Forever Young, But Growing Old

A travel and lifestyle blog for Baby Boomers
Two days, seven farms…priceless lessons from A.S.A.P. in North Carolina

Two days, seven farms…priceless lessons from A.S.A.P. in North Carolina

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North Carolina’s politics might be sketchy but a growing number of farmers, concerned with the state’s environment, is making up for it. The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (A.S.A.P.) is a nonprofit that supports local farmers by providing training and marketing support, connecting farms to local chefs for authentic farm-to-table dining, as well as “creating healthy communities and thriving local food economies.”

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Each year A.S.A.P. hosts a farm tour in the Asheville area with several clusters of family-owned farms, vineyards and creameries opening their gates to the public for educational journeys through the life of local cultivators, ranchers and agriculturalists. It’s an eye-opener to see the kind of hard work that goes into running and maintaining a successful farm, whether it’s raising cattle, pigs and hens, to growing berries or harvesting sheep’s wool.

This one wanted attention by screeching at us

This one wanted attention by screeching at us

Learning to milk a goat

Learning to milk a goat at Spinning Spider Creamery

With the help of A.S.A.P., organic farming is becoming a mission for young people striving to give back to the environment by cultivating their crops in an agriculturally responsible manner, thereby guaranteeing fertile land for generations to come. We were encouraged to meet millennials starting their own farms or continuing the family tradiiton. The young couple at Big Ivy Little Farm are a testament to the concept of giving back to the environment and community. Nick and Hitomi’s belief in “Big taste from a little space,” through regenerative and permaculture models of farming, prove what can be accomplished on just 2 acres of land.

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Shitake mushrooms

Shitake mushrooms

Big Ivy Little Farm

Big Ivy Little Farm

Farm or Barn weddings are a big deal in North Carolina, providing extra income on the weekends. Several, like Franny’s Farm, offer cabins for family members, providing a total immersion into country-themed nuptials.

A lot of farms receive extra income from hosting weddings

A lot of farms receive extra income from hosting weddings, Franny’s Farm

We were impressed with Paul’s solution to the berries being raided by bears at Long Branch Environmental Education Center. No guns needed, just raise a ruckus with pots and pans to scare them off. Sustainability is their mantra and the blueberries date back decades to the mother plant by taking cuttings and creating daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter plants, providing fruit for generations to come.

Paul educating us at the Long Branch Environmental Education Center

Paul educating us at the Long Branch Environmental Education Center

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Either use the compost toilet or pee in a bush

Either use the compost toilet or pee in a bush

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Renewable energy - a no-brainer

Renewable energy – a no-brainer

We'll be back in a few weeks to pic when ripe

We’ll be back in a few weeks to pick when ripe

This year the grandkids got to sample cheeses, cuddle bunnies, milk a goat and enjoy a hayride to the top of a hill overlooking a cattle farm. Two days and seven farms later, their heads were full of useful knowledge about what it takes to get a carton of eggs, beef for burgers or lettuce and tomatoes to market for their consumption. Learning about sustainability, living off the grid and taking personal responsibility for the preservation of the environment, are good lessons to take home to Florida.

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Love interrupted…for seventy years!

Love interrupted…for seventy years!

Beth and Rowland. Photo courtesy Cynthia Ballard Borris cynthiaborris@blogspot.com

Beth and Rowland. Photo courtesy Cynthia Ballard Borris cynthiaborris@blogspot.com

Having recently traveled to Manchester, NH, to attend the annual National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC) conference, I looked forward to the usual writing inspiration and comradery, but never expected to meet two nonagenarians with a love story to write home about. At the age of 90 and 91, Beth and Rowland were lucky to reconnect after a seventy-year separation and marry, with their story documented in the New York Times a few years back.

The sweet couple flew all the way east from California to attend, which is an accomplishment in itself at their age. I’ll not be complaining again about jet lag, as I do even without traveling outside our time zone! These two might have moved a bit more slowly than the rest of us, but their genuine enthusiasm for life, and each other, was contagious.

The love birds first met when they were just 12 and 13 during summer trips with their respective families to New England. Beth was smitten but Rowland wasn’t ready for a serious relationship at such a tender age, and treated her as a tomboy. When their families moved on and those summer meetups ended, Beth was devastated and never forgot her first love.

Decades later, still writing for the Marin Independent Journal, Beth wrote a reminiscent piece about her time, as a child, in New England and mentioned Rowland’s name. Lo and behold, a friend of Rowland’s saw it and passed along the pertinent info about Beth. Long, but rich, story short, the two reconnected and were married. Beth admitted, however, that when she found out he had become a Republican, she had second thoughts. She did reassure me, though, that she convinced him to vote the right (left) way and they are now on the same political page.

Beth has a bit more difficulty getting around these days but the ever-attentive Rowland makes sure she’s comfortable. At a couple of points during our conference sessions Beth would doze off and Rowland would nudge her gently. Once, when he couldn’t get her attention, his hand moved to her thigh causing her to pop up, slap his hand and giggle. She stayed awake for the rest of the session!

Rowland rockin' the pony tail at 91...such affection for each other

Rowland rockin’ the pony tail at 91…such affection for each other

To witness such affection and love at their age is a wonderful thing and gives us hope that love is, indeed, eternal.

***And I have to add a postscript…our fellow writer, Christine McDonald, of My Little Shangri-La adds this…”And I saw them boarding their rental curbside. It was a snazzy little white convertible, ragtop down. He was loading up while she sat by observing. He then went and assisted her into the car. He was grinning from ear to ear the whole time, buzzin around like first date excitement. What a beautiful story.” When I grow up I want to be just like them!

Beth with NYT Columnist Maureen Dowd at the NSNC17 conference. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Ballard Borris cynthiaborris@blogspot.com

Beth with NYT Columnist Maureen Dowd at the NSNC17 conference. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Ballard Borris cynthiaborris@blogspot.com

Orlando’s Secret Gardens

Orlando’s Secret Gardens

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Last weekend we were finally able to tour “The Private Gardens of Historic Orlando” – this time featuring the beautiful landscapes of the Lake Eola Heights neighborhoods. It was the 8th bi-annual tour, so it took us long enough to finally join the party.

Plant sale at the Handy Pantry

Plant sale at the Handy Pantry

We toured ten homes throughout Lake Eola Heights, starting at the Handy Pantry, where we picked up our map and ID bracelet. Tents were set up for a plant sale and the Pantry was open for treats. Gardens were located at homes along Amelia, Hillcrest, Concord, Summerlin and Livingston Streets…old, established neighborhoods, some still paved in brick, with trees and foliage dating back centuries.

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Gives new meaning to the term "lawn bowling"

Gives new meaning to the term “lawn bowling”

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Lots of potted plants at this one

What a great way to display a magnolia blossom!

What a great way to display a magnolia blossom!

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We’ve driven past these bungalows and craftsman homes, never giving them a second look, but they hide floral secrets in their backyards full of lush beauty. One of the homes boasts tons of cacti – lovely even when they’re not blooming…

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Peace in the middle of a cactus garden

Peace in the middle of a cactus garden

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Weird, wooly things

Weird, wooly things

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This tour is a great way to get to know the neighborhood and discover new ways to display and create works of art. The hosts were gracious and happy to answer questions.

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The architecture of nature

The architecture of nature

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One of the homes, Piney Green, was built in 1934, by designer Sam Stoltz for a mere $4,500. The cedar siding and stone chimney is called Florida Vernacular and includes some of the oldest foliage in town.

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This is what a podocarpus becomes when left to grow for decades

This is what a podocarpus becomes when left to grow for decades

Tickets were $15 in advance, benefitting the Lake Eola Heights Historic District and the Orange Preservation Trust, working to preserve those areas in Orange County and Orlando which are so rich in history. The next one will be in the Lake Lawsona/Fern Creek neighborhood. Keep an eye out for info as this tour is worth your time providing a peaceful respite from the crazy world around us.

Loved these birdhouses

Loved these birdhouses

Such serenity

Such serenity

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National Columnists’ Day April 18 – Buy a writer a drink day!

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National Columnists’ Day

In honor of the anniversary of Columnist Ernie Pyle’s death, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists created National Columnists’ Day, April 18. In case you don’t know who Ernie Pyle is, he’s become the unofficial patron saint of newspaper columnists. This brave reporter covered World War II from the front-lines, killed by a Japanese sniper on April 18, 1945.

With the onset of so many newspapers’ demise and writers being laid off, blogging has become a major influence in reporting and opinion writing. The journalistic standards Ernie Pyle followed are needed more now than ever in the face of alternative facts and outright lies being propagated by anyone who knows how to boot up a computer. Thankfully, newspapers, like the Orlando Sentinel, are still viable and a go-to source for the truth and responsible opinion pieces.

I’m inspired by people like Rick Brunson, educating prospective journalists at the University of Central Florida, and Christal Hayes, a former student of Rick’s, who, early in her newspaper career, was faced with the monumental task of covering the country’s worst massacre at the Pulse Nightclub. She can add being part of a team which was a finalist for the recent Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Reporting to her resume. (Check out Poynter’s article about how the Orlando Sentinel handled reporting the event with one third of the staff it once had.)

So, send your favorite columnist, whether in print or online, a fan email and let them know how much they are appreciated on this day of recognition. In a world of internet trolls, a few positive words will go a long way to show appreciation for truth in journalism.

Warning: Old lady reminiscing…

Warning: Old lady reminiscing…

Photo courtesy Orlando Sentinel

Photo courtesy Orlando Sentinel

 

Back in the stone ages, when I was in high school (we’re talking 50 years ago) my dad upgraded his hi fidelity turntable to a stereo system. Luckily, I inherited the hi-fi which was creatively fitted into my closet, along with a large, mahogany speaker. I thought I’d died and gone to rock ‘n roll heaven.

Among my Beatles, Rolling Stones, and even Johnny Mathis, albums were my favorite Beach Boys. If I turned the volume down real low, I could listen at night without disrupting the rest of the household (remember, kids, this was before ear buds). “In My Room” was a dreamy, mood lowering tune that would fill me with peace. “Round, round, get around,” would have me on my feet dancing around the room. I knew Dennis, Brian and Carl on a first name basis, in my room, of course, but never saw them in concert.

That is, until last night. Carl and Dennis are long gone but Brian Wilson and Al Jardine put on quite a show at a full house in the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center. I expected to see nothing but gray-hairs in the audience but was pleasantly surprised at how many 30-somethings were in attendance. Just like us, they knew every word and seemed to appreciate the genius of this song-writer who has seen difficult times.

Al Jardine’s son, Matt, would perfectly find the notes that Brian is no longer able to hit and, seamlessly, finished verses that Brian would start. With the help of eleven other band members, the house rocked and we felt like we were transported back in time to 1966 when the Pet Sounds album was released. He saved some of the more obscure stuff for the second half after a brief intermission but bounced back with “Good Vibrations” and had everyone on their feet for “Barbara Ann” and “Help Me, Rhonda.”

I choked up seeing him walking gingerly across the stage with help from a band member, but as soon as he sat down to the piano, the old energy took over. His songs transcend time and have such a lasting effect, especially his last, “Love and Mercy”…we could all use a dose of that these days.

Though he sat out a few numbers and his speech was a bit slurred at times, he projected love for his art and had us all in the palm of his hand, hanging on every note. Let’s hope he’s around for many years to come, spreading love and mercy to all who love him.

Photo courtesy Orlando Sentinel

Photo courtesy Orlando Sentinel

Deadly Sins Brewery, a surprise find off the beaten path

Deadly Sins Brewery, a surprise find off the beaten path

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So, you might have read about our used car buying experience. Well, we wound up with totally the opposite of what we originally wanted and found ourselves in need of a Swedish auto mechanic. The Volvo Store had a 2 week wait on service appointments so we went online searching out an independent shop resulting in a fantastic find…Swede Central!

When you find a mechanic you can trust, you feel you’ve won the lottery. And, when it’s located a half block from a brewery, you’ve really hit the jackpot. We discovered Deadly Sins on Jackson Avenue, an industrial street off Fairbanks, around the corner from 4Rivers Smokehouse…another perk! We sauntered into the brewery one afternoon and discovered a sweet little place with tasty offerings and great conversation.

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Our flight that day included Crème del Diablo, Margarita Saison, White Squall and A Lil High. As you can tell, we’re wimpy beer drinkers and prefer the lite stuff, versus dark ales and stouts. The Saison was my fave but Tom Adams, the co-owner, wouldn’t disclose the ingredients that gave it such a great flavor. Tom and Ana decided to open their own brewery after years of dabbling in home brewing. A visit to Asheville cemented their determination to go it on their own and share their passion with others.

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The business has grown in popularity with the addition of live music and food trucks. Swede Dish shows up, from time to time, with their signature Swedish favorites. No relation to Swede Central, just a happy coincidence.  Deadly Sins also started a running club with beer specials for runners and two or three mile routes available for those so inclined.

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Though their location is hidden, the discovery of a new brewery in town was fun and, since our new used car will be making more visits to the Swedish car doctor in the future, we’ll make sure to stop in and chat with our other new friends, and share a brew or two.

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Deadly Sins Brewery is located at 750 Jackson Avenue in Winter Park and is open Monday thru Thursday at 5 pm, Friday at 4, and noon on Saturday and Sunday.

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Quantum Leap – Orlando’s hometown winery

Quantum Leap – Orlando’s hometown winery

 

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You may have seen their bottles in Whole Foods or ordered a glass at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center before a show. But, you might not be aware that Quantum Leap Winery is located in town, on a side street in the Mills/50 District of Orlando. Fortunately, for us, they have extended the hours they are open to the public. You can stop by for a taste test, Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. They dub themselves, “Your local urban winery.”

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On a recent visit we were offered their new Pedaler’s Hard Cider, named the Best Cider in Florida by the brewer’s guild…and it was their very first batch that won! The selection is wide with grapes grown in locations like Michigan, Napa, Washington state and Italy, to name a few.

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We met Norm and Matt, whose expertise and amazing knowledge of every aspect of wine-making was impressive. The passion that couples with their extensive know-how produces a fine product, of which Orlando can be proud. They also have an environmental conscience, making sure the business model follows sustainable philosophies in all aspects of production.METADATA-START

Ever mix chocolate with wine? Peterbrooke Chocolatier of Winter Park offered up a dark chocolate/sea salt concoction which, paired with cheese and a red, bursts with flavor. How about a wine bottle dipped in chocolate? Peterbrooke has their way of creating a special gift all in one package.

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If you’re hungry, Quantum Leap offers a choice of charcuterie with crackers, cheese and chocolate to pair with your wine selection. They’ll even give you a free tour if they’re not slammed with fellow tasters. The winery is also available for private parties and weddings. The bride and groom might recite their vows between fragrant barrels of wine with guests milling about the inner workings of the actual wine production.

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So, set the GPS to 1312 Wilfred Drive, Orlando, and plan to get educated as to how a sustainable winery operates in your hometown. It’s a business model to be proud of and, hopefully, will expand in a city that appreciates its local success stories.

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Are you invisible?

Are you invisible?

I am rerunning a previous post about aging and ageism as it continues to be an issue, especially in light of recent events. During the Academy Awards show, I’m sure more than one person made the observation that the screw-up at the end, with the incorrect Best Picture being read by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, was the result of an older actor’s inability to read the card correctly. Or how about Harrison Ford’s recent near-miss while landing his airplane. Were you ready to put him out to pasture, blaming his age for his mistake? Read on, this from a few years ago when I was a mere 65…

Lately I have been feeling that my life can be described as, “The years of living invisibly.” Having reached the age of 65, I seem to have fallen into a generalized abyss of generations that are no longer taken seriously.

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The other day I was filling out a survey and, when asked for age, the choice after “55-64” was “65 and older”…huh? I am being lumped in with those aged 75, 85 and 95? Unless you are filling out a questionnaire about Depends or dementia, it appears that your opinion is not valued after a certain birthday. Mick Jagger just turned 71, should he be thrown into a generic over-65 category?

 

Courtesy Sun Sentinel

Courtesy Sun Sentinel

Yes, I am 65 years old and my mother will turn 89 next week. We are of two separate generations. Yet, we are being grouped together as if we are of one mind. This survey tactic makes me wonder if the evaluators just don’t care about the opinions of those over 65 because they think they have us figured out and we are not a marketable cohort. The other day I saw a news report describing a 69 year old woman as “elderly.” Excuse me!?!?! Are you going to describe Debbie Harry, of Blondie, also 69 years of age, as elderly? She’d probably flash one of her fingers at you and it wouldn’t be the pointer!

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Perhaps one hundred years ago, a typical woman in her seventh decade might be content to sit in her rocking chair on a porch and knit, read books or just contemplate the bird feeder. But, in this day and age, 65 wears a new face. In many cases we have reinvented ourselves, taking on new careers or active volunteer opportunities, starting new businesses or learning new skills.

All of a sudden we find ourselves in yet another decade but we are not slowing down. My mother is still shopping for shoes, eating out and taking in movies. Albeit, she might need more help getting there but she is still a viable consumer. Of course, our needs and wants are different, with over twenty years separating our ages. So, why do those marketing agencies which develop said surveys, use the strategy that 65 and up are all the same and no longer matter?

Maybe next time I’ll just lie and check off a different number. If I’m feeling 30ish, that will be the age of choice. On a day when the 65 year old joints are aching I might respond more truthfully. I wonder what Debbie Harry would do!

Courtesy Jamie McCarthy Hartford Courant

Courtesy Jamie McCarthy Hartford Courant

Fake News, in our own Greenwood Cemetery!

Fake News, in our own Greenwood Cemetery!

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Having written about Orlando’s historic Greenwood Cemetery in the past, I was familiar with the layout of the property but, during a recent Moonlight Walking Tour, I found out there is much more to this treasure than acreage. (I’ll get to the fake news part later.) Owned and operated by the City of Orlando, the cemetery was developed in the 1880’s by residents with familiar names like Boone, Livingston, Delaney and Robinson. Throughout the tour we were introduced to burial sites with names of just about every major, and not so major, street and avenue in the city.

Moonlit night

Moonlit night

Don Price, the cemetery Sexton, has been with Greenwood for 30 years and is a walking encyclopedia of historical facts (and maybe some stuff he made up!) of the who’s who in the early days of a city that was originally just one mile square. Born, raised and still living in Winter Garden, Don’s entertaining enthusiasm for every inch of the 120 acres that make up Greenwood, will leave you wanting more. We only covered 20% of the property in a little over 2 hours.

Photo courtesy Orlando Sentinel

Photo courtesy Orlando Sentinel

 

 

As with most cities, Orlando has a dark history involving racism. A portion of the cemetery was set aside for African Americans, not integrated into white society, even in death, until 1967. July Perry, of Ocoee, was finally given a proper headstone at Greenwood in 2002, when citizens of Ocoee raised funds to cover the cost. An advocate for civil rights, Mr. Perry was shot, stabbed and lynched by an angry KKK mob, in 1920, all because he was working to recruit African Americans to register to vote. There is a lot more to this story than I have room for here, but worth researching as Orlando has not always been the happy land of Minnie and Mickey…we have many skeletons in the closet, so to speak.

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Most of the city’s mayors are buried here, one of the most prominent is Carl Langford, whose gravesite is the first one facing the original main entrance on Gore Street. An animated man with a great sense of humor, Mayor Langford was given a full Amish ceremony with glass enclosed, horse-drawn hearse, leading to his distinguished spot in the cemetery. (Ask Don about the “upside-down” tree the Mayor wanted to have planted on his eternal resting place.)Photo courtesy Orlando Sentinel

Photo courtesy Orlando Sentinel

Photo courtesy Orlando Sentinel

And now to Greenwood’s connection to fake news. Walter Duranty, a Moscow Bureau chief for the New York Times, wrote a series of reports about the Soviet Union, in the early 1930’s, downplaying the slaughter of Ukrainian farmers resulting in a devastating famine during Stalin’s regime. Duranty never went into the field but relied on nefarious government sources to incorrectly report on a tyrant who ultimately killed millions. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the series of columns, which were later proven false and many attempts at, posthumously, stripping Duranty of his award have been unsuccessful. Rick Brunson, Associate Instructor at UCF Nicholson School of Communication, Writing Coach at WFTV Channel 9 and Desk Editor at the Orlando Sentinel states, “In a post-truth world of ‘alternative facts,’ Walter Duranty’s story is worth remembering. He’s buried right here in Orlando. But he buried the lead on the most important story of his life.”  His grave “lies” in a section of the cemetery next to his wife’s Enwright family plot.

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Though the Moonlight Walk is not officially touted as a “ghost tour,” one senses the spirits of those who helped make up the charm, eccentricities and personality of a city we all call home. You can find Don’s schedule on the Greenwood Cemetery website. My advice, sign up as soon as the date becomes available and get on the wait list if you’re too late. You won’t be disappointed!

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Looking to buy a used car? Here are 6 reasons not to!

Looking to buy a used car? Here are 6 reasons not to!

What’s your most anxiety-inducing experience…public speaking? Visits to the dentist? How about walking into a car dealership? Would someone please tell me why auto selling still has to follow the mysterious model of trying to fool the customer into spending way more money than the car is worth, not to mention offering peanuts for your trade in?

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Let me state first that I do not intend to offend smart, honest automobile salespersons, but, after three visits to three different dealers, I just feel dirty. One was a bit better than the others, but I still felt like they thought we were idiots, as if trying to buy a car for the first time in our 60 plus years, insulting our intelligence. Now I know CarMax follows a different model with no haggling, no dealer fees and you can return the car and get your money back. We have bought cars from them in the past, but they are a bit higher priced than the norm and this time we’re trying to save some money.

We hate giving up our Prius – second one we’ve owned and drove the last one up to 160k miles – but it’s not a good car to take up to the mountain house in the winter. So, we’re looking to make a lateral move into a used Subaru, not afraid of high miles, but don’t want to dish out major $$$, after our trade, for something that’s not on a par with what we have now. Am I living in an alternate universe to expect better?

Here are some issues we’ve faced when driving into a dealership…

  1. Please don’t walk up to me, patronizingly pouring on the sweet and sappy comments, hoping we’re feeling wonderful on this absolutely beautiful day. A “Hi, I’m so and so, could I help you?” will do. And, maybe give us a minute to actually get out of the car before you jump out of the shadows.
  2. Listen to our list of wants before showing us a car that, obviously, is not what we’re looking for…a nice sedate Outback, not a monster truck
    Photo Courtesy Orlando Sentinel
    Photo Courtesy Orlando Sentinel
  3. If you are selling used cars, please do not offer some listed as “Certified” and others not. We are expecting any used car on a lot to be checked over, making sure it’s eligible and worthy of being on your lot. No fancy names necessary.
  4. Biggest peeve is the “Dealer Fee” – sometimes knows as Doc Fee. This can run anywhere from $300 to $900 and lies in the fine print of the dealer ads. This is just a rip off and no way can it be justified. You’re already making a profit from the advertised price of the car. And we know how to figure out sales tax, thank you, not to mention the fees for transferring tag and title. These are standards costs that do not need to be manipulated.
  5. Then there’s the old sales model of handing us your first offer, when we refuse you take it back to your “Manager” and return with another offer. When we refuse that one and want to leave, your manager appears doing more sweet-talking. For all that is holy, just let us out of here!!
  6. So you’ve managed to make it home, but for the next month there will be a barrage of phone calls and emails with pleas…how can we help? What if we give you $500 more for your trade in? Blah, blah, blah. Thanks, but, no thanks!

 

It’s an ugly experience and you’d think, by now, dealers would get wise to the fact that car buyers actually have a brain, even if they look like addled old people. So, now we’re trying to sell the Prius ourselves and it’s looking like January is not the best month to do that. Probably won’t be making a trip to the mountains this winter!

Photo courtesy flickr