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The New “Baby” Has Arrived

Day 6071
vaccine day 120
109 days into retirement

I as going to write about this the day it actually happened, but life got in the way and shot happens, ya know? Thought the snow might hold off. Wellll, mostly. Spent a total of 2.5 hours on the walk through and learning how to connect the 5th wheel hitch. It’s different.

Finally got to hit the road and see how the new to me big truck handled the even newer to me camper. The old truck salesman line “you’ll never know it’s back there” definitely wasn’t true. There’s no way to NOT know that 7 tons of trailer is behind you. Still, the truck handled it well, just have to remember to leave enough room on the inside of turns.

Got home and had the first chance to back this puppy into it’s parking spot. With the pivot point of the 5th wheel being in the middle of the truck bed rather than on the bumper, I have to move the rear end of the truck WAAAYYY more to get any reaction out of the trailer. Not an insurmountable problem. I’ll learn. I’ll also take advantage of every “pull-through” site I can get.

Here’s where I show you how well the snow held off. These were taken about an hour after we got home. Had a little lake effect band blow through and left us a little April Fools day treat.

Here’s the Beast pretending to be in tow mode.
Kinda from the other side.
The future abode. The cedars & hemlocks aren’t going with us.

We have managed to get all the gear transferred, but still have to get a grip on the overall organization. Biggest surprise? The sound system doesn’t have a CD player. I’ll be spending a hunk of time getting a bunch of our music ripped and transferred to a computer. We’re such luddites – still using CD’s! I have an old laptop that may just become the music master. If it has Bluetooth.

Next hurdle is getting the rear view camera from the old camper installed on this one. It’s actually made more difficult because the new camper is “pre-wired” for a particular brand of camera. Of course, I don’t have that one. Working with my camera manufacturer to see of they make an adapter bracket. Fingers crossed. Have two weeks to get the camera installed before our maiden voyage!

Post 500

Day 6055
vaccine day 104
93 days into retirement

Wow. 500 posts. Where has the time gone? (Don’t tell me. I kind of know).

Scooted out to the RV dealer yesterday to clear up some questions I had on the 5th wheel hitch in the bed of the truck. Turns out the 5th wheel prep my truck has is the “rail” of the hitch system. All I need to do is drop the actual hitch head on it. Compared to having to buy the whole hitch system in a new truck, this ends up being several hundred dollars less. Gotta like that.

Have some pics of out soon to be new home:

Our new camper positioned behind my old truck.
Kitchen view towards rear, 11′ deep Garage is through the door on the left, includes a washer/dryer connection two bunks and a powder room.
Kitchen view towards the front. Steps & door to bedroom & bathroom just off screen to the right.
That little lime green sign is a new addition!
The Happy Camper.

We’re down to pesky details now. Next week I’ll lock down the financing and set a delivery date. Delivery day will include getting the last piece of the hitch installed, the run through of all the equipment on the new rig and how to use them. Auto leveling hydraulic jacks, stowable bunks in the garage, the downloadable app to control lights, pumps and slides. Most importantly, how the hell you hitch this thing up.
We’ll use this year’s shorter camping trips to work out details; figure out storage, learn how to take the cats with us, what sort of tweaks to make to better utilize the space. Already have a healthy wish list on Amazon of all the little doodads we need – water pressure regulator, cargo straps, flow meter, hose & cable storage straps, extra sewer hose (2 black tanks now!), dedicated hose for black tank flush – that kind of crap. Still need an air compressor that can fill the camper tires to 110psi. Can’t get that at a gas station. Would also like a tire pressure monitoring system, but that’s a rather expensive insurance policy. Also have to move the rear view camera system from the old rig to the new one. It was indispensable with a 28 foot long camper. Now that we’re up to 39 feet it’s even more critical.

But first – time to get all the gear out of the old one. Off I go.

Movin’ and a shakin’

Day 6052
vaccine day 101
90 days into retirement

Wow, have things changed in a week! First, yesterday, I parallel parked a 60 student school bus on the first try. Piece of cake. Also managed the offset backing and the 100 foot straight reverse. Monday we’re going to head into the city for a little driving. Narrower streets, more traffic, etc. So far I’ve been out on country roads where there are more livestock than people or other cars.

Committed to buying a 5th wheel Monday evening. Our dream model arrived at an RV dealer only 10 miles from us. I went put and looked at it Saturday, dragged Cindy out there Monday evening and we decided to put a deposit down on it then & there. Probably won’t pick it up till mid April.

Later today, in a couple hours, I need to go pick up my “new to me” truck. It’s a gently used 1 ton Silverado, pretty low miles for the age of the truck. Bonus is that is has the hitch package installed for 5th wheel towing. It’s got a sweet trim package too – way more than I’d buy if I was going new, but this comes in at less than a modest new truck would cost. Among the creature comforts are a moon roof and A/C in the seats. I’ve had heated seats, but even up here I rarely used them.

I have to go empty the stuff out of my truck so I can go do the swap. I really hope I don’t miss anything.

Not the placebo!

Day 6045
vaccine day 94
83 days into retirement

FWIW, way back on December 8 when I got the shot for that vaccine trial, I actually got the real vaccine! So really, since about mid-December I’ve been protected against the terrible, horrible, very bad virus that has been plaguing the entire planet.

I’ll admit that I’m a bit shocked, based solely on my initial reaction to the shot itself. The Shingrix shots were much worse, but even those were no more than a swollen/tight muscle in my upper arm. Faded in 2 days, so no big deal. Seemed more like my reactions to the annual flu vaccine, more like a “huh? you gave me a shot?” I’d rate the whole thing 10/10 and would do it again!

In other news, my training is underway for getting that commercial drivers license. Yesterday was day 3 and I actually got to drive the bus. Pro-tip, those things are huge! Also? Air brakes are weird. There’s a lag between pressing the brake pedal and the bus starting to slow. My reaction was to press harder, then when the brakes did kick in it was a ‘holy shit!’ reaction. Thankfully my instructor just laughed. I’m sure he’s seen that reaction countless times. The other revelation was the width one needs to take in making turns. The rear wheels of the bus cut a much tighter turn than the front does. With our current truck/camper set-up, the combo is about 52 feet long, with a hinge @ the 22 ft mark. I’m used to what I need to allow in a turn for that, but the bus is worse, likely due to the lack of a hinge point in the vehicle. I’ll get used to it. Tomorrow I get to learn how to parallel park a bus! Seems pointless, but it’s part of the skills portion of the test. There’s the 100 ft. straight back up, the offset backing drill and the parallel parking deal. Got a feeling that after the test the only one of those I’ll use of the 100 ft. back up, maybe.

Spring has decided to make a brief appearance here this week. Nearly got to 70 yesterday, should get close to that today. In spite of that, there’s still shrinking banks of snow around our yard. Of course, we’re headed back to freezing temps over the weekend, so I’d better get outside and start working on my tan today!!

For Margaret

Day 6036
vaccine day 85
74 days into retirement

It appears that Much of the info packed into the last post came across as new and not updates to situations that I may (or may NOT) have mentioned in prior posts. Must be that things that happen in my head don’t necessarily happen out there in the real world. Who knew?!?

So – to link all this together. Yes – I officially retired December 17, 2020. The next day, my first day of freedom, I turned 62. Prior to my leaving my former day job (Dec. 4), I applied to be a substitute bus driver for my old school district. (Same school where Cindy is the “Assistant to the HS Principal”, i.e. she runs the building.) The afternoon of the day I applied, I got a call from the transportation director. He got the CDL manual to Cindy that day and I started studying that weekend. Took 2 months to get to my appointment to actually take the permit tests – 4 in all. CDL core, Air Brakes, Passengers, and School Bus particulars. True to form, I scored right around a 90 average across the 4 tests – basically my lifetime average for test taking. This Friday I actually start the hands on portion of the training – learning the inspection procedures and getting practice for the actual road test.

My experience with large-ish vehicles is all Army based. While I was actually a hospital Lab Tech, I was assigned to a field hospital. Well, a Combat Support Hospital (think M.A.S.H.) In order to move the labs, X-Ray, wards. OR’s, generators, etc., my unit had a shitload of trucks. I learned very early on in my Army career that it was MUCH better to be the driver of a truck vs. being a passenger. When they were looking for volunteers to get licensed for the big boy trucks, I jumped on the opportunity.

Seems oddly fitting that I’d end up driving commercial vehicles after my civilian career. Kind of a nice way to book end things. Can’t deny that having a little extra income won’t hurt either as I haven’t applied for social security yet. Every month I delay adds a miniscule amount to the monthly benefit. Add up enough of those miniscule amounts and it might buy a loaf of bread.

Now the RV thing. We recently made plans to go camping (glamping I guess) with one of Cindy’s cousins and his wife. She really likes wine, so we’re going to do a week close to Keuka Lake, where we’ll be able to spend a couple days hitting up the Keuka Wine Trail and we’re close enough to the Seneca Wine Trail that we can hop over there for a day or two.
During the phone calls where we coordinated this trip, Cindy’s cousins revealed that they had sold their townhouse in MD, upgraded their camper & truck and are now full time RV living. That little tidbit of information got us to thinking. If we sold our house and contents we could easily plunk down enough cash to upgrade camper & truck and get the heck outta Dodge. Or the snow belt. Cindy has until at least this December before she can retire, would likely finish the 21/22 school year. So if we do this crazy thing, we’d have one more winter to endure, then we could start the southern migration.
Initial plan is to find a seasonal campsite up here to spend late April to October. We’d likely drift south to Delaware or so to spend time through Xmas so we could get back up here easily for birthdays & holidays, then head out south, west, where ever, for January – April. We’ve always talked about doing a “Lap of the Country”. This way, we could do several laps. We ARE taking notes though, and might want to avoid Texas in February. Although, in a bigger camper that has a 5500 watt generator with a 30 gallon fuel tank we might fare better than most of Houston did recently.

I think that links it all up. Big changes possible in the next year or so. Stay tuned.

Trial Blindness Ending Soon

Day 6035
vaccine day 84
73 days into retirement

So those unfortunate robins got a few days reprieve – we had a few days of absolutely balmy 40+ degree days with this big yellow ball in the sky. It was glorious! Then we drove to Syracuse Saturday for our youngest grand daughters birthday and it rained all day. Totally worth it to see all the grands.

Received a significant email from the vaccine trial folks last week. Now that J&J has been granted EUA, the trial directors will unblind all of us trial participants. If any of us received a placebo we will be notified and offered the real thing. Should have everything wrapped in in 3 weeks. One way or another I either already am or will be vaccinated in 3 weeks without having to wrestle with that &%$E*% reservation portal. And? I’ll be done before Cindy, who got scheduled because she’s in the school administration and sees those little germ factories daily. She’s not scheduled till the 20th.

This weather. One more winter and we could never see another. Still trying to wrap our heads around the whole thing. Scary, exciting, crazy. But the research aspects of it are kind of fun.

Oh! Also passed my CDL permit test Friday. Now the real training begins. I meet my trainer this Friday and get down to the actual pre-trip inspection details and actually driving a bus. The driving part doesn’t worry me at all. I drove 2 1/2 & 5 ton trucks in the Army and plenty of Ryder rentals for moving. It’s dealing with a bus load of kids. Can’t use the tactics ol’ Mr. Palmer used on us back in the day (damn good for the kids!)

Bah! March weather! Just got a Snow Squall warning over my phone that made my heart skip a beat. No big deal, just an intense band of snow sweeping down/over from the lake. May cause zero visibility along with wind gusts greater than 35MPH. Meh. At least I’m not driving in it. Today.

Confused Robins

Day 6028
vaccine day 77
66 days into retirement

No change on the vaccine trial front. Did finally find out that I am in category 1B per my states guidelines (diabetes & blood pressure). This means I can TRY to get an appointment which will then force the vaccine trial to unblind me. If I got the placebo, they’ll offer me the real vaccine. I’m in regardless.

Also no change on the RV living front. I am slowly tossing items every day in an attempt to start down sizing. Todays haul? 3 pedometers and a case for eye glasses. Going to have to start making bigger sacrifices there. I did find out a little about pricing on RV’s though. All the websites list the MSRP for these campers and leave a teaser about calling them for their best price. Well, their best price will be about 20% below MSRP. That’s for one on the lot or even one you order exactly how you like it. That helps reduce the sticker shock a bit. Also helps justify adding that 5500W generator. I’m sure there are a few million Texans that would have liked that last week.

I’ve shared that I live in one of the Great Lakes snow bands. We’re about 50 miles east of Lake Erie and 20 miles south of Lake Ontario. So we’re used to significant snow. Our season average is right at 100 inches. We’d been running significantly behind our average pace, but February has seemed intent on catching us up. Consequently we currently have a little over 18 inches piled up in the yard. Much worse in the snow blower deposit zones. Before the last batch of snow cranked up Saturday, I spotted no less than 6 robins either perched in a crab apple tree or hopping around on the driveway under the tree. They were taking advantage of what was left of the little crab apples. Those on the driveway were easy picking. Those in the tree? They were getting them, but they provided a bit of a moving target. But geeze – mid-late February and we have robins? Those crab apples have to be freeze dried by now and I don’t think we’ll be seeing any bugs or worms for at least another month. Heck, today is our first day over freezing since mid-January.

Well, time to go get the drapes back up in the dining room.

Still Blind

Day 6021
vaccine day 70
59 days into retirement

Had my 71 day visit for the covid Vaccine trials. While J&J has applied for emergency use authorization, it hasn’t been granted yet. That’s not likely to happen till Feb 26th at best. So, still blinded in the covid vaccine trials. However, once the EUA is granted I can call in to get unblinded. If I did get the placebo, they’ll give me the real deal and I’ll just motor along in the trial. If I can get scheduled for another vaccine, I can get that too. Might change my status in the trial, but they can’t keep me from getting another vaccine.

I checked on how vaccine status might affect ones blood donating status. According to the study folks, it doesn’t affect it in the least. Their concern is that you are healthy and showing no symptoms on the day you donate. Whether you’ve had 0, 1 or 2 shots doesn’t matter. They also pointed me here: https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/dlp/coronavirus–covid-19–and-blood-donation.html

In more mundane news, the majority of the dining room is painted. Only have the trim & windows to do. Considering we’re in for a foot or more of snow over the next day or so, I’m going to hold off on doing the windows themselves. Seems kind of silly to pull the windows out of their sashes with a snow storm going on. Maybe it’s just me. Next up is the laundry room.

Time to go grocery shopping before the snow really starts coming down.

But I Ain’t Dead Yet!!

Day 6016
vaccine day 65
54 days into retirement

Sheesh! Nearly a month since the last post? Looks like I need to manage my time better. Not like I have job or anything! I will admit, I’ve been watching WAY too much CNN lately, but there’s some actual entertainment value there if you like hearing about the train wreck that is everything Trump lately. Couldn’t be happening to a more deserving guy.

In more mundane things, I have managed to install a chandelier over the dining room table. Involved determining the power source, cracking the wall open and installing the switch, then opening up the ceiling in a couple of places and running said power to the lamp. Then my favorite part (not!) – patching the drywall. Gotta say – it didn’t turn out too bad. Took a bazillion coats, tracking down little bubbles in the tape and eliminating them and finally getting it smooth enough for paint.

Painting the ceiling? A pain in the neck job even when it goes well. Luckily (or maybe not) I have plenty of experience painting ceilings and have already made all the mistakes. This effort went pretty well. Now? The walls. Going from a color that made me feel like I was trapped inside a pumpkin to something called “Russian Sage”. Much calmer. That effort starts today with about 300 feet of painting tape to be applied.

What else have I done to stay occupied? Changed out the counter top on our semi-custom entertainment wall. It’s built out of pre-fab cabinets that I arranged to look like a big honkin’ hutch. Installed a pre-fab kitchen style countertop on the center unit, but it had a set curl to it from how it was stored at Home Despot. Was hoping it would flatten itself out eventually, but it never did. So off with it’s head. Replaced with a home grown counter that looks good, is flat and gave me something to work on for a few days.

No update on the vaccine trial front. Many of you have probably hear that the J&J vaccine has been submitted for Emergency Use Authorization. That’s the one & done vaccine that I’m in the Phase 3 trial for. Test data shows efficacy in the 72 – 85% range, but be aware that that is only 28 days after injection. It DOES steadily keep improving with age (like me & wine!) I do have an appointment 2/15 for more blood testing for the trial. so maybe I’ll be unblinded then. With my co-morbidities (diabetes & high blood pressure), I’d like to be at the front of the line when Group 1C is eligible.

In bigger news – we made arrangements for a week of camping in the Finger Lakes with one of Cindy’s cousins & his wife. The big revelation during that conversation was her cousin sharing that they’ve sold their townhouse, upgraded their truck & camper and are now full time RV living. They got a 40 foot 5th wheel Toy Hauler (big camper with a garage on the back for storing bikes, kayaks, a golf cart, whatever) and upgraded to a one ton truck for hauling that puppy around. Cindy & I have long had a dream of doing a lap (or two) of the country and try to see as much as we can. But maintaining a house and caring for two cats makes taking more than a one week trip kind of a pain with having to arrange for lawn care and cat herding. Our son would do it, but could we ask him to do it all summer for 2 or 3 years?

So we are contemplating selling everything and using the proceeds to upgrade our truck & camper. The research has been kind of entertaining and has given me a healthy dose of sticker shock. We’ve narrowed down our camper selection to 2, maybe 3 models. Camper selection drives truck requirements. There are basically 3 models of truck to select from, with a nearly infinite combination of trim levels. I’ve been having a blast going through the various manufacturers build & price web sites.

Nothing happening on that front in the immediate future. Cindy won’t retire till December 2021 at the earliest. We also have an entire household to liquidate. We’ve been talking about shedding ‘stuff’ and minimizing for a while, but this full time RV option throws a whole new prospective on that effort. Scary, exciting, maybe even fun! If we do this, the house would be on the market about a year from today. Time to start shedding stuff!

Met a New Neighbor

Day 5990
vaccine day 39
28 days into retirement

Wednesday I was enjoying a rare morning of sleeping in. Until the doorbell rang at about 7:10am. For me, that’s late – usually have the coffee going by 6:30. I rolled out of bed, pulled on some clothes and headed down to answer the door. When I opened the door, I was greeted by one of the contractors working on my nearest neighbors kitchen. I looked down my driveway and saw a gray Impala kinda sorta parked across the end of my driveway. Contractor dude said ” I saw it all and told the driver he had to stop and let you know what happened.

Our house is situated on the outside of a 90 degree bend on our road. Looking out my living room window, I can see right down the center of our road as makes it’s way around the neighborhood. This kid (25-ish) must have been a wee bit late heading to work and there was a nasty thin coat of black ice on everything. He was carrying too much speed to make the turn, slid across the end of my driveway and took out the mailbox with the drivers side front bumper. He missed the turn by a pretty wide margin.

After I got the scoop from the contractor, I literally skated down my driveway towards the mailbox killer. WE went through the initial niceties and the driver asked me how I wanted to handle it. I just told him to head to the local Home Depot, pick up a new mailbox post and leave it up by my garage. He had also called the town police, so was waiting for them to show up before he left. I don’t know that it was necessary that he called the police, but I think he was just scared shitless that I was going to go ballistic or something. Totally not my style, but he didn’t know that. Geeze – it was the first time we met! The ironic part? Just before the town police showed up, a town plow truck came by and was spreading a generous dose of salt on the road. Great timing.

Neighbor (I can see their driveway out my living room window – they’re on another 90-ish degree bend) dropped off a new mailbox post at lunch time. Had it installed & concreted in place before the mailman came by with the days mail. But for the supports holding the post plumb as the concrete set, the mailman may not have noticed the change.

In other news, the insurance case from the Halloween 2019 Big Bang is settled. I received notice from my insurance company that they reached agreement with the plaintiff and the suit/claim is considered paid in full. That notice provided no details, so I called the claims adjuster to learn what I could. In spite of what was revealed at our depositions where the other driver basically admitted to entering the intersection on a red light, my insurance company paid out the full liability coverage on my account. The other drivers insurance also paid out the full amount of of their insurance. My company’s cost? $!00K. Other company’s cost? $25K. And the other driver admitted to basically running a red light. I will never understand insurance settlements.

Last bit of news. That vaccine trial I’m in is for the Johnson & Johnson version of the vaccine. I saw that they announced yesterday that it is definitely a one shot vaccine with better than 90% efficacy. A one & done vaccine could be a game changer for kicking this virus’s butt. I just hope I got the vaccine and not the placebo.

Go Bills!!! Lets beat the Ravens and get to the AFC Championship.