despite my better judgement due to my not-so-great results on that project, I did it again.

It still proved troublesome.

But by the time that I put some mud over it and realized I had made a mistake, I was too far to go back, so I just kept at it. I’d put 1 layer, wait 24 hrs….IMG_20151017_194437

Another layer.. wait 24 hrs.

IMG_20151017_194500 And finally a 3rd layer of mud!
IMG_20151023_180836 IMG_20151023_180843


This outside corner proved especially tricky because of the aforementioned tape issue. Despite my best efforts, the mesh part of the tape kept peaking through in parts of that corner.

I was later told by a Carpenter friend that you’re suppose to put a “corner bead” on the corner which avoids that problem. Well, I didn’t know that and it’s too late to go back, since I’d already finish painted it!

IMG_20151023_180851 IMG_20151023_180859 IMG_20151023_180910


9th: Prime and paint. Did this on a Sunday. Managed to erase all of my bad pencil marking on the existing walls by matching the paint very well.

10th: Trim-out: I had run base trim, very much ugly base trim, in the bathroom project before. This time, it would be different….

And after messing this up 3 times and having to buy more base trim than was necessary, I did it! I coped the piece of the base-trim that connected to the existing wall’s trim, and mitered the corners to match with my skil-saw. Not too shabby…

Then came caulk. Lots and lots of caulk around the door trim and the space between the wall and the base trim.

My coping of the meeting of the trim… I’d give it a 6.



The final step was shoe mould which I messed up..ohhh…probably 7 or 8 times because the corner isn’t a perfect 90 degrees. Finally I just cut the base mould at a weird angle, and filled the 1/8″ space at the outside corner with wood putty…

One day, I will install shoe mould well!!!

I painted the trim and voia-la!IMG_20151112_073529
Our kitchen looks a tiny bit smaller and the closet wall’s a little off, but now we don’t have a water heater hanging out in the corner in plain sight. We also now have a place to stash our tall trash and recycling cans (which use to just be next to the water heater out in the open)…paper grocery bags… cleaning supplies (brooms, mops, etc.) and I have a sense of accomplishment having done a job in spare time over 6 weeks that would have taken a decent carpenter an afternoon to do!

Kudos to Melanie who put up with 6 weeks of tools, lumber, etc in the kitchen ever so patiently and our tenant who had to deal with my going up and down the stairs 80 times to make cuts on the front porch.

Tools used:

  • Stud detector
  • Plumb bob
  • Chalk line
  • Framing square
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Pencil
  • Step ladder
  • Skil-saw Circular saw
  • Sawhorses
  • Swanson Speed Square
  • Black and Decker corded drill and driver that I’ve had for 10 years.
  • Utility knife
  • Assorted hand screw-drivers
  • 2″, 4″, and 8″ Scraper Blades for drywall mud
  • Coping saw
  • Hammer
  • Bosch Multi-Master Tool
  • Paint brushes
  • 9″ Paint roller
  • 3 Spare rags
  • Swear jar


  • 2x4x10s (11) I actually only would have needed 8, but I messed up a lot…
  • 4x8x3/8″ drywall (2 sheets)
  • 2-1/2″ and 3″ square-drive screws
  • 2-1/4″ Drywall screws
  • 1 2’8″ x 6’7″ pre-hung door
  • Roll of drywall tape
  • Pre-mixed drywall mud
  • 10′ beaded base trim (I used 20, but that’s because I messed up so many times!)
  • 10′ Shoe mould (I used 2, but that’s also because I messed this up a couple of times)
  • 1″ Trim Nails
  • 1 tube of general caulk
  • .3 gallon primer
  • .6 gallons of finish paint
  • Old newspaper (during painting and caulking)


Charleston, SC – Travel Guide/Travel Stories

This post is about Mine and Melanie’s recent trip to Charleston. It’s meant to function as a minor travel guide, which is why it does not go chronologically according to what we did on the trip. I do, however, try to put some of the anecdotes in here for entertainment value.

Melanie and I had a hectic few months what with work, getting a duplex rent ready, renting it out, tours, wedding planning, etc; so 3 or so weeks ago we decided that we had to go somewhere for my birthday. While still a few weeks away, I get a paid day off for my birthday which was moved to Labor Day Friday, plus Labor Day itself is a holiday, making for a perfect long weekend.

Where to go? Mel’s grandparents who I’d never met live outside of Charleston, South Carolina. We figure that it would probably be good to meet the grandparents before our impending wedding. Coupling that with the fact that I’d never been to Charleston; we decided to killed two birds with one stone in this historic city. So I got the Richmond Tour Guys’ reliable and awesome tour guide, Ray, to take over tours this weekend (which, I might add were very well attended) and we were off!


Getting There – Driving

We left Thursday Night after work to be able to spend more time in South Carolina and split our trip at the 4 (out of 6) hour mark to stay the night in Florence, South Carolina.

We had pre-booked the  Suburban Extended Stay Hotel. For $55 for the night, it was what you’d expect. A bed, a TV, a bathroom, and a kitchenette.

I’ve been feeling itchy on my legs since we left that hotel.

The only time I wore shorts was to bed. You do the math.

Like any good road trip through the South… we spotted many-a- Cracker Barrel. Being from the West Coast, I’d never actually eaten at one. Being that our restaurant choices were few and far between in Florence, South Carolina, Melanie thought it a good idea to have me try it.

The food was what you’d expect for a $7 breakfast of pancakes, turkey sausage and eggs. But the table games, on the other hand…..

I beat it! With the guidance of the women next to us.

I beat it! With the guidance of the women next to us.

Outside of Charleston

We had some time to kill before going to visit Melanie’s grandparents, so we checked out some stuff around the City. There is a long row of plantations along the Ashley River. Our chosen victim was:

Magnolia Plantation – $15/Adult

It was (and is) owned by the Drayton family; an old South Carolinian family. One of the Drayton’s (a priest) got tuberculosis and began gardening as a treatment upon his doctor’s prescription. The result was a very awesome garden that was opened to the public. The gardens were probably much more colorful in the spring, but were still very pretty in early September. The best features were the Spanish Moss, the Live Oaks, the Peacocks……and….alligators!

The Spanish Moss on the Live Oaktrees

The Spanish Moss on the Live Oaktree






Angel Oak Tree– 1,500 year old Tree

Who found it and how? Nobody knows…

The Angel Oak

The Angel Oak


Hampton Inn – Charleston Historic District

Melanie’s parents booked us a room at the Hampton Inn in Historic Downtown Charleston. It was great! Hot breakfast in the morning, solid wi-fi, clean, comfortable beds, nice bathrooms, and killer black out curtains.Our booking even came with a free Historic Tour on a carriage (more on that later).

Only complaint is that there is no free parking. We had to pay $16/day for City Parking since Hampton has no parking garage. A forgivable peccadillo, but still an unexpected expense.

The City and the Sights

Prior to arriving in Charleston, we looked up places to go. There are about 40 different buildings and houses that you could visit in Charleston. Given unlimited time and funds, I probably still wouldn’t. As with churches in Europe, temples in SE Asia, and so forth, you can only see so many before it gets old. I imagine the same would be true for the inside of so many rich dead people’s houses. Not to mention they are around $12-25 to tour.

If you go to Charleston, be selective.

Charleston is a very old City (by American standards anyway). It was founded in 1670 and was surrounded by a wall. Over time, the City filled in the swamps that surrounded the original peninsula to increase its size. It was a center for drinking, gambling, and…… religious tolerance. (See Wikipedia for more history).

As a the proprietor of a fledgling historical walking tour business and an employee of a Restoration Builders of Virginia, just strolling through the City blocks was enough to make the trip worth it. It had some of the first (and some of the strictest) architectural preservation laws in the country. There is block after block of antebellum homes and buildings. There are a myriad of incredible and old churches (as a result of South Carolina’s religious tolerance). The main streets have gorgeous public and commercial buildings. It is almost like a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Check Out that Staircase

Check Out that Staircase


Church Adjacent to Washington Square

Church Adjacent to Washington Square


Aside from the beautiful older homes and churches, there are also several impressive commercial buildings of historical significance.

Four Corners of the Law

There’s a corner of Meeting and Broad Streets is called “Four Corners of the Law.” It is called that because it has St. Michael’s Episcopal Church (God’s Law); Charleston City Hall (Local Law); Charleston County Courthouse (formerly South Carolina’s provincial Capital so, State Law); and the US Post Office and Federal Courthouse (Federal Law).

4 Corners of the Law: St. Michael's Episcopal Church

4 Corners of the Law: St. Michael’s Episcopal Church

US Post Office and Courthoue

US Post Office and Courthoue

Us Customs House

Us Customs House

Old City Market

This market was founded in the early 19th Century to be the meat market. Butchers would carve up their meats and sell it  to shoppers. There was also a separate market for vegetables, dry goods, and slaves.

The market today however is a bustling center of artisans and entrepreneurs. You can buy your souvenirs and other tourist junk here, but also a lot of artists and craftspeople set up booths and do some pretty impressive work.

It’s also very very crowded.


Gator Gutter

Gator Gutter

Inside of the market

Inside of the market

 The Old Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon

“Is the Old Exchange Building a fancy architectural jewel designed to house 18th-century assemblies? Or is it the ghoulish prison of the Revolution, the place where the martyr Isaac Hayne spent his last night? Or is it the place where George Washington greeted his fellow citizens? And there is no question that slaves were sold for generations next to the very balcony from which the Declaration of Independence was read.” (from The Website)

The building itself is impressive and historical, but the neatest thing was the basement. It was a prison during the Revolutionary War where Loyalists and then Rebels were held. It is a brick structure. they built the brick arches by stacking wet sand and laying the bricks around that. It was also built over Charleston’s early walls. In fact, in the basement you can see remains of the old City Wall. It is pretty neat.

The basement tour is worth the $10 price of admission.

The rest of the building is sort of like a museum to the different functions that the building has held throughout it existence. It’s worth poking around in for a bit.

Remains of the Old City Wall in the Basement

Remains of the Old City Wall in the Basement

The brick arches

The brick arches

A wax statue of a clerk when this was storage for the postal service.

A wax statue of a clerk when this was storage for the postal service.



Palmetto Carriage Tour

Being a walking tour guide, I usually prefer to take walking tours (our choice was Free Tours By Foot), but our hotel stay included a free Carriage Tour of Charleston ($25/per ticket), so we opted for that instead. The operator was Palmetto Carriage Tour.

Our guide took us from the market and through the North of Broad area of Charleston. He recounted stories and histories of Charleston; pointed out certain houses and talked of their residents. and pointed out architectural features of Charleston houses such as the large porches that had their own front privacy doors (see below).

Open porches with full outside doors

Open porches with full outside doors

We went by an old prison that was in used up from 1802 until 1939. Ouch! It’s supposedly haunted. Either way, it looks really neat.


I probably wouldn’t have gone on this carriage tour if it wasn’t comped by our hotel. I prefer walking tours, so this probably wouldn’t have been worth it to me at any price.

The tour itself was good, especially if you have kids who can’t do a lot of walking or if you are older. The guide was knowledgeable and interesting. It’s hard to take pictures from a moving carriage (which might explain the poor quality of some of the photos I have up here).You don’t see any of the major sights of Charleston. I would have been more disappointed by this, but we saw a lot of them on the Pub Stroll (talked about later).

However, if this was Trip Advisor, I’d give it 3.5 stars.

Fort Sumter

The famed Fort Sumter. The first shots of the American Civil War rang out here. We booked a ferry to the fort via Fort Sumter Tours (independent operator)for $22/person.

While waiting for our time on the ferry, the National Park Center had a lot of great background information on the American Civil War, as well as Fort Sumter. It gave a great context to what we were about to see.

Once the ferry left, we passed by a couple of other old forts as well, while a Park Ranger very unenthusiastically recounted the events of the assault on Fort Sumter that touched off a gruesome and tragic conflict.

The Fort itself was interesting. It’s a shell of its former self. When you walked onto it though, you could feel 170 years of soldiers killing down time on it. It has a modern portion that was used through World War II which now houses a nice museum. There are some old cannons and the Park Rangers are there to answer any questions.

IMG_20150905_134726 IMG_20150905_152155 IMG_20150905_152532  It’s worthwhile to go to for the history enthusiast such as myself. It was a bit underwhelming, though the novelty was cool; and if you’re in Charleston, it’s a must do because of what it is.

(This coming from the guy who skipped the Louvre when he was in Paris because of the lines).


While we had a drink or two with various lunches and dinners, our main drinking was done on the….

Charles Towne Pub Stroll

Looking for things to do on Trip Advisor, we came across the Charles Town Pub Stroll and booked. We didn’t really know what to expect, but I’ve led bar crawls in Spain and they were a lot of fun and great way to meet people. This tour was the perfect blend of historical tour and pub crawl.

Our guide was knowledgeable, great at story telling, friendly, and recommended good drinks at great bars.

We met at Washington Square Park and our guide, Mike, was dressed as a pirate. He told some stories about Charleston and made a couple of stops on the way to the first bar.

Blind Tiger Pub: This was an old brick building that was a colonial bank turned speakeasy with 3 bars and a nice patio in the old bank vault. It was really, really cool. They even had an old pirate game of a ring on a string that you have to land on a hook.

More fun than it sounds.

Our guide gave us some suggestions of beers to try. We had the Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Beer. I don’t like too sweet of beers, but it almost like an amber with a twinge of sweetness, yet was also hoppy. I don’t have a very sophisticated pallet or ability to describe tastes, but I do know that it was very good stuff.

We hadn’t eaten dinner, so we decided to try the Crab Cakes appetizer. It was only one crab cake and a bunch of french fries. Melanie and I agreed that we would have preferred an extra crab cake and skip the fries. The crab cakes weren’t anything special. We didn’t have any entrees due to time constraints and not wanting to hold up the Crawl.

In between sips, the guide kept the conversation within the group flowing

Us and our guide, Mike

Us and our guide, Mike

The Blind Tiger Pub

The Blind Tiger Pub

The Griffon: was our next stop. It was a bit dark. It was another old brick building, except that it had signed dollar bills decorating the wall. Our guide said that they have the best Fish N Chips in town. We didn’t order them, but some folks on the tour did and very much enjoyed them

Our drinks were Coast Brewing (a Charleston based brewer) Hop Art which was good, but didn’t stick out anymore than hoppy beer XXX from any other craft brewer.

We also tried a local vodka from Firefly, a distillery based 30 mins outside of Charleston. Our guide talked up the Sweet Tea Vodka and it did not disappoint. I’m not even a big vodka guy, but this was so smooth and delicious. If you can rustle some of this up somehow, you definitely should.

Another anecdote by our guide and we were off to:

Craftsmen Taphouse: I have to be honest in saying my brain was getting a little fuzzy at this point. I remember ordering some sort of beer. We did order some Bratwurst Bangers. They were super delish with bratwurst and mustard on a pretzel roll. Super good, and it was half-off because they ran out of casing for Brats, so double score.

More great stories from our guide, of which I’m really getting fuzzy on at this point. (By the way, I’m not telling the stories so that you can go and I don’t ruin the tour for you.) Then our guide dropped us off at

Tommy Condon’s: Pretty standard Irish Bar. There was a great band that our guide told us about who does Irish folk music, but also modern songs in the form of Irish folk music. Super awesome; although their famed fiddler was out sick that day.

As far as the drinks, at this point I had had enough craft beer and just got a Yuengling and a shot of whiskey. We were pretty fuzzy at this point and the last thing I remember is devouring a Chicken Quesadilla which was delicious because I was inebriated and quesadillas are cheesy and delicious.

Then we walked back to our hotel around 11. (Don’t judge okay, I’m turning 30 this year, and we had been drinking since 6:30 when the tour began.)

If you’re in Charleston and you like to drink, I can’t recommend this enough. At $20/person it’s totally worth it if for no other reason than you get to meet other travelers.


Charleston has what they call “low-country cuisine.” It’s basically Southern food with more of an emphasis on seafood (it is an oceanic harbor). Fried Green Tomatoes are also a Charleston thing.

Gilligan’s Grill:

Outside of Charleston we ate at Gilligan’s Grill. I had the fish tacos which were extremely delicious. Melanie had the crab cake sandwich which features cheese and a fried green tomato. I was surprised by how good this place was for a random stop in John’s Neck.

39 Rue De Jean:

A French cafe/restaurant. This was a really random choice. We actually walked about 4 blocks around the hotel looking for a place to eat (we found plenty, but none that we felt like eating at) and finally settled on this spot which was actually right next to our hotel! We had unknowingly walked a giant circle….

Anyway, once we sat down, we found the old brick building (looks like an old warehouse) to be very comfortable and wide open. The waiter was excellent and took time to describe the specials and answer all of our questions about the menu. I always ask the waiter what the restaurant’s specialty is and he offered up the Bouillabaise (Seafood Stewed In Garlic, White Wine And Saffron With Crostini And Red Pepper Rouille; $13.99)) and the Braised Beef Sandwich (Horseradish Aioli And Choice Of Gruyère Or Cheddar Cheese; we opted for Gruyere; $11.99).

Both were extremely delicious. Once again, I’m terrible at describing food, but I know what I like, and these dishes were incredibly delicious. We also got them at Lunch prices which was fantastic and the food we got was worth much more than the price we paid. Highly recommend for lunch.

Fleet Landing:

The next day, after our carriage tour, we ate at Fleet Landing, a seafood/low-country (Charleston) food spot. This was recommended to us by the girl who sold us candied apples. I always ask people “If I only eat at one place in Charleston, where should it be?” and this was her suggestion.

They were very crowded at 2 PM, but we sat at the bar to avoid the wait. The atmosphere was very “coastal” for lack of a better term. It was right on a dock out to Charleston Harbor.

I asked the bartender the best things there and he suggested the Blackened Triggerfish Sandwich (Avocado Aioli, Pepper Jack Cheese, Shredded Lettuce, & Tomato on Toasted Roll; $9.99) so Melanie ordered that. As per the usual, I tried a bite and it did not disappoint.

I had the Chef’s fresh fish choice of the day which was salmon ($13.99). I got it with the daily fresh vegetable (collard greens) and red rice. It was the perfect meal. The salmon was sort of Cajun style, and the greens were so very mouth-wateringly delicious.

By the way, the service was great. Excellent choice candy-apple lady!

Overall Impressions

Charleston has a great vibe. It’s got so much culture and history. History, of course, is my primary interest when traveling and Charleston quenched that thirst in me. Prior to arriving, I had no idea the city had such a big historic district with so many old houses. We could have spent another day or so just walking around the neighborhoods.

Their was nothing special or particularly unique about the “low-country” cuisine of Charleston. As mentioned earlier, it’s basically Southern with a heavy emphasis on seafood. That being said, there are some restaurants that prepare this food very well, and Charleston is a great city for eats.

Would I go back again? Probably. There is a bunch of stuff we missed like walking around Battery Park, the South Carolina State Museum, the Aquarium, some of the other historical buildings that we did not get to go in. That’s stuff that I would be more likely to try out if we were there visiting Melanie’s grandparents again and took a day trip to the City.

I hope somebody find this useful!

Podcast/Book Recommendations: Overcoming Being Overwhelmed and Over Worked.

Feeling Overwhelmed: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (And It’s All Small Stuff)” by Richard Carlson

Right now is a big time of transition for my girlfriend and I. We are about to close on our first Duplex (we are so super stoked); The Richmond Tour Guys is experimenting with charging for tours (this coming weekend is the first of that); and my girlfriend started a new job this week. Between all of this, making time for each other, and my full time gig; it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

For a week or so after we got back from our trip to the West Coast trip, I started really stressing and panicking. There was so much to do. Will paid tours be successful? What if I fail? What if I don’t make the flyers in time? What if I don’t have the tour script memorized? What if the Duplex which seems like an awesome deal from my due diligence, turns out not to be? What if I am not a good landlord? What if I’m neglecting my girlfriend? What if I’m losing connection with my friends and family? What if, what if, what if!?!

Well, I decided after suffering these pangs of anxiety that I needed to stop worrying so much; but needed some tips on how to do (other than Buzzfeed posts). I was listening to an episode of Entrepreneur on Fire (Sorry JLD, I can’t remember which one) and one of the guests recommended “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (and it’s all small stuff)” by Richard Carlson. I bought the AudioBook and listened to it for the next few days repeating certain chapters that resonated with me. The book helped me put all this anxiety into perspective. I mean, I was overwhelming myself so much about what wasn’t getting done, that I paralyzed myself into inaction which created tons of inertia.

The book said a some stuff that I already knew (being present, realizing that things aren’t that big of a deal, etc.), but it’s sometimes necessary to have it hammered in again. Repetition is invaluable.

I suppose the point of this is if you feel constantly overwhelmed, anxious, angry, etc: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” is a must-read. It’s a good healthy dose of perspective.

Overworked “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiosaki

I finally read (well, listened to) Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I totally see why so many people refer this book. It is really mind blowing. As someone who’d always looked with interest upon getting passive income, this book greatly helps expand as to how to make that possible and reminds me of why I want to produce enough passive income to where dictate my lifestyle rather than trading my time for dollars.

The biggest take away for me was to constantly be learning. I already do that, but the book made me realize that almost everything even if it’s not obviously an educational experience, is an opportunity to learn something; be it my day job, giving tours, or writing a blog post.

After having my girlfriend listen, we decided to take our futures into our own hands and we are purchasing our first duplex.

This book has changed the lives of a lot of people and it’s easy to see why.

New Podcast Recommendation: Get Rich Education with Kieth Weinhold

In continually learning; Podcasts help me a lot with this. Via Entrepreneur on fire, which I recommended a couple of months ago, I found a new Podcast that has shot to the top of my list of Podcasts that I regularly listen to:

Get Rich Education With Kieth Weinhold: He is a successful real estate investor who pretty much gives away incredible information for free every week on his Podcast. Listening to it from the beginning is almost like an education series in that he builds off of earlier topics. He starts general with mindset and principles of ways to think about things, then gets into very specific details about tools and strategies. My mind has been expanded a lot since listening to his Podcast. As someone with a fledgling real estate portfolio, having someone give me this information weekly in digestible form is priceless.

I’m still kind of waiting to see what the catch is. One thing is that he invests in Turn-Key real estate in Memphis, and gets $1,000 referral reward if people he refer use their services. Although, the company gives anybody who refers someone $1,000 so it’s not like they are a sponsor of the Podcast (that I know of).

I am currently doing my own due diligence on this Turnkey Real Estate service.

Website/Podcast Recommendation: Bigger Pockets

The other things I’ve discovered since my last post is a social network for real estate investors called Bigger Pockets. It’s completely free (although some extra features require membership; but it’s reasonably priced and totally worth it). It’s a way to connect with other real estate investors, both local and nationally. It also has a blog, a podcast, forums, calculators for flips and buy and holds, and a lot more.

For the last month, my girlfriend and I have been in contract for a duplex and I posted questions on this forum and got answers. There is no way I’d be able to get these answers otherwise. People help you analyze deals, tell you about the market, help with land lording strategies, tax strategies, asset protection and even give advice on specific situations.You can also search the forum and the blogs and find a lot of your answers.

The Buy and Hold calculator alone was worth paying for the Plus membership. I highly encourage anyone even remotely invested in real estate to sign up and get involved in this website; listening to the podcasts; and reading the blogs. I can’t stress how invaluable this resource has been for me over the past 2 months.

The Ups and Downs of Business and the Path to Success

One moment your on top of the world and then the next, life hands you a heaping helping of humble pie.

What Success Really Looks Like

What Success Really Looks Like

Maybe it’s just me and I’m inclined to have big emotional upswings and downswings, but life is a just a crazy roller coaster. Success is less like climbing a mountain and is more like climbing a series of hills that turn into a mountain range, with more hills in-between. Some of these hills and mountains will then have groups of trolls at the top trying to throw you back down the other side and make you start from the beginning, or to the bottom of a mountain that you’ve already climbed.

I will give you an example of this based on events happening solely this past week:

That trolley tour that I was suppose to guide got cancelled. I was very disappointed. The disappointment didn’t stem so much from not getting paid for it (although I’d be lying if I said that didn’t play a part), but stemmed more from the work that I put into mapping that tour route, memorizing the script, and practicing it once per day for 2 weeks all being for naught. True, it helped me write my Church Hill Tour script, and gave me something that I might be able to use if we do this sort of thing down the road; but that’s a tiny consolation.

I found out about this on Monday. On Tuesday, I get a call to give a private tour (which pays pretty well) that evening and execute it almost perfectly.

Success! Up the mountain.

Saturday comes and it’s time for the morning tour and I get one guy who doesn’t tip me anything for the awesome 2.5 hour tour I just gave him.

Well that’s a kick in the pants down the hill.

Granted, I didn’t expect a big turn out because of all of the cool stuff going on for the 150th anniversary of the fall of Richmond at the end of the American Civil War; but seriously; one guy?

Down we go.

So, the inaugural Church Hill tour was that evening as given by one of my new guides, JJ. I didn’t hold high hopes for turn out because of all of the Civil War living history and reenactment stuff going on at the State Capitol. It’s a tough competition, but Lo and behold…..

Inaugural Church Hill Tour

Inaugural Church Hill Tour

19 people show up for the tour!

Back up the mountain.

It’s not easy, but it sure is an exhilarating climb.

Tour Company Stuff, New Podcast Recommendations, WM 31, Star Trek, Musings

I haven’t written anything in a couple of months now, which is hurting my mission of this blog being the first thing that comes up when you Google my very unique name. I’ve still got to chase Spokeo and Quirky off of the first page of results, but that will come. I will take this opportunity to update y’all on happenings with the tour business (why I’ve been so busy), My Wrestlemania 31 predictions, some cool new Podcasts that I’ve been getting into, and pretty much just muse about stuff that I’ve been thinking about.

DSC01521Big Things For the Tour Guys

Big things going on for me with the Richmond Tour Guys. First off, tour season has restarted! I finally get to give tours again. I’ve even brought on 2 guides so I can have some weekends off occasionally. One of them is a recent VCU Grad with a degree in History and the other is long time Church Hill (the oldest neighborhood in Richmond) resident who will be doing 2 tours of Church Hill per month.

That reminds me, I have added a tour of Church Hill which will take place on Saturdays at 3:30 PM and Thursday evenings at 5:00 PM. I’m very excited for these as Church Hill has so much rich history share and the tour ends around a pub, so I may be able to have a pint or two with some of the more interesting tour attendees.

I was also contacted by Taylor’s Classic Travels that has a trolley that they rent out for private events, wine tours, brewery tours, and weddings. They have been hired by The Brownstone and Butler’s Unique Catering to do a tour of Church Hill and are using me to guide the tours. I’m very excited to make this connection and work with Terra and Joe.

If you want to buy tickets to this all-you-can-eat brunch, ride a trolley, and witness me blow your mind with my awesome tour guiding, the link is here.

After I get back from visiting family and friends on the West Coast in June, I’m going to start charging for tours and see if this has legs as a full-fledged business. So if you want to come on the free tour, get it while it lasts!

I’ve also had a ton of other opportunities come my way as well that I’m working on, but can’t mention yet on such a public forum…..

New Podcasts

Entrepreneur On Fire: Since the tour business has been going so well, I have decided that I need to update my business IQ. Since I have no formal business training and I am too busy to read any non-history related books since I’m writing and developing two new tours; I get it in during my morning cleansing ritual (shower, shave, getting dressed, etc.) and driving time (which I have much of) via Podcasts.

Entrepreneur On Fire has given me some, as the host John Lee Dumas would put it, “mind blowing insights” into my business. Basically, he spends a half-hour interviewing various entrepreneurs about their business, how they built it, and finding out their habits. I have gained more insight into how to run, market, and view my business than I could possibly have otherwise.

Ironically enough, the first one that I listened to was an interview with a guy who started Museum Hack which gives entertaining tours of museums in New York.

I was hooked.

Now I listen to the almost every podcast Lee puts out. If you are an entrepreneur, side-preneur (me!), or want-repreneur, this is a great Podcast to check out. It has quickly risen to the top of my podcast Queue.

What the Speak!: This Podcast is all about Public Speaking. Bryan Kelly interviews public speakers of all sorts and learns about their journey, which teaches me all sorts of tips and tricks.  Being a Tour Guide, a lot of what I do is performance based speaking. Since I have no formal education in public speaking (other than a one semester Speech class Freshman year of college where my final project was an epic speech on the word F***) I decided to look for a podcast on the topic.

One Google search later, lo and behold, What the Speak comes up. It really put what I do into perspective. Even without being able to see myself giving tours, I can already see things that I need to work on and improve.

The Thomas Jefferson Hour – Switching gears, this podcast is all about the most famous of Virginians… Thomas Jefferson. Clay Jenkins, award winning Humanities Scholar and Thomas Jefferson researcher, gives in-character interviews as Thomas Jefferson to give his view. It sounds really hokey, but it is one of the most incredible podcasts that I listen to. Jenkins has studied Thomas Jefferson so in depth, that he flawlessly answers questions off the cuff, citing primary sources for reference.

Actually, learning about Thomas Jefferson and all that he accomplished in field literally ranging from A to Z (he even knew how to tie arteries!) will really make one feel intellectually inferior.

Wrestlemania 31 Predictions

Wrestlemania 31 is coming up  and I’m not super thrilled about the card.

The match I’m most looking forward to is Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker. Now that the Undertaker has had his streak broken (last year by Brock Lesnar) it’s fair game as to whether he can win or lose. There’s no assumption that the streak will continue because it’s been broken. They could have Taker lose, and have that be the nail in his coffin as he passes the torch to the self-titled “New Face of Fear” Bray Wyatt, or he could win and redeem himself. I hope he loses and rides out into the sunset…. although by the looks of it he may have trouble getting on the horse. It’s a tossup, but I’ll say Wyatt wins which will fit into the narrative on next year’s Wrestlemania where Undertaker will hang up the boots if he loses and his opponent is some heel who just wants to “put him out of his misery.”

Triple H vs. Sting will be good. They are both incredible in-ring storytellers. Seeing Sting in action in front of 80,000 people again will be nuts. He’s been in small arena’s with TNA for the last 12 years. It’s hard to say who’s going to win, but my money is on Sting to fit with the Wrestlemania hero’s win narrative. The match will be very good.

John Cena vs. Rusev is a feud that I have really been enjoying. There’s just something so old school and nostalgic about a Russian talking smack about the US and the hero standing up and fighting for the country he loves. (Rusev’s actually Bulgarian, but WWE doesn’t have much regard for the geographic knowledge of their audience). They had a really good match at Fastlane and I think this one will be good as well. Cena goes over for the feel good moment.

Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar…. eh.. the build up to this has been atrocious. I mean it’s basically Paul Heyman giving awesome promos and Roman Reigns fighting off the Authority. I like Roman Reigns, but I don’t buy him as a Wrestlemania main eventer. Not yet at least. Lesnar has officially re-signed with WWE, so I think he wins since Reigns is proving to be a non-starter for much of the WWE Universe. I still think Rollins is going to cash in Money in the Bank at WM 31.

By the way, that crowd is going to be very ruthless to Roman Reigns.

The Intercontinental Title Ladder Match is going to be a fun match, but there are better ways to use the guys who are going to be in it. Daniel Bryan was main-eventing Wrestlemania last year and now he’s been jammed into a match with 6 other guys who have nothing else to do on that Sunday night. The build up has been somewhat amusing, mostly thanks to R Truth’s antics, but overall it’s a real non-starter. I say Bryan captures the title in order to bring some prestige back to it.

The Bellas vs. AJ and Paige is also a real non-starter, mostly because I do not like the Bella Twins. Nikki is so sloppy and unbelievable as a credible threat. Paige and AJ can wrestle circles around them. Either way, it’ a Divas match, so the WWe will probably either give them 3 minutes or just bump them when Sting/Triple H goes too long. Because that’s what WWE does to Divas at Wrestlemanias. Paige and AJ for the victory.

Andre The Giant Battle Royal: Who knows? After Cesaro won last year and was summarily buried, it doesn’t feel like this Battle Royal matters as much as it did last year when it was new and could potentially be a stepping stone to greater things. I don’t rightly know who will win; or care for that matter. So…uh… let’s jut say that…uh…. Curtis Axel wins and gets pushed to the stars! Axelmania!

Star Trek

A few months ago, I decided to watch Star Trek, the original series on Netflix. I had never watched it before and had a much different idea of what it was in my mind prior to watching it…..

Zounds! What an incredible show! I mean the production value isn’t incredible, but the messages and morals are mind blowing. Spock’s insights into humanity from a purely logical perspective and his verbal exchanges with Captain Kirk are highly entertaining. The show really makes one think about humanity and society’s faults as well as our greater qualities such as a soul and free will. Things that we take for granted are put on display in different species that lack these things.

I’m almost ashamed I hadn’t given it a chance before. I’m smack dab in the middle of season 2 right now.

Other Thoughts

  • I was at Sweetfrog by the theater the other day waiting for my beautiful girlfriend to meet me and ventured over to see what was playing and realized I had never heard of any of the movies that were playing. You see, Melanie and I cut our cable cord a year or so ago and have not looked back since. Between the internet, Netflix, and Hulu, we don’t miss anything AND we get to save money and not watch all of the commercials. The commercials we see are not the same as they are on actual TV so we never see movie previews. I’m pretty sure they’re all going to be terrible anyway. Anything that’s grandiose enough to win awards is not worth paying to see in theaters anyway when it will be out on VOD and DVD in 2 months.
  • Light beer is disgusting. I use to drink it if it was present at a gathering. I liked it okay. I accidentally bought Yuengling Light the other day and was severely disappointed to taste that flavorless beer when I was expecting delicious Yuengling.
  • Yuengling, for my West Coast compatriots who haven’t heard of it, is a great East Coast beer. It’s like a step above Bud/Coors/Miller in terms of taste and maybe $1 more expensive for a 6-pack, but not quite as expensive or heavy as craft brews. I had never actually heard of Yuengling until I moved to the East Coast, because apparently it isn’t distributed West of the Mississippi. It is the oldest brewery in the country, by the way.
  • I want to have a Podcast in the worst way…. soon…..

Remember everybody, Matthew Maggy says “zip it up and zip it out!”


Stories From The Road: How I Got the Nickname “Cowboy” in Cambodia

Chillin at Utopia, where I worked for 6 Week in Cambodia.

Chillin at Utopia, where I worked for 6 Weeks in Cambodia.

My nickname while I worked at Utopia in Sihanoukville, Cambodia was… “Cowboy.”

There was a stray cowboy hat that said “Cambodia” across it that was laying around at Utopia, the hostel/bar I worked at in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. I picked it up, washed it and started wearing it.

Every day.

All of the time.

Because I’m from the United States, wore the hat, and used Snuss (chewing tobacco, which I have long since given up), Europeans, Aussies, and Brits started calling me “Cowboy” (mostly because they couldn’t remember my name, but remembered the hat). It is, by far, the coolest nick name that I’ve ever received.

The nickname doesn’t fit at all. Yeah I might be Libertarian leaning, but I grew up in the Bay Area, California. Though, I did live in Reno, NV for about 7 years which is the Wild West…so I guess there’s a bit of Cowboy connection.

My friend ("Buddha") invited me to join their table because they liked the hat. He wore it. A true privelege

My friend (“Buddha”) invited me to join their table because they liked the hat. He wore it. A true privelege

Anyway, I lost it at a bus-ride rest stop somewhere between Mui Ne and Hoi An, Vietnam. I genuinely felt a sense of loss. I had grown very attached to that hat. Since I was in the middle of a harrowing, fiasco-filled 24 hour bus experience and had already read all of 1984 by George Orwell, I decided to write about it in my travel journal. This is not masterful prose by any stretch of the imagination, but a pondering of why I felt such a sense of loss. It is also a journal entry, so it is not proofread.

“I lost my hat. My Cambodia hat. It has been with me for only one month but it has been with me through so much. I will never own a hat quite like that again. It gave me an identity, a recognition, a “look,” impressed the ladies, gotten me goodwill from foreigners and the locals alike, shielded me from the sun (both asleep and awake), and was my prized souvenir of my travels.

I left it at a rest stop in Vietnam. I hope that hat is found, worn, and treasured by someone. Perhaps it will shield them from the sun preventing sunburns or skin cancer. Maybe it will help another guy with the ladies. Maybe a local will pick it up, have a good laugh with his friends, and toss it aside to be left as garbage. That hat has passed between 3 people, and my hope is that it continues to be picked up and passed on living on in other people’s photos; forever a part of their trek through South East Asia. It’s a magical hat of sorts. It’s a symbol of freedom from the drudgeries of daily life, and a symbol of joys and hardships experienced on the road.

Maybe it’s that as my trip comes to a close, that I’m ready to part with a life on the road in which that hat represents. Perhaps it’s a sign that I need a new hat to adventure with until that is too lost and passed on to the next worthy wearer. A symbolism of shedding one phase and moving to the next.

If that hat represents freedom does that mean that I’ve lost the freedom that the road has given me? NO! I’m always free in my own way.

Or maybe my hat just blew away and is thrown in the trash…”

My friend from Spain who I met on the bus and later kicked it with in Hoi An, Vietnam said “I don’t get it. Why don’t you just buy a new hat?”

He just… didn’t…understand….


Tuan who I met in Da Lat, Vietnam and brought me to his friend’s house for a Tet party


In Mui Ne, Vietnam

In Mui Ne, Vietnam

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

At the Elephant Waterfall in Da Lat, Vietnam

At the Elephant Waterfall in Da Lat, Vietnam

Hey! That's not what cowboys ride!

Hey! That’s not what cowboys ride!