It’s not that we’re not busy, but there’s just nothing epic going on at the moment that’s share-worthy so you’ll excuse me if I just prattle on here a bit with what has come to mind this week…
What We Could Have Been Doing This Weekend…
Some of that is self-imposed, as we see where our off-road tandem friends have been tearing it up down near Ocala, Florida this past weekend. A couple of weekends back they were down near Live Oak at the annual 50-mile off-road Ididaride event. Of course, even if I could get Debbie excited about off-road riding again (i.e., having her suggest or ask instead of me trying to coax), I’m not sure we’d be jumping in the car to make 5 and 6 hour drives to ride our tandem for a couple of hours in Florida. Which is to say, I wish I could get MYSELF excited enough about cycling again to make those kinds of investments in our time and energy to pursue the camaraderie, fitness and pure joy of riding tandems with others. Oh well, something to work on in the year ahead: who knows what the future might hold for us if Miss Debbie retires in March per her current plan.
Yes, Debbie Is Definitely Thinking Retirement May Be Right Around The Corner…
Yes, that is her current plan… and one that she’s struggled with a bit. However, I think she’s starting to wrap her head around life after the 8-5 world that’s been living for the past 15 years or so, prior to which she lived the life of a real estate agent and, before that, owned and operated a small business. So, we’ll call this retirement and see where it goes. She may find she can fill her days without any trouble with renewed interest in hobbies, cycling, home/garden, who knows. Perhaps she’ll stumble on some other type of business opportunity or decide to do volunteer work. Regardless, this will allow us to see what it’s like to live on a somewhat reduced income as we work towards my retirement and shifting to a fixed-pension + retirement savings as our sole source of income for the next 5-10 years since Social Security is at least that far off for each of us, respectively.
What About Me? When Will I Retire???
About halfway through the average workday of late it’s the end of the week. However, the crisis du jour usually passes or I remind myself that I do what I do because I of the choices I’ve made and it all evens out. But, the truth of the matter remains, the pacing item to my retirement milestone has been for the last 3 years and continues to be the cost of health care insurance. Interestingly enough, we fall into that space where we make too much for subsidized plans and not nearly enough to shrug off the $1,900/month premium with $12k deductible for a so-so 80/20 plan (current year cost, it was $1,300/month last year). So, we’re anxious to see what our lawmaker majority du jour think they can do to outwit the healthcare insurance and provider industry without socializing healthcare or gutting Medicare to make it all work. Frankly, if the government and private healthcare providers simply eliminated the fraud, waste & abuse and fined the hell out of those who abuse system it would probably become self-funding. I say this after watching our own medical claim work its way through the system over the past 18 months and, no… it’s still not settled. But, I digress…
Now, when we ask the financial advisors we’ve used for the past few years, even with the unknown future cost of healthcare premiums we continue to be told “we’re good to go.” However, I have to wonder if that advice has more to do with our best interests or theirs, given that for them my retirement means putting our 401k “under management” with the associated management fees attached. Moreover, given that both of the last two financial advisory firms we’ve used for a combined period of 10 years have been given a large chunk of retirement savings to work with and have yet to garner returns that are better than what I’ve managed over the same period of time, my confidence is nowhere near where it would have been if they had been knocking it out of the park each year. It’s one thing to talk about 8%-12% returns, it’s another when we’re getting 10% – 15% and they’re only grossing us 3% – 5%, less fees.
So, all of that weighs heavy on my mind and muddles the outlook. Therefore, for the time being, I will continue to rise at 5:00am, be at work by 6:00am and put in my 12-hour days in exchange for affordable healthcare and my full salary vs. about ½ that amount vis-à-vis a monthly pension check that will not keep pace with inflation. On the bright side, I still use my daily commute as an excuse to get in a couple of motorcycle rides each day.
So, What Would We Do With More Time?
Cycling, yes cycling. I’m pretty sure we’ll try to do more of that instead of continuing what has been a year-over-year reduction in time spent on our pedal bikes. We both know that the benefits are well worth the time we spend on the bike in terms of our outlook on life, time together, fitness and of course it makes attending cycling events a bit more enjoyable when you’re not trying to hang-on to the back of the pack for dear life. We’ve noticed that we’re quickly becoming one of the last working couples in our collection of cycling friends – or at least full-time, 1099 slaves – and the ones who have moved on to the next chapter in their lives sure do seem to find a lot of time to ride. Consequently, when we get together for a major event we’re lucky to be able to ride two-days of long rides back-to-back in the saddle without getting saddle-sores or simply getting gassed. Apparently going out for a couple of 25-mile bike rides every other weekend or so doesn’t quite prepare you for three days of 45-65 mile rides!
So, what to do? While we’ve enjoyed doing the rallies for the past 20 years (yes, it’ll be 20 years in August since we first began tandem cycling together), we’re now starting to rethink our event scheduling. I’ve groused about this before, but when we started tandem cycling a rally was a 2.5 day event where you arrived on a Friday afternoon for a short warm-up ride and then had dinner out with friends in the evening before spending the first of two nights at a hotel with a long ride on Saturday and a medium or short length ride on Sunday to close out the event before having lunch with friends and then heading home. In more recent years, one-ups-man-ship and the escalating age of tandem cycling rally participants with free time and apparently money to spend on hotels are all in abundance, has brought about the four-day event with at least three nights of lodging and higher event fees that has more than doubled the cost of what we were spending for tandem rallies 20 years ago. Yes, we can certainly show up for the rally on a Friday afternoon and go for a ride on our own… which we’ve done in the past and will likely do in the future. But, it’s really just a different experience for us so perhaps we’ve simply outgrown the tandem rally scene. And, in that respect, our planning for 2017 rallies sort of reflects this ambivalence as we still need to firm up our plans.
- We’ve only signed up for one event so far – the Georgia Tandem Rally (GTR) – but we’re having second thoughts on that one. Given the cost, we’re now thinking about combining a visit with my parents in July with the Tandems East Tandem Weekend being held about an hour from my parent’s home in nearby Manheim, Pennsylvania. As far as breaking our streak for having attended all 18 Georgia Tandem Rallies, cest la vie. If it’s not this year that we break the streak it will likely be next near as some friends have invited us to join them for a Mediterranean Cruise during May for what would be their 30th anniversary and our 25th (in July). We’ll see. We still have until April 25th to change our mind on GTR.
- We’re also on the fence with the Alabama Tandem Weekend, as it’s now becoming a four-day event and that’s less than ideal, even if Debbie’s retired. We’ll be in the midst of “Debbie Fest 2017” celebrating her 60th birthday which comes right on the heels of the ATW weekend and that may be the better weekend for having a small gathering of friends out to the house to celebrate her various milestones, i.e., 60th and retirement. So, again… we’ll see what comes of that.
- Southern Tandem Rally is also on the bubble; it’s a pretty fur piece up the road for a weekend of tandem cycling. So, we’ll see about that as the year progresses along.
But, What About Motorcycling?
Well, I think it still has its place and we are looking forward to getting out for some ½ day local rides as well as a few overnight road trips on our own or with friends. However, we’re going to cut-back on the number of motorcycle rallies we do this year to perhaps just two: Panama City Beach in early May and then one other rally which is still TBD. It could be Daytona Biketoberfest, a return to Panama City Beach, or something else completely different. We may even decide to head up towards the Harley-Davidson museum in Milwaukee and spend a few days visiting family and friends near Chicago. Lots of possibilities.
Probably not going to do too many more “epic one day rides” where we’re out still riding after dark. I figure if we’re going to be that far from home on a day ride, we’d do best to have a destination in mind for an overnight stay. Nashville comes to mind! Yup, that’s a perfect overnight ride where you can spend the day getting there and enjoying some lovely back country mountain roads, but still arrive and get checked into a hotel and clean up before dinner. After that, it’s time to hit the honkey tonks! Sunday is a mid-morning breakfast and then a leisurely ride home that leaves you enough time to get the weekend chores done.
And What’s the Deal With Those Weekend Getaways?
The older we get the more we realize we’ve really never been “all in” with anyone group or hobby. Tandem cycling was about as close as we got, but as cliques formed, dissolved and reformed we just never found a good fit on or off the bike. We simply found that there were a few people with whom we could quietly ride with but the lions’ share of folks either enjoyed having rolling cocktail party discussions or were strong riders who went and hammered each other off the front of the pack. Debbie and I just liked being together on the tandem and the rallies and group rides gave us a good excuse to do that. But the social stuff… it’s just never been our thing.
Even the wonderful group of people whom we’ve met through motorcycling are a tough fit for us. They’re heavily interconnected through Patriot Guard, churches, and the vast network of bikers who meet every weekend at the local watering holes for charity rides or just to hang-out between day rides and we’re just not able to immerse ourselves that deeply into the motorcycling. As much as Debbie and I really enjoy riding motorcycles, it just has to come at the expense of cycling and cycling’s just to important to our health and well-being to set it aside. Well, that and we’re also not all that fond of riding motorcycles after dark in the mid-to late evenings for a wide variety of reasons, #1 being DUI motorists, followed by nocturnal animals and just flat-out not finding much joy in riding at night for no good reason. Bike Week’s have been the one exception, but even then it’s usually short point-to-point rides vs. being out in the boonies or bar-hopping: neither of those are attractive options.
Therefore, we’ve always tended to find a “favorite place” where we go on a Friday and/or Saturday and form situational relationships with the regulars who we meet at those places. The first such place for me and Debbie in the early to mid-90’s was Rio Bravo Cantina at Town Center Mall; it’s where we always went on Friday nights. Our Saturday place was Three Dollar Cafe at Windy Hill. After those places closed we began going to Three Dollar Cafe at Town Center in the late 90’s until it closed in the early 2000’s. Thankfully, On the Border opened up shortly thereafter and it became our Friday hangout for nearly 12 years and it’s where we met our closest friends, David & Deb. Saturdays were usually spent at Olde Towne Bar & Grille during the On The Border years until the quality of food and service began to get spotty: if the owner Billy was on the premises everything was great. When he wasn’t, the food and service suffered and, well, we never really developed any lasting friendships there: it wasn’t a great fit… just a good fit. Loco Willy’s has proven to be our perfect fit since we began going there some three years ago. As regular readers will note, we’re there at least two if not three times a week (a) because the food is fantastic, (b) because most of the long-time staff who work there treat us like close friends not just patrons, and (c) we always find ourselves surrounded by people like ourselves who just like having a place to go where you can be comfortable and shoot-the-breeze with people who you only know and see (David & Deb excepted) on a regular basis outside of Loco’s.
Ok, so what’s the deal with the weekends away? I could have a faulty memory on this — noting I’ve been called out for having a selective memory by my middle-sister in the past — but I seem to recall my parents would sometimes get a sitter for us and just “get away for a night” when we were kids living in both New Jersey and later in Illinois. I want to say it was dinner & dancing at the Swiss Chalet & Lodge in Ramsey, New Jersey, or some other type of nightclub at a hotel for a date night. But I’m pretty sure it was that kind of “night out” for them, regardless of where it was. In Illinois I believe they headed to the Clock Tower Inn in Rockford, Illinois, where they had ballroom dancing or some such; again, basically a date night even when we were older and had mostly moved away from home.
Anyway, “date night” apparently had a lasting impression on me so now and again — about once a month or so — we’ll just head off by ourselves without a schedule, plans or need to be anywhere at any given time. We’ll eat when and where we want and otherwise map out the afternoon and evening to suit our mood at that time. There’s no motorcycling or bicycling involved as that adds complexity we just don’t need. On the upside, having that away time makes appreciate all of the other things we do and who we do them with even more, so at least for us it’s a win-win.
Again, we just don’t excel at being heavily integrated with any one group… to the point that I’ve hardly had any social connection to people I work with outside of work during my entire adult life. I’m not sure why, but aside from a few Friday nights spent at the Rusty Scupper in Glendale, California, after work in the late 80’s and a single ski trip during the same time period, I can’t think of a single time where I’ve met co-workers socially except by happen stance. More than you want to know, but perhaps it might explain a few things to any of our friends or even family who might read this. It’s just the way I’m wired; Debbie, on the other hand more than makes up for my shortcomings as she’s a great listener with a fantastic short-term memory for details that simply escape me. Perhaps that’s why we get along so well together?
So, What Else Went On This Week You Sociopath?
Well, to the chagrin of some and the delight of others I continue to embrace the kilt as a regular part of my weekend wardrobe. I’ve found what I think is a fairly contemporary way of wearing the kilt vs. a more authentic look that is far more discrete than wandering around with a Jacobite shirt, massive and bright belt buckles or brightly adorned sporrans with flashy sock flashes and the like. Don’t get me wrong, I think those things are great, but I’m simply not someone who would ever dress in a wool day jacket and tie on any occasion that comes to mind. So, my sweaters with kilts and boots with pushed down knee socks seem to be a good fit. As the warmer weather arrives I’ll likely put away the wool kilts and stick with the cotton utility kilts and tshirts, much the same as I’d wear them with jeans. Of course, a kilt on the motorcycle ain’t gonna happen any more than shorts on a motorcycle so if we’re riding I won’t be kilting!
Valentines dinner was something of a spur of the moment thing in that, as mentioned in my previous blog entry, we’d be bookending the V-Day week with “date nights” on the Saturday before and after. We’d thought about heading down to Henry’s Taste of Louisiana in Acworth but decided that some Ahi Poke would be perfect for a light dinner in the middle of the week. I tried to make it a little bit special by arranging it in the shape of a heart after mixing the rice, tuna, wilted spinach salad, avocados and ginger sauce. Yeah, it was hokey, but I’m a hokey, hapless romantic!
I had to burn some vacation time to get back under the “cap” for the month, so I was able to knock out some errands on Thursday afternoon which was nice.
- One of those errands was following up with Nationwide Insurance on my diminished value claim after being rear-ended by one of their clients. Yeah, well… according to Nationwide there is no diminished value on my 10-year-old truck with 128,000 miles. You see, there wasn’t any structural damage and the $1,100 in repairs have returned the truck to the pre-accident condition. Now, that’s all fine well and good; however, I’m pretty sure the CarFax report on my truck will now have a recorded accident on it… the first for my truck. And, last time I checked, I’ve never seen any such record say, “but don’t worry about it… it’s all good as new now.” Yeah, right. Oh, it’s been in an accident let’s just knock 10% off the asking price for that. So, we’ll see how this plays out: I suspect I’ll need to get an attorney involved to squeeze them for a measly $1k after paying off the attorney’s fee of $300 for sending them a couple of letters. Just pisses me off how “doing what’s right” has been replaced by “do as little as possible.”
- The other big errand was giving the landscape firm a go-ahead for replacing the 23-year old Bermuda sod in the front yard with some fresh, shade tolerant Zoysia sod. Not exactly sure when they’ll start, but I suspect it’s happening sooner rather than later as I saw the utilities were marked when I came home today (20 Feb). They’ll have to spray and kill the Bermuda before they scrape, till and prep the soil for the new sod, so it should take a few days for the entire project. They’ll also be fixing my stack stone wall which has slowly but surely been falling apart. I’ll have some other work to attend to, but having a “new front yard” will do wonders to freshen up the house: it’s been one of the weaker street presence points for the past few years.
I think that about covers it for this week. Sadly, I fear Debbie has now come down with the flu or at least some kind of virus. She began hacking last night much as I did on Superbowl Sunday and then began to exhibit all of the other classic symptoms of the flu. Worst of all, she’d actually taken the day off as a personal holiday, only to end up spending most of it in bed. I’m guessing she’ll be out of it tomorrow as well. Of course, I’ve also started hacking again, so here’s hoping that I don’t end up going through the entire flu symptoms / recovery process again. Uggg…