Weekly Journal: Yard Work, Tandem Time, Ballet Recital and a Great Weekend

Well, it’s still hot and dry here in Georgia.  We got a little unexpected rain late on Sunday, but that was it.  The week had it’s share of work around the house, visiting with friends, a few meals out, some work on the truck, yard work and gardening and some of the other usual stuff… noting our usual stuff makes for a pretty nice retirement life.  We visited with a different financial advisor as we wrestle with some of the issues we’ve had with our Morgan Stanley advisors and “the plan” and will see what they come back with for their recommended long-term plan for our retirement investments, etc.  We were able to ride about 50 miles on the tandem on two days and will hope to up that mileage a bit next week.  The highlight was a ballet recital on Saturday where we were able to see both Charlotte and Vivian perform.  Yup, not a bad week at all.


Monday:  Yard Work, Relaxing, Indy 500 Re-Watch & Stanley Cup Action

While it seemed like we couldn’t get a break from cool, wet weather in late April and early May, we’ve now been hot and dry for a solid two weeks.  In fact, the last meaningful rain was back on May 11th when we went to South Carolina to ride The Rally in the Valley with our friend Lisa and were rained-out, both in South Carolina and again here at home.  The Memorial Day weekend was especially warm with temps hitting the mid-90’s every day after a week of temps in the upper 80’s.    At last check, the only rain showing up in the weather outlook is a 30% chance of a morning shower on 8 June; yikes!

As for what we did Monday, after finishing up last week’s journal which will languish until the mail runs on Tuesday, I headed over to Lowes to pick up a spark plug for my 15-year old Chipper/Shredder, as I now believe that’s what caused the engine to suddenly quit last Friday afternoon when I started it up to gritz up a large pile of tree trimmings.  The engine was clearly getting fuel, still seemed to have good compression… it was just the spark that was missing.  I’d had a similar problem with our even older McLean edger a year or so ago where it too suddenly didn’t want to run.  Thankfully, it was in fact just the very old spark plug that finally fired its last spark as the engine sprang to life with the new plug; whew.  They don’t make ’em like they used to so I really want/need my well-amortized lawn and garden equipment to last until we no longer need it!

With the chipper back in service, I did a little more pruning on the Cypress trees at the end of the driveway before turning my attention to mowing the lawn.  I probably need to aerate both the front & rear lawn to break up some soil so that may get added to my to-do list for next week.  As you’d imagine, I’m having to water the yard a couple times a week to stay ahead of our recent drought.  I’m not looking forward to seeing the water bill next month.

Interestingly enough, we did have a visit from the post office today… Memorial Day, as it seems as though they’ve gotten themselves into the 7-day a week package delivery business.  I’d ordered new drive chains for our 3-seat tandem bicycle last week and, son-of-a-gun, if the 3 chains I need to combine into the two very long chains  that connect the three sets of crank arms on the left side of the triplet didn’t arrive.  There’s a final drive chain that won’t be here for a couple weeks that I’ll need to finish the project, but at least I’ve got the more complex timing chains ready to go back on the bike.

Debbie kept herself busy indoors doing laundry, etc during the morning and early afternoon.  I kept her company around lunch time as I needed to cook two packages of chicken wings that I’d thawed for Saturday’s pool party at Ryan & Jeanette’s but never used.  It was around 2:00pm as the temperatures made their way into the 90’s when Debbie decided to go for a walk… and by a walk, I knew she’d be overdoing it.  Sure enough, 2 hours and 8 miles later she returned home, soaked to the skin from head to foot.

We had a fairly relaxing late afternoon and evening at home, re-watching the final 25 laps of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500… perhaps one of the most exciting final 30 minutes of that race I’ve seen in decades: wow!  We had dinner in and then finished up the night watching game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals between Boston & St. Louis.  We thought St. Louis was going to upset the Boston Bruins when they got out to a 2-0 lead, but by the 2nd period Boston gained the upper hand and finished the game with a 4-2 score.

Tuesday:  A Tandem Ride, Working on the Triplet and a visit with Wesley and a couple of the Girls.

My day began around 6:00am in the office doing my weekly home finance ledger updates to make sure all of our income and expenditures are properly recorded and categorized.  As mentioned in the past, I’ve always done “macro” budgeting where I look at expenses in arrears to see how they’re tracking to prior year spending, our forward looking needs or goals and then make changes in our behaviors if it looks like we’re overspending in any given area or missing savings targets, etc.  It’s worked well, but it does take a bit of work to make sure everything gets properly logged.  I also spent some time looking at what all was required to update my potential tax withholdings from my Lockheed pension, finished up and printed out last week’s journal so it could be mailed out to my folks, paid one of the few bills we get by writing out and mailing off a check: I am so hooked on electronic banking!  Yup, a typical morning.

It was around 9:30am when we headed out for a 25-mile ride on the tandem.  It was a beautiful day for a tandem ride with temperatures in the 80’s, around 60% humidity, a light breeze and just a few clouds in the skies.  The route we ride is about 50% in the shade when we ride at this time of day during this time of the year which is another reason it’s such a lovely ride.  And, amazingly, we didn’t encounter too many motorists that gave us cause for alarm.

After getting back home and having lunch Debbie headed off to get groceries while I headed out to install the sync chains I’d just received and assembled on the triplet.  Thankfully, this is something I could do while the triplet was hanging on its storage hooks.  I had a slight issue when for some odd reason I needed to add an extra chain link to one of of the two timing chains after I thought I had it nailed on the chain lengths: tandems, sheesh.  In the old days, adding and removing chain links was a no brainer since they used press-in rivets to hold the links together.  Nowadays, the rivets are peened in place so a special link needs to be used to link or modify chains which means you’ve really got to get the chain length right the first time and some how I mis-counted the number of links I needed on the front sync chain by 1, so it came up exactly 1″ short.  Thankfully, I have several of the special links sitting around so I was able to rework the chain to add an extra link.  All I need now is the new drive chain and the triplet will be good-to-go for our next ride with Lisa in August or September.

After working on the tandem I went on line to once again search for a bikini swimsuit to replace a one of Debbie’s that was lost last year in Key West.  It was a favorite that was inadvertently left in our hotel room and never turned in by the housekeeping staff.   I’ve been searching for a replacement for her 2013/2014 vintage suit in the truffle color since last July without any luck and ended up ordering what is the same suit but in a different color today.  Hopefully it will arrive before we head back to Key West.

With that out of the way I headed off to Lowes to pick up a metal cut-off wheel for my Dremel Saw-Max.  I bought this thing — essentially a 3.5″ circular saw — for use on a wide range of materials, from tile to word to masonry and metal.  It does a very good job on the tile and wood and instead of buying an angle grinder to cut-off the 8 U-Bolt Ends on an upcoming truck modification project I decided to see if the Dremel Saw-Max won’t handle the job.  The only down-size to anything from Dremel is that they’ve done a great job of keeping all of the attachments for their various hand-held hobby and home improvement tools proprietary… and by proprietary I mean expensive.  The cutting wheels for an angle grinder go for about $1.50 to $2.00, whereas the ones for the Saw-Max are sold in a 3-pack for $9.50 and I’m pretty sure the 4″ cut-off wheel used on the angle grinder will out-last collectively the 3 Dremel Saw-Max cut-off wheels.  Exciting stuff, eh?

Around 4:30pm Wesley stopped by with Vivian and Scarlett after picking up Vivian after rehearsal for the upcoming ballet recital on Saturday and Sunday.  Vivian was a bundle of energy who was eager to play hide-and-seek with Debbie so off they went to the 2nd floor of the house while I stayed downstairs and chatted with Wesley as he held all 22 lbs of 6-month old Scarlett for a good hour or so. Caroline is off at the University of Georgia (UGA) for a week-long Swim Camp with her other grandparents, Belva and Patrick, who have a condo at UGA in Athens, and Julie was tending to Charlotte who also had rehearsal for next weekend’s ballet but at a different time than Vivian… don’t you know.  Again, that’s one busy family.  I found it interesting that Julie had Wesley’s new Jeep while Wesley was driving the big GMC Yukon XL… who could have seen that coming!  Too funny.

That was about it for productive activities today.  We had dinner at home and then it was mostly an evening spent reading and trying to come up with a schedule for taking on some of my home projects and building a call-list for tree removal and concrete repair companies.

Wednesday:  Meeting with another Financial Advisor, Pressure Washing & Debbie Sitting with the Grandkids

Sadly, it was another sleepless night for me and Debbie also had a restless night.  I gave up around 2:00am as I was afraid my tossing and turning was keeping Debbie from settling down.  And, while I hoped I might get tired and drift off here I was still awake at 5:00am wondering if there was any chance of getting at least one more hour of sleep in: nope.

Despite the restless night, it was around 10:45am when Debbie and I headed off for an 11:30am appointment with Mark Weeks, a CPA and financial advisor with Prudential.  Mark works with our friend Dava and she’s strongly encouraged us to meet with Mark since before I retired to see how he might structure a retirement plan to meet our needs and interests.  Mark is ranked as one of the top under-40 financial planners and advisors by one of the larger financial planning industry groups and Dava has clearly been impressed by his approach to structuring financial and retirement plans.  Given the miss on taxes with our Morgan Stanley plan and some other issues with performance, we decided it was probably time to get someone else’s perspective on managing our retirement finances.  It was a good meeting and Mark has a very different approach to managing retirement funds from Morgan Stanley.  But, most encouraging was his holistic approach to looking at a wide range of tax strategies and other ways of managing market risk, using legacy funds and the like.  He and his team will work up a proposal for us in the coming weeks and we’ll meet again.  At the same time, our Morgan Stanley folks are busy reworking our plan to address the gap in the taxes as well as shifting funds around so it will also be interesting to see what they come up with in the new plan and how different it will look from the old one.

After the 90-minute meeting we headed back home for lunch and then Debbie scooted off to sit with Vivian and Scarlett a while as Wesley and Julie were once again trying to cover a lot of bases between work — and, yes… Wesley has a home office where he can do most of his work without going into the real office so that’s a big plus — and shuttling Charlotte around to all of her activities.

I spend a good bit of the afternoon pressure washing the siding, porch columns, and trim around the 1st floor of the house, an annual task that follows our heavy pollen season.  In addition to blasting the sticky pollens off of everything, I also have to treat a lot of the trim and siding with bleach to kill-off / remove the mold that we get here on everything due to our humidity.

While I was fiddling around with some rubber gasketing on the back of the Toyota Tacoma I noticed what I thought was either some gunk or a scratch on the top of the rear glass door latch’s handle housing.  Son-of-a-gun, it was a crack and it looked like it was caused by something that was wedged-in between the latch and the housing during the past week as I know it wasn’t there when we went to the Georgia Tandem Rally.  While my gut instinct was to immediately replace it, I think I’ll just keep an eye on it for now and may even see if I can’t figure out how to repair it with a thin sheet of carbon fiber.  I tell you, this poor little truck sure seems to attract more than its fair share of scratches, dings and what-not.

Debbie headed out for one of her epic, 8-mile walks when she got back from sitting with the kids and then we had dinner in. I threw a steak on the grill and pairing that with a large salad while Debbie continued with her vegetable diet.  She’s on a mission, to be sure.  Toward the end of dinner we received a call from my mother, who wanted to let me know that their painter and handy-man, Andy, had reset their WiFi router and the Nixplay photo frame was now updating again.  We chatted about a bunch of other things and had a really nice call and are very much looking forward to our visit in July, which is now just about 6 weeks away.

After suffering through the news and then coming back to a happier place with a few episodes of “Last Man Standing” in the background on the TV — noting I typically spend my evenings working on my laptop in the family room while Debbie watches TV at the kitchen table — Debbie moved to the family room for Game #2 of the Stanley Cup Finals and the St. Louis Blues tied the series at one game a piece with a 3-2 win early in the 1st Overtime Period after being tied 2-2 since the 1st period.

Thursday:  A Tandem Ride, Installing a Lift Kit on the Truck & Gardening

With grass pollen sitting at “Very High” for the past few weeks, noting those are high my my allergy sensitivity list, my resistance waned a bit which had me talking with a smoker’s voice and crud pouring out of my sinuses this morning.  I may have to double down on Zyrtec for a few days.  But, at least I was able to get a solid 4 hours of sleep!

With nearly ideal weather, we headed out for a 25-mile tandem ride from the house around 9:30am.  It wasn’t a record-breaking pace, but we had a very respectable average speed.  Sadly, motorist behavior returned to normal after Tuesday’s unusually driver-friendly ride and we had several encounters with motorists who just don’t see to understand or care to abide by Georgia’s 3-foot passing rule.  I keep finding myself riding further out into the lane to force motorists to give-up the notion that they can stay in their lane and squeeze by us with on-coming traffic or not.  It’s amazing to watch how many driver’s simply feel compelled to stay within the traffic lane and not cross the double yellow center lane markings to make a safe pass even when there is no on-coming traffic.

The mail had arrived while we were out cycling and in the mail was the 1″ rear lift kit for the Toyota Tacoma.  I’d not expected it to arrive until Friday, so it was a welcome surprise as I’ve been very anxious to get the truck leveled following our 20,000 mile service.  After having a bit of lunch I backed the truck in the garage and began the process of jacking up the rear-end of the vehicle and putting it on jack stands so I could remove the rear wheels and disassemble the rear axle and suspension to add the 1″ blocks between the leaf spring packs and axle.  Sadly, after getting the shocks off, disconnecting the brake lines, removing the left-hand U-Bolts and then positioning the 1″ block on the axle I discovered the U-Bolts that came with my lift kit were the incorrect length for the Tacoma.  So, there I sat with the truck taken apart, which is to say essentially 1/2 way through the 2-hour installation process, with only two options:  give-up and put it back the way it was, or go and see if the local 4-Wheel Parts store happened to have either the right length U-Bolts or a 1″ lift kit for my Tacoma.

After lunch Debbie headed off to the Nursery to pick up flowers for the oak barrels in front of the garage and mulch for some of her plants in the back yard, leaving me stranded at the house since the truck was sitting 1/2 way out of the center bay.  In other words, while I had the motorcycle for transportation, I really didn’t want to leave the garage wide open for the hour-long trip to 4-Wheel Parts.  I killed part of my waiting time by mowing the front yard and putting the 6-bags of Cypress tree clippings and trimmings out to the curb for Friday’s track pick-up, and then busied myself with a few other to-do’s until Debbie returned home a bit after 3:00pm.

4-Wheel Parts did not have the U-Bolts I needed but they did have a 1″ lift kit for the Tacoma in stock, so I bought the Pro Comp Kit — which was 3x the cost of the one I bought on ebay from Street Rays — and headed back home to finish up the installation.  On the bright side, while the Pro Comp kit was 3x the cost, it was also 3x the quality… and had the right length bolts.  So, at least the installation went far more quickly and smoothly than it had been with the Street Ray’s kit.  I still had to cut-down 8 threaded steel bars which was a messy and noisy 20-minute process but after that it was a straight forward bolt-up on both sides of the truck and, again, the quality of the Pro Comp kit was excellent.  With the suspension put back in the truck and the truck now sitting out in the driveway I could easily see that I’d gotten the exact amount of rear ride height adjustment I’d been looking for: just enough to re-level the truck to compensate for the 200lb A.R.E. rear cap.

We had dinner in again and after dinner I cleaned up the Street Rays lift kit and packaged it up for return, submitted the return request and printed out the return label so it can go back to Texas tomorrow.  But, as I said, I’m really happy with how the truck looked after installing the 1″ rear lifting blocks.  Using a new leaf spring pack or adding a leaf spring would have definitely lifted the rear-end too much and forced me to do something different at the front of the truck to get it sorted out, e.g., new springs, etc.  Again, I’m not trying to turn the truck into a hard-core, off-road vehicle… I just want it to have a nice, level stance with all-terrain / mud & snow tires for light-duty, unimproved road conditions and our occasional winter storms.

Friday:  Bookkeeping, Mulling over a Tire/Wheel Change & Typical Friday Night Follies

Thankfully, I was able to get a second restful night of sleep, albeit back to my old sleeping habits of going to bed at 12:30am and waking up at 5:30am.  But, 5 hours of sleep is about all I seem to need so I’m good with that.

I spent the better part of the morning finishing up the process of making sure all of the entries in my Quicken ledgers were correctly categorized.  During my work on the ledgers Tuesday morning I’d identified 78 entries that had no categorization so I fixed those first and found another 30 or so that I had to re-categorize to get in the right buckets.  Quicken is not the most user-friendly program, so it’s not exactly an intuitive process to create categories, never mind having to deal with Quicken’s efforts to self-categorize things based on what it thinks they should be.  Moreover, once Quicken assigns a category to something — rightly or wrongly — that’s what will always be applied to like entries which just creates more work for me.

Debbie headed out for her 2 hour walk around 9:30am, returned for lunch and then headed back out to do some shopping.  I did some work on the truck, had lunch and then headed down to Butler Tire to talk to my friend Wayne about a possible change to the tires and wheels on the Tacoma.  I’m really on the fence regarding the change, as I’m not as happy with the current stance of the truck as the tires just seem a bit undersized.  We talked about some options so now it’s just up to me to figure out what I want to do.  Part of me says the best way to go is to swap out the tires and wheels for a new set so that I will be able to sell the old wheels and tires together… which would be a lot easier and yield a better return than just trying to sell a set of lightly used set of tires.  On the bright side, there are a lot of Toyota Tacoma and 4Runner owners who can use the 265/65R17 tire size so they will sell if I swap them out on the same rims.  The practical side of me says do nothing until the tires need to be replaced, and that’s most likely what I’ll do.

We ended up going to Guston’s for dinner and had a nice time. But, the live music didn’t start early enough for us and, well, a lot of our friends weren’t around to chat with.  So, it was about 8:00pm when we left and as we were headed home Debbie suggested dropping in at Loco’s to see who might be there.  We found quite a few friends and ended up staying there chatting until 10:30.  It saved the night, to be sure; good that we have our go-to places when we “need” to have some social interaction.

Saturday:  Yard Work, the Grandkid’s Ballet Recital and an Evening out Dancing.

Yet another beautiful day, but we sure could use some rain.

We’d hoped to get a tandem ride in but the morning got away from us and we had to leave the house around 2:00pm for the Charlotte and now Vivian’s Spring ballet recital with the Georgia Dance Conservancy (GDC) at the Marietta Performing Arts Center at 3:00pm, so trying to sneak in a noon time ride really wouldn’t work either.  So, with some extra time on my hands I put on my work clothes and headed out to trim back the 20 or so azaleas in the front island.  Trimming doesn’t take long, especially since I switched from corded yard tools to battery-powered, but cleaning up all of the trimmings and leaves that get raked-out with the trimmings is another story.  I filled-up four 40-gallon yard waste bags by the time I had everything raked and blown out from under the azaleas.  On the bright side, its shady under the trees that the azaleas surround so at least I didn’t get overheated.

With the yard work out of the way, I headed in to get cleaned up and we left promptly at 2:15pm for the recital.  When we arrived we ran into some former co-workers — Mark & Kathleen — who also have a daughter who has been taking ballet at GDC and performing in these recitals for as long or longer than Charlotte.  It’s been fun watching all of these kids grow-up over 7 years.  In chatting with Mark & Kathleen it sounds like things are a bit bumpy back at the plant, which is disheartening.  That jives with something I’d heard from another former co-worker in the last week.

Anyway, we found the kids along with Julie’s parents, Patrick & Belva and sister-in-law Catherine and her daughter Avery who is also dancing with the GDC, but in a different performance on Sunday afternoon.  This was 4-year old Vivian’s first ballet recital and she was very excited about it.  In fact, when Debbie was sitting the kids on Tuesday, Vivian went through her entire routine for Debbie.  Her group of about 12 4-year olds was the 3rd of 19 groups to go in the recital and Miss Vivian did very well.  You can only imagine what it’s like to have 12 4-year olds all trying to perform some rudimentary dance steps in sync to the music. While not exactly ‘crisp and polished’ it’s cute as can be, especially when you remind yourself that these are just rambunctious little girls with very short attention spans.  Again, Vivian did very well.    Charlotte performed in two different groups, the first was the 8th group where she performed a more traditional ballet dance with 14 other girls and one boy.  As always, Charlotte was very precise and spot-on with her dance routine… she truly does excel at about everything she does.  Vivian and the other 4-year olds had joined their families by this time whereas all of the other older kids tend to stay back stage for the entire ballet.  After the intermission Charlotte performed again with the same group of 14 other 10-11 year old girls and boy in a jazz number “The Greatest Show on Earth” where they were all dressed like ring masters in their red jackets and black top hats.  It was a really upbeat routine and all of the kids by 10-11 years are very polished and put on a great show.  It’s just a huge source of pride to watch the kids perform and to see their justifiably proud parents watching them.  Caroline at 12-years is a very good sister who also enjoys seeing her younger sisters perform, just as they go and support Caroline in her interests.  Scarlett was under the watchful eye of Wesley and she didn’t make a peep throughout the entire 2.5 hour show photo shoot with the family outside of the Performing Arts Center following the recital.

After the recital we headed off towards our little resort in the North Georgia Mountains, stopping for dinner at the Applebee’s in Woodstock, Georgia.  We joined a couple from Canada and another small group of three locals at the bar for dinner and had a great time chatting with them about a wide range of subjects: this is why we always take our meals at restaurant bars!  After enjoying a delicious steak and salad we made our way to our hotel where we changed from the ballet recital clothes to something a bit more casual for the DJ dance at the resort’s night club.  As always, it was great seeing all of our resort friends, keeping an eye on the Stanley Cup Finals which Boston won handily, getting some dancing in, having breakfast at midnight before finally taking the shuttle bus back to our hotel around 1:30am.  We needed that!

Sunday:  A Day at the Pool & Dinner at Willy’s

As you might imagine, we slept in until around 9:00am after the late night out.  Our plan for the day was to check-out of the hotel and then head back to the resort to relax by the pool noting that in the past we typically spent our Saturday afternoons at the pool and just headed home on Sunday mornings, without being able to accomplish all that much at home after the late night out.  Well, let me tell you… I think we nailed the formula.  We arrived back at the resort around 10:30am and relaxed by the pool, visiting with friends, etc., until the buffet style lunch was served at the sports bar around 12:30am.  Being a Sunday, it was a much smaller crowd of mostly people we knew and that made it very relaxing.  We spent most of the afternoon with me in the pool and Debbie sitting along the coping with a group of 8 other couples whom we’ve known since first coming to the resort nearly three years back.

It was around 4:00pm when we packed up our things and headed towards home, with a planned stop for dinner at Loco Willy’s along the way.  We were surprised to see a very large thunderstorm brewing as we made our way home and briefly found ourselves at the edge of the storm catching a few rain drops as there was zero chance of rain shown in the forecast.  We arrived at Loco’s around 5:20pm and had a great time there as well.  As usual, we knew most of the people who were gathered around the bar, enjoyed some chips and dip and then followed that up with a Reuben as our dinner: it hit the spot.  During the couple hours that we were at the bar a thundershower rolled through our area as well, giving a lot of folks some much needed rain.  When we arrived back at the house around 8:00pm we could see that we’d gotten some rain, but not a lot.

Back at the house we unpacked, threw our beach towels in the laundry and then had a relaxing night doing not a lot of anything.  It had been a couple of days with a lot of time spent out in the sun.  I’d knock out the weekly journal early on Monday and we’d follow that up with a tandem ride to get back on track for a more productive week.

 

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Motorcycling: Post Florida Trip Motorcycle Maintenance

Setting aside the October 2015 accident in Daytona Beach where a little old lady side-swipped us with her car — sending Debbie to the Emergency Room and the 2013 Road King CVO to the salvage yard — we’ve enjoyed 8 years and 35 motorcycle road trips with very few issues.  By issues, I’m referring to mechanical breakdowns, equipment failures or trouble with our riding gear.

However, we seemed to have more than our fair share of issues during our recent, 6-day motorcycle trip to Florida and I’ll be darned if I know why. But, I’m thankful they all ended up being issues that were easy to manage and correct.  They included the following, with details below:

  • Helmet cheek pads that were too constraining on Debbie’s HJC helmet
  • A Motolight / driving light that went dark
  • A rear speaker grill that came loose
  • An excessive amount of salt-air related corrosion
  • Wheel bearing failures on the Bushtec trailer
  • Tire cupping on the Road Glide Ultra

Debbie’s HJC Helmet:  

As I was getting our heated gear, leathers and full-face helmets out for our ride down to Daytona Beach back on 16 October 2018, I discovered Debbie’s Shoei modular / full-face helmet was in dire need of replacement: the interior foam padding literally fell apart.  Thankfully, the motorcycle dealer close to the house had an HJC modular / full-face helmet in stock that was the right size for Debbie, so a minor crisis was averted since there wouldn’t be any time to go “shopping” for a helmet on Wednesday and there was a risk of rain in the forecast for our ride down to Florida what would require the full-face helmet.

While I initially thought the helmet fit, as we were getting ready to leave on our ride to Titusville, Florida, when asked if Debbie wanted to wear her modular/full face helmet or her half helmet she let me know in no uncertain terms that the HJC was too tight around her face. Hmmm, that would have been good information to know when I had time to do something about it. Oh well, we weren’t expecting rain until Thursday so when we got to Florida I’d pull out the 27mm thick cheek pads that come in the small-size HJC helmets, cut them open and remove some of the foam padding as a temporary fix until I could go on-line and order a set of the 17mm cheek pads that typically come in the extra-large helmets.

The temporary fix worked for our ride home in the rain on 5 May and once I was at home I ordered the 17mm cheek pads from Revzilla which arrived a few days later.  Problem solved.

Motolights:

When we arrived in Titusville and headed off to get dinner at Pier 220 I was following a pick-up truck and as I sat at a stoplight I noticed my left-hand Motolight auxiliary driving light wasn’t on.  I knew it worked before we left and I also knew the bulb wasn’t all that old, so I assumed there was probably a wiring issue somewhere. After checking the harness connections that sit up against the neck of the frame behind the cowling and confirming they were good I had to assume the wiring issue was at the connector in the light so that would have to wait until I returned home and had the tools and parts needed to make the repair.

Sure enough, when I removed the lens and bulb I found one of the wires to the  2-Pin (GX5.3) connector had corroded and broken away.  I should note, the Motolights on our Road Glide are nearly 6 years old, having been moved over from the 2013 Road King CVO’s.  So, that a connector had corrosion damage after 40k miles of use isn’t a big deal, and I happened to have some spare GX5.3 connector ends from a previous repair on the BMW R1100S’ Motolights, so it was a simple matter of cutting off the old connector, splicing and soldering the new connector in it’s place and then shrink-wrapping the connections.

Infinity Kappa Speaker Grille:

The plastic & wire mesh speaker grilles that came with the Infinity’s Kappa Series 62.11i speakers have been problematic from the start, mostly because the plastic is very brittle and clips break easily and because they were designed to go in a car door not speaker pods on a motorcycle where someone’s lovely read-end bumps up against them all the time.

Regardless, so many of the plastic clips that hold the speaker grille in place had broken off that the cover was now coming loose.  And, on top of that, the steel mesh on both speaker covers was corroded by all of the salt air we experienced in Florida.  Thankfully, I have a spare set of speaker covers that I’m holding in reserve until the corrosion and rust gets so bad that cleaning & touch-up paint can’t hide it.  As for the bracket with the broken clips, I had one good one left at home and it was just a matter of swapping out the bad one.  If I don’t break any more clips on that bracket we’re golden.  If we do, then I’ll need to get creative with some of the other brackets that are designed for recessed installation.

Corrosion Control:

Cleaning 6 days of coastline grime off the motorcycle reminds me why Harley and Harley aftermarket parts suppliers have embraced powder coating for wheels, bars, forks, etc.  It’s amazing just how trashed the finish of a motorcycle can become with all of the salt air, mist and salt-coated grains of sand that gets blasted into every nook and cranny and all of the various materials that make up a motorcycle: paint & powder coated steel, chrome steel, stainless steel, steel, aluminum, lexan, rubber, vinyl, plastic, latex paint & clear coat, etc.  So, no… it’s not as easy as washing and drying the bike: just about every exposed surface on the bike needs to be hand cleaned with some type of compound or polish and, even then, some parts like aluminum bolts will never look right again.  This is why I replaced the aluminum wheels with chrome wheels after our 1st trip to Florida on the Road Glide back in October 2017.

Suffices to say, it took several hours to clean the bike and, after four trips to Florida, the bolts on the front fork that hold the fender and brake calipers in place have taken a beating from the sea salt particles kicked up by the front tire as we ride around in Florida.  While you’d think washing the bike or even riding in the rain would help to wash away the salt particles, what water actually does is to dissolve the grains into a salty, corrosive solution that finds its way into the hidden spaces around bolt holes and threads where it continues to do a lot of damage you only see hints of at the bolt heads.  So, I ended up removing all eight of those bolts on the front forks that were in sad shape and did my best to clean them up.  Thankfully, they all seemed to be salvageable after an hour or so of hand cleaning and machine polishing.  The shafts and threads received a generous coating of waterproof grease and were retorqued with Locktite 242.

 

Bushtec Bearing Failure:

When we stopped for fuel before jumping on the Interstate at Jacksonville, Florida, I looked back at the trailer and saw the left wheel sitting at a very unnatural angle: this was not good!  At first I thought the air shock feed line may have sprung a leak, but the right wheel looked fine.  As I got down and grabbed a hold of the left wheel and found it about to come off the axle I knew we had a much bigger problem, one that might leave us either stranded or abandoning the trailer and taking what we needed with us.  But I’d need to remove the wheel to know more and for some reason I didn’t have an Allen wrench small enough for the four grub screws that held the hub cap in place.

To make a long story short, our guardian angel must have been working overtime for us because:

    • Of all the places where this problem was discovered on the 360-miles we’d ridden so far that day, this particular gas station was right across the street from a Tractor Supply store where I was able to buy the Allen wrench and extra-large adjustable wrench I needed to remove the trailer’s wheel cap and axle nut.
    • When I removed the wheel cap what I found was terrifying: both the inner and outer bearings had disintegrated and there wasn’t anything keeping the wheel on the trailer other than gravity, the bearing spacer and the odd angle the wheel settled in… it could have easily come off of the axle with dire consequences.
    • Amazingly, while the “guts” of the bearings were destroyed, the outer bearing races were still nested in the wheel races so, in theory, a pair of new bearings could be installed in the wheel and we’d be good to go.
    • Right next to the RaceTrac was S&S Automotive, a NAPA partner and full-service garage.  I removed the good wheel and took it along with the wheel that needed bearings to the shop and said, “I think I’m screwed… can you help?” They were awesome!
      • Within two hours they ordered and received the bearings they needed based on reading the bearing ID info from the good wheel, had the old races removed from the wheels and the new bearings installed… all for $145.
    • I walked back to our trailer sitting in the RaceTrac parking lot, installed both wheels — which, thankfully, I know how to do and what tools / torque is required — and we were on our way again.

After returning home I called Bushtec to verify I’ve got all of the maintenance tasks covered for a 17-year old trailer with 25,000 miles, 24,250 of which we’ve put on since buying it from the original owner back in November 2013.  I also bought several sets of wheel bearings for the trailer on line just to make sure (a) I have spares to take on trips, and (b) could put a full set of four on the trailer before our next trip.  The latter is important as, on closer inspection, it looks like the folks at S&S Automotive installed the correct model of bearing, a 6302.  However, it appears to have a 17mm bore instead of the 5/8″ (15.874mm) bore, so it’s actually a little too big.

Thankfully, they were good enough for the balance of our trip but needed to be replaced with the correct size bearings.  As for the right wheel, I installed those bearings a couple years ago and, while they still felt smooth, I wanted to have fresh bearings in both wheels so I changed those out as well.  Both wheels also received new bearing spacers and axle nuts.  I will also make a point of packing a set of spare bearings and the bearing puller and press tools I’d need to replace the bearings when we take future trips, just to be on the safe side.

Tire Cupping:

After getting the bike cleaned I removed the trailer hitch and, while doing so, confirmed what I’d heard and felt during the ride home: the rear tire (as well as the front tire) are both showing early signs of scalloping / cupping with about 9,000 miles of wear. That’s a little bit better than the 7,000 miles of wear I was able to get from the Dunlop D407T/D408 tires I had on our Road Kings. While I’m disappointed with the cupping at 9,000 miles, I’m encouraged they were an improvement.  So, before we head to Key West in July I may replace both the front & rear tires but may try a different brand and model of tire.

My go-to Harley dealer sells tires at a 20% discount with installation for $52, which is not a bad deal.  However, most of the on-line re-sellers are discounting by 34% and offering free shipping, some without sales tax.  Mounting and balancing is about $65, so about $464 vs. $544… an $82 difference and Harley will do more than just mounting the tires so I’ll likely take the bike to Atlanta Harley Davidson for the tire replacement.

Posted in Motorcycle / Equipment | Leave a comment

Weekly Journal: There’s Always Plenty to do; Getting Bored is not a Problem

Well, it was another busy week but at least we spent the entire week at home and that was really nice.  I had a lot of little projects on my to-do list as well as some big rocks, like getting eye-lock with our finance guys on our tax withholding strategy as there was clearly a problem with it and it’s been a drag on our cash flow, never mind putting us in a situation where we could up paying penalties for not withholding sufficient income taxes from my pension payments.  We think we have that sorted out and should have a revised financial plan in hand next week. A had a bit of a scare when my trusty 16-year old chipper/shredder suddenly stopped running as I fired it up to begin chipping up a huge pile of limbs and branches from the Cypress tree’s at the end of the driveway.  Thankfully, it was only the 15-year old spark plug that failed.  Sadly, after the 20,000 mile service our truck still has that annoying rear axle noise and there’s still no clear source for it.  So, at least at this point we’ve clearly documented the existence of the noise so if and when one of the bearings on the rear axle goes bad it should be covered under warranty.  As for the noise, it is what it is and thank goodness I added the sound insulation to the truck since that has made it a lot less noticeable. So far, June is a stay-at-home month for us which is a good thing because July is anything but.  We’re now 5 weeks away from our motorcycle trip down to Key West on July 2nd through the 8th, and then after two days at home we’ll head to Pennsylvania on Thursday July 11th where we’ll spend a night with my folks and then make the very short drive over to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for the Tandems East Tandem Weekend on Friday July 12th through mid-day on the Sunday 14th.  After that it’s back to my folks on Sunday afternoon where we’ll spend 3-4 days with them — including our 26th anniversary on Tuesday, July 16th –– before heading back home on Thursday the 18th or Friday the 19th.  We’re still evaluating a potential 10-day sailing trip  that would begin in St. Thomas on July 22nd through the 31st, which may be a stretch.  We’ll have to make the go / no-go decision on that fairly soon.


Monday:  A Potpourri of Activities

It is so nice waking up in your own home!  I wish we weren’t homebodies, but we are.  I’m never as happy as I am as when we’re surrounded by familiar things and back in a familiar routine.  Yes, boring to some who crave change and adventure, but that’s just not for me… or us.  A trip here and there adds a little variety, but I just don’t yearn to see the world and really never have.  There’s just so much to see here in the good old U.S.A. we haven’t seen.

Anyway, I was up at 6:00am and instead of blogging I began my day crunching numbers on our retirement plan, income, taxes and other related numbers.  We seem to be coming up short in every bucket when looking back at the original plan that gave us the confidence to retire, i.e., the portfolio is not gaining value only off-setting our draw for income.  The income is lower than premised and the withholding for taxes is too low.  So, I’m going to do some analysis of the original plan we signed-on to back 2016, how it looked in 2017 and then again in 2018 when we retired vs. where we are today.  At the same time I also need to look at our spending habits, as we may have under-estimated what happens when you have a lot of leisure time, i.e., increased cost of eating out, drinking cocktails through the week instead of just on the weekends, and extended vacations… although we’ve really not done much of latter.  In fact, that’s part of the rub: we’ve been spending less during the 1st half of 2019 than we did in 2018 when I was still working so we should have had more than enough income to support a couple week long trips on top of the normal travel we do for motorcycle events, tandem rallies and trips to visit my folks.  Anyway, that’s what we have in the weeks ahead.

As far as what actually was accomplished on Monday, as I prepared to move the motorcycle’s trailer back down to the storage shed I decided to tidy up the small container I pack in the trailer with lubricants and rags that are needed to keep everything moving smoothly and where I’d thought I’d had a spare set of bearings but was unable to find them when I needed them in Florida.  Well, son-of-a-gun, they were in there but wrapped-up in such a way that they weren’t readily recognizable. Oh well…  You can bet there are now four spare bearings, a spare axle nut and bearing spacer in there and the necessary tools to replace the bearings for our future trips.  I’ll be pulling the wheels off and inspecting the bearings every 3,000 miles and also giving them a spin every time we stop for fuel on future trips.

With the trailer out of the garage and back in the shed I now had enough room to so some post-tandem rally work on the triplet.  As suspected, the chains are in need of replacement as the triplet with three adults driving the bike clearly put a lot more wear and tear on the chains as compared to a tandem, never mind a single bike. So, I’ll have to order 4 new chains.  The front & rear FSA bottom brackets are also in need of attention.  I’ll have to see if I have the necessary equipment to pull those bearings for cleaning and lubrication.  But, with the cranks and chains pulled and tires removed the triplet got a wipe down and was put back in the rafters for storage until I get the parts needed for the tune-up.

Next up was taking yet another shot at making my Scosche wireless charging SmartPhone holder stay put on the dash.  I’d gotten very close to keeping it attached using two-sided, 30lb adhesive tape after using contact cement to attach the tape to the phone holder.  However, the 90°F heat and direct sunlight hitting the dash finally proved to be too much for the 3M adhesive that held the charger base plate to the dash.  I’d already come up with a design in my head for an aluminum “clip” I’d glue + rivet the wireless chargers base plate to when the charger last came loose on our trip to Pennsylvania in April, but hadn’t resorted to actually using it.  Well, today I did a little fabricating and installed my clip.  I’m feeling really confident about the holding power of this iteration since it’s 90% mechanical and only 10% adhesive.

While I was out doing my thing in the garage Debbie was out in her garden where she discovered the deer had returned and snacked on some of her flowers.  She thought she’d bought deer-proof plants, but apparently some of them are just deer resistant, i.e., they should be all that attractive to deer.  Well, apparently they were.  So, I’ve put one of my ultra-sonic animal repellers right next to her yummy flowers and we’ll also try to catch the deer on the trail cameras so we can see if the flashy/sonic things are doing any good.

Today’s mail brought with it some touch-up paint as well as an aftermarket alarm siren for the Harley. The paint was needed to touch up the right lower fairing following last Tuesday’s tip-over and the alarm siren was something I had on the last two Road King’s and missed on the Road Glide.  All of these motorcycles have a security system, but for some strange reason they leave off the $104 siren.  Well, I didn’t need the $104 siren with the transmitter since I have no need to walk around with the $70 pocket pager that goes off with the alarm, so I found a $19 siren that’s essentially plug & play with the motorcycle’s security system.  As always, I found a more complicated way of installing the siren so that it looked like original equipment and that took 10 times as long to install.  But, I’m happy with the installation and really like having back the audible siren that “chirps” when the bike is turned-on or off to let you and anyone else around that the alarm system is in use and chirps when anyone jostles the bike or goes to a very loud, constant siren if they attempt to move the bike.

Next up was harvesting the front lawn, which as noted in last week’s blog has now gone to seed.  Actually, cutting the lawn without bagging seems to take a bit less effort so it’s not a big deal and thus far the rear yard still only needs to be cut once a week.  With the yard work out of the way I decided to go ahead and wash the truck as it got rained on and sprinkled twice while we were out in Covington at The Georgia Tandem Rally.  Well, that and it was going into Toyota for it’s 20k mile service tomorrow and I like to take the vehicles in as clean as can be to encourage the service department folks to take good care of our vehicles while they’re working with or on them.  I figure a well-kept, clean vehicle suggests the owner will notice if something is not done correctly.

I watered the lawn after washing the car, as we’ve suddenly gone into a very hot and dry period and I’m still trying to get the lawn healthy and green enough to stand up to the heat.  I hate watering, but it’s sometimes a necessary evil.

We had dinner in and then a quiet night at home; pretty much a perfect way to finish up the day.

Tuesday:  Updating the Nixplay Playlists & Dropping the Truck for Service

I began the day updating the Nixplay photo collections with recent photos from Easter, Vivian’s pre-school graduation, Charlotte’s various activities and accomplishments, my birthday week and the Georgia Tandem Rally.  I’ve been thinning out a few of the older ones from the various playlists as well.  I really enjoy having all of the photos cycling through on the various frames around the house.  I did note the Nixplay frame at my parents house went off-line on Monday so we’ll need to let them know that.  I’m guessing the power strip to their computer and WiFi got bumped.

   

Debbie discovered the deer returned again last night making a meal out of several other plants in her gardens.  They stayed away from the garden where I put the ultrasonic animal repeller and moved to a different one. Looking at the trail cameras, the deer certainly aren’t chased-away by the ultrasonic repeller, but they don’t seem to enjoy grazing with the noise and flashing light going and simply move on to a different garden as we saw last night.

Our review of the financials surrounding our retirement plan continues.  I’ve dug out all of the previous plan updates and will likely start building my spreadsheet for analysis around the March 2018 plan that I used to make the decision to retire last June.  Just at a cursory glance there are some fairly obvious gaps between that plan and reality which is troubling.  In fact, we’re making an appointment to see another financial planner with Prudential who comes strongly recommended by our friend Dava, who also works with Prudential in their financial services line of business.

It was around 9:30am when we headed over to Toyota to drop off my truck for a 10:00am service appointment.  Thankfully, I was able to talk with our prior service advisor and now service manager, Zack, as well as Dave, one of his best master techs and team leads, about what service needed to be performed so I’m confident what ever needs to be and can be fixed will be fixed correctly.  Of course, today the truck’s rear axle was about as quiet as its ever been on the drive over, vs. our last road trip to the Carolina’s where it droned the entire way.

On the way home we stopped by a shoe store as Debbie searches for a new pair of casual wedges to replace the ones I repaired about a year ago: I’m amazed they lasted this long as often as she wears them!  We also ran by Costco to pick up a few things.  Back at the house I spent most of my afternoon looking through our retirement plan updates and re-running the numbers on my retirement income stream, taxes, etc., and by late afternoon had a package put together that I sent off to our financial folks.  We’ll chat about it at 10:30am tomorrow.

It was dinner in and a quiet night at home.  We had a great phone call with my folks, covering a wide range of topics.  It sounds like they are both in great spirits and staying busy with yard work, etc.  I tried to troubleshoot the off-line Nixplay picture frame by having my mother unplug and plug it back it to make sure the frame is functioning correctly; it was.  There’s likely an issue with their WiFi router being off-line but without seeing which lights are flashing, what color is flashing or being able to log-in from a computer and see the status of their connection there’s not much I can do.  My gut tells me the WiFi router just needs to be rebooted, i.e., unplugged and plugged back in so it will reset.  Oh well, they’ll just have to enjoy the photos that were on their frame’s playlist as of May 20th until we visit in July.

Given where my head is on our retirement plan, finances, taxes, etc., I had a hard time settling down.  Even binge-watching more “Last Man Standing” episodes and game 6 of the Stanley Cup Playoff series between San Jose and St. Louis which St. Louis handily won didn’t help.

Wednesday: A Follow-Up Conference on our Financial Plan & Taxes 

I finally went to bed around 1:00am and dozed in and out until 2:30am, but apparently slept a few hours before waking up at 6:00am.  We definitely had another visit from the deer last night based on both video evidence and nibbled flowers in the gardens that weren’t protected by the ultrasonic repellers or covered by video.  Perhaps a motion-activated sprinkler or two may be required?  As Debbie notes, we didn’t have this deer problem a few years ago until our neighbor began to garden in his backyard.  He’s given up on his garden…. essentially abandoning it and allowing it to go to weeds, which the deer don’t find all that tasty, but they sure do like the landscaping in our yard which is right on the way to their old garden; ugg!

Our 10:30am phone call with the investment folks was postponed until 4:00pm as they wanted to look at what I’d sent and better understand my concerns.  So, with that, I headed down to the garage and gave Debbie’s Honda an interior cleaning and wash since it hasn’t been getting as much love as the Toyota of late.

After getting her car cleaned up I turned my attention to the triplet and its bottom brackets, which were in need of either a rebuild or replacement.  I happened to have enough left-over O-rings and outer seals from when I overhauled our friend Lisa’s triplet back in July 2012 so I decided to go ahead and pull, clean and re-grease the bearings.  The front bearing grease was pretty nasty under the seals which makes sense since the front bottom bracket ends up being mucked up by all of the dirt and water thrown up by the front wheel.  The rear bearings, on the other hand, looked like new under the seals.  I probably didn’t even need to flush them out and re-grease them, but went ahead and did it anyway. For now, the bottom brackets and cranks are all back together and spinning much better than they did before the rebuild.  All I need to do to have the triplet ride-ready is get some new chains ordered and installed, so that’s next on my to-do list.

Debbie spent the afternoon at her hair appointment and dove into house cleaning as soon as she arrived back at home.  Promptly at 4:00pm Reg and Steve called and we had a good 30-minute long call regarding my concerns over tax withholdings which was really the big issue we were having as it was causing a 20% reduction in our spendable income.  After the call and doing some research Steve called back to let me know they’d figured out why the tax gap developed and what they planned to do to address it, which is to say… which of my accounts would be used as the source for the shortfall and how our Segment #1 account would be kept whole by drawing the taxes from our joint investment account instead.  So, yes… we’re essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul because the plan had a flaw in the tax calculation strategy.  In terms of the long-term performance and lower-than-expected earnings being reflected in the overall portfolio, I think I just want to make sure I keep the pressure on them to make aggressive investments with the larger legacy funds that will yield the upside portfolio growth I need to see given all of our eggs are in the stock market instead of real estate or other investment instruments.

After being mentally exhausted by the telephone call — and I’m sure it’s exhausting for Steve as I truly am a high-maintenance client with a relatively modest portfolio — we headed over to Guston’s for dinner instead of making dinner at home.  We found our friend Marcia there as usual, and about an hour after we arrived our friends Ryan, Jeanette and Bobby showed up.  We had a great time visiting with them and chatting with other folks we met at the bar, the live music was great and we split a delicious “California Club Wrap” off the Green Egg / Chef’s Special Menu:  Turkey, ham, cheddar, bacon, spinach, avocado, tomato and roasted red pepper hummus in a toasted 12″ tortilla wrap.  We headed home around 9:00pm, stopping by McDonald’s to get Debbie (and me) a McFlurry with mini-M&Ms… as if we needed it.

All in all, another great day spent puttering around the house.  We are so looking forward to staying close to home for the Memorial Day Weekend as well, doing our usual Friday night routine, then heading to Ryan & Jeanette’s on Saturday to lounge around their pool, we’ve got nothing planned for Sunday and then there’s a Georgia Tandem Club ride on Monday up near Rome, Georgia.  Sounds great to me!

Thursday:  Yard Work, a visit to the The Red Eyed Mule & Getting the Truck Back

Checking the cameras, we had more visitors yesterday afternoon and overnight but they didn’t appear to be snacking as much as they have in the past.  I think they’ve eaten all of the tasty stuff and aren’t interested in a lot of Debbie’s plants.   My ultrasonic repellers definitely get the deer’s attention, but they certainly aren’t “repelled” by it the way I’d hoped.  So, I’ve moved them from ground level to a height of about 3′ to 4′ using my trail camera mounting stakes and I also moved the cameras so I can figure out which way the deer are coming into the yard.  If it’s from our neighbor’s yard I may install a deer fence behind our split rail fence to keep them from coming in that way, and if it’s from the side yard, I can do the same there.

It was around 10:00am when I heard back from David at Toyota on my truck.  While there still isn’t a definitive cause/effect story on the rear axle harmonics, they were able to fix my “boining” brake spring, apply the proper decal for the ECM update back in January, grease the steering stops to eliminate wheel lock creaking, do the 20,000 mile service and at my request change the rear differential fluid to make sure there wasn’t anything unusual with it: there wasn’t.  I told him we’d come by after noon to pick up the truck and am good with the work they did.  If nothing else we have a good paper trail on a potential rear axle or pilot bushing issue if something comes up in the future, noting the truck has a 100,000 mile / 7-year drivetrain warranty since I purchased it as a certified used car from Toyota.

It was around 11:00am when I headed out to cut the front & back lawn, before the afternoon temperatures make their way into the 90’s: yup, summer’s here and we’re headed into one the warmest Memorial Day weekends in recent history. Thankfully, the lawn is looking a bit healthier with all of the warmer weather which is what our Bermuda and Zoysia grasses thrive on.  I had the lawn done by noon and would do the edging and other yard work in the late afternoon which takes a lot less time.

Not being sure if we’d be in town for lunch tomorrow, we rode the Harley down to The Red Eye Mule for lunch around 12:30pm and much to our surprise saw Sabra’s husband, Joe, working the front door and managing the store.  Sabra was apparently at a sabbatical up in Tennessee and she had Joe come up to mind the restaurant while she was away.  It has been years since we’ve seen Joe and he looked really good, having dropped 52lbs which took years off his appearance.  Here’s hoping everything with Joe & Sabra is good, we really do love them both.  As far as lunch goes, we had one of the best burgers ever!  They cooked it perfectly and the fixings all stayed put when we ate our respective 1/2’s of our burger.  Yup, we’re still splitting most of our meals; just too much food in most servings when we eat out.

We stopped by Toyota and collected the Tacoma on the way home.  Debbie obviously drove the truck home since we’d been out on the motorcycle.  Back at the house I turned my attention to lifting the rear end of the truck that extra 1″ to get it back to level with the front end due to the 190lb A.R.E. Z-Series shell weight that always sits on the rear suspension.  While I know adding a leaf spring is the better way to level a truck, they tend to add 1.5″ to 2″ to the ride height and I only want 1″.  So, given we don’t really do any serious off-roading, I went ahead and ordered a 1″ riser block kit for $49 that I’ll install when it arrives next week and see how that works as I know it will add exactly 1″ of lift to the rear end of the truck, which will hopefully put it back to level with the front end.  More to follow.

After finishing up edging the driveway and sidewalks, trimming away the dead limbs from our azaleas, weeding and spraying weed killer we had dinner and a quiet evening at home.

Friday:  Phase 1 of Trimming Back the Cedar “Trees”

Once again, we made it through another night without a visit by the foraging deer.  At the top of our must-do list was getting in a tandem ride from the house.  We left the house around 9:15am to beat the heat, but it was still a sweltering hot ride.  We did the 25-mile loop and had a few motorists who got a bit too close for comfort so I’ll likely put the cameras back on my helmet for future rides, just in case we need to have any evidence after any kind of incident.  In fact, we saw a car that somehow went off the road and into a ditch and someone’s rear fence along a windy road on the way home.  Clearly, they were not paying attention as I can’t think of any other reason how they could have failed to negotiate that turn.

Back at the house, and despite being the hottest time of the day, I decided it was time to start cutting back the cedar “bushes” that turned into 30′ tall cedar trees: guess I should have kept those trimmed back.  My plan was to cut away all of the low-hanging branches, dead limbs, a few of the larger branches, etc with my powered pole saw and then run all of that material through my chipper.  Well, the trimming went really well but when I fired-up the chipper it started to come to life and then died.  So, I now had a huge pile of large tree trimmings sitting in my front yard and an out-of-commission chipper.  Therefore, my only available option was to cut the branches into smaller pieces using my loping sheers and stuff it into what ended up being five 40-gallon paper yard waste bags that I’ll put out for collection next Friday.  Actually, it took seven 40-gallon bags, but our trash guys came by after I had two bags filled so those went away today.

We headed off to dinner at Guston’s around 5:30pm and had a really, really great time.  We met a younger couple on Wednesday, Adam & Jordan, who arrived about the same as that we did, our neighbors David & Trudy were there along with Eric & Brenda, and several other folks who we chatted with throughout the night.  JB, Candice and the other gal whose name escapes me were working the bar and they’re a joy to be around as well.  It was interesting to see Debbie across the bar chatting with Adam & Jordan, as she and Jordan look like they could be mother/daughter, aunt/niece or sisters.  I think it was around 9:00pm when we headed home and called it a night.  It was a good day, to be sure.

Saturday:

Well another night without a visit by deer; I’m good with that.  Other than making hot wing sauce for a pool party later in the day and doing a bit more clean up out at the curb where I cut back the trees on Friday, it was a relatively quiet morning.

It was around 12:30pm when we loaded up the truck and headed over to our friends Ryan & Jeanette’s for a “lazy day at the pool” with a handful of friends.  Ryan was kind enough to take the larger pieces of cedar off my hands for his burn pit, so that worked well.  We had a good day visiting with our friends and probably should have headed home around dinner time instead of hanging around for the evening as party fatigue definitely set in and I had something of a relapse of my Daytona Bike Week blow-up as I was extremely annoyed by things that really should not have been my concern. I’m sure I’ll have a few fences to mend after speaking my mind a few too many times.

Sunday:

Well, it was race day!  We were able to enjoy having the Grand Prix of Monaco, the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca Cola 600 running in the background all day today while running errands and doing this and that.

We headed over to Loco Willy’s for lunch and had a great time chatting with Christian and some of the usual suspects.  I switched over from straight tequila to frozen margarita’s as our 96°F temps were definitely calling for something more refreshing and sweet to quench my thirst.  From Loco’s we headed over to Ryan & Jeanette’s so I could pick up my iPod and we spent a good hour just sitting and chatting with them.  We had a great time, as always.

After making our way home Debbie decided she’d really like to have some authentic Mexican food for dinner; a chicken enchilada to be specific.  I rattled off the names of a few places and then suggested she give our friends David & Deb a call to see what they were up to or where they were.  Amazingly, they were at Cielo Blue Cantina, a new Mexican restaurant about 10 minutes away from our home near Aspens at the Avenue’s in West Marietta.  They’d just sat down and were having cocktails so we high-tailed it over.  It was a really nice place, albeit a little pricey.  But we hadn’t visited with David & Deb for what seemed like over a month so it was a joy to spend time with them.  It truly capped off our weekend.

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Motorcycling: Adding Non-OEM Audible Alarm to Road Glide

It’s a little thing, but with our 2017 Road Glide I’ve been missing the reassuring “chirp” that came from the security system’s siren on our 2013 Harley-Davidson Road King CVO’s whenever the ignition was turned on or off, or if the bike got jostled.  And, heaven forbid someone try to start or move it while the security system was armed, triggering the 108db piezo siren.

Just about every Harley touring bike 2002 sold since 2002 has come with an integrated security system and most of those security systems are wired for a siren; you just need to have the siren module and plug it in.  Our Road King CVO’s came with all of the bells and whistles including the alarm siren, but not the Road Glide Ultra. As to why the siren is not standard, hey…. it’s something else an owner can buy to “fix” or “finish” things Harley opted to go cheap on like the mirrors, bulbs, certain pieces of hardware, grips, etc.  So, i could have bought the OEM Harley Siren II for $95, which incorporates both a siren and an FM transmitter that allows it to communicate with the $75 wireless, battery powered or rechargeable OEM Harley Pager Receiver II so I’d be made aware when someone has moved or attempted to start our Harley.

Well, I really didn’t want to spend $95 or even $75 at Surdyke for a siren with a transmitter I’d never use and opted to go an inexpensive aftermarket siren that seems to get rave reviews for it’s simple plug & play design and performance / reliability.  There are less expensive piezo sirens out there that ship from China over several weeks, but you either need to buy and install the bullet connectors or splice into the Harley’s wiring harness to connect them.  Well, by the time you buy the bullet connectors the cost savings over the middle-ground solution is erased and forget splicing into the Harley wiring system, that’s just asking for trouble given how much moisture gets funneled into the core of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Anyway, the siren I purchased arrived 2 days after I ordered it and it was exactly as described: a simple plug and play.  And, while I could have easily done just that, I opted to do a little better job of attempting to make it look like a factory installation by double-insulating the wiring with shrink wrap and then drilling a couple holes in the left-side electrical housing  that allowed me to route the wires into the storage socket for the siren wiring connector such that it would continue to be a weather-resistant installation.  The siren body is simply attached to the right side wall of the somewhat large, Harley Siren II opening with double stick tape. All it required was removing a few components from the left-hand electrical housing, loosening the housing and drilling two 1/8″ holes, as well as applying shrink wrap to the positive and negative wire leads.  Once it was put back together the average bike owner would be hard pressed to even know a siren had been installed, as the piezo siren is very small, black and looks right at home in the side panel, the wiring is hidden from view and the factory wiring connector is still nested in it’s storage socket.

And, yes… it’s nice having the reassuring chirp back and something a bit more “alarming” than just flashing lights if someone attempts to move or start the bike.

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Weekly Journal: Beginning my 60th Year and The Georgia Tandem Rally

We had a good week eating out a bit more often than usual in part to celebrate my birthday on Tuesday and because we headed out of town on Thursday for a 3-day tandem cycling rally about 1.5 hours away in Covington, Georgia.  Of course, the highlight over every week is getting to spend every day with the love-of-my-life, Miss Debbie.  But, it also makes for a very special week when we get to visit with friends.  While we missed seeing our “besties” David & Deb as our paths just having been crossing for the past few weeks, we did get a night out with our dear friends Ryan & Jeanette and also saw our friend Marcia twice.  While we missed our usual nights-out at Guston’s and Loco Willy’s on Friday and Saturday, we more than made up for it by seeing and spending time with many long-time, dear friends as well as literally hundreds of other friends and acquaintances from our 22-years of tandem cycling and 74 tandem cycling rallies, including 21 Georgia Tandem Rallies.  Wow, that’s just hard to believe!  I was also able to get our trailer back in tip-top shape with all new bearings, bearing spacers and axle nuts for both wheels and a few other thing taken care of.  However, I’m still putting off some of my bigger projects and need to stop that!  We’ve got a dead oak tree that needs to come down, a driveway that needs to be repaired, the master bath shower that needs to be torn-out and rebuilt and a bunch of interior painting in the queue.  There’s a bunch of other stuff in the yard that needs attention as well.  So, it’s probably time for me to get crackin’ on some of these things.


Monday:

It looks like we’ll have very nice weather this week, which we sorely need.  However, it could be cool in the mornings, at least on a couple days.  But cool is fine along as the sun is shining.  Here’s hoping it holds out through next weekend so we can get in three days of dry riding at the Georgia Tandem Rally.

Speaking of rallies, we told our friend Bobby to go ahead and book a condo for Thunder Beach in late October, noting we’ll have until August 25th to change our minds.  However, at least at this point Debbie and I are definitely looking forward to getting back down to Panama City Beach.  We just wish it wasn’t so late in the year, it was a lot warmer when they held it in late September and early October.

It was around 10:30am when we headed out on the tandem to enjoy the lovely weather. Again, it was a little cool when we started out and we could have stood to wear arm warmers.  But, it was sunny and we had a nice, much-needed 25-mile ride.

We were back at the house a little before noon and as soon as we returned home I confirmed my hair stylist, Ivanka, was working and headed down for a haircut.  I can always tell when it’s been six weeks, as I start to get “wings” over my ears.  She did a great job, as always, and I resisted the urge to have it cut really short, as I know Debbie isn’t fond of that look.  Last time I did that folks who only saw photos were concerned I’d contracted an illness: whoops!  Guess that’s what you get with very short, graying hair.

Next up was fixing the commode in the guest bath that began acting up on Sunday.  Those “flappers” just don’t seem to last more than a year or two at best and while trying to fix that I was reminded the water inlet valve was also faulty.  Sadly, the way I discovered the faulty valve was by finding the guest bathroom floor covered in water and, well, sure enough… it caused some damage to the family room ceiling.  This will be the 4th time we’ve had a water issue in the guest bath that has caused damage to the family room ceiling.  I think I used a standard ceiling paint this time so perhaps I’ll be able to do a minor repair and touch-up instead of having to paint the entire ceiling again; ugg.  It’s always something.

While I was getting my hair cut and fixing the plumbing Debbie was out digging in the dirt.  She had one more spot where she wanted to have some color and height to hide the neighbor’s unkept yard.  I guess I’m up next in that it’s time to order about 8 yards of pine bark nuggets to refresh our ground cover around all of the various gardens and plantings.

We decided to go to Loco Willy’s for dinner and will likely go to Henry’s tomorrow for my birthday and then Guston’s on Wednesday for ladies night and live music before heading out of town for Thursday through Sunday or perhaps even Monday.  It’s kind of Mark Fest all in one week, which is fine by me. I’m not big on my birthday for some reason, so spending a week not making dinner at home — which is about as costly for two as it is to eat out… aside from cocktails, that is — will be a nice change of pace.

Of course, seeing the Dow Jones index drop 600 point today didn’t do much for my enthusiasm about our finances.  It seems like every time we meet with our finance guys the market and our retirement fund takes a 3% – 5% drop within the next week and that’s exactly what happened since last Tuesday’s meeting.  This on top of me beating myself up for not being smarter about treating our home like part of our investment portfolio and “moving up” every 5-10 years to build equity and move into better neighborhoods.  We love our house, but the value is just stagnant because of our neighborhood.  We should have moved 20 years ago when it was still mostly home owners who took pride in their homes instead of being 30% leased with occupants who could care less about building equity.  I’m guessing we’d be in a home worth double what this one is by now which would have put us in a much better position in terms of making a a move to a true “retirement home” where cost wouldn’t be as much of a constraint as it is now.  Oh well…  hindsight is 20/20.

Back at the house I washed last weekend’s rain and muck off the truck since we’re looking at a week or more of dry weather.  The red color hides light dirt well, but the metallic paint looses it’s sparkle and I like the sparkle… at least for now that is.  Once the newness wears off it may not get this much attention.

The rest of the evening was spent reading and watching the Stanley Cup match between the San Jose Sharks and the St. Louis Blues, with the Blues taking the match 4-2 to tie the series.  The Boston Bruin’s are leading their play-off series against the Carolina Hurricane’s 2 games to none with game 3 on Tuesday night.

Tuesday:

Well, it’s my birthday today and I never get all that excited about it or even ask for anything special.  I treat it pretty much like any other day.  However, for this year’s birthday Debbie suggested we “take the day off” and head north on the motorcycle, have some lunch and then spend a couple hours by the pool at our little mountain resort before heading back home in the afternoon.

It was around 10:15am when we headed out on what was a coolish morning, cool enough that we needed to wear jackets and gloves.  For some reason I decided I needed to top-off the fuel in the Harley and stopped at an Chevron station in Acworth. When I pulled up to the pump I had a heck of a time getting the kick stand down and it didn’t dawn on me just how steeply banked the pavement was until the motorcycle fell over as I got went to get off.  It fell hard with Debbie still aboard. Thankfully, Debbie was only shaken and unharmed.  The bike was mostly saved by the front & rear crash bars but sitting… well, lying there at a downhill angle which made it nearly impossible for me to get up. Thankfully, a gentleman came over and helped me stand it back up.  Embarrassing, but as he said… it happens to all of us.  I moved the bike to a different pump that didn’t have a steep bank along side it, filled the tank and then we continued on our way.

The ride up to the mountains was not as relaxing as I’d hoped as we ran into all kinds of weekday truck traffic.  Yes, the rest of the world was busy working and we ended up behind a string of solid waste trucks headed to a landfill out in the boonies.  Oh well, we made the best of it.  It was a little after noon when we reached an Applebee’s along Highway 19 in Dawson County where we had our usual fare: the won ton chicken taco’s.  A fairly light and healthy lunch.  From there we made our way to the resort and pretty much had the pool to ourselves with perhaps five other people out enjoying the warm sun for a few hours.  It was around 3:30pm when we realized we’d probably gotten more than enough sun and pointed the bike back towards home.  Thankfully, it was an uneventful ride, other than a bit of heavy work day traffic as we got close to home.

We decided to go to Loco Willy’s for some Ahi Poke and that turned out to be a mistake. I’m not sure what the deal was, but instead of one of the guys working the bar we had the two gals who tend bar taking care of us.  And, when I say taking care of us it was anything less than attentive care.  Suffices to say, after a cocktail we headed over to Guston’s for dinner.  We ran into our friend Marcia at Guston’s, had our usual gals, JB and Candice, taking care of us at the bar and split a delicious rib eye steak for dinner. Just a great evening and a great way to wrap up my birthday.

Wednesday:

Given we’ll be headed out of town Thursday afternoon for The Georgia Tandem Rally in Covington, Georgia, on Friday through Sunday, job #1 today was getting the lawn cut.  It’s the time of year when the Bermuda grass begins going to seed so I’m pretty sure I’ll need to mow it again when I get home on Sunday or Monday.  That, and having just put down 10-10-10 fertilizer on the front yard, there’s a good chance it will grow a bit faster than normal.  On the bright side, since it’s going to seed I can mulch so the seeds go back into the yard, at least in theory.

With the yard cut, my next “gotta do” was to go and get a new gas cap for the Harley.  I neglected to mention I had the gas cap off and in my hand when the bike toppled over on Tuesday and, well, lets just say it got damaged.  I was able to use it to keep the fuel in the tank for our ride, but it was venting through the cap so I had the pleasure of breathing gas fumes all day on Wednesday on our ride and over night the garage became filled with fumes.  I figured every Harley dealer would have a couple fuel caps in stock and headed down to Hellbender Harley in Marietta since it was closer than my preferred dealership, Atlanta Harley in Lithia Springs.  Well, son of a gun… Hellbender’s parts system said they had one in stock but they could’t find it.  So, what should have been a 23-mile round trip became a 43-mile trip when I had to go to Atlanta Harley to get the cap.  Actually, it wasn’t a big deal as it would have been a 40-mile round trip if I went to Atlanta Harley first.

Back at the house I went ahead and pulled the old bearings out of the trailer wheels in anticipation of receiving the new bearing spacers I’d ordered from Bushtec that afternoon or perhaps early on Thursday.  As I suspected, the new SKF bearings installed in the left-hand wheel when we were in Florida were the correct 6203 series bearings, but they had a 17mm bore instead of the slightly smaller 5/8″ bore spec’d for the trailer axles.  It was good enough to get us home, but something I needed to correct with the new premium quality 6203 bearings I’d bought on line with the correct 5/8″ bore.  I also pulled the bearings in the right-hand wheel I’d installed a couple years ago so I’d have the piece of mind of knowing both wheels had fresh, high-quality bearings that were correctly sized for our axles.  Sadly, the spacers didn’t arrive today so the wheels will likely sit for a few days until the spacers arrive and we return home from our tandem rally.

We ended up going back to Guston’s for dinner where we met our friends Ryan & Jeanette and Marcia.  We had dinner at a four-top table and as we were finishing up with dinner 4 seats opened up at the bar that allowed us to move over for the rest of the evening while visiting with our friends and live music.  Just a great night.


Thursday:

Today was departure day for The Georgia Tandem Rally.  Normally, if a cycling event or the first day of an event is within a couple of hour’s drive we’ll just get up early and drive to the event so we don’t have to spend an extra night in the hotel.  Not only is it a bit costly, we just don’t sleep well when we’re away from home.  Of course, I don’t usually sleep well the night before we need to go anywhere either.  Regardless, I didn’t want to mess with Atlanta traffic on Friday morning so our plan was to make the hour and a half drive over to Covington, Georgia, in the early afternoon vs. being stuck in traffic for an addition 30 – 45 minutes at just about any other time when the sun is up.

With that ahead of us, job #1 for today was putting the Yakima rack back on the truck, loading the triplet and then loading all of our cycling related equipment and gear.  It’s amazing how much “stuff” I still tend to take to rallies, but I’d rather have most of my tools, a repair stand and spare parts on hand to address any issues we have with the tandem vs. bothering the one technical support guy, our friend Ric, from The House of Tandems in Houston, Texas, who makes the drive over to Georgia every May with his wife Marcia to provide support for the rally.

As I was putting the tandem up on the truck our lawn maintenance guy came by to treat the yard so I took the opportunity to let him know we were really disappointed with how the lawn was looking this year.  I also let him know I’d put down some 10-10-10 fertilizer and fungicide last Friday, as well as spot treating a bunch of other “brown spots” in both the front & back yards.  I’d asked if they do any soil analysis to make sure the yard was getting the right blend of fertilizers and he said he didn’t think so, but that he’d talk to Tom, the owner and Wesley’s friend from his days working at a local golf course, to come and take a look at the yard.  He also went ahead and treated the yard with some additional fungicide during his treatments.  Hopefully the lawn will begin to respond and bounce back.

Today’s mail had a bonus surprise for me as it included the decals I’d ordered that would allow me to recolor the TRD logos on the Tacoma’s center hub covers from red to matte black. These were honest-to-goodness decals and not vinyl stickers so with any luck they’ll last for several years.  It took me about 30 minutes to apply all 12 decals to the four hub covers — 3 letters per cover — and I let them “cook” in the sun for the full two hours before we headed off to Covington.  They suggest 24 hours for full cure, so I was relieved when we arrived in Covington as all 12 of the decals were still firmly affixed to the hub covers.  I’m really happy with how they look on the wheels and I think it makes the wheels look a bit better on the truck.  Well, actually, it makes Debbie a bit happier with how the wheels look: that’s the real objective with a goal of not having to buy yet another set of wheels and tires as i did on the Tundra.  We’ll see.

We left the house at 12:30pm after having some lunch and arrived in Covington shortly after 2:00pm, with just the usual traffic right when we got on the Interstate near Marietta, Georgia: it’s always a mess.  We visited a bit with friends at the hotel and wandered over to Chili’s Grille and Bar right next to the hotel for cocktails and dinner around 5:30pm.  Our friend and riding companion on the triplet Lisa joined as around 6:30pm for dinner.  It was a nice time and it was really nice not having to get in the truck and drive anywhere.  We retired back to the hotel just before 8:00pm to watch Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes, noting we’re pulling for Boston: I’d just like to see them take home the World Series, Super Bowl and Stanley Cup in the same year!  And, they’re almost there, as they swept Carolina in their series, 4 games to none.

Friday:

Note: The best photos from the rally have yet to be posted by the folks who took most of the photos, so look for them in the future.

Neither of us slept all that well; what a surprise.  It was around 7:00am when we finally got ourselves up and headed down to have breakfast before our 8:00am departure for the remote start to Friday’s ride from Social Circle.  Breakfast was your typical hotel fare and we were at the remote start by 8:35am, giving us plenty of time to get the triplet off the truck and ready to ride.

We opted to go with the 45-mile route vs. the 32-mile or 60-mile options, as we didn’t want to overdue it on the 1st day of the event, but we also didn’t want to finish too early.  Well, and there were some folks who we wanted to ride with who would also be doing the 45-mile route.  We jockeyed between different groups on the first 28 miles of the ride — friends from Florida, the Carolina’s and elsewhere — and after the store stop at 28 miles finished up the last 18 miles riding with long-time friends Eric & Linda and Roger & Eve.

We first met them back in August 1997 right after buying our 1st tandem and have been riding with them ever since, dear friends to be sure.   It was a good day on the bike, with sunny weather and warm temperatures; well, ok: the heat caught us off guard.  We jumped from essentially high 70’s to low 80’s on our rides thus far in 2019 to 90+ degrees today.  Lisa was her usual chatty self and Debbie was, as always, an attentive and polite listener.  We had to make a few adjustments to riding positions on the bike that will hopefully make us feel a bit stronger on the climbs tomorrow as they were a bit of a struggle today.

After the ride we headed over to Hot Rod’s Diner behind the Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle for lunch with our riding companions and were also joined by other long-time friends Jack & Susan who are also the dealers who sold us our first tandem back in August 1997.  We definitely picked the right place for lunch!  We had a great time in a very fun and casual setting, were served quickly and the meals were all perfect… portion and quality!

Back at the hotel I pulled the triplet off the top of the truck and put it in the storage room on the off chance we’d get an afternoon shower and so it would be easier to access in the morning.  After that I changed into my swimsuit and headed down to the pool to do a little reading and relax… while staying out of Debbie’s hair while she cleaned-up, washed her hair and got ready for the evening.

As for the late afternoon, we headed over to Amici’s on the square in Covington, GA, where the GTR folks we having an afternoon social.  We had a great time and ended up staying there for dinner.

We also made a stop at Scoop’s Ice Cream parlor to get our GTR sweet fix for the weekend.  From there we headed back to the hotel — noting that a thunderstorm did pass through the area — and finished the night watching the Stanley Cup playoff series between the San Jose Sharks and the St. Louis Blues. The St. Louis Blues won sending the series into at least two more games in the best of seven series to determine which team will face the Boston Bruins.  I also had a really nice chat with Ric and Marcia Becker while Debbie was watching the game. Always such a good time talking tandems and cycling with Ric and Marcia.

Saturday:

It was another night were I got a few hours of sleep and Debbie may have gotten even a few more than I did.  But, in general, neither of us slept all that well.  It was around 7:00am when we finally got up and headed down to breakfast so we’d be ready to ride at 8:30am.  After eating I got the triplet out of the bike storage room and put it outside so it would be out of the way as the hotel lobby began to fill up with people and other bikes coming out of their rooms.

We did the middle length option of 46 miles vs. the shorter 31 or longer 60 so that we’d be sure to have lunch around noon, avoid being out riding during the hottest part of the day and also have some strength left in our legs for Sunday’s ride.  All three routes included a stop for biscuits in the town of Jersey at the Buckeye restaurant.  We rode the 1st 15 miles with our friends Duncan & Laura, Greg & Angela and a few other teams whom we’ve met at previous rallies but whose names escape me.  After the biscuit stop we rode the balance of the 30 miles with our friends Eric & Linda.  Lunch was served at a small nature preserve a few miles from the hotel, the same place where they held an ice cream social at the last rally in Covington back in 2009.  It was somewhat different fare, featuring build your own fajita’s with cookies and brownies for desert.

The last two miles of the ride back to the hotel were a bit of a challenge as it was a stead uphill ride.  But, we made it and then headed down to the pool to relax for a bit.  We also spent some time visiting with our friends Ducan and Laura from Wilimington, North Carolina, and looking at the slide show from the spring garden show they hosted at their home — it was truly amazing — before getting cleaned up for the Saturday evening banquet at 5:00pm.  It was just a short drive over to the North Carolina Technical School facility where the banquet was held and we had a nice visiting with a few friends and shared our tables with Geri & Wayne, a truly lovely and fun couple from Taccoa, Georgia, who we get to see at several events each year and the BBQ buffet was really quite good.  There was a running slideshow of photos taken during the rally so, as noted earlier, we’ll have some more to add in the future, such as the one that our friend Geri caught of us from the slide show… as well as her photo of us from dinner.

After that it was another quiet night at the hotel, sadly… without any hockey.  Yes, tandem rally crowds aren’t exactly attended by folks who go out in search of night life on Friday and Saturday nights.  Probably a good thing since we all need to get up before 7:00am and be ready to ride 30 to 60 miles by 8:30am.

Sunday:

Well, it was another night of less than sound sleep.  I’m so anxious to get back home and, quite frankly, stay there for a few weeks.  In fact, I’m thinking that may be my plan for the balance of May and June: just stay home and pass on any nights away for the next six weeks.  At least as I write this that sounds like a really attractive option, but always subject to change: I have a weak constitution.

Anyway, today was pretty much the same routine as yesterday other than having to make sure we would be back to the hotel, showered and checked-out by 11:00am.  With that in mind, we pre-packed before the ride and we opted to ride the shorter, 25-mile route.  It was really a great ride, mostly because we ended up riding with our long-time friends, Roger & Eve.  It was a beautiful route and even on the triplet we tend to ride at a tempo that is very compatible with Roger & Eve. There were some other folks who joined-in along the way, but it was mostly just the five of us until the gas station rest stop at the 18-mile mark where a lot of the folks on the 25-mile route began to congregate after we arrived and a fairly large group photo was taken, quite similar to one we took 10 years ago on the very same ride.

We were back at the hotel by 10:20am and as I put the triplet up on top of the truck Debbie headed up to get her shower and finish packing.  Thankfully, I’ve been able to better refine my triplet loading technique thus avoiding any further paint blemishes to the truck.  I was up in the room, showered and had our bags back down at the car by 10:45am. All we needed to do before heading home was to bid adieux to our friends Lisa, Roger, Eve, Eric, Linda, Ric, Marsha and a few others.  With the goodbyes taken care of it was a relatively easy drive back towards home.  We stopped at Loco Willy’s for lunch at 12:30am and had a good time chatting with Christian as we enjoyed some fabulous ribs, fries and coleslaw.  It was just what we needed.  It was a bit after 2:00pm before we got home and began unloading, putting away and cleaning-up after our tandem weekend.

I spent a little time finishing up the trailer wheel bearing installation as the bearing spacers had arrived while we were gone.  So, the trailer will go back to the garden shed for the next six weeks until we pull it out for our trip to Florida.  I need to give the triplet a good looking over before I put it away just to make sure anything that needs attention such as chains or bottom bracket bearings can be addressed before our next outing, most likely in late September.

Other than that, it was a quiet night at home with dinner in and another “Last Man Standing” marathon; what a great show.  Debbie spent a bit of her evening time napping on the couch before heading up to bed around 10:30pm, I followed around 12:30am after doing some on-line research on taxes and what not as we work to sort out our retirement income streams, tax withholdings and portfolio performance.  Right now it appears we’re not drawing the level of spendable income that the plan called for and are also under withholding on income taxes which will further draw down our spendable income.  So, I plan on spending the next week building spreadsheets that layout the plan we signed-up for vs. how we’re actually doing against that plan and will also take a look at how and where we’re spending our precious income as it would appear we’ve definitely been eating-out more often which is not inexpensive since we usually have a cocktail or two even when it’s just the two of us.  Add in a friend or two and, well… yeah: the cost of eating out goes up accordingly.

 

 

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Weekly Journal: May Showers Give Us a Damp Weekend

Coming off of last weekend’s trip that had us either working around or riding through a bit of rain, we had a fairly nice week.  That was, right up and until the weekend when the rain returned in time to cause the cancelation of our Saturday triplet ride up on South Carolina.  Oh well, you roll with the punches.

Otherwise, it was just an average week with various things we needed to take care of.  Monday was spent cleaning up after our 6-day trip to Florida, as in doing laundry, cleaning the motorcycle and fixing a few things on the motorcycle that needed fixing after our trip, i.e., ordering new bearings for the trailer as a permanent fix to the repairs made in Florida, repairing a driving light, fixing a speaker lid cover and ordering Debbie some smaller cheek pads for her full face helmet to give her a better, more comfortable fit.  We had a meeting with our financial advisors on Tuesday morning and attended Caroline’s end of school year orchestra concert on Tuesday night.  Wednesday saw us back on the tandem for a 25-mile ride and Thursday was yard care and getting the three-seat tandem ready for the next two weekends of riding.  Friday we made the drive up to South Carolina to visit with our friend Lisa ahead of a one-day cycling event on Saturday.  As noted, the cycling event was cancelled due to thundershowers so we headed back home and will hope for better weather at next weekend’s Georgia Tandem Rally.


Monday: Post-Trip Clean-Up & Maintenance

Well, let me be the first to say… getting the crud during your vacation does not leave you feeling rested and rejuvenated.  We both woke up last Wednesday after a restless night with a persistent hack, the kind that’s really persistent when you’re lying down and trying to sleep.  Neither one of us have had a good, restful night of sleep since then so we’re both feeling a bit fatigued as we begin a new week.  Debbie did get a little relief and some sleep with the help of NyQuil whereas I limited myself to daytime DM-type cough syrup.

Anyway, today was mostly about getting caught up and cleaning up.  I began the day at 6:30am updating financial ledgers, paying bills on-line via our Morgan Stanley accounts, ordering a new credit card to replace the one I’d left at Rocky’s Pizzeria in Flagler Beach, ordering smaller cheek pads for Debbie’s full-face helmet and, of course, finishing up last week’s journal.  Debbie started to work her way through the laundry, tending to and watering her outdoor plants while also trying to rest and keep from coughing.

It was reassuring that a few thing were going my way early:

  • The new HP Printer works really well as it’s much faster and produces better-looking printouts than the Epson printer it replaced.
  • HJC Helmets does, as suspected, make replacement cheek pads for its full line of helmets so I was able to order Debbie a pair of 17mm thick ones to replace the 27mm thick ones that came in her Small-size helmet. They were putting too much pressure on her cheekbones so I had to do some field modifications to remove some of the padding before our trip home since I knew she’d need to be wearing that helmet for a couple hours during the rain.  The new ones should be here in a few days.
  • I was able to cancel and order a new Citibank credit card on line with just a few clicks and the replacement will be here tomorrow.  I also called and confirmed Rocky’s Pizzeria had my Citibank Card and I asked them to destroy it.

There was, of course, all of the motorcycle gear to put away, some of which still needed to finishing drying out.  So, all of the rain gear was put out on the back porch with the gloves sitting out on the retaining wall in the sun so they would dry all the way through.  The helmet liners were removable so those were actually dry by this morning and, well, I just chucked-out the cheek pads from Debbie’s helmet since new ones are coming.  After that it was pulling all the leather and heated gear out and getting it back into it’s proper closet for storage until…  July?  Most likely.

With all of that behind me I finally began the laborious process of cleaning 6 days of coastline grime off the motorcycle.  It’s amazing just how trashed the finish of a motorcycle can become with all of the salt air, mist and salt-coated grains of sand that gets blasted into every nook and cranny and all of the various materials that make up a motorcycle: paint & powder coated steel, chrome steel, stainless steel, steel, aluminum, Lexan, rubber, vinyl, plastic, latex paint & clear coat, etc.  So, no… It’s not as easy as washing and drying the bike: just about every exposed surface on the bike needs to be hand cleaned with some type of compound or polish and even then some parts like aluminum bolts will never look right again.  This is why I replaced the aluminum wheels with chrome wheels after our first trip to Florida on the Road Glide back in October 2017.  Suffices to say, it took several hours to clean and after four trips to Florida there are still a few stainless steel bolts that need to be replaced or at least removed, deep-cleaned and then re-installed.

After getting the bike cleaned I removed the trailer hitch and, while doing so, confirmed what I’d heard and felt during the ride home: the rear tire (as well as the front tire) are both showing signs of scalloping / cupping and pretty close to needing replacement with about 9,000 miles of wear.  That’s a little bit better than the 7,000 miles of wear I was able to get from the Dunlop D407T tires I had on our Road Kings. While I’m disappointed I didn’t get more life out of these tires, I’m encouraged they were an improvement.  So, before we head to Key West in July I’ll replace both the front & rear tires but may try a different brand and model of tire.

I also did some trouble-shooting on one of the two Motolight / auxiliary lights that went dark during our trip.  I noticed it was out when I pulled up behind a pickup truck in Titusville and didn’t see the expected reflection of the lower left light.  Not having the special wrench or the spare MR16 specialty bulb needed to fix a possibly burnt-out light, I had to wait until I was back home to investigate.  Well, it turns out the light had a bad connector.  I should note, the pair of Motolights on our Road Glide started off on our 2013 Road King, so they are nearly 6 years old.  That a connector had corrosion damage after 40k miles of use isn’t a big deal, and I happened to have some spare MR16 connector ends, so the repair was a simple matter of cutting off the old connector, splicing and soldering the new connector in it’s place and then shrink-wrapping the connections.

While I was doing this Debbie ran out to the grocery store to pick up some steaks for dinner that I threw on the grill around 7:15pm.  It was dinner at the elegant hour for us, but so good to be at home having dinner!!

Tuesday:  Quarterly Tag Up with Financial Advisors

Sadly, it was another sleepless night for both of us. However, our respective bouts with the crud and the associated hacking seems to be subsiding a bit so there’s hope that more restful nights are just ahead.

We left the house at 9:00am for our 10:00am appointment with our Morgan Stanley financial advisors, Steve & Reg, down at their offices in the Terminus Building in Atlanta.  We should have probably scheduled the meeting for 11:00am instead of 10:00am to allow traffic to die down a bit as Interstate 75 south was a mess as always through Marietta. What is it about Marietta and McDonough, Georgia with Interstate 75?  Anyway, by making some tactical lane changes we kept moving and didn’t lose that much time on the drive and arrived at their offices around 10:10am.  It was a good meeting where we discussed taxes, as we need to figure out the best way to cover income tax on my pension payout.  Somehow that was never fully addressed so we’ll do some homework on penalty thresholds and quarterly vs. annual catch-up payments vs. an additional withholding.  We also discussed overall portfolio performance, which strikes me as lagging, but I’m told we’re actually doing just fine with 10.5% returns year-to-date. We also discussed moving some of our stock holdings into real estate investment trusts.  We’ve got some homework to do on those things but, overall, a good visit.  I think I’m going to build a spreadsheet to independently chart our portfolio growth vs. the original plan along with taxes, medical, spendable income, etc. just to see how really close it’s tracking. My gut tells me, we’re off plan and taking home less income than originally agreed upon, and that’s with a much lower monthly cost for healthcare and, at least for the past year, with not enough taxes being withheld. So, something’s not quite right.  It’s not significantly off track, but enough to be bothersome to me since we’re just a year into the plan.

We came back home for lunch and something in my steak over Caesar salad did not agree with my stomach so I was not feeling great or energetic in the early afternoon.  I was able to do a little more work cleaning up the Harley and also did some work on the trailer, but in short steps as I kept finding I needed to go rest: I was simply drained of energy.

However, while resting I was able to call Bushtec to verify I’ve got all of the maintenance tasks covered for a 17-year old trailer with 25,000 miles, 24,250 of which I’ve put on since buying it from the original owner back in September 2013.  I also ordered several sets of wheel bearings for the trailer on line just to make sure (a) I have spares to take on trips, and (b) can put a full set of four on the trailer before our next trip so I can be confident I have the correct size of fresh bearings on the trailer.  On closer inspection, it looks like the folks at S&S Automotive installed the correct model of bearing, a 6302.  However, it appears to have a 17mm bore instead of the 5/8″ (15.874mm) bore, so it’s actually a little too big.  Thankfully, it was good enough for the balance of our trip but it needs to be replaced with the correct size bearing.  As for the right wheel, I installed those bearings a couple years ago and, while they still feel smooth, I’m thinking I’d like to have fresh bearings in both wheels so I’ll change those out as well.  I’ll also get some new 5/8″ axle nuts and I need to see if Bushtec will sell me a new axle spacer as the other one took a beating when the bearings failed.  It seems dimensionally fine, but…  better safe than sorry.

I also did a little more research on new tires for the Harley.  My go-to Harley dealer sells tires at a 20% discount with installation for $52, which is not a bad deal.  However, most of the on-line re-sellers are discounting by 34% and offering free shipping, some without sales tax.  Mounting and balancing is about $65, so about $464 vs. $544… an $82 difference and Harley will do more than just mount the wheels.  So, I’ve got some additional homework to do.

By the middle of the afternoon I was feeling a bit more energetic so I washed my little red truck.  I’ll need to schedule it for the 20,000 mile service the week of 19 May. This is also when we’ll need to come to a conclusion on the rear axle noise, which has, as expected, gotten a bit louder and now presents a bit of a vibration.  This is also my last free service, as the truck was originally purchased new in June 2017 and came with 2 years of free service.

After a light dinner at home we headed over to the Durham Middle School where Caroline was playing her violin in the 6th grade orchestra spring program.  Wesley & Julie were there, but the other three girls were with Patrick and Belva.  It was a nice little concert, just under an hour-long.  It’s amazing how many kids they have playing in just the 6th grade orchestra; it’s easily 3 times as many kids as were in my high school’s orchestra.

Back at the house we finished out the night watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where the St. Louis Blue’s defeated the Dallas All-Stars in the 2nd overtime period.

Wednesday:  Tandem Ride & More Motorcycle Maintenance

Like most days, I started off updating my to-do list.  I’ve stopped printing it out and putting it on the refrigerator every day to save ink and paper and just do the strikeouts and write-ins on my laptop. It’s really helpful having that in front of me every day for a variety of reasons…  to include making sure I don’t find myself adding a “find a job to keep me busy” item on the list.  So far, I’ve had zero interest in getting back into any kind of a working situation as I do like making my own schedule and don’t want to find myself having to request time or days off at this point in my life.  Volunteer work is something I’m interested in doing as well, but again… on a non-interference basis.

Although it’s not on my to-do list, I remind mindful my attorneys still haven’t submitted the demand letter on my personal injury claim on the November 2017 motorcycle accident.  Again, it’s not a lucrative case for the firm I decided to use so it seems to be languishing and about once a month I’ll send off an Email to make sure they don’t need anything from me and as a reminder the statute of limitations in Georgia for filing a claim runs out in November.  I’d never heard back from my 13 April Email, so I was glad to see a prompt reply to the one I’d sent out today.  It seems they have all of the supporting documentation needed to move forward with the demand letter so perhaps that will get wrapped up and submitted this month.  I’m guessing it will take another month or two to exchange offers on the claim and reach a settlement, if only based on what we experienced with the October 2015 personal injury claim that didn’t get settled until June 2017.

It was around 10:30am when we headed out for a tandem ride on what was a beautiful day.  It wasn’t the most energetic ride noting we’d been off the tandem for nearly two weeks due to weather and then our trip to Florida.  Moreover, all of the squatting I had to do while working on the motorcycle had my leg muscles screaming at me since Monday and I had to work those kinks out as well.  So, while we didn’t set any speed records, we did get in 25 miles on the tandem and that was good.

After lunch I changed into my work clothes with the intention of getting out and doing yard work, but then decided to let that go one more day while I finished-up my post-trip cleanup and maintenance work on the motorcycle.  As mentioned, bolts on the front fork that hold the fender and brake calipers in place have taken a beating from the sea salt particles kicked up by the front tire as we ride around in Florida.  While you’d think washing the bike or even riding in the rain would help to wash away the salt particles, what water actually does is to dissolve the grains into a salty, corrosive solution that finds its way into the hidden spaces around bolt holes and threads where it continues to do a lot of damage you only see hints of at the bolt heads.  So, my afternoon project was to remove the eight bolts on the front forks that were in sad shape and do my best to clean them up or, if they were beyond help, replace them.  Thankfully, they all seemed to be salvageable after a couple hours of hand cleaning and machine polishing.

I also had to swap out the bulb in my right-hand Motolight as the reflector seemed to have developed a discoloration or haze; something not all that uncommon.  And, then there were the rear speaker grills that also needed attention.  Both of the Infinity Kappa speaker grills use a metal mesh screen to protect the speakers and Florida’s lovely salty environment has been attacking those as well.  Moreover, the left grill was coming loose so I needed to replace the mounting base: an easy fix… but a fix that needed as was doing my best to cleanup the metal speaker grills.  Thankfully, I have a spare set of speaker grills I’ll be able to use in the future once the ones on the bike finally get to a point where they can’t be cleaned-up after the Florida trips.

It was about the time I had the motorcycle finished up that Debbie returned from the grocery store.  We decided to have burgers for dinner so after grabbing a shower I fired up the grill and put out the “fixings” for dinner at 6:00pm.  After dinner I saw I had just enough time to run over to Ace Hardware to pick up some new axle bolts for the trailer and to return a pair of LED bulbs I’d purchased for the trailer’s rear tail/brake lights that turned out to be even less bright than the incandescent bulbs they were intended to replace.

That was pretty much our day.  We’re keeping a close eye on the weather at it would appear rain is coming in on Thursday that will stay with us through the weekend. We were planning on heading up to South Carolina on Friday afternoon for a Saturday morning cycling event and we’re not wondering if that will be a bust.  I’ll wait until mid-day today to call and see what Lisa thinks since she’s also a volunteer for the event and will have some insight on how they plan to handle it.  Perhaps we’ll still drive up, have dinner and spend the night and then hope for the best and a dry window in the morning for the ride.  However, the entire event takes place at a campsite where the cars park in the grassy fields and the meals and entertainment are set up in another grassy area.  After 36 hours of rain I’m thinking that may be problematic.

Thursday:  Yard Work & Getting The Triplet Ready For May Tandem Rallies

With rain in the forecast beginning Thursday afternoon and sticking around until late Sunday, one of two must-do’s today was yard work.  Sadly, neither the front nor the rear lawn are looking all that great this year.  The sod in the backyard was installed about 10 years ago, so some of the issues for it are related to wear and tear.  However, the front is only two-year old sod and that has me a bit baffled.  I’m starting to wonder if the great deal we get with the firm that sprays fertilizer and weed killer is really a great deal after all.  I’m thinking it may be time to change up.  But, at least for today, it was time to trim back some hedges, do the edging, pull some weeds & suckers and then mow the lawn… about a 2 hour effort.

Next up was going in search of a bearing puller so I can do a proper job of removing the bearings from the trailer wheels.  In the past I’ve “cheated” when it came to pulling bearings by using expandable bolt anchors, a large punch and a 5lb drift so it was probably time to add a proper slide-hammer bearing puller to my tool collection.  Well, the ones they had a Harbor freight and Northern Tool & Equipment were far too expensive for my needs, so I returned home and found one on ebay that should do the trick for $35 and it will be here next week, at about the same time as the bearings and bearing spacers.

While I was out running my errands Debbie called and let me know she was headed out in search of more plants.  That worked out well as that meant her car would be out of the garage when I returned home making it a bit easier to get the roof mounted bike rack for the Tacoma and the triplet down from the storage hooks in the 3rd bay of the garage.  I figured it would be a good idea to make sure the truck and triplet would be “good to go” a day early in the event that they were not so I’d have plenty of time to resolve any issues.  The rack went on just as it should, so that was good.  As for the triplet, it just needed to have some pedals moved over from our off-road tandem and mud guards fitted in the event we get a chance to ride on Saturday, noting the weather outlook is just as bleak in South Carolina as it is here at home: rain, rain, rain.  We won’t start a bicycle ride in the rain, but we will start out on damp roads if it looks like we can get a bike ride in between rain showers… so having mud guards makes the ride a lot more pleasant: good that we have them.

About the time I had the triplet sorted-out Debbie returned with her cache of plants and flowers.  She was now racing the rain to get them placed in the back yard.  After doing her arranging she decided she needed just one more plant and headed back out, getting caught out in a pretty heavy thundershower that arrived a good 3 hours early after the weather direction made an abrupt shift to the east from it’s northeasterly trend.  Oh well, she was happy to have all of her plants… and for the rain.

We had dinner in and flipped on the Stanley Cup to see the first game between the Boston Bruins and the Carolina Hurricanes.  It was an exciting game, to say the least, with a very unexpected 3rd period that saw the Bruins tie and then go up 5-2 for the win.

Friday:  More Yard Work & A Short Trip to South Carolina

The plan for the day was to load up the triplet and then head off to South Carolina around 1:00pm, hopefully getting ahead of the traffic in Atlanta, arriving at our friend Lisa’s home in Salem around 4:00pm.

So, first up for me was putting the triplet on the truck, my second solo loading.  We’ll, I got it up there but son-of-a-gun if I didn’t put a nick in the roof while futzing around to get the rear tire positioned correctly.  Oh well, it was always a matter of when not if.  However, I’m starting to think it’s just time to have Debbie assist instead of always trying to do it myself as it is a high-risk proposition, that or getting a used Tandem Topper.  Anyway, I did get the triplet up and then touched up my new nick in the paint: I’ll sand, clear and buff out the touch-up next week and that will make it nearly invisible… so no worries. Well, no worries about the paint but I realized the left-hand Yakima roof clip was “slipping” and the thin piece of rubber coating on the clip that’s intended to protect the paint had split.  So, clearly, I needed to spend a little more time ‘fine-tuning’ my rack installation.  It took several different adjustments to get the clips to seat correctly and I also put some thick rubberized tape on the paint where the clips rested to help protect the truck’s finish.  After that I headed out to run some errands to make sure the clips stayed firmly seated before we hit the Interstate in the afternoon.

By the time I returned home from picking up a small wide angle mirror to put on my driver’s side mirror so I could keep an eye on the triplet as we drove, something I also had on the Tundra for the same reason and fertilizer, fungicide and some grass seed for the yard.  Thankfully, when I got home the rack was still firmly attached to the roof with no indication that the clips were slipping or shifting; whew!

Back at the house I put out the Dense Shade Fescue grass seed and mulch mixture along a strip of grass near the large, shady island where the Bermuda is just struggling and thin in an effort to get something growing there to keep it from becoming a muddy mess short of installing ground cover, which remains an option.  In fact, the problem we’re having with the front yard is that the sod we paid to have installed two years ago looks just like it did before we re-did the lawn.  I think it’s a combination of having too much shade and grade at either end of the lawn and less than effective lawn fertilizing and feeding by our long-time lawn guys.  So, that’s why I bought and put down the 10-10-10 fertilizer and fungicide as it just seems like the lawn is not getting enough nutrients and to get ahead of the brown spotting that always shows up in July and August and with the rain we’re expecting this weekend I’ll hope for the lawn to bounce back and fill-in.

By the time I had the yard work done it was time to eat lunch, load the car and then head off to South Carolina.  Sadly, we ran into a lot of traffic on Interstate 75 South in Marietta and Atlanta, and then again in Gwinnett County. However, once we were out of the Atlanta area it was a nice drive and we took something of the back way up since we weren’t in a hurry.

We arrived at Lisa’s at 4:00pm and had a wonderful evening chatting at the house and then headed off to Jocassee Valley Brewing Company for dinner and live music.

We always have a great time visiting with Lisa and the Jocassee Valley Brewing Company was really neat. They have mostly craft beers, some nice wines, and imported organic soft drinks but have different vendors come in with food on Friday’s. Today it was “Meat’n the Middle” and their catering truck with pulled pork, chicken and brisket served as sandwiches, taco’s or nacho’s and they sold more conventional soft drinks.  I had the Brown Ale and a Fentimen’s Curiosity Cola with my pulled chicken sandwich and Debbie had the brisket taco’s and a nice Moscato wine.  It was all delicious and the The West End String Band was great.  We headed back to the house around 8:30pm, continued chatting and retired for the night around 10:00pm.  Just a great visit, even if tomorrow’s Rally in the Valley ride was looking like it would be a rain-out.

Saturday:  Rally in the Valley is a Rain Out

We both slept quite well, but were woken up by rain twice during the night.  When I got up at 6:30am and checked the weather radar my sense was we’d be heading home around 10:00am, right after the heaviest rain came through the area.  Yup, it was a rain out.  We stayed at Lisa’s home chatting until around 10:30am when the rain finally let up a bit, as Lisa still had to go to the event venue as a volunteer to support the “after ride party”. We, on the other hand, headed on home the back way.  There was no need to get home as quickly as possible via the interstates with the inevitable traffic jams around Atlanta and Marietta, so taking smaller highways across North Georgia would work out just fine and get us home within 15 minutes of interstate travel time but without all of the stress.

We stopped at Guston’s for lunch on the way home, or should I say brunch.  It turns out, Guston’s serves brunch from 11:00am to 3:00pm every Saturday and Sunday so Debbie had the ham & cheese omelet; it was amazing.  I opted to try their hot wings and they were good but not as good as my own.  Regardless, it was a good way to end our trip to South Carolina.

After brunch we headed back to the house where we unpacked and I pulled the triplet off the truck and stashed it until next weekend when we’ll make the short driver over to Covington, Georgia, for the Georgia Tandem Rally where we’ll team up with Lisa on the triplet for 3 days of riding.  Thankfully, the roof rack remained rock solid for the entire 300 mile round trip to South Carolina, which is a good thing: I was really worried that the clips and mounts would “slip” at interstate speeds but they didn’t.  So, good to know the rack system is solid going forward.

It was a lazy afternoon at home, which is shame as the weather was amazing.  Although the forecast called for 100% rain, we had a beautiful, sunny afternoon and could have easily taken a nice tandem ride from the house, or done all kinds of work around the house without any threat of rain.  Weather forecasts are just so unreliable.

We headed over to Loco Willy’s for dinner around 6:15pm and had a really nice time visiting with our friends the folks behind the bar.  It really was a great night.  We had a strong storm pass through around 7:30pm that shut down the satellite TV signals but it went away as quickly as it came.  We had some friends who were meeting up at a smokey biker bar across town, given that both Debbie and I were having upper respiratory issues and just try to avoid smokey bars, we just headed home.  Yeah, we have more excuses for why we don’t do things than Doan’s has pills.  Oh well, it explains why we don’t have as many close friends as we might otherwise have…

Sunday:  Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day was a rainy, cloudy day for the most part.  My day began early with a quick trip over to the local grocery store to pick up some English muffin’s for my breakfast as well as some roses and a card for Debbie.  I was back at the house and had her roses cut and in a vase on the table before she came down for breakfast and I’m pretty sure she appreciated it.

When I got back home I also called the Holiday Inn Express where we’ll be staying for the Georgia Tandem Rally on Friday through Sunday and moved-up our check-in day from Friday to Thursday, adding an extra night so we can make the drive through Atlanta on Thursday afternoon, spend a little more time visiting with friends Thursday night and avoid the 6:00am departure on Friday morning for the 9:00am ride start.

There wasn’t really much else on the agenda for today given the less than ideal weather, aside from having the kids drop by for dinner around 5:00pm.  I spent a good deal of my morning working on a blog entry that provided a yearly summary of the 35 motorcycle trips we’ve taken over the past 8 years since buying our first Harley-Davidson motorcycle.  Yup, we’ve logged over 50,000 miles on four different Harley-Davidson motorcycles.  That’s in addition to the 40,000 miles I logged communting and running errands on my the 2003 BMW, the 2004 BMW and the 2003 Honda during the same 8 years.

Debbie ran out to do some grocery shopping later in the morning while I ran a few errands and screwed around doing some visual exercises with the truck’s wheels in an effort to fine tune their appearance.  Yes, pure vanity but there’s just something about the red TRD letters on the center caps and/or the chrome lug nuts that doesn’t look quite right, so I’m going to change the lettering to black to see what that does first since it’s cheap and easy to do.

The balance of the rainy afternoon was spent watching the Premier League Championship games from England and the Stanley Cup Playoff game between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurrincanes, which took us right up to when Wesley and two of the four girls arrived for dinner.  Charlotte had 3 book reports due on Monday so she stayed home to work on those under the supervision of Julie and Scarlett.  We had a casual dinner with pizza and hot wings and a small birthday celebration for me with a cookie cake.  It was a fun little gathering.  Wesley surprised us by showing up in yet another new vehicle after deciding that the big Ford F150 truck was turning out to be far less reliable than hoped. The new ride really took me by surprise: he bought a 4-door Jeep Renegade with oversized tires, etc.  I didn’t grab a photo, but it looks a lot like the one at right, but with a tan soft top instead of black. It was funny watching how the kids have to climb up into the thing given how high it sits.  But, Wesley seems to like it so we’ll see how long the love-affair lasts.  He seems to get tired of cars within a year or so.  But, he’s making twice as money at 40 in the mortgage business as I did at 58, so he can certainly afford it.  Here’s hoping new home construction & sales remains strong since that’s the bellwether indicator for the real estate market.

That was really about it for our day.  I have a plumbing project to work on Monday in the guest bathroom upstairs as the water supply valve for the commode is shot.  Thankfully, the water leak was caught before it damaged the ceiling in the family room.  Let’s see if I can’t keep it that way when I replace the valve.  Our home has a very odd plumbing system that’s hard to drain down given that the water heater is on the 2nd floor.

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Our Harley Era: 8 Years, 35 Road Trips, 4 Harley’s & Great Friends

I’ve always kept a running list of the multi-day tandem cycling events we’ve attended since we took up tandem cycling back in 1997: as of this Friday it will be 74.  However, it dawned on me as I was updating the tandem cycling rally tally I’d never done the same for the motorcycling rallies and trips we’ve taken. By trip, it implies we rode a significant distance and spent at least a couple nights away from home, not just a day-long ride.  The tally as of today stands at  35 road trips during the 8 years since we bought our first Harley Davidson motorcycle.  

The latter is significant in that I’ve been riding motorcycles since my early teens and street bikes since I was 18.  However, in all of those years, and despite owning a BMW touring bike, I never did any long distance, overnight rides, never mind a motorcycle rally.  Everything I did was a ride that began and ended where it started, usually on the same day.  However, that all changed after we purchased our first Harley-Davidson in July 2011.  We logged about 55,000 miles on the four Harley-Davidsons during those 8 years which was in addition to riding another 40,000 miles commuting and running errands on 3 other motorcycles during the same period of time.

I should back up a little and note when I arrived in Georgia in January 1991, I was a single guy relocating from Southern California who no longer had a motorcycle.  No, I’d taken up sailing, cycling and skiing as my primary hobbies.  However, after arriving in Georgia a few things changed in that skiing and racing Hobie Cat sailboats were no longer things I could do within a few hours drive.  So cycling was  what I was left with, but the road and off-road cycling in Georgia were really good. 

I also met Debbie shortly after arriving in Georgia; it was April 1991 and by the summer were were engaged.  We married and combine households in July 1993 and, in doing so, Debbie’s youngest teenage son Wesley, became part of my daily life.  Between 1993 and 1997 the amount of quality time that Debbie and I had available to spend together took a pretty big hit when Debbie changed careers and began to sell real estate, so I began to wonder if she’d like to take up motorcycling as something we could do together, riding two-up on a big bike.  Thankfully, we did not buy a motorcycle in 1997; instead, we bought a tandem bicycle and it transformed our lives for the better.  We’ve since cycled well over 50,000 miles together, both on road and off-road and cycling pretty much defined our social life and consumed our vacation time… and all of that was just fine.

I really didn’t want to have a sport bike sitting in the garage with a teen in the house. However, by 2000 Wesley was in college and living in our townhouse rental with some friends so I decided it was finally time for me to resume motorcycling, primarily as the mode of transportation for my daily commute.  I bought a lightly used 1998 Honda CBR1100XX — a large GT-type motorcycle — and put 34,000 miles on the bike, mostly riding back and forth to work but Debbie would also join me for rides to dinner, up to the mountains and the like: day rides, if you will. She enjoyed those and I enjoyed having her on the bike with me.  Sadly, the CBR1100XX was done-in by a Ford Excursion on a cold December morning in 2009 and I replaced it with a very low-mileage, used 2003 BMW R1100S Boxer Cup Replika sport bike in January 2010.  It was not a big GT like the Honda and Debbie just didn’t enjoy riding it at all.  So, I bought the sport-touring version of the bike a few months later, also used but with low mileage: a 2004 BMW R1150RT.  Well, let’s just say she enjoyed that bike even less than the R1100S; I think she may have ridden it half a dozen times.  It was the combination of the cramped, very upright riding position — noting she’s a petit thing — and being smothered by the full face helmet and full gear that didn’t seem to bother her on the less constricted CBR1100XX.  Suffices to say, I sold it a year later only putting about 5,000 miles on the odometer using it as a commuter and for errands to save wear and tear on the R1100S which ended up with 34,000 miles on the odomenter by the time I sold it in October 2017.

We’d talked about riding motorcycles time and again and when I asked her what kind of motorcycle she thought she’d enjoy riding the answer was always, “a Harley.”  I accused her just wanting the clothing, as I had grown up riding anything but a Harley and didn’t think too much of them.   Well, about a year later, after being regulars at On the Border every Friday night and recognizing several other regulars who invariably sat at the other side of the bar, we ended up sitting along side David & Deb, two of the other regulars in May of 2011.  We hit it off really well and before long we were talking motorcycles as David was always showing up wearing Harley apparel.  That discussion and subsequent ones about motorcycle rallies, weekend charity rides, etc., sparked an interest in the big cruiser bikes and by June we got a bit more serious about buying one.  The question was, which one?  We ended up buying a 2011 Dyna Wide Glide cruiser/chopper style bike at the end of June.

Well, that was 8 years and 55,000 miles collected on four different Harley-Davidson motorcycles ago, to include 25,000 pulling our Bushtec trailer.  The following is a run down of the three “era’s” of Harley-Davidson that we’ve gone through with a year/month summary of the road trips we’ve taken and a collection of photos from those trips.  Each of the small thumbnail photos is linked to a full-size version if you find any that pique your interest.  It was enjoyable for me to go back and catalog all of these trips as I’m reminded that we’ve met a lot of really great people along the way.  As much as we enjoy riding and just being together, having friends to share your adventures with truly enriches your lives.


The Harley Cruiser / Wide Glide Era

  • 2011
    • May – Met best friends, David & Deb, at On the Border
      • BMW’s weren’t Debbie’s thing, David & Deb piqued our interest in Harley’s
    • Jun – Purchased 1st Harley: New 2011 Wide Glide
      • Thought it would be our forever Harley… outfitted accordingly
    • Oct – Thunder Beach/Fall Rally, Panama City Beach, FL
      • Trailered bikes with David & Deb: 1st Rally for Us

 

  • 2012
    • Apr – Panama City Beach Recon Trip, PCB, FL
      • Mark & David trailered down
    • May – Thunder Beach/Spring Rally, Panama City Beach, FL
      • Mark & David rode, Deb & Debbie followed with truck & trailer
    • Oct – Thunder Beach/Fall Rally, Panama City Beach, FL
      • David, Deb, Mark & Debbie all rode

  • 2013
    • Apr – Homestead to Key West Trip; We Need a Bigger Bike!
      • David, Deb, Mark & Debbie trailered to Homestead, then rode to Key West
      • During this trip we realized a Harley Touring Bike might be in our future
    • May – Thunder Beach/Spring Rally, Panama City Beach, FL
      • Just Mark & Debbie on the bike; it was a wet ride
      • During this trip I was now confident we’d be looking for a Road King


The Harley Touring Bike / Road King CVO Era

    • Aug – Purchased 2nd Harley: New 2013 Road King CVO
      • After trying to buy used, decided to go all-in on a Road King CVO, aka, Blue
      • Got a great deal on a great bike…  This will be our forever Harley, right?!
    • Sep – Gatlinburg I – Labor Day Weekend Trip to Gatlinburg, TN
      • Mark & Debbie & David & Deb
      • Rain soaked ride to Clingman’s Dome
    • Oct – Biketoberfest, Daytona Beach, FL
      • Just Mark & Debbie on the bike
    • Oct – Thunder Beach/Fall Rally, Panama City Beach, FL
      • Mark &  Debbie rode, David & Deb trailered
      • Met our Georgia ‘Biker Family’ at Toucan’s during Thunder Beach
    • Nov – Purchased Used Bushtec Quantum Sport Trailer
      • 2002 model only used once for a 750-mile round trip, and the right color!
      • Was to be used for hauling tandem, but turned out to be essential for trips

   

  • 2014
    • Mar – Bike Week, Daytona Beach, FL
      • Mark & Debbie rode, met Chuck & Julie, Jeff & Sharon in Daytona
    • May – Thunder Beach/Spring Rally, Panama City Beach, FL
      • Mark & Debbie rode, just us this time
    • May – Nashville Memorial Day Weekend, Nashville, TN
      • David & Deb and Mark & Debbie, weekend trip
    • Jul – Knoxville Tandem Weekend, Louisville, TN
      • Mark & Debbie with the tandem in the trailer for Freeloader Weekend
      • Tim Patterson rode Cherohala Skyway & Dragon’s Tail with us
    • Sep – Gatlinburg II – Labor Day Weekend Trip to Gatlinburg, TN
      • Mark & Debbie & David & Deb
      • Included visit to World of Wheels Museum in Maggie Valley
    • Oct – Thunder Beach/Fall Rally, Panama City Beach, FL
      • David & Deb and Mark & Debbie rode down alone
    • Oct – Biketoberfest, Daytona Beach, FL
      • Mark & Debbie rode all the way, meeting David & Deb along the way

  • 2015
    • Mar – Bike Week, Daytona Beach, FL
      • Mark & Debbie rode down alone, but met the gang in Daytona
    • May – Thunder Beach/Spring Rally, Panama City Beach, FL
      • Mark & Debbie rode down with Bobby & Carrie Ann
    • Jul – July 4th Weekend @ Key West I
      • Mark & Debbie, solo ride to Key West with layover in Orlando
    • Sep – Gatlinburg III – Labor Day Weekend Trip to Gatlinburg, TN
      • Mark & Debbie & David & Deb
    • Oct – Biketoberfest, Daytona Beach, FL
      • Mark & Debbie rode, met David & Deb who trailered
    • Oct – 2013 Road King Totaled with 18,700 miles on the odometer
      • Mark & Debbie run-down by “little old lady” sending Debbie to ER 
    • Nov – Purchased 3rd Harley: Used 2013 Road King CVO
      • Replaced Blue I with Blue II, identical and lightly used with 2,300 miles

 

  •  2016
    • Mar – Bike Week, Daytona Beach, FL
      • Mark & Debbie rode down with Bobby & Ryan, Met the Gang
    • May – Thunder Beach/Spring Rally, Panama City Beach, FL
      • Mark & Debbie rode down, met the Gang in PCB
    • Jul – July 4th Weekend @ Key West II
      • Mark & Debbie, solo ride to Key West with layover in Orlando
    • Oct – Thunder Beach/Fall Rally, Panama City Beach, FL
      • Mark & Debbie left with Chuck, met David & Deb along the way & Julie in PCB

  • 2017
    • Apr – Sold 2011 Harley Wide Glide with 13,800 miles on the odometer
      • Too many bikes and just not riding it…
    • May – Thunder Beach/Spring Rally, Panama City Beach, FL
      • Mark & Debbie with Bobby & Carrie Ann & Mike M. & Met the Gang in PCB
    • Aug – Purchased Used Honda GL1800B with 8,000 miles on the odometer
      • Bucket list, better for commuting and great deal on low-mile special edition


The Road Glide Ultra Era

    • Sep – Purchased 4th Harley: New 2017 Road Glide Ultra
      • Road King felt too small after Debbie rode on GL1800B
      • This will be our forever Harley… (ha, ha)
    • Oct – Bike Week, Daytona Beach, FL, Oct
      • Mark & Debbie rode down with Chuck & Julie: Condo in Ormond
    • Oct – Sold BMW R1100S with 34,000 miles on the odometer
      • Replaced as daily driver by GL1800B, no longer riding
    • Nov – GL1800B Totaled by Little Old Lady after only logging 1,000 miles
      • Beautiful F6B to salvage and me to ER with lots of soft tissue injuries
      • Will not replace; Still have the Road Glide Ultra & Road King CVO

  • 2018
    • Mar – Bike Week, Daytona Beach, FL
      • Mark & Debbie rode down solo, met Chuck, Julie, Jeff & Others at Finns
    • May – Thunder Beach/Spring Rally, Panama City Beach, FL
      • Mark & Debbie rode down with Ryan, Bobby, Richard & Robbin & Matt
      • Big group throughout TB weekend
    • Jun – Sold Blue II, 2013 Road King CVO with 12,500 miles on the odometer
      • The Road Glide is now our go-go bike; no reason to keep the Road King CVO
    • Jul – July 4th Weekend @ Key West III
      • Mark & Debbie, solo ride to Key West with layover in Orlando
    • Oct – Biketoberfest, Daytona Beach, FL
      • Mark & Debbie rode to Jax & Met Chuck & Julie

   

  • 2019
    • Mar – Bike Week, Daytona Beach, FL
      • Mark & Debbie rode to Jax with Chuck & Julie, then to Daytona
      • Returned home early…  Too many cars, kids and tourists
    • May – Florida Spring Trip, Titusville & Flagler Beach, FL
      • Mark & Debbie rode to Titusville, then met Chuck & Julie in Flagler Beach
      • Stopped at Loco’s on the way home for the 28th time since October 2013…

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