Posts made in October, 2013

Oregon Trail: Our journey from Arlington to Portland

Posted on Oct 25, 2013 in General | 0 comments

This trip journal was written the night of or the morning after the travel described. I attempted to make this a beautiful presentation with photos inline, but it turned into a bear of a project that would have never been finished (think: the eight-years-in-progress Japanese trip blog I’ve been writing) so instead you get a wall of text and I tell you “you can see our trip gallery with comments and details here.”

Day 0 – Arlington, VA to Herndon, VA

The day began with two hours of sleep following a strong packing effort until 5am. We awoke at 7, I head off to Home Depot for a couple more boxes and rolls of tape. We were inches from completion when we went to bed, but had run out of supplies. I arrived at the store, grabbed what I needed, and luckily escaped with the cashier only ringing up half of the boxes. Any normal day, I’d make her error known, but not today… and karma would come back to bite me.

On the way home from the store, heading down a heck of a decline that I always take in third gear for engine braking, I see the blue lights go on. I wasn’t consciously speeding, but the normal flow on the road dictates what turns out to be 17 over the speed limit (42 in a 25 that isn’t a neighborhood, but instead a divided road). The officer and I chat very little, he returns with my citation, and I’m on my way… And then I take a second look at the citation. $176? Robbery. I take a third look… dated September 7th. I was in North Carolina on that date. This summons is bogus. Should be an easy win, but I may have to push the date a few times to make it work with my East Coast schedule assuming I can’t mail in my plea and alibis. Regardless, I did do the “crime” so any result is acceptable. Funny enough, I saw the same officer speed trapping another stretch of road on the other side of the county later that afternoon. Clearly a day of protecting and serving for that glorified meter maid.

And then the movers arrive. Nice guys. From Oakland. We’ll be the last stop on a lengthy trip of theirs home. Back story – Ned Upright of National Van Lines was the only in-person estimate we received. I used his weight and size estimate to get prices from a number of other movers. His price was still the best. Since it was weight-based, I was comparing apples to apples with my other estimates. The driver of the truck takes a look through the house, reads the estimate over, and says it’s a bad one. At least 30% short. Now I haven’t had the chance to look at the original estimate, but if it’s binding (edit: it’s non-binding, which is the norm), National is going to not be getting paid. If it’s non-binding, we’ve got some protections, but not many, and will end up paying for the actual weight of our items. Not a big deal since our stuff is our stuff, but it was a shock to find out the original estimate might be a few $k off. Note: We did add a desk and a dining room table and chairs on top of the original estimate, but those don’t account for the 3000lb discrepancy.

The packing went alright. They were a little rough with some high-priced items, but we’ve got their $0 deductible insurance. They did drop a bike repair stand of mine. Scuffed some of the metal and plastic… Do I get reimbursed? It was mint previously. I’ll also be very interested to see how my “priceless” arcade cabinet and $1k office chair fair; they were stacked on one another with nothing serparating them.

We then met with our landlord and her agent. That went pretty well. We’ll be getting our full security deposit back. Following that, we said goodbye to the house, locked it one last time, and were off. Then we realized we had left our fridge bag in the refrigerator, and it contained a priceless item (the family yeast strain… no joke). We had no key, and the landlord was gone. After about an hour of back and forth to get and return a key from her home, we were really, really out. Sheesh. Still no food in us and rocking on two hours sleep…

En route to Heather’s parents house for the night, we discovered she has a headlight out, she got ketchup all over herself (she doesn’t even eat ketchup), and… That’s it. Somewhat uneventful.

Upon arriving, we both went out to run some errands. Mine was to return Verizon equipment. It’ll suffice to say I was gone for an hour, visited three places, and I returned with the equipment.

The trip has started with one of the worst days of my life (ignoring SERIOUSLY bad days). Luckily, the trip hasn’t really started so we can grab some showers, throw on some clean clothes, eat some amazing food with the family, have a few drinks, get some rest, and properly start the adventure tomorrow.

Day 0, see ya and don’t come back!

Day 1 – Herndon, VA to Harrisonburg, VA, Lesage, WV and Lexington, KY

Following a night of great food and drinks with the family, we got ourselves off to a bit of a late start. A proper night’s sleep and breakfast seemed more important than sticking to our somewhat arbitrarily set schedule. So we slept, ate, said our goodbyes, and were off.

Stop #1 – Waved to the security man and snapped a photo of the old house. There was so much foliage that we could barely see it; Dad was a heck of an amateur landscaper. Goodbye, 25 years of my life. Hello, the actual trip… Off to 66 and 81.

Stop #2 – We found ourselves making our way to our first destination city, Harrisonburg, around lunchtime. Many of the old great spots have closed for one odd reason or another over the years, but in its 66th year of business, the Bar-b-que Ranch can always be counted on. It was a regular family stop over the years and still produces what garnered from Heather a review of “this is exactly the sandwich I want when I think of BBQ.” We sided it with some curly fries, of course. And that cole slaw? Heavenly. The Mrs. was absolutely in love.

Stop #3 – How else do you finish off the finest $10 meal you’ll find anywhere? With some Kline’s. Took a wrong turn or two to find it, but there it was in all its glory. Flavor of the day was banana. She went with vanilla and I opted for chocolate so we could try each. Vanilla won. She didn’t share much.

Stop #4 – Not really a stop, but a rite of passage, the PTC is a Harrisonburg must. You dare ask what a PTC is? Why, a Pimp Through Campus (JMU, where I went). A slow drive through campus with your windows down, guns on show, and music blaring. The girls love it (that’s what we used to think, at least). We make the turn to enter into the Bluestone area of campus, and, what’s this? Gates? Gates. The PTC is dead. Apparently only official vehicles can drive through the heart of campus during school hours. What an atrocity. After a few attempts to find our way inside the campus via road, and being turned away by more gates, we found an entryway up by ISAT, came down the Village area, and out the “front” campus by Showker. Tres dissapoint. Farewell, ‘burg.

In between stops, we did a serious number of hours. There wasn’t much of note other than natural beauty (which was cut short when we took a detour for a scenic overlook only to find it closed!); blue sky and lots of hilly terrain. One item of note is that Heather took the wheel for a short stint here. She’s been practicing stick for a bit, and while she still has a lot of learning to do, she’s grasped enough to get from on-ramp to off-ramp safely. Unfortunately, Waze alerted us of an accident an hour after she took over so I took the wheel back for the rest of the evening.

Stop #5 – My cousin Tom recommended the Food Network “On The Road” app. Approaching 6PM I had a bit of a hunger and needed a rest. Heather downloaded the app, perused the few places ahead of us. We went with Hillybilly Hotdogs in Lesage, WV. 20 minutes roundtrip out of the way, but without a doubt the correct decision. Picture… Anyone who has been to Markham Haunted Forest, the school bus scene where there’s a shack, a bunch of random antique crap, and chainsaws. Luckily, the chainsaw turned out to be a gas powered leaf blower and there was a friendly young guy at its control as opposed to a bloodied maniac. The place is one for the ages. The menu had quite a bit of text… after about ten minutes, we went with the Hillybilly (a basic chili dog), a Taco (a chili dog with lettuce, sour cream, cheese, and crumbled chips, and garlic ranch fries. The Taco was better than the Hillybilly and of course we got the fries with bacon. Heather paid with credit, and when the girl behind the counter saw she left a tip, busted into song… and really did enjoy it. We made our way into the old bus that had been converted into a dining facility (there were probably a dozen old vehicles and shacks that had been converted into places to enjoy your food, but the bus was connected to the kitchen so it seemed to get the most use. A great stop. The food wasn’t a 10, but it was a spectacle not to be missed.

Following the grub, we began to look for a place to sleep. The sun was growing old and we still had 3.5 hours until our destination. Doable, but a long haul. Louisville turned up absolutely nothing. A pretty big city with no openings on a Tuesday night? Something must be going on. Over the course of the next 30 minutes, Heather checked out every city between Lexington and Louisville for openings. She researched the heck out of them, we looked at the driving that would result from their choices the following day (we still had to get to Louisville to do some things and then get up to Chicago), and we decided to go with an option in Lexington, about 1.5 hours shy of the mark we had hoped for. The next day was a relatively short day so the time should be pretty easy to make up.

Parting thoughts: 1) JMU has changed. 2)  West Virginia is kind of awesome, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Day 2 – Lexington, KY to Louisville, KY, Chicago, IL and Janesville, WI

Making it 1.5 hours less than expected yesterday, we put ourselves in a prime position to do some early morning bourbon tasting and touring en route to Louisville.

Stop #1 – We stopped by our personal favorite, Four Roses, and indulged in what would be my second tour this year put on by guide, Leila. I did confess to her and Heather that we had seen each other before (I had toured the Bourbon Trail earlier in the year with a bachelor party). She confessed that she sees hundreds of folks a day (expected), but was glad to hear we were not one of the rowdy bachelor parties she unfortunately has to deal with from time to time. The tour was identical to my earlier one; we watched a quick film, toured the facility, and then got to tasting the three products they sell in the US (they sell two for export only). An added bonus on this visit… err, the first bonus of two, was that there was a pipe leaking into the tail box, which meant constant drips of “white dog” falling two floors into stainless buckets (to be fed back into the system by hand). We were welcomed to dip our hands under the drips… I may have held mine there a bit longer than I should have; great stuff compared to other “white dogs” I’ve had (“white dog” is what they call the distillate before it goes into barrels [it is clear]). The second surprise was Leila offering us free tasting glasses since I had been before and come back. I had purchased mine on the previous visit so we only obliged a single to complete our pair. Outstanding start to the day.

Stop #2 – Roughly an hour after our bourbon breakfast, we made our way to Cave Hill Cemetery, which is where the Trolan/Wortham family lays to rest. We shared a Snickers bar with Heather’s Grandmother, Great Uncle, and some less familiar ancestors. It’s a truly beautiful place and we had a great time sunning and chatting with the family.

Stop #3 – “Trolan Mecca” as I call it, Hadley Pottery can be found in lieu of fancy china in all Trolan homes. It’s quirky, but endearing stuff. I can’t say I love it, but I can appreciate it and the smiles it brings to certain faces. We picked up a bowl (we only had three?) and a coffee cup before making our way onward. I took this time to skip browsing pottery and instead caught up with 200 items in my RSS feeds (800 to go).

Stop #4 – I was in the mood for pizza. I hit up Yelp, found something close, and we did it. The pizza wasn’t a 4.5 star as Yelp claimed, but it wasn’t bad. What made the stop, though, was that the chef was from Portland, was so excited to hear we were headed there, and added three “To Try” bookmarks to my Yelp app.

And then we got on our way… Probably a few hours too late, but we didn’t have any real plans for the evening so our aim was to drive as far as we could in order to set ourselves up for the following day, which had two family visits (Madison and then Minneapolis).

Stop #5 – Chicago.This was our original destination for the evening, but we were feeling good and realized parking downtown would pose a problem with the bikes up top. We found some street parking near Millennium Park ($6.50/hr at 7PM!), checked out “the bean” and the water “things,” grabbed some stuffed deep dish, and hit the road again roughly two hours later.

Over dinner, we had taken a look at hotels in Madison. There weren’t any available. We experienced this the night before in Louisville. We’ve never experienced a sellout before in all of our travels. So we did what we did the night before; take a look at a map of our route to the destination, and begin searching the towns en route. We settled on Janesville, about two hours from Chicago and 45 minutes from Madison. Booked it, checked in, and the day ended.

Parting thoughts: 1) We did not stop in Indiana. 2) Indiana and Illinois drivers are the worst I’ve ever experienced. The driving experience around Chicago reminds me of Need For Speed. 3) There is a lot of corn out here. 4) The WI accent is legit.

Day 3 – Janesville, WI to Madison, WI and Minneapolis, MN

Two hours ahead of schedule, I had hoped to get some Wisconsin riding in. I’ve heard it’s amazing and driving through, I have been able to verify it. Light rolling hills, wide-open and empty roads, and bike lanes EVERYWHERE. Alas, the weather did not cooperate. While I know I’m moving to the land of drizzle, today was not a day to endure it to get a ride in. This allowed us to very comfortably get ready to make our “appointment” in Madison for lunch.

Stop #1 – Heather’s family has this mythical figure named “Auntie El.” I’ve never met her or seen pictures, but as I put it to El, I likely hear her name multiple times per week. If there’s ever a time to say to someone “I’ve heard so much” when greeting them, this was it. We met her at her… living center? At 94, she’s in need of somewhat constant care, but she’s as sharp as a tack. Often when you meet someone of her age you feel you need to keep your thoughts/jokes/the way you put things in simple terms, and I’d do that, but immediately realize she was coming back at me with what I’ll call “advanced” thoughts. I’m likely butchering this thought of mine, but I want to do the woman justice. She’s a smart cookie and time is having no effect on her brain. So we met, had lunch in her pretty amazing community (note to my kids: you’re welcome to put me there), chat for an hour or so, and then had to part ways. She left us with three parting bits of wisdom: 1) drink plenty of water, 2) take care of one another, and 3) do all the things you want to do before you’re tied down. It was a blessing to have been able to meet this woman.

From there, we made our way down the street (relative to 3000 miles of driving… it was actually about 10 miles away) to Culver’s; another Wisconsin gem I’d heard of. We weren’t hungry, but had to chow down on some custard and fried cheese curds. The custard? Outstanding. The curds? I’ve had better. Regardless, a worthy stop.

En route to our next destination, we hit some gnarly rain. Noteworthy only because it absolutely drained my driving energy. I’d not experienced this before (the draining feeling) and it wasn’t until after our next rest stop did I regain myself.

“Stop” #2 – Not much of a stop as The Wisconsin Dells (not linked because I couldn’t find anything to do it justice) is something you’re better off just passing through. It is difficult to put into words the amount of blinking lights and poor taste that can exist in a several mile long stretch of road. It’s as if you mixed the bad parts Las Vegas, South of the Border, and Disneyland. It’s worth seeing, but do it from the car. We did park for a short moment to photo the upside-down White House. Classy.com.

Following this, we had the real bit of our drive ahead. It was pretty uneventful.

Stop 3 – Lakeville, Minnesota, just outside of Minneapolis is home to the Bouvets. I don’t know how to really describe their relationship to the Trolan family as it’s far more than friend. I suppose you’d say they are part of the clan. They welcomed us with wide-open arms and proved to be amazing hosts (like all other members of the clan ;)). We enjoyed hours of chatter, a great dinner, and the most comfortable bed of our trip, which also happened to be in their son’s drum “studio” (a room with gobs of insulation and sound deadening). Suffice to say, it was an amazing night of sleep. It’s great to have great friends.

Once the evening was through, I realized two things. 1) With the government shutdown, National Parks are closed (this had effected us in WV, but it didn’t really register). I did some searching and found that while we wouldn’t be able to get into the things we really wanted (Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone) to see in South Dakota and Wyoming, we’d still be able to stick to our route and maybe see them in passing. 2) There was a massive winter storm about to hit our route. Combining the two nuggets of info, I had to trash our remaining route and create a new one that took us through North Dakota and Montana. It would still be somewhat scenic, but we were also missing the day we had hoped to spend in Yellowstone. On the plus side, we wouldn’t die, and we’d arrive in Portland a day earlier. There’s hope that the storm will dump less and we can detour our detour back into Yellowstone, but we’ll have to look at that day by day.

Parting thoughts: 1) Wisconsin is incredibly beautiful. I could live there if it didn’t feel oddly like a cult. 2) WI and MN did not have “Welcome” signs. That is incredibly disappointing. 3) We only saw one herd of cows in Wisconsin (“America’s Dairyland”). 4) Halfyway through Minnesota, and we hadn’t seen any lakes (“Land of 10,000 Lakes”).

Day 4 – Lakeville, MN to Fargo, ND

With a relatively short drive ahead of us, we chose to spend the morning and early afternoon with our friends. Breakfast and lunch were much appreciated treats, and catching up on family history was even better. We left their home around 2:30 with a touristy stop planned before our real journey.

Stop #1 – MALL OF AMERICA. Yes, we did. How could we not? Once we found ground parking (we couldn’t fit in the numerous parking decks due to bike clearance), we entered with great excitement. I suppose we’re a bit spoiled having grown up near Tyson’s, as we weren’t incredibly wowed. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very impressive place, but we were expecting something much bigger. We took the opportunity to energize on some wheatgrass, grab a coffee, and RIDE SPONGEBOB. Yes, for $12, we rode what we were told was the best coaster in the place. Yes, in the place. As in, inside a building. The mall is a square ring around the amusement park. Interestingly, the amusement park contains home plate of Metropolitan Stadium. I’m guessing the stadium used to sit here? Perhaps they even reused some of the infrastructure? The things you learn… (edit: Wikipedia says “yes.”)

And then we hit the road. With the storm making its way east pretty quickly, we assumed we’d hit some pretty heavy stuff on our way to Fargo. Luckily, the only heavy stuff we hit was traffic making our way out of the Twin Cities area. It cost us about an hour, but no big deal.

Stop #2 – Fargo! We made it. Settled into our hotel, which turned out to be really nice for the price, did a quick Yelping for places to eat, agreed that we both wanted something simple and a beer, and found the perfect spot in JL Beers. In driving there, we got to see a good portion of town. It’s actually really quaint, but modern, but also keeps a little bit of that frontier feeling alive. After having some delicious burgers and some of the best fries we’ve ever had, we agreed that this is one pretty cool city. Very surprised. I’d go so far as to say it should have probably even been on our spreadsheet. No chance it’d win considering the -80 temperatures sometimes seen in winter, but it’d get some serious intangible points.

Parting thought: Heated floors are amazing.

Day 5 – Fargo, ND to Jamestown, ND and Miles City, MT

Today was supposed to be an uneventful one, but we still managed to make it interesting. It began with pretty terrible weather and a very slow beginning in Fargo. Howling winds and a sideways mist blowing with it. The drive for the first couple of hours on this day was abysmal. We averaged something like 19mpg. Intrestingly, when we’d get next to a semi, efficiency would jump to 35 or so. Next to, not drafting. We did make a stop in the midst of the roughness when we spotted something incredible.

Stop #1 – Jamestown “Buffalo City”, North Dakota. What did we spot? Only Dakota Thunder, the world’s largest buffalo/bison. Built in 1959, he stands… really high and weighs in at 60 tons. We snapped some quick pics, hopped back in the car, enjoyed Frontier Village, and made our way into town to eat at Buffalo City Rotisserie Grill. Excellent food. I had to get something with bison in it and the shepherd’s pie did not disappoint. We also grabbed some really forgettable lattes at Babb’s. I’d rather not talk about them. And then we hit the road.

Today was spent entirely on I-94, a straight and flat stretch across the north. It’s fast driving, but is also wide open, which means serious crosswinds. Combined with the nasty storm that was passing, ick… Anyway, as the sky was turning a lighter shade, the wind was still pounding at our side. As we made a pass at 75mph, the right combination of air hit my bike and sent it flying. It definitely didn’t help that I had a protective “skin” on it that was likely acting as an air brake. We hear a pop, Heather says “Oh my God, your bike fell off,” I look to my side and see it dangling out of my window (the rear wheel strap held it onto the rack rather than strewn in a million pieces on the highway), we come to a controlled stop, and look at the damage. One of my dropout tabs is bent. Compromised carbon = trash. Replacement that won’t match my bike’s paint? $300-400. Awesome. My pedal also hit the roof and put a nice golf ball sized dent and scratched some paint off. In hindsight, we should have shipped the bikes with the movers. They’ve cost us a bunch in gas, now hundreds of dollars in repairs, and we’ve done zero riding. With that behind us, and a few curses deposited on the side of the highway, we carried on. Just stuff and money.

Stop #2 – Miles City. Nothing at all to report about this place. It’s a conveniently located collection of hotels and fast food on an otherwise barren highway.

Parting thoughts: 1) North Dakota is windy. 2) Montana is beautiful. 3) My bike’s fork is stupid expensive.

Day 6 – Miles City, MT to Bozeman, MT

Montana is big. Today was strictly a driving day and we didn’t do much of it due to where our following days worked out (had we gone further it’d have to be a lot further and then we’d be in no-man’s land the day after that when it came time to sleep). So we took it easy and made it roughly 300 miles across the state for an enjoyable evening in Bozeman.

Miles City is not a nice place (this written the morning after the previous write-up). Unfortunately, it’s really the only place to sleep unless you’re able to make it to Billings. As such, it’s a pass-through town. Lots of trucks, people on trips, and crappy hotels. Noise all night with people coming and going and the train passing through town [and honking] at least once an hour. We grabbed some Mexican, which was passable and relatively expensive as it was the highest rated place on Yelp. Everything else was a bit of a dump. We slept like crap, the hotel was pretty beat, but very clean, and we regretted staying in Miles City.

On the road, we saw a sign for Little Bighorn. We got off the highway to follow it only to be let down by the next sign that said it was 43 miles away. In hindsight, it was probably down near I-90, which would have met back up with as just before Billings; it wouldn’t have been an 86 mile detour, but we didn’t know. Regardless, it’s probably just a big field.

We passed through Livingston, MT en route to our final destination. It’s a quaint town that you’d expect to see cowboys ride through. In fact, most of Montana is like that. It looks a lot like that Wild West Disney ride (I can’t think of the name). From Livingston, we chose to take the frontage road (the former highway) to get a closer look at the area. With a 70mph limit, it proved a very good choice. We saw how people lived, more of the terrain, and an added bonus at the end of the pavement was a grizzly bear exhibit!

Bozeman is a nice place. If you’re traveling this way, I highly recommend a stop. Due to it being a college town and a ski town (I think?), there are tons of places to stay. Very nice and very cheap. On the recommendation of a friend, we ate at the Montana Ale Works. Bison potstickers, a handful of beers, a wagyu burger, and a bison patty melt were the order. Outstanding. From there, we chose to see Gravity in 3D. I’m assuming this movie theater is the only one in Montana? 😉 Have you ever seen a theater with a massive fireplace in it? I have. Good movie, and a great night in Bozeman.

Parting thoughts: 1) The air is ridiculously dry up here. 2) Bozeman likes beer. 3) They don’t call it “Big Sky” for nothing. Sky and sun as far as you can see. 4) Montana appears to have more cattle than Wisconsin. 5) They have so much cattle that highway exits and entries have cattle guards.

Day 7 – Bozeman, MT to Couer d’Alene, ID

Strictly a driving day. No stops other than a drive through a little town called Wallace. We did start our day off right with some amazing coffee, paninis, and pastries (minus the one muffin I had) at Rockford Coffee. Power coffee (triple espresso + 20oz coffee) was amazing. They roasted their own beans and did a really good job.

En route, we took a quick detour to check out Wallace, ID. Quaint little place that appears to be stuck in the early 1900s. Pretty cool.

We ended the day in a city that was actually on our spreadsheet and rated pretty high. I’m glad we were able to visit Coeur d’Alene ( translates to “Heart of an Awl,” which the French named it after having difficulty trading with the local indians) because it’s a really beautiful place, but I don’t think I’d want to live there. Retire? Maybe, but too small of a town otherwise and too dominated by tourism. It really feels like a little slice of Switzerland with an amazingly beautiful lake in the mountains. We had an outstanding dinner at Satay Bistro, and followed it up with an early night in bed. Of course, not before checking out the downtown and getting a parking ticket in a dark, empty, and unlit (couldn’t see any signs) parking lot at 7PM while we were away from the car for maybe five minutes. License plate changing + from a different state + license changing + new address + the BS of the ticket = good luck collecting!

We’re almost there! We could be done tomorrow, but instead since we lost a day off in Yellowstone, we’re adding an hour total to the trip (despite it being a 2.5 hour distance between the two cities) to visit Chris and Melissa in Seattle for the night. It’ll be a little welcoming to the west for us.

Parting thoughts: 1) Bah humbug on parking tickets. 2) Idaho LOVES bike lanes. There was one that paralleled the highway through the mountain for 20+ miles.

Day 8 – Coeur d’Alene, ID to Seattle, WA

As uneventful as days go. This drive is a breeze and pretty awesome. You see mountains, desert, evergreen forests, and cities. Interestingly, it seems that 2/3 of Washington State, in which we were hoping to see nothing but apples trees in, is desert. Included in this day was a wildfire and the Columbia River Gorge.

Following the beautiful drive, we hit Seattle. And its traffic. I will not pretend I have much affection for Seattle. Folks will often say it is a higher class Portland, but in my short experience in both, they’re really not alike at all except for their weather, which, in fact, doesn’t seem too similar either. I won’t go into Seattle too much, but my disdain revolves around the layout, traffic, and the people. It doesn’t feel far removed from what we left. It seems to consistently have darker weather and a few (7-8?) degrees cooler. Could just be my small data set.

I digress. We’re staying in Seattle to spend the night with the Derecolas. We could have easily made it to our destination, but why not be welcomed to a new coast, and to have a great dinner and night with close friends?

Day 9 – Seattle, WA to Portland, OR

Did I say the previous day was uneventful? Because it was a whirlwind compared to this one. There is basically one road that connects the Pacific Northwest. Interstate 5. It’s fairly straight, has some decent scenery, has a really loud pavement, and, well, that’s it. Two and a half hours after departing, we arrived in our final destination and begin the adventure that is more or less a new life.

Trip Stats

Miles: 3360
Time: 53.5 hours
Average speed: 62.8mph
Gallons: 124
Fast food visits: 0 (we’re kind of proud of that)

Afterword

We’ve now been on this journey for almost a month. We’ve spent a week in an s-hole extended stay hotel in a bad part of town, a week cat sitting for a lady we met on Craigslist, a week cat sitting for the Derecolas in Seattle, and our next stay is 19 days long followed by a break for Thanksgiving (we’re going home and the owner of the apartment actually wants to use it so the timing works great) and then continuing there indefinitely starting in December assuming it works out. Heather and I have spent more than three weeks basically attached at the hip. I couldn’t imagine doing that and getting along as well as we have with anyone else. I’m so lucky to have her in my life. I won’t pretend it has been all perfect (we did have a single argument in… Indiana? Regarding the physical attributes of tractor trailers… Seriously…), but I think how well we’re getting along being stuck to one another is a pretty good indication of a successful future 🙂

Driving across the country was a great experience. Everyone should do it once. I could see myself doing it again. The company that you take it very important so choose wisely. I’m convinced that there is no wrong route to take. We faced a major detour and it still turned out to be absolutely beautiful and amazing. If you’d like any tips for your own trip, don’t hesitate to ask.

Our stuff did arrive. Moving is terrible and I hope to never do it again. I won’t go into details, but suffice to say moving companies are really bad at communication, and storage companies love to bait and switch. We got hosed a time or two, but I’m working to resolve. An couples of items did get broken in the move, which can be expected. Nothing heirloomy or priceless so not a big deal. I got them noted in our paperwork, but we probably won’t have them repaired until we move out of storage.

We are home shopping. We’ve probably been inside a dozen homes. We are investigating one that we saw on the market many months ago and lost because we were too far away (and we had a terrible agent back then). We drove by to check it out, noticed it vacant, and then found it to still be available, but not on the market (we have a great new agent who did some digging). Apparently there was an offer, it was accepted, and then the inspection outlined some pretty serious repairs (foundation and sewer). Rather than negotiate with the seller or even see what the deal would be, the buyers walked away. It turns out the seller is going to have the repairs done on their own dime. They are repairs than can be expected on any 100 year old home that hasn’t already had them. The inspection also outlined many other issues with the house, but again, stuff that can be expected in a home that has not seen a full renovation. Items such as leaded windows, knob and tube wiring, a leaking dishwasher, rodents in unsealed attic, bad window latches, old appliances, etc.. The house has good bones, we’re not afraid of getting a bit dirty, the location is AMAZING (less than a mile to two amazing strips of shops and a couple of parks), and it is so cheap compared to comparable homes in the area that we can have it fully updated to our taste and still come out with money to spare. It is on a slightly busy street, but we backed to I-66 and the Metro for a year and a half so we know all about sound machines. Since it isn’t on the market, we’re in a very good position and can take our time. We’ve unofficially put an offer in and are waiting to hear back. If we do get the home, considering the work that needs to be done, I’m guessing we won’t be able to move in until early 2014.

My biking and running are starting to pick up again, but having a new home every week makes it difficult to get into any sort of routine. The commuting scene in Portland is breathtaking. I was truly in awe of it when I found myself in my first 20-30 person “train” into the city. Well-defined lanes, bike-specific lights, parking everywhere. Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out the road biking. I did go on a single ride (on my commuter/cross bike, which is slow and clunky) and really didn’t like what I saw. Being a city, there are no open, rolling roads to cruise along for hours. Instead, you find yourself hitting a stop sign every minute or two. Since I’ve not yet gotten into it, I’ve not yet had a chance to talk to other riders. I’m guessing it’s more of a “ride 5-10 miles to escape the city” thing out here. My bike is repaired and awaiting pickup so hopefully I’ll begin to figure things out next week. Note: I need to get some serious waterproof gear. Jacket, bag, fenders, long-sleeved kits, etc.

We have not shipped Heather’s car and do not plan on doing so. I still hope to get her to learn to drive stick, but the easiest solution may be to sell my car and buy something that works immediately for both of us and may have better long-term usability (all-wheel drive, four doors, and more space). Or we keep my car and get something basic and utilitarian for toting around town and doing the dirty work. We’ve got options, but my brain can’t really deal with it right now and swapping cars around when trying to get a home loan is a big no-no.

I’m beginning to figure out how to manage my work. I have a daily meeting at 7:30 (10:30 ET). I used to wake up at 8:30 and roll into work, but I’m now waking at 7 and immediately opening my laptop and then working until 3 or 4 or later (it is difficult to keep track of when I should stop since it’s always so early). It has been a serious adjustment, but it is beginning to work out and my work is normalizing again. Following my meeting, I’ll throw on some clothes and hit the road for the coffee shop of choice (I do work from “home” sometimes, but it’s more difficult without a proper office setup) and stay there until the end of the work day. It feels like it is draining my bank account, but when I figure I’m not going out to eat lunch with coworkers every day, I’m pretty certain I’m saving a buck or many, and definitely not taking in the calories I’m not burning.

Heather has been working on an online portfolio and has just finished it, created an offline portfolio book, and applied to a position at a pretty awesome firm in town. She probably doesn’t want me to do this, but http://www.heather-collins.com. She’s never made a site before so it has been pretty awesome to see her get through it. I did nothing other than suggest some minor changes. All implementation is hers.

We’ve yet to really meet up with any friends in Portland, but we do have some and have a lead on a few others. We need to work on that once we settle a bit. Actually, we did make some friends at a board game night at Off The Charts in Gresham. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a haul outside of town so it’ll be tough to make it there regularly. Regardless, they were great people so we’ll be getting out there as often as we can. We have been to Seattle two times since arriving in Portland so I’d imagine that will continue as it is a pretty simple drive. We need to get down to Bend now and then too.

Portland is awesome. The people are so damned friendly, it is so damned beautiful, and the food is so freaking good… Dammit. Every place, no matter how cheap or grungy looking, seems to be a 5-star spot. It is borderline absurd.

I think that’s about it. To summarize, we’ve been running around with our heads cut off and it has been great, but we’ll be perfectly happy when it stops.

I hope you didn’t read my blog yesterday

Posted on Oct 8, 2013 in General | 0 comments

Because I accidentally hit “Publish” rather than “Save Draft” on our trip log. It wasn’t done… The trip, adding pictures, adding links, and editing. Please forgive me for allowing that to happen.