A Visit to the Briar Patch & Time With Family

MONDAY: The Drive “Home”

Monday was all about the 770 mile drive back “home” to Reading, Pennsylvania.  Reading is my official “home of record” in that I was born in the Reading Hospital, as were both of my sisters, my mother, my father and my uncles and aunts on my father’s side of the family. My first home was actually in Wyomissing, the bedroom community next to Reading where we lived across the alley from my father’s mother — noting Dr. Louis Livingood, my grandfather, passed 10 months before I was born — and just down the street from my mother’s parents, Hazel & Jimmy.  We moved to New Jersey in 1964, and then to Arlington Heights, Illinois, in 1974, after which I moved around the country with the Air Force for a few years, but through it all Reading has always been home.

Interestingly enough — and this is the stuff of Reader’s Digest stories — my mother ended up back home after my father passed in 1979 when she was reunited with her “other” high school sweetheart, Bill around 1985 who still lived in Reading, PA.  My mother moved back to PA while they were still dating and they’ve been in the Reading area ever since.  Anyway, more than you want to know, but this is why Reading is still home!

The drive itself began at 6:00am and ended at 5:45pm, with several stops for gas, leg stretching, lunch and a little shopping along the way.  I took a conference call at 7:30am and was also doing a little light work throughout the day via my iPhone.  Vacations have clearly been replaced by “work-cations” where every stop is consumed by checking and answering Emails, texts or returning calls.  I think our first stop was a splash-and-go near Sevierville, Tennessee, after my conference call with the next stop at Wytheville, Virginia, where we had lunch at a Subway, bought a padded mattress pad at Walmart for the bed we’d be sleeping in at my parents and put another splash of fuel in the trusty Tundra. Speaking of the Tundra, the front end work was a welcome thing as the truck handled better than it had in the past 5 years on this trip!  We made another splash and go stop in Winchester, Virginia, and then hit our only traffic of the journey just east of Harrisburg, PA, on Interstate 81.  I will say, drivers continue to become more and more annoying on this trip, where people who are trying to make up time just don’t grasp the concept of risk vs. reward. They make dumb-ass decisions and cut you off to try and pass from the right and then end up stuck behind the same dumb-ass short-haul semi-trucks blocking both lanes for reasons that defy logic on I81.  Even if they “get ahead” at some point, we’ll invariably come upon them again a few hours later after we’ve all made stops and gotten back on the road again. Again, short-term instant gratification at the expense of putting others at risk for zero reward.  That’s probably the worst part of this drive and honestly, I’m starting to think we’d be better off heading out at 7:00pm at night and arriving at 6:00am if only to be rid of the really bad drivers.

Once we arrived at my parents it was cocktail hour, which was a good thing: I certainly needed a good stiff drink and they did not disappoint: I was presented with a lovely bottle of Don Julio Blanco when I arrived: whoo hoo!  Say goodnight Gracey!

Here’s Debbie with my mother and stepdad, Bill, just after we arrived. As I mentioned on Facebook when I posted these photos for a while, Debbie and my mother are more like best friends or close sisters than they are mother and daughter-in-law. In fact, its a bit amazing how much a like they are in so many ways.  My step-dad Bill is the only “my dad” Debbie has known and they too have a very special and fond relationship.  Well, OK… my entire family loves Debbie; it’s hard not to love her!  Lucky me!!!!

Anyway, my mother outdid herself and had the various refrigerators filled with all kinds of meal fixings for the four nights we’d be there.  We did what we could to help out and I was drafted as the cook for three of the four nights,  grilling chicken for our dinner on Monday while Debbie did her best to help with table setting, clearing the table and cleaning up afterwards.  Despite enjoying the Don Julio Blanco, I was in pretty good spirits and quite functional for most of the evening.

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However, by around 9:00pm I was done.  It was a great evening visiting with my folks on our first day of a 4.5 day stay. I think it was around 2:00am when I woke up on the couch and moved down to our bedroom for the night.  And boy-oh-boy did thatquilted Serta mattress pad make a difference!  Debbie and I both had a great night’s sleep.

TUESDAY: Getting Down to Business

Our mattress pad did the trick and gave us both a very comfortable night’s rest on our usual downstairs guest room bed.  I’m not sure why it’s taken us 20 years to address what has always been a too-hard-to-get-comfortable mattress, but better late than never!  I was up around 5:30am and delayed getting up until 6:45am when I had to dial-in for a daily 7:00am conference call.  It was a busy day from a work standpoint so I had my laptop fired-up after the conference call until around 10:00am handling a variety of requests and doing some research.  I’d grabbed a little breakfast along the way — my usual steak on an English muffin having brought all of the fixings from home — and headed out to the Home Depot at 10:30am to pick up a hedge trimmer and some Italian sandwiches at the V&S for lunch.

Once I was back at the house we quickly devoured the V&S Italian sandwiches before I changed into my work clothes and began doing some yard work my mother needed taken care of for the balance of the afternoon.  I should probably note, “The Briar Patch” is my parents retirement home outside of Reading, PA.  They purchased the 1st 3 acres back in the mid-80’s and it gained its nickname from the thickly overgrown ivy, thorny briars and other woodland growth that covered the heavily wooded lot.  Bills’ son Mark is an architect and he designed the home for the somewhat unusual landscape of the lot such that the front of the house with the garage and main entrance faces away from the road so what you see coming up the driveway is the back.  What we thought would be a low-maintenance home tucked away in the woods quickly became a property that could have easily been featured in Home & Gardens with its long winding driveway flanked by a lush green lawn on one side and lush shrubs and plantings on the other, with an amazing collection of flowers up closer to the house.  There are meandering trails that jut out from what is now a 9 acre property that has seen two grape vineyards come and go over the years.  It’s simply breath-taking, but it’s also a huge pile of work to maintain since its natural state — being covered with vines, ivy and briars — is where it tries to return at every chance.

   

As expected, the battery-powered hedge trimmer made short work of the largest job — trimming back a very large wall of bushes behind their home — and then clean-up was made a bit easier as my step-dad Bill and his friend Jim took care of most of that.  That freed me up to do some surgery on a Wisteria vine that had overtaken a pergola next to the side porch.  The yard work took up the better part of the afternoon, but it felt good to get out and do some work and to know it was work my parents wouldn’t have to deal with down the road for quite some time.  I had to flip on my work laptop around 3:00pm to do some work for the next hour or so, but after that I put the phone down for a few hours.

Cocktail hour came around 6:00pm, a bit later than normal, and was our traditional Margarita celebration.  I spun up the Maggies in the blender for Debbie and my parents but opted to stick with my Don Julio Blanco!  For dinner I was once again drafted to man the outdoor grill and cook up some burgers while my mother & Debbie prepared some corn on the cobb, salads and other light sides.  It was a lovely dinner-in and everyone retired to the livingroom shortly thereafter to attend to books or, for me, catching up on Email, etc. via my laptop, and then doing a little catch-up email/messaging on my work phone.

WEDNESDAY: Breakfast with Sister Anne & More Yard Work

My sister Anne, who lives about 15 minutes away from my folks over in Womelsdorf — the Livingood family homestead — was anxious to take everyone to a new little breakfast place in Sinking Springs called Tom Cat Cafe. Words cannot describe this place, as the menu is more complex than a C-130 flight manual and a single portion of any entrée can feed a family of four.  Here’s a link to the menu.   As an example of just how generous the portions are, the pancakes which come two-to-an-order are 12″ in diameter!  Yes, the are larger than the dinner plates they are served-on. The 4-egg omelettes are equally monstrous as you can see below….

 

Anyway, we’d made plans to meet her and my nephew Levi there at 8:30am which was no problem for me as I was up and on my conference call at 7:00am anyway.  After grabbing a quick shower we joined my parents upstairs and made the short, 25 minute drive over to Sinking Springs.  Anne & Levi were just walking up to Tomcat Cafe’s entrance as we arrived so our timing was perfect. The Cafe was an interesting place with a New York vibe, lots of Elvis Presley memorabilia and loud music mixing with the heavy din of the small diner that started off life as someone’s home.  As advertised, the portions were HUGE. Debbie and I should have shared an entrée as is our norm, but we got sucked into the moment and the massive menu selection and ended up ordering our own meals: I had something called the Gypsy Child: Pastrami, tavern ham, turkey pastrami, pickles, cherry pepper relish, herbed Boursin and scrambled eggs in a grilled tortilla wrap – served with home fries.  It had to weigh 2 lbs!  Debbie ordered the four-egg Willie Omelette: Sausage, pesto, mushroom, spinach, and extra sharp provolone with home fries.  Anne also had a massive omelette, Levi had the strawberry topped, creme brûlée-stuffed French Toast, my mother had two of the aforementioned 12″ pancakes and Bill had some eggs and home fries.  There was enough food on our table to feed a family of 10 with leftovers!  It was all over-the-top in terms of flavor, but also with more sodium and calories than either Debbie or I eat in a week!  Debbie and I took 1/2 of our meals home, even though I doubt we’ll touch them and I didn’t have to eat again until dinner!  But, it was a great time and so good to visit with my sister and her son Levi.

Once we were back at home I switched back into my work clothes and picked up where I left off on Tuesday with the hedge trimmers around 10:00am and didn’t finish up until around 3:00pm.  I got a lot done and even got to wrestle with some briars, but I could honestly spend 6 hours a day working on the yard for the next four weeks as there is just so much of it and nature + a lot of rain has caused the greenery to explode this year.  Anyway, my mother was appreciative for what we’ve done and that’s all that matters.  I’ve got one more full day to spend working around the house tomorrow and will try to make the best of it.

As mentioned, I knocked-off and came in around 3:00pm, grabbed a shower and then headed off to the store to pick up some soft drinks, Margarita mix and a few things at the Ace Hardware store for the yard.  It was Margarita time back at the house when I returned and I grilled up some salmon for dinner to go with the lovely assortment of veggies and some of the left over home-fries from breakfast as our dinner.  Once again, just a great time visiting with the family over dinner.

The evening was a fairly quiet time with Debbie back to reading, mother and Bill back in their enclave reading and watching the news of the day and me sitting here tapping out my recollections of the day, intermixed with watching videos from the Goodwood Festival of Speed (FOS) from Goodwood House in Sussex, England.  Goodwood FOS is definitely something on my bucket list.  Attendance is capped at 150,000 per day for what is perhaps the greatest annual meeting of motoring enthusiasts, historic racing cars, motorcycles and world-class drivers and the owners of the various cars.  The videos that come from the FOS are simply amazing to watch as 90-year-old race cars worth millions are thrashed about along with every other significant vehicle produced and raced since then in a variety of class-specific races and the epic hill climb event.

THURSDAY: Bush-hogging & Company Arrives

For some reason I had a very hard time sleeping and was up well ahead of my 7:00am conference call.  I worked on some reports until around 9:00am, had a little breakfast and then was joined by Debbie who’d slept in a bit.  My mother and Bill were both up around 7:30am and 8:00am respectively.

After getting to a stopping point on my work I the next order of business was to determine if I had successfully shut-down a Yellow Jacket nest that had been created in a wood pile next to the garage.  I’d hit it pretty hard around 9:00pm on Wednesday night when the Jackets were most likely all in the nest and dormant.  However, I saw a few Jackets still coming out of the nest when I checked it at 9:00am so I decided to hit it again with the injection straw stuffed well into the nest.  That seems to be a lot more effective than just having it at the opening and other than a few Jackets that had been out of the nest returning, then turning away once they detected the insecticide, the nest was done-in.

Looking ahead to our 3 day tandem rally in Manheim which I’ll cover in a separate blog that picks up where this one leaves off, I’ve been keeping an eye on the weather.  It’s gone from good to awful and is now so-so for Friday, with pretty good weather on Saturday and Sunday. The rain on Friday had been scored as high as 90% as of last night, so we’re hopeful the rain moving through the area does so swiftly and gives us dry roads for the 2:30pm “warm up ride” on Friday afternoon.

Sadly, I didn’t even think to bring along the SKS mudguards that click-on to our tandem.  I’m usually pretty good about packing for various contingencies with spare rims, mudguards and the like.  Well, not so this time.  Oh well, we’ll make the best of whatever comes our way!

Getting back to our stay in PA with my folks, the mission of the day was doing more yard work for my mother so I had only one thing I “had” to do before I started working on the yard and that was to run over to Classic Harley-Davidson to pick up a replacement T-shirt for the one that no longer fit. Amazingly, they had only one small-size T-shirt in the store and it had the exact same artwork on the back as the T-shirt it was replacing, so one was better than none!

Back at the house I grabbed the last half of Debbie’s left-over V&S sandwich from Tuesday as my lunch at 11:30am before heading out in on old reliable, Bill’s 17-year old Scott’s 20 hp lawn tractor with the dump trailer carrying the hedge trimmer, a bush-hog, blower, rake and extra can of gas to attack a large 100′ long berm and several hedges that still needed to be trimmed.  I think I soaked 3 shirts with sweat as I weeded and bush-hogged my way through the yard work over the next 5 hours with just a few short breaks to fire up my work laptop and take care of some business.

My Uncle Rae and Aunt Flossie arrived about 2 hours into the yard work and took my mother and Debbie out for lunch as I continued to work on the yard with afternoon thunderstorms looming.  My Uncle Rae came down and helped me with clearing all of the debris piles from the driveway after they returned from lunch, which was very much appreciated.  It turned a 40-minute job into a 25 minute job which saw us finishing up and pulling the tractor into the garage with all of the lawn care equipment in the trailer just as the skies began to open up at 4:30pm.  Talk about perfect timing!

Back in the house I had to attend to about 30 more minutes of work before powering down my work computer and then headed down to get showered for cocktail hour and dinner.  We had a grand time visiting with everyone throughout the early evening and dinner and my step-nephew Lyle arrived just as we were finishing up with dinner.  He’d driven up from North Carolina where he’s attending college on the G.I. bill, having served a 4-year enlistment in the U.S. Air Force.  It had been quite some time since I’d seen Lyle and he’s grown into quite a fine young man. He’ll do well in whatever he decides to do, that’s for certain.

I think Debbie and I were the last two standing around 10:30pm when we called it a night. It was a full house with five guests and of course my mother was back to doing what she does: being the hostess with the most-ess running around and tending to laundry, meals, cleaning-up, and the like.  Just what she really doesn’t need to be doing as she’s still nursing a fractured pelvis injury from a couple of months back.

FRIDAY: Heading to Manheim for the Rally

Well, I think I can best sum-up the look ahead for today’s 2:30 warm-up ride down in Manheim: most likely a non-starter!  Here’s what I woke up to this morning in terms of what was going on outside. The pointer is sitting on our host hotel in Manheim, PA, and the weather is as of 8:00am.  The strong storm cell is just about to arrive at my folks house west of Reading, PA, so we’ll have yet another strong rain spell ahead of us.

Looking at the hour-by-hour outlook for Manheim, there’s a 50/50 chance we’ll get thunder showers during the afternoon ride time so at this point we’re looking forward to visiting with friends at the hotel and having a nice dinner before we get on the tandem Saturday morning.

Thankfully, the weather is looking like it will be lovely on Saturday and Sunday once the rain passes through, so that should give us two good days on the bike for our rides in and around Lancaster County.

I’ll close out this blog entry and pick-up with a new one that will “air” on The TandemGeek’s Blog since the rest of our trip will be related to the Tandems East Tandem Weekend.

All-in-all, one of our best visits yet to my folks.  I actually felt like I was able to do a few things for my mother and Bill that would make their lives a bit easier and/or take care of things they couldn’t really do for themselves… and they still like to do everything they can themselves which is probably why their easily mistaken for a couple in their mid-70’s and not their respective 89 years!  It was also great being able to visit with my Uncle Rae and Aunt Flossie and an extra special treat to see Lyle during his visit.

We’re still trying to decide if we’ll return to my folks place on Sunday afternoon following the tandem weekend to spend one more afternoon and evening with them before spending Monday driving back home with a 6:00am departure that would hopefully get us home by 6:00pm.  The alternative is to head home from Manheim which would put us at home around 11:00pm at night and give us all day Monday for getting caught up with yard work, etc. before I return to work on Tuesday.

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Tundra Is Fixed, Just In Time for a Trip to PA

It was a very short work week since the 4th of July fell on a Tuesday.  However, those were perhaps the longest three days I can recall.  But, on the bright side, I’m taking off the coming week so we can visit my folks in Pennsylvania ahead of a tandem cycling rally on the 14th through the 16th that is being hosted a mere 45-minutes from my parents home. So, it will be good to get four days with them, then make the short drive down to Manheim, PA, on Friday morning for three days of group tandem rides with friends whom we made over the past 20 years during prior tandem rallies in the Mid-Atlantic States and other tandem cycling interests and events.

TUNDRA UPDATE: The Upper Control Arms Have Been Replaced!

Before making that trip the Tundra still needed to have its upper control arms replaced. So, the BIG news this past week was finally getting that done! The parts are not in high demand given our Toyota Tundra is a 2006 model so they had to be fabricated which pushed their installation back a month from when I ordered them back on 9 June.  It was an anxious wait as the parts did not arrive until this past Thursday ahead of a 9:00am appointment at 4 Wheel Parts on Friday, 7 July. Talk about not having much margin for error!  I held my breath that the parts would fit and that nothing else would be discovered during the removal of the original upper control arms and ball joints and the installation of the high-end aftermarket Camburg upper control arms.  The call came in at 1:40pm, your truck is done and ready for pick up!

It’s been great having a front end that no longer creaks, clunks or shudders as it put the first couple hundred miles on it over the weekend running various errands. Again, a great relief this we’re depending on the Toyota Tundra to deliver an uneventful 780 mile drive to Pennsylvania on Monday and to get us back home the following Monday.  While we could have taken the Honda Accord, it would have been a tight fit to get all of our luggage as well as the tandem bicycle into the trunk.  Anyway, we’re cautiously optimistic that the Tundra’s front end has been properly sorted.

FRIDAY

The rest of Friday was pretty much a normal workday other than running the truck over to the repair shop and having Debbie meet me and then run be back to the office.  I was probably gone all of 30 minutes and was on a conference call for the entire time. In fact, I began the meeting in the office, switched over to my cell phone and was back in time to finish the meeting in the office.  Debbie picked me up around 2:30 to collect the truck and after that I decided to run a few errands as I had pretty much all of my weekly analysis and reports submitted before I left the office.

Now, as much as I’d really like to be on a true vacation for the next week the truth is it will be a work-cation.  I’ll likely do a teleconference at 7:30am on Monday and at 7:00am every day thereafter and still be cranking on the analysis and reports throughout the week. Ugg.  With that in mind, we were both very much in need of our Finally a Friday celebration over at Loco Willy’s and we had a grand time. Most of the usual suspects were there and I even remembered to get a photo of the Three Debbie’s:  my Debbie, our long-time friend Deb and a new addition to the line up, our new Deb. Sadly, I should have made it a photo of the Four D’s, as our friend Dava wasn’t in the photo.

  

We didn’t stay all that late which is a shame because as we later learned, our friends all over-achieved so we missed out on some interesting goings-on.

SATURDAY

As much as I wanted to get out and cut the lawn which had gone to seed in the front yard, I knew I’d need to wait until Sunday as it would be a full week before we’d be back and I could harvest it again.  So, with that off my plate the order of the day became getting in some two-wheel therapy, something we’d not been able to do the 4th of July weekend.  The first session was on the tandem bicycle on what was a very warm and balmy morning.  The temps weren’t too bad being in the upper 70’s but the humidity was nearly 90%.  It felt really good to be back on the tandem and so long as we kept moving it never got really uncomfortable.   We were back at the house around 10:30am and I suggested that we switch into motorcycling-appropriate attire and head off for a “Tour de Harley Shops”.

Our first stop on the 90-mile loop would be The Red Eyed Mule for lunch.  It had been a couple of weeks since we’d had a Jake’s Big Daddy and the timing was perfect… so was the burger!  Always good to see Enrique and the rest of the crew and so good to be treated as regulars and friends when we come in.

As usual we split the burger and passed on the fries and onion rings, (A) because it’s just too much food for us and (B) we’d end up eating two burgers and the fries or rings if we ordered them.  So, there’s a method to our meal splitting regime.

With some food in our bellies we made the short ride over to Hellbender Harley-Davidson where we visited with our friend Nick and also checked out the ladies apparel.  There were about three things Debbie tried on including two dresses she’d seen over at Killer-Creek Harley-Davidson two weeks ago but that they didn’t have in her size.  We almost took this very Horsetown-looking grey dress home, but as a Medium was just a little to large for Debbie.  We hoped we’d find it in a Small at one of the other two Harley stores we’d visit later in the day.  I will say, the new 2018 Road King Specials continue to catch my eye more so than any of the other bikes.  I guess I’m just a Road King kind of guy. There was a gloss black one sitting next to a gloss olive drab green one that was really calling my name.  But, with Blue already in the stable how practical would it be to replace the BMW R1100S with nearly the same bike I already owned?  Now, a gently used 2009 Road King would probably be a good bet since I’d have no qualms about letting it sit out in the sun and weather all day…

Anyway, we left empty-handed and headed next for Harley-Davidson of Atlanta (or is it Atlanta Harley-Davidson? I never remember which).  Anyway, I ran in the GM Jeff as I often do who has an amazing memory.  When we last talked back in May we were just getting ready to head off to Panama City Beach, then the Georgia Tandem Rally before heading off to Las Vegas.  Bearing in mind that Jeff probably talks to a few 100 “friends” a week, he asks me right off the back, “How was your trip?”  I ask, which one?  He said, “To Vegas and the Hoover Dam.”

Amazing…  But that’s just the kind of guy he is and his personality shapes the way everyone treats their customers at HDA.  Sadly, we weren’t able to give him any business as they didn’t have any of the dresses Debbie was interested in, nor did anything else jump out as “must haves” for her wardrobe.  However, on the way out I saw a really nice-looking, heavily customized silver 2014 Road King with beach bars that was also calling my name.  This would have been a pretty good candidate for replacing the BMW R1100S as my daily commuter and errand-running bike and may still be… if and when I decide to do anything.  But, first things first, we still need to sell the Honda S2000. We also ran into David M., my dyno-guy and tech for Blue I and Blue II.  He’d been planning on riding to Nova Scotia with some friends in August but do to circumstances beyond his control he may just end up heading to Sturgis for a couple of days and then ride the Continental Divide.  Nice.

Our next leg was an hour-long, 39-mile trek over to Cartersville and Southern Devil Harley-Davidson. As we got within about 5 miles of the store we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a fairly strong sun-shower.  At first we both though we’d been splashed by a sprinkler alongside the road until it didn’t stop.  And not only did it not stop, it got a lot stronger despite the gobs of sunshine that we were enjoying.  Oh well, it’s part of the riding experience.  It was never so bad that I was inclined to seek shelter or put on our rain gear which I did have in the saddle bags “just in case.”  So, if nothing else, it gave us something else to talk about.  The rain stopped as suddenly as it started and a short while later we pulled in to Southern Devil.  I hadn’t been too long since we’d been there and came home with a few things for Debbie, so we were hopeful they’d have what she was looking for.  Alas, no luck. In fact, we were surprised by how little they had in the women’s apparel offerings.  It’s hard when you’re trying to give people some business and just can’t find a way to do it.  They had the same gloss black Road King Special that I’d seen at Hellbender and had it marked down from $24k to $21k. Tempting… but still, no.  I’d end up putting lowers on it, adding a sound system similar to Blue and it would eventually become the bike that would replace Blue. Well, that would cause Blue to sit in the garage just like my 2011 Wide Glide “Betty” did who, by the way, has been renamed.  On our way out we stopped by a food truck that had been on hand for a benefit ride earlier in the day to grab a couple of beverages, as it was hot and we needed to hydrate. Nicest guy in the world owned and operated the truck; love meeting good people!  That’s one of the things that attract us to motorcycling and the Harley scene: you meet so many really nice people, not people just trying to be nice but honest-to-goodness nice folks.  Anyway, Debbie decided to climb up in to the big chair to enjoy her water so I felt obliged to snap a photo: isn’t she cute!  Anyway, as with the first two visits we walked away empty-handed but were at least rewarded with another great encounter and that’s the stuff that’s priceless.

I asked Debbie if she’d be OK heading home on the Interstate just to save some time and to avoid what looked like some rain back along our usual route and she was game.  As we got within 3 miles of home I could smell the ozone and feel the change in air temperature that suggested rain was falling somewhere near us.  I finally dawned on me that we’d actually caught up to the storm I’d seen brewing and wanted to avoid.  We got within a 1/8 mile of our home before we actually rode into the backend of the rain storm.  We got a little wet, but nothing more than that. I grabbed a photo of Debbie on what was once again a beautiful sunny moment on the rain-soaked driveway we’d just pulled into: she’s a trooper!

Saturday night saw us returning to you-know-where for dinner and once again, just a great time.  Sadly, the “new Deb” wasn’t there for a photo of the Four D’s.  So, here now is the Three D’s: Debbie, Dava & Deb!  The guy with the crewcut would be Dava’s better half, Billy; they’re a lot of fun as are all of our friends. After Loco’s we headed over to SuBourbon’s to catch the band Three Left Standing. As mentioned in a couple prior blogs, Debbie and I love to dance and Three Left Standing is one of the bands that plays LOTS of great 80’s and 90’s songs we can dance to.  The crowd at SuBourbon’s wasn’t really lively early on so Debbie and I had the dance floor to ourselves and took advantage of that at the expense of not spending more time with our friend Kreg who was king enough to share a seat as his table with us.  However, not to worry, Kreg knows everybody and had lots of great company whilst we danced our feet off.

We didn’t stay all that late, perhaps a song into their second set and headed home where I cooked up a couple grilled cheese sandwiches using some hoop cheese Debbie had on hand.  Oh My, yummy stuff!  Hoop cheese was a favorite of Debbie’s Daddy, so that makes it extra special.

SUNDAY

Sunday’s main event was our granddaughter Caroline’s 11th birthday party at the kids house about 15 minutes from our home. We were expected at noon so that gave us the morning to work with.  I wanted to cut the lawn, but it was still soaking wet from the rain that fell on Saturday night as well as a heavy morning dew.  We opted to do the best thing we could come up with, and that was another tandem ride.  We seemed to be a little sluggish on the climbs but were doing well otherwise for the duration of the ride and our average speed was perhaps just a tick higher than on Saturday.  We only had one annoying motorist which was a pleasant and welcome surprise.

Back at the house Debbie headed up to wrap gifts and get things ready for the birthday party. No wait, she did that before our tandem ride which is why we didn’t get out until 9:30am instead of at 8:30am.  Anyway, back at the house I shuffled cars around so I could put Debbie’s Honda Accord in the middle “wash” bay to get yet another weeks worth of rain-driven road grime off the finish before we headed out-of-town.  I had it finished and headed up for my shower so that we’d be able to arrive at the kids house pretty much right at noon.

When we arrived we were greeted by Caroline who handed Debbie a grass skirt and said, “put this on” as she tossed a lei over Debbie’s head.  I got one too.  I have no idea where the Hawaiian theme came from but it was all rather cute.

I’m also struggling with Caroline already being 11 years old!  I just doesn’t seem like that long ago the kids were bringing her home from the hospital. Anyway, she’s a sweetie and she loves her Nama, as we all do.  Julie’s parents, her brother and his family, cousin/brother and his girlfriend and our oldest son, Charlie, were all on hand for the party.  It was nice to have just the immediate family on hand and to be at the house vs. a pizza joint.

The primary entertainment was a giant, inflatable water slide the kids had rented and had set-up in the backyard that the kids absolutely had a blast with.

Given that we were headed out-of-town in just 15 hours, I disappeared from the party for a couple of house so that I could cut the lawn, do laundry, pack all of the cycling gear and run by the bank before heading back to the party to say my goodbyes and collect Debbie.  My timing was impeccable as Wesley was just about to drive Debbie home vs. pulling me away from my chores when I drove up.  Wesley was able to stay at the house with Julie to finish cleaning up while Debbie headed home with me so we could both catch our breath before grabbing a little dinner and finishing up the packing of the tandem and our street clothes for the week-long trip.

So, here I sit at 11:00pm still wide awake as I usually am before any long trip.  Debbie is zonked-out in bed, which is where I should be.  So, I’ll close this chapter out and we’ll see what we have to report by next Sunday or Monday night.  We’ve got a big week ahead of us!

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A Very Long 4th of July Weekend

When I last wrote I ended my blog entry with, “That was about it for the weekend.  We’ve got a short week before the 4th of July break which should hopefully give us a chance to relax.  Yeah, right…”

As predicted, the past nine days and — in particular — the five-day break on Friday through Tuesday I had from work given how the 4th of July fell on a Tuesday this year proved to be exhausting by the time all was said and done. Well, that and the break got off to a bit of an early start when I volunteered to help my friend Ryan power-wash the concrete deck around their pool after work on Tuesday.


TUESDAY

Ryan and his wife Jeanette had, as previously mentioned, been working around the clock to get their home prepared for a sort-of-almost-annual Pig Roast & Pool Party on 1 July. Throughout the weeks leading up to the event they’d been putting out calls for assistance. When the call came out for pressure-washing support I was able to open up a window in my work schedule and bring my pressure-washer along to cut the time in half needed for pressure-washing the pool deck. Debbie went along so she could see what, if any, other help Jeanette might need while Ryan and I worked on the pool deck with the two pressure washers. It was right about dusk when we had the deck finished and had put up the equipment and what started off as just sitting down to relax for a moment turned into a small social event with cocktails and then a little BBQ for dinner. Debbie was good and drank water, me… not so good as Ryan, Jeanette, our friend Patti (who dropped by for a visit) and I got into the firewater. We had a grand time and Debbie was enlisted as my designated driver for the trip home. Yeah, it was just what I didn’t need to do on a “school night” where work would come early the following morning.


THURSDAY

Wednesday and Thursday were somewhat uneventful, other than Debbie taking the S2000 over to the used car lot owned by a friend of our son Wesley. It was probably wishful thinking the car would be sold in the first week it was on the lot, especially since our weather of late has been anything but convertible friendly. So, we’re still keeping our fingers crossed we’ll get a call for the title in the not too distant future that will allow us to stop worrying about our little car and to otherwise close another chapter of our automotive biography. The last thing on Thursday’s list was to pack for a weekend trip to the North Georgia mountains.


FRIDAY

Friday was a tele-commute day, which is why our 4th of July break was 5 days instead of just 4. The “must do’s” on my Friday list were reports for work, paying bills and then cutting the front lawn before we headed off to pay a visit to Kathy at Atlanta Kilts around 10:00am. The paying bills part was easy, but cutting the front lawn was not-so-easy as it was raining… again. Fortunately, I was going to raise the cutting deck on the mower an extra ½ inch to see if that would keep the mower from scalping the lawn in several places where small depressions showed up in the new sod. That meant I’d only be giving the lawn a trim to eliminate the tall seed sprouts so the mower deck would not become fouled with heavy wet grass clippings. Since it was only the front yard I had it knocked out in 20 minutes which gave me just enough time to grab a shower, throw on a kilt and pack all of the bags in the truck for our weekend get-a-way.

The rain went from drizzle to downpours or something in-between on our drive across the top-end perimeter / I-285 to I-85 North. It was about an hour’s drive over to Atlanta Kilts in Buford and the only real traffic was the usual mess on I-75 going through Marietta. Well, I take that back: it was also pretty messed up at the I-285 East to I-85 North interchange. We arrived at Atlanta Kilts just after 11:00am.

The purpose of the trip was three-fold: First and foremost was getting the vest for my formal kilt’s “Prince Charlie” jacket altered as it was a poor fit from the day I took it home. It had been custom made for me, but the tailor just didn’t get it right. Kathy wasn’t at the store the day I picked it up so getting back to Atlanta Kilts had been on my to-do list since December. While she has the jacket and vest she’ll also be replacing the standard buttons with a full set of nickel ones will have a better look and feel. The second objective was ordering a grey tweed Crail-style kilt jacket and vest to wear with my tartan kilts. It will take about 10 weeks before it’s made and delivered, but it’s too warm to wear in the summer so no worries. I may have a matching kilt made so I will have a true kilt suit in my collection, or I may just go with a dark black & grey tartan cloth for the kilt; we’ll see. The third objective was picking up another black utility kilt to supplement my first utility kilt. The latter has always had a strange lay to the rear pleats and front apron which isn’t a big deal for knocking around. But, as often as I like to wear the black utility kilt for Friday’s or Saturday nights it will be nice to have the more polished-look to the pleats and apron. As always, it was really enjoyable spending a little time with Kathy at Atlanta Kilts and I’ll anxiously await the arrival of my new Crail jacket and the return of my formal jacket & vest. It was close to 12:00 noon when we headed on to the North Georgia mountains and yes, it was still raining.

Boy, we both sure missed that awesome ride down to Key West! Sweet memories from 2016 and previous years….

It took us about an hour to get to the resort where we’d booked a condo for the weekend vs. heading down to Key West for the 4th of July week as we’ve done during the past couple of years. It was a trade-off we made since we’ll be heading up to Pennsylvania for a week on the 10th of July: doing nearly back-to-back weeks off, never mind another week-long trip during the 1st week of August just seemed like a bit much. Anyway, Friday ended up being a lazy, rainy day and that was OK too. Thankfully, the weather began to clear up a bit around the late afternoon and by the time we had cleaned up and headed out for the evening it was really quite pleasant. We had a good time dancing the night away which was our substitute for the cycling we weren’t doing given all of the rain of late.


SATURDAY

The plan for Saturday was a bit ambitious in that we’d be heading back towards home for Ryan & Jeanette’s Pig Roast & Pool Party which began at noon. We’d booked our weekend in the mountains about a week before they set the date for their sort-of-semi-annual summer blow-out so we figured we’d be able to join them for a few hours in the afternoon, but still make it back for another event in the mountains at 5:30pm. Thankfully, the weather turned quite nice for the morning and afternoon. In fact, it was downright hot! We arrived at Ryan and Jeanette’s right at noon along with a few other guests. It was a really enjoyable afternoon with the somewhat eclectic mix of their families, friends, co-workers and the like. We had to leave before they pulled the pig out of the cooking pit at 3:30pm, but still were able to visit with a lot of folks while we were there.

As we headed back into the mountains we could see the skies beginning to get dark again and there was clearly some rain falling on the horizon. We arrived at the street party just after it got under way. I’m told our friend — a professional BBQ smoker and certified judge — smoked 12 pork butts all night long and, no kidding, it was probably the best BBQ we’ve ever had: it didn’t even need sauce. Sadly, about 30 minutes into the street party the skies began to open up with a cold, somewhat heavy and brief shower. After the BBQ we headed back to our condo at the resort and took a short nap before heading out for the evening around 10:00pm; we were definitely dealing with folks who spend their weekends living on New York time. It was another great night with just the right mix of music to suit everyone’s tastes and dance styles, i.e., from the Electric Slide to Bruno Mars and everything else in between.  I think we snagged some pizza around 12:30pm before heading back to the dance floor for another 30 minutes or so where I proceeded to do a little break dancing in my kilt: yeah, wood floors and bare knees don’t mix well. I’ll be sporting a couple scrapes on my knees for another week or two following that brilliant move!  I don’t know how Debbie puts up with me once my feet get to moving faster than my brain.


SUNDAY

I was up early on Sunday and saw it was shaping up to be a beautiful, sunny day.  And that was perfect because Sunday was going to be our lazy day when we slept-in, had a late breakfast and then headed out to get some time in the sun. There’s no better way to unwind and relax than just sitting at the pool and visiting with some of the nicest folks you’d ever want to meet.  There was a one time when a rogue thunderstorm just missed us as it moved on by and doused Dahlonega and Gainsville instead.

Sadly, we had a DJ spinning music on Sunday night that was mostly the really loud, “thumpy-bumpy” stuff hip crowds like in the big city clubs. It was a real buzz kill and apparently we weren’t the only ones who decided to call it a night early because of the music.  Oh well, we probably needed the extra rest anyway. After all, we’d be headed back home for two more days of “fun and games” with friends.


MONDAY

We were both up and moving by mid-morning and watching the first real day of racing from the Tour de France in the background as we gathered up our “stuff” and began packing for the trip back home.  Our only semi-firm plans for the day were heading over to SuBourbon’s Rock & Oyster Bar in nearby Kennesaw around 4:30pm where we’d spend the better part of the night with about 14 other friends listening and dancing to Grey Sunday, one of our favorite party bands, and then watch the Kennesaw City fireworks at 9:30pm.  That gave us enough time to grab lunch at Loco Willy’s as we were both craving some healthy food: a house salad and blackened fish taco’s!

After lunch I still had enough time to tackle a full days worth of yard work: trimming hedges and bushes, edging and cutting both the front & back yards and even spent a few minutes stirring up a Yellow Jacket’s nest in our front stacked stone retaining wall. Debbie stumbled onto the hidden nest while planting flowers and walked away with three bites. I only ended up having just a slight brush up with one and that was bad enough.  After that little bit of excitement I decided to finish up my last free hour by power-washing a cedar bench we had sitting under a pergola in the backyard: the bench was a Mother’s Day gift to Debbie about 12 years ago and it’s held up well.  It was around 4:00pm when we started to hear friends were heading towards SuBourbon’s so I bagged the yard work, and got cleaned up.

We had ourselves at the bar just a bit before 5:00pm where we found two of our friends — Richard & Robin — at one of the five tables we had reserved, or about 1/2 of the inside non-smoking section!  If memory serves we had Bobby & Carrie Ann, Ryan & Jeanette, Chuck & Julie as well as two of Chuck’s sons, Dave & Cory as well as Mike & Bettianne, Matt & darned if I can’t remember the other gal’s name.  But, it was a great crew to be sure!  One of the managers at SuBourbon’s was apparently trying to live-stream about an hour’s worth of the goings-on where various members of our group got captured in the video, both at the inside bar and at the outside bar: you can see it here if you’re so inclined. It’s not exactly riveting TV but you can skip around and find bits and pieces that are interesting along with long stretches of ice buckets with Cokes when the gal who was asked to stream video for the manager just put the phone down on the corner of a cooler.

What made it a bit odd was having to shuttle back and forth between the inside bar where the owner — Dave — was DJ’ing and the blistering hot parking lot where they had three live bands playing one after another on a sidewalk stage with the asphalt parking lot as a dance floor. I’m sure I scrubbed a year’s worth of boot sole life with my dancing antics, never mind sweating off a couple pounds and even having to shed my Tshirt at one point as it had gotten soaked with sweat.  On the bright side,I was about the only guy dancing so it was me, Debbie, Robin, Julie, Carrie Ann and Jeanette for the most part. When the outside band would take a break — or we’d just get too overheated — we’d go back into the bar and dance to the DJ: all told, about 10 hours of dancing if I had to guess!

Well, OK… we also did a bit of celebrating and then gathered outside for a really outstanding fireworks show by the City of Kennesaw.  Just a great night out celebrating our great nation’s independence one day early — so as to deconflict with neighboring towns events scheduled for Tuesday, the actual 4th of July. We ended the night with a small after-party on Ryan & Jeanette’s back deck and a slightly smaller group / sub-set of the SuBourbon’s gang.

 


TUESDAY

The plan for the 4th of July was hatched early on Monday when Sharon & Jeff invited folks to come over to their home on the lake for either a dock party or a trip across the lake to one of the coves where boaters barge their boats side-by-side and hold what are essentially block parties on the water.  We made a point of clearing our calendar so we could join them on the 4th as Sharon has probably invited us to join them on the boat a dozen times or more over the past few years and there’s always been a conflict.  Not so this time; we’d be making a point of it so long as the weather cooperated.

The plan was to meet at Jeff & Sharon’s home around noon at which point we’d make sure there were enough boats with life vests aboard for the passengers.  We ended up with three boats: Jeff & Sharon’s party barge which holds about ten, Julie & Chuck’s ski boat that holds eight and Zack & Katelyn’s ski boat that also holds about eight; just about the right number of seats and jackets for all of the folks who were there: Julie plus me and Debbie, Carrie Ann, Jeanette, Richard &  Robin. Zack & Katelyn’s plus Dave & Cory, Morgan & Danielle.  And, with Jeff & Sharon there was Bobby, Ryan, Patti & Brad and I believe it was Steve & Jill.  Once we reached Illinois Creek Cove we joined up with several other folks including Susan & Brian, Karen & Chuck and eventually Elvis… no, not that Elvis.  It was stupid fun.

  

We did end up getting caught in two rain episodes. One was just a short sprinkle that came out of a rogue cloud, whereas the next one was a fairly organized storm system with lots of thunder and lightning.  We almost got caught out in a 3rd storm but, fortunately, had headed for the docks just in time to duck out of the rain. Well, I say “we”…. Julie’s boat / group of seven.  Jeff’s pontoon boat did not make as good of time as we did and Zack had to go to a marina to off-load people and pull out his boat.  But, through it all we continued to laugh, smile and have a good time while trying to stay warm and dry.

We had a bit of a mini-buffet back at Jeff & Sharon’s breezeway as everyone began to pull out the excess food they’d brought along for the day.  We had BBQ & slaw from JD’s, sub sandwiches with Boar’s Head meats and cheeses, chips & dips and the like before every began to scatter for the hills as Jeff & Sharon had to leave at 6:00pm for Michigan in their motorhome.  I think we said all of our goodbyes, but may have missed a few as my memory is a bit clouded on some of the details from the weekend.  I’m sure it’s just exhaustion and fatigue…

But, as if we hadn’t had enough, we ended up heading over to Loco Willy’s to grab a burger and see if some of our friends might not hanging out there.  Alas, it was pretty much us and a few of our Lockheed friends with Billy behind the bar.  We ended up having a great time for the short time we were there and it was a good finish to an amazing weekend with friends on all fronts.  The things we didn’t get to do included cycling and motorcycling, but that was about it.  So, still not a bad way to spend a week.


WHAT’S AHEAD

Looking forward, this is a short work week of just three days and then we’ll head to Pennsylvania on Monday at 6:00am.  We’ll be visiting my parents on Monday afternoon through Friday morning and perhaps again on Sunday afternoon and evening as 16 July is Debbie and my 24th anniversary. On Friday through Sunday noon time we’ll be at a tandem rally in Manheim, PA, aka, the Tour de Chocolate!  Oh yeah, that’s what we need!

 

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Here, There and Everywhere… The Rain That Is!

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

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

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


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

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

 

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


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

  

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wow, that was a busy weekend!

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

Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Sunday

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Las Vegas… where to begin?


Sunday

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

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

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


Monday

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday

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

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

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

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

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

    

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday

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

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

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

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


The Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Week Leading Up To Our Trip to Las Vegas

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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