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Medical Update

So as it turns out, I have something wrong with my heart. There’s a blockage. The test I took was digital, in a manner of speaking. It could only tell whether or not there was a blockage. I don’t know how severe it is, or where exactly it is.

I have an appointment on Thursday for a consultation with a cardiologist, after which they will schedule a procedure down in Houston.

The problem is logistics. The doctor won’t know what needs to be done until the procedure is underway. Best case, I go home that afternoon with a treatment plan primarily made up of pharmaceuticals. The middle case is that I have to have stents inserted, which means an overnight stay and three to five days a rehabilitation where I can’t drive. Worst case, I have to have a bypass, which could mean months of rest and rehabilitation. Not the best situation when you’re living out in the boonies in a teardrop trailer!

I’m trying to handle the logistics now. A friend has put me in touch with a not-for-profit organization that offers a place to stay for people in my situation. I hope to have an answer in a couple of days as to whether they’ll be able to put me up in the event I need a place to stay, long term. I had another friend who’s offered to put me up for a few days if all I need are stents. So we’ll see what happens.

The big question is arranging care for Frank. One of the people at the not-for-profit is a big dog lover, and I was told that they might have some ideas. What I’ll have to arrange for will probably be something along the lines of foster care. A place where he can stay for an extended time period without me having to give him up.

I don’t know yet what this does to me travel plans. Obviously. My initial thought was that I would resume my itinerary in October, picking up in Virginia and heading south in the Florida before returning to Texas around Christmas. I may wind up just staying here, though. I don’t know that I want to do that much travel over such a short period of time.

The other consideration is whether. This area is projected to have an unseasonably wet winter. If you remember this place, the Triple Creek music and RV Park that I stayed at last February, it’s at the end of a three mile dirt road, out in the boonies. We were cut off from the mainland last February for a while after along rain. Hell, we were cut off for most of the past week, too! I really don’t know that I want to have to deal with that on a regular basis while I’m recuperating, or even if I’m fully recovered!

The other thought I had Kama assuming I fully recover in a short period of time, is to head to New Mexico for the winter. There are some places in the southern part of the state that offer some very inexpensive RV parking and we keep us out of a winter of inclement weather.

But first things first. I’ll post something after I visit with the doctor with an update on our accommodations.

Thoughts and prayers are appreciated. Thanks as always for everyone’s support.

 

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Posted by on August 23, 2016 in Planning

 

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A Look Into Our “Man Cave”

“So what’s it like living in a tent?”

That question has popped up, posed by a few of my friends.  Yesterday, I finally took the time to snap a few photos of the inside of the tent, so you all can actually see where Frank and I have been living for the past month.  I took four photos – two from outside the tent looking in to each side of the back section; and two shots of the front section while sitting on the bed. The “sides” I mention assume you’re standing in the doorway.  You can click on any of the photos for an expanded view.

rear right

Tent, view #1

1. Right side, rear of the tent

I have a queen-size airbed made by Coleman and I have to say that it’s been incredibly comfortable.  It’s sitting on a king-size comforter for insulation, so there’s a bit that sticks out in the front for extra padding when I’m sitting on the floor and leaning up against the bed.

In the middle of the right side tent wall, you’ll see my “closet” … a stack of Space Bags with my clothes, towels and extra bedding.  (What you don’t see is my machete, which probably gives me more mental security than what it would actually provide if push came to shove and had to use it for defensive purposes). I usually throw my camera bag there, too.

rear left

Tent, view #2

2. Left side, rear of the tent

This is “Frank’s Place”.  His bed and cushion sit at the head of my bed.  He really doesn’t like to sleep with me anymore.  I think downsizing to a queen bed put him in a position where he had to dodge my legs in the middle of the night too much, so he’s decided it’s better to either sleep on his bed or sprawled out on the insulation comforter in front of my bed.

His food and water is next.The aqua colored flooring is an additional tarp I put down inside the tent. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but that tarp makes teardown a lot easier … I just gather all four corners together and then pull it out of the tent – along with all the dirt, bugs and other crap that’s made it in despite my best efforts to keep it / them out.

The windows all zip completely up.  I leave them down as much as possible.  Frank’s discovered that he can turn the bed into a fully functional, 360 degree lookout tower when the windows are down.  Here at Toledo Bend, he’s been particularly taken by the motor boats, which have to pass by our hill as they leave the boat ramp  (we’re a little ways from the lake, but the view through the trees is pretty nice).  When he hears one, if he’s not already on the bed, he’ll jump up and position himself in the one corner that gives him the best view of the lake.  He’ll watch it as far as he can and then turn to me as if he wanted to say, “Man!  Was that cool or what?”

front left

Tent, view #3

3. Left side, front of the tent

The front corner is my “hamper” … dirty clothes find their way there, behind the tower fan and guitar.  The middle wall is where the supply boxes have found a home.  They also act as my entertainment center.  The cardboard box has a bunch of cords for the SirusXM, the wifi extender and the like.  Oh yeah, there is one pocket on each wall.  This one has my car keys and the hand-crank lantern I use at night.  The one on the other wall is where I store my headlamp.  Thanks to my buddy Larry for suggesting that, by the way.  It’s been incredibly handy, especially when taking Frank out for his night time “constitutional”.

The power cord is 100′ long and stretches from the power box at the end of the driveway.  I have an extra 25′ one that you see on the floor here.  I used it in Georgia, when the picnic table was close enough to the tent for me to simply connect it up and leave it in the tent.  Here at Toledo Bend, I’ve had to physically move the cord outside when I’m sitting at the picnic table, but it’s really not been that big of a deal. And by the way … the green tint to the photo?  That’s not an added effect – there’s a green tint in the room.  That’s the result of the sun coming through the rain fly.

front right

Tent, view #4

4. Right side, front of the tent

My one box of foodstuffs sits right inside the door for easy access. (There’s another waterproof supply box that I leave on the picnic table bench, under the canopy … it has all my kitchen stuff.) That’s where my shoes and walking stick are parked when inside, too.  The grey flooring is a tent carpet.  There’s just enough tarp left exposed at the front of the tent to catch any dirt that I’ve not been able to wipe off on the “welcome” mat that sits outside the door (or that Frank’s not been mindful enough to shake off before coming inside.  I keep reminding him of that, but he keeps telling me, “You know I have no idea what you’re saying, right?”)

There’s not quite 100 square feet of open room left for us to stretch out in – there’s about 10 feet from the edge of the bed to the front door and the tent is 10 feet wide, so it’s 100 square feet less the space occupied by the stuff on either wall.  It’s been great.  About the only thing I’d like to add is an inflatable chair … if I can find a heavy duty one that can support my weight.  I have to tell you this – Frank and I spent a night in a hotel this past Monday. It wasn’t the bed or the hot shower (that you didn’t have to walk a mile to take) or the television that was the most welcome luxury. It was the easy chair!  You have no idea how wonderful it was to sit in a soft, comfortable, padded chair after either sitting in a car … or on a tent floor … or on a picnic table bench.  Frank went right for the bed.  I spent almost 2 hours just sitting in that glorious chair!

So that’s it.  That’s our “Man Cave”.  On the whole, it’s been pretty comfortable for the two of us.  I’m glad I decided to move up in size from the 8′ x 12′ tent I was going to buy. Here’s hoping it lasts a long time before needing replacement.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2015 in Planning

 

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Acts of Kindness Amidst the Final Countdown

It’s been a month since my last post. Quite frankly, it’s been a tough one … a balancing act between finishing up all the prepwork for our impending departure (two weeks from today) and dealing with heightened anxiety / deepening blackness. I’ve thought about doing blog updates over that stretch of time, but just haven’t been able to work myself up to do them.

I’ve mentioned that one of my goals for the trip was to renew my faith in humanity, one that’s taken quite a few hits over recent years. I’m grateful to say that even though I’ve not yet left town, little (and big) “acts of kindness” have already begun as I’ve been winding things down here in Charleston. I’d like to share some of them with you, along with updates on the prep work that’s been going on.

Pretty much all of my supplies are in. I have about a dozen small items I still need to pick up, but I’ll get them locally instead of through Amazon, where most of my stuff has come from. At one point early last week, the UPS guy asked me, “So are you setting up a store, or what????” He’s made almost daily stops for the past two weeks! Oh yeah, I need to pick up my fishing gear, too. But all of that will take an afternoon, tops. With that exception, all of the major items are in. Last night, I started organizing my stuff into the various bins I’ll carry in my trunk.

The first act of kindness I’d like to share regards my car. I took it into the shop, Saturday a week ago with a laundry list of things I needed done. While some of them were run-of-the-mill maintenance items (oil change, tuneup, check the fluids, etc.), there were a few other things that needed to be addressed as well: my rear window shade was hung up; my headlights seemed to be off kilter a bit; and the “door is ajar” light wasn’t going off, which was causing an interior light to stay on. About a year ago, I had removed a fuse to “temporarily” get around the problem but as usual, I wasn’t able to unfreeze myself enough to get to it.

All those things got shoved to the side though pretty quickly. The mechanic’s inspection showed that I had a significant rust issue on the front underside of the car, which required a complete replacement of the front axle! Initial estimates for my laundry list plus the axle had me at over $2,500. The manager at the AAA car care center in Charleston was pretty cool though. He worked with me on the price and came up with some ideas as to how to address some of the other fixes. Final tally came in at a skosh under $1,800. I appreciate the lengths he took to help me out. Act of kindness #1. Thanks Beau!

My budget took a hit on the car repairs. I’ve offset it a bit by going back over my inventory list and cutting out some stuff that would have been nice to have but can do without.  Nevertheless, I’m going to overrun my initial “start-up” projection by about $750 as it turns out.  There were a few items I hadn’t considered early on that I’ve decided are necessities (a Garmin GPS and the Sirius XM box, for example).  Some of the items I’ve purchased actually went up in price instead of going down like I had hoped would happen (which was why I held off buying them earlier).  Here’s hoping I’ll be able to stay on my monthly budget – I don’t know what I’ll do if I run into too many cost overruns on the road.

Moving on – I was all set to order my Pelican cooler when I discovered they had come out with a new version in early May: a wheeled version that would definitely come in handy as time goes by. (The cooler itself weighed in at 35 lbs. due to the thickness of the insulation that provides up to 10 days of ice retention.)  There was a problem though – the cooler listed at around $350 … decidedly more than what i could pick the non-wheeled version up on Amazon.

I called around to some of the Pelican distributors, only to find that most of them hadn’t even begun to stock the new model. I did find it in stock at Quality Cases & Containers in Richardson, TX. In explaining my situation to Garrett, one of their salespeople, I asked if there was any type of discount program available for seniors. He wound up selling it to me at his dealer price, which meant I was only paying about $35 more for the wheels. Act of kindness #2. Thanks very much, Garrett. As an aside, if you’re looking for any Pelican products (they focused primarily on camera and firearm cases before branching out into coolers a whlie back), I highly recommend you speak to Garrett – tell him “Jeff the old camping guy who bought the wheeled Pelican cooler” sent you!

Acts of kindness #’s 3 through 10,000,000 came my way through the myriad birthday wishes … and ongoing support … I received from friends via emails Facebook posts and contacts through the blog. A number of them know of my ongoing anxiety and depression issues and have gone out of their way to continue sending notes of encouragement and well wishes over the past month. They’ve kept me going on days when I just wanted to retreat to my recliner with a blanket over my head … which is the last thing I can afford to do with time ticking down toward zero hour!  My buddy Larry has been especially supportive – but that’s Larry.  I’ve said this before:  “Everybody should have a ‘Larry’ in their life.” If you do, you know what I’m talking about!

So, with 14 days to go, here’s what still needs to be done:

  • Acquire those last items mentioned above
  • Finish cleaning the apartment. I want to shampoo the carpets after I get everything else cleaned up. Shouldn’t take me more than 2 days to accomplish.
  • Sell off the remainder of my meager possessions. I contacted a second-hand store and have talked to the owner. He’s coming by later this next week. He’s pretty much agreed to take everything lock, stock and barrel … it’s just a matter of finalizing price. I know we’ll be able to work something out.
  • I have to complete a bunch of paperwork. I have documents to provide the attorney relative to my decision to domicile in Texas; forms to complete for Escapees, the company that will handle my mail-forwarding and who will provide my Texas mailing address; and additional forms to complete in advance for registering my car and acquiring a Texas driver’s license. I also have to call the insurance company referred to me by Escapees – they have specific experience dealing with vagabonders (although most of them are going the RV route, unlike me.)
  • I will print out all my documentation for my campground reservations and call all of them to confirm my schedule. Another afternoon of work.
  • Frank needs some shots updated. I’m going to take him by the beaty parlor to get a bath and his toenails clipped as well.  (I might even get a haircut and beard trim before I go, too – I started this beard in early December and already I feel like I look like an honorary member of ZZ Topp!)
  • I need to do the typical “move” stuff – cancel accounts with Comcast, the electric company, etc.
  • Later this week, I’ll get the car washed and affix the cargo carrier to the roof of the Azera. I’ll start packing up the car next week with all of the non-perishable items that’ll go in the trunk.

All in all, there’s not a lot left to do. But it’s still going to be a challenge, given how the “blackness” is fighting me tooth and nail. It seems to get worse minute-by-minute. I’ve found that I have to play a little game with myself – I can get things accomplished in 20-30 minute spurts before it all becomes somewhat overwhelming and I have to retreat to my recliner. That’s where Frank comes in – he’s kept me going like nothing else. I still can’t get over how intuitive he is. The minute I begin to feel the anxiety is becoming unbearable, Frank comes from nowhere (which can probably be translated to, “Frank comes from the bedroom, where he’s bumped the door open so he can enjoy the plumpness of the Novaform mattress!”), jumping at my side, asking to be picked up so he can lick my face. He is a God-send … of that I have no doubt!

So that’s it. I don’t know if I’ll make one or two more blog posts before heading out the door the last time. At a minimum, I’ll do a “sign-off from Charleston” post the night before I leave. If I can manage to do another one before then, I will.

Wish me luck. We’re down to the final countdown here.

——————————–

Edit:  I forgot to mention someone else that has gone out of her way to help me:  An old workmate, Maria, has been helping me get a copy of my car’s title up in New Jersey.  I am very appreciate of her help. Maria, my apologies for not including you in the original post!

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2015 in Musings, Planning

 

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Seasoning My Vagabond Stew …

It’s not that the last few days have been particularly eventful – it’s just that little things have started to come together for my journey. The process is sort of like making stew … you research the recipe, do the shopping, prep the veggies and the meat, and add your seasonings.  The broth’s added in the final stages. A little simmering and you have your stew.

For my particular “vagabond stew,” I’ve put my recipe together and have been occupied with shopping for all the ingredients.  This week, some of the spices arrived.  Sure, you can make stew without the spices – it’s just not going to be all that tasty!

fenway south

The Red Sox spring training facility is modeled after Fenway Park. It even has its own “Green Monster” … a nice addition to the Grapefruit League!

I already mentioned that the SiriusXM stuff had arrived.  I’ve been enjoying the speaker deck quite a bit, managing to listen to a few Grapefruit and Cactus League games.  But on Tuesday, I finally got around to doing the car install!  It was really much easier than I thought it was going to be … the dock is affixed to one of the air conditioning vents, with the power cord neatly tucked along the side of the center console and connected into the auxiliary power slot (I guess I’m going to have to make sure my cell phone is charged before I get in the car, unless there are inexpensive splitters available that would allow me to charge it while I’m using the Onyx Plus).

The unit broadcasts directly through the dashboard radio – I just have to tune both to a common channel and voila!  I’m hearing about Mookie Betts’ blast hitting at the base of the Little Monster at Fenway South, Boston’s spring training facility in Fort Myers, FL. I didn’t even have to do an external installation on the antenna … it’s sitting in the window, right underneath the Azera’s inspection sticker.  So spice number one’s been taken care of – after all, you can’t have a vagabond stew without a little entertainment!

A second spice arrived on Wednesday – my dark cherry wood hiking staff, courtesy of Down East Walking Sticks.  I can’t fully express how happy I am with it.  Nice and solid, it has a great feel in the hand.  Barrie made it a little thicker than he usually does – like I said before, a big stick for a big guy!  Frank and I gave it a test run over to the park and back and it helped my knees quite a bit. It’s going to really add  “smoothing” and “balance” to the journey’s overall flavor.

Today I picked up a spice that I’ve never tried before. I got my first taste of fly fishing when I attended a full day course at a local angler’s shop.  I have always wanted to learn to fly fish.  Granted, I’ve done a lot of fishing in my life, mostly salt-water.  The few times I’ve gone the fresh water route, it’s typically been for bass.  But I’ve always heard that there’s something very “Zen” about fly fishing.  Every time I’ve had an opportunity to give it a shot, fear and anxiety have gotten in the way, so I’m especially proud of myself that I managed to make it to the class today.

a-river-runs-through-it

There won’t be anyone confusing me with Brad Pitt out on the river. Trust me!

I actually did pretty well and there’s definitely a “yin-yang” approach involved.  The keys are to maintain control while letting go (see how opposing those two ideas are?), and then letting your equipment do the bulk of the work.  One maintains control over the wrist and arm:  you move your arm rhythmically back and forth within a small arc without bending your wrist, all the while keeping your elbow on an even plane.  You let go by trusting that you’re not having to add “oomph” in order to get the line out there – the rhythm of your movement, combined with speedy stops and starts at each end of the arc will take care of that. And once you “get it”, the fly line is front-weighted so that when it’s released, it basically pulls the rest of the line off the reel.  I’m not going to say it’s easier than it sounds – at least it wasn’t for me because I’ve always had a hard time getting out of my own way and trusting (which was one of the reasons why i wanted to learn how to fly fish).

After a short while, I did “get” it!  By the end of the session, I was consistently managing casts of between 70-80 feet without any excess line pooling on the ground along the way.  What was really cool was picking out a leaf on the field where we were practicing and actually being able to land the end of the line within a couple feet of it.  That really got me feeling “goosebumpy”!

I’m counting on this spice to add some body to the stew. Figuratively and literally … I really enjoy trout, especially when it’s cooked and eaten outdoors!

I didn’t buy a fly rod today … I wanted to hurry home to check on Frank.  This is the longest he’s been by himself since he and I became companions and I was a bit anxious to see what he might have decided to taste” in my absence.  He didn’t disappoint.  Immediately inside the front door, I found Duck, fully decapitated with all his polyester stuffing strewn across the floor – his way of letting me know that he did not appreciate having to entertain himself for the bulk of the day.  He’s sitting at my feet as I type and it seems like I’ve suddenly developed a new appendage. Every time I get up, he’s walking next to me with less than six inches separating the two of us (which is okay except for the two times I’ve turned suddenly to get something or other and have nearly fallen face-first over him! And here I thought I was the only one in the home having to deal with massive anxiety!)

Before signing off tonight, I’ve one thing to add. You’ve probably noticed all the food references. It’s my way of paying homage to another blog I’ve recently discovered: Empires, Cannibals, and Magic Fish Bones.  I don’t really know how to describe the offering over there except to say that it combines four of my favorite things:  good food, good drink, good literature and good music!  Rather than try to explaining further (which would probably confuse you rmore), I suggest you head over and take a gander yourself! Today’s menu includes pork bellies, whiskey, the Appalachian Book of the Dead and Johnny Cash – yep, you read that right.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

.

 

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2015 in Bloggers I like, Planning

 

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SiriusXM … We Have Liftoff!

Sirius-XM-5 satellite

Hey Satellite! You’ve got a new subscriber down here!

As I type, I am listening to MLB Network Radio’s “Tour of Spring Training” on my Onyx Plus radio!  HOO-rah!

I have to say, the rest of my purchasing experience went pretty well.  It still took a decent amount of time, but that’s on me, seeing as how I was looking for a deal.  And I had quite the serendipitous experience when it came to purchasing my Onyx Plus radio.

I was “watching” three radios that were being offered on eBay. More were available, but these were the only items where the bids were starting out well below the MSRP and were from sellers with a 100% positive rating. Two of them were new and one was used.  By the way, when I started out, the radios were also being offered at Amazon for $74 and change, so that was the baseline I was using … I’d have to see a pretty good discount from the Amazon price in order to do a deal.

The used radio was the first auction ending … last Friday around 1pm.  When I put my bid in (at 1 minute before closing), the last price was $51.50.  I bid $56.52 but didn’t get it.  It wound up selling for $58.50 (with free shipping).  So I started following the other bids a little more intently.  Both were set to close shortly after 6pm.

Around 6pm, a little voice went off in my head – “Go check at Amazon one last time before you submit your bids.”  I did, and was amazed to discover that they had dropped their price overnight!  I wound up buying a new one directly from Amazon for $60.55!  Talk about lucky!  I wound up getting one for $4 more than what I was willing to pay for the used one (and would have kicked myself afterwards if the deal had gone through.)  Total drive-out price for the radio and the dock – $119.10, which was a little more than $100 savings from MSRP and $60 less than the “special” price from SiriusXM that would have required my subscribing to radio service at full price.  Pretty good, huh?

The radio and speaker dock arrived this afternoon, so I went online to register the radio and buy a subscription.  I had found a discount code that offered 6 months service for $25 and had no problem getting that discount okay’d by the SiriusXM representative who helped me via online chat.  Including the royalty fee and taxes I’m getting half a year’s service for $33 which I think is a real bargain!

By the way, the signal is great!  I just plopped the antenna in my apartment window … it faces southeast, but I’ve angled the antenna a bit towards the south.  Hopefully I get as good reception when I’m out on the road.

The renewal will be billed at about $111 when my current subscription ends in September, but they’ll notify me by email before then, which will give me time to see what I can do about negotiating a better deal with them going out from there.  But today?  I’m very happy today.

 

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2015 in Planning

 

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I Am “Sirius(XM)ly” Ticked!

Pun intended! (With a special shout-out to “Girl on the Contrary“!)

redox

I’m expecting big things for my Red Sox this year – and MAN, look at how lean David Ortiz is!

A while ago, I mentioned needing to figure out how to follow my Boston Red Sox once I go mobile. My initial thought was to simply subscribe to mlb.tv, so I could watch games online. After reading a bit more about some of the campsite policies to which I’ll be subjected though, I realized the vast majority of them were going to throttle bandwidth to the point that the online approach to getting my Red Sox “fix” just wasn’t going to work (gee, and I had just put a USB-compatible intravenous syringe on my Amazon wish list)!

Someone … probably Larry, seeing as he is my most reliable source for good ideas … suggested that I look into satellite radio.  So I did.  Not only would I be able to listen to the Red Sox, I’d be able to catch virtually every MLB game, “live”.  Which means I’ll also be able to follow the San Francisco Giants as well. (I’ve been rooting for the Giants longer than I have the Sox, although not as ardently – that comes by way of Grandpa Tice, who was as big a New York / San Francisco Giants fan as they come and who I mentioned in a previous post as being the one who is most responsible for me becoming a baseball fanatic!)

Anyhow, I initially looked into it a little over a month ago and set it aside to concentrate on other things.  Larry called me the other day and said he found a unit that was selling on eBay and wanted to get it for my birthday … but then we started talking about options, so I told him to hold off and that I’d do some exploring.

That was when the pain began.

I reviewed information over at the SiriusXM site again and realized why I had set it aside – there are so many options that my eyes were crossing.  And they sure don’t make it easy for you … I think they hire pricing managers out of the cell phone and cable TV industries to put their packages together. And I think it’s all done so that you simply throw up your hands, buy the most expensive package they have and say, “I give up. Here, just take my money!”  That goes against my nature, though.

So I got on a chat with one of their representatives.  Explained what I wanted – MLB, NBA, NHL were the primary “wants”.  NFL was secondary … and I was sure that whatever music was available on their packages would be fine.  What transpired was what could only be described as a circle-jerk.  He kept recommending the most expensive “All Access” package, I kept asking if there were other, less expensive packages that would meet my need, after which he’d write, “well, you can check out the packages for yourself.”  Of course, they don’t offer a side-by-side comparison that shows you what channels are available in each bundle … and I said that, that it’s not easy to find what I’m looking for, which was why I was on this chat. And couldn’t you recommend a package that would meet my need?  And the answer would be, “Well, I recommend the top of the line package because you’re sure to get everything that you want.”  And there were three go-arounds of this insanity.

“And that’s when I killed him, Your Honor!”

I thanked him for being absolutely no help whatsoever and closed out the chat.  As an aside, I miss old-style phones.  The ones you could slam down when someone on the other end pissed you off.  There’s just zero satisfaction in angrily clicking on a mouse button!

After that, I took about an hour and did my own comparison, and found that the next lower tier – their “Select” package – had what I was looking for, for about $5 / month less. It doesn’t include NFL games, but that’s okay … I can’t see myself listening to football games on Sunday afternoon, especially since: A) I don’t really have a team that I follow; and B) any football “fix” I might need can be found via the college games that are broadcast on some of the other channels in the “Select” package. (Plus, I can always find a “Frank-friendly” bar come Super Bowl time where he and I can take in the game.)

About the time I was finishing that up, Larry emailed a link to a site with coupon codes for SiriusXM subscriptions.  But I decided to figure out my equipment needs first. The radios are all designed to play either via your car speakers, a home stereo system or a portable “boom box” that are designed specifically to interface with the different radios.  But here’s the kick – some are designed to receive “XM” channels, some are “Sirius” and still more can receive both (the result of the SiriusXM merger a while back).  I could see that more eye-crossing was in store.

XM Onyx Plus

The XM Onyx Plus is how I’ll be getting my Red Sox fix this summer!

I had more or less decided on the XM Onyx radio … I’d be able to get all the channels I was looking for and it wasn’t the most expensive one out there.  I called Larry to tell him what I had decided and he suggested I should go to the XM Onyx Plus because there were a couple of nice features that he thought would be worth the extra $30 – things like a “pause” capability and one-touch channel changes. That’s the one he has.  We think enough alike that I’m taking his advice.

With that decided,  I went back to the eBay item, but when I hunted around a bit more, I found another couple of deals, one of which I was able to successfully bid on (you gotta know how to do bid to win at eBay, right?) Just before starting this post, I bought a new, in-the-box Portable Docking Station (model SD2) for only $58, including shipping … one that retails for $120!  I’ve also found a couple of XM Onyx Plus units for sale over there as well. One new and one used.  The bids close on Saturday, and I’m going to see if I can do a better deal via eBay rather than getting one directly from SiriusXM.  That way, I won’t have to sign up for a long term subscription in order to get their special hardware pricing … I’ll be able to take advantage of one of those coupon codes instead.

But as I said in the beginning, the whole process has left me “Sirius(XM)ly” ticked off.  It just shouldn’t be that difficult.  And I’m not even out of the woods yet – I still have to deal with them when I negotiate the subscription price. Further, I’m going to have to go through a similar process again when I redo my phone plan before heading out in June.  At least I won’t have to worry about looking through all those cable TV packages anymore, right?

More posts to follow once I get everything ordered, delivered and go through the car installation process (which should be a hoot, because I’ve never been much of an electronics geek, let alone someone who’s installed peripheral equipment in his car before).

Do any of you readers have your own SiriusXM nightmare stories you want to share? Or do you have any advice on talking to them about their plans? I’m all ears!

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2015 in Planning, Play Ball!

 

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Social Security Is a “Go”

John Doe's card

What if you’re name was really John Doe, and you kept reading stories about your body lying in a morgue somewhere?

I filed for Social Security benefits at the end of January … did it online.  I couldn’t believe how easy the process was. There were about a half dozen pages of questions I had to answer.  Strike that – there were maybe 4 pages of questions I had to answer and then a couple of pages of security stuff I had to set up, including my banking information so that the payments are automatically deposited.

Once finished, I was given an access code and received an email confirmation of the application.  The email said that I could log back on after 5 business days and check the status of the application to see if it had been approved.  My first thought was, “Approved?  What does that mean? I mean, I’ll be 62 in April, I had earnings … and you guys were the ones who sent me the statement saying that if I retired at 62, I’d get “x” amount of benefits!  ‘Well, Mr. Cox, we’re looking at your application and I think we’re going to need you to prove that you worked at Fruehauf Corporation back in 1974 in order to verify that portion of your benefits.’  Seriously?”

But aside from the typical angst I experienced … hell, I worry about my debit card getting shredded when I put it into an ATM machine … I thought everything went pretty well.  By the way, if I were not having my ashes scattered at sea, my tombstone would probably be inscribed with the following:

Jeffrey Cox
1953 – 2020
“Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean
that people aren’t really out to get you!”

So I checked “File for Social Security Benefits” off my to-do list and went on about my business.

About a week and half later, I logged back into the Social Security website, entered my access number and was all set to see that everything had been processed and approved. Instead, the following message was displayed:

A final determination on your benefits application has not been reached.  Please check back again. If you have any questions, call “xxx-xxx-xxxx”

Okay … well, it did say in the original email that it might take up to two weeks.  I just jumped the gun, I thought, and decided to give it another week.

Another week later, I go through the process again. Same message.  I do it again a week after that.  Same message again.  At this point, my anxiety and paranoia are at Defcon 1, so I called the number they supplied, because I sure as shit had questions at this point!

I called, and after enduring 42 minutes of the worst on-hold music ever … interrupted every couple of minutes by an automated voice telling me how important I was to them … a nice guy with a southern accent came on:

Mr. Smith:  Hello, this is customer service agent Smith, employee ID #148X29C42-OMAHA-OMAHA-Blue61-HIKE.  How may I help you today?
Me: I filed for social security benefits online back at the end of January.  I’ve logged in a few times since then to check status and it’s still saying that a determination has not been reached.
Mr. Smith:  Yeah, well, that really doesn’t work.
Me: Excuse me?
Mr. Smith: Yeah, well, you fill it out, but it really doesn’t go anywhere.  Well, sometimes it do and sometimes it don’t!
Me: Sometimes it do?
Mr. Smith: And sometimes it don’t.  It’s there for you to file, but I wouldn’t rely on it too much.
Me: Okay then. So if I had filled out the application and not checked back, assuming everything was going okay …
Mr. Smith: Well, now, that wouldn’t have been too smart of you, would it?  That’s why we tell people that you can start the application process 90 days before you turn 62, so that we can still get you set up in time!
Me: So then what do I do now?
Mr. Smith:  I think it’s best that I just set you up for a phone call.  Someone will call you back and fill out your application with you over the phone.  I have 10:00 on March 2nd as the next available date. Would you like a phone call?  (Actually, it was more like “would you lahk a pho-own cawl?” )
Me: Well, yeah – I guess so … but I’m having a bit of trouble processing the whole “sometimes it do and sometimes it don’t” concept. (I think bad news should always be delivered by someone with a southern accent – for some reason, it’s just hard to want to reach through the phone and rip someone’s tonsils out when they’re speaking with a drawl!)
Mr. Smith:  Well, you know, it is the government.  Things don’t always work right.  But I’m sure someone’s trying to fix it, Mr. Cox.  Anyhow, you’re all set for your phone call. You’ll get a confirmation letter in the mail.
Me:  Are you sure?

eddie-murphy

Eddie Murphy could’ve played a Social Security Agent on SNL!

All through the phone call, I halfway expected the guy to break out with an Eddie Murphy laugh and exclaim, “No man, I’se just fuckin’ wichya.  You’re cool – we gots the application all set up and you’re ready to go!”  But that didn’t happen.

It was just incomprehensible to me that they’d have created this really well-thought out website application … one that was easy to use, had help links that actually helped and gave you a confirmation at the end, only to have it go out into the void?  Amazing!

Anyhow, I got the letter confirming the call … and this morning, the phone rang a couple of minutes before 10:00am.  The guy told me who he was, asked me to confirm a couple of basic things and then asked me to wait a moment so he could start the process on his end.  At that point, I told him that I had already started to process online, and asked if there was any way he could possibly access that information.  He hesitated for a moment and said, “Yeah, I’m looking at all your stuff.  I really don’t have to do anything – you’re all set up and ready to go!”

I told him about everything that had transpired beforehand, including the original call I made into Social Security.  He said,” I don’t know what that other guy was talking about.  Your information is here, the application has been approved and you’re ready to go!”

Man, I can’t wait to apply for Medicare in a few years. Should be a hoot!

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2015 in Planning

 

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