Thursday, March 30, 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.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

20 Gallons Gas for $22.58, am I Dreaming???

1965 Austin Healy Sprite (mine did not look as good as this one)

With this head cold, (yes, we both still have it), it is easy to wonder what is real, and what is a dream.  Like my first car…a 1965 Austin Healy Sprite.  At 16 years old, it was a dream car.  Two seats, convertible…it held 8 gals of gasoline “IF” I filled it up until it started coming out the spout.  Had it for less than a year…rebuilt the engine twice, and if it wasn’t for those duel carburetors, I’d probably still own it today.  What I loved about it, besides the obvious, was that I could fill it up for under $2.  I think the most I paid for gas was $2.25 once, normally I could get by putting in a dollar.  Of course, gas was less than 30 cents a gallon back then.  What a dream!

20 Gallons for $22.58   $1.129 per gallon

Today I put 20 gallons of gas into the motorhome…and it cost $1.129 per gallon.  WOW…it sounds like a dream, but it was reality.  One thing about shopping at Winn Dixie, beside it being just down the street from the condo, is that you get 5 cents off in gas for every $50 you spend.  You can save it up for 2 months.  With 10 days left in this cycle, I decided to put the maximum, 20 gallons, into the motorhome today…at $1 off per gallon.  Sure could have used some of these prices last year on the Alaska Highway…that WOULD have been a dream!

SafeGuard Tire pressure monitoring system

Two years ago we purchased the SafeGuard tire pressure monitoring system.  On our last trip one of the car pressure sensors stopped working on us.  I thought it was a bad battery, even though we replaced all the batteries just last spring.  Talked to the company and they said to send it to them, and they would replace it for free…so I did.  But when I talked to them a week later, the guy said that it was just a bad battery…even though I had put in a “new” Energizer battery.  He put in a new battery and tested it, and sent it back.  I put it on the car and tested it over at the motorhome, and after I re-programed it, everything worked again.  Apparently in trying to get it to work, I had cleared the setting for this one tire…so it had a bad battery, and it needed to be reprogramed.  Sure glad they honored their 2 year warranty, that’s for sure.  We LOVE our tire pressure system.  It gives you a lot of peace of mind as you travel down the road…and it did catch that one dual tire problem last year.


As for our colds…it is like walking up an escalator.  For every three steps you go, you realize you dropped a step in the process.  YUCK!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Week-long Sickness

A week ago today we moved back into the condo after having the new floor put in.  We were sick…we are still sick.  Well, make that Marcia is still sick, I am doing much much better. 


This is the type of cold that holds on to you for a long time.  Yes, I still cough sometimes…but for the most part, that is all over.  As for Marcia, each day now is getting better…since yesterday…which means today is better than yesterday, but yesterday was as bad as last Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc. 

LibmanMop      LibmanMopHead

Thursday and Friday were fairly productive on my part.  One of the reasons we wanted to get rid of the carpet was due to high dust within the old carpet fibers.  Multiple vacuuming did little to rid the dust.  With the carpet gone, I dusted the ceilings, the walls, corners, just about every place one could think of.  Even though I had cleaned the ceiling fan real real good back in November, it was dusty as could be again here in March.  Friday, with the dust gone, it was time to clean the new floor.  We decided upon the Libman Freedom Spray Mop because the cleaning pad (top right) can be washed and used over and over and over again.  One can use the cleaner of their choice, which you put in the attached tank.  We put one part Vinegar to around ten parts water.  The floor was vacuumed with our Rumba, and it took about ten minutes to clean it with the Libman.   The hardest thing was trying to find a Lowes that still had one in stock.


Watching church from home again Sunday…although the coughing and sneezing are starting to subside…they do hit either of us, sometimes both of us, from time to time.  Heck, would hate to let out a big sneeze and wake everyone up!  Winking smile   


Got a copy of Skruffy’s Test results.  When we left Alaska, her liver tests were essentially “off the charts” but falling.  Happy to say, all of the liver tests now show she is right smack in the middle range.  HURRAY!!!   As for her diabetes…we had a Fructosamine test done, which is a blood test that is used in animals to measure the average level of glucose control over the past few weeks.  A reading of 300-400 is good…she came out at 331.  The vet said that her diabetes is very much under control.  HIP-HIP-HURRAY!!!!  The blood test monitors over 40 different things, and only 3 or 4 items are barely over normal, and one was barely under normal.  The vet said that for a 9 year old girl, she is in great shape.  And to think…nine months ago Dr. Meezie said those frightening words…”IF SHE MAKES IT THROUGH THE NIGHT”  If one needs to be reminded just how sick she was, read my post, Skruffy’s Last Bark?”…guaranteed to bring on the tears….

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Floor Done, Back in the Condo…with Head Colds

Living Room done and back together...almost

FINALLY!  We are back into the condo.  Although we would have liked the Vinyl Tile, the Vinyl Plank is also nice. We are VERY PLEASED with the floor.  No squeaking, not too loud when you have shoes on, no noise when you are bare foot.  Yes, pitter-patter from Skruffy's feet, but we knew that up front.

Working on Livingroom

Saturday was the day they were able to do the floor.  I arrived at 7:30, they arrived at 7:45…they were gone by noon.  Here the underlayment, which is plastic on one side and a felt-like material on the side you see, is being put down.

Working on Living room

I left shortly after 8, came back at 9:30 and the living room was nearly finished.

Entrance from Hall to Living room     Entry to Master Bathroom

The only thing left for the floor is that the transition strips between the Vinyl Plank and the original tile needs 48 hours of curing with weight on it.  The upper left is the entrance hall, the upper right is the master bedroom to master bath.  The light brown in the floor matches the browns in the tile very well.

Living Room TV, door to bedroom     Bedroom

Along with the change also comes a change in furniture arrangement.  In the very first picture of this posting you can see the display case is now against the “mirror wall”.  The table that use to be along the mirror wall is now our TV table…only table that was long enough for the 40” TV.  The entertainment cabinet that use to be in the living room  is now in the bedroom, and the dressers are now on each side of the bed.  Hey, I was even smart enough to be sure that my dresser was on my side and Marcia’s dresser was on her side.

Skruffy     Skruffy

EVERYONE is happy to be home.  Bubba’s outer mouth infection seems to be getting better.  Skruffy had her first full exam since her sickness in Alaska and she is doing well.  Monday or Tuesday I am going to drop off the paperwork from Alaska, which I could not get to because of the floor, and pick up her compete blood workup.  It will be interesting to see what the results are…and I will be sure to share those results.


Meanwhile…BOTH Marcia and I have terrible head and chest colds.  I started getting sick Thursday night, on Friday she wanted a quick kiss, and despite me telling her she was going to get sick…yes, by Saturday she was coming down with it and today (Sunday) she has it full blown too.  Thank goodness for drugs…Tussin DM is doing the trick for me, and Marcia is going to try it tonight too.  I think I tied my record for sneezing all at once again…lost count at six.  It is never fun to pack or unpack the is way worse when you are sick.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Murphy's law

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Murphy's Law

7:45 – I take the 3 minute drive over to the condo. 

8:30 -- the two installers arrive.  Fabio, from Brazil, and another guy from Cuba who is a bit older, wiser, but does not speak much English.
8:55 -- I am back at the motorhome.
9:30 – I get a call from Fabio, he needs to show me something…
9:40 – I arrive, the carpet is up in the living room, the bedroom has much of the large furniture.  Fabio has a meter is his hand.  In many spots of the living room the meter is showing 85% moisture reading…along the outer walls it is more like 20%.  “IF” they try to put the glue down on the floor, within 3-5 months there is a likelihood that we will have vinyl tiles coming unglued…not good.
10:30 – I head back to the motorhome, call the salesman…he is having a colonoscopy and has to head over to the hospital at noon.  The installer has convinced me that the best thing is to change over to Vinyl Planks, which have a underlayment which is moisture proof.  The salesman puts in the change order as I head back to the condo.
11:00 – Fabio is on the phone with the moisture specialist.  They talk about how the readings are very high, including in the bedroom where they have cleared most of the carpet. 
11:15 – After hearing much of the conversation, we decide that the floor needed to be treated with a moisture resistant compound, and it would need to be grinned to give the compound something to stick to.
11:45 – I get the price for the moisture compound, the grinding, the underlayment…another $2.50 per sq. ft.   Thank goodness it is a small condo and we are only dealing with 40% of the total square feet.
12:00 – The installers head to Tampa (hour away) to pick up the sealer, I go back to the motorhome.
2:00 – Talk to Fabio, he is still at the distribution center but nearly ready to leave. 
2:15 – Talk to a manager who needs to confirm that I know, understand, and agree to the extra charges.
2:45 – I head back to the condo.
3:30 – Installers come back.
5:30 – I am back at the motorhome, installers have left.  They have grinned the floor and laid down the goop on the floor.  We turned the A/C down to 70 degrees.  With about 1/3 of the living room done I notice the sliding door is open, so Fabio takes off his shoes and walks through the goop in his soaks to close and lock the door.  I am sure he tosses the socks away.
Carpet gone, but moisture readings high     Grinding the concret
The Goop -- DriTac 7000     Goop down in Bedroom, starting on Living Room
Working on Living Room after sliding door got closed

Can’t do anything until the goop dries.  I do go by after Marcia and I enjoy a nice dinner at Rusty Bellies in Tarpon Springs…my first time there.  It was GOOD!  I had the ‘E. Sea Rider’ -- Skewers of grilled shrimp and grilled sea scallops with a grilled fillet of Salmon with a Caesar Salad and Broccoli Carrot mix.  Marcia had the ‘Rusty's Pot Belly’ -- Steamed shrimp, oysters, clams, mussels, and a snow crab cluster. Corn and potatoes are in the pot, but she did not eat them, and brought some of the seafood home.  She too had a Caesar Salad.  Earlier in the day we took Bubba to our new Vet, just a mile down the road from condo.  Skruffy has gone here since she has been a Service Dog for her shots and county license.  Bubba has a bacteria infection again around his mouth.  Dr. Jennifer was great, and she said she has been treating another Cocker who has it worse than Bubba.  7 days of antibiotics, and special medicated wipe along with a prescribed powder.  When I can get to my clippers again, I need to cut the hair lower around his mouth…Bubba can’t wait for that!  He tried to nip Dr. Jennifer a few times as she probed his mouth with her tongue stick…but she is fast, and she said his teeth are looking fine, just the flaps alongside his mouth.

Rusy Bellies at end of Tarpon Springs Docks

7:30 – I head back to the Condo. 
8:00 – still no Fabio and co-worker. (I cannot pronounce the co-workers name, let alone try and spell it!) 
8:15 – Fabio calls and is leaving Tampa with the flooring. 
9:45 – Installers arrive.
9:55 – It is determined that the flooring goop is still to wet.  We turn down A/C to 65, put the ceiling fan on high, put a box fan blowing over it.  They unload all the flooring so at least I won’t have to wait for Tampa traffic next time they drive up here.
10:30 – Back at motorhome, paid for two more days.  I doubt the work will be able to done until Friday now.  With my luck, they will do it tomorrow, and we will be out of the park by nightfall, paying for a night we end up not using. 

Could have been worse

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Goodbye Carpet, Vinyl Tile on Way

Living Room and entryway

Marcia bought this condo back in 2007…essentially right before the housing market fallout.  It was a rental property for her until we moved in back in 2013/14.  We have discussed selling it, which would still be at a loss even though the market has come back somewhat.  Well, the time has come that we have decided to make improvements, over time, to the property.  First thing, get rid of the carpet, which probably dates back to 1985 when it was built.  Since many of these condos have not been lived in fulltime, the carpet has lasted a long, long time.  But carpet is hard for Marcia to walk on, so it is going first.

Entryway and living room

This view (left) is of our hall entryway.  The kitchen is to the left, the laundry area is behind that french door, and there is a guest bedroom and full bathroom to the right also.  That bedroom will still have carpet because there is no reason to do it. 

It is our responsibility to take care of all trinkets, and electronics.  So our table and display cases sit there empty now, and Sunday night I will take down the TV and lamps.  Tomorrow we move into the motorhome, and it will be parked in the RV/Mobile Home park next door…the one which is famous for its sinkhole

The outcome of the sinkhole in relation to the RV/Mobile Home park turned out good…the county finally took responsibility, and they recovered all of their costs, and then some, in relation to the sink hole. 

Current tile and current carpet

We had a salesman come out and he showed us many different types. Vinyl Floor Colors At first we were thinking Vinyl Planks, which would have been a wood look…but we did not want a dark wood since it would make the place look confined since the living area is long, yet a bit narrow.  We ended up choosing the caramel vinyl tile, which is 16” by 16”.  It just seemed to compliment the current tile that we already have in the entryway, and also in the master bathroom, so there will be two areas where the new tile will butt up against the old tile.

Bubba and Skruffy

Of course, since we are going to be in the motorhome…we brought Bubba over and he will be with us until Wednesday.  Tuesday he has his annual exam at the vet, so the timing is good.


This poise of Bubba’s reminds me of the time we were back in Sacramento.  Arny’s mother had a habit of calling Bubba a girl….”oh, there ‘she’ is”, or “She sure is a good dog”.  One time after saying that my sister said, “Mom, Bubba is a he”, and he immediately turned on his back like this…and Arny’s mom says, “Oh, I see that now..”  Of course, Arny’s mom is nearly blind…she could not have possibly seen that Bubba was a boy…but that moment sure was funny.