Taken a few years ago at some joint on Broadway in Nashville, this was one of several photos with good-looking girls I had never laid eyes on before. It wasn't my birthday, but the Nissan crew was telling every attractive female we encountered that it was. Here's to getting older!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

When Is a Vacation Not Really a Vacation?

Just another brilliant Keys sunset..

I'm not the kind of guy who grumbles about either vacationing or partying, but my current run of vacation days is beginning to take its toll.

I'm sitting in my sister's kitchen in Los Lunas, NM with my laptop squeezed into a small section of the table, as she is utilizing some of the table in crafting my brother-in-law's birthday cake. I'm not particularly creative when not spread out in my own office with the use of the twin monitors there to write, or edit photos and videos. For the record, I simply don't like to work on the road.

I have been in pseudo-vacation mode since I stepped on my flight for West Palm Beach on July 6th. It it now July 31st and I don't return home until tomorrow, Aug 1st. Granted, that's a long time when you are a freelancer who makes money only when he is actually producing something. There are no paid holidays nor vacations. Work I miss while goofing off is simply work lost forever. Money I will not make nor ever recover.

I was home for four days between my stay in the Keys and heading to New Mexico for my brother-in-law's 80th birthday. My Autotrader editor was kind enough to allow me to do several assignments before I left and to cram three more into that little stint at home. During my New Mexico stay, I did have to knock out a couple of assignments. Getting my head around them took a little doing, but I finished and submitted them.
2017 Honda Accord Hybrid.

In the middle of my time in the Keys, I drove up to Ft. Lauderdale, caught a flight and flew to San Francisco to cover the media first drive of the 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid in Napa for Autotrader. That two-night, three-day bite out of my Keys vacation hurt, but it did inspire me to book tickets to go back down for the first weekend in August.

Before heading to New Mexico, I made a little detour to Monterey, Calif for a Nissan three-day media event for the 2017 versions of the Armada, Titan and Pathfinder. Historically, such trips didn't involve me doing much more than showing up, eating and drinking my fair share, and then driving whatever vehicle or vehicles were featured. Now that I am consistently collecting content for my video project, I have to actually work on these events. 

Getting the 411 on the 2017 Nissan Titan.

While neck deep in all of this, I have also been working with my Website developer on the Website. He assures me it will be ready for me to add content before Aug 1st. I'll only have a day and a half at home before heading back to South Florida. As of now, I don't have anything deadlining that I need to do in that 36-hour period, but never say, never. That may provide a little time to add some content to j3tvideo, but maybe not.

Of course, I click over the 65-year mark in August. That entails addressing all manner of issues. For the most part, I have Social Security all squared away; although, I do still have an issue there that I will need to eventually handle. I did meet with an independent insurance agent to help me navigate Medicare. Glad to say that's resolved, at least for the time being.

I also have a small pension from my almost eight-year stint at The Boca Raton News that is being administered by McClatchy Publishing. It purchased Knight-Ridder's pension liability when it bought most of the KR's assets. They thought I was dead – not kidding here – when I contacted them six months ago regarding some income records I need for my unresolved issue with Social Security. I received the paperwork for my pension from them just before leaving for my Nissan/NM trip. I must take care of that during my short home stay.

Part of the collateral damage from my nearly month-long absence from home is my ever-expanding waistline. I'm sure Doc Budelmann isn't going to be happy with me when I waddle into his office for my scheduled appointment in mid August. I've only managed to visit the gym three times in as many weeks. In the meantime, I've been eating and drinking like they award gold medals for it. I fully expect a stern talking to that will include some finger wagging when I next see the doc.

This is only my second Clanging Bell post in a month and, other than updating the Greenville Drive's monthly home schedule, I haven't hit a lick on GreenvilleInsider during that same period. I also have five assignments from Bankrate piled up in my to-do box. Ugh.

The bottom line is that I'm busier now than I have been in years. Not complaining, mind you; but I haven't quite been able to relax much during my 30-day goof-off period. The price of success, I guess.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Successfully Doing Nothing in the Florida Keys

Dinner at the OV (Oceanview) our first night in the Keys.

I'm not the kind of guy who vacations halfheartedly. I'm in the Florida Keys – Islamorada to be exact – and I'm totally focused on doing nothing. Despite using valuable tanning and beer-drinking time to knock out this half-assed blog post, my mind simply is not in creativity mode.

This is my third year to spend a week – give or take a couple of days – with friends who rent a condo for a month on the beach in Islamorada. My liver doesn't look forward to this annual getaway with the same enthusiasm I do, but sacrifices must be made. Right? Right!

The trip was off to a rocky start when I arrived in Delray Beach at the front end of this trip and discovered I had left the lens to my Sony camera on the side table in my kitchen in Greenville. I have all manner of still-camera and video camera gear in neoprene pouches of various sizes. I didn't double check the pouch I tossed into my backpack, believing it contained the lens, but instead, held a small mic and flash that I rarely use.
Sunset at Lorelei on our second evening.

Last year my still camera stopped working on the first day of the Keys portion of the trip and I had to buy a replacement. I was never happier to have Amazon Prime. But, I was again faced with going into a multi-day Keys stay with only my cell-phone camera. Not acceptable.

After quickly investigating and rejecting the idea of renting a lens, I also looked at used ones on eBay. Nope. I just spent more than $500 on a long zoom, that I intentionally left at home, for this camera on eBay, and I'm not interested in spending a pile of cash on a lens I already have.

Although I'm not keen on involving other people in rescuing me when I goof up, my back was to the wall. I picked up my cell and called my pal Natalie. Her family lives five minutes from me and I knew it wouldn't be too big a deal to go to my house and retrieve it, but then I would have to ask her to overnight it to me. In short, you can thank her for the sunset photos I've been posting on Facebook.

Captain Tim grilling burgers for lunch on his boat.

Unlike previous years, we don't have a boat on this trip – at least not so far. The trailer hitch on my friends' Hummer was destroyed in a freak rear-end accident last week and won't be fixed until sometime this week. No hitch, no Hummer, no Hummer, no boat.

We have other friends who rent a place nearby for the same month. They, happily, do have their boat with them. We've been hitching rides on their boat. This year they also brought a float that's positively huge. It even has a soaker pool. Nice.

The Cadillac of floats.

Motivated by Facebook posts containing references or photos of Corona and Miller Lite beer cans, my craft-beer friends have been unloading on me as if the photos caught me clubbing a baby seal. To them I say, Get a Grip. I'm a when-in-Rome sort of guy. I'm not belly up to a bar somewhere sipping on two or three craft beers, I'm hanging on a boat or poolside slamming back a dozen beers. I can quaff a dozen Coronas over eight hours, but no way can I do that with a peanut-butter stout.

In M.E.A.T. with pals having one of the rare craft beers on this trip.

What was to be 10 uninterrupted days of intense Keys training now contains a 2-day jaunt to Napa for a Honda Accord Hybrid event. I wouldn't have made this detour on my own, but Autotrader asked me to cover it for them. As a freelancer, I never turn down an assignment if I can accommodate it in any way. So, on Tuesday evening I'll drive up to Ft. Lauderdale, spend the night in one of the airport hotels, fly to San Francisco on Wednesday morning, drive the Accord on Thursday, red-eye back to Ft Lauderdale Thursday night, and be back in Islamorada for lunch on Friday.

To be honest, my liver will be doing the happy dance over this beer intermission. So will my wallet.