"This file contains all our newsletters from February 2006 !

Tuesday, 28 February 2006

Hi !!

    I figured that I better "wrap up" our news for February! I forgot to mention previously that Dale's Uncle Bob flew down to visit Aunt Shirley. We picked him up at Tampa airport and brought him back on the 10th.

    Tom & Sue Peterson arrived on the 12th and we had a ball visiting lots of places up and down our local coastline - St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Casey Key, Venice, etc. On the 14th we drove up to Homosassa to visit the state park (with lots of Manatees). Then we all had lunch with friends Wes & Pat Brockway and Charlie & Sue Meals, who were touring Florida after Charlie's recent retirement. The weather bounced back and forth between cool and nice, but the Peterson's last few days were very nice - WARM! The state park at Homosassa was filled with thousands of wild birds of all types, flying in and out among the trees, streams and little ponds. You could get very close to them so it was a wonderful, and very colorful, visit. Tom took hundreds of pictures. A few days later we drove down to Myakka State Park and took a ride on their "world's largest airboat" across the lake. Lots of aligators and more birds. They have a nice trail though the Preserve, so we got to see what the "old Florida" looked like (less the prairies, which are now mostly overgrown with trees). The Petersons departed on 18 February. Time just whizzed by! We decided to make their return to Tampa airport into one last tourist trip, so we left Bradenton early and took a side trip to Clearwater Beach. We ran into so much traffic on the road to the beach we thought that the colleges might be having any early "Spring Break"!! Thousands of people on the road and beaches. The parking lots were so full they were turning people away but, just as we got to the entrance, the parking lot attendant let us in because ONE CAR just left! We had lunch and then walked out onto the beach to take some pictures. It looked just like "Spring Break" at Ft Lauderdale - hundreds of young people playing ball, etc. I went to the water's edge and turned around, and these two women began waving at me like crazy. I thought they were playing a joke on me, because I was taking photos and maybe they were actually saying "ME! Take a shot of ME" :-) Then Dale walked up. I pointed them out (they were still waving like crazy!!!! ;-) and Dale said "that's Melissa and Phyllis !! We had just gotten together with them in January when our friends the Kings were down for a visit (see last month's newsletter)!! Phyllis had flown back to Baltimore but she jumped back on a plane and came down again for the President's Day holiday weekend! If we had walked a few feet in either direction we would never have seen each other. What a small world!

    Dale's aunt Shirley Rowe died on the 19th of February. Aunt Shirley has been living with her daughter (Dale's cousin) Janet for the past few years, helping to take care of her granddaughter (Janet's daughter) Alexa. Janet's husband, Tony, is a Lieutenant in the Manatee County Sheriff's Department. They live "due east" of us on their mini-ranch. We picked up Uncle Bob at the airport again and Joyce ("Joy") Pope, Janet's sister, and her family flew in from Houston for the church services. Joy's husband John is a Presbyterian minister and he presided over most of the Service. Aunt Shirley and her husband, Tom Rowe, lived here since the early 1960's and they were the ones we visited when Dale and I first came here in 1967. We fell in love with the area, especially Manatee Beach on Anna Maria Island. Shirley used to guide me around the area when I showed up on various trips and TDYs, as I searched for a second home -- all those years -- before we found this place. Another important person in our lives has now passed on.

    I am a bona fide, reincarnated, self-certified, Master Shade Tree Mechanic. I can prove it. I gots grease under mah finnernails and mah knuckles are all scraped up. Just like the old days. My last "shade tree mechanic" work was probably done more than 25 years ago but I figured "what the heck": it looked easy enough. Then I discovered why I don't do this anymore, as I found more and more engine parts that had to be removed in order to get the water pump job done! Luckily a couple of "frozen" bolts didn't bust on me, and the hidden bolts that held the power steering assembly so tight against the water pump were finally revealed to me ;-) I had to take apart all sorts of other "things" off the car/engine in order to replace the leaking water pump, but the surgery was successful! The down side to this story is that all the condo residents are now threatening to call me when they need their cars fixed.

    I then turned my reconstituted mechanical aptitude to my boat, which needed a new fuel pump. A phone call to Chuck gave me several tips, without which I probably would still be out there trying to fix the boat! Anyway, I must have put everything back together three or four times (didn't work!) before I noticed that I had not hooked up one of the detached fuel lines. Still didn't work. Then I deduced that the new fuel pump input and output lines might have been different from my old pump. Sure enough. Bent the metal fuel lines in the condo machine shop and hooked them up. Barely long enough but they fit. Once I attached them, and cranked up the engine, it roared to life! Tah Dah!

    Next, I installed a new bilge pump float switch so the bilge wouldn't fill up with rainwater, etc., and Dale and I took the boat out for a spin. No power. Ratz!! The boat just wallowed in the water and would not get up "on plane" and zip along. Back we came to the dock, finding it very difficult to manoever the boat and ramming a couple of pier poles before getting it alongside our dock. Turns out that one of my tandem propellers had spun off!! The boat is now at Taylor boatyard getting fixed. Also having the bottom scraped and painted. More money !

    Our condo complex is having all the roofs re-done. The cost is over $340,000 and we all got stuck with a "special assessment" to pay for it. The workers seem to be very professional and it looks like they'll have all four buildings done in another week or so.

    After years (literally!) of pitching packets of 35mm photographic prints into boxes marked by year (2001, 2002, 2003, etc) I finally chose a year (2002) and started sorting them by date, labeling them (individually) and placing them into albums. It took weeks to get everything straight, remember what day it was, who everyone was (Dale's pictures especially ;-) etc. I filled four albums, which is about the average for us. This time, however, I ran across a computer program that would reconstitute old digital pictures that I had reduced in size (for my web site). I had deleted the originals and these smaller versions would not produce a printable photo picture. With the new program I was able to re-create the original photographs and get prints made! I also found out that Wallgreens pharmacy will give you a special price of only $0.19 a print if you bring in more than 50 digital shots at one time. Their regular price is $0.29, so the discount is 33%, a great deal, especially since I have hundreds more digital shots to have processed.

    This trip (Jan - March) I thought I'd have plenty of time to learn the PHP computer/database language that Chuck uses extensively in his web site design business. Even though I did successfully load the software on my computer I haven't had a chance yet to get familiar with the language. I'll just have to keep plugging away !!

    Tracey called and said that the TV show "LOST" is filming in her condo complex. The show's directors chose her condo complex because it looked like a California motel and that's what they needed. Of course all the local movie buffs are "going GA GA" and the place is packed with onlookers. We mentioned it to some of our acquaintances here in Bradenton and they, too, are fans of the show. Tracey will try to send us notification of when the scene will be broadcast so we can watch for "her condo" on TV ;-)

Love, Dad & Mom/Barry & Dale


Sunday, 12 February 2006

Hi !!

    Well, it never rains but it pours! I went out to check on the boat (start it up and charge the batteries) and I found that some large bird or animal had crapped all over the place under the back seat. It rained and a lot of that slop went into the hold and gummed up the automatic switch for my bilge pump. I'm trying to clean the switch to see if it will work again. I was able to directly wire the bilge pump and remove the excess water from the hold. Then I started up the engine and found that I had a gas leak. Either the line or the pump needs to be repaired. As soon as it gets warm (a few days) I'll start taking everything apart and see if I can fix it.

    Then, yesterday, I noticed that our 1992 Jeep Cherokee was leaking from the radiator or the water pump. I just drove that car to Myrtle Beach and back, so I'm really happy that it didn't fail me on the highway and got me back here before it "decided" to bust!

    Speaking of Myrtle Beach, I drove up and back last Friday-Monday (3-6 Feb) to check on the house. Before we left we noticed a wet spot on the klitchen ceiling and, sure enough, I found a vent pipe sticking through the roof with a rubber gasket that had worn away in several places, letting water from heavy rains seep in. I caulked it and then went inside and verified that all was okay from the attic.

    My earache has disappeared and my ears seem to be fine, except now I am overly sensitive about any muffled sounds and/or "ears popping".

    Our friends, Sue & Don Smith, arrived for a 8-11 Feb visit from Ellicott City, MD. Unfortunately the weather has continued to be cool so we weren't able to show them all that a warm Bradenton has to offer but they did like our miles of sandy beaches!! Also, on friday night we stopped by our favorite restaurant on the beach (The Sandbar) but the snowbirds have truly taken over and there was not a place to sit anywhere! So, we headed to the Cortez Kitchen, a rustic bar/open-air restaurant on the water near our condo. They have a shed-like roof and poles wrapped in plastic to form see-through walls, and to keep the wind/breezes off your body. Definitely a working-man's bar, and we really like it. Friday was wonderful! They had a great band and one customer brought his harmonica up to the stage and played several tunes with the band. He just HAS to be a retired professional musician because the music was astounding!! Everyone really "got-with-the-program" and the place was rockin'for hours! Needless to say our friends the Smiths were impressed! So were we. I just gotta go back next Friday and see if it's as good!

    Tom & Sue Peterson are flying in to Tampa tonight so we have to leave in an hour to pick them up. Hopefully the weather will improve for their stay (12-18 Feb). It's supposed to be near 80 degrees on Thursday, so I'll keep my fingers crossed!

    I've just uploaded a bunch of pictures from Dale's Red Cross deployment (Oct-Nov 2005) and I'll try to edit the more recent pictures we've taken and get them onto the web site soon! More later!

Love, Dad & Mom/Barry & Dale