Debbie Fest is my month-long celebration of Debbie’s birthday each year; however, what makes this year’s Debbie Fest all that more special is that she officially retired from the 9-5 working world on 3 April and will celebrate being 30 for the 31st time on the 25th! Yes, it’s going to be an epic month of celebrating.
Things got underway back on Thursday when I invited friends in the local area via Facebook to join us for our weekly ‘Finally a Friday’ at Loco Willy’s where we’d give Debbie a surprise celebration of her last full day of work and kick off Debbie Fest.
I also stopped by the local Publix on the way home from work and ordered-up a ¼ sheet cake, checked-out the balloon and flower selection and confirmed I’d be able to make it a one-stop-shop on the way home from work on Friday. The only trick on Friday after picking up the cake, flowers and a card would be weighing the balloons down in the covered bed of the truck under a wool blanket and putting the cake and flowers under cover on the floor of the truck behind her seat so she wouldn’t see them: I was highly successful!
Speaking of flowers, I will have to say that both 1-800-Flowers and Teleflora have seemingly allowed their bottom line to carry more weight than customer service. I attempted to send Debbie roses at her office on Monday via 1-800-Flowers that never arrived, even after a very frustrating encounter with what “felt like” an off-shore customer service operation. Ultimately, I must assume the problem was their local florist and that order was cancelled after flowers also failed to show up on Tuesday. I ended up sending flowers via Teleflora on Thursday for a Friday delivery before noon and while Teleflora did a great job of getting flowers on Debbie’s desk by 11:00am, what she described certainly weren’t the 18 red roses I’d ordered. But, she was very happy with the flowers and that’s all that really matters, right? So, yeah, I’ll probably go back to dealing directly with florists in the future when I feel compelled to order flowers for family or friends. Now, where was I??? Oh yes.
I made my planned pick-ups at Publix and was able to arrive home ahead of Debbie so I could hide the balloons, cake, flowers, etc. in the truck and change clothes for the evening. No, no kilting tonight: this was all about Debbie so no need for the distraction. She arrived a short time later and after she decided what she wanted to wear we were off. Well, I should note that as she was working on her wardrobe she knew me well enough to ask, “So, who all will be there?” I considered floating a fib, but opted to be very honest: “I really have no idea; I just floated a note out our friends on Facebook and said if you feel like joining us, please do.”
We arrived at Loco’s around 6:30pm and found our partners in crime, David & Deb, seated at the large table with a lovely bouquet of yellow friendship roses and a “Happy Retirement” balloon attached to her chair. After getting Debbie settled-in I snuck back to the truck and pulled the six-balloon bouquet out so we could decorate the table a bit more. As I was coming in I believe it was our friend Kreg who arrived first. Kreg (and his girlfriend Linda) is someone whom we met several years back when we did a lot of Friday & Saturday nights taking-in the bands Shyanne, Pretty Twisted and HMD. We recently started crossing paths again at SuBourbon’s when Three Left Standing has been booked to play and are staying connected this time around. About the same time that Kreg rolled-in I believe it was our friends Jeff and Sharon who arrived next.
Nice thing about Facebook is that Debbie doesn’t really do much on the Internet and does not follow Facebook. Therefore, sharing information about a surprise event is pretty darn easy. And, more, importantly, highly effective! In addition to David & Deb, Kreg, Jeff & Sharon, our friends Ryan & Jeanette, Cowboy & Linda, Matt, Monica & Arne, David, Zach & Katelyn, and Bobby & Carrie Ann all made appearances with most staying for the full duration. We also had the other usual suspects – Stuart & Teresa, Billy & Dava, Gene & Clark — on hand, along with our friends who work at Loco’s and make these events all that much more enjoyable: a special thanks to Madeline for looking after us all as well as the rest of the crew! In addition to the bouquets of roses, Debbie also received some lovely house plants from Sharon & Carrie Ann.
It was a very casual night where folks who wanted dinner ordered up, while others did appetizers and some folks just dropped in to say hello. As most of the folks finished up their meals I once again snuck out to the truck to bring in the cake, plates and forks for dessert. It was a pretty cake with flowers and plastic butterfly rings: Debbie loves butterflies. We had the cake carved-up and consumed in short order, so I’m guessing it was pretty good cake as I don’t think I even had a piece.
As the crowd thinned out a bit several folks decided to head over to the Wing Café & Tap House to see a band that Kreg recommended: it was about a 15 minute drive over. Unfortunately, the main room and bar area was packed. So, while we didn’t get to really see or listen to the band we had nice time doing a little more visiting with Ryan & Jeanette, Monica & Arne, Mike and perhaps a few others: I’m a bit fuzzy on some details: it was a long day.
It must have been a bit after 11:30pm when we headed for home as Debbie asked about getting a grilled cheese somewhere or stopping at Loco’s for a breakfast sandwich. Seeing that it was close to midnight, I guessed that Loco’s was probably closed and suggested we probably had all we needed for grilled cheese sandwiches at home… so that’s where we went. And, by golly, we did have what we needed: thin sliced bread, some wonderful hook cheese and butter. The sandwiches were yummy and served as our nightcap!
Saturday was somewhat productive even though we ended up spending a good part of the day riding our Harley-Davidson Road King, Blue II and visiting with friends. We’d heard different folks talking about meeting up around noon at a bar called Bodocks some 40 minutes away from the house in Canton, Georgia, and then riding over to Cartersville, Georgia, for a BBQ & Brew event. The weather was looking like it would be perfect for a ride, but we had a lot to do so we remained silent and uncommitted during the Friday night celebration at Loco’s.
To make the most out of the day I was actually up early, despite being out late. I had my truck and Debbie’s car de-pollenated, washed and dried by around 9:00am and was up to my knees in leaves that I’d raked-out of the front island by 10:00am. It’s amazing how our yard is such a magnet for leaves from trees that aren’t in our yard; however, the up side is that I have a shredder that turns all of our yard waste into a fairly nice mulch that I put right back onto the flowerbeds and landscape islands. I think I was about 1/2 way through the front island project when we received a text from our friend Carrie Ann wanting to know if we’d be heading up to Bodocks to meet for the ride over to Cartersville.
After a very brief discussion with Debbie and another look at the weather and our calender we knew it was a given: time to ride because it’s Debbie Fest! Well, that and we hadn’t been out for a ride on Blue since November and I’d lost track of when we may have ridden with our friends.
Debbie headed inside to get cleaned-up and ready to ride while I finished up the work on the front island, put all the yard equipment in the or at least next to the garden shed, got Blue II out of the garage and checked her tire pressure, etc., before heading upstairs to check on Debbie’s progress and to get changed into proper riding clothes. I think it was right around 12:00 noon when we finally headed out on the 40 minute / 25 mile ride up to Bodocks. The second leg of the ride would take about an hour and cover about 50 miles. Well, at least that was the plan. Ironically, our road captain decided to take us down a VERY rural shortcut that he likes to ride called ‘Falling Springs Road’. What we didn’t know was that we’d need to ride through a 4″ to 12″ deep creek that flowed across the road as part of this scenic shortcut. Now, to be fair, at least the creek bed had been given a very dense covering of large rubble that gave it a solid foundation vs. being a muddy creek bottom. However, that didn’t lower the difficulty factor associated with navigating 700 lb touring motorcycles across the creek. Sadly, one of the members of our group didn’t receive a good guide mark on where to cross and ended up getting sideways at the far side of the creek and dropped his bike on his left knee and into the creek. Thankfully the creek wasn’t all that deep so it was pretty much just the left slip-on that ended up submerged under the bike. Unfortunately, it ended up being his knee that took the brunt of the capsize. Everyone rallied around our fallen friend, got his bike righted, turned and ridden out of the creek where the only residual evidence of the incident was his injured and swelling knee and some minor cosmetic blems on the big Harley. Of the seven remaining riders, five — including us — made the crossing without incident, while two other riders doubled-back and took the main road around to Route 441 into Cartersville. In fact, when our back-tour-route finally intersected Route 441 it was at the very same moment when the two Jeff’s went riding by. But, on the bright side, we now have an epic adventure story that will be shared for decades to come!
Our ride destination was downtown Cartersville, Georgia, where a friend of our friends was promoting the BBQ & Brew Festival. You couldn’t ask for better weather, but… and I’m being honest here… it’s a fledgling festival that has a great aspirations. There was one craft brewer serving from several locations (aka, the Brew) and only 3 different vendors selling BBQ. As we understand it, 4 other BBQ vendors opted-out at the last-minute which left the organizers with few options. BUT, there was some great acoustic music being played on the small stage by three young kids that call themselves Modesto and when you combine that with great friends and great weather… life is good!
I think it was about 3:00pm when we bid our adieu to friends who were going to hang-out a bit longer and wandered back to the bikes with our friends Bobby & Carrie Ann who also needed to be headed home. We took part of the route less travelled back towards home, but I soon realized Blue II was down to about a 1/2 gallon of fuel. Rather than tempting fate and hoping that Blue II would actually be able to use all of that fuel and get out butts another 20 miles down the road I opted to go off-route and hit the gas station on Old Alabama Road and Route 75 North. From there we just hopped on US Route 41 for a quick ride back to the house, arriving around 4:00pm. So hard to express just how good it felt to be out on Blue II together: can’t wait for our ride down to Panama City Beach in early May!!!!
After getting a little us time and relaxing a bit, we got cleaned-up and headed over to Loco’s for a late supper around 7:00pm. Most of the usual suspects were on hand and once the final four game between Gonzaga and South Carolina was over, we had the bar all to ourselves; photo below and left to right: Kevin, Deva, Billy, Brian, Stuart, Teresa, Deb, David, Paul, my Debbie and yours truly.
It think it was around 9:15 when we finally headed home from Loco’s, but along the way we decided to go and give the band No Sweat a listen at Paddy’s and perhaps, just perhaps kick up our heels a bit. When we arrived I was surprised to see Paddy’s wasn’t really all that crowded; highly unusual for No Sweat as they have a huge following. Perhaps because it was the start of Spring Break? Some of the die-hard No Sweat fans were there and we also ran into Cowboy & Linda, who had been at Debbie’s party on Friday and the motorcycle ride earlier that day. Pretty sure I surprised some of the biker folks with my kilt. I mean, I’m clearly not part of the hard-core biker crowd and that’s well understood. But since we run with a great group of friends who are fully integrated with the local biker community — and because everyone loves Debbie — we’ve been welcomed with open arms. But the kilt… that may have been a bit too much for some. Cest la vie. It’s part of what makes me who I am, i.e., quirky if not odd and unpredictable. Setting the loss of my man card aside because of my skirt / cross-dressing appearance, Debbie and I REALLY enjoyed listening to No Sweat at Paddy’s. Perhaps it was because we could actually hear them and because Phil’s voice wasn’t worn-out from playing back-to-back sets at the Lucky Strike during bike week in Panama City Beach. They play cover music, but do it well and include a lot of tunes we can dance to, so dance we did: the kilt was a flying! Sadly, the air conditioning wasn’t working at Paddy’s and when No Sweat took a break after their 1st set at 10:30pm we decided to head on home. As it was, we had to be up and over in Tucker, Georgia, by 10:00am for a 30+ mile tandem ride in the morning.
I’m not sure if it was a couple late nights catching up with me/us, or if it was the pollen and dust raised from running 40 bushels of leaves through the shredder, but I slept really hard on Saturday night and did not want to get up. However, sleeping in wasn’t an option either as we had to leave the house by 9:15am to be on the other side of Atlanta in Tucker by 10:00am where we’d be meeting up with our friends Eric & Linda for a tandem bicycle ride and then lunch.
On the bright side, there wasn’t a lot that we had to do before leaving the house. I threw in a load of laundry, got our tandem down and loaded into the back of our truck and then headed upstairs to change into cycling togs for the late morning ride. Temperature wise, it was hard to know what kind of clothing we’d need. It had dropped from highs in the 80’s on Saturday to the high 40’s / low 50’s on Sunday morning. So, my recommendation to Debbie was that we take/wear a warm top and leg coverings, but also take a lot a second set of jerseys with arm warmers that would allow us to remove layers if the temps warmed-up faster than the weather guessers were predicting. That turned out to be a prudent call!
We had a mostly uneventful 40-minute drive over to Tucker and found Eric and Linda in the parking lot out in front of our lunch stop –Taqueria Los Hermanos — getting ready for the ride. Eric and Linda are about 5 years younger than us and successfully shifted into retirement about 3 years ago, a long-range plan fulfilled. A year ago they sold most of their belongings to include their home and became full-time motorhome / RVers. Yup, they’re living in a 45′ long RV that allows them to move about the county at will. We’d heard they were in town after a fairly long series of visit in Florida and middle Georgia and made plans to visit on Sunday. And, having met through tandem cycling what better way to spend time together than by heading out on a 32-mile ride, followed by lunch.
It was a grand time, and Lord knows we needed to ride at a more challenging pace than we could achieve on our own. But, most of all, it was great to spend time catching up and chatting with Eric and Linda. We hope to do that more often when our paths cross, if they are so willing. And yes, this is why I usually leave my sunglasses on when I’m outdoors, even when taking a photo! I can’t see ANYTHING when it’s bright out, even when I’m the one taking a selfie of a group! Here’s hoping Eric and Linda share the group photo taken in front of Stone Mountain’s carving, as I’m sure it’s better than anything I took on Sunday!
Anyway, very-much looking forward to getting more time on the tandem bicycle this year, even if it comes at the expense of missing out on a few afternoon motorcycle rides into the North Georgia mountains or out west. We truly enjoy the motorcycling and our motorcycling friends, but the passion for tandem cycling is just still so darn strong!
After our delicious lunch at Taqueria Los Hermanos — essentially Eric & Linda’s version of Loco Willy’s or On the Border — we parted company and headed for our respective homes: theirs has 8 wheels and no yard maintenance. Ours, on the other hand, isn’t going anywhere and has lots of yard maintenance to attend to, which would pretty much consume my entire afternoon.
Yup, as soon as I arrived back at home it was into the work clothes and out to do battle with fallen leaves and yard debris. My weapons were a couple different rakes, a really powerful battery-powered leaf blower and my trusty, 23-year old Troy Built lawn shredder.
The beauty of my old shredder — in addition to having a droppable leaf chute that’s probably been outlawed by OSHA — is that it turns mountains of dead, fallen leaf and yard debris (left) into much smaller piles of mulch (right) that can be put right back on the landscaping where-needed.
It was about 6:00pm when I finally had all of the leaves mulched and the shredder stored back in the garden shed. With the longer days and because of a late lunch, I felt like I had enough time and amazingly energy left to mow the front & rear lawns. This was the first time that I ran the mower over the new sod on the front yard it was good to knock down some of the “wild hairs” that were sticking up around the edges of the sod. With more rain over the weekend and coming this week the sod is really greening up nicely: very excited to once again have a front lawn that will be thick, full and lush.
With the yard work complete, I had just a few things left to do: making Debbie hot wings and fries for dinner was at the top of the list. Just a great dinner at home, something we’re probably going to do more of as we begin to settle into this semi-retirement thing.
In fact, one of the reasons I was anxious for Debbie to retire was so that we could begin to adapt to a reduction in our discretionary funds… something that will be essential for our retirement. In fact, the 20% cut in spendable, post-tax income that Debbie’s retirement brings with it is on par with what it will cost each year for our health care. So, in effect, we’ll have a chance to spend a couple of years living on what our net income after taxes and healthcare premiums will be. It was eye-opening to see the annual impact of decrementing my spendable income by 20% each week to generate the funds needed to provide Debbie with what will also be for her a cash stream that’s 20% less than what she’s accustomed to. In fact, I’m already starting to build a list of current expenses that can be examined and potentially reduced to off-set that net 20% weekly reduction: the list currently falls well short of the mark just looking at weekly discretionary spending and nearly fixed utilities costs. Therefore, it really will be those bigger ticket items and some of my/our other consumption habits that will need to be closely monitored, e.g., avoiding new high-cost / non-ROI hobbies or ventures, buying only what we truly need, more do-it-yourself projects and of course eliminating things that drive cost that are needed or that can be acquired for less through other approaches.
As always, more to follow. And, yes… it makes Debbie Fest an interesting exercise as well, especially since we’re headed to New Orleans on Thursday – Sunday: yup, that’ll be a pretty big chunk of change just for 3 nights lodging near Bourbon Street, never mind eating and drinking on the NoLo economy!
Should all make for exciting times.