This file contains all our news for
March & 02 April 2005

Saturday, 02 April 2005


    It's been busy around here this last month and I didn't get a chance to update our newsletters in March, so I'll recap what we've been up to!

    At the beginning of March our Gulf of Mexico coastline had "red tide" (algae blooms), an annual event as far as we can remember. It emits an irritant in the air which has everyone coughing and hacking, and has apparently caused the deaths of at least 46 manatees (sea cows) up and down the coast from Tampa to Sarasota and further south!

    March was also a time of fairly cold days interspersed with warm spells. I like to say that we would have five inches of RAIN, then TEN inches of .... sunshine!! It was actually warmer in South Carolina on several days! I got dressed in my shorts and t-shirt and went to the store with Dale and almost froze my ritzenfrigger off. Many days were overcast with showers. If I remember the weather reports, we had temperatures ranging from 51 to 69 for most of the weeks. Surprising how that translates to "chilly" down here! Dale picked up a bug (cold) in early March and was coughing/hacking continually, speaking in a real husky voice, etc. She still went out and delivered Meals On Wheels, but then picked up some Vicks and spent the next few days in bed.

    I am amazed that my old digital camera can take pictures that will print out nice 4x6 photos, just like a 35mm. I bought one of the first digital cameras, a Kodak DC200, and it does not have the multi-megapixel capabilities of the more modern ones, but I guess you only need that if you want to print pictures larger than 4x6. Lately I've been experimenting to see if I could coax some more pixels into some of the low resolution shots that I made. I found that the local do-it-yourself machines in Wallgreen's Pharmacy, Wal-Mart, etc. require a minimum file size of about 30-51KB to print even a mediocre 4x6 photo, so lots of my old digital pictures can't be printed. But now that I use the highest resolution settings on my camera I can get some pretty darn good photos.

    Several old friends are making me "homesick" by sending me photos they just took of Oahu, Hawaii and Southern Italy! Our friend Joan Pacheco just sent some beautiful shots of the islands off the Kailua and Lanikai Beaches. Dale and I will be flying to Oahu and Maui in August-September of this year (Susan and Dany get married on Maui on 10 Sep), so we'll get to enjoy Paradise soon enough, but Italy is a bit out of reach financially for a while. Our friend, Joe Hauschild, is still working on a part of the now-closed Air Base in Brindisi, where we were assigned 1977-1980, so between him and our italian friends we are kept up to date on the local news and sights!

    Tracey sent us some pictures of Alana. She was in an ice skating competition (won Third Prize!) so I'll be uploading those shots to the March 2005 PHOTOS section, hopefully tonight!

    My local marine mechanic replaced the Holley four barrel carburator on our boat with a Rochester QuadraJet. Now the boat uses half the gas! Great! My big boat now blasts through the water! Speed! Yes, what a difference it made! The Holley four barrel was just dumping fuel into the engine and choking it (also wasting lots of fuel/money!). The new one lets me cruise at about 35-40mph on just two barrels. When I "floor it" and the other two barrels cut in, the boat flies. Am looking forward to the summer - nice warm water; anchoring the boat along the white sandbars and island beaches out past Anna Maria! I can probably pull a couple of waterskiers now. My mechanic says that the Holley should never have been used as a marine carburator - it causes lots of fires. He also offered me a job taking old boats apart so he can use or sell their used parts. I might help him out every once in a while but not just yet. I've still got tons of things on my own "to do list".

    I know that home values are skyrocketing everywhere but we are just stupified as what's happening down here in the Bradenton-Sarasota area. It is the second-fastest area of rising values in Florida. Lucky we bought when we did! There was a story in the papers about how europeans (especially British) are coming over and buying up two homes here for the price of one in Europe! A woman at our St Patty's Day party told me that she sold one of her condos for $240,000 ten months ago, and those buyers just sold it themselves this month for $340,000!!! $100,000 price rise in ten months. Our neighbors below us (first floor) now have their apartment for sale: $356,000 asking price, and they are thinking of raising that to $375,000. The real estate agents are projecting that all these places will be worth a half million in two years. We plan to be here for quite a while so, of course, by the time that we're ready to sell, the prices will probably be at an historic low !

    It started to get warmer in Mid-March -- up to the high 70's! That didn't last long.

    I purchased the H&R Block's Tax Cut Deluxe programs for federal and state (MD). We are getting much smaller refunds this year, but that's better than having to pay more! I would have finished in just a few hours but since we lived in Maryland for only a partial year (Jan - May), the Maryland program was very, very confusing. If I didn't understand computers I would have been up the creek without a paddle, for sure! This will be the last year we pay anything to a STATE, since Florida doesn't have an income tax!

    On 17 March, St. Patty's Day, we celebrated at a big party hosted by one of the local pubs here on Cortez Road. They have this big bash every year and advertise in all the newspapers. It's free, and was a lot of fun. They had Scottish Bagpipers; Irish Singers; a Rock-n-Roll band; Cloggers (dancers); Spanish Knights in full dress armour throwing beads from a "spanish galleon" (motorized float). Everybody gets into the act here in Florida! Dale caught several strands of beads thrown from the galleon and, NO, she did not "flash" the knights for her beads!

    The Crowells in San Antonio sent us some pictures of their beautiful Mountain Laurel trees in bloom. Purple blooms! Very, very pretty. I must see if Mountain Laurels will grow in South Carolina!

    Northrop Grumman sent me a form letter advising me that since my employment was now "terminated" (I resigned effective 17 February), that I only had one option to dispose of my 401(k) retirement plan, and that was to cash it in. I could roll it over to a traditional IRA but if I didn't take immediate action, they would convert my account to Northrop Grumman stock. After several phone calls it turns out that I can leave it right where it is and don't have to touch it until I WANT to (or until I am age 70 1/2). Much better. No extra taxes yet ;-)

    Several friends have just become Floridians or are looking at buying a place down here! One friend just bought a place in Port Charlotte and another is coming down in a month or so to look around this area. And yet another friend and his wife will arrive here in Bradenton on 06 April to begin looking for a place to rent. Until they find a place they'll stay here in the condo. We'll show them around for a few days and then we'll head to Myrtle Beach. They'll mail us the condo keys when they move into their new place.

    Even though Susan's wedding on Maui is five months away, we all really needed to get our airline and hotel/condo reservations done NOW. It was difficult, but everyone moved quickly and got their plane tickets and accommodations done! I was able to rent a three bedroom condo at the Kahana Outrigger resort, so Dale, me, Kathy, Karen, Chuck, Tracey, Alana and their friend Erika have a place to stay. We'll all be there on 7, 8 , 9, 10, and 11 September, and depart on the morning of the 12th. Kathy will fly back to Baltimore and the newlyweds will stay on Maui, while the rest of us fly back to Oahu. Dale and I return to Tampa on 22 September. Four weeks in paradise!

    Dale is updating the condo little by little. In the first years we put in bright white ceramic tile floors, 4 new inside doors, wallpapered the bathrooms, new kitchen table, new "verticals" for the lanai windows and miscellaneous additions and replacements. This year she bought a new brown wicker bedroom suite, quilt and new curtains. For several days she had me pulling old stuff down, installing new wire shelves, patching holes, etc. and installing all the hardware for the triple-tiered new drapes. We also just put in a new stove and Microwave (which required running a new circuit and two days of effort to anchor the microwave under a hollow/fake cabinet). Do ya think that she's trying to tell me something? I need to get a job to get some rest!

    Dale's Meals on Wheels clients have dwindled down to 16 from 25. Some have moved into assisted living quarters and some have moved in with their children or just headed north for the summer.

    After one of the windstorms I noticed that our front and rear window screens were ripped along the edges, so I found some do-it-yourself screen materials at Home Depot. I made new frames and screening at a very reasonable price. The old screens were rusting out and loose fitting. Looks so much better now.

    One of the local paint companies has the ability to make their own spray paint (spray cans) so I ordered two cans of vinyl paint for the upholstery on my boat. I sprayed the two-tone (aqua and white) side panels and the passenger seat backrests so far. Almost looks new!

    I had the marine mechanic come back a couple of nights ago to replace the internal flush system he had installed on my motor. It enables me to flush the salt water out of the inboard engine by attaching a hose to a nozzle installed on the outer side of the boat. The plastic casing had cracked. Unfortunately I didn't notice that he installed the new one BACKWARDS, so the next day (31 March) when we went out for a spin in the Gulf of Mexico, the engine started steaming/smoking (we thought it had caught fire!) and the temperature guage needle was off the charts! The reversed flush device was blocking the sea pump from sending water to the engine. Wes & Pat Brockway and their friends Skip & Sandy from Easton, MD were with us. Luckily we figured out what was wrong and re-installed it so that the water was able to cool the engine down! Then we had a great afternoon zipping up the Intra-Coastal Waterway and into the Gulf for a ride along Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. When we returned I even docked the boat gently -- a first! I'll keep practicing how to dock the boat ;-)

    Okay, that finally gets us to April! Dale and I went to the Red Barn yesterday, 01 April, to pick up some vegetables from the farmers, and to walk around the inner buildings picking up a few more items (one vendor makes his own pickles and spicy olives, for instance)! It's not an exciting event but we enjoy just walking around the place. There's always something to see and new "stuff" to check out. We then took a leisurely drive down through Sarasota, stopped off at a "Batteries Plus" store and bought four little, hard-to-find batteries for mineature clocks we have here and in Myrtle Beach. Then it was back to the condo by way of Sarasota's waterfront marina, St. Armand's Circle and up Longboat Key - a very pleasant and pretty ride! Since heavy rain was forecast for last night (Oh Yes! It poured!), my neighbor and I were out on the dock zipping up our canvas boat covers. No sense getting the instrument panel wet if you can avoid it!

    So today, 02 April, has been a lazy day with me on the computer creating this newsletter. Outside it is bright sunshine and very windy. Tomorrow I need to make a couple of trips to the local gas station with my two five-gallon gas containers, so that I can fill the boat's fuel tank. Our friends will be arriving next wednesday, the 6th and, in addition to driving them around to show them the area, we'll want to take them out on the boat to show them the beautiful waterways, bays, Intra-Coastal and the Gulf islands. Assuming that all goes according to plan, we'll head to South Carolina next Saturday, the 9th. I look forward to playing in the dirt (gardening). I have a lot of seed trays that I want to fill up with flower seeds right away. I've already doubled the size of my veggie garden and now I need to add some more dirt (it's a raised garden). I also need to do some plumbing work on the lawn irrigation system and replace all the outside/buried shutoff valves with new ones. That will make it easier for me to do plumbing work inside the house, such as when I clean or replace the main controls for the bathroom shower.

    The 15th through the 24th of this month is FIESTA 2005 in San Antonio! Sure wish that we could get down there and run around with Penny & Chuck Crowell (the whole city is one great big party) but we really do look forward to spending time in Myrtle Beach now.

Barry & Dale/Dad & Mom