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Monday, December 24, 2018

Lulu's Christmas Tree - On The Way To Tamaqua

We are spending Christmas in Washington DC with the family. Next stop is back home in Tamaqua for a few days. Lulu had to leave her Christmas tree behind - but I thought you would like to see her and some of her ornaments. 

We hope to have a Merry Christmas - and the best New Year ever. 

Here are some of Lulu's ornaments - and where she got them. 


Athens, Greece

Cocoa Beach, FL                

Sedona, AZ (gift from Drew and Keith who attended the Fiesta Bowl 1999

New Zealand

Tamaqua Elementary Santa's Secret Shop 1985

Canada Cruise - Maine

Gift from Ruthann Busolits - Bedford Springs is where Keith and Liz held their wedding.

Ben and Jerry's ice cream plant, Vermont

Berlin, 2015

Brooklyn, NY, 1996

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

All Dressed Up And Somewhere To Go - Home To Pennsylvania For The Holidays

All Dressed up and ready to go - 2004 Dodge Roadtrek

When retired - one often says "All Dressed up and nowhere to go." Yesterday - I was busy dressing up our motorhome for a road trip north to Pennsylvania for the holidays. For so many years - we lived up north and we made the long trip south to the Sunshine State. Now we will welcome the Winter Solstice - waking up in our camper hopefully covered with snow. I wonder if I can still drive in it.

We will stop to see friends and family in North Carolina - Virginia - Washington DC - and Delaware. We will be staying at the Residence Inn north of town when we arrive at Tamaqua. Of course we want to experience snow - but will pull over for highway storms. If we are marooned - we have bathroom - kitchen - king bed - TV - and furnace.

Yesterday - I spent the day washing and waxing everything. I used a new wax you can see in the picture below. It is highly ranked and is easy to wipe on and wipe off. Using a step ladder - I was even able to get the roof.

Our camper is a Roadtrek - made in Canada by Hymer - a German Company. They are prepared for cold weather. We will see. For Christmas - Lulu got me a rear/front camera system. It gives a full 3 lane view out back - and recording capability - out front - out back - and inside. Maybe we will try a little Camper Karaoke.

The three top windows are the Roadtrek trademark

The camper is 14 years old - has 18,000 miles on it.
I have replaced the tires - shock absorbers - battery - and brakes. Inside we added a 24 inch flat screen TV - a 1500 watt inverter to produc 120 volt AC power - and two coach AGM batteries.

The camper is just 19 feet long and fits a a normal meter space. In that space is stuffed - a king bed - furnace - TV - microwave - generator - stove - sink - hot water - shower - toilet - two tables - closet - cabinets - tons of lights - electrical outlets - two fans with vents - GPS - and rear view camera.

I used Car Guy Hybrid Wax on the entire camper. It can be used on paint - chrome - fiberglass - plastic - glass. It is easy to wipe on and wipe off. The fiberglass roof sparkles - I did it with a step ladder. It also did a nice job on the wooden cabinets inside. 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Installing Rear View Video Monitor In My Roadtrek Camper

Rear Monitor - Finished Installation
2004 Dodge Roadtrek - 18,000 miles

Santa left an early Christmas present for us. I just installed a rear view video system. It is an Auto Vox A-1. It has front and rear view cameras that record the action.

We are driving north for the holidays in our camper. One of the things about driving a camper is limited visibility out back. This rear view camera gives us full three lane wide visibility out the back.

It took about 2 hours to install it - mainly finding a way to route the video wire to the back. After that it is just plug and play. It has touch screen controls.

You can follow along as we travel north and use the camera.


We completed a 2500 miles trip form Florida to Pennsylvania and back - using the rear camera system. It worked fine. I moved the camera to outside on the rear door using a sticky bracket - no holes. The wire goes thru the weather stripping - no leaking. We experienced lots of rain - and there was no leakage. Sometimes the rain would blur the lens.

Overall - the view was great. I did not cut in front of anybody. I had a clear view of all 3 lanes behind me. It was great for backing up too. We had the curtains across the rear view glass - but still had a perfect view. For $200 - it is a nice system. The camera also recorded the whole trip - front view and back view. I did not use the recording for anything - but it was neat having.

It was a Christmas present from my wife - a great one - I intend to keep it.

The installation with the open wire path

The complete installation

Interior camera and microphone

Front view

Monday, December 10, 2018

This Tangerine Was Picked 10 Minutes Ago

Lulu just picked these tangerines.

Lulu just made lunch.  She just picked a couple tangerines and came in from outside shivering because it is 47 degrees and cloudy.

About 3 years ago - we planted 5 citrus trees. With the exception of the kumquat tree - each tree has produced some beautiful fruit - oranges - tangerines - lemons - grapefruits. The trees only stand about 6 feet tall - but they produce very sweet fruit. Usually my favorite is a lemon for my hot tea - but in my old age I am experimenting with other alternatives.

When you peel the skin off a tangerine - the fragrance reminds me of an old Coal Regions Christmas. It was a treat to find a tangerine in the bottom of your Christmas stocking back in the 1950s in Tamaqua. We used to try real hard to take the peelings off in one big piece.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

FSU Beats UConn in Newark NJ - 79-71

Senior Terrance Mann Scored 20 and had 9 rebounds

Florida State is 8-1 this season and have some pretty impressive victories including last night's 79-71 over the University of Connecticut. Lulu and I enjoyed it right here in our living room - the game was part of a tournament in Newark NJ. 

Team leader Terrance Mann scored 20 points and had 9 rebound - not bad for a guy that does a lot of the point guard duties. 

FSU has taken on some strong early season talent - LSU - Purdue. Their only lost has been a close game with national champion Villanova in the Bahamas. FSU has been doing all this without the service of their high returning leading scorer Phil Cofer who has a foot injury. 

The Seminoles are ranked Number 11 this year - and are coached by Leonard Hamilton. The future Hall of Fame coach has been the leader at FSU for 17 years. Only 2 of his players have not gotten their degrees. That is an amazing statistic in the world of college basketball - where many players play one year and go to the NBA. Coach Hamilton is 72.

The Seminoles are the third winningest team in the ACC since they joined in 1992. 

Perennial front runner Duke plays here in mid January. I am guessing that is one game we won't get in for $5.

Apple Wireless Earphones - AirPods - Why This Old Guy Bought Them

At $170 an ounce -
more expensive than drugs

Airpods have been out for two years. They seemed very nice - but the $170 price tag scared me away. Read on to find out what feature changed my mind.

I have been hard of hearing since I was tested in school back in 7th grade. In those days there was not much they could do for me but yell at me - and they did :-)

I just went overboard and bought a pair of Apple AirPods for myself for $170. My son had a pair for over a year and marveled at them - I just thought they were too darn much money. But I found out about one special feature that put me on board. 

First - I will say - they are a work of art. The case is a beautiful jewel - if they put it on a string - you could wear it as a necklace :-) It is so practical - functional - beautiful. It feels so good in your hands. Like a talisman. 

Saturday, December 08, 2018

We Toured The Florida Governors Mansion

Florida Governors Mansion - built in 1956

Lulu in the library on the main floor
Yesterday we toured the Florida Governor's Mansion. It is available free for groups of 20 or more. Our friends Lena and Aaron Seiler organized this tour. It was beautiful sunny weather as we gathered at the mansions front gate off Adams Street. On the other end of Adams Street is the Florida State Capitol. 

Presently - the mansion is occupied by Rick Scott. He has been governor for 8 years. He is a multimillionaire with a mansion near Tampa - so he seldom spends time here. Our new governor Ron DeSantis will live here in January. He is young - has two babies - and they will childproof the mansion. 

The mansion was built in 1956. At that time Florida had 2 million people and had 5 million visitors a year. Today Florida has 21 million people - and it is the third largest state behind California and Texas. If trends continue - we will be the second most populous state in 2030. 150 million people visit Florida every year. Florida taxes are based on real estate tax and sales tax. We charge 7.5% sales tax and 10% hotel tax - two things tourists pay. 

Florida became the 27th state in 1845. Before that it was a territory since 1821. The biggest problem then was fighting off the Seminole Indians. Some locals think the biggest problem today is fighting off tourists. 

Back to the mansion. Our curator gave us a wonderful tour of the whole main floor. Upstairs is a private residence. The basement has functional rooms. The main floor had a beautiful dining room - library - living room - guest room - and a "Florida Room" which is an old enclosed porch. There is a swimming pool out back along with a large party garden. The place is surrounded by an iron fence with gates - and support buildings. 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

FSU research guides nation’s libraries on serving students with autism

By: Dave Heller | Published:  | 10:35 am 

Professor Nancy Everhart, College of Communication and Information (FSU Photography Services) 

New research designed to help libraries better serve people with autism is making Florida State University a national leader in developing ways to connect with the growing population of students on the autism spectrum.
The autism rate — estimated at one in 59 children, or 1.7 percent, according to the latest statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — has been rising over the past two decades, especially among boys. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), now the fastest growing disability in the United States, has climbed to its highest level since the government started tracking it in 2000.
With nearly 42,000 students at FSU, a 1.7 percent rate translates to more than 700 on the autism spectrum, which can include a range of language and social impairments or repetitive behaviors.
Professors Nancy Everhart and Juliann Woods, both international scholars at FSU’s College of Communication and Information, saw the need to do more to help these students succeed.

Seminole Score Last 9 Points To Beat Purdue By 1

No. 14 Florida State pulls off another improbable comeback to beat No. 18 Purdue

TALLAHASSEE - The Cardiac 'Noles struck again.
Trailing No. 18 Purdue 72-64 with 3:43 left, No. 14 FSU scored the final nine points of the game to come away with a 73-72 win Wednesday inside the Tucker Center.
Another late shot from junior point guard Trent Forrest -- this time a floater in the paint with 5.2 seconds left -- capped off the improbable run that didn't seem to be coming.
It was Forrest's first made basket of the second half and was set up by his forced jump ball on the defensive end on the previous possession.
"It was just a play for me to get a handoff. We've run it a couple times this year," Forrest said of the game-winning play, which was designed for him.
"I knew the guy was probably going to cut me off early so that's when I just stepped over and took the little floater right there."
It was Forrest's second final-possession winning or tying shot in the last week after his late layup against No. 21 LSU forced an overtime period which FSU went on to win.
Florida State Seminoles guard Terance Mann (14) dunks on the Purdue Boilermakers as the Florida State Seminoles host the Purdue Boilermakers at the Tucker Civic Center, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018.
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Florida State Seminoles vs. Purdue Boilermakers, men's basketball
"There isn’t a player in the country that can stop him going to the rim when he turns it on," FSU sophomore M.J. Walker said.
It also marks the second time in the last week that FSU (6-1) has rallied from eight or more points down with less than four minutes left to win.
"We just played a lot of games like that," Terance Mann said of the late rallies.
"It's good to have experienced players out there who have been in games like that because you know what to do in times like that."
Hamilton had a different take, saying, "Philosophically, that sounds good. In reality, coaches don't want to wait until the game is on the line before you start making plays to win.
"I just hope we can continue to keep winning while we're developing."
In many ways, it was a comeback that FSU shouldn't have needed. 
With a fairly full crowd of 9,978 watching despite the 9:20 tipoff time, a stout defensive performance against one of the nation's top offenses helped FSU open up a 44-32 lead at halftime as the Seminoles shot 46.9 percent from the floor.
"I think we got the best of them in the first half. We got some shots to fall, we moved the ball and our defense was a lot sharper," FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said.
6:23 into the second half, that lead was gone and the Seminoles didn't retake it until Forrest's final shot.
Purdue (5-2) couldn't miss in the second half, hitting seven of its first eight second-half threes and shooting 56.5 percent from the floor after halftime.
While Purdue was on fire for much of the second half, the Boilermakers missed six of their final seven shots, each of the final five threes they attempted and failed to score over the final 3:43 of the game.
"We just stuck with being tough and tried to get stop after stop," Mann said.
"That's what we did."
For a half, the Seminoles shut down the Boilermakers' high-powered offense. Purdue shot 23.5 percent from three and 32.1 from the floor, turning the ball over 10 times in the first half.
Forrest finished with nine points, three assists and three steals. Walker was the only Seminole to finish in double digits with 13 points on four of 11 shooting.
Purdue's Naismith Award contender Carsen Edwards lived up to the hype as he finished with 24 points and four assists along with six turnovers.
Boilermaker forward Ryan Cline added 21 points on a ridiculous seven of 11 from outside the arc as those two combined to score 45 of Purdue's 72 points.

Player of the Game

He didn't have an especially good game in any one facet, but a typical stat-stuffing performance from Mann earns him the player of the game honor.
Mann finished with nine points, a team-high eight rebounds, two blocks and an assist in 35 minutes over which he only picked up two fouls.

What We Learned

Toughing it out
Wednesday's game wrapped the end of the toughest part of FSU's non-conference schedule.
FSU played quite possibly its toughest three out-of-conference games in succession, beating ranked opponents in LSU and Purdue and suffering a close loss to the defending national champions in six days' time.
To finish that stretch with a 2-1 record is undeniably impressive. With a win over Florida also in the rear-view mirror, FSU's four toughest non-conference games are likely behind it and the Seminoles finished those games with a 3-1 record.
Hamilton has been quick to point out that stretches like these are much like many FSU will face come conference play. Given the result in the face of the early adversity, there has to be a sense of satisfaction.
Free throws make the difference
Both FSU and Purdue finished with 17 made free throws. The difference in the result comes back to how many each team attempted.
The Boilermakers were 17 of 25 (68 percent) from the charity stripe and hit seven of 14 in the second half.
FSU was 17 of 20 (85 percent) and missed no more than two in either half. It marks the third time in the last four games that FSU has shot better than 80 percent on its free throws.
The Seminoles are now hitting 76.8 percent of their free throws this season through seven games.
ACC-Big 10 Challenge Tie
Entering Wednesday, the ACC-Big 10 Challenge was tied at four wins with six games left to play.
After the ACC won two of the first three games, it needed just one more win across the three 9 p.m. games to ensure at least a tie in this year's challenge.
It turns out that it was good for the conference that FSU rallied for the win as the other two late-game ACC teams, Georgia Tech and No. 13 North Carolina, both lost.
With Wednesday's results, this year's challenge ends in a 7-7 tie, the first tie in the series since the ACC and Big 10 tied at six wins in 2013.
The ACC now leads the all-time series 12-5-3 over the Big 10.

No. 14 Florida State vs. Troy

When: Monday, 8 p.m.
Where: Tucker Civic Center

Great game

We got home at midnight. We were down 8 with 3 minutes to go.


Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Seminoles Lost To The Gators - The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow.

The sun set on the Football Dynasty in Tallahassee last night.

We love FSU. Lulu is a professor here. Keith got his Masters here. Lulu got her doctorate here. I even worked for FSU years ago. Ever since our son Drew was born in 1977 - the Florida State Seminoles had winning seasons. That is 41 years of happiness. They were in 36 straight bowl games. But Saturday ended it all. The Gators - a team "we" beat the last 5 years in a row - came to town and left the Noles with a 5-7 record for this season. There will be no bowl invitation - no throwing oranges on the field - no holding roses in our mouths. We will all watch the bowl season on the TV.

Some will say the law of averages caught up with us. In a southern city like Tallahassee - some will blame our new black head coach Willie Taggart. It was just bound to happen. I like to lay the blame on Jimbo Fisher. Near the end when Bobby Bowden was losing more than one game a year - after hiring his son as offensive co-ordinator - Bobby hired Jimbo to call the plays. After losing to Wake Forest at home 30-0 - then President TK Wetherell - offered Bobby to be "Gladhander in Chief" Coach Emeritus. Bobby said no and he was fired. Jimbo Fisher was given the program on a silver platter along with a brand new indoor practice field. Thanks to Jameis Winston - Jimbo had 2 great years - and in 2014 the greatest statistical season of all time. Can you believe just 3 years ago FSU was riding a 25 game winning streak. Look it up. 

Last year at this time - Jimbo was 2-5 - the locals wanted to hang him. But he had a $40 million buyout. What we did not know is Jimbo had a "pocket deal" with Texas A&M eight months before the season ended here. He was busy planning his next move. With a 5-6 record last year - Jimbo resigned - to games before season end - saving Florida State from a $40 million buyout. All of a sudden the local wackos who wanted to fire Jimbo just weeks before went postal because Jimbo jilted them. Jimbo got a $76 million contract at Texas A&M. He stopped recruiting for the Noles 
eight months before he quit. The program was left in a shambles. 

Without any kind of a search - our athletic director Stan Wilcox hired Wille Taggart. Wilcox then resigned and took a job with the NCAA. In the last year - the FSU Boosters and fans put a full one year of love and the biggest PR campaign on selling Willie. More  people turned out for the media caravan and the spring game than ever for Bobby. We all drank the kool aid. Willie would fix what could be fixed. Jimbo left the cupboard bare. Probably some of FSU's top recruits are playing in Texas. 

Willie signed a $5 million year contract. It has 4 years guaranteed. On the eve of the first game with Virginia Tech - Willie gave $1 million to FSU.  VT beat FSU from the pan to the fire. The Gators enjoyed putting the last nail in the coffin yesterday - FSU finished 5-7. 

Yesterday we got up at 8 AM. It looked like rain. We went to the stadium at 11 AM. Outside the gate - we bought two beautiful seats on the 50 yard line. The tickets said $200 each. We got them for $20 each. The stadium was maybe 65% Seminoles and 35% Gators. As the game went on - and the score went up - the percentages reversed. The fair weather fans got an early start down I-10 - you know how empty that highway can get. Many of them already paid the two night minimum in the Tallhassee hotels - but they did not want another second in this town. 

We stayed until the end - we got home a little after 4 PM. We enjoyed a dinner of Thanksgiving leftovers. I reminded Lulu that "the sun will come out tomorrow" and her FSU paychecks will continue to clear. FSU is still ranked the number one school library media program - look it up. 

The FSU football dynasty died with a wimper. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

My Prodigal Drone Finally Returned

In February - it will be 2 years since Lulu bought me a drone for my birthday. One evening while we were having a campfire - I had to showoff and do some fancy maneuvers. The drone took off and got stuck up in one of the 100 foot tall pines in a neighbor's yard. When I pressed the remote button - you could see the drone flashing trying to get free - but no luck. After the batteries died - you could not even see the drone.

The other day - Grant - one of the neighborhood kids came to our door. He had in his hand - what was left of my drone. It had survived 2 hurricanes. Grant was pretty happy when I said he could keep it. If I were thinking - I could have offered the controller that is still in our attic.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The purse

History Is On The Line Today For the FSU Seminoles

Before every kickoff - Chief Osceola
plants the spear on the 50 yard line

Today's the day no one ever wanted to happen. The Seminoles have had 40 straight winning seasons going back to Bobby Bowden's first season as a coach. The Florida State Seminoles are 4 - 6 this year with 2 more home games. Today Boston College - next week Florida.

It is a 3:30 PM kickoff - our friend Sandi from near Disneyworld is here for good luck. We have not purchased tickets yet - there are plenty available - some for free. It is supposed to be 65 degrees and bright sunny at game time.

They have scheduled a B-52 Bomber flyover for Veterans Day. The torch is lit on the statue of Osceola and Renegade outside the stadium.

If FSU does not win today - the 40 year streak is over. Also the Seminoles have been in 36 straight bowl games. In order to be in a bowl game - a team must win 6 games. That streak could end today also. There may be little joy in Tallahassee - the home of the Seminoles tonight  :-(

Outside the stadium - a bronze
statue recreates Osceola and Renegade.
Osceola was the Chief that
led the Seminole Indians in the
Florida Seminole Wars.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

They Say We Shouldn't Compare Him To Hitler - Maybe He Should Stop Acting Like Hitler

Freedom of the press

B-52 Flyover At The FSU Game Saturday

I know it's a waste of money having flyovers at football games - but I love them.

We will be at the game. One of our favorite visited - Sandi Jimmerson - is coming up from the Disney Area to go to the game with us. Sandi got her Masters in Library Science at FSU.

Monday, November 12, 2018

1972 Honda 2 Cylinder

I am sitting at the snack counter at my Honda Service Dealer. Every time I go for Honda service - this car jogs wonderful memories. In 1972 we bought a new one for $1500. We then drove it from Pennsylvania to Miami on $8 of gas. Gasoline was 25 cents a gallon then. We spent the summer there attending both presidential conventions.

While in Miami we took jobs. I sold Honda motorcycles and cars. Lulu was the "Blue Light Special" announcer at Kmart.

We returned home to Tamaqua in the fall. I went back to work as a teacher. Lulu commuted to college at Kutztown in this car.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

New Vespa Electric Scooter - $7500

It had to happen. Vespa is releasing an electric motor scooter. It is called the Electra. It will go about 60 miles on a charge - and do a top speed of 60 MPH. The cost will be $7500.

To compare it to a 2018 Vespa Primavera 150 (my bike) gasoline version - cost is $6000 - it goes 70 MPH - gets 200 miles on a 2 gallon tank of gasoline. The gasoline version has fuel injection - ABS disk brake - all steel body construction.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

I was personally dismayed by the Tamaqua School... - Rhonda Jones Levy

Letter to the Editor

As an attorney, teacher of 20 years and a proud alumna of Tamaqua Area High School, I feel obliged to weigh in on the Tamaqua School Board’s recent decision to begin arming teachers. The Board’s decision is not only foolhardy and ill-considered; it has the real potential to be extremely dangerous.
Like all of us, teachers want students to feel safe and protected at school. Arming teachers, even willing ones, is not the way to achieve this goal. Teachers, throughout our nation, spend hours training and learning how to protect their students through state required fire drills, lockdowns and shelter in place drills. Educators are required to contact social services when they suspect abuse and each year countless teachers do just that.
Teachers today are already carrying a heavy load. They not only have responsibility for the education of their students, they must often serve as counselors for troubled or bullied students, as well as, emotional support for today’s overworked parents. Asking them to bear the responsibility of protecting their students by using a firearm, in a life and death situation, is completely foolish and fraught with peril. Do we require bank tellers to protect the bank in addition to their regular duties? Do we ask doctors to protect the hospital while performing surgery or medical procedures. Teachers are trained to teach, not act as security guards.
The list of things that could go wrong with arming classroom teachers seems obvious. What if a troubled student accidentally gets access to a gun? What if, in attempting to stop a shooter, a teacher accidentally shoots and kills a student? What if, a harried, exhausted teacher, after years of dealing with volatile students, misinterprets a student’s aggression and goes for the gun. 
Teachers are not trained police, not even teachers who know how to use a firearm. People go into the profession to instruct and nurture children. How many talented young people will be dissuaded from entering the profession of teaching if they must also bear the responsibility of using firearms? Shooting at a moving target, accurately, during a chaotic and dangerous situation should never be part of the job requirement. Does the Tamaqua School Board really want to put their teachers and their students in this untenable position?
Access to firearms, especially those designed to kill large numbers of people quickly, is a volatile political issue in this country. So many innocent children have been killed at school and, of course, we must do everything in our power to protect our students. Arming teachers is simply a knee jerk response. It is not the answer. Listen to what many of our students, parents and teachers are saying. Support reasonable gun control measures to keep these weapons away from those who should not have them. It’s way past time for our politicians to do that. In the meantime, the Tamaqua Board should hire trained security guards if they must, but please don’t place this additional, unconscionable burden on teachers. 
Should the Tamaqua School Board fail to reconsider its decision to go ahead with arming teachers, any tragic consequences arising as a result will fall squarely on its members’ shoulders.
Rhonda Jones Levy
TAHS Class of ‘71

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

12 Years On A Vespa Scooter

The old blue Vespa - and the new light blue Vespa
Charlie is heading back to Mobile Alabama -
with the scooter for his wife. 

I just sold our old 2007 Vespa 150 Scooter. We bought it way back in October of 2006. It was not cheap - $4400 with tax - title - and tags. For 12 years - Lulu and I enjoyed driving it to games - running errands - and for trips to Lulu's office and classroom. All we ever did was put two new tires on it and replaced the battery 3 times. We kept it serviced well. It never let us down.

I have owned 75 vehicles - and I guess 12 years is the longest one for me.

After we bought a new Vespa - I listed the old one on craigslist. A few people came to drive it - some made lower offers. Last night - we were already in bed when Charlie from near Mobile Alabama called. He said he wanted the scooter for this wife. He said he would drive over today with the cash.

Charlie is 68 and has a Harley.  He is as sharp as they come. It took him 4 hours to come 217 miles with his Jeep pulling a trailer. When he got here - we went for a little ride. Charlie drove the dark blue one - I drove the light blue one. When the ride was over - he handed me the cash. We loaded the scooter on his trailer - and as I type - he is driving on I-10 back to Mobile.

The scooter cost $4400 new - we put 4400 miles on it.  So it cost us $1 a mile :-)

Today a new one costs $6000 or so.

$4400 - $1780  = $2620 - the real cost of the scooter.

$2620 / 4400 miles = 59 cents a mile.

$2620 / 12 years = it cost $218 a year.

Indeed lots of cars are cheaper to own - even if the Vespa gets 100 miles per gallon.

I hope we have as good luck with the new Vespa as the old one - particularly owning it 12 years! I hope I live that long.

Mexico City Trip Afterglow and Reasons

Me and my lovely wife at the Pyramid of the Sun in Mexico City

Many folks have asked me - why the quick trip to Mexico City of all places. I thought I would write this story to explain it - and also talk about things we learned.

Usually when we travel - and we do that a lot - it is because Lulu is being paid to go somewhere. This year alone - we spent time in Germany - England - Denmark - Greece - Scotland - Washington - Philadelphia - Richmond - Orlando - Tampa - and now Mexico. Lulu usually is doing a presentation - teaching - or consulting. She is usually paid - plus has her expenses covered. I only have to pay for my plane ticket - and most of the time it is paid for by FF miles.

But even though the above picture does not show it - Lulu is approaching retirement age. I retired at 55. It seems unfair that she is working so much longer than I did. The difference is - she loves what she is doing. She loves being an FSU professor and all the perks that go with it. She loves following her Seminoles - and wearing the garnet and gold. She also loves the paid travel.

I decided that we would take a pleasure trip to a place we both had never been - and Mexico City filled the bill. It would be like we were both retired. For 6 days we were just pleasure travelers - with no clocks running. Lulu teaches her class every Tuesday. So we left on a Wednesday and came back on a Monday. 6 full days. Sort of a long weekend.

A second reason is we changed our phone service to T-Mobile. We wanted to see how well it functioned on the planes and in foreign countries. The service passed with flying color - 4 bars all the way.

From the moment I said go - within an hour - Lulu booked flights and hotel. She had looked over the top 10 things to see in Mexico City. I looked up the vital statistics of the place. It is at 7300 feet altitude - and has 21 million people.

Lulu got flights for $400 each - round trip thru Atlanta on Delta. She got us a 4-room Le Meridien Suite for $125 a night for 5 nights. We were all set.

When we got there - we were very surprised with how nice the city and people were. We enjoyed Uber cars because they were so cheap to get around. We could go anywhere for $3 to $4. There were so many good place to eat - cheaply. We even went to one fancy restaurant to please our son - Keith.

We visited the Pyramids of Pre-Columbian America. We visited the famous Templo Mayo. We went to the Mexican National Ballet - and shopped like crazy. Lulu does not buy much - but she loves to look. She had to claim a dozen bottles of vanilla at customs.

But what we enjoyed most was just touring together by the seat of our pants. We woke up when we wanted - ate what we wanted - and rested when we wanted. There was no hidden agenda. We had no one to impress but ourselves. We spent very little money.

Outside of being tired the first day for altitude - we did not get sick - no Montezuma's revenge. The hotel gave us plenty of bottled water - but we slipped a few times using local water - we did not die. We walked a lot and ate what we wanted. To our surprise Lulu came home one pound lighter - and I was 2 pounds lighter.

On the way home we volunteered to be bumped - they said they needed our seats. They wrote us new tickets and we were already spending the $2000 in our heads. At the last minute - they put us on the plane anyway - no bump. They did upgrade Lulu to first class - and I had 2 seats in comfort class to myself - since Lulu moved. We got home 2 hours earlier than planned because we caught an earlier flight home from Atlanta to Tallahassee. The whole trip was 5 hours - from Mexico City to our home.

So - how did we feel about the trip? Mexico City has beautiful places and much poverty. Our hotel was on the main boulevard downtown. We saw high fashion and real estate. We could shop in fancy malls or in the street bazaars. In all our travels I have never seen more streets full of shopping - blocks and blocks. I loved shopping in a 9 story tall Sears. The people were very sweet and helpful. They love their country. We visited historic ruins from way back to 100 BC.

We climbed the 2000 year old - Pyramid of the Sun.

For 6 days - we enjoyed what it would be like if we were both retired - for about $2000.

$2000 a week x 50 weeks = it would cost us $100,000 a year to be retired!  :-)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Mexican National Ballet - Sunday Morning

This is the curtain call for the Mexican National Ballet. These dancers are the best of the best in the country. I took this picture from our seats in row 3. Click on the little box to make it full screen - it is very clear - I used my new iPhone Xs Max. All pictures and videos are free to use - no credit necessary.

The Palace of Fine Arts
and the old Olympic sign from 1968

A mural by Diego Rivera in  the
National Palace

I loved this tile restaurant by the ballet

We bought ballet tickets the first day we were here. We were lucky to get the center of the third row for $50. I was never to a ballet before - I only saw it on TV. I expected a bunch of guys in tutu's and tights. I did not know quite what to expect.

The Mexican National Ballet performs mostly Mexican Folk Dances. Folk Dancing is a mandatory course in the public schools. The best of the best end up here. The musicians are fantastic - the dancers beautiful and talented. The costumes are vividly colorful. The show goes non-stop for two hours. I kept my camera away most of the time - expecting to video a couple pieces in the act after the intermission. There was no intermission. 

After the piece that was the finale - they had a curtain call number that I videoed. Many of the kids in the audience were all eyes and ears - because they learn the steps and routines at school. Some of the songs reminded me of River Dance and Flamenco. We did see Flamenco dancers in Madrid two years ago. 

One nice thing being in the third row - we had an excellent view - because all the people in front of us were short  :-)

After the ballet we went for drink and pastry. Lulu had latte and I had hot tea. We picked 5 pastries - the entire bill was $5 plus a $1 tip. The line went out the door people waiting to eat. We waited. The service was excellent - and about 5 different wait people struck up conversations with us. Gringos stick out. :-)

After that - we walked thru the bazaars to the National Palace. Admission was free - but they kept my drivers license as hostage. when we left - they gave it back. 

I was worn out - we caught an Uber car and headed home for $3.

We turned on the TV - the second version of "The Parent Trap" was on TV in Spanish. We watched and laughed. Lulu said room service was cheap - so we had supper in. Now before bed - I type this story - and will pack a little. 

Monday - we have a 9 AM flight home. We have been upgraded to comfort class - but the planes are pretty full. We hope for a bump.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Teotihuacan - Largest City Before Columbus Came to America

We hiked up the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan

The Pyramid of the Moon - was newer and smaller

Half way on our climb to the top

$50 for a big mac - 50 pesos equals about $2.50

We spent most of our third day going to Teotihuacan. This is considered the place where Mexico started - the Gods were born there. I have to cut and paste that name - I can say it better than spell it. Te-Ih-Too-Ah-Can. It existed from around the birth of Christ to about 500 AD. This was before the Aztecs. It had about 150,000 people - similar in size of Tallahassee today. It was the biggest city in the Americas - 1000 years before Columbus arrived. At the time it was the 6th biggest city in the world. 

Mexico sits on a plateau in a high valley. The city is about 7300 feet high - with mountains around it going up to 17,000 feet. The elevation keeps it cooler than you would expect for being in the tropics. It is 60s and 70s here - sunny - breezy. 21 million people live here today - but the city does not have as many skyscrapers as NYC. It is spread out for miles. Most homes are one or two stories. Our hotel is in a rich section - but we saw tons of poorer areas on the highway to Teotihuacan.

We got an Uber car to go out to Teotihuacan - but on the way we cut a deal of $100. For that we got unlimited driving - about 5 hours - tolls - admissions - etc. He could not speak English - but he would talk into his phone - and it would translate for us. We would talk back and it would translate. He was very happy. An average secretary makes $700 a month here! We are big spender Gringos.

Teotihuacan is dominated by two pyramids. The largest is the Pyramid of the Sun. It is 230 feet tall. It has original steps to the top. The base is about 700 feet wide. It is solid volcanic rock - no rooms inside. The steps are steep and bumpy - roughly one foot up and one foot over. A cable hand rail protects you from falling - but I am sure many people roll down. My elevation sickness passed on day two. Not sick but I tired easily. I am good now. 

The Pyramid of the Sun was built around the birth of Christ. They are not really sure why they were built. It is interesting that this pyramid is at 20 degrees north and the Great Pyramid of Giza is at 30 degrees. Also - the Great Pyramid is twice as high. This pyramid had an angle of 34 degrees of climb. 

The Pyramid of the Moon is only 150 feet  tall - but seems better preserved. It was built 200 years later. Both pyramids were covered with smooth limestone plaster. The plaster has weathered away or was taken by looters in the last 2000 years. We chose not to climb the second pyramid :-)

After Teotihuacan - we met our driver and drove the 40 miles or so back into town. I tried to take pictures of the urban sprawl - zooming along at 160 KPH (100 MPH) on the toll way. We were in a silver VW Vento with Jose. He was a great driver and wonderful host. 

We were dropped of at the National Anthropology Museum in a beautiful park area. Our driver wanted to wait for us for free. We decided to go on our own. The museum really tired me out - but we decided to walk the 1.5 miles down the tree-lined boulevard to our hotel. Lulu knew there was a big mall along the way. The Reforma 222 Mall rivals anything in America. She shopped and we ate - and it started raining - so we grabbed the first pink and white cab we saw. He charged us $5 back to our hotel. An Uber would have been $2 - but it was raining. He drove us within 2 feet of our front door.

We are impressed with the hospitality the people of Mexico have shown to us. Saturday is Day 4 of 6. I am waiting for the FSU game to start - Lulu is shopping. 

Delta has upgraded us to Comfort Class for the way home - our planes are pretty full. Wouldn't a bump make this a just about perfect trip?