How I sold my truck on Craigslist in 15 minutes


I won’t bore you with all the details leading up to the moment I decided to sell the truck I loved on Craigslist. Let me just say it was a painful process and a difficult reality that took me far too long to embrace.

The truck’s title arrived in the mail earlier that day, three weeks after I had paid off a small title loan. In all honesty, with over 215,000 hard-earned miles and repairs becoming routine, it had become a liability to our tight family budget. I no longer needed the truck and we really needed the money.

Sidenote: We had also been experiencing major issues with my wife’s vehicle, as in the engine seized up when the shop neglected to put oil back in it during a routine oil change and we had to have the engine replaced. When you get a minute, read How I got a new car motor for the price of an oil change.

Finally, it was go time. At about 11:45 p.m. on a Tuesday evening, I sat down to compose the ad, complete with a dozen or so photos and just enough of a description to sell it without exaggerating. I clicked the “Publish” button and made my way out to the hot tub for a little stress relief.


Related blog post: how to write a Craigslist ad that sells.


About 15 minutes later, just a little after midnight, I heard my phone ringing inside the house. I sprang from the spa to see who was calling. It was a Phoenix number I did not recognize. The call log showed it was his sixth attempt to reach me since I published the ad. I also had three text messages from him, and two from others interested in the truck. He wanted to meet me right then so he could buy the truck. Surely he was a scammer, I thought. Who asks a seller to meet for a test drive in the midnight hour? So I turned off my phone, pulled the ad and went to bed.

2001 Ford Explorer Sport Trac
2001 Ford Explorer Sport Trac

The prospective buyer resumed his pursuit at 6 a.m., with both phone calls and text messages. Let me remind you the ad was no longer visible. Finally, I responded with “Sorry, I inadvertently published the ad too soon. I’m not ready to sell the truck yet.” I just wanted this huckster off my back.

We exchanged a few more messages and agreed to meet at his bank, just down the street from me, on Friday morning. He showed up alone, with cash, and we made the trade.

Selling the truck has been a HUGE weight off my back, and has brought great peace to our home. Since this was my fastest Craigslist sale ever (basically 15 minutes), and maybe the fastest anyone has sold a vehicle online, I feel compelled to share my secret.

There is one thing I did before posting this ad that I have never done before, and I believe it made all the difference. I prayed. In the days leading up to my posting the ad, I caught myself griping about what a pain the truck was becoming. When I heard how negative I sounded, I nipped it and turned myself around. I began to thank God for the awesome experiences I had with that truck over the previous six years. Eventually, I asked God to deliver me from the truck and bring forth someone who can benefit from it. And that’s just what He did.

If you are a non-believer, you may choose to discount my explanation as hogwash. However, there are all sorts of stories in the bible of God providing ample blessings to his faithful believers. The moral of my story is summed up by the guidance in Chapter 21 of the book of Matthew, verse 22: You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.

How I got a new car motor for the price of an oil change


Recently I took my wife’s Jeep Wrangler into the shop for a routine oil change.  It was a couple thousand miles overdue and much as I despise the practice, I knew it had to be done. The engine had over 225,000 miles on it and we’ve been starting to come to grips with the fact that we should start putting a contingency plan in place for the day when the inevitable happens.

2001 Jeep Wrangler
My wife’s Jeep Sunshine

When I went to pick it up, everything seemed fine.  I was in a hurry to pick up my daughter from school, so I jumped in his driver’s seat and took off down the road. A couple miles later it began to sputter and lose power. Beneath the sound of the air conditioner and stereo I had not heard that the car stopped running.  Once I noticed it lost power, I shut everything off and realized that engine was no longer running. So I put the car in neutral and tried the ignition switch.  No dice.  It was not going to start.

I coasted onto the shoulder and face the reality that something major was wrong. Long story short, I had it towed back to the the shop where I placed the burden of proof on the shop manager to convince me they put oil in the engine. He couldn’t do it.

“Don’t worry,” he told me. “We will make it right.”

For me there was only one way he could make it right, so I asked him to elaborate. “We’re going to have to put a new engine it. At no cost to you.”

It took about a week, but they made it right. The shop found the identical engine from another Jeep with only 70,000 miles on it.  For the price of an oil change, the Jeep that my wife fondly named Sunshine was transformed from a tired old hen to a lively spring chicken.

 

I have witnessed the Phoenix lights


In the 10 o’clock hour of Monday, April 14, 2014 while the eyes of many were focused on the eastern skies for the lunar eclipse of the blood moon, something unusual and unexpected was happening in the sky west of our home.

It had been a long day for me, so I turned in early and was sound asleep by 10 p.m. Around 10:30, my wife came to the bedroom and woke me up in somewhat of a panic. She had trouble coming up with the words, but she was adamant that something strange was happening in the sky.

Eager to continue my slumber, I murmured a quick explanation of the eclipse and tried to return to sleep.

“This is not an eclipse,” she said. “There are some strange lights shining in the sky behind our house.”

She first saw the lights from our kitchen window downstairs. The angle was just right for her to see the glowing lights between the trees and rooftops situated between our home and the open desert an eighth of a mile to the rear.

After waking up and taking a quick look, I knew she was right. The heavy shade screens on our bedroom windows distorted the view somewhat, so I trotted out to the patio for a clearer view. There they were just like so many other had described before.

My wife and I are faithful Christians and generally categorize UFO sightings and the like as fiction. About a month earlier, I had heard a blurb in the news about the anniversary of the Phoenix Lights – a phenomenon of unexplainable lights that thousands of Phoenix residents reported seeing about the same time of night back in 1997.

After the lights “turned off” we returned to bed and broke out the iPad to do some research. The most recent post of any sort relating to the lights was from March 20, 2014. A gal reported seeing exactly what we saw as she returned to Phoenix from San Diego on I-8. Her view was from the south and the lights were over the same vicinity: the Estrella Mountain – Gila River Indian Community area.

Here is an excerpt from her blog post:

We noticed that 4 more of these orbs appeared in a line. They were bright orange orbs floating in same spot radiating intense light. For the next 2-5 minutes these orbs continued to appear and disappear across different positions in the sky. Out of nowhere once again, it was as if someone flicked a light switch when they just disappeared.

We never saw the orbs move to a position other than a vertical line. However, her light switch analogy perfectly describes how the light left the sky.

I was struck by the fact that the orbs could hold their straight-line position considering that on the night we witnessed them, the wind was blowing hard enough that the palm trees were swaying around pretty good. Another memory that stayed with me was that there was absolutely now sound, as we experience when planes or helicopters fly overhead.

The following day I did a little more research. Two things convinced me that there is more to these lights than meets the eye:

  1. In the Phoenix Lights documentary on YouTube, dozens of people who previously didn’t believe in UFOs detail accounts very similar to what my wife and I experienced. The documentary clearly rules out that what we saw as being any part of military operations.
  2. There are several articles that point out the native people who inhabited this area before us have reported similar sightings for hundreds of years. Some historians believe that even the notorious petroglyphs etched in rocks around South Mountain Park in Phoenix tell of visits from celestial beings.

This experience has completely opened my mind. I don’t believe we have been invaded by aliens and I don’t think that what we saw is cause for alarm. But, I will forever be on the lookout for objects in the sky that take me back to that night in April 2014. I still cling to my faith that there is only one God and that Jesus is the key to my eternal salvation. However, I am now convinced that some of us on earth have and will experience things that are not of this world and not explainable by man.

A remarkable display of patriotism


My wife and I have been looking after an elderly 30-year U.S. Air Force veteran whose service spanned the entire Vietnam era, and then some.

Recently, he needed some concrete and tile work done in the main bathroom and he expressed to my wife that he was worried about the cost.

A contractor named Efrain came over to see what kind of work needed to be done and returned the following day. While waiting for the concrete to set, he took time to ask the Vet about some pictures from the retiree’s flying years that my wife arranged neatly on the wall just a few days earlier.

As Efrain finished the job and headed for the door, the elder asked how much he owed.

“Thank you for your service,” was Efrain’s reply.

Remarkable!

I would love to hear your stories of how you honor veterans or remarkable displays of patriotism you have witnessed.

Cruising Arizona’s Apache Trail


I had a free weekend in mid-January 2014, so my oldest daughter and I took to Arizona’s open roads and checked the Apache Trail off our Arizona Bucket List. The roughly 5-hour loop begins just north of the town of Apache Junction on the eastern edge of Phoenix metro. Most of the drive consists of fairly navigable two-lane blacktop. It’s the 25 or so miles of dusty, washboard road that will keep me from rushing back.

Prior to moving to Phoenix in 2012, I spent 17 years in the Denver – Boulder area of Colorado and did plenty of driving in the Rocky Mountains. So, I am fairly adept at handling steep, winding roads. However, I wasn’t prepared for just how steep some of the sections on the Apache Trail would be. In particular, Fish Creek Hill requires you to ride the brakes almost non-stop as you descend over 1,500 feet in elevation in just a couple miles. Even riding in my vehicle’s lowest gear, the decline was too steep to cruise without the use of brakes. As a result, many drivers, including me, pulled off about two-thirds of the way down the hill to let the brakes cool off – and take a few pictures.

I will let the pictures below tell the rest of my story; however, if I had to name a highlight it would be the awesome splendor of Apache Lake – a Goldilocks sized reservoir sandwiched between Roosevelt and Canyon Lakes along the Salt River. At one point, we backed my truck onto a small driveway on a bluff overlooking the marina area and sat on the tailgate to chow down our picnic lunch. As we resumed the drive, I was awestruck by the towering cliffs shooting out of the glassy, narrow channel on the lake’s eastern end. The visuals ignited dreams of bringing my family back in warmer months to cruise the lake in a rental boat.

Views from the Apache Trail (click any image to enlarge):

Hike review: Phoenix South Mountain, Lost Ranch – National – Pyramid


When skiers use the phrase “earn your turns” they are talking about hiking to a snow-covered section of mountain that cannot be accessed by a chairlift in order to ski it. The phrase that kept coming to me during this hike was, “earn the burn.” As in, burn in the legs.

Let me remind you, I am hiking the trails of neighboring South Mountain to get my legs in shape for a May 2014 hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and back out. If you’re looking to get your legs in shape, burn is good – and so is this hike.

I have not verified this point yet, but I would be willing to bet that this is the only trail in Arizona that leads you through a window of a burnt down structure, as you seen in the pictures below. This spot is known as Lost Ranch. It’s about a mile into the hike from the trail head, and where all the fun begins.

From here, you hike down through a pretty deep wash, then it’s all uphill for about another mile until you connect with National Trail. At this point, you hook a right and head east on National until it connects with Pyramid Trail about four miles later. If you’re in for a little more elevation gain, take an extra ten minutes and hike up Goat Hill for an outstanding view in all directions from 2,504 feet above sea level.

When I hiked it (January 2014), I did not encounter another person on that entire stretch. Once you connect to Pyramid Trail, you do a virtual about-face and head west about 1.5 miles before reaching what many consider the top of the trail.

Here is where I discovered my first petroglyph on South Mountain. I hear there are numerous petroglyph sites scattered throughout the park.

Petroglyph near the top of Pyramid Trail
Petroglyph near the top of Pyramid Trail

Speaking from experience, the descent down the face of Pyramid Trail can be challenging, but nowhere near as tough as the hike up it.

Hike details:

  • Trail: Lost Ranch – National – Pyramid
  • Length: 9 mile loop
  • Time: 3.5 hours
  • Elevation gain: negligible
  • Difficulty: 1,270 (includes Goat Hill)
  • Date hiked: January 11, 2014

*Rough estimates. I don’t do GPS.

Hike review: Phoenix South Mountain, Sidewinder – Secret Trail Loop


The Sidewinder – Secret Trail loop is one of the easiest, yet most rewarding, trails I have hiked on South Mountain.  I estimate that the hike is about 2 miles round-trip and there is very little elevation gain. I intentionally chose this trail because I only had about an hour so before sunset and knew it would not take long.  The loop took me just over an hour to complete.

I found that the Secret Trail section of this hike was most intriguing since it runs along the desert floor, just at the foot of South Mountain.  From the trail, you can see a rocky crag rising up sharply toward the peak. I looked briefly for some of the fabled petroglyphs that are legend to exist in these parts, but I did not see any.  Closer examination would have required going off the trail.

I would recommend this trail for anyone who is looking for an be easy trail with spectacular views. Take a look at my pictures to get a taste of what the trail offers.  The trail head is located in a residential neighborhood near 36th Street & South Warpaint Drive.

Hike details:

  • Trail: Sidewinder – Secret Trail
  • Length: 2.0 miles round-trip*
  • Time: 1.0 hours
  • Elevation gain: negligible
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Date hiked: January 9, 2014

*Rough estimates. I don’t do GPS.

Check out the pictures and captions below for more insights. Click on pics to expand.

My new year’s resolution: Dropping the F-bomb


I know what you are thinking.  Why would anyone want to make using the F-word a resolution?  That’s just it: I don’t want to start using the F-word. I want to drop it from my vocabulary altogether. Image

For many of you, this may sound like a trivial resolution.  However, use of the F-word has become all too commonplace for me.  Although few people in my social circles have heard me use the F-word, it has become a word I rely on far too frequently in my vocabulary – especially when I’m alone.

Many times, I use it only when I’m talking to myself, such as when I’m driving or going about my work day. I use it as a noun, a verb, an adjective, a pronoun, and often as a complete sentence.

It always sets me back when I hear somebody that I respect otherwise, drop the F-bomb in the course of conversation.  One day, it occurred to me that others probably have similar reactions when I use it. And if negative talk has any impact on moods (I believe it does), then I might be able to improve my overall mood by nixing the F-word.

In any case, the word is never used to express anything positive when it comes out of my mouth. My hope is to eradicate it from my lexicon altogether, since it does not benefit me in any way. Effective immediately, I will cease to use the F-word.

Hike review: Desert Classic Trail on South Mountain in Phoenix, AZ


I continued my quest to hike every foot of charted trail on South Mountain by hiking a portion of Desert Classic Trail with my 12 year-old daughter on Christmas Eve morning in 2013. She had recently hiked it with her 7th grade class, so I asked her to lead the way.

The highlight of the hike was a rest stop on the notorious helicopter pad, which is the highest point on the trail. We walked the perimeter of the helipad and admired the views of million dollar homes, mountains, and clear blue skies. We could even see my daughter’s school where we parked the car.

Desert Classic is appropriately named since it offers a great variety of desert terrain and plant life in a relatively short distance. I found the vegetation to be more noticeably dense and diverse than on many of the trails of South Mountain.

Hike details:

  • Trail: Desert Classic
  • Length: 3.5 miles round-trip*
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Elevation gain: 100 ft.*
  • Difficulty: moderate

*Rough estimates. I don’t do GPS.

Check out the pictures and captions below for more insights. Click on pics to expand. One of these days, I’ll add highlighted maps showing the exact trail(s) I hiked.

3 things every indie author can learn from Walter Swan


There is a lesson all of us would be independent authors can learn from Walter Swan.

I met Swan in December, 2013. Not in person. That would be tough since he passed away in the 1990s. I picked up an autographed copy of Swan’s book “How to be a Better Me” at a Goodwill store in Tempe one evening. When I first saw the book, I couldn’t help thinking, “There is no way somebody could market a book like this” and “If this guy can sell a book, so can I.”

You know the old saying: You can’t judge a book by it’s cover. That was certainly true with this book.

Image of book: How to be a Better Me
How to be a Better Me, self-published book by Walter Swan

I cracked open the book to get a taste of the author’s style. What I discovered intrigued me: Short chapters of two to three pages with lessons on how to be a better person, written in the language of a good ole boy. I plunked down my dollar-fifty for the book, zipped over to the nearest Starbucks and dug in. Walter had me hooked. I felt like my grandpa was telling me these stories.

After reading the book for a few days, I decided to Google the author and find out more about him. (You should too.) Swan was a retired plaster contractor in southeastern Arizona with no higher education and no prior experience as an author. He couldn’t find a publisher to pick up his book, so he decided to publish it himself, with the help of a printer in Tucson, AZ.

Only a few stores would put his book on their shelves, so he rented retail space in downtown Bisbee, AZ and opened a store to sell his book. He called the store “The One Book Store.” Any guess as to what he sold in that store? It wasn’t the book I picked up. His first book was titled, “Me n’ Henry .” Turns out “How to be a Better Me” was one of many he went on to publish, although it’s hard to pin down all his titles. One person blogged about meeting Swan in 1994 and mentioned he had sold over 35,000 copies. I’m not sure if that’s in reference to his first book or all books combined. Nevertheless, it’s an inspiring number.

Walter has inspired me not only to be a better person, but also to become an author. I have several book ideas and one book that’s about 90% written. I have been sitting on it for about three years since I didn’t feel like I have enough clout. Neither did Swan.

What independent authors can learn from Walter Swan:

  1. If you have good stories (and who doesn’t?), people will read them
  2. Previous experience is not required; nor is advanced education
  3. We don’t need the approval of a publisher to publish a book

These days it’s easier than ever to self-publish books in electronic format with the help of sites like lulu.com and etsy.com. All we have to do is have a vision, a story to tell and the determination to follow it through. It’s that last item that Walter Swan has inspired me with.