Well, that was an eventful vacation. As you know, we were booked on the Caribbean Princess.
We flew to Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Tuesday, 3/10/20. My daughter drove from Illinois and met us at our motel. We were having dinner in the attached restaurant about 9pm when I received emails from Princess that our cruise had been cancelled. The email also said we would receive a 100% refund plus a 100% credit towards a future Princess voyage. (I have already received credits to my credit cards).
Following a short discussion, I called VacationsToGo and was able to book a 7 day cruise on the Holland America Veendam leaving Fort Lauderdale the next day. It had a different itinerary of course. The ship is a much smaller ship than we are used to, but it was perfectly nice. Because of all of the cancellations (I assume), the fare was surprisingly low.
Before boarding the Veendam, every passenger had their temperature taken and anyone out of the normal range was not allowed to board.
We visited Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, Ocho Rios in Jamaica, and Cozumel in Mexico. We were scheduled to visit Grand Cayman but were not allowed to stop there.
We returned to Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday 3/18/20. Since we had originally booked a 10 day cruise, we had a few extra days to play with. We decided to return to the same motel (it was affordable, surprisingly nice, with a great shuttle service). On Thursday, we visited the Everglades and took a fan boat into the swamp to view wildlife. For me, that was the highlight of the trip.
I called to see if we could change our flights from Saturday 3/21/20 to Friday 3/20/20, and if so what it would cost. Well, they switched our flights with no fee whatsoever plus a $52 voucher per person.
As always, it was no fun to say good-bye to my daughter after having enjoyed her company non-stop for 10 days. We had a wonderful time together, though.
As it happened, we landed a few hours before the shelter-in-place order in our state went into effect.
So what is going on with my job? It turns out that my department has been deemed essential so we are working. Some people are choosing to work from home which isn't really a good option for me as our internet is unreliable (to put it mildly). I have chosen to self-isolate and am taking sick time. (My supervisor is fully aware that I am not actually sick, nor is anyone in my family). We are having a lot of rain, hail, and snow, so I am not even going outside much.
Viewing the 'Travel' Category
Well, that was an eventful vacation. As you know, we were booked on the Caribbean Princess.
On Thursday my new dentist confirmed that a partial would work for me. So, that is the route I am going. I realize it will be an adjustment to get used to wearing it, but lots of people do it and I can do it too. The cost for a partial is about $1600 before insurance pays their portion. Currently, there is a balance of $2232.79 in my dental sinking fund. I will wait until all is done and paid for, then throw the remaining balance at debt.
Yesterday was payday and I was able to send $248.29 off to the 5th wheel loan, bringing the balance down to $34,351.95. It feels great to make a little progress.
We fly to Florida Tuesday morning and sail on Wednesday. We are not canceling our trip due to the current panic, which I personally feel is blown way out of proportion.
The cruise line sent an email stating that we can cancel for a 100% credit towards another sailing if we wish. We don't. Also, they are crediting us $200 per cabin as a thank you for not canceling.
Our ship is the Caribbean Princess. So I guess if you hear that the Caribbean Princess has been detained someplace, you'll know what is going on with me.
I did (mostly) receive the past due rent. The money orders for March were dated March 1 and totalled $1215. So apparently, the tenant purchased the money orders, put them someplace, then thought he had mailed them. All of the info regarding what MoneyGram had told him was obviously fabricated. When I received them, I texted him to let him know I had received them then asked where he had found them. No response. No explanation as to why they were $35 short.
Yesterday I received June rent in full, but no additional $35.
Regarding paying for the cruise, I did lower my 457 plan contribution from 15% to 3%. I also changed my withholding from single 0 to single 1. The net result to my paycheck is an additional $214.02 per. All of this will go towards the cruise.
At the end of May, I had $630.80 saved. I have already purchased my daughter and son-in-law's airfare, and I have already paid $800 towards the cruise. So I still need to pay $4,370, which means I need to save $3,739.20 more.
My Mom and nephew came up here the Friday before Mother's Day and stayed (at the bed and breakfast in town) until Sunday afternoon. We had such a good time.
My birth mother is coming for a visit towards the end of July. She has a camper van so will stay right on the property with us. I will take some time off while she is here. I'm really looking forward to that.
My former father-in-law died about a month ago. I went down to the viewing (not the service) and did get to speak a bit with my former mother-in-law, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew. The financial situation former m-i-l finds herself now in is not good. Various family members and friends helped contribute towards the modest yet tasteful final expenses. (F-i-l and m-i-l did have some money set aside for this, but it was not enough) I helped a little, as he was my children's grandfather. Despite the circumstances, it was nice to see all of them.
Last week, my final employee match was made to my Simple IRA, in the amount of $1070.00. I plan to roll it into my Roth IRA and pay the tax. It will be nice to have a bit of new money in there.
I booked our cruise on Saturday and paid an $800 deposit. Princess was having a special promotion, which is still going on I think, no gratuities. I hope that doesn't mean the crew forego their share of the gratuity, but rather that Princess pays it. That saves me $675, my mom $270 and SB $135.
The balance is due Oct 24, my late brother's birthday.
So I've been thinking about how exactly I am going to pay for that planned family cruise. I loathe the debt I am already carrying and am uninterested in carrying more.
After a great deal of consideration, I have decided to cut my 457 plan contributions from 15% to 3%. I will bank the extra take home pay and should have enough by January to pay in full. I need 7k to cover 5 fares, port taxes, gratuities, and air fare for 2. I have $1,356.25 in my travel/vacation fund right now, with 9 more $150 deposits budgeted for this year. That's $2700, I need another $4,300. I calculate I will take home an additional $2,808 this year from reducing 457 contributions. That still leaves $1500. I do have those 2 extra paycheck months. I think I can do it.
I think my retirement plans can withstand the hit. I am on track to surpass my minimum nest egg goal. This trip is very important to me. I will fill out the paperwork tomorrow and expect to see the extra take home pay beginning in May.
We are in Colorado Springs!
Mom, nephew, SB and I hit the road Saturday morning. We hit Las Vegas in the early evening and checked into our clean-but-no-frills motel a few miles from The Strip. At $120 per room, it was the most reasonable deal we could find in Vegas on a Saturday night. We had dinner at a Claim Jumper restaurant and took in some sights on The Strip.
Sunday we visited Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, Zion National Park, and then stopped for the night in a little place called Carmel Junction just outside of Zion. The motel was much nicer and thus was a bit pricey at $189 per room. (I know it is all relative, but that is more than I usually like to pay). They had a little restaurant which was a bit overpriced but the food was quite good, including their own fresh baked bread. Also, they had a beautiful pool and hot tub area, with beautiful views.
Monday morning we visited the north rim of the Grand Canyon, which is less visited than the south rim, and we did see why. It is beautiful, but definitely less grand. Here's a pic:
Afterwards, we set off for Mesa Verde National Park. Monday evening, we stopped for the night in Towaoc, Colorado at an Ute Indian casino. It is very new and cushy, and we stayed for $89 per room! We had a nice relaxing evening enjoying the amenities. I gambled for maybe 15 minutes. I started with a $20 (all I am willing to spend on gambling), chose a machine, and fed in my $20. I played it for 10 minutes or so, cashing out $19.75. I chose another machine, played it 3 times, and cashed out $76.55. I was done at that point. SB stayed in the casino, but I went back to the room and changed for the pool and hot tub. Later, SB came back to our room $48 richer. So the casino paid for our room for the night. Thanks, casino!
Tuesday morning we got up and drove to Mesa Verde. We visited the park, saw the cliff dwellings, and then hit the road. We made it to Alamosa and decided that was far enough. We got rooms in a Fairfield Inn paying about $150 each. There was not much to see and we were all tired so we grabbed dinner at a Wendy's and called it a night.
Wednesday morning we had breakfast at the hotel then hit the road for another 3 hours and finally arrived in Colorado Springs. And here we are! We will be here for a week, hanging out with Mr and Mrs M180 and taking in the local sights.
We ended up renting a house on VRBO for $1500 for the week. Since we need 2 rooms per night, this works out so much better. We have a whole house to enjoy, complete with laundry room. We visited a supermarket and have fixings for meals here. It is a lovely house very tastefully appointed, and we can see Garden of the Gods from our living room window!
Interestingly, the owners of the house have said they are "just a few minutes away" in their cabin, and we can call if we need anything. I think what they are doing is offering both places for rent on VRBO and moving back and forth to accomodate their renters. Maybe they are using the income for living expenses, or to pay off their mortgage, or to pad their nest egg. How creative! Colorado Springs is home to a University of Colorado campus, an Air Force Academy, an Air Force base, an Army base, and a National Guard base. Plus, it has a great deal of natural beauty. I'll bet there are a lot of people wanting to come and visit for a week or so.
I am so happy to be here for a week with my daughter and other loved ones. Life is so good.
I had a fun overnight trip yesterday with some long-time girlfriends. One of whom was visiting from Tulsa, OK and flew back home today.
There were 5 of us, and we drove up to Grass Valley to stay at an old hotel. It's sort of infamous, having housed several US Presidents and other notable guests such as Mark Twain. And it is supposedly haunted, which adds to the ambiance. We had a great, giggly time. We made a run to the Sacramento airport late this morning and I returned home about 2 hours ago. Here are a few pics from our hotel room. I wish I had thought to snap a shot of the elevator, which was the old fashioned scrolly ironwork kind.
That last shot was from the balcony, which we enjoyed. We had two rooms, the other was similarly appointed.
Next weekend, SB and I are going to Bodega Bay with another couple. We have rented a house for the weekend.
The following weekend, J and his girlfriend are getting married in her grandparents' back yard.
The weekend after that, I am flying to Spokane, WA with my mother for a 4 day visit with my first cousin and his wife. My mother and father raised him for a good chunk of his childhood.
A road trip has been planned for the last week of June and first week of July. SB, my mother, my nephew, and myself will hit the road in a rented mini-van (which I was able to rent through AutoSlash.com for just under $350 per week including taxes). All of the plans are not finalized, but we will be in Colorado Springs for almost 1 week spending time with MrsM180 and hubby.
And there you have it.
At this point, I have put calls in to several more roofers. One just called back! I spoke with him at length, and he has promised to come by Monday, then email me a bid.
I am leaving Sunday for a week in Tahoe. I plan to read, color in my new adult coloring book with my new colored pencils and fine-tipped markers, cross-stitch, and just generally chilaxe. My kids are staying home; couldn't talk any of them into it.
Well, I got home Sunday from the cruise. SB and I had a great time, and we caught some new Pokemon. It was nice to have time to re-connect as a couple with no other distractions.
The service for my cousin was very nice. He taught math at both a high school and community college in San Diego. The service was on his college campus and was attended by hundreds of colleagues and students. His mother especially was comforted that he had been so well liked, loved, and respected by those who knew him. Still, it is sad to say goodbye to someone so young. My cousin was not married but left behind a partner of 10 years. I had never met the partner before; he is a very nice man and is just devastated.
Seeing family I had not seen in many years was nice. Of course, this sort of thing makes you contemplate your own mortality. It is sobering to realize how many years it has been since you have seen cousin so-and-so; how quickly your life goes by.
This trip was a bit pricey. A group of my family were staying in a Marriott Suites hotel, so I stayed there too. I usually opt for more economical lodging, but I wanted to be where my family was. SB paid for the cruise, but the additional 3 nights of lodging is all on me. That is only right since it was my family and my desire to attend the service.
So my little CurveBall Fund at WF will be taking a hit. Otherwise, I would have to carry credit card debt and that does not appeal. I am not certain I will have 5k earmarked for a new roof this spring. I could maybe put it off another year, but I don't really want to do that. I am still not even certain 5k will do it. I used an online estimator tool which said my roof should cost 4k - 6k. More than a month ago, a local roofing company said they would be coming by to measure and then email me an estimate. I am still waiting for that. I emailed them again today.
I have applied for a HELOC at Wells Fargo. We will see what they say. I'm not certain I will need to borrow, but it doesn't cost anything to have the HELOC open and ready to go.
Well, I am off to my second job. This is my third night, and I may or may not need one more to finish up. The week I work at my second job in the evenings is always a long week.
SB and I are leaving for our cruise today. We will drive to Bakersfield, spend the night, then drive to Long Beach in the morning. Our ship sails tomorrow afternoon.
When we return on Thursday, we are heading to San Diego and will stay until Sunday morning, then drive home.
The son of my first cousin passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday morning. He lived in San Diego and that is where his funeral will be a week from today.
He was getting ready for work and collapsed, never regaining consciousness. The coroner determined he died of a heart attack. He had just turned 40 in August. He exercised regularly and ate healthy; he was not the least bit overweight. He did not smoke or take any recreational drugs. He did not have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or any symptoms whatsoever.
I am looking forward to the cruise and to seeing extended family. But my heart just breaks for my cousin and her husband.
Last weekend my family enjoyed a nice 3 day trip to Lake Tahoe (I took a vacation day). A client generously gave me the use of his vacation property as a "thank you". There were 7 of us: my daughter, my son-in-law, my son, my mother, my nephew, my SnugglyBumps, and myself. We had such a nice time, we are kicking around the idea of renting it for a week in November.
SB has a half-brother who was a dealer at Harrah's in Tahoe the last time SB spoke with him (about 15 years ago). One evening we all (except J, who is 20) went to the casinos and SB set off for Harrah's to see if the half-brother is still working there. It turned out, he is. AND, their father (whom SB had lost touch with more than 20 years ago) is living with him. In Tahoe.
On Sunday before we left, we went to the brother's house. SB saw his father, met his niece and grand-nephew for the first time. They were all very nice, and the father was very happy to see SB. The family resemblance is strong. I was so glad SB had the chance to re-connect with these relatives. I hope he sees more of them.
SB has booked us a cruise during the first week of October. If you count the days we embark and disembark, it is a 5 day cruise. Really just 3 full days and 4 nights. It will be just the two of us, so hopefully a bit romantic. I am taking 5 vacation days that week.
I am going to take a week off in either November or December, whether we go to Tahoe or not. Probably November.
There is talk of using my brother's time share at Christmas.
We have been taking day trips to San Francisco...to catch pokemon. Lol, it sounds so silly, but it really has been a great deal of fun. I am up to 102 unique pokemon now. And I do not even know how many miles I have walked, just to catch them.