The summer pollen season seems to be hitting both me and Debbie pretty hard this year. It’s not that we’re deathly ill or hacking up our lungs, but we’re both dealing with constant sinus drainage and a complete lack of energy which has really knocked the wind out of our sails when it comes to getting out on the tandem, exercising or taking on major projects. Well, I say that, Debbie began her swimming lessons on Monday through Thursday nights for the next two weeks and being in the water for 45-minutes a night is certainly a lot of exercise. We’ve also been dealing with our retirement finances and investment accounts which is mentally taxing as has been fitting new tires to the truck since the installation crew hasn’t been able to eliminate some tire balance issues. And, Debbie spent Friday afternoon with Caroline which was a treat for both of them and that night we decided we’d take up our friend David & Deb’s offer to join them for a 5-day cruise around the Bahama’s in early October. So, September and October now include a 4-day tandem rally trip in South Carolina, a 5-day cruise between Florida’s east coast and the Bahamas, and then a 4-day motorcycle rally at Panama City Beach. That seems a bit more do-able than the whirlwind July we’re about to begin where we’ll be away from home on 24 of the 30 days.
Monday: New Tires for the Tacoma & Debbie Starts Her Swim Lessons
It was a bumpy night for me, as I just couldn’t settle down and, after I headed to bed the second time at 1:00am I was awake by 3:30am. I fell off again until 6:00am and then lightly dozed until 8:00am. I’m thinking this is more sinus related as my dental soreness has gone away, so I’m really happy about that.
Once I was up I finished up last week’s journal, loaded a bunch of photos into Nixplay from the kid’s vacation in Sandestin, Florida, and other morning “stuff”on my laptop. Debbie was up late as well so she didn’t make an appearance until around 9:00am, after putting in the 1st load of laundry and other “stuff” that occupies her morning.
I spent the middle of the morning analyzing our expenses since my retirement back on 30 June 2018 ahead of our follow-up meeting with Melissa from the Prudential Financial Group on Tuesday as I’m sure one of the discussion topics will be income needs. As mentioned, I downloaded the last twelve month’s data from Quicken — where I pretty much capture and categorize all of our expenses, less any cash purchases by Debbie — into a spreadsheet and did some initial clean-up of the data. With that accomplished I moved the report into a Pivot Table today and then did some further refinements so I could “bucket” our expenses into a few easy to reference broad categories, e.g., Food, Housing, Transportation, Utilities & Data, Recreation/Vacation & Discretionary Spending… each with about 5-10 sub-categories. This gave us a pretty good handle on how much we spent on what, both recurring living expenses as well as non-recurring big ticket items like a new refrigerator, a 25th anniversary present for Debbie, the Tacoma modifications, etc.
Towards noon I headed out to take care of some yard work, mostly treating brown spots with Daconil and weeks with herbicides… which I wish I didn’t have to use because the “natural remedies” like ammonia, dish soap and epson salts simply don’t work. And, at least here in Georgia, you can pull weeds and grasses out by the roots and they’ll still come back, so chemical warfare is required.
At 5:00pm I headed over to my 5:30pm appointment to have the new Falken Wildpeak tires installed on the Tacoma at Discount Tire. They had me checked in at 5:20pm and the truck was finished 30 minutes later. The Falken tires looked really good and seem to be a lot more quiet and comfortable than the Nitto Terra Grappler G2’s they replaced so I’m very pleased about that. The tires seemed to be a bit out of balanced and I was surprised to see the right-rear tire had 16 weights (4 oz) in a single spot and they’d not indexed the manufacturer’s reference marks with the valve stem per both the tire manufacturer’s instructions to installers as well as Toyota’s instructions to installers. So, I’ll be taking the truck back to request they re-balance at least the right rear tire as I’m pretty sure that’s the source of the imbalance I’m feeling and hearing.
As per my revised plan on the used tires, instead of trading them in for a $200 credit I went ahead and paid the extra $200 and had them throw the Nitto tires in the back of my truck, noting I have a buyer who is willing to buy the set of tires for $400, bringing my cost for the new tires down to $285. That’s about what I pay for a rear tire on the motorcycle!
As will be the norm all through the month of June, we had the FIFA Women’s World Cup games as well as the COPA America men’s games playing on the TV’s in the background. Debbie is really hooked on soccer and spends a lot more time actually watching the games than I do. But, when there’s a really good match I will split my attention away from my laptop or whatever else I’m doing to watch.
As for Debbie, in addition to doing laundry, cleaning and grocery shopping she headed off for her first of 14 swimming lessons at the YMCA. She was definitely feeling a bit anxious about it before heading off at 6:00pm for the 7:00pm – 7:45pm session. However, it was all for not as the first session went very well, she discovered she knew a bit more about swimming than she’d expected and learned how to exhale while under water.
Tuesday: Conference Call with the Prudential Financial Group
We had rain come in overnight and overcast skies when we woke up. A tandem ride didn’t look to be in the cards today.
I headed out to the garage and spent a good hour or so cleaning and applying tire dressing to the Nitto tires that had come off the Tacoma so they’d be looking their best on Thursday when I met with the prospective buyer. I’m glad I spent the time doing that as they look much, much better than they did, especially the sides of the tires facing towards the truck and that hadn’t been cleaned in 10,000 miles.
It was 11:15am when Melissa from the Prudential Financial Group called. We were on the phone with her for a good 45 minutes or so, answering a variety of questions such as why were we looking at a potential change in investment advisors, what were our goals, how much were we spending, etc. So, it was good having a firm grasp on what our income and expenses were over the past 12 months, and it was relatively easy to explain some of my mis-givings about the Morgan Stanley plan with it’s gaps in taxes, changes in allocations, performance, etc. She’s going to develop her own plan based on the information we provided so we’ll see how their approach compares to the plan we’re currently signed-on with at Morgan Stanley, noting I still need them to come back to me and close the loop on our May 8th meeting and actions to address the tax withholding gap as well as some shortfalls in the income streams.
After lunch I rode our Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra over the AllPro Tires in Acworth to have David take a look at the cupping on the front tire. I wanted to be sure it would be good enough to handle the 2,000 mile round trip to Key West and, if not, to get his recommendation on a replacement for either just the front tire or, perhaps, a new set of tires for the bike. His assessment was, it looked like the tire was cupping due to low air pressure and recommended I run 4-5 lbs more than Harley-Davidson’s recommended 36 psi. Interestingly enough, I’ve been running 38 psi in that tire so we’ll see how 40 psi works on the Key West trip. The rear tire is still in very good condition at 9,000 miles. And with that, it’s time to install the trailer hitch!
Back at the house I put the motorcycle away just before the rain came back in and headed off in the truck to find another digital weather station for the house. The outdoor thermometer / hygrometer had stopped transmitting a few weeks back and, since just the sensor would cost $25 to replace, I decided I’d get a second, identical weather station for $50. I figured I could put the second display upstairs in our bathroom, noting both weather stations would operate off the single outdoor thermometer / hygrometer. Once I had it back home and set up, the kitchen weather station was back to normal and the one I put upstairs was also working like a champ. It’s the little things like this that make my day.
The highlights for Debbie’s day beyond the normal housework and our phone call with Melissa was a nail appointment at 2:00pm and her second swimming lesson at 7:00pm, with the aforementioned soccer games going in the background. Again, the swimming lessons went well, but are definitely a bit of a workout. Not that that’s a bad thing.
As a follow-on to the financial discussions, I sent off a note to our guys at Morgan Stanley requesting a follow-up phone call so they could explain what they’d done with our accounts and what I needed to do relative to withholding taxes from my pension and how that loss of spendable income would be covered.
Wednesday: Following Up with Morgan Stanley on Taxes & Other Changes
Even though the weather was a bit spotty, I headed out for a bicycle ride at 10:30am without Miss Debbie. She was a bit tired from her swimming lessons and wanted to get some housework out of the way. I had a very nice 25-mile ride and only got rained on twice, but it was a light rain.
My home repair project for the day was fixing the upstairs bathroom’s commode. The valve went bad, as they all seem to do, so it should have been a very straight forward project. Well, that was until I started to put everything back together and noticed the plastic flanges on the bolts that hold the tank to the base had disintegrated over the past 27 years, so it was back to Lowes for those. Sadly, I should have thought to buy a new gasket for the tank to base connection while I was there because it turned out that was also in need of replacement… again. I know I’ve replaced that twice along with multiple valves, flappers and even the water inlet valve. I feel for the folks who have to call plumbers to have this stuff fixed. Of course, a plumber would probably get it all fixed in just one visit.
The only other “highlight” from Wednesday was the follow-up phone call with our Morgan Stanley folks. I’m not sure if what learned gave me more or less confidence in their plan, as it really didn’t sound like they’ve been listening to what we’ve been saying. Moreover, I’m not sure we fully understood how our retirement funds were being distributed across the various “segments” of our retirement plan. Regardless, I have a pretty good idea of how all that works now and I’m not sure I’m thrilled about it. So, I’m even more anxious to learn what the folks at the Prudential have in mind. And, yes, I need to begin withholding taxes from my pension so I’ll be going on line to submit a W-4R Thursday or Friday. Frankly, I should have done that from the git-go even though I was advised to not withhold those funds.
Debbie had another good but tiring night at her swim lesson but we’re both really, really glad she’s doing this. Her confidence level with being in the water is now way up, which is what we were hoping for.
Thursday: Sold my Old Tires & Trying to Get the new ones Balanced
My first priority today was meeting a potential buyer for the Nitto tires that just came off my truck. I left the house around 9:15am and met him about 30 minutes later near the Town Center mall. He gave the tires a quick look and handed me $400: done. We put the tires in his truck and headed our separate ways: nice.
My next stop was at Discount Tires to have the right rear tire rebalanced on the truck. Sadly, instead of giving me good guidance they did what I suggested and re-indexed the wheel on the rim — right or wrong — and after rebalancing the tire it had even more out of balance. I should have gone right back but, instead, took it to another tire shop and had them do a re-balance. But, again, none of these shops seem to be doing a wheel-match before they road force balance the tires and I still had an out-of-balance tire. I should have left well enough alone. I’m now thinking I’ll move this tire to the spare and buy a 5th tire for the right rear wheel, noting my spare is no longer something I’d want to drive on for a prolonged period of time. Given we do a lot of long trips I really don’t want to be in a situation where I have to find a tire repair shop, not that I’ve had a flat tire in the last 10 years. But, be that as it may, that’s what I’m thinking at the moment and I’ve made an appointment to do that tomorrow at 1:30pm.
After picking up a tank gasket for the upstairs commode I headed home and finished that repair… I think. I’ll have to keep checking the commode to make sure it’s water tight. For some reason that one always likes to develop leaks, not so with the other two. Of course, this is the one that when it leaks means I need to repair the living room ceiling.
The demand letter related to my 21 November 2017 motorcycle accident was finally submitted to Nationwide by my attorney’s today; received a copy of it in the mail. We’ll see what happens with that. Today’s mail also included our new, large and waterproof duffle bag for our catamaran cruise in the British Virgin Islands. Given the small living space and minimal room for storage, it was suggested we use a duffle bag vs. a suitcase for the small amount of clothing and other “stuff” we’ll need to take along on this trip. This should do nicely.
While I was out running my errands Debbie did a few of her own, to include calling our tax preparer / CPA to run by some of the changes our Morgan Stanley folks had made to how they were drawing funds from our various 401k and investment accounts to address our income needs and the gap in taxes. As suspected, he had some concerns about drawing funds out of the investment account as a source of income given the capital gains taxes are much higher than taxes on 401k or pension funds. I scheduled a face-to-face meeting with our Morgan Stanley folks for next Wednesday at 1:30pm where we can walk through all of these changes and Debbie has a list of questions on taxes she wants to have answered. I also submitted a W-4R to begin withholding federal taxes from my pension payments so we’ll have to wait and see how big of a hit that is. The CPA suggests it will only be 10% whereas the Morgan Stanley folks are suggesting it will be closer to our normal taxable income rate of 25% – 33%.
When Debbie headed out for her swimming lessons around 6:15pm I headed off to find a Chromecast receiver for the Kitchen TV. These $35 devices allow you to broadcast programming you’d normally have to watch on your computer or smart phone to a TV and it works pretty well. We have one on the TV in the living room but I never bothered to put one on the kitchen TV. I’m not sure how often it will be used, but it’s one of those things you tend to use more than you thought you would and with more and more sporting events moving off “free TV” to fee-based services, we do find ourselves watching more soccer via the computer than we do via cable TV.
Debbie had another good night at her swim lessons and even ran into Caroline in the pool. She was swimming laps while Julie and Vivian attended a Zoomba class at the YMCA. But, as I said, she’s doing very well and gaining more and more confidence in her swimming abilities which is great.
I should probably note I’m really stressed at the moment, which is not good. Between the retirement plan & tax gap issues, last week’s dental issues and sinus infection, issues with the new tires on the Tacoma, upcoming busy schedule in July and probably over-reaching on the 10-day BVI trip, I’m just not in a happy place. I just need to get my groove back and quickly.
Friday: Debbie and Caroline Enjoy an Afternoon Together
I started off the day with my usual morning routine and then headed out to the garage to wash the cars, as the much-needed rain had left them both filthy given how much road grime had collected over our 2-week dry-spell.
As I was finishing up Debbie’s car, Julie arrived with Caroline who would be having something of a girls day with Debbie, something Debbie had wanted to do. The plan was to watch a move, have some lunch and just have some namaw / granddaughter time. They started off by heading off to have lunch at Cielo Blue, the newish Mexican restaurant where we’d met David & Deb a few weeks back.
While they were out to lunch I was able to get the lawn edged, trimmed and cut so that the clippings could go out with today’s afternoon trash pick-up. Thankfully, both the front and rear lawns are looking much better than they were in April and May, but I know they need aerating and de-thatching and will need to decide if I want to have someone do that or rent the equipment to do it myself.
After the girls got back home from lunch they watched the movie Aqua Man while I headed off for a 3rd attempt at getting the new tires on the Tacoma rebalanced. I should note, the front counter guys at Discount Tire are awesome. The installation staff… not so much. I should have stuck with our local tire pro’s, Butler Tire. This was my second return visit for tire vibration / out of balance and, while the service writer is asking the installation team to do the right things, they’re taking short cuts. Short cuts are great when they work, but when you have to keep doing re-work on re-work it’s rather pointless. Do the job right the first time. Case in point:
- The new tires seemed good until I took them on the interstate and had a vibration issue. Took it back in and suggested it was the right rear tire and noted that neither the red nor the yellow dots were anywhere near the valve stem for whatever that was worth since they were opposite of all the tires weights. Service writer said, align to red dot and computer balance, i.e., strip the weights, wheel match and road force balance. What I got back was the red dot at the valve stem and an extra 2oz of wheel weights nearly opposite of the valve stem vs. what I came in with. The ride quality was as expected, now I had an out of balance vibration and noise at all speeds.
- So, I go back today and the service writer says, let’s not assume anything, let’s start from zero and requests “Wheel Match all four”, i.e., remove the weights, break down the tire and computer wheel match then balance. What it looks like the installation team did was to verify that the three “good” wheels were still balanced without tearing them down and starting a wheel match from zero, but they moved the one with the 9 weights to the left rear and the left rear that had only 1 weight to the right front. The left front remain unchanged. The right rear came back with the red dot still over the valve stem and 6oz of weights in roughly the same place as before. I’d say the odds that a true wheel match on four tires would yield all four tires still being mounted in the exact same place as about zero.
I should also note, there’s no test drive by the installer, installation supervisor or service writer after the work is complete as a quality check: you get it the way it comes out of the shop. At Butler Tire, the guy who did the work test drives the truck on local and interstate and then the service writer test drives the truck. When you get it back, it’s done right. If they find other issues, they figure out what they are before they give the truck back and either fix them or let you know when it’s something outside of their control. So, the service writers are trying to get it right and the installation staff is doing what they think is “best”. You get to be the quality control supervisor for the final product.
The truck still looks and rides better than it did on the Nitto’s which probably has more to do with how the extra 9lbs per tire alters the road noise, but this will be my first and last tire purchase from Discount Tire. Right idea, short-sighted management in the garage that doesn’t get “a job done right the first time is a job that won’t require re-work… and that’s the most cost-effective way to run a business.”
Bottom Line: As has been said time and again, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” “It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little.”
About the time I got home Debbie and Caroline were finishing up their movie and then headed off to the book store before Debbie dropped Caroline off back at home. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but Caroline has a voracious appetite when it comes to reading books, plowing through one or two books a week. While they were out I had a great call with my mother and Bill, who were calling to check up on the infection I’d mentioned in last week’s journal. As of Sunday I was still having a lot of discomfort, and have now come a long way towards recovery since then.
After Debbie arrived home, we headed off to Henry’s Taste of New Orleans to grab some of their Mad Pig Rib appetizers and a cocktail before heading over to Guston’s where we’d be meeting David & Deb for dinner. The Mad Pig Ribs were delicious and well worth the wait since they last had them back in early February. Guston’s was great. Not only did we get to have dinner with David & Deb, our friends Al, Richard, Marcia, Morgan and her friend Blake, as well as our neighbors Dave & Trudy were on hand and we visited with them as well. Just a great time.
We were home by 9:30pm and after getting changed into my lounge wear — volleyball shorts and a T-shirt — I fell asleep on the recliner until around 12:30am.
Saturday: Good Grief, We Booked Another Cruise…
There’s no question that I’m dealing with summer allergies as I was incredibly congested when I woke up at 1230am. After attempting to go to bed and pretty much strangling, I went back downstairs and busied myself and watched the movie Aqua Man since Debbie said she enjoyed it. Well, let me tell you… Aqua Man didn’t do much for me, aside from giving me something to do during my sleepless night. I made a second attempt at going to bed around 6:30am and may have gotten another hour or so of sleep before giving up and rejoining the world at 8:30am.
After getting up I went outside and surveyed what the overnight thunderstorms had done around the house and it was mostly small tree branches and tree leaves that were scattered all about. I picked up the unsightly branches but left the leaves in the hope that they’d be blown away by the wind: yeah, good luck with that. I’ll end up picking them up.
It was around 10:00am when Wesley called to see if we’d lost power. Their home had gone dark about 15 minutes earlier. We were good and I could see there was an outage on the on-line Cobb Energy map near the kid’s house that was affecting 850 customers, so that was likely the problem. Interestingly enough, at 10:37am out power went out about the same time that their’s went back on. Another check of the Cobb Energy map showed an outage by us impacting 8500 customers. On the bright side, the power came back on just before 11:00am; that was our drama for the day.
I also took the truck out for a test ride on the Interstate so I could decide if the truck needed to go back to Discount Tire yet again; yup, it does. I spoke to the same service writer I’ve been working with — Tanner — and he said to bring it back Monday and he’d do the wheel balancing himself to make sure it was done correctly.
My summer cold and sinus junk really knocked the wind out of my sails such that I really didn’t do much on Saturday. No cycling, motorcycling, home projects, etc., just resting with soccer matches on in the background.
It was around 6:00pm when we headed off to meet David & Deb for dinner at Cielo Blue, where the primary purpose was deciding if we were going to join them for a 5-night cruise to the Bahama’s in September. As you may recall, we tend to do some type of trip with David & Deb each year and last year it was Utah. So, at dinner on Friday night they told us they’d found a very affordable, all-inclusive cruise and wanted to know if we’d like to join them. This is apparently one of those great deal cruises that popped up when the US put Cuba off-limits for tourism and cruise lines had to offer refunds to customer’s who were only taking those cruises because of the stops in Cuba. So, we’ll get the benefit of about a 1/2 price cruise with an extra stop in the Bahama Islands as we fill some of the now vacant rooms on the ship. The initial dates fell on the same days as the Southern Tandem Rally in South Carolina but they be willing to go on a different sailing that left on 30 September but was a bit more expensive. After chatting about it and running the numbers through my head, we said sure… why not. So we’re going to have a fairly busy September and October with the tandem rally on 19-22 September, the cruise on 30 September – 5 October and then the Thunder Beach motorcycle rally in Panama City Beach on 24-27 October. I should note, one of the reasons that the cruise will “fit” in out budget is because we’re not going to the fall bike week in Daytona on 17-20 October, so we’ve essentially traded out a road trip to Orlando, Florida, and the all inclusive cruise for a motorcycle trip to Daytona and four nights in a condo and a pay-your-own-way 4-day stay in the Daytona Beach area.
After dinner we headed over to the Wild Wing Cafe in Dunwoody, Georgia, where our friend Angie’s band was playing a gig at 9:30pm. We’d missed her gig at the Hard Rock in May so we made a point of getting over to this one. It was great seeing Angie and her husband, Mike, and we also ran into several other friends as well. Debbie and I got in a little dancing while keeping an eye on the US Gold Cup soccer match with Trinidad and Tobago and the band really sounded great. We left shortly after they started their second set around 11:00pm and were home before midnight, noting Dunwoody is about a 40-minute drive for us. I made some grilled cheese sandwiches so we’d have something on our stomachs before heading to bed.
Sunday: We’re Only Home for 6 Days in July!
Whatever pollen is in the air has hit me pretty hard this past week. Today was another day where I woke up with a head full of crud despite my daily regime of taking my Costco generic versions of Zyrtec and Flonase. Again, on the bright side, I’m even more confident that tooth that was began giving me so much trouble almost two weeks back was caused by a sinus infection.
I was able to get a few things accomplished today, but nothing overly dramatic:
- I made a trash picker out of a spare rake handle and nail so I could pick up all of the leaves that were strewn across the front & rear yard by the thunderstorm that came through on Friday night. Bending over 200 times to pick them up with a head full of crud just wasn’t going to work, so this worked pretty well.
- I did a little work on the tandem in anticipation of a short, afternoon tandem ride but un-forecast, pop-up thunder showers came through and put an end to that. But, at least the tandem should be good for our next ride opportunity.
- I brought the trailer hitch for the motorcycle up from the garden shed so I could begin to get it ready for installation. Sadly, the powder coating on the yoke has been peeling off due to poor surface prep… noting this is actually the second yoke that I received with the same paint peeling problem. I sent the first one back and received this one as a replacement so the chances that doing a second return would yield a different result is pretty low. So, today I peeled away all of the lose paint and then primed the exposed steel with some self-etching “Fuzion” paint and then top-coated the yoke with bed liner paint, some really tough stuff. My goal here was to prevent additional peeling and rust not to have a glossy black finish and hopefully that will be the result.
There was as usual lots of soccer in the background all day as there are three different championships being played that we’re paying attention to:
- FIFA’s Women’s World Cup in Paris, France. The US Women’s National Team looks to have a pretty good shot at making it to the finals and overall the play has been excellent.
- FIFA’s COPA America (American Cup) play in Brazil, where a sub-set of the world’s national teams are playing. Many of these teams include top male professionals from the UK-based Premier League so, again, the quality of play is usually very good.
- FIFA’s COPA ORO (Gold Cup) play mostly in US cities where, once again, a sub-set of the world’s national teams are playing, including the US Men’s National Team.
As dinner time approached we decided to head over to Loco Willy’s as our cupboards were a bit sparse as Debbie’s been dealing with the same summer time allergies as I have and a general lack of energy and enthusiasm. We ended up splitting some wings and a burger, which is exactly what we needed. It was an enjoyable night out and we were back at home by 8:30pm. As I transferred all of our travel plans for July to the calendar I realized that we’d only be at home for 6 days in July, the rest of the time we’d be elsewhere:
- 2-7 July we’ll be making our annual motorcycle trip down to Key West.
- 10-12 July we’ll be driving to my folks home in Pennsylvania and spending two nights with them before making a short drive over to Bethlehem, PA, for a tandem rally.
- 12-14 July we’ll be at the aforementioned Tandems East Tandem Weekend in Bethlehem, PA.
- 14-18 July we’ll be back at my parent’s home before heading home on Thursday the 19th.
- 22 July – 1 August we’ll fly to St. Thomas for a 10-day catamaran cruise around the British Virgin Islands with our friends Ryan and Jeanette.
Thankfully, we’ll be at home all of August and for the first two weeks of September before we head out of town again.