Paul Carr might be too old to find another wife, so he tries to stay young for the one he has.
The 81-year-old Heights resident is more active than most men his age and likely more adventurous. The same could be said of Mary Carr, who is nearly 10 years younger.
The couple rode motorcycles together until about five years ago, and they still make trips to the lake to cruise around on their jet skis. They ride electric bikes, too, and Paul also has a private pilot’s license, although he hasn’t flown a plane in recent years.
“If I don’t keep going, she’ll drop me and find somebody else,” he joked.
Paul Carr need not worry, because his latest mode of transportation is next level. He has spent the last few months constructing a hovercraft, which he said can “fly” over land or water at a speeds up to 50 mph.
He gave his new toy, which Carr named “Too Much Fun,” a brief test run a few weeks ago on the property of SPJST Lodge 88. He then made a couple mechanical adjustments and will soon take the hovercraft to a body of water for its “maiden voyage,” likely along the San Jacinto River northeast of Houston.
“Everything’s ready to go now,” Carr said. “I’m looking forward to a ride.”
Building things is a longtime passion for Carr, who constructed ladders and furniture during his 27-year career with the Houston Fire Department. The three-time president of the Houston Heights Association is especially fond of woodworking, having built nearly 10 of the “Little Free Libraries” around the area along with wooden playground structures in the form of trains, trucks and wagons that he donated to some local churches, parks and schools.
The “Hovertrek” model he bought from Neoteric, an Indiana company that has made hovercraft for police and fire departments as well as the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and National Parks Service, was another kind of build. Carr said he got a construction kit as opposed to an already-assembled hovercraft, which was an option, and spent about 80 hours building it in the shop next to his home on Ashland Street.
Carr did not have to construct all the parts, such as the fiberglass frame or the two-stroke engine, which he said is from a German aircraft, but had to assemble the hovercraft and hook up all the electrical wiring. He started in June and spent a couple months on it.
“I thought it would be a neat project,” he said. “I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
He said the hovercraft cost about $28,000, and what sets it apart from other brands is the reverse thrusters that allow it to brake and back up. Carr said the vehicle floats on an air bubble less than a foot off the ground, with a fabric skirt around the hull holding the air bubble in place.
Carr said his craft is 13 feet long by 8 feet wide and weighs less than 580 pounds. He also said it has a 54-horsepower engine that can propel it up to 25 mph in reverse.
“As I always say, this life is not a rehearsal,” Carr said. “This is the only act you get, so you’d better make the most of it.”
His interest in flying a hovercraft spawned about three years ago, when Carr and his wife were in her home state of Iowa and eating at a restaurant along the Mississippi River. He and Mary saw what appeared to be a few boats barreling toward the river bank, but then they shot up a boat ramp and came to a stop outside the restaurant.
Paul Carr said the drivers looked like they were having fun and, after they ate, hopped back on the hovercrafts and sped away.
“I thought, ‘Boy, that’s something,’” he said. “It sort of got our interest.”
A few years later, Paul and Mary are set to go on their own hovercraft adventure. They plan to tow it to a body of water with their Jeep, which has a personalized message written on the spare tire in the back.
It says, “Not fun, not done.”
“That’s what we try to live by,” Paul said.