I haven’t updated since my “spring break” trip, so what have I been up to? Thankfully, a lot more than last year mid-pandemic!

May 2021 Road trip: Nashville, TN and Lynchburg, VA

When I drove cross country in 2019, I resolved to bring my mom and sister to Nashville, Tennessee. I really enjoyed it and knew they’d love the city, the music, and the scenery. Those plans were put on hold in 2020, but once all three of us were vaccinated, we decided to go for it. While my sister goes all over the U.S. on travel, my mom hasn’t gone out of state for vacation in decades – our best guess was over thirty years, a Disney trip to Florida in the 80s. She also has dietary restrictions that can make travel challenging, so this was a special trip for her.

We ended up staying downtown for three days at the Hyatt House Nashville, in a room with a full kitchen and separate bedroom. It was about the same size as my old apartment, and walking distance to all of the main attractions. We had a great stay, the staff was extremely friendly and the property is almost brand new. My niece also drove up from Mississippi to join us. 

Very comfortable room at the Hyatt House Nashville. 2 queens plus sofa bed, full kitchen!

We then went north and stayed four days at the Hyatt Place near Opryland. I’d stayed there before on my own, and the big benefits are its proximity to the Gaylord Hotel (with a huge 40+ acre indoor park and shopping center), inexpensiveness compared to the city, and a room with two queens plus a sofa bed to sleep all three of us. However, the room was lacking a microwave (seriously? yes, many Hyatt Places don’t have them or charge extra for rooms that do), so we made do with an induction hotplate we’d brought for my mom to cook her meals with, and it worked just fine. We visited the hotel on a rainy day, did the river cruise, wax museum, and toured Opryland itself. 

One money saving note about the Gaylord. It’s a huge, beautiful space, and well worth visiting. However, parking is exorbitantly expensive, something like $38 for self parking in a surface lot. You can park for free if you’re willing to walk for five minutes, we did it. However, it’s difficult to find, even more so now than it used to be.

I found this website before we left, that described a free parking area and the walking route to get in. There are two problems with this now, however. One, the parking area outside the Events Center is now blocked off, and costs $10 to enter. Two, the Delta entrance was closed due to COVID. In fact, all entrances were closed, except for the main hotel entrance (Cascades). What we did, and a dozen other people we passed doing the same thing, is route towards the Events Center parking and then park just across the street, in the lot that’s still open (between the Events Center and Regal Cinemas). You then follow the same path in under the green canopy, and just keep bearing left on the marked pavement paths until you see the pickup/dropoff area and the front lobby entrance. In our case, we got the car then drove directly up to the Cascades door to pick up my mom, who we left in the lobby. 

Here’s a satellite view and drawing of where to go. I do recommend checking it out, it’s amazing inside, but the paid parking is a huge ripoff, especially for a quick visit.

After Nashville, we detoured over to Lynchburg, VA for a few days so my mom could visit with an old friend that lives there. There isn’t a whole lot to do in that area, so I visited coffee shops quite a bit. I found a killer place called the White Hart Cafe with great coffee, atmosphere, and a big food menu. I really wish I had a local place like that, I’d be there all the time. 

Investing update

I’ve been out of work for two years now. It feels crazy to say that; even with some fun things and personal work I’ve done, the time just seemed to evaporate. Financially things are fine for me, which I’m very grateful for given a lot of people are struggling. With stock market increases, my net worth has actually gone up almost 50% in the two years I’ve been (voluntarily) unemployed. My cash flow is on target with my predictions from January

I’ve only made one major change to my investments, which was to cash out all of my VNQI (which hasn’t paid a dividend since December 2020) and put it into AGNC. That fund is presently paying out at above 8% and is better for living income since it pays out every month. I’ve owned small amounts of it since April 2020 and it’s really nice to have consistent monthly payouts.

Projects

I took on a couple more renovation projects for my parents after Nashville. I demolished the existing kitchen pantry, which was just a closet with deep shelves that weren’t usable since you couldn’t see anything in the back, and rebuilt it to have six 20″ pull out extension drawers, plus recessed cabinet lighting on Alexa voice control. It came out great and my mom’s been very happy with it. I also added nine wall mounted shelves to the back porch for additional storage. Both were very inexpensive since I built everything and repurposed scrap lumber when I could. The pantry cost under $250 total (the extension hardware is about $20/pair), the other shelves were around $70 (one full sheet of 3/4″ white melamine particle board, plus shelf brackets). 

Kitchen pantry with lighting and 20″ extension drawers

I’ve also been helping a friend with his new startup company since January. It’s been a good way to stay sharp and have some technical work to do here and there, not to mention Slack/Zoom calls to keep those “skills” fresh, haha. 

June 2021: CA Trip! (Finally)

I am so excited to get back out west again! I’ll be traveling for five weeks. I’m leaving Monday June 21st to take a train ride down to NYC, where I’ll stay with friends for a few days. I’ll then take my first flight since February 2020, from JFK to SJC (San Jose, CA). I’m very grateful to get to fly again and excited to see my friends now that things are safer and the state is re-opening. I’ll spend the next four weeks visiting, relaxing, and getting in all the social time I can after so much deprivation. 

That’s it for this update! Thanks for checking in, looking forward to seeing those of you in CA soon! 

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