Here, There and Everywhere… The Rain That Is!

Even though this wasn’t a short work week we kicked off the weekend with dinner out on Thursday night at Henry’s Louisiana Grill in Acworth.  It was a bit of an unusual evening in that I arrived to an empty house as Debbie had been off visiting with her mother all day.  It was probably 30 minutes after I arrived home that Debbie came in after stopping at the grocery store and said, “I’ve got some bourbon salmon… or we could go to Henry’s.”  Given we’d been inundated with rain for the past week and seeing that Debbie was pretty tired after a long day, I decided we needed a bright spot in our mid-week routine so Henry’s sounded like a good way to break up the monotony and to let Debbie relax a bit.

We found a couple of seats at the bar and as is the norm for us.  Henry wasted no time in coming over and offering up his warm and sincere greeting of, “Welcome to my house” as he draped beads around Debbie’s neck.  The gentleman knows how to run a restaurant and to deliver an amazing dining experience.  As he does with a lot of the pretty ladies, he also sent over a small shot of something for Debbie and another gal seated alongside us at the bar.   After getting settled in at the bar we shared a bowl of Henry’s amazing gumbo as an appetizer and then shared the daily special from the blackboard: a Caesar side salad and Blackened Mayan Redfish over Mississippi Blue Rice Grits with cremini mushrooms and brandy shallots topped with a chipotle crawfish cream sauce.

As we were having dinner we received a text from our friends Ryan & Jeanette inviting us to drop by SuBourbon’s in nearby Kennesaw on our way home.   It must have been around 7:30pm when we got there and while we assumed they were out by themselves we found them sitting in the back corner with an old friend from high school and his wife celebrating the friend’s 50th birthday.  We had a great time with the four of them and I think it was almost 10:00pm when we finally headed home.  It was a really nice way to break up the week as we rarely go out on what I like to call “a school night.”  Having Debbie retired has made that a bit easier to do since I’m the only one who has to worry about getting up and going to work after a night out.


Friday was a normal work day for me and once again it was raining thanks to the tropical storm that pushed in through Louisiana from the Gulf of Mexico.  Against my better judgement — betting there’d be a window when I could do some yard work on Saturday — earlier in the week I’d ordered up 130 square feet of Zeon Zoysia sod so I could finish the backyard project we’d started with our landscaper.  As mentioned in a previous blog, it wasn’t their best work as the crew showed up after 6:00pm on a Friday night to install 750 square feet of sod.  I’m not sure they worked the soil all that well even though had 6 square yards of top soil brought in to level the yard after they tilled it the prior afternoon.  I’m also not sure if they rolled it all that well.  But, more to the point, my ballpark estimate of 750 square feet didn’t get verified so they came up about 130 square feet short on sod.  Rather than having them finish the job, I opted to do it myself… which is probably what I should have done with the entire project.  But, that’s water under the bridge.  So, ahead of picking up my sod on Saturday morning,  I dropped by Home Depot and picked up 20 bags of top soil for the sod installation and for topping to fill gaps and valleys in the sod our landscaper installed.

As usual for a Friday evening, we headed over to Loco Willy’s for our Finally a Friday celebration. I’ll freely admit I’d somehow ended up a pretty bad mood Friday afternoon for a variety of reasons and was sorely in need of a major distraction.  Loco’s and our Loco friends did not disappoint. Most of the usual suspects were there: our partner’s in crime David & Deb along with Billy & Dava, Deb and Scott and the full cast of regulars. We had Billy & Brian behind the bar with Christian actually sitting at the bar instead of behind it. Sadly, missing were Stuart and Teresa who remain on hiatus from Loco’s.

 

Suffices to say, we had a great time.  In fact, I think it was after 10pm before we left, right after Dava & Debbie finished doing some line dancing along side the bar. Yeah, it was that kind of silly night out.  But, much-needed. Unfortunately, I somehow lost or failed to take / save the photo of all three Deb’s, David & Scott so the photo collection is lacking.  I’ll have to do a better job of making sure I get everyone next time.


Saturday morning was all about getting my sod installed.  First stop was Super Sod over on Canton road.  Given all of the rain we’d received, the thirteen (13) 10-square foot rolls of sod were muddy and must have weighed 80 lbs each: handling them was like wrestling a greased pig. Thankfully, it wasn’t actually raining on Saturday morning when I started the project and installation went quickly and easily.

  

The top soil gave me a nice level bed for each piece of sod and they all laid in pretty well.  I think I had everything on the ground by 10:30am.  Still not sure what the story is on the sod I paid to have installed.  My landscaper “thinks” the edges of the sod went dormant because of all the rain and moisture.  Here’s hoping that as we dry out this week it all starts to green up.  It will be interesting to see how my sod comes in alongside their sod. Anyway, with the sod on the ground, I ran over to Home Depot and rented a sod roller so I could roll both my new sod and re-roll the other sod installation while I was at it. The only added bit of joy to the roller rental was getting it home only to discover it only had one of the two plugs installed.  I ended up jury-rigging my own plug rather than making a return trip to Home Depot. With the lawn rolled and the roller returned it was time to clean up!  Yeah, right.  I’m still not sure how I’ll get all of the mud off those pants. I’m currently thinking about power-washing them as they’re certainly not going in the washing machine like that!

Next on Saturday’s agenda for was a trip up to Debbie’s Uncle’s home in Canton for an afternoon picnic.  This is apparently a monthly thing Benny has started to do on Saturday’s since Sunday’s are usually family gatherings at Debbie’s mother’s house. Debbie wanted to be there at 3:00pm so we had to clean-up and be out of the house by 2:00pm.  That gave me just enough time to get some fungicide down on the back and side yards and to put weed killer down on the beds along side the new sod before I till those and cover them with pine straw next weekend.

We arrived at Benny’s at 3:00pm and were the first ones there. Shortly after we arrived Debbie’s Aunt Tiny showed up, followed by Tiny’s daughter. Next was little Debbie’s sister Amy with Debbie’s mother and two of her kids.  I think it was Rodney & Telete who came in next with Jacob and Emily and then Debbie’s sister-in-law Vicky arrived with just one of the twins, Benjamin.  It ended up being an indoor picnic given the weather so it was a full house to say the least, pretty much a given at one of Debbie’s family gatherings.  We had a really nice time and it gave Debbie a chance to spend some time with her family which she enjoys immensely.

I think it was around 4:30pm when we said our goodbye’s and headed off to visit some friends who were having a small cocktail party at their mountain home near Dahlonega, Georgia. I say cocktails, I think it was actually a Daiquiri party.  Regardless, it gave us a good excuse to spend a couple of hours with some good friends in the mountains which really rounded-out our Saturday quite nicely.  We headed back home around 9:30pm and decided to see if any of our friends might still be at Loco Willy’s. Sadly, we missed them but the kitchen was still open when we arrived so we finally had dinner around 11:00pm just before they started to close-up the place.  Yes, we were still chipper after a pretty long day.


As much as I wanted to sleep-in on Sunday we had a fairly full day ahead of us.  I needed to get the lawn mowed as soon as it was dry enough to cut and the inside and outside of the cars cleaned, as the weather was finally beginning  to look up.

Our main event for the day was a 40 minute ride over to Killer-Creek Harley-Davidson on our Road King for their ‘Cruise in Blues’ parking lot event.  Our targeted departure time was noon, which gave me just enough time to get the insides of the cars cleaned and vacuumed, pick up some car wash solution, get the truck washed and wiped-down and then get the rear and side yards mowed before grabbing a shower and heading out with Debbie on Blue.

20170625_123718I was thinking it was warm before we left but once we were on the bike we both realized it was a bit cooler than expected. I’d put our rain jackets in the saddlebags as a hedge against our flaky weather and forecasts and we thought about stopping to put them on but held-out and it did warm up a bit as the sun tried to break through the clouds.

The ‘Cruise in Blues’ is one of the typical dealer-sponsored events designed to bring in customers for all kinds of discounts on everything, including new and used motorcycles.  The beginning of summer seems to be a time when sales need a boost so just about every Harley dealer around Atlanta had some type of event or events scheduled this weekend.  The weather was kind to a few of them, like  Harley-Davidson of Atlanta’s annual Luau on Saturday.  Anyway, last weekend when we were at Guston’s for the band Three Left Standing the gal in charge of Killer-Creek’s event promotions and marketing struck up a conversation with Debbie and Debbie told her we’d be there.  So, between that and seeing that a few of our friends would also be headed that way our Sunday afternoon plans were somewhat set.

20170625_131159.jpgAbout 5 miles away from the dealership we crossed paths with our friend David who was on his way over to the event and upon arriving we met up with our friends Julie & Chuck who had arrived about 20 minutes ahead of us.  We also ran into and collected our friend Bobby who was solo as Carrie Ann was at home trying to save her vegetable garden after all of the rain took its toll.  Our friends Ryan & Jeanette, who would have normally joined us, started the day off down driving back from Saint Simon’s Island and  had a bunch of yard work to do so they were out-of-pocket. Not sure what happened to our partner’s in crime, David & Deb, as they usually don’t mind coming to these types of events.

Given the weather, the turn-out for the event was fairly light.  In fact, I noticed that most of the motorcycles being washed by the ubiquitous girls in bikini’s were clean ones from the dealer’s used motorcycle display that they’d bring over one after another just so the girls had something to do.

Best part of the day was, as always, visiting with our friends. While browsing around inside the dealership we wandered into the danger zone and found a couple of very cute women’s fashion tops on sale for Debbie to add to her collection.   The bands they had playing were OK but a bit too loud which drove people away from the stage and covered seating area rather than drawing them in.  Again, just not a lot of “buzz” during the event but if nothing else it did give us an excuse to put 60 miles on Blue and gave us some time with friends.

I think we left around 3:00pm and were home by 4:00pm.  We had tentative dinner plans to meet Ryan & Jeanette at Loco’s around 7:00pm, but that was the extent of our firm plans for the rest of the day.  That gave me more than enough time to wash Debbie’s car and do a few other odds and ends before cleaning up and heading over to Loco’s at 6:30pm so we could snag a few seats at the bar.  We found our friends Deb & Scott there, but just missed Billy and Dava who were also out tooling around on their Harley.  We had a nice time visiting with Scott & Deb and I think it was about 7:30pm when Ryan & Jeanette arrived.  I’m guessing we spent the better part of a couple of hours having dinner and visiting with them as they took a break from their marathon home improvement and party-planning / preparation activities ahead of their annual 4th of July weekend pig roast.  I think they usually have a couple hundred folks coming and going through between noon and midnight on the day of their party and they pretty much prep and host the whole thing by themselves.  It’s a ton of work, God love ’em for all they do!

That was about it for the weekend.  We’ve got a short week before the 4th of July break which should hopefully give us a chance to relax.  Yeah, right…

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Wow, that was a busy weekend!

It was good to have a weekend where we stayed pretty close to home. In fact, the furthest away we went was probably on our two tandem bicycle rides. Otherwise, I didn’t even get in the truck except to go to work on Friday morning and to Loco Willy’s on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I think the only place Debbie went was Pike’s nursery, another short trip and the short drives to Brewster’s, Guston’s and SuBourbon’s on Friday & Saturday nights.  The Loco’s thing, yeah… that was a little excessive but there’s a story behind Sunday’s visit.

Friday

The day began with a trip into the office, as there was a small event taking place around 10:00am I needed to attend.  It actually worked out pretty well as I was able knock out a couple of hours of work on the network servers that would not have been as easy to do at home via my laptop.

The event was over around 10:45am and Debbie and I had discussed meeting for lunch at The Red Eyed Mule on Thursday night so the timing was perfect.  I rang her as I walked out to the truck and invited her to come on.  Interestingly enough, she made it to The Mule before I did; I would have never guessed it took less time to make the 7.6 mile drive from the house to the Mule than it did to go the 4 miles from work.  Anyway, always good to see Enrique and the rest of the crew at The Mule and the Jakes Big Daddy is still the best burger we’ve ever had. To our regular readers, yes, we still split just the one burger: it’s more than enough for the two of us!

Now back at home after lunch, it was around 1:30 when we headed out for an afternoon tandem ride on our 25-mile loop from the house. It was sunny and warm, but not too humid: near perfect weather for cycling.  Amazingly, I don’t believe we had any upsetting encounters with motorists on Friday’s ride and the tandem performed pretty well with just one slight adjustment to the shifting made on the fly.

Back at the house I shifted into yard care mode as there were several bushes and shrubs that needed to be trimmed and the back & side yard also needed to be mowed.  Much to the amusement of our neighbors, I didn’t even bother to change out of my cycling shorts as I went about my yard chores.  It was just that kind of weather.

We wrapped up what we were doing at the house around 5:00pm and were cleaned up and headed to Loco Willy’s for our weekly ‘Finally a Friday’ celebration & dinner around 6:00pm.  Word was, we’d have about 8 friends joining us at Loco’s for dinner.  We started our evening off at the bar and had the large table for 10-12 reserved.  I believe it was our friend Dave who was the first to show up around 6:15pm.  Shortly thereafter David & Deb came in followed by Ryan, Jeanette, Bobby & Carrie Ann.  Another friend, Matt, came along a short while later.  As always, we had a grand time.  Debbie and I split a green salad and fish tacos as usual. I’d brought along a dozen Petit Fours so we could celebrate Brian’s birthday (Brian is our friend and usual Friday and Saturday bartender), but to our surprise he’d gone to Florida to celebrate.  So, we shared the small cakes with the rest of the staff at Loco’s and our friends: yummy little suckers and only 120 calories!

Crazy friends are always your best friends: Ryan, Carrie Ann, Jeanette and Bobby at B3 on Sunday….

The reason behind the dinner get-together at Loco’s was a post-dinner drive over to Brewsters Neighborhood Bar & Grill where another friend and his band, Stacey and “The Wanted”, would be playing a gig.  It had been a long time since we’d seen Stacey and his wife Marla and equally as long since we’d gone to Brewsters on a Friday or Saturday night.  We ran into a lot of the folks we’ve met from the local area who run the biker-bar circuit and make the trek down to Panama City Beach and Daytona Beach for the bike week events.  Again, just good to see old friends and Stacey’s band was really good.  In fact, they played a lot of music Debbie and I could actually dance to and there was just enough room in front of the band for 2-3 couples to tear up the floor… so we did!  It was a great night out!

Saturday

Much to my surprise, Debbie and I both slept in.  It’s rare for me to sleep past 7:00am even on a weekend, but son-of-a-gun if we didn’t sleep the early part of the morning away.  I even missed the start of the 24 hours of Le Mans; endurance racing is the best!  Thankfully, the 24 hr is a long race and I’d be able to catch up during the frequent recaps throughout the next day.  It made for some very nice background noise later in the day.

I want to say it was just around 11:30am when we headed out for our second tandem ride of the weekend.  We both seemed to be a little less fresh than we were on Friday and I suspect being out with our friends on Friday night may have had something to do with that!  But, it was another beautiful day and it felt good to get two back-to-back rides on the tandem during the weekend.  Unlike Friday, we did have a couple close encounters with motorists who want to get just a bit too close to us as they speed by at 45 mph.  Seriously, we’re talking inches not feet and I have no idea why someone would tempt fate like that. Are they oblivious to us?  Do they think they’re going to intimidate us by putting us in fear for our lives? What possesses someone to take such a huge risk by putting the lives of complete strangers in harm’s way?

I just don’t get it. Oh well, it just reminds me I need to position our bike further into the road so as to remove the temptation for motorists to pass against on coming traffic instead of waiting until it’s safe for them to pass. Putting that aside, we were able to relax back on our breezeway after the ride and it was absolutely delightful as we actually had a bit of a breeze plus the overhead fans going.

Once we arrived back at the house one of the other big events that graced our Telly was the second day of America’s Cup from Bermuda. We watched the work-up to the Americas Cup with the Louis Vuitton series and were amazed to see how the Cup’s yacht racing technology and format had advanced: they have truly figured-out how to bring the excitement and tactical nature of sailing to the masses in the closed-course formats where a race lasts 20 minutes, not several hours. Once the Cup racing was over for the day – the US cup defender Team Oracle having lost all of its races thus far against New Zealand – I switched the telly on our breezeway back to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and headed out to the garage to spend a little more time getting our Honda S2000 ready for going on the market while Debbie headed off to the nursery to get some flowers for the yard.

Sadly, this would be the last time I put a coat of Zaino wax on the S2000.  It’s a bitter-sweet moment in that the little red Honda has been Debbie’s daily driver since March 2005.  In its 12.5 years with us, it’s never once left Debbie stranded on her daily commute or while out running errands.  Amazingly, I think there was only one time during that 12.5 years when we headed off in the S2000 for a pleasure drive: I know, shocking isn’t it!?!?

Of course, bear in mind during that same time we also had motorcycles for two-up pleasure rides: the Honda CBR1100, followed by the short-lived BMW R1150RT and then came the Harley-Davidsons.  Add to that how much time we’d spend cycling and it becomes clear why there’s no point in holding onto the S2000: it’s just going to sit in the garage collecting dust.  And, while some S2000 enthusiasts have suggested the little cars are appreciating in value every year, I’m not sure the increased value will ever outstretch the cost of insurance, maintenance and storage solutions needed to free up valuable garage space, e.g., a lift or leasing a place to park it.

So, all that said, I gave the car a good cleaning on the inside, put another coat of Zaino on the outside, pulled the tonneau cover out of storage (No one, and I mean no one ever uses these on an S2000 because there just awful) and took a few photos for posterity after pulling out of the garage so I could move Debbie’s Accord into the middle bay for a wash.

 

The Accord has been a great car that Debbie really enjoys.  In some respects I’m amazed she stuck with the S2000 for as many years as she did.  While they’re fun cars to drive, getting in and out of the S2000 is not easy since you’re sitting only about a foot off the ground and truly do have to climb up and out of the car.  Then there is the manual transmission with the very heavy clutch that becomes a curse during stop and go traffic: Debbie encountered more than her fair share of stop and go traffic over the past 12.5 years!  And then there’s the lack of storage space and the inability to put all but the most limber of people in the passenger seat.  Yeah, just not a practical car.  In fact, we have a friend who is looking to put is daughter in a car for college who asked about the S2000.  As much as I’d like to sell it I had to tell him, “I can’t think of a less practical car for a young person headed to college than an S2000.”  I think he knew that, but it’s just one of those cars you want to have when you see it. Anyway, the S2000 is pretty much ready to be dropped off at the dealer’s lot which will free up the center bay of the garage for my truck. And that means I’ll be able to resume commuting to work via motorcycle.

The motorcycles have been sitting during the week since, with just the three garage bays but no parking pad, I’ve had to take the truck or S2000 to work just to make sure Debbie could get her Accord in and out of the garage.  Well, that and I don’t like having a car parked out in front of the house.  So, this will be goodness, as will canceling the insurance once it sells since a Honda S2000 is one of the more expensive cars to insure.

Washing cars may not seem like a big deal, but we’ve had so much rain of late I don’t think I’ve bothered to wash Debbie’s car since perhaps early May.  The Zaino wax products I use do a great job of keeping grit and grime from collecting on the car’s finish and the color of the car also hides the dirt that is there.  These things have made it easy to skip washing the car as it’ll just get dirty again when the rain comes in during the upcoming week. However, you do get a point when they just need to be washed and that was where both the Accord and my truck were on Saturday. So, good to have them both clean again.  The Accord even got a second coating of Zaino!

 

While all of his was going on Debbie had been out buying flowers for the garden and was setting those out while I washed the truck.  She’d wait until Sunday to plant them as it was getting close to 5:00pm and we needed to clean up for dinner at… you guessed it: Loco Willy’s.  Yeah, we (a) probably go out to eat too much and (b) always seem to go to Loco Willy’s.  There will be an occasional visit to Henry’s Taste of Louisiana, JD’s BBQ, The Red Eyed Mule or one of a handful of other restaurants friends will suggest, but Loco’s is our go-to place.  On the bright side, the food prices at Loco’s are very reasonable to the point where it’s hard to make the same meals at home for the same money.  Of course, the cost of the adult beverages is another story…  cest la vie.

With Brian still being out on vacation Christian had Josh filling-in behind the bar: Josh is another great barkeeper who worked with Christian years back at the Wild Wing Café in Marietta. Just to keep it interesting, we ordered our usual green salad but went with 8 hot wings for a change of pace: yummy!  It’s not a lot of food, but just enough to keep us fueled and that’s how we like it!  Our friends David & Deb joined us for dinner and we had a grand time with them and all of our other friends who frequent Loco’s.  Yeah, it’s not just us who are there a lot.  Loco’s has a huge following of regulars, some who are there every day!

Around 8:30 we headed over to another local bar & grill called Guston’s where the band 3 Left Standing was playing.  I’ve probably mentioned them a few times in previous blog entries, as they’re an exceptionally good cover band that play nothing but music you can dance to.  That’s our kind of night out!  We met our friends Bobby & Carrie Ann, Ryan & Jeanette, Mike & Betty Anne, Matt, Scott, Katelyn & Zack, Danielle and Morgan who had also gone to Guston’s for dinner.  The band was great, we ran into a lot of friends whom we know from the local cover band nightclub circuit and we did a lot of dancing!  Our dear friend Kreg was also on hand with the lovely Miss Linda who didn’t make it into Kreg’s photo-op with us.

I think it was around 11:30pm when we said our goodbyes and started to head home. However, Debbie said she could really go for some pizza – a habit we got into in Key West after a night of dancing a few years and trips to Key West back – and the best place I could think of for some good pizza was SuBourbon’s in Kennesaw.  We ran into our friend and owner Dave as we arrived, not realizing in addition to being the owner and jack of all trades around his clubs, he was going to be the DJ once the live band packed up at midnight.  In addition to getting a couple slices of Pisano’s loaded pizza as a midnight snack we also were able to get in a few more dances, with both the band and then after Dave took over as the DJ.  It was a good way to cap off a great night out with great friends.

Sunday

We were up at a reasonable time so I could watch the end of the 24 hours of Le Mans.  And while the weather was looking quite nice in the morning for Father’s Day the forecast and weather radar suggested it would be short-lived.  We spent the morning working on the yard so as to take advantage of the nice weather.

Debbie worked in the garden along the front retaining wall while I pulled-out the pressure washer to tackle the front sidewalk.  While it might seem a bit odd to power wash a public sidewalk, I know of no other way to make sure it remains safe to walk on while also looking fresh.  There was a little bit of something starting to grow in the shady areas that would eventually become slick so it had to go. And, when they tore out our old front lawn and installed the new Bermuda sod a few weeks back the sidewalk got scuffed up a bit. So, this two to three-hour project would hopefully fix all of that.  It was a mess at times but the final results were spectacular!

 

Debbie finished up with her flowers about the same time as I finished the walk, so that was pretty good timing.

As we finished the America’s Cup came back on for the second day of racing.  The rain was just about on top of us as well so we decided to wrap up things in the yard and move to the breezeway and veranda where we could enjoy the cooling breeze from the rain while staying dry and watching yacht racing on the telly.

Debbie headed upstairs to get cleaned up for what would be our 3rd visit to Loco’s for the weekend while I finished watching the America’s Cup.  About the time we were both almost ready to head off for a late lunch we heard a transformer short out then explode quickly followed by the shutdown of all our electrically powered stuff.  Yeah, well no sense in sitting around without lights, air conditioning, or network access so we moved up our departure time by about 30 minutes for the soggy 8.3 mile / 15 minute drive to Loco Willy’s. We knew they’d have the FIFA Gold Cup match on along with the NASCAR race from Michigan, Braves baseball and pro golf.

We also know we’d find a few friends there as well and could have a mid-afternoon meal in place of lunch and dinner. Well, to make a long visit short, we arrived around 2:30pm, split the Reuben for our late lunch, ended up being joined by our friends Ryan & Jeanette around 7:15pm, Debbie ordered some nacho’s when they ordered their Ahi Poke and I went with the fish tacos, but only ate one.

Apparently it’s true what they say: time flies when you’re having fun and we were having a lot of fun!  We had Christian, Ashley and the Loco’s crew along with a gaggle of friends who kept streaming in and out for most of the afternoon before Ryan & Jeanette arrived and we always have a great time with Ryan & Jeanette!  It was truly an amazing way to spend a rainy afternoon and it was a perfect ending to a pretty darn good weekend.  I think we finally left around 8:30pm.

When we arrived at home it appeared as though the power had remained off for about 2 hours, just going off the lag time on the appliances with built-in clocks.  So, yeah…  getting out of the house was the right call.

Looking Ahead

Although we do like to get away now and again it was good to have a weekend at home. We’ll most likely stay close to home again next weekend unless we decided to make a quick trip to a cocktail party some friends are having on Saturday evening.  It would be a about three hours of driving for a two-hour gathering, but it would be great to see this group of friends again sooner rather than later.

The 4th of July weekend is looking pretty busy and with five days off it was REALLY tempting to jump on a plane to Key West on Friday and come back Monday.  However, we had already cooked up a less expensive, alternative plan that will likely be just as enjoyable and may allow us to visit with a few other friends over the long holiday weekend.

The week of 9 July we’ll head to Pennsylvania to visit with my folks for a few days before heading down to Manheim, PA, for the Tandem East “Tour de Chocolate” tandem cycling rally on Friday-Sunday.  Still trying to decide if we’ll try to make it all the way home on Sunday or break up the 750 mile drive with a layover somewhere else.  We are even considering heading back to my folks on Sunday afternoon to squeeze out one more day before doing the one-day drive on Monday.

We’re still mulling over the details of a possible trip to Costa Rica in late July / early August.  Debbie and I have never left the Continental United States for a vacation trip and just being in relax mode for a few days strikes fear into my heart; I’m not good at sitting around… despite our recent 6 hour visit to Loco Willy’s!  We’ll see how this plays out.

I think we’re at home the rest of August and have not yet cooked up a Labor Day plan.

We have the Southern Tandem Rally as an option for 22-24 September up in Salisbury, North Carolina but haven’t made a firm commitment for that.

We’re also looking at Biketoberfest in Daytona Beach, Florida on 19-22 October and investigating lodging options.  The HomeAway site is showing 89% booked so far and it’s truly slim pickings on multi-bedroom condos or home rentals… which is about the only way to do the bike rally without dropping $1,000 for three nights in a Hampton Inn.

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Las Vegas… where to begin?


Sunday

We flew out of Atlanta on Sunday around 8:00pm and were at our hotel on the Vegas strip by 11:00pm thanks to the 3-hour time change. We stayed at what is now called The Cromwell, Las Vegas’ “Luxury Boutique Resort.”

The lot on which The Cromwell sits was originally Empey’s Desert Villa, built in 1952. Empey’s was raised and replaced by the Barbary Coast in 1979.  The Barbary Coast was purchased by Harrah’s in 2007 who rebranded it as Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon. It was then sold to Caesars in 2013 who gave it a complete make-over and rebranded it as The Cromwell. The rooms were on par with a nice room at a Hilton and not the huge mega-suites that you sometimes find in the other resorts like the Venetian where I stayed during my last visit to Vegas in 1999.  I will say, Las Vegas is a completely different-looking place than what I recall from 18 years back, which was even then completely different from what I recall from my last visit as a California resident back in 1989 for the annual Hobie Cat sailing regatta at Lake Mead.

 Vegas then (60’s) and now (2017). The Bellagio’s lake sits on the same site as the old Dunes parking lot, casino and hotel.  Bally’s is where the Bonanza sign and parking lot was and you can see Empey’s Desert Villa behind the Bonanza sign.


Monday

Given the 3-hour time difference I found myself awake at 4:00am thinking it was 7:00am at first. After getting my bearings but realizing there was no way I’d be going back to sleep I fired up my laptop and knocked out a few blog entries from last week. I had not yet connected to the internet so everything I did was off-line and would get published later in the week once I rejoined the connected world. I was still connected via my iPhone for work and Samsung 4S for personal stuff, so I was not truly off-line for this vacation: I’m actually not sure how to do that anymore. But, I digress

After getting my blogs finished I decided to quietly slip out of the room and get in a brisk morning walk so that Debbie could sleep-in.  After my 2 mile walk, Debbie was up and around and we then made our way down the strip a half-mile to the Mirage Casino and Resort for a late breakfast. After breakfast we wandered around the strip checking out casinos for a while just to see what there was to see during the day.

Debbie was blown away by the Venetian with its indoor re-creation of the Venice, Italy canals complete with gondolas and singing gondoliers and the Grand Plaza with its sky-scape ceiling.  This is where I stayed during my last visit to Vegas in 1999: I had a 650 square foot suite to myself… what a waste!  I should have taken Debbie along back then.

 

As in the past and as we’ve seen in Key West, lots of hustlers were lined up in front of all the resorts and other places along the strip trying to slip you handbills, cards or coupons for “deals” on shows, strip clubs and just about everything else. A nice pair of dark sunglasses and otherwise being engaged in a good conversation with Debbie helped us navigate the sidewalk with minimum disruptions.   The heat was oppressive, to say the least: 105° F and you didn’t dare walk anywhere except in the shade of the Casino’s and Resorts. But, it’s a dry heat so you never seemed to break out in a sweat.

I think it was around 1:30pm when we decided to check-out the rooftop pool at The  Cromwell and catch a little sun.  Of course, it wasn’t so much a pool as it was a night club called Drais that also happened to have a pool.

The view of the Bellagio and surrounding areas was pretty spectacular, but so were the cost of drinks: $45 for a 20 ounce Strawberry Daiquiri and $18 for a bucket of three (3) 12oz cans of Diet Coke.  Interestingly enough, the cost of food was quite reasonable… but we passed on it just the same.  It felt good to get a little sun and to relax, so from that standpoint it was worth it… well, not really but I’ll continue to tell myself that it was just the same.

We had tickets to Frederic Da Silva’s Paranormal Mind Reading Show at Bally’s casino & resort right across the street from our hotel at 4:00pm. With the late breakfast and passing on the light lunch at the pool, by 3:30 we knew we’d need a little something on our stomachs to carry us over to dinner after the show. I used that as an excuse to introduce Debbie to In-and-Out Burger and their Double-Double Animal Style [includes extra Thousand Island spread, mustard grilled patties, and extra pickles] by bringing one back to the hotel while she was getting ready up in our room. While she initially said she didn’t really want to eat anything, I enticed her into sharing a few bites of the burger and some fries before we headed off to the show: it was a much-needed afternoon snack! We were both in need of some food and the burger hit the spot and made it a lot easier to enjoy the show since we weren’t distracted by empty stomachs.

The show itself was really amazing. It was a very small theater that sat perhaps 150 guests. Frederic Da Silva put on an incredible performance, having two-to-four audience members on stage with him at any one time for the duration of the hour-long show, including a few who were seated near us and clearly tourists. We have no idea how he was able to do what he did and neither were the folks who were randomly selected via frisbee toss to come on stage.  I’ll include a link to a video because, as I said, it’s too hard to describe what he did other than to amaze and surprise the audience with his ability to seemingly predict what someone had in a pocket, stop a watch at the time someone secretly visualized, or even figure out the name of a person someone was thinking about. And, lest anyone think he had the theater rigged with cameras, he invited all of the show guests to meet him in the commons area outside the theater for an impromptu encore performance that continued to challenge logic.  After the bonus show we walked a short distance through the Bally Resort complex to the adjoining Paris Resort and Hexx Kitchen where we had dinner.

We struck up a wonderful conversation with two other couples during the Frederic Da Silva show who suggested we take in one of the Vegas Burlesque Shows somewhere on the strip.  It turns out the Flamingo still had such a show so we headed there since it was right next to The  Cromwell.  We stopped over at the Bellagio Fountain’s on our way as the water shows on the quarter hours were all choreographed to different music and equally amazing if not downright mesmerizing.

The Flamingo’s Burlesque Show was held in a small theater called Bugsy’s Cabaret, an homage to the Flamingo’s former mob front man Bugsy Siegel. As we and the other two couples entered the theater the doorman offered an unsolicted upgrade of our general seating to VIP for an out-of-pocket tip. It was more than worth it as the VIP upgrade gave us seats that were a lot more comfortable than the ones we would have been sitting in for the 70-minute long dance and stand-up comedy show.  We had a great time, but I was expecting to see something of a 30’s style fan dancer, old-time show instead of a contemporary fast-paced Time’s Square dance show, with a strip-club flair.  The stand-up came on 20 minutes into the show and did a 10-minute routine that was pretty good and also helped to break-up the non-stop dance action which… at least to me, was a bit tiring. In fact, I think I dozed-off for a few minutes during the dance segment after the stand-up.  Then again, I’d been awake since 4:00am Pacific Time and it was close to 1:00am Eastern Time when the show let out so being a little tired was probably OK. Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed our time with the two couples who joined us: just first class folks who know how to enjoy life and who seemed more like family than mere acquaintances after just a few hours.

After leaving the Flamingo Debbie and I parted company with our show companions and headed off to see if we couldn’t find a nightclub where we could do a bit of dancing.  Amazingly, on a Monday night in Vegas they were far and few between.  The clubs that were open seemed to be booked for private events, had massive waiting lines or were playing what I call “thumpy-bumpy noise” instead of recognizable music.  We made one last try to see if the nightclub at the Cosmopolitan might not be too crowded. Alas, there were easily 100 people waiting to get in at 11:45pm so we decided to give it up and head for home but not before Debbie struck a pose along side a big red shoe.  The bright spot about being out late was catching the final water show at the Bellagio where the fountains were choreographed to support the Star Spangled Banner at midnight; worth it!

All told, we probably walked about 5-6 miles during the day while enjoying 105*F temperatures with almost no humidity.  This would be the norm over the next two days as well!


Tuesday

We had a pretty busy day ahead of us on Tuesday with a trip to and tour of the Hoover Dam and the Cirque du Soleil show “O” at the Bellagio at 9:30pm.  Our tour bus would be leaving from the resort at 10:00am sharp which gave us a couple of hours in the morning for breakfast and anything else we might want to do.  We decided to walk the half mile or so to the Denny’s on the strip across from the Mirage Casino & Resort as there was also a Walgreen’s that would hopefully have Debbie’s Caffeine-Free Diet Cokes, since the CVS next to our hotel did not.  It was nice to get in that morning walk again as it’s just a great way to start the day.   Of course, what was interesting was seeing some of the same people out at 7:30am who were just coming out at 11:00pm the night before, and by people I mean ladies of the night and apparently the morning.  There were also quite a few panhandlers and homeless-looking folks scattered about the strip, most of whom were getting rousted by the Vegas Metro Police.

Interestingly enough, up and until this trip I didn’t realize the Vegas Strip isn’t in Las Vegas nor is the Welcome to Las Vegas sign: they’re actually in the unincorporated city of Paradise, Nevada.  You have to head about 4 miles north from the Bellagio to get to the other ‘Vegas” casinos like the Golden Nugget and Frontier on Freemont Street in Downtown Las Vegas, passing through Winchester.  There are also the other unincorporated cities of North Las Vegas, Spring Valley, Enterprise, Whitney and Henderson.  Who knew?

We did a little exploring after our breakfast at Denny’s.  After about what amounted to a 1.5 mile walk we headed back to The Cromwell to get changed for our trip to the Hoover Dam at 10:00am.

The tour we took was operated by Grey Line Tours and it’s one I’d recommend.  Rather than getting on a bus that has pick-up locations all over the Strip, this tour has one pick-up and drop-off point at Bally’s that shaves almost an hour off the entire tour.  Of course, what made our 45-minute long, 35-mile trip to the dam so good was the bus driver, aka., Uncle Russell.  Uncle Russell was a retired Marine with a really twisted sense of humor and a seemingly endless amount of information regarding the history of Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam.  We learned as much or more from him that we did from Wikipedia or during our tour of the Dam.  And, he was as lively and informative before the tour as he was after the tour, taking several small detours along the way so we could see some of the often by-passed sites like some of the original homes built to house the people in Boulder who built the dam. The other visitors on the tour were all into the entire Uncle Russell thing and we had a blast!  What an amazing group we fell into!

As far as the Hoover Dam Tour goes, worth it!  I’ve been over the dam in the past but never bothered to spend the time to take a tour: what a mistake that was.  However, it was actually better taking the tour as a first timer with Debbie since I had to shut-up and listen instead of commenting, which I tend to do when I know just enough about a subject to be dangerous. But, it was truly amazing to see the challenges the engineers, geologists, architects and builders had to overcome to create the dam. The sheer size and scale of the project was almost too hard to appreciate in just a short tour with a 15 minute movie.  Just totally blown away…

    

On our way back to town Uncle Russell was kind enough to take us across the bypass bridge into Arizona and then make a U-turn so we could see the dam from the best vantage point short of being in a helicopter.  He also took a small detour so we could see big horn sheep grazing in a local park, the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign for a photo op and even the MGM Grand’s Mansion with its 29 suites that go for anywhere from $5,000 a night to $25,000 a night before dropping us back off at Bally’s casino & resort.

The one thing we hadn’t been able to do since our Denny’s omelet at 8:00am was eat. So, as soon as we stepped off the bus we were on our way through The Cromwell and Flamingo Casinos to the alley between the Flamingo and Linq casino where In-and-Out Burger was located.  Thankfully the lines weren’t too long as we were both incredibly hungry but, even still, we simply split a #1: Double-Double Burger (two patties & two pieces of cheese) grilled animal style with a side of fries and a soft drink.  It was the perfect meal for a late lunch at 2:30pm.  We wandered into the Harley-Davidson dealer across the street to see if they had any “must have” shirts or blouses: they didn’t.  After that we headed back to our room at The Cromwell so we could relax and clean-up a bit before dinner: we had another busy night ahead of us.

For dinner we headed back to the Paris Casino and Resort since it was right across the street from the Bellagio where we had tickets for the 9:00pm Cirque du Soleil show called “O”.  This is the show where a massive water tank is used as the primary stage and performers come out of and disappear into the tank.  It also turns out there is a specialized platform in the tank that’s raised and lowered to support different effects and different acts.  As for the show, although some of the acts shown here have been retired and replaced by other, the following video gives you a sampling of the experience. There’s purportedly a storyline for the show, but I’ll be darned if I could have told you what it was after the show or today.  That’s also true of the second Cirque show we saw while we were in Vegas; pretty unusual but then again these were the first permanent Cirque shows we’ve been to.

From Wikipedia: O is a water-themed stage production by Cirque du Soleil, a Canadian circus and entertainment company. The show has been in permanent residence at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States, since October 1998. O, whose name is pronounced the same way as eau, the French word for “water”, takes place in, around and above a 1.5-million-US-gallon pool of water. The O theatre, which is designed to resemble a 14th-century European opera house, has 1,800 seats, thus allowing the performance to be watched by 3,600 people a night since the performance usually plays twice in a given day, also designed to meet the special demands of the show.  

The show has 150 stage technicians and a cast of 85 acrobats, synchronized swimmers and divers performing in and above the massive pool. When maintenance needs to be performed, the pool is drained in about 12 hours to the Bellagio Lake, causing the lake’s water level to rise 1 inch. The pool is kept at 88 °F (31 °C) and has an underwater communication system and regulators that allow performers to breathe underwater. Every member of the cast is scuba-certified.

The underwater stage lift was produced by Handling Specialty. In order for the platform stage to rise and fall in the water without a wake, the surface of the stage has thousands of tiny holes which were drilled out by the Cirque du Soleil team.

Heaters under each seat help control the theatre temperature for the audience; the goal is to maintain two temperature zones in the theatre. The stage is kept at a higher temperature while the audience area is kept at a lower temperature. A temperature sensor every few seats in the theatre helps to ensure the audience area is maintained at the correct temperature.

To minimize damage to the musical instruments, the musicians play from glass enclosures in the theater. Some of the musical instruments used in the show are more than 100 years old. The unique string instrument heard in the soundtrack of O is an erhu, a traditional Chinese bowed string instrument.

To maintain a fresh look on the performers, some performers have multiple sets of costumes so they may reappear dry despite having been in the water. Some of the costumes only have a lifespan of approximately 20 shows due to the bromide and chlorine in the water.

We had seats next to another couple who were also from the Atlanta area; they were a lot of fun and it was so very nice having someone to share post-show impressions and cocktails with.  While I’ve seen a few negative reviews of the show I don’t know how that’s possible. The first time I saw one of the Cirque shows back in the late 80’s I was simply blown away by the way they staged, decorated, costumed and produced the shows and music as it was like nothing else I’d ever seen.  The show “O” simply raised the bar on all of that to a level that was as amazing as my first Cirque.  The folks sitting next to us for the show were equally amazed by the show which was their very first time to a Cirque performance.

It was around 11:00pm when we finished the show at the Bellagio and, as we did the previous night, we went out in search of a nightclub where we could dance. As we wandered past Harrah’s we ran into Elvis and even though they are just guys out trying to earn a buck for posing for a photo, it was worth it: totally a Vegas thing.

At the same place where we ran into Elvis we found a small semi-enclosed nightclub called Carnival with a live band playing 80s & 90’s cover music.  It was exactly what we were looking for… but almost as soon as we started dancing another gal who looked to be intoxicated while dancing tripped over her own feet and fell head first into Debbie and hit her head against Debbie’s right temple and hard!  This is exactly the same place where Debbie’s head trauma occurred during our October 2015 accident down in Daytona Beach.  Thankfully, it was just a hard hit and Debbie while stunned and growing a bump was otherwise not seriously hurt but certainly shaken.

It goes without saying, that incident put an end to dancing at that club as the place was filled with people who were stumbling around.   In fact, it really put a damper on the entire evening. Well, almost… it was close to 1:00pm and we were both hungry so I introduced Debbie to another old favorite of mine from Chicago: a midnight snack at White Castle!  We split a sack of 4 sliders (small, square hamburgers), fries and a soft drink.  While the White Castle burgers are a lot like the ones they serve here in Atlanta at Krystal’s, I still think the White Castle are better! And make no mistake about it, White Castle was the first slider, circa 1921 in Wichita, Kansas, and the first fast-food chain restaurant.  Krystal’s was founded in Chattanooga, TN, in 1932 after one of the founders visited a White Castle.

With Debbie’s head feeling a bit better, we headed back to The Cromwell and were finally in bed around 1:30am.  It had been another long day with a lot of time spent out walking in the 105 degree heat: we were asleep in no time.


Wednesday

We started off Wednesday pretty much the same way we started Tuesday with a walk down the street to Denny’s for breakfast. On the docket today was a visit to “The City of Las Vegas” and the casino’s along Freemont Street in the old downtown area.  The 5-mile trip took about 20 minutes as the main drag through town is a labyrinth of stop lights that are anything but synchronized to keep traffic flowing.

Our first stop was the Mob Museum; from Wikipedia: The Mob Museum, officially the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, is a history museum located in Downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. Opened on February 14th, 2012, the Mob Museum is dedicated to featuring the artifacts, stories, and history of organized crime in the United States, as well as the actions and initiatives by law enforcement to prevent such crimes. 

mobmuseumThe Museum is housed in the former Las Vegas Post Office and Courthouse, which was built in 1933 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum is located on Stewart Avenue, two blocks north of Fremont Street, the main artery of the downtown casino district.

Developed under the creative direction of Dennis Barrie, co-creator of the International Spy Museum and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the museum is governed by a non-profit board, the “300 Stewart Avenue Corporation,” in partnership with the City of Las Vegas. The museum is dedicated to the contentious relationship between organized crime and law enforcement within the historical context of Las Vegas and the entire United States.

The Mob Museum was awarded accreditation on March 1, 2017, the highest national recognition afforded the nation’s museums from the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). This distinction means our Museum meets National Standards and Best Practices for U.S. museums and we join a select community of institutions that have chosen to hold themselves publicly accountable to these standards and best practices.

While I’d read mixed reviews about the museum, it was fascinating!  I only wish we’d have planned to have more time to spend there; the hour and a half we allocated ahead of grabbing lunch on Freemont Street just wasn’t enough.  Of course, now we need to go back and watch the Godfather movies, Casino and a host of other documentaries on organized crime as we saw just enough to pique our interests.

We went to the Golden Nugget for lunch and to otherwise check out the casino, pool and of course “the” golden nugget, aka, “the hand of faith” a 61 lb solid gold nugget discovered in Australia by someone using a metal detector.  The Golden Nugget casino bought the thing for $1M.  The Golden Nugget is easily the nicest casino along Freemont Street which has been converted into a mall with a canopy  that is covered with thousands of programmable LEDs for evening light shows.  It actually took me a few minutes to get my bearings on Freemont Street as most of the original casino facades had to be completed reworked to fit under the canopy.

The covered mall was created by closing down Freemont to traffic and installing all kinds of overhead structures, lighting and the like.  Clearly, a ton of money has been put into keeping the old downtown area in business and it looks like a tough uphill battle.  Unlike the strip that had a few panhandlers and homeless-looking folks wandering around, the Freemont Street mall was teeming with them, to the point of feeling uncomfortable at times.  I’ll leave it alone at that.  I’m glad that we went over to the Freemont Street mall, but pretty sure that’s not where I’d want to spend my evenings.  But, if for no other reason, the trip is worth it just to see the Mob Museum!

We had tickets for the 7:00pm Cirque du soleil show Mystere at the Treasure Island Casino and Resort so we needed to get back to The Cromwell around 3:00pm so we’d have enough time to get ready for the evening and then to make our way over to Treasure Island for dinner before the show.  We actually lucked out as we were getting ready to walk over to Treasure Island when we learned The Cromwell offered guests SUV service around the strip for just tip money before 8:00pm. Given how hot it was in the late afternoon, that seemed like a pretty good way to make the 8/10th of a mile trip!

Cirque du Soleil “Mystere” at Treasure Island.  What can I say, it was amazing and once again we found ourselves seated next to a folks who were mostly new to the Cirque experience and a joy to be around since they were getting the full “O.M.G.” Cirque experience.  The show it self is pretty hard to describe but like “O” it didn’t really seem to have a story line like most all of the other shows we’ve seen listed below, notwithstanding oVo which had a storyline that wasn’t a storyline and was generally a mess:

  • Le Cirque Réinventé, 1987
  • Nouvelle Expérience, 1991
  • Saltimbanco, 1993
  • Alegria, 1994
  • Quidam, 1996
  • Dralion, 1997
  • Varekai, 2002
  • Kooza, 2007
  • oVo, 2010
  • Totem, 2012
  • Amaluna, 2014

From Wikipedia: Mystère is one of six resident Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas, the others being O, Zumanity, Kà, Love, and Michael Jackson: One. Mystère was first performed on December 25, 1993 . As with many Cirque du Soleil productions, Mystère features a mixture of circus skills, dance, elaborate sets, opera, worldbeat music, and street theatre-style comedy.

The idea for Mystère started around 1990. It was originally planned for Caesars Palace with a theme based on Greek and Roman mythology. The plan, however, was scrapped by the casino executives, who thought the project would be too financially risky. Mystère was very different from the typical material they were used to in a Las Vegas show. Treasure Island picked up the show three years later. Mystère was the first Cirque de Soleil show that would have its own theater, rather than touring with a circus tent and a permanent base in Las Vegas. 

The theater is unique and seats 1,541. The stage measures 120 feet by 70 feet deep and covers approximately 10,032 square feet. The stage floor is made of a layer of Base Mat, which is rubber made from recycled old tires and sneakers. This helps give the stage some bounce for tumbling. This is held together by polyurethane adhesive and covered with thousands of gallons of liquid that dries onto the surface. The Downstage D Lift is 36 feet in diameter and includes a 28-foot revolving stage. The revolving stage rotates up to 10 revolutions per minute. Props, equipment, and performers are elevated to stage level from the basement or trap by four moving lifts. 

The taiko drums in Mystère are created by the Japanese company Asano Taiko, located in Mattō, Ishikawa Prefecture. The largest drum in Mystère is the ōdaiko, which is 6 feet in diameter and 15 feet in length, and weighs half a ton. Due to the large size of the drum, it had to be brought into the theatre during construction. Since the completion of the theatre the drum can not be removed, as no door is large enough to accommodate it.

We wandered up the strip after the show and caught the 9:00pm Volcano Eruption at the Mirage.  It was a bit hokey-looking but the heat that thing let off was on par with standing in front of a burning building!  And the show went on for about 4 minutes.  Not sure I’d build my evening schedule around the eruption, but really glad that we caught it as it’s been a fixture in Vegas since 1989.

While out on the town in Vegas ended up running into someone we knew who knew someone else who knew a couple who were in one of the suites on the 39th floor of the Cosmopolitan with a room that overlooked the Bellagio fountains. They said the view was spectacular and a must see so we took them up on an offer to see how the well-to-do do Vegas. Wow, what a view!  The photo below is actually one that our friends shared as mine were all taken with my crappy Samsung 4S camera which does not perform well in low light or at night.  We were able to catch a couple of the ‘every 15 minute’ water shows from up on high and it was spectacular.  Unfortunately, we were obviously way too far from the fountains to hear the music that goes along with the light and water shows and that’s half of the magic. But, it was truly a great experience and capped off our trip quite nicely as there was something of a party going on in the room while we were there.

We headed back to The Cromwell around 11:00pm as it would be impossible to top the evening we’d had.  Best to quit while you’re ahead.


Thursday

On Thursday I was up at 5:00am and on my work computer for a few hours trying to get a jump-start on some reports that I need to review and then consolidate each week ahead of some analysis I knock out every Friday morning.  Debbie was sound asleep for the entire time, so that was good as there’s nothing worse than trying to sleep while someone else in banging on a keyboard.

We wandered around the strip for a while just to make sure there wasn’t anything we needed to buy before heading back to get our bags packed and having brunch at the Flamingo.  We headed to the airport around 1:00pm to catch our 4:15pm flight back to Atlanta.  We were dragging a bit by this time as we’d probably walked about 25 miles over the course of the past four days and definitely had a few more cocktails than normal over the same period of time.

Our flight home was uneventful, other than the usual hassles we seem to encounter on those rare occasions when we fly.  And, it’s always at the smaller airports as we head home, e.g., Key West, Philly, Allentown, etc.  Just one of the reasons we try to visit places that aren’t more than a day’s drive or two days ride on the motorcycle!

What else can I say about the Vegas trip: it was simply amazing. The people we met and visited with throughout our travels and while we were in Vegas were all pleasant, engaging and never had a negative thing to say which is extremely rare!  Just positive energy all-around… which is what you want when you’re trying to enjoy life and have new experiences!


The Weekend

Once we were back at home it was mostly about getting caught up on work and the honey do’s.

I was up early on Friday morning and spent the better part of 2 hours working on my weekly analysis and reports so I could get those out by 9:00am while Debbie slept in.

The afternoon was consumed with yard work as the lawn had already gone to seed since Sunday morning and the hedges needed trimming, etc.  Debbie was inside knocking out several loads of laundry. In addition to all of our clothing from the trip, the kids and grandkids had been staying at the house for a couple of nights while the wood floors in their new house we’re being repaired and refinished to correct a problem their builder had created, so there were a few extra loads of bed linens and towels to take care of.

Around 4:30pm it was time to get cleaned up and head to Loco’s for our Finally a Friday routine.  David & Deb were on hand and we had a really good time… in fact, we may have over achieved!  Debbie and Deb were in rare form and it was quite the evening as they kept our barkeepers Brian and Billy entertained.  I think David and I were solving the problems of the world, or was it plotting the overthrow of the world: I get the two challenges confused at times.  I want to say that we didn’t get home until almost 10:30pm. Again, it was a heck of a way to cap off one of the most amazing trips we’ve taken in a long time for a variety of reasons.  I mean, really… the only thing we didn’t do was gamble.  Well OK, Debbie dropped $20 in the slots and had only a smile to show for it.

I was up at 4:00am on Saturday and headed into the office at 5:00am to knock out about four hours of unplanned work due to a deadline that moved up by two days while I was out-of-town.  I had that done and was on my way home around 9:30am.  Debbie had been up for a while but had gone back to bed as she was still struggling with the east coast / west coast time change.  It was around 11:30am when we got ourselves sorted out and headed off for some down time away from home and other things that would otherwise keep us from relaxing.

We didn’t get back home until Sunday afternoon and with the yard work and real work out-of-the-way from Friday, it gave us an opportunity to head out for a few hours on our Harley, Blue.  We headed out on a little 91-mile ride the back way to Cartersville with a stop at Southern Devil Harley-Davidson.

As often times happens when we visit certain Harley dealers, Horsetown, or Skips in Daytona, I found a couple of tops for Debbie while we were there. Yes, as always, she makes them look amazing!

With her new tops in the saddlebag, we headed north toward Fairmount then jumped on Salacoa Road to enjoy the twisties into Reinhardt College.  We came back through Canton and kinda hoped that some friends who’d gone out boating at 12:30pm might have been back at home by the time we were near their home at the lake but, alas, they were still on the boat around 4:15pm.  So we made our way home around 6:00pm and swapped out the motorcycle for the truck then headed to Loco Willy’s for dinner.

Willy’s was pretty quiet when we arrived and just about the time we finished up our ribs with jalapeno slaw and fries our friends David & Deb came in and joined us.  We hung out there until just before the puck dropped on Game 6 of the Stanley Cup.  We headed home and both fell asleep watching the cup but thankfully, woke up in time to catch the final moments of the game when the Penguins clinched the series!

That was that for our weekend.  Again, just one of the most amazing weeks we’ve every had where we’d had so much packed into the Vegas trip that it “seemed like” we’d been going 24/7 for two weeks, not just one.  The word count on this blog alone would suggest that as well… sorry about that.

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The Week Leading Up To Our Trip to Las Vegas

As I write this I’m sitting on an airplane next to the lovely Miss Debbie headed towards Las Vegas for a few days. So, this seemed like as good a time as any to catch up on what happened last week and this past weekend. Mind you, I didn’t spring for aircraft Wi-Fi connectivity so I really can’t check to see where I left off with last week’s update so you’ll excuse me if there’s not a clean tie back to that blog; hey, it happens.

Anyway, it was something of a short work week since Monday was a holiday and this past Friday was one of my work-from-home / down days. The three days I did have at work were still pretty busy, so while it was a short week it felt a lot longer than it really was.

Like a lot of new-to-retirement folks Debbie has found her days full and now wonders how she had time for work! She spent a lot of her time this past week with an on-going deep cleaning of the house, in part because the kids would be moving in for a few days while we were in Vegas. It turns out their new home had some type of a leak under the dishwasher that damaged their hardwood flooring in the kitchen. To fix it the builder had to tear out the damaged wood and then sand, stain and clear-coat the flooring which, as you’d guess, is not something you can do while trying to live there with three little girls. So, Debbie wanted to make sure all of the guest rooms, guest bath, our master and in general the rest of the house would be guest ready for the kids.

For me, I had “normal stuff” to attend to what has now become the mid-week lawn maintenance night on Wednesdays. Yes, with the new front yard and a lot of rain comes mowing twice a week.

We had a bit of a surprise on Thursday when our Landscapers showed up two-weeks early then last scheduled to till the backyard ahead of sod installation, now planned for some time on Friday. It was mostly a surprise only because they’d called on Tuesday to say that with all of the rain our project had been moved back two weeks to mid-June. So, we were quite surprised when they showed up unannounced and got to work on the yard.

 

Getting back to Debbie’s schedule, I didn’t even see her until nearly 9:00pm as she decided to go and watch our granddaughter Caroline (10) compete in one of the weekly swim meets. Caroline did really well, winning two of her individual events, placing second in another and also coming in second with the relay team.

Friday was all about working down a pretty long to-do list, including a few things that didn’t get worked down, like painting the upstairs hallway ceiling. Sadly, I just can’t seem to get excited about dragging all of the really tall ladders into the house to tackle the 20’ tall ceiling over the stairs. But, most of the other things on the list did get taken care of, so that was a good thing:

  • More Repairs for the Tundra: First up on the list was heading down to 4 Wheel Parts to put some new upper control arms for the Toyota Tundra on order and schedule a date for installation. Regular readers will recall that I’ve attempted to do this a couple times: the first time the wrong parts came in and on the second we discovered it was really the lower ball joints that were shot already, after only about 30k miles. However, now the upper ball joints are definitely shot so we’re taking another run at the Camburg upper control arm kit. Sadly, the parts won’t be available for 3-4 weeks so it will be late June before I can get the truck repaired. Here’s hoping the old parts continue to hold out!
  • This and That: After that I headed back towards the house, making a couple of stops along the way, e.g., gassing up the truck, filling the 5 gal gas can for the mower/edger and what not.
  • Tandem Bicycle Repairs: Back at the house I decided to do a little work on our tandem bicycle’s left-hand shifter… the one that acted up last weekend. The esoteric details are covered in a separate blog entry over at The TandemGeek’s Blog but suffices to say I think I was able to address the root cause: an under-torqued bolt.
  • Tandem Ride: It was close to 11:00am when we were both ready for our usual 25-mile tandem ride from the house. It was a good ride and the traffic around noon on a Friday was surprising light from 11:00am until noon. However, at noon we ran into a flurry of drivers in a hurry and that’s always a bit disconcerting.
  • Red Eyed Mule for Lunch: When we arrived back at the house around 12:45 our plan to ride Blue over to The Red Eyed Mule for lunch was modified into a “Mark rides over to the Mule on Blue and brings back lunch.” Debbie had a 3:00pm appointment and wanted to relax a bit after the ride and then clean up before her appointment so the change in plans made sense. I was back at the house with our Jake’s Big Daddy by 1:30pm and the burger was just as good at home as it would have been over at the Mule.
  • New Cordless Line Trimmer: When Debbie headed off for her 3:00pm appointment I headed off to run some of my own errands which included picking up a pair of cargo pants that actually fit for our Vegas trip and hiking around Hoover Dam as well as a cordless line trimmer for the yard maintenance. I’ve clearly been spoiled by the cordless hedge trimmer and blower I bought earlier this year and saw no reason to keep messing around with the gas-powered Ryobi line trimmer. Of course, it took two trips to the Home Depot to get a new trimmer because someone apparently bought one, used it and then brought it back all sealed up in the box and it ended up back on the shelf and that was the 1st one I took home: ugg! Anyway, the trimmer is great! What a joy to have instant off and off without jerking on a pull cord or dealing with gas cans, oil mixtures, etc. And, best of all, the new trimmer is compatible with all of the old trimmer’s attachments, i.e., tiller, blower, brush cutters, etc.
  • About time for Loco’s: It was around 5:30pm when we headed off to Loco Willy’s for dinner, in part because we were told that the landscaping crew was still planning on coming out to the house to “blitz” the sod installation that evening. Quite frankly, I didn’t want to be around to watch that as I knew I’d be less than enamored with the blitz and there really wasn’t much I could do about it. I’d just deal with the final outcome and. Loco’s turned out to be a great night out with most of the usual suspects. Nuff said.
  • Landscaping Blitz: Sure enough, when we arrived home around 10:00pm from Loco’s the sod was down and it was hard to tell that a crew had been there.   I’d wait until the morning before giving it a good looking over in the light of day, but it actually looked really nice having that part of the yard sodded-over.

First order of business on Saturday was checking out the landscaping.

  • Inspecting the Work: A couple things stood-out, the most noticeable of which was that I’d apparently under-estimated how much sod would be needed by about 50 square feet. I’d wrongly assumed Rich had double-checked how much material would be needed vs. my estimate so we’re waiting to see how that plays out: my guess is another upcharge for the additional sod installation, soil, etc. Amazingly, putting down 800 square feet of Zoysia is going to cost nearly 50% of what it cost to have 4,000 square feet of old sod removed and new Bermuda sod installed on the front yard. Something’s not right with that, but the Zoysia is a lot more expensive than Bermuda so what are you going to do when I had to be Zoysia? The other odd thing was the circle that had been left in the center of the new sod for a small ornamental tree (likely a Japanese maple) and other perennials and annuals. I made the mistake of free-handing it assuming they’d use a stick and string to put down the markings for the sod installation: nope! So, I had to come in after the fact and remark the circle and then trim and move some sod around to correct that. Lastly, given that the back yard was relatively flat, I was surprised at how bumpy the sod was, similar to the front yard.
  • Installing Sprinkler Heads: Back when we had the backyard re-landscaped some 10 years ago or so, an in-ground irrigation system was installed. I swapped out several of the rotary heads for drip system manifolds since the rear corner of the yard would have no sod, just plants in pine straw and pine-bark covered beds. With the sod now covering that part of the yard I found I still had two of the old rotary heads and went about pulling out most of the drip line and tying back in the two sprinkler heads using a little farm boy engineering: success! The two heads provided perfect coverage for the new sod so it will get plenty of watering while we’re out of town.
  • Finishing The Planting’s Circle: I was a little disappointed that the crew didn’t just till up the entire backyard, including the small circle that would be filled with plantings by us instead of sod by them. Oh well. On the bright side, it gave me a chance to see how the new cordless line trimmer worked with my old tiller attachment from the gas-powered Ryobi. Once again, what a joy to work with! Power-on/Power-off without having to pull start between clearing roots from the tiller head. And it has more than enough power and 40 minutes of battery life! With the circle tilled, it was off to Home Depot to pick up 20 bags of topsoil to go into my crop circle. It wasn’t until I was working out in the hot sun and humidity that I remembered why I prefer the other three seasons in Georgia! Hot, hot, hot….
  • Debbie’s Day: Debbie was busy working through laundry and more house cleaning ahead of the kids visit while we’d be out of time. She also spent a bit of time figuring out what to pack for the trip to Vegas. The way the day was shaping up it didn’t seem like we’d be getting a tandem ride in, but that was OK too. Yesterday’s noontime ride in the summer heat and humidity took a lot out of us so a recovery day wasn’t a bad thing.
  • High Plains: As I looked at my own wardrobe choices for Vegas the one thing that came to mind was that I’d definitely need to wear a hat while I was outside during the day. However, my old one-size-fits many straw western hat I picked up a few years ago at Bike Week in Daytona wasn’t going to cut it since I have to wear it with a bandana to get a proper fit. I also wanted to have a black western hat so that gave me the excuse I needed to go and check that box. Yeah, well… I over achieved. Instead of coming home with a new hat I came home with two: a black straw western hat as well as a black leather western, quasi-Aussie hat. The straw hat will go to Vegas and elsewhere, but I’m thinking the leather hat will become my go-to headwear when we’re out motorcycling, etc.
  • Charlotte’s Ballet Recital: The big event for Saturday was Charlotte’s Ballet recital at 6:00pm. It was probably 5:00pm when we were both cleaned-up and dressed to go, hoping that if we arrived by 5:30 when the doors opened we’d be able to find the kids and have seats together at the theater where “no seat saving” is permitted: really?

 Anyway, we found the kids and the ballet was really quite good. It’s been fun to watch all of the same kids we’ve seen over the past four years develop and grow, and of course our own little Charlotte has become a very accomplished ballerina… right up there with her gymnastics abilities. She danced in two of the vignettes: a classic ballet and a second, jazz number. Hard to believe she’s just 8-years old! She acts and looks more like a young lady than a little girl.

  • Loco’s for Dinner at the Elegant Hour: We headed over to Loco’s after the show, which was just about 8:00pm. We had a nice time visiting with David & Deb and a few of the other usual suspects, but didn’t stay all that late as our long days were starting to catch up with us. Early nights are sometimes a good thing!

Sunday was all about final preparations before heading off to the airport at noon. I was up about an hour before Debbie and had most of our bags packed and ready to go. I was somewhat in a holding pattern on getting outside to cut the grass as I don’t like to fire-up the mower and other power equipment until 9:00am on weekends, so as not to disturb folks who are trying to sleep in. My challenge was getting the lawn cut before the incoming rain began to fall! Well, that didn’t happen. I was able to get the front yard cut with just a bit of a sprinkle falling, but it was a steady light rain as I worked on the backyard. But, I got it all done and that’s a good thing since it will have to go a week before I can get to again next Sunday.

With the yard work out of the way and pretty much everything ready to go for our trip I found myself with an extra 30 minutes and used that to give the Honda S2000’s convertible top a UV protective treatment followed by a hand wash to remove all of the overspray. I should note that we typically have the hard top on the S2000 all of the time, so the vinyl convertible top had not seen a lot of sun light over much of it’s life. That’s a good thing as the 13-year old top is still in great shape! Sadly, we’ll probably send her off to a friend of Wesley’s who owns a used car lot and can do the selling for us. So, our days with the little red car are numbered. She’s been a great car for Debbie but the Honda Accord has proven to be an even better and far more practical car so there’s really no point in holding on to it. We’re told the Honda S2000’s are going up in value but with the cost of insurance, registration, maintenance and storage I’m not sure we’d ever realize any of the growth in value so best to close the chapter on sports cars.

With all of our chores out of the way, we had the truck loaded and were on our way to the airport around noon. That is where the next installment will pick up.

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Doing That Triplet Thing in Oconee County, South Carolina

Triplet selfie from GTR 2016

Right on the heels of last weekend’s Georgia Tandem Rally (GTR), our focus this week was getting ready for a quick overnight trip up to Walhalla, South Carolina where we’d be riding the Rally in the Valley on our triplet with our friend Lisa who lives in nearby Salem.  We usually team up with Lisa on the triplet for GTR each May but this year her daughter Anna was graduating from college on the same weekend as GTR.  I think it may have been back in March when Lisa invited us to bring the triplet up for this event if the Sun, Moon and other planets all lined up.  Well, son-of-a-gun, we were able to figure out how to make it all work!

It was a full work week for me, but I planned to leave work before noon on Friday and just take some calls while we were in route to South Carolina, as traffic headed out of Atlanta would only get worse as the afternoon progressed.  So, being on the road at noon Friday was the goal for the week.  To make that happen I spent a few moments on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings hanging the chains back on the triplet before giving it a test ride to make sure it would be good to go on Saturday morning and then packed up all of our cycling clothes so those could go in the truck on Thursday night when the triplet went up on the roof.

I think it must have been around mid-afternoon on Thursday when Debbie sent me a text asking if we wanted to meet up with our friends David & Deb for dinner… at Loco’s of course.  We’d miss our usual Finally a Friday celebration since we’d be out-of-town, so this would give us a chance to get together before we left town.  It had also been David & Deb’s anniversary earlier in the week, so we used this as an opportunity to surprise them with a card, flowers and some Petit Fours to celebrate their 29th year together and our 6th year at partners in crime together: wow, times flies!  I had to do a little schedule juggling to get out of work a bit earlier than usual on Thursday so I could swing by Publix to get the car, flower and cakes and also have enough time to load the triplet on top of the truck as part of our pre-departure plan.

We had a great time enjoying a mid-week dinner with David & Deb, something that Debbie is now able to do since every day is a Saturday for her!  In fact, it was her retirement that also made the early departure for South Carolina on Friday possible so we’ve quickly adapted to this change.

Friday was a somewhat normal day at work. We’d had a milestone day on Thursday with the first flight of our commercial variant of the C-130, the LM-100J. It’s definitely a very different-looking “Herc” out on the flight line with its gloss white paint scheme and big blue tail sitting along side the dark grey military versions. We were still busy with a never-ending list of challenges, key decisions, and significant meetings ahead of us but at least my schedule would allow me to get out of the office around 10:00am. That would put me home with just enough time to cut the lawn, grab a shower and do the final packing and still have us on the road by around noon.

Thankfully, everything went off without a hitch and we were on the road at 12:10pm.  Although I had some reservations about taking the Interstate, we did just that.  Traffic on I75 south through our own County was abysmal… which is the norm.  We by-passed a lot of it by taking secondary roads that paralleled the freeway well into Marietta and then jumped on just ahead of the I285 east exit.  I285 didn’t back up until “spaghetti junction” at I85.  Struggling through those constant bottlenecks pretty much made me rethink our return route for Saturday as making that trip up I85 is perhaps the biggest deterrent for us heading up to visit friends in the Carolinas.

We made one stop for lunch around 2:00pm at an Arby’s in Pendergrass, Georgia, so that we’d have that out-of-the-way before my 2:30pm teleconference.  Arby’s has become just about our only alternative to Subway with their new deli fresh sandwiches and, in particular, the Italian sub: about 540 calories with 29 grams of fat and we split it. Not too bad for a tasty sandwich but with its 1,770 mg of sodium and 28 grams of fat it’s nowhere near as healthy as our Subway go-to sandwich, the Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki with it’s 740 calories, 770 mg of sodium & 4 grams of fat.  My teleconference only lasted about 20 minutes and most of what needed to be done I’ll get to on Tuesday when we return to work from the Memorial Day holiday break.

We rolled into Lisa’s driveway around 3:15pm so pretty much on plan, even with our 10-minute lunch stop back in Pendergrass.  Lisa gave us a tour of the house as she’s been busy making changes inside and out.

After discussing our dinner options we decided to make the 30 minute trip over to the town of Pickens where the Appalachian Ale House was holding an anniversary celebration: it was a GREAT place and a GREAT time!  They had a gourmet burger and hotdog bar set up in the back of the restaurant (gratis) and were also serving up a huge sheet cake as part of their celebration.  When we first arrived young Randall Martin was playing and at 8:00pm Lisa’s friends — Amongst the Trees — began their set.  Debbie and I even managed to get in a little dancing!  Just a great evening…

If you’re ever in that neck of the woods, it’s worth a look!

We were in bed fairly early by my standards which meant I was wide awake at 4:00am on Saturday morning.  I did my best to not disturb Debbie, Lisa or Lisa’s Golden Retriever Woody from 4:00am until our appointed get-up time of 6:30ish.  After grabbing a little breakfast we headed off to Lake Jemiki over in Walhallia around 7:30am which would put us arriving as the 60-mile route riders went off at 8:00am.  We were riding the 34-mile route that began at 9:00am, as that would get Lisa back to Lake Jemiki ahead of the lion’s share of both the 60 and 34-mile riders as she was part of event staff.

The Rally in the Valley would take us out through beautiful Oconee County, South Carolina through the foothills and valleys of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Following the ride all participants are treated to live music, craft beer and a wonderful meal including locally slow cooked barbecue and fresh home cooked side dishes. Proceeds from the event are used to support Oconee Forever, an organization focused on conserving natural resources, working farms, historic sites and open spaces in Oconee County, South Carolina.

We had the truck parked and the triplet unloaded well ahead of the 9:00am departure. As always, the big bike drew a lot of looks, comments and questions… all goodness!

I want to say that it looked like the number of registered riders didn’t quite hit the organizer’s limit of 300.  There appeared to be about 100 or so in the 60 mile group we saw headed out — including some tandem friends from the Carolina’s: Alan & Joanne on their Orange Co-Motion (Left) and Mark & Charlotte on the black & white daVinci (Center). Our 34-mile group looked to have maybe 70 riders, including another couple whom we’ve met at GTR: Wayne and Geri from Georgia (Right).

   

BTW, all three photos above are from the GTR 2017 rally photo collection: it’s one of the best resources for figuring out who you were riding with since folks look so different off the bikes and out of their cycling helmets, glasses and gear!

I think all three of us were feeling pretty good at the ride start. We made it to the front of the entire group during the first 2.5 mile climb out of Lake Jemiki then drifted back and forth with a small group of about 5 riders for the first half of the ride.  However, we spent a bit more time at the 17-mile sag stop than those folks so we didn’t see them again until we pulled into the grass parking lot at Lake Jemiki.  This photo was probably snapped somewhere around mile 25: we covered the 34-mile route with 2,500 feet of climbing in just about 2 hours.  I’d say that was a respectable ride.

As mentioned, Lisa was a volunteer with Oconee Forever and would be staying at the post ride event for most of the day so she came in her own car as our plan was to head home straight from the event after lunch.  I think we said our goodbyes and were on the road just a little past noon.

Unlike the drive up, we opted to take mostly 2-lane back roads out of Walhallia and into Georgia vs. the interstate.  The interstate drive time was listed as 2.5 hour whereas the back way was showing 2.8 hours.  The .3 hour difference more than paid for the angst and frustration that I experience trying to get through the I85/I285 and then the I285/I75 interchanges and, as it turned out, even with hitting a lot of red lights in Gainsville, we were home in about 2 hours and 45 minutes: I think we’ve found our new way to the Carolinas!

Once we were back at home we had the truck unloaded, got showered and then did a little decompressing as I’d been up since 4am, rode 34 miles and drove 255 miles by this point.

It was probably around 5:00pm when we headed to Loco Willy’s for dinner.  And, we had eaten and were on our way to a gathering of friends at James & Donna’s home in Acworth, Georgia by 6:30, a good hour before our friends David & Deb finished their day out riding on the bike at Loco’s for their dinner.

We had a really good time at James and Donna’s and didn’t head home until close to 10:00pm.  It had been a long day and we were both pretty tuckered-out.

I started off Sunday by getting the triplet cleaned-up, Debbie’s saddle removed and then stored it back up in the rafters until our next triplet opportunity: perhaps in September?  With the triplet up and out-of-the-way and pulled our tandem out of the rafters so I could put Debbie’s saddle back on the bike as I suspected we’d be riding either Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

I think it was around 12:15pm when we pulled the Harley out of the garage and pointed it towards Loco Willy’s where we planned to go and have some hot wings, salad and watch the Indy 500 which got underway around 12:25pm.  It was a small crowd at Willy’s when we arrived, but all of the usual staff suspects were on hand.  David & Deb arrived about 15 minutes before we headed out, as they were meeting another couple — Scott and Debbie — for an afternoon motorcycle ride out to Knucklehead’s.

We spent a good 2 hours at Loco’s just relaxing before heading over to check on Ryan & Jeanette’s home improvement project progress.    We spent about an hour visiting with Ryan & Jeanette and by 4:30pm were over at Brewsters.. a biker bar so Debbie could get a certain cocktail that only they seem to make.  By 5:30pm we joined several other friends over at Mulligan’s Food & Spirits… another biker bar, where they were having a pretty good celebration.

It was probably close to 7:00pm when we, Jeff & Sharon, David & Deb and Scott and Debbie got on our motorcycles and headed over to Loco Willy’s for dinner. When we arrived we saw our friend Ron’s red Corvette sitting out in front of the bar made a point of finding him and saying hello.  He ended up joining us at a table on the porch for a good hour or two before half of the group retired to a table inside the bar.

We eventually left around 11:00pm as we were the last ones at Loco’s and the gals were putting stools on the table tops so they could close-out and head home.  I’m not sure what possessed us, but instead of going home we headed over to see what kind of music the Sunday night DJ at SuBourbon’s was spinning. Our friends Bob & Donna joined us.  In retrospect and even though we had pretty good time, it’s not something we’d ever do again.  The Sunday night crowd is mostly college age kids and the music the DJ was playing was definitely not the kind of music we listen to.  Debbie was having a good time with the college girls, but the music and vibe just wasn’t happening for me.  We stayed there for an hour or two before hoping on Blue and heading home.  Definitely a late night out for us: if we’d have only had that much energy in Panama City Beach!

Given how late we were out, and aided by morning thundershowers, we both slept in on Monday morning.  That’s always the down side of staying out late… I just feel like the next day is going to be far less than productive.  However, despite the slow start to the day we were able to accomplish a few things:

  • I was able to give the drywall repairs on the upstairs hallway ceiling a final screening so that I’ll be able to get that repainted perhaps on Friday. It’s not a big project, but it requires bringing some pretty tall ladders into the house and doing some strange things to paint the section over the two-story stairway.
  • We spent a good part of the morning watching the America’s Cup / Louis Vuitton yacht racing, something I’d not been following. Wow, has that changed a lot! I didn’t realize just how high-tech they’d gone with the 45’ racing catamarans and water foil technology. The yachts are almost always flying on the foils and elevators instead of having their hulls in the water! Races are 20 minutes long on a very small course and it’s actually been turned into a very exciting spectator sport.
  • We were able to find a hole in the weather in the early afternoon and got out for a short tandem ride. However, and I’m not sure why, as we headed out I discovered our front derailleur’s shift lever wasn’t working.  Rather than bailing on our ride, I set the chain in the middle ring and that’s how we rode it.  There were a couple of times when we simply had to stop pedaling and coast when we spun-out at 120 revs, but overall it was actually a pretty good way to ride. It’s been a long time since we truly rode a 10 speed!
  • About 10 minutes after we arrived back at the house it started to rain, so our timing was impeccable. I spent about 15 minutes fiddling with the uncooperative shifter and was able to get it working again; however, I’m still at a loss as to why it suddenly didn’t work after having no problems last weekend at the Georgia Tandem Rally.
  • I spent a good bit of the afternoon just “chilling” at the house while Debbie headed off to get groceries. I used my time to write-up the majority of this blog entry and a few other odds and ends on the computer while sitting out in the breezeway.

Looking ahead at something of a short work-week:

  • Given all of our rain I’ll have to get out and cut the lawn again on Tuesday or Wednesday evening but that’s about the only must-do. Well, the hedges all need a bit of trimming too, but that can wait until the weekend.
  • Friday is an off-day for me so I hope to use it wisely.
    • The Toyota Tundra and I will make a trip over to 4 Wheel Parts in Marietta to order up the upper control arms and schedule the truck for the installation which, fingers crossed, will be the last time I need to do anything to the front or rear suspension for at least a couple of years.
    • I’ll also try to knock out the paint in the upstairs hallway ceiling. If I’m feeling really energetic I may put some fresh paint on the ceiling in the exercise room, as that needs to be painted as well.
    • I’ll also need to start developing a design, plan and materials list for the overhaul of our Master Bathroom’s shower / water closet so I can take care of that in the not too distant future. I’m guessing the glass enclosure will have a bit of a lead-time element to it that will pace the entire project.
  • Saturday will hopefully be a productive day with a tandem ride ahead of Charlotte’s 6:00pm ballet recital. Pretty sure that will consume the evening.
  • Sunday is a get-away day for us as we’ll be headed out-of-town until Friday. The kids will be staying at the house while we’re gone as their builder needs to replace all of the hardwood flooring on their main level so that will work out well.  I believe our landscapers will also be at the house while we’re gone so even when we’re away we seem to be busy!

Anyway, that’s a wrap for this week!

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Our 19th Georgia Tandem Rally & A Busy Sunday…

Wednesday was, for all intents and purposes, prep-day ahead of our Thursday noon-time departure for the 2017 Georgia Tandem Rally in Valdosta, Georgia.  This was the usual stuff: getting tandem down and making sure it was ready to go, getting my tool box, spare parts organizer, pumps, computers and whatnot from the garage staged for packing in the back of the truck as well as getting three days’ worth of cycling apparel packed into our respective gear bags and, of course, clothing to wear when we weren’t on the bikes.   The odd part was I didn’t have a truck to pack all of stuff in!

Yes, the wild card was the status of our tandem hauler – my 2006 Toyota Tundra – that went into the shop on Saturday for a standard service at 133,000 miles, investigation of a clunking noise from the front end and a speed-sensitive vibration from the back-end I suspected was a bad rear wheel bearing.  As of Tuesday afternoon they were still diagnosing the condition of the rear seals and bearings but discovered in the process the rear brakes were not wearing evenly and recommended those be changed.  Under the assumption the truck would still be ready to go by Wednesday afternoon, I gave Nick the OK for the rear brake shoe replacement.  As we reached the end of the day on Wednesday there was good news and bad news:  the good news was they’d finished all of the routine service, had the drums off being machined and had found a bad bearing that was also being replaced.  The bad news was, the truck wouldn’t be ready until Thursday morning.  Oh, well, and the front end still needs new upper control arms & ball joints.

Well, actually, there was another piece of bad news embedded in there: the bearing that was bad had just been replaced 3,000 miles ago in late November. Nick gave me the option of taking it back to the other shop since we we’re talking about a $350-$400 repair or having them do it over. Given they had the thing torn apart already and because I didn’t want to keep bouncing back and forth between shops, I decided to eat the possible warranted repair cost from the other shop and put all of my eggs in one basket with Alan Cox Automotive.

Our planned departure time on Thursday was around noon and the promised “ready for pick-up” time on the truck was 10:30am.  Nick called promptly at 10:26am to let me know it was ready to go and at 11:00am Debbie dropped me off to collect the truck.  Yeah, well…  Nick mentioned something about the possibly needing a new brake booster & master cylinder assembly in the near future as the brakes didn’t seem to be operating as well as they should.  Wow, was that an understatement!  I’d mentioned the brakes on the truck sometimes worked better after a “pump” indicative of having a little air in the line.  However, as I backed the truck out of the parking space the brake pedal sank nearly all the way to the firewall as I applied pressure to it.  After backing up, stopping, then driving forward and stopping again with the same buried brake pedal result I parked the truck at the service door and provided a quick assessment of the brake to Nick, i.e., “Good grief, that’s 10 times worse than anything I’ve ever experienced: it’s not safe to drive!”

Nick immediately got a hold of chief wrench Jeremy and I explained what I experienced.  Jeremy took it for a very short – and equally scary – test drive.  After pulling into the shop he said “10 minutes”.  It was more like 20 minutes but he was all over it, had the brakes operating as they should by 11:30 and I was safely on my way.  It suffices to say, someone new to the shop had worked on the rear brake pad installation, adjustment and bleeding the system and missed the mark… by a lot.  But, after a quick adjustment to the rear brakes and bleeding some air out of the system everything was good.

Back at home we had the truck packed, ate some steak burritos and were on the road by 12:15pm, which would hopefully put us well ahead of Atlanta traffic since we’d being going through the heart of downtown on our way to South Georgia.  It was an easy, boring and uneventful 4-hour drive with just one gas stop as I neglected to top-off the tank before we left Kennesaw after the unplanned, 30-minute delay.  That 30-minute delay also meant I didn’t get a chance to cut the front lawn which was going to seed and looked awful. Oh well, something for Sunday when we returned.  But, as I said, an uneventful trip that had us in downtown Valdosta at 4:15pm for the rally check-in and mixer at Birdie’s Market, an old theater that had been converted into a really nice downstairs market with an upstairs banquet room.

Similar to our trip town to Thunder Beach in Panama City Beach a couple of weeks back, this was the first time Debbie and I were able to leave a 1/2 day early so we could arrive for the start of the Georgia Tandem Rally (GTR) with a Thursday meet & greet.  As we arrived and checked in we did see a lot of folks whom we know from the previous 18 GTRs.  However, unlike the previous 18 GTRs, we didn’t have our social coordinators Linda & Eric or our dear friend and “tail gunner” for the triplet, Lisa, to hang with this year: they were together at Lisa’s youngest daughter’s college graduation exercise.  So, while we did our best to mingle with long-time friends, we still kinda felt like we were wearing brown suits at a tuxedo convention and just didn’t fit in all that well.  But, as I said, we knew a lot of the folks there, we were able to stay socially engaged for the duration of the event and even helped with moving registration materials out to our host’s van as the event came to an end.

As it was dinner time, we decided to go to Birdie’s Market’s sister restaurant, the Steel Magnolias just a 1/2 block away.  Again, we were essentially a pair of lost souls without our posse as we arrived at the restaurant, but were thrilled to see they had two lovely bars and, well, anyone who even occasionally reads our blog will know that we’re always right at home at a bar.

We opted to sit at the downstairs bar that fronted the kitchen and food prep counter; talk about performance art!  We were mesmerized by all of the various cooks and chefs churning out amazing meals for the restaurant’s unusually large Thursday night crowd of hungry seasoned cyclists as we sat at the corner of the bar with me sipping on some lovely silver Don Julio tequila while Debbie enjoyed a very nice glass of Eugen Müller, Riesling Kabinett.  For dinner, we split the Ahi Tuna Carpaccio as an appetizer and the Steel Magnolias Shrimp & Grits with andouille sausage, roasted red pepper gravy and a fried egg as our entrée: it was one of the best bowls of shrimp and grits we’ve had in a long time, noting the best was at the Boar’s Head in Savannah. We even saved room for dessert: a rum covered cheese cake that was out of this world!  We also had a very nice chat with a couple who joined us at the bar and who were passing through on their way to Florida: Steel Magnolias was apparently one of their regular stops and we can now see why.

After finishing up our dinner we headed back to the hotel where we’d hoped we’d find a few folks mingling in the lobby.  Alas, that was not the case as this is a tandem rally not a motorcycle rally.  We retired early for the night, which was OK too.

FRIDAY

We were up about an hour before we’d need to be in the truck and headed to the remote ride start location which gave us plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast. We wandered down to the hotel lobby breakfast bar which featured the ubiquitous selection of pre-fabricated foods and a waffle maker.  Debbie went for the pre-fab omelette, sausage  and some fruit while I opted to be really bad and have a Belgian waffle.  With breakfast out-of-the-way we returned to our room to dress in our cycling gear and then made our way to the truck for the 10 minute drive up I75 north to Hihira, GA, for a remote start .

Given that Debbie and I didn’t have a lot of miles under our belt from this past winter or spring aside from a few 25-mile loop rides from the house on the few weekends when we were at home and not otherwise occupied, we opted to ride the 46-mile route with just over 1,050 feet of climbing.  It turned out to be a very flat ride through farm land with a stiff 10 mph breeze and very little tree coverage.  Although we made sure we didn’t jump out on the front of the pack with the faster riders, we did find ourselves working our way through several groups of cyclists before we settled in with a group including long-time friends Bill & Sametta, Lonnie & Carol, Alan & Joanne, Laura & Duncan, Jeff & Joyce, and a few others.  After the store stop we fell back in with a smaller subset of our original group for the 14-mile bonus loop.  Somewhere along the way we collected a few other riders while also losing a few.  Our only real error in judgement was not stopping at the 2nd store stop with our other friends.  We’d gotten a little ahead of everyone as we entered town and were actually past the store when we realized the others were stopping. With the roads torn-up and a few too many cars around, we opted to go on ahead by ourselves. We eventually met up with and rode a few miles with Tom & Beryl whom we’d come to know during one of our two visits to the Tandems East Open House a few years back in their home state of New Jersey.  We chatted briefly before they drifted back to finish the ride with their friends from Ontario, Canada.  We finished the ride without any real issues other than the rear shifting getting a little out of adjustment on the final few miles of the ride, a mysterious and recurring issue with our Calfee regardless of whose shifters and derailleurs we use.  On the bright side, it’s easily corrected in just a few moments with the turn of an inline barrel adjuster at the head tube.

As it was on Thursday evening, Debbie and I ended up heading off by ourselves to the highly recommended Smokin’ Pig BBQ place just a couple of miles from the remote start/end point. We clearly weren’t the first cyclists to arrive and seemingly ended up in a large overflow room.  We each had our own pulled-pork sandwich and split the sides of green beans and cole slaw, but quickly realized the sandwiches were anything but the small burger bun type we find in so many places. No, the basic sandwich was a jumbo by standard and neither one of us really needed that much food. But, it was tasty!

After our lunch we headed back to the hotel and decided to get some down time by the pool, something I’ve only recently learned to enjoy during the past year or so. However, you can get too much of a good thing and sadly I did just that. After sitting out for a while I decided to get in the pool to cool off and neglected to bring my hat along on this trip.  Shortly after I got in the pool Debbie sat down at the edge with her toes in the water and our friend Laura waded-in and I’m guessing we probably spent the next hour chatting away.  Oh well, at least it didn’t burn-burn where I had any discomfort: I just looked really red for a day and a half.

After taking our showers and visiting with friends in the hotel lobby for a short while we headed back to the Steel Magnolias for an early dinner at the bar.  Our friends from Atlanta, Paul & Jody, joined us this time so we had a great time visiting with them. As for our dinner, we went with the Executive Chef’s recommendation on a wedge cut salad adorned with ham,cheese and a bunch of other yummy stuff as our starter and had the Colorado Lamb Chops with red potato smash, local farmers salad & creamed silver queen corn as the sides.  Once again, simply amazing.

We skipped dessert as we would be heading about a mile down the road to the Crescent House for a frozen yogurt social.  Debbie & Jody walked to the Crescent House while Paul and I repositioned our vehicles behind the venue for the drive home after the social.  Before getting our yogurt we all toured the Crescent: it was very interesting.

From a Georgia tourism website, “Built in 1898 by U.S. Sen. William Stanley West, Crescent House is Valdosta’s best-known landmark. The house gets its name from the circular veranda with 13 massive columns, each representing 13 original American colonies. It has beautiful test gardens, an octagon-shaped schoolhouse and a quaint chapel. Saved from demolition, in 1951 it became the home of Valdosta’s garden clubs.”  

As for the dessert social, it was held alongside the home in a small parking lot.

Photo by GTR HQ / Eve Kofsky

Apparently a local yogurt shop owner is one of a handful of people who have purchased a customized panel van that is essentially a soft-serve yogurt shop on wheels that allows him to pull up to any venue and dispense about 1,500 servings of yogurt.  It’s a slick operation, but you’d have to sell a lot of yogurt to pay for that truck and the associated cost of operating it.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped by Walmart to get some soft drinks and a straw, wide-brimmed beach hat for me in case we went to the pool again on Saturday.  As on Friday, there wasn’t a lot going on back in the hotel so we retired to our room and called it a day.

SATURDAY

Photo by GTR HQ / Eve Kofsky

We were up around 7:30 on Saturday which gave us just enough time to get into our cycling clothes, grab some breakfast down in the hotel lobby,  get the tandem and make our way around the hotel parking lot to the riders meeting area in the parking lot of the conference center next door to the hotel.

A light mist was falling as the riders meeting concluded and we headed out of the parking lot on the start of our ride. Valdosta’s finest provided us with about 2 miles of lane protection and uninterrupted passage through several stop lights on Route 221 as the light mist attempted to become a light rain. However, shortly after getting off of Route 221 onto more rural two-lane roads the rain and mist disappeared. We found ourselves riding with Lonnie and Carol and a few other couples for the first long leg of the ride, catching up with Mark & Charlotte, Reg & Michelle, Dean & Meg and a lone single rider whose husband just broke a collar-bone before the rally and was sidelined. At the point where the 32 & 47 mile routes split off from the 59 and 67 we found ourselves with just Reg & Michelle as well as Dean & Meg.  We picked up a few other teams along the next few legs before rolling into the 1st store stop. After grabbing a Coke and a Fig Newton we headed back out with Reg & Michelle and another couple whose names escape me at the moment. After getting away from the lovely aroma emitted by the paper plant next to the store stop we found ourselves on some very lovely rolling terrain with lots of shade and tree cover: it was much more to our liking vs. riding on dead-flat, straight roads that crisscrossed the wide-open farm land we’d enjoyed on Friday.  Amazingly, Saturday’s ride was actually a lot less hilly than the Friday ride, but sure didn’t seem like it.

I do have to note, perhaps the visual highlight of the ride was seeing two fully restored, classic Ford Mustang Mach 1’s sitting in a driveway during our loop ride from the 1st store stop to the 2nd store stop (well OK, it was the same store). One was a silver jade 1969 Mach 1 (with later-year 5-spoke styled wheels as shown below) and a black 1973 Mach 1.

 

After making the loop that added 15 miles to the shorter, 32-mile loop we once again visited the store stop for a while and then headed back out with the same two couples that we’d been riding with for the final leg of the ride. The roads heading back towards Valdosta were once again the dead-flat, straight roads through farm land but overall Debbie and I were both feeling a lot stronger than we did on Friday so we just took it all in stride and enjoyed the ride.

Photo by GTR HQ / Eve Kofsky

We arrived at the hotel just after 11:30am and opted to skip cleaning up before lunch and headed over to the conference center where lunch was being served. I dropped Debbie off so she could find us some seats in the shade of the large patio area where the buffet was being served while I ran back to the hotel to put the tandem in the truck. Rather than walking over to the conference center I drove so Debbie wouldn’t have to walk back… unless she wanted to. The weather was still touch and go with showers in the area, but not right on top of us. We sat with several of the folks whom we rode with and had a really pleasant time. The food was a bit more hearty than we expected for lunch; BBQ beef in a very sweet sauce, chicken fingers, mashed potatoes, green beans, baked beans, macaroni salad & carrot salad. Frozen yogurt cups and zinger zebra cakes for dessert. I had some of the BBQ and macaroni salad, but passed on the beans and desserts.

After lunch we went back out to the pool for a while so we could relax, but this time spent most of our time under the shade of an umbrella, being content to enjoy the warm air. I took a few dips in the pool to cool off but was sporting a nice covering of sunscreen and my new straw beach hat to keep from getting too much of a good thing.   After spending about an hour at the pool Debbie headed up to the room to rest a bit and refresh while I went off to the hotel exploring the bike room and visiting with Bill, Sara, Duncan, Laura and others in the hotel lobby while watching the Preakness pre-race as background.

It was probably around 5:00pm when Debbie came down and joined the group, at which point I headed up to the room to grab a quick shower and to dress for dinner. No, no kilt at the tandem rally: just jeans, western boots and a Big Dog Hawaiian shirt. Sadly, I neglected to bring any tequila to the rally so I was left to enjoy a couple of Michelob Ultra’s and then some other pseudo “craft beer” from Budweiser. Bill and Sara shared some of their lovely Pina Noir with Debbie so she was in a better place than I was, at least as far as cocktails are concerned.

Photo by GTR HQ / Eve Kofsky

Right before 6:00pm we all began to head over to the conference center for the social hour ahead of dinner. After grabbing some proper cocktails we found a table we shared with Paul & Jody, Dan & Dolores and Richard & Carolyn.   Dinner was the usual buffet style with some baked chicken, pasta dishes, a couple different kinds of beans and salad. Nothing to write home about, but tasty and warm. I think I was off visiting with other folks when the various announcements were being made for upcoming rallies, such as the Southern Tandem Rally near Salisbury, North Carolina on 21-24 September and then came the give-away / awards for…. You name it. They also announced the 20th anniversary of GTR would be held at Athens, Georgia over the Memorial Day Weekend, or at least it looked that way on the calendar.

Anyway, we had a great time back in the lobby at the hotel after dinner with some of the same usual suspects from before dinner. Lots of folks from the Carolinas whom we really enjoyed spending time with: Laura & Duncan, Bill & Sara, Stephen & Dawn, Jerry & Kim, Carl & Ayako, Mark & Charlotte, etc…. That time in the lobby went a long way towards sewing up our STR registration decision. I think Debbie and I were about the last to leave the lobby as I put all of the chairs back where they belonged and did a little clean up before we headed up to our room. I want to say it wasn’t quite 11:00pm so, yeah… a lot different from the motorcycling crowd.

SUNDAY

On Sunday we woke up to the sound of heavy rain and thunder at 6:00am. Around 7:00am the GTR Emergency Alert System was used to send out a cancellation notice for the 8:30 riders meeting due to the weather. We’d already been on the fence about riding on Sunday as we had to be back at home by 4:00pm for our granddaughter Charlotte’s gymnastics meet, so this announcement removed all doubt: we’d be homeward bound within the hour.

It didn’t take us long to pack up, but in hindsight I should have taken at least another minute to give the room a once over as I left a Samsung S4 battery and battery charger plugged into the phone’s outlet on the desk. This is the second time I’ve left things behind when we’ve stayed at a condo or hotel, noting that two pair of swim trunks and a sun shirt went missing in Panama City Beach.

After saying a lot of goodbyes, we were on the road shortly after 8:00am with an ETA at home of 12:10pm. Traffic was light all the way home with just a little slowing through Atlanta; definitely a lot better than it would have been had we ridden and left at 10:30am!

Once we arrived home and I had the truck unloaded I turned my attention to harvesting the mess that had become our front lawn over the past week, as the new Bermuda sod had gone to seed with 5” tall spouts covering well over ½ of the front yard: it looked like heck! Fortunately, Zoysia grass in the side and back yard don’t go to seed like the Bermuda so I didn’t feel compelled to cut that grass on Sunday.

With a quick 2.5 hour drive up to Walhalla, South Carolina for the Rally in the Valley with Lisa on the triplet just five days away, my next task was to get the triplet down from the rafters where it’s been for the last year so I could get it ready for the ride. I’d removed the chains after bringing the triplet home from GTR last year but still hadn’t given them a proper cleaning so those got dumped into my 24-year old can of diesel and gasoline solvent for a good soaking to remove all of the crud that collected on the somewhat sticky chains as they hung in a corner of the garage. While the chains were soaking I installed the wheels on the triplet and transferred Debbie’s saddle from the Calfee as she is no longer using the Selle Anatomica saddles: anyone need a spare? I have four leather Titanico saddles and a C2 Composite model that are now sitting on the shelf.

Around 2:00pm I knocked off and got cleaned up so we could go grab a late lunch at Loco’s as we’d be sitting in the gym from 4:00pm until 7:30pm, meaning we’d be having dinner at the elegant hour. Our friend Billy was there with his new-to-him 2009 Harley-Davidson Road King Classic; what a great-looking bike! This is the one where I told him if he didn’t buy it I would! And, I really meant it. I’ve also told him that if he and Dava find they don’t ride it, I want first refusal on the initial sale offering! It would be a great companion bike to Blue II that I could use to replace the BMW for commuting while rekindling some of the joy I had with the Wide Glide.

After enjoying a nice simple salad and some blackened fish tacos as well as some lovely silver Herradura we headed over to the gym to find Julie and a place to sit for the meet. I’ll skip my editorial on parental behavior and child rearing and note that the little girls down on the floor were all fun and often times amazing to watch: here’s hoping they can overcome the short comings of their parents. Charlotte did really well on the floor exercise, vault and uneven bars, but came up short on the balance beam and that put her 2/10ths of a point out of 1st place. Yup, a 2nd place in her 2nd year. She placed 1st last year, but has since been moved up two levels and is now competing against the top-tier 8 year olds so 2nd ain’t bad for the little ballerina: yes, she’s also our little dancer.

We arrived back at the house around 8:00pm and weren’t quite sure what we’d be doing for dinner. It was about that same time that we saw a note from our friends Ryan & Jeanette saying they were headed to Taco Mac for a late dinner after spending the entire day working on their home. We asked if they’d like company and joined them around 9:00pm for dinner at the elegant hour. Well, I say dinner: I was treated to one of the nicest surprise birthday celebrations ever when the waitress brought out two horseshoe-shaped Herradura shot glass holders with one shot each of Reposado, Double Barrel Reposado, Blanco and Ultra. Ryan & Jeanette are also big fans of the Agave-based joy-juice so we had a grand time tasting and comparing the different tequilas. We enjoyed each other’s company until 11:00pm and then called it a night: what a great time that was!

Anyway, that’s the news from Kennesaw this week. I’ve got a little more work to do on the triplet to get it ready for Saturday’s ride. We’ll have it loaded up on the truck Thursday night for a noon-time departure on Friday. That should get us to our friend Lisa’s home by 3:00pm. We’ll go out and have dinner somewhere, spend the night at Lisa’s and then make a short drive to Walhalla for the Rally in the Valley ride on Saturday morning. We’re only signed up for the 30 mile option so we’ll be headed back home at noon on Saturday so we can spend the rest of the long weekend relaxing, doing chores or whatever comes up.

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Harley Wide Glide’s gone and the BMW might go before the Honda S2000

My apologies for last week’s blog; I usually break those big event blog entries into a two or three-part mini-series so that they’re not as time-consuming to read. Don’t even ask how long they take to write as I try not to think about it. If I was smart – and I’m not – I’d adopt the USA Today format over my Wall Street Journal approach to reporting. Anyway, this weekend’s report won’t be all that awfully long, or at least that’s my goal.

One Less Motorcycle

For those who didn’t take on the all-you-can-eat blog entry from last week, early in the entry I mentioned that our friend Monica closed the deal on Betty before we headed off to Bike Week in Panama City Beach. It’s been kind of nice having a little more room in the garage and I was surprised that I haven’t had all that much separation anxiety.

In fact, I’m now thinking about selling off my 2003 BMW R1100S such that I’ll be down to just the one motorcycle. Yes, I’ve gone down that road once before when I sold off our 2004 BMW R1150RT and had a couple of potential buyers lined up for the R1100S when I got my moto-mojo back. But, here I am six years later finding myself driving to work instead of riding the motorcycle for a variety of reasons but regardless of why, I’m not sure I’ve missed it as much as I would have expected. In fact, I may need to ride tomorrow just to make sure I’m not kidding myself.

But, in all honesty, the reason I’ve not been riding the motorcycle is because we have one too many cars sitting around the house which makes getting the motorcycle out of the garage of a bit more complex and also leaves the truck in the driveway which makes it harder for Debbie to get her car in and out of the garage and driveway. So, although not by design, I’m not sure if we’ll get the Honda S2000 sold before I give-in and sell-off the BMW.

Of course, as I say this I’m actually driving the Honda S2000 because my truck is back in the shop for routine service as well as more drive train noises. I suspect the left rear wheel bearing may have finally gone the way of the right hand bearing which began to fail about 4 months back.   I’m also thinking that the right front ball joint may also be shot, noting that the left front had to replaced two months ago… the second one in as many years. So, having a back-up vehicle is starting to look a bit more attractive than an extra motorcycle. Time will tell. Not sure the Honda S2000 would be the right back-up vehicle long-term as it’s also a bit long in the tooth with 125,000 miles and is anything but cheap to insure: Corvette’s carry a lower premium!

The Yard

The recently re-sodded front yard is looking pretty good but has a couple of spots that I’ll need our landscaping experts to look at. There are some sections of sod that just never really came in, some lumpy/bumpy sections and a few other little issues. But, it is nice having a lovely green carpet of grass covering the entire front yard again after dealing with the thin spots and erosion issues for a couple of years. The landscapers should be starting on the backyard before too long as well and I’m really looking forward to having that mess cleaned up as it’s really become an eye sore. I’d toyed around with making it a DIY project but, for the quoted cost, it’ll end up being about the same as what it would cost me to rent all of the equipment and buy the materials I’d need to do it right with a much higher probability of success.

The Weekend

The rest of the week was somewhat uneventful; just knocking out the usual tasks around the house in the evening after a full day’s work. But, we were both very much looking forward to our weekend as we’d get to see friends at Loco Willy’s for our Finally a Friday celebration, go to our little retreat up in the mountains for some down time and then be back at home on Sunday to celebrate Mother’s Day and my birthday.

Our Friday evening at Loco’s was really exceptional. We scored some good seats and were able to get and hold seats for David & Deb and had enough other ones open up for Stuart and Teresa as well as Billy and Dava to join alongside. We had Kevin, Clark, Gene and other on hand as well. I also think we’ve broken the code on where to sit so that David and I can talk while Debbie and Deb catch up. It’s only when our food arrives that we have to realign since Debbie and I share our meals. Regardless, we had a good time hearing how David & Deb’s cruise went and to hear what our other friends had been up to while we did our best to control the juke box internet-accessible juke box. We could have probably spent the better part of the evening at Loco’s but opted to head home and tried to catch up on prior episodes of Archer that we’d missed and promptly fell asleep, so I’m guessing we need to rest.

Saturday we’d hoped for good weather as we wanted to get a few hours of sun by the pool up in the mountains. It had been an overcast morning where rain was in the area, but not yet falling. So, no tandem bike ride but I was able to get the lawn cut and motorcycle and trailer cleaned-up after our trip to Panama City Beach. I also worked down most of the scratches in the top case with my Porter-Cable 7424 6-inch polisher before putting down a fresh layer of Zaino. There were some deeper scratches that I opted just to leave in the case lid that I may address at some point in the future; hey, if you ride ‘em they’re going to get a few scratches and nicks! I was able to get a few more small projects done at the house before we headed off to the mountains. However, on the way out we dropped my truck off at Alan Cox Automotive for the aforementioned service and possible repairs. Still waiting for the prognosis, but definitely need the truck back by Wednesday for a road trip to South Georgia on Thursday afternoon.

We made it to the resort around 1:30pm and were able to get in a couple of hours of sun, but had to dodge two showers that moved through the broken, partly cloudy skies. It was a very relaxing time and we were able to visit with a few friends who we might not have otherwise spent as much time with. We did a little dancing to the DJ in the evening before calling it a night: it was a much-needed short get-away-from-it-all for us.

Sunday started off with a few hours of yard work, mostly clearing pine bark from where the new lawn would go and trimming back trees and shrubs. Now, Sunday was also both Mother’s Day and my birthday, so while I asked Debbie to not do anything special for my birthday she was able to work in a little bit of a celebration when Wesley and the three granddaughters came over from 10:30am until 2:30pm to visit.

Debbie’s oldest, Charlie, also dropped in for a while. Caroline, Charlotte and Vivian were having a blast running around as Debbie and Wesley tried to keep us, noting that our Daughter In-Law Julie was off spending the day with her mother and brother: an annual tradition.

A Mother’s Day Floral Arrangement from the Kids & Caroline Playing in the Backyard.  Charlie, Charlotte & Wesley, With  Vivian on the Run & Caroline Checking Out Insects.

After the kids all left Debbie and I both spent some time relaxing on the breezeway before I got motivated enough to run a few more errands while also trying to deal with some ants and carpenter bees at the front of the garage. It was almost 6:30 before we finally headed off to grab some dinner at Loco Willy’s, after which we headed over to the local cinema to watch Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2… part of my birthday celebration. It was an entertaining movie, but a bit too predictable and with too many forced comedic exchanges, i.e., it tried to one-up the first movie and came up a bit short.

That was about it for the weekend: nice!   We’ll try to get caught up on everything by mid-week as Thursday afternoon we’ll be driving about 250 miles down to Valdosta, Georgia, for the 2017 Georgia Tandem Rally. It’ll take us about 3.5 to 4 hours to get there. Thursday night in a social of some sort with rides of varying lengths on Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning. We’re not sure if we’ll ride Sunday as we’ll need to be back at home for Charlotte’s gymnastic competition at 4:00pm on Sunday afternoon.

 

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