Weekly Journal: From Lows to Highs, That’s Life

I should mention right up front, we feel incredibly fortunate that while we’ve had our own rough patches, lost a loved one this week and have other family members who are battling cancer or other health issues… we remain mindful that there are 10’s of thousands here in the Southeast United States whose lives have been suddenly changed for ever, in the wakes of Hurricane Florence and now Hurricane Michael. 

Therefore, while we go about our business and even take time to enjoy a little leisure time, we try to remind ourselves why we should never take good health, good fortune and life in general for granted.  Life as we know it can change in an instant, and recovery can sometimes be long and difficult… even if at all.

MONDAY

After getting home from Venice, Florida, on Sunday night we quickly got ourselves unpacked, laundry done, and did some shopping before heading up to the South Canton Funeral Home for Debbie’s brother Kenny’s visitation from 10:00am – 9:00pm.  The turn-out was very strong and Debbie was able to see a lot of distant family and friends from “up home.”

Around 2:00pm I headed home so I could take care of yard work and about a half-dozen other things, to include laundry, re-scheduling the warranty work on our Samsung refrigerator, some grocery shopping and getting the motorcycle ready for our ride down to Daytona Beach, Florida, on Wednesday or Thursday.  The latter included getting our Bushnell trailer out of the storage shed and installing the hitch on the Road Glide.

Debbie didn’t make it back home until around 7:30pm after which we headed over to Chili’s for dinner at the elegant hour, as it was a bit late to start making dinner at home.  While having dinner we rang my mother to check-in with her and my step-day Bill as we try to do at least one a week: a lot had happened in the previous week.

After getting home Debbie headed back out to see if she could find an outfit for her mother to wear to Kenny’s funeral on Tuesday and didn’t make it back home until nearly 11:30pm.

TUESDAY

We left the house around 9:00am so Debbie could help her sister Andrea get her mother ready for Kenny’s funeral service in Ballground, Georgia, at 11:00am.  The service ran about an hour, followed by a graveside service and the internment process.  It was a tough morning for everyone and it will definitely take some time before everyone fully appreciates the loss of Kenny since it was rather sudden and unexpected.

We stopped at Applebee’s in Woodstock for a late lunch and once back at home Debbie took a much-needed nap while I got our gear out and packed for the Daytona trip as we were now considering a Wednesday departure with a stop-over in Jacksonville, Florida, vs making the entire trip on Thursday.

As I was getting our helmets out I discovered the modular / full-face helmet Debbie uses when the weather is less than ideal on our trips was in dire need of replacement.  Thankfully, the only motorcycle dealer close to the house had an HJC modular / full-face helmet in stock that was the right size for Debbie, so a minor crisis was averted since there wouldn’t be any time to go “shopping” for a helmet on Wednesday and there was a risk of rain in the forecast for our ride down to Florida what would require the full-face helmet.

After Debbie woke up from her nap we firmed-up our travel plan with the aforementioned early departure on Wednesday and layover in Jacksonville.  I made a room reservation at the same Ramada Inn in Jacksonville that our friends Chuck & Julie were booked at so that we’d be able to have dinner with them on Wednesday night and then ride down to Daytona together on Thursday.  After that, it was time to get the bike packed and ready to roll-out of the garage on Wednesday morning.

We finished up our day with dinner at Loco Willy’s visiting with friends before getting home around 9:00pm and settling in for the night.

WEDNESDAY

For the first time ever before heading off on a long drive, we both got a full night’s sleep. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t worried about getting up at 5:00am so we could be on the road by 6:00am, ahead of morning rush-hour traffic?

We had an appointment with our Morgan Stanley investment advisors at 10:00am in Atlanta and we decided to just go ahead and ride the Harley down to the meeting and then leave from there for Florida vs. returning home, etc. which would have added another 2 hours to the trip.

So, we left the house for or Morgan Stanley appointment around 9:00am but, due to an error with our GPS that I wrongly assumed was just re-routing around traffic, we were about 20 minutes late to our meeting.  Despite the late start, we had a productive, hour-long discussion noting our retirement portfolio has taken a pretty good beating in just the 90-days since establishing the accounts: there was a lot to talk about as we had a lot of questions.  It was around 11:45am when we were back on the bike and headed south.

Traffic was light for the entire ride, which was nice.  We stopped at a Chili’s for lunch just north of Macon around 1:30pm, filled the tank and resumed our ride to Jacksonville, Florida, via the Golden Isle Parkway, i.e., the back way with just another gas stop in Waycross, Georgia.  It takes about an extra hour or so vs. the interstates, but we still enjoy the lightly traveled back highways and roads for this trip vs. bombing down the interstate at 85mph.

We rolled into the Ramada Inn at Baymount around 6:30pm and at 7:15pm we met up with Chuck & Julie and rode about a 1/2 mile to dinner at a sports bar called Gators.  We had a good time, but cut our after dinner socializing short when it became pretty clear a strong storm was about to come through the area as all of the satellite TV signals dropped-out.  We dodged the rain getting back to the hotel portico and finished up our socializing in the hotel lobby, noting the hotel bar was “closed for repairs indefinitely.”  Yeah, the hotel was pretty tired… almost distressed.  Although we were admonished to “not” park our motorcycles under the portico, given the rain we subtly pushed back on that request and left them there over night.

THURSDAY

We were up around 7:00am and enjoyed a relaxing morning, having pegged 11:00am as our targeted departure time as that would put us at Finn’s Rooftop in Flagler Beach around 12:30pm.  I will say, it was nice having the short ride down to the Daytona area vs. doing the 8.5 hour / 450 mile ride in one shot with a 5:00am get-up and 6:00am departure.  So, we may consider this for future trips to Daytona.

As for the ride down to Flagler, I lead us down I-95 to I-495 East, then US route 1 to the Nocatee Parkway out to A1A.  We stayed on A1A all the way through St. Augustine into Flagler and it was really a great ride.  We were treated to beautiful, sunny skies for most of the ride, dodging some mist from a pretty strong storm just West of St. Augustine.

We had a great couple of hours relaxing at Finn’s. Moreover, seeing all of the rain falling on radar over Jacksonville about the same time we would have been riding through the area had we left at 6:00am from home today, our decision to break up the trip was immediately appreciated.   After lunch at Finn’s we headed towards our Condo in Ormond Beach, about 11 miles from Flagler.

The condo was about half way between Flagler and Daytona Beaches, but it was a really a nice facility and we had no issues getting in and getting settled.  Having gated, underground parking was also a big plus.

It was around 5:15pm when we headed down to Daytona to meet our friend Misty for dinner at the Ocean Deck Restaurant and Bar, a favorite for us.  After dinner wandered down Main Street to see if there were any interesting sights and sounds, but it was pretty much the usual stuff. We did see Billy Lane in his Choppers Inc. store which was interesting.  We ended up returning to the Tiki Bar for a couple of hours.  We got in a little dancing and kept an eye on Red Sox vs. Astro’s American League Championship.  The ‘vibe’ in the Tiki bar wasn’t happening and we were becoming all to aware that several of the bars we’d patronized were likely watering-down the premium tequilas.  So, rather than wasting money on watered-down drinks, we headed back to the condo to watch the end of the game.

    

It was a good first day for bike week.  We’re now keeping our eyes on the weather for Friday as we’ll definitely need to plan our stops around the expected rain.

FRIDAY

The day began with an ominous-looking sky along the coast that brought about an hour’s worth of rain to us between 9:00am and 10:00am.  Before the rain came I walked across the street to the Publix to pick up some breakfast items for the condo, basically milk, juice and cereal as well as some soft drinks.

The rain cleared out and by 10:30am and before heading out for the day Chuck & I paid a visit to the local package store where we picked up some Coffee Flavored Patron Tequila and some chocolate milk so that Chuck could re-create a cocktail for Debbie and Julie he’d been introduced to during Bike Week in Sturgis this past August.  I only had a taste of it as I’m not a big fan of coffee, but I can see why folks love this kind of stuff: it was pretty decadent.

It was around 11:00am when we headed out on the now dry roads and pointed the bikes towards Destination Daytona, the complex built around Bruce Rossmeyer’s mega-sized, Harley Davidson dealership.  Since it was early on Friday and most of Daytona Beach and other areas to the South of Daytona were still getting rain, we didn’t run into much traffic and also had no problem finding parking at Houligan’s, where we’d be having lunch anyway.  We stopped-in Houligan’s briefly to see if any of the barkeepers we knew were working and found Chris on hand. After a short visit with Chris we headed out and wandered around the vendor area at Destination Daytona but didn’t really have anything we needed so it was a very cursory look-see.

We spent a bit of time at the David Uhl booth chatting with Robert Cypher and looking to see if there were any other works by David that we just had to have for our modest collection. Pretty sure we still have the best of them!  But, we had a nice time visiting with Robert before returning to Houligan’s for a late lunch and did a bit more visiting with Chris and Trisha, one of the other barkeepers.

The plan for dinner was to head over to Buffalo Wild Wings where another friend, Shannon, was working. We’d met Shannon several visits back at Houligan’s and sometime between last Spring and this Fall they parted ways.  So, after stopping back at the condo and getting changed we headed back towards the Speedway and Buffalo Wild Wings to see Shannon.  We ended up visiting with Shannon for an hour or two before calling it an early night.

In retrospect, having originally lined-up the long drive to Venice, Florida, and back for the previous week plus three days of hard cycling, then having the loss of Debbie’s brother Kenny overlapping the Venice trip with the viewing and funeral on Monday & Tuesday before meeting with our financial advisors on Wednesday morning and then riding down to Jacksonville that afternoon may have taken a bit of a toll on me with the long drives/rides and Debbie with just a lot of things weighing heavily on her mind.

So, add to that all of the sun and fun that we get into during Bike Weeks in Florida and it’s no wonder why we found ourselves running out of gas earlier than we would have liked.

SATURDAY

Saturday’s sunrise was a lot more inviting than Fridays; it was beautiful!

Our plan for the day was to have lunch at Racing’s North Turn down in Port Orange, about a 30-minute ride from our condo and they didn’t open until 11:00am.  Rather than cooling our heels until 10:30am, I suggested heading to the Beach Street Vendor area and walking around there for a while.  We rolled-out around 9:45am for the 15 minute ride, mostly along the lovely homes that line Beach Street between Granada & Seabreeze bridges. There wasn’t all that much to see, but it was good to get out and walk for a good 40 minutes before saddling up and making our way to Port Orange.

 

Lunch was good as always and as I was looking at the menu I was reminded that all of the restaurants in Daytona pretty much serve their full menus during both the Spring and Fall bike weeks, which is great.  Not so in Panama City Beach where in more recent years some of the restaurants switch over to a limited item menu, which can be really disappointing when a favorite dish disappears.  Anyway, the weather couldn’t have been any more nice as we relaxed on Racing’s back deck enjoying the view of the ocean and some really delicious fish sandwiches, chowders, salads, etc.

In the background, Julie was trying to arrange a meet-up with her friend and co-worker Kim and her husband Doug. Even though Julie lives in Atlanta, Miami is her home base with American Airlines and Kim is also a flight attendant that Julie frequently makes trips with.  She and Doug down in Melborne, Florida, about 100-miles / 90-minutes down the road from Daytona.  Our initial meeting point was to be 1:00pm at the International Speedway vendor area.

We made our way over to the Speedway after lunch, arriving just about 1:00pm. By then, Kim & Doug were running a little behind and, since there really wasn’t much to see at the Speedway, we jumped on I95 and made the 10-minute ride north to Destination Daytona, and Houligans where we’d meet instead.  We arrived and found the place packed, but after about 30 minutes a few seats began to open up, such that by the time Kim & Doug arrived we had a pretty good “beach head” at the bar.

As the afternoon wore on we make the short drive down US-1 to the Iron Horse Saloon.  We spent a couple of hours there and as night fell dined on Nedderman’s Beef Steak Tips, a real treat.  The crew from Nedderman’s travels down to the Iron Horse twice a year for the fall and spring bike weeks from Mishawaka, Indiana, and cooks non-stop to serve up their world-famous beef tips, red russet potatoes and mushrooms.  Although, it did appear that there is a name change in work, as I saw both Nedderman’s on the big signs, but the menu’s were showing the name Craiger’s….  noting the owner’s name is Craig Nedderman.  Not sure what’s up with that, but the food remains the same!

From the Iron Horse, we headed back towards the condo with an option to head to Flagler Beach for the balance of the evening, where Julie & Chuck were going to meet back up with Kim & Doug.  We opted to head to the condo as I was very tired for some reason, more so than just the long week and time on the bike and in the sun would account for.

As soon as we were in the condo and reclining on the couch watching college football I was out.  Some time later Chuck & Julie returned and reported that Flagler definitely has some great nightlife, i.e., a DJ at Finn’s Rooftop, live music at other bars, etc.  So, our migration from Daytona Shores to Ormond Beach may be a good one, as we’re definitely finding we prefer the restaurants and bars in Ormond and Flagler.

SUNDAY

We took our time to get ready for the ride home on Sunday vs. trying to get out at the crack of dawn as there’s no way to beat traffic on I-75 through McDonough, Georgia: it’s always backed up there for miles from 10:00am on and I swear it has something to do with the flow of traffic onto I-75 from Jonesboro Road, as that’s always where the traffic jam seems to begin/end.

Anyway, after getting dishes washed, towels collected at the washer and the bikes packed, we departed shortly after 9:00am.  The plan was to take I-95 to I-10 to I-75, nothing but interstate all the way home for the shortest time-on-bike possible.

One of the unintended bonuses of staying in Ormond Beach was having the “Scenic Loop” on our ride from Ormond Beach to I-95.  I’d planned on riding it at least once during our trip, but we never seemed to find the right time to incorporate it into our rides.  So, it was really a special treat to spend the last few miles of riding in the Daytona area on one of the most beautiful routes.

We hit the BP gas station at the I-95 on-ramp to top off our tanks and then “hauled the mail” for the next 6 hours / 450-miles, cruising along at 80-85 mph as traffic allowed.  We stopped for gas near Lake City and then a few miles down the road we stopped at a Cheddars restaurant in Valdosta, as Chili’s and Applebee’s are in short supply in south Georgia.  Before heading back out we all put on an additional layer of leather as the temps had remained in the upper 60’s for the 1st part of our ride, but were beginning to settle into the mid-60’s and cold-soak was taking its toll.  Debbie also switched out her 1/2 helmet for her new full-face model to help take the edge off as we were also riding into a steady headwind.

We made a final gas stop just past Unadilla, Georgia and were it not for the 30 extra minutes we spent sitting in slow-moving or dead-stopped traffic that was backed-up for 9 miles between the Tanger Outlet Mall in Locust Grove to — you guessed it — Jonesboro Road at the north end of McDonough, Georgia, we’d have been back “home” in record time as there had been no other back-ups on the trip.  Well, that’s not true: traffic through downtown Atlanta was also a mess.  I swear, Atlanta is the only place in the U.S. where the slowest of 8 lanes of traffic going through the downtown connectors is the Express Lane.

We split off from Chuck & Julie at the Canton Road exit off of I-75, bidding them a fond farewell after a great couple of days down in Daytona. They are truly a joy to be with and we always look forward to our time together.

We made our traditional post-motorcycle trip stop at Loco’s for dinner on the way home.  Back at home, Debbie made a bee-line for the jacuzzi tub so she could try to warm her core back up, as she was truly chilled to the bone by this trip.  I spent my time getting the bike and trailer unpacked, riding clothes put away and decided to leave washing the bike & trailer and removing the trailer hitch for Monday.  After all, I also needed to get to work on this blog so I could get out a printed copy to my mother in Monday’s mail!

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Weekly Journal: Life Continues To Throw Us Curve Balls

When it rains it pours, and this was one of those weeks.  

AND THEN ONE DAY THEY WERE SUDDENLY GONE…

Someone once said that “time” is truly priceless and irreplaceable. More specifically, we can never know how much time we have left in our lives since there are so many things that can steal it from us and — regardless of how much wealth we might have — we cannot buy more of it. What other resource is there that can’t be collected, saved or bought and sold?  Therefore, time is by definition is our most valuable resource.

Unfortunately, we often times take time for granted and then are suddenly dealt a unexpected emotional blow when someone whom we love, hold dear or know unexpectedly runs out of time.  Regardless of how or why, they are simply no longer there.

Bottom Line: Don’t take life for granted. Treat each moment as the priceless resource it is, talk to family and friends often and share the love, thoughts, emotions and words that need to be shared in the moment.

SO, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MOTORCYCLING CONTENT?

Let me right up front about this: I’m really sorry I don’t have more motorcycling content on this blog.  I’d hoped I’d be spending a lot more time out riding the Road Glide with Debbie since retiring, but that’s just not been the case.

Having just the one motorcycle instead of 4 or 5 has certainly had something to do with it.  And, unlike the other bikes that came before the Road Glide, I was always tweaking, modifying, accessorizing or repairing at least one of the motorcycles… which made for great writing material.   Not so with the Road Glide, as I think I’ve cured myself of the upgrade / modification obsession.  The Road Glide is absolutely fine the way it is right now and there’s no need to spend another dime on anything that’s not simply routine maintenance.  So, that’s no longer a ready source for blog material… and that’s a good thing, actually.

We are still looking forward to our trip to Daytona Beach, Florida, on 18 – 21 October for the 4-day long Biketoberfest, so that will definitely help to get us back into the swing of things from a motorcycling standpoint.

We also had plans to attend the fall bike week in Panama City Beach, Florida, on 25 – 28 October, but fate has intervened as Hurricane Michael has devastated everything from Port St. Joe to eastern Panama City Beach, there’s no question that now is not the time to go and have a “good time” while residents are picking up the pieces, assuming authorities would even allow visitors into the lightly-damaged areas of Panama City Beach.

Anyway, we’ll just take it one day at a time and hopefully I’ll have something to write about related to motorcycles in the not too distant future.

SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF THINGS ARE WEARING OUT, INCLUDING ME!

I was reminded that our home, our truck, my phone, our tandem bicycle and even parts of me are beginning to show their age.  So, just to summarize, here’s what I had to replace or fix this week:

  • A New Samsung S4 Smart Phone – 5 years old:  Yes, my 5-year old Samsung S4 has clearly exceeded its service life, much like my PowerMac’s and MacBooks that I had to replace last month with a Samsung laptop.  I was having to reboot my phone 1-2 times a day and it was otherwise struggling to keep up with message traffic, etc.  So, I stopped by Costco and “Fab” convinced me buying a Verizon / Samsung J3.2 from her would be a better deal than buying an unlocked model from MicroCenter and sure enough, an hour later I walked out of Costco with a new J3.2 SmartPhone.  It was the right time to make that change.
  • A New Samsung Refrigerator – Our long-awaited, 28 cu ft Samsung’ fridge’ was finally delivered on Tuesday, 9 October. It was scheduled for delivery between 8:30am and noon, and the phone rang at 6:50am… We’ll be there in 30 minutes. Really?  I bolted from the bed and proceeded to rearrange the patio and kitchen furniture so they could bring it through the French patio doors vs. removing the refrigerator doors to squeeze it through the front door. And then quickly emptied our 26-year old GE refrigerator’s contents into two coolers, finishing up just about the time they arrived at 7:20am.  By 8:00am our 26-year old GE fridge was gone and the new Samsung was up and running, albeit with a few issues that we’d need to address. But, better to buy the new fridge before the old one died, and it was clearly on its last legs.
  • Rebuilding the Tundra’s Front End… Again – There was clearly something amiss with the suspension and tires on my 2006 Toyota Tundra again.  Seriously, I’ve put a lot of money into just the front end over the past few years — not including tires and wheels — and it’s still a mess. As we prepared for an 1,100 mile drive to south Florida I decided it needed some attention and on Tuesday morning I dropped it off at Alan Cox Automotive — our independent repair shop — to have the tires rebalanced. Well, it turns out the left-front tie-rod was shot as was the right-front ball-joint. So, yeah.. go ahead and make it right guys!  They had it all finished late Tuesday.
  • Our Calfee Tandem – No, it’s still 11 years old but showing signs of its age and is occasionally in need of attention. During the past week the Calfee received new cable housings, new cables, new in-line brake and derailleur cable adjusters, new handlebar tape after the frame was returned from having a rear-coupler repaired at Calfee Design near San Jose, California.  Sadly, the weather went south on us and we’ve not had a chance to have a check-ride since I made the adjustments last Saturday. So, assuming we make it to Venice Florida for the Southern Tandem Rally on 11-14 October, perhaps we’ll validate the effectiveness of the updates.
  • 2018 Genie Garage Door Openers – Normally, who really cares much about powered garage door openers.  I mean, either you need them and have them or you don’t, right?  Well, our three (3) 1/4 hp, 26-year old Genie Screw Drive garage door openers have been becoming less and less reliable, mostly due to issues with the RF transmitters / receivers, antiquated technology to say the least.  It wasn’t until Debbie told me she was having to get out of her car to get the 3rd garage by open that I realized even new batteries in the transmitters didn’t make much of a difference: we simply needed at least one new garage door opener.  I did my homework and found a really well-spec’d Genie 1.25hp belt-drive opener with a battery back-up on sale at Lowes.   After installing it on Debbie’s garage bay on Monday I knew the other two Genie Screw Drives had to go.  So, on Wednesday I bought and installed two more and I couldn’t be happier.  The icing on the cake was finding out Lowes offers veterans a 10% discount, so my new garage door openers were 20% off Lowes normal retail.  I installed the other two on Wednesday afternoon and by-golly, they are really nice and quiet!
  • My Eyes – Sadly, my left eye continues to give me trouble.  There’s still a very obvious broken blood vessel in my left eye so I’m thinking that’s screwing up my vision.  I’ll know for sure in a week, noting that I don’t have any other warning signs of a more serious eye condition. More to follow…

As for “the other stuff” that went on this week:

MONDAY

The week began with me pouring over my retirement / investment accounts, which aren’t doing as well as I’d expected.  We have a meeting with our investment advisors on 16 October where we’ll address current performance vs. the market indices.

As mentioned, I dropped by Costco to ask about Smart Phones and walked out with a new one and a few other items we needed for the house.  Love Costco!

Debbie has been off attending to family members, noting a sibling went into ICU on Monday and is not doing well.  It was sudden and unexpected and is clearly weighing on Debbie as would be expected.

While Debbie was at the hospital I spent the afternoon attending to yard work as I knew our weather would become wet on Tuesday through the end of the week so I really didn’t have much choice as we’re still planning on heading to Venice, Florida for the Southern Tandem Rally on Thursday through Sunday.

We joined Ryan & Jeanette at The Hudson Grill for dinner and then headed next door to the movie theater to watch Venom, the latest from Marvel Studio’s.  We had a great time visiting with Ryan and Jeanette and the movie was pretty good… but you definitely needed to watch it from the perspective of being a comic-strip story, not one that relied upon logic.


TUESDAY

I already mentioned our Samsung refrigerator delivery, but did not mention there were a few issues.  However, the Samsung customer service folks are great so I’m confident all will be addressed so no worries there.  Also as mentioned, the rainy weather pretty much killed our chances of getting out for a tandem bicycle ride again today.

The open morning did give us time to drop-off my truck at Alan Cox to have what I suspected was a wheel balance issue addressed before we made our 1,100 mile round-trip driver to Venice, Florida.  Well, I say drop-off: I originally went down to have them re-balance the tires while I waited. Once they had it up on the alignment table they discovered the left-front tie-rod was bad (again, 3rd one) and the right front ball joint was bad (again, 3rd one).  My guess is, the left-front ball joint issue that surfaced during our Christmas trip to Pennsylvania caused these two problems and the right front ball joint in particular caused the cupping on the tire.  By the end of the day they had it all sorted-out, with a fresh alignment and all four tires rebalanced.

As for the balance of the afternoon, I purchased and installed the aforementioned new Genie garage door opener for the 3rd bay that Debbie uses. I was amazed at how far the technology had come in 26 years: it was whisper-quiet, didn’t shake the house, came with an integrated battery back-up, door blockage sensors, an all-weather, outdoor touchpad controller and was all digitally controlled.  And, all for about the cost of a really cheap, low-power chain drive unit.  It took a good 3 hours to do the assembly / remove the old opener / install the new one, mostly due to the amount of time that it took to run the wiring for the door blockage sensors.

I made hot wings for dinner and spent the evening getting caught up on journals, etc.


WEDNESDAY

Debbie needed to head down to the hospital around 9:30am, so she dropped me off at Alan Cox so I could pick-up the truck.  As hoped, the truck was handling like new again with just the slightest vibration from the cupped tire which tells me that it was also seriously out of balance, as before it felt like a square tire at speeds above 50 mph. The front end shimmy was also gone and, well, the truck just felt really solid.

Speaking of the truck, a new / rebuilt Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor arrived on Tuesday which should correct the “check engine light” condition that’s been cropping up ever since we returned from Cancun in mid-July.  I cleaned the old one and that cleared-up the condition for about 6 weeks, but last week after leaving the truck at the airport for our Utah trip I started getting the error code again.  Thankfully, I have a ScanGaugeII – On Board Diagnostics (OBD2) reader / trip computer integrated into the truck’s computer that enables me to read and reset error codes while driving. So, when the MAF Sensor has malfunctioned and the truck begins to run poorly as a result, I’ve been able to clear the codes which returns the truck to normal operation.  However, I didn’t want to risk having an issue with the MAF Sensor on the upcoming drive to South Florida so I ordered the new / rebuilt sensor on Sunday night from AutoZone with next day delivery.  I installed the pocket-lighter size sensor on Wednesday after picking up the truck from Alan Cox Automotive which took all of 2 minutes.

I had also stopped at Lowes on the way home from Alan Cox Automotive and bought two more garage door openers and also set-up my Lowe’s 10% veteran discount account. I believe Home Depot has the same: why did I not know about this and take advantage of this in the past?

My afternoon was pretty much consumed with the installation of the other two garage door openers which went a bit more quickly than the first one.  I think it took me 4-hours, all told which included removing and then reinstalling an overhead battery charger for my motorcycle.

It was around 7:00pm when Debbie and I headed over to Loco Willy’s for dinner; neither of us were really in the mood to cook.  We ran into quite a few of the usual suspects and had a really good time and split the Ahi Poke for dinner.  The to and from was not pleasant as the outer rain and wind bands of Hurricane Michael began to blow through in earnest about the time we left the house.

As of the end of day Wednesday, we were still planning on making the drive down to Venice, Florida for the Southern Tandem Rally.  This assumed: (1) her brother’s immediate family had things under control and there wasn’t anything else Debbie could do for him, (2) Interstate I-75 through Georgia was still open following Hurricane Michael’s passing, and (3) Venice, Florida remained unaffected by the hurricane.


THURSDAY

I had a sleepless night, as I always do before any trip: why is that?  I finally gave up attempting to sleep around 5:00am and came down to work on this journal and take a look at the final damage from the plunge in markets on Wednesday: yeah, it was a pretty big hit.  Good thing we’re in it for the long haul.

Anyway, today was mostly about making the 550-mile / 8-hour drive down to Venice, Florida for the Southern Tandem Rally on Friday through Sunday.  My original plan was to depart at 6:00am to get ahead of the Atlanta traffic.  However, given the weather situation and outlook, I decided to push our departure time back to late morning which should give any weather-related traffic / road issues in middle Georgia time to clear-up. And, well, there is still lingering rain down in South Florida, so there’s no need to arrive before late afternoon / early evening.

We left the house around 11:00am and it was an uneventful drive, for the most part. We made a short stop for lunch at a Subway in Unadilla, Georgia, where there was some visible wind damage, mostly to signage. We saw a lot of wind damage around Cordelle, Georgia, and multiple caravans o  f utility and Emergency Response Team vehicles headed north on I-75.  The electronic message boards warned of I-10 begin closed West of Tallahassee, Florida, but the rest of the drive didn’t suggest there had been devastating damage just 150 to 200 miles away.

We arrived at Hotel Venezia around 7:00pm, checked-in and then visited a bit with other guests at the hotel bar where a social hour was in full swing. We didn’t stay too long noting it had been a tough day for Debbie as she was monitoring the situation with her family back home and it was not good news; her brother passed later that night.

Sadly, on a night when we were both in need of some rest, our room was next door to a couple from a wedding party who came “home” at 11:30pm pretty much drunk out of their minds. The room walls were paper-thin and allowed just about every noise above a whisper to pass into our room. We called the front desk and alerted them to the problem and even the hotel staff was unable to get them to quiet down. The loud voices and outbursts went on until 1:00am, and began again around 3:00am.  It was not the restful sleep we both needed.


FRIDAY

Following our fitful night, we go ourselves up around 7:20am which didn’t give us a lot of time to get breakfast and be ready to ride by the 8:15am rider’s meeting. However, we did our best and made it to the ride start on time.  However, before heading out we let the hotel staff know we’d need to change rooms if the same couple would be spending the night in the room next to us on Friday. They said no problem; we’d sort it out after we returned from our ride.

We headed out on the 50-mile route well-back in the pack and quickly found ourselves with three strong teams: Paul M. & Jennifer K. from New York, Peter & Karin D. from New Jersey and a third team whom I did not recognize.  However, as we headed north on a 6-mile multi-use path cruising along at 22 mph we realized we’d eventually have to fall off the pace of the three couples we were riding with who were clearly stronger cyclists than we are. Moreover, we knew we had friends not too far behind so we fell off from the faster group and eventually fell-in with our friends to finish up the 50-mile route.  Our group of seven included long-time friends & GTR co-directors Roger S. & Eve K from Georgia, Reg & Michelle U from Florida, Earle & Laura R. from Florida, Walt & Kathy C. from Texas, Jeff & Judy C. from Illinois and Thompson & Susan M. from Florida (photo below by Steve K., using Eve K’s camera).

It was a good day on the bike for us, but we do struggle with the dead flat riding vs. our rolling hills back at home: somehow, we find the rolling terrain to be more enjoyable and less fatiguing.

Back at the hotel we checked in with the staff who began working on the room swap while we grabbed showers and then headed to the hotel bar for lunch.  The prime rib wrap and Caesar salad was perfect!  If only we had a view of the Gulf!  Perhaps we’ll be able to swing that for dinner.

After lunch we were given our new room keys and moved our belongings to the much more remote room with just one common wall to another room: it immediately felt more relaxing as soon as we entered the room.  Debbie stayed behind to relax while I headed out to the pool to get some sun and work on the journals.

Around 4:30pm we headed off to find Fins at Sharky’s a restaurant and bar adjacent to the South Venice Pier and on the Gulf so we could get in some coastline therapy.  Fins was perfect!  We didn’t get to sit at the bar, but our server at the 2nd floor outdoor lounge was awesome and right on top of things.  We enjoyed our cocktails with a wonderful view of the Gulf and ended up having a very light but elegant dinner from their appetizer menu: Oysters Rockefeller and a small serving of hand cut Waygu beef seared at our table on a Hot Stone.

 

It was a much-needed, very relaxing and luxurious afternoon topped-off with a lovely sunset.  And, well, the market came back a bit, so that was good news too!

We headed back to the hotel after our sunset and joined the rest of the rally goers for the ice cream social before heading on to bed. Thankfully it was a quiet night for us. Even still, we both didn’t sleep as well as we’d hoped.


SATURDAY

We got ourselves up a little after 7:00am and headed down to breakfast, noting we’d need to leave the hotel around 8:15am for the short drive to today’s ride start… at Sharky’s.  I did a little investigating on the tandem before the ride and finally found what I believe was the source of the creaking: the lock ring on the cassette. It appeared to be a hairline crack so I swapped it out with another lock ring from a spare cassette and sure enough, the creaking noise was gone on Saturday’s ride!

 

We started out the ride (photo at left by Eve K) thinking we’d be doing the 60-mile route, but about mid-ride decided to join the other 6 or 7 teams in our group from Friday and do the 42-mile route instead: it was the right call for several reasons.

We really enjoyed being out with several other teams for the past two day’s rides, as opposed to getting out too fast too early and finding ourselves riding alone at large rallies.  It would have been the perfect rally for the triplet, had our friend Lisa been able to attend. Alas, that was not the case.  But, still… it has been a really nice event.  And Saturday’s ride through the Canopy Drive and along the coast was delightful, the sag stop was at just the right place and the lunch back at Sharky’s may have been one of the top-five we’ve ever had at a rally: it was very simple with burgers, pulled-pork, salads and soft drinks.. 

As mentioned, the 42-mile ride was the right call as we weren’t so worn out by the dead-flat riding and hot sun and, well, one of the two rails on my saddle failed just after we took the turn at the 42/62-mile route splitting point.  After a quick check I decided I could ride the final 7 miles with the broken saddle by sitting on the nose. But, I’d have to stop at a local bike shop and buy a new saddle for Sunday’s ride, that was for sure.

We spent the afternoon relaxing at the hotel bar after making a stop at the local bike shop so I could pick up a new saddle to replace the one that broke on the ride.  After getting cleaned up and replacing the broken saddle we parked ourselves at the hotel bar to relax and watch college football until it was time to get ready for the Saturday night banquet.  We ended up sharing a table with Art & Deborah T., from Wisconsin whom we’d met at the hotel bar on Friday night and Venice Florida locals Randy & Nancy Hurley.  Sadly, I’m drawing a blank on the other couple whom we met at our table, but we had a great time and hopefully I didn’t run my mouth too much as I seemed to be in a very chatty mood.


SUNDAY

Given that Debbie really needed to get home as early as possible on Sunday as she needed to check in with family on the final arrangements for her brother’s viewing on Monday and funeral on Tuesday.  With that in mind, we opted to ride the short, 21-mile route vs. the 31-mile route that most of our friends would be riding.

We had a great start to the ride, spending the majority of our time riding and chatting with long-time friends Greg & Angela K. from Florida.  In fact, we were so engrossed in our discussions that we all missed the turn-off point for the 31-mile riders.  Sadly, we never really finished our conversation, so we’ll have to catch up with them somewhere else in the not too distant future to do that.

Anyway, now that we were clearly on the 21-mile route we sprinted ahead to make quick work of the ride and found ourselves riding with Paul, Jennifer, Peter & Karin again, just as we had on Friday.  We stayed with them for several miles but Debbie finally said “enough, it’s time to back off” and we parted company about 1/3 of the way through the ride.  We finished up the ride by ourselves and were back at the hotel just before 10:00am.  We had ourselves cleaned-up, packed and on the road by 10:30am for the 8-hour return drive to Atlanta.

The drive home was almost uneventful, if you can ever call driving along side Floridian’s uneventful: I swear, they’re some of the worst interstate drivers we’ve ever encountered. Regardless, we lost a good 30 minutes sitting in a traffic jam about 3-miles south of the I-75 / Florida tollway interchange were apparently a couple of drivers got together.  However, once clear of that it was relatively smooth sailing. We did our best to stay connected to the NFL games via local radio stations and finally arrived back in our neck of the woods around 6:40pm, stopping at Loco Willy’s to have some dinner before heading home.

It was a good trip, and in some respects, a much-needed distraction for Debbie. We’ll have a couple very busy and emotionally draining days at home with Debbie’s brother’s viewing on Monday and funeral on Tuesday before meeting with our financial advisors on Wednesday and then heading to Daytona Beach, Florida early on Thursday morning on our Harley for the fall motorcycle rally through Sunday.

Posted in Bloggishnish, Trip Reports | Leave a comment

Weekly Journal: Just A Week in the Life Of….

MONDAY

After a late night following our return flight from Utah that didn’t have us headed home from the airport until after midnight, as well as either a very late dinner or very early breakfast at Waffle House around 1:30am, it was probably a good thing we didn’t have a tandem bicycle to ride on Monday morning.

I was up around 8:00am and Debbie didn’t stir until after FedEx delivered our boxed tandem frame around 9:00am.  However, work on the tandem would have to wait until I dropped off 3 boxes of books at Goodwill that didn’t sell at the garage sale and took care of  some much-needed yard work as the lawn hadn’t been cut in 11 days.

Shortly after finishing up yard work around 2:00pm I pulled the frame out of the box and reassembled the frame; however, putting all of the components back on the frame would have to wait until I got a few other things done.

First up was getting a collection of 150 photos culled out of the 400 or so that I took during our Utah trip for use on our Nixplay photo frames and in my blog.   It was around 4:30pm when I headed back out to the garage to begin the process of rebuilding the tandem so we could give it a shake-down ride on Tuesday morning.  There were a few issues with the re-assembly that I cover in more detail in my other blog if you’re interested.

We resumed our dinner-at-home routine on Monday night with blackened tilapia burritos.  It was about 8:00pm when I resumed work on the bike and didn’t finish until around 11:00pm: never did I have so many issues reassembling a bike or tandem, never!


TUESDAY

My first priority was getting the Vacation Journal from our Utah trip finished so it could go out to my mother in the mail; she’s come to look forward to reading these almost weekly journals. Again, I somewhat bridged the gap by uploading 150 photos to our Nixplay cloud site with descriptions of what was in the photo and putting those up on their Nixplay frame, which they really enjoyed.  It was the first time I’d used the Nixplay for a specific “theme” photo collection and it worked really well.

It was around 9:30am we headed out on the Calfee for a 32-mile shake-down ride. It was a bit cooler at 9:30am than when we last rode about 10 days ago, but the skies were blue and the sun was shining so I knew we’d be fine once we got moving…. and we were.  The tandem started off feeling solid and not making a peep; however, there was still a bit of sloppiness in the shifting when we were up and out of the saddle which suggests there was still a bit of frame flex somewhere and perhaps that’s unrelated to the coupler issue. The more I think about it, the Calfee has always exhibited that behavior.  However, about 1/2 way through the ride that annoying clicking sound returned; say it ain’t so.  Oh well, I’d take another look when we returned home.

As for the ride itself, it felt good to be back on the bike after being off it for 12 days: far too long!  Of course, we had our fair share of motorist issues.  I continue to wear my ‘helmet cam’ and document the close encounters on our other blog, but to what effect I’m still not sure.  However, I did share a short video of one incident with the owner of the company whose driver was being far too careless and he was very appreciative of the video and information. In fact, he said he was going to use the video in his morning meeting with his crews to drive home the need to drive with care and respect for cyclists, etc.

Back at home I spent some time working on the tandem and found that the rear coupler connection was solid — a good thing — but that the couplers were not able to be fully-tightened unless the frame was completely unweighted.  So, we’ll see how it does on the next ride, perhaps tomorrow morning.

The rest of the day was spent catching up on banking, checking on our investment performance — which has not been keeping up with the market so we’ll have to have a meeting with our Morgan Stanley advisors to figure out what’s up with that — and running other errands, making dinner (Mahi Mahi instead of Salmon tonight), and also cashing in one of those ubiquitous jars of coins.  In regard to the latter, I decided to try one of those coin collection machines at our local Publix: holly smokes, they get a 9% fee! So much for that, I’ll just take the rest of our change to the bank.

WEDNESDAY

Sadly, Debbie was feeling up to par this morning so we postponed our tandem ride until perhaps Friday.  I used my morning to go out and run a few errands on the Harley, noting that I hadn’t ridden it in over 2 weeks.

One of my errands was a visit to the bank to make some deposits; a large cash deposit with the proceeds from our garage sale, a few checks and what I guessed was over $100 in change.  Turns out, our bank doesn’t have a coin counting machine that customers can use; they only accept rolled coins.  But, at least they give you full value for your rolled coins. However, the teller gave me a few other options that were only partially accurate.

  • The LGE Credit Union: Free for members, but 11% for others.
  • Walmart: eCards for Starbucks or 10% for cash credit, but no Walmart Gift Cards
  • Kroger: 10% fee, even higher than Publix

I ended up heading home and using my coin sorter / stacker to roll my coins and then took them back to the bank and cashed them in for full value at $113.

While I was out running around I confirmed that the vision in my left eye had degraded quite a bit during the past few weeks and I may need to have it checked.  Both my near and far vision are now blurry in my left eye, where before I only needed minor correction for a slight nearsighted condition in both eyes.  My current contact lens still helps with reading and putting my right eye’s contact lens in corrects for distance, but reading glasses become necessary.  So, more to follow… and of course, since we’re no longer carrying eye care insurance it won’t be “cheap”.  Although, in the back of my mind I think Kaiser may actually cover this type of eye care. More to follow.

Debbie has been really working hard at managing her nutrition and exercising and as part of that renewed focus she’s been looking for ways to take even more fat out of our diet, hence the Mahi vs. Salmon on Tuesday night.  Tonight she made pasta and chicken with a side salad, which was a really nice change of pace for us.

I finished out my evening reading up on current events and also creating a new blog entry for our tandem cycling blog with the notes, screen captures and 3 short videos from our tandem ride on Tuesday.

THURSDAY

I finished up and published my GoPro capture log from Tuesday’s encounters on Thursday morning before getting ready to head down to the Porsche Driving Experience next to the Atlanta Airport.

The back story on the Porsche thing is pretty straight forward: last Christmas the kids and Debbie conspired to come up with a “special gift” for me since I’m impossible to buy for.  I think it was Wesley who came up with the Porsche Driving Experience idea since he’s been pining for some type of high-end prestige / performance car for as long as I can remember.

I’ve gone ahead and created a stand-alone blog entry on our day at Porsche for those who are interested in the nitty-gritty details. However, at the summary level, we arrived for our 11:00am session around 10:15am, checked-in and then spent the next 1/2 hour exploring the heritage center where a handful of very exclusive Porsches were on display.

  

At 11:00am we headed out to our Porsche 911S cars with our driving coaches and spent the next 90 minutes putting the cars through their paces so we could gain an appreciation for their capabilities, how they handled and push our limits as drivers in different driving situations. I had a good time, but I wasn’t moved to run out and buy a Porsche. Wesley, that’s a different story: he’ll likely be back at the Porsche Driving Experience with his partner and some clients.

We decided to pass on lunch at the Porsche facility and stopped in at The Red Eyed Mule on the way home, a day earlier than usual, for our every-other week Jakes Big Daddy burger.

Once we were back at the house, Debbie headed off to visit her mother and I dusted off my to-do list and started checking things off.  First up was dropping off a motorcycle wheel chock at our friend Jeff’s. It was now an “extra” that I’d used for the 2013 Road King and without any interest in having more than one motorcycle I decided to sell it.  Jeff will likely use it with the motorcycle lift on the back of their Class A motorhome.  Back at home I dove back into my home finances and licked my wounds on a huge loss in our investment accounts that wiped out nearly a month of gains adding insult to injury.

After having dinner in I returned to the home office to shred more old documents such as my military records, receipts for things that we no longer have, etc. in my ongoing effort to make sure we eliminate all of the excess “stuff” from our home ahead of any future moves.  I’ve still got a small pile of “stuff” left over from the garage sale and parts from the Honda F6B that I need to put on ebay but must time correctly so I will be at home when the auctions end so I can pack-up and ship out the items.

Speaking of being out-of-town, at least one of our October trips may be in jeopardy. We had made plans to share a condo with some friends in Panama City Beach on 25-28 October for their fall bike week event.  However, our friends have had to cancel due to a pop-up work commitment so we’ve re-evaluated out plans and will now either pass on that trip or head down at the last-minute if our other friends — Ryan & Jeanette — find they can make the trip.  More to follow…

Sadly, my left eye continues to give me trouble and I may need to visit our former eye doctor at Pearl Vision to have it evaluated. My gut instinct is, I’ve got some kind of an eye infection, not a more serious issue.  On the bright side, I’ve been able to partially correct the vision with different contact lenses, but the correction is limited to addressing nearsightedness, such that reading glasses are needed for just about any close-up tasks. Ugg.  It’s always something.

FRIDAY

We decided to use Friday as something of a down day, as Debbie was still feeling very tired and I was also a bit fatigued for some reason.

I used the down day to run a few errands, such as picking up 3 bags of kitty litter so I can dispose of a growing collection of old, partially used paint cans as solid waste, ingredients for a much hyped, home-brew weed killer that’s purportedly “better” than Round-Up like products, a small expandable file folder that will replace the large box where my old receipt are kept and hardware to make a permanent repair of our large suitcase handle.

After watering the yard and landscape, noting we’re in something of a drought here locally, I decided to give the aforementioned, much hyped, home-brew weed killer a try.  The premise here is, a mixture of white vinegar, epsom salt and Dawn dishwashing detergent will yield a weed killer that is more environmentally friendly and just as effective as Round-Up or similar chemical company concoctions.

Well, the jury is still out but I’m highly dubious. The biggest fallacy is cost savings: there are none. In fact, the home-brew is 7-times more expensive to use than Home Depot’s house branded Round-Up, HDX Concentrate.  The $10 HDX Concentrate will make 21 gallons of weed killer @ $0.48 per gallon.  The home-brew ends up costing $3.88 per gallon to make.  In terms of results, the HDX is a low-acting weed killer that kills the plant, period: root and all.  The home-brew does a great job of killing the exposed foliage of “some” weeds, but not all, within 12 hours if you apply it on a sunny day.  Grasses, clovers, etc. were all looking like they were dead or dying by the end of the day; however, the more robust weeds were unfazed (and still are 3 days later).  A bit more reading on the home-brew results confirms similar experiences and, more to the point, it doesn’t kill the plant so within a week or so new foliage will return from the still healthy root system.  And, in terms of being environmentally more friendly than Round-Up, that too is questionable.  So, I’m calling this a fail / hoax and will continue to use HDX and Round-Up.  We’re not pouring hundreds of gallons of the stuff into the ground each year, just a light misting to keep pesky weeds and our creeping grasses from creeping too far.

We ended our week with a Finally a Friday at Loco Willy’s.  In additional to the usual suspects such as our friends David & Deb, Ryan & Jeanette and Mike also dropped in to Loco’s and we all had a great time.

SATURDAY

We finally made it out on the tandem again and had a very good ride. However, the clicking sound and evidence of frame flex continue.  I’m truly perplexed by it and continue to try and come up with low-cost solutions vs. saying, “The heck with it, it’s time for a new tandem.”  Again, the tandem still provides us with a great and comfortable ride and the shifting is as smooth and predictable.. it’s just that annoying “click, click, click” that comes with every right-foot pedal stroke under anything more than moderate pedal pressure. But, as I said, it was a good ride with a higher than usual average speed that I wasn’t even aware of since I failed to reset my computer from our previous rides since I’m not chasing personal bests: we just like to get out and enjoy the day on our tandem.

Back at the house I took one more shot at addressing the clicking sounds by putting teflon tape around all of the coupler threads and then re-torquing the coupler nuts.  I also re-torqued the crank arm bolts, the chain ring bolts and eccentric as an extra measure.  Again, I’m at a loss as to what else it might be.  So, fingers crossed, perhaps we’ll have a click-free ride on Monday.

As I went about re-organizing my “keeper” receipts from 1991 – 2018, fixing our large suitcase’s handle with a steel backing plate and four new bolt sets, changing out a license plate frame on the motorcycle trailer and the like we had Saturday’s college football games on in the background, some of which were boring blow-outs (Bama vs. Arkansas) while others were pretty good (LSU vs Florida).

We met up with our friends Ryan & Jeanette and Chuck & Julie for dinner at a Vietnamese “bistro” around 7:00pm.  I’ll note that it was great getting together with our friends and leave it at that as I was reminded of why we steer clear of 3rd world food.

I’d hinted at stopping by SuBourbon’s to Debbie on our way home by suggesting a good shot of liquor and a piece of pizza might just be what we needed to cleanse our palates, but she was clearly tired and wanted to head home, and that was fine with me. I think it was around 10:00pm when I decided what we really needed was pancakes!  They were quite tasty.

SUNDAY

Today started off as a “down day” for both of us. Debbie was in need of some rest and I was OK with skipping the tandem ride and getting caught up on some reading and blogging, so that’s pretty much what we did for the morning.

After lunch I headed out to the garden shed where I had 30+ cans or bucket of old paint that I needed to get rid of and 3 large bags of kitty litter to facilitate their disposal.  It took a good 2 hours or so to crack open three mostly empty 5-gallon buckets, one half empty / mostly solidified 2-gallon bucket, twenty 1-gallon cans of varying fullness and ten 1-quart cans also of varying fullness. Their remaining contents were consolidated into three 5-gallon buckets, one 2-gallon bucket and seven 1-gallon cans once they were intermixed with the kitty litter.  As we speak, the 11 buckets of paint & kitty litter continue to solidify out in the shed as the 23 now empty cans of paint dry. I’ll put those out a few cans at a time along side our solid waste over the next four weeks or so and that will complete my purge of the garden shed.

Towards the latter part of the afternoon Debbie learned that another family emergency was brewing which captured her attention. She dd her best to take care of some errands, but eventually headed off to be with family for a while. It’s definitely been a bumpy road for the past six months with her mother not doing well, a brother-in-law and Charlie’s significant other fighting cancer and now a brother having his struggles.  And, well, we still have Wesley & Julie as busy as can be managing the three girls, with a fourth due in 3 weeks.

We grabbed a bite to eat out around 8:30pm after she returned from the hospital where her brother was undergoing surgery and then headed home so she could get some much-needed rest.

Looking ahead to the upcoming week, we’re supposed to go to Florida for a tandem rally on Thursday, but current events could require us to make a change in those plans. We’ll have to take it all one day at a time.

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Motorsports: The Porsche Drivers Experience

This past Thursday I got to spend 90 minutes being coached on how to get the most out of a Porsche 911S Carrera at the Porsche Driving Experience in Atlanta.

The back story on the Porsche thing is pretty straight forward: last Christmas the kids and Debbie conspired to go against my wishes for no gifts — it’s a standing policy of mine for all holidays, birthdays, etc — and come up with a “special gift”.  I think it was Wesley who came up with the Porsche Driving Experience idea since he’s been pining for some type of high-end prestige / performance car for as long as I can remember.  Anyway, Wesley also received the same Gift Certificate for a session at the Porsche facility and was along with us.  Debbie was just a spectator / kept us company.

As for my take on the thing, while it would be a fun experience I really wasn’t all that excited about it.  I’ve intentionally stayed away from performance cars for a long time as it has always been way too tempting to ‘enjoy’ the performance in the wrong places, i.e., on public roads instead of a closed course.  My previous performance cars have included a 1975 Chevrolet Cosworth Vega, a 1985 Mercedes Cosworth 190E-16V, a 1995 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 and a 2004 Honda S2000.  We almost bought a 2003 Porsche 911 Turbo (996) a few years back and am still glad I passed on it: it would have been a financial sink hole and just as impractical as having a garage filled with motorcycles. It’s not like we have more money than we know what to do with, so there’s no point in pretending by spending like we did.

Anyway, we made the 45-minute drive through Atlanta and arrived at Porsche’s facility around 10:15am for our 11:00am session. That gave us a little time to wander through their heritage center, a sparse collection of  some very exclusive Porsches as well as customer vehicles awaiting induction into the restoration facility.

  

Around 10:50am we were introduced to our driving coaches, Aaron for me and David for Wesley.  Aaron was a young kid who came to Porsche with just a high school education but a wealth of experience building and racing sports cars. David was the complete opposite, a well-educated professional with a law degree who raced as a hobby and does the coaching to fill his post-career leisure time.

We were both in Porsche 911S PDK (in essence, automatic Porsche Double Clutch) models with twin turbo-charged flat six motors that make 480 bhp and can accelerate from 0-60 in 3.7 seconds.  These cars have an MSRP of $108,000 and probably have as many lines of computer code in their myriad of electronic systems than an F-16.  And even though you can put these cars into a manual shift mode and use steering wheel mounted paddles to shift the transmission, it’s verboten.  No, all you need to get the most out of these cars is use the accelerator and the brake pedal.  Now, we did use all three performance modes: Normal, Sport and Sport-Plus. There’s a fourth “Individual” mode that can be programmed to suit the owner’s preferences.  We used Normal most of the time, but switched into Sport for the Dynamic Performance Range so they could demonstrate the Launch Control features.

Our 90 minutes were spent going through five different “modules” in five different areas; the image blow can be enlarged to provide some details:

They included:

  • Dynamics Area: This was used to demonstrate / experience the Launch Control features, i.e., acceleration and braking.  They also had a slalom course in this area where the handling of the car could be experienced.
  • Handling Circuit: This was the real playground for me: a 1-mile track where you could wring-out the car on straight-aways, large radius turns, a series of esses and short radius turns.
  • Low-Friction Circle: Porsche’s are renowned for oversteer and this polished concrete, wet-surface, circular area is where they allow you to experience what happens as the car begins to oversteer and learn how to use counter-steering to compensate for it: I had trouble here but I’ll explain in a minute.
  • Low-Friction Handling Circuit: Once again, a polished concrete surface but in a series of left-to-right-hand turns with different cambers designed to push the traction limits of the car.
  • Kick Plate:  A flush-mounted, hydraulically actuated plate ahead of a wetted epoxy surface simulate the start of a skid condition so driver’s can learn to counter-steer to correct the condition in concert with the automated controls inherent in the Porsche.

My session began with a couple of familiarization laps around the Handling Circuit, each lap being successively faster than the previous one.

Our first “module” was in the Dynamics Area where I was able to experience the acceleration and braking capabilities of the 911S: pretty amazing, and certainly the fastest starts / stops I’ve ever made.  I did really well on the slalom course at the slow to moderate speeds (text-book, per Aaron) but started to get choppy at the higher speeds: I believe I was over driving the course and making my turns just a bit too wide.

From the Dynamics Area we moved to the Kick Plate.  My first pass at 20 mph was relatively uneventful, much to Aaron’s surprise. The kick plate put the car sideways and I had it straightened out in a single counter-steer.  The second time around he had me try it at 25 mph and it was a very different experience: my hands just weren’t fast enough so I ended up sideways for a while. The third time also at 25 mph went a lot better, just two corrections to get it straightened out.

Our next stop was the Low Friction Circle and I never really “got” what we were trying to do there.  In hindsight I finally realized that I struggled with this feature because when Aaron would tell me to “punch the brakes” I’d punch and what he really wanted me to do was to stab the brakes.  The difference was the amount of time the rear tires stayed locked and that was all the difference in the world.  I spun-out at least 3 or 4 times and recovered only 3 times.  I finally realized what he was trying to get me to do when we changed places and he demonstrated the move and drifting but at that point another car was on the feature and I said “enough” let’s move on.

We went back out on the Handling Circuit to dry off the tires and car before heading to the Low Friction Handling Circuit.  I really enjoyed doing laps on the Handling Circuit and learning why Aaron had me braking quite differently from what I would have naturally wanted to do: unlearning is always a hard thing.  But, after a few laps I knew where he wanted me to brake and just how hard and it did make a difference.  However, since it wasn’t something I’d committed to muscle memory in just the one session I don’t think I ever linked the braking moves smoothly enough with my corner entries to really experience a textbook lap.  That’s not to say that I wasn’t making fast lap times or doing well, something I confirmed with Aaron after our session.

I made at least 8 passes on the Low Friction Handling Circuit and it was really interesting driving the car right at the limit through the different corners and being able to feel the car sitting on the edge of its traction limits.  It would have been very easy to “drift” this track if drifting was your thing.

We finished off the session with a few more laps around the Handling Circuit and all I could think of was “the lap” from the BBC show “Top Gear” and the narrative critique of what drivers were doing well while trying to do the same on my laps without wadding up the car.

 It was around 12:40pm when we finally pulled off the track after my last lap around the circuit and, quite honestly, I’m not sure I ever really paid attention to what any of the other cars were doing — other than when we passed a few on the Handling Circuit —  so I had no idea how Wesley was doing.    He came in shortly after I did but, by then, Aaron was already taking Debbie out for a few laps.  Well, that turned out to be just one lap as it was just too fast for her.  She said it was fun and Aaron was a very fast, smooth driver… but it just wasn’t her cup of tea.]

Wesley seemed to really enjoy the experience and was all about “getting a Porsche” and scheduling a Corporate Session for his partner and some clients.  They offered everyone who attended one of these sessions a 10% discount on a follow-up session if it was scheduled within 30 days, which would be great for anyone who was seriously contemplating the purchase of a new Porsche.  There’s no way you’ll ever get to test drive a Porsche properly anywhere else.  But, not being in the market for a Porsche or any other kind of performance car, I can say that there’s no chance I’ll pay to attend a second session as there’s nothing for me to gain from it.

So, in short, it was a fun life experience and I appreciated the thought of the gift.  I still think it was way too much $$ for a joy ride but, perhaps that’s what makes it the ideal gift.  Well, sort of gift: I ultimately paid for it but that’s OK too.

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Vacation Journal: Utah!

OVERVIEW

Seeing how this vacation journal has grown (or groan, as the case may be for some readers) to over 5,000 words, let me offer a short overview.

Back in early August our friends David & Deb invited to join them for a week-long sight-seeing trip to Utah during early October.  Sadly, we had a few too many October travel plans already locked-in, so they accommodated us and moved the trip to late September.

They flew out on the 22nd and we followed on the 23rd as we had a prior commitment on the 22nd. They spent Saturday & Sunday exploring Salt Lake City before picking us up at the airport late on Sunday afternoon.

During the following seven days we traveled some 1,300 miles by car from Salt Lake City, to Moab, then Hatch, Park City, Ogden and then back to Salt Lake City.  Along the way we visited:

  • Arches National Park
  • The Hole N” The Rock
  • Dead Horse Point State Park
  • Canyonlands National Park
  • Goblin Valley State Park
  • Capital Reef National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Scenic Byway Route 12
  • Utah Olympic Park
  • Antelope Island State Park
  • Old Park City
  • Uinta National Forest / Scenic Byway Route 92

The long hours in the car were a bit fatiguing, but there was never a dull moment and we were always having fun.  Great trip but good to be back home: we’ve got a busy month ahead of us!!


SUNDAY

We were up, had breakfast and were on our way to the airport by 9:30am and, after a gas stop to make sure I had a full tank for the drive home late next Sunday night, we dropped the truck off at Wally Park and took the shuttle to the airport.  The only “issue” had been the top handle breaking loose from our 50lb suitcase as I pulled it out of the truck. Oh well, I’ll fix that at some point, during or after our trip. Hey, it’s 16-years old!  I’m amazed it’s lasted this long without giving us any trouble.

Curbside check-in at the airport was a breeze and even getting through airport security wasn’t all that bad as we received TSA Pre-Check when we booked our travel through Delta on my Delta Rewards program.  We were a good 3 hours early for our flight and parked ourselves at the Gordon Biersch Brewery where we met a nice gal from Salt Lake City who gave us all kinds of sight-seeing recommendations.  We split a burger for lunch and killed a good hour at the bar.

After boarding, getting settled and having the aircraft pull back from the gate, we spent the next 30 minutes parked on the ramp while they did some trouble shooting on an error message from the on-board maintenance system. Thankfully, they were able to “reboot” the aircraft, clear the message and get an OK from flight operations to continue with the scheduled flight.  It was a bit of a bumpy ride and seemed a long longer than the 3 and 1/2 hours, but we made do reading and watching movies.

Our friends Deb and David had spent the night in Salt Lake City and picked us up at the airport around 5:30pm. From there we made the 239-mile / 4-hour drive down to Moab where we’d spend the evening and next two days.  We stopped at an Olive Garden restaurant for dinner before leaving “civilization” as there truly was nothing between Provo and Moab, never mind what was there in Moab was closed on Sundays!  It was a long drive and we were glad to be at our hotel for the night.


MONDAY:

Our biological clocks were definitely not on Mountain Time and were both up early, too early for Moab.  After tossing and turning for a couple of hours we got up and headed down for breakfast.  Looking out the windows we were amazed at the rock formations surrounding us, noting we had no idea what the area around Moab looked like since we came in during the night. After breakfast Debbie headed up to do some exercising while I stayed down in the dining area and did some work on my laptop, e.g., finances, Email, blog updates, etc.  I think it was around 9:30am when we left the hotel for Arches National Park, just a few miles up the road.

Just a disclaimer: I’ve got more photos than I’ll ever post to this blog: these will just be samplings.  Here’s a link to a full portfolio of all the photos from our Utah trip: LINK

Upon our arrival at the entrance to the National Park we sat in line for a good 30 minutes waiting to pay our entrance fee.  Once we finally reached the entrance I opted to buy an annual pass for the U.S. National Park system since we’d amortize the cost during just our visits to three National Parks in Utah.

To say the park and its sights were breathtaking would be an understatement.  No words or photos do the rock formations justice.  Moreover, they all look very different from different perspectives and as the sun moves they change even more.  Although most of our touring was done from the car, we did get out and do a little hiking at a couple of the more famous sights.  In fact, we make the 3-mile round-trip hike to the lower observation area for ‘Gentle Arch’ that included a pretty good climb up a rocky ledge.  Again, I’ll let a small collection of photos do the talking for what we saw at the park: just amazing.

  

From Arches National Park we headed back to Moab to get lunch and to run an errand or two.  After driving the length of the main street (U.S. Highway 191) through town we found the Blu Pig Restaurant and Bar, a place that David said had very good reviews.  We stopped there and had a really good time and a great meal.  Definitely a great little place.

From there we continued south to a tourist attraction called the “Hole N’ The Rock,” a former restaurant and home created by carving-out 50,000 square feet of sandstone from the base of a rock formation along U.S. Highway 191.  The first excavations were made in the early 1900’s, but the work that created the Hole N” The Rock began in earnest in the 1940’s.  You can read more about it in this Country Living article from July 2017.

From there we headed back towards Moab and made a quick stop at a True Value hardware store where I picked up some nuts, bolts and washers so I could repair the broken handle on our suitcase, at least well-enough to get us back home and do a proper repair.

After a short visit back to our hotel, we headed off to find Dead Horse Point State Park and then Canyonlands National Park, hoping to time our visit to Canyonlands to coincide with sunset.

Once again the photos don’t do the sights justice.  There’s a “legend” about Dead Horse  Point that gives the mesa overlooking the Colorado River its name that suggests cowboys used the mesa to corral wild mustang horses and then leave the unwanted ones to die of thirst.  At least a few accounts suggest that, while it was used as a corral, only once were the unwanted horses left on the mesa.  This mesa is also where the final scene from Thelma and Louise was filmed during which they drove their old Ford Thunderbird off a cliff and into a canyon.  Setting aside the legends and film history, it’s quite simply just an amazing place to see from the “Island in the Sky” that surrounds the various canyons formed over millions of years by the Colorado River and other bodies of water that have filled and flowed through this part of Utah.

 

We then made a short drive to the Canyonlands National Park where we were able to use our National Parks Pass once again; definitely an on-your honor entrance at that time of day.  The views of the Green River Canyon were spectacular, made more so by the light of the setting sun.  However, we received a fantastic “bonus” on our drive out as it was also a Harvest Moon and we were treated to an amazing “moon rise.”

  

We made our way back to town where we stopped at the hotel for a quick change of clothes and then headed down to the Moab Brewery for a late night dinner to end our day.  All told, we drove about 190 miles as we visited and toured the three parks and the Hole N” the Rock during our day-long excursion.  Spending a lot of time in the car would become a constant for most of this trip.  If I had to do it again, I think I’d focus on spending more time at just one of the destinations and include some mountain biking, hiking and other types of activity vs. just sight-seeing.  However, it was great to get out and see all there was to see.


TUESDAY:

Our destination today was the Riverside Ranch – RV Resort and Motel in Hatch, Utah, which would put us within a short drive of Bryce Canyon National Park.  It was about a 278-mile drive, made about 12-miles longer by stops at the Goblin Valley State Park and a scenic drive through Capital Reef National Park along Utah Route 24 (UT-24).  Both of these parks had been recommended by the gal from Salt Lake City whom we met while having lunch at the Atlanta airport on Sunday.

Goblin Valley State Park was mind-blowing!  Once again, the diversity of the geology here in Utah is amazing.  But, what we found at Goblin Valley was completely unexpected.  I’m glad I had no idea of what it was and had not seen any pictures before arriving.  Of course, if you’re reading this you’ll have no doubt seen a few photos: sorry about that!  It was well worth the detour off of UT-24.

  Once we were back on UT-24 we made our way through Capital Reef National Park and I’ll need a chiropractor to fix my neck after this trip. Every mile and at every turn there was yet another unique and attention grabbing rock formation, petrified dune or lush green valley along a river.  The north side of mountain ranges are completely different from the southern facing sides and so on.

  

As we exited Capital Reefs National Park we came into Torrey, Utah with a very inviting drive-in called Slackers Burgers.  What a great little place that was.  We took a very much-needed break for a late lunch before the final stretch of driving to Hatch where we arrived at The Riverside Ranch around 5:30pm.  We stayed in the small and rustic but very comfortable motel, noting they also had RV hook-ups and campsites.

It was probably around 7:30pm when we headed out for dinner at the Outlaw Saloon.  What made the Outlaw Saloon a must-visit place was their grass-fed, free-ranging beef offerings and the novelty of being your own grill master.  Yup, they present you with a raw piece of rib eye or T-bone steak and point you towards the large grilling island where you get to apply your seasonings and grill your steak over a 350*F gas grill.  The gentleman tending the bar — Andrew — was really a delight.  Just a guy from Wisconsin who follows the seasonal employment circuit: work hard for 6 months and then take 6 months off to enjoy life.  Between his company and the fantastic food, it was a great dining experience.

 

After a quick stop at a mini-mart / gas station in Hatch to pick up some beverages we headed back to our motel.  David & Deb joined a collection of other guests around a bonfire for the rest of the evening while Debbie and I retired to our room.  Debbie wasn’t feeling 100% and really needed to get off her feet and sleep a bit.  I did a little work on the vacation journal and apparently fell asleep with my hands still on the keyboard!


WEDNESDAY:

After breakfast at the Riverside Ranch and some additional time to allow David & Deb to wash some “smoked-up clothing” from their evening sitting by the fire pit visiting with other guests at the Riverside Ranch, we loaded up the Nissan Armada and headed towards Utah Route 12 – Scenic Byway, en route to Park City, Utah where we’d spend the next four nights at the Hilton Grand Vacations – Sunrise Lodge: about a 370-mile day.

Our first stop along Utah Route 12 (UT-12) was Bryce Canyon National Park.  To get there we first passed through the Red Canyon,  a 4-mile long stretch of road through orange-red limestone rock formations filled with a variety of turrets, hoodoos, pinnacles and spires formed over time by erosion, in much the same way was the goblins in Goblin Valley.

We made stops at several overlooks and saw the famous Bryce amphitheater with its sandstone towers, natural bridges and arches as well as the beautiful vistas. To be quite honest, we did ourselves a disservice by visiting Arches, Canyonlands and Capital Reefs National Parks before Bryce, never mind Goblin Valley: they made Bryce seem underwhelming.  Don’t get me wrong, the views were spectacular, but they just paled in comparison to what we saw over the previous two days.  That and Bryce also seemed far more commercialized with camp grounds around every corner, businesses lined up along the entrance and more than enough tourist traps.  However, we’re glad we made the stop.

As we resumed our trip up Scenic Byway UT-12 the topography and sights along the 113-mile drive back up to UT-24 at Torrey, Utah were simply amazing and there were a few that bear special mention to go along with some of the photos.

The first was the Powell Point & The Blues Overlook.  We saw Powell Point with its summit at 10,188 feet well before we began the twisty climb up to the pull-off at the scenic overlook of  “The Blues” a badlands of gray-green shale deposited over 80 million years ago when the area was covered by an inland ocean.

The next “wow” of the drive came shortly after we had a really great lunch at the Circle D Eatery: highly recommended!  Really, huge portions of delicious food in a spotless, upscale looking restaurant that was actually a great value. But, I digress….

We next came to the Head of the Rocks Overlook with an amazing view out and across the  Escalante Canyons where a turbulent ocean of slick rock stretches almost as far as the eye can see. Some 168 million years ago, these striated cream-and-red sandstone formations were sand dunes. However, what also makes this particular stretch of UT-12 even more fascinating is the story of the Million Dollar Road, the stretch of UT-12 that winds through this incredibly rugged, rocky area.  Completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1940, the Clem Church Memorial Highway passes through the Escalente Canyon and then across the top of Hogsback Ridge with grades that reach 14% and S-curve after S-curve and, of course, the 109 foot bridge across the Hogsback Ridge’s Death Hollow with its 800-foot drops on both sides.  Since just driving along the stretch of road causes everyone to grip the wheel of their vehicles a little tighter the real question that runs through your mind is, how the heck did they build this road back in the 1940s? If you’re not bothered by the heights, steep drop-offs and not driving the vehicle, the vistas along this stretch of road are breathtaking.

 

Beyond the city of Bolder and nearing the summit of Boulder Mountain — with its Aspens and free range cattle grazing all over the place — is Homestead Overlook.  The panoramic views from the 9,400-foot-high scenic point are spectacular.  To our left were the five peaks of the Henry Mountains, below in the valley were the magenta wedge of the Waterpocket Fold, to our right were the striated rock face of the Kaiparowits Plateau and off in the distance were the Navajo Mountains.

We came down off Boulder Mountain into the town of Torrey at Utah Route 24 (UT-24), just a mile ahead of where we had lunch at Slacker’s Burgers the day before.  I will note, we had first discussed just heading to Park City via the most direct route vs. adding the 3.5-hours it would take to make the drive up UT-12 and we were all glad we opted to take the time for the scenic drive: it was well worth it!  To have come this far and by-passed it just to save a little time on a week-long trip would have been a shame.

It was around 2:30pm when we began the second leg of our drive up to Park City from Torrey: it was a 220-mile stretch that put us into Park City around 7:30pm.  We made our way to Old Park City and had dinner at Butcher’s.  We made the most of the 2-for-1 special and had a really good meal: David had the prime rib, Deb had shrimp & grits, and we had seared tuna steak.

After dinner we made our way over to the Canyons resort area below Park City and found the Hilton Grand Vacations – Sunrise Lodge, where we checked-in for the next four nights.  Amazingly, this would be the least expensive of the places we’d stayed thus far.  However, we were really surprised to discover the hotel has no restaurant, bar or even a light breakfast offering so all of our meals will have to be taken “out” instead of at the hotel.  With that in mind, after checking in we ventured out into the nearby entertainment and dining complex, only to find that just about every bar and restaurant was on off-season hours and closed by 9:00pm.  We ended up taking the hotel’s shuttle bus back to Old Park City and spent a good hour or so at O’Shucks, a semi-dive bar.  We took an Uber ride back to the hotel just before mid-night and that was the end of our day.  It was a long day…


THURSDAY

Despite the paper-thin walls and floors of the Hilton that allow every sound from adjoining rooms to come through — pretty much what we discovered at Tuscany in Orlando — we both slept pretty well.  The only real, nagging issue we’re having is the incredibly dry, arid climate which is playing havoc with us.  Dry skin, chapped lips, sinus issues, bloody noses, bloating, etc. have been an uncomfortable constant throughout the trip and no amount of hydration seems to correct for it.   But, as I said, we still both enjoyed a pretty good night’s rest.

We were both up around 6:00am and did our best not to get going too early as it would be around 9:00am before we headed off to breakfast with David & Deb.  To make the best of our morning, I went down to the hotel’s fitness center and spent about 30 minutes on a stationary bike while Debbie stayed in the room and did her exercises.

After returning to the room and grabbing a shower I was able to catch up on my email and other personal business and even knocked out a little writing on this vacation journal.  I’ve continued to get more comfortable with my new 13″ Samsung laptop which, with its very compact size, has been a real treat to have vs. my huge 17″ MacBook Pro.  I’m able to do just about everything I did on the MacBook, less photo editing.  I’m still working on that so the photos that go with this blog still haven’t been added at this point.

As per usual, it was around 9:00am when we began our day in earnest.  We headed down to Leger’s Deli for breakfast, since there wasn’t anything at or near the hotel. Debbie and I split a really tasty pastrami & chicken sandwich with full garden and avocado on sourdough but it ended up giving me indigestion all day: or, was that the Kavanaugh hearings I was keeping up with?  Regardless, it did slow me down a bit as that was on top of all the other ailments I’ve already mentioned.

From Legers we headed to the Utah Olympic Center to visit the museum and explore the remaining ski jump, freestyle and bobsled facilities.  It was a very compact facility but they certainly had all of the bases covered as far as training for year-round training for ski-jump and freestyle aerials.

From the Olympic Center we briefly returned to the hotel to see what the concierge had to offer in terms of meal planning / restaurant recommendations for the balance of our stay before heading off towards the Antelope Island State Park near Odgen, about an hour’s drive north through Salt Lake City.

Antelope Island State Park was more-or-less a peninsula when we arrived as the Great Salt Lake was fairly low given the time of year.  With a total area of 42 square miles, 15 miles long by 4.5 miles wide, it is home to free-ranging bison, mule deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn sheep (aka, antelope), coyotes, badgers, bobcats and numerous birds of prey such as owls, hawks and falcons and hundreds of different types of migratory birds.  Visitors are welcome to camp, hike, bike and explore the island and can visit the Garr Ranch, one of the oldest permanent settlements in Utah.

After entering the park through the town of Syracuse, we drove across the causeway and made our way to the north side of the island where we had lunch at the Island Buffalo Cafe, which was basically a concrete block building with windows and a short-order kitchen and the only place that sells food on the island.  Well, of course we had to have the Buffalo Burgers…  noting that they should be called Bison Burgers since that’s what inhabit the island.

We drove to the various scenic overlooks and made our way out to the Garr Ranch, catching views of the free ranging bison, at least one of the antelope, perhaps a bobcat and quite a few different types of birds.  It was well worth the visit.

 

After returning to the Hilton we had a little down time before heading to a local Italian restaurant called Trio.  Like most places we’ve been, it was nearly empty when we walked in but we made our way to the empty bar for cocktails and dinner.  Dan was the barkeeper — a young man who followed his Air Force dad around the world and landed in Odgen, Utah and then made Park City his home where he tends bar, skis and cycles — and we had a great time chatting with him and getting a few recommendations on other bars and restaurants we might like.  Debbie and I stuck with salads as our entrees, hers with chicken and mine without: I just needed greens!  David & Deb a pizza and it was all really quite good and reasonable.

From Trio we headed across the way to Bout Time, a sports bar that was really just our cup of tea for a night spot.  We had a great time there catching the Thursday night college and pro football games and otherwise just taking in the sights and sounds of the pub.  Our barkeeper was Eric — a transplant who has been tending bar and teaching snow boarding after giving up his home improvement business in San Diego during the housing bust 10 years ago — After a short stop at Walmart to pick up breakfast items, we headed back to the Hilton and called it a night.

Friday would be a casual, down day with an afternoon visit to Old Park City where we’ll wander around and see what there is to see.


FRIDAY

Per our plan, we stayed in our room for most of the morning, making breakfast in.  Debbie dutifully did her exercises while I checked my Email, worked on the vacation journal and kept up with current events.

We ventured out to Old Park City around 10:30am and spent the better part of the late morning and early afternoon walking around and wandering into various different shops and galleries along Main Street.  Debbie found a few things that struck her fancy and I was really amazed at how ski equipment had changed since the late 1980’s when I last went alpine skiing on my old Rossignol 3G GS ski’s.  We sure didn’t wear helmets back in the day and the ski’s are almost twice as wide and not nearly as long: very strange on 1st glance.

 

For lunch, we camped out at the No Name bar: wow, what a place!  It’s one of those joints that is probably backed-up by some big money, but still has that warm and cozy bar feeling.  It’s definitely a place where we could hang-out and watch a ball game or just sit and visit with friends.

We headed back to the hotel and spend the afternoon relaxing a bit in our room before heading out to get in a late afternoon walk around The Canyons Village, a food, shopping and entertainment complex situated in the middle of the resort hotels.  This was a part of Park City that didn’t exist the last time I was up here in the 80’s.

After meeting Deb and David at Draft’s Burger Bar, we headed back down to the Bout Time Pub for dinner.  Our return visit to Bout Time got off to a shaky start when the two gals tending the bar seemed to be overwhelmed by some technical issues. However, our keeper — Elizabeth, a transplant from Florida who teaches 2nd grade during the day and tends bar at night to make ends meet as teachers wages in Utah are apparently some of the lowest in the US — was able to gain her stride and did a good job of taking care of us.  The meals all ended up being really tasty so, all-in-all, another good visit.

We returned to the hotel and parted company with David & Deb who headed back to Draft’s Burger Bar for a nightcap while Debbie and I headed back to our room to warm up and get some rest. For some reason we found that we were both getting chilled by the night air in Park City, even though it really wasn’t all that cold.  Perhaps it was a combination of the cooler, thin and dry air.

About the only other noteworthy news of the day was that our friends Chuck & Julie would once again be joining us in Daytona for bike week in mid-October.  That was great news, as we’ve really been looking forward to that trip.

As for what Saturday will bring, we’re still working on that plan.


SATURDAY

Despite an early evening, we both slept in a bit this morning.  I started my day working on my Quicken accounts and that did not go well.  After reworking all of the Categories and then scrubbing 90 days worth of ledger entries I realized something was seriously wrong in the accounting and had to wipe out my main account.  It was so screwed up that it would be easier to rebuild from a back-up and do over, something that would wait until later in the day.

Around 10:30am we joined up with David & Deb and headed off on yet another driving tour, this time our destination was the Uinta National Forest and Scenic Byway Route 92., aka, the Alpine Loop Scenic Drive.  The 20-mile drive winds through rugged alpine canyons of the Wasatch Range below Mount Timpanogos and other glacier-carved peaks southeast of Salt Lake City. Although we didn’t stop at either one, Timpanogos Cave National Monument and Robert Redford’s Sundance Mountain Resort are located along the route. We had a minor issue just as we entered the Uinta National Forest due to college students parking along both sides of UT-92 despite the no-parking signs, reducing it to an impromptu one-lane road with two way traffic; ugg, what a mess.  They were apparently attending some type of a conference at BYU’s Aspen Grove Family Camp adjacent to the entrance to the park.

The scenery along the drive was spectacular, but very different from what we saw even on Boulder Mountain or anywhere else during our travels around Utah.  Driving the narrow road with two-way traffic with drivers of questionable skills and judgement, cyclists and members of the university of Utah’s cross-country ski team working on on roller skis made the journey a bit tense at times.  We we were glad we made the journey but, in retrospect, should have probably made it during the week instead of on a Saturday.

 

After leaving the park we made our way back around the Wasatch Mountains through Provo and stopped at Melvins Public House in Heber, Utah, for lunch.  As perhaps our last stop on our pub crawl through Utah it did not disappoint.  The barkeeper, Correy, was excellent as was the food and overall environment.  They had plenty of large screen TVs with the college games on, most importantly… the Georgia vs. Tennessee game.  Just a great time with our great friends, David & Deb.

We headed back to our hotel for some additional down time, which Debbie and I spent in our room where we finished watching the Georgia / Tennessee game.  Well, OK: Debbie napped and I resumed work on my Quicken account.  Lots of good games and, thankfully, I think I was able to get my Quicken account straightened-out and aligned with the host accounts at Morgan Stanley, American Express and Wells Fargo.  I was also able to do most of my bill-paying on line from Utah, which is pretty slick.  I’ve got a few more accounts to add to my bill-payee profile but after that I should be 100% on line for bill paying.

For dinner, we headed back to “Loco’s West”…  the Bout Time Pub.  Our server from Thursday night, Eric, took care of us while we enjoyed just about every college football game on their vast array of big screen TVs.   Like Loco’s back at home, Bout Time just has the right vibe for us: casual dining, attentive staff, good food and a bunch of regulars who enjoy a relaxed time at a good pub.

We were back at the hotel by 9:30pm, which was just fine for us as we were pretty much gassed after a week of being sight-seeing tourists: perhaps for a few too many days.  Debbie and I were both thinking we’d have done well to rent a couple mountain bikes for the past few days that we were in Park City and hit the bike paths and trails… just to get the cobwebs out.  Of course, to her credit, Debbie has been very diligent about getting in 30 minutes or more of exercise a day, whereas I only managed one day on a stationary bike.

We’ll head out to Salt Lake City around 11:00am tomorrow and will need to be at the airport by 3:00pm for our 5:20pm flight that will get us back into Atlanta around 11:00pm and home by perhaps 1:00am.  Yup, it will be another long day, that’s for sure.


SUNDAY

We checked out of the Hilton Grand Vacations – Sunrise Lodge at 10:00am and headed off to Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City.  It was a very windy morning with very hazy skies, most likely filled with dust picked up by the high winds.

The Salt Lake Temple and surrounding buildings such as the Tabernacle and Assembly Hall, were beyond impressive.  We spent a great deal of time in the visitor’s center where the exhibits focused on the temple and the importance of families in the Mormon community, noting that visitors may enter the Assembly Hall and Tabernacle, but not the Temple which is reserved as a special place for members of the Latter Day Saints.  Like Utah itself, I’m now compelled to do a bit more reading on the Mormon story.

After our visit to Temple Square we headed a few blocks to Gracie’s Gastro Pub where we’d grab some lunch and catch Sunday’s NFL games while we waited to head to the airport for our 5:19pm flight back to Atlanta.

We arrived at the airport around 3:00pm, topped-off the gas tank in David’s rental car before dropping it off — which proved to be a bit of a challenge for some reason — and then made our way through curbside check-in, the TSA checkpoint where we thankfully had PreCheck again, and then found our gate where we camped-out for the next 90 minutes before boarding the very crowded flight.

It was an uneventful flight. Debbie spent the majority of her time reading since the inflight entertainment system didn’t have Sunday Night Football available as a viewing option. I split my time reading and watching a movie to pass the time.

After arriving in Atlanta we met back up with David & Deb and headed to baggage claim where, for unexplained reasons, it took an inordinate amount of time for our baggage to arrive.  After that we headed off to find our parking lot shuttle bus and, once again, we found ourselves waiting far too long for the bus to arrive: on the order of 30 minutes or so.  We’re still not sure what their story was, but it certainly didn’t endear us to Wally Park for any future travel needs.  It was 12:15pm when we finally made it out of the parking lot headed for home.

We stopped at the Waffle House for a bite to eat on the way home, not completely sure what we had on hand at the house and also not wanting to start cooking at 1:00am.  After our waffles and hash browns, we finally arrived back home.  Debbie headed straight for bed while I got the luggage out of the truck, unpacked and put away, as I was still a bit “wired” from the day’s journey and not really back on East Coast time.  It think it was around 2:45am when I finally went to bed for a restless night.

And there you have it…

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Weekly Journal: Getting Ready for the Garage Sale

SATURDAY

I found myself awake rather early so I busied myself finishing up last weeks’ Journal that way I could print it out and get it off in the mail to my mother before our mail carrier came by around 10:30am.

With the weekly journal out-of-the-way I turned my attention back to my new Samsung laptop, spending a good hour updating the Windows 10 operating system and the Samsung drivers.  As I waited for all of the downloads and restarts to be completed on my Samsung I realized that Debbie’s new Acer laptop probably need to go through the same updates, noting her old HP Pavilion fell so far behind on updates that it could no longer be updated.  It took a good hour and a half to get both of the laptops “current” but at least we’re up to date!

When I bought my Samsung I also purchased a newer version of the Quicken software that I’ve used since 1998 to manage all of my checking, savings, credit card and other accounts.  I’d foolishly assumed I’d be able to export all of my data since 1998 out of the Quicken 2000 software I’ve been using to a newer version on either the Samsung PC or my MacBook Pro laptop: no dice.  Turns out, the Quicken 2000 software is SO old the best chance I’d have at moving “some of the data” to a newer computer running a current version of Quicken software would be to find a copy of the Quicken 2007 software to act as a bridge for updating the Quicken 2000 files before moving them to Quicken 2018.  Yikes, what a PIA.  So, my current plan is to start a fresh version of Quicken on the Samsung to manage all of our expenses from retirement (30 June) forward, and hope that my 19-year old MacIntosh Power PC G4 will continue to run so I can have access to all of my historical data.  In the background I’ll keep looking for that Quicken 2007 software so I can try to recover / move all of my data to a newer laptop.

As a side note, I’ve been able to get in to my Morgan Stanley on-line accounts and am well on my way to joining the 21st century with respect to banking and bill paying. Rather than continuing to write paper checks out of my Morgan Stanley account, I’m now trying to leverage the on-line bill-paying applications to eliminate paper check writing from my monthly routine vis-a-via eBills and other on-line bill-paying services.  The goal is to be able to pay all of my bills without being home to receive the paper bills and write checks by doing it all on-line through the Morgan Stanley account services.  More to follow…. but it’s looking pretty good so far.

Getting ready for next Friday’s community garage sale continues to consume at least a third to half of my “working hours” such as they are.  Today was spent moving a few items out of the main attic — an old stereo receiver, bread maker, small flat screen TV and some wireless phones.  The attic has not been this “clean” in quite some time.

I also pulled a few sets of motorcycle riding apparel out of the guest room closet that have been gathering dust for 8 years, it was from the short-lived BMW R1150RT era.  After that it was on to the knee wall storage area in the exercise room where things like the Nordic Track (what would a garage sale be without at least one Nordic Track) and other “stuff” that we’ve been stashing in anticipation of a future garage sale.

However, one of the re-discoveries from the knee wall storage area were our golf clubs, which we put into storage back in 1997 when we started tandem cycling.  Yup, we gave up golf for cycling, as both require a fairly strong commitment of time and energy to truly enjoy.  My clubs were stored inside my travel case and were in very good condition; however, Debbie’s were sitting in her old golf bag and had been put away without being properly cleaned.  So, a pop-up task became cleaning up her clubs and then co-storing them in my bag which went back in the travel case.  We’re thinking we might just go out and play some scratch golf or hit a few balls at the driving range to see if there is still an interest before parting with the clubs.

Before heading off to Loco Willy’s for dinner I made time to go through my top dresser drawer which had also become filled with “stuff” of questionable value and purpose so a lot of that was sorted-out and properly put away, including the vast amounts of pocket change that always seem to collect.  In fact, I spent a good 1/2 hour sorting out two mason jars filled with coins, some of which will be used to “make change” for the garage sale while the rest gets “recycled” into dollars.

Like many Saturdays when we’re at home, we went out for dinner and met our friends David & Deb at Loco Willys.  Around 8:00pm our friends Chuck & Julie joined us for about an hour and we had a really great time.

After Loco’s we stopped in at SuBourbon’s where our friend and owners Dave Ulmer was throwing a 3rd year anniversary party and we wanted to say hello and put in an appearance.  We ended up staying a couple of hours and really had a great time seeing a lot of friends who we know from either SuBourbons or other places.  We even found a new friend from Loco’s over at SuBourbons — Houston — who ended up joining as at our table for the evening.  We got in a little dancing and just had a grand time.  I think Dave gets a kick out of me showing up in my kilts as he always calls me out when he doubles at the DJ when the band takes a break between sets, Saturday night was no exception.

SUNDAY

After sleeping in a bit later than usual given our late night out at SuBourbons it was back to going through the house and sorting out junk from treasures for garage sale shoppers.  My first stop was the old chest in our living room where I was pretty sure I’d stashed a couple hundred audio and video cassettes, easily half of which were “dubbed” vs. store-bought originals.  I figure I’ll go ahead and put them out for the garage sale at 5 for a $1.00 or something like that: what may be one man’s garbage may be another’s potpourri.

From the living room, Debbie joined in as we worked our way around the kitchen and began to move things out to the garage so as to limit the number of times we’ll have to move the breakables. That was also my cue to move the pile of stuff from the sitting area in the guest room and from the exercise room down to the garage as well.  Honestly, I don’t know how people can stand having their garage filled with “stuff” instead of being just a place for vehicles, it’s driving me nuts after just one day.

I finished out the afternoon by policing up all of the limbs and small branches that were knocked out of the trees by the high winds and rains that finally blew through our area as Tropical Depression Florence moved inland.  Our hearts to out to the thousands of people — including several friends — who were truly in Florence’s path of destruction. Yeah, living along the coast is not high on my list.

We stayed in for dinner; it was hot wings and maggie’s night.  Some friends had put out a general invite to join them for dinner on the other side of town, but quite honestly… getting out on Friday and Saturday is more than enough for us.  However, around 9:00pm Ryan & Jeanette, Carrie Ann, Marsha and Matt dropped by for a nightcap and we had a great time shoot the breeze as well as adult beverages while knoshing on popcorn, animal crackers and nuts until around 11:00pm.

I read in bed for a good hour before turning out the lights and was able to finish my Winston Groom book ‘Generals’….  a great read.  Now I’ll need to go and read the biographies of Marshall, Patton & McArthur at some point, after re-reading a collection of Earnest Hemingway’s works that I picked up from a library.

MONDAY

Despite being without our tandem, we dutifully saddled-up on our single bikes at 9:30am on Monday for our 32-mile morning ride.  It was actually a nice change of pace being out on the single bikes vs. the tandem.  We had a more relaxed pace, staying together and just enjoying the morning.  Sadly, traffic seemed to be about as bad as we’ve seen since taking up weekday, morning rides in August; not sure what’s up with that.  Our more leisurely pace had us back home right around noon vs. 11:40am on the tandem.

After a little lunch I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning out the shed. I felt sorry for the trash guys today as I had quite a lot of “junk” sitting out at the curb. In addition to one bag that came out of the house, there were four more that came out of the shed, two from the attic and then three bundles of scrap wood, Debbie’s old golf bag and the old flag pole set.

Salmon, it’s what’s for dinner!!  Blackened in the iron skillet to perfection out on the gas grill’s side burner, so as not to fill the house with the smell of salmon for the next month!

 

It was a long day and I was pretty tired, but not too tired to catch up on the markets, news and do some reading before calling it a day.

TUESDAY

Setting up the new version of Quicken on my laptop; wow, that’s really different!?  Linking live to all of my banking accounts vs keying in each transaction.  I guess we assume what the banks record to be accurate.  Gotta spend more time learning how this all works.

I spent a good hour “purging receipts” which is to say, I have a fairly comprehensive collection of the paper receipts associated with most purchases of real property, from appliances to apparel, computers, housewares, tools, etc. going back to the 1980’s.  As I’ve made my way around the office I decided they could also use a bit of a purging of receipts for things that are no longer with us.  My goal is to move this collection of receipts into a smaller folder vs. the file box.

Since we were down to just the one car and Debbie would be heading out to run errands a bit later in the morning, I ran out and picked up a few things I needed for my ongoing house cleaning activities.  While I was out I ran her car through the car wash as it was definitely in need of a good cleaning and I didn’t feel like dragging out the car washing equipment and hose at the house given all of the clutter in the garage.  Back at home I gave it a good wipe down to remove the water spots and then gave the interior a good cleaning and vacuuming. I think she appreciates it when I keep her car clean and I like to be appreciated, so it’s a win-win.

Back at the house it was back to the attic over the garage.  I must have brought down 10 boxes worth of “stuff” for the garage sale.  On the bright side, I took the shop vac into the attic and was able to get it cleaned-up and a bit more organized so we’ll have a good work space for a winter purge of old paper records, as there are a good 6-7 large file boxes up there that all need to go, having no future need or purpose.  Other than those files, there are just a few boxes with motorcycle parts — some of which I need to sell on ebay — and then lots of empty bicycle-size shipping boxes, and some of those will go in the not too distant future.  There are still some odds and ends, such as a kerosene space heater, my Yakima cycling roof racks, the pull-along carts for our golf clubs, a set of rollers for the bicycles and tandem and yes… more empty storage boxes for models and other things that we’ll keep for a future move(s).  But, all-in-all, a lot less cluttered than it was.

I think I may have overwhelmed our trash collection crew with all of the bags of trash. As I was working in the garage I could hear the guys on the truck upon seeing the pile of “stuff” say, “daamn.” In fact, after clearing away all of the bagged and bundled trash they apparently gave up on the very heavy bag in the actual trash can that I had sitting out.  I’ve since split that bag into two smaller bags that they’ll hopefully haul away on Friday.  Of course, by then I’m sure we’ll have a few more bags of trash out there.

I got a little ahead of schedule yesterday and was able to power wash six patio chair cushions that will hopefully find a new home, along with a few of the lawn maintenance power tools I no longer need, having replaced my gas blower, gas line trimmer and electric hedge trimmer with battery-powered equipment.  I’m also putting my gas-powered power-washer out as the smaller electric one I have does about 80% of what I previously used the gas one for and it’s a lot easier to access and use.  For the bigger jobs I think I’ll just rent a machine, or I may just get a newer, higher-pressure unit.

After dinner Debbie drove me over to pick up my truck which, thankfully, only needed basic service. What sounded like a bad bearing was a tire that had started to cup with only 6,500 miles of use.  They rotated it to the back of the truck and hopefully the cupping will be worn-down back there in the not too distant future.  On the way home I stopped in to visit with Ryan and David at Taco Mac for a an hour or so, something I probably should have passed-on but, what the heck.  We won’t see them for a few weeks given our very busy schedules.

WEDNESDAY

After a somewhat sleepless night, having woken up about every hour on the hour, I finally gave up and came downstairs around 7:00am and began to hammer out this week’s journal and also did my post cycling ride editing of our GoPro helmet cam “highlights” and, by highlights, those would be the hall of shame driver photo captures. I’ll be publishing a monthly compilation for posterity.

Debbie had a rough night too and came down around 8:30am.  After grabbing a light breakfast she headed back upstairs to get ready for our every-other day bicycle ride from the house: she’s a trooper, to be sure!!!  I followed suit and by 10:00am we were on the road again, albeit still on our single bikes as the tandem is still en route to Calfee for repairs.  With any luck, it will arrive today and may even be headed back home by the end of the week: fingers crossed!!!

We had a really good ride today, up a few ticks on our average speed from Monday.  I swear, I don’t know how Ms Debbie’s knees can take the low-cadence grinding she gives them; wow!  I my knees would have blown out years ago had I pushed the big gears that she seems to prefer.  I’ll say this: if we lived in Florida or anywhere else it was dead flat I’d have a hard time keeping up with her!!!  It’s only because of the hills that I will ever find her drifting back in my rear-view mirror, otherwise she’s right on my wheel.

We landed back at the house around 12:30pm and Debbie headed on up to visit with her mother while I continued to get things ready for Friday’s community garage sale. Sadly, her mother’s not doing well and it’s wearing on Debbie, who tries to smile through it all but I know better.

It took me the better part of the afternoon to figure out how to arrange things in the garage for Friday, while also sending load after load of glassware through the quick wash cycle in the dishwasher to get it ready for display.  I spent a good bit of time sorting through a large box of old sailing and cycling T-shirts and found that most of them were just too far gone for even Goodwill.  However, I did rescue at least a dozen old shirts for my personal use and another dozen or so will get tagged for $.50/each just to be rid of them.  I also have at least 15 or so cycling jerseys out on the rack… who knows, someone might be interested. If not, they’ll go on ebay.  My goal is to price as many things at a $1.00 or less so that someone takes it off our hands. There are a few things that I’ll go a bit higher on, but by and large, this is a blow-out sale.  After all, if it doesn’t sell its either going to AmVets, Goodwill or the dump.  It’s not going back to the attic or shed!!!!

Debbie arrived back home around 6:00pm and we deferred dinner until around 7:30am.  Rather than our usual blackened fish burritos, it just felt like a grilled bratwurst night: it was the right call!!!

I’m chilling and doing a blog update before heading up to finish off “The Old Man and the Sea,” Hemingway’s last major work of fiction published while he was still alive. He wrote it in 1951 while living in Cuba. Published in 1952, it was one of his most famous works.. telling tells the story of Santiago, an aging Cuban fisherman who struggles with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Cuba.  The novel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953, and it was cited by the Nobel Committee as contributing to their awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Hemingway in 1954.  This was one of six novels by Hemingway that I purchased from the Blount County Public Library for $54 a couple of weeks back. I’ve seen just “The Old Man and the Sea” from that set of six going for $39 plus shipping: I think I got a good deal!

THURSDAY

Neither Debbie nor I slept much over night as her brother called around 12:15am to discuss the condition of her mother, which has suddenly eroded over the past week.  The family has not been able to rally around a solution for her care needs and that is contributing to the anxiety since the “kids” are once again taking on the burden of home-care giving without really being able to do it well.  More to follow, of that I’m sure.

Anyway, I finally gave up and came downstairs and wrote my journal installment for Wednesday while also doing a little banking and due-diligence around our Morgan Stanley-managed investment performance.  Thus far, the portfolio has not kept pace with “The Plan” and will likely not hit the year-end targets unless there is one heck of an amazing 4th quarter.  Oh well, it’s a marathon, not a sprint…. right?

Around 9:00am I headed out to the garage to continue preparing things for Friday’s community garage sale.  I still had several boxes to sort through and I also needed to finalize my layout for where to put books, videos, DVDs, cassettes and several other small items.  I also pulled the Victrola and my globe bar out of the dining room and put them out for the garage sale, as they just need to go.  Neither one of these quasi-antiques are really of the quality that would benefit from putting them out on consignment at an antique dealer, so we’ll just hope that someone wants them enough to make an offer and then haul them off.

Debbie helped me get a few things ready for the garage sale that were beyond my skill level, i.e., crocheting materials, and then headed out to run a few errands, to including picking up change for our garage sale cash box, and immersed herself in a few other things to keep her mind from focusing too much on her family’s approach to addressing her mother’s care.  By mid-day it did seem like they were coming to grips with the need to either move her to a managed care facility or bring-in full-time care givers. Again, more to follow.

After making myself a salmon burrito with left-overs from Tuesday’s dinner, I stepped away from the garage sale prep activities and spent a couple hours doing much-needed yard work.  Just when I thought the grass would begin to go dormant, it’s being growing like mad, hence the need to cut it at least every four days.  Not sure what it will look like after we’ve been gone for seven!!

After cutting the lawn I spend about an hour pressure washing a few more items for the garage sale; it never hurts, right?  Most of what we have out for the sale are knick-knacks, old glassware, a few gas-powered yard tools that have been replaced by battery and electric powered tools as well as the aforementioned items.  For some reason I was having a hard time focusing on getting the pricing assigned to everything, so I took a break and finally found a way to reduce the number of items that would need to be marked by creating about 30 “signs” in PowerPoint on my laptop that will be posted near the associated items.  Here’s hoping folks will take time to read instead of looking for little stickers on everything.

After dinner we took a short trip over to Alan Cox automotive to drop off Debbie’s Honda Accord for some routine service.  Her “service due” light came on Tuesday and we figured if we dropped the car off on Thursday night we’d have one less car to deal with at the house during Friday’s garage sale.  Once we returned home I put in one final push to get everything priced and then had Debbie “check my work” to make sure I didn’t go too high or too low on anything.  My goal is to have other folks take things away, so my pricing reflects that philosophy, i.e., our garage will be more like “The Dollar Store” or the old “Five and Ten” store tomorrow, bargains at every turn!

That’s about it for today: I’ll just be really happy when we close-up shop at 2:00pm and move into the liquidation phase by hauling most of what doesn’t sell over to Goodwill. There will be a few things that don’t sell that we’ll probably have to put out on ebay, but the goal here is to make sure none of what we’re selling finds its way back to a closet or attic where it will continue to collect dust.

FRIDAY

I was up and out the door around 6:30am so I could begin to set-up for the 8:00am – 2:00pm community garage sale.  Well, sure enough, I had my first paying customer at 6:45am… even had to loan him a flashlight so he could see a few things out in the driveway.

By 8:00am everything was pretty-well picked over by the garage sale professionals, i.e., folks who have flea market booths, sell stuff on Ebay, or just know where to find bargains.  And, we had lots of bargains.  In fact, we sold off what was easily a few thousand dollars worth of prior purchases for $600 in cold hard cash.  Hey, something is better than nothing, right?  But, it’s just good to have “stuff” that was sitting around collecting dust out of the house.

We’ll still have a lot of “stuff” that we’ll still need to dispose of.  It was interesting that no one was interested in books of any type, DVDs, Videos, Cassettes, picture frames or kitchen appliances… priced a $1.00 or less. Amazing.

There were definitely a few blow-out items that I probably sold for too little, but honestly, it was worth it to get them into the hands of other folks.  We still need to sell off our dining set and a sideboard, but not at garage sale prices.  We’ll probably put those out on consignment so that we can (a) get a better price, and (b) get them out of the house sooner rather than later.  I’m really anxious to put a bar-height farm or trellis type table in there that will seat 10, as I think that’s more in keeping with our preferences and will be a more inviting set-up to the classical “formal dining room.”

Anyway, after the official end of the garage sale at 2:00pm I moved a few left-over items upstairs that will do better on ebay, but the rest of left-overs went in the truck and were taken over to Goodwill: I just wanted it all gone.

Back at the house I put all of the display tables and empty boxes back in the attic and storage spaces so we could have our garage back for vehicles, as it should be!

Dinner was the usual Finally a Friday and then back home: I was exhausted!  And, we still needed to get packed for our Utah trip.  Wow, what a busy week that was.  But, it’s good to have most of the “junk” out of the house.  Hopefully I can keep from collecting more of it through prudent purchasing decisions in the future.

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Weekly Journal: We Suddenly Find Ourselves Without Our Tandem!

SATURDAY

For some reason, neither Debbie nor I were able to sleep on Saturday night, and that wasn’t a good thing since we were scheduled to lead a 36-mile tandem club ride at 9:00am.  I finally gave up trying to sleep around 5:00am and headed downstairs where I spent the better part of the pre-dawn hours finishing up last week’s journal.  Note that I decided to shift the journal from covering Monday through Sunday to Saturday through Friday.  Not sure how that will work, but I figured it was worth a try to see if my writing juices flow better during the week vs. trying to slam out an update on Monday mornings.  Anyway, I successfully published last weeks journal before we left for the tandem ride at 8:20am.

As for the tandem club ride, unlike a lot of the monthly club rides that venture out into more rural areas, we took a chance and plotted a more suburban route so we could have lunch at our local watering hole, Loco Willy’s.  I did my best to plan a route that would hopefully having us riding the opposite direction of morning traffic on the major roads, or at least on roads where cyclists are ever-present road users.

All told, we had five couples on hand when we convened the pre-ride meeting at 9:00am. After a turn-filled first few miles through one of Marietta’s modest bedroom community communities, we made our way onto the busier roads around Kennesaw National Battlefield Park and then further out into West Cobb County.

 Traffic was a lot heavier than we expected, but the combination of calming lanes, wide shoulders and tolerant drivers gave us a relatively drama-free ride without any close-calls or obnoxious motorists.

We were able to share what I call “The Perfect Road” with our riding companions, one of the few remaining roads that is reminiscent of what West Cobb was like when we first moved there in 1993, i.e.,modest homes on large lots with lovely roads and light traffic.

I think everyone had a good time and enjoyed their meals at Loco’s.  We’ve never been disappointed by the food in our many visits, so we were pretty sure everyone could find something that was to their tastes.  We’ll not repeat this ride in the future given all of the urban encroachment, but I’m glad we did it.  We’ll likely resume our original habit of hosting rides from our home which will keep us off of major roads and give us some other route options further out in West Cobb and East Paulding County.

Back at the house, the lack of sleep combined with the brisk pace of the tandem club ride and then a couple F.O. 190’s (Frozen Orange drink with 190 Proof Grain Alcohol) with lunch pretty much resigned me to a semi-relaxing afternoon back at the house watching college football: nothing better than college football other than World Cup soccer!

We opted to stay in Saturday night rather than getting dressed and heading off to Loco Willy’s.  I fixed some bratwurst and Debbie made a Caesar salad: it was perfect.  More college football into the evening.

All-in-all, a pretty good day!

SUNDAY

Despite the lack of sleep on Saturday, I was up early on Sunday.  I spent the early part of the morning going through the video captured on the GoPro’s during Sunday’s ride and putting together the short clip on the “Perfect Ride” linked above.  We also had all of the work-up to the NFL’s first full day of games going in the background.

I think it was around 10:00am when Wesley came over with Caroline, Vivian and Caroline’s bicycle which was in need of some attention by Granddad.  After putting the bike in my workstand I could clearly see the rear derailleur’s jockey wheel hanger had been bent and twisted which was the most noticeable issue with the bike’s operation.  By the time I’d finished working on the bike, the following had been addressed:

  • The bent jockey wheel hanger had been straightened.
  • The spoke protector that was rubbing against the rear wheel cassette and chain was drilled and zip-tied to the spokes to eliminate the interference.
  • The rear derailleur stop points and shifting had been adjusted.
  • The chain was wiped down and lubricated.
  • The rear wheel, hub and spokes were cleaned.
  • The front & rear brakes were adjusted.
  • The tires were inspected and inflated to their proper pressure, noting they were definitely too low on air.
  • The right handlebar grip was adjusted.
  • The saddle height was raised 3″, as it was way too low for Caroline.
  • The bike was given a good wipe down, just short of a full cleaning.

I enjoyed working on the bike and I think Caroline appreciated my attention and instruction on riding when she was test riding the bike.  All seemed good when they left, but Lord knows how long it will be until the rear derailleur gets whacked again.

After Wesley and the kids left I headed up to the home office to continue with my “Purge” of junk and re-organization activities.  It looks like I’ll be in there a few more days next week.

Dinner was once again at home: hot wings and margaritas!

MONDAY

After the usual early morning routine I finally made it back into my home office and turned my attention to the old collection of now obsolete computers sitting around.  As a first pass, I removed the two hard drives from my recently-deceased 2002 PowerMac G4 Quicksilver desktop tower and put it out to pasture, i.e., it will bet recycled. A pair of 2000 vintage HP Deskjet printers were also pulled out of service and put in the discard pile with the G4.  With those devices out of the way I was able to remove 80% of the various power supplies and wires that were cluttering up the crawl space behind my built-in work surfaces.

In place of the G4 tower — at least on a temporary basis — is my 2006 vintage MacBook which is functioning as a quasi “desktop computer” with connections to monitor, keyboard and mouse.  Debbie’s 2006 HP dv9000 Pavilion laptop also sitting there with the MacBook, but to be quite honest… both of these machines are so old that they no longer work with most websites that use any form of real data security.   So, I’m now in the market for a new “computing device” of some sort to support my needs in the office.  If I was smart, I’d just haul my laptop upstairs when I have office work to do, but being a 2011 model MacBook Pro 17″ it’s also getting long in the tooth, so I’ll probably acquire some type of PC laptop to support both the office and my travel needs, noting the MacBook Pro 17″ weighs about 6.5 lbs.

As I continue to work my way around the office our guest room continues to fill-up with garage sale and discard pile items like the aforementioned computer equipment, Debbie’s excess crochet materials, books, book racks, picture frames, etc.

Speaking of Debbie, she had a busy day; she:

  • Booked appointments for my Porsche Experience during the 1st week of October, remembering that Debbie and Julie purchased gift certificates for Wesley & me as Christmas gifts that need to be used before year-end.
  • Spent way too much time on the phone with AT&T / DirecTV trying to understand the differences in what they quotes us for our new service vs. what we’re seeing in the bills.
  • Likewise, spent way too much time trying  to get the NFL Network’s channel (212) added to our programming and we’re still not quite sure how that worked out.
  • Went over to the kids house just before noon to sit with Vivian while Wesley & Julie ran Caroline and Charlotte to appointments of some sort or another.
  • Had to run from the kids house to a spa appointment at 3:00pm.
  • Dropped back home for a quick bite of dinner before heading off to be with Charlotte at Gymnastics practice by 6:30pm, and not getting home until 8:30pm.

TUESDAY

We began our day in earnest with a tandem ride at 9:30am.  It was a good ride, but we found ourselves riding in a light mist for the 1st 10 miles as the temperature was stuck at the dew point.  As far as any close calls, there were a few cars that either got a bit too close or attempted to pass on blind corners that got surprised by on-coming cars, and one encounter with a stone kicked up by a landscaper swinging a line trimmer along the edge of the road.  No real harm other than the sting of the stone clipping my left eye socket: thank goodness for protective eyewear!

After our tandem ride I spent the better part of Tuesday finishing up my “purge” of the office, diving into my file drawers with all of the various manuals and documentation for major household appliances, HVAC & plumbing equipment and all of the documentation related to the purchase, financing, re-financing, construction and maintenance of our home.  I also decided to shred a few thousand order forms for tandem cycling decals that I’ve been selling via the mail since 2000 and all kinds of old records from my days in the Air Force, Lockheed and the purchase and sale of my home in Redlands, California back in 1987-1991.  Yeah, I don’t think I’ll need any of that.  You get the idea, anything that we don’t need or that has lost its usefulness is headed out of the house, one way or another!

 

Debbie  continued to struggle with AT&T / DirecTV for yet another 30 minutes or so.  We made a simple request but it seems that no one listens anymore.  We discovered the 90-day free trial of the $13,99/month “Sports Pack” channels they offered us in response to our Monday request to add the NFL network to our channels doesn’t include the NFL network; really?!!   No, if we want the NFL network (which was part of our basic DirecTV plan since 2002) we’d need to buy a different Entertainment Package that costs $25 more per month. Moreover, we still don’t have the 35 channels that were included, many of which aren’t really “different programming” it’s just a numbers game where they count a program that is broadcast in non-HD on one channel and in HD on another channel as being “two channels.”   So, yeah… lots of up-selling and very little customer support.  This new relationship may not last all that long.

Speaking of challenges, I spent the better part of 30 minutes trying to sort out a special order with Home Depot’s customer support team during two 15-minute sessions.  You’ll recall that I ordered a Samsung refrigerator on Thursday night, 6 September for delivery on 11 September and had second thoughts about it over night.  So on Friday morning I went to Home Depot and had their appliance sales folks cancel the order for the 1st Samsung refrigerator and then place a new order for a different Samsung refrigerator that better-met our needs but that’s on back-order and won’t be delivered until 9 October.  We’ll, I received calls on 7, 8, 9 & 10 September from Samsung, their 3rd party delivery company and the Home Depot trying to schedule the delivery of the refrigerator purchase that we cancelled on the morning of 7 September.  We were finally able to confirm the order had been cancelled on-line, as I was cut-0ff both times I called after being on the phone for about 15-20 minutes.  More to follow on this, as they still have credited my account with the cancelled order.  So frustrating…

WEDNESDAY

My day began with fingers tapping on the keyboard to post a few items to my tandem cycling blog.  I probably spend at least an hour each morning composing various thoughts and recollections into draft items for my two blogs. Some of them get published, others die on the vine.  Hey, it keeps me out of trouble.

Around 10:30am I headed over to the Home Depot to see the gal who assisted me with the order cancellation and 2nd refrigerator order back on Friday, 7 September.  After she spent a good 10 minutes on the phone trying to ascertain when my American Express account would be credited for the cancelled order someone finally noted that it takes a standard span of 7-10 working days to credit an account for an order cancellation.  Say what?!!  In what world is any firm allowed to immediately charge your account for and that may not even be fulfilled for more than a month, but they get to hold-on to your money and earn interest for 7-10 days after your cancel an order?  Yet another scam designed to pad a company’s bottom line… and I’m sure others have adopted B.S. accounting practices and “fund holds” that afford them free interest, i.e., Wells Fargo is almost as bad on fund transfers.  Anyway, the latest estimate for when the credit will be processed  is Friday.  And, you can bet your boots I’ll be checking into refund policies in the future before placing any orders with anyone else.

Back at the house I made a couple Chicago hot dogs for an early lunch before Debbie headed off to an early afternoon appointment. I’ve been able to develop a production process for these wonder-dogs that takes the frankfurter and bun from freezer to plate in about 20 minutes.  It’s a curse and a blessing to be sure, as they are very addictive but we’re trying to limit ourselves to just one a week.

As Debbie headed off to her appointment I went in search of some cycling shorts for her, as 2 of her 3 pair of Pearl Izumi Sugar Shorts are at life’s end.  I was somewhat surprised at the very thin selection of cycling apparel at Performance Cycling, but did find three small-size pair of their house-branded short-shorts that looked like they’d work for Debbie.  Turns out, 2 of the 3 pair were just fine but the 3rd pair will need to go back.  I’d call that a success, now if they’ll just fit as well when she’s riding we’ll be in good shape.

From Performance I headed to Hellbender Harley to cash in a gift card I’d received from friends when I retired back in June.  There wasn’t really anything I needed, but instead of being overly practical and buying a couple of oil filters I found a somewhat obnoxious pair of orange and black framed eye glasses with orange tint iridium lenses designed for day-time riding.  The design is similar to the black framed eye glasses with clear lenses  I purchased with yet another gift card at Cycle Gear a couple of weeks back for riding at night and in the rain.  Debbie likes them, so I’m good!  I also had a nice visit with our friend Nick at Hellbender; he’s an amazing guy who’s filled with all kinds of information and seems to know everyone.  Those chats are always the highlight of any visit to Hellbender.

From Hellbender I headed over to MicroCenter to look at computers.  I started off in the Apple computer area looking at laptop and desktop units, but honestly… the prices don’t match the specs when compared with PC’s from almost all of the other manufacturers.  So, I made my way over to the PC laptops where I found four different units with the help of Seth that are now on my short list; well… three are on that list the fourth and most expensive of the quartet was dropped off last night.

I’ve tentatively put a hold on the $1,200 Samsung model as it’s very small, light and will be easier to travel with than the other two machines. Cost wise, it’s right in between and is currently a great deal since it’s marked down by 42% to just $699 which is huge.  The Acer is the same model we just purchased for Debbie and she’s been very happy with it and at just $499 it’s a really good value given its specs.  The $799 HP model is another great deal, in that it’s a very high-end / high-performance machine marked down from $1,198.  Decisions, decisions. The portability of the Samsung is very attractive as is the high-end spec of the HP.  However, are those machines worth an extra $200 or $300 for those added features?  That’s the question.

Back at the house I had to work on the tandem once again in an effort to rid the bike of that persistent clicking or creaking sound that comes on almost every pedal stroke when we’re pushing a hard pace or climbing.  My approach today was to remove both of the Phil Wood bottom brackets and replace them with older Shimano models so that I could eliminate them from the equation, as the sound seems to be coming from the cranks. Here’s hoping that solves the mystery noise.  If so, I’ll either have them rebuilt by Phil Wood or replace them for similar $$ with some new ones.

BTW, I stopped describing what we have for dinner since it’s pretty much the same thing on Monday through Wednesday:  Blackened tilapia burritos on Monday and Wednesday with blackened salmon on Tuesdays.  Not exactly exciting or original, but all are very easy to make in very little time with very little clean up and in addition to being very tasty they’re also healthy meals.

The evening was spent doing more research on the laptops and I put one of the very few remaining Samsung models on hold at the Duluth MicroCenter store as it was one of the last machines they have in stock given the huge mark down / high-end spec.  I’ve got until Saturday to make up my mind and pick-up the machine.

Oh, and I received a note last night from the senior executive I supported back at Lockheed who wanted to give me a heads-up that I may be asked to consult on a special project.  It’s not a sure thing and it’s certainly nothing I’ve expressed an interest in, so we’ll see if anything comes of it. Quite frankly, it would need to be far-less than full-time and not involve a lot of travel… and I’m guessing that’s not the case.  Hey, I like retirement!

THURSDAY

I’m back to my pre-retirement sleeping pattern, which isn’t great but at least I seem to get 4-5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. It’s just that it comes at 1:30am – 5:30am.  For some reason I simply can’t settle down by 11:00pm, evening reading in bed doesn’t help.  Cest la vie.

The late evening and early morning we used to compose this weekly journal entry.  In fact, as I sit here I’m also watering the lawn as we’re still in a bit of a dry spell here in Georgia. We’ve had promises of rain every day for the past two weeks, but even with 40% – 50% probability numbers we’ve had virtually no appreciable rain fall.  I’d rather have the lawn go into dormancy in a vigorous condition vs. withering away so I’m thinking it’s worth the extra $100 a month for water.

We headed out for our regular tandem ride around 9:30am. The weather was nice but for some reason I just didn’t have a lot of energy.  I had no problem grinding up the hills, but just no speed on the flats. In other words, I had lots of torque but no horsepower.  Regardless, we still did the full 32-mile ride and that’s what’s most important!  And, if you ever wondered what the selfie cam looked like in operations, here’s the two-sided view at right: camera held out using the 5-second count-down timer so that there are no buttons to push once the camera is out and extended. All I do is adjust the camera so that we’re both in the shot and we typically take the photo along the same, quiet stretch of road.

Speaking of the tandem, sadly… the clicking sound was still present so it clearly wasn’t being caused by any mechanical parts and that’s not a good thing.  As we rode along I did a little more dynamic analysis and realized that I could easily induce the clicking by putting a heavier load into the pedals.  It was at the moment I realized what was wrong: one of the couplers on the lower tube had most likely failed or was in the process of failing.

By failing, the stainless steel fittings that allow our tandem to be taken apart and packed in a suitcase for travel are bonded to the frame tubes using titanium sleeves.  Back in August of 2015 the weld in one of these sleeves broke.  The frame had to be sent back to Calfee near San Jose, California for repair, leaving us without our road tandem for just over a month.  Given we’re scheduled to attend the Southern Tandem Rally on 11-14 October, we really didn’t have a month to get this fixed if, in fact, my suspicions were correct.

Back at the house I pulled the tandem apart and sure enough, the suspect coupling was failing.  I sent off an Email to Craig Calfee, who is a friend as well as our tandem builder. Within an hour Craig called me at the house and confirmed the tandem shouldn’t be ridden as is and needed to come back for repair.  He promised a quick turn so I stripped the frame of parts, packed it up and shipped it off within a couple of hours of our phone call.  It should arrive at Calfee by next Wednesday or Thursday, a 4-business day trip across country.

I’m guessing they will be able to turn the repairs in a couple of days which should get the tandem back to us with about a week to spare.  In the interim we’ll likely revert to riding our single road bikes or, perhaps I’ll be able to coax Debbie out to the trails on the Ventana off-road tandem.

Aside from the sudden, unplanned activity surrounding the tandem, the rest of the day including a couple of hours of yard work on a very hot, humid afternoon.  Thankfully, the lawn and most of the landscape will slip into dormancy over the next 30 days: looking forward to that!

It was dinner in as is quickly becoming something we really enjoy and then a variety of other minor projects and updates to the blog to close-out the day.

FRIDAY

Debbie was up and out early as she needed to go and assist her brother in getting his driver’s license renewed and visit with her mother for a bit.  I worked on my blogs for a while before heading off to secure a new laptop at MicroCenter.

As for the laptop, I ultimately decided to go with the Samsung model, as I liked the smaller size for travel and at nearly 1/2 the regular price is was a great value as well.  Thankfully, my local MicroCenter received a new one on Thursday so I didn’t end up having to make an 80-mile, 2-hour round trip to their other Georgia store in Duluth, Georgia where I had another unit on hold.  I opted to let their technician’s remove all of the pre-installed software that I didn’t need or want on the machine as there’s apparently a few tricks that the pro’s know that truly do rid the machine of Microsoft’s self-marketing pop-ups and the Norton/McAfee anti-virus programs as I use ESET’s NOD32 for internet security on all of our computers.  It was 30 minutes well spent in the long run.  I also picked up an IDE/SATA hard drive interface so that I can pull data off of the hard drives I pulled out of the dead PowerMac G4, and then wipe the drives before sending them off to the recycler.

I ran a few other errands — dropping off the pair of cycling shorts that didn’t fit Debbie, shopping for other window coverings and picking up a couple of items at Costco — before meeting Debbie for our every-other-week lunch date at The Red Eyed Mule.

On the way home we dropped my truck off at Alan Cox automotive for its 150,000 mile service and to have what I think is either a bad bearing in either a wheel axle or the rear differential or a tire balance issue resolved before we take the truck on a 1,200-mile round trip to Venice, Florida in early October.  The truck has had a recurring right rear wheel bearing issue that Alan Cox has had to rework on their dime twice before and it could be that as well.  Regardless, we should know something by next Tuesday at the latest.  I’ve continued to look at possible replacement trucks but am still not thrilled with what’s out there.  So, I remain bound and determined to squeeze another few years and 50,000 miles out of my 12-year old Toyota Tundra.  However, reliability for long road trips up to PA and elsewhere for tandem rallies is the big risk, having had an issue during last year’s Christmas trip to PA that became a source of unneeded stress and angst.  Oh well, we’ll see what comes from this visit and the drive to south Florida in October.

Back at the house I spent the first hour getting the new laptop set-up with our WiFi router, the printer and otherwise making sure it would work the way I intended as a quasi-desktop computer in the office.  So far I’ve been able to get it work with my old monitor, keyboard and mouse just fine, but I’ve not figured out how to keep it from shutting down when the screen is closed.  I’ll work on that as time allows over the next week, as there’s a lot about the new machine I’ll need to learn so that I can get the most out of it.

With the computer sorted out, I turned my attention back to cleaning out “stuff” around the house.  My focus on Friday afternoon was old cycling apparel in the closet.  By the time I finished the discard pile had 6 pair of old, worn-out cycling shorts and at least 9 pair of worn-out cycling socks where all of the elastic had ceased to be elastic.  The “find a new home” back had  about 20 cycling jerseys (10 matched sets) that no longer fit (they’re all too large) and are no longer worn as well as just about as many pairs of logo socks that we’ve received at tandem rallies or other cycling events as give-aways that we just don’t wear as most of these are too thin or too gaudy for our tastes.  Frankly, we still have way too many cycling jerseys, many of which will never get worn before time takes its toll on the elastic waist bands and sleeve ends: next purge, right?  After getting the excess cycling gear out of the closet I went through my yard / house work shirt drawer and purged 10 T-shirts that were on their last leg, even for painting and other ruinous home maintenance activities.

As we do on most Fridays, we ended our week having dinner out at Loco’s.  The Ahi Poke was delicious and it was good to spend some time with David, Deb and or other Loco’s friends.  We were back at home around 9:00pm and I did some reading upstairs and fell asleep a bit too early (which is why I’m now wide awake at 3:00am) while Debbie watched college football downstairs.

We’ve got a busy week ahead of us as we get ready for a neighborhood garage sale on Friday, the 21st and then our trip to Utah with David & Deb on the 23rd through the 30th.

 

 

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