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To complete our exit from Florida, we spent a few nights at the Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park along the banks of the Suwannee River. We have stayed here before and it’s a great, mellow park with some good walking along the river. We didn’t do much here, mostly walked and did some chores. A major chore was to run over to Green Cove Springs, FL to visit our mail service and pick up some important items in person. Getting mail while living on the road needs to be planned and physically receiving it can be difficult. Most of the time we have them scan and then shred our mail, but we had received a debit card and decided to just go by and pick it up ourselves. We made a day of it and took a nice drive across NE Florida.

Otherwise we just enjoyed the beautiful weather. I took a couple of walks along the Florida Trail but didn’t get any biking in. I tried to get some photos of the Spanish Moss in the campground but the only evening I was free at the appropriate time (for that good evening light) it was very overcast. Maybe next time.

We have found that three days at a location is just not enough when you need to actually live your normal life at the same time. Groceries, banking, and all of the other “normal” activities take up time. We are currently heading to an appointment in Iowa but once we clear that we’ll be slowing down. There’s a lot of roses out there to smell and we plan on taking the time to do so.

Almost that good light. Stephen Foster SP, 4/16/19

Backwoods campsite, Stephen Foster SP, 4/16/19

It’s nice to be walking real trails again. Stephen Foster SP, 4/17/19

Spotted on the trail. It was still so cool that he didn’t move as I approached, knelt down, took the photo, and walked away. Stephen Foster SP, 4/17/19

Nora is adjusting well. That’s her seat. Stephen Foster SP, 4/17/19

 

The 1st of our many new homes, Wickham Park, Melbourne FL, 3/18/19

Yesterday we finished up packing the RV, pulled it out of storage, and set it up at our site in Wickham Park, our home for the next 3 weeks.

We are now full-time RV’ers.

Holy crap.

We’ve been considering doing this for almost 8 years, planning it for 6, and, since my retirement almost a year ago, implementing the plan. We’ve been busy scanning a lifetime of photos and documents, giving away or selling most of our belongings, and trying to figure out how we will fit the 10 lbs of our stuff (clothes, kitchen, gear) into the 5 lbs of available space on Sybil. We seem to have succeeded, but only time will truly tell. Now it’s time to execute the plan.

Waxing philosophic for a moment, this is obviously a huge change and challenge for us. It wasn’t easy disposing of a lifetime worth of stuff but the difficult decisions have been made. It was easier than we thought. Now we face the reality of living in (very) close quarters with each other pretty much 24/7. The reality of not being quite sure where we’ll be next week/month/year. The reality of needing to find a place to stay when we do decide where to go. The reality of closely monitoring the weather in case we need to run away or hunker down. The reality of dealing with significant obstacles while on the road. It will be a lot more work than simply hanging around the house. We understand all of this and believe we’re ready to embrace the new lifestyle we are throwing ourselves into. Again, time will tell.

On the other hand, we anticipate great rewards as a result of this choice. Beautiful scenery. Interesting people. Adventure. Swashbuckling.

OK, maybe not that last one.

We are pretty excited to be heading out finally. We will miss our most excellent friends and family, but it’s never been easier to stay in touch and have them share our journey. Some of them we may run into out there on the highway. Others not until we swing by wherever they may be. We’re never farther than a cell call or internet reach out away.

In the immortal words of the great scholar and author Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel: “Oh, The Places You’ll Go”.

The view from our home. Thanks to the Bradys for the gift that keeps on giving…quality rum. Wickham Park, Melbourne FL, 3/17/19

Well, it’s certainly been too long between posts, but that will probably be changing. A lot has happened in a short amount of time and we have big news, but first some backstory. Warning: this will be a long post.

For several years now, Patti and I have been generating and researching our plans for retirement. The overall plan is to travel, travel, travel. The implementation we decided upon was to buy an RV, get rid of most of our possessions, sell the house, and hit the road full time. We’d like to travel here in the U.S. for 9 months or so each year and then store the RV and head overseas for a few months. Rinse, repeat. In order to get ready for this, we have been doing a lot of research into both the lifestyle and the various RVs out there to determine what will fit our requirements. After lots of online research and many trips to dealers and RV shows, we decided on some basic requirements, desires, and nice-to-haves:

  • Diesel rather than gas. This is more expensive but more comfortable, capable of larger cargo and towing capacities, and safer going up and, most importantly, down steep grades. We plan on spending lots of time west of the Mississippi.
  • 37-41 feet long. Any smaller and we felt we’d be tripping over each other. Any larger is just too much.
  • King bed. We’ve grown accustomed to our sleeping space.
  • Light and airy inside. We looked at many large coaches that seemed claustrophobic due to layout and lack of windows. We need light for sanity purposes.

A couple of years ago, we found a floorplan that checked all of our boxes and more, the Winnebago Journey 38P. Its biggest feature for us — huge windows. We couldn’t afford a new one, but when the time came to actually pull the trigger and buy one (between Labor Day 2017 and Memorial Day 2018) we hoped we could find a used one in our range. Unfortunately, Winnebago only made that model for a few months before halting production. Apparently this floorplan wasn’t selling.

Fast forward to late May of this year. Patti started having doubts about the RV plan. We talked it out and agreed to consider alternatives, specifically just bouncing around the world from Airbnb to Airbnb. Looked like it would be lots of fun, but very different from our long standing plan. Still, we considered it.

And then the Universe stepped in and played its hand. Patti found a (very) used coach that was a good deal, met many of our needs, and was affordable. Downside: it was in Michigan. Upside: one just like it was on a lot in Tampa. We scheduled an appointment for the following Saturday to take a look.

Then, a day or two later, I get an email from Patti with the Subject “OMG!” A dealer up I-95 had a new 38P that had obviously been sitting on the lot for quite awhile and they wanted to move it. It was just under 40 percent off MSRP. We scheduled an appointment for Sunday. It was going to be a long weekend of driving to look at coaches.

The used coach made for an easy data point: we didn’t want to buy an old one and fix it up. Too much hassle to install the technology gains of the last decade on top of all of the upgrades needed after 12 years of ownership. Sunday we went and looked at the 38P and fell in love. We came back and I asked Patti one question: was she comfortable with the RV plan? She said she was. We decided, given that fact, that we would be fools to pass on our “perfect” RV. We looked at the numbers, decided we could afford it and bought the sucker.

_JP17923It needed some repairs and prep work, so we took the time to sell our travel trailer. While showing it to one gentleman, he asked why we were selling it. I told him of our plan and casually asked him if he wanted to buy a house. He did.

We now have in our possession a new 40′ RV and a signed contract on our house. Holy crap, things got surreal pretty quick. We are 4 to 10 months ahead of schedule on the RV and 18 to 20 months on the house!

But we’re executing “The Plan.” Stay tuned for our break-in stories. We’ve already had some misadventures, but that’s for next time.

 

(BTW: we’re brainstorming names for our new ride. Feel free to provide us with suggestions.)

_JP17954

_JP17950

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Hall_Wedding_Jeanne2 - Version 2Several weeks ago we had the great good fortune to rendezvous in Annapolis, Md. for my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. Stop and think about that: in the time since Jeanne was born, we have gone from mankind just learning to fly to walking on the moon. From the age of steam to splitting the atom. From the normal problems of the day consisting of distributing ice and removing horse droppings (for want of a better term) to supplying the device in your pocket that can access the world’s knowledge in seconds with power. The rate of change in the world’s knowledge and capabilities has accelerated to an unfathomable degree, and she has been watching the craziness her entire life. And she’s still going strong.

It was a pretty special weekend. Family and friends came in from Utah, Montana, Florida, California, Arizona and New York. For the first time since I joined this family, all four of her children were in the same place at the same time. We shared meals, sat outside on a cool August day (and let me tell you, just having a cool day in August in that part of the world is special; there’s a reason Congress adjourns in August), and talked talked talked. We also ate ate ate! It was quite the whirlwind of activity and Jeanne was going strong the entire time. In her own words, she was “floating on air.”

During her birthday lunch, we went around the table, each of us telling a story or two and thanking Jeanne for this and that. A couple of common themes, mentioned several times, struck a chord with me. Her love of travel, which was passed to her children, was one. Another was her love of reading. Both of these are passions of Patti and mine, and it was wonderful to acknowledge to her the results of the seeds she nourished. Having the opportunity to let her know how we felt was a moment that many of us don’t get to share with our loved ones, to the detriment of us all.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

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We all belong to multiple tribes to various degrees. Some of them are obvious, others more subtle, but we are tribal in nature whether we acknowledge it or not. Some tribes we belong to without choice. Our family springs to mind; you are joined together in a tribe, like it or not. I am a member of the tribe of folks that have experienced “cardiac events” and of the subset of those that have had the dubious pleasure of the heart bypass procedure. I certainly would not have chosen to belong but there’s no denying that I’m a member and that I feel a certain kinship with others in the same club. And, of course, there are the tribes that you choose to be a part of. My camping buddies, The Corbin Club, are a tribe of four. Tribes consisting of common interests are, in fact, probably the most common. Fans of bands, celebrities, movies, political movements, fetishes, cities, states, hobbies, teams, sports, whatever: all tribes.

So, you may well ask, what’s my point? Well, next weekend we are traveling to our hometown and spending four nights in a hotel full of members of one of our tribes. I can confidently state that we have never met any of these people before. We’re really looking forward to it. We’re attending the North American Discworld Convention.

I’m not sure I can describe what this is all about. I’m positive that however I do describe it won’t begin to do it justice. Discworld is a literary creation by Sir Terry Pratchett. One part fantasy, 2 parts comedy and completely full of political and social commentary, this series of books (39+ titles and more than 70 million copies sold) is one of those things you either love or don’t get. Put us in the former camp. We love his books and we can’t wait to snap up new ones as they come out.

Unfortunately, the chance to snap up new ones will be coming to an end sooner rather than later. Sir Terry has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers disease and has already made plans for his self administered departure when the time is appropriate. When we heard that Sir Terry was to be in Baltimore over the 4th of July weekend we decided that the opportunity was too good to pass up, so we’re off to a Convention. Expect to see some posts next weekend of some, well, interesting sights. And while we’re not into Cosplay (that’s NOT one of our tribes), I have no aversion to photographing those that are (as permitted). Should be interesting.

Now, since this is primarily a photography blog, here are some shots of some of our tribes.

The Corbin Club Fort Valley, VA, 1/13/13

The Corbin Club
Fort Valley, VA, 1/13/13

A temporary tribe: SE&I Source Board Washington, DC, 4/27/05

A temporary tribe:
SE&I Source Board
Washington, DC, 4/27/05

Little Feat we definitely belong to this tribe Outside Washington, DC, 7/24/05

Little Feat
we definitely belong to this tribe
Outside Washington, DC, 7/24/05

The Sailing Tribe5/3/04

The Sailing Tribe
Somewhere off Tortolla, BVI, 5/3/04

The Kennedy Space Center Tribe Atlantis Final Roll KSC, FL. 11/2/12

The Kennedy Space Center Tribe
Atlantis Final Roll
KSC, FL. 11/2/12

Family & Friends Followers all of the Minor Catastrophes blog Bozeman, MT, 12/12/11

Family & Friends
All followers of the Minor Catastrophes blog
Bozeman, MT, 12/12/11

My most important tribe: A Tribe Of Two Cane Garden Bat, BVI, 5/1/04

My most important tribe: A Tribe Of Two
Cane Garden Bay, BVI, 5/1/04

Cooper's Hawk, Rockledge, FL 2/24/13

Adult Cooper’s Hawk, Rockledge, FL 2/24/13

The Gray Cat and I were standing on the screen porch checking out the back yard the other day when a big brown hawk swooped by. He (she?) was about 10′ out and no more than 2′ off the ground and moving at a pretty good clip. He ended up sitting on a pole in my neighbor’s yard so I ran inside, grabbed the camera and went back out. I thought the shots came out OK, but he split to the power line after only a few. The image to the right is heavily cropped; megapixels to the rescue, but click on it to see it full-size. Nice. I liked it enough to want to post it, but I wanted to know what I was showing, so I emailed a copy to my buddy, George, and asked him a simple question: what is it?

George, as well as his partner Maureen, is an avid bird watcher. He lives in urban Baltimore and rural Virginia, regularly alternating between the two places.  Many times I’ve been with him as he’s driving and he’ll gyrate in his seat pointing out some avian as we slow and weave. He and Maureen even went to Cuba with the Audubon Society for a bird census. If anyone could answer me, he could do so pretty simply and straightforwardly: “Why that’s a <insert bird here>”. A few words and done.

Nope.

I received 2 emails back-to-back asking questions: “was it in FL?”, “how big’s the pole?”.  Then I got my answer. And a few words:

———————–

Well, it is a Cooper’s Hawk, Accipiter cooperii. That was my first guess since it is the most common accipiter on the East coast from Florida to New England. Adults measure 16-17 inches and that jives with the scale (I actually scaled your full photo with my architect’s scale 🙂

It could have been a Sharp-Shinned Hawk if it were 3/4 of that size but they are less frequent. Likewise it could have been a Northern Goshawk if larger (X 1 1/4) and you took the photo in GSMNP. Goshawks don’t go down to Florida though. They are a sensible bird.

Accipiters are “bird hawks”…as their main diet is birds (but they will also take lizards and the like, so that Cooper’s is probably loving it in your backyard) I occasionally see them on our property in Rappahannock County. They dash in from the woods in a burst of speed and snatch a bird from our bird feeders then fly off. Even had a Cooper’s frequenting my back yard when I lived on Pilgrim Rd. in Baltimore. They are everywhere. Awesome predator. They can dart through woods with amazing speed and maneuverability due to their feather design…something to watch! I’ve had the good fortune to witness it several times. Mother Nature’s original stealth fighter.

I know, I know…This is probably more information than you need or want to know…and don’t get me started talking about Buteo hawks. Caption the photo as an adult Cooper’s Hawk.

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He can talk like that about trees, too.
George, 1/14/12

George, 1/14/12

Moccasin Island Tract, Brevard County, FL, 2/9/13

Ready to go.
Moccasin Island Tract, Brevard County, FL, 2/9/13

Since the “Cardiac Event”, almost a year ago, I have been trying to get more exercise into my life. As soon as I felt healed enough, Patti and I went out and bought a couple of nice hybrid bikes. I’ve been attempting to get out several times a week and get some miles under my belt, but last weekend we decided that we’d go out to the Moccasin Island Tract out in the flats near the St. Johns River. (Aside: understand that the term “Flats” is totally redundant in an area where the largest elevation change we are likely to experience are the causeways going over the lagoon between our house and the beach.) So we threw the bikes on the back of the truck and headed out. Things started out well. It was a windy day but not a problem as we followed the track. We were following a GPS track that a local guy had posted with the comment that it was frequented by hikers and bikers. This turned out to be partly true. This was major cattle country located in the vast St. Johns floodplain, wide open and exposed. We would never think of coming out here in the summer due to bugs and, more importantly, the oppressive heat of a Florida summer. Now, in early February, it was totally comfortable in shorts and t-shirts. And, yes, we were thinking of our family members in less hospitable climates. A little.

Moccasin Island Tract, Brevard County, FL, 2/9/13

Where we shouldn’t be.
Moccasin Island Tract, Brevard County, FL, 2/9/13

After a few miles we came to a bridge over a canal where, according to the track, we were to hang a left alongside the southern bank of the canal and head west to the river and a view of Moccasin Island. Again, no problem. We had to dodge some souvenirs left by the cattle, not always successfully, and the track was narrower and bumpier than before, but it was still pretty (in a flat, grassy, open kinda way) and we were trucking along. The track finally hung a left for the last bit towards the river, got very narrow in a field of tall grass, and then disappeared. We were close enough to walk out of the grass to the river, but we soon picked up the bikes and got out of there. (I didn’t mention the snake that slipped across the path as we walked back to the bikes.) Sounds easy, but getting a bike started when you’re in grass over your waist is a non-trivial activity. Once out, we discovered that a) the wind had picked up, with gusts well over 20mph, and b) we would be heading into it for the entire trip back. Despite these minor obstacles we had a really good time. We got outdoors, got some exercise, saw some niceness and learned some lessons. We’ll go back there soon, but this time we’ll look a bit farther ahead and not blindly follow in someone else’s footsteps. Addendum from the other half: John got much closer to the river due to the fact that he was able to pedal through the ass-high grass, whereas I just … stopped. No going forward for me. And when we turned around to go back, we were directly into the 20 mph wind. I walked the bike through the tall grass until we reached the slightly shorter grass and the rut that served as a track appeared and I could successfully pedal without falling over like some Monty Python skit. I’m such a weakling. When we got back to the gate, we saw a small group of cyclists heading down a much nicer path on the other side of the canal. We’ll follow those footsteps next time we go out there. Meanwhile, my legs need some time to get over this assault – uh – exercise.

We went down the left side of the canal. Moccasin Island Tract, Brevard County, FL, 2/9/13

We went down the left side of the canal.
Moccasin Island Tract, Brevard County, FL, 2/9/13

Road HazardMoccasin Island Tract, Brevard County, FL, 2/9/13

Road Hazard
Moccasin Island Tract, Brevard County, FL, 2/9/13

My posts that led me to this point can be found here and here. From here on out, my recollections are, well, more than a bit fuzzy, so my post is a series of vignettes.

  • 11:00 PM the night before my bypass. Two nurses arrive and inform me that a) they’re here to shave me from chin to just below groin, fore and aft as it were, and b) they are from another floor and have never shaved anyone before. That was a fun experience. We’ll leave it at that. They also informed me that I was to take two showers, one now and one at 3:00 AM, with some special soap. I got lots of rest that night.
  • Patti and my sister show up the morning of, around 6-ish, and I told them about my fun-filled night. At 6:30, I was moved to a gurney and we all set off down the halls. When we got to the waiting room, the nurse gave Patti some last minute info (which all turned out to be wrong) and we said goodbye. And then I had an enlightening moment. I looked into my wife’s eyes and saw that she had been crying and that she obviously had plans for more after they wheeled me away. Through this whole event I hadn’t been scared. I had been anxious and apprehensive over the process I was facing and the indignities I was to endure, but fear for my life was never an issue. It certainly was an issue for the woman I love and I’ll never forget the look on her face. And then I was whisked into the O.R.
  • At least this looked like a real O.R.. The nurses were bustling about but they were extremely kind and careful to set me at ease. They gave me warm blankets (it was VERY cold) and got me prepped. As I had come to expect, I hadn’t been shaved enough (down to the ankles!) but they said not to worry, they’ll do it when I went to sleep. Then the guy said he was putting me out, I said “bye-bye”, and out I went …
  • … only to wake up to pure hell. No, really, it sucked more than anything I had ever experienced and hope to experience again. I had a tube down my throat and couldn’t breathe. I’m sure I was in extreme pain, but I was focused on trying to breathe. Which I couldn’t. Now, my analytical brain was telling me that the tube was breathing for me, I knew that deep down, but my animal brain was firmly in charge and it wanted to BREATHE. NOW! I had a nurse next to my head and I can remember her constantly telling me to relax. Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen. I did calm down and accept the situation, somewhat, but it wasn’t easy. Patti was there, off and on, which was a tremendous reassurance. I was very, very hot and kept trying to wipe my brow, but the nurse thought I was going for the tube and kept knocking my hand away. Patti held my hand at one point and I tried to pull a Helen Keller and write the word “hot” on her palm but that didn’t work. I finally was able to fan my face and they got the message and wiped my head. It was heaven … a minor victory!
  • After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only an hour, hour and a half, it was time to take the tube out. I had always heard on TV that that was very painful but I must have been pumped full of morphine because it came out easy. And it felt great but for one thing…I still couldn’t breathe! At least it seemed that way. Each breath was a major struggle and it felt like I was getting no air. I still had Nurse Cratchett standing over me telling me to relax. Patti and my sister were there too and over the course of the next hour or so my breathing got easier. And then the healing began.

Next time: Moving slowly, I get to go home and lessons I’ve learned

Pre-surgery and still feeling good

Disclaimer: From this point forward, all of the events I describe actually happened. I just can’t guarantee that they happened in the chronological order that I describe. Things got a bit hazy.

Wednesday morning arrived and I started getting ready for the busy day. Patti showed up and we talked briefly with the guy in the bed next to me and his wife. Turns out he had had a catheterization several years earlier and he gave me some encouragement. He also mentioned that after the procedure I would need to remain flat on my back for 6 hours while the puncture wound in my groin healed. Oh joy, something to look forward to.

Pretty soon a nurse came in to shave me. While I realized this moment was coming and was pretty much resigned to the inevitable, I was less than encouraged when she informed me that she normally didn’t work this floor and that this was her first time shaving someone. Great. Even though she was a rookie, it went pretty quickly. She told me that she had done only as much as was needed. So far, so good.

Eventually I was collected from the room and rolled down the hall to the “Cath Lab.” A quick kiss to Patti and I was rolled on in and placed on the table. The Cath Lab was not what I envisioned. It was, well, industrial is probably the best way to put it. Equipment everywhere, kind of dark …just not what I expected. There were three female nurses and one male. They were very friendly and I immediately felt at ease. They got me arranged on the table with some warm blankets (it was chilly in there) and started to get set up. Then one of them started to prep my groin. She called the others over to look at the crappy shave job the earlier nurse had performed and they all stood around and looked at my groin and laughed. This was the high point of my day.

Eventually they were ready and the doctor came in. We discussed what to expect and then they gave me a shot to make me happy and got to work. I don’t remember too much of the actual procedure but it wasn’t painful or uncomfortable at all. At the end, they wheeled the huge monitors so I could see them and showed me what they had found. And it wasn’t good. Severe blockage in several locations, including a 90% blockage in the left ventricle (which pumps 70% of the blood through the heart) and two other significant blockages. All of which meant no stents for me. I needed a triple bypass. Not good.

They wheeled me to the recovery area, picking up Patti on the way. There I was informed that they weren’t going to close the wound in my groin until the bypass surgeon, who is different than the cath surgeon, gave his OK. The great nurses in recovery made me as comfortable as possible (under the circumstances), but being unable to move was no fun. They finally (4 hours later) got the OK to close my wound. Sewn up, I was wheeled back to my room. I was still facing 6 hours of no movement. Crap.

My roommate and his wife was still there, although he was being sent home that night. When they heard I was facing a triple bypass they were sympathetic and offered to join me in prayer. I thanked them, told them I appreciated it, but I was a Buddhist and would not be joining them.

I spent a VERY long day flat on my back. Patti was with me much of the time but she was in and out, particularly when I dozed. Late in the day, my neighbors were visited by a prayer group. I was dozing, but I heard them quietly talking, including “mumble mumble Buddhist mumble.” Shortly after that I was startled awake by one of them coming over to talk to me – offering once again to pray for me. I again politely declined the offer and closed my eyes. They went into the hall where I believe they did their thing for me. While I’m sure they had the best of intentions, waking a recovering patient seems an odd way to go about it.

At 10:00 that night I was finally allowed to get up. It felt great! I spent 45 minutes just standing around — me & my pole of meds and monitors. My bypass was scheduled for 6:30 sharp the next morning and while I wasn’t scared, I was a bit nervous about the whole process. Which began at 11:00 PM.

Next: I’m shaved from stem to stern, my chest is cracked and I spend a horrible couple of hours unable to breath.

posted by Patti

Tuesday, February 21, not quite 1:30 in the afternoon, I’m sitting at my desk in my cubicle in front of the computer screen, as usual. My cell phone rings. It’s John.

Me: Hello

JP: Now, don’t freak out …

Me: (!!!!!)

JP: … but I’m at the OHF [occupational health facility] and they want to take me to the hospital.

Me: What?!?!?!?!?

JP: I’m sure it’s heartburn but they want me to get it checked out.

There’s more to that conversation but that’s mostly what I remember. John told me not to come home right away, and against all my instincts I did not. I told him to call me when he got to the ER. Then I tried to work while convincing myself it was heartburn.

About an hour later, he called from the ER. He told me that they gave him nitro and the chest pain went away. Uh-huh. Not heartburn, then, eh? They planned to keep him overnight to run the blood tests to confirm a heart attack. After sending an email to John’s buddy at his job to let him know what was going on, I finally left work. My commute is about 75 minutes. That was the longest drive ever.

After stopping at home to grab a couple of things John requested, I found him in the ER still insisting it was heartburn but we both knew better. We figured he might have to stay on Wednesday to get a catheterization and a stent. Home by Thursday or Friday. Yeah. Right.