Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Four Cracker Barrels in a row...and a farewell to longtime friend

Tonight we are in a Cracker Barrel just above the Indiana state line in Michigan.  We have had two lunches in a row with Marcia's cousins, each at Cracker Barrel.  In fact, this is going to be our fourth Cracker Barrel in row...but two nights in  RV park starting Thursday.  We had AWESOME visits with cousins of Marcia on her mother's side.  I have come to learn a LOT about her upbringing, her Greek Heritage, and oh, the list is long...  Sure glad to have met Byron and wife Jennifer yesterday in Indiana, and Connie and Jim today in Battle Creek, and especially for the latter two for driving all the way over from the Detroit area today to meet us!  We had a great time and great visits with all.

Today as we started up the tire pressure sensor to leave Cracker Barrel after lunch, we immediately got a low tire reading...this time the inner tire on passenger's side. We were a mile from Discount Tire, and this Discount Tire had brass tire valve stems for inner dually tires!  I told the manager that the shop in Sacramento and the shop in Tennessee did not have them.  He said he got a stock of 30 of them a year or two ago just for situations like I faced.  At $4 each it was a deal, and no charge to put on since I had bought my tires from Discount Tires two years ago.  Not wanting to wait too long, and because work on the breaks is going to take place a week from today in Little Rock, I had him just put on the one, and the other will go on in Little Rock.  And I don't need any extensions for these inner tires any more!  Our tire problems are behind us!  And it only cost $8 and 90 minutes of our time!

We have had lots of communications with Phoenix, and today's text telling us that Joyce had passed away was expected...but still the news was a shock.  She walks into the Hospital on Thursday, and finds out for sure it is leukemia on Monday, and today she is gone.  We will miss her, but our faith tells us she is happy, in no pain, with her Lord and Savior, and with friends, family and loved ones who passed on before her.  Our prayers are for those she left behind that morn.  We plan to be in Phoenix for the service in a few weeks.

Monday, April 24, 2017

In Indiana – HUGE change of plans

First we were going to go up the coast…got to Savanah and realized winter is the time to visit the southern east coast.


Cracker Barrel for night eastern Tennessee
Then the first of what has become three nights at three different Cracker Barrels in four days.  This one was in South Carolina.  Last night we stayed at a Cracker Barrel in eastern Tennessee.  Tonight it is a Cracker Barrel in mid-Indiana.  We had breakfast at the last two…tomorrow we are having lunch with a cousin of Marcias.  But WAIT, what happened to the Smoky Mountains???




Eastern side Great Smoky Mountains     Eastern side Great Smoky Mountains

After getting into camp on Saturday, and my brief adventure to Cherokee to post the last, short blog, we slept all night during a nice, mild rain.  Next day I decided to pull out and go back to Cherokee where we had Internet to catch church and so that Marcia could talk to her good friend in Phoenix who was in the hospital, and her daughter who was trying to sort everything out.  A phone call Saturday and on Sunday gave us the word that it looked bad…probably Leukemia.  So after church we headed out, figuring it was faster to go back to I-40 near Ashville than to travel over the Smoky Mountains in a a motorhome.  Hence, the night at Cracker Barrel in Tennessee. 

I-40 mile marker 4.5 North Carolina     I-40 mile marker 4.5 North Carolina

Even that plan did not go well for us.  There is a rest area around the 7 mile marker in North Carolina where we pulled over for 10-15 minutes.  Got down the road to the 4 mile marker and everything was at a stand still…and remained that way for 2 1/2 hours.  Sometime while we were at the rest area, two trucks collided, turned over, and stopped up everything.

NCDOT webpage

It took an hour for this update to hit the NCDOT website.  Had we not had the ability, thanks to the new aircard, to sort out 4G and 3G, we might not have even seen this because the 4G, with a signal of 4 bars, was so overloaded you could not get anywhere.  EVERYONE was on their smart phones clogging up the cell tower with 4G…but that same tower had 3G, and it was running smooth…so I switched the card to 3G mode and we enjoyed Internet, sitting on the highway, watched people go off into the woods from time to time, watching people walk up to the crash site just to run back when it started raining.  For 2 1/.2 hours!!!!

I-40 mile marker 3 North Carolina    I-40 mile marker 3 North Carolina

According to a news account, a truck “lost” its trailer.  Here is the trailer (left), and the cab slid down the roadway a bit and landed up against the barrier on the left side of the road.  Did I mention the 2 1/2 hours wait on the highway????

So our plans are as follows:  Visit Marcia’s cousins in Indiana and Michigan.  Meeting one at this Cracker Barrel we pulled into tonight for a early lunch tomorrow.  Then we move up 150 miles to Michigan to meet with another cousin tomorrow.  Then make our way to Cedar Lake Indiana where we will have two nights of full hookups and meeting with the third cousin, one we saw back in 2012, on Friday night.  Saturday we head for Arkansas where I have a Doctor’s Appointment on Thursday, and we are having the front brakes and new grease boots put on the front of the RV at the same place that did the work on the back brakes last October.  After that we head for Phoenix…and that is as far as our plan goes for now outside of trying to fit another short visit in here and there along the way. 

Of course, everything is subject to change…but you have to have a plan.  Sometimes you don’t plan to pull over at a rest area…you don’t plan to call your sister’s house…you don’t get smashed by a truck which loses its trailer.  It all is in someone’s hands who is greater than us…

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Camping in Great Smoky Mountains

This will be quick.  We decided to get away from heat and drove to Atkins SC yesterday where we stayed at Cracker Barrel.  Today we made it to the Smoky Mountains...no electricity, no cell phone, no Internet!  I drove over to Cherokee NC, about 5 miles from camp to post this.  Rain in forecast...no heat!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Old Friend at Amelia Island

Gerry and Marcia

Back in December of 2014, Marcia had a meet-up with her friend of 50 years Gerry at a Cracker Barrel near Ocala Florida…at that time they had not seen each other for 20 years, but had kept in contact.  Gerry was living in Chicago, but was down visiting her daughter Ruth, and we all agreed to drive the 100+ miles each to meet in the middle.   Last year Gerry moved into the same Condo complex that Ruth and her husband David live in, giving up the cold winters of Chicago.  We attempted to visit them back in February when we visited St. Augustine, but then I got sick and we cut that trip short.  So we decided to visit on our way out of the state.  Unfortunately, this time it was Ruth who came down ill…so we picked up Gerry and took her out to dinner…or should I say, we drove as she took us out to dinner.

Gerry and Marcia
Ruth had picked out the restaurant a few days ago…Sliders Seaside Grill right along the ocean.  Gerry has trouble hearing, Marcia has trouble walking, and the location was of concern…but it need not have been.  Probably couldn’t have been a nicer place for a 3 hour, yes, 3 hour dinner. 



Sliders Seaside Grill, Amelia Island     Sliders Seaside Grill, Amelia Island
Sliders Seaside Grill, Amelia Island

At 4:45 when we arrive the restaurant was not very busy.  We got a corner table right by this aquarium, which when I sat down was at my back.  We got a parking place as close as you can get, right by the ADA ramp that enters into the bar area (upper right),  making short distance to our table.  As we looked out the windows (upper left) you can see the ocean…although they were not interested in anything else except catching up and telling old stories.  Even the 10 minutes from being sat to getting any attention from a server did not bother anyone (well, that bothers me just a bit because of my background in restaurant work).  However, from that point on, the service and food were just fine, the company was outstanding.

Sliders Seaside Grill, Amelia Island

About 2 hours into it the ladies took a potty break…and I got a good picture of the fish behind me.  The tank was large and held about six or seven fish.  It did become a slight distraction at times when young kids, with mom or dad in tow, come over and look at the fish…their talking halted Marcia and Gerry’s conversation a couple of times.

Gerry and Marcia

By 7:30 we decided to call it a night.  Gerry had some food to take home, but Marcia finished her Redfish, and I finished my fried shrimp.  We dropped by a Publix Grocery store for a couple of items, and then I proceeded to head the wrong way going home, so Skruffy’s 8 pm feeding time turned into 8:30…but all was well.  Did not get any pictures of Amelia Island…will do that next time when we hope to stay an extra day or two.  The RV park we are in, Lofton Creek Campground, cost $30, is in Yulee about 9 miles west of the ocean.  It is not a large park, and you will have trouble getting in during the busy season, but we did not have any trouble in mid-April. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Orange City–DeLand Florida

Luna Sands RV Resort

Oh, you all don’t know how pretty this looks to us.  After coming off the road in mid-October of last year, in mid-April of this year we are back on the road for what we hope to be 8 1/2 months.  Here we sit at the Luna Sands Resort (ha-ha) in Orange City Florida, about 5 miles from where Marcia’s brother Dean and sister-in-law Caryl live in their brand new home in the Cresswind at Victoria Gardens 55+ community.  But first, the “Resort”…(ha-ha)

Skruffy   Bubba

So guys, what do you think about this RV Resort we are in?  Not too enthused either, are you.  Or is it that you are dreading the long trip out west via just about every state one can think of between here and there???

Old KOA building 

The Luna Sands Resort is a “old” KOA…the building behind these two RVs is a classic KOA “A-Frame” building that one could see in the 60’s-80’s.  For 28+ years this park was owned by the Clark Family, and for many of those years it was called the Clark Family Campground…until August of last year when Travel Resorts of America purchased the park and is slowly converting it into a Resort.  During January through March, one cannot get into  the park because the snow birds flock to it…it is a nice, cozy, quaint RV park.  So far the only changes that I know of are the future plans of turning it into a Resort.  Price for our Electric-Water site is $37 after 10% off for Good Sam (even though they are not a Good Sam park).  Clark Family Campground rates were $35-40, so the rates are pretty much the same right now.  But in the future, 3-5 years down the road, the lady at check-in said that it will be harder and harder to get a site because “members” of the Travel Resorts of America, kind of like a timeshare, will have priority.  Well, I am sure for December through April that will be a fact…but who flocks to Florida during the summer unless they want to wear “Mouse Ears”???  (not far from Disneyland)

General view of Park    Snowbird Storage Area
General view of Park    Goat Pen

Above is our view from where we are parked.  It is quiet, very few RVs near us, and you can see the gravel roads, and gravel-sand sites.  I am sure the grass is much better, but Florida is on fire right now…I mean, in a drought.  Of course, the first Tropical storm will take care of that later this summer.  The picture in the bottom right is the “goat enclosure”.  The one above it is the “Snow Bird Storage” area.  I think there is a lot of potential for this park…but it is going to cost some dollars, that’s for sure.  Since they have owned it since August, and a member of the Clark Family is working for the new owners, and yet the Clark Family Campground website is still up and running…call the phone number and you get a disconnected message.  There is NO MENTION of the campground being sold, how to contact the new “resort”, nothing.  When I mentioned that to the lady at check-in, she said, “Ya, they are working on that…”  Let’s see…August through April is eight months…I think someone needs to work on that a little faster. Now you can see why I say "Ha Ha"

Goats     Goat

As far as I can tell there are two goats.  Yesterday when I took Bubba and Skruffy for a walk, the gate was open and the goats were wandering around the RV Storage area…but when they saw Bubba and Skruffy, they wandered back inside the pen.  Bubba saw them and in good ole Bubba fashion, he just stares at them.  Skruffy…well, her diabetic eyes just don’t see as well as they use to.  I have noticed that she  can not see out in the distance very well at all.  Finally, she did see “something” out there, but she did not bark.  Gone are the days of her just barking at anything she sees out there.  However, at a rest area she did see some movement of a guy in a pumpkin orange shirt (Tennessee license plate) walking about 100 yards away, in the sunlight…so she can see some stuff.  I just think back to those days in Pine Bluff when she would run after every squirrel in the park, or the horse-drawn carriage carrying a wedding party…it is just not good getting old.  She is nine, and although her diabetes is seemingly under control, her youthful days are definitely behind her.  😭

We are headed back to Dean and Caryl's here in an hour...will take the camera and get some pictures for our next posting.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Time

Easter Cross

Easter is always a special time for us…which is why we like to try and stay in town through Easter each year.  With it being so late in the year this time we almost did not stay this year, but glad we did.  It essentially started for us on Thursday.  My last post talked about having breakfast with Cousin Mary…but that night we had dinner at Mama Maria’s, our favorite Greek Restaurant, with another cousin of sorts, Ginger.  It has been nice for me to get to know Ginger better this winter…her husband, who is a cousin of Marcia’s, passed away in November from cancer.  We felt blessed to make it home to see him before he passed…and we have had dinner with Ginger a number of times this winter.  Anyway, at Mama’s the waitress Marie, Greek Orthodox as is Ginger and as was Marcia, talked about how she is sick and tired of eating beans.  You see, for 40 days the Greek Orthodox observe a very strict fast…many call it the “Great Fast”, because it last so long.  Here is a quick breakdown of the fast as found on the Internet:
Week before Lent ("Cheesefare Week"): Meat and other animal products are prohibited, but eggs and dairy products are permitted, even on Wednesday and Friday.
First Week of Lent: Only two full meals are eaten during the first five days, on Wednesday and Friday after the Presanctified Liturgy. Nothing is eaten from Monday morning until Wednesday evening, the longest time without food in the Church year. (Few laymen keep these rules in their fullness). For the Wednesday and Friday meals, as for all weekdays in Lent, meat and animal products, fish, dairy products, wine and oil are avoided. On Saturday of the first week, the usual rule for Lenten Saturdays begins (see below).
Weekdays in the Second through Sixth Weeks: The strict fasting rule is kept every day: avoidance of meat, meat products, fish, eggs, dairy, wine and oil.
Saturdays and Sundays in the Second through Sixth Weeks: Wine and oil are permitted; otherwise the strict fasting rule is kept.
Holy Week: The Thursday evening meal is ideally the last meal taken until Pascha. At this meal, wine and oil are permitted. The Fast of Great and Holy Friday is the strictest fast day of the year: even those who have not kept a strict Lenten fast are strongly urged not to eat on this day. After St. Basil's Liturgy on Holy Saturday, a little wine and fruit may be taken for sustenance. The fast is sometimes broken on Saturday night after Resurrection Matins, or, at the latest, after the Divine Liturgy on Pascha.



 
The restaurant was pretty quiet, and Marie (Waitress) had a good moment to converse with us.  Oh she was just DYING for a steak, and she said that at 12:01 am Sunday morning she was going to cook herself the biggest steak.  “I told my ma to get me the biggest steak at Sam’s Club, nothing else…just the Steak.  I am going to cook it myself because if I let her cook it, it would be too well done.”  She also talked about when she was a young child how she had a pet lamb for a week…she loved the little lamb…which mysteriously disappeared over Easter Weekend.  “Must have got loose and ran away” her parents said.  Marie said it wasn’t until many years later that she realized that the lamb did not run away…  We all had an enjoyable chat with Marie, and about the lent, and at 7:30 when we left, we were about the only ones in there at that point. 
 
Easter Lamb
 
During the rest of the weekend we were busy getting things ready for the trip.  On Friday we attended a great Good Friday church service, and on Sunday, of course, we went to the Easter Service.  The church was packed!  And granddaughter Allisa, who came to visit us a little over a week ago, drove over from east Tampa area just to say goodbye.  After church we got Bubba, drove the motorhome over to the RV park nearby us, and then got dinner ready.  Kind of a tradition for us to have lamb chops for Easter.  Marcia’s son John, who we had lunch with on Saturday, was invited over for lamb chops which, unfortunately, some needed about 2-3 more minutes on the grill.  Oh well, you can always add fire, you can’t take it away if you over cook them. 
 
Monday we head out…staying at a Cracker Barrel or a rest area the first night.  Still lots to do to get ready…






Friday, April 14, 2017

Ready to Roll…well, almost

Oil Change place shuts down

This has been my “go to place” for oil changes ever since I moved to the area back in 2011/12.  You drive in, and for around $24 the HHR would get done, and for around $30 the motorhome would get done...you don't even get out of your vehicle.  Well on Monday I drive by and see no cars, no garage open…pull in and see a note on the window that it was not open anymore, and they recommend a place in the town of Dunedin to the south called “take 5 oil change”.  Thank goodness I was in the HHR and just happened to be driving along because on Tuesday I had plans to get the oil changed in the Motorhome.  Back home I call ‘Take 5’ and yes, they can do the motorhome.  So Tuesday I drive to the motorhome, take it to Dunedin, and pull into ‘Take 5’.  Wow, this is going to be a tight fit…

Alternative oil place with new name (Take 5)

‘Take 5’ bought out the ‘Havoline Xpress’ in the area.  This Havoline is now a Take 5.  You enter to the right, drive around,and enter the “pit” from the rear.  All is well except, with ‘Take 5’ comes a bunch of new equipment.  Also, look at that tight turn when I exit if I enter the far left bay in the picture.  Yep, this is going to be a very tight fit. 

They have me enter the bay in the middle of the building…that helps.  The new “Take 5” prices don’t help…it is going to cost more like $40 instead of the $30 I have been paying.  EXCEPT, they got me on the transmission service.  It has been about 35,000 miles since the transmission was serviced in Sacramento after we first bought the Dynamax.  So for a mere $120 more, they will essentially pull the transmission fluid out and replace it with fresh fluid.  There is a machine they have which does this, takes about 20 minutes.  In a sense since there is some of the old fluid still in there, it is more like a refreshing of the fluid.  But I still feel it is worth it. They offer a $15 discount on the entire oil and transmission change, so for $138, it is a deal.  Instead of pulling through when finished, I offer to back out, which is a good option.  45 minutes later, I am on the way back to the RV Storage area.

Flat Tire

I guess this is a good place to mention that one of the motorhome tires was a bit flat.  Instead of 80 psi, it was down to 35 psi…not good .  It was the driver inner dully again…the one we had fixed in lower Tennessee last October.  The nearest Discount Tire is in Orlando…but I think someone must have played with the tire because I just can’t believe the same tire went flat…but it could be a nail.  I drive slowly over to the Take 5, keeping an eye on the tire pressure and the tire temp.  Going 30 MPH, and with the motorhome pretty much empty, I make it fine.  They fill up the tire while there.  It drops 3 psi on the way back, not sure if that is good or bad.  The next day, it is down to 55 psi…not good at all.  There is a Goodyear store less than a mile from the RV storage, and I stop by on Wednesday to see if they can look at it on Thursday…they can….9 am.  YUK!  I hate early appointments.

Goodyear

It is your typical Goodyear store.  He tells me to pull around back, which shares a driveway with Publix Grocery Store’s 18 wheel truck deliveries…but I get back there and parked without a problem.  Marcia follows me with the HHR, and after we drop the motorhome off,  we take her cousin Mary out to breakfast to a new to us Restaurant called Spirou's Cookhouse & Desserts, a now new favorite place which we will have to try out many times next time we are home.  The menu is simple.  The food is fresh and delicious.  The service was wonderful.  The company (cousin Mary) was outstanding.  And the desserts they have laid out on the counter…well, it was very difficult, but we did not touch them…much like Jimmy Carter never touched that female that he said he lusted after when he was President.  Only in our hearts and dreams….  Ya, they looked that good.

2 hours later, Goodyear is done.  Yes, the tire’s valve stem was bad.  The guy said it couldn’t have been changed six months ago.  THAT’S when I remember…when the tire went bad in Tennessee, we pulled into a Cracker Barrel.  Called our road service, guy comes out and puts the spare on the inner driver’s side, and we drive on until we came to a town with a Discount Tire store.  We spent the night in a Cracker Barrel there, then went to Discount Tire where they fixed the valve stem the next morning. They ask me if I want it back on the driver’s side dully, or on the spare…I tell them to make it the spare.  Hence, the same tire bad now is not the same tire as then…just the same location.  This stem, put on a few years ago outside of El Paso Texas, just did not set right.  All is well…and I verified that the tire pressure sensor system is now working on all ten tires. 

Condo and RV Park

Sunday after church I will bring the motorhome over the RV-Mobile Home park next to us (bottom left red mark).  Our condo is located up in the upper red mark area.  Yes, it is that close.  It is too bad they don’t have any winter parking for motorhomes, because that would just be too convenient.  I turned the refrigerator on today, so tomorrow I will run the generator for an hour or so while I take clothing and a few other things over to it.  Sunday we can get the stuff in the fridge, and essentially take anything we wish over to it since it will be so close.  Monday we will wake up, take long, very long, showers (anyone who travels in an RV gets that one) by noon we need to pull out of the RV park, load the rest of the stuff up while it sits in the condo driveway, eventually we will be off and running.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

2017 Travel Plans

First Part Trip 2017

Our travels for 2017, as planned, is broken up into three segments.  Above is the first segment which will take us as follows:
Over to Deland Florida to see Marcia’s brother Dean and wife Caryl
Up above Jacksonville to see Marcia’s friend Gerry
Up the Georgia and South Carolina coast just because we can
Through the Smokey Mountain National Park just because we can
Up to northern Indiana so that we can visit Marcia’s family there, friends in the Chicago area…we will be in this area for a week or so
Up into Michigan (where we will see more of Marcia’s family) and into Norther
Michigan where our travel will slow up a bit
From Northern Michigan we will decide if we indeed go into Canada as the map shows, or if we stay in the states and not go over into the Dakotas…it will all depend on time.  By mid-June I need to be in Little Rock for another annual exam.  This is a bit early, but we don’t intend to be near Arkansas again this year, so mid-June is the projected date.  It will include a visit in Kansas City with my son Ryan and probably other family I have there…just don’t know if that will be before or after Little Rock.  We also want to have some front-end work done on the RV in Little Rock…mainly brakes and boots.

Second Part Trip 2017

The second leg of our trip will be at very casual pace, especially when we get to Colorado.  The map above just shows us going through Colorado, but in reality we will zigzag through parts of the state enjoying the cool Colorado weather, the pretty scenery, and just enjoy the time there.  Because some of the roads I hope to take are closed for winter still, Google Maps won’t let me plan a route through them.  It is likely that some places will be visited while on day trips…the route will be fine-tuned as we go along.  The only time schedule is essentially being in California by late September.  Some of what we want to see are as follows:

Rocky Mountain National Park
Pike’s Peak & Colorado Springs area
Many locations in the Rockies such as Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Vail, Breckenridge and Keystone.
We have already visited southwestern Colorado a few years ago.  On our way to Utah we will probably end up on highway 40, which means there will be some high elevation involved with our travels since some of the elevations are in the 11,000 foot range.
Salt Lake City to see my daughter.  We have visited many places in Utah, and Marcia has never been in the Northeastern portion. 

Third Part Trip 2017
The Third part of the trip is the trip home starting the day after Christmas.  This trip will need to be a little flexible too since we need to allow for winter weather.  Essentially we have to be back in the Condo in Holiday by January 6th for a doctor’s appoint that Marcia has on the 9th, which gives us two extra travel days in case there is bad bad weather along the way.  We plan to stop in the Phoenix area for a couple of days and there should be some time built in there to meet up with people who might be in the snowbird region of Q, Yuma, Tucson, etc.  Overall I am figuring on another 9,000-10,000 miles, which is far short of the 16,000+ we did last year going to Alaska.

Of course, as with all of our travels, plans are made by man…but it is always in God’s hands…

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

New Verizon Jetpack

Verizon 6620L Jetpack AirCard

Being a bit old school, I still call our Verizon Jetpacks “AirCards”.  So when I went into Verizon store near our condo, I told them, “I lost my AirCard out in the Walmart parking lot about an hour and a half ago…I need to cancel that one, and get another one.”  The man and the lady at the counter looked at me like I was nuts.  “Do you have a prepaid plan?”   Nope.  I give the lady Marcia’s phone number, which is the main number on the plan, and I tell the guy, “I think you might call them ‘Jetpacks’.”  As he looks over our plan he says, “Oh, heck, all we need to do is to replace what you have with a new Jetpack!”  I reply, “Uh, don’t we need to cancel that old Jetpack so that someone doesn’t use up all our data?”   He replies, “When we activate the new one with the same info as the old one, it will make the old one unusable.”  Ok, we are getting somewhere.  Now, I am thinking two things…do they have any in stock…and how do I get out of here with out spending an arm and a leg.

Verizon 6620L, AC791L and 7730L Jetpacks
Verizon has three good AirCards/Jetpacks now.  The 6620L (above left), the AC791L (above middle) and the newest 7730L (above right).  The latter two are 4G only, while the 6620L is both 3G and 4G.  As we travel, we have found that there are times that all we have is 3G.  It might be slow, but it works.  Although the new 7730 is suppose to bring in 4G from a longer distance away…it can’t bring in 4G if there is no 4G available.  So I picked the 6620L, it meets our purposes.

Skruffy and her fortune

So next, what was it going to cost us???  Skruffy was ready to fork over as much of her piggy bank as she could, but I was hoping that it would not need to break into her stash.  New 6620L Jetpack list price is $199.00.  “IF” we go under a 2 year contract, the cost would come down to $49.99.  However, Marcia has been a Verizon customer for over 10 years…she estimates it was probably 15 years.   He said, “Listen, I have a deal for you.  I will waive all cost except the mandatory $30 activation fee, put you under a 2 year contract, and you need to agree to the $5 per month replacement plan.  ‘IF’ you decide to cancel the plan, you can do so after 30 days.”  DEAL!  Skruffy can keep her money, I can handle this!!!

Verizon 6620L Jetpack AirCard

Was back to the condo within an hour, box in hand.  Thirty minutes later I had the network name in, the password in, and had connected both computers and both Kindles to the new ‘AirCard’.  Then I turned it off…it is ready for our next trip. More about our next trip next time…let’s just say, “Two weeks from now, we will be in Florida, but we won’t be in the Condo.  And when we leave, it should be for the rest of the YEAR!!!!”

Note:  You can see that I smoothly skipped over the part pertaining to "ME" loosing the AirCard in the Walmart Parking Lot.  I learned that from the various Main Stream Medias...if you don't want to talk about the "problem", just ignore it as though it did not happen... (they all act this way...frankly, I think true trusted journalism is a thing of the past)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Roots Run Deep

Tower Bridge

Born and raised in Sacramento, I lived there for the first 30+ years of my life.  Above is the iconic “Tower Bridge”, which first opened in 1935…a bit before my time, mom was 5, dad was 7…but I’ll bet dad remembers it since he was born and raised in Sacramento.

capitol grounds

Sacramento has been the Capitol of California since 1854, moving from scenic Monterey.  Above are pictures of the Capitol and Capitol park…it is a beautiful scene.  I always enjoyed a visit to Capitol Park, especially when I was on my bicycle because of the vast size of the park.  The Capitol is an iconic site too…and it is where I met then Governor Pat Brown.  Also met Governor Reagan, but he was not at the capitol, met him at the old Executive Airport near our home…twice.  Got a message from my oldest son Wednesday night…he just landed a job working for the California State Assembly, starting in July.  He will become very familiar with the Capitol and the surrounding landmarks.  His girlfriend has been commuting to Sacramento for nearly a year now, and this has been a planned transition for them moving from the expensive San Francisco Bay Area to Sacramento.

   Golden 1 Center, King's Arena

Sacramento just opened up the premier NBA stadium in the nation, the Golden 1 Center, in downtown Sacramento…not too far from the Capitol.  My son has already attended a game there…he said the stadium is something else.  I saw my first NBA game in the original ARCO arena back in the mid 1980’s thanks to my brother Bob who had season tickets.  That stadium held around 14,000, and was built as a temporary stadium, which was turned into a business building after the new ARCO arena was built, which was later renamed Sleep Train Arena.  Those first two arenas were nothing to this new stadium, that’s for sure.

Sutters Fort   OldSac

Sutter’s Fort (above left) and Old Sac (right) date back to the beginnings of the City.  The original fort, built in 1839, has the original main building, built in early 1840’s, and the rest is a depiction of what the fort kinda looked like originally, although it does not look like the original sketches that I have seen.  Still, the fort and Indian Museum are a nice attraction, one which I visited many times as a kid when it was “free”…oh, times have certainly changed.  Old Sacramento was a crumbling mess of buildings most of the time when I lived in Sacramento, with a push to rebuild and create what is now a wonderful Old Town, with many activities throughout the year.  The Railroad History Museum was completed in 1981 on the north side of Old Sac, and I was there for the opening day activity where Jerry Brown, then Governor, and now again the Governor…son of Governor Pat Brown, opened the Museum up.  It too is a fascinating place.

OldSac Train Station/Museum

My Second Great-Grandfather and 2nd-Great Grandmother Burdick came to California back in the late 1840’s.  He was on a boat headed for California before gold was discovered, while she was already living in the Bay Area.  They married, and eventually had a ranch where they raised horses used to pull the Newark Train, operated first by my Great-grandfather, and mostly operated by his brother for many years when Great-grandfather moved on to the real trains.  Grandpa Burdick was born in Portland because that is where Great-grandpa was working on the train for awhile…but for the most part Grandpa lived in California, settling down in Sacramento after he married Grandma.  Dad was born in Sacramento, and I was born in Sacramento.  My son’s mother grew up in Sacramento, and he has Uncles and Aunts and cousins from both sides of the family in the area.  It was a good home for me, and I hope it will be a great home for both of them.  Sure looking forward to seeing more of both of them during our yearly visits in Sacramento, that’s for sure.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Big Banks = Big Crooks

Big Banks = Big Crooks

Here I thought the “Days of Banking Rip offs” was over…apparently not.  You wonder if “THEY” will ever learn their lesson…I think not.  Here’s our story…

Home in Palm Harbor

The story starts when we decided to sell this house and move into the condo back in 2013.  The house was paid for, the condo was not…worse yet, the condo was upside down at the time.  We ‘could’ have paid the condo off with the money gained from the sale of the house…but at the time we wondered if we might be better off just turning the condo back to the bank.  However, in 2012/2013 the bank did reduce the principle owed on the condo due to the new federal regulations, so we were not that much upside down…but still upside down.  The condo was, at the time, a business investment for Marcia from way back in 2007 or early 2008.  Of course, we all know about the crash of 2008, hence, the condo was upside down.

Mortgage Debt

Due to the condo being an investment, we needed to live in it for at least two years before it could be considered our home, and not an investment anymore.  So I suggested that we pay above and beyond the normal mortgage payment…and now, in 2017, we are not upside down…or if we are, not by much.  We also decided to continue to live here…it has its advantages for us.  Nice neighbors, well protected, not too bad of a HOA monthly fee.  Hence, we upgraded the floor, and over the next two years, we will upgrade the kitchen, give it some paint, and upgrade the bathroom counter, etc.  We are going to pay for this by…not paying interest any more, which means, paying off the condo.  By setting the same amount of money aside each month as we currently pay in mortgage payments, it will pay for the upgrades…and we will not be tossing a few thousand away in interest payments anymore.

Cold Feet

So I made the call to the bank, a MAJOR BANK, one of the ones listed in the first cartoon image in this blog…ok, Chase Bank, there you go.  Despite having a statement which says, “this is how much your owe on your mortgage, but if you wish to pay it off, call and get a quote”, I do call, and they want a few hundred more dollars for interest than what the 5 day old statement says.  Ok, I get that…they want their interest up to the day you pay it off.  But then she says that it will take a month to get the paper work saying it is paid off, and another 4-6 months before we get the paperwork which can taken to the county to show it is paid off (closing stuff).  So we thanked her for the information, and I digested the information.  I did not like having that important paperwork sitting in our mail because we leave here in mid-April…I did not like the 4-6 months for the more important paperwork just sitting around.  I got cold feet….even though we had transferred enough money from our Money Market account to the Checking account to pay the condo off and pay for the new floor (which ended up costing $1,000 more than we first planned on).  Then, I did the math.  If we paid around 90% of it off, the interest would fall to around $25 per month.  We can continue paying our current accelerated amount, and when we get to California in September, we can get a payoff amount, go to a local Chase Bank and write them a check.  In the meantime, we can put some money back into the money market so it can earn another $10 or so before we decide to use it.

Bank Bill Pay

Of course, we are big time “Bank Bill Pay” people…the only time I write a check out is for the IRS, and for some camping sites, especially National Park, National Forest Service, etc type of sites.  Heck, last year as I was about to put my first IRS check in the mail (I write out each quarterly check ahead of time after I we do our taxes so they are ready to go) I noticed I wrote each check wrong…leaving out the “Tens” area when I wrote out the amount.  (Like, putting $585.00 in the amount, but writing out “Five hundred dollars and no cents”, leaving out the ‘Eighty Five’ part.)   Ok, so now comes the part where the BIG BANK becomes the crook.   I go online with our bank, and change the monthly total to be paid to our Chase Mortgage to the 90% amount of the payoff.  It is rescheduled to go out on Friday, the 17th.

On Friday night I look, and our bank has sent out the money…but with it being such a large amount, they decided to actually send a physical check instead of just a wired check.  The computer says, “The balance will be deducted when cashed.”  Ok, so the waiting game starts.   Monday, still not cashed.  Monday night, still not cashed.  Tuesday, still not cashed.  Tuesday afternoon, still not cashed.  Tuesday night…BINGO, it is cashed.  All the while, I am also going to Chase site to see if it has been credited.  Finally, on Tuesday night, yes, it has been credited…and this is where the THIEVERY takes place.

Payment was due April 1st.  For April, they accept the normal principal payment, they accept the normal interest, and then there is this “FEE” for an amount which equals the principal and the interest.   Then they take a payment for May out of that “fee amount” for a slightly higher principal amount than April and for the a slightly smaller amount of interest than April, as “IF” we made another normal payment for May.  Then, after each of these amounts have been deducted from the total check, the rest is finally posted as a Principal Payment, and that our next payment is not due now until June 1st.  They are STEALING a whole extra month’s of interest from us!  Well, at least they tried to steal it.

Big Banks = Big Crooks

So I call them this morning, and first thing I ask is, “Where are you located?”  The lady says from overseas.  I asked politely if we might be transferred to a person in the states because we needed to talk to someone whom we could clearly understand while we discussed our issue.  She politely said ok, and transferred us to a nice lady in Ohio.  So I explain the situation, and this nice lady immediately gives the “corporate line” of  “when our computer receives a payment which is over…”   So I ‘not so politely’ shoot that line down by saying, “If you look at the history of our account, we have paid more than the required amount for over three years now, and you computer always put the extra towards the principal.”  And if that wasn’t enough, I added, “Let’s just suppose that we had $100,000 in your bank…and we went into the bank today to withdraw that money, but we insisted on being paid interest for April and for May even though we are taking out the money in March…”  A bit of silence, and then an acknowledgement that things were not done correctly (I felt like saying, “Oh, it was done correctly by bank standards, but not ethically correct…” but I held my tongue on that one.)  Twenty five minutes later, it was all straightened out.  And I only insulted Chase (calling them thieves, crooks, taking advantage of the elderly, etc.) a few times.   I did end on a positive note telling the young lady that I know she did not do this, and that she handled the situation very well.  She said, “No sir, we were wrong, it is fixed now…we are sorry.”   Yea, more corporate talk…if you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, repent.  But as Marcia say, “If you don’t get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, they will take every cookie they can…”  After all, this is not the “FIRST TIME” we caught Chase with their hand in the cookie jar…shortly after we got married Marcia had made a payment towards principal and Chase took that payment, created into three normal payments with the rest going toward principal, putting us three months ahead on our payments.  When they were caught doing that, they assured us that ANY part of a payment in the future which was over the normal payment amount would go toward Principal.  You wonder if “THEY” will ever learn their lesson…I think not.

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