Did you have an exciting summer?  Mine wasn’t too bad.  Just moving back to the States.  And retiring from the Army.  Oh, and all of this: visited family in Tennessee, visited family in Texas, got Matt into college, picked up Maggie, and did a bunch of Home Improvement Projects.  This’ll be a long post as the fun just keeps going.The fun begins with the Hertz rental car we’d have for the next month.  It was a Toyota hybrid something-or-another (Camry).  This hybrid car was pretty cool in that initially as you pull away, only the 40hp electric motor is doing the work.  No noise.  Neat.  Sneak up on the neighbors.  I must admit that it had a lot of torque in the passing gear because that electric motor would kick in and you could feel the pull.  Also, this car had the Sirius satellite radio in it.   At first glance, this seems like a great idea:  you pick the genre and stay with it, 24/7, especially for long trips.  However, the reality was that the stations had commercials (??!!?!?!??!!!) and played the same top 25 songs over and over!!  For example, Eighties on 8 was 1980’s music on channel 8.  Over the next three weeks of long drives, we realized that they didn’t play all of the top hits of the 80’s but rather only the top 25-ish songs.  Sure, the old VJs were on there providing background details on the songs, however, they failed to play some of the lesser known hits of the era.  For example, I did hear Howard Jones’ great hit “No One Is To Blame“, however I never did hear his other works like “Life in One Day” or “Things Can Only Get Better” from the same album.  Together, the car and sat radio were real dogs.  Because of the ensuing trips, we had to have a rental as flying was comparatively too expensive and Maggie wasn’t due in until mid-August.  We were able to get Kelly’s Triumph from the port in Charleston by borrowing a friend’s Cadillac Escalade to carry it back on a transporter.

Our meanderings started with driving out to visit my folks in Tennessee.  We’d planned on staying a couple of days to catch them up with the latest and greatest.  Jon and Nadine made it down, too, so it was the whole Clan Tucker descending on poor Mummu and Paw-Paw at once!  We also took the opportunity to relieve poor ole Paw-Paw of some of his old, no longer needed tools.  And, of course, the 1971 Triumph Trophy motorcycle!  Rebuilding this will be Nyssa’s Senior Project and Paw-Paw’s gonna help; he just don’t know it yet!!  My mom had some papers she’d gotten from my Uncle Maurice that I was astounded by.  They were various immigration documents and family snaps of her parents around the time they first came to the United States.  I had always thought that my Great-Granddad had fought with the White Russians during the October Revolution and was thrilled to learn that it was actually my Faari instead!!  I really do regret not being able to capture that bit of history as Faari died in 1983.  Also in these papers were my Uncle’s Resident Alien card and Naturalization documents from 1924.  Which goes to show that immigration into the United States can/did/will happen if you follow the law.  My Uncle Maurice was born in Canada (you’re welcome, Nyssa!) and served in both the Army and the Navy!  I’ve contacted him to try and get more details of the Salminen history and will surely post about that later.

The return trip was long because I’d rented a U-Haul ten foot truck to bring everything back and that took every bit of 8 hours.  :/  We then spent only four days at home before we left for Houston.  The first day, we put 12 hours in driving down to Mobile, AL.  We’d stopped near Opelika, AL for dinner and I caught my second wind.  On the second day, somewhere in Louisiana, the Check Engine Light came on and, once we got into Friendswood, I called Hertz about it.  They decided that there was nothing really wrong with the car and to just drive it.  Nice. CELs are irrelevant anyways.  Just had to spend the next ten days looking at the annoying yellow warning message.  Kelly was really missing Jon, so she bought him a ticket to come down to visit his grandparents.  And to drive Maa-Maa’s Crown Vic full of Houston loots to take back home.  I was able to introduce the boys to Fry’s Electronics and were suitably impressed.  Wish there was one at least up in Raleigh.  Still, shopping online in the States is WAY much better than doing that from NL.  We also had the ubiquitous family snaps that Maa-Maa loves to do, complete with synchronized outfits!!  I’m glad to say that I was NEVER late to any picture appointment!!  We were able to get a trip down to Galveston in and they’ve still not completely recovered from Hurricane Rita of 2005.  The State Park had just put in air-conditioned bath houses that was destroyed along with the all of the covered picnic tables.  Of course, when Maa-Maa goes to the beach, it’s practice for invading the Asian landmass.  Gotta have every beach toy ever owned, boogie boards, umbrellas, coolers, etc.  More stuff than folks or load capacity of the vehicles.  Regardless, I was able to make a short visit of my old stomping grounds, about which I’ve already posted.  We then convoyed up to Dallas to visit Kelly’s Grandmama, Aunt Cindy, and Cousin Derrick.  Jon and Matt followed in the Vic which was loaded with most of Matt’s stuff for UT-Dallas.  The priority was to make sure that his school carried him as a resident for tuition and that the VA dude knew about Matt’s financing.  The school is really nice and compact but Texas was HOT!  115 degrees is too hot, whether it’s a dry heat or not!  Afterwards, we visited Kelly’s family and made a quick trip through the local Fry’s, too!  For the return trip home, we had to stop through Charleston, SC to pick up Maggie before 2pm on Friday, 13 August or get hit with storage fees.  So we took I-20 out of Dallas and made it to the east side of Atlanta for the night.  Now, sometimes the billboards along the highway have some interesting adverts.  Like those for “adult toys”.  After leaving Atlanta, Kelly and I would comment on these billboards and Kelly asked if stopping to visit one of THOSE shops would be justification in missing picking Maggie up.  From the backseat Nyssa said, “A double homicide would be justified!”  Gee, our kids are so quick with the wit!  Clever.  We made it into Charleston on time and had no problems picking Maggie up.  Now, when we shipped Kelly’s Triumph, we paid €100 to have it detailed so it would be clean enough for the shipping inspection.  It also had to have less than a quarter tank of gas, too.  Otherwise, if there was too much gas or it wasn’t clean enough, no shipping.  But when I dropped Maggie off at the port in Amsterdam, she was still filthy from the Grand Finale and drive from Kerkrade and had about 7/8ths of a tank of gas in her.  So, when I picked her up, she was desperately needing a wash and about $6 in gas!  The drive home wasn’t too bad except that, incredibly, I-26 is worse than I-95.  I wouldn’t have guessed.  And there was a summer deluge along the way but I was able to get through it as it was building, however, Kelly and Nyssa, in the rental, got caught and stopped for dinner.  We were all glad to finally get back home from all of these travels.  We figured that we’d slept in 7 different beds in the previous 30 days and I’d driven about 4500 miles in 4 different cars, not to mention the international flights.

Now that we were done traveling for a bit, the home projects started.  Now, there’s a difference between “Honey Do List” and Home Improvements.  One is more expensive than the other.  Guess which.  The first was to reinforce the shelves in our closet with brackets and boards.  I explained to Kelly that I was no longer gonna accept nickle and dime fixes.  Only complete fixes.  Fix it right the first time and you won’t fix it again.  Thus, I fixed the bottom shelf as well as the clothes rod, too.  I also took the opportunity to add a light into the closet that activates with the door.  Pretty clever. Those are “Honey Dos”. Replacing the tub with a shower is a Home Improvement Project.  The first couple of days we were back, Kelly found standing water in our bathroom and I thought it was coming from the toilet.  So, Matt and I replaced the toilet ring, no problem.  The next day, Kelly steps into another puddle of water!  So Iended up pulling the vanity off the wall and cutting the sheet rock from behind.  Sure enough, there’s the source, however, I thought it was at a turn in the pipes.  Actually, the water was coming from the cut-off valves for the washer, which is on the other side of the that wall.  The plumber came in and fixed it all up saying that the guts of the valves had worn out and should be replaced if/when we replace the washer.  It seems that there had been water leaking since our renters moved out at the end of April.  Nice.  Now the tub was absolutely trashed.  Three women have scrubbed that tub no less than 7 times without effect.  So Kelly gets the idea to remodel the entire bathroom with a shower instead of a tub, longer vanity for her, a new one for Nyssa and new flooring.  Easy, no problems.  Right!!

The problem with the tub was not knowing what the drain system underneath was.  This house is on a slab of concrete and that can be quite a bear to work through.  Once I rip the tub out, we’ll have no bathing capability, so I was already against a hard time restraint.  After my typical research, I was ready to get to work.  I was worried that the tub would drain into iron pipe, the hardest to transition from.  As it was, the drain was threaded PVC, the easiest possible transition.  Even so, I had to build a base for the shower to stand on to create the vertical separation needed between the drains.  Demolishing the walls, getting the old tub out and new shower in took three days but the girls only had to use a friend’s shower once!  This shower is HUGE, curved and has a single sliding door, which Kelly thought should open from the right.  Just as I was getting the finishing touches on, I started to feel the frank symptoms of a kidney stone.  Yup, almost three years to the day, another kidney stone.  As Kelly had work, I went ahead and drove myself to Womack.  This being the fourth episode, I knew that the only thing to do is to push fluids and pain meds to cut the edge.  So I got to spend the night in the ER.  Lucky me!  They discharged me the next morning and I crashed most of that day.  Once I was up and around the following day, I’m asking Kelly about her thoughts on the shower, reluctantly she asks if I can swap the doors around.  No problem.  Just gotta take all of the glass walls down, top and bottom brackets, easy.  Since we were going camping with the Archers for Labor Day, I had to put that part off.

We’ve known the Archers since 1994 when they lived across the street from us and our kids are about the same ages.  Once Kevin retired in 1998, they moved up to Bel Air, MD and we’ve kept in touch since.  Every Memorial Day and Labor Day, we’ll meet for a camping trip.  Our very first trip was a blast and we were looking forward to doing it again.  Since then, we’ve been fighting the weather.  With the exception of the last four years, we’d consistently plan on camping together, however, we’d have to account for hurricanes!  One trip we were actually evacuated by the park rangers!  In 1999, a hurricane had already passed North Carolina by and was on it’s way out to sea so we went camping.  Unknown to us, Hurricane Dennis actually reversed course and came back!!  There we are in the middle of the night, hunkered down in the Archers’ tent because our’s had already flooded out.  Once the water started coming in and through their tent, I pulled the plug on camping.  In the rain, I stuffed everything into the car and got us home.  Since then, when we camp with the Archers, it’s always with a skeptical eye on the weather until we learned that camping under canvas isn’t so bad.  So, whoever shows up firsts starts by covering as much of the two campsites with canvas and tarps before even putting up the tents!  This year we still hadn’t unpacked everything in the garage and went camping with even less equipment that our first trip back when.  For this trip, we rented another car because we were gonna pick Madelynn up from Meredith College in Raleigh along the way.  So I’d made reservations with Hertz for something like a Toyota RAV4, however, once I went to pick it up that Friday, they couldn’t get the computers to work so gave me a Ford Explorer instead.  Of course, it had the Sirius radio and it was still rubbish.  The trip up was easy but we didn’t arrive at Pocahantas State Park until well after dark.  In any case, we and the Archers made it in OK and the weather was beautiful.  Just like the first trip we did and we couldn’t believe it.  We didn’t know what to do with ourselves as we’re used to five kids running amok, collecting firewood, playing in the fire and watch Survivor TV.  Nice, easy weather, lots of sun and a good visit.

Getting back was easy and I was able to get the shower walls all sorted out, too.  Now all I have to do is to get the walls sheet-rocked and painted before we get the new vanities in.  Sometime after that, we’ll get the lanolium and carpet replaced with wood flooring and tile.  Easy, right?!?  Sure, when you’re paying someone else to do it!!  Meanwhile, this week Kelly bought a washer, dryer and refrigerator that get delivered Sunday.  You know I’ll take the old fridge, which I bought for $25 when I left Fort Sherman, out to my garage / Manville!

So there ya go.  You must be dedicated, bored or both to suffer through all of this drivel but that’s the latest news that isn’t from the Clan Tucker.  I’m still working on getting a job, the Triumph registered, cleaning and organizing my garage, and working on my projects.  In addition to Herself’s projects.


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