15 November 2004 - 23 January 2005

When I sent out my last Long Letter update I announced my move to Sparks in the e-mail Subject line (Ed's News - Now from Sparks). I will now tell the story behind that move.

My apartment complex in Reno had one redeeming feature that was very important when I first moved there in December 1998 - if you have no car it has good bus connections. When I returned to Reno from Bulgaria I decided not to buy a car until I was sure what I was going to do and the location was very good under those conditions. Upon returning from Japan I looked for a better apartment complex but still could not beat the location for bus connections. However, once I bought a car all the dissatisfactions began to build up. The "last straw" was another fight with the complex management to get heat to my apartment. The thermostat did not work in the fall of 2003 nor the spring of 2004 and both times I had to repeatedly request that they get the heat or cooling working. It was the same frustrating process this fall when it started to get cold and after a week I filled out another maintenance request and gave notice that I was moving at the end of November. I then began to search for another home and found a complex of all studios in Sparks, NV that had a very good rent but required that you "qualify" because they are under a Federal rent subsidy program. I had no problem qualifying with my wages but when I reported my savings and IRA on the application I was told that I couldn't rent an apartment because I made too much money. It seems that the rules imposed by the Federal government require that 2% of all saving, including IRA savings, must be considered wages also to qualify. Therefore, my wages were about $600 per year, or less than $12 per week, too much. To solve that issue I asked my boss if I could go on part time and I now work 32 hours a week; working Mon & Tue with Wed off then work Thu & Fri. It has worked out very well. I have reduced my monthly income about half way from what I was taking home, after rent, before to what I'll be receiving when I start to draw Social Security. I have created a phased-in retirement that I didn't plan to do but like the way that it has worked out.

The more difficult part was making the move. I didn't have a lot of "stuff" when I went to Bulgaria nor when I went to Japan but I seem to have acquired another box full from each place. I have also added a futon bed, desk and chair since returning from Japan as well as a car, trailer and trike. To move all of that in Cousin MINI was going to be a challenge but I was going to give it my best shot except for the bed, desk and chair (these were to be transported in a borrowed pickup). I started the move process on Wed before Thanksgiving by making two trips. Worked Thanksgiving but then did two more trips after work on Fri with the intent on finishing quickly Sat morning and borrowing the pick up around noon. However, Mother Nature wanted to have a little fun and threw a snowstorm at me at daybreak. I did make the four additional trips required but all of them were in increasingly deeper snow with no plowed roads and continuing snowfall. There was also the additional problem of Interstate 80 being closed from about 11 am to 3 pm due to an overturned truck and trailer. This was to be my route to obtain the borrowed pickup and I was finally able to get it home just at dark and as the streets started to freeze over. With the help of another Baldidni's employee the move of bed, desk and chair went well on Sun even with the ice coated streets. I was then able to tow the trailer to the new apartment but because of the snow and ice in the parking lot I was having a lot of trouble manually pushing it into a parking spot. A downstairs neighbor took pity on me and with the two of us it was no problem. Just after the storm, my trailer builder e-mailed me a warning that I could have a leak around the hatch hinge. As the snow melted from the roof of the trailer I did find a small leak and have resealed the area around the hinge as he instructed. I need to now wait for the next thaw to see if that has fixed to problem.

When I say the next thaw I'm speaking of the one to follow our New Years Eve - New Years Week of snowstorms. It began snowing in the early hours of December 31st and did not quit until late that night with about 18 inches to 2 feet of snow in Reno and as much as 4 feet in the foothills. This is the most snow I have seen in Reno since 1993, right after I moved here in 1992. It was also enough to get Cousin MINI stuck twice; the first time was getting out of my parking place at home and the second was getting out the parking place at work. Both times I drove up onto the snow but it then compressed under the car and I became high centered and couldn't get traction to move. It then snowed again almost every day Jan 1-6 but usually only a small dusting, just enough to turn to ice and make the streets and parking lots very slick. The major roads were plowed and sanded but secondary roads and smaller residential roads became ice ruts during these 6 days. Then on January 7th we got another big storm that started about 6 am and lasted for almost 24 hours, leaving another 18" on top of my car. The two storms starting Dec 31st have left 4 to 6 1/2 feet of snow in Reno, the most since 1916. There were a number of carport roofs, and flat home roofs, collapse over the weekend of Jan 8-9 with a carport across the street from my apartment among them. A 4" limb had broken off the tree in front of my apartment window the morning of the first storm and I saw a few other limbs down in the complex but that seems to be the only damage. We got a break in the weather from Jan 10-16 if you can believe that almost constant freezing temperatures are a break. The high got into the low 40s on a couple of days but we didn't melt off much snow. Then we had a week of freezing fog from Jan 17 -23. This was very strange stuff - it looked like fog but left a very fine snow like coating on everything and you could see very tiny frozen droplets falling like a mist.

I still had a 3' snowdrift on Pandora's hatch on Jan 12th when I tried to get inside to continue trike projects that I have been working on (I store my trike inside the trailer). I first had to clear away the snow, then needed to pour warm water on the hatch lock to get the key in and unlock it and lastly I had to wait until later in the day for the hatch to thaw enough to open. (There was also one morning that I had to use warm water on Cousin Mini's door latch.) The first project involves flags. The Catrike comes with a standard bicycle "safety flag" and a 2-piece 6' pole. However, the bracket is made to fit a normal bicycle rear dropout and cannot be used with my Rohloff dropouts. When my dealer in Chico, CA was putting it together I asked him about this and he used his shop lathe to machine a bracket that mounts to the rear rack. This has worked fine but it is in the way if I want to use the full length of the rack. Therefore, I wanted to move the safety flag and also wanted to add two more flag brackets to the top of seat that would fly an American and a Nevada State flag. I have made 3 brackets out of 2 x 1/4 inch threaded studs, refrigerator icemaker tubing, two plastic conduit hangers and one "L" shaped metal strip. The conduit hangers clip onto the top of the seat frame and flags slip into the tubing that is attached to the hangers via the studs; the safety flag, on a 3' pole, will be similarly attached to the "L" bracket that is bolted to the headrest on the seat frame. Maybe when I see warmer weather once again I can get pictures that will show my handiwork better than I am able to describe it. I am quite proud of what I have devised when compared to some of the flag attachment "solutions" that other Catrike owners have installed. The second project is much simpler since I didn't have to make anything. However, it hasn't been simple to find a suitable place to mount a tire pump on the trike. On a conventional diamond frame bike there is the top, down and seat tubes that all are usually long enough and free of impediments to mount a pump. On a trike it seems that none of the tubes are long enough or they have something in the way. I tried along the side and top of the seat but the pump would be in the way of something in both places. I have finally put it under the seat along the main tube that holds the rear wheel stays. I'm not entirely happy with this arrangement but have few other choices.

I am also making plans for my first trip after retirement. My last workday will probably be the first week of May and I will then take a week paid vacation and receive my first Social Security check about mid May. My tentative plans are to then leave for the First Annual International Teardrop Gathering (ITG) in Minden, Nebraska on June 5th. I'll get there by way of Bellevue, Idaho where I want to ride my trike on the Wood River Trail and then stop at Craters of the Moon. From there I'll transit through Yellowstone National Park to Cody, Wyoming and Devils Tower. From there it will be to The Black Hills and about 5 days of riding on the Mickelson Trail while staying in Deadwood and Custer, South Dakota. My next stop will be near Lincoln, Nebraska and ride the East MoPac Trail before I visit with Al & Kay (cross country bicycling friends from 1990) in Nortonville, Kansas. I'll leave there and arrive at the start of the ITG in Minden on June 23rd. While in Minden I want to do at least one trike ride to the Fort Kearney Museum about 10 miles to the northwest. I'll leave Minden the morning of June 27th and follow the Oregon & California Trails through South Pass and then cut south through Flaming Gorge, across Utah & Nevada to return home. I haven't planned out the return stops at this point but know that I want to be back before the July 4th Holiday traffic gets on the road. I need to schedule my travels around doctor and dentist appointments so will get those taken care of in July and then maybe get back on the road again after Labor Day weekend. More travel information in upcoming Long Letters.