Category Archives: Life

Livin on the beach for the winter

So I was on here purging spam from our comments and I figured I’d go ahead and put a little update up.  It’s not terribly exciting but I guess enough has changed to make it worthwhile.

After we finished traveling, Marisa and I headed to saint Louis to move her into law school.  I absolutely hated saint Louis and after a few days we said our goodbyes and I headed back south.  Over the next few months my friend Taylor and I really stepped up our whitewater kayaking.  There were a few weekends where we would take off in the RV on Friday and paddle a different river every day.  Taylor and I both aren’t exactly detail-oriented individuals so there were a couple phrases we said every day:

“Are you sure it’s this way”
“This looks familiar….sort of”
“We should have looked up the coordinates before we lost internet”
“damn, we forgot food”

We hit some of the more classic rivers focusing primarily on the Chattooga section 3&4 and green.


Despite my love for the mountains I decided to move to the beach for the winter.  I got an amazing place right on the ocean.


I’m planning to take off in the spring to Costa Rica (if the economy turns around a bit).  People don’t seem to be buying hoods like they usually do this time of year but it appears to be getting a bit better.  If everything goes well, I’ll hit up Costa Rica and try to make it across the northern half of the country with an emphasis on some wilderness creeks in S. Dakota and Washington.

I’m still not sure where I’d like to settle down or what I’d like to do to take my businesses to the next level but I would like to get into composites manufacturing for alternative energy.  Well I guess that was pretty specific.  Anyhow, I’m just looking for a foot in the door or some people with a bit more experience in the alternative energy industry.

I’m off for some play in the waves!


Chris has an article in the newspaper… AGAIN :)

A souped-up market

Upstate businesses find success in auto parts, modifications

Rebecca Roper, Contributing Writer

Chris Osborne of Spartanburg spent the last week of June driving cross-country, but it wasn’t a joy ride. (hahaha soo she thinks ; <– I added that)

The 24-year-old entrepreneur was headed to California to meet with his vendors, suppliers and competition.

“There’s nobody out there that competes with me locally,” says the owner of Illstreet, a Web-based company that sells more than 3,000 products to dress up a vehicle, with a focus on carbon fiber hoods. And while Osborne admits he and many others in the industry have been spooked about the bad economy, his products are zooming off the shelves faster than he can supply them.

Osborne is on the receiving end of a head-scratching trend. Despite the fact that new car sales in the U.S. have taken a heavy beating in the past few years, the automotive aftermarket – supplies for cars and trucks after the original sale – continues to grow. And the Upstate business community is well aware of that fact.

Sam Konduros, president of Greenville consulting firm SK Strategies LLC, says growth of the automotive aftermarket industry in the GSA area is a “natural development for our region.”

“The fact that the Upstate has become such a significant hub for the automotive industry makes it a fertile region to also attract significant aftermarket companies and investments. We are already home to a major OEM (BMW Manufacturing Co.), several system integrators (such as Magna International Inc.), more than 40 tier one suppliers (like Lear Corp.), and a huge number of tier two suppliers (like Alfmeier Corp., which is also a tier one supplier for some manufacturers),” he says.

Clemson University has been forging a relationship with the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association and is looking to bring a SEMA roundtable event to the ICAR campus in the next year or two, Konduros points out.

More suppliers in the region would be great with Osborne. He’s trying to find someone locally who can manufacture carbon fiber hoods. Right now he imports them from China, and while he says the profit margin is “decent,” if he had a local supplier he could fill a lot more orders. “Carbon fiber is in crazy short supply,” he says. “But there are guys willing to pay as much as it costs for it.”

The hood is basically an appearance enhancer, Osborne says. It gives the car a sleek, shiny look and it’s very lightweight so it doesn’t slow the car down, which is pretty important to guys into autocross racing, which most of his clients are.According to Osborne’s Web site,, hoods range from around $350 for a Honda Accord to $1,250 for a Hummer H2.

According to Daniel Majcen of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, the industry grew 4 percent last year. That rate was down slightly from the 5-5.4 percent increases it had seen over the past five years, but it was still healthy growth. The industry accounted for $190.5 billion in sales in 2004. The South Atlantic region, which includes South Carolina, accounted for the most growth.

Not all of that money is of the “Pimp My Ride” ilk, Majcen points out. “Because people are keeping their old vehicles longer and driving them more miles, they of course need more repairs,” he says.

While the industry does include accessories and enhancements, the bulk of Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association members provide replacement parts or tools and equipment necessary to make repairs. In fact, replacement parts account for 59.7 percent of the market, according to the most recent AAIA Auto Aftermarket Factbook. Chemicals, such as lubricants and fluids, account for 14.3 percent and tools and equipment 8 percent, leaving only 18 percent for accessories.

But obviously somebody out there is willing to drop big bucks on powerful engines and coolness enhancers. Illstreet recently conducted market research that showed the bulk of its clients were Asian and Hispanic males age 21-28. What surprised Osborne, he says, was the number of female buyers, who turned out to mostly be moms or girlfriends buying items as gifts.

Osborne says business always picks up in the summer – and this summer has been no exception. “I think the economic stimulus checks have helped a lot,” he says. “I’ve had several clients tell me that’s what they were spending their check on.” He says he did spend a great deal this year on advertising because he was worried luxury items such as his wouldn’t sell as well in current economic conditions. “I have the top spot on Google purchased (for several related keywords),” he says.

But so far, he’s been more worried about keeping up with the demand. It’s the same way for Hot Rod Construction of Piedmont, says owner Danny Wickett. His shop does reconstructions and modifications for classic automobiles and has won several awards for its work recently.

Nostalgia may play a role in the success of his business. And perhaps more guys are pouring money into that old flame in their garage rather than dropping dough on a brand new model.

“My clientele isn’t as affected (by the economy) as others,” he says. “They’re mostly wealthy gentlemen in their 50s and 60s who are reaching retirement and redoing the car they maybe had when they were in high school.”

Hot Rod Construction does 100 percent of its work in house, Wickett says, and that kind of custom work gets pretty pricey. Wickett says his clients often redo an entire car, which generally costs $100,000-$200,000, with souping up the engine being the heaviest expense.

If the cost of materials continues to climb, he is worried his business could be affected. “It’s definitely disposable income. This is something you want; not something you have to have,” he says.

Sedona, Arizona

If any of you have ever driven from the Grand Canyon to Sedona, you will understand how difficult the drive is to do in a rv. I had lines of cars following me because it is a twisting, turning, slow, difficult drive where you have a 7% grade and drop 2000 feet in a couple of miles. I was scared to go over 15-20 mph because I didn’t want to be responsible for driving us off a cliff. Occasionally I would pull over and let the train of cars pass me (I know if I was driving a normal car, I would be none to happy to be stuck behind a slow rv). Although at one point, I had a car continuously ride up on my tail and start honking; let’s just say I didn’t pull over for them. In fact I went even slower and Chris took care of the rest (imagination at work).

So once again a 2 hour drive turned into a 3 or so hour drive. The only problem with that was we HAD to check in at the rv park before dark. Unfortunately, we didn’t know if dark meant sunset, headlights on, or pure blackness. Well anyways we made it and got the pleasure of following a fire truck down into Lo Lo Mai rv resort.

Don’t worry; there wasn’t a fire, just a rattlesnake that they wanted to get rid of. So we checked in and decided to order some yummy pizza because we were too tired to cook and too hungry to go without eating. While waiting for our food we saw lots of wildlife. The rv resort has a huge pond with geese and ducks (missing our own little Koozie Duck), raccoons, dogs, cats, skunks, snakes etc. (the owners liked feeding wild animals). It was actually pretty cool. There was a creek nearby and lots of trees (shade is always appreciated. It was 32 dollars a night but the park was very secluded, clean, friendly, and had good bathrooms and laundry area.

We were soooo tired but we still had to set up camp. Our neighbors were impressed that we still even hung our cool outdoor lights even though we just hiked up the Grand Canyon. The only downside to Lo Lo Mai was that we had NO cell phone service. No calls in or out and no internet. That wasn’t too bad for us because it was the weekend so Chris didn’t need to answer calls and we were too tired to talk to anyone. We could still send and receive text messages so we weren’t completely disconnected. Chris tried to put a movie in but we basically just fell asleep.

Ah, a bright new day and OW we are SORE. Man you think you are tired after the hike but try walking the next day. Sedona is known for their amazing red rocks and the Jeep Tours that you go off-roading on. Instead of paying $150-200 to have someone else ride us around in a Jeep (Chris’s Jeep is sitting at his parent’s house in Spartanburg) we decide to take the dirtbike out

We change into grungy clothes, fill up our camel backs (small backpacks that hold 2 liters of water each) and head off to the trails. At first, the trails aren’t how I remembered them. I had been there with my family some years ago and I remembered it being more extreme (trust me we hit those just a little later on). We stopped first at some old ruins that we had to hike out to. They were really cool and built under this cliff. After seeing those, we asked the woman at the beginning of the trail where the best places to go were. She sent us off on 60 miles of fun riding (although I am sure Chris wished at some points that I wasn’t on the back, it’s much easier to ride with only one person.)


We finished riding and we were hot, thirsty and dirty so we decided to go into Sedona and check out the downtown area. (Lo Lo Mai is about 8 miles south of actual Sedona) We got smoothies and checked out some of the tourist shopping; most of it was out of our price range. Instead of eating there, we drove back to West Sedona where we saw a nice Mexican restaurant that had happy hour specials from 4-6.

We go it and sit at the bar because we were still dirty from riding. We get $4.00 big margaritas, chips and salsa, and calamari. The drinks and food were delicious but the best part of our night came a little later on. A couple came in and sat down next to us at the bar. We ended up small talking about the food and drinks and then Chris and I find out that they have been living in Sedona for 7 years. We ask them what else we should see or do before they leave in the morning and they proceed to tell us about this amazing, secluded place to see the sunset.

After getting detailed directions, we start to tell them about our trip and explaining how Chris runs his own business from the road and was South Carolina’s entrepreneur of the year this past spring. Well that must have set of a light bulb in Terry’s head, (the couples names are Terry and Jeanette). He is a venture capitalist, and he and Chris started talking business and cars. We continue talking, finishing our drinks and they remind us that we have to get going if we are going to catch the sunset. We go to leave and they say “instead of driving all the way out to that other place, why don’t you just come back to our house and watch the sunset from our balcony.” Chris and I of course agree.

We follow them back and pull up to an amazing house (even nicer than the houses we had driven around looking at earlier). They have a fountain in front, two very friendly dogs, a donkey that lives next door, and a view that is breathtaking. We couldn’t believe how friendly and nice they were! Inviting two dirty strangers inside their beautiful house to hang out with for the night. We pour some wine and tequila (not mixed of course) and go upstairs to sit on the top balcony and watch the sunset.


We stayed there until past 11 o’clock just talking, looking and the view, having the guys look at some amazing cars Terry has, and feeding carrots to the donkey next door. At the end of the night, Chris of course gets their information (venture capitalist + entrepreneur = hopefully a good idea and a lot of money some day)

We had such an amazing night, probably one of the most entertaining we had so far on this adventure. Who knows, Chris might even have found a future investor in his business.

Flashback to April

Shout out to our Kuhsie Duck!!!

When Chris, Kathy, Dennis and I went to the white water center in April to watch the Olympic trials, we didn’t know our little ducking would draw so much attention. Thanks to a Miss Sarah, the article was finally brought to our attention. Our duck is full grown now and living at her pond in Spartanburg for the summer while we are gone.

“Okay, okay … I’m a dog reporter and I thought I was done for the day but then I saw these people walking their … er … duck.
Chris Osborne (left) of Spartanburg, SC and Marisa Serrat of Cleveland, Ohio met at Clemson University and fell in love. Naturally, the next step was to adopt a duckling!

Kuhsie, a magpie duck, goes everywhere with the couple – including kayaking.
Kuhsie will weigh four pounds when she is full grown and have black and white spots. (Kuhsie is German for she cow. )”