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.