Sunday, December 21, 2014

Merry Christmas to the IA

As per my annual holiday tradition, here is the virtual version of my Christmas card. This year we printed and sent EIGHTY of them. Anyway, without further adieu, my card to you, the loyal FEW (the proud, the Marines?)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to my friends at the Asylym!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Our new little bundle of JOY!

Well...our little family increased by ONE over the weekend. We are the happy and proud parents of a 23lb four-legged bundle of joy! Her name is Sophie Anne, and she is a 3 1/2 month old Victorian Bulldog.What is a Victorian Bulldog you ask? Funny you should ask I asked the SAME thing when I saw her...I had to google that. Turns out a Victorian Bulldog is a recently (1980's) resurrected old breed of bulldogs (before they got all messed up and tons of health problems). They have an actual snout, albiet a short they aren't prone to the respiratory problems of the English bulls. Also their legs are longer, and they are bigger. Sophie is supposedly going to be between 55 and 60lbs fully grown. The males are even bigger. They are the in-between size of the English and American bulldogs.

We had no real plans to get a new dog (yet)...the other 3 (PG, Sweet Pea and Sydney) are all still hanging in there, even though they are all OLD. PG just turned 13, and she's the only one we know for sure. Sweet Pea we got not long after we moved here from the local pound (it was a "kill" facility, and the ladies working there had saved her for over 4 months by using their "veto" each week when they are forced to go thru the list of who's still there...typically after a few weeks it's bye-bye if you haven't been adopted...but they kept saving her just for us). 

And Sydney...well, she's not doing great, but she's hanging in there. 4 years ago she was totally paralyzed when a disc burst in her neck, shutting her off like a light-switch mid-stride. We had surgery done to remove the debris and dremel out a pocket for the swollen/damaged disc...and over the next few months we re-hab'd her as she learned to stand/walk/run all over again. ANYWAY...sometime earlier this year suddenly she started having problems...neurological ones. She still has strength, but has been losing coordination/control of the left side. She walks albeit very slowly/gingerly...and very easily gets going sideways as the left rear just can't keep up, and then falls down on her left him. She does this dozens of times a day. But she's not in any pain as far as we can tell...just not much control. But the decline seems to have leveled off, and she's hanging in there wonderfully! She's SO happy, it really breaks our hearts to see her like this...but as long as she can get around, we will do our best for her.

And now...the puppy. OH so very cute! I guess there's just not much on the planet as cute as a puppy, and that goes double for a bulldog puppy.

  Here's Jeannie holding her as we are getting ready to take her home. You can see the tip of her tongue sticking out...she does that a LOT and I don't even think she knows it.

 And here she is lying on the living room floor with her rawhide bone. 
She's getting tired at this point (FINALLY).

I can't stay too long (need SLEEP) but wanted to get a quick post in with our happy (or sad, depending on how long house-training takes us). I will say that I had forgotten how much WORK a puppy is...I can only imagine it's a lot like having a baby...your life changes drastically overnight. OK...must get Sophie outside, see if she will potty and/or poo before we put her in the kennel for the night (she will NOT have free run of the house until she has earned it by learning to use the doggie-doors and do her business OUTSIDE!) I"m hoping the other babies will 'mentor' her and show her the ropes quick.

OK..have a GREAT week!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Welcome to the 21st century Matt!

I find it somewhat amusing that as a self-professed 'techie' that I suddenly find I have been COMPLETLY passed-by in the high-tech revolution. I'm an electronics guy after all, and it seems I'm quite alone in this un-tech-world. I finally realized this while sitting on a United Airlines flight coming back from Virginia after Thanksgiving.

Apparently they don't show movies on flights anymore, assuming everybody over the age of 4 now has their own entertainment. They apparently now offer wifi on flights (free for some content, and pay for other) and it seemed like I was the ONLY person on the entire airline without some high-tech gadget in their hand. Well, except for my wife...she is also a passed-by person, but she somehow SLEEPS on pretty-much every flight she has ever taken. So yes, there I was, actually holding a..... GASP...PAPER BOOK!


Even the kids all had phones or tablets in their hands, or electronic games (I can't tell the diff). Adults had either phones, tablets or laptops, and were watching movies, surfing, emailing, buying stock and/or saving the world.... and whatever else they do with their time on the device of choice. My cell phone is a CELL PHONE. Yep. It does take pictures tho..which is a huge upgrade for me. I've only had this phone about a's a Tracfone pay as you go. I only got it as my last Tracfone quit working properly (I couldn't find service in what I consider to be the antichrist of a remote location...LAX). This 'new' phone is an "internet capable" phone. I didn't even know what that meant when I bought it...I thought it was a "smart-phone". Had no idea what that meant. Turns out "internet capable" and "smart-phone" are two different animals. Yes, my new phone has a few little gadget-app thingges on it, but overall it's not really any better than my old phone that was just a phone.

And so...having realized how far behind the tech-power-curve I am, I FINALLY jumped into the water. I bought myself an Amazon Kindle Fire HD (a little Xmas gift to myself). Sitting at my bro-in-law's farm back in VA, he has one and it was pretty amazing. It's not only a Kindle reader, but  basically a small tablet too. And it's CHEAP! (well, compared to laptops and such, and even other tablets). It arrived yesterday and I played with it last night some. I sure have some learning to do. This little doo-dad probably does a zillion things that I don't know. Just the "app" world is overwhelming. Also I was looking at kindle books to buy, and realized that I don't even know where to start. But I did buy a copy of Fatty's new book on Kindle (and paperback too...autographed for my collection). I figure to load that, and maybe a few others in the near future. Also I get a free 30 day trial of Amazons "Audible" which is audio books. I can download any 2 audio-books for free (they are a bit pricey to me to pay 'full price'). I like to use these when I travel long distance by car...such as over the Xmas holiday when I'll be putting in another 1700 miles or so in about 8 days.

And along w/ the new Kindle, I also realized I need a smart-phone. Problem is, I don't want to PAY for a smart-phone (the contract). But now Tracfone has Android smart-phones. So yep, I bought one of those too! It should be here TODAY! And along w/ all the obvious benefits of a smart-phone, the one I really like is I can set it to "hotspot" and it will provide the wifi for my Kindle when I'm not at home. And being as I don't see myself as a bigtime 'surfer' and such, I'll only pay for the data I actually use (I can get a 2 gig data card from Tracfone for $50...though I have no idea how long that will last). I know I loaded 800 talking minutes on my old phone MANY months ago, and I still have about 600 of them left (which will transfer over to the new phone). And being as I will now have a smart-phone I'll really have to start learning this app thing. I know there's a gazillion of them out ones, paid-for on earth do I know what I even need or want?

So anyhow...I have jumped into the deep-end of the tech world just like THAT. BAM! Now I just need to learn how to use them. Is there such a thing as a "tablets and smart-phones for dummies" book available? Maybe it comes in a Kindle version...hopefully I don't NEED the book to GET the book...wouldn't THAT be a cruel twist of fate!

Wish me luck!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

On the road again

Greetings and salutations from Virginia!'s that time of year again...THANKSGIVING time! Jeannie and I are safely at the farm in rural Virginia. And the weather isn't what I expected at all! I brought my cold-weather gear, thinking it would be frigid. It's not (woo-HOO!) It's still chilly for me, of tropical blood....I'm chilly in California usually! But considering what it could be, I'm quite thankful.

Let me back up a few days...into last week. My work has been quite busy. We are shorthanded, and I don't see that changing anytime soon, if at all. Well, let me be fair...we have a plethora of managers...just not enough WORKERS. We just went thru our last (?) round of layoffs, where we got rid of MORE workers...while the managers seem to have shielded themselves quite aptly. So in 3 years when our contract is bid for real, there's likely no way we can win it against a company who doesn't need the upside-down pyramid structure of managers to workers. But I digress...

Last Thursday my boss came to me late in the day and said I was needed to come in at 11:30pm that night for a 12 hour shift. It was time for the spacecraft (that I was with down in Los Angeles back in Sept) to be transported to the launch pad from the processing center. Okey dokey I said (not a lot of choice, but hey...I'm a team-player). So I went home, had a bite to eat and went to bed (like you can go to sleep at 6pm). The babies were hovering and walking around, wondering what I was doing in bed so early. Jeannie was out getting her hair done, as she was flying to VA early Friday morning (she was going out early to visit with friends). I was to follow on Sunday morning.

I get up at 10pm, grab a bite to eat and head out by 11 for work. The transport went well, and we were at the pad by around 5am. Then the problems began. It seems the company responsible for this part of the operation (lifting the encapsulated spacecraft into the Mobile Service Tower and attaching it to the Atlas V booster) hadn't run a "trailblazer" on this model fairing and with the lifting sling. A "trailblazer" is a full dress-rehearsal with a fake spacecraft/fairing assy so-as to find any wrinkles in the plan. Well...there was a wrinkle. The lifting sling holding the encapsulated spacecraft wouldn't allow them to lower the vehicle all-the-way down onto the booster so it could be attached...there was parts that didn't fit. That should have been caught during a trailblazer. So now there is a billion dollars hanging on the "hook" (attached to the crane) that can't be they had to lower it back to the pad-deck far below and disconnect / reconfigure the lifting sling. Then they re-hoisted the billion (plus) dollars and tried again. Still no work'y. Lower and reconfigure. Try again. No joy. By then our shift was well over and the next shift came in.

My job in all this btw is to wait until ULA has the vehicle attached to the booster and then we shut down one of our monitoring systems, load it all up and move it all into the tower, hook it all back up and get it working). So I had now worked a 14 hour shift on maybe 3 hours sleep. And because the vehicle STILL isn't attached to the rocket, we had to come back in again on Friday night at 11:30 to try it all again. Jeannie was now gone, somewhere in mid-travel to Richmond VA. I got a few hours sleep (another 3 or 4 maybe) and then it was time to go back in. After a few more tries they finally had the sling configured correctly so they could soft-mount the vehicle to the booster....HOORAY! About 9am on Saturday morning we got the go-ahead to shut down one of our systems, take it all apart and move it into the tower. We had that all done, system hooked up and functional, around 1pm. My job is done, I am now on VACATION! Got home and did a zillion things on my pre-travel list, and then some sleep...Sunday morning I was at the airport for my turn in the travel blender.

All went relatively well...just a few extra-hours in Chicago as my flight was weather-delayed in arrival, so instead of getting to Richmond around 9:30pm Sunday night I landed about 11:30pm. Finally got my luggage and a cab, and I arrived at Jeannie's sisters place around midnight. Jeannie had been napping on the couch waiting for me, her sister asleep as she had to work on Monday. No showers were available sadly as the cast-iron-tub had fallen over the morning before, luckily her sister wasn't hurt, as she was just getting ready to get in...the tub must weigh 300lbs and could kill or maim for sure if it rolled over on her. The maintenance guys had never seen a cast-iron-tub have a foot fall off, and it had ripped the plumbing out of the floor and was lying on it's side.

So as Sara went off to work we were off to find breakfast and then drive to the farm (about 2.5 hours north-west of Richmond). We made it to the farm uneventfully after a nice drive thru the Virginia countryside, resplendent in fall colors. The temperature was probably in the mid to high 60's...not too shabby for sure. We stopped at the Farmville Wally-world for groceries as usual on the way. And now we are relaxing at the farm. It's Tuesday morning, cloudy and windy but a far cry from snow and cold that I was expecting.

And so...have yourselves a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving! On a closing note, just watching the news and the pathetic rioting and looting in Missouri over the Michael Brown Grand Jury decision...pathetic (the rioters, not the Grand Jury). There are always those looking for an excuse to do bad things. Which sadly takes away from the 99.9% of honest folk who were peacefully demonstrating their feelings (which is a god-given right). I certainly can't say what the right answer is other than I listened to the prosecutor talk for about 15 minutes explaining what evidence the Grand Jury heard, and how/why they came to their decision. It sounds like they did the right thing...but a lot of people don't want to hear that...their minds are already made up even though they had not heard the FACTS of the case. And the looting/burning commenced as expected. I sure don't know how we will ever get past all this racism stuff....sure it exists and I don't know how to fix that. But it appears our country just stepped back 50 or more years. Sad, just sad.

I have lots to be thankful for this year as always...I'll reflect on that during the week as we approach Turkey-day. Be safe and enjoy.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Asheville, NC

I'm really intrigued by Asheville. On the map it looks like it's in a PERFECT place....far enough south to have a mild winter, not too far north of Greenville SC, not too far from a major interstate, and it's IN the Great Smoky Mountains (I believe I stated before that it was in the Blue Ridge mistake) As a cyclist that all sounds wonderful! But I really don't know much (yet) about this new town that has popped up on my radar. Rae, your brother lived there...I'll be anxious to hear what he thought of the winters....are there outdoor sports happening pretty much year-round? Sure....there are bound to be bad days....every place has that. But overall...through the winter, is it still a cyclist's paradise?

Here's some info I scooped up...first off, the average temperature and rainfall:

Yeah, I see it's just a teensy bit chilly for the average daytime highs in Jan/Feb/Mar/Nov/Dec. But the lows aren't too awfully bad...certainly April thru October look pretty decent. Here's some info from the beloved Wikipedia:

Asheville is a city in and the county seat of Buncombe County, North Carolina, United States.[5] It is the largest city in Western North Carolina, and the 11th largest city in North Carolina. The city's population was 83,393 according to the 2010 United States census.[6] It is the principal city in the four-county Asheville metropolitan area, with a population of 424,858 in 2010.[7] Asheville is home to the United States National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), the world's largest active archive of weather data.
Nationwide recognition
Asheville pops up on national rankings for a variety of things: "a New Age Mecca" (CBS News' Eye On America, 1996),[28] the "New Freak Capital of the U.S." (Rolling Stone, 2000), one of "The 50 Most Alive Places To Be" (Modern Maturity, 2000),[29] the "Happiest City for Women" (Self, 2002),[30] one of the "Best Places to Reinvent Your Life" (AARP Magazine, 2003),[31] one of the "Best Outside Towns" (Outside Magazine, 2006),[32] one of the "Top Seven Places to Live in the U.S." (Frommer's, 2007),[33] one of the “10 Most Beautiful Places in America" (Good Morning America, 2011),[34] one of the "25 Best Places for Business and Careers" (Forbes, 2012), and one of "20 Great Cities For Writers" (Flavorwire, 2013).[35] Asheville has been listed as one of the "Top 25 Small Cities for Art" in AmericanStyle magazine's annual list from 2000 to 2012[36] and has reigned the champion "Beer City USA" each year from 2009 to 2012.Dozens of micro breweries dot the downtown and major producers, including New Belgium Brewing Company (opening 2015) are in the process of building in or near the city.
In his 2008 book, The Geography of Bliss, author Eric Weiner cited Asheville as one of the happiest places in the United States.
Recent national accolades:[37] "Best city in America for locavores" The Daily Meal, 2014 "The hippie capital of the South" Huffington Post, 2014 "#1 most popular city for retirement out of 900+ U.S. cities", 2014 "#1 town to live and work in as a movie maker MovieMaker magazine, 2014 One of 6 top "Alternative Travel Destinations for 2014" Men's Journal and Business Insider, 2014 "One of 20 cities you should visit in your 20s" Huffington Post, 2014 "#1 of 12 Dreamy Towns for Vegan Living" VegNews, 2013 “One of 10 Tastiest Towns in the South” Southern Living, 2013 “Hippest City in the South” Fodor’s The Carolinas & Georgia, 2013 “One of America’s Best River Towns” Outside, 2012 “#1 Beer City USA” Imbibe Magazine online poll, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 “Most Romantic Place in USA and Canada” Readers Choice Poll, 2012 “Top 10 Great Sunny Places to Retire” AARP Magazine, 2012 “10 Fantastically Yoga-Friendly Destinations” Yoga Journal, 2011
Asheville and the surrounding mountains are also popular in the autumn when fall foliage peaks in October. The scenic Blue Ridge Parkway runs through the area and near the Biltmore Estate.


Asheville is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains at the confluence of the Swannanoa River and the French Broad River. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 45.3 square miles (117.2 km2), of which 44.9 square miles (116.4 km2) is land and 0.31 square miles (0.8 km2), or 0.66%, is water.[6]


The climate of Asheville is a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa), resembling the rest of the Piedmont region of the southeastern U.S., but with noticeably cooler temperatures due to the higher altitude; it is part of USDA Hardiness zone 7a.[38] The area's summers in particular, though warm, are not as hot as summers in cities farther east in the state, as the July daily average temperature is 73.8 °F (23.2 °C) and there is an average of only 9.4 days with 90 °F (32 °C)+ highs annually;[a] the last time a calendar year has passed without 90 °F readings is 2009. Moreover, warm nights where the low remains at or above 70 °F (21 °C) are much more uncommon than 90 °F temperatures. Winters are cool, with a January daily average of 37.1 °F (2.8 °C) and highs remaining at or below freezing on 5.5 days.[39]
Official record temperatures range from −16 °F (−27 °C) on January 21, 1985 to 100 °F (38 °C) on August 21, 1983;[40][41] the record cold daily maximum is 4 °F (−16 °C) on February 4, 1895, while, conversely, the record warm daily minimum is 77 °F (25 °C) on July 17, 1887.[39] Readings as low as 0 °F (−18 °C) or as high as 95 °F (35 °C) rarely occur, the last occurrences being January 7, 2014 and July 1, 2012, respectively.[39] The average window for freezing temperatures is October 17 to April 18, allowing a growing season of 181 days.[39]
Precipitation is relatively well spread, though the summer months are noticeably wetter, and totals 45.6 inches (1,160 mm) annually, but historically ranging from 22.79 in (579 mm) in 1925 to 75.22 in (1,911 mm) in 2013.[39][b] Snowfall is sporadic, averaging 9.9 inches (25.1 cm) per winter, but actual seasonal accumulation varies considerably from one winter to the next; accumulation has ranged from trace amounts in 2011–12 to 48.2 inches (122.4 cm) in 1968–69.[39] Freezing rain often occurs, accompanied by more significant disruption. MAYBE this isn't really THE place to be in the winter...but it would be AWESOME in the summers! (though I wasn't really looking for that....I need a place to ESCAPE most of the winter, where I can ride bikes nearly every day).  But you have to admit that up in the "Nationwide Recognition" part from Wikipedia, it sounds pretty nice! This paragraph pretty much sums it up if you ask me:

One of "The 50 Most Alive Places To Be" (Modern Maturity, 2000),[29] the "Happiest City for Women" (Self, 2002),[30] one of the "Best Places to Reinvent Your Life" (AARP Magazine, 2003),[31] one of the "Best Outside Towns" (Outside Magazine, 2006),[32] one of the "Top Seven Places to Live in the U.S." (Frommer's, 2007),[33] one of the “10 Most Beautiful Places in America" (Good Morning America, 2011)

And this is from the Asheville tourism webiste:

 What adventure seekers will find in the Asheville area: natural waterslides, rollercoaster-like mountain bike trails, and stunning vistas that will take your breath away faster than a Ferris wheel. Whether you're into extreme sports or soft adventure, the mountains surrounding Asheville offer endless adventures. Outside magazine consistently ranks Asheville among its top destinations for outdoor recreation and adventures.

Sadly, most of this applies during the warmer months...then it seems like a lot of the country, they suffer thru the cold months waiting for spring. Overall, I think I could suffer thru a cooler winter IF I was in a place that cycling was still good (and sadly, I don't think that will really apply to the Richmond area...too flat for my tastes).

Next week I think I'll look at Hot Springs, NC. It seems similar to Ashville but with a slightly warmer winter (and, it's got HOT SPRINGS! What better way to spend ANY winter than sitting in natural hot-springs!)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Greenville SC, is THIS the place to retire?

George Hincape thinks so. I have to admit that I know pretty much ZERO about Greenville, other than that Big George is from there, and still lives there I believe. I know (just found out recently) that he sponsors a Gran Fondo, which just took place about 2 weeks ago, in which Lance and some other Postal/Discovery guys were invited. Lance was legally ruled out by USADA and didn't ride, even though it wasn't a sanctioned race event. Boy, are they EVER going to let up on that guy? (oh, and speaking of Lance, I saw an ad for another documentary / show about Lance. It's called "Stop at nothing" and aired tonight (Friday)... and I'm already set to record it.

And back to today's topic....retirement in Greenville SC. Again, HUGE thanks to Wikipedia and for providing a bunch of the info.

Greenville, South Carolina

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
City of Greenville
Skyline of Downtown Greenville
Skyline of Downtown Greenville
Official seal of Greenville
Official logo of Greenville
Location in South Carolina
Location in South Carolina
Coordinates: 34°50′40″N 82°23′8″WCoordinates: 34°50′40″N 82°23′8″W
Country  United States of America
State  South Carolina
County Greenville
Founded 1831
 • Mayor Knox H. White (R)
 • City 67.7 km2 (26.1 sq mi)
 • Land 67.3 km2 (26.0 sq mi)
 • Water 0.2 km2 (0.1 sq mi)  0.23%
 • Urban 829.4 km2 (320.3 sq mi)
 • Metro 7,221 km2 (2,788 sq mi)
Elevation 294 m (966 ft)
Population (2013)
 • City 61,397[1]
 • Rank 6th (SC)
 • Density 911.7/km2 (2,361.4/sq mi)
 • Urban 400,492 (US: 93rd)
 • MSA 850,965[2] (US: 65th)
 • CSA 1,438,550[3] (38th)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 29601-29617, 29698.
Area code(s) 864
FIPS code 45-30850
GNIS feature ID 1245842[4]
Greenville (/ˈɡrnvɪl/; locally /ˈɡrnvəl/) is the seat of Greenville County in upstate South Carolina, United States.[5] The city's mayor is Knox White, who has served as the mayor of Greenville since December 1995.[6] With a population of 61,397 as of 2013, it is the sixth-largest municipality in the state.[1] While having a small city population, its urban population was 400,492 as of 2010, making it the third-largest urban area in South Carolina as well as the fastest growing.[7] Greenville is the largest city in the Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin Metropolitan Statistical Area. The MSA had a population of 850,965 in 2013, making it the largest in South Carolina.[2]
Greenville is the largest city in the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson Combined Statistical Area. According to GSA Business Market Facts, the CSA had a population of 1,438,550 as of 2013, putting it in the position of largest in the state.[3] The CSA, a 10-county region of northwestern South Carolina, is known as "The Upstate". Greenville is located approximately halfway between Atlanta, Georgia and Charlotte, North Carolina along Interstate 85, and its metropolitan area also includes Interstates 185 and 385.
Greenville has gained recognition in various national publications such as CNN Money, which ranked Greenville as one of the "Top 10 Fastest Growing Cities in the U.S." Bloomberg named Greenville the 3rd Strongest Job Market, 2010; and Forbes named Greenville the 13th Best City for Young Professionals. Additionally, the state of South Carolina has been ranked within the top 10 fastest-growing states and economies by the U.S. Commerce Department.

Here's the average temperature and rainfall graphs from

It would appear that the rainfall is quite consistent throughout the year (THAT would be quite unusual to me I have to admit). The daytime highs throughout the winter are ok....not a whole lot different than where I live now actually other than we don't drop into the 50's for daytime highs. Our night-time lows are close...we definitely get into the 30's (and occasionally below). The big diff for me is the summertime highs, AND the consistent rain. 

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about the weather:


Greenville, like much of the Piedmont region of the southeastern United States, has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa), with four distinct seasons; the city is part of USDA Hardiness zone 8a, transitioning to 7b in the northern and eastern suburbs.[9] Winters are short and generally cool, with a January daily average of 42.2 °F (5.7 °C). On average, there are 59 nights per year that drop to or below freezing, and only 1.3 days that fail to rise above freezing.[10] April is the driest month, with an average of 3.36 inches (85 mm) of precipitation.
Summers are hot and humid, with a daily average in July of 79.9 °F (26.6 °C). There is an average 43 days per year with highs at or above 90 °F (32 °C).[10] Official record temperatures range from 107 °F (42 °C) on July 1, 2012, down to −6 °F (−21 °C) on January 30, 1966; the record cold daily maximum is 19 °F (−7 °C) on December 31, 1917, while, conversely, the record warm daily minimum is 80 °F (27 °C) on January 12, 1937, the last of three occasions.[10] The average window for freezing temperatures is November 4 thru April 1, allowing a growing season of 217 days.[10]
Precipitation is generally less frequent in autumn than spring,[10] and on average, Greenville receives 47.2 inches (1,200 mm) of precipitation annually, which is somewhat evenly distributed throughout the year, although summer is slightly wetter; annual precipitation has historically ranged from 31.08 in (789 mm) in 2007 to 72.53 in (1,842 mm) in 1908.[10] In addition, there is an average of 4.7 inches (11.9 cm) of snow, mainly in January thru March and rarely November or April, with more frequent ice storms and sleet mixed in with rain; seasonal snowfall has historically ranged from trace amounts as recently as 2011–12 to 21.4 in (54 cm) in 1935–36.[10] These storms can have a major impact on the area, as they often pull tree limbs down on power lines and make driving hazardous.

OK....enough on the weather. How about Real Estate? Is it pricey? Cheap? THAT is just as important as the weather.'s what I found: It seems rather CHEAP (in comparison to where I currently live anyway). Single family homes, 3 bedroom 2 bath, just under 1300sq feet. Here's some screen-shots of pictures and info:

 Of course, I know NOTHING of the area this house is in having never been there. So I can't say if this is a good deal or not. But it looks pretty nice...I could see us living in a house like this. 

This is the opening paragraph from "":


Nestled into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville, South Carolina has combined traditional southern charm, stunning natural beauty and an unexpected contemporary cool to create one of America's hottest emerging destinations and fastest growing cities. From a revitalized downtown ranked among "America's Ten Best" by Forbes Magazine to downtown Greenville's one-of-a-kind Liberty Bridge, quaint shops, boutiques, and fabulous restaurants to a world-class collection of museums, galleries, and Read More..

Oooh...sounds nice.

Appreciate any thoughts on this subject. I am getting excited to start visiting some of these places in the coming few years, and start to narrow the list down. 

Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Is Austin Texas a good place to retire?

Today we'll start my new series of a semi-in-depth look at cities I'm interested in for a 2nd retirement home (one will likely be somewhere in Virginia near my Jeannie is adamant that she will live near him in retirement, even if for part of the year). I'm starting with Austin as it's the only city on my list (so far) that I've actually been to. And, it starts with an "A". So....A-way we go!

I could type and type from memory (HA!) thoughts from my pathetic research, but the hay with that...I just copied a big blob from the Wikipedia entry (yes, I took the EASY way out, I know!) THANK YOU Wikipedia!

Austin (About this sound pronunciation ) (/ˈɒstɨn/ or /ˈɔːstɨn/) is the capital of the US state of Texas and the seat of Travis County. Located in Central Texas, Austin is the 11th-most populous city in the United States and the fourth-most populous city in Texas. It was the third-fastest-growing large city in the nation from 2000 to 2006.[3] Austin is also the second largest state capital in the United States.[4] Austin had a July 1, 2013 population of 885,400 (U.S. Census Bureau estimate). The city is the cultural and economic center of the Austin–Round Rock metropolitan area, which had an estimated population of 1,883,051 as of July 1, 2013.

In the 1830s, pioneers began to settle the area in central Austin along the Colorado River. After Republic of Texas Vice President Mirabeau B. Lamar visited the area during a buffalo-hunting expedition between 1837 and 1838, he proposed that the republic's capital then located in Houston, be relocated to the area situated on the north bank of the Colorado River near the present-day Congress Avenue Bridge. In 1839, the site was officially chosen as the republic's new capital (the republic's seventh and final location) and was incorporated under the name Waterloo. Shortly thereafter, the name was changed to Austin in honor of Stephen F. Austin, the "Father of Texas" and the republic's first secretary of state.

The city grew throughout the 19th century and became a center for government and education with the construction of the Texas State Capitol and the University of Texas at Austin.[5] After a lull in growth from the Great Depression, Austin resumed its development into a major city and, by the 1980s, it emerged as a center for technology and business.[6] A number of Fortune 500 companies have headquarters or regional offices in Austin including Advanced Micro Devices, Apple Inc., eBay, Google, IBM, Intel, Texas Instruments, 3M, Oracle Corporation and Whole Foods Market.[7] Dell's worldwide headquarters is located in nearby Round Rock, a suburb of Austin.

Residents of Austin are known as "Austinites".[8] They include a diverse mix of government employees (e.g., university faculty and staff, law enforcement, political staffers); foreign and domestic college students; musicians; high-tech workers; blue-collar workers and businesspeople.[9] The city is home to development centers for many technology corporations; it adopted the "Silicon Hills" nickname in the 1990s. However, the current official slogan promotes Austin as "The Live Music Capital of the World", a reference to the many musicians and live music venues within the area, and the long-running PBS TV concert series Austin City Limits.[10][11]

In recent years, some Austinites have also adopted the unofficial slogan "Keep Austin Weird".[12] This interpretation of the classic, "Texas-style" sense of independence refers to: a desire to protect small, unique, local businesses from being overrun by large corporations.[13] In the late 1800s, Austin also became known as the City of the "Violet Crown" for the wintertime violet glow of color across the hills just after sunset.[14] Even today, many Austin businesses use the term "violet crown" in their name. Austin is known as a "clean air city" for the city's stringent no-smoking ordinances that apply to all public places and buildings, including restaurants and bars.[15]

The FBI ranked Austin as the second safest major city in the U.S. for the year 2012.[16]

This last line intrigued me...of all the things I have been thinking are important in a place to live, I never really considered the overall safety. That's an interesting fact, considering that Texas is a right to carry (concealed weapons/open carry weapons) state. On one of my first trips there I was at a subway in North Houston getting a meal before we headed south to see our little brother Dave (my big brother Greg was with me). There was a line of people waiting to order, and probably 2/3rds of them had pistols on their hips, including one nicely dressed professional looking lady. It seemed very odd for me,a California resident, where people would go into HYSTERICS if they saw you carrying a weapon in public (even though it IS legal to "Open" carry an unloaded weapon). I'm betting "bad guys" don't live long down there...home robberies, car-jackings, etc...considering the large amount of the population who is armed in some manner. They (the "bad guys" must all come to California where they're safe ( kind'a political there).

ANYWAY. Here is a month by month weather graph for the temperature and rainfall (with huge gratitude to for my poaching of their charts):

 Here's the Wikipedia bit on the climate (thanks again Wikipedia! Note: their month by month weather graph is embedded in this so just enjoy a different chart of the same thing):

Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches
Austin has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen: Cfa), characterized by hot summers and mild winters. Austin is usually at least partially sunny, receiving nearly 2650 hours, or 60.3% of the possible total, of bright sunshine per year.[67]
Austin summers are usually hot, with average July and August highs in the high-90s °F (34–36 °C). Highs reach 90 °F (32.2 °C) on 116 days per year, and 100 °F (37.8 °C) on 18.[68] The highest recorded temperature was 112 °F (44 °C) occurring on September 5, 2000 and August 28, 2011.[69][70][71]
Winters in Austin are mild and relatively dry. For the entire year, Austin averages 88 days below 45 °F (7.2 °C) and 13 days when the minimum temperature falls below freezing.[68] The lowest recorded temperature was −2 °F (−19 °C) on January 31, 1949.[72] About every two years or so, Austin experiences an ice storm that freezes roads over and affects much of the city for 24 to 48 hours.[72] Snowfall is rare in Austin; a 3-inch (7.6 cm) snowstorm brought the city to a near standstill in 1985.[73]
Monthly averages for Austin's weather data are shown in a graphical format to the right, and in a more detailed tabular format below.

I personally thought THIS bit (again, from Wikipedia!) is important:

Austin is known as the most bike-friendly city in Texas and has a Silver-level rating from the League of American Bicyclists.[citation needed] There are over 80 miles of bike lanes in Austin. Over 2% of commuters get to work by bike and many more Austinites ride for daily transportation needs, according to the American Community Survey. The North Loop neighborhood along with the Manor Road area have the highest bike commuting rates, with over 13% of residents biking to work in 2012. Biking is also very popular recreation-ally with the extensive network of trails in the city.[citation needed]
The city's bike advocacy organization is Bike Austin. Bike Texas, a state-level advocacy also has its main office in Austin.[citation needed]
Bicycles are a popular transportation choice among students, faculty, and staff at the University of Texas. According to a survey done at UT, 9% of commuters bike to campus.

Back to my thoughts: Being a QUITE large city, Austin has all of the sports, theater, shopping, dining, and whatnot that anybody could possibly ask for. I guess all that's really left to cover is real-estate (as in: can we AFFORD to go there?)

Here's a link to an article (too big to post here), but overall, it's not good. Unless you're moving there from a HIGH price area (such as San Francisco, or anywhere on the north-east coast I'd imagine).

The Incredible Shrinking dollar in Austin

In a nutshell, the median priced home is around $230,000 to $240,000 (cheap by our standards here in CA, and we're not even close to San Francisco!) But for a 2nd home? (for us anyway)...that's kind'a pricey, and likely more than we would like to spend (by about $230,000 to $240,000). For us, it would be a fairly long drive between Virginia and Austin twice a year (minimum). But not as long as it could be, considering I'm also looking at places in Arizona , Utah and Oregon.

At this point I can't even rank Austin, as I have nothing to rank it against. That will come in the following weeks as I review other cities of interest. And as always, PLEASE feel free to toss out other places that I haven't mentioned. Right now I'm WIDE OPEN (and I'm not saying they have to be IN the U.S., as there are plenty of Ex-pats out there living large in great weather with a substantially cheaper cost of living...places such as Belize for one).

And don't forget: this Saturday night/Sunday morning is the evil, dreaded, horrible, stupid, ridiculous, and LAME "Fall Back" time change. And thus, it will be DARK by freaking FIVE THIRTY come Sunday evening. I HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE this part of the year.

And did I mention that I think the time-change SUCKS?

Oh well....have a great weekend!


And btw, HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Here's our pumpkins for this year (see below...we carve them the night before every year). It's always a competition between us....Jeannie did her's first and had it covered w/ the kitchen towel when I was going back and forth getting my dinner (Digorno Pizza)...and then I did mine, and THEN we light our candles and turn out the lights and can finally see each others. And I get out the tripod and take a few shots. It's as much a tradition for us as putting up Christmas decorations.

It's supposed to RAIN here for Halloween...that will be something...we haven't had any appreciable rain for about a YEAR now (not kidding) and it rains on HALLOWEEN? Poor kids...we have a LOT of candy to give out too....we always get a LOT of kids. We'll see how this year goes. So get out there and ENJOY!