Friday, September 30, 2011

Walla Walla WA

We're in Walla Walla - a premier wine producing part of the country. Kim and Jim know many of the winery owners; it's fun going with them because we get to meet the producers.
Barrel tasting at Saviah.

Winery dogs at Balboa. Their wine is fabulous. The dogs were fun to watch.

Dinner was at Olive Marketplace and Cafe. Really good food. I'm stuffed, and tired. Thus, a short post.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I took this (through the windshield) driving east from dropping Jim off at the park and ride. It's interesting how fog comes off the hillsides and flows across that stretch of freeway.

This is our last day here. Tomorrow morning we load the wagons and head out.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wet Fall Day

Today was gruesome. Just gruesome. Here is pictorial evidence to support my position.
Harbor Island, taken from the West Seattle Bridge.

Parked at Alki, eating lunch, viewing the water.

Three more days and then we head out.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Prosser Balloon Festival

This past weekend was the Prosser balloon rally. It was fun. We should have gone over Friday night but we had another engagement. Balloon rallies are very dependent on weather. Saturday morning, when we weren't there, was a perfect day for a mass ascension. Kim was there and took mass pictures.

Saturday morning.

Aren't they lovely? Thank you, Kim, for the images.

Prosser is a very small town in eastern Washington; in a heavily agricultural part of the state. Corn, cherries, apples, and grapes. Lots and lots of grapes. Everywhere you look, there is a winery. It was a warm there Saturday, it was close to 90.
This is a tavern in Prosser, I love the fact that they also buy gold. This tickles me. Bring gold, drink beer.

There are several antique stores. Cute stuff.

In addition to the balloons, there was a street fair going on. Crafts, food, the usual.

Part of the musical offering was a marimba band. Marimbas! When have you ever seen that? They were really very good. These are high school kids.

One of the food vendors was doing major fried stuff. Fish and chips, and PICKLES.

Never eat these, they're really awful. As Kim said, they taste like fried salt.

There was also face painting for the kids. I stalked this little kid trying to get a shot of him. He had a pretty good design.

The other thing they do is chalk drawings on the street.

These are pretty good.

There was a balloon glow Saturday night. We really didn't know what to expect. We got there when the gates to the high school opened and staked out our turf on the grand stand. There was a steel band playing. There was a middle school band, and a high school band as well. They're from the Tri-cities area. I find it very interesting that Prosser and Richland have programs for marimba and steel drum. The steel drum website is here.

The steel drum bands were really good, and very engaging. Here is crowd participation in the limbo, while the band was playing the Harry Belafonte song "Jump in the Line". The kids just loved it.

Then they played a can-can, and the non-playing kids got out and danced. They had a pretty good line going.

The kids in the bands were just a hoot to watch. They had a tremendous amount of poise and self-confidence. I think every school should have steel drum bands.

Then it was time to inflate the 5 balloons that were there for the glow. They roll them out on the field and use a giant fan to get air into them. As they inflate, then they light off the burners to make hot air.

There was a show. They flamed all at once, or one at a time in time to the music. It was really well done and we enjoyed it very much. If you get a chance to see a glow, you should go.

The balloons couldn't fly this morning - too windy. There was a significant front moving through. We drove home taking a diversion off I90 between Yakima and Ellensburg on the Canyon Road. It's very scenic. Eastern Washington is high desert and has its own severe beauty.

Coming over the Snoqualmie Pass, the clouds were in the trees and it rained. Welcome to fall in the GPNW.

Tomorrow is supposed to bring us heavy winds and high winds. It's time to GO!

Friday, September 23, 2011

What I Have Learned About Medicare Supplement Programs

How many people took Operations Research in college? Who remembers how to set up a system of simultaneous equations and solve for min/max? I remember doing it, but not exactly how. Deciding on a medigap vs. medicare advantage vs. a straight up drug plan vs. the former employer's really expensive gold plated supplement is starting to feel like solving a system of equations.
If you, gentle reader, are approaching 65, I can not recommend strongly enough that you start examining your options ahead of time. Perhaps I am the only procrastinator on the planet, but Jim and I left it a little late.
First, know that Medicare does not pay for everything. Often, a supplemental policy of some sort is financially prudent.

Here is what we think we know so far.
  • You have a 6 month window after turning 65 during which you can buy a medigap policy with no underwriting (this means looking at your medical history to determine if you're well enough to insure).
  • You have a 3 month window after turning 65 to do something about Part D, which is drug coverage. Failure to do this will result in fines, and I think a life long increased cost to have Part D.
  • Medicare advantage programs are basically Medicare Part C. They have low monthly premiums (Humana offers 2, one is $24, the other is $36). They pay a little more on top of what Medicare pays, but they limit your yearly out of pocket costs to $3 or $4k. They include drug coverage, with copays. They also have some vision and dental which Medicare doesn't. If you do not see the doctor often, this may be a good option. There will be co-pays for some services. Both PPO and HMO plans are available. Due to our moving about, we have to have PPO.
  • Medigap policies are named A - F (or L or something). Plan F is a Plan F is a Plan F. So go for the lowest cost, highest rated carrier. At present this would be Mutual of Omaha. They charge $103 a month, and pay all ( I think ) the deductibles, and there are no copays.
  • Drug benefits are extra if you have a medigap policy. The coverage plan you select depends on what meds you are taking. Each plan has its own formulary and rate schedule.
  • Neither Medicare advantage plans nor purchased drug coverage protect you from the donut hole. When the amount of money you paid (including your deductible if you have one) and your insurer paid for your drugs hits $2840, you're in the hole. You stay there until your TROOP (true out of pocket) hits $4550. Then money flows your way once again. I am still fuzzy on the math that gets you to the $2840. I think it's important to know the retail cost for a non-generic that the plan you are considering has negotiated with the pharmacies, I think that's the largest factor in the events driving you to the edge of the donut.
  • All plans are local. You have to get something that is offered in your zip code. If you move, rates will probably change. Some states have more plans than other states. We're SD residents, and we appear not to have so many options.
  • There are many brokers on the web. Some only broker medigap, some broker medigap and medicare advantage plans. Be aware of what they're selling, because that will determine what they tell you about.
  • AARP offers plans underwritten by United Health care. They are different in that they don't start significant questions about your health until you've been on medicare for 3 years.
  • Everything changes every year. Every dang year you will have to revisit your plan to make sure your non-generics are still covered and that they didn't move into a more expensive tier. There is no fire and forget.
  • Changes must be made during the open enrollment periods which are generally Octoberish to early Decemberish.
I'm writing this to synopsize what I think I know, and to point out that this is something that will not be accomplished over a couple of days. As I said, I may be the only person on the planet who did not realize how time consuming this is, but I didn't. Now you do.
Having only ever worked for one employer, who provided gold plated coverage, I never had to know any of this stuff. They provided it, I used it. This has been a very enlightening experience for us.
Nothing in this post can be taken as being accurate. This is what I think I know, which might be totally wrong, so do your own research.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Riding the South End of the Lake

Tuesday we rode around the south end of Lake Washington. It was a beautiful fall day. Look pretty much dead center in the photo, that's Mount Baker, which is frequently unseen due to clouds. For the Seattle native (or ex-native) it's always nice to see it. It's about 100 miles from here.

We rode past the Renton Boeing plant. The train from Wichita had just delivered 737 fuselages (nose to tail). This guy sits on one of the cars, and then hops off to open and close switches. He had a great day for it.

Those are the boxes the cabs used to come in. We're not sure what's in there now.

A green airplane on the Boeing flight line, next stop will be the paint hanger.

So that was Tuesday.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Finally, a tomato has ripened in Issaquah.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Olympic Sculpture Garden & 3 Day Walk

The weather in the Issaquah microclimate was gruesome today, just gruesome. We drove west to Seattle, where it was better. I've been wanting to go to the Olympic Sculpture Garden all summer. Finally, we got there. I did not get names of all of the artists or their works, so some of these will be unlabeled.
This installation is nicely situated among some small trees, I like the one on the left (the tree), it looks like it has eyes. The art is not really speaking to me.

This sign amuses me. When you put sculpture outside within the reach of the public (especially the very young public) they're going to touch!

Alex Calder - Eagle. It's impressive.

Richard Serra - Wave.

A metal tree sculpture.

Typewrite Eraser, Scale X. This was donated by Paul Allen. It's an object he helped to make obsolete.

It was a typical blustery fall day. Windy, changeable skies, warm, cold, warm. It you don't like it, wait 5 minutes, it'll do something else. The sail boat lower right is Obsession. She's available for rides in the sound. She docks somewhere around Pier 61. With today's wind, she was just hauling.

Cruise ships at Pier 91. This used to be a Navy pier, but has been returned to the city of Seattle. The structure on the right is used to fill grain ships.

We also saw the last few miles of the Susan G. Komen 3 Day Walk. Some of the ladies had fabulous outfits. Spirits were high, it's almost over.

The is a new trolley for Seattle. It used to be called the South Lake Union Trolley. Given its unfortunate acronym, it's been renamed to the Seattle Streetcar.

So that's what we did today and what we saw.

Dinner with Many Frends

Last night we had dinner at the COs with three other couples, two of which we had not seen in years. Years! It was good to see them, and notice that things just picked up where they left off. There's nothing like learning how old someone's children are to bring home the whole concept of tempus fugit.
Those are mussels being assembled. First they were steamed and then covered in a really good marinade for awhile. At this point the mussels are being reinstalled on to shells, and placed on shaved ice for presentation.

Food photography with a point and shoot is hard. This is the best photo of the mussels, and it's not that great. You will have to take my word for it that they were just lovely, and they were good. None survived.

I like this picture of Jim.

It was a wonderful evening with friends and good food beautifully presented. I stayed out of the red wine, which was good for me.

Today, it's raining on a charity bicycle ride. I feel so badly for them, it rained on them last year, as well.