Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bye bye old friend

I got back home from Colo Springs last Friday afternoon. It was a good but uneventful trip (we got everything done that was planned and more, so that's good). The weather was great right up until Thursday mid-morning when the storm hit. It was raining pretty hard nearly all day after that. Schriever Air Force Base is a different sort of base than the usual run of the mill military base. As far as I know there is no exchange or comissary. There are work buildings, and that's about it. But those are inside a 2nd fenceline. First you enter the base thru one of 2 gates where they check your ID. THEN you drive to one of the giant parking lots surrounding the 'inner base', park, and walk walk walk to the large turnstile building. There you badge in and pass thru one of about 30 turnstiles (meant for LOTS of people to be coming/going at the same time). Then you walk some more to your work building. In cold or crappy weather this rather sucks, all you can do is dress warm and enjoy the walk if you can. It really sucked on Thursday afternoon. We weren't prepared for rain at ALL. By the time we got back to the rental car we were quite wet.

As in S.O.A.K.E.D.

Possibly DRENCHED even. And we were also a bit chilly, as the temps had dropped with the storm and was maybe now in the 50's. Ok, it was more than a bit chilly. We were COLD (and WET, in case I hadn't mentioned that).

But we survived, and the ONE good thing about going on work-trips is PER DIEM. We're on "actuals", so we have to provide reciepts for everything. There is a max for daily food expenditure, but we shoot for the sky and try to spend it all every day. Translation: we eat like KINGS. FAT KINGS. Well, not me (fat) but other people. My aging tapeworm is still up to the task and able to handle $66 of food a day (not without some difficulty though). It's almost a disappointment to come  home to "real life" and look in the freezer and make a chicken pot pie for dinner, after eating lobster(s), bone-in rib-eye steaks, Brazillian BBQ, if it's pricey and good we're all over it... all week. But other than THAT it's always great to be back home. And quite honestly I can't eat like that all the time or I would die young. Well, not necessarily young, as I think I'm kind'a already past that point....but not old either (whatever that is).

But I digress. On Saturday I was able to slip out for my weekly Saturday morning club bike ride. Usually I really look forward to these rides, however since around mid July my riding time has really dropped. Mostly due to work...it's been rather crazy, and my week-night rides have almost entirely disappeared (I normally ride on Tues and Thurs after work for about 2 or so hours). Along with those weeknight rides has gone my fitness. One ride a week isn't enough to keep me even level on the fitness scale...so I've been backsliding these past two plus months. And the numbers in my club ride have fallen, and some mornings there's only 2 or 3 of us. If the other one or two are 'fast guys' then I'm in a heap of trouble, and they're going to be bored as they completely destroy me whil'st chatting it up. And after sliding backwards for this amount of time, there's no way I can even hang onto their wheels at their pace for 60 miles. Or even 30 for that matter. Then I get huge guilt as they are continually waiting for me, so I end up breaking off going solo, leaving them to whale on each other and let me die in solitude.

AND SO (boy, do I really get distracted or WHAT!)...AFTER my ride of death and doom, I crawled my way back home about a half hour later than I had hoped for. Had about a 3 minute shower, grabbed a bottle of water and away we went. You see, Jeannie was taking her car to be put down. In almost any other state, her 1991 Teal Green Dodge Stealth (read: rocketship) would be just fine. Yes, it burned some oil. But here in California, we have smog checks every other year. We have limped and cajoled her car past smog by some miraculous means these last many years, but not this year. It failed hard. So we took it in to find out what it would take to fix it...just a valve job or an entire rebuild/new engine. The Bad news: entire engine. It was leaking oil past the piston rings AND valves. I found a total rebuilt engine for a little over 3 grand, and then to have the old engine pulled out and all the parts moved over to the new engine and reinstalled, was another $2500. So for around $5500 her 24 year old car (which was in FABULOUS condition outside and in except for the oil burning) we'd give it a new lease on life. But Jeannie decided not to put any more money into her old friend (she's had it since before we ever started dating). Over the years we've had the clutch replaced, the drive shafts (front wheel drive) replaced, manual transmission worked on (1st gear problem) and many other smaller things...new tires, battery, etc (new tires weren't cheap either...those babies are rather wide sports tires...I think they were "fifties").

But she decided and that was that, there was no convincing her that she should just fix it and drive it the next 8 years  here (how much time I have left to retire I HOPE at 62), put the rest of her money away (she's already saved enough to buy a new car as she knew this day was coming for many years now), let it earn interest over the next 8 years, and THEN sell this one with the rebuilt engine for whatever it's worth at that point, and still have all her money to buy a nearly new car 8 years from now.

And so...here's her car on it's final morning in our care:
I took this shot just before heading out on my bike ride. There they are, talking it up...my sliver Jetta TDI wagon and Jeannie's rocketship. I got my last speeding ticket in that car, about 9 or 10 years ago (doing somewhere around 80 in a 55 zone...long story). This car BEGS to go fast. It doesn't even run very good until you get the rpm's up around 3000, THEN it leaps forward and really takes off. And being low and sleek it corners GREAT, with those big fat sport tires.

In  California they have a plan to get "Gross Polluters" off the road...a buy-back plan. You submit your failed smog test results, and they eventually (took about 2 months) send you the paperwork. Then all you have to do is pick one of the "auto-dismantelers" from their list, and drive it to them (no towing allowed, it must be in running condition). They will then process your paperwork and eventually give you a check for $1000 (unless you're lower income and then you get $1500 for some reason).

So at 11:30 am we took off headed north, with Jeannie on her VERY LAST DRIVE EVER in her beloved Stealth. I was following close behind (as her registration expired in Sept) and just wanted to make sure we didn't get pulled over on this final voyage. We had to drive it about an hour north to Paso Robles, which was the closest dismanteler. Being as I had run late in my bike ride I didn't get any food (we had to be up there BEFORE they close, as it takes over a half hour for the paperwork, and there are others there ahead of you likely, which there were).

This shot was taken w/ Jeannies cell phone (has a crappy little camera....not even a smart phone...it's her work phone) of me in MY last drive EVER in her car. I was driving it onto the scales for weight....for some reason they weigh it with me IN the car, then I drive it off the scale and park it (very sad) and then step back ONTO the scale for them to weigh me (like I even register on this HUMONGOUS scale). No idea what that was all about. I parked her car next to all the other sad cars, awaiting their turn at becoming organ donors. Her car was BY FAR the nicest one there. The guy who came out to start our paperwork even commented that he doesn't see many cars like this. Most likely we could have sold it somewhere for more, but in CA it's almost worthless if it won't pass smog, and we weren't going to deal with the hassle.

And so....we drove off with check in hand, her teal green Stealth whimpering as we left. By now it's been stripped I'd imagine...body panels (all in great shape) going around the country to fix the few remaining Stealths still out there, along with any other needed parts (the seats were immaculate, and the dashboard was even un-cracked). Sad. Just sad. And it wasn't even my car. I've been hammering the miles in my Jetta since 06 (I'm up to 222,000 miles already) and only occasionally drove her car. When I did, it was ROCKET time. Somebody has to burn out the 'gunk'...and Jeannie drives it like I drive my Jetta (like a little old lady). But it's gone now...no use crying over spil't milk. My battle to get her to fix it was lost, and I promised her I'd not give her any more grief over it. She is already looking for the car she wants (a 2013 VW Passatt TDI) and true to my word, I've already found her a few nice ones...the best option is down in Arlington Texas (about $2000 cheaper than anything even remotely near here)...and I was willing to fly down, get the car and drive it home (about 1400 miles, figure I can do that in 2 days). But she had now decided to wait until the 2015's are out in full force, thinking it will drop the 2013 prices more (this 2013 is actually two years old as they come out with the new model WELL before the end of the year). It's black with a beige interior, and FULLY LOADED with every option you can get. It's a REAL nice car..much nicer than mine (that's ok...I still love my little mileage king!). Being a diesel like mine, and even though it weighs a lot more, has way more horsepower and is bigger, AND an automatic transmission, it still gets in the 40's mpg on the highway, 30's in the city. Just a great car. But we'll see...she wants to wait, so we (she) waits.

And thus...the ONLY car I've ever known her to have is GONE.

Goodbye my old smokey friend! May others live on by your passing!


  1. Boy, you had me worried there for a moment.

    I'm just taking a quick break from watching my required Ebola preparedness video and reviewing guidelines. Unlike the hospital in Texas (sounds like), mine has been discussing and preparing for weeks and had already taken the decision to follow the practices of Emory U. instead of the less stringent CDC guidelines. We have already had "test" run throughs. Any patient will be admitted to my unit. We have a large African immigrant population in our city, mostly Somali but a goodly number of Liberians. In fact I was caring for a Liberian lady about 2 months ago, and she was in isolation for a multi drug resistant bug which required only gowns and gloves. I was updating her son about it -- he thought I said "Ebola" and nearly passed out -- poor guy!


  2. Hey Rae...I was wondering how things were going for you on the Ebola thing, being in THE industry and all...scary stuff for sure! It sure seems like there was some dropping of the ball going on in Texas (and at the CDC) early on. Sooner or later we (the entire world) will be faced with a very scary super-bug...the pandemic that has been predicted/talked about a lot in recent years. Get one of these scary Asian flu/Bird Flu bugs that has mutated into an even higher death rate and has gone into airborne transmission, and it's suddenly a very small world. An infected person walks thru a mall, gets on a bus, or goes thru an airport and then flys somewhere, and suddenly you have an exponential infection rate that is pretty much impossible to stop. Lots of movies have some sort of that theme in them, and they are all very scary! I think it was one of Tom Clancy's books where he used a mutated Ebola virus as a weapon of mass destruction...and that was quite a while ago he wrote that.

  3. Gosh Rae, take care! I'll worry about you till this finally current epidemic ends. And keep commenting at least once a week so we know you're alright!

    Matt - so, what you're REALLY saying is that you were working at 'Area 52' - the super, super, SUPER, secret (far more secret than sister-base Area 51) military base! Tell us - what do aliens REALLY look like? ;) :)

    And gee, did you ever tell us Jeannie's car was this OLD?! Wow, someone other than a car collector or restorer had a car older than mine! And her exterior looked a LOT better than mine! Did she always park in garages? I only parked in my garage for about 3-4 years. Did her paint ever peel off? Mine starting doing that around year 15. And crap, wish MD had that trade-in deal! Also, her car looked in such great shape that maybe a car-restorer guy will buy it & it will have even more years left!

    I am confused though - what is she driving until she gets her new car? Did ya'll have 3 cars?

    Also, I have questions about your retirement mention - is that when you WANT to retire? Very jealous (I'll have to work many more years, sniff, sniff). Do you plan to retire from this job & then do something else full or part-time or just rest, relax, ride bikes, &/or do even more home remodeling? Will you keep living where you are now or plan to move? I'm trying to figure out where I want to live whenever I retire. It's SO expensive in this area & I HATE the snow/ice. I want to live where I NEVER have to worry about snow & ice again! Not on the roads, not on my roof/gutters, & not on my driveway & sidewalks! But I've only lived in MD & have no clue if I'd like living somewhere else. I am thinking maybe Charlotte, NC, Charleston, SC, Atlanta, GA area or maybe upper-mid Florida. But I've never even VISITED the 1st 3 areas! I'm interested in hearing what other people envision for their retirement. God, for so long it seemed FOREVER away & now, I realize I need to start thinking NOW for what I might want to do. I'm a planner so need a looooonnnng time to think about things & weigh pros & cons. Right now, I'm just confused & getting a bit panicky (even though it's still more than 10 years away, hopefully, as I NEED to get more money into my retirement accounts).

    If money was no object, would you retire to Hawaii? I definitely want to visit there but I'm pretty sure I want to stay on the East Coast. Of course, ANY DAY NOW, my lottery subscription will FINALLY pay off & I'll be able to have at least TWO houses 1 in MD & one in FLA! :) :) :) Whoo-hoo! Plus, I'll will travel to all the places I've had to put off visiting. Why, just YESTERDAY I got a check from the MD Lottery for....wait for it....$7.00! Yessiree bub, seven entire smackeroos ! One million more of those puppies & I am OUTTA HERE! :)

    Alrighty, keep us updated on Jeannie's car hunt. I hope she finds her next perfect car.

    BTW, how are the doggies?

    Have fun this weekend, everyone!

    1. Susie...I'd tell you about the aliens, but then I'd have to kill you (or something like that). Actually I think the guy I mostly work for now is actually an alien...that would explain a LOT. (he's sucking my will to live, that's for sure!)

      I think I've mentioned how old Jeannies car was here before, but maybe not. Back before I got my Jetta diesel I was driving an 85 Monte Carlo SS (my poor mans hot-rod). It got pretty crappy mileage w/ that V8, but was rather fun to drive (and it was made of STEEL...I used to stand of the roof in our garage to get up in the attic). People in their fancy schmancy Mercedes and BMW's didn't really want to do anything stupid in front of me...that car would demolish their car). Jeannie had her car parked outsidewhen she lived in VA going back to school (back when we started dating...she was living w/ her brother so she could get in-state Tuition at ODU)...and in Hawaii (where we moved to after she graduated) our condo's 2 parking spots were on the top floor out in the sun. But since 02 when we moved here it's been garaged. The only paint problem it had was from where she was hit not too long after we moved here, and the repair place did a rather poor repaint IMO...the clear-coat was peeling on that side (she was side-swiped by a man who pulled out w/ out looking). Other than that it was in pretty great shape (except for the quart of oil every tank thing). I don't know if they (the dismanteler place) is allowed to keep any vehicles intact...we both hope they can and somebody can get it and put the engine in it...which is all it needs. Sad to think it's in pieces. But then, it's just a car.

      Right now we have an 'extra' car at our house (not ours). One of her friend co-workers moved down to San Diego over a year ago (her husband got a job down there), and she had bought a new car (Ford Edge)...but didn't want to get rid of her quite old Nissan Sentra (has 212,000 miles on it, but still runs AND passes smog). So Jeannie offered to let her keep it here. I've been driving it on errands and such on weekends to keep it alive. Well, now it's in the garage, so technically we still have 2 cars. Jeannie doesn't like to drive it much (cuz it's NOT ours..what happens when something breaks?)...but letting it sit will absolutely kill it...so I say drive it and save your money. She only drives about 10 miles a week (walks to work most days)...I'm the one hammering the miles (which is why I got a car that gets 50mpg).

  4. As to where we hope to retire at, it WON'T be here (CA). They are crushing us here w/ taxes (and I'm not really a fan of CA politics either). Jeannie wants to be near her twin-brother (who lives in VA now). Our ORIGINAL plan was for all of us to move to Hawaii and retire, as he had a condo there as well (we still have ours)...but he sold that to buy his farm (he's not a farmer, just has the house and land...has a few cows, some chickens, got rid of the goats). I do NOT want to live there year round, as they also have REAL winter...and after growing up in WY and MT I've had enough winter for the rest of my life. We will consider a house in VA and another somewhere else (just not here)...but I'm sad, cuz Hawaii was the ticket...but that's gone even as the 2nd home as it's too expensive to go from VA to HI twice a year (besides, Jeannie's got 5 more years after I retire, so she's thinking of transferring to Richmond to finish out her career). I just need to find a place to spend winters away from cold. Not really a FL fan (pretty much every bad creature on the planet that bites or stings lives there, and wants to bite/sting ME)...and the summers are stupid hot/humid...and the winters are chock full of snowbirds. And it's FLAT..... F.L.A.T. I like some hills/mts as I HOPE to be able to ride bikes most of my life...both Mt and rd. Thinking maybe someplace in southern UT (the St. George area), or maybe the Sedona AZ area as a couple of possibilities (but I'm looking too..let me know if you find a place w/ decent winters). Assuming we'll always have doggies (who are all doing pretty fine, thanks for asking) we / I need to be able to drive back and forth rather than fly. Which is also why HI is out...but I DO love the weather AND water out there (lived there for 10 years)! I'd like to live on the Big Island rather than Oahu if I could...which is WAY too crowded.

    Anyway...we're on that Lottery instant-retirement plan ourselves...don't need a ton..just a mil or so...that would help substantially. If we stay on track I can retire @ 62 in 8 years...the house and condo will be paid for, so we'll be in fat city (Jeannie is a spectacular planner).

    OK...enough on that...Rae, avert your eyes for a moment...how about that ND/Florida State game! OMG, I was about to go CRAZY when ND got the winning TD w/ seconds left to play..but called back due to illegal block on ND...I DIED!!! I SO wanted them to win that game! Hopefully their rankings don't go to far down...losing on the last play of the game to the #2 team in the country isn't too shabby! Oh...and hey...#2 Baylor LOST to unranked West VA! (I mt biked in West VA years ago...kind of like it there too..but I think they get real winter also). GREAT mountains tho...

    OK...there's enough on this 2-part comment to be a full blown post for crying out loud. Have a great rest of the weekend! And Rae, stay safe & healthy! Hope you never have to put your ebola training to use....that is very scary stuff! And JD...if you're still out there drop a note now and then...assume you are SUPER busy w/ the house and school...and Barbara...how are you doing?

    OK...bed time...I turn into a pumpkin in a few minutes...what an old fuddy duddy I am! (it's not even 10pm on a Saturday night!)

  5. I will be very surprised, really, if we ever see an Ebola case, but it is certainly possible. They've tweaked the plans again, decided that it wouldn't be prudent to have a case on the same floor as other patients, even if in a reverse air flow room (which we have). So now they are going to set up a special room elsewhere in the building. Oh, and no worries about me -- they decided that because of the heavy protective gear, no one who has hot flashes can be assigned to this room -- rules me out! About retirement -- much as I wish to deny it, I am looking at 2 years (if I quit at 62). I have a hard time seeing myself doing this job up to 65, physically I am finding it quite wearing now, but to find another job in my field at this age is quite quite difficult. When I moved from San Diego to Columbus way back in 1992, my plan was to see my daughter through high school here then head back. However, as time went on, that seemed less and less financially logical -- even in a smaller town the cost of living is so high out there compared to here. I don't really want to stay here either, only because of the winters although really they aren't too bad here, we usually get only 2 significant snows--the past 2 years being exceptions, and I hope not a trend (Columbus is really a very pleasant place to live otherwise -- but it IS flat, Matt, I have to drive at least an hour to get to any real hills). I've no idea where I would want to go. Do they really have real winter in VA? I thought it was milder there. Phoenix does have the advantage of NO MOSQUITOES but hot, dry, sandy, water shortages etc -- can't have a garden. My brother is always singing the praises of his little town just outside Nashville -- but they are right in tornado alley! He has had to repair his house twice in 20 years. The entire Gulf Coast is stupid humid, I think. Maybe North Carolina? Arkansas? Austin TX? I hope this posts correctly, I am having a bit of trouble with it. Pumpkin, YUM! Rae

    1. My little bro lives in Houston...they really like it there (have 2 kids, around 8 and 10 I think). They moved FROM California back about 10 years ago, and realized right away they can't afford to come back...but the $ they got from selling their house in Canoga Park (San Fernando Valley) more than paid for a ginormous 2 story house...really nice! The cost of living is quite low as compared to CA. I've also considered places like Arkansas...(some really pretty country out there, I'm guessing a rather low cost of living). The farther south the better the winters for sure. VA coastal (Norfolk/Richomnd) don't necessarily have "REAL" winter...but I did 4 years in Norfolk, and 33 degree rain SUCKS LOADS! I froze in the winters there...and that's a Montana boy! My bro in law lives inland, about 2 hours or so northwest of Richmond in Amish country...very very nice in the summer (can be pretty hot and humid tho)...but they get a pretty wicked winter (keep in mind that I lived in Hawaii for 10 years, so my definition of a "wicked winter" might be slightly skewed since my MT days). Sadly, just about every place that has decent weather mostly year round has probs...well, maybe not the Arizona areas...Sedona and such...lots of retirees in that area (I have a friend in that area, will have to pick his brain, see what he thinks...haven't talked to him in a bit). Phoenix...NO...summers are MELT YOUR BRAIN hot...that's why you go north from Phoenix and get a few thousand feet of elevation...winters not too shabby, summers aren't burst-into-flame hot. Also southern Utah is similar I think....(St Geroge)...but never really been to either place so can't say for sure.

      Gotta run...been a LONG day, stuff to do.

  6. I hope to come back later to chat MUCH more but for now - I have the PERFECT retirement place for both of you! GREENVILLE, SC! South Carolina is pretty good for retiree's taxes (something you MUST consider), Greenville has got mountains AND since it's in the Deep South, the winters can't be that bad. PLUS, Big George lives there! You can run (er, ride) into him on your daily biking adventures! I don't know about the bug situation, but I've seen Greenville listed on Best Places to Retire numerous times the past 5-10 years, so it can't be that bad, right? Greenville is on my loose "list" although it doesn't have a major airport & for at least the 1st 10 years of my retirement, I HOPE to do a lot of traveling & want to live within 35 miles of a major airport.

    Austin, TX sounds like a really good option too - good tax situation, fairly low-mid housing costs, especially when compared with CA (although increasing the past few years with all the people moving there), great restaurants & night life (so I've read), good weather. No mountains but not really flat & heck, Lance did his off-season training there during his career so the roads must be ok. Plus, Matt - it's the home for Univ of 'Hook 'em Horns' Texas, so you've got big time college football right in your backyard.

    I've never been to Arkansas, but know it's one of the poorest states. Guess I would hesitate to live there for that reason - not enough taxes for good state "amenities" (like POLICE, FIRE DEPT, HEALTH CARE as in HOSPITALS, SCHOOLS, ROAD & BRIDGE UPKEEP!) I hope to live in a place with a fairly low cost of living, but not TOO low.

    BTW, VA is pretty bad tax-wise. About as bad as MD or even worse. Of course, compared to CA, it would probably be an improvement.

    Alrighty, gotta run!

    1. I am sure that things have changed over the past 2 decades, but when I moved I was shocked to find that my property taxes here in OH were much higher than I was paying in CA. Maybe they were frozen there because of proposition 8 iirc. And, property taxes have tripled since I've been here. My city services are really good, I don't think the schools quite live up to their reputation, but the really shocking and ever-increasing amount of tax goes for MRDD, behavioral health, and children's services. And senior services -- totally expect that to continue increasing.

      SusieB, you brought up a REALLY good point. In those low tax states are services minimal? And, not to sound elitest, but I wonder also if the social milieu in one of the poorest states would be too much of a cultural shock. Just going from big-but-laid-back liberal San Diego to up & coming yet more conservative Columbus was quite an adjustment. There are corners of Ohio where I know I wouldn't fit in.