March, 2018 – Eutaw, Alabama

I suspect most of you have no idea where Eutaw, Alabama is.  I sure didn’t.  It is about 45 minutes west on I-20 & I-59 out of Tuscaloosa and is the location of Jennings Ferry COE Campground on the Black Warrior River.  This is another very nice COE campground about 1.5 hours north of our previous location.  Another stop on our very slow travel north as we wait for spring.  We actually had another night of sub-freezing temperatures, although it was nothing like the northeast where the same system caused yet another nor’easter.  Since the weather was so cool, we once had very little planned for the week.

Since we are both approaching age 65 when we can start taking Medicare, Kal wanted to start figuring out how it would work.  This got me to thinking about Social Security as well and I decided to do some calculations to figure out when we should taking it as well.  We had decided when I retired to wait to take Social Security until age 65 or 66 which should maximize the total payout from the Federal Government assuming we would live until age 80.  I just wanted to see if this was true.  However, when I ran the numbers it looked to me that we should be taking Social Security as soon as possible.  Instead of trying to maximize what we get from the Feds it makes more sense to take the money IF you can bank the checks.  Social Security increases about 6% a year, but if you can invest the money and earn more than this 6% and can replace the loss in monthly income until age 80 with still a sizable investment left over.  There another major benefit.  You are building up an investment that is available for a major expenditure instead of leaving the money in Social Security where you can’t get at it.  We figured our best strategy would be to put Kal’s spousal benefit into savings, which offset the money we have needed to withdraw each year from our IRA to pay for major events like truck repairs.  This relieves the pressure on the IRA allowing us to be more aggressive with this investment.  My social security check would go into a new investment which can also be very aggressive as we would not need to access it for the next 10 years.  If the market cooperates then this should more than double our investments.  This strategy would not substantially change our current lifestyle, but should make more money available when we need it in the future.  With this analysis in hand I contacted our financial advisor, Rick Theobald with Waddell and Reed to get his opinion.  Although he wanted to run some scenarios himself, he essentially agreed with me.  He wanted some hard numbers if we were to pull the trigger immediately or waited until my or Kal’s next birthday.  So on Thursday we headed to Tuscaloosa to the Federal Office to gather this information.  Unfortunately on the way, Kal missed a red light and ran it and we got pulled over.  The fact that we got pulled over was actually a good thing, because the intersection had a camera system which would have sent us a traffic violation by mail.  It is quite possible we would not have known anything with the problems we have with Phil checking our mail in Birmingham until we got a summons for missing a court date!!  By being pulled over the officer ran our records and decided to let us off the traffic violation.  However, we had failed to keep a current record of our insurance in the truck and received a citation to present a valid insurance card within the next two weeks.  After this we found the Social Security office and got the information we needed with plenty of time to go to Buffalo Wild Wings for lunch and spent a couple of enjoyable hours watching the first round of the NCAA tournament.  Below is a picture I took outside the Buffalo Wild Wings that I title “World Famous Tucsaloosa Falls” to commemorate our experience.

TuscaloosaFalls

So on Friday, it was back to Tuscaloosa to present our valid insurance information with plans to once again catch more the NCAA tournament at Buffalo Wild Wings.   We went early since we did not know how long it would take at the courthouse and got there at 1:00.  It only took about a half hour to find out that the officer had yet to enter the information into the system.  They made a copy of our insurance card and stated they would try and remember to take care of it once it got entered!!  This did not make us feel very good about the situation so we got a phone number we could call in two weeks to check up on it.  Thankfully, we still won’t be too far from Tuscaloosa with our slow travels north that we can come back if we have to.  We also asked Phil to pay attention to our mail for the next couple of weeks.  Once completed we still had plenty of time to spend at Buffalo Wild Wings watching basketball, especially since Auburn did not play until 6:30.  We left after the Auburn game, where they barely managed to beat 13th seed College of Charleston.  After more than 8 hours of watching basketball non-stop we were both worn out and certainly had enough of bar stools!!

After the past two days, neither of us were interested in traveling back to Tuscaloosa for any more basketball.  This meant we were completely out of luck since we could not even receive CBS at our site, much less TBS or TNT that would have required cable.  We did try to stream the Auburn game on Sunday, but without any luck.  So we listened to the game on the radio until just after half time when Auburn fell over 30 points behind Clemson.  Frankly I was not surprised as Auburn has looked terrible since McLemore was injured three weeks ago.  Without hitting a high percentage of 3 pointers, they had no chance against any team that had an inside game.  Not only did Clemson have a good inside game, but they were hitting 3 pointers much better than Auburn.  It was still a successful season with winning the SEC conference and making it to the NCAA tournament with a 4 seed for the first time since 1999.

 

March 2018 – Camden, Alabama

On Monday we continued our slow travel to the north going only 1.5 hours to another Corps of Engineers Campground at Miller’s Ferry near Camden, Alabama.  This was our first time to this campground and we found it to be terrific.  We had another pull through site that looked out over a slough on the Alabama River.  We both agreed it was one of our most favorite sites since it had a wooden deck with picnic table right at the water.  It even had it’s own fishing dock!  We both decided that when we get tired of traveling this is the type of location we would like to have!!  We even had good TV reception and the WiFi was not too bad most of the time.  For most of the week the weather was quite nice, although a bit cool with winter coming back for another couple of weeks.  We had sunny weather for most of the week, with rain all day on Sunday.

Once again we did not do anything during the week except to break out our bicycles and ride around the campground.  There was a state park fairly close, but Kal decided she would rather ride the bikes then go for a hike and I could not complain as the weather was still a bit cool to be ideal.  The only drawback to the campground was the lack of a decent grocery store or sports bar in Camden.  The only option was a small Piggly Wiggly and we could not find a sports bar anywhere in town.  This meant we had to try and stream the Auburn basketball game during the SEC tournament.  We had good reception for the first half while Auburn was playing well scoring 41 points and leading by 10 at half time.  However, we gave up on the terrible reception in the second half and had to listen to the remainder of the game on the radio.  Unlike the first half, Auburn went totally cold in the second half and ended up losing to Alabama by over 10 points.  It was a disaster, especially since it open the door to another Kentucky championship.  UGH!!  Thankfully, Auburn still qualified for the NCAA tournament with a 4th seed, so we are planning on catching that game next week.  They will get another chance to get their act together.

March, 2018 – Monroeville, Alabama

With my teeth finally taken care of by the end of February, it was time to once again start our journey north.  This year our goal is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with plans for the family to join us at St. Ignace which is a boat ride to MacKinac Island that we visited last summer.  Especially since this year our journey will be due north of our location in Alabama on the Gulf Coast, it will be our shortest year in terms of miles.  So even though we are not getting started until March, the journey will be slow, especially as we await the arrival of spring.  With 70 degree days in Alabama, it feels like spring has already come, but I expect we will still find some colder weather as we move north.  Our first destination was the Corps of Engineer Campground outside of Monroeville, Alabama, Isaac Creek Campground.  We stayed there two years ago and as it turned out I happened to reserve exactly the same pull through site this year without realizing it.  Two years ago we had to move mid-week to another site due to high water on the Alabama River which caused the backside of the campground to flood.  No problem this year as the weather continued to be mild and no rain all week.  This time of year is very quiet in the campground and we only had a single neighbor all week until a few more campers came in over the weekend for spring break.

Except going one last time to Wind Creek Casino near Atmore, which was now an hour south of our location, we did not do anything all week.  There are no hiking trails in the campground and all the state parks are over an hour away.  There was not even a disc golf course closer than 50 miles.  So we just relaxed in the campground listening to Kal complain about the lousy TV reception.  We only got one station, CBS, and then only after dark.  Even then it was often so terrible that we just turned it off.  I was in good shape since I had new games to play on the Playstation and old TV shows (Stargate and Quantum Leep) I got for Christmas.  Thankfully, internet reception was good so we were able to stream the last two games of Auburn basketball and watched them win the SEC Conference for the first time since 1999.  I am so thankful that we now have unlimited data so we can watch these games and we are looking forward to the SEC and NCAA tournaments.  WAR EAGLE!!