Field Trip!

It’s been about a month since the last writing, and much has happened since.

The trip to Boston went flawlessly, the trip back almost as much. One interstate on-ramp that didn’t look nearly as sharp as it was at the top, and a couple of instructions either from the GPS or the ones I had written down the night before that were interpreted too late and meant we had to detour a little. I was loathe to use the GPS entirely as I had mapped the route from our hotel room and found that the quickest way home had 3 tolls to pay. I changed a couple of things and found that by adding a few minutes (pocket change on our 10 hour journey) we would only pay 1. I feared if we used the GPS too much then it would lead us through the other two as well.

We had initially planned for Kelly and I to share driving, once we got out of New York (she wasn’t excited about driving through New England – I didn’t care), however we left later than we intended to and were into New Jersey right around dinner time when it was getting dark. I did get a 20 minute break right before Harrisburg, PA, before Kelly decided it was too dark and simply unsafe for her to be driving, so I took the wheel again right after Harrisburg. We eventually arrived home at around 1-1:30am.

The next week we headed for Mississippi to a friends wedding in Jackson. Another long drive! We ran into several large storms on the way down. The first happened while Kelly was driving and inspired a panic attack. We, like several others, pulled off to the side of the interstate to let it pass. At the earliest opportunity we switched seats again and I think I drove the remainder of the trip from there. As we were entering the city limits of Chattanooga, TN, the CD I had in started playing a track I had forgotten – Chattanooga Choo Choo. It was too awesome to not mention! The trip to Jackson went well, at least as well as a trip can go when you’re relying entirely on other people to decide when and where you need to be, and usually not providing good directions to get there 😉 I enjoyed myself, at least.

After Jackson we headed south to New Orleans where we spent a Sunday afternoon in the French Quarter. Staci, who had been there before, was more than happy to lead us around and show us things. I discovered trains (having correctly deduced that of the three rail lines, two were right for the trolleys going up and down but the third didn’t look right) and was able to photograph a New Orleans Public Belt maneuver going by. NOPB has to be one of the only shortline railroads to do business with 7 Class I railroads. The only that gets missed is Canadian Pacific (who don’t come nearly that far South). We had a good time walking around the area before eating (at IHOP of all places!), parting ways with Staci who caught a cab back to her hotel and driving back to our hostel for the night.

The trip home was also mostly uneventful. No storms to drive through, and all was well. Until Radford. We had stopped a few miles south in Wytheville, and in hindsight I vaguely recall noticing the vibration at 70mph had increased a little just before that point. Thinking nothing of it, we got back in the car and continued on. Just a few miles later I noticed loud noises and heavy vibration coming from the car. Thinking it was a flat tire I pulled over, put on hazards and walked around the car with a flashlight. All 4 tires were fine. “Weird,” I thought, and we got back in the car and started driving again. Less than a tenth of a mile and the noise was too much, I pulled over to give the wheels a closer look. I pulled in closer to the grass, just a few extra feet from the traffic going by at more than 100 feet per second. Starting with the front left (a lucky guess, apparently) I put my foot on the top, and shoved. You know, the wheels on a car aren’t supposed to have that much horizontal motion, and the first thought that went through my head was “Oh s**t, I hope it isn’t a wheel bearing..”

At this point I decided we were not going anywhere. I had taken a quick look and noticed we were missing two (out of 5) lug nuts. A closer inspection later would reveal that they hadn’t just fallen off, but the studs/bolts had been sheared off. We called the insurance company who kindly informed us that we had reimbursable roadside assistance coverage (great!) and worked with a nearby towing company to get us home. The cost to get us home was $800. And they wouldn’t take a check (Oh, dear). In all of this the lifesaver and the reason to be home that night was in the back seat – our friend Doreen volunteered the use of some of her savings (knowing it would be reimbursed) and worked with the parties concerned to get us to where we needed to be.

Long story short, we got home in one piece. After talking with the tow truck driver at the rest area near Roanoke (both Kelly and Doreen needed to use the facilities) it was determined it was my fault, having borked the tire rotation done 3 days and 2,000 miles earlier. The upside being I now know how to get it right? The repair to the car itself was only $80, including a brief overview of what will be needed for inspection later in a couple of months. The receipt for the towing has been forwarded to the insurance company for review.

And this weekend we traveled again, not nearly as far. Our friend (who was in Boston) was moved to Winchester for intensive rehabilitation and a van full went up to visit (Her husband invited us if we took him, and so me, Kelly, Kelly’s brother Matt and his girlfriend Anna, and their parents Randy and Tammy elected to take the trip). While there is certainly some ways to go, she is doing so much better in just a few weeks. We had been in talking to her, and the nurses came and kicked us out to prepare her for dinner. Stepping outside all I could think was “Wow!” – me, the ever under-estimating, was surprised at how well she is doing. Her vision in her right eye is working (though not perfect, she was able to see things better than before), she seems to have either more energy or more willpower to use it (or both), and she is actually interacting in a way that is much more like a ‘normal’ person. I know when family and friends visit, there is a tendency to sugarcoat the responses fed back to the masses who are watching for news and hoping and praying based on it. One thing that I’ve noticed is that when she has a bad day, it is also fed back to the group. But it’s one thing to read the reports, it’s another to actually see the results for yourself. I can imagine how disturbing it might be if someone is expecting to see their bubbly energetic friend laying down and not seeming quite themselves, but having seen her just a week after her stroke I can only say the improvement over the 4 weeks since is amazing, uplifting and very optimistic.

In other news, I am waiting to hear about two job applications I have in within Rosetta Stone for full time, day shift positions. Expecting announcements early this week, but family and Facebook will likely be the first to know, posted here shortly afterwards. Today I am inspecting, double checking, looking again and triple checking an envelope to be sent to the USCIS processing center in Vermont which will contain my paperwork for becoming an unconditional Permanent Resident of the United States. Initially, when I came I was a non-immigrant (the K-1 fiance visa is considered non-immigrant). After filing the paperwork correctly (we took long enough!) I was issued a work permit pending processing of my residency application. Once that came through I was granted Permanent Residence, conditional on marriage to Kelly. That card expires next month and so the next step is filing to remove the conditional status. No, I’m not going to be a citizen, I’m not even eligible for citizenship yet. I suspect I will take it at some point when it is possible, so long as I can retain my New Zealand citizenship. We’ll need to review our options before that time depending on various factors, but that is still a year or few away.

Something Wrong With This Picture?

I bought a car this week. Kelly and I now have two cars (ironically, the car I’m driving is in Kelly’s name and the car she is driving is in my name..). They are practically exactly the same, though I’ll post more about that probably next week after I take some more photos. But because there are certain things I like to have in my car, I have been wandering the aisles of the auto sections of stores grabbing the couple of things I really really like to have. While I was there, I noticed ‘racing pedals’ to replace (or cover) the ones that came with the car. Fair enough. What I don’t get is the idea of racing pedals for automatic transmissions:

This may just be my full-of-crap opinion, but I don’t think that using an automatic transmission to race should count at all, and to that end I think that racing pedals for automatic transmissions are off the horrible end of cheesy when it comes to mostly pointless car ‘upgrades.’

The Greatest Form of Flattery …

From Wikipedia:

Flattery (also called adulation or blandishment) is the act of giving excessive compliments, generally for the purpose of ingratiating oneself with the subject.

Historically, flattery has been used as a standard form of discourse when addressing a king or queen. In the Renaissance, it was a common practice among writers to flatter the reigning monarch, as Edmund Spenser flattered Queen Elizabeth I in The Faerie Queene, William Shakespeare flattered King James I in Macbeth and Niccolo Machiavelli flattered Lorenzo II di Piero de’ Medici, ruler of Florence and Duke of Urbino, in The Prince.

They say that the greatest form of flattery is imitation. I hope so, because I’d like to introduce my brother, ZeKeSbRo. He started a blog recently, and the similarities between his and mine are remarkable 😉

I’m sure he’ll have some interesting things to say and things that bore the poop out of you, just like mine. Only time can tell.

In other news, my wife and I are looking at buying another car, probably purchasing on Monday.

It’s a 1997 Subaru Outback, it’s black, it’s a 5-speed manual, and ran great when I test-drove it. It is the limited edition – leather seats and a few other things I probably haven’t spotted. It’ll match our 1998 Subaru Outback nicely!

Buying a New Car

Just when I was getting to thinking that buying a new car would be easy, I was hit with a sharp burst of reality.

I went around 4 used car dealers on Monday, and got good prices on several vehicles that would meet our needs. Today, I went to the bank and got information on our loan options. Next, I need to talk to Kelly and confirm the vehicle selection and have her speak to the bank officer handling our loan with regards to income confirmation. This is where it goes pear-shaped, because the next steps are all specific in what needs to be done when. I need to see the dealer and actually make the purchase, I need the bank to write a money order for the loan, I need to see the DMV with regards to title and registration, and I need to see the insurance company about taking out a policy for the vehicle.

The good news is that we will easily be able to afford the vehicle we want/need. The bad news is that we may need to stretch a little for the up front costs, as well as questions looming over the new tires that the vehicle needs. We also need to deal with proof of income as today was Kelly’s first day of full-time work at her new job.

Hopefully this all works out and we’ll have a new car this week..

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I’m told bad things always come in threes. Well, yesterday the third one finally showed up. (Locations censored until the right things go to the right places).

I’ve been sick since Friday night when I finished my last paid day at Highland for the summer, and am still recovering with headaches and congestion – we’re getting there. The second thing was that Kelly is supposed to start her new job at the day-care on Monday and has been called up for jury duty Monday-Wednesday. The employer is fine with it, but it’s annoying.

The third one is big though. We drove from Broadway into Harrisonburg yesterday, about 15 miles all up, to get some paint and (Kelly was hoping) some wallpaper for a dresser we bought really cheap at Goodwill a couple weeks ago. The car has been doing some strange things when started cold recently. It’ll violently shake until it gets up to temperature (and then it’s fine). It did that when we left Broadway, was fine by the end of the street. Was fine all the way to [Censored], where we got paint. Couldn’t find wallpaper, so we went over to [Censored]. They don’t carry wallpaper either, it’s all special-order now. So we leave and get in the car, turn the key and.. vroom-vroom/click-click/vroomclickvroomclickvroomclickvroomclick. I shut it down, thinking there’s something stuck in a fan blade or something (that’s what it sounded a lot like). Lift the hood, find nothing obviously out-of-place, get Kelly to start it again, and the whole engine is vibrating, and it seems to be in sync with the vibration as if it is the engine that is knocking something, although I couldn’t see what. Shutting down again, I checked oil and transmission fluids as last resorts, and both are fine.

We resort to calling Randy, Kelly’s dad to see what he thinks. He and Kelly’s mom come in to Harrisonburg in the van and he takes one look (and listen) at what it does and says he thinks it’s misfiring (at least) one of the cylinders and that we will have to leave it overnight and get Sonny (his mechanic of choice) to tow it in the morning. So we removed everything of value, and leaving a single key hidden inside and the drivers door unlocked, we let [Censored] staff know that it was there to be picked up in the morning, and rode home in the van.

Kelly called Sonny this morning, and he was intending on picking it up and looking at it, and would contact us and let us know what we were looking at in terms of damage and cost. We’d decided earlier in the summer that a second car was needed sooner or later, both because of break-downs as well as our needing to go two separate directions in motorized vehicles (and Randy’s truck isn’t always going to be available).

We basically came to the conclusion that if it’s minor engine, we’ll consider it. If it’s major engine, we’ll probably get another car and get it worked on over time, if it’s transmission, we’ll get another car and consider options. Kelly has a real attachment to Juanita, as it was her first big purchase on her own, and for that reason I’d like to keep it going as long as we can. We’ll just have to cross-match the desire to keep Juanita vs. the economics of maintenance.



I had a call from Kelly around lunchtime. She’d heard from the mechanic. Juanita is toast. This is makes decisions easier.. We’re looking for a new car. Anyone who is aware of a good-working Sedan, Station-wagon or SUV for sale in the Broadway/Harrisonburg area (or up to a reasonable distance away) for up to $5,000, please let me know.