It was another busy week with all kinds of things going on. We had a bit of a scare on Wednesday when a recent change in Debbie’s hypertension meds continued to give her issues but we were able to get her in to Kaiser where they were able to make sure it was just an adjustment to her meds and low potassium that was causing the elevated blood pressure and by the end of the weekend Debbie was feeling much better and her BP was back in check. We also had a follow-up meeting with our Morgan Stanley folks regarding recent adjustments to our retirement plan and tax strategy. We still have questions, but it was a good meeting as we now better understand the changes they made. There were a variety of other things going on in the background, i.e., Debbie’s swimming lessons, several attempts to get the new tires balanced on the Tacoma, trip planning for both the catamaran cruise with our friends Ryan & Jeanette around the British Virgin Islands at the end of July as well as our 1st ever ocean liner cruise with David & Deb around the Bahamas during the 1st week of October. Again, staying busy is not a problem… having too much going on in July, that’s a problem! Tomorrow we’ll pack for our trip to Key West, then leave on Tuesday. We’ll be home for 2 days on the 8th and 9th before we head to Pennsylvania on the 10th through the 18th. Then back at home on the 19th -21st before we head to the British Virgin Islands on 22 July through 1 August. Some August, we’re staying home!
Monday: Debbie’s Swimming Lesson’s Resume
For the first time in a few weeks I finally got a good night’s rest, perhaps even a full 8 hours. It felt good to be up at 6:30am and feeling rested as I got to work finishing up last week’s journal. Debbie was far behind, coming down around 7:30am. In fact, after a quick breakfast she was out the door to do grocery shopping by 8:30am.
After finishing up my morning reading, etc., I headed out to the garage to finish up installing the trailer hitch on the Harley-Davidson ahead of next week’s trip down to Orlando and then Key West. Every time I install the hitch I get a little more efficient at it, finding I need to use fewer speciality tools now that I’ve upgraded all of the attachment hardware.
It was around 10:30am when I headed out for a solo 25-mile bike ride, noting Debbie felt like she was getting a pretty good workout at night with her swimming lessons and might get in a walk today. The ride felt good, even with a still headwind for a good part of the way. Motorists continue to a big risk: I’m not sure if the drivers who seem to get as close as they can to me or us as they pass are doing it on purpose in an effort to intimidate cyclists, if they don’t realize it’s not illegal to cross over the double yellow line when passing an obstacle in the traffic lane but in either case they certainly don’t know there’s a 3-foot passing law in Georgia whereby motorists must give cyclists a 3-foot safety cushion when passing “when practical”…. I love that last part. It kinda makes the first part meaningless since “when practical” is never defined. Oh well, riding on public roads is what it is.
It was around 1:00pm when I headed over to Discount Tires to have them take yet another shot at balancing the tires on the truck. Tanner, the young man who I’ve been working with up front, was going to do it himself this time vs. letting the installation team do the job… just so he knew it would be done correctly and so he could see if there were any issues with the tire. When I arrived he let me know he’d ordered a new tire to replace the problematic right rear and it would be in tomorrow. So, he could either attempt to do the wheel match and remount today and see how that worked, or I could come back tomorrow afternoon when the new tire was in and do it all then. I opted for tomorrow.
Debbie’s afternoon included her 6-month dental exam along with watching a couple of FIFA Women’s World Cup matches and then heading off for her swimming lesson around 6:30pm. She had to delay her departure as we had a very strong thunderstorm roll through between 6:10pm and 6:30pm. In fact, when she arrived at the YMCA they had to keep people out of the indoor pool until 7:15pm when the lightning had subsided: I never knew indoor pools were impacted by lightning.
While Debbie was at her swimming lesson I took some tree trimming equipment over to our friends Ryan & Jeanette’s as they had some tree damage from an even stronger thunderstorm that came through earlier in the week while they were down at Disney World with their daughter and granddaughter.
That was about it, other than once again being treated to a lot of soccer since there were three different matches all playing simultaneously between 7:00pm and 10:00pm. I headed to bed before 11:00pm and fell off rather quickly… which is a good thing.
Tuesday: A Haircut & Another Attempt to Balance the Tacoma’s Tires
Thankfully, another good night’s rest… and early to rise as well. After doing my usual morning journal updates for Monday and reading through the various “news” updates at Reuters, the Wall Street Journal and BBC I headed to the upstairs office to do an overdue update of my Quicken software by reconciling downloads from all of the bank, credit card and related accounts so I could make sure they were properly categorized. As noted in my comments on the review of the past 12-months of Quicken entries, I’ve found quite a few were incorrect and it does make a difference.
After finishing up I found Debbie in the midst of some house work and used that opportunity to flip our insanely heavy, double pillow-top mattress when she had the bed linens stripped. It was definitely overdue as I was finding myself sitting in something of a depression on my side of the bed.
It was around 9:45am when I headed off for my 10:30am appointment to get my haircut by Ivanka. It had only been 5 weeks since my last cut but I was definitely getting shaggy, noting my hair seems to grow a lot faster in the warm months than it does in the cooler ones. In the winter I can usually shave every other day and still look pretty clean cut on the 2nd day. Not so in the summer when I almost need to shave twice a day. Anyway, with that in mind I had pre-cleared it with Debbie to go extra short on my hair at least for the month of July and Ivanka did a great job as always. It’s so nice to have at least one person who I can go to for something where they truly do a fantastic job each and every time.
Back at the house Debbie gave me the OK on the haircut and then I headed out to clean the dust and a light coat of road grime off the Harley-Davidson before our trip next week. It didn’t make sense to wash it since it would be quickly covered in road grime from the 450-mile Interstate ride down to Orlando, some of it quite likely through some rainy patches. And, if we dodged the rain on the ride down, it would most likely get rained on sitting out in the hotel parking lot during the afternoon. I was also trying to get myself a bit more excited about the motorcycle ride down to Key West as I’ve sort of lost my “moto-mojo” again, which is to say riding the motorcycle at present isn’t high on my priority list. It’s just never been the same since the 21 November 2017 motorcycle accident and, up and until now, I’ve still had some enthusiasm for the long rides to Florida for Bike Weeks in Daytona & Panama City Beach as well as our Key West and even the Flagler trip. But I have zero interest in heading out “just to ride around” here in the Atlanta area or to the heavily ridden weekend locales. Anyway, the time spent cleaning the bike didn’t really do much but I’m sure I’ll rise to the occasion as our departure on 2 July closes-in.
It was around 2:00pm when I headed off to let Discount Tire take it’s 4th attempt at getting the new tires on my Tacoma properly balanced. Today’s plan included trying a different tire, so I was hopeful we’d make some progress. Well, son-of-a-gun if the tire hadn’t been delivered as expected… so I agreed to let them go ahead and attempt a rebalance of all four tires just to see how that worked. As mentioned before, I should have left well enough alone after the initial tire installation. Once again, I came away with a right rear tire vibration from what must be a slightly out-of-round tire — the one that was to be replaced today — and the other three tires all came out of this visit with at least twice as much balancing weight as they went in with… so we’re headed in the wrong direction with all of these attempts to rebalance the wheels. So, the next step will be the last step when I take it back again to have the right rear tire replaced and ask them to do one final re-balance of the other 3 tires using the low-weight indicator on the tires to align to the valve stem on the tires, per most of the tire manufacturer’s recommendations. If after that the vibration doesn’t go away I’ll either do one of three things: (a) take the truck to Butler Tire and have them give it a shot, (b) take the truck back to Toyota and tell there they need to figure out what’s out of kilter in the rear axle, or (c) just live with it until whatever is wrong in the rear axle fails. Well, OK… there’s a (d): sell this truck and get another one that doesn’t have persistent drive train issues.
Back at the house I spent some time on the phone getting our contact information squared away with Norwegian Cruise Lines pursuant to our 30 September through 5 October, 5-day Western Caribbean cruise with David & Deb. As suspected, the gal who took my contact information down didn’t get my Email address correct so I never received the booking confirmation information. With that sorted out, I received the confirmation sheet and had to make a couple adjustments before we have to finalize the booking on or before 2 July. I think the only open end I have now is finding the right trip insurance for the cruise which reminds me I need to probably do the same for our British Virgin Island trip in 4 weeks.
It was a little after 6:00pm when Debbie headed off for her 7th swimming lesson and 8:00pm when she returned home. She seems to be gaining confidence with each session and that’s exactly what we were hoping for. She may not be an olympic swimmer but she can definitely hold her own in the water at this point, i.e., she can safely tread water and swim from point A to point B as needed, while taking a break by swimming backwards if required. So, this is all goodness.
Wednesday: A Morgan Stanley Meeting & Getting Debbie’s BP Meds Sorted-Out
Well, after a couple good night’s rest last night was a bit bumpy. I tired to go to bed around 11:00am and it took until 3:00am. I slept until 7:30am which was more than enough sleep for me… I think. Just a lot of stuff churning in my head at the moment, and hopefully some of that stuff will be resolved this week: not all of it, but some of it. I should note, I create most of my own stress by stressing over things that may or may not warrant stress and I’ve done this all my life. It’s a wonder I don’t have ulcers or a drinking problem.
Anyway, in addition to my morning blogging, reading, breakfast and walk around the yard I was able to go on-line at the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) website and get Debbie and myself registered and 90% “checked-in” for the cruise, i.e., adding all of our contact, emergency contact, passport information, etc.. Now we just need to finish sorting out the “extras” but all of that can happen after we make our final payment here in a few days, ahead of the 2 July deadline. In that regard, I did a good bit of on-line research on insurance and it looks like we can definitely do better than the default options offered by NCL.
It was around 10:15am when I headed out to go for a 25-mile bicycle ride, once again by myself. Debbie has been struggling with a lack of energy over the past couple of weeks and just didn’t feel up to a tandem ride. However, before heading out I decided to put a different front wheel on my Dean bicycle to see if that wouldn’t eliminate the “wobbles” I’ve been feeling during the past couple of rides. The very low-spoke count, aero wheels are definitely suspect so this was a quick and easy to test that theory. Sure enough, today’s ride with the higher spoke-count, more conventional wheel was much less twitchy so at least I’ve got that sorted out.
It was around 12:15pm when I arrived back home. I had to grab a quick shower and get into casual business attire so we could leave by 12:40pm for the drive down to our Morgan Stanley advisor’s office in the North Peachtree area of Atlanta. We made good time and arrived promptly at 1:30pm for our 1:30pm meeting. “They boys” came out and met us about 10 minutes later, which is the norm and it drives me nuts. Throughout my entire working life I always made a point of being on time for meetings, even though most of the “higher-ups” and especially the folks with titles like “Vice President” did not. It must have something to do with the VP titles. Anyway, we had a good discussion and they walked us through all of the adjustments that had been made to our various accounts, noting there are now 10 of them just at Morgan Stanley which feed into 5 different distribution segments: now you know why it can get confusing. Regardless, they outlined their tax strategy and explained what got screwed up when we came out of the gate exactly a year ago when I retired and moved from paying into our investment accounts and began drawing my income from those accounts. It’s a bit confusing but, in theory, if what they offered up as the tax strategy works I’ll have a lower tax burden for the next five years as we consume the accounts where we capital gains by off-setting those with write-offs on losses and otherwise keeping the net distributions low enough to keep my total federal and state tax liability as low as possible. Speaking of taxes, I should finally see what Lockheed believes my federal tax liability looks like on just my pension income on 1 July since that’s when I should see the first hold-back and then we’ll give that number to the Morgan Stanley guys to feed into “the plan” and make a few final adjustments to our monthly IRA draw. Yeah, and you wonder why I can’t sleep at night and why I’m still anxious to hear what the folks at the Prudential have to offer.
After getting home around 3:30pm I noticed Debbie was taking her blood pressure again, something she’d started to do on a regular basis over the weekend. When I asked her about it I got a bit agitated as she’s apparently been feel “off” for at least 10-14 days, coincidental with getting a different medication for her genetic hypertension. I suggested it would be unwise for us to head off in six days on a marathon vacation month if her BP is spiking into dangerous levels and asked if and when she was going to check with her doctor? Shortly thereafter she called her doctor who, upon hearing what her blood pressure was, suggested someone drive her immediately to Kaiser’s 24/7 Advanced Care Center (ACC) and away we went. She was checked-in at 4:30pm and they ran a full battery of EKG’s and lab work while also putting her in a quiet, dark room after a heavy dose of potassium (which was very low) in an effort to bring her BP back down to a safe level, noting it had spiked even higher between the time we left the house and arrived at the ACC. It was 6:30pm when she was finally allowed to leave, stopping by the pharmacy to pick-up her new/old BP medication. Thank goodness we were able to get this brought to a head before we left for Key West on 2 July, never mind finding ourselves out on a catamaran in the middle of the Caribbean where medical facilities are far and few between and medical care is insanely expensive… not that this visit to Kaiser wasn’t: we won’t see that bill for a week or so.
It goes without saying, she did not go to her 7:00pm swim lesson and had a quiet night at home. It was around 11:00pm when she headed off to bed and I attempted to follow but, once again, had another night where I couldn’t settle down until around 3:00am. Again, I’ve got a lot on my mind of late….
Thursday: Debbie’s Feeling Better
After “sleeping in” until 8:00am and my usual morning routine I headed out and mowed the lawn, noting that I’ll need to mow it again on Monday before we’re away from home for the next 6 days. With any luck, the Bermuda grass in the front yard will have finished going to seed by then and won’t look too ratty by the time we get home. If it does, I may have to find someone to mow the lawn while we’re in Pennsylvania on the 10th through the 18th and then again when we’re in the British Virgin Islands on 22 July through 1 August. Wesley has volunteered but, as busy as the kids are, I really don’t want to put that on him. So, fingers crossed, it won’t look awful after we return home from the Key West trip.
Debbie seems to be getting back into a better place with her energy levels and blood pressure now that she’s on the new medication and is also taking a potassium supplement. She still tires rather easily and had to take a couple of naps today, but overall feels better. I’ve decided that if she’s not 100% by Sunday and Monday we may just drive down to Orlando and Key West instead of taking the motorcycle, as it’s a physically demanding ride with back-to-back 8-hour days in the saddle in 90°F heat.
Today’s mail included a small package with a pair of license plate light bulb housings. I had to replace the OEM housings that inadvertently got “cooked” when I put the wrong size bulbs back in after the LED bulbs that came with the interior LED replacement bulbs began to flicker and were, well, just too bright. Not sure how I didn’t notice I put the wrong size bulbs back in those housings, but the larger bulbs ended up sitting against the lenses and caused them to deform and discolor. These are el-cheapo aftermarket housings, but given where they’re used I’m thinking they’ll be fine and $5.50/ea is a lot better than $22/ea from Toyota.
It was around 2:00pm when I paid my 5th visit to Discount Tires to see if we could eliminate the excessive vibration issue by swapping out what I suspect was a bad tire and re-balancing the other three. As a reminder, I had a set of 265/70R17 Falken Wildpeaks installed on the 17th. There has been a lot of vibration coming from the right rear since they day they were installed. After 4 attempts to re-balance the entire set and having it get worse each time, the right rear tire was replaced today and the other three tires were all rebalanced again using a different approach. On the bright side, it took the least amount of weights thus far to get the wheels and tires balanced after aligning the lightest point on the tire with the heaviest point of the rims at the valve stems.
Even after all of that I’m still getting a lot of vibration noise and a cab vibration out of the rear end of the truck. I had a similar but far less noticeable vibration with the Nitto Terra Grappler 265/65R17s that the Wildpeaks replaced. It’s very frustrating as part of me thinks it’s a driveline or axle issue that’s exacerbated by the AT tires whereas Toyota say it’s just an AT tire noise. I must note, Discount Tires has been great about doing the rebalance and tire swap-out and even hinted at trying a different tire (Ko2?) if this most recent tire swap and rebalance didn’t resolve the vibration issue. Frankly, I’d hate to try a different set of tires if it’s a truck problem.
Back at the house I spent an hour under the truck removing the left-over tire balancing weight adhesive from the rims — there was a lot of it — and checking the drive shaft U-Joint operating angles with a digital protractor to make sure I didn’t have a mis-match as a result of adding a set of 1″ rear blocks to raise the rear suspension of the truck back to level to off-set the sag from the 200lb camper shell. The operating angles were just about spot on: 2.8° at the back of the transfer case and 2.7° at the front of the differential with 5.5° and 5.4° on the front and rear prop shafts, respectively. So, that’s not the source of the noise/vibration.
We had the FIFA Women’s World Cup quarter final between England and Norway on, yet another great match… with England being very much on their game today and winning handily 3-0. We had dinner in and after dinner I cleaned the wheels and tires and then gave the rest of the truck a wash… just because. I also went on line and paid for our Norwegian Cruise around the Bahama’s in full so that I’d stop getting reminder notices every day from NCL ahead of the 2 July deadline. We finished out the evening watching the COPA America quarter final match between Paraguay and Brazil which was actually rather exciting.
It was another rough night for me… ugg.
Friday: Finally a Friday with David & Deb / Bahama Cruise Planning
After my usual morning routine I headed off to test drive the truck to see how the re-balance and new tire felt on the interstate. The rear axle vibration was still there and I’m now pretty sure that’s a truck problem unrelated to wheels or tires: it’s just too consistent and I’ve been able to rotate the tires and wheels to no effect. So, we’ll likely have to keep reporting it as an issue during each service at Toyota until it becomes clear that something is failing vs. just making noise. Sadly, Toyota will claim any damage was caused by modifying the truck to run on slightly larger tires and the 1″ suspension lift so I’ll end up eating whatever the repair cost is: funny how that works. Grrr.
Back at the house I gave the truck a bath, did a few small things around the house and then headed out to pick up some fungicide for the yard, a few things at the store for Debbie as well as a new dental guard for me to wear at night. There is no question I’m grinding my teeth at night and the two full coverage, molded dental guards I have were sorely in need of replacement. I decided to try something new this time that I’d not seen before: the DenTed comfort fit dental guard. Instead of being your typical rubberish dental guard/mouth piece like the ones we used in football that you boil in water then press into your upper teeth, this has two rubber pads that sit on your lower bicuspids and 1st molars, connected by a thin pliable plastic bridge. Here’s hoping it’s more comfortable as I’ll likely be more inclined to use it if it is.
Back at the house I fiddled with my new dental guards so they’d be ready to go when I went to bed and then headed out to the shed to get the broadcast spreader so I could treat the front, side and rear lawns with the granulated fungicide. I’ve found that if I don’t treat the lawn with fungicide every month from April through September I end up with widespread brown patch, even on the Zoyzia which is supposed to be very fungus resistant. Even with that I find I still need to do a lot of spot treatments with Daconil which, I’ve recently learned, is no longer recommended for lawns. So, I’ll have to find a new spot treatment spray…. even though it seemed to work pretty well.
There were, of course, soccer games all day and the one that was of the most interest to us was the FIFA Women’s World Cup match between the US and France. It was a great match, especially since the US came out on top 2-1. They’ll play England in the Semi-Final on Tuesday afternoon… which we’ll hopefully be able to watch while having a late lunch at the Hilton’s Tuscany resort in Orlando, our 1/2 way stop on the ride to Key West.
We met with David & Deb for dinner at Guston’s Grille, just as we did last week. It’s been nice seeing them on a regular basis, noting that we all gave up on Loco’s for Friday nights since it was so hard to find a place to sit. Between our different out of town commitments and other things we didn’t get to meet on Friday nights on a regular basis for well over a few months and we do appreciate that Guston’s is a bit of a drive for them. So, we’re very appreciative that they make the trip over and join us. That said, we had a great time and also compared notes regarding our October cruise since they’re now seasoned travelers whereas this will be our first ocean liner cruise. I had and still do have lots of questions about service charges, supplemental insurance, etc. so we went through a few of those. It wasn’t a late for us by any stretch as we left even before the band began playing.
Back at the house we finished out the evening watching the 9:00pm Copa Oro (Gold Cup) match.
Saturday: Debbie Feels Well Enough for a Short Tandem Ride
Debbie continues to feel better and regain her stamina with every day since getting her medication changed on Thursday and being diligent about getting more potassium in her diet. After the usual morning routine we tested that recovery a bit with a short tandem ride from the house. There were times when she struggled a bit with shortness of breath on the climbs and she was pretty tired when we returned home after the 14-mile loop. But, all that said, she was glad we went out and felt a lot better than she thought she would.
I spent a good hour or so looking at possible replacement wheels for the truck, noting that’s yet another thing I’m tempted to change-out in my quest to eliminate the rear axle noise and tire balancing issues from the Tacoma. Now, if I was a smart guy I’d just put the darn thing back to stock height and put the stock wheels and tires on the truck and be done with it. At least then I’d know if there was a problem with the rear axle or if it truly was using any other tires and wheels, etc. But, I truly believe it’s a problem that’s unique to our truck as others are not reporting similar issues with a wide variety of different wheels, tires and suspension modifications. I’ll be following up with Tanner at Discount Tires on this Monday about a possible switch to a set of black wheels made by “Fuel” before we make our drive to Pennsylvania on 10 July, noting we’ll have to have that done on 8 July, the day after we get back from Key West so that we’ll have 9 July to work out any problems. Of course, worst case scenarios, we can always take Debbie’s Honda Accord and take the tandem apart and put it in the trunk vs. taking the truck if it’s not able to deliver a comfortable ride.
There was, of course, more soccer in the afternoon and then we headed to Loco Willy’s for dinner. While we were having dinner some friends suggested getting together at “The Place” in Marietta, a bar with a DJ, where we could do some dancing. Last time anyone talked about The Place we were led to believe they changed from a smoking to a non-smoking bar so imagine our surprise when we arrived and walked into the smoke-filled bar. For better or worse we stayed and met our friends Richard, Robin and Dave. Despite the smoke, Debbie and I had a good time dancing until about 11:45pm before heading home. It was a good night out, but I think we’ll stick with our little resort in the North Georgia mountains for any dancing in the future.
Sunday: A Motorcycle Ride to Jasper for Lunch with Ryan & Jeanette
Having Debbie’s fitness level on the tandem on Saturday morning, today we decided to take up an offer from our friends Ryan & Jeanette to head out on the motorcycles for an afternoon ride to lunch up in Jasper, Georgia, so we could make sure we were both up for the long ride to Key West on Tuesday. It was around 10:30am when we headed off to meet them in Woodstock, Georgia, about a 15-mile / 30-minute ride from the house. From there we took the back way up to Jasper, Georgia, where we thought we’d be having lunch at the Woodbridge Inn. Sadly, when we arrived it was apparent the Inn was closed and, as it turns out, it was really closed! The owner had recently shut it down and walked away and the new owners had not yet been able to get it re-opened. So, we rode a short way over to Rocco’s bar & grill and had out lunch stop there.
The primary purpose of the lunch stop was to go over arrangements for our trip to the British Virgin Islands. We had meal planning that we had to do since Ryan and Jeanette would be arriving early and doing the initial provisioning for our first 3-4 days on the catamaran, noting we’d likely do most if not all of our breakfasts on the boat and quite a few lunches and dinners. We also had to figure out what kind of gear we’d need to plan on adding to the catamaran and other things.
From our lunch stop we headed to a new / old place in Canton called the Shuffle Inn. Shuffle Inn is a jointly owned bar and BBQ joint that now occupies the space that was previously known as Bodock’s. It was actually a pretty nice place and we ran into a number of other friends there. It was around 3:30pm when we finally headed for home. It had been a good day on the bike and gave us the confidence we needed to make yet another motorcycle trip down to Key West on Tuesday, 2 July.
Given that we’ve been trying to consume all of our perishable food before we disappear for the month of July, we headed over to Loco Willy’s for some fish taco’s at dinner time. They had the Gold Cup match between Jamaica and Panama on one of the TV’s so we were all set when we arrived as the game kicked off at 5:30pm. We didn’t stay all that long and back at the house we rang my folks and had a very good chat… can’t wait to see them in just about 10 days when we make the second leg of our July journey’s. Debbie also did a bit more homework on the BVI checklists and then gave Jeanette a call to go over things before we headed out of town. We’ll only have one more day at home when we can tag-up again on 9 July before we head to Pennsylvania on 10-18 July. Our first day back at home on 19 July is when Ryan and Jeanette will be heading off to the BVI’s to start their vacation a few days ahead of the 22 July – 1 August cruise dates.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that today Miss Scarlett turned 8-month’s old. She’s a cutie, to be sure. She seems to be similar in temperament to Charlotte at the moment, but it’s really too soon to tell. All of the kids are doing great, and that’s a huge source of comfort for us.