Sunday, June 24, 2012

Everything I don't know about buying a house

You know how some people just move somewhere and buy a house right away? Well, thank goodness we didn't since the more I research houses, the more I realize I know nothing about buying or owning one. Remember how a few weeks ago I learned (well, more internalized than learned) that you actually have to pay property tax?

I think I must be kinda slow because I just realized that if you have kids, you need to make sure they will end up going to a good school. I just looked up the rating for Middletown High School. It got 4 out of 10. And I guess it is the only public high school in Middletown. That ends my dreams of a 10 minute commute for Evan.

But are we really going to still be living here when Calvin is in high school? Maybe the solution is for Evan to get a job somewhere in the west where they have have newer houses, lower property taxes, less humidity, warmer winters, better schools, and not so many ticks. Oh yeah, and actually have family nearby too.

But Connecticut isn't so bad so far either. So who knows what will happen.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Rhode Island Air Show 2012 Travel Report (Updated)

Today, Shanna, Calvin, and I decided to drive an hour and a half to visit Rhode Island. For one thing none of us had ever been there in our lives. But the real reason is that today was the 2012 Rhode Island National Guard Open House Air Show. Not only that, but they promised to have the USAF Thunderbirds performing at said air show.  So the real reason for this trip was to see them perform. It had been a few years since I had seen them fly. (If you can't remember, last time Shanna and I were out on the East Coast, in DC, we rented a car to drive to Delaware for an air show featuring the Thunderbirds only to have the their portion of the show cancelled due to an impending storm. Oops, just checked our blog for a link to that story but I guess we never posted about it.)

So this morning at 9:30, we slathered on the sunscreen and headed out the door; lawn chairs, sunglasses, and umbrella in hand. First stop was the dollar store where we bought a gallon of water to drink. No drinks were allowed in except for unopened water bottles. Of course, they had water buffaloes there to fill empty bottles but our experience in the past has been that those empty fast with thousands of people using them and you have to wait in a huge line before you can get any. (This show actually had a very adequate water supply with hardly any line and very many buffaloes.) At the dollar store, Shanna also got Calvin some sunglasses because the ones we got him at K-Mart were 7 bucks and we wanted to see if we could save some moolah. And with that, we were off to the show.

Calvin wearing his new sunglasses.

Rhode Island is very close to Connecticut. In fact, it was only about 60 miles to the location, but it took us about 90 minutes to get there. That isn't counting the inevitable air show traffic that you always hit around 1 or 2 miles before you get to the parking lot. The parking lot was a large empty field containing a winding line of people waiting to board the shuttle buses to the actual show. One stop at the port-a-potties and a half hour wait later and we were on the bus. This is noteworthy because Calvin sees the school bus pick up kids outside our window frequently and he has always wanted to get on it. We thought the bus ride might have been the highlight of his day, but we were just beginning.

Calvin perched atop my shoulders.
After getting through security screening, we set about trying to find a place to sit. This was more challenging than I first thought because the vendors were lined up in a straight line trapping all of the spectators between them and the front fence which was only about 50 yards away. This made our experience slightly more crowded than desired and a little more uncomfortable. Nevertheless, we found a spot (in front of some drunk guys who started out pretty juiced and just kept on going), sat down, and ate lunch. I then liberally applied sunscreen to my arms and legs and began scanning the sky to watch the show. We saw some sky-typer team who was advertised a a group who writes words in the sky, but to my disappointment they only did formation flying, no writing. Then we saw some guy flying a bi-plane and doing aerobatics. His show was quite amazing. It was easy for me to believe when they told us he is widely known as one of the best in the world.

It was about now that Calvin decided he wanted to go look at some of the static displays. ("I want go drive airplane!") So off I went with Calvin, leaving Shanna to watch the next few performers alone. First we found a small single engine Civil Air Patrol airplane with the cockpit doors open and a line of children waiting to get in. After a few minutes, Calvin sat in his first airplane cockpit. Unfortunately for him, there was a real pilot sitting in the other seat who scared him just enough to keep him from really playing with (and messing up) the controls.  After a few seconds, Calvin was ready for the next plane.

Me and Calvin by a static display
 Our next stop was the C-5 Galaxy. This is one of the large cargo transport planes with the nose and tail end that open for loading. I am impressed every time I see an aircraft this large. It is just amazing that something so huge can go flying through the air. Well, Calvin walked right up the tail ramp and into the belly. Inside the plane was pretty cool (read huge). Calvin liked it and we took some pictures, but since it was empty, Calvin ran out of stuff to do. One other thing about the C-5 was that with the front and back opened up, it did a very effective job at routing the wind right through the belly of the plane. The shade inside the plane coupled with the wind blowing through it actually felt a little chilly. (This is one thing that I have never felt at an air show before. Out west, the shows are usually blazing hot and the one we went to in Delaware was just muggy and stifling. The 73 degree temperature outside and breeze made today the perfect day for watching an airshow.)

Calvin outside of the C-5.
Calvin enjoying the shade and the view inside of the C-5.
C-5 Engines. Calvin already looking for the next thing.
  Calvin and I headed out of the C-5 and went to check out a few F-18's. Much to Calvin's dismay, those airplanes were not open to allow him entrance to the cockpit. Because of this, he wanted to keep looking for another plane to "drive". We didn't have much success at that, but we found a large model of an aircraft carrier. This was really neat and it kept Calvin's attention for about 2 whole minutes. He was all-in until I told him that the model airplanes on the carrier deck weren't for playing with. After that, he lost interest real quick. Since playing with the models was out of the question, we hit the port-a-potty real quick and headed back to find Shanna and get a snack and take a load off. (Update: I forgot to mention that sometime between the port-a-potty Calvin managed to cover his entire lower body (shorts, legs, socks, and shoes) with barbeque sauce from somewhere. I don't know where, but it was like it had been dripped down onto him. I think it might have been one of the drunk people behind us because they were eating barbeque sandwiches, but there is no other evidence that I was able to find.)

Calvin in front of the aircraft carrier model.
 We made it back just in time for the Combined Arms Demo. This involved two C-130's, two Blackhawk helicopters, an ATV, a Hummer, and several large explosions. The performance was a mock combat scenario where the aircraft made combat maneuvers. The only thing was, to me the explosions seemed a bit fake. The way they talked it up, it sounded like they would be dropping real bombs (bombs that exploded but weren't "real"), but I think they just planted some charges near the runway that were remotely detonated. Either way, it was pretty cool.

I don't know what we were watching here, but we both seem to be enjoying it.
 After this, Shanna and Calvin went off to look at some more static displays and I stayed to hold our spots and watch our stuff. (It turns out that they made the exact same loop that Calvin and I had made earlier) While they were gone, I had a chance to see the jet truck drive past. The jet truck was basically a jet engine with a truck built around it.I wasn't expecting much, but then again, I've never seen a truck drive 300 MPH before.  It was pretty amazing how quick that truck came and went. I was definitely surprised and delighted with that. So was the kid sitting behind me. He laughed in amazement for like two minutes straight.

Calvin the the shade of the C-5.
 With the rest of the show out of the way, it was time for the Thunderbirds (No storm was going to prevent it this time), and they didn't disappoint. I have seen the Thunderbirds probably three times and the Blue Angles once and this performance was the best of them all. There were formations that I had never seen them do before along with their well known stunts. To my delight, they made at least three high speed passes directly over the crowd when we weren't expecting it. Most people jumped, screamed, or ducked their head but I was just left grinning from ear to ear. I can't help it. When these jets rip through the air there is something electrifying about it. I can't do anything but smile and look up to the sky. If you have never experienced this, then you really need to at some point. How you can feel these planes move through the air is just awesome. Even Calvin seemed to enjoy the show. The noise didn't bother him one bit. The Thunderbirds flew for about 20 or 30 minutes, and I don't think Calvin asked once to go somewhere else.

Shanna and Calvin in front of a helicopter. "The helicopter is parked."
 With the Thunderbirds show ending, the air show concluded. We probably should have headed for the exits, but we took some time to walk around to the static displays together. (We made the same loop again) We also went to the other side of the show to see some other planes: another F-18, an F-14, an A-6, a Mig 17, a KC-135 Tanker, and various helicopters. We figured that the bus line had died down enough to go catch a quick ride home, but we were delusional. 45 minutes later (After a thoroughly uncomfortable wait in line where the people behind us felt the need to not allow even a foot behind our back sides and their fronts), Calvin had his second bus ride ever and we managed to find our car in the parking lot. Once we started driving, Calvin almost immediately fell asleep, but not before saying, "Air plane show all done!". 90 minutes later, we were home again.
F-18 afterburners and hook. Blog Poll: Do I look like (Scuncle) Scott in this picture?

Wow! You're still reading this? I realize this post is getting long very quickly. I was gong to also make some general observations about the air show but I'll have to put those into another post. Stay tuned for that in the next few days.

(Side note. I had this whole post written out on Saturday night, but Blogger decided to delete it all except for the first three paragraphs when I tried to post it. So I had to rewrite it and post it Sunday morning. Great job Blogger!)
Here's a bonus shot. Check out that Lego guy costume behind us. That's pretty awesome.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Property tax? What!?

I'm learning all sorts of things about being a grown up (aka spending money on things I don't want to) these days.

In Connecticut, apparently you have to pay property tax on your car. What!? I'm glad we only have one I guess.

Getting new driver's licences cost us $248. That seems pretty high. Haven't registered the car yet, but I'm sure that costs a lot too.

Getting your 30,000 mile maintenance on your car can cost over $500 (and we are over 33,000 so we are a bit overdue!)

You have to pay property taxes when you own a house. And they cost like $4000-$5000 here for some of the 1200-1300 sq ft houses I've been looking at online. Seems like a lot of money to pay in addition to a mortgage.

Why didn't I already know about this stuff? And how do people afford to buy such nice houses?